Smart Energy Car of the Year: Ford Fusion Hybrid is the most fun andbest-looking hybrid on the road
CultureMap Auto Awards
Editor's note: In the first annual CultureMap Auto Awards, automotive writers Nic Phillips and Kevin McCauley bestow honors in 10 categories for the top 2012 cars and trucks and explain why they're deserving of a good, hard look. Our third award:
Smart Energy Car of the Year: 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid
Aston Martin-inspired styling, driving dynamics to match, interior design and materials with a European look and feel, claimed 47/47/47 mpg, and a gas pedal in a hybrid that when floored emotes driving passion without sounding like it may explode at any second — the 2013 Ford Fusion is a game changer.
It almost doesn't matter that some are challenging Ford and the EPA's 47 mpg figure, the Fusion Hybrid is the most fun to drive and best-looking hybrid under $30,000 on the road today. In fact, it starts just under $28,000, and adding technology like lane-departure warning with active lane-keeping steering, self parallel parking, automatic highbeams, adaptive radar cruise control, and voice-activated MyFord Touch with Microsoft Sync, one can keep the price in the mid-$30,000s.
The Ford Fusion Hybrid has raised the bar high and is the sort of sedan you'd be proud to own.
Smart Energy Car of the Year Runner-up:2013 Infiniti M Hybrid
At the other end of the spectrum, we have the world's fastest accelerating full hybrid — the Infiniti M Hybrid. Rather than go for all-out efficiency, Infiniti kept all the parts that make a sports sedan just that, a true sports sedan.
Instead of some mushy CVT, it gets a properly sorted 7-speed automatic transmission. It has rear-wheel drive and near 50/50 weight distribution. Steering is direct with a hybrid electric/hydraulic setup, and it keeps a 3.5L V6 but adds a 50kW electric motor for a combined system output of 360 horsepower.
While 360 hp may not sound like much, it's the 457 lb-ft of torque (40 more than the V8-powered M) that puts even most diesels to shame, and 199 lb-ft of it comes on instantly from the electric motor with a 0-60 time near five seconds.
All this performance comes at a cost, nearly $56,000 base and $67,000 optioned out. But with 27/32 mpg ratings, this high performer keeps its green car cred real.
Crossover Utility Vehicle of the Year: Audi Q7 TDI delivers a clean diesel ridefor the whole family
CultureMap Auto Awards
Editor's note: In the first annual CultureMap Auto Awards, automotive writers Nic Phillips and Kevin McCauley bestow honors in 10 categories for the top 2012 cars and trucks and explain why they're deserving of a good, hard look. Now for our second award:
CUV of the Year: Audi Q7 TDI
Crossovers are king when it comes to utility vehicles, offering the benefits of a SUV without the mostly unused off-road or heavy-duty capabilities of a truck-based SUV. Although there are many CUV options, when it comes to great fuel economy there are few, so it's the Audi Q7 TDI that gets our award.
With its turbo direct-injected clean diesel technology, coupled with a best-in-industry 8-speed automatic transmission, the Q7 delivers 28 mpg on the highway (22 mpg combined) without compromising a fun-to-drive disposition and family-pleasing, three-row accommodations.
While the 3.0L V6 diesel delivers only 240 horsepower, it's a whopping 406 lb-ft of torque that make the full-sized CUV feel fast while using less gas. Add to the mix understated Teutonic styling, the latest MMI navigation with slick Google Maps integration, an expansive panoramic sunroof, the performance and safety of Audi's legendary Quattro all-wheel-drive system, and a highly competitive starting price just below $53,000, and the Q7 TDI is a clear winner.
CUV Runner-up: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
It's remarkable to us how quickly Hyundai's newest models continue to improve and rightfully give their more established competition serious cause for concern. The all new 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is no exception.
Starting at just $24,450, the Santa Fe packs class-leading content and features typically found on higher-end utes in a sharp-looking and efficient package. We prefer the 2.0L twin-scroll turbo version, with its 264 hp delivering a good push back in the seat and 19-inch wheels giving a truly premium look.
Clever touches abound. This is the first ever utility vehicle with an in-floor storage space for the load-space cover when not in use.
The Hot Hatch of the Year: 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth is a little car that elicits bigsmiles — and a growl
CultureMap Auto Awards
Editor's note: In the first annual CultureMap Auto Awards, automotive writers Nic Phillips and Kevin McCauley bestow honors in 10 categories for the top 2012 cars and trucks and explain why they're deserving of a good, hard look. First up:
Hot Hatch of the Year: Fiat 500 Abarth
As smaller cars increasingly become cool again, a nice side benefit is the louder, quicker performance versions that often make their way into showrooms. There was no hatch hotter in 2012 than the Fiat 500 Abarth.
It wasn't the quickest or the most refined, but it brought style, character and a stinging exhaust growl backing up the Scorpion badge. It was one of the most emotive cars we drove all year, and we remember it fondly as the little car that put the biggest smile on your face.
This year, the 500 Abarth loses its top — making it all the more desirable.
The Fiat 500 Abarth starts at just $22,700 and breaks at around $27,000 with all the tricks.
Hot Hatch Runner-up:MINI Coupe John Cooper Works
MINI has taken the charm amp and dialed it up to 11 in the JCW Coupe, the most hardcore MINI ever offered.
It's a superior car in many ways to the 500 Abarth in that it's a serious sports car with a thoroughly sorted suspension and powertrain to match. It has vastly better fit and finishes but is not any faster than the regular MINI despite not having a backseat.
And with a starting price at around $32,000 (nearly $10,000 dollars more than the Fiat) and surpassing $40,000 with options, the choice was clear.
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Top Dallas chef re-emerges at upscale Mexican pop-up at West Village
There's culinary action brewing in Dallas' West Village with an award-winning chef turning out some amazing Mexican food. It's a new restaurant pop-up called Mexican Test Kitchen, located at 3699 McKinney Ave. #307, and it stars Matt McCallister, one of Dallas' most high-profile chefs.
Mexican Test Kitchen is the working title for a new concept in the works between McCallister and restaurateur Mike Karns, who recently took ownership of the West Village. It occupies the space that was previously Honest Tacos (and before that, Taco Diner); Honest Taco closed in April.
For now, they are doing a pop-up, with a menu that McCallister has designed, featuring tacos, bowls, and salads, plus inventive margaritas.
"I didn't want to see the West Village get hurt with the closure of a restaurant, so we mobilized our team and opened Mexican Test Kitchen as a pop-up," Karns says.
Their plan is to be open this summer with an interim menu of dishes they are developing, while they reconcept and redesign the space.
"It'll still be Mexican but leaning a little more healthy than Tex-Mex — more like healthy Mex, with a lower price point and a little more casual," Karns says. "We feel like it will bring some energy to West Village."
McCallister is now working with Karns' Local Favorite Restaurants group (El Fenix, Snuffer's, Meso Maya, Taqueria La Ventana, Tulum, Village Burger Bar, Jalisco Norte, Twisted Root) full time. He joined following the untimely closure of Homewood, the award-winning restaurant on Oak Lawn Avenue.
"When Homewood closed, I reached out to Matt," Karns says. "He works with us now as well as Alex Urrunaga (Plan B Group, Reach Restaurants)."
That team will help create their fun new concept. Karns says they'll close the pop-up in late August, then re-open in September after the remodel is complete.
"Mike is a super cool guy, it's kinda crazy I get to work for him," McCallister says. "At the end of the day I just want to contribute my slice of the pie to Mike's vision for the company."
Those craving McCallister flavors can meanwhile enjoy the current pop-up menu featuring:
- Citrus pig with citrus-braised carnitas, griddled onions, pineapple, cotija cheese, & mint
- Brisket, barbacoa style with rajas, blistered corn, & chipotle mayo
- Asada Steak with cilantro, caramelized onion, peanut salsa macha
- Grilled chicken with smoky chipotle marinade, chiles toreados
- Habanero lime shrimp with pickled red onion & watermelon radish
- Tempura cod with Mexican tartar sauce, & green cabbage crunch
- Griddled Came, with sweet potato, goat cheese, toasted pepita sprinkle, charred green onions
- Mexican mushroom with caramelized creminis, maitakes, trumpets, & oyster mushrooms, griddled onion, cilantro, & watermelon radish
Chips & queso feature a pale whipped queso fresco with peanut salsa macha and pumpkin seed crunch. Guacamole comes topped with pomegranate and toasted pistachio.
Salads and bowls include a beautiful ensalada rossa with wild arugula & matchstick beets; a “shades of green” salad with hearty greens, spinach, tri-color quinoa, crispy chickpeas, avocado, roasted corn, cried cranberries, & green Carognola olives; and a Ranchero bowl with black beans, white rice, sweet potato, marinated beets, crispy Brussels sprouts, Mexican kimchee, hearty greens, & mojo.
If all that's not enough, everything's crazy-cheap: Tacos come in at $4-5, and salads and bowls at $12.
Chicago Italian restaurant Quartino readies for Texas debut at The Colony
Italian Restaurant News
A new Italian concept from Chicago is coming to Dallas-Fort Worth: Quartino Ristorante and Wine Bar, a Chicago-based authentic Italian neighborhood restaurant, pizzeria, and wine bar, is making its Texas debut with a location in the Grotto District of Grandscape, in The Colony.
According to a release, it'll open June 19.
Quartino will occupy two levels of indoor and outdoor bar and dining room seating. A red-toned brick exterior with awnings gives the space a relaxed yet refined vibe.
Quartino features an approachable menu of Italian shared plates that feature regional specialties, like artisanal salumi, housemade cheeses, Neapolitan-style pizza, handmade pasta, Aquerello risotto, and seafood.
The bar program includes an expansive, value-driven wine list highlighting family-owned, small-production wines available by the quartino (quarter liter), mezzo (half-liter), litro (liter) and bottle; plus craft cocktails, negronis, and house-made limoncello.
Quartino is part of Gibsons Restaurant Group, which also owns and operates American brands like Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse and Gibsons Italia in Chicago and The Boathouse at Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida.
GRG chose to expand into Texas because of the area’s promising future. This is the first Quartino to open since the original opened in 2005. It is the latest location for GRG, one of the highest-grossing independent restaurant groups in the nation.
Quartino's General Manager, Erick Starke, recently relocated his family from Chicago to The Colony. He says, “Quartino selected The Colony as its first home in Texas because of its friendly people, incomparable growth, culture, and diversity. Our goal is to serve up southern hospitality Italian style and create an unforgettable experience for our customers."
Customers can make dining reservations at www.quartinoristorante.com.
GRG founder Steve Lombardo says that customer satisfaction is at the heart of every GRG restaurant.
“Quartino is known for its commitment to the highest quality, authentic Italian food and wine, a lively dining experience, and putting the customer first, and we are excited to bring this experience to North Texas," Lombardo said.
Quartino is located at 5754 Grandscape Blvd, The Colony, TX 75056, directly behind and across the street from Andretti Indoor Karting and Games, and next to Thirsty Lion.
Quartino Ristorante & Wine Bar first opened in December 2005 by Gibsons Restaurant Group and founding chef John Coletta in Chicago’s vibrant and bustling River North neighborhood. Quartino is the recipient of the coveted Ospitalita Italiana, which is awarded by the Italian government and recognizes restaurants that uphold the traditions of Italian culture. In 2022, Thrillist named Quartino as one of the Best Italian restaurants in Chicago. Quartino is on Open Table’s 2019 list of the 100 Best Restaurants in America for a Big Night Out. In 2018, Quartino was named one of the world’s 70 best restaurants with a pizzeria by Ristorazione Italiana Magazine. Always festive and welcoming with two spacious levels and outdoor seating, Quartino Ristorante & Wine Bar is open daily for lunch and dinner.
Brooke Shields to headline trailblazing Dallas nonprofit's big fall fundraiser
More than a pretty face
Model, actress, and author Brooke Shields will deliver the keynote address at the 2023 Trailblazer Awards Luncheon on September 29 at the Hilton Anatole. The annual fundraiser - one of Dallas' most anticipated luncheons of fall - benefits The Family Place, Texas’ largest family violence service agency marking its 45th year.
Lindsay Jacaman and Holly Krug will serve as luncheon co-chairs, with philanthropists and former Real Housewives of Dallas stars Stephanie and Travis Hollman as honorary chairs, the organization announced on June 6.
"We hope attendees will be inspired by our featured speaker Brooke Shields as she shares her unique story and her personal resilience that led her to become the role model she is today," says The Family Place CEO Mimi Sterling in a release. "Through the collective efforts of our co-chairs and honorary chairs, we know we will raise important funds to serve women, men and children in need of safety."
Shields, who turned 58 on May 31, has made headlines recently as the topic of a critically acclaimed new docu-series about her life. Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields, released in April on Hulu, examines her journey "from a sexualized young girl to a Princeton graduate, mother, and advocate who has embraced her identity and voice," Hulu says.
Shields famously started her career as a child star, becoming - at age 14 - the youngest fashion model ever to grace on the cover of Vogue. In addition to garnering awards as an actress onscreen, Shields is now a best-selling author and creator of an apparel and accessories line called Brooke Shields Timeless.
The wife and mother of two teen daughters is also, the release notes, "an advocate for women and the arts and serves on the board of WIN, an organization dedicated to providing housing, services and programs to homeless women and children in New York City."
The Trailblazer Awards Luncheon is The Family Place's biggest annual fundraiser. Proceeds will help further the nonprofit's mission to empower survivors of family violence by providing safe housing, counseling, and skills that create independence, organizers say.
The event will include a VIP reception, seated luncheon, and recognition of this year’s Texas Trailblazer Award recipient (not yet announced). Tickets start at $350 are available on The Family Place's website.