More Bottles Than Plates at Plate & Bottle

Categories: Beverages, Booze

Photos by Monica Fuentes
Plate & Bottle with its front door in the back
The google results suggest that Rice Village's Plate & Bottle offers patrons "Boutique Wine & Gourmet Food."

That's about half right.

And on its website, Plate & Bottle posits itself as "dedicated to increasing accessibility to fine wines, and craft beers."

That's also about half right.

Decorated in an aesthetically pleasing vintage style, with weathered display cabinets, dark hues, and a baby grande piano, Plate & Bottle seems to designed to replicate your own living room--or rather the living room you wish you had--in order to encourage patrons to relax and browse. And that's easy to do especially, on lazy Saturday afternoons when the friendly employees host tastings (and will even offer to start the pouring a bit early if you like).

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Up All Night: The Energy Drink Taste Test

Categories: Beverages

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
My cat got in on the taste test, too.
It's not that I have a death wish or am a glutton for punishment. I'd been intending to taste test energy drinks for nearly a month now, but I kept putting it off because, quite frankly, I didn't want to do it.

Then this past weekend, two people on two separate occasions asked me my thoughts on energy drink flavors. "She knows about food and wine and stuff," each person seemed to be thinking. "Perhaps she can break down the subtle nuances in Red Bull for me."

To be honest, I have no idea what they put in Red Bull to make it taste so crappy unique, but as a non-coffee drinker (I prefer tea) I understand the need for a pick-me-up beverage sans beans every now and then.

So I'm doing this. I've been to three gas station convenience stores and a Walgreens looking for different varieties of energy drinks, and while I found most shelves oddly empty, I was able to procure an assortment for my tasting pleasure.

I divided the cans and bottles I gathered into three groups: Classic, Silver Edition and Random. Very scientific. Classic constitutes the first wave of energy drinks to get popular in the early- to mid- 2000s. Silver Edition are the frequently zero-calorie, zero-sugar drinks that are offshoots of the classic drinks. Random is exactly what it sounds like.

Here goes. If you don't hear from me tomorrow, it's because my heart exploded.

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Celebrate Independence Day With These Red, White & Blue Cocktails

Photo by Mike McCune
Now you can feel patriotic as you drink your face off.
The 4th of July is right around the corner, y'all, and you know what that means. Fireworks! Independence! Parades! Barbecues! And most importantly, red, white, and blue drinks that show just how much you love 'merica!

Well, do we have the list for you. From a spiked lemonade to a drinks on a stick, here are five colorful adult beverages for your 4th of July party:

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Beyond Iced Tea: 5 Best Drinks Traditionally Served Hot Just As Good Cold

Photo by xelipe
Iced Chai
The sweaty season is upon us and when rehydrating I can't stand anything warmer than room temperature (of your average apartment during winter in Siberia). Just because the weather calls for chilled drinks doesn't mean certain beverages are off-limits; here are five beverages usually served hot that taste just as good (or better!) cold.

5. Coffee. No better pick-me-up when you're straggling in the middle of a humid afternoon, especially with a splash of cold cream. As a relatively inexperienced coffee drinker, I can't comment on the various merits of different cold-brewing processes, though I will say that using ice cubes made out of coffee seems like a pretty good idea unless you like your java watery.

4. Mulled Wine. You don't have to wait until December to enjoy some hearty and refreshing mulled wine. Use those spice packets leftover from the holidays (or make your own) to make this boozy brew. Cool to room temperature after seasoning is fully absorbed, then refrigerated until chilled.

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Where to Get Food and Booze-a Near Comicpalooza

Chuck Cook Photography
All the ladies love a Stormtrooper, expecially if he's buying. (Shot at The Pastry War.)

One of the best ways to guarantee you enjoy any convention is to remember to take breaks away from it. After hours of being on your feet among thousands of fellow fans, it's important to get away for an hour or two, sit down for a while and get some nourishment. Besides that, do you really want to spend your money on overpriced "con food" inside the convention hall when there are plenty of good places to eat and drink within half a mile? (Okay, maybe you do if you're waiting to meet Stan Lee...but after that...)

The following places have confirmed that they welcome your business during Comicpalooza, even if you are in costume. In fact, some of these places really want you to show up if you're in costume. In costume or not, remember your dining-out manners. Just because you're dressed like The Joker doesn't give you a license to try and act like him.

As far as cosplayers walking to restaurants and bars, Houston hasn't reached the level of San Diego, where cosplayers essentially take over the area of downtown near the convention center. However, we'll never get that kind of environment without a few of us brave ones starting the trend. Walking with a few companions will likely give you the most comfortable experience.

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The Bright Side of the Lime Rip-Off

Categories: Beverages, Booze

Original art by Edvard Munch
No need to freak about lime prices if you're mixing rum or tequila.

The ridiculous price of limes may indeed be Limepocalypse for bars and restaurants, but for the home and party bartender mixing tropical and Mexican cocktails, it is Revelation. The simple truth is that any drink made with rum or tequila tastes so much better when mixed with Key lime juice.

This happy relationship has to do with the source of these spirits. Rum, tequila and Brazilian cachaça are derived from fermented plants (sugar cane and blue agave), and the tart acidity of Key lime juice brings out these flavors better. Most of the other liquors we use -- whiskey, vodka, gin and liqueurs -- are derived from grains, so European and American cocktails taste better with regular limes, which are known as Persian or Tahitian limes.

I've tested Key limes vs. Persian limes in 34 common cocktails that use lime juice to mix, or a lime wedge as a flavor component, and this rule holds fast, with only one exception, which I'll get to in a minute.

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Every Saturday Afternoon Is Chai Time at Kiran's

Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
The second course of tea consists of ladyfinger sandwiches and Darjeeling.
Chef Kiran Verma isn't convinced that Indian tea time came to the country with its British colonists.

"You all were rich, so you were drinking gin and tonic," she says, laughing. "We were the poor Indians who were slaving and having chai."

It's not clear if the British introduced afternoon tea to India or vice versa. But what is clear is that Indians love their tea. India is the largest producer, exporter and consumer of tea after China, growing and shipping roughly 20 percent of the world's tea.

In India, the word chai means tea, but here in the United States, it refers to a specific type of tea, usually black and redolent with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cardamom. Thanks in large part to Starbucks, we've become accustomed to the "chai latte," but in India, this is the typical preparation -- only with a lot less of that unnecessary sugary syrup.

Every Saturday at 2 p.m., tea service at Kiran's Restaurant and Bar begins with a warm cup of chai tea with a splash of milk. As the meal progresses, diners will try several other types of tea, but, says Verma, the chai is the most traditional.

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Champagne in a Can and the French 75

Categories: Beverages

Photos by John Kiely
Sometimes, expensive bubbly is not required.
A big birthday bash was shaping up at my sister's house, so she called and asked for a cocktail idea. "Something for Spring," she said. "What is this Spring you speak of?" I asked. Red robins were returning to my yard, having flown back south after last month's freakish weather.

"Just a light cocktail, before dinner," she added. I wanted to say apéritif, but it's one of those SAT words that make you sound like a dumbass when used in casual conversation. "A French 75 would be perfect," I said. "It has Plymouth, which is gin for people who hate gin, lemon juice, and Champagne.

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It's Passover, So I've Taste-Tested Manischewitz Sangria for You

Photo by Brooke Viggiano
It's kosher for Passover sangria, y'all!
True story: I still have Manischewitz left over from the kickass Hanukkah party my fiancé and I threw last year.

I say it was kickass because it was. The apartment complex security arrived shortly after dinner, when our game of "drinking dreidel" (we're still working on a name) got a little too rowdy. It was 8:30 p.m. on a Friday. Suffice it to say, we didn't get to pop open all of the bottles of the bottom-shelf kosher wine that our guests so kindly brought. Mostly because we had to move the party to the bar, but also because Manischewitz tastes pretty bad and there were plenty of better drinks to be had, including but not limited to an entire tub full of Dr. Brown's sodas that paired just beautifully with whiskey. Like I said, it was a kickass party.

Going into Passover, I've vowed to start and finish those giant bottles of Schewy (still working on a name for this, too). We've got a few bottles MCG -- a concord grape varietal -- and CWC -- a cream white concord wine that I didn't even know existed -- that need to be gone immediately. Since my past experiences have taught me that MCG is impossibly sweet, I though it'd be perfect for sangria. It's kind of like turning lemons into lemonade, only the complete opposite.

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Churrascos Reintroduces Diners to Classic Cocktails With a South American Twist

Photo by Troy Fields
The bar at the newest Churrascos is lit in shades of red and yellow.
In this week's cafe review, you can read all about the magnificent meat and tantalizing tres leches at the newest Churrascos restaurant at Gateway Memorial City. However, there's something else about Churrascos--and, indeed, all the Cordúa restaurants--that should not be overlooked: The drinks.

Back in March 2013, James Watkins joined the Cordúa restaurant group as sommelier and beverage director. Since then, he's overhauled the wine list and created a number of classic but uniquely Cordúa cocktails that have been wowing diners. Don't go to Churrascos or Américas expecting to fill up on steak and plantain chips alone. Sample some spirits or drink some wine, and I daresay you'll find the booze just as impressive as that classic grilled steak.

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