by Steven Doyle photos by Bryan Coonrod
Last night was a busy yet blustery evening. Many lounges and restaurants were suffering due to high winds, a drastic drop in temperature and sparse rain. We officially accept the fact this is Fall. The change of seasons brings with it many new invigorating experiences. The cool weather, a change in menus for many bars and restaurants, and the new season of Top Chef that aired last night on Bravo. We couldn’t think of a better place to be than at Private Social, the fresh digs of our very own Top Chef, Tiffany Derry.
Whisked into the door of Private Social by a Blue Norther, we quickly assessed this was the place to be. At first glance it would appear half the city had the same idea. Seeing a familiar face behind the bar, Rocco Milano, we were at once comforted as he handed us our first cocktail of the evening.
Rocco has a fantastic way to present any libation. Each drink has its own legend, and he is always pleased to debrief the history. Last night we had several such tales.
“This first one is a combination of all things Texas,” explained Rocco. Seemed perfectly fitting since this season of Top Chef was filmed in Texas and partially in Dallas. “The first thing I learned about Texas is that Texans love all things Texas. This drink combines Tito’s, made in Texas, with barbecue,” he continued.
Turning around in our seats we spotted Tito Beveridge, the maker of his namesake vodka. Tito is bigger than life and seemed to have an adoring fan base. The room rattled with flash as Rocco shook his beakers.
“There you have the Texas Backyard Martini,” said Rocco as he slid the first glass before us. We sipped – a win. It had a slight bacony flavor with a strong wisp of vodka. He used a smoke technique, one of Rocco’s many tricks in his large bag of science, to give off the essence of baby back ribs.
The cocktail made us hungry and soon we were nibbling away on the house specialty, the Top Chef Pork Buns made with crispy pork, slaw and fresh herbs. A perfect accompaniment to the backyard cocktail.
Minutes later we had a chance to chat up Tiffany Derry, who is every bit as sweet in person as she is on television. Dancing around the fact that we really wanted a review of the season premier, Tiffany was pleased to offer her assessment.
“I remember all the anxiety of the first night on Top Chef, and it is interesting that they are cutting so many in one night,” started Derry. We didn’t have the heart to tell her that we didn’t actually watch the show last night, but asked her to continue.“I am not really enjoying how they are portraying Texas. They have us all in cowboy boots, like that’s what we really wear all day – cowboy boots and cowboy hats. I must have left mine at home. They have Padma in that dress, and Tom wearing big buckles. I wished they had focused on what we are really about.”
“I am excited though, I have some people on the show and wish them love. Grayson [Schmitz]. Love her; she is a bad slamma-jamma. It’s not easy being told your dish is not the best it could be, but I wish them all the best,” Derry smiled.
There would be no revelations coming from Tiffany’s kitchen, but it was fun to try and cajole tidbits from her.
Back at the social side of the restaurant, the crowd was moving at a faster pace. Laughter rang out with more frequency. Tito was mixing with the ladies. It was time to sample another Rocco cocktail.
One of our very favorites made by Rocco is his Italian Old Fashioned made with Makers Mark, lemon peel, orange peel, Dolin Rouge and his special Campari Dust. You will need a Macallen ice baller for the perfect effect, which is exactly why we must leave these things to the professionals.