Since opening in 2003, The Tasting Room has morphed from a wine bar to a full-service restaurant with four locations—all while retaining its wine-bar charm and racking up numerous awards and accolades. Diners can select libations from a list that boasts more than 200 wines, pairing them with contemporary dishes whipped up by executive chef Jonathan LeBlanc. TTR offerings run the gamut from small plates of mini grilled sandwiches and classic bruschetta to entrees including creole-spiced quail and Jamaican jerk chicken breast, which diners can savor at windowside tables or on the plant-ensconced patio and garden area.
The eatery doesn't just sate hunger for eclectic classics and thirst for fermented grapes. It also hosts live music, meetings, and events such as 2011's Grapes vs. Grains, which pitted beer against wine in a liquid wrestling match. The owners have their hands in other culinary enterprises, too. There's the Houston Cellar Classic, for example, an annual celebration of food and wine. Also popular is MAX's Wine Dive, a destination for gourmet comfort food best defined by its slogan—"Fried chicken and champagne? ... Why the hell not?"
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.
Founded in 1996 at a lone store in Carrollton, Texas, Smoothie Factory began its journey simply by selling smoothies and nutritional supplements. The menu has since expanded to include frozen yogurt, juices, and healthy meals, but the franchise—which operates out of nine states and four countries—still focuses on its original mission: meeting the dietary needs of health-conscious customers with real fruit, nutritional supplements, and nonfat yogurt.
Each store mixes more than 30 flavor combinations, including Just Peachy, Very Berry, and Island Delight, a tropical blend of pineapple, banana, orange, and honey. Nutritional boosts such as caffeine, multivitamins, and fiber spin into chilled beverages to enhance weight loss and energy or give drinkers the cognitive ability to name all the stars in the universe.
Though its name suggests otherwise, the Forget About It roll’s unorthodox ingredients make it pretty memorable: the flavorful crunch of shrimp tempura is wrapped up with crawfish and accented by ginger cream. It's just one of the many unique combinations dreamed up by Piranha Killer Sushi's owner and chef, Kenzo Tran. Non-traditional sushi fixings are Kenzo’s specialty, from the White Lotus roll’s pico de gallo and truffle oil sauce to the Bullet roll’s cilantro chili purée and edible police officer’s badge.
That blend of the classic and unconventional runs throughout Piranha Killer Sushi's menu at all four locations including the newly remodeled location in Fort Worth. Besides distinctive rolls, the kitchen serves up dishes such as Korean beef in ginger marinade, salads with octopus and spicy conch, and blue crab fried rice. Ditto the drink menu, featuring specialty libations such as the saketini, a blend of vodka, gin, and sake with a cucumber garnish. The restaurant's whimsical take on Japanese fare hasn't gone unnoticed—media outlets laud it for its tasty creations and inviting decor.
More than 325 bottles of international wine fill Zambrano Wine Cellar’s shelves and its climate-controlled wine cellar, arranged by chef, wine enthusiast, and owner Cef Zambrano. When not hobnobbing with celebrities such as Harrison Ford, Nolan Ryan, and Katie Couric, Zambrano coordinates a menu of bistro fare to harmonize with his library of wine selections, which received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2009. Zambrano presents updated takes on Mediterranean favorites, crafting small plates of escargot broiled in garlic butter and shallots, as well as four types of bruschetta topped with tomato, chicken, duck, or fillet tips. Diners can dive into shared nibbles with custom plates of international meats and cheeses or pizzas topped margherita-style or with signature spanish ham.
Zambrano’s prized glass wine cellar sits behind a smooth stone bar, inlaid with variegated amethyst that glows as it catches the light better than an outfielder with a magnifying glass. While perched at its high-backed leather banquettes, diners can sip from the 50-plus list of wines by the glass while gazing at a flat-screen TV in the corner or admiring the custom art on the dining room’s exposed-brick walls. In the front of the dining room, gauzy orange curtains frame sheets of sunlight that illuminate simple wooden tables, each adorned with a single flower that provides color and an amuse-bouche for hungrier guests. A sidewalk patio offers al fresco dining and bustling sights of Sundance Square.
In 1931, aviation legends such as Howard Hughes and Amelia Earhart traversed the hallowed halls of Floyd Bennett Field, New York City's first municipal airport. Today, the same site harbors Aviator Sports and Events Center, which accommodates recreation in all of its forms, equipped with 20,000 square foot indoor field house, which includes newly resurfaced hardwood courts and new turf field, two outdoor synthetic-turf fields, and an outdoor space for events that can seat up to 4,000 people—the same number of people it takes to crack open a life-size Big Bird piñata. Twin NHL-regulation rinks host open-skate sessions, a majority of which are held on Rink B, every day of the week, with skates as late as 11 p.m. on weekends. Inside the center is a brand new CrossFit gym, which offers workout classes Monday through Saturday. Only youngsters enjoy summer or after-school camps, but adults and kids alike can take advantage of a roster of sports and leagues, including flag football and rock climbing, ideal for those looking to shorten morning commutes by cutting through the quarry.
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