Sunday, July 29, 2007

Quickie Review #2: Genki Sushi & Steak

Fresh seafood for a decent price is very hard to find in North Texas, but not at Genki Sushi & Steak. My wife the Rock Star, her sister Wild Thing, and I gathered in their rather spartan interior for an early Saturday night dinner. We received our usual warm welcome from their gracious staff, then settled in with our mark-your-choices menu to make our selections. Both the Rock Star and I find it difficult to ignore the Dragonfly Roll, a scintillating mixture of tempura shrimp, crabmeat, eel, and vegetables in a rich, spicy sweet sauce. We also got sushi: tuna, red snapper, and salmon, all perfectly fresh and delicious, and enjoyed a Philadelphia roll (smoked salmon, cream cheese, and avocado) for dessert. Marvelous! The Wild Thing dined on a Rainbow roll (California roll on tuna, yellow tail, salmon, and avocado), edamame (soybean appetizer) and Miso (onion) soup. She loved it all, and we all enjoyed Kirin Light beers (a Japanese lager that pairs well with seafood) and lots of juicy gossip.

Service was quite good, except for a few minor quibbles. Genki also features bento boxes and plates, sashimi, and Katsu, Teriyaki, Tempura, and Don Buri dishes as well. Daily specials can be a nice bargain, especially at lunch, and you may want to call them at 972 788-2629 if you have any questions (no website). Open seven days a week with party platters and catering available as well. Overall, an excellent bargain for very good sushi. Try them soon, and remember:


Quickie Review #1: Angelinas Mexican Restaurant

Angelina's Tex-Mex Restaurant delivers superb Mexican cuisine in a lovely spot overlooking Lake Lewisville in The Colony, TX. The New Mission style decor manages to project an image that is both elegant and downright funky. Seating is plentiful, with outdoor and indoor patios with beautiful lake views available. The Rock Star and I enjoyed their authentic (trust me on this!) cuisine on a rainy Sunday afternoon recently. The Rock Star selected a cheese enchilada platter, with a crispy beef taco substituted for one of the enchiladas, and later confessed that it was the best cheese enchilada she had ever put in her lovely mouth! I enjoyed the Platillo Manzanilla, resplendant with a delicious ground beef burrito with queso, a beef enchilada with ranchera sauce, and a crispy beef taco subbed in for the cheese enchilada. All were quite yummy and very fresh, as were the complimentary chips and medium-heat red salsa brought to our table.

Service-wise, Angelina's does the little things that make the difference between good and great customer service. Our waiter Derek refilled our very large tea glasses without asking, and brought extra salsa in a large container to enjoy with my rice and beans. Angelina's can be reached at, and are open seven days a week, unlike many restaurants in The Colony. Visit soon for some of the finest Tex-Mex in all North Texas, and remember:


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wine Corner Review #3: Stone Cellar Chardonnay by Beringer

At last, a white wine to review before summer runs out!

Great wine families, from the Rothschilds on down, have a second, value priced wine that they offer for their value oriented customers. (The Rothschilds are one of the world's premier winemaking families, as in First Growth wines Lafitte Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild. First Growth is a designation for Bordeaux, France wines that are to wine what Godiva is to chocolate. Enough said.) For the Beringer family, their value line is called Stone Cellar. In my opinion, Beringer red wines are average at best, but their whites, particularly Chenin Blanc, really shine. My longtime friend The Rock and I recently sampled these wines.

The robe (color) of Stone Chellar Chardonnay is crystal clear and there is not much of a nose (odor). The taste is slightly metallic but fruity and definitely unoaked. For us, that is a good trait in a chardonnay. Many wines are aged in oak barrels; some whites, notibly those by Kendall Jackson, are "oaked" for too long, and as a result, their finish is decidedly unpleasant. Thankfully, unoaked chardonnays are once again the trend, resulting in a sweeter, cleaner finish. The finish of Stone Cellar Chardonnay is quite subtle but tastes of melon.

Although I prefer Beringer Chenin Blanc for a good summer picnic wine, I did like Stone Cellar Chardonnay. Visit for more details. Enjoy with Mexican foods or soup-and-salad, enjoy responsibly, and remember:


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Wine Corner Review #2: Yellow Tail Merlot

The yellow-footed rock wallaby is a sweet little Australian creature that just happens to be featured on the label of every bottle of Yellow Tail wine. (No, it's not a kangaroo: if you study the label, you can see that the legs are much longer in proportion to the rest of the body than those of its larger cousin.) Yellow Tail wines are harvested and blended by an old transplanted Italian winemaking family, and to my mind, it is the Merlot and not the better known Shiraz that is the star of their reds. Late on a recent hectic Friday, my lovely wife the Rock Star and I opened a bottle, let it breath a bit, and settled in to sample this gem.

The robe (color) is an impossibly rich purple, reminiscent of black cherries. As the Rock Star and I raised our glasses and sniffed, we noticed we couldn't make out much of a nose (aroma). To our horror, we discovered that we had grabbed white wine glasses instead of red. Who cares, do you ask? Well, as it turns out, a red wine glass is much fatter at the bottom, the better to inhale and sample the delicate aroma of this Merlot. After switching glasses, we sniffed again. Sure enough, we discovered the distinct odor of minerals. Minerals? Yes, and that's a good thing. You see, Merlot was first developed in the sainted Bordeaux region of France, and possibly the best vin (district) to grow Merlot is called Graves, a word with the same root as our English noun "gravel". Thus, the mineral smell is what all Merlots worldwide strive for, so that odor was a sign of good things to come. Then, we tasted. Right away, we noticed the fruit-forward characteristics of Yellow Tail Merlot, particularly blackberries and currants. (You don't see the term "currant" anymore: in at least one source, I've read that so many people had no idea what a currant was, so the plainer designation "berry-flavored" is usually given instead. In other words, currant is no longer current!) The slightest touch of white pepper rounds out the finish.

Yellow Tail Merlot can be quaffed unacommpanied; however, it also pairs very well with lighter barbecued meats or even Mexican food. Enjoy responsibly, as always, and remember:


Sunday, July 15, 2007


What makes for a great destination restaurant in Texas, one which serves iconic Texas food that's so good and an atmosphere so deep in the heart of the Lone Star State that visitors looking for "the authentic Texas experience" would clamor to go there?

Well, if you look in the dictionary under the term "genuine Texas home-cooking," you might just see a picture of Babe's Chicken Dinner House.

The story of the Babe's journey and experience actually begins in Dallas, with a place called Bubba's set up in an old Texaco station near the SMU campus. Paul (Bubba) and Mary Beth (Babe) Vineyard's concept was such a wild success, they expanded to the suburbs and opened their first Babe's in Roanoke, TX a dozen years later. Success followed success, with outposts soon established in Garland, Carrollton, Sanger, and Burleson, all established with Bubba's/Babe's small town fare that keeps all locations packed at lunch and busy all day on the weekends.


My lovely wife the Rock Star and I repaired to the Carrollton location on a warm Sunday recently. Two PM and the joint was packed, with a 20-30 minute wait for tables. Luckily, the patio of Babe's offers plenty of funky seating, including part of a 1956 Chevy pickup converted into bench seating. Inside, the three buildings of the former lumber company have been joined together, creating a large, boisterous yet comfortable interior. Genuine central Texas Red Cedar wood abounds, and the walls are plastered with delightful signs such as "ElRanchoNotSoGrande" and "My Cow Just Died, So I Don't Need Your Bull!" I LOVE owners with a sense of humor, as this usually extends to the staff so everybody can have FUN at their jobs, making for a memorable experience for all.


Babe's sticks to a proven recipe for success (You just can't call it a formula; this place is SO unformulaic!): Give the customers their choice of a half-dozen entrees, then serve the same side dishes family-style to all. Why not? In an age where too many places feature page after menu page of mediocre food, the idea of serving just a few VERY well done dishes comes as a welcome relief. The Babes in Carrollton serves just six meat entrees: Fried Chicken (four generous pieces), Chicken Fried Steak, Fried Chicken Fingers, Fried Catfish, Pot Roast with Gravy and Hickory Smoked Chicken, plus a Vegetable Plate. After making your selections, the meal will start with a rather simple salad which is nothing more than chopped iceburg lettuce swathed with basic oil and vinegar. It's fine, but if you're a confirmed salad purist, you probably won't care for it. Don't worry, the best is yet to come. Soon enough, the sweet-natured waitress will bring your entrees: generous individual helpings of meat, with plenty of bowls of vegetables to share. The Rock Star loves chicken fingers and these were to die for: light and crispy, fried in canola oil to minimize trans fats, and served with honey mustard dressing. Instead of preparing meals in giant institutional vats, Babe's makes small portions over and over throughout the day, so the food is always guaranteed fresh. Half a dozen huge fresh pieces blended perfectly with the honey mustard's spicy sweetness. Not too greasy, not too heavy, just right with melt-in your mouth goodness. I opted for the chicken-fried steak and was rewarded with a platter-size filet fork-tender and covered with the same fabulous breading, and accompanied by old-school white cream gravy with just enough peppering and so good that, as they used to say in the South, it makes you wanna slap your momma. Sides include generous portions of fresh cooked green beans (I add a touch of hot sauce to mine for a true Southwestern experience), Grandma's sweet creamed corn (rich, yet not at all heavy), mashed potatoes (silky smooth, not at all lumpy), and made from scratch buttermilk biscuits. Everything was sheer Southern dining poetry, so good the restaurant sports a plaque indicating its Zagat rated. Two tips: You can bag up meats for take home but not side dishes, so you may want to fill up on those great sides while dining in so there will be more entree to carry out later. Also, several desserts are offered, but you just might be too full, so instead save a biscuit for the end of your meal, then cover it with either the Texas Brush Honey or the genuine Louisiana sorghum (like molasses without the bitterness) to make a light-but-sweet finish.


Babes believes in neighborly, family friendly service, and the waitresses certainly deliver. Again, since the food is prepared fresh all day, orders are quickly taken and speedily delivered. One word of caution from the Rock Star: Babe's is very, very popular, so waits just to be seated during peak times can be extensive. She suggests that you plan to get there by 11AM or after 2PM for weekday lunch, and from 2-6PM on the weekends.


Babes is not only the perfect, iconic spot for downhome Texas/Southern cooking, but the owners have polished a concept that would-be restauranteurs would do well to follow: stick with what you know, limit the choices, use the best quality ingredients and prepare food over and over all day in small portions to ensure freshness. I would have to agree, for as you know:


Sunday, July 8, 2007


Dinner and a movie.

Since the dawn of the motion picture era, that combination has been the premier date choice for many couples everywhere. However, for most of the last hundred or so years, dinner and a movie must be done at two separate locations. (Unless you consider popcorn, candy and hot dogs dinner.) Question: Why can't we create a movie theatre chain where you can sit down at a regular table or bar, and have dinner and drinks ALONG WITH your movie? What a concept, right? Well sir, for the last twenty-odd years, a number of individual locations and a few chains have sprung up to take advantage of this desire. And one of the best I've seen in the last few years just happens to be Studio Movie Grill.

Studio Movie Grill started about ten years ago, in Addison, Texas I believe, and has since spread to several cities, with more on the horizon. My wife the Rock Star and I have tried two or three locations thus far, and the concept (not to mention the food) is both quite enjoyable and successful.


First, as always, you probably should check out the website at to find out nearest locations and menu, as well as movies and showtimes. (You can even buy tickets online, just like with the big movie chains. How cool is that?) Luckily, individual locations have their own identity and are not cookie-cutter. One may have a really cool bar, another may feature ten or more different movies in the same day, etc. In any case, if you don't have time to buy your tickets beforehand, you can purchase them at the theatre, outside or inside, either thru an automated setup or through a ticket person. Once you enter, at some point, a smiling employee will hand you a menu and a lighted coaster. If your movie is presently seating, you can proceed into the theatre, otherwise you can wait in the special roped-off line appointed for that particular showing.


Once you've had a chance to peruse the menu and are ready to order, just press the button to activate your coaster. The staff will see it lighted as they pass, and any staff member will help you. Studio Movie Grill has a full bar (I believe) at all locations, and of course tea, water, and soft drinks. (Yes, they do feature Coppola wines, the vineyard owned by the family of the famous movie director.) Don't be afraid to order anything: I've been to SMG about two dozen times, and the closest I've had to a bad experience was some stale popcorn (once). Bar food definitely predominates, but is quite good. Don't forget to check out the daily specials: they can be quite, well, special. For instance, how about all-you-can eat pizza on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays for $7.99? And we're not talking cardboard: we're talking about good, fresh hot pizza, complete with a touch of honey in the dough that makes it special. The pepperoni is wonderful of course, but don't forget to try specialty pies such as the Garlic Chicken pizza. Layers of cheese, plenty of sauce, delicious chicken, and just the right amount of garlic make it memorable.
The burgers are fine, particularly the Cheddar BarBQ Burger, or you can build your own. The Rock Star says to tell you she particularly enjoys the Quesadillas, especially the Spinach Mushroom, with roasted spinach and mushrooms in a delicious garlic cream sauce.


Service is always very nice; we've only had problems once or twice during off-peak hours when they are understaffed. Don't worry: despite the presence of alcohol, it's actually a very kid-friendly place. (That may or may not change after 10PM or at the later showings.) One of the nicest features of the place is the staff pledges to bring you out your ticket within 40 minutes of the movie's conclusion so you don't have to rush at the last minute. Oh, I'm sorry I haven't mentioned it before now, but your movie is, unfortunately, a separate purchase from your meal. If you are a budget-minded consumer, be prepared: those charges can add up quickly.


Website is quite good, however, a bit tricky for newcomers: you can buy tickets, view available movies and showtimes, peruse the menu, etc. all online. But since each location, of course, has different showtimes, you will have to do a little maneuvering. Have patience, it's worth it. Again, the URL is


Finally, a place to enjoy dinner, drinks and movie without leaving your seat. (Except when nature calls or when the picture's over. ) Be sure to check out Studio Movie Grill soon, and remember:


Sunday, July 1, 2007

Wine Corner Review #1: Black Opal Shiraz

Dilemma: Should my first wine review be a white, picnic-style wine, perfectly timed to enjoy during the summer heat, or should I write about my wife The Rock Star's favorite wine? If you're married like me, this is a no-brainer. The Rock Star loves great Shiraz. (By the way, Syrah is also an acceptable term for wines made of this grape varietal. Petite Sirah is something else altogether, a completely different grape.) And if you're a budget conscious wino (I mean, wine drinker, sorry!) like me, then you usually end up cruising the Australian aisle in search of great, affordable Shiraz.

Part of the Wolf Blass family of wines, Shiraz is the undisputed star in the Black Opal gem collection. Rich, purplish red robe (color), with a nose (smell) and taste of blackberries, pepper, and plums, and with a nice, long lingering finish (aftertaste), Black Opal shiraz is a perfect match with all red meats, especially steaks and pork tenderloin, but also can be enjoyed with shellfish and ahi tuna. Be sure to visit their website at Enjoy responsibly, and remember: