Saturday, September 25, 2010

And the Eat Goes On

Shiitake Mushroom Flatbread at Dish

Wine Tasting at Dish
Yesterday's food tour continued with an epic evening that included stops at three Dallas restaurants. (Lucky me, again!) First, Dragonfly at the Hotel Zaza. Though the restaurant is between executive chefs right now, the kitchen seamlessly pulled off three of its most popular dishes: fried wonton tacos filled with raw ahi tuna, crispy calamari served on a bed of sweet chili vinaigrette-tossed greens, and a sampling of steak and beurre rouge that was unanimously deemed excellent (I didn't try it of course). Most people know Dragonfly for its cocktails, so it's no surprise that each course came paired with a drink - peach jalapeno martini; a Za Collins, made with Hendrick's gin; and my personal favorite, some delicious concoction that combined Belvedere vodka and tequila with grapefruit juice and basil. (I have to figure out the name of this - I will order it the next time I'm here...)

Next up, a wine-paired tasting at Dish, the posh spot on Oak Lawn whose "deliciously simple" fare is served in a sexy modern dining room. First up, a trio of flatbreads (the one topped with Denison, Texas-sourced shiitake mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, local goat cheese, and arugula was my favorite); an appetizer of prosciutto, parmigiano reggiano, mandarin oranges, and fennel; and finally, a miniature surf and turf - barbecue braised short rib and a sea scallop served on a bed of roasted corn, cous cous, bacon, and poached egg. Dish's desert course was a petite tasting of four favorites: the smoked pecan brownie, warm banana cake with salted caramel sauce, chocolate mousse, and lemon ice box pie, served with a Hungarian dessert wine called tokaji.
Though my body would have been happy to end there, we had one more stop to make - Nonna, winner of D magazine's Best of Big D 2010: Best Italian Restaurant. Here, the food took center stage in this simple, cozy restaurant in Highland Park. Silky burrata cheese with panzanella and caponata (a grilled eggplant salad) was served with garlicy grilled toast points, followed by lobster ravioli in a bowl of lobster broth. A lobster ravioli to please purists, the delicate pasta pillows were so soft you barely had to chew, and the generous hunks of lobster meat inside weren't hidden amongst any form of cheesy, chewy filling. Pappardelle bolognese, a seafood stew, and papperdelle with braised rabbit -- all served family style --followed. A small glass of Negroamaro provided the perfect partner to this deliciously handcrafted Tuscan meal. I ended the night blissfully satiated, with a promise to myself that I'd come back with my sweet, deserving, husband.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Food Tour of Dallas

The spread in Kent Rathbun's kitchen
Lucky me! This morning I got to have breakfast with one of Dallas's most lauded chefs, Kent Rathbun, at his family's personal, 19th-floor home inside the Heights at Park Lane. It's the first stop of many I'll be making this weekend during a food tour of the city organized by Texas Toast Culinary Tours. After feasting on Kent's freshly prepared buffet of Moet mimosas and breakfast tacos (scrambled eggs, pork stew, three types of salsa, cotija cheese, and seranno chile-infused sour cream), we sat around on the Rathbuns' sprawling terrace and chatted about his role in the upcoming Super Bowl. Being Dallas's culinary representative for the Taste of the NFL for the past ten years, he's of course highly involved with Super Bowl XLIV's event, taking place right here in DFW. Some of the country's best chefs will get together to prepare an unwieldy feast to raise money for the North Texas Food Bank and the Tarrant Area Food Bank. (At $600 a head, that shouldn't take too long.) Chef Rathbun also talked about his upcoming tailgate cookoff in New York - he'll be traveling there with Fort Worth chef Tim Love when the Cowgirls play the Giants on November 14 to go head-to-head on the grill with celebrity chef Bobby Flay.

Chef Rathbun, on his balcony
The group enjoying an al fresco breakfast
From there, the tour took me on an escorted jaunt through the new Whole Foods on Park Lane, where executive chef Sam Dickey treated us to a sampling of raw food and fresh-squeezed juice from the store's impressive raw food bar. A brownie dipped in pureed cashew cream wholly proved that there's really no need for an oven when preparing "baked" goods. And I could almost feel the last remnants of my cold magically dissipating with every sip of carrot-cucumber-apple juice. Yum Yum.

Raw food at Whole Foods, Park Lane

Heirloom tomatoes at Whole Foods, Park Lane

Apple season at Whole Foods, Park Lane

The wall of beer at Whole Foods, Park Lane

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Weekend Getaway: The Natural State

As we drove away from Dallas and officially became "en route to Arkansas," Dan and I wondered out loud, What is Arkansas known for? We'd never met someone from Arkansas, and the only claim to fame we knew of was Bill Clinton's upbringing. (It must be tough to broadcast a state identity when your downstairs neighbor is Texas.) A little mobile Googling provided some insight: Arkansas is known as The Natural State. Great news for us, as our Jeep was loaded with camping gear, and we were headed to Hot Springs National Park and picturesque Lake Ouachita.

Five hours and one Taco Bell stop later, we arrived at Lake Ouachita State Park to check into our $11-per-night campsite. This being Labor Day weekend, it was completely packed (lucky for us, Dan had thought ahead to make a reservation). After setting up the tent, we walked to the park's beach and the on-site Three Sisters Springs - said to cure everything from diabetes to dysentery. (Scout sipped all three cold streams of water and experienced some pep in his step, but that was probably due mostly his newly found freedom in the wild.) We made it back to camp just before sunset to heat up two cans of Amy's vegetarian chili on our kerosene stove, sit around the campfire, and be blissfully free of all distractions.

The next day's adventure led us too Hot Springs National Park. If you think breathtaking canyons and peaks when you think national park, think again. A tourist town has been built around this preserved plot, and it all started some 200 years ago when word got out that these steamy waters had healing powers. Bath houses and hotels were built at a frantic pace, and folks came in from all over. While most of that kind of tourism has died off (though you can still take a hot spring bath), the town remains - and has been filled with shops and restaurants. The preserved Fordyce Bath House on Central Avenue, which now houses the Park's visitor center, is a great place to get a backgrounder -- and see how these things were set up. Not settling for a visit to a national park without at least some out-of-the-car, off-the-sidewalk- exploration, Dan found us a nice hour-and-a-half hike through the woods. We even stopped by a cold spring-fed spigot to fill our gallon water jug.

On our last day we rose early to score a lumberjack breakfast at the closest diner, the Home Plate Cafe (holy heavenly hash brown casserole!) before tackling the four-mile Caddo Bend Trail which weaves a circle around Lake Ouachita State Park. It was our first hike with Scout, and after battling the leash for all of three minutes, we lit him free. Being the perfectly well-behaved beast that he is, he made a habit of running 30 feet ahead, stopping to look back, and then doing it all over again. Our city dog even got his feet wet when we took a detour to a secluded shore.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

That's One Huge Notepad

Check our latest DIY project (and yes, I have to admit, Dan did most of the work on this one)! It's a huge chalkboard we made out of a piece of smooth plywood and molding we cut and stained to make a frame. It measures 4' x 2'9" and we hung it in the hallway between our kitchen and back living room.

I'm a big note taker and to-do list maker. And I couldn't be more thrilled to have one huge surface to write down all my thoughts (most of which, at this juncture, are places I want to go and restaurants I want to try).

All you need is a smooth piece of plywood, some chalkboard paint, and a frame. We made our frame but you can easily use an old picture frame and make any size board!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dallas's Best Kept Secret

We've figured out that to survive August in Dallas you have to a.) stay inside, b.) travel to high elevation on the east or west coast, or c.) situate yourself in a swimming pool and stay there. Having done both a and b in recent weeks, we opted for option c last weekend. Dan had heard about a public pool tucked into the woods of Dallas's Lakewood neighborhood. It was called The Fraternal Order of Eagles. The name alone got me. The FOE is a national nonprofit that raises money for local causes. Rumor has it members like to party. For an admission price of seven dollars each, we we were in!

The best way to describe this place is a VFW with a big freaking pool. I can't tout the merits of FOE enough: well drinks served in big red solo cups for $3.25, ice cold Lone Star cans for $2.25, and fresh-grilled burgers and deep-fried French fries for the amount of spare change you have in your pocket right now. If you've ever been an apartment complex pool in Uptown, this place is the opposite. Everyone is sipping a cold one and having a lovely time, but there's no parade of teensy bikinis, gelled hair, and stilettos on the pool deck. You'll see lots of couples, lots of tattoos, and a handful of kids. Music plays on a loudspeaker and the selection is beyond eclectic: think Viva Las Vegas followed by Rhianna.

I borrowed this photo from a reviewer on Read the full review here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Follow Me Here

Big News! As of today, I'm a guest blogger for LHO Design and Consign, a great new shop in Dallas's Design District. LHO stands for Lake House Outfitters, so if you know me, it's a natural pairing. I'll be writing about being new to Dallas, adventures in homeownership, and most importantly, discovering the best spots to snag great deals on furniture and decorations for the home in and around Dallas. Check out my first post:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Great Art, Great Friend, Great Cause

I've always taken issue with the generic, mass-produced prints you can buy at Target and Michael's. Sure, they look pretty on the wall, and they can totally bring a room together, but wouldn't you rather hang something in your house that tells a story?

Back in June, Dan and I went to the wedding of one of Dan's former roommates, John W. Tomac, in New York. In addition to working as an illustrator at Barron's, the financial magazine, he's also an accomplished long-distance runner. And on September 22, 2009, he was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. If you've ever met John, you know that not even cancer would get in his way (he got married on June 18, just got back from a honeymoon in Spain, and will be running the New York City Marathon this fall). In addition to running 26 miles to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, he's selling prints of his own illustrations on imagekind and donating 100 percent of the profit to the Society.

It was a no-brainer for us to purchase a couple—a personal friend, a great cause, and lots of empty walls in our new house. Plus, they're a little nod to our New York roots. We particularly love the Ebbets Field one—before we moved to Dallas in October, we lived just a few blocks away from where the historic baseball field once stood.

You'll get a much better view of these two prints—and many morehere Or, support John's marathon efforts by donating here