Arturo and Tina Vargas have a unique way of celebrating their family's central Mexican roots. They make an annual journey to different locales south of the border, ending each trip with a visit to their hometown of Cuernavaca. But these aren't average vacations. Instead, Arturo and Tina use the opportunity to discover new ingredients or recipes that they can bring back to Cristina's Fine Mexican Restaurant, their flavorful franchise of Texas eateries. Their culinary findings appear throughout the menu of Tex-Mex cooking.
The staff at each of the Vargas' venues wholeheartedly embraces those deep roots, making flour tortillas in-house, hand-rolling enchiladas, and preparing orders of guacamole directly beside diners' tables. But that's not to say the dishes are expected—salmon with pineapple butter and fried chicken breast with white wine-cream sauce demonstrate some of the kitchens' more experimental inclinations. Flavored margaritas and mojitos can add spirited refreshment to meals, as can any of the beers that the restaurants import from Mexico via man with a very strong throwing arm.
Classic Italian food and a great atmosphere makes Niki's Italian Restaurant the perfect restaurant for any occasion.
This restaurant's fully stocked bar is a perk for patrons who enjoy a fine wine (or more) with their meal.
Tots and tykes will be right at home at this restaurant with its kid-approved food and ambience.
Score quick and easy seating for your large group at Niki's Italian Restaurant.
Throw on your favorite T-shirt and head out the door — dining at Niki's Italian Restaurant is all about comfort.
Catering from Niki's Italian Restaurant will take your party to the next level.
Grab your food and chow down when you're ready with the restaurant's carryout and delivery options.
Drivers will embrace the number of street and lot parking choices close to Niki's Italian Restaurant.
Niki's Italian Restaurant provides ample space for bikers to store their bikes.
An average meal at Niki's Italian Restaurant will set you back about $30.
If you're craving a taste of Italy, come on over to Niki's Italian Restaurant and check out the flavorful menu options.
For good eats and good times in Murphy, dine at South Fork Texas Steak and Crab.
This restaurant also operates a bar, so a round of drinks with dinner is not out of the question.
Let the kids come too! Little ones love the food and atmosphere at this restaurant just as much as their parents do.
Just around the workday bend are South Fork Texas Steak and Crab's happy hour food and drink bargains.
Wireless Internet access is just a click away at South Fork Texas Steak and Crab.
Surround yourself with the wonderful weather at your next night out at South Fork Texas Steak and Crab.
Weekends can get packed, so take advantage of the restaurant's reservations.
Comfort is prioritized at South Fork Texas Steak and Crab, and guests are encouraged to come as they are.
Just through the door at this restaurant, you can claim your food. No delivery required.
Drivers will love the easy parking options just steps away from South Fork Texas Steak and Crab.
A night out here can be a bit pricey, so prepare to shell out a bit more.
A cool blast of fruits (and veggies) is never far away at smoothie spot Murphy's The Smoothie Factory.
The Smoothie Factory caters to all party sizes, both large and small.
Get connected at lightning fast speeds with The Smoothie Factory's complimentary wifi.
For those in a hurry, the restaurant lets you take your meal or snack to go.
For the tastes of The Smoothie Factory from the comfort of your next party, the restaurant also offers catering services.
For drivers, a nearby lot is available for use.
Cyclists are in luck. The Smoothie Factory provides bike parking.
Major credit cards are accepted as a form of payment, so patrons are advised to charge responsibly.
You can stop by at practically any time, since The Smoothie Factory serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
A refreshing smoothie from The Smoothie Factory is just what you'll need tomorrow for a midday snack.
Known for its noodle and rice dishes, China Fang serves excellent Chinese cuisine to Murphy locals.
Eat healthy and feel better with China Fang's low-fat and gluten-free plates.
Take the kids along too — this restaurant is a great spot for families with food that even little ones will love.
Place an order for pickup or schedule a delivery — the restaurant makes it easy to enjoy your meal from anywhere.
Don't fret! Parking options are readily available near China Fang.
Make use of the luxurious bike racks at China Fang.
At China Fang, you can ease your appetite and please your pocketbook
the menu offers a selection of mid-priced, budget-friendly meals.
Stop by for three square meals a day — China Fang serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
When Chinese cuisine is calling your name, give into your craving and head on over to China Fang.
Kick back and enjoy flavorful tacos, burritos and chips and salsa at La Flor Mexican Grill.
La Flor Mexican Grill features a wide variety of flavorful low-fat and gluten-free eats.
This restaurant is a terrific spot for families to gather with its kid-friendly ambience and menu.
No time to sit down? No worries! This restaurant offers a take out option so you can grab your food on the go.
Get in and out of the car quickly with no-hassle parking located all around the restaurant.
Your tab at La Flor Mexican Grill will usually run to about $30 per guest.
If you're looking for a delicious taco or burrito, you'd definitely be wise to head to La Flor Mexican Grill.
So what are you waiting for? Dine at La Flor Mexican Grill and enjoy the tasty flavors of Mexican fare.
As useful as WD40 and much more edible, coconut oil is a powerhouse. In fact, just one jar of the stuff can replace several household staples, from kitchen ingredients to baby wipes. Here’s how to substitute it for 16 total items in 3 rooms of the home:
1. Coffee: Coconut oil is a reputed energy booster. Swallowing a spoonful or two in the afternoon can be a healthful alternative to a cuppa.2. Coffee creamer: Emulsified and poured into coffee, it’s much tastier than (and probably just as nutritious as) that bulletproof stuff.3. Butter or oil (when sautéing): Coconut oil’s high smoke point makes it great for cooking on the stovetop, especially at high heat. Try swapping it in when making stir-fries, scrambled eggs, or pancakes, especially if you like a very mild coconut flavor.4. Oil (when baking): The oil imparts a delicious je ne sais quoi to baked goods—even boxed ones. Use it to give from-the-box brownies an upgrade, and you’ll dream about them for days.5. Condiments: Drop it into quinoa or oatmeal for added nutrients and healthy fats. You can also put it on top of sweet potatoes instead of butter!
6. Moisturizer: It works on your body and your face. It’s naturally SPF 4, so it offers a bit of protection from UV rays, too.7. Leave-in conditioner and anti-static agent: Rub a small amount between your hands and smooth them over your hair to control flyaways.8. Lip balm: It soothes sore, chapped lips, and other skin irritations.9. Eye-makeup remover: Rub it between your fingers until it liquefies, smear it on your lids, and wipe it off with a cotton pad.10. Face wash: Add a little water and rub it in your hands until it foams.11. Hand and foot cream: Massage it into cracked knuckles, or slather it onto your soles and stick them into socks for an overnight soak.12. Shaving cream: It’ll give you a smooth shave, plus additional moisture for your skin.
13. Ouchie ointment: Dab it on cuts and scrapes, which will benefit from its antimicrobial properties.14. Anti-itch cream: Coconut oil reduces itching from bug bites, and helps to calm sunburn, eczema, and cradle cap.15. Diaper cream: A layer on baby’s bottom guards against (and soothes) diaper rash flare-ups.16. Baby wipes: Simply mix it with hot water and pour it over a stack of paper towels that you’ve cut in half. Keep the towels in an airtight container so they stay moist.
Check out more coconut-oil coverage:
Oil Pulling Whitens Your Teeth and (Maybe) Makes You Invincible
The Five Best Uses for Coconut Oil You’ve Never Heard Of
A dainty sweet-potato bourbon cake (seen above). A deconstructed cheesecake topped with a sphere of fruit purée. A crème brûlée decorated with delicate, edible flowers. Ceviche plated to look more like a frothy cocktail than a bite of raw fish. These are just a few of the dishes that Chef Roque Heidler has conceptualized, plated, and posted to Instagram over the years.
Jump to his five tips for food photography.
This Tulsa chef is a bit of a Renaissance man. First and foremost, he works at The Chalkboard, an elegant New American restaurant where he does triple-duty as chef de cuisine, pastry chef, and resident plating expert. There, he quickly earned a reputation for his immaculate desserts, which helped him win the Sweets category in the first annual Taste of Groupon Awards. But that’s just his day job.
Over the years, Chef Heidler’s explored all sorts of facets of the art world. He experimented with street art in his youth, and, early on in his career, he took a two-year hiatus from the food industry to work as a tattoo artist. Today, he’s using those art skills to create the stunning desserts that first caught our attention.
We had the chance to chat with Chef Heidler after he won his award recently. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation.
Turning dining into an adventure
A video posted by Keepin Tha Block Fed (@purpstagram) on Dec 28, 2015 at 4:00pm PST
For Chef Heidler, cooking is all about balancing the familiar and the surprising. “I generally like to do a take on my childhood favorites,” he explained. He starts with these classic dishes and infuses them with “some sort of whimsy” while maintaining their approachability.
Frequently, that whimsy he talks about comes in the form of some sort of sneaky molecular-gastronomy trick, be it dessert gels made with agar or fruit purées transformed into delicate spheres that crack open with the whack of a spoon. Or, consider his take on chocolate pie:
“I got ahold of some methylcellulose and I did this crazy, crazy mad-scientist chocolate pie … that had this strawberry-buttermilk foam and this methylcellulose chocolate filling. [The filling] would be liquid at 70 degrees, but once you heated it up to 140, it would turn into that custard state.” The resulting dessert balanced different temperatures, textures, and flavors—subverting the diners’ expectations about what a classic chocolate pie could be.
How his unique background inspires his food
A photo posted by Keepin Tha Block Fed (@purpstagram) on Apr 10, 2016 at 8:22pm PDT
An artistic eye pervades everything Roque Heidler does. Though it’s been years since he did any street art or worked in a tattoo parlor, those experiences still give him a unique outlook on food: “I’ll look at flavors sometimes as colors, if that makes any sense. And I plate them out like that. Sometimes I’ll base a whole dish on a color and search for those flavors that go with it,” he said.
But over the years, he’s learned to let the flavors shine as much as the aesthetics. “Like, I mean, if you dig back a little deeper in [my career] ... you’ll see more of that really, really modernistic art on the plate, and I’ve dialed back from that a lot. I kind of learned, you know, you’ve gotta plate to the crowd.”
Working under the constraints of a traditional Lebanese restaurant helped him strike the right balance even more. “I just would take their classic flavors and would try to just distribute it out in that street-art form, like, layers and different takes and elevating it with different textures. But working under that [chef] taught me a lot about not detracting from the flavors so much that you couldn’t tell where it was from.”
Plating food like a pro
A photo posted by Keepin Tha Block Fed (@purpstagram) on Apr 8, 2016 at 9:26pm PDT
Now that he’s traded in no-frills Lebanese cuisine for fine dining at The Chalkboard, Chef Heidler has a lot more room to experiment with his food’s presentation. But even though he knows that many of his diners will rush to snap and post photos of these beautiful plates, he tries not to let that Instagram culture shape what he does too much.
“I don’t think about 6 o’clock. I don’t think about any sort of clockwise on a plate. I more or less look for that overall balance from a bird’s eye view,” he said. That’s because when a plate is placed in front of a diner, that’s the first perspective they get. And this first impression is important—even if the guest immediately drops down to plate level to snap that perfect piece of food-porn photography.
They say that you eat with your eyes first, so moments like these are vital to a restaurant’s success. But last impressions are just as important as first ones at The Chalkboard. “I love doing the plate ups on desserts because it’s gonna be the last thing that sticks in your mind when you leave,” Chef Heidler said.
Five tips for improving your food photography
When his knack for plating, arts background, and love of Instagram, Chef Heidler is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to food photography. That’s why we took the opportunity to ask him for some of his best tips.
1. Find the best lighting.
Natural light is your friend.
2. Shoot on neutral backgrounds.
Chef Heidler works on gray tables at The Chalkboard, but he recommends photographing your own food on “anything black or white—that’s always going to give another element to your photo.”
3. Combine different textures.
Varying textures form the most interesting compositions. “Try to provide three different textures, be it a purée, be it a frozen element, be it something crunchy. ... That’s what’s going to give you that depth in your dish.”
4. Add some acid to boost the colors.
This is especially true if you’re photographing a dish you cooked yourself. “[Acid] will give you those bright, vibrant colors everybody tries to achieve,” he suggests. This usually means adding lemon juice or white vinegar to a dish to bring out its natural green, purples, or reds.
5. Try different angles.
He explains, “Take a step around, even if it’s like, I don’t know, 6 inches from where you were just at. You might capture a cooler way.”
Don’t roll up to the bar trying to stump Brandon Phillips. Brandon knows his cocktails. And he likes a challenge. As the bar director at Chicago’s The Duck Inn, he’s had more than a few. As he told us:
A neighborhood guest was positive I couldn’t make him an old-fashioned that tasted like a prime-rib dinner. A little beef bouillon, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, rum, and voilà, the Prime Rib Old-Fashioned was born.
In the video below, hear more on craft, cocktail culture, and good old-fashioned hospitality directly from Brandon, the winner in our inaugural Taste of Groupon Awards for the The Drink Award for the Advancement of Potent Potables.