Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Texas Tipples: Chisholm Trail Lone Wolf Lenoir

Winemakers have to deal with a variety of natural troubles, such as lack of rainfall, unseasonable wet or cold, and crop pests and maladies. Two of the deadliest of these are phylloxera and Pierce's disease, and developing vines that are resistant is one of the top priorities of winemaking programs such as the University of California at Davis. But, here in Texas, one natural grape variety has built up resistence to both phylloxera and Pierce's: The very dark black Spanish grape also known as Lenoir (literally, French for "The Black"). Reports of Lenoir date back to the mid-1800's where it was discovered in Texas, then introduced to France. My wining partner and I sampled Chisholm Trail's Lone Wolf Lenoir during a tasting at their facility outside Fredericksburg, Texas.

In the tasting glass, Lone Wolf Lenoir is midnight violet in color, almost black. The nose sports rich plum and boysenberry. Very chewy on the palate, with blackberry and baking spices, and a raspberry, currant, and vanilla finish. Pairing Lone Wolf Lenoir with trail meats such as steaks, barbecue and game would be natural, as this tipple could stand up to any beef or red meat dish.
Hopefully, more Texas vineyards besides Chisholm Trail and Dry Comal Creek will see the light and begin growing this dark varietal. You see, while Lone Wolf Lenoir might be disease-resistent, true red wine lovers will be unable to resist its shadowy charms.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Eat This: Steak en Salsa Verde at Chitos Mexican Restaurant

Quite often, a good way of finding a great dish at an eating establishment is to ask for your waiter's recommendation. Usually, he or she is eager to help, and will point out one or more of their particular favorites. However, if they reply, "Everything is good here," this can be a signal to be on your guard, because that can mean that nothing stands out and everything is mediocre. Happily, such is not the case at award-winning Chitos Mexican Restaurant, the friendly little taqueria tucked in behind a Chevron Station on Legacy Drive. Recently, I posed this very question to proprietor Gabriel Correro, and he smiled and offered, "It depends on how spicy you like it." If you like it kind of mild, I suggest the Asado de Puerco Rojo, however, it you like it really spicy, then I suggest the Steak en Salsa Verde." Indeed, I had loved the Asado on previous occasions when he recommended it, so I was emboldended to try steak. In due course, he brought out a pretty platter of steak sliced carne asada style, surrounded by a sea of zesty green tomatillo sauce and sided by good rice and beans and homemade corn tortillas. Paired with a tall, cooling Horchata de Agua Fresca, this dish is solid enough to make you want to come back again next time you need a fillup. However, you need not fill up on the same dish every time. Just ask Gabriel what's good, and he's certain to blow his horn for something wonderful.


301 Legacy Drive, Suite B

Plano, TX

972 527-2704


Monday, July 4, 2011

Eat This: West Texas Enchiladas at Tupinamba

Note: I first wrote about this old-time Tex-Mex classic a few years back. Not long ago, I decided to try them again. Here's what I found...

If you're from the Lone Star State, you've probably eaten enchiladas all your life, without realizing that the word in Spanish is actually an adjective rather than a noun. According to Tex-Mex guru Robb Walsh, enchiladas were originally called "tortillas enchiladas," or "chillied tortillas" in English, a term which refers to the traditional method of preparation where tortillas were dipped in chile sauce and lightly fried. These days, most enchiladas you encounter in Dallas will be rolled, but some restaurants also feature stacked enchiladas, alternating layers of fillings that are common in parts of West Texas and New Mexico. Longtime Tex-Mex stalwart Tupinamba combines thick, pancake-style tortillas with beef, cheese, chili gravy, and onions topped with a fried egg. Classic comfort food, which I will gladly stack up against any other Tex-Mex dish in town. Not Mexico City style, these enchiladas come from deep in the heart of West Texas.

In other words, as good as ever.


12770 Inwood Rd

Dallas, TX 75244



Sunday, June 5, 2011

Eat This: Rover Nuts at Irish Rover Pub

How appropriate that our beloved colleague Alice Laussade was nominated for a James Beard award for her story on State Fair fried foods. We Texans love to fry things, especially potatoes. And since it's quite difficult to get good French fries in our fair city, why not try frying mashed potatoes instead? Why not indeed. Irish Rover Pub, part of the burgeoning Celtic migration to our Northern suburbs, has concocted a beer-friendly appetizer of mashed potatoes, cheese, onions, bacon bits, and jalapenos rolled in bread crumbs and fried to a tasty golden brown. These munchworthy morsels pair wonderfully with a hearty brew such as the M & M (Murphy's Red blended with Murphy's Stout), served in a true ale-lovers 20-ounce size. (At Rover, the pint is the smaller of the two draft sizes served, a most welcome trend.) Giving new meaning to the term "beer nuts," these delectibles are best enjoyed with an evening of trivia, conversation, or a great band such as the Rumble Kings. Trust me, you'll go nuts for them.


8250 Gaylord Parkway

Frisco, Texas

214 618-6222

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Eat This: Cedars Signature Griller at Cedars Woodfire Grill

Grilling brings out something primal in our Texan nature, best exemplified by the playful title of Bobby Flays book, Boy Meets Grill. (Yes, I know The Redheaded One is from The Big Apple, however he earned Honorary Texan status by marrying a Lone Star gal. From Big D, no less.) Speaking of which, it seems that Woodfire Grill establishments of one sort or another are springing up like ground hogs after a rainstorm hereabouts. But while Kennys and Zea Woodfire Grills are full-fledged restaurants, it would be nice if there were a fast casual place that did the same sort of thing, i.e. healthy grilling over a wood fire. Well, Cedars Woodfire Grill has just opened at the burgeoning intersection of Midway and Park and features woodfire grilling, but in a fast casual setting. Cedars offers bowls and salads featuring grilled meats, but also sandwiches such as the Signature Griller. Merely choose your protein from chicken, salad, steak, or baby Portobello and Cedars will grill it on rustica bread and add tomato, lettuce, grilled red onion, applewood smoked bacon, Cheddar cheese, and their own tangy, slightly sweet BBQ sauce. The steak is super tender and juicy because its grilled medium unless you request otherwise. Sided with good pita chips, Cedars Signature Griller is good enough to make even Bobby Flay forsake his gal for his grill, if only to make one for her as well. Such a gentleman!


6509 W. Park Blvd.

Plano, TX

972 378-1222

Friday, April 15, 2011

Eat This: The Italian Sandwich at Lone Star Coffee Bar

Today’s coffee bars serve more than java and jive. Now, breakfast, lunch, and even beer and wine service are offered in the hopes that customers will linger on into the afternoon and evening. One such place is Lone Star Coffee Bar, which in addition to serving genuine French Press coffee, adds breakfast tacos, baked goods, and sandwiches to the menu. Featured wiches include Club Panini, Turkey & Swiss, and the Italian, a mélange of meats and cheeses that would make Mussolini or Marlon Brando proud. All in a slender, storefront setting which includes plenty of comfy couches, chairs, and even a fireplace should you wish to linger. Currently, Lone Star is BYOB, yet they soon plan to offer Texas beers and wines so that you can get there for breakfast, spend the day surfing with free WIFI, and have enough libations to make sure you jump, jive, and wail your way well into the evening.


6800 Windhaven Pkwy, #105

The Colony, TX

972 306-4555

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Eat This: Orecchietta Pasta at Fino's Italian Bistro

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” So begins the famous Marc Antony speech memorized by many a high school speech, drama, or English student back in the day, and immortalized by Marlon Brando in the infamous 1953 movie Julius Caesar. In modern Italian cooking terms, orecchietta is a home-made pasta from the Apulia region which is shaped to resemble a small ear. At Fino’s Italian Bistro, one of chef Alfredo’s favorite dishes to prepare is Orecchietta with spicy Italian sausage, broccoli, zucchini, and parmesan cheese in tomato sauce. If you cock your ear close to the plate, you just might catch a few strands of Shakespeare’s immortal verse. In any case, grab every friend and countryman and all the Romans you can find and head to this neighborhood gem for a pasta feast.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Most people associate rock and rock with beer chugging or whiskey drinking, but it’s no secret that a lot of rockers are turning to wine as their tipple of choice. Inevitably, a winemaker would pick up on this relationship and start his own line of wines featuring classic rock themes. Well, winemaker Mark Beaman has done just that by partnering with Mendocino Wine Company and producing Wines That Rock. Each wine in the series is based on a classic rock theme or band, such as Woodstock Chardonnay, Rolling Stones Forty Licks Merlot, and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon. Recently, The Police’s Synchronicity was debuted in New York at the Food Network’s Wine and Food Festival. Besides winning competition awards, Wines That Rock has received Governor’s Environmental Awards from the State of California for their eco-friendly practices. Also, a portion of the proceeds from each sale goes to benefit Cancer, AIDS, and Leukemia Research.

Bottle art connoisseurs will surely want to collect Wines That Rock, for the company spares no expense with the label. Each bottle of Synchronicity is adorned with the album’s artwork, and collectors will want to get a couple of bottles, one to sample and one to save.

Synchronicity, naturally, is a blend, and the combination of Carignane, Zinfandel, Syrah, Petit Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier makes for a deep burgundy color. The nose is slightly floral, with currants and vanilla, and a whiff of strawberries. Plum hits your palate first, then berries, then some citrus notes, and the wine finally finishes with full-on raspberries. This wine would pair with all manner of light red meat dishes, some hearty pastas and salads, and (perfect for a rockin’ wine) pizza. Needless to say, listening to the album Synchronicity while quaffing is recommended, since that way you can best experience the “shimmering surfaces and glacial shadows” of the music that Beaman tried to incorporate into every bottle.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


When most novice tipplers first hear the term sauvignon blanc, which means “wild white” in French, they often believe that it must be similar to white zinfandel, which is a rose wine made from red grapes. In fact , this varietal is one of the proud parents of cabernet sauvignon, having been crossed with cabernet franc back in the 18th century. It is the premier white grape of Bordeaux, where its bone-dry finish has proved to be a perfect match for seafood for many years. Since this varietal needs warmth without oppressive heat to truly flourish, it does well in maritime climates such as California and New Zealand.

Valparaiso, located on Chile’s Central Coast, has a similar climate and thus has established itself as ground zero for sauvignon blanc in South America. Chilean sauvignon blancs tend to be more similar to those of Bordeaux than, say, those of New Zealand, where the blancs are known for higher levels of acidity and the famous “grassy” or asparagus taste noticed by many drinkers.

Two of the leading wine producers in Chile are Santa Rita and Concha y Toro. Therefore, I thought that a tasteoff between sauvignon blancs of these two behemoths might be in order.

First up was the Santa Rita 120, so named to honor 120 freedom fighters who took refuge in the cellars after an exhausting battle for Chilean independence. Santa Rita’s sauvignon sports a light greenish-gold color, and an abundance of nectarine and tropical fruits and flowers on the nose. The finish Is long and bright, and there are plenty of grapefruit flavors on the palate. A delightful, summery picnic wine and wonderfully easy on the pocketbook as well.

Next was the Concha y Toro blanc, marketed under the Casillero del Diablo name and priced just a few dollars more. (Chilean wines, like their Argentine counterparts, represent wonderful value.) The color was much paler, but the nose and taste were more delightfully complex, not only plenty of grapefruit and citrus, but also lime, with a nice finish of minerals, Bordeaux style. This blanc was meant to be paired with food, and I enjoyed the rest of my tasting with a small bowl of tomato chicken curry. Both blancs, I suspect, would do justice to all manner of seafood and most spicy eats as well.

In sum, while I enjoyed Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc as an inexpensive summer quaff, I give the nod to Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo for its mineral complexity and better pairing possibilities.