Tag Archive | Southern Savvy Blog

Sixty Vines

Plano, Texas

I had the opportunity to dine here for a friend’s birthday brunch and we had an amazing time and a delicious meal. How had I not heard about this wonderful place? Sixty Vines is located in Plano off the tollway next to Whiskey Cake. I would describe it as a “casual American / Italian kitchen meets wine bar meets Farm-to-Market.” Now that I have you totally confused, I will try to describe it more accurately!

When I first walked in, I noticed how welcoming the interior was. There are high ceilings, many windows and lots of greenery. It is very spacious, clean and modern and I would describe it as “fun, vibrant and chic”. The entire place (and menu) remind me of ¬†the Northern California wine country and that local cuisine. The decor works perfectly with the wines and style of food they serve. The kitchen, wood-fired oven, and charcuterie bar are all open-viewing.

The centerpiece of Sixty Vines for me was the entire back wall. There is a huge line drawing (made with one line!) depicting the farmers, the grapes, wine making, farm animals, etc. The more you look at it, the more items you see. Underneath the drawing are 60 spigots – each labeled with the 40 wines and 20 beers they serve on tap…hence the name “Sixty Vines.” The slogan on their wine menu is “C’mon, get tappy!” ūüôā

0521171311

There is quite a variety of seating options. Choose from communal tables, high tops, secluded sectionals, greenhouse, patio, bar or the charcuterie bar to dine in or out. I can imagine dining here on a date, for a business dinner, for a family meal or with a group of ladies enjoying brunch – like we did. I would like to note here, the food is a little “adventurous” and maybe not for the picky eater (leave them home this time)!

My group of ladies started our meal off with Mimosas and Bloody Marys – both were made with wine and tasted quite delicious and refreshing. We enjoyed the Wood Fired Cauliflower, an entire head with pesto, parmesan and a lemon dill yogurt dipping sauce…yum! We had the Roasted Beet Salad with gorgeous red, pink, and golden beets. Next up was the Butcher’s Brunch Pizza with prosciutto, provolone, mozzarella, soppresseta, and over-easy eggs (one of my favorites this day). The Egg White Frittata with goat cheese, mushrooms and spinach was also enjoyable.

Next came the desserts – my favorite part of the meal! The Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes were AMAZING. Words cannot describe how fluffy and delicious they were. (There is no photo because we devoured them so quickly.) The Angel Food French Toast with fresh berries and whipped cream was light and sweet. The Texas Olive Oil Citrus Cake was our birthday girl’s choice and she seemed to enjoy it. ¬†The Sweet Board was another favorite of mine. It had sea-salt shortbread cookies, chocolate ganache, pistachio cookies, brie, walnuts, pear butter, and matcha cake. There was not one bad dish our entire meal – everything, and I do mean “everything” – was eaten in its entirety!

I felt that I would do a disservice to Sixty Vines without trying some of their wine. I had watched other patrons tasting their wine flights and enjoying their wines by the glass, so I gave in finally and ordered a “Vine Hugger” (their house brand) rose’. The glass of rose’ was served at the perfect temperature and was crisp and delicious. I plan to return soon for dinner and give some of those other wines a try. (Only 39 left to sample!)

From beginning to end, we had a wonderful experience at Sixty Vines. The service was very attentive. The quality of the food was perfect. The food selections were plentiful. The ambiance was most enjoyable.

Anyone up for a night out? I know just the place!

0521171348e-1

Fun birthday brunch!!!

Cosanti

Scottsdale, Arizona

When an opportunity presents itself to see an art gallery – count me in! On a girl’s¬†trip this past year with my daughter and sister-in-law to Scottsdale, my research kept turning up a place called Cosanti – a Paolo Soleri Studio. This artist’s studio is internationally¬†known for lovely bronze windbells. I had never heard of the place, but I was sold.

Paolo Soleri (1919-2013) was an Italian born architect and craftsman artist who came to Arizona as¬†an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright. Soleri popularized the term “arcology” – architecture and ecology as one. His Cosanti gallery and studio near Scottsdale is an Arizona Historic Site and a perfect example of his innovative architecture.

As I¬†first entered the studio property, my first thought was – this¬†is very different. It was¬†a unique and imaginative environment with an almost “enchanted” vibe. ¬†Odd shaped domes, columns, arches, pathways, native symbols, etc. give the whole place an other-world feel.¬†Words really cannot describe it –¬†my best¬†analogy¬†is a cross between a giant Smurf’s habitat¬†and Luke Skywalker’s home planet! It is not large, but spacious enough to display hundreds of gorgeous bronze windbells that hang in domes, corners, and alcoves throughout the property.

Not only is Cosanti visually stimulating, but the sound coming from all the windbells is unforgettable. Some bells had deep, base tones Рothers were light and airy. Some were quite loud, others were very quiet and delicate. All around us, a light breeze stirred the windbells and the sounds were amazing Рan unrehearsed, impromptu concert in a very fitting environment. 

On certain days, visitors can actually see the bronze bells being poured in the on-site foundry. Unfortunately, we arrived late one afternoon and did not have the opportunity to see this. Visitors can witness the silicon bronze ingots being¬†melted in the foundry’s furnace and and see the¬†melted bronze poured into reusable bell-shaped molds (each bell-piece was originally designed by Soleri). The Cosanti Hallmark design is then pressed into each bell impression to make it authentic.¬†When cooled and removed from molds, each artist then creates their own personal designs. Each bell is unique – some have an oxidized bronze finish¬†while others ¬†have the greenish, patina finish. Approximately¬†50,000 of these windbells are hand-poured each year. (Prices ranged from $30 – $7000.)

Since 1956, Soleri windbells have been hung on patios, in courtyards, and gardens throughout the world. I can attest that two of these beautiful bronze windbells now hang on a back porch in Rockwall, Texas. I will never tire of their clear, peaceful notes and will fondly remember my visit to Cosanti Studios.

Check out this gallery if you are ever in the Phoenix or Scottsdale area and have a few minutes. Pick up a nice windbell souvenir for yourself…..or better yet – bring me another!!

Ham Orchards

Terrell, TX

After Mother’s Day rolls around every year, my thoughts turn to driving out to Terrell, Texas to Ham Orchards. Let’s just say I may have a small, peach ice cream addiction – nothing life threatening – just a need to satisfy my sweet tooth with fresh, homemade peach ice cream a few times throughout the summer months. Ham’s is the place for me ¬†to satisfy this craving!

Ham Orchards is located east of Terrell and resembles the country stores of times gone by. One can buy ice cream, fresh produce, jams and jellies, pickles, and BBQ sandwiches. In other words, there is something for everyone. This business started in 1979 and through the years has grown to 5 orchards, 10,000 fruit trees, and covers 100 acres.

When you drive out to Ham’s, you will notice three main buildings on the property surrounded by the orchards and fields. The first is the largest building and is the Farm Market. Behind the market is a small BBQ place and restrooms. Past those buildings is a large covered pavilion that comfortably seats 200 patrons who want to eat their ice cream or BBQ sandwiches in the shade. There is plenty of parking in front of and to the side of these buildings.

hams

fresh peach ice cream

The Farm Market is where you line up to buy the ice cream. There are two flavors: fresh peach and fresh strawberry. You can buy a cup or cone on-site or buy frozen pints to take home and enjoy later. People drive from all over the Dallas metroplex to rural Terrell for this frozen treat and I certainly understand why!

Take time to grab a cart and shop in the rest of the market. There is a fudge bar with all types of flavors. There is a bakery aisle with homemade scones, fried pies, cakes and fruit pies. Check out the freezer and refrigerated cases for salsas, spreads and dips, and delicious frozen casseroles (chicken pot pie, Mexican beef casserole or chicken spaghetti). There are many shelves filled with cider, honey, salad dressings, pickles, sauces, relishes, jams & jellies, and marinades. I love the Bread & Butter pickles, pickled okra and blackberry jam!

A large portion of the market contains all the locally grown produce. Fresh tomatoes, onions, squashes, cucumbers, melons and berries always seem to be available. Large boards list all the types of peaches and when they will be available. ¬†This past weekend when we were there, “Flavor Rich” was the type of peach that was available.¬†

As we were leaving Ham’s this last time, we decided to order ¬†BBQ sandwiches to take home with us for dinner. I have heard how much everyone loves the Peach Pulled Pork sandwich, but we opted for the plain BBQ Pulled Pork. (I am not a big fan of “sweet” with “savory!”) The bun was fresh, the pulled pork was tender and delicious and I really liked their tangy BBQ sauce. Very nice!

If you have some free time, drive out to Ham Orchards for some ice cream, fresh produce, and BBQ. Ham’s is open 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (closed on Sundays). They are only open mid-May through mid-August¬†so don’t delay! They are three miles east of Terrell on Hwy 80.

Enjoy!!

208

 Feel free to leave additional comments regarding this write up. If you would like to read more of my dining and travel postings, subscribe to my blog on this page. Thanks so much!

Water Mill, NY

The Hamptons

After watching several television series and movies that featured The Hamptons and Long Island, I was ready to check this area out for myself. After a bit of research, I settled on staying in Water Mill, NY.  This little village is a hamlet of the Town of Southampton and was settled in 1644. It was the perfect location from which to explore East Hampton, Westhampton, Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor, Montauk and Sagaponack Рall just minutes away.

My first bit of luck was choosing The White Fences Inn. This was a wonderful little Bed and Breakfast with a perfect location. Liz and Eric were most hospitable hosts and their goldendoodle Bailey stole our hearts!  The White Fences Inn was originally built in 1740, and the new owners did a fantastic job renovating and remodeling this historic home. It was cozy, comfortable and had all the latest modern amenities. We were served a delicious three-course breakfast every morning on the back patio (weather permitting) or in the lovely modern dining room. We had a great stay here and especially enjoyed getting to know our hosts and meeting some of the other guests.

Just down the road from The White Fences Inn¬†sat what looked like a most¬†unusual and very long barn. This just happened to be¬†the Parrish Art Museum. Being an art major and having free passes from our B&B, we decided to check it out. This unique building houses a very nice modern art collection. I do admit¬†that the building’s architecture – interior and exterior – was as interesting as the art collection. We enjoyed our morning visit here and saw some very thought-provoking paintings by local artists.

This area of Long Island is very beautiful with its green rolling hills, floral gardens, corn crops, and meticulously planted vineyards. It is very similar to Tuscany and Napa Valley. Who knew that this area of the country was known for winemaking? I certainly did not!

There were¬†several wineries and vineyards in this area, and we visited three of them during our stay. Our favorite was the Wolffer Estate Vineyards down the road from us in Sagaponack.¬†The main Wolffer Estate building was quite elegant¬†– built in a Mediterranean style with lush landscaping¬†and stone terraces. We sat on the back patio terrace on a lovely afternoon and enjoyed a Tuscan board with artisan cheeses,¬†breads, fruits and nuts. We sampled several of their chardonnays, rose’ and red blends. The wines were all delicious and we purchased¬†several bottles to take back home with us. This area of New York¬†is known for their award-winning¬†rose’ wines and now after drinking a few, I can attest as to why!

Another thing that surprised me about this area was the lovely beaches. Our B&B gave us parking passes to the local Flying Point Beach just minutes from where we stayed. Our hosts loaded us up with towels, chairs, umbrella, drinks & snacks and sent us on our way. This beach was gorgeous Рfine white sand, sand dunes, sea oats, and more sea birds than people! We had such a quiet, relaxing day here and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was an absolutely perfect day at the beach.

At the end of each day we would go back to The White Fences Inn, clean up, and drive a few minutes into the downtown area of the Village of Southampton for dinner. This neat little town had clothing shops, chic cafes, fancy restaurants, cheese shops, bakeries, delicatessens, ¬†and coffee shops. We had some delicious meals each evening and really enjoyed the local seafood. One night we dined at the Red Bar, a favorite restaurant of the locals, and sat a few tables over from Howard Stern and his wife! You never know who you will see here since so many famous actors, designers, musicians, models, etc. have homes here and live a relatively quiet life. Water Mill, NY is the 14th most expensive zip in the U.S. with the median home price at $2,965,000. I don’t think we will be relocating any time soon.

We had an absolutely wonderful time in The Hamptons and were pleasantly surprised by all there was to see and do.  An earlier blog of mine covered Montauk and the Montauk Lighthouse which is just a few minutes drive from here also.  There were antique shops, old churches, ferries, charter boats, stables, horse shows, pumpkin farms, historical museums, art galleries, sailing, surfing, beaches, etc.  Рliterally something for everyone. It was a great vacation destination and one that I had not heard much about. After we spent a few days here, we then drove the two hours back into NYC for the second leg of our trip. Great time Рgreat memories! 

 

Feel free to leave comments on this blog. If you have enjoyed reading about my travel and dining experiences, please subscribe and you will receive updated emails of my future postings. Thank you!

Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill

Dallas, TX

This restaurant is one of Dallas’ best kept secrets. It is located in a commercial strip mall next to a Jason’s Deli and you would never guess from the outside what a little jewel this is on the inside.

You walk in the front door into a “chophouse” setting – well-lit bar, dark woods, cozy booths and tables, and low lighting. It is a¬†classy, warm, and relaxed atmosphere. Kenny’s offers¬†a very nice setting without being the least bit stuffy.

There are three things that make Kenny’s one of my favorite places to dine. Number one: when you make reservations, your server promptly addresses you by name…”How are the Brysons this evening?” I was impressed! Number two: you can order anything on the menu in any amount. You want to try just two¬†coconut shrimp appetizers instead of six? You may. ¬†Do you care for only one¬†grilled oyster to taste? Just ask. I love this idea! Number three: When you are halfway through drinking your martini, your waiter comes by and pours the remainder of¬†your drink¬†into a new¬†ice cold glass. Are you impressed yet?

We have dined at Kenny’s for both brunch and dinner and both are equally good. Our very first visit was for dinner. After our waiter discovered that this was our first time to dine at Kenny’s, he brought us two¬†artichoke wontons, two¬†coconut shrimp, and two¬†tenderloin crostini¬†as free appetizers. What a great way to get a customer hooked! Next we were served their fresh¬†popovers with butter. These big warm rolls are certainly not the most attractive things but they are light, airy and delicious. Ask for two!

There have not been any dishes¬†that we did not enjoy at Kenny’s. The Grand Marnier French Toast and Eggs Benedict were both delicious brunch dishes. The Eggs Benedict entree is served with either salmon, steak or a crab cake. For dinner, the French Onion Soup and Wedge Salads were¬†both very good choices for¬†appetizers. The Wood Grilled Oysters were fantastic – smoky and well-seasoned. The Pork Ribs were¬†PERFECT¬†– meaty and fork-tender with a great BBQ sauce. We are not usually huge¬†meat fans, but the large¬†pork chops and thick steaks being served all around us looked quite appetizing. The Brussels Sprouts and Bubbies Potato Cakes were great sides.

This is one of those restaurants that keeps you coming back. The impeccable service, the great food, and the friendly and attentive servers make for a perfect combination. Check it out!

001 (3)

Feel free to leave comments regarding this blog entry. If you would like to read more of my dining and travel experiences, subscribe to Southern Savvy Blog from this site. Thank you!

Garden of the Gods

Colorado Springs, CO

Garden of the Gods is a National Natural Landmark located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This is a great place to spend part of a day or a full day. You can choose to hike, go rock climbing, bike, ride horseback, or take a leisurely drive (like we did). There are 15 miles of well-marked trails (22 total) throughout the park.

We began at the Visitor & Nature Center and Museum at the park’s entrance. This is a wonderful building with geology, ecology, and cultural history exhibits. (Be sure to read¬†about the 125 million-year-old, one-of-a-kind dinosaur fossil found here in 1886.) There are many hands-on exhibits and activities for adults and children. The visitor’s center also houses a gift shop, restrooms, a cafe, theater, and an information desk where you can pick up a free full-color trail map of the park. Step out of the center onto the observation deck for spectacular views of Garden of the Gods. This is the perfect spot to take¬†a photo of¬†the dramatic 300′ towering sandstone formations with the foothills of the Rockies and Pike’s Peak in the distance.¬† What a backdrop!

When you leave the visitor’s center, the entrance to the park is across the highway. There is not an entrance fee – the park is free.¬†

All the roads, trails and parking areas are well-marked and easy to find. Each turn seems to¬†bring a different, amazing sight. All these rock formations were created by¬†a geological upheaval 300 million years ago. The¬†bright red, pink, gray and white¬†rocks are various¬†shapes and sizes – all motionless and silent. Many were tilted vertically and formed into “fin-like” spikes. Others have been toppled, slanted, pushed around, overturned and eroded. ¬†Most of the rocks are sandstone, limestone or conglomerate¬†and each one is a true masterpiece of Mother Nature.

As the road winds through the park, you can stop for photo ops and explore¬†“Balanced Rock,” located right next to¬†“Steamboat Rock.” Cathedral Valley houses the “Three Graces,” “Gray Rock,” “Sleeping Giant,” and “Kissing Camels” to name a few. There are plenty of pull-offs and parking areas throughout the park. We actually stopped at one trail head and¬†hiked a short distance¬†before having lunch at one of the many picnic areas. There are many trails¬†for easy hikes if you want to check out¬†all the natural flora and fauna. There are also more difficult trails for the athletically inclined people who want to do some actual¬†rock¬†climbing.¬†

We chose to drive the park on our own this particular day. If interested, there are¬†several other options for exploring the park: private car tours, bikes, jeeps, segways, ATV’s, luxury buses, or horseback. The Park Program also offers 45-minute Nature Walks and Nature Talks daily through the Visitor’s Center. Your call!

We truly had a wonderful day here and I will always remember the sight of those gigantic rock formations. The colors, shapes, and prehistoric-looking landscape will be difficult to forget. It reminds me of how powerful this earth can be, how old this planet actually is, and how land is constantly changing. I sincerely hope you have the opportunity to visit Garden of the Gods.

 

Please feel free to leave any comments! I hope you have enjoyed reading about my trip to Garden of the Gods. If you would like to read more about my dining or travel experiences, please subscribe to this blog. Thank you!

Toulouse Cafe & Bar

Dallas, Texas

If you are anything like me, when you hear the words “French restaurant”…..it conjures¬†up thoughts of snooty waiters, expensive wines, and icky snails floating in a butter sauce. That is what I always thought until I found Toulouse Cafe and Bar in Dallas. Luckily, after dining here I have a whole new appreciation for French cuisine.

Toulouse is a French bistro located in the trendy Knox-Henderson shopping area. There is convenient valet parking located right across the street from the restaurant. Once you enter the main doors, you can choose to sit in the covered patio area or inside in the casual dining room. The patio area is all draped with bright red fabric and was very quiet and relaxing Рthat is where we chose to dine on this particular evening. The cane-back chairs, the black & white floor tiles, the small table candles and the patrons with their dogs table-side all enhanced the feeling of dining in a cafe in Paris.

Service was really attentive and we felt like we were well taken care of this entire evening. We started with a couple of ¬†featured cocktails – a Chanel No. 6 Champagne Cocktail and a Mint/Cucumber Gimlet. Both were very nice and quite refreshing. We ordered the Cheese Board as an appetizer and it was exceptional. There were four¬†types of imported artisan cheeses, fresh honeycomb, fruit, prunes, candied walnuts¬†and grilled baguette slices. We followed up with French Onion Soup which was one of the best I have ever had. The Gruy√®re cheese was thick and lightly toasted and the overall taste was delicious – good to the last drop. ūüôā

Toulouse3

Short Rib Bourguignon with noodles

We were¬†almost too full to eat more at this point, but decided to keep going….the food was¬†just too good not to! My husband ordered the fish special which was an Alaskan Halibut with Beet Risotto and Brussels Sprouts. The fish was very nice and cooked to perfection. I ordered the Short Rib Bourguignon which was absolutely “mouthwatering” delicious. I am not a huge fan of meat and I honestly ordered this dish for the carrots, onions, mushrooms and wide butter noodles. I was really surprised;¬†the ribs were red wine braised and cooked for hours until fork tender – great taste and great texture. I ate what I could and had the remainder for a really fancy¬†lunch the next¬†day!¬†¬†

Though being completely full and satisfied at this point in the meal, we had souffles served to us. We had ordered souffles for dessert at the beginning of our meal¬†since they take some time to cook. Who cannot make room for dessert….right?! ¬†The Chocolate Souffle and the Grand Marnier Souffle were both extremely light in texture and in taste,¬†the perfect finale to this excellent meal.

Overall we had a most enjoyable evening with good service, delicious food and drinks, and a nice ambiance. If you would like to dine at Toulouse, they are located at 3314 Knox in Dallas, just a couple of blocks west of Central Expressway. This is a great place for a date night Рcasual but very nice. Bon Appétit!

0311171752_HDR-1

What have you got “to lose?” Get it?!

Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions about this post. I would love to hear of your experiences if you have dined at Toulouse. Also, please subscribe to my blog if you enjoy reading about my dining and travel experiences. I appreciate it!