Tag Archives: dallas

Whole Foods Lakewood Apple Wood Smoked Bacon

I’m going to go on record and say that the best bacon I’ve purchased in the Dallas area is the Apple Wood Smoked Bacon at Whole Foods in Lakewood.  It’s thick.  It’s delicious.  They told Hubbard that they smoke it in-house.  It tastes like it.  Closest thing to curing your own that I’ve come across.  And I LOVE it!

Underground Dinner with Ryan Barnett

You’ve heard of those underground dinners, right?  Pop-up restaurants?  Well, Hub and I were unexpected stand-ins for a good friend of ours who couldn’t make it.  I had always wanted to attend an event like this but never really gotten around to it.  Such fun!

It was held at My Private Chef in Deep Ellum by Chef Ryan Barnett.  There were two communal tables and a four course dinner.  Delicious!  Ryan likes to focus on locally sourced food.  The freshness and purity of the flavors really showed through in each dish.

Our first course was a chilled mussel salad with peach and grapefruit.  A light vinaigrette and the bitterness of the greens perfectly complimented the shellfish and the fruit.  I would have never thought of a mussel salad, but I will from now on.  It was very nice.

Next, a veloute’ of sweet Texas corn topped with a little crab and some thinly sliced green onion.  And sweet it was.  It was delicately, yet fully flavored.  Creamy and smooth, delicious with the little touch of crab.

I wanted to pick up the bowl and drink it.  But, I behaved and used my spoon!

Next on to the fish.  Flounder served with an assortment of local squash.  Very nice.  A squash blossom was a lovely touch, as well.  The flounder was cooked perfectly.

So good.  I love fish.  But, what I don’t usually like at all is lemon desserts.  I am glad that I’m not the type that won’t even try something I have disliked in the past because the lemon tart was fantastic!  Not overpowering.  Tender crust.  It really was excellent.

Chef Ryan will be doing these dinners every two weeks.  We went to the first one on the 3rd.  So check in with him for more info… ChefRB@me.com.  Request to be on the mailing list if you want to be notified of new dinners.  This one was $50 for four courses. It was BYOB with wine service provided.  The service was great.  Conversation was lively and the food…  wonderful!

Like Chef Ryan on Facebook.

http://www.facebook.com/ChefRyanBarnett

Smoke for Brunch 2012

Smoke is a meat lover’s dream.  They make practically everything themselves.  Take the Bloody Mary…

They pickle the vegetables they use for garnish.  They make their own roasted tomato and chile mix.  The drink is super flavorful.  The waiter said spicy, but I didn’t think it was hot-spicy.  Just good.  Although it seems funny to pay $10 for a drink and $15 for a steak and egg breakfast, that’s exactly what we did.

Hanger steak, sliced and served over a fluffy biscuit topped with peppercorn gravy.  A huge pile of scrambled eggs, though you could have yours fried, if you want.  Frankly, I didn’t even eat more than a bite of my eggs.  They were good, but there was so much on the plate that was better and I knew I couldn’t eat it all.  Potato cakes made with goat cheese were a little overdone.  Still a nice starch to accompany the meat.  A broiled tomato and and a couple of spears of asparagus made it a really nice plate.  The steak was cooked perfectly.  But, we still couldn’t resist a couple of sides…

They call the bacon “thick cut pork belly bacon”.  Which seems a little funny because all bacon is pork belly.  Who cares what they call it.  It’s amazing.  Looks like it’s a little crunchy, doesn’t it?  It’s really not.  It’s firm enough, but nice and chewy and meaty.  The “artisanal style pork ham” has just a touch of sweetness and is pleasantly moist.  Love it.  Both these meats are cured and smoked in-house.  Out back, you can see the huge smoker on the patio and firewood is abundant.  These side dishes are a deal at only $3.50 each.  You can pay that much much for a side of crappy store bought bacon.

Yes, I took home a to-go box.  With tax and tip, $72.  Not bad for something you can’t get anywhere else in Dallas.  In fact, Hub and I have some pork belly curing in the fridge right now.  I’ll be shocked if it turns out to be even close to as good as the bacon we had today.  At least we know what to shoot for!

The Grape for Restaurant Week

I know I’m late.  I should have written sooner.  But, I’ve been thinking about it…

I have always been this huge fan of Restaurant Week.  And I mean it.  Like “fan” as in “fanatic”.  I believe in the good that it does for the North Texas Food Bank and I think it’s a great way to go all out.  Discover new food.  New styles.  New wines and dining rooms.  I’ve always felt liberated by Restaurant Week.  $35 for three courses in some of the best restaurants in town?  What’s wrong with that?

This year, I was unenthusiastic.  I always like to try new places during this time.  I’ve been to most of them on the list now.  Go back to one of last year’s winners maybe?  Then I thought, why not go to one of the places I already love?  I know The Grape is my kind of place.  When I saw their RW menu I decided I couldn’t miss it.  The chef, Brian Luscher, came out to say hi before the meal.  The food was fantastic.  Everyone around us seemed to be having a great time.

Chef explained that he liked Restaurant Week.  It showed.  The menu was loaded with intriguing choices.  The wines were fantastic.  And everyone in the room seemed to be genuinely glad to be there, including the people who were working.  Sound like a typical RW story?  Hell, no.  People bitch like crazy about RW.  Yet, there they are.  Making the reservations and hoping they’ll have a great evening. 

The Grape felt just like it has every time I’ve ever been there.  Because it’s a great place.  Intimate.  Wonderful food.  Amazing happy hour.  Good people.  If you just relax and say yes, you’ll always come back.

Preview Dinner at Lucia

Let me tell you about Lucia.  I know you know that David and Jennifer Uygur are opening a new Italian place.  Kevin Dean will be the sous chef.  How can they go wrong?  Remember Lola?  Before a restaurant opens they generally ask people in to be their guests while they go through a “dress rehearsal” for the restaurant to come.  Hubbard and I were lucky to be invited.  We met our friends Slade and Becca at Eno’s for a glass of wine before we walked over to the restaurant.

Bishop Arts District is so alive.  It reminds me of lower Greenville, too many years ago to count.  A nice picture window looks down the length of the dining room.  Lucia is intimate, seating less than 40 people.  This immediately takes me back to Rome.  So many outstanding restaurants in the ancient city look just like this.  Inviting, comfortable.  This could be what I’ve been looking for.

Our server is very pleasant.  He, also, reminds me of Italy.  He does what he’s there to do… make sure you have everything you need.  He’s trying to make sure you have a nice time.  I never wanted for a thing.  I don’t remember an empty glass or ever looking around for him.  It was all just magically there when you wanted it.  And this is a trial run? 

The conversation was great.  The food was unthinkably good.  I was back in Rome.

The food is fantastic.  Taking simple, fresh ingredients and making them into something rich and complex.  This is real Italian.  The menu is set up in four courses and I would suggest you stick with the true experience and order from all courses.  You might share a course if you like.  Have a bottle of Terlano Pinot Grigio or Cascena Bruni Barberi.  Open with a bubbly Montesel Prosecco.  We did all that. 

The menu you see might not be the menu we were offered.  They’ll serve what is most inspiring through the seasons.  We started with the Salumi Misti.  It’s hard for me to believe that a person can produce cured meats like this.  Orange and fennel sausage.  Coppa.  Black pepper sausage.  And spicy, spreadable n’duja smeared on a slab of fresh bread.  I would have been happy with just this.  But, I sure did love that chicken liver crostini with fig mostarda.  It was one of Slade’s favorites, too.  Hubbard had the seared beef tongue with roasted onions and salsa verde.  Unbelievably wonderful.  The crudo of sea scallop with shaved fennel, radish and olive was bright and refreshing.  More wine!

Your next choice will fall under the heading of Primi.  Order your pasta.  These dishes are offered with a two tier pricing option.  You can have an $18 full serving or go for a smaller $12 pasta.  Slade had the tagliatelle al ragu and I really loved that.  I had the gnudi.  Little spinach and ricotta balls that I think of as nude ravioli.  Just the wonderful stuff inside ravioli sprinkled with Parmesan and brown butter.  Hubbard had the ravioli di zucca.  Winter squash ravioli with sage, butter and crush amaretti.  I was fully prepared to be unimpressed with “winter quash”.  It was perfect.  So flavorful and tender.  Toasted spelt spaghetti with braised duck.  Are you kidding?

You might notice that we got through the entire pasta course with no red sauce or mozzarella cheese.  Don’t think about that kind of Italian.  That’s not what this is.

There were four Secondi offered and that’s what we had.  Our meat courses consisted of slow roasted pork with corona beans and broccoli raab… Quail al mattone (split and flattened) with pancetta, polenta and vincotto… Slow cooked wild Maryland rockfish with pistachios, olive and chard… Skirt steak with cauliflower, fried bread crumbs and garlic anchovy butter.  Stealing bites from each other’s plates.  It was all impossible to resist. 

Does hazelnut cake with poached pears and brown butter gelato sound good?  I was running out of steam at this point.  Hubbard always has room for dessert and that pannacotta with dry figs and bay syrup was outstanding.  I had to take a bite.

I’ve talked about Lucia for a long time.  I ate for a long time.  I talked with my friends and people at neighboring tables.  I drank wine and forgot I was in Dallas.  I really didn’t want to leave.  I bet we’ll all be talking about Lucia for a very, very long time.

Maple and Motor

So, we walk up to the door.  There’s a sign printed on a piece of paper that says to order before you sit down and claim a table appropriate to the size of your group.  OK, Dad.  I guess that’s what we’ll do.  I order a burger, the way it comes, tater tots and a Bud.  “No” the guys says and shakes his head at me.  “No Anheuser Busch products.” Alright then, what do you have, jerk?  The guy has pissed me off.  He points at a chalk board on the other wall.  Again, I think he’s a jerk. 

In fact, the whole vibe of this place is pretty rude.  The paper sign is unfriendly.  The guy shaking his head at me and telling me what I can’t have is even more rude.  Suddenly, it doesn’t matter if the burger is good or not.  It’s funny that he bothered to ask if we were OK with a burger that was a little pink in the middle because it certainly wasn’t.  This may be the only place on that side of town with a decent burger, but I hate places like this.  I don’t spend $25 on beers, tater tots and burgers to have some self-important fool that works in a burger joint hand me a side of attitude. 

The burger…  it was OK.  Started falling apart before I could finish it.  The tater tots were really good.  We should have split an order.  There were a lot of tots.  Nice and crispy.  Too bad that was the only thing that was nice.  Hub said that he liked the beer glasses.

I’m sure I’ve made my point.  There are a lot of good burger joints in Dallas.  I don’t need this.  I can’t stand a place that acts like they’re doing you a favor to be open.  It’s like being married to an old bastard.  Sure, you’re married.  But, I bet it isn’t any fun.

Arcodoro Pomodoro for Restaurant Week

I’ve come up with a new use for Restaurant Week.  We’ve gone out as a couple, with another couple and with a big group of friends.  It was all fun.  But, this year my friend Lori A and I decided that a girl’s night out might be a good idea for restaurant week.  Lori L and Cornelia came along and we super indulged at Arcodoro Pomodoro.  None of us had been there before.

I asked if we could see a normal menu, as well as the RW menu.  The hostess agreed to go get one and we never saw her again.  Whatever.  The RW menu looked fine.  Lori A ordered a bottle of Proscecco to start.  Perfect!  Our very good looking waiter was quite patient with us.  Unfortunately, no one can remember his name.  He was classically tall, dark and hansome.  He made recommendations, explained the dishes and kept our glasses full.  He gets an A+ for the evening.

The appetizers were not quite as stunning as he was.  I had the Isalata de Polipo e Bottarga.  This translates into a celery and fennel salad with tender octopus and slices of fresh bottarga drizzled with lemon olive oil dressing.  I was especially interested in the bottarga.  I’m still interested about it’s flavor because I couldn’t ever really identify its presence.  Let’s say the salad was refreshing.  Not bad, but not exciting.  Lori L and Cornelia had the Carpaccio di Manzo al Pesto di olive.  Cured carpaccio of Angus beef tenderloin with black pepper and sea salt, served over chopped romaine heart and cherry tomatoes, leccino olives and sundried pesto dressing.  The meat was sliced so thin you could see through.  Not that that is a bad thing.  But, Cornelia said that sauce and salad was lacking.  She suggested an accompaniment make-over was in order.  Lori L agreed.  Lori A ordered the Crostini de Melanzane e Mozzarella di Bufala.  This was described as Paesano bread crostini topped with orasted egglaant mousse and melted buffalo Mozzarell, served over arugula salad and fresh fig balsaba.  This place really knows how to make a dish sound good on the menu.  Lori A said it was disappointing and that she couldn’t even taste the eggplant mousse.  That’s a problem.  The wine pairing for this course was the same for all of us.  Lughente, Vermentino di Gallura.  It was good.  But, I was surprised that it was served with all three dishes.

On to the main course.  Lori A had the Paella Sarda, Sardinian style Paella made with Fregula pasta insted of rice, simmered in homemade lobster stock with a medly of seafood, calamari, clams, mussels, shrimp scallops and saffron.  I don’t usually like saffron.  But, I tasted her dish and the saffron was just right.  No saffron overkill.  Lori A pronounced it “yummy”.  It had tons of fresh seafood.  I was surprised by the amount of seafood actually.  It was also a very pretty dish.  Lori L and I both had the Salmone alla Saba e Rosmarino, fresh filet of Scottish salmon baked with Saba, rosemary, lemongrass and fresh dill.  Served with a fresh green bean and cherry tomato salad with a Fruttato olive oil saba sauce.  What they didn’t mention was the balsamic reduction sauce over the fish.  Lori L said the sauce and the fried beet chi on the salmon was the most memorable part of the dish.  I have to agree.  The salmon was well prepared, though I couldn’t help wishing I had the paella instead.  Cornelia had the Maccarrones de Puntzu alla Cagliaritana.  The dish was Arcodoro’s handmade semolina dumplings with white asparagus, sun dried tomatoes and mascarpone cheese.  Cornelia said it was to die for.  She’s a white asparagus girl.  I thought it was very tasty.  Something like a grown up mac and cheese.  We all had the pairing wine which was the 2008 Terra Saliosa. Tasted so good, we ordered a bottle for the table. 

Finally, dessert was served.  Lori A and I got the Seadas al Miele, a traditional Sardinian puff pastry filled with sweet cheese, lightly fried and drizzled with bitter honey.  Lori A said she expected the cheese would have been a little sweeter, but that the honey did the trick.  I agreed.  I’m not that big on really sweet desserts.  Cornelia got the Tiramisu Cioccolato, chocoalte sponge cake, topped with layers of mascarpone and ladyfingers, finished with thin cracked chocolate.   I tasted this and Cornelia was right, nothing special.  Lori L ordered the Fragolata al Mirto con Sorbetto al Limone.  This was a swwet strawberry salad topped with Mirto liqueur and lemon sorbet.  The good looking waiter told her it might not be lemon sorbet, maybe raspberry.  She ordered it anyway.  But, hey, it’s either lemon or it’s something else, right?  Wouldn’t they tell him what it was?  Turned out to “not lemon”.  She was a little bummed.

We really enjoyed our evening.  The most important part of the meal was the entree and we all agreed it was the best part.  It’s funny, because I asked around before going to Arcodoro and some people said it was really bad.  One guy even said to go to Pizza Hut instead.  Really?  I can’t even imagine how a person could say that.  It’s a beautiful dining room.  The food was good.  The service was great.  I have this theory…  I believe that some people only want “American” Italian food.  No red sauce?  Forget it.  I’m not that way.  In fact, I’m basically the opposite. 

Next year, I’m sure we’ll do another girls night.  We had a fabulous time!  And that nightcap at the Palomar wasn’t a bad idea either!

Big Old Shrimp

Hub scored these guys at the White Rock Local Market.  HUGE.  There really isn’t anything to show the scale in this photo.  But, that’s a pound and a half of shrimp marinating for a little over an hour in peanut oil, lime juice, lemon juice, salt, pepper, crushed garlic and red pepper flakes.  I cut each one down the back to remove the vein, but the shell stayed on.  I questioned whether the marinade would flavor the shrimp because the only way into the meat was that slit down the back.  It worked great.  The shrimp was very delicately flavored.

Hub prepares the grill.  The grating that he’s using to grill on is supposed to keep smaller items from falling through onto the fire.  There really wasn’t any chance that these babies could have fallen through.  They were too big.  Hub likes to use this grated surface when he grills fish.

On they go!

 

Yes, a pound and a half of head-on shrimp equals 12 individuals.  Hubbard had never grilled shrimp like this before.  You sure couldn’t tell when he was done.  The shrimp was fabulous!

I was afraid the meat would be chewy because of their size.  It was deliciously tender and reminded me a little of fluffy hunks of lobster.  He should have bought 10 pounds of them!

The End of the Belly Saga

It’s a great day.  My wireless is working again!  So, here’s a little recap of the pork belly process in pictures…

The brine ingredients sans water…

The lard…

The pork belly in the lard…

Then it went into a 200 degree oven for hours and hours.  Cooled.  Went into the fridge for days.  Finally, I pull it out of the lard.  Cut off the less thick end and cut it into some hunks…

Into a frying pan they go.  I brown the fatty side.  Then I stick the skillet into a 350 degree oven and leave the pork to cook a bit too long.  No need to panic, I’ve still got a big hunk left in the fridge submerged in lard.

It may be a bit overdone on the outside.  But, the inside is still tender and moist.  The flavor is fabulous.  All Hubbard said was, “yum” and promptly inhaled three pieces.

Would I do it again?  Yes.  For a dinner party it would be lovely to serve.  I think Kevin’s idea of serving it for a brunch dish is fantastic.  In fact, I may cook the other half today.  I can see a few hunks with a nice salad.  We went to the White Rock Farmer’s Market at Green Spot yesterday and purchased some fresh, homegrown Romaine lettuce, tomatoes and homemade Ranch dressing.  Add a little pork and I may well cry.

Coming up soon… AN EASY THOMAS KELLER RECIPE FROM AD HOC!!!!!

Ad Hoc Pork Belly Continued

It seems I’m not so stupid after all.  Ad Hoc’s Pork Belly Confit will keep in the lard it cooked in for a week.  That’s a good thing.  Because, while I got up and stuck it in the oven on Sunday, a short while later I was down for the day.  Hubbard and I went to brunch at The Grape and about the time my burger arrived (finally arrived) I was stuck with the urge to barf, faint or both.  I continued to be sick as a dog through Sunday and yesterday.  My fever has finally broken.  And my trusty Pork Belly is waiting in the fridge.  I guess I’ll try pressing it later tonight if I feel a little better.  I’m not quite up to eating it yet.  Hey, at least it’s not just ruined because I went down and couldn’t get back up!