Tuesday, June 18, 2024 Jun 18, 2024
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Restaurants & Bars

Distinguished Drinker: Katherine Clapner

For the third installment of Distinguished Drinkers, we talk with Katherine Clapner, the mastermind behind Dude, Sweet Chocolate, about a few less traditional drinks in the Dallas area.

Remember the first time you tried a piece of Dude, Sweet Chocolate? You were slightly hesitant. Am I right? Blue cheese in fudge? Sesame seeds and garbanzo beans in a bar? Or my personal favorite, chocolate “Salami”?

If your experience was anything like mine, you decided to get over your hesitation and try it (because, after all, it is chocolate), and then you realized you would never doubt the inner workings of Dude, Sweet Chocolate’s kitchen again.

For the third installment of Distinguished Drinkers, I decided to trust the mastermind behind this unique palette, hoping to uncover a few less traditional drinks in the Dallas area. I was not disappointed. Katherine Clapner, co-owner and chef of Dude, Sweet Chocolate, has an impressive résumé. She has worked in world-renowned kitchens in both Europe and in the United States, and now she is helping put Dallas on the map as one of the best places to get artisan chocolate. She also happens to “consume a lot of liquids in a many different forms.” Whether it’s a popsicle, Hawaiian shaved ice, or “righteous” juice, she has high standards for good quality drinks and a few favorite local spots. The only thing that she still has yet to find is a good chai tea latte that isn’t “just steamed milk.” All I have to say to that is, she gave us chocolate, people, get the woman a chai!

RH: So you said on the phone…

KC: I don’t drink.

RH: And you’re the expert on virgin cocktails.

KC: You know it’s funny with the virgin cocktails, I’m not really the expert, but I’ve gotten lucky at a couple of places that I thought were just really spectacular. One time was at Black Swan Saloon, and then the bartender at Driftwood. At the sous-chef dinner at Driftwood, the Seven Sous, it was wine with every course, and it’s really unfortunate what they’ll do with non-alcoholics. They just give you so much sugar. It’s just really, really boring, and it should be thought out. If you’re picking out a wine or you’re doing anything, it should be a thought-out process. It should be complimentary, and the Driftwood guys are killing it with food and drinks.

Then I was out and about for the Tattoo and Music festival, the Deep Ellum one, a couple weeks ago, and I was with a friend of mine and he said, “I want to go across the street to Black Swan,” and I’m like, “Well, I’ve never been, I’ll go in.” And this bar-tender or mixologist, whatever you want to call him, has got all this stuff and I say, “I don’t drink. Can you get me something that is just not sweet. It’s hot outside. I want something that has got some sort of depth to it.” He just freakin’ nailed it. He thought about it. Both of these bartenders [at Driftwood and Black Swan] thought about what they gave me, just like they were creating a cocktail for anyone. I was really impressed with that. There have been more times than I can count where that has been the exact opposite. I mean the absolute opposite. Lee Harvey’s is a bar in my neighborhood and they have the only non-alcoholic beer that doesn’t suck, and it’s really good. It’s nice when people think about it. It’s kind of a big deal. Anyway, that’s just the whole non-alcoholic thing. Juice is everywhere, but I think an undiscovered one is the Fiesta. The woman there doesn’t open up until 11 or 12, but you go in and she is juicin’ and it’s fresh carrot, fresh whatever you want in it.

She’s  in the front of the grocery store at Fiesta where they have the ice cream. I’ll ask for whatever I want in it, and for one drink, it’s $3. You go down the street and it’s $9. I mean juicing costs money, but Fiesta is a golden little thing because they always have fresh coconut and fresh carrots. I go in, and I just say, “I want some of this, some of this, and some of that.” It’s like a golden little nugget that I think is amazing. You’ve got all these other places, but it’s kind of a little go-to for me. It’s pretty cool to go into this Hispanic grocery store in Oak Cliff and getting some righteous juice. It’s killer.

RH: I’m gonna go check that out. It sounds amazing!

KC: So, everyone always talks about coffee right?

RH: Yes, I am a coffee fanatic!

KC: Well, in the Cedars, which is over on the other side of Fair Park, a place called Full City Roaster opened. They are only open from the morning to afternoon on Fridays and Saturdays. They are roasting in there, and then they open up and they pour feet away from where they are roasting. It is a very special moment and their cold-brew is to die for. It is what I get for my house. I go to coffee places, I take that back. I don’t go and sit down and get coffee that often. I really don’t because, well, who has time for that? I do think Mudsmith is doing a great job. I’m a little partial to their mocha because they are using our chocolate mix, but it’s actually really good!

RH: Is that the only place using your mocha mix? Is it a powder?

KC: No, it’s all over the place. Yeah, it’s a powder. It’s our Drinking Chocolate. Mudsmith is doing a great job. They are very endearing to me. Oh my gosh, the Hawaiian shaved ice people. Does that count?

RH: (Laughs) Yes. That counts!

KC: There is that Hawaiian shaved ice place called Bobaddiction that has been a little renegade. I had their stuff at Double Wide, and I had their stuff outside of Monkey King Noodle Co. So they are a truck, a mobile truck, but I think it might be the best shaved ice I’ve ever had. They’ve got the right machine. The syrups that they are doing are not too syrupy. You know, because you are outside the last thing you want is too much “bleh!” I don’t know what my deal is. I’ve been eating those, and I’ve been eating popsicles from a couple places. I can’t seem to get enough of both. I seriously can’t. It’s ridiculous!

RH: Are you talking about Steel City Pops?

KC: Yeah, their cream ones over there are really, really, really good because they aren’t heavy. That one is Steel City Pops and then Pop Star has the best fruit ones. It’s funny, one is really good for one thing and one is really good for the other. I don’t know, is that enough liquids? I drink a lot of liquids. I consume a lot of liquids in a lot of different forms.

RH: So, if there was one liquid you couldn’t go without, what would it be?

KC: It’s a particular juice. I juice it at my house. It’s the one. It’s arugula, cucumber, ginger, carrot, apple, and I always put a little coconut water in there. That is my go-to juice. I like it with less fruit. I would say that drink or, unfortunately, a Blue Monster. It’s one or the other.

RH: (Laughs!) Those are polar opposites!

KC: I know, that is almost a good thing to say. I have juice and a Blue Monster every day. Well, too much of the Blue Monster is bad for me, and I just feel like being too healthy is just a little too much. I like that balance. It’s just too much. Those people are crazy! And if I could get a chai tea in this city that was not all steamed milk, I’d really love that. I love chai masala—like a cara masala chai, I really love it. But every time I go somewhere, they put in too much cream. So, if there was a decent place where I could get a chai on a regular basis, and if they could do it with an almond milk because I just don’t like too much milk, I’d be thrilled.

RH: So, if you were sitting down having a drink and you had to pick one of your chocolates to compliment it, what would it be?

KC: I would have to go back to when I drank, and I’ve got to say, the Albatross Fudge with a dry cider. It’s a really great moment. It’s a blue cheese and it’s chocolate and you get a Crispin Pear Cider. That right there is just really happy together. I like chocolate, though. I don’t like it with other stuff, but I make suggestions for something I would do or I thought was good. You know the Hanoi fudge with beer is fabulous. I’m a bigger fan of chocolate with beers, ciders, and spirits than I am with wines.

It’s just a personal thing. I find chocolate and wine roll around in the same playground. Their profiles can be argumentative. When people do ports with chocolate, I think they are crazy. I do it but it’s just one of those things I’m not a fan of. It’s like dessert wine with dessert; it’s redundant and nauseating. When I’m doing chocolate, I’m doing chocolate. I’m not doing it with coffee. I’m not doing it with anything. I’m just having chocolate.