The emerald easements of Hidden Valley's 18-hole miniature golf course encompass more than an acre of topsy-turvy terrain lined with rocky outcrops and windmills. Putt-putt posses engage in rapidly escalating one-upmanship as they traverse the scenic circuit, rolling colorful golf balls over multitiered greens that create breaking putts more difficult to read than ancient hieroglyphs projected onto a fun-house mirror. A central lighthouse prevents putters from losing their sense of direction and expounds on a nautical theme established by streams, waterfalls, and fountains that mist throughout the course. Hidden Valley also offers a game room and picnic area, along with refreshments to slake parched putters or create impromptu water hazards in front of their opponents' orbs.
After becoming an all-American at the University of Houston, qualifying for the U.S. Open twice, and making the cut at The Masters during his professional career, seasoned golf instructor Jim McLean has added one more accomplishment to his resumé: Jim McLean Golf Schools was touted as one of the country's top 25 golf schools in 2008 by Golf magazine.
Following Jim's innovative philosophy of biomechanics, a team of instructors—with levels ranging from certified, master, and lead master—teach the components of a successful golf swing, focusing on each player's physical capabilities and limitations and developing a tailored lesson plan. In order to become a Jim McLean golf instructor, pupils must pass a rigorous certification process that includes one to three years of teaching at the club, conducting their own extensive golf-swing-research projects, and learning to grow natural spikes out of their feet. During private lessons and clinics, golf gurus use 3-D graphical imaging and data analysis to provide instant feedback.
At Jim McLean Golf Schools, players hone their games with indoor and outdoor practice facilities that include a 50,000-square-foot short-game range, a lit driving range, and a practice bunker. The complex is also home to the Legends Scoring Nine course, which, along with the practice facilities, has been a training ground and putter-jousting arena for rising PGA star Jason Day, who placed 3rd at the 2013 Masters.
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.
Movie Tavern transfixes one's taste buds and imagination by blending all-digital cinema with premium seating and sit-down dining. Moviegoers are encouraged to arrive 45 minutes prior to showtime, so that they can leisurely peruse an extensive menu of chef-inspired American cuisine, from kobe beef sliders to pizza and sandwiches. Nimble and unobtrusive servers slip in during the show to deliver orders, and can be called on for more drinks or dessert with the push of a button. At select locations, guests can opt to sip margaritas or signature cocktails at the bar before heading in to see a show. Audiences get to enjoy first-run films every week, retro cinema every Tuesday and Thursday evening, and breakfast food paired with early morning movies on Saturday and Sunday. While geared toward adults, the family-friendly establishment also serves finger food for kiddies along with film-inspired dishes. Guests can head to the bar or straight to the movie without ordering food, giving them some latitude in shaping their night out.
Additionally, Movie Tavern treats audiences to myriad benefits with their membership program. Anyone can sign up for free online to receive one free movie ticket on the spot and one free ticket every year on their birthday, as well as invites to screenings and other special events.
Every graduate of The Premium Institute of Bartending Schools' 34-hour mixology program can count on one thing—being hired as an on-call bartender with Premium Event Staffing, a company that provides staff for private parties and corporate events. Like a pie-fight truce, this guarantee benefits everyone involved. Students get to earn income while they use the institute's job-placement services to find a steady gig at an affiliated bar or elsewhere. Premium Event Staffing in turn gets access to bartenders who have completed the mixology program and who know their way around a muddler.
The reason even the institute's most recent graduates are so comfortable behind a bar isn't that they're wearing footie pajamas under their clothes—it's that classes take place in such a realistic setting. Students work at a bar setup that includes bar guns, liquor bottles, and 14 types of glasses, and they learn to pour on a real draft-beer system. This hands-on approach also characterizes the four-hour introductory classes the school holds for people who wish to learn to make martinis, shots, frozen drinks, or other specialties.
Gene Estes suspects that growing up in the 'dry' precinct of Abilene, Texas may have inspired his alcohol-based ingenuity; he crafted his first batch of wine from Concord grape juice when he was just 23. Years later, after holding various pharmaceutical jobs and putting to use his Masters in Microbiology, Estes' interest in wine re-emerged with a full and passionate force. Today, as the president and vintner of Lost Oak Winery, Gene works alongside resident winemaker Jim Evans to craft a host of award-winning wines. Among them is the 2012 Viognier, which scored a double gold in the renowned San Francisco Chronicle International Wine competition—meaning all five judges awarded the varietal with top scores before gilding the bottle twice in molten gold.
The winery itself offers both guided and self-guided tours, offering visitors a glimpse into the wine-making process complete with samples straight from oak barrels. Additionally, special events draw guests to the lush grounds for live music, wine club events, and the pre-Christmas holiday open house, where they can place preemptive wine orders with Santa.