Category: Food and Drink

Save Your Wine Until Another Time

I don’t know about you but I can’t drink an entire bottle of wine by myself.  Beer – yes.  Wine – maybe I can go half a bottle before I decide what to do with the rest.  And I do not like wasting a good bottle of Pinot.

There are several options to save those lonely ounces of red juice.  I could try to recork the bottle or even screw the cap back on.  But those methods sometime seem to leave the leftover wine with an odd taste.  I recently tried the Savino Wine Preservation System and so far the results have kept me from losing one sip.

It’s a resealable container that you can store wine in. Savino is a two part system – the carafe and the float. The float is designed to create a barrier between the wine and the air, is made from BPA-free plastic. The system should keep your wine fresh for up to one week, which is longer than the average 2-4 days for an opened bottle of wine.

Pour the wine into the Savino and then drop the float on top. The disc floats to the top of the wine while a silicone ring around the edges blocks most of the wine’s surface from being exposed to air.

Savino comes in two options – a glass carafe for $49.95 and a plastic carafe for $24.95 which is a nice option for outdoor use.  

A very smart gadget for wine aficionados.  Now if they could only invent one of these for beer.

Touring San Francisco – A Treat Indeed

I have been to San Francisco many times and – just like the song says – I have left my heart there each time.  The Golden Gate City is arguably the most unique city in the U.S. with its hilly terrain, sweeping views, late 19th century charm mixed with 21st century buzz, and different international-flavored neighborhoods everywhere you turn.

Why do I keep going back?  And why do I recommend it as a “must see” place for one’s bucket list?

Maybe it’s the weather.  Not so much the fog but the cool, dry air that makes me ask myself why I live in a hot, humid climate (oh yeah, probably the cost of the living).   It could be the food.   Within a few blocks walk one can dine on fresh seafood, authentic Italian, world-class Chinese and old-fashioned Mexican.

I believe the answer is all-of-the-above.  Like the city itself, I love the melting pot atmosphere of the residents and the tourists that come from all over the globe.  I recently spent a few days traversing the area by foot, go cart, subway, boat and bicycle.  I even threw in old school transportation with a ride on the famed cable cars and new school with an easy to grab Uber car.

So let’s go find my heart:

The first place I began my journey was online, of course.  Before your visit, take some time to plan your trip on San Francisco Travel, the city’s official guide for visitors and meeting planners.   Everything from activities to dining, nightlife to shopping, and even hotel suggestions are found on this website.  I knew I would be there for three nights so I made an itinerary that allowed me to play, eat, exercise and eat.  And eat.

My home base for my stay was Union Square.  I really enjoy this vibrant area as it is located near the city center with easy access to cable car lines, the underground subway, busses and trains.  It is an easy walk (despite some of the notorious hills) to get to Chinatown, the financial district and of course, all the shopping you can handle.

Yes there are high-end stores that can also be found in places like Manhattan’s Sixth Avenue and London’s High Street but I found many boutique shops and local hangouts with a northern California flair.  The fact that a pub or bar seemed to populate the area also added to my pleasure.

One must not forget a nickname of San Francisco – “The City By The Bay.”  So it makes sense to get on the bay to view the scenery and cityscape from a different vantage point.  First-timers to the area will enjoy a dinner cruise on the Hornblower, a sightseeing ship with several decks for fine dining, weddings and parties, and perches with unrestricted views no matter which way you look.

This three-hour cruise departs from the Embarcadero not far from the Bay Bridge.  Guests are welcomed at their assigned tables with a glass of champagne and a four-course dinner menu.  Live entertainment and dancing will keep you having fun down below when you aren’t on the top deck looking at the beautiful sights.  The Hornblower breezes past Alcatraz Island, circles underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, all while delivering breathtaking views of the city.

San Fran (we are pretty tight so I can call it that) seems synonymous with fishing and seafood which is why a visit to the Wharf is a must.  Two cable car lines drop off passengers within walking distance of this area where cool breezes during the day and night may call for a stop at one of the many souvenir shops for a lightweight jacket.

No doubt many of the restaurants, stores and venues are geared to tourists but you can find some wonderful food and plenty of things to keep busy.  Lunch at Cioppino’s on Jefferson Street was a treat as I sat on the outside patio sipping a local beer.  The menu offers – what else – fresh seafood along with Italian fare that draws customers from blocks away with smells of garlic and clams.

It would be a sin not to get the clam chowder in a freshly made bread bowl.  The Dungeness crab cocktail is also very tasty but those appetizers only led up to the main dish of which this place is named.   Cioppino is the signature dish here.  A bountiful seafood extravaganza of Dungeness crab, clams, mussels, snapper, calamari, shrimp, and tomatoes braised in a fennel scented stew.  ‘Nuff said.

It is no secret that I try to keep in shape as much as I can so when I enjoy a fine meal I need to find a way to work it off.  A glance down the street found Bay City Bike Rentals & Tours.  I haven’t been on a bike in years but there was no time like the present to hop on for good exercise but also a fun way to see more sights.

Bay City Bikes rent several types of equipment for a leisurely or a high-performance stroll.  I opted for a lightweight, 21-speed model with a front camera bag, lock, water bottle holder and a map.  They also offer an electric hybrid bike with a battery and pedal assist feature lets riders experience the fun with less exertion.  I almost regret not choosing the hybrid but at least I worked off my lunch.

I opted for a guided tour and took my place amongst a dozen fellow tourists donned with bike helmets and spandex pants (No such pants for me.  Shorts will do just fine.)  We departed from the Wharf on a two-and-a-half hour journey that led us on paved trails and streets with sweeping views of the water.

The final destination of the tour would be in Sausalito, a small town just north of the bay filled with stunning sidewalk restaurants, shops and parks.  But to reach this point we would need to cross the water.  And the only way would be to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Bam!

I have driven across this (arguably) most famous bridge in the world several times but traversing it on two wheels was almost an out-of-body experience.  An exclusive lane for walkers and bikers was crowded but allowed for a slow-paced pedal underneath the rust-colored towers of the bridge.   I had to stop a few times only to take in the view of the city to the south, Marin County to the north, and lots of water right below.

After crossing the bridge with high-fives amongst my fellow pedalers it was literally all downhill into Sausalito.  Part of this tour package from Bay City Bikes included a ferry ride back to the Wharf that allowed me to soak up the sights from the water again and rest up from the bike ride.

SF June 2015

Similar to dining at a restaurant, touring the city and visiting places can be done by itself (a la carte) or enjoying many things on an all-you-can-eat menu.  Like a buffet, the GO Card is a smart way to visit a variety of places across San Francisco and saves money in the long run.  A 1-day card can be purchased for $60 ($45 for kids) up to a 7-day card for $160 ($115 for kids) that gives entrance and discounts to over two dozen venues around the area.

The GO Card can be used to access several museums from the Asian Art to the U.S.S. Hornet; even to Madame Tussaud’s and Ripley’s Believe It or Not!.  My favorite place to use the card was another way to tour the city…the GoCar Tour.  The card allowed for a 30 minute use of these yellow, battery-powered vehicles equipped with a GPS-enabled storytelling experience.

The GoCar is easy and fun to drive.  As you drive, it tells you where to turn and gives an audible story of sights like Ghirardelli Square, The Presidio, Cliff House and Golden Gate Park.  My personal highlight was driving the GoCar down the curves of famous Lombardi Street.

As if I hadn’t had enough touring – and one can never get enough in this city – I found an intriguing way to learn about the vastly different neighborhoods while experiencing the unique cuisine each is famous for.  The Local Tastes Of The City Tour makes it easy to learn, eat and explore within a few hours but an experience that lasts a lifetime.

Offering several tours daily one can hop on its decorative bus or choose to walk a late morning, early afternoon or evening stroll through a choice of celebrated districts.  I opted for a night walking tour of Chinatown and North Beach as I wanted to learn about these two different cultures but also chow down on some good Chinese and Italian grub.

Our small group was led by an exuberant guide that started at the foot of Chinatown.  We were led at our own pace while listening to the historic significance of the neighborhood and its architecture.  Walking creates an appetite so every few blocks we stopped to sample local cuisine.  A dim sum selection was offered at a local shop followed by samples of freshly-made fortune cookies at a baking company in an out-of-the way alley.

We spent about an hour leaning about tea while sipping several varieties at Vital Tea Leaf.  I have never been a lover of hot tea but after learning the health advantages of these drinks I found myself purchasing several bags to take home.  Tip: try the Pu-erh.

Before we found our way out of Chinatown we popped into Begoni Bistro Wok & Wine.  The stop was initially for a bit of wine but after seeing the prawn salad spring roll and grilled French rack of lamb we could not help but have a quick snack.  (Say hello to the gregarious owner, Ming, for me)

That snack tied us over only for the next two blocks as we entered North Beach, a vibrant district named after the part of town that used to be the northernmost section of the city.  The iconic pyramid-shaped TransAmerica Tower hovered over us like a welcoming concierge.  We meandered slightly uphill to pass inviting clubs, book shops and restaurants inviting us with tempting scents of Italian flavor.

A few slices of pizza and a glass of wine were waiting at final stop of this journey.  We tipped our gracious guide and then tried to remember the spots we had just passed to go back and enjoy a little more of the local sounds and flavor of these unique neighborhoods.

I could go back to San Francisco every year for the rest of my life and still be able to discover something I haven’t seen before.  Maybe a small park with centuries-old trees or an alleyway that winds its way out to a view of another part of the bay I have yet to see.

There is no doubt when visiting this great city that every one of all ages and from all places around the world will leave with several things:  great memories, suitcases of souvenirs, an appreciation for a beautiful cityscape and atmosphere, and recommendations for others to go back and enjoy.

Oh yeah, and you won’t leave hungry either.

Golden Nugget Lake Charles Welcomes The High-Tech Texan (and all Texans)

When it comes to gambling, eating, sipping cocktails, playing in the sun or – heck – just about living life to its fullest, I am your man.  This fact is not hard to figure out since Las Vegas is my most-visited city in the U.S.  (confession – but don’t be a hater – I’ve already been to Vegas 4x this year alone).  But instead of hopping a flight for all this fun I may have found my new hangout just a few hours drive from Houston.

Golden Nugget Lake Charles Casino. (PRNewsFoto/Landry's)

The Golden Nugget in Lake Charles, Louisiana, opened in December 2014, and I recently spent a Friday night at this palatial playground near the swamp lands.  My crew and I headed eastbound along Interstate 10 to broadcast my radio show from “the Nugget” and we experienced a wonderful time from arrival to departure.  The $700 million project came into view as we crossed over the I-210 bridge.  Thoughts of ringing slot machines and stacks of casino chips in my head had me more excited than seeing Space Mountain the first time I approached Disney World as a kid.

Walking into the hotel was akin to entering one of the glitzy hotel casinos in Las Vegas.  That is a high compliment from me as I have been in many casinos around the world that looked similar to my upstairs poker room at home.  The marble floor and high ceiling gives the lobby and casino a roomy feel.  Several retail shops dotted the aisles and I caught a glimpse of several restaurants throughout the ground floor.  More on this later as restaurants play a large part of the Golden Nugget since it is owned and operated by Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta.  Yes, that Tilman Fertitta of Landry’s Inc. fame and fortune.

Check in was quick and simple probably because I was staring at the large window behind the counter which overlooks the H20 pool and bar.  It was a Friday afternoon and the outdoor area looked rocking as tanned guests were wading around the swim-up bar.

My pool view room with balcony overlooked this same scene and I could not wait to get down there to sample the libations and do a quick site check for my radio broadcast location the next day.  But I spent a while in the nicely appointed room looking at the many features.  500 square feet of space included a large soaker tub, king size bed, 42″ TV, stand-up shower and a dining nook.  I’m not sure how many guests utilize the small table and chairs to eat as we soon found out there are so many things to do to keep you downstairs.

The pool scene was indeed loud and fun.  Cabanas are spaced around the adult pool and bar (21 and up) with a large stage for DJs, concerts and other entertainment.  A lazy river is adjacent to the adult pool winding its way around a waterfall and under foot bridges.Golden Nugget photo4

Back to the restaurants.  It is hard to determine whether this facility was built around the restaurants of Fertitta’s empire or the hotel/casino just happened to place a Fertitta-owned restaurant every few feet along the spacious corridors.  Familiar brands can be found throughout the grounds including Saltgrass Steakhouse, Grotto, Landry’s Seafood House, and Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar.  We wanted to go all out for dinner so we opted for Vic & Anthony’s, a top steakhouse with locations in Houston and Las Vegas.

V&A General Manager Craig Harrington was inviting and worked the elegant dining room filled with guests dressed in sport coats, blue jeans and even shorts.  An order of maple glazed quail and a jumbo lump crabcake started us off.  Those appetizers quickly gave way to a table full of prime porterhouse, organic lamb chops, blackened scallops and grits, and of course there was a lobster tail.  The wine list is extensive and – my personal affection to a bar – the bourbon collection was first rate.

Golden Nugget photo2Once our bellies were full and happy it was time for one of my favorite ways to kill time and money (or hopefully make money)…the casino.  The Golden Nugget has 70 gaming tables and 1,600 slot machines.  This Friday night seemed busy and it took a little while to find an open spot at a craps table.  But once I realized there was 20x odds on the numbers all was well.  A large bar sits in the middle of the casino floor which makes for a nice place to relax and meet on the couches or tabletops.  A high roller section is situated in the back of the casino with its own bar and higher minimum tables and slot machines.  I did not notice a VIP lounge on the casino floor but, alas, there may be one somewhere for actual VIPs.

The staff was friendly whether they paid you winnings or took your losses.  This was a real Vegas “feel” which is hard to replicate outside of those large Nevada casinos.

Saturday morning found us broadcasting my radio show back to Houston (KPRC 950AM) and the world (iHeartRadio app).  The marketing staff found a wonderful location for our booth with a backdrop just a few feet away from the sparkling water and in-pool lounges.  My guests on the show included the property’s executives from the resort, operations, and beverage departments as we learned some of the interesting facts about the gleaming property.  [Note to self:  I need to visit again soon to play the recently-opened Country Club 18 hole golf course]  And our good friend Craig Harrington stopped by to bring some more delicious snacks from Vic & Anthony’s.

After the 2 hour show it was time to pack up the radio gear and change into swim gear.  We hung out the rest of the afternoon in a cabana which I recommend reserving if you have several people in your party.  It provided a nice place for shade with couches, small refrigerator stocked with bottled water, and a TV.Golden Nugget photo1

Our quick 24 hour visit left a great impression on us and many of my radio listeners.  Lake Charles has become a booming destination for entertainment for southerners but especially with Texans who daily cross the border in hoards.   Until Texas approves legalized casino gambling (hint: do not hold your breath) this will continue to be a hot place to visit.  The Golden Nugget is shiniest new star in the area and I can’t wait to go back.

Listen to The High-Tech Texan Show podcast from the Golden Nugget:

Hour 1

Hour 2

The Taste Of The NFL – Ready, Set, EAT!

Here’s the deal…I like food.  Food festivals are great.  Add some liquor and it’s heaven.  For the past 26 years one of the largest and most successful food events has been The Taste Of The NFL.  It features a chef from each NFL city serving their signature dish alongside a current or alumni NFL player.  Add that up and you get more than 35 food stations where to sample the fine cuisine, meet and take photos with famous chefs, NFL greats and participate in a silent auction with unique sports memorabilia and other exciting items.

This year’s strolling gastronomical feast will be held at the University of Houston on Saturday, February 4.  VIP entry begins at 6pm and the rest of the crowd flows in at 7pm.  They better hope the VIPs don’t eat everything that first hour.

The event is billed as the Party With A Purpose with proceeds from benefiting food banks in each of the 32 NFL cities, with special emphasis this year placed on the Houston Food Bank.  Tickets usually sell out but can still be had as I type this for $700.

I recently spoke with the Founder and Executive Director of the organization, Wayne Kostroski.  Here is the audio where you can hear his passion and enthusiasm for the event.  Listen to my show on KPRC 950AM and iHeartRadio to win a pair of tickets.

Bowl & Barrel Opens in Houston

Bowling is the one sport that your score seems to improve proportionally to the amount of alcoholic beverages you imbibe.  If that holds true then get prepped to roll high scores at Bowl & Barrel.  The new venue opened its third Texas location in City Centre on the west side of Houston after its success in Dallas and San Antonio.

20160802_181229Fifteen bowling lanes featuring the newest QubicaAMF bowling equipment welcome bowlers of all sizes.  The electronic scoring machine is one of the simplest ones I have used that takes just a few seconds to enter names to allow for a quick start.  Lanes are rented by the hour with prices from $32 per hour Monday-Thursday and $44 per hour Friday-Sunday (they can also be rented in half-hour increments).  Shoes can be rented for $6 per person.  I suggest bringing socks.20160802_180917

Beyond the bowling comes good food and drink.  I remember when bowling alleys served nothing but greasy burgers and fries.  Bowl & Barrel goes for a modern, upscale tavern menu with hot fried quail appetizers, buffalo chicken meatballs, a six-pack of mini hot dogs and 18″ pizza pies.  It’s a full-service place with a friendly waitstaff bringing food right to your bowling.  My only suggestion for them as of now is to put a bottle of hand cleaning gel on each table so you can grab snacks in between rolling your bowling ball.

20160802_183824The barrel part is abundant with several local beers on tap and a nice selection of wine served by the glass or bottle (why not?).  I recommend the Bloody Mary with sriracha and curry (hint: order before 3pm and they’re only 3 bucks) and the Lebowski.  This aptly named cocktail is pretty a White Russian but goes down nicely.

Bowl & Barrel is located at 797 Sorella Ct., Suite 118, next to its sister restaurant, The General Public.  Hours of operation are 11a-12a Sunday-Thursday and 11a-2a Friday-Saturday.  This is one of the properties run by Dallas-based FreeRange Concepts.  Founder Kyle Noonan is originally from Houston and earned his chops in the business inside the Pappas restaurant chain.  20160802_181009

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is my conversation with Kyle at the VIP opening.

Prime Living Magazine – July/August 2015

The latest edition of Prime Living Magazine is out just in time for mid-summer tips on backyard grilling and cooking.  Here is my column on some utensils to help with the preppin’.  You are now ready to do some eatin’.

Here are links to the featured products:

Backyard Flat Top Grill
Eva Solo Gravity Cookware
Breville Smart Convection Oven Plus

Prime_Living_JulyAug_column

Hydration Nation

How many times have I told you to hydrate?  Especially during the summer and especially if you are outside.  LISTEN TO ME, people!   I run, I’m a gym rat, I golf, I sweat, I drink water.  Lots of water.

We interrupt this blog to type about a specific water I just found…Biliner.  And it is gooood.  Over the past few weeks I’ve had several bottles at my side almost everywhere I go including in the radio studio.  I could give you specifics but here is some info from a recent press release:

Hydration on the Golf Course, Rehabilitation off Course

If you aren’t enjoying a cold beer on the golf course, what drink should golfers opt for? Ever noticed PGA TOUR players almost always opt for natural spring water during events? Why? One, they can lose significant fluids walking 18 holes in heat and humidity and dehydration is a risk even after just a few holes. Two, sugary sports drinks choc-full of electrolytes are unnecessary given the aerobic pace of walking.

Enter BILINER, the world’s oldest, purist spring water. BILINER was an official preferred water of the 2013 WGC Cadillac Champion. During the event, Tiger – among dozens of other top-ranked players — opted for a cold BILINER Royal Class spring water on just about every other tee box.

 

Celebrating its 350th anniversary this year, BILINER can be purchased in 400-plus stores in over 20 states from Louisiana and Texas west to Arizona and California. Golfers – and those who love them – who shop at Albertsons, Central Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, Rouses, Huckleberry’s Natural Market and other boutique stores can likely find BILINER on the shelves.

For hydration on the course, BILINER Royal Class Spring Water fits the bill.  A natural, high-quality spring water ideal for healthy hydration, Royal Class is noted for its velvety taste and perfect balance of minerals (pH 7.54). It is “untouched by human hands” and bottled at Biliner’s sterile plant in the Czech Republic. It is available in bottled 0.5-liter 12-packs (MSRP $1.49 per bottle) and 1-liter 6-packs (MSRP $1.99 per bottle).

Recovering between rounds is made easy with BILINER Premium Mineral Water. Originating from volcanic rock, Premium is a naturally sparkling, alkaline functional mineral water with a real taste of high concentration of minerals (over5000 PPM) with pH 8.0. It is bottled exactly as it flows from its source and contains sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron, as well as anions of chloride, sulfate and bicarbonate. It is available in bottled, 0.5-liter 12-packs (MSRP $1.49 per bottle) and 1-liter 6-packs (MSRP $1.99 per bottle).

Oh, and back to that 350-year anniversary: BILINER’s volcanic, mineral-spring source was discovered in 1664 on the noble Lobkowicz estates in royal Bilina in the Northern Bohemia region of what is today the Czech Republic. Balneologists flocked to Bilina, drafting extensive reports about the water’s healing and medicinal powers. BILINER Healing Spa was founded in the early 1700s, and bottle-based distribution began mid-century. BILINER was awarded for all the health benefits in Chicago in 1892 and also 1893. Today, BILINER water is bottled in the world’s most advanced and sterile filling factory.

Houston Beer Week – Day 2

To celebrate Houston Beer Week I will be inviting local brewmasters to sit in with me during my radio show to discuss his beer.  Monday found the boys from Karbach Brewing Co. in with me and today we welcomed Jeff Hamm from Conroe-based Southern Star Brewing Co.

He bought their flagship brand of Bombshell Blonde and their current seasonal Le Mort Vivant (which comes in a handy 750ml bottle).  Damn tasty.

Houston Beer Week

To celebrate Houston Beer Week I will be inviting local brewmasters to sit in with me during my radio show to discuss his beer (sorry, couldn’t line up – or even find – a local female brewmaster this year).

First up on Monday was Eric Warner from Karbach Brewing Co.  Eric is originally from Colorado (ah, that explains everything) and oversees varieties such as Hopadillo IPA, Rodeo Clown Double IPA, Sympathy For The Lager and Weisse Versa Wheat.  Eric brought in their Winter seasonal 22 oz bottle (actually a couple of them) of Yule Shoot Your Eye Out – a black ale spiced generously with cocoa nibs, orange peel, ginger, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

So far that is the leading beer name this week with a tongue-in-cheek nod to the great A Christmas Story movie.  Karbach’s bottle sports a rendering of the iconic “lamp leg” from the movie.

The 9-5-0 Beer Summit 2

I called this great event BS II and it was certainly well-attended.  Thanks to all of our listeners who came to Outlaw Dave’s Worldwide Headquarters last Friday and sampled some great local beer as we lead into Houston Beer Week.

It was an evening of saluting Texas Craft Beer. It was a packed house and many great beers were sampled.  Here are the beers that were in the flight.

Eric Warner from Karbach Brewing Co., John Anderson from No Label Brewing Co., Frank Krockenberger from St. Arnold Brewing Co., Jeff Hamm from Southern Star Brewing Co. and Chris Nunez from Real Ale Brewing Co. all came out to talk about their beer.

If you missed “The 2012 Beer Summit,” check out the photo gallery to see the fun we had.