Restaurant Spotlight

Mr. Dunderbak’s

Have you ever stepped into a restaurant, bar, or store and felt you were instantly transported somewhere new? That’s how I felt when I first stepped into Mr. Dunderbak’s Biergarten in Tampa Palms. It was like I was transported straight to Munich, or at least what I imagine Munich to be like.

Mr. Dunderbak’s opened in 1974 offering up their own unique twists on classic Bavarian dishes – “Oma’s recipes, a little Americanized over the generations, but with a clear Swabisch heritage.” The atmosphere is warm and friendly, the inside is built to look like a little Bavarian cottage with long communal  tables (from the Hofbrau haus in Munich), animal heads, signs, and German flags mounted to the wall and ceiling, and a small little gazebo in the middle of the room where the typically have live music on the weekends. On both sides you’ll find two bars serving up a wide variety of European beers and some that they also brew in house.  Their staff was super friendly and made you feel right at home.

I started with a cup of their beer cheese soup that was thick, creamy, and delicious with just that right amount of beer to get the taste without being overwhelming. It paired nicely with my HPschorr Oktoberfest-Marzen beer.

For my meal, I ordered  their sour cream veal schnitzel smothered in a sour cream, white wine, and mushroom gravy, served with sweet and sour potato salad and potato pancakes. The schnitzel was fried to perfection, hot and crisp on the outside but the veal still tender on the inside. The sour cream sauce was rich and decadent with large pieces of mushroom (which I loved). I’d never had sweet and sour potato salad before but I gladly will again. It was served warm with a nice tangy flavor that paired well with my heavy veal dish. The potato pancakes were thick and soft, served with the classic sides of sour cream and applesauce. The portions are huge and I could barely finish this plate, but boy did I try my hardest.

They also have a wide variety of deli meats, sandwiches,  Wurstspezialitaten (sausages), and other classic German favorites. All of their meals are cooked to order and almost everything is made in house. It’s quality like that, that truly makes a difference in the food. You just can’t go wrong.

With a group of our friends planning to go to Oktoberfest in Munich next fall, I see Mr. Dunderbak’s being a great staple of our diets, prepping us for all the delicious food and beer Germany has to offer. So make your way over to Mr. Dunderbak’s and step into a little piece of Germany right in our own backyards.

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

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Recipes

Gnocchi Bolognese

After our wonderful, busy, fun-filled trip to Los Angeles, of course J. and I came home and both got sick. After eating out the entire trip, we craved homemade comfort food and nothing seemed more comforting than a hearty bowl of pasta. With a pack of frozen ground beef calling to me in my freezer, a bolognese seemed like the perfect choice. And you can never go wrong pairing that with a rich, soft gnocchi.

Gnocchi Bolognese

  • 1 container pre-packaged gnocchi (I used Alessi Potato Gnocchi)
  • 8 oz ground beef
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 TBSP minced garlic
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 2 roma tomatoes
  • 1 TBSP chili powder
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 tsp chicken stock concentrate
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 2 TBSP finely chopped basil (optional)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

Peel and grate the carrot and finely dice the onion. In a separate bowl, you’re going to grate your two roma tomatoes to make your own tomato sauce. Slice a thin round off the bottom of each tomato. Starting at the cut end, grate tomatoes on the largest holes of a grater over the bowl until all that’s left is the flattened tomato skin and stem; discard the leftover skin and stem. (Learn more about the great reasons to grate a tomato!)

In a large pan, over high heat, drizzle olive oil (or PAM) and add the ground beef. Cook until it’s browned through and season with salt and pepper.

In a separate pan, start your sauce by adding the carrot and onion. Cook down until it’s softened. Add the garlic, oregano, chili powder, and 2 TBSP of tomato paste. Stir to ensure all the ingredients and coated with the tomato paste and well combined. Next, add in your grated “tomato sauce,” chicken stock concentrate and 1 cup of water. Bring the sauce to a boil, then simmer until the sauce has thickened (around 7 minutes). Add the ground beef and cook for another 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

(Note:  The broth concentrate [as opposed to boxed or canned chicken broth] has a slightly sweeter, yet still meaty, flavor that works well in soups and sauces. It’s an easy way to build some intense flavors quickly).

Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook according to package instructions. Once the gnocchi is cooked through, spoon the pasta into the bolognese and stir to combine. Serve and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and little basil.

This delicate potato pasta is the perfect accompaniment to the bolognese as it soaks up all the rich sauce. The addition of the chili powder gave it just enough of a kick to balance out that richness while the carrot adds some natural sweetness to compete against the acidic tomatoes. Gnocchi is also a great week night pasta as it cooks so quickly. Pair it with your homemade tomato bolognese and you’ve got a meal fit for kings (and queens) any day of the week.

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

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Restaurant Spotlight Snacks & Sightseeing

La La Land

J. has been traveling out to Los Angeles recently working with a new client. On his last trip, I tagged along at the end so we could spend a long weekend exploring and seeing the sights! We couldn’t have asked for a better trip – weather in the 80’s, clear blue skies, and, of course, lots of delicious food.

Los Angeles actually incorporate a lot of different areas and communities, not just Los Angeles proper. We tried to fit in as much as we could exploring Westwood, Downtown LA, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica. Each community had its own hustle and bustle of people, restaurants, and attractions and thus its own unique personality. Here’s some of our favorite places, foods, and drinks we hit this weekend:

Westwood

J. was staying here for work, so we only caught dessert here the night I arrived. But boy was it some dessert. Napa Valley Grille’s Basil Cake – basil Chantilly, strawberry coulis, fresh berries, baked streusel crumb, strawberry frozen yogurt. The cake was not overly sweet but extremely moist. It was a perfect pairing of flavors and textures between the soft cake, berries, struesel and frozen yogurt. I will dream about this cake for a long time.

Downtown LA

We headed to downtown LA on Thursday. After exploring the Bradbury building and The Last Bookstore, we had lunch at the Grand Central Market. I think that this marketplace is just the coolest concept – this large open air (but covered) market runs between Broadway and Hill St. Around since 1917, “Grand Central Market’s mission is to celebrate the cuisines and cultures of Los Angeles. Our commitment is to preserve the legacy of a historic downtown landmark, to gather the city’s many communities around a shared table, and to nurture the next generation of local businesses.” It’s filled with tons of food and market vendors that switch out occasionally so there is always new cuisine to explore. We ate at Villa Moreliana, an authentic Mexican vendor specializing in every cut of pork you can imagine. J. and I got the pork butt tacos and they were phenomenal. The flavor they were able to create out of slow-cooking that pork is beyond compare (and they give you a very healthy portion too!).

After lunch we grabbed drinks at the other end of the market at Golden Road Brewing. J. and I were so excited to run across this place as we knew were weren’t going to be able to make it out to their actual brewery during our trip and really wanted to try some authentic California beers! J. got their 329 Lager and I tried their on-tap cider. Both were light and refreshing, perfect for that LA weather.

After lunch we went and explored The Broad art museum and then bar hopped our way across town stopping at Rock and Reilly’s, Casey’s Bar & Grille (great Irish pubs!) before catching the sunset at the rooftop bar at The Perch.

Hollywood

Friday was a super busy, but great day in Hollywood. We woke up early to get over to Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles that had been recommended to us by one of J.’s coworkers. The service staff was slow (especially since we were in a hurry) but the food came out quickly and was absolutely worth it. Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles is soul food restaurant chain that made it’s way out to Long Beach back in 1975. They have a variety of southern classics, but J. and I were there for one thing and one thing only – chicken and waffles. the perfect mix of sweet and salty. The waffle was thin yet still extremely soft with hints of cinnamon. The chicken thigh was fried to golden brown perfection and well seasoned with the crispiest skin. Yum!

After breakfast we rushed over for our tour at the TCL Chinese Theatre and Dolby Theatre. I felt like I was walking among the stars! After the tours, we headed over to Koreatown to get our fix from a Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives highlight – Beer Belly. This was the one place we were dying to get to during our trip and we were not disappointed. This place is just a small little shop with a small bar and handful of tables, but is foodie heaven.

I started with the Absofruitly Berliner Weisse, made with peach and nectarine. It was a great mix of sour and sweet without being too heavy. It paired well with what we were about to eat. J. and I split the Duck Fat Fries – fries tossed in duck fat with duck skin cracklins and raspberry mustard and the Beer Belly Grilled Cheese – a “quad deck 4×4” sandwich with cheddar, swiss, asiago, goat cheese, applewood smoke bacon, and topped with maple syrup. The fries were super salty, crisp perfection. And the grilled cheese – ah – mouthwatering. It was a melty, ooey, goey mess of a sandwich. The goat cheese added the bite of acidity you needed to cut all the fat, bacon added the crunch and salt, and the maple syrup added just the slightest touch of sweetness. It’s a sandwich I would order over and over and over again.

After literally rolling out from lunch, we walked it off at our tour at Paramount Studios before heading back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner. For dinner, we hit up Calle Tacos, right off of Hollywood Blvd. This place actually reminded me a lot of Taco Bus back home due to it’s actual food truck kitchen parked inside of this small hole in the wall restaurant. The menu features a variety of burritos, tacos, and quesadillas that you can customize with meat, toppings and secret family recipe homemade salsa. J. went for variety with a carnitas, carne asada, and pollo taco. I grabbed the al pastor quesadilla loaded with adobo marinated pork and pineapple. They buy their meat fresh daily from local farmers and it’s a taste and quality that you just can’t beat.

After watching the sunset at the Griffith Observatory we hopped down Hollywood Blvd checking out the rooftop bar at Mama Shelter and the super fun 70’s retro bar at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s. If you haven’t been to any of those places – stop what you’re doing immediately and go!

West Hollywood / Beverly Hills

Saturday we woke up and headed straight to brunch at Norah, an eclectic American style restaurant off of Santa Monica Blvd. I stumbled upon this restaurant while planning for the trip and was intrigued just by their website and photos I’d seen online. While we had a lot of great food on the trip, I was looking most forward to this brunch and was not disappointed.

The inside is open, clean, and modern with a large white marble bar across one side of the restaurant. It was the type of place where you just felt at home and could celebrate a myriad of different events. We started with mimosas, made with fresh squeezed orange juice, and homemade biscuits with pimiento cheese. You could see all of the flaky layers of the biscuit as soon as it was placed on the table and pimiento cheese was creamy and delicious. J. went for their breakfast sandwich  with a fried egg, sausage, aged cheddar cheese and maple glaze. The fried egg was perfectly running when you took the first bite and the bun soaked up all those flavors. I got their jasmine rice congee with glazed pork belly, crispy shallots, soft poached egg, and kimchi. The rice congee was a soft grits/porridge type of consistency but with deep flavors like a ramen broth. The pork belly glaze had a good amount of heat to it, but paired with the egg tempered out well. It was a great mix of different flavors and textures that will make your mouth water.

After brunch J. and I strolled down Melrose Ave., window shopped through Beverly Hills, tried to stalk celebrities (with no success) at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and finally made our way down to the iconic sunset strip for dinner and drinks. We had reservations at State Social House, a really relaxed, chill gastro pub. The inside has almost sort of a saloon type feel with dark wood walls, tables, and wooden bar stools. It wasn’t crowded at all when we went so we got a table right by a large window overlooking the strip. J. and I shared a huge plate of chicken nachos and a burger. Pretty classic bar-type food, but it was all seasoned and cooked well, and exactly what we were looking for after exploring all day.

Santa Monica

Our final day in sunny LA, J. and I headed down to Santa Monica. We walked down Ocean Ave., to our brunch reservations at The Penthouse on the top floor of The Huntley Hotel. A nice mix of classic and modern decor, this upscale spot is just breathtaking with its pale color scheme and sheer white curtained private tables. As soon as you stop off the elevator you are greeted by large windows offering up panoramic views of the city and beach below. We both started off with mimosas, of course. I ordered the chilaquiles – fresh tortilla chips, tomatillo sauce, queso fresco, and two eggs, topped with avocado, sour cream and cilantro. The tomatillo sauce was unlike any I’d ever had before. Very fresh and flavorful, but very light and not overly spicy. J. went for the bacon waffle stack – bacon waffle batter, topped with eggs (any style). I don’t think I’d ever had bacon IN a waffle before, but the combination is that sweet and salty goodness you’d hope for. The food + the view made The Penthouse a real winner.

After brunch, we rented bikes and road down from Santa Monica to Venice beach and back and walked around the infamous Santa Monica pier. We grabbed drinks and had a lazy afternoon at The Bungalow before heading to dinner at Enterprise Fish Co. When this place originally opened, they renovated the building resemble a wharfside eatery. This is exactly the feel you get as you enter, with hardwood floors and trussed ceilings. They act as a true wharfside eatery as well, bringing in fresh, whole fish daily, and doing everything from cleaning to cooking them in house. I started with a cup of Boston clam chowder, that definitely had a California spin on it with a broth base no where near as heavy as what you’d find in New England, yet all the classic flavors shown through. For my meal I ordered lobster rolls – the bread was nicely toasted and the lobster meat had a kick from a dash of cayenne pepper. I easily could have eaten another order of them. J. ordered their King Salmon that was cooked to perfection.

We ended our trip strolling back down Ocean Ave. to see the pier all lit up at night before heading back to our hotel.

The trip covered a small fraction of all there is to see out in Los Angeles, let alone in California and it was a whirlwind few days but we were so happy to fit in as much as we possibly could. I can’t wait to make my way back out to the West Coast to continue exploring and take in all of the culture, sights, and of course – food! If anyone has any recommendations for next time – hit me up!

Peace out, LA! I’ll miss you!

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

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Cheers! Vino

Luna Nuda Prosecco

While J. and I love going out for brunch, some weekends we’d just rather lay low in our pajamas. When we do, I typically whip up a brunch-esque meal, whether that’s Belgian waffles, omelettes, or just scrambled eggs and bacon, always accompanied by some bubbles. For our last at home brunch, we picked up a bottle of Luna Nuda Italian Prosecco.

Prosecco, and the Glera grapes its made from, come from the Veneto region of Italy.  Its production method also differs from champagne and cava, making prosecco the lightest and least bubbly of all the sparkling wines. Prosecco is dry, but due to the Glera grape’s fruity flavors, it balances out well.

Luna Nuda is light, yet still delivers some complex flavors of a heavier wine. The flavors are balanced, slightly sweet with hints of peach and honey with a finish that is nice, clean, and refreshing. It pairs well with seafood, cured meats, light appetizers, quiche, and popcorn! And prosecco is also the perfect sparkling wine for a Bellini.

Cheers!

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

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Recipes

Parmesan Crusted Chicken

J. really likes chicken parmesan. It’s often his go-to item on an Italian restaurant’s menu. I, on the other hand, don’t eat a lot of breaded chicken – I find it heavy and usually soggy. I wanted to find a recipe to make at home that could lighten the dish up a bit but still pull in the cheesy flavors of a classic chicken parm. This Parmesan crusted chicken was the perfect crunchy winner.

Parmesan Crusted Chicken

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 TBSP chopped parsley
  • Two 6 oz boneless skinless chicken breasts

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Spray baking sheet with cooking spray or line with foil (the cheese sticks). Prep three medium bowls for your dredging system.

In the first bowl, mix together the flour, onion powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. In a second bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. In a third shallow bowl, add the panko breadcrumbs, shredded mozzarella, Parmesan and parsley. Toss to combine.

Coat the chicken breasts first in the flour mixture. Make sure the flour has covered the chicken but shake off any excess flour. Dip next in the egg mixture, then finish in the panko-cheese mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through. And voila! Crispy, crunchy Parmesan crusted chicken. We had ours with a fresh caprese salad, but this would be great served on a sandwich, or as skewers with a tomato / marinara dipping sauce.

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

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Recipes Sweet Treats

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes

For me, summer comes with lots of birthdays. And with birthdays comes…dessert! And lots of it. For one of my best friend’s birthdays I wanted to make something sweet, special, and unique, just like her. When I stumbled on the recipe from Chelsea’s Messy Apron, I knew it was the winner. Cookies + cupcakes? What could be better than that double whammy. (My slightly tweaked recipe, below! Yum! )

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all vegetable shortening, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 TBSP almond extract
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped up chocolate chip cookie (I used Publix Chocolate Chip Cookies) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners (the recipe called for 12 but I was able to get about 16 cupcakes out of this recipe!) Also, take our your butter and cream cheese and set it on the counter. This will give it time to soften to make your frosting later!

In a stand mixer, combine sugar, eggs, and egg yolk. Use the whisk attachment on high speed until combined. Gradually add milk, beating until combined. Then gradually add melted butter and shortening, beating until combined.

In a separate a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to sugar egg mixture (about one cup at a time). Add vanilla and almond extract and beat just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin cups (I typically used a 1/3 measuring cup to help scoop in batter). Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from pan. Let them cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl with a mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract. Frost cupcakes and top with as many cookie crumbles that you can make stick to the top!

This mix of almond and vanilla extract in this recipe really turned a cupcake into a cookie. I can’t wait to try this recipe again with different types of cookie crumbs on top and different types of chips in the middle! The options are endless!

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

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Beer Cheers!

Cigar City Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Beer

I love oatmeal raisin cookies. Most people think I’m weird when I say that, especially since I don’t really like raisins or eat them in anything besides those cookies. But, oatmeal raisin cookies are certainly my guilty pleasure so when I saw that Cigar City Brewing came out with an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie flavored beer, I knew I had to try it.

Cigar City adds raisins, vanilla and cinnamon to their original Maduro Brown Ale to create this delicious concoction that they describe as “beer that tastes like it was baked in Grandma’s oven.”  I’d have to agree.

It’s a dark brown pour,  similar to the original Maduro with a off-white head. At first smell, you’ve got cookie – with sweet scents of vanilla and cinnamon. The taste itself is much more subtle, as it’s not an overly sweet beer. You can tell the base is Maduro, with toasted oats, almost nutty flavor, but the cookie aspect leaves lingering spice notes of cinnamon.

It became a fast favorite when I first tried it at the brewery a few years ago, and now that they sell in cans at Total Wine, this is certainly going to become a staple in my fridge.

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

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Restaurant Spotlight

Green Lemon

With my group of friends, birthdays are a big deal. Especially for the girls, we don’t just celebrate for a day – it’s typically at least a full weekend (or week, or sometimes month). We’re just festive and will take any reason to celebrate. So this past weekend was one of BFF’s birthdays and we celebrated in style, including a large group dinner at Green Lemon in SoHo.

The atmosphere is casual and open, with large wood beams and open ceiling. It’s a combination of big bright-colored booths and tables, inviting you to stay awhile. The walls are painted with fun, entertaining artwork (see: left) They also had a really great Happy Hour (even on a Sunday!) with specials on several different margaritas and food.

Thankfully, they do take reservations since we had a large party and we were seated on time. The tables though were placed under some sort of vent that was leaking right onto us. After a few minutes of confusion and figuring out how to handle it (thankfully the whole group was not there yet) we moved some tables around and were able to escape the dripping. They also gave us several complimentary trio dips and chips (with guacamole, salsa, and queso) to apologize for the inconvenience.

The service was okay, not bad, but not spectacular either. The restaurant was busy, but certainly not crazy busy to warrant the weird service. The bartender was making drinks out of order from when we placed them, and half the table would get their drinks and we’d wait another ten minutes before the others would arrive. Our waiter was very nice, but a little spacey. And he wasn’t at table when some of the food arrived to help figure out whose was whose. Thankfully, we were not at all in a hurry, and spent time just chatting and all catching up. However, I think if it had been a smaller group, the slow service would have created a more awkward experience.

However, any service issues were made up by the amazing food. I got a Happy Hour special Green Lemon margarita made with blanco tequila, Triple Sec and a blend of citrus juices, served on the rocks. It was strong, and worth the money. For dinner, J. and I both got the “street trio” combo were we got to pick three tacos with a side of rice and beans. We decided to get six different tacos between the two of us so we could try a little of everything.

The six we tried were:

  • Carne asada: grilled marinated skirt steak, salsa fresca, cabbage and freshly squeezed lime
  • Americano: grilled chicken, black bean puree, guacamole, cheddar cheese, pico de gallo and sour cream
  • Cerdo perfecto: adobo pulled pork, black beans, bell peppers, sweet plantains and mojo vinaigrette
  • Carnitas: roasted tender adobo pork, cabbage, salsa fresca, chile de arbol sauce and queso fresco.
  • Carne enchilada: spicy shredded beef, pickled red onion, jalapenos, pineapple relish and chile de arbol sauce
  • Ancho chicken: grilled chicken, avocado, pickled red onions, cilantro, queso fresco and chile de arbol sauce

All six tacos were fresh and delicious.  You can also choose your style of tortilla, which I really appreciated as I love soft corn tortillas! There was a good amount of meat in each one and I thought the flavors were unique and paired well together. Nothing was overly spicy either (even the “spicy shredded beef”) which let the other flavors really shine through. My favorite was the cerdo perfecto –  mojo vinaigrette cut through the fattiness of the pork and the sweet plantains were nice sweet bite at the end.

In the end, we had a wonderful time there and the whole group agreed we would come back. Perhaps it was an off night for service (being right before the holiday), but regardless, the quality of food shines through, making Green Lemon worth the visit!

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

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Cheers! Vino

Sophora Sparkling Rose

J. and I went to Flemings a few weeks ago for their Brunch and Bubbles brunch event. We had beautiful courses paired with different sparkling wines meant to complement and bring out the flavors of the food. While I enjoyed each sparkling wine we tried in its own way, my favorite deserved a spotlight – Sophora Sparkling Rosé from New Zealand.

You’ll of course be able to quickly spot a rosé by it’s pinkish tint color. Sophora had a beautiful light-blush color made from a blend of 52% Chardonnay and 48% Pinot Noir grapes. The aroma is light and floral. The taste is off-dry with hints of fruit and berries. It’s not ultra-light, more medium-bodied, but still extremely refreshing. And of course the delightful little bubbles add that spritz-y/bubbly feel we know and love from any sparkling wine.

At our brunch, the Sophora Sparking Rosé was paired with beef tenderloin with eggs and potato hash. It’s body and taste paired nicely with the heavier dish, yet was not overpowered by it. Overall, this would be a wonderful pairing with heavier meat dishes, like barbeque. As we head into the heat of summer, this will certainly be the perfect accompaniment.

 Plus, it’s won some pretty fancy awards:
  • Los Angeles International Wine Competition, 2016: Silver
  • The TEXSOM International Wine Awards, 2016: Bronze
  • Los Angeles International Wine Competition, 2015: Silver
  • The TEXSOM International Wine Awards, 2015: Gold
  • Los Angeles International Wine Competition, 2014: Gold

Be sure to learn more about Distinguished Vineyards, the vineyard that makes Sophora and many other wonderful wines!

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

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Restaurant Spotlight

Salt Rock Tavern

J. works in the same plaza where Rumba Island Grill and Salt Rock Tavern are over in Oldsmar, so we have been big fans since it first opened a few years ago. Unfortunately for me, he often goes for lunch or grabs drinks after work, so I was ecstatic when we met one of my best friends for dinner there a few weeks ago.

Salt Rock definitely gives off that dark tavern atmosphere with darker lighting, wood paneling, and tucked away booths aside high top tables. There is a large bar in the center of the restaurant with white brick back wall, wood beams, and industrial looking steel bar top. It’s the perfect kind of atmosphere to come relax and get away after a long week of work. They also have a large outdoor bar and a few patio tables that are great to sit at when the weather is nicer!

We got seated in one of their larger booths that let us feel a little more tucked away to catch up and have personal conversations. Our waitress was extremely attentive and made sure she came over quickly to get our drink orders before happy hour ended (P.S. they have some great happy hour deals on both drinks and food!). They have a diverse cocktail menu made with lots of local, fresh ingredients, as well as a great selection of craft beers. I went for a mango cider they had on their rotating tap list that was sweet and refreshing.

We started off with their tavern buffalo chicken dip, served hot with tavern chips. This was the type of hot, bubbling, ooey gooey kind of dip you always want. It was very creamy, not overly spicy, and had large chunks of shredded chicken. The chips were also hot and crisp and the perfect thickness to get a big scoop of dip without breaking.

For my meal, I got the Southernmost Point grouper. The grouper was topped with fried green tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, jumbo lump crabmeat and hollandaise, and was served with white stone ground cheddar grits and some sauteed veggies. This took me back to my trip to Key West with the fresh grouper and fried green tomato. Everything paired perfectly together and there was a great ratio to be able to get a bite of everything with every bite. The fish was cooked well, and the fried green tomato kept its crisp exterior. The grits as a side was nice with the hollandaise (reminded me a bit of brunch!) and were a nice consistency.

J. got the Parmesan encrusted mahi served with herb & bacon butter. He subbed his grits for their garlic mashed potatoes. While he wouldn’t share his mashed potatoes (I guess they were just that good!), the mahi was cooked well and the Parmesan crust gave it a super crunchy exterior that was very nice. I think this would also make a great sandwich!

Their menu is a nice mix of classic favorites like burgers, sandwiches, and salads, all with a twist. And as the “salt” part of their name suggests, they do have some great fresh fish options. Oh – and they have Sunday brunch! Good food, good service, you really can’t go wrong.

Until next time!

–BrunchBabe

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