Bar Review: Bottled In Bond (Dallas)

While in Dallas last week for work I was driving north on the Dallas North Tollway and happened to be figuring out my plan for dinner when I saw Bottled in Bond and pulled off the road. What a great name for a bar! Their website says it perfectly:

No one likes rules and regulations but we are allowed to enjoy great whiskey today thanks to the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897….

To be labeled as Bottled-in-Bond or Bonded, the liquor must be the product of one distillation season (January to December) and one distiller at one distillery. It must have been aged in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 proof (50% alcohol by volume). The bottled product’s label must identify the distillery where it was distilled and, if different, where it was bottled. Only spirits produced in the United States may be designated as bonded.

This very Act is the foundation behind the concept for our Cocktail Parlour & Kitchen allowing people to experience the thriving era of craft cocktails and American Whiskey in a unique atmosphere.

BIB9

Bottled in Bond has a classic design with a great long bar that can seat 20. There is a lot of wood and glass in the cases used to display their spirits.I did not count the bottles behind the bar and on the cocktail list but I am guessing it was north of 150. The music mix gives it a good vibe.

BIB3

Jasin Burt, the owner, has done it all right. Lucky for me he was tending bar that night. As I always do, I started with an Old Fashioned and Jasin makes a great cocktail. He uses Evan Williams Bottled as his house bourbon, one of my favorites. We started talking whiskey and bourbon. Our conversation could have gone on all night.

BIB4

Their happy hour is from 4-7 PM and the list of items in it will satisfy anyone. The “Bonded Happy Hour” menu includes six items at only $7 each. I started with the deviled eggs. They have bacon and relish on top of them, and they were delicious. You get six, which is easily shared by 2 or 3 people.

BIB6

While waiting on the eggs Jasin poured me a little Slaughter House Bourbon. I had never seen or tried it before. It was very good with a strong hint of cocoa. It was a nice compliment to the deviled eggs.

BIB8

I then got a pour of Forged Oak to sip with the Italian Caprese flatbread I had ordered. I was curious to try it as I have seen its price hold steady, or drop versus the other Orphan Barrel releases. It was good, and I wanted to compare it to something.

BIB7

Jasin suggested Old Forester Statesman. What a nice comparison and the Statesman really held up and shined. Both were excellent with the very flavorful flatbread.

I can’t say enough good things about Bottled in Bond. Jasin and the entire staff were very knowledgeable, friendly, and made me feel at home. I love talking bourbon when I am drinking bourbon, and I learned a lot from Jasin. The conversation was lively, and the food fantastic. If you happen to be in the North Dallas/Frisco area, it’s definitely worth a stop. They are only a stone’s throw from the new Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. You will be delighted you made the trip.

Untitled Super Club (Chicago)

While sitting at the bar at the Berkshire Room, I had a nice conversation with a few locals who told told me I had to go to the Untitled Super Club before I left town – a self-described “Contemporary revival of a Prohibition-era Chicago Supper Club” combining fine dining with a classic social club-feel complete with live music and Cabaret-style entertainment.

UT1

The club has a very nondescript entrance, as you might guess. Once inside the door are stairs down to the basement. Behind the stairs is a big glass case filled with whiskey bottles.

UT13

Once downstairs I was bombarded with the ambiance of the surroundings –  comfortable lounging areas and fun art. On each side of the stairway are two large bars with a spectacular display of whiskies. They claim to have one of the largest collections available. I cannot dispute that fact.

UT2

What made the experience even greater was the hospitality of the bartenders. Mick, who asked what I would like, greeted me. I judge a bar by their cocktails and I usually start with an Old Fashioned. Mick was a terrific bartender. He was attentive, knowledgeable and knew his whiskey.

UT4

We started talking about what kind of bourbons I liked and I had tried. He suggested I try the Garrison Brothers Single Barrel. It was quite good. I still have not figured out the nose but I said burlap, Mick said top of the rick house.

UT6

We then we moved on to a discussion of Japanese Whiskey. I said the ones I had tried did not impress but I knew they were not the best. He suggested the Yamazaki 12 year-old Single Malt. Once again, he hit it right on. I would try this again and I am not a single malt person.

UT8

The last one I tried was Widow Jane from New York. Another great selection and bourbon. I will add a bottle to my bar.

UT5

We ended the night when Mick brought out the Cynar for those left at the bar. Cynar is an artichoke based bittersweet liqueur known for its distinctive flavor. Its taste is enriched by an infusion of 13 herbs and plants. The name of the drink derives from Cynar scolymus, the botanical name for artichoke. Try it sometime; it’s very appealing.

The Untitled Supper Club is definitely worth a stop when visiting Chicago. I’m looking forward to visiting again when I’m in town next.

The Berkshire Room (Chicago)

I am in Chicago this week for work and the concierge at the hotel suggested I try the Berkshire Room. So, last night, I grabbed a cab and headed to Ohio Avenue and a bourbon lovers paradise.

IMG_0193

The Berkshire Room feels like you are walking into a Speakeasy. It is small, intimate and very well appointed. What makes it even more special is the bartenders know how to create incredible cocktails. On the menu, you can ask for a “Dealers Choice-Cocktail.” It is fun because you pick the glass style, the type of liquor, and your flavor preference – and leave it to the bartender!

IMG_0185

I chose a rocks glass and bourbon. They asked what style drink I like and I said I like Old Fashions and he took it from there. What I got was an amazing cocktail made with the following:

2 oz. Ancient Age Bourbon
1/2 oz. Averna
1/2 oz. Walnut Liquor
1/8 oz. House Falernum
Three Dashes of Angostura Bitters
Garnished with an orange peel

I was enjoying the drink so much I decided to order the “Pick Any Tree” Chef’s Rotating Artisan Charcuterie & Cheese Selections with Crostini. It was a generous sized appetizer for two before dinner (I made it dinner). I was enjoying the meat and cheese so much I ordered another “Dealers Choice” to enjoy with it.

img_0189.jpg

I like to sit at the bar, especially when traveling alone. You get a lot of conversation and I tend to learn a lot. Several locals were very knowledgeable about Chicago whiskey bars, bourbon, and the Berkshire Room. I found out it is so popular that two guys got a place very close to the bar so they can have a drink after work on a regular basis.

IMG_0187

The Berkshire uses a lot of Buffalo Trace products. They had the full Antique Collection and all years of the Pappy Van Winkle Collection. They had a selection of probably 150 bourbons and ryes behind the bar. They also have a selection of very old bourbons from the 80’s, all the way back to the 40’s.

When in the windy city, stop in The Berkshire Room for a unique whiskey experience. You will be taken back in time. It is a very relaxing experience.

Whiskey Wednesdays at the Public House (Fullerton)

Watch out Happy Hour and Taco Tuesday, the Public House in Fullerton has a new twist on Wednesdays: Whiskey Wednesdays. As a bourbon fan – what a great idea. They offer 3 whiskeys tastings and 3 beer tastings for $12.00. Each week they offer different whiskey and beer tastings. While there two weeks ago, it was Japanese Whiskey. I have been there for Canadian Whiskey Wednesday, and a Bourbon Wednesday.

EB1

What a good way to try different whiskey (or whisky). It forces you to try something you might not try and it’s a great price to boot. Anyone who is into their whiskey always wants to try something new and this is the perfect way to do it. Hopefully Whiskey Wednesday starts to catch on at other restaurants!

EB2

There are always new spirits to try. A tasting like this gives you that opportunity without the commitment of a bottle. I find it really interesting that Public House pairs it with three beers as well. You get quite a flavor explosion that way and find out what you really enjoy. I thought I had experienced enough scotch and dark beer tastes in my life to know I didn’t want more. But since going to the Public House I have had some dark beers on Wednesdays and want to give more a try.

EB10

Evans Brewing is Orange County’s oldest craft brewery having opened in 1994. They opened the Public House in the fall of 2016. We go out on Friday nights with friends and Public House has become a regular for us. They have a wonderful happy hour with their brick oven pizzas on special as well. The menu has some good signature cocktails, or their knowledgeable bartenders can make you whatever your heart desires. They have a nice selection of whiskey which is unusual for the normal restaurant opened by a craft brewery. But it doesn’t stop there.

EB5

This blog was supposed to be about Whiskey Wednesday’s and “Brown Liquor” tasting but I have to mention the food. I will do another post about their beer and food, it is so good. I am getting hungry writing this. Do you like “Tater Tots”? Loaded question because who doesn’t, right. The make sweet potato tater tots! They are to die for! There is the “White Pie” pizza my wife loves made with garlic puree, pea tendrils, ricotta, mozzarella, peas, sea salt. It was on the menu all summer but with the fall menu it disappeared. I thought Lynn was going to cry. The manager assured us it will be back. But my favorite is the “Home on the Range Bison Burger.” A generous bison patty, sweet onions, Oaklore reduced jam, spicy Cajun onion strings, aged white cheddar, arugula, and roasted garlic aioli. Can I just go there and eat now? The menu is extensive, soups, salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and big plates.

EB7

This was supposed to be about “Whiskey Wednesday’s” and whiskey tasting but it has turned into the Food Channel. For readers in Orange County, the next time you go out, go to the Public House in Fullerton, you will enjoy the experience.

 

Restaurant Review: Turf Supper Club

IMG_7461

We joined our friends Ray and Jeannine at a San Diego Padres game a few weeks ago and following their win they said they had a fun place for dinner. Knowing I like horse racing and a great bar, they knew we’d love the Turf Supper Club, a “Grill Your Own Steakhouse” is in the historic Golden Hill neighborhood of San Diego.

IMG_7462

Nothing pretentious or Turf Club stuffy, the Turf Supper Club is right out of the 50’s: campy fun.  You can see by the neon sign you are in for a treat. There is long bar with plenty of stools, photos of horses, old style lamp shades with horse shoes, red lights, and carpet, and classic wallpaper. It has been described as comfy and friendly – and that is true.

IMG_7450

What makes this restaurant truly different? You cook your own steak on the grill in the middle of the dining room. But don’t let me get ahead of myself. The bar has a very classic drink menu. For bourbon drinkers they have an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or American Thoroughbred. They also offer a Gimlet, Esquire Martini, or Cosmopolitan, just to mention a few. With good bartenders and a good selection of liquor you can’t go wrong. Lynn started with a Manhattan and I had an Old Fashioned. Our drinks were very good and quite reasonable with prices from $7 to $11. If you just read my Bourbon blog for fun, they also have beer and wine.

IMG_7455

Steaks start at $11.75 for a Top Sirloin with a top price of $22.75 for Filet Mignon. I was impressed with Marinated Flank Steak I ordered. If you don’t want beef there are kebobs, pork, chicken, or salmon. All steaks and kebobs come with a large slice of garlic bread. The “Extras” as they call them are a side salad, baked potato, or potato salad.  You can end your meal with a selection of cheesecakes.

IMG_7457

I recommend The Turf Supper Club for those who like bourbon, steak, and a fun evening with friends, new or old. Next time you are in San Diego step back in time with a classic cocktail and steak at the Turf Supper Club. On Sunday nights they have live music in the Piano Bar. I felt like George Woolf or Johnny Longden was going to walk into the place before we left.

Restaurant Review: Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern (Southern California)

Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern has become a favorite of Lynn’s and mine when we are in the Brea area. Many refer to it as “JFAT” which they use on their website, napkins, and use the logo generously on all branding. The food is good, the drinks creative, and it’s a fun atmosphere. They have five locations in Southern California – I’ve tried their Brea and Dana Point locations

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 11.03.14 AM

The idea for Jimmy Famous Tavern, or JFAT, grew out of the idea of the English taverns that made their way to New England. These were primarily drinking establishments that had limited food options. Jimmy wanted to create this atmosphere where people would gather for great brews, cocktails, and wine. But to enhance the experience Jimmy wanted to add excellent food to his taverns. His concept was to use fresh ingredients, blending tradition with creativity. They use the best ingredients prepared fresh daily from scratch.

We had heard about JFAT from a friend who raved about their Dana Point location. We have been there 5 or 6 times now and we have always been pleased with our experience. The food and drink are always impressive.

The Brea restaurant, like the others, has a very warm feel to it. There is a lot of wood, warm colors, low lighting at night. One of the architectural features of the Brea location is it opens up onto a park like setting in the Village at La Floresta. The window and doors from the restaurant and patio open up to create an open air restaurant. On a warm southern California day or evening it is awesome. If you are there on a chilly evening they close those windows and doors and with low lighting you feel the warmth of a Pub setting.

We both started with a “Boulevardier” which I would describe as their version of an Old Fashioned. But this is not your father’s Old fashioned. It has Bulleit Rye, Aperol, and Carpano Antica in it. And they finish it off with the orange peel and a life changing dark sweet cherry.

JFAT 4 Drink

We skipped the starters because we had a big lunch. I would suggest you start with “Warm House Made Salt & Pepper Potato Chips.” They are drizzled with Maytag bleu cheese & scallions. Or try the Brussel Sprouts, or Whiskey Shrimp. I can’t list them all but try as many as you can.

Lynn ordered the Signature Grilled Santa Fe Salad for dinner. It is made with grilled romaine, corn, salsa fresca, avocado, topped with green chile caesar dressing and grilled flat iron steak.

IMG_3278

I couldn’t decide what to order and our waiter Joshua suggested the French Dip and he was spot on. It’s prepared from mouthwatering prime rib, then topped with Swiss cheese, crispy onions, with creamed horseradish on a Ciabatta roll.

JFAT FD 1

My mouth is watering writing this review. I think we need to go back for lunch or dinner in the next few days! Go for a drink, go for appetizers, or go for dinner. JFAT offers great drinks, food, and service.

Bar Review: Vaca (Costa Mesa, CA)

Lynn and I have been wanting to eat at Vaca in Costa Mesa, CA, ever since we saw Amar Santana on Top Chef. We have been to his restaurant Broadway in Laguna Beach several times. The food is amazing and the bartenders are friendly and very knowledgeable. We love to sit at the bar to eat and enjoy talking with the bartenders and other restaurant goers we have met from all over the world while sitting at the bar (I have embarrassed our kids for years because I will chat up anybody that will listen).

IMG_6979

We had tickets to see “Finding Neverland” at the Segerstrom Center and decided to have some of the Tapas at Vaca before the musical. Vaca is very conveniently located literally around the corner from Segerstrom, so it was easy to park for the musical and then walk over to the restaurant for dinner. Well we had a great time. Vaca has a nice long bar with a back bar with shelves and bottles 20 feet tall.

IMG_6964

Writing these blogs is always an education for me and hopefully you, my readers, as well. To go along with Amar’s Spanish cuisine, he has also replicated Spain’s love of the ultimate Gin and Tonic. Their signature drink is the “The Vaca Tonic” made with Brooklyn Gin, Frozen Gimlet, Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic, and Basil Blossom. What they don’t include in the description is their amazing ice. The drink was served with a handmade, perfectly clear round ice cube. I watched them make it, what a work of art. It was a very refreshing drink and went well the Ensalada de Remolacha, a roasted beet salad with cana de cabra, and walnuts. We followed it with the Pulpo a La Gallega, a warm Spanish octopus, with fingerling potatoes, pimenton, and Spanish olive oil.

IMG_6968

After those 2 dishes and finishing my gin, it was time for a bourbon drink and some pork. First I ordered the “That’s the Spirit” which is made with Baker’s Bourbon, Bittermans Hiver Amer, Clear Creek Cranberry Liquor, and Lemon. My drink was very refreshing.

IMG_6960

Lynn had an excellent Spanish Tempranillo from the wine list. Both were a nice compliment to the pork and beef we ordered.   We tried the pork belly which was amazing. For our last dish we tried the La Bola, crispy potato balls with ground beef, aioli, and spicy tomato sauce. All were amazing and all so different.

We enjoyed the environment, company, food, and drinks. I would heartily recommend Vaca. We want to go back soon and enjoy some steak. Steak is not something you normally describe when talking about Spanish restaurants but Amar focuses on steak, tapas, ham, paella, and Spanish wine. If you plan to be in the area, make reservations. If you are not in the area, make a trip. Go to theatre, or shopping and end the day at Vaca.