Pay no attention to Tim. He’s clueless. However, I’ll say this about Dallas Observer restaurant critic, Hanna Raskin: she’s got ginormus matzah balls. I just finished a quick read of her cover story “Homesick Restaurants: How Dallas Became a Dining Nowhereville.” It’s is an interesting read, but I have a few problems with some of her observations. Like:
“The Dallas dining scene is broken, as anyone who’s eaten out lately can attest. It’s slipped from being a city that drew international attention for its renegade restaurants to a town where corporations serve as tastemakers, chefs aren’t taking chances and customers are so stingy with their food dollars that restaurants can’t engage in the type of fine-dining play that distinguishes cities such as Chicago and San Francisco.”
Well Hanna, “eat out lately” is all you have done. Hence your statement: “Atlanta has grits, Chicago has pizza, Memphis has barbecue and Dallas has—well, mussels.” Mussels are a trend (with chorizo!). You are right: We aren’t San Francisco or Chicago (or Los Angeles), we are Dallas. So, we don’t have what they have and that makes us broken? Yikes! Another outsider’s perspective on what we need.
At the risk of sounding like a female dog, I ask you why you chose to print this:
“Many chefs who chant the organic, local, seasonal mantra advocate a hands-off approach to cooking. “Chefs need to let ingredients speak for themselves,” Dallas Morning News critic Leslie Brenner wrote in her prescription for the city’s restaurants, published last summer.”
I’ve been writing about food here for 14 years. Why didn’t you call me?
Horrors! Sharon Hage closed York Street! Avner Samuel reinvented himself again! Cool it. Sharon will be back and Avner’s ability to shed his skin every few years and open another concept is, and has been for 30 years, an important dynamic here. Oh, and by the way, Avner was an integral part of the “Gang of Five.” Born in Jerusalem, he cooked all over Europe before moving to Dallas in the early 80s and started making tortilla soup from scratch at the Mansion. Stephan and Dean will confirm his influence. They all learned a lot about their techniques and regional ingredients from the Mexicans in their kitchens. One of which, Amador Mora, now has his own restaurant, Maximo.
Dallas has ALWAYS been the way you find it now. Our cuisine sprung from cowboys and Mexicans, not a gold rush and a culture filled with ethnic neighborhoods. We have a long history of Tex-Mex. And chili. And Helen Corbitt’s casseroles (Have you eaten at the Zodiac Room? There’s some vintage Dallas food there.)
“Dallas’ untethered cuisine is so thoroughly out-of-step with how most epicureans are now thinking that the city’s begun to exist in a sort of self-imposed isolation, a decidedly unhealthy position for a city with culinary ambitions.”
Oh my head. I believe the kitchens in Dallas are more vibrant and progressive now than they have been in years. We have more farmers markets; we have a stronger “eat local” movement; we have vegetarian and vegan. Our locavore scene may not be as big as other cities, but it’s a hell of a lot bigger than it was ten years ago or even five years ago. TWO years ago. We are not broken. Quit trying to fix us. Grrr.
UPDATE: A smart chef in town just called me to say, “Dallas diners are the problem. They talk about being epicureans but at the end of the day they prefer to go to Houston’s.”