This month, Grimaldi's announced the addition of liquor and a first-ever cocktail program to their five Houston-area locations. Ten handcrafted cocktails can now be enjoyed with their award-winning coal-fired pizza. I ventured out to my favorite location in The Woodlands Waterway to check it out for myself. The views from the patio overlook the Waterway fountain, but on this warm day I was glad that Grimaldi's offered three different inside dining options.
The cocktail program at Grimaldi's features an assortment of drinks for just about every palate. It includes classic items with and Italian twist to them like the Bloody Mary which uses their famous pizza sauce in the mix or the Paloma which adds a splash of the beloved Italian spirit, Aperol. On a hot day, the Strawberry Basil Smash was quite refreshing. Cocktails are each $10.
Grimaldi's new Stoking Hour runs Monday to Friday from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. During this time guests can get $2 off draft beer, wine, and antipasto or bruschetta. Each month a featured bottle of wine will be available along with a bruschetta trio or small antipasto for just $30. Tuesdays are even tastier at Grimaldi's with half off wine by the glass, carafe, or bottle.
The antipasto was a nice starter for the meal, especially if sharing a bottle of wine with friends. Although it had been quite some time since my last visit to Grimaldi's, they still had the same great pizza I remember. I'm looking forward to cooler weather when I can enjoy an cocktail or two on the patio.
Houston Area Locations:
CityCentre: 12848 Queensbury Lane; 713.463.3730
Cinco Ranch: 2643 Commercial Center Blvd; (281) 574-0070
The Woodlands: 20 Waterway Ave; (281) 465-3500
Sugar Land:16535 Southwest Fwy ; (281) 265-2280
Friendswood:700 Baybrook Mall #117: (281) 286-3942
Blogger disclosure: All food and beverages were provided courtesy of Grimaldi's.
Pei Wei recently launched a $5 lunch menu at 20 of their Houston-area locations. I was invited out to their Woodlands location to give the new menu a try. The menu consists of five different choices: Mango California Roll, Sweet & Sour, Korean Spicy, Thai Dynamite, and Dan Dan Noodles. Each entree comes with your choice of white rice, brown rice, lettuce cups, or salad.
The 8-piece Mango roll was a perfect starter. Crab, mango, cucumbers and scallions were rolled and tossed with sesame seeds for a nice summery treat. Both the Korean Spicy and Thai Dynamite contained a healthy mix of protein and veggies, but next time I will ask for them to be a bit spicier. The pineapple chunks and sugar snap peas in the sweet and sour provided a nice pop of freshness to this classic dish. My favorite overall was the Dan Dan Noodles. It was a filling and hearty bowl with lots of flavor.
Pei Wei's entrees are made to order using freshly chopped ingredients. Almost all of their menu items can be customized for dietary needs including gluten-free and vegetarian. For those in a rush, Pei Wei offers a new app that lets you view the menu, place your order, and even earn My Wei Rewards toward free entrees.
Blogger disclosure: All food and beverages were provided courtesy of Pei Wei.
For some, Labor Day means a three-day weekend, but for me it means that the best craft beer festival in Texas is happening in Galveston. The 8th Annual Brewmasters Craft Beer Festival will take place September 1-3, 2017 at the Moody Gardens Hotel. Five different events will take place over the three day weekend, including the BrewHaHa Grand Tasting featuring over 50 different breweries.
The weekend's festivities kick off Friday night with the Nach-Yo Ordinary Tequila Tasting and a Pub Crawl to some of Galveston's coolest bars. Saturday starts out with a Texas Brewery Tasting Tour, which allows guests to meet local brewery representatives for an up close and personal talk and tasting.
The BrewHaHA Grand Tasting happens Saturday afternoon from 3 p.m.. to 6:30 p.m. Over 400 beers will be available to sample including several Taste It First selections. Tickets are just $35. Upgrade your general admission ticket to VIP for an hour early entry and an exclusive lounge area with food samples for $85.
Sunday wraps up with Brews, BBQ, and a live Band. The $23 Brew-B-Que ticket includes a Stubb's BBQ two-meat plate and a punch card for six 2-ounce samples of beer. Packages are also available for the entire weekend or select multi-events as well as specially priced designated driver tickets.
For tickets visit: brewmastersbeerfest.com
For those of us old enough to remember, the mere mention of Lambrusco might conjure up memories of an annoying jingle proclaiming how Riunite on ice is so nice. This sweet, slightly effervescent wine has been cast aside, sitting in the shadows with its equally taboo cousin, white zinfandel. But has Lambrusco been harshly misjudged? Does this fruity red wine have a place at the grown ups table?
I recently attended a Lambrusco seminar at Vinology led by Italian wine expert and author of Do Bianchi, Jeremy Parzen. To fully appreciate Lambrusco it is imperative to understand its origin. Lambrusco is both an Italian red grape and the name of the wine made from that grape. The grapes and wine come from the gastronomic mecca that is Emilia-Romagna. Lambrusco comes in various levels of dryness and is typically low in ABV and residual sugar.
Lambrusco was wildly popular in the US during the 70's and 80's. Italian wine makers took advantage of Americans love of sugary drinks. According to Parzen, Lambrusco was like the Coca-cola of wine. "Think of it more like drinking a wine cooler." There's no need to swirl it in your glass or savor the bouquet. It's a nice fizzy beverage to accompany your meal.
As the American palate adjusted to more "serious" wines, Lambrusco lost its appeal. However, not in Emilia-Romagna where Lambrusco is still the wine of choice. When you live in a Provence famous for the best cheeses, meats, pasta and balsamic vinegar then you wouldn't want to overpower these delicacies with a Barolo, Brunello, or Chianti. Just as Texans love their sweet tea, Lambusco is the iced tea of Emilia-Romagna.
The pale pink wine formerly known as white zinfandel is now the ultra hip rose, so maybe there's hope for Lambrusco. I recently picked up a bottle of Riunite for $4.99 to have with dinner. The fizzy, chilled wine was very refreshing in this Texas heat. It didn't add nor distract from my meal. I didn't have my Riunite on ice, but it was indeed "very nice".
Texas de Brazil will be hosting a summer cocktail class on Wednesday, July 26th at its Citycentre location. Join fellow mixology enthusiasts at this fun and informative class featuring Grey Goose Vodka. The $35 class begins at 6:30 p.m. and includes a welcome cocktail followed by hands-on instructions on creating the perfect summer sips. One of the featured cocktails is a vodka version of the Brazilian caiphirinha - the caipiroska.
Appetizers will be served throughout the 1.5 hour class which include Brazilian sausage, bacon wrapped chicken, garlic picanha, crostinis, and delicious Brazilian cheese bread. Participants wanting to stay for dinner after the class will receive a 25 percent discount.
Tickets must be purchased in advance at: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/texas-de-brazil
Most people have been trained to associate red wine with steak. However, as the summer temperatures increase, most wine drinkers gravitate toward lighter wines. Thankfully, Perry's Steakhouse is breaking the mold when it comes to wine pairings with its innovative Tribute to Champagne wine dinner at its Memorial City location. The dinner includes six-courses of fabulous sparkling wines, three of which are paired with - gasp - meat!
Beverage director for Perry's Steakhouse, Susi Zivanovic, was inspired for this dinner when she tried a glass of Bollinger 'La Grande Annee'. It's no surprise considering the great depth and long finish of this full-bodied champagne. The steak and champagne dinner forces patrons to go outside their comfort zone when it comes to wine pairings. The menu showcases a whole range of sparkling wines including cava, prosecco, rosé, and of course champagne.
The food menu for the dinner includes some of Perry's new items such as the steak tartare and chocolate crunch. It also features classic dishes like the pork chop bites and the Chateaubriand served with three signature sauces. The dinner is $150 per person and seating is limited. A few spots still remain for this wonderful event and reservations can be made by calling 832-358-9000.
If you can't make it to the dinner, you can always visit Perry's for their famous Pork Chop Friday's. They've recently added individual sides of creamed spinach and brussels sprouts for just $3.95. Three new signature sodas are available for those unable to partake in alcoholic beverages during lunch. However, for those that can indulge in a liquid libation or two, I recommend trying the Gin Gimlet, one of three new summer cocktails currently on the menu.
Celebrate "Inspired Flavors"
The 13th annual Wine and Food week will take place June 5 - 11, 2017. The city's hottest wine event of the year will showcase culinary masterpieces and sensational wines inspired by flavor. Over 10 different events will place during the six day extravaganza. Can't make them all? No worries, The Big Three (Wine Walk, Sips and Suds, and The Grand Tasting) will give you a well rounded experience. Here are the highlights from some of the week's most popular events.
It's A Guy Thing
Tuesday, June 6, 2016 7 pm - 10 pm Mercedes-Benz of the Woodlands
Get all your bros together and get ready for a night of bold wines, craft beer, and lots of man food. Live music, shoe shines, and cigars help round out this total guy night.
Women, Wine, and All Things Fashionable
Wednesday, June 7, 2016 6 pm - 9 pm The Woodlands Country Club
Spend a girls night out with your besties tasting wine and listening to music. The evening will be filled fun, food, fashion, art, and a few surprises.
HEB Wine Walk at Market Street
Thursday, June 8, 2016 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm Market Street in The Woodlands
Stroll along Market Street with your friends and enjoy wine, food, and live entertainment. A keepsake glass is provided for you to enjoy wines from around the world, as well as a special beer garden. VIP ticket options are available that allow guest to enter the walk 30 minutes early and special access to the VIP Premium Wine Room.
Tickets $35, VIP ticket $75
Ladies of the Vine Luncheon
Friday, June 9, 2016 Noon to 3 pm The Club at Carlton Woods
Women winemakers are becoming more prevalent in what is still a male dominated industry. Join fellow guests at a five course luncheon and panelist discussion led by some of the most knowledgeable women in the wine industry. It's a wonderful afternoon of wine education, fabulous food, and lots of socializing.
Sips, Suds, & Tacos
Friday, June 9, 2016 6 pm - 9 pm The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel
There's a Taco Takedown happening in The Woodlands and you don't want to miss out. Spend the evening chowing down on some of the best tacos in town while you sip on wine or guzzle some brews. Judges will declare the "official" winner, but guest will be able to vote for their favorites too. After you've reached your taco limit, dance the night away to live music. This popular event sells out fast so don't wait!
Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting and Chef Showcase
Saturday, June 10, 2016 7 pm - 10 pm The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel
Wine week ends with a grand extravaganza of wine and culinary creations. Over 50 chefs will showcase their skills as they battle for the coveted crystal Chef of Chefs Award. Guests will enjoy over 500 wines while noshing on local bites and sensational sweets. Upgrade your ticket to the VIP experience and be one of only a select few with access to a private lounge, special tasting glass, and premium wines.
Tickets $125, VIP Tickets $175
Tickets to all events may be purchased at www.wineandfoodweek.com
I recently attended a gin tasting at the newly opened Tongue-Cut Sparrow. Master distiller, Tom Nichol, was in attendance to speak about his latest venture with J. Rieger & Co. Known for his 40 plus year career with Diageo making Tanqueray gin, Nichol was lured out of retirement to make this very special gin.
Based out of Kansas City, MO, J. Rieger & Co, has been making whiskey and gin for the past two years, but this month marks its first appearance in Texas. J. Rieger & Co. is the brainchild of Kansas City bartender/restauranteur Ryan Maybee and Andy Rieger, relative of pre-Prohibition distiller Jacob Rieger. Together they sought out to resurrect the distillery and produce a London-Style Dry Gin.
Upon arrival at the tasting, Andy and Ryan introduced themselves and then pointed to a gentleman at the bar and said “This is Tom Nichol.” Unbeknownst to me, I was standing in front of a legend. Knowing that many industry folks attend these tastings I naively asked, “Tom, what do you do?” To which he replied, “I make gin – that gin (pointing to the J. Riger bottle on the bar).” Ooops, my bad!
Lucky for me, Tom Nichol is a cool guy. He was very interesting to speak with and even took the time to pose for a selfie. The rest of the evening involved discussion on the J. Riger & Co. products and the art of gin making, which included lots of colorful commentary by Nichol.
Nichol was intrigued by the opportunity to partner with Maybee and Rieger. The ability to make gin in a smaller scale, more relaxed environment was something that peaked his interest. The Midwestern Gin is a classic London-Style Dry Gin. According to Nichol, the key to making good gin is getting the botanicals right. This formula includes the best juniper, coriander, angelica root, licorice root, and orange peel available. Nichol says he can tell just by the nose if the batch is ready or not.
The taste is exceptional. It’s crisp and clean - perfect for sipping on its own or in a Gin Martini. Rieger’s Midwestern Dry Gin is currently available exclusively through Victory Wine Group. Ask for it at your local liquor store. You won’t be disappointed.
Le Bistro Houston, located inside the Culinary Institute Le Notre, recently hosted a Charles Krug Wine Dinner featuring guest speaker Dominic Mandola. The dinner included a six-course wine pairing along with commentary from Mandola over the history of Charles Krug Winery and the Mondavi Family. It's always nice to be able to spend time with a fellow wine lover so fortunately The Corkscrew Concierge was able to join me for the evening.
For starters, guests received a trio of bites expertly paired with a variety of Charles Krug wines. The 2016 Sauvignon Blanc with its crisp acidity and hints of citrus held up well with the salmon ceviche. A goat cheese and berry tart was paired with the berry forward 2014 Pinot Noir. Finally, a lamb croquette was served with the 2013 Merlot.
The first entree of the evening was a seared scallop served on top of a vibrant green pea puree. It was an excellent compliment to the 2015 Chardonnay, aged six months sur lie in French oak. Although not super buttery, the aging was enough to give it a creamy richness. Next up was a New York strip with a balsamic reduction paired with the 2013 Family Reserve Generations. Generations is a Bordelaise style blend (88% Cab, 6% Malbec, 4% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot) aged 19 months in new French oak barrels.
Dessert was a beautiful layered blackberry and lemon torte with pistachio sponge cake and blackberry jelly paired with the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet had hints of dried berries and a touch of cocoa on the finish. Overall, it was a wonderful evening and we were even able to meet some of the talented culinary team members that helped prepare our meal.
I love breakfast, but I am not by an means a morning person. This is why I love brunch so much. I get to eat all my favorite breakfast items at 11 a.m. or Noon and my early rising dining companions can enjoy either breakfast or lunch. So when Grand Lux Cafe invited me out to try their brunch and featured dish for International Waffle Day, I was more than thrilled.
Grand Lux Cafe is located in the Centre at Post Oak at 5000 Westheimer. Grand Lux is the sister restaurant to the Cheesecake Factory. You will notice some similarities in the menu layout, but where Cheesecake Factory focuses on their fabulous array of cheesecakes, Grand Lux specializes in baked to order desserts that take up to 30 minutes.
The decor inside is warm and inviting, encouraging you to enjoy the day while sipping on one of their morning cocktails. I chose the Strawberry Bellini with fresh strawberries, Prosecco and Cointreau. I started out with a basket of Breakfast Beignets. These are not the typical square cut beignets found in New Orleans. Instead they were delicate little balls that still had the same light and airy texture of a traditional beignet. They were served with maple butter syrup, raspberry sauce, Jack Daniels cream and brown sugar.
The brunch menu is filled with the usual assortment of egg dishes including omelettes, Benedicts, breakfast sandwiches and even chilaquiles. The pancake choices are buttermilk or red velvet. Then there are the waffles. Thick, fluffy, Belgian waffles topped with either fresh blueberries or strawberries. The Fried Chicken and Waffles make one hearty meal that could easily be shared by two people. The Belgian waffle is topped with tender, crispy chicken and then lightly dusted with powdered sugar. It comes with or without pecans and is served with Maple Butter Syrup. Now, I have long since replaced high fructose corn syrup with pure Maple syrup, but the addition of butter - total...game...changer!
I don't usually need much coaxing to enjoy brunch, but if you've never been, Grand Lux Cafe won't disappoint. Try them out on March 25th for International Waffle Day or on any weekend from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
About the Author
I like eating, traveling, and enjoying liquid libations. I'm all about great wines, signature cocktails, and local brews.