The Intoxicologist

Monday, December 3, 2007

Stokes Grill & Bar in the Old Market - Review

While restaurants in Omaha expand at a rate faster than food can be consumed, opening up a new one does not seem like something worth working up an appetite. However, the opening of Stokes Grill & Bar at Howard and 12th Street in the Old Market is a welcome sight. The Old Market is where Omaha is often showcased to visitors from across the nation whether they are of a political, business, or vacationing nature.

A space once occupied by a used, refurbished and miscellaneous knick knacks store is now a polished upscale Southwest grill. Stokes sits on the corner across the street from Delice Bakery and Jobber’s Canyon. This addition to the Old Market not only brings new flavor, but extends the crowd a little further to enjoy more of what the Old Market has to offer.

Stokes Grill & Bar invitation only opening night got off on the right foot with a crowd that was standing room only at times. While the food menu was limited to select items for the night, it was also on the house. Camp Fire Girls were the beneficiaries of all drink purchases.

Opening nights for restaurants are often fraught with obstacles and unforeseen mishaps. Anything gone awry this night was hidden well from the patron. Staffing was at a maximum and everyone wore an eager to please smile.

There is traditional table seating available as well as comfy, low casual style dining near the far side of the bar. Appetizers and full dinner are available at the bar. The wooden bar is deep and flat with no lip on the edge, making it more comfortable for those choosing to dine at the bar.

Stokes Grill & Bar is no exception to the infusion trend these days. They too have several Signature Sangria infusion jars perched in ice on the bar. The cocktail menu claims “this refreshingly cold, fruity wine will set you right with the world.” If the Signature Sangria does not set you right with the world, maybe their award winning wine list will. From Chardonnay to Cabernet - Champagne to Port, Stokes wine list covers the complete wining and dining experience for the beginner to connoisseur.

Stokes carries a full cocktail menu of which the bartenders recommend the specialty margaritas. Maybe there was a good reason. I opted instead for the Metro Martini which is an Absolute Tangerine twist on the Cosmopolitan. While the experience to this point was outstanding, no place is perfect. In my opinion, the Metro Martini tastes a bit like orange Tang; faint color, thin, weak, and low on flavor and depth. Great places usually hire bartenders with knowledge up their sleeve, which is a bonus. Char, one of the fast working bartenders behind the cork Friday night, suggested her particular specialty: the Char-tini. This cocktail had deep color, rich layers of flavor, and was topped with champagne.

The food was equally as delicious. The Sharon’s Chicken Enchilada’s practically bulged from the tortillas and overflowed the plate. These chicken and cheese enchiladas with beans and rice will fill even the heartiest of appetites. The Los Alamos Pasta was exquisite. The sun-dried tomatoes punctuated the chicken and cream sauce perfectly. The food was such that a person could keep eating for the taste alone with hunger never being the issue.

All in all, Stokes Grill & Bar is a hearty restaurant with upbeat employees eager to serve their tasty meals and cocktails. It is a great place to eat dinner, have a drink at the bar, or nosh with friends in the cozier sections next to the bar at a more relaxed pace. Make a special trip to revisit the Old Market to see all that is new.

Weather the Holidays with Peppermint Snowballs

You have heard it before; “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…”

During the holidays there is plenty of stirring, shaking and even twisting going on; all in the form of drinks that is. The holidays invoke the festive spirit in even the most Grinch-like of us all. Cocktail parties are a tradition of the holiday season. What a perfect time to host a party for friends, family, or business acquaintances.

Hosting a party intensifies the anxiety level in many, yet a party is simply defined as a gathering of invited guests for conversation and refreshments. Refreshments can be as basic as cheese and crackers or bowl of peanuts. The choice is yours. Refreshments are merely a tool for alcohol absorption and buffer between guest conversations. What your guests will rave about are the cocktails you serve.

The Peppermint Snowball is a creamy concoction that will absolutely melt in your mouth. I am not particularly a chocolate lover, but this cocktail sent me tipping the bottle for just a bit more Godiva. Van Gogh captures the essence of flavor exquisitely in its entire line of vodkas. Do not be tempted to skimp on quality when it comes to the vodka in this recipe. In the Peppermint Snowball, the espresso is the first flavor to wash over the taste buds before the rush of peppermint takes over. It is in the final seconds after sipping that the Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur soothes the senses in complete indulgence.

Peppermint Snowball

1 oz Van Gogh Espresso Vodka
1 oz Peppermint Schnapps
1-1/2 oz Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur
Finely Crushed Candy Canes
Thin Chocolate Covered Peppermint Stick

Dip the rim of an old fashioned glass lightly in peppermint schnapps. Roll edge of the glass into the crushed candy canes. (Candy Canes may be finely crushed in a clean coffee grinder.) Fill the old fashioned glass two-thirds full of ice. Build cocktail in the order given. Gently stir with a ready made thin chocolate covered peppermint stick.

Cocktails made ahead of time are perfect for parties. There is more mingling time for the host and everything is pre-measured, so guests may self-serve without over pouring. Mix and serve your cocktail in a pitcher rather than punch bowl for ease of pouring and aesthetic value.

The Crazberi Cocktail is perfect for a pitcher, since it mixes well without having to stir frequently. The deep raspberry flavor and color of the Chambord along with the cranberry are an excellent combination in keeping with the holiday season. The Crazberi Cocktail is tart and sweet at the same time with enough depth of character to keep one sipping at a slow pace.

Crazberi Cocktail

1 oz Smirnoff Raspberry Vodka
1 oz Chambord
1 oz Cranberry Juice
3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice
3 Fresh Cranberries for Garnish

For single cocktail: Combine first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled one-third full with ice. Shake fifteen to twenty seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with three fresh cranberries skewered on a cocktail pick. For pitcher: Do not place ice in the pitcher. Multiply the recipe (times 20 for a 96 oz pitcher) and refrigerate at least two hours prior to your party. Serve the Crazberi Cocktail in old fashioned glasses filled two-thirds full of ice. Place pre-made cranberry skewers next to the pitcher for guest to serve themselves.

Do not forget wine and beer. Fun labels add to the festive spirit of the holiday season. World Market carries an exclusive holiday label wine, Electric Reindeer in Chardonnay, White Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and new this season; Sparkling Wine. These merry wines add entertainment and taste to your holiday celebration. As for holiday beer and ale, look for Rogue – Santa’s Private Reserve Ale, Bad Elf – Winter’s Ale, or Lump of Coal – Dark Holiday Stout to name a few. These ales and more may be found at many area liquor stores.

Start planning your holiday cocktail party before the season slips away and the new year is upon us. That is another party altogether!