Chef/Owner Brian C. Luscher and wife Courtney of The Grape hosts a very special Chef’s Come-As-You-Are wine dinner on Wednesday, November 17, featuring wines from acclaimed Bonny Doon Wine Portfolio from Santa Cruz, CA.  Chef Luscher will create a 3-course bistro-style menu to complement hand-selected Rhone-style wines from the Vineyard.

Founded nearly 3 decades ago by Santa Cruz’s own Randall Grahm, Grahm purchased the property in the Santa Cruz Mountains known as Bonny Doon intent on creating the great American Pinot Noir.  Thought the Pinot Noir was systematically elusive, Grahm who soon became known as “The Original Rhone Deranger” was encouraged by experimental Rhone varieties confirming that California’s temperate climate is well suited to the sun-loving grapes of the Mediterranean.  Special guest host Eric Swindle of Serendipity Wine Imports will be at The Grape to discuss the selected varietals.

The Grape’s monthly wine dinner provides a fun, casual setting, that allows the guest to “come-as-they-are” and dine at their own pace, allowing for a more festive one-on-one format with the wine experts.  Themes include a wine expert/host for the evening who speaks to each individual table about the wines selected.

Reservations are recommended for this event and available from 5:30-9:00pm.  Cost is $45 per person exclusive of tax, gratuity and other beverages.  Located at 2808 Greenville Avenue, The Grape is open for dinner nightly at 5:30pm and Sunday Brunch.   For reservations call 214-828-1981 or visit the website at www.thegraperestaurant.com.

The Fredericksburg Food and Wine Fest features the best of Texas wines, food, and entertainment. Texas Specialty booths and Texas wineries vie for attention from discriminating gourmets and oenophiles, as well as novice “foodies”. All fest activities are located on Fredericksburg’s beautiful downtown MarktPlatz (Market Square).

Wineries scheduled to participate include:

Becker Vineyards
Bell Mountain Vineyards

Brennan Vineyards
Chisholm Trail
Fall Creek Vineyards
Fawncrest Vineyard
Fredericksburg Winery
Grape Creek Vineyard
Haak Vineyards
Homestead Winery
Landon Winery
Llano Estacado
Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards
McPherson Cellars
Messina Hof
Pedernales Cellars
Pleasant Hill Winery
Red Road Vineyard & Winery
Singing Water Vineyards
Texas Hills Vineyards
and Val Verde Winery – Texas’ oldest winery!

A wide variety of products will be available for sampling and purchase as well. Look for lavender products, salsas, jams and jellies, seasons and

spices, nuts, dipping oils, olive oils, popcorn, toffee, tea, hand painted glasses, glass holders, candles and even treats for your canine friends, among many other selections.

The ever-popular Grape Expectations Cooking School, on Saturday, starts at noon, showcasing Texas chefs. Presented by the Texas Lavender Association. Each chef will share samples, recipes and be paired with a Texas winery. Chefs participating are at:

12:15  - Leu Savanh, August E’s

1:15 – Lois Rodriguez, Texas Highways

2:15 – Ross Burtwell chef/owner, Cabernet Grill

3:15 – Chrissy M. Omo, CKC Farms

4:15 – Alma Alcocer-Thomas, chef, TNT Restaurant

5:15 – Michael James Chef, Silver K Cafe

Entertainment will include music by great Texas artists – The Frank Gomez Band, Jazz trumpeter Jeff Lofton, and Jay Boy Adams; games, and a silent and live auction. The auctions will feature original artworks, gift baskets provided by the fest Specialty booths, winery tours, and other goodies from local artists and merchants.

Organizers are planning two special events to enhance the experience of this year’s festival. These special events have limited seating with tickets being sold in advance only:

A Celebration of Texas Food and Wine will be held Friday, October 22, from 7:00 – 9:00 pm at August E’s.

Patron Brunch on Marktplatz,catered by Delicious Details, will be Saturday, October 23, from 11:30 am – 1:30 pm.

The Fredericksburg Food and Wine Fest begins accepting guests at noon Saturday and continues until 7:00 p.m

General admission is $20 for adults, $5 for those under 21, and free for children under 12.

Woo-hoo! While you’re pouring me a glass of Texas wine, may I suggest that we raise said glass to the Hill Country and their bumper crop of wine grapes this year? Yesterday, USA Today named the Texas Hill Country as one of just 10 great places for local wines in the US! They even went so far to call Fredericksburg, Texas a mini-Napa.
Says USA Today:

With more than 200 wineries, Texas has become a leading state for vintners. And the scenic area near Austin and San Antonio is the center of the action. Winemakers have learned that grapes from other warm-climate areas do well here, including Spanish Tempranillo, French Syrah and Italian Sangiovese, Siegel says. With all the attention, the town of Fredericksburg has become a mini-Napa with fine restaurants, shopping and bed-and-breakfasts.

Now through Dec. 24, one Texas chain of grocery stores will helping you get a jump on holiday gift giving with a unique opportunity:  Create your own custom wine labels in a matter of minutes.

Over the next three months, a 3 Dreams Wine tour of north and west Texas will take place at United and Market Street stores in Allen, Amarillo, Colleyville, Coppell, Frisco, Lubbock, McKinney, Plano and Wichita Falls.

Just purchase one of the specialized bottles of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon for $15.99 and a 3 Dreams Wine Representative will turn your favorite photo or piece of artwork into a personalized wine label for no additional cost.

No art or photo? That’s okay, too! You can also choose from existing designs or enlist a 3 Dreams Wine graphic artist to render your original idea and create your custom label! At each labeling event, a trained sommelier will host a complimentary wine tasting for guests inside the store while their one-of-a-kind labels are crafted.

All of the wines provided by 3 Dreams Wine are harvested from the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian river valleys in Sonoma, Calif., yet each variety offers a unique taste for wine connoisseurs with experienced palates. The 2005 Chardonnay offers hints of apricot and figs while the 2006 Merlot boasts ripe cherry and blackberry flavors. For those who enjoy rich, bold flavors full of spice, 3 Dreams Wine 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is an elegant choice.

“Wine is a classic piece of the gift-giving tradition, and these custom wine labeling events give United guests the opportunity to add their personal touches into a time-honored, customary practice,” said Roger Scott, business manager of beer/wine for United Supermarkets, LLC. “Whether celebrating an anniversary, birthday, engagement, new home, special event or holiday, personalized wine bottles preserve the memories with a lasting keepsake.”

With trained beer and wine stewards in many of its locations, United serves as a local resource for guests interested in learning more about food and wine pairings as well as the subtle differences between vineyard regions and grape selections. Additionally, the grocer offers three varieties of its own private label wine bottled “from the vineyards of Market Street” through a partnership with Lubbock’s renowned McPherson Cellars Winery. Patio Sangria, Farm to Market Red and Farm to Market White can be found in any United or Market Street store where beer and wine are sold.

For a complete list of stores, dates and times, visit “The Vineyard”.

In the past, wineries have had the image of some vineyard in France, Italy or Northern California and snooty connoisseurs. However recently, wineries and vineyard have sprung up all over the world. Australia, Argentina, South Africa have all become major players in the wine industry.

To add to the growing industry, wine is also produced in all 50 states of the United States, making this country the 4th largest producer of wine in the world. The local wine movement has been gaining momentum and some say it has hit its stride recently. Even with all of the new wineries and vineyards being established in areas like Oklahoma and Texas, one winery stands out.

Having been established over 100 years ago, Homestead Winery is the oldest continually running winery in the Red River Valley. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon, it predated what has been labeled the “locapour” movement, which is a recent movement in which people buy wines that are grown and produced locally.  It is much like the “Locavore” movement.

Homestead Winery started with the planting of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grapes where wheat and corn used to be grown. Today, over 15 types of wine are grown and fermented at Homestead Wineries and there are 3 locations to sample and purchase the wines.

The red wines include the Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot as well as a few others. Chardonnay, White Rose and Moon Shadow are included in the White Wines. Homestead also has specialty wines like the Portejas, which is a 100% Zinfandel wine and the Ivanhoe Celebration, which is a sparkling wine with a good balance.

The Ivanhoe Celebration is only available at the Denison and Grapevine locations but would be well worth the trip.

Homestead Winery is located in Ivanhoe, Denison and of course, Grapevine.

Check out Homestead Winery online for more information.

Want to enjoy a little bit of “the sweet life”?

Well, get your taste buds ready for the 20th annual Austin Museum of Art’s Food and Wine Festival.

On October 14th, over 50 of Austin’s best chefs and wineries will descend upon the Italian villa and grounds of Laguna Gloria to provide your hungry moths with delectable fare and play you with award-winning wines and spirts.

Each year this very popular event benefits the good folks behind AMOA’s education programs, like the Seeing Special Things Program which encourages students to dream of being an artist someday. Funds are needed for AMOA’s education programs that outreach to over 10,000 students of all ages each year.

Your ticket purchase can help make it all possible.

The event will see Laguna Gloria transformed into parts of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita movie set as Via Veneto in Roma, so make sure you make a wish in the Trevi Fountain, dress your Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni best, and bring your camera along for fun, movie-related photo ops.

Your ticket to the Food and Wine Festival will also include dancing and live music, but for an extra 25 bucks you can pay a visit to the Cigar & Scotch Lounge for your choice of a cigar, scotch, port, and a local dolce.

Nothing says Italy like wine, and this year’s wineries include:

Becker Vineyards
Duchman Family Winery
Fall Creek Vineyards
Inwood Estates Vineyards
Llano Estacado Winery
Paula’s Texas Orange
Perdernales Cellars
Pleasant Hill Winery
Spicewood Vineyards
The Vineyard at Florence

Tickets, a list of participants and more can be found on the AMOA’s website.

Last weekend we decided to drive from Dallas to New Braunfels to have a relaxing weekend of floating down the river and Schiltterbahn fun. Little did we know at that time, what was in store for us over the next few days. We could never have imagined how much fun we were going to have in New Braunfels.

We left Dallas on Thursday around noon and headed south. The drive wasn’t bad at all and only took us about 4 hours to get to New Braunfels. On the way, we stopped at the Little Czech Bakery in West, Texas for some lunch. This place was packed, even at 2pm in the afternoon, and I can see why. They have an amazing selection of delicious kolaches to choose from in both sweet and savory flavors.

After hours of researching places to stay in New Braunfels on the web, I found a really great website called Guadalupe River Houses. They have a really cute house right on the Guadalupe River, called the Kuehler Cottage (pronounced “Cooler”). I was very lucky that it was available for Thursday and Friday night, since this trip was last minute, so we booked it right away. The Kuehler Cottage is located right on the Guadalupe River/Lake Dunlap and close to everything in town.

When we arrived, there was a nice handwritten note on the door from the owners. They also had some fruit and cold bottles of water waiting for us in the fridge. To me it’s the little details like this that make you feel really welcome. I dropped my bag at the door and ran around to check out our new waterfront home for the next two nights.

The living areas were really nicely decorated in that warm, cottage kind of way. The hardwood floors and cold AC blowing out of the air vents on the floor felt very nostalgic to me, and reminded me of my grandmothers old lake house from when I was very young. The kitchen was rooster-themed and had everything we needed for our stay, they had also left coupons and other New Braunfels attraction materials on the dining room table for us. The Kuehler Cottage can sleep up to six people. There is one bedroom and one bathroom, but a large living and dining area with two sofas that fold out into beds. Along the back all of the cottage, which faces the Guadalupe river is an entire wall of windows, so it’s very open and you get excellent views. If you’re going to New Braunfels for the weekend, you probably aren’t going to be spending much time indoors, so the set up is perfect.

The most exciting part of the Kuehler Cottage for me was the outdoor back patio! You can tell that this was a patio built for entertaining and BBQ gatherings. There are several chairs, a nice table, a few BBQ grills, and even a HOT TUB! Although we didn’t partake in the hot tub action, since it was about 104 degrees outside, the Kuehler Cottage would also be a great place to come stay in the winter months, too. Walk down a few steps and there is another sitting area that is right on the river. Immediately upon seeing this, I ran back upstairs, grabbed a bottle of white wine that we’d brought with us, put on my swimsuit and headed back down to jump in the river. A quick dip in the nice cold river water cooled me off immediately, and I was ready to watch the sunset and have some vino.

Tom, the owner of the Kuehler lives right next door with his lovely wife and their daughters. He called me to check on us and inform me about some of the river tube rental places for our adventure the next day, so I told him to just come down and have some wine with us. Five minutes later, Tom and his wife were headed down the steps with grapes, cheese and wine in hand.

I must say, Tom and his family are some of the friendliest, most interesting people I have ever met. Check out some of his guest’s comments. We all hung out down by the river for a couple hours, and then all decided to go to dinner together. On the way to dinner, Tom was a fabulous “tour-guide” and showed us a few other of his New Braunfels properties, and pointed out other points of interest as we drove through the town. Tom has lived in New Braunfels his entire life, and it’s always best to hook up with the locals when you’re traveling anywhere! We all had a fabulous dinner at The Gristmill, which is located in historic Gruene and on the river. It was one of those amazing nights that you don’t plan and you end up having the most wonderful time and meeting the best people.

Bright and early the next morning, we loaded up the car and headed over to Felger’s Tube Rental. We decided to float on the Comal River, instead of the Guadalupe, since the Comal River isn’t quite as rough or crowded as the Guadalupe River and the water is so clear and blue that you can see all the way to the bottom! The Comal River tour starts off with a fun ride down the Tube Chute and you can lazily float through the river for about an hour and a half, checking out the beautiful homes on the sides of the river wall and you even pass by Schlitterbahn. Of course, you can also get an extra tube with a bottom on it for your beer cooler or buy one of these awesome floating coolers. I even saw a guy that had his dog in one of the tubes!

After our relaxing float down the river, we had a few beers back at Felger’s with the owner, J and his bartender Russ. J is a big, loud, friendly character and I liked him immediately. He’s a proud father, and his daughters are beautiful girls. He also has one of the coolest “Crown Royal” Harley’s in his bar. All of the staff and everyone at Felger’s was really nice. I also had my first taste here of my new favorite drink, called the Cordina Mar-GO-Rita. I liked it so much that we decided to write a story on the Best of Texas Blog about them as well, and this is the PERFECT drink to take with you down the river.

Could this weekend get any better? Um, yes. My friends from Austin had just arrived to New Braunfels and were at the Kuehler Cottage waiting for me and ready to BBQ. We hung out the rest of the afternoon, swimming, eating, drinking and catching up. That night, we met up with some more friends and went to Gruene Hall to catch some live music. Gruene Hall is the oldest Dance Hall in Texas. There was a $10 cover charge and the place was packed on a Friday night. You can check out the Gruene Hall Music Calendar, and famous favorites that have played here over the years. They should really have a list of Who’s NOT played here.

The next morning we all went to Schlitterbahn. How can you go to New Braunfels and not check out Schlitterbahn? It was a Saturday morning and the place was packed, of course with it being the last weekend before school started, you can understand why. Most of the rides had long lines, but my two favorite rides there are the Boogie Bahn Surfing Ride and a ride called the Back Flop, which is a simple, but fun water slide,which drops you right off into the lazy river. Schlitterbahn has over 3 miles of tubing adventure, 17 water slides, and 3 uphill water coasters spread over 65 acres. You’re also allowed to bring your own cooler and food, but no alcohol. Does Deep Eddy Sweet Tea count? Deep Eddy Sweet Tea was also a new drink that my Austin friends introduced me to this weekend, but that’s a whole other story in itself….I could swear there was no alcohol in that stuff. Wrong.

So, to wrap this amazing weekend up, we decided to take the long way home back to Dallas, and check out some other great towns, including Fredericksburg, which will have its own weekend adventure story soon. New Braunfels is definitely one of my favorite getaway in Texas. It was a weekend of new friends, old friends, adventure, music, history, and natural beauty everywhere. I can’t wait to get back there, and the New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce is full of great information and has a calendar of events for everything coming up in New Braunfels, so pick your flavor and go have fun!

I could wax poetic on the virtues of both wine and pie…but put them together? I’m in freakin’ heaven! Come September 25th, you’ll find me and a bunch of other pie and wine lovin’ folks down Fredericksburg way for the Fall Wine & Food Festival at Texas Vinyards & Beyond. Enjoy wine tastings from seven Texas wineries and local food artisans, meet the winemakers and more at this wonderful, yearly event. You can sip and nom to your little pie noshing and wine sloshing heart’s content!

Participating wineries include Fall Creek and  Pheasant Ridge, while the Fredericksburg Pie Company and Dutchman’s Market are just two of the nomilicious folks providing great grub!

Cost is $10 per person at the door, which includes wine glass, wine and food tastings. Please call 830/990-9199 for more information or to buy tickets!

329 1/2 E. Main Street
Fredericksburg, Texas 78624
Across from the Nimitz National Pacific War Museum

It has been called “Plano’s little strip mall gem” by Dallas Observer. The Dallas Morning News has reviewed it twice, giving it praise each time. My time at the Bavarian Grill in Plano was a German treat that left me satisfied albeit, a few pounds heavier.

Lots of Good Times are Had Here

There is a reason why the Bavarian Grill is ranked so highly by so many people throughout the internet and was voted The Best German Restaurant in America for 2009 by GermanDeli.com. It’s just that good. Bavarian Grill is easy to find yet, with the construction around the area, it’s hard to get to. Of course, when I found it, I had to do a double take to make sure I was in the right area. It’s located in a strip mall between a prosthetics office and Fitness 4 Life (ironic), but Bavarian Grill is its own island of German cuisine and culture.

I like saying the word “schnitzel” so I ordered the Jager Schnitzel. For those who wonder, no, they do not use Jagermeister. Instead, this breaded treat is made with a rich sauce and a copious amount mushrooms. I must say that the Bavarian Grill lives up to its claim of having the largest schnitzels in Texas. It took me what seemed like a happiness-filled forever to finish off the schnitzel. The Bavarian Grill has a huge menu and plenty of choices for everyone including vegetarian and gluten-free menu items.

Too much goodness for one plate

German beer is a large part of the culture and for anyone who might refer to themselves “beer connoisseurs,” the Bavarian Grill is a “must try.” Bavarian Grill offers over 60 different brands of German beer which made choosing my beer the hardest part of my visit. They also have three domestic American beers but ordering one of those would be like bringing a McDonalds cheeseburger to a restaurant known for its filet mignon. After minutes of deliberation, I eventually went with a dunkel “dark” beer named “Franziskaner Hefe Dunkel.” It had a bit of a spice taste and was not too heavy, which I enjoyed. They also have a gluten-free beer and three different kinds of alcohol-free beers.

Bavarian Grill has a “Stein Club” which one become a part of after drinking all Bavarian Grill has on its “Bier Card.” Members of the Stein Club receive a personalized ceramic stein, preferred seating on weekends, free use of the Bier Book Library among other perks. Of course, it will take me awhile to become a member of the Stein Club, but I suppose every man needs a goal.

Wine aficionados also have a club which is called the Wein Club. Bavarian Grill has a plethora of choices of German wines and once you have a glass of all of the choices on the “Wein Card,” you are awarded with your very own “Wein Glass.” Bavarian Grill also has a plethora of schnapps and liquors though there is no club for drinking all of the liquors.

Legends Are Made Here!

Bavarian Grill hosts happy hours, contests and parties. One particular event that the Bavarian Grill is hosting is the regional qualifying matches of “Masskrugstemmen.” This is an event in which you hold a liter Stein of Bier with one completely stretched out arm that is parallel to the floor. These matches are held at 9:00pm every Friday night fron July 9th until August 13th and at 8:00pm on every Wednesday night from July 14th until August 11th. Or if you and at least 4 friends make yourselves known to the manager on duty, an impromptu Masskrugstemmen match will be held.  If you happen to see me at Bavarian Grill, then I challenge you and your friends to Masskrugstemmen!

So, in closing, I highly recommend the Bavarian Grill for anyone who is looking to experience the best in German cuisine, bier and culture.  The atmosphere is light and an all-around fun place for family and friends to gather.

Bavarian Grill
221 West Parker Road
Plano, Texas
75023 * (972) 881-0705

La Duni Latin Kitchen & Coffee Studio is hosting a special Argentinean dinner Thursday July, 15 at 6:30 pm.  Chef Julia Lopez will be preparing a special menu inspired by Argentinean flavors complete with a hands-on Mojito class and optional wine pairings.

The four-course menu will begin with a hands-on Mojito class focusing on the Mojito Criollo and accompanied by a beef empanada with mojo rojo, followed by a cherry tomatoes and  avocado salad with flat parsley and lemon vinaigrette.  For the main course guests can choose pollo al ladrillo with herbs and garlicmojo, or grilled double lamb chop with chimichurri mojo, or bife de chorizo with Malbec-balsamic-butter reduction all accompanied with brick potatoes and gaucho style charred vegetables.  Save room to finish off the evening a chocolate truffle and vanilla Bavarian cream milhojas cake with caramelized dulce de leche for dessert.

Cost is $38 per person and includes a Mojito; wine pairings are available for $18 additional, exclusive of tax and gratuity.

La Duni Latin Kitchen & Coffee Studio
NorthPark Center
8687 N. Central Expwy.

Seating is limited, for reservations call  214.987.2260 with a Credit Card number to reserve.