Choomongous ChallengeBaseball season means big ballpark food for Texas Rangers fans, and this year is no different with the launch of yet another 2-foot monster from the newly renamed Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Choomongous, named for the Rangers new superstar outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, is a gargantuan sandwich topped with soy sauce and teriyaki-marinated skirt steak and a spicy Asian slaw. Sesame oil, garlic, Sriracha sauce and Mae Ploy-brand sweet chili sauce combine to add a piquant kick. Find it with all the other massive menu items at 24, the concession stand located behind home plate where everything is either 24 inches or 24 ounces. Its $26 and meant to serve two to four people, says ballpark food operations manager Casey Rapp. But Im sure someone will try to eat it by themselves. 1000 Ballpark Way, Arlington, 817-273-5222, www.texasrangers.com. Ice Cream DreamsThe Near Southside, with its eclectic vibe and bike-friendly streets, has breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks covered with its ever-expanding food and beverage scene. But local photographer Kari Crowe (right), a resident of the close-knit community, thought something sweet was missing from the neighborhood she loved. Thats why shes opening Melt Ice Creams, a stand-alone homemade ice cream shop set to open this month in the ever-evolving south Fort Worth area. I was ready for a career change, she says. We started talking about what was missing in the Southside and what I might enjoy doing. And that was making ice cream, because for the past couple of summers, Crowe has built a reputation among her dinner party friends for whipping up some first-rate flavors, using herbs from her backyard garden and getting creative with combinations like lavender honey, coconut lime and strawberry basil (see accompanying recipe). But it was inspiration from fellow small business owner Robbie Werner of Stir Crazy Baked Goods that motivated Crowe to begin researching the feasibility of a potential new venture. Like Werner did before opening her Near Southside bakeshop, Crowe traveled to small towns throughout the South last summer, road-tripping through Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas to visit ice cream shops and learn as much as she could about the business. She later spent a week with a couple from Ohio who make ice cream to sell at local farmers markets. I came home and said, I can do this, Crowe says. Initially intending to open an ice cream stand, she had the opportunity to take over the former Caffé di Angeli coffee shop space on West Rosedale Avenue and dived in. Passers-by already are turning heads thanks to Crowes brightly painted yellow and black-and-white striped exterior a perfect representation of her artistic and bubbly personality. Melt Ice Creams will offer six to eight beautifully crafted ice creams made with as many local products as possible, Crowe says, and she also keeps a dairy-free option on hand. People are so excited, she says. People are telling me their kids are excited. They cant wait to have somebody local so they dont have to go to Sonic or Braums, which is nice to hear. There has been an outpouring of support. 954 W. Rosedale Ave., Fort Worth, 682-710-2220.Hip Eats at Hilton ArlingtonTaking a cue from Dallas trendy hotel restaurant scene, the Hilton Arlington is aiming high with R Bar & Grill, a new street-level dining concept featuring ingredients not typically found in hotel kitchens and bars, such as locally sourced farmstead cheeses and house-made bitters for craft cocktails. Executive chef Michael West comes from the Old Hickory Steakhouse at the Gaylord Texan, where he worked with James Beard-featured chef Joanne Bondy. At R Bar, hes partnering with purveyors such as Dublins Veldhuizen Texas Farmstead Cheese, Glorias Premium Tortilla Company in Fort Worth and Massimos bakery in Dallas. Dishes include wild boar chili; surf and turf sliders with oyster, brisket and pork; and redfish with cannellini bean succotash and bone marrow served with Texas toast. 2401 E. Lamar Blvd., Arlington, 817-640-3322, www.rbarandgrilltx.com. New Beer Concept on TapCraft beer enthusiasts have a new hangout for premium brew now that The Brass Tap has opened on the south end of downtown Fort Worth. The smoke-free bar features 60 beers on tap and about 250 more in bottles and cans. Its the Tampa, Fla.-based chains second location in Texas after a Round Rock outlet. Opened by two former pharmaceutical reps with a passion for suds, the bar sells only beer and wine (eight reds and eight whites, along with sangria), but food delivery partnerships are in the works with nearby Four Star Café and Thai Tinas. Were focusing on American craft beer as well as many local and Texas-brewed beers, says co-owner Ron Jankowski. We chose downtown Fort Worth because we really love the area and, even though there are many other bars around us, we felt this area of Houston Street could use a nice upscale bar where people could enjoy a great beer or a nice glass of wine. 901 Houston St., Fort Worth, 817-870-3838, www.brasstapbeerbar.com. A Gator MakeoverRestaurateur Johnny Ragland, the J.R. behind J.R.s Steakhouse and JRs Grill, admits the latter never really gained independence from the former. So hes bringing Cajun to Colleyville by semi-reviving his longtime Euless watering hole, Gators Bayou. But this time Todd Phillips, a former Reata chef whos built a strong reputation for stellar steakhouse cuisine and burgers at both JRs, will be at the helm. Gators Café will take over the JRs Grill space by mid-month, featuring Phillips gumbo, etouffee and spicy seafood dishes meals that are hard to come by in Northeast Tarrant County. Meanwhile, J.R.s Steakhouse has morphed into J.R.s Steakhouse & Grill, a more relaxed dining venue that still features prime steaks but also the burgers and sandwiches for which JRs Grill was known. Expect live music Thursday through Saturday nights at Gators Café. 5220 Texas 121, Colleyville, 817-571-1414.West Fork Meanders into New TerritoryAfter building a faithful neighborhood following for their Mediterranean and Lebanese-inspired dishes, Christina and Nehme Elbitar, the husband-and-wife duo behind Chadra Mezza & Grill, are branching out. Their West Fork Grill, serving breakfast and lunch, will take over the former Summit Deli space this month, catering to downtown workers. We will have American food with Mediterranean influence, says Christina Elbitar. Youll be able to get hummus and tabbouleh, and to me it seems normal to eat that for lunch, as it is for most of our clientele. But when you go outside of our little area, it might not be as common. Thats why theyll expand their repertoire to include turkey wraps, quesadillas, buffalo chicken salad and even enchiladas. West Forks breakfast menu will feature Philly steak and eggs with potato and carrot hash, blueberry-lemon pancakes and the Mexican short stack: stacked tostadas crowned with avocado and a fried egg. 1200 Summit Ave., Fort Worth, 817-703-7702, www.westforkgrill.com.Molto ItalianoItalian gelato, focaccia breads, risotto kits, imported pastas and blocks of parmigiano reggiano shipped from Reggio-Emilia are just a few of the specialty items to be featured at Central Markets Passaporto Italia event, set to take place April 30-May 13. Visit for authentic tastes of Italy not typically offered from your gourmet grocer, including prepared dishes like veal Milanese and porchetta, delicately-seasoned roasted fish and saffron risotto with veal marrow. Cheesemakers, vintners and celebrated Italian chefs will be on hand for demos and tastings. Bravo TVs Top Chef fan favorite Fabio Viviani will kick off the two-week passport event at a ticketed affair planned for 6 p.m. April 30 at the Fort Worth store. Visit www.centralmarket.com for reservations. 4651 West Freeway, Fort Worth, 817-989-4700, and 1425 E. Southlake Blvd., Southlake, 817-310-5600.NotebookGrapevines 10th annual ChocolateFest will take place April 4-5, kicking off with An Evening of Chocolate and Wine at Delaney Vineyards (2000 Champagne Blvd.) at 7 p.m. April 4. Guests can indulge in chocolate creations along with hors doeuvres, wine tastings and live music. ($50 per person) A Day of Chocolate and Art takes place April 5 at Palace Arts Center (300 Main St.). Admission includes chocolate samples, local art displays and live music. ($15 for adults, $5 for children). www.chocolatefestgrapevine.org. Burgers 4 Babies, chef Tim Loves annual culinary fundraiser benefiting NICU Helping Hands, takes place 6:30-10 p.m. April 10 at Loves Woodshed Smokehouse. Guest chefs serving up burgers and more will include Top Chef alumni Ilan Hall and Mike Isabella, Nashvilles Carey Bringle and more. Tickets are $175. 3201 Riverfront Drive, Fort Worth, 817-877-4545, www.nicuhelpinghands.org.Little Lilly Sushi chef Jesus Garcia will partner with Tokyo Café chef Kevin Martinez for an East meets West ramen pop-up dinner at the Culinary School of Fort Worth on April 13. Six courses will include branzino, smoked beef ramen with beef cheeks, pork ramen with pork belly and more. $45, 817-989-8886.Taste of Keller will showcase the citys emerging culinary scene, including food from Elote Mexican Kitchen, FnG Eats and DeVivo Bros. Eatery. The event, which includes chef demonstrations and wine and beer tastings, takes place 5-11 p.m. April 18 and 10 a.m.-11 p.m. April 19 at Keller Town Hall, 1100 Bear Creek Parkway; www.tasteofkeller.com. Omni Fort Worth Hotel will host an Easter brunch buffet with complimentary mimosas April 20. Menu offerings include pork tamales, braised brisket, chicken roulade, salmon potato cakes and tomato mac-and-cheese; theres also a kids menu. $54 for adults, $27 for children 5-12. Children under 5, free. 1300 Houston St., Fort Worth, 817-350-4106, www.omnihotels.com The Texas Food Truckin Fest is an annual outdoor extravaganza for folks who like their meals cooked on wheels. Among the trucks featured this year will be Vegan Noms, The Butchers Son, Taste of Cuba and more. The event, which benefits the Tarrant Area Food Bank, takes place 4-10 p.m. April 25 and noon-10 p.m. April 26 at Globe Life Park, Arlington. Tickets are $5-$12, with discounts offered for bringing canned goods. http://texasfoodtruckinfest.com/.Bar Louie, popular in West 7th for its rooftop patio, appetizers and martinis, has opened a Hurst location at North East Mall just outside Rave Motion Pictures. The hot new hangout features an expansive outdoor patio and a full menu of burgers, sandwiches and entrees for lunch and dinner. 1101 Melbourne Road, Hurst, 817-537-0440, www.barlouieamerica.com.Texas first Nespresso Flagship Boutique has opened inside NorthPark Center, giving coffee connoisseurs a glam shopping experience in a chic, cafelike setting. Guests can peruse the innovative, portioned coffee machinery and accessories while tasting Nespresso hot and iced selections from trained baristas. 8687 North Central Expressway, Dallas, 800-562-1465, www.nespresso-us.com.
Makes 2 quarts
Youll need a milk frothing thermometer and an ice cream maker for this recipe. (Kari Crowe uses the 2-quart KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment.)
5 cups strawberries, de-stemmed and
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 quarts half-and-half
5 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 sprigs fresh basil, chopped
1. Place the ice cream maker bowl in the freezer for at least 24 hours to freeze solid.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
3. Toss strawberries with 1 tablespoon sugar and roast in oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and drain, reserving liquid. Keep liquid chilled until ready to serve.
4. Attach the thermometer to the side of a large pot. Heat remaining sugar and half-and-half over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the temperature reaches 110 degrees, remove pot from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
5. During this time, temper the eggs and vanilla extract with 1/2 cup of the hot half-and-half mixture. Do this by continuously whisking the hot mixture very slowly into the eggs and vanilla until smooth.
6. Add the egg and cream mixture back to the pot while whisking. Place pot back on stove over medium heat and continue to stir until temperature reaches 160 degrees. Count to 10 and then remove from heat. Add the strawberries and let chill overnight.
7. Place the chilled strawberry mixture in ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturers instructions.
8. When your ice cream looks almost done, add in chopped basil. Top ice cream with the reserved strawberry liquid.