PHOTOS: Burgers & Burgundy fundraiser for DIFFA

The annual Burgers & Burgundy fundraiser came back to North Dallas, and honestly, every burgers and wine pairing was stellar. Here are some of the creations, their creators and guests.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Bracketology: The winner of the Cook Hall cocktail contest is …

The remnants of the bracket — a mess of mixing, finally ended.

The NCAA picked their champion b-ball team last night (congrats, Louisville), but today is when we reveal the most important bracket results: The cocktails at the W’s Cook Hall. We started with a Sweet Sixteen, whittled it down to an Elite Eight and now stand at a Final Four. Well, here we go: The finals!

In the Battle of the Ampersands — the Dark & Stormy versus the Gin & Sin — it was sweet rum against a surprisingly fruit gin concoction. Even I was surprised that my best pal gin couldn’t stand up to the complex delights of rum. The D&S enters the final as the longshot.

Longshot, because if there’s one thing I like more than gin, it’s bourbon, so despite the unexpected strength showed by the beery Shandy, the Mint Julep goes into the last round as the favorite.

But nothing’s for sure. I tasted and retasted the Dark & Stormy and the Julep as Cook Hall’s mixologists plotted it. The Julep had heart, the Julep had the hometown advantage … but the D&S had the points. It’s the Dark & Stormy at the buzzer!

And that’s my top cocktail at Cook Hall.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

My Cook Hall cocktail bracket is down to the Final Four

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Last week, I did a Sweet Sixteen bracket, not for NCAA men’s basketball, but for the cocktails at Cook Hall. The gastropub at the W Hotel asked me to judge the creations customers can make with their offered cocktail kits. You can follow them on Facebook and win stuff if you can guess the outcome.) This week, it’s time to whittle the selections down to the Final Four.

The top of the bracket is a matchup between the scotch-laced Mark Twain and the rum-based Dark & Stormy. This is one of my favorite pairings, because both provide some unexpected depth on the bench. Up against another competitor, the Mark Twain would have gone in a favorite but the winner here is the D&S.

That cocktail will take on the winner between a classic Margarita and the fruity-but-gin-soaked Gin & Sin. For me, it was barely a contest. Gin has it all over tequila when it comes to the long stretch, and the G&S bumps against the D&S in the Final Four. It’ll be a battle of the ampersands.

The Cinderella story that has been the Shandy — a beer creation with kick and fruit — continues, as it upsets one of the two bourbon drinks in the lineup, the Pit Master. It’s a terrible blow to Kentucky fans, but it wouldn’t be a tourney without some out-of-the-blue victors.

Kentucky does get represented, though, in the bottom of the bracket with its favorite son, the Mint Julep. It could have been a rum-away with the D&S already in, but the upstart Mojito caved to the wily excess of the julep.

Next week, we’ll get down to the Final Four, with the Dark & Stormy/Gin & Sin and the Shandy/Julep. But really, when you drink this much, there are no losers.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Craft closing, gastropub will take its place

Our friend Teresa Gubbins over at Pegasus News is reporting that Craft, the Tom Colicchio restaurant in the W Victory Hotel, will close by the end of the month. Despite launching a surprisingly affordable lunch menu a year ago, the high-end resto hasn’t been hot for a while. It’s too bad, because the decor is great, as has been the food. But crowds never followed.

It may be too high end for the W there, which is more flashy than Craft tried to be. According to Gubbins’ report, the new concept to take over there — called Cook Hall, and the debut of what is planned to be a series of like-themed places throughout the W brand — will add televisions; Craft was one of the last bastions of quiet fine dining in Dallas.

Colicchio has made several appearances in the kitchen over the past few years, but apparently not enough to get buzz going again. Sorry to see it go, but if it wasn’t working…

—  Arnold Wayne Jones