Breathtaking in Austin: The Perfect Medicine

 

Song Pairing: The Breath You Take – George Strait

The lake was still tranquil aside from ripples caused by occasional jumping fish and gentle swirls from the paddle blade. The morning was peaceful, birds stretched their wings in the cooler air before heat drove them into thick tree cover, their tweets lyrical and apolitical.

After 45 minutes of cruising the Colorado River, I steered the yellow kayak toward the boat dock and inhaled deeply the scent from the nearby herb garden. The smell was a combination of rosemary, lavender, oregano, thyme, and renewal. I focused on my breathing, uncontained by stress, unveiled, my breath a gift of life; I took in the scent, a gift of the moment. My first morning at Lake Austin Spa Resort was restorative.

Tired of Sweltering in Place

It was the second week of July and I felt like I had been sweltering in place for years. Trips to Mexico and Florida were canceled, the holiday-less period until Labor Day loomed ahead bleakly. With the country starting to reopen, I decided the time was right for a change of scenery that would not involve commercial transportation and would infuse money back into the local economy. The perfect solution turned out to be Lake Austin Spa Resort, the 19-acre luxury wellness resort on the banks of the Colorado River in Austin.

Back in early March, I had lunch with Mike McAdams, co-owner of the wellness retreat, who, with several key team members, was in Dallas to promote the resort’s recent $2 million renovation. The pandemic interrupted their media tour and my plans to visit.  But now, determined to leave town, I connected with the resort and made the easy three-hour drive a few weeks later.

Breath

The thing that, during a pandemic, can be a contagion is the very same thing that revives and energizes us. In fact, it is life itself.  As I was headed to Lake Austin Spa, I was grieving the loss of a friend who had just passed away after a battle with cancer. While I was at the spa, I learned about the passing of another friend who died tragically and unexpectedly. I’m very grateful to have been in such a beautiful, peaceful setting while I was processing this.

The composition of Lake Austin Spa and the programming it offers is intentional and healing. Paddling in the mornings while the water was still and the air was thick with dew required me to breathe deeply, thoughtfully. I haven’t felt more present in any moments this year than when I was there, watching turtles pop up to the surface of the lake and birds glide from tree-to-tree.

In three words, Lake Austin Spa is: Intentional, Peaceful, Restorative.

Lake Austin Spa Resort closed down March 21, during their busiest time of year, and reopened July 1 after developing and implementing comprehensive health and safety standards, protocol and training for employees including servers, housekeepers, spa technicians, massage therapists, fitness instructors, programming consultants such as chefs, musicians, mediation experts, and others who provide their services for LASR’s unique wellness-focused programs and activities.  I reviewed the information on the website and felt safe with their approach.

The resort only has 40 rooms, each of them separate with no shared ventilation or air conditioning, and has limited occupancy during the pandemic.

Plus, the unique feature of the resort is its natural setting. Its irreplaceable location on the banks of Lake Austin, the shade trees, landscaping, and thoughtful outdoor spaces, and its minimal public spaces make Lake Austin Spa especially suitable for guests during this time.

Welcome

From the moment you enter the gates, it is clear that management has put thought into the guest experience relative to keeping everyone safe. Hand sanitizer is perched at the gate keypad so you can use it before and after you call the front desk to announce your arrival.  There are sanitizing stations located throughout the resort so anyone can take a squirt of sanitizer or a sanitizing wipe when and where they need one. All employees are masked indoors, and the same is required of guests.  Temperatures are taken daily at the front desk and color-coded wrist bands are issued daily to indicate the guest and employee has had his or her temperature checked and is normal, a requirement for any guest participating in an activity.

Rooms

Guestrooms, recently renovated and presented in a calming light aqua, tan, and white color scheme are immaculate and spacious. Each room is deep cleaned and sanitized prior to guest arrival and is outfitted with the resort’s private-label lavender amenities of bar soap, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion. Daily housekeeping service is discontinued as a health and safety measure, but whatever you need is a phone call away and a member of the housekeeping staff can deliver it to your door.

My husband and I stayed in room 20, which included a small workstation with easy-access plugs and ports and a spacious back patio, which included a hot tub. Connectivity was perfect and we had no issues when our Zoom/Microsoft Team online meetings took place concurrently.

I got a peak at the Lady Bird Suite, which is their version of the Presidential Suite and it is gorgeous, features fabulous antiques and a sitting room, expanded back patio with table and chairs suitable for a small dinner party. When I hit the big time, I will stay there.

Cuisine

Chef Stepháne Beaucamp has led the culinary mission there for nine years and still, he manages to keep it fresh and creative.  His menu is innovative, relying heavily on locally-sourced plants and protein.  Spa cuisine is meant to be healthy, low cal, and low carb, and Chef Beaucamp’s is, but his cuisine is abundant with flavors, textures, and visual appeal which, to me, made every meal feel indulgent and luxurious.

Preparing nutritious, tasty meals is labor intensive, time consuming, and requires technical expertise for preparing ingredients in ways that magnify the flavor, texture, and color without adding fat or salt. Every menu item I tasted, which was a lot, I confess, was memorable and bursting with flavor.

Lake Austin Spa is an all-inclusive property, so all meals are included in the price per person per night. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served in the main dining room and the adjacent outdoor patio.  Menus are presented using a QR code you can scan with your phone and on a disposable paper menu.  Dinner specials are featured on an A-frame stand. The Aster Café up at the spa also serves lunch packaged to-go so you take choose to eat in the lovely dining room there or go picnic anywhere on the grounds.

Some of the lunch menu standouts include Texas Pecan Vegan Tacos, which uses chopped pecans as a beef substitute, giving a rich, slightly crunchy texture with a slightly spicy kick. Tacos are served with gently pickled onions, avocado, and pico de gallo on corn tortillas.

Another standout was the open-faced falafel burger which piled hummus, tzatziki, a slice of heirloom tomato, arugula, cucumber, red onion, and feta atop a house-made falafel patty. It was flavorful and filling and only 231 calories which allowed me to partake guilt-free in the pistachio frozen yogurt dessert.  The lunch menu offers salads and Power Bowls with protein options such as Red Bird Farm chicken, grilled avocado, and sustainable salmon.

Dinner is by reservation only to ensure guests are appropriately distanced and the restaurant adheres to maximum occupancy guidelines. The menu is robust and offers a selection of interesting salads such as the Vitamin Boost Salad with citrus, fennel, radishes, herbs, watercress, and pistachios in a honey Dijon vinaigrette and main courses with chicken, fish, beef, and vegetarian options.  As I mentioned, Chef Beaucamp is a genius with vegetables, and the dinner sides are each works of art.

Roasted cauliflower side dish

Roasted cauliflower with harissa, cucumber, pomegranate seeds, almonds, and charred broccolini were big on flavor and virtually fat free.

Wine, beer, and cocktails are available for an additional cost and the list is approachable and well-priced. Dessert options change nightly and could easily pass as some something you’d expect to find at The Mansion Restaurant in Dallas, including a chocolate mille feuille with a passion fruit sauce and a stunning raspberry bread pudding.

Spa

This photo predates COVID19. All spa staff and
guests are required to wear masks

Really, the whole point of coming to Lake Austin Spa and Resort is the spa. A brief shady, scenic walk from the guest rooms, the spa is an impressive building positioned between the Pool Barn, where guests take aqua fitness classes, therapies and swimming, and the Palm Pool, an aquatic retreat with shaded cabanas and chaises for lounging.

Spa personnel take guest’s temperature or look to ensure they are wearing the proper wrist band for the day prior to check-in. The ground-floor locker room is well equipped and has a lovely shaded patio for relaxing before or after treatments, or guests can go upstairs to the Blue Room, which perhaps is the most memorable room in the entire resort. The massive yet cozy room is Austin Hill Country chic, with a cornflower blue vaulted ceiling, paneled walls, clerestory windows, and botanical and bird prints on the walls.  The room is elegant and comfortable, and I thought it almost a shame to leave when called for my treatment.

Therapists and technicians carefully explained the sanitation and safety precautions they take to ensure guest and employee safety.  The rooms are thoroughly sanitized, and therapists wear masks during the treatment as do guests unless they are getting a facial. Something I noticed on this and my previous visit to the spa is the commitment to wellness that each therapist demonstrates.  I have had two significant injuries that throw my entire musculoskeletal system out of whack.  The therapists at LASR, more than any I’ve had before at a spa, are interested in how the injuries occurred and how they impact me on a day-to-day basis.  With that knowledge, these therapists focused on the areas that would be most beneficial to me and I left my treatments feeling relaxed, steady, and more upright than I had in a while.

In keeping with its natural wellness vibe, LASR includes the Naturopathica treatment line, which is an all-natural, plant-based line used for my Luminous Skin Brightening Facial. Two of the products were so impressive I ended up buying them: the Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm and the Sweet Cherry Enzyme Peel which was gentle but effective and looks and smells like something you’d smear on a biscuit.

Programming

In a non-pandemic time, Lake Austin Spa offers hundreds of different classes, activities, and events for guests, some cost extra, some don’t. Though they are scaled back a bit now, there were still plenty of things to do.

Guests are advised to review the options prior and book in advance as some activities have guest limits to ensure proper social distancing. For me, my goal was to make this visit an investment in my health and well-being so I can return home with knowledge I can apply back in the real world.

This is not a a photo of my actual treatment. Photo courtesy of LASR

To that end, I signed up for an AquaStretch™  Myofacial Release upon my arrival and spent one hour one-on-one in the Pool Barn with Monica, a certified aqua fitness professional. This is a great treatment for anyone who is stiff, sore, or spends hours at a time in the same position, such as surgeons, who make up a large segment of Monica’s clients.  After I was loosened up, I trekked over to the Fitness Center to meet with Paul for a Functional Movement Assessment, which, even as loosened up as I was from my previous treatment, I still flunked.  However, included with the cost of the assessment is access to the Functional Movement Systems app and a personalized fitness routine that I can do at home. Both treatments cost extra.

Visiting Chef Beth Pav preps for class

The resort has a spacious and well-equipped demonstration kitchen and classroom where cooking classes are offered several times a week, led by Chef Beaucamp and local guest chefs. Chef is an engaging, entertaining teacher who prepared Baja Shrimp Tacos for the group of eight guests who all admitted to cooking more at home during the pandemic and saw this class as a way to expand their culinary repertoire. When I mentioned my failure in pandemic bread baking, Chef spent a few minutes to share bread-making hacks to the guests who also copped to unsuccessful pandemic bread baking.

Programming doesn’t end when the sun goes down and guests can take advantage of an outdoor lullaby concert by local musicians, meditation practices for bedtime, or watercolor classes. Or, if you’d rather, find an empty hammock or bring a blanket and find a spot to listen to nature and stargaze.

Pricing

Lake Austin Spa is an all-inclusive resort, so rooms, food and non-alcoholic beverages, most water and ground activities, classes, activities, events and parking are included in the price. 

At first glance, the rates might give you sticker shock, but when you break down costs, it’s completely in-line with any luxury property without pricey airfare. Activities that cost extra include the evening wine cruise, water sports such as tubing, skiing, and wakeboarding. Wellness is worth the investment–more so, in my view, than a handbag, shoes, or the latest fashion trend. Today, two weeks after I returned home from Lake Austin Spa Resort, I feel more energetic and optimistic, and I’ve lost two pandemic pounds from the healthy cooking tips, exercise plan, and motivation I got at the spa.

Many of the guests during our mid-week visit were women on mother-daughter, sister, or girlfriend getaways. In fact, I ran across several locals including Kelly Yandell, author of The Meaning of Pie blog, who was there with her incoming ESD senior daughter, Lily. Lamenting canceled spring break and epic summer trips, Kelly and Lily took every advantage of their time at the spa, including Kelly slalom skiing for the first time in two decades (being pulled by the resort’s resident former NCAA champion water skier) and the both of them challenging us to a dessert eat-off (which they won).

There were a few couples there as well, so my husband didn’t feel completely out of place, though he wants to return for a couple’s weekend when guest demographics are more evenly split male and female.

I look forward to returning there to enjoy it during cooler weather, taste what Chef does with fall and winter produce, and restore the halo of wellness I gained there this summer.

Tips

Be sure to visit The Garden Room

Every room is lovely, some have covered porches with comfy chairs, perfect for morning coffee. Many guests walk around in spa robes or athletic apparel and even show up for dinner that way.  It’s perfectly acceptable and, in fact, encouraged.  Just be comfortable (and covered). Be sure to fully understand which activities and events cost extra, you don’t want a surprise at check out and it isn’t fair to the front desk staff when guests react poorly to their bill.  

The gift shop and spa shop are well curated and worth visits. Included in my package were discount coupons for each and I shopped in each, picking up a pair of light-as-a-feather Anatomie travel pants and a LASR resort tee for my husband at the main shop. Check-in time is 4 p.m., but you can go “on property” and use the activities while your room is being prepared. Check out time is noon, so I checked out, left my bags at the front desk, and headed to the spa for a facial before driving home. Parking is a breeze and free, unlike many resorts. The spots, some shaded, were filled with luxury SUVs and sedans and are located conveniently close to the guest rooms.

For more information on Lake Austin Spa, visit their website https://www.lakeaustin.com/.

https://www.peoplenewspapers.com/2020/07/29/breathtaking-in-austin-the-perfect-medicine/

Something’s Fishy Here

What is the number one selling fresh seafood product at Central Market across the state?  Verlasso Salmon, the delicious farm-raised salmon from Chile. It outsells every other fresh seafood by a large margin and, if you’ve tasted it, you know why. Verlasso is mild in flavor, rich and buttery and has a perfect texture that makes grilling, baking, pan frying and even smoking very easy.  You can even eat Verlasso as sashimi; it’s that good.

So what makes Verlasso so good? It’s farmed in the fjords of Patagonia, southern Chile, where the Humboldt Current keeps the waters cool and clean. The area is pristine, far from environmental pollution, with cold, moving water rich in nutrients. Verlasso is a brand, not a breed, owned by AquaChile, which is selective in choosing its farming partners and invests in sustainable processes to cultivate the salmon.

Verlasso has been around for around a decade, which is pretty much when I first discovered it.  My notoriously picky daughter, 13 years-old at the time, wouldn’t eat much of anything so I picked up some Verlasso and roasted it with fresh thyme, lemon zest and olive oil.  Since then, I’ve prepared it for her about once a week and it was the second thing she requested to eat, after Whataburger, when she came home on college breaks.

The only retail outlet in Texas that sells Verlasso is Central Market, which is a perfect partner for a high quality product. I often write and post about my affection for Central Market, (remember this) because I think they sell the very best in each category they carry, and I appreciate the leadership and philanthropy of the owners, the Butts family.

If you’re not much of a cook but want to enjoy Verlasso, you can also find it on the menus of restaurants Parigi and Salum and many others.

Parigi Chef/Owner Janice Provost told me that “I chose to use Verlasso after seeing Abraham Salum using it. We share lots of ideas together,” she said. (Probably the reason they are two of my favorite restaurants.)

“We were getting Faroe Island [North Atlantic] salmon before March 17,” she continued. “Then, since COVID-19 shut things down, the product wasn’t as good. They had to freeze their supply to save it, and when we received it, it wasn’t up to our standards, so we switched to Verlasso.”

As an award-winning restaurant with a sophisticated clientele, clean food is important to Provost.  She added, “Like Faroe Island, Verlasso is also ocean farmed, not tank farmed, so it’s clean, no hormones, sustainable and we feel good about serving it. People love salmon so it is a regular on the menu.”

Want another reason to become a fan of Verlasso Salmon? When COVID-19 forced restaurant closures and many hospitality workers were laid off, Verlasso donated 2,500 pounds to Staff Meal Dallas, a program created by hospitality veterans including Alison Matis, who raved about the company:

“Verlasso Salmon has been a consistent and proven friend of the hospitality industry. By donating a literal ton of salmon to feed COVID-19-affected restaurant and hospitality workers, they ensured that hundreds of people in our community, and their families, would be nourished and sustained for months while out of work. Their ethical business practices carry through from their product to their practices in the community.”

Victoria Parr, Verlasso’s marketing director, estimated that their contribution provided 13,000 meals to those in need and were happy to support the hard-working foodservice workers who have represented the brand for years.

For more information on Verlasso Salmon including recipes and a fun story by Andrew Zimmern from Follow that Food, visit their website at www.verlasso.com.

Duck, Duck Juice

“Want to see my diamonds?” he asked, catching me off guard as I was trying to name the Led Zepplin song playing in the background. Lee Fuqua knows how to get a girl’s attention, and I followed him past a giant worktable and brown boxes stacked Nowitzki high. There they were on the floor, hundreds of sparkling diamonds lying in repose inside a four-inch long see-through pipe connected to black industrial tubing. The lights were dimmed, and Lee aimed a bright, white light on the stones which made them sparkle even more.  “These must be worth millions,” I teased.  “No, about four dollars,” he replied. “Worth every penny.”

Herkimer diamonds. Not for wearing.

Lee Fuqua’s award-winning Duckworth Vodka is made with 100% Texas pure cane sugar and distilled seven times, including through the Herkimer diamond gauntlet I stepped around on the floor of the distillery, giving it an extremely clean, pure, neutral non flavor, which is how vodka is supposed to taste. Or not taste.

Lee is a local guy, he started as a Bradfield Bronco and graduated as a Scot before heading off to Baylor, an unlikely choice for a future winemaker and vodka distiller. He spent a few years in the advertising business but he and his wife Julia are lifelong foodies who had a passion for travel and a creative pursuit. They attended culinary classes at El Centro and pursued their culinary hobby relentlessly, traveling near and far to taste the best wines and cuisines wherever they went.

As a student of wine and its history, Lee was familiar with Thomas Volney Munson, a late 19th century viticulturist who is credited for saving the European grape and wine industry from ruin from a fatal vine fungus. Grayson College honored the late T.V. Munson who became a resident of Denison to study the biodiversity of Texas and its grape-growing potential, by naming a vineyard for him as well as the T.V. Munson Enology and Viticulture Center at the college.

Lee took his passion to the next level when he attended and graduated first in his class from Grayson College’s Enology and Viticulture program and started Fuqua Winery in Dallas, right behind the Home Depot on Lemmon Avenue. He began making wine from Texas-grown grapes he sourced directly from growers.

After years of tasting and researching wines in the European style, he found success with his Fuqua Zinfandel and Syrah which gained attention, accolades, and fans, while his Orange Muscat won best amateur wine in a Texas competition.

But, back to vodka since we are celebrating National Vodka Day October 4.

After Lee was diagnosed as a diabetic in 2014, he switched from wine making to vodka, naming the brand Duckworth after his maternal grandfather, H.E. Duckworth, who was a pioneer in the fruit juice business, says Lee.  Fuqua studied distillation and dove head-first his new passion, creating the most pure and neutral vodka he could make. A year after he launched Duckworth vodka, but before he sold any product, he entered several competitions for amateur craft spirits.

Lee’s vodka won its first medal, a bronze, in the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Later that year, he upgraded to a silver medal at the Craft Competition in Los Angeles.  Each medal was only moderately satisfying to Lee and he marched right back into the Atwell Drive distillery to make a better vodka.  That determination paid off with a gold medal earned at the Beverage Testing Institute’s International Review of Spirits. He’s been selling Duckworth Premium Sipping Vodka ever since.

Today, Duckworth Vodka is distributed throughout Texas and major retailers and boutique wine and spirits stores. The product line has expanded to include a beautiful French Oak Barrel vodka in which the Premiums Sipping Vodka is rested in French Oak Barrels that Fuqua held onto from his wine-making days. The oak from Vosges is lightly toasted to accentuate the flavor and coax out the vanillin which gives this vodka a whiskey-like nose and taste. It’s stunning. 

Truffle Vodka in the making

Lee also crafted a Truffle Vodka which is made by infusing the original vodka with French black winter truffles which lord over the Herkimer diamonds in five-gallon glass carboys, shaved truffles lining the bottoms. The latest addition to the vodka line is Dry Grapefruit-Mango, which is made from natural grapefruit and mango flavors and completely sugar free, unlike most other flavored vodkas.  H.E. Duckworth would be proud of this concoction.

Duckworth Distillery is located at 3737 Atwell Street, Suite 203 in Dallas.  There is a tasting room open to the public and where small amounts of the vodka can be purchased.  When COVID hit and hand sanitizer was hard to come by, Fuqua made Duckworth Hand Sanitizer and made sure first responders throughout Dallas had it in their hands when they needed it.  You can also pick up a bottle or two and a refill of the hand sanitizer at the distillery. 

Sip sipping vodka at Duckworth Distillery

Prior to COVID, Lee and Julia, who is a member of the prestigious Les Dames d’Escoffier International organization for women in the culinary, hospitality and fine beverage industries, were fixtures on the Dallas food festival scene, promoting their vodkas and exposing foodies to this fabulous Dallas distillation.

It’s always nice to learn about a Highland Park student who stays close to home and makes a name for himself or herself.  Lee Fuqua has a passion for fine spirits and has worked hard to be successful. Look for Duckworth London Dry Gin launching soon.  I look forward to tasting it and including it in a story about National Gin Day which will be next June if you’re keeping a calendar.

For more information on Duckworth Distillery and to check tasting room hours of operation, please visit the website at www.duckworthvodka.com.

Butter Up

I don’t each much peanut butter.  Until recently, I would only use the cheap stuff to fill my pups’ Kongs but otherwise didn’t buy it. That was until I heard about Fix & Fogg Peanut Butter from New Zealand and picked up a few jars at Central Market. Peanut Butter from New Zealand. Why?

Well, turns out that a couple of Kiwis know a thing or two about this quintessentially American food and they’ve created a product line that is non-GMO and free of palm and low on other oils, artificial sweeteners and additives often found in peanut butter. The ingredients are simple: peanuts, salt and, depending on the type, natural flavorings and sweeteners. The texture of the peanut butter is silky and full, and the flavors are rich, earthy, and just a little sweet.  I was so intrigued by the product, I wanted to interview the co-owner of Fix & Fogg to find out what makes this peanut butter so different from any others I’ve tasted.  I asked if we could do the interview via Zoom, each of us with mouths full of Fix & Fogg peanut butter but, alas, the time difference made it hard to schedule. I settled for an email interview.

Andrea and Roman Jewell

Roman Jewell and his wife Andrea, a couple of recovering lawyers from Wellington, New Zealand, launched Fix & Fogg, named for the characters in Jules Vernes’ Around the World in 80 Days, in 2013.  In addition to making an award-winning product line that has received top honors in New Zealand, Fix & Fogg is also a Certified B Corporation, meaning it uses its business as a force for good in the world, balancing profit with purpose.

“I consider our business to be more than just nut butters,” Roman told me. “I’m really proud of the values that underpin Fix & Fogg. We were New Zealand’s first B Corp certified food business. We donate large amounts of peanut butter to charities in both New Zealand and the United States because I’m a big believer in supporting the communities that support us,” he added.

I’m a big believer in supporting companies that support our communities.  Good thing I like this peanut butter.

The peanuts in Fix & Fogg’s peanut butter were carefully sourced, and after much searching, the couple found them in Cordoba, Argentina, where peanuts have been cultivated since 1872. Roman said he fell head over heels for the place and the passion of its farmers. 

“The terroir of Cordoba peanuts is naturally sweeter, resulting in an amazing tasting peanut butter,” he added.

These peanuts are called hi-oleic runner peanuts which are bursting with monounsaturated “good fats.” I spoke to Dr. Anne VanBeber, registered dietitian, and chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Texas Christian University about these products and their health benefits. “Scientific research indicates that oleic acid helps to lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) in our blood and reduces the risk for heart disease,” she told me.

Now having tasted several flavors of Fix & Fogg, I feel like a Kong, constantly being stuffed with peanut butter. I can’t resist. My favorite is the Dark Chocolate peanut butter (on a honey graham cracker) but found the Smoke & Fire flavor intriguing and created a more sophisticated version of the childhood snack “Ants on a Log” using it. The richness and pure peanut flavor of the plain smooth peanut butter is remarkable, and the crunchy styles are teeming with peanuts.

The international best seller Everything Butter

The company’s best-selling product in the world is the Everything Butter, which is a combination of seeds; hemp, chia, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, and flax; and nut butters, peanut and almond. It’s crunchy, a little sweet, a little savory, and very healthy. “Hemp, chia, pumpkin, and flax seeds are good sources of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats that help to enhance the immune system, fight inflammation, and are a great addition to our diet,” VanBeber notes. 

“Inflammation in the body is the leading cause of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancers.  In addition, most people are unaware that sesame seeds and almonds provide much needed calcium to the body.”

I add a heaping teaspoon of the Everything Butter to my morning oatmeal and sprinkle Craisins on it, which fills me up for the day.

The F&F Window in Houston

Roman and Andrea are always creating and will launch six new nut butter flavors in the U.S., including an Almond, Cashew and Maple Butter which I hope is launched by Thanksgiving, so I can add it to mashed roasted butternut squash to make a delicious side dish for my diabetic father in law, which got the seal of approval from Dr. VanBeber.

“With the carbohydrate, fat and protein profile of the Almond Cashew and Maple Butter, it’s appropriate for those following a diet for diabetics,” she said.

Now also produced in the U.S., Fix & Fogg products are available on Amazon, Central Market and, if you’re in Houston, you can find them at a little window shop in Montrose.  For more information on Fix & Fogg and for recipes, click here.

Spicy, Smokey Ants On A Log

  • Organic celery, cut in sticks
  • Fix & Fogg’s Smoke & Fire Peanut Butter Craisins
  • Curry Powder

Toss Craisins in mild curry powder and set aside.  Smear F&F’s Smoke & Fire Peanut Butter in the curve of a celery stalk.  Place curried Craisins on top of the peanut butter.  You’re welcome.

Taco-Bout: Pick Sides in this Food Fight

In 1000 AD, Archeologists discovered pre-hispanic comal “ovens” used to cook corn tortillas.  Since then, or maybe before then (this isn’t a history lesson) people have been eating tacos. Tacos have earned a place of great culinary and cultural importance and in 2009 the first National Taco Day was created. Taco aficionados everywhere assumed the taco could receive no greater honor than that, until October 2015 when the taco emoji came out. Since then, the taco has never looked back.

October 4 is National Taco Day and, thanks to the overwhelming success of People Newspapers’ Mac-Off, we will pit neighbor against neighbor, taco against taco to determine the Peoples’ Choice for best taco in town. For more about People Newspapers and its dedication to the fine art of tacos and everything else, read more here

Vote HERE for your favorite taco.  Voting ends October 2 at noon and the winner will be crowned October 4. 

Meals on Wheels: The Original Door Dash

Meals awaiting delivery

In August 2019, People Newspapers published my story about Meals on Wheels.  I have the honor of serving on the VNA/Meals on Wheels Board of Directors and wanted a way to promote our Drive Away Hunger campaign. My idea was to “review” the meals eaten by more than 4,500 Dallas residents who receive Meals on Wheels (MOW) daily.  The reaction I got from folks when I told them I was going to eat MOW for a week was pity, curiosity and, in some cases, borderline disgust.  I was undeterred.

In August of this year, I learned that my article on Meals on Wheels earned third place in the National Association of Newspapers Buster Awards for Best Feature.  I’m delighted to share this article and you can also follow this link to read the version that ran in People Newspapers.  

“Hello, my name is Elaine*. I just want to let you know that my mother really enjoyed it her meal Friday.  It was the Honey-glazed Turkey with Au Gratin Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts and she told me over and over how delicious it was and to be sure and tell the chef how much she appreciated it. Though we didn’t know it at the time, that was mom’s last Meals on Wheels delivery. She succumbed to cancer two days later. I wanted to be sure to pass along her ‘compliments to the chef’ and to say thanks to Meals on Wheels for being my mom’s lifeline for so long.”

Between Pinterest boards filled with edible works of art to “instagramworthy” meals to “food porn,” thanks to technology, food has been objectified to the point in which many of us have practically forgotten its value. I get it – my “phone eats first” and I can spend 10 minutes trying to get the perfect Instapic of shards of Maldon Sea Salt artfully arranged on a juicy red tomato. I have a healthy preoccupation with food and feel lucky to be able to write about it for this paper. This month, I’m not going to feature a new restaurant, I’m going to feature an old one: Meals on Wheels Dallas County which is about 40 years old.

Meals on Wheels is the original Door Dash with employees and volunteers canvassing the Dallas area Monday through Friday to deliver meals to 4,500 clients for whom their daily delivery of food, a friendly face and a kind word is a lifeline. Many MOW clients have health issues so providing nutritious, balanced meals on such a large scale and tight budget is challenging. If you’re reading this in a newspaper that was delivered to your home, chances are you live in an affluent area and are unlikely to be food insecure.  But have you ever wondered about what kind of food is prepared and delivered on such a large scale five days a week?  Maybe not but I hope you do, if just this once.

With the help of Dr. Ashley Lind, the VP of Meals on Wheels and Population Health, I ate four meals to gain insight into the value of Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors. It was an eye-opening experience, not because the food was especially good or especially bad, but because it allowed me to appreciate food in a way I haven’t in years.

Monday: Swiss Steak with Whipped Potatoes and Italian Green Beans

I approached the first meal as a novelty. The ground beef patty was juicy and flavored well with hint of sautéed onion. All meals must be low sodium, so the whipped potatoes and green beans tasted like not much until I added salt. Everything had good texture.

Tuesday: King Ranch Chicken with Steamed Broccoli and Carrots

The King Ranch Chicken was really tasty! It was a little spicy, in fact, and had big chunks of white-meat chicken in a cheesy sauce. The broccoli and carrots were cooked but not mushy and needed salt.  Without realizing it, I ate the entire meal in four minutes. As I walked out of the VNA Haggarty Center, it occurred to me that I inhaled that meal as if I was just checking a box and not feeding my body and soul. I started to cry as I walked to my car.

Wednesday: Turkey Tetrazzini with Brussels Sprouts and Vegetable Medley

My favorite meal so far, the pasta with chunks of tender turkey meat was full of flavor with a hint of spice. I wondered how they can make 4,500 plates of pasta and have it not become mush. Honestly, I didn’t eat the Brussels Sprouts. I’m sorry mom, I never liked them.

Thursday: Homestyle Meatloaf with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and

Herbed Green Beans

I think the Meatloaf is about the same as the Swiss Steak but with more tomato and seasoning. The meatloaf was tender but not mushy, the green beans were cooked just right with a little snap left in them and more flavorful than previous vegetable offerings. The mashed potatoes only had a hint of garlic and when I finished the trapezoid-shaped mound, I realized I hadn’t eaten mashed potatoes since last Thanksgiving, and I’d eaten them twice this week.  “How ironic, I thought.”

I’m so fortunate, most of us are, to afford high-quality food and spent time and money dining out with our friends. We can order what we want; throw out what we don’t. We have so many choices, too many sometimes, on what and where to eat. We can celebrate food with photos and hashtags and beautiful creations made from watermelon and a paring knife  – and we should! I hope, too, that we will be aware of those who are food insecure, lonely and rely on that daily delivery of Meals on Wheels as one of their few remaining connections to socialization, sensorial pleasure and nourishment for their bodies.

I say I’m not a critic, I’m a storyteller but I’ll summarize the meals this way: They’re better than airplane food, WAY better than the Frank Crowley Courts Building Cafeteria you’re stuck with for jury duty and better than starving, which is the alternative to Meals on Wheels delivery.

It’s National Tequila Day

It honor of this manufactured holiday, which I wholly support, I will share a story I wrote for Auberge Resort’s Esperanza to introduce their certified Catadores and Sommelier, Christian Moya.  I love story telling, especially about people, food and places.  But first, here are some recipes developed by Casa Dragones and mixologists at some of Dallas’ best Mexican food restaurants, Jose, Jalisco Norte and El Bolero.  You can enjoy these cocktails in their dining rooms or at home.  

 

Time Travel with Tequila Tasting

at Esperanza, An Auberge Resort

Tequila Master Christian Moya, Esperanza, An Auberge Resort

“It’s another tequila sunrise.” “Don’t ask her on a straight tequila night.” “Jose Cuervo you are a friend of mine.” He Drinks Tequila. Me and Tequila. Tequila Sheila. “Tequila makes her clothes fall off.”  And who can forget Tequila, 1958 hit re-popularized by Pee Wee Herman? Ah, the many odes to tequila. The national drink of Mexico made from a plant that is the most spectacular shade of blueish green I’ve ever seen, it’s the color of the sea when dark storm clouds are above, its many arms spread out like a powerful Hindu goddess.

I grew up in Guadalajara City, about an hour southeast of Tequila, Jalisco and remember speeding by fields of agave, blurs of greenish blue along the road during family road trips. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been around tequila. My family always had a few bottles of tequila open and available for occasions – special and everyday – for family, friends new and old, and perfect strangers. Tequila is about my culture, my family and my country’s history. It’s a great joy that my job at Esperanza allows me to share my passion with others.

Esperanza has been my home for 12 years. I am a Certified Tequila Master and a Certified Level 2 Sommelier, working on my Level 3 exam.  I’m both student and teacher, drinking in every bit of knowledge I can, then sharing it with guests. In addition to overseeing the beverage program at each restaurant and bar here, I work closely with the chefs on pairings for meals and banquet events and I host tequila tastings, which might be one of my favorite activities here.

Twice a year I journey to Jalisco, the land of blue agave in southwest Mexico, to meet tequila distillers, taste new batches and tour the agave fields that sprawl peacefully in the shadow of the Tequila Volcano (which is not a cocktail, rather an inactive volcano that is responsible for the rich soil ideal for growing blue agave). In the air is the unmistakable smell of tequila in various states of distillation. I return to Esperanza after these visits invigorated and ready to share what I’ve learned.

Many of our guests are well traveled and have basic, if not moderate, knowledge of wine.  It’s my greatest privilege to teach the history and nuances of tequila and its cousin, mezcal, of which guests tend to know less. When I conduct a tequila tasting event I’m often told a variation of the same story: guests’ experience with tequila consists of a bottle of tequila, a drum of table salt, cut up limes, and a regrettable feeling the next morning.  Unceremoniously slugging tequila versus smelling, tasting, wetting your lips and absorbing the depth of flavors on your tongue is as different as acid rock is from bossa nova.

I like to say that each tequila tasting session is like time travel; I cover 2,400 years in 60 minutes. The “classroom” is breezy, open-air, often with a view of the sea, and set with proper tasting glassware, a beautiful display of the many kinds of tequila and mezcal we offer and places for each tester.  I offer four kinds of tequila and one mezcal for comparison. Mezcal is not nearly as well known as tequila and is often disregarded because of its strong, smoky flavor.  I often find that guests who gravitate towards a “peaty” scotch have a distinct affinity for mezcal as well. There are many “ah-ha!” moments during the tasting and it’s rewarding to see guests continue to process their learning by trying new tequilas throughout their stay.

I’m proud to know that when guests leave here, they have a new respect for tequila and, long after they’ve returned home, they continue to share their experience and knowledge of tequila. Some of my best days on this job have been spending time with a group of 12 eager learners who become as passionate about the history and taste of tequila and mezcal as I am.  When I leave Esperanza, whether it is for visits to international wine regions to continue my enology education, to Jalisco to visit the distilleries or to one of the up-and-coming Baja Valley vineyards, I am always seeking more information and knowledge on my passion for wine and spirits so I can continue to share with guests.

Christian Moya and his team of spirit and wine experts would love to share their knowledge and passion with you.  Complimentary tequila tastings are offered Tuesday and Saturdays at 5 p.m. Please contact your concierge to arrange your own tasting. 

A Rosé is a Rosé is a Rosé

Smith Story Rose and a Texas Sunset

Blush, summer water, pink wine. It can be syrupy sweet, acidic and bright, fruity and vaguely effervescent, and bold but thin. It has become the omnipresent social accessory of summer for its refreshingly crisp taste that literally makes your mouth water and its ability to match summer outfits perfectly. Though often regarded as a “chick drink” because of its slightly effeminate tones ranging from pale pink to a translucent cherry red, there is no data to support that stereotype.  It really depends on individual tastes, and with ten different styles of rosé, there is enough range to satisfy nearly every palate. Good rosés can be had for less than $10 a bottle and there are many great rosés priced below $30 a bottle.

This Saturday, June 13, is National Rosé Day, always the second Saturday in June, the perfect time for a cold, crisp mostly low alcohol wine to enjoy on a toasty day. In honor of rosé day and several Dallas area restaurants have created specials to honor the occasion, but first, a history lesson.

Rosé wine is thought to have been created around 8,000 years ago in Armenia where clay jars with wine residue were found.  Back then, wines would have been lighter since the more advanced pressing and fermentation techniques that make red and white wines weren’t developed yet.  Some rosé is produced when black-skinned grapes are crushed and the skin maintains contact with the juice for around 24 hours, versus the skins immediately being filtered out for white wine or left in contact with the juice for long periods of time as with red wines.

In the past three years at least, rosé sales have been increasing around 40% each year, with the main source of rosé wines coming to America from France, Spain and Italy, though American rosés compare very favorably to Old World wines.  My favorite American rosé is from local gal Alison Smith Story, a Keller native and Baylor grad who started Smith Story wines with her husband, Eric.  They make only one, a Rosé of Pinot Noir Rheingau Germany which is bright and delicately fruity. I also love La Vielle Ferme (also known as “chicken wine”) which is in the style of Provence, a combination of granache, syrah and cinsault grapes making it a little tart, a little sweet and a little fruity, a great blend and an exceptional value at around $9 per bottle.

Foxtrot Market in University Park and Uptown have great rosé choices

How do you know which rosés you will like? Try them.  Rebecca Murphy, Wine Writer, Professional Wine Judge and Founder of The Dallas Morning News and TexSom Wine Competition (and is also considered to be the first female Sommelier in Texas), offers this advice, “I love rosés from Provence, but they are so popular that winemakers from other regions are going to great lengths to get that Provence pale pink. So, my first thought is to avoid selecting a rosé just because of its color.  Instead, pick a one from a grape you really like (like you).  Or from a region or country that makes wines you like. It wasn’t that many years ago that a rosé drinker was considered an unsophisticated rube.  Today, we are living in rosé heaven with a whole world to choose from.  Have fun exploring.” You can explore with minimal financial risk at Central Market, World Market or Foxtrot Market which have abundant selections.

Whichever rosé makes your day, as always, drink responsibly. For a few unique approaches to National Rosé Day, check out these cocktails and frozen drinks made from rosé.

Happy National Rosé Day, here’s to your health!

National Rosé Day Specials in Dallas

Blueberry Souffle and Rosé at Rise no. 1

Rise no. 1 has a beautiful selection of French rosés of different styles which are perfect to pair with savory and sweet dishes, including their seasonal Blueberry Soufflé.

Young & Beautiful at Knife

Knife at The Highlands Dallas has created a refreshing rosé-based cocktail called the Young & Beautiful, named after the famous Lana Del Rey song from 2013. The drink combines Rose Gold Provençal Rosé Dashfire Hibiscus Bitters, Fever Tree Soda and a Hibiscus Flower which can and should be enjoyed on Knife’s patio.

JAXON Texas Kitchen & Beer Garden has created a summer-inspired twist on the traditional frosé cocktail with a Fresh Watermelon Frozé , the perfect pairing for JAXON’s massive patio.

Malibu Poke always has rosé and frosé on the menu but Saturday you can enjoy $1 rosé all day while you’re partaking poke.

Poke and rosé sort of rhyme

Dreaming of The Charles

Song Pairing: A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman

The Charles

The steady hum of much needed interpersonal connection filled the space, the occasional percussive beats of laughter punctuated the atmosphere, then quieted, leaving a brief pause for me to hear the background music. It was reopening night at The Charles after its closure on March 16. Preshift earlier that day was electric, J stayed in the kitchen, head down and focused while Chas, emotionally charged and energetic as ever, recounted the difficulties of the past few weeks. He told this family of employees, whom he and his partners had been paying since Day 1 of the shutdown, that he missed them, even though he’d regularly video chatted with them during the shutdown. He took a moment to swallow the emotion that swelled in his throat. Chas looked at every staff member in the room as if he were trying to imprint this moment and their expressions into his memory forever and told them how happy he is to share this space once again with them. They all nodded in agreement, shifting back and forth on their feet like racehorses in their starting gates, ready for service to begin. Chas then took a sip of Drappier, put his glass down, and flew up his arms to signal the rise of the golden-tasseled red velvet curtain. “It’s showtime!”      And then I woke up, my dream about The Charles ended before I could even order.

Throughout the pandemic, I’ve had vivid dreams, many of which couldn’t be explained by the even the best psychoanalysts.  This dream wasn’t hard to decipher, though. I’ve been distancing in my dreams to places I would rather be, and a frequent theme is restaurants. I visited Bar Charles in December the day it opened and managed to squeeze into their reservation book for an early dinner in January.  I’ve since dreamt about The Charles and the Lemon Ricotta Gnudi and Veal Ragu Capelloni which compelled me to call Chas and find out how he’s doing and when The Charles might reopen. After we spoke, I had what I now refer to as “The Greatest Showman Dream” about the reopening.

The Charles celebrated its two-year anniversary May 1, not as they had wished, surely, but still optimistic that they would soon be able to open the dining room. Since late March, The Charles has served lunch and dinner for curbside pick-up and delivery via Alto and has opened their more than “Italian’ish” wine list for sale at attractive discounts. Recognizing that the well-healed crowd The Charles attracts appreciates great wine, Chas stocked up on impressive wines to add to the collection right before the pandemic decimated the hospitality industry. If he had known in January what he learned in March, he admits he would not have amplified his cellar to such an extent. Like other restaurants, The Charles is selling from its cellar to keep cash flow going, while still quite certain that when it reopens, $399 bottles of Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia (yum) will be ordered by eager and appreciative guests. For now, The Charles is selling bottles of wine under $250 at 50% discount and those over $250 at 40% discount.  If you price shop, you’ll recognize this as a very good buying opportunity.

J Chastain, Chef and Chas Martin, Owner of The Charles

J Chastain is an introvert, the complete opposite of Chas they both confessed.  J’s pedigree cooking in some of the most respected, if not chaotic, kitchens in Dallas proves his creativity, execution, and endurance.  He misses his team and the energy of the kitchen, he told me, but he’s rather enjoyed this relative downtime. He’s at the restaurant near daily, doing or overseeing maintenance and repairs of the equipment and space which was new construction, custom built but driven like a Ferrari on the Autostrada since its opening in 2018.  J feels fortunate to work for Chas Martin and the See brothers, Ross and Corbin. Prior to The Charles opening, they sent J to Italy to research, study, eat and drink to live la dolce vida, capture it like a firefly and release it within 1632 Market Center Drive. “They have vision,” he says of the owners and will accomplish great things in the future.  For now, though he isn’t a chef who works the dining room, touching tables, preferring to stay in his groove behind the scenes, he recognizes the challenges the restaurant, like all, will face when it reopens.

The Charles

When The Charles reopens, Chas and J wonder what the new normal will look like.  The restaurant is a compact 2700 square-feet.  The tables are close together by design, the long bar is set with tall chairs lined up for hip-to-hip seating while a row of two top tables sit only two feet away. It’s tight by design, sexy and energetic, intimate in a very public, voyeuristic kind of way. How will this work when you increase space between tables and reduce the number of bodies in there?  How do you articulate luxury with paper menus and silverware condoms? It won’t be easy but the stylish, positive, intuitive showman, Chas Martin, will figure it out.

Dallas is still a strong, viable restaurant market and destination city.  The Charles’ ownership group is bullish on the city and their ability to provide unique dining experiences for their clientele.  They are patient and measured, smart investors who are playing the long game and, in fact, invested back in The Charles for 21 months before making a distribution to investors.  They are currently at work developing new concepts which they are quite secretive about, but I will venture to guess that they could move into something textural and moderately exotic, such as Mediterranean-ish, to feature the bright cuisine of the region, beyond pita and hummus, and introduce local diners to the exciting wines of Israel, Lebanon and Greece.

Ross See, Chas Martin and Corbin See, owners of The Charles

Until The Charles reopens the dining room, I will order and pick up the polenta fries, spicy creste di Gallo and a bottle of one of their Sicilian white wines (at 50% off, remember).  I will distance in my dreams; I’ll visit The Charles and my other favorite restaurants in town.  In my dreams I’ll walk a clean, empty Venice, the canals clear and odorless; I’ll spend hours in the Victoria & Albert in London with no pushy queues forcing me to abandon the exhibits I want study for hours; my dreams will take me to sunrise over Angkor Wat with only those closest to me alongside.  I will dream a million dreams, the same as Chas Martin.

Feed Your Mama Right on Mother’s Day

Being a mother and step mother is the hardest yet

most rewarding thing in life.

Traveling with these three is never dull
Traveling with these three is never dull.

Sunday is Mother’s Day, another great reason to celebrate in the month of May.  Whether you are a mom, have a mom, are married to a mom or just appreciate the strength of maternal bonds and the role that motherhood plays into shaping our society, let’s lift up mothers with great food, quality time together and by demonstrating appreciation for mothers everywhere. (Can you tell I’m trying to send a message to people I’m related to?)

These restaurants are offering curbside pick up and delivery so you can treat mom at home.

Homewood has a fabulous menu for pick up. Please order by end of day Thursday and plan to pick up at Homewood between 11 am and 1 pm Sunday. To order, call 214.434.1244 or info@homewooddallas.com minimum order for two is required. Menu: Choose one Strada: Nduja, swiss chard and ricotta or Mushrooms, asparagus, and feta; then, pick a spread: House cured Lox with the works or cured country ham with cultured butter and Calabrian chile cheese spread. Side dishes included are Greens with toasted seeds & herbs with mustard vinaigrette, bread and butter carrots, smashed cucumber salad and deviled eggs. Finish up with Maggie’s pound cake with macerated strawberries and mascarpone cream. $65 per person.

Al Biernet’s Roast Chicken Photo by Gustav Schmiege

Al Biernat’s offers curbside pick-up as well. Please place orders by 4 pm Friday, May 8. To order and schedule your pick up time, call 214.209.2201 or order via al biernets website. Orders will be available for pickup between 12:30pm-7pm on Sunday, May 10th. Al’s doesn’t everything well and Sunday’s menu includes some of the restaurant’s most popular menu items including Al’s salad, prime rib, grilled salmon, herb roasted chicken shown here and sides such as chopped salad, creamed corn, or lobster risotto. For kiddos, the menu also includes chicken fingers, noodles with butter or marinara, plain hamburgers. Dessert options include coconut pie, Texas pecan pie, NY style cheesecake.

Lobster Salad from Georgie

Georgie by Curtis Stone offers a fancy brunch with so many fabulous items from which to choose.  To order, call 469.466.8263 or go online here. Place your order and choose your delivery or pick up time from the available options.  Delivery is free within a two-mile radius of the Knox Henderson restaurant. The three-course meal for adults offers a starter, main and dessert choice for $50 per person. Children’s meals are $25 per person and include an entrée and dessert. Starter options include the choice of a Pastry Basket (best croissants!), White Asparagus Mimosa, Grilled Artichoke Salad, Tomato Gazpacho Crab & Avocado Salad. Entrée choices include Le Bilboquet’s famous Cajun Chicken and Lobster Salad shown here, Mango Grilled Halibut and beef options including Petit Filet au Poivre. Dessert choices are Chocolate Mousse, Strawberry shortcake and Keylime Pie.

Stock & Barrel offers curbside pick-up and delivery daily, on Sunday, though, pick-up hours are from 9 am to 1 pm. Orders must be placed by Friday at 9 pm. To place an order and set pick-up time between 9 am and 1 pm, call 214.888.0150.  The dinner for two menu offers a choice of Goat cheese dumplings with asparagus, green garlic, braised little gems, fava beans and tarragon or Cherry wood smoked range chicken with red onion marmalade or Wagyu meatloaf with green peppercorn butter. Dinner for four menu options include those choices plus sides including assorted grains with lemon, zucchini, fennel, pistachios, black currants, and herbs; cheesy polenta; mesclun greens with toasted pecans, clementines, feta, and a marmalade vinaigrette. Dessert is their famous sticky toffee pudding. Take the guess work out and let them pair your wines and cocktails for you.  Dinner for two is $75, dinner for four is $125.

Salum’s Mother’s Day take away special is perfectly on-brand for Salum with little Mediterranean twists to every dish. Order online by Friday at 5 pm for Sunday pick up between 10 am and noon. The four-course menu is offered for $65 per person plus tax and gratuity. Appetizers are Leek, spinach, goat cheese phyllo dough rolls (I’d love to see how Abri does that!, phyllo is so hard to work with!) served with spiced berry jam. Salad course is a Little Gem lettuce salad with English peas, grilled corn and heirloom tomatoes with a mint basil marinated burrata and you have a choice of three entrees: 1) Beef rib roast with mushroom saute and red onion horseradish compote; 2) Blood orange or rosemary crusted Cornish hen; or 3) Pan seared halibut with lemony crab topping and tarragon vinaigrette. The menu includes sides of baked potato, Brussels Sprouts, bacon and sage with aged cheddar and grilled spring vegetables with spiced walnut relish and dessert of a strawberry, apple and ginger cobbler with Henry’s Homemade Sweet Cream ice cream. Woah, that all sounds so good. Salum also sells wine and cocktail kits so ask for the perfect pairings for your feast.

Parigi has perfected curbside pick-up.  Please place orders by Thursday May 7 at 5 pm by calling 214.521.0295 and ask for Janice or Allison or email your order at orders@parigidallas.com.  When you place your order, tell you server whether it is for pick-up or delivery, for Saturday or Sunday and if you want Ready to EAT or Ready to HEAT. In addition to this fantastic Mother’s Day menu, Parigi will also offer its usual curbside menu.

Mother’s Day brunch menu includes individual mushroom-leek-gruyere quiches, chicken and poblano stuffed crepes, polenta blueberry pancakes, chocolate chip bread pudding French toast and bites for the kids including chicken tenders and spaghetti and meatballs. Parigi is offering desserts from local legends including Mynetta’s strawberry cake, JR’s individual blueberry pie and Henry’s ice cream in a variety of flavors. Brunch isn’t brunch without Mimosas or Bloody Mary’s so add one of Parigi’s drink kits to go.

Sachet has been dark since this whole crazy thing started but it’s reopening for curbside pick up and delivery for Mother’s Day. Hooray! The Mother’s Day meals are heat and eat (or cool and drool) and should be ordered now so you can arrange pick up on Friday between 2 pm and 7 pm and Saturday between noon and 7 pm. Order by calling 214.613.6425 or emailing reservations@sachetdallas.com. The meal is served Family Style and serves four at $45 per person. The offerings include: Choice of three Mezes, a choice of salad, choice of two entrees, two sides and an assortment of desserts. To read the full menu in all its glory, click here.

Jon Alexis clearly loves mothers, look at this feast.

TJ’s Seafood Market’s Preston Royal location is offering a sweet brunch for pick-up that feeds four-six people for $110.  To order, call 214.691.2369  by Friday, May 8. The menu features a Ham & Cheese egg casserole, TJ’s famous shrimp cocktail, cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing, Caesar salad, bacon and breakfast potatoes.  You can add a Mimosa package for $25.

Festa della Mamma at Il Bracco

Il Bracco, The Plaza at Preston Center’s Italian restaurant from CEO Robert Quick, an SMU grad and former omelet guy at Dallas Country Club, serves up fantastic Italian fare and executes to-go perfectly. The Festa della Mamma menu must be ordered by Friday, May 8 and is available to curbside pick-up or delivery via Alto. Full menu is HERE and is also available please email you order to parkcities@ilbraccorestaurant.com. The special menu feeds four people for $100, a great deal, if you ask me.  The menu starts with a Chilled Carrot Soup, Kale Salad, whole Herb Roasted Chicken, Asparagus & Peas side and Panna Cotta for dessert.  Il Bracco’s pastas are excellent and the Spicy Gemelli for four people can be added for $40. You can also purchase a Mimosa kit and wine such as Nickel & Nickel’s “Truchard” for a few extra coins.

Asian Mint has created easy to prepare at home meal kits featuring some of their most popular dishes.  For Mother’s Day the Preston Forest (only) location is selling kits that include Edamommy (sorry, Edamame) Asian Noodle Salas, Shrimp and Chicken Basil with Jasmine Rice and Chocolate Flourless Cake. A 48-hour pre-order is required and you can order online at

LeGourmet Baking has the best shortbread in town.

LeGourmet Baking Becky Nelson’s Lover’s Lane bakery is still cranking out the best shortbread in town.  Her Mother’s Day gift tins are adorable and a perfect gift to drop off to let a certain someone know you are thinking about her. (PS – she does very cute school-themed cookies, too. Maybe a certain graduate needs some shortbread love, too.

Dinner for four costs $75.

Central Market has you covered for Mother’s Day.

Central Market has been a bright spot in an otherwise difficult time.  From the organization of their stores to the fantastic supply of the best produce, meat, seafood, flour, yeast, and TP, they have been a source of comfort for so many during this pandemic.   They are also going to make your Mother’s Day shopping easier with their Meals to Go. To order and schedule pick up, click HERE. Offerings include breakfast in bed set ups, lunch, dinner and everything between.  The little brunch set up pictured here looks great.

Whatever you decide, treat your mamma right. It’s a hard job that doesn’t pay well. 🙂