September 15, 2014

Restaurant Review: Urban Rio

Originally featured on Dallas Food Nerd

Mexican restaurant, Urban Rio, located in Historic Downtown Plano featured a Margarita Dinner on August 19th.  We were invited to attend and enjoy five refreshing margaritas paired with five drool worthy courses.

As we sat down, we immediately received salsa, black bean dip and chips.  After one bite of the black bean dip on a tortilla chip, I had a feeling everything else would be just as amazing or better.  There was a spice I couldn’t identify but made me want to keep eating more and after each bite my mind was filled with possible spices.  Coriander?  Turmeric?  It was familiar and delicious but what the heck was it? 

When our cheerful, attentive and informative waiter, Cody, stopped by to check on us, I finally gave in and asked him what that mystery spice was in the bean dip.  I give props and have a higher respect to waiters who know how dishes are prepared at the restaurants they work in.  He smiled and happily claimed it’s not a surprise as that is the popular question from diners since day one of opening. It’s known as canela in Mexico, or “true” cinnamon as a Google result stated. It’s milder than our American cinnamon and tastes more of vanilla and floral flavor with just a hint of heat.  I’m not surprised I was drawn to love it, as cinnamon is one of my favorite spices to use, especially in savory dishes.

Our first course was a light and refreshing Pear Salad.  A blend of mixed greens, thin cucumber and pear slices tossed in house-made pear vinaigrette.   This was a perfect dish for a hot summer day.  It was paired with a delicious FlowerRita made with Lanique Rose Petal Liqueur, pear nectar and edible flower garnish.  The margarita was light like the dish and had hints of floral and fruit flavors.

The second course was one of my top favorites of the night with the Mango Beef Skewers and Chipotle-Mango Margarita.  The skewers were made with tender strips of chipotle beef skewers grilled and served with a simple chunky mango salsa.  The margarita was made with a puree of chipotle-mango with a chipotle salt rim.  I loved the sweetness of the mango and the spicy kick from the chipotle in your throat after each sip.  I could totally eat a lot of the beef (and drink a couple more ritas).  The strips of grilled beef would be great on top of mixed greens and served as a salad.

Another favorite of mine was the third course, which was the Agave Salmon.  The salmon was marinated with agave and mint, sautéed and topped with mint and cherry remoulade and a roasted medley of brussel sprouts, corn and red bell pepper.  The added crunch of the roasted veggies paired well with each bite of the tender salmon.  I loved all the textures and flavors of this dish.   It was paired with a summery MojitaRita which is a Mojito made with tequila, agave nectar and mint.

The fourth course was the Jalapeno Chicken and CJ Rita.  The succulent chicken breast was marinated in onion, jalapenos and herbs and served with cucumber salad and apricot relish.  The CJ Rita was made with fresh cucumber and jalapeno-lime juice.  This was another favorite margarita of mine.  (I must like a spicy kick in my drinks.) It was more mellow than the chipotle—mango  margarita but still delicious all the same.  The cucumber and lime made a refreshing flavor combo. This drink, in a pitcher, poolside equals summer fun in Texas.

The fifth and final course of the evening was the Raspberry Ancho Lava Cake.  An airy lava cake infused with ancho chili, drizzled with raspberry fudge sauce with a side of Grand Marnier spiked frozen raspberries and whipped cream.  The perfect accompaniment of the Lemon-Berry Smash made with raspberry liqueur, limoncello, mixed-berry puree served with a frozen berry garnish ended the dinner on a high note.  The drink reminded me of a delicious fruit smoothie and I had to remind myself it contained alcohol so I wouldn’t slurp it down so quickly.  Plus, icy head rushes are no fun.

We had the privilege of meeting the executive chef, Fernando Torres.  At the end of the night, when he stopped by again, we were basking in the afterglow of dessert so I was extra giddy and expressed my delighted surprise of how the lava cake melted in my mouth.  He mentioned it contained less flour than most cakes so it makes it much lighter.  I let him know it was ‘heavenly’.  Chef Torres even said he’d be happy to provide the recipe. (I need to follow up on that stat!)

I noticed they have a brunch menu as well so I guess that means I have to go back and taste test soon.  

(Disclaimer: The meal and drinks were complimentary but the reviews and thoughts are my own.)

September 12, 2014

It's been a long time

Hello friends!  Are you still out there?  I know it's been over a year since I've posted. I apologize for slacking. As we all experience, life is busy at times and you have to make sacrifices.  Alright, to be honest, it was partly that but MOSTLY I haven't been inspired to blog or even read blogs. Meh. Laziness. It happens.

I am getting back in the mood for food.  Maybe it's the cold front moving in giving me energy to get busy in the kitchen, as if my favorite season of fall is here.  Hmmm I'm trying not to get too excited because you never know when the heat will hit again out of nowhere just to remind you that this is Texas.

I have made an effort to participate more often in tasting events and contributing to a local food blog (Dallas Food Nerd) that allows various foodies to share their experiences.  It's foodie fun at it's tastiest!  We write reviews on restaurants, products and cookbooks. I have one posted that I'll share next and a couple more in progress. Be sure to stay tuned for more updates regarding that.

I've continued to cook and I've learned a few new things in the process. I can finally cook steaks to the correct temperature (medium), just the way my husband and I like them.  I have successfully made various breads and some more than once such as: French bread, ciabatta bread, rosemary and kalamata loaves and baguettes.  I just realized I didn't take photos of the breads.  Weird. I've also made more spices from scratch versus buying them.  Jamaican jerk seasoning and taco seasoning will be used more often now that I know how to throw them together and store.

There's always time to take pics of food just not enough time to share recipes and details about it. However, if you see any that you're interested in making let me know and I'd be happy to share recipes with you. I thought it would be great to share a few delicious photos of  I've made over the past year. Some are my own and others are recipes I found and I'm sure I can track down on Pinterest or favorite blogs.  Let me know.

Some of these photos are making me salivate all over again.  I've made some pretty tasty stuff over the time I've been away from you.  I'm sorry I wasn't around to share the love.  I'll try to make it up to you.

Coconut Lime Shrimp & Zucchini Tartines
Blue Cheese Steak Pear Salad

Balsamic Steak Rolls

Tator Tot Casserole

Crispy Pork Belly
Thai Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup

Nicoise Salad
Duck Confit & Shaved Sautéed Brussel Sprouts
Frozen Strawberry Margarita Pie
Chocolate Pie with Pretzel Crust

Cold Strawberry Soup
Cherry Holiday Cheer
Apple Spice Doughnut 

April 17, 2013

Springy Lemon Coconut Bars

This time of year makes me want to book my calendar with weekly Sunday brunches for the ladies. I love to search for spring brunch ideas and bookmark décor and menu ideas. My Pinterest boards are growing. I have several ideas in mind but really need to narrow it down to more reasonable and budget-friendly options. I get too excited sometimes and plan for extravagant décor and menu only to realize the important thing is to make quick and delicious options so that I have more time to hang out and relax with the ladies. A girl can dream though.

It doesn’t take much time, energy or cash to throw together a brunch. For example, I usually have a main dish such as a spinach quiche. I always have fruit in some form. My favorite is to just slice up strawberries and grapes and stir together with whole blueberries. Keep it simple. And I like to have a sweet dessert type dish if my main is savory. So I’ll have coffee cake or mini muffins made up from the day before to save me time the day of. That’s really all there is to it.

For beverages, I like to have lemonade or tea as well as ingredients for mimosas on hand. That way everyone has the option to have plain juice or kick it up with a splash of champagne. I usually have a couple of juices to try out. For Valentine’s brunch, I had blood orange juice and it was a hit over the normal orange juice. Plus it was a festive reddish-orange color.

These bars would make a great sweet addition to any brunch menu or just a sweet gift for a sweet friend. I found a few recipe ideas for lemon bars, lime bars and also ones that included coconut, which I love. It gives the bars a great texture and boost of flavor. Some lemon bars to me are too custard-like which I’m not always in the mood for. This filling sets up just right in my opinion. The coconut is optional if you’re not a fan.


1 c flour
1/4 c powdered Sugar
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, cold


3/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs, beaten
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 – 1 ½ tsp lemon zest
1/2 c sweetened, flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine flour and powdered sugar. Cut in butter with a fork or fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal. Press crust mixture evenly into a greased, 8 x 8-inch baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling.

Stir together sugar, flour and baking powder. Add beaten eggs; combine thoroughly. Add lemon juice, lemon zest and coconut. Blend well so all ingredients are incorporated. Pour onto cooled crust.

Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Cool. To help set up faster, place in the fridge for 30 minutes or more. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into bars. Store covered in the fridge so they stay firm.

February 26, 2013

Meatball Grilled Cheese Goodness

Attention people!  A standard grilled cheese rocks my tastebuds!  But THIS meatball grilled cheese rocked my world.   I used leftover homemade meatballs from the previous night.  You can make your favorite meatballs or use frozen. I highly recommend putting in the effort to make your own meatballs my friends.  It's totally worth it and super simple.  I'm sure you can find a great recipe out there.  Maybe I'll share mine if you're totally nice and leave a comment on this post.

I used shredded cheese vs sliced because I feel it melts much faster.  Plus it's what I had on hand. I served with these new garlic parmesan pretzel crisps I found and they went together perfectly.

2 slices of bread (I used whole wheat)
mozzarella cheese, shredded
parmesan cheese, shredded
marinara sauce

Butter both sides of each bread slice.  Preheat skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a small pad of butter to pan and spread around until melted.   Add bread slices to hot pan.  Brown until golden.  Flip over one slice and add a few tablespoons of mozzarella cheese.  Then top cheese with sliced (cooked meatballs). I use about 2-3 meatballs each sliced 3-4 times.  Then top with more mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.  Then top with next slice of bread (hot side down over cheese so it makes the inside all warm and melty).  Press sandwich down with spatula.  Cook until golden on both sides and cheese is melty.

Serve with your favorite marinara sauce.  I like to warm it up in a small dipping bowl in microwave while the last side of my sandwich is browning.   Make sure to cover the bowl with a paper towel so it doesn't splatter everywhere.  It only takes about 20-25 seconds.  Enjoy!