Anthony Russo, a first-generation Italian, spent years in the kitchens of his parents and other Italian chefs learning authentic Italian recipes for sauces and pastas. He eventually drew on his experience kneading New York–style pizza to open his own chain of coal-fired pizza franchises. Exposed bricks surround the burning embers at the core of the oven, which bakes thin-crust specialty pizzas, such as escargot with pesto, alongside heart-healthy pies with fresh spinach and artichokes. After sliding out golden-crusted pizzas and singed fairy-tale witches, chefs fill ovens with calzones and flatbreads. A full wine list supplies bold cabernets and crisp pinot grigios.
For 40 years the brewing connoisseurs at Beer & Wine Hobby have aimed to impart culinary know-how to pupils via home beverage-crafting tools and introductory courses at their warehouse store. Aspiring brewers learn via a bevy of beer-making gear, including brewing kettles, fermentation supplies, and funnels, and winemaking equipment assists do-it-yourselfers with corks, bottles, and tubing. Beer & Wine Hobby's classes bolster brewing knowledge, providing students with thorough instruction on intricate brewing processes as well as the lyrical chants necessary to concoct complex libations. The store also carries berry presses for making small batches of fruit wine and a smattering of food kits, including cheese-making supplies.
A crackling fire warms guests perched at white-draped tables in the candlelit wine cellar. Upstairs, diners marvel at the picturesque views of the vineyard and rose garden filling the glass-enclosed patio's windows or deeply inhale the aroma of wildflowers drifting onto the vine-covered porch. It's against these intimate backdrops that servers at The Vineyards Restaurant deliver steak, seafood, and other upscale dishes to tables, which come aglow with candlelight as dusk falls.
The chefs work hard to make each bite as special as the surroundings. They age beef-tenderloin fillets for 45 days before plating them atop garlic-and-mushroom sauce and slowly marinate chicken in a spicy chipotle-garlic oil before nestling it in a bed of pasta covered in cilantro cream sauce.
With such food in such a setting, a regular night out at The Vineyards is one to remember, but a special occasion there is truly magical. For marriage proposals, anniversaries, and the reunions of long-lost pairs of socks, staffers lead guests down a candle-strewn path to a private table set for dessert among the vineyard's rows of grapevines. The Vineyards has held more than 500 weddings in its open-air pavilion, and its on-staff wedding coordinator and floral designer help plan picture-perfect ceremonies.
Serving central Texas for more than 25 years, Bridal Extravaganza simplifies shopping for brides and grooms by collecting more than 300 vendors under one roof. The booths of experienced wedding professionals lure in couples to sample their wares, from planners showing off their color-coded to-do lists to caterers doling out tastes of cakes, dinner dishes, and champagne. Fashion shows give onlookers a taste of the latest dress fashions for brides and bridesmaids and the latest developments in the world of cummerbunds for grooms. By the day's end, lucky ticket holders win prizes for a free wedding gown, bridal pictures, and cash. Each bride who attends the Bridal Extravaganza will receive $500 in free Bridal Bucks to spend on select exhibitors or a fairy godmother.
Executive Chef Tyler Voigt’s seasonal menus of duck, salmon, and steak dishes are each constructed with a complementary wine pairing in mind. Protein-packed entrees share plate space with such sides as gruyere scalloped potatoes, creamy polenta, and braised chard. The kitchen staff also festoons sourdough pizza crusts with meatballs, eggplant, and sun-dried tomato pesto. Xenophiles can enjoy more than 60 wines by the glass, 300 wines by the bottle, and one wine by the wheel barrel from locales that include California, Spain, and Germany.
NOLA Tropical Winery's stock brims with unique cork complements that range from utilitarian koozies to artsy cork cages. The shop's arsenal of accessories lets fermentation fans pour their choice of nectar into a Rednek wine glass ($19.99), a classic mason jar affixed with a chalice stem and screw-on lid for mess-free inebriation and appropriate accompaniment to black-tie hog-wrasslin' parties. Bottles become objets de beauté on a stainless steel double-arc wine balance ($13.99). For wine-inspired olfactory enjoyment or a wine-inspired way to burn junk mail, Tropical Wine soy-blend candles ($17.99), including bosky Florida Fever and sweet and grassy King Kiwi, abound in scents to match NOLA's fruit-based libations.