Häagen-Dazs new indulgent Spirit Collection is the perfect boozy summer treat. I am a long time HD fan (me and Rocky Road go way back). When I heard that they had combined two of my favorite pastimes - drinking and eating ice cream, I was ecstatic. The collection consists of five ice cream flavors, a cookie square and a non-dairy option. Don't worry, you don't need to be 21 to buy it. The alcohol amount is below 0.5%, giving you all of the flavor without the buzz.
According to flavor developer Aaron Butterworth, the flavors for the collection were carefully chosen to keep in line with Häagen-Dazs commitment to creating rich and indulging desserts. The ice cream is designed to be enjoyed on its own or paired with a cocktail. Bourbon was a natural pairing with vanilla and is showcased in both the Bourbon Vanilla Bean Truffle and the Bourbon Praline Pecan. The latter is great with an Old Fashioned, whereas I enjoyed the Vanilla Bean Truffle as a milkshake blended with more bourbon.
Rum Tres Leches combines white rum ice cream with ribbons of dulce de leche and chunks of Tres Leches cake. When I think of indulgent, this flavor is what comes to mind. This ice cream was heavenly all on its own, but a little rum made it even better.
Häagen-Dazs Irish Cream is a long time fan favorite, but it has been elevated and reinvented into two new forms. The Irish Cream Brownie has Irish Cream infused ice cream with chocolate brownie pieces and a decadent fudge swirl. The Irish Cream Cookie Squares are my personal favorite with just the right amount of ice cream in a portable package. Both of these pair well with an Irish Coffee.
I've loved chocolate stout ice cream since my first bite at Fat Cat Creamery, so I was very excited about Häagen-Dazs Stout Chocolate Pretzel Crunch. The malty flavor of the ice cream with a pop of fudge and a hint of salt from the pretzels was the perfect combination of flavors. I paired it with the equally indulgent 11 Below Negative Space Milk Stout.
The biggest surprise of the entire collection was the non-dairy Amaretto Black Cherry Almond Toffee. Black cherry jam and almond toffee pieces are folded into the creamy Amaretto-infused frozen dessert. "The special thing about our Häagen-Dazs non-dairy Amaretto Black Cherry Almond Toffee is that we use a rich and creamy almond butter base (not almond milk)," explains Butterworth. "We are able to achieve a super rich and creamy taste and mouthfeel that almost makes you forget you are eating non-dairy." Indeed it does. I found myself enjoying it way more than I expected, especially with a drizzle of Amaretto on top.
The Häagen-Dazs Spirit Collection is available at stores nationwide and retails for around $5.29. The ice cream comes in 14 oz. cartons and the cookie squares are sold in a 3 count package.
Disclosure: I am the spouse of a Nestle employee. Product was provided for me to sample, but all opinions and photos remain my own.
Wine & Food Week in The Woodlands, is one of my favorite times of the year. Running June 3 - 9, this week long culinary celebration has events for every taste and budget. Take a stroll through Market Street with your friends while sipping wine and noshing on bites or get glamorous for the Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Chef Showcase. Here's a quick guide to some of the week's must attend events.
It's A Guy Thing, June 4 from 7 - 9 p.m.
Enjoy the perfect guys night out with big bold wines, craft beer and man grub from featured restaurants like Kirby’s, the Silver Whisk, JJ Watt’s personal Chef, Kobe Beef and more. Sit down for a shoeshine, puff on a cigar or soak in the live music. Meet Master Sommelier and 2018 Wine Wizard, Guy Stout and Master of wine and founder of MyVinoType.com, Tim Hanni. Tickets are $30 per person.
Dirt-y Talk Seminar, June 5 at 5:30 p.m.
This structured wine tasting with Oregon Wine Person of the Year, Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estates takes place at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center. Learn about Biodynamic and organic farming, and sustainable wine making. Guests will also get a tasting profile done by Tim Hanni author of “Why You Like the Wines You Like.” Tickets are $45 per person.
HEB Wine Walk, June 6 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Market Street rolls out the red carpet for the H-E-B Wine Walk with savory bites, wine and craft beer and live music by Mango Punch in Market Street’s Central Park. Features include a craft beer garden, VIP room, H-E-B Anchor areas, GOYA Food’s Chef Pantry and over 25+ food tasting stations. Tickets start at $40. VIP tickets are $75 per person. VIP tickets include early entry, specialty wines and a private tasting area.
Sips, Suds & Tacos, June 7 from 6 - 9 p.m.
It’s a taco take-down where tacos of all shapes and sizes are served up with all the fixings and one taco takes all the glory and the trophy. Over 20 top contenders will compete in the challenge and there will be plenty of suds to wash them down with. Grab your friends and get the weekend started at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center. Tickets are $30 per person.
The Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Chef Showcase, June 8 from 7 – 10 p.m.
The last night of Wine & Food Week ends with the ultimate wine and food tasting featuring hundreds of wines and more than 60 culinary teams from the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America all in one elegant ballroom vying for the title of GOYA Foods Chef of Chefs. Hall of Fame lifetime achievement inductees and Houston icons Michael Cordúa, and Carmelo Mauro will return to see who takes the coveted trophy and $5,000 cash prize. Tickets for the Grand Tasting are $125 per person.
Visit WineandFoodWeek.com to purchase tickets and see exclusive hotel deals. Make it a staycation and enjoy all the Wine & Food Week events!
Wine and Food Week returns this June for the 15th year. The week long celebration takes place June 3 - 9, in The Woodlands, Texas. The culinary extravaganza, under the direction of Food & Vine Time Productions, celebrates master chefs, wine makers and wine experts. Events during the week include seminars, dinners, wine tastings, casual events and the glamorous Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting and Chef Showcase.
15 Reasons Not To Miss Wine & Food Week
The Kolache Factory 5K Challenge returns to Houston for a second year. The event will take place on Saturday, March 9 in the Energy Corridor. Participants have a choice of three entry options and will be rewarded with free kolaches and a celebratory Saint Arnold beer at the finish line. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Memorial Assistance Ministries (MAM). Sign up fees range from $39.75 to $44.75 and will go up as the race date gets closer.
Challenges and Prizes
Racers have a choice of three different 5K options - Challenge, Casual or Virtual. In the "Challenge", participants must eat three sausage and cheese kolaches at the 1.5 mile mark and then complete the rest of the race in 90 minutes or less. A $100 Kolache Factory gift card will be awarded to the fastest male and female. Racers in the "Casual" 5K will eat one kolache at the 1.5 mile mark and enjoy the rest at the finish line. The fastest male and female in this category will also receive a $100 gift card. The last option (and my favorite), is the "Virtual" 5K. Kolache enthusiasts can sleep, earn their swag, donate to a great cause and eat some delicious kolaches at a later time.
Young runners (ages 12 and under) can enter the "Kolache Kids" Fun Run 1K. One parent per child may participate for free. There will be activities for participating kids at the start/finish line between 8 and 10 a.m.
Kolache Factory was founded in 1982 and is headquartered in Katy, Texas. Founders John and Jerri Banks identified the need for a high quality breakfast that could be eaten "on the run" and the rest is history.
For race information including sign up, bib pick up times, start time and course map, visit runsignup.com.
Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching and you don't want to be caught without a plan. Spending time with your Bae doesn't have to be all wine and roses (although those things are greatly appreciated). Sometimes girls just wanna have fun, so this year mix things up a little. Here are ten fun booze-centric ways to say "I Love You".
Conservatory - 1010 Prairie
Bite Me: Valentine's Day with Saint Arnold, Real Ale & Four Roses - The Conservatory is partnering with Saint Arnold, Real Ale and Four Roses Bourbon for a evening of lovely libations. Special cocktails will be available along with custom glasses. Food vendors will offer Valentine's Day dinner specials. There will be a raffle of Saint Arnold and Real Ale swag.
Eureka Heights - 941 West 18th
Steak Night Love Birds Package - Chef Daniel Ajtai, from the newly opened Yong (Finn Hall), will be cooking steaks to order. For $60 (+tax), couples will get a 12 oz Korean marinated ribeye served over kimchi fried rice with spicy crunchy pickles and a sunny side up egg. The package also includes two Eureka Heights beers and homemade chocolate truffles. Seating is open and steaks will hit the grill starting at 5:30 p.m. Pre-ordering is preferred as a limited amount of steaks will be sold that day. All orders must be picked up by 8 p.m. Guests that pre-order will receive $2 off any additional beers purchased in the taproom that evening.
Holler Brewing - 2206 Edwards
Dinner, Drinks and Dancin' - Put on your dancing shoes and head to Holler Brewing for a Triple D evening starting with dinner from Breaking Bao. A shareable meal of 5 specialty bao and gourmet fries will be served from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. Then head next door to Love Dance studio for a couples two-stepping class from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Ticket price is $50 per couple and includes 2 beers redeemable anytime throughout the evening.
Ingenious Brewing - 1986 South Houston, Humble
Dessert and Beer Pairing - Spend Valentine's Day eating sweets with your sweetheart at Ingenious Brewing. The $20 (+ tax) ticket includes four 4 oz specialty beers paired with 4 mini desserts from Ape's Curious Confectionery. Guests will have the option to take home a crowler/growler of their favorite pour for an extra charge. Beers for the night include Pineapple Coconut Cake (5.2%), Smarty Strawberry Rhubarb (6.5%), Double Marshmallow Vanilla Dream (8.2%) and Southern Pecan Latte (12%). Tastings will be held at 7 p.m., 8 p.m., and 9 p.m. Tickets are sold only in the taproom.
Johnny's Gold Brick - 2518 Yale
That's Amore - Johnny's Gold Brick will be transformed into an Italian Trattoria serving a five-course dinner with wine and cocktail pairings. The menu will feature a collaboration of items from Tony Lurhman (El Topo Truck) and Jason and Becca Kerr (Little Kitchen HTX). Tickets are $60 pp (+ tax & gratuity) Guests can choose from two dinner seatings - 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.
King's Bierhaus - 2044 East TC Jester
Uncomplicated Valentine's Dinner - Enjoy a candlelit five-course dinner at King's Bierhaus for $60 per couple. Start the evening off with a shot of German Schnapps followed by your choice of soup/salad, appetizer, entree and dessert. Simple, yet delicious, because life's already complicated - Valentine's Day shouldn't be. Reservations are recommended.
Prohibition Texas - 26420 Preston, Spring
Dinner and Live Music - Celebrate Prohibition-style in Old Town Spring. Guests can choose from steak or salmon for $24.95 a person. Each entree comes with two sides and shrimp can be added for an additional charge. Live music sets the mood from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. As an incentive for making reservations, Prohibition is offering a flower for the ladies and two free Cupid's Arrow cocktails. Reservations can be made on Open Table or by calling 832-585-1438.
Tea + Victory - 2030 East TC Jester
Valentine's Night with Saint Arnold - Show your Valentine you've got game at Tea + Victory. This fun board game cafe will be partying like a rock star with tunes from the 90's and 2000's. There will be a costume contest, Saint Arnold Beer and special entrees. The fun starts at 5 p.m. and no cover or reservation is required. There is a $5 per person game fee.
Mongoose versus Cobra - 1011 McGowen
Gin and Tonic Lab - Keep the love going by treating your sweetheart to an informative Gin and Tonic class at Mongoose versus Cobra on Saturday, February 16th from 3 to 5 p.m. For $75 a couple, you will taste four different gins and tonics including MvC's secret house recipe. Class size is limited and reservations are required.
Reserve 101 - 1201 Caroline
Chocolate and Whiskey Tasting - On Saturday, February 16th, learn how to pair whiskey and chocolate at Reserve 101's annual event. Chocolates from Cacao & Cardamom will be paired with Maker's Mark Private Select, Annasach 25 yr and Blanton's Single Barrel. The tasting is $75 a couple and two seating are available - 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
This post is sponsored by Cabernet Grill. All opinions and photos are mine.
Fredericksburg, Texas is a small, hill country town known for its wineries, wildflowers, peaches and German heritage. Located four hours Northwest of Houston, the scenic drive will take you through small towns and rolling hills. Having never been to Fredericksburg, I was excited to be invited by Cabernet Grill to visit their restaurant and lodging at Cotton Gin Village.
Cabernet Grill is about a five minute drive from downtown Fredericksburg, but once you step inside Cotton Gin Village you will feel like you are in your own little world. The grounds are adorned with waterfalls, fire pits and seven 19th century cabins that surround a central courtyard and koi pond.
Owned and operated by Chef Ross Burtwell and his wife Mariana, Cabernet Grill features a unique menu of Texas Hill Country Cuisine and an impressive all Texas wine list. In 2018, Wine Enthusiast magazine included Cabernet Grill on their list of 100 Best Wine Restaurants.
For dinner, Chef Ross curated a special tasting menu that highlighted signature hill country dishes that were expertly paired with wine chosen by beverage director, Elizabeth Rodriguez. Highlights of the evening included roasted butternut squash soup, pecan crusted crab cake, smoked quail and braised short rib. Wines for the evening showcased varietals suited for growing in Texas climates such as albarino, viognier, mourvedre and merlot.
The best part about staying at Cotton Gin Village, is that after a wonderful meal at Cabernet Grill, you're just steps away from your cabin. My 1887 cabin, the Pedernales, is from Tennessee. It still maintained its rustic charm with a tin roof and wood burning fire place, but it had modern amenities such as a jacuzzi tub, queen-sized bed, air-conditioning/heating and cable TV (if you need it). The kitchen contained all the makings for s'mores so I put my scout skills to use and built a fire.
After a cozy night's sleep, a warm breakfast was delivered to my front porch at 9 a.m. The adorable wicker basket was filled with breakfast tacos, fresh fruit and juice, warm danishes and yogurt topped with homemade granola. Not being a morning person, I appreciated being able to enjoy a delicious breakfast at my leisure.
My experience at Cabernet Grill and Cotton Gin Village made my first trip to Fredericksburg memorable and I look forward to returning. As a special treat, I was gifted a copy of Chef Burtwell's cookbook, Texas Hill Country Cuisine - Flavors from the Cabernet Grill. I can't wait to cook up something yummy and get a taste of the hill country at home. Of course, whatever I make will be paired with Texas wine.
Eat, drink and be Irish (at least for a day). That's the feeling you'll get once you step inside Jack & Ginger's Irish Pub located in Midtown at 2416 Brazos. The former space of Stoked Tacos & Tequila has been transformed into a family-friendly pub with cozy indoor seating as well as a patio with picnic tables and garage door walls. The centerpiece of both spaces is a double-sided 82 beer tap wall.
In addition to beer, Jack & Ginger's features an impressive selection of Irish whiskey, scotch and bourbon. Cocktail lovers will enjoy the assortment of well-balanced spirit forward drinks like the Irish Rose (Slane Irish Whiskey, creme de cassis and lemon juice) or the Violet Crown (Hendricks Gin, St. Germain, lavender and rosemary).
The menu at Jack & Ginger's brings a modern twist to traditional pub fare and offers elevated options which include avocado hummus, Reuben potato skins, grilled cheese hush puppies, Guinness battered fish & chips and jumbo shrimp corn dogs. Brunch is available on Saturdays and Sundays and features Irish oatmeal, bangers & mash, and a Bloody Mary and Irish Coffee bar.
Happy Hour (more like Happy Day) is weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Beer flights are $7 and select appetizers are available for $5. Wednesday is Bangers on Humpday featuring 10 different create your own sausage on a bun options for $5. Jack & Ginger's is also a futbol watching destination and will open early for British Premier League games.
Jack & Ginger's, 2416 Brazos. Hours: Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Saturday/Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.
After sustaining severe damage from flooding during Hurricane Harvey, the Omni Houston Hotel re-opened this past November. The hotel was completely transformed during a 30 million dollar renovation that drew inspiration from Houston's natural surroundings and rich history. The new lobby is warm and inviting with natural light, plush sofas and a fireplace. Art installation pieces can be found throughout the hotel that showcase unique aspects of the local scene.
At Birdies Cafe & Bar, the floor-to-ceiling windows allow guests to enjoy views of the outdoor landscaping, pools and lake. The curved shaped bar is a great place for grabbing a drink or a quick bite. La Reserve whiskey lounge is perhaps Houston's best kept secret. The cocktail menu is filled with a wonderful array of whiskey forward drinks that will appeal to even non-whiskey drinkers and they are served up by some of the friendliest bar staff in Houston.
There is so much to do at the Omni Houston Hotel - eating, drinking, fitness, spa or just relaxing. The peaceful outdoor patio is truly an oasis. There are several lounging areas surrounding the pools and lake. It's hard to believe that the hustle and bustle of the Galleria is only minutes away.
One thing I was interested to learn on my tour of the Omni, was that they have one of the second oldest nightclubs in Houston. The Black Swan has been around for 30 years. Open Friday and Saturday nights from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., The Black Swan is a classy place to dance the night away. (FYI, dress code is strictly enforced.)
Christmas is just one week away, but don't fret. There is still time to shop for that special foodie in your life. Restaurant gift cards and gift baskets are always appreciated by food lovers, but this year think outside the box. I've listed a few suggestions that even the pickiest bon vivant in your life will absolutely love.
Must Have Appliances
I have to admit, I'm a little late to the Instant Pot game. I purchased mine a year ago for Black Friday and was frankly a little terrified of it. Flash forward to today and I use my Instant Pot at least 2 to 3 times a week. The Instant Pot comes in three different sizes - 3 QT, 6 QT and 8 QT. The 6 QT is the perfect size for most families. It can pressure cook, slow cook, saute and even make yogurt. It retails for $79.99 to $139.99 and you can get great deals at most department stores. Walmart has an exclusive 6 QT Pioneer Woman floral version available in two different patterns for $99.
Another appliance it took forever for me to purchase was a stand mixer. I felt there wasn't anything it could do that I couldn't accomplish with my trusty hand mixer. Boy was I wrong! A stand mixer is a kitchen miracle worker. A KitchenAid stand mixer will run anywhere from $200 - $500 depending on what power and size bowl you purchase. The best thing about owning a stand mixer is the multitude of attachments you can purchase that will allow you to make pasta, sausage and even ice cream. My only regret was not getting a fun vintage color.
The Aviary is Chicago's hottest cocktail bar and the recently released The Aviary Cocktail Book is one of the greatest cocktail books of all time. This visually stunning book takes a culinary approach to making cocktails. It includes over 100 recipes as well as information on food & drink pairings, low/non-alcoholic drinks and flavored ice. The book is available online at TheAviaryBook.com. The standard edition retails for $85 or you can purchase a reserve edition in a special display case for $135.
In Street Food of Mexico, James Beard award winner Hugo Ortega takes readers on a culinary journey across Mexico. As he travels through his homeland, Ortega showcases the stories behind the flavors and recipes of each region. The book can be found on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or for $60 a personalized copy is available from ChefHugoOrtega.com that includes a Mexican chocolate tablet, a molinillo and two Hugo's mugs.
Hotel Alessandra is downtown Houston's newest luxury hotel. It is conveniently located near major sporting, concert and theater venues as well as the best bars and restaurants. The hotel offers several great packages for romance, sports, theater or spa. Most packages include food and beverage credit at Lucienne or the sophisticated lobby bar, Bardot.
CityCentre is a mecca for dining and shopping and the best way to enjoy it is with a stay at Hotel Sorella. This elegant hotel offers packages that include dining at Radio Milano, Capital Grille or cocktails at Monnalisa bar. Hotel Sorella's premier location in the heart of CityCentre gives you the option to party all night or enjoy the great views with a glass of wine while you relax.
Chef for a Day
Tris in The Woodlands offers foodies a behind the scenes look into what its like to work in a chef-driven kitchen. Your Chef for a Day experience begins at 10 a.m. with a four hour one-on-one lesson with Executive Chef Austin Simmons. You get to prep several signature dishes followed by a 3-course lunch. At 4pm, you will break for the day before returning that evening to indulge at Cureight, Tris' exclusive eight course dining experience. Chef for a Day is $400 per person and available on Thursday to Saturday. For more information contact Chris Perry at CPerry@triswoodlands.com.
Chef for a Day at Brennan's is truly an unforgettable experience for that special foodie in your life. Your culinary adventure begins with a personalized chef's uniform and a tour of the restaurant and kitchen. Next you will work and prep at each station in the kitchen tasting your creations along the way. When the prep work is done, it's time to head to the bar to taste spirits and consult with Brennan's "wine guy" to choose the perfect wines for dinner. The evening concludes with a six-course dinner and wine pairing for you and five of your friends. The cost is $1,475 (gratuity excluded).
Spend Labor Day weekend in Galveston for a Texas-sized craft beer festival. Brewmasters is returning for a 9th year to Moody Gardens Hotel with three days of beer education and foam-filled fun. Tickets are available at brewmastersbeerfest.com.
The weekend events start Friday night with a Nacho and Tequila tasting ($30). Saturday's BrewHaHa Grand Tasting includes exclusive "Taste It First" beer selections, Texas Brewery Tasting Tour and seminars for just $35. Upgrade to a VIP ticket ($85) and get early access, a private seating area with food and an exclusive beer and chocolate tasting with Xocolla handcrafted chocolate and Saint Arnold beer.
Seminar topics include uncommon and unusual beer styles, choosing the right beer glass and how to cellar beer. There will also be a special panel of women in craft beer as they discuss the strides they are making in the industry.
The weekend ends with Sunday's Brew-B-Que. This year's featured pitmaster is Patrick Feges of Feges BBQ. There will be live music, beer and amazing food. The $23 ticket includes a bbq plate and a punch card for 6-2 oz beer samples.
Five reasons not to miss this event:
1. So many styles of beers to try all in once place.
2. Pick up tips from industry leaders on how start your own beer cellar.
3. Meet brewery owners.
4. Taste exclusive beers not yet available to the public.
5. Hang out with fellow beer lovers while enjoying some island time.
About the Author
I like eating, traveling, and enjoying liquid libations. I'm all about great wines, signature cocktails, and local brews.