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COUNTRY PUMPKIN PATCH

What a wonderful weekend this has been to be outside and enjoy the crisp October air.  And there is no better way to get into the Fall spirit than to visit a pumpkin patch!

Located in Wharton, Texas, the Country Pumpkin Patch has delighted kids young and old for the past several years.  Bring your kids out to take pictures among the rustic fall decorations and pick out the best pumpkin for your carving masterpiece.  You can also find beautiful harvest wreaths to accent you fall decorations.

Located at 3905 FM 1301 in Wharton, Texas 77488.  Open Saturdays and Sundays from 9 AM – 6 PM.  Through October 31st.

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SOUTHERN SPARKLER

“Come quickly.  I’m tasting the stars!” – Dom Parignon, at the moment he discovered champagne

Nothing beats a tasty cocktail on a warm, southern summer evening.  Yes, it is September, but in Texas – we are still in the heat of the summer.  I just adore a well-balanced cocktail.  The craft cocktail culture is experiencing a boom right now resulting in fabulous bars experimenting with fresh and often novel ingredients and premium spirits.

When you use a quality base spirit and fresh ingredients, you are consuming more than a drink – you are consuming a handmade story.  If you are out and about in Houston, there are a few must visit bars that are encouraging the art of bar tending.  Anvil is the unprecedented leader of the craft cocktail culture in Houston.  Newly opened Stone’s Throw in Montrose takes great pride in variety and balance.  Stop by El Big Bad to sample one of their 40 in house infused tequilas.  If you are a whiskey aficionado, you have to visit Reserve 101 to experience their collection of over 200 whiskeys.  Also check out Mongoose Verses Cobra, Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar and soon to reopen Prohibition.

A lot of great hand crafted spirits are emerging in the market as well.  Cinco Vodka is one of my favorites.  Distilled in San Antonio, Texas from 100% American Winter Wheat and left unfiltered, it is truly the martini lover’s best friend.  Out of Austin via Guadalajara comes Dulce Vida Tequila.  100% blue agave, 100% organic, and 100 proof, it is a stand out in any margarita.  Balcones Distillery in Waco, Texas is making unbelievable whiskeys that have cultivated a following so strong, as soon as product hits stores, it’s sold out.  I recommend trying the Brimstone for a unique campfire drinking experience and their Single Malt to sip and savor.

If you are feeling adventurous, get creative in your home.  You should choose two or more contrasting yet complimentary flavors for your cocktail.  At a recent party, I served one of my signature drinks: The Southern Sparkler.  The sweetness of peaches in contrast with the sharpness of dry brut champagne is a perfect pairing.  The vodka gives it an extra bang for your buck!

The Southern Sparkler

1 ½ oz Vodka (I used Cinco Vodka)

½ oz Peach Liqueur

1 ½ oz White Cranberry Peach Juice

1 oz Champagne

Garnish with a frozen peach

My Southern Sparkler

My Southern Sparkler

I encourage you to experiment with mixology and develop your own signature cocktail.  In the meantime, CHEERS!!!

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Southern Hospitality – Houston Style

Several places have been popping up around Houston lately that celebrate the heritage and pride of southern hospitality.

Punk’s, located in Rice Village, prides itself on serving “simple southern food.”  The newest edition to the Clark Cooper restaurant family features southern home cooking your grandma would be proud of.  The moment you step through the door, which has replica revolvers for handles, you feel as if you’ve been transported to a small town, family owned establishment.  While there you have to try the gluten free sweet corn hush puppies and Grandma Pat’s buttermilk fried chicken.

From the uber-creative mind of Alba Huerta and the Clumsy Butcher group comes Julep on Washington Avenue.  Julep’s focus is classic southern cocktails with inventive twists and bar bites including fresh raw oysters and cold seafood plates.  Try a classic mint julep with Four Roses Bourbon or a Topps and Bottoms made with sunflower infused rum and served with a Topps baseball card as a coaster.

The newest edition to the Midtown bar scene is Sage County, a sister bar to hot spots Pub Fiction and Celtic Gardens.  Grab a seat on their patio and order up an ice cold beer served in a replica red Solo cup or one of their fabulous Texas spirits.  Some of my favorites are Cinco vodka, Dulce Vida tequila and Red River Bourbon.  Sage County throws great theme nights and is probably one of the only bars in town that features Mickey’s and Boone’s Farm.

I encourage you to check out these great establishments and show your southern pride!

The interior of Punk's & a Maker's Mark mint julep

The interior of Punk’s & a Maker’s Mark mint julep

Clockwise from top: preparations for a julep; a Sparkling Julep; interior of Julep

Clockwise from top: preparations for a julep; a Sparkling Julep; interior of Julep

Red "Solo" Cups & the indoor patio

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Houston Restaurant Weeks 2014

Each August, there is a certain appetite for excitement wafting through Houston, Texas.   The bayou city is filled with people looking to satisfy their appetites for adventure.  It is the last chance to celebrate the carefree moments of summer.  No, I’m not speaking about parents ready to send their children back to school – it’s Houston Restaurant Weeks!  What started out as a one week benefit now spans the entire month.  Through epicurious patrons and the restaurants they frequent, Houston Restaurant Weeks have become the single largest fundraiser for the largest food bank in America.  Last year, over one million dollars was raised for the Houston Food Bank. This year, they are well on their way to one and a half million.

There are almost 200 excellent establishments participating this year.  Each one has created a special menu of some of their finest offerings.  For a set price, ranging from $20-$45, you can choose between several options for a range of courses.  Check out the website to see each establishment’s offerings.  Most restaurants take reservations, and it is a good idea to make them early.  The one thing that Houstonian’s like more that eating out is doing so for a good cause!

For those of you looking for a unique dining experience, here a few great spots.  Lucille’s, located in the Museum District, featured innovative, southern comfort food prepared lovingly by chef Chris Williams.  Check out Triniti, located on South Shephard near River Oaks, for seasonal, locally source cuisine and make sure to stop by the bar.  Leslie Ross, one of the most passionate mixologists I’ve met, will create a cocktail tailored to fit your dining experience.  Mr Peebles in Midtown is a must stop for the enlivened atmosphere – think Alice in Wonderland on LSD.  At the Cordua’s Americas & Churrascos, now with six locations, you can try their “Churrasco” – voted one of Esquire Magazine’s Top 20 Steaks in America.  Not to be missed are the 5 Clark Cooper concepts: Brasserie 19, Ibiza, Coppa, Coppa Osteria & Punk’s.  They consistently offer the trifecta – attentive service, great atmosphere and exceptional cuisine.

On my list are Table on Post Oak, RDG Bar Annie and Osteria Mazzantini.  You have a little bit of time left.  Houston Restaurant Weeks run through Sept 1st.  Get out and enjoy some of Houston’s best restaurants for a fabulous cause!  Cheers!

Clockwise from top right: the shrimp and grits at Lucille's; a mojito at Churrasco's; the dipsicle at Triniti

Clockwise from top right: the shrimp and grits at Lucille’s; a mojito at Churrasco’s; the dipsicle at Triniti

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