I was an invited guest at an unusual promotion for French wine sponsored by Wines of France (that’s the French taxpayer, I think) on Friday night. First was the location: it was here. South of downtown, just off Ervay, next to the railroad tracks at the point where Google stops their street view efforts or I would have seen that their map wrongly shows Kelley Ave. emptying into Ervay. There was no problem parking right outside the place. Somebody had probably stolen the car that was previously there.
Second was the building. It is called Off The Grid because it is an old Dallas Power and Light substation building restored inside to transform it into an event space. The red brick walls have been scrubbed up and black stairways installed to allow easy movement between its three floors. It is all achingly cool (to the moderately fit).
Third, was the format of the progressive dinner. We would start on the ground floor and then eat successive courses on the second and third floors, before returning to ground for dessert.
Fourth was the method of invitation. Virtually every one of the approximately 70 attendees had heard about the event through social media. Wines of France is touring the country from New York, to Chicago, then San Francisco, and now a grand finale in Dallas. Locals who followed them on Facebook or Twitter got an invite to the Dallas event. The whole concept was managed by social media PR agency Lushlife. Although based out of NY, their account peep, Lindsey Johnson, grew up in Dallas so she knew the ‘lie of the land’, so to speak.
Finally were the food and wine peeps at the Dallas end. Lushlife picked Campo execuchef (and Daniel Bouloud student), Michael Ehlert to prepare the meal, and Del Frisco’s wine director, Jennifer Jaco to handle and describe the wines.
Jump for the details.
It was nice to sample hors d’oeuvres of foie gras and summer melon soup with poached rock shrimp, and to munch through a chilled salad of Texas peas with truffle egg focaccia and baby lettuce, before digging in to a strip steak cooked outside on the barbecue by a sous chef who not only used to work at The Chesterfield but also provides protection services (methinks he chose a good neighborhood to pitch for business). A topping of anchovy butter and Texas peaches (with their flavors concentrated by baking in the oven), smoked potato wedges, and a smear of watercress purée were very appropriate sides to the meat. Thank God for the French, and their contributions to cuisine.
They also provided some well-chosen wines. With the hors d’oeuvres we downed a Rosé from Provence that was light-bodied with a great fruit-acid balance. With the salad a Côtes de Bourg white wine made from 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% French Colombard. The star was the red Bordeaux accompanying the steak. Although only five years old, it was ready to drink. The nose was a subtle blend of blackcurrants, sawdust and cedar. The taste, blackberry jam and cinnamon. With dessert we had the Nicolas Feuillate Brut Reserve Champagne. A fitting end to an unusual evening.
Based on these wines, France is making world class wines in the budget categories (most of the wines we tried are available around town). So, if the French want to do a world tour again, they are welcome back to Dallas, anytime.