Blah, blah, blah. I’ve already talked about Matthew Shelley once today, so I’m pretty sure I’ve hit my quota, but this email is too good not to share. You guys already (or should already) know that Matt writes the “Into Shelley’s Belly” column once a week. He’s also our I.T. tech guy. This morning, some of us at D were getting spam. Tim shares Matt’s email to the whole company on Frontburner. Amusing, right?
I woke up in a tree this morning, coated my feet in honey, and started off the day with a light stroll through an ancient fern meadow I found last year in the back of my closet. It’s kind of like Narnia, but with more nudity and less heroism. Also, there weren’t any speaking animals. That would just be weird. After some solid Qigong breath work, I glided into my car seat and headed up north to try out this neighborhood café that Carol told me about. It’s called Coffee House Café, and they apparently take great care in selecting and delivering their coffee. Alright, I’m game.
My crotchety old neighbor used to tell me that the way to a woman’s heart is through your own. Get a knife, jam it into your chest, pull out your beating blood engine, and then give it to her on some fine china. Ok, so my neighbor wasn’t the most romantic soul, and he died alone with his thirteen cockatiels screaming bloody murder for three days until someone finally called the police. The reason I’m telling you this is because his birthday is this month and he loved beer. To celebrate the old bastard, I decided to commemorate his bitter Irish soul by going to one of my favorite Irish bars in Dallas, The Idle Rich Pub.
Idle Rich’s age-worn, wooden interior lends itself to a community gathering as well as to one of those nights when you sink into the darkness of the pub’s loving bosom for some much-needed privacy and ale. Nothing about this place is guarded, and you are welcome to be here.
In my list of supplies to include in my wheel barrel of fun (after I win the lottery and move to Big Sur) are many things. Lots of beer, bacon, honey, cashmere jumpsuits, chocolate, and cheese, to name a few. Cheese and beer are probably the most important (aside from the framed picture of Jennifer Capriati and the ziplock bag of Rihanna’s hair that I collected (stole) from her tour bus bathroom). Cheese enlivens our wits and encourages our senses to be courageous. I decided I needed some education, though; and having been to some classes at Scardello, I thought it would be a wonderful place for a lesson in pairing beer and cheese. Lance Lynn, Scardello’s most aptly anointed beer master agreed to host me for an evening of beer and cheese pairing. Even though this is a slightly impromptu, organic collection of pairings, the purpose of this post is to showcase some exciting and accessible pairings that are available for you, your friends, and your enemies.
Lance is an interesting cat. His warm smile and effortless, hip style are surpassed only by his knowledge and love for what he does. And it’s very much a consistent attitude throughout the entire shop. Lance reads about beer and cheese, attends seminars, and discusses the two with erudite deftness. I allowed him to choose the cheeses, and we worked together to select the beers. First up is the crowd pleasing, American blonde ale from Southern Star Brewing Company called Bombshell Blonde. It’s a very clean, golden beer with a biscuity flavor profile that goes down easy. Instead of rambling on, I’ll just make a list from here on out.
(Disclaimer: Most of the subtleties that are pointed out with sophisticated vocabulary come from Lance. Fortunately, this allowed me to impart my beer sloppiness while he maintained his disarming, sophisticated demeanor. Lance is a pleasant man.)
As I was leaving my favorite salon yesterday, I noticed a new coffee shop called Origin Natural Food across the street. I was intrigued by its window displaying terms like “healthy, preservative-free, chef-prepared, and hand crafted coffee.” I thought we would be getting another genuine, craft coffee shop with handmade goodies to go with. But then I saw some dreaded terms that I despise: gluten-free and natural. Natural is one of the most cheaply, sold out terms that’s confusing and dismantling the health food community today. It has no real meaning. It has no regulatory oversight whatsoever and can be plastered across virtually any product with impunity. Also, as Nancy mentioned the other day, gluten-free is only useful for those people whose bodies cannot tolerate it. It has no health effects – good or bad – for anyone else. Ever since fat-free products starting making us the most obese nation in the world, any new supposed healthy “term” gets pasted across products from cereal to soda, claiming its promise of making you a better human with a smaller waist. Ok, ok, I will chill out and get off my home-grown, herbal garden stool. Fortunately, I consulted with my dear friend, Raya, and she calmed me down (a little); however, this is not going to end well.
Poised on the brink of a new destiny, I catapulted myself from the bubble bath and laid my garments out before me on my new vintage futon. Tonight will be a night of unparalleled revelry, and I shall dance with Venus before the moon parts the sky. Would she have me? I suddenly became preoccupied with thoughts of probable failure, for I could not bear to lose another lover with such magnificent cologne releasing from my pores. But with bedroom eyes, a staunch appetite for abandon, and a well-oiled set of legs, I began my sojourn with steadfast determination.
Five of my closest companions were awaiting my arrival at the newest Mockingbird Station addition, Mockingbird Taproom. It was a long overdue replacement for the previous tenant, if I do say so myself. And I do say so. I strutted into the station with much the same candor as any young Honeyboy Wilson would, and my friends were awaiting with cheerful demeanor. With much time for levity, we filled our mouths with the elixir of the lord: beer.
I’ve only ever visited the T Room with a group of assertive women. They talk chic, and I occasionally interject with a mildly obscene joke to remind them of my presence. While I sit quietly, they gossip and complain about mundane details and dish on fashion, dating, and office drama. If the forks have spots, or the table is uneven, or the sunlight is coming through the window, or menstruation cripples their perkiness, they address it. Why do I go, you ask? These lovely ladies are my friends, and I enjoy their company. It’s a good learning experience, for the better a man understands the menacing madness that fuels a woman’s mind, the better he will keep a happy wife. I may have stolen that from Cracker Barrel. Whatever way the cookie is devoured, the T Room has always served fresh, clean food.
You may recall back in 1989 the muscly, taut action/drama, Roadhouse. It caused the nation to swoon and wrestled in a new era of gritty/bar brawling/martial arts/tai chi/poignant sprawling epics that flooded theaters the following years. It was an exciting time to breathe and an even more exciting time to be a Hulk Hogan-loving 6-year-old, fresh out kindergarten in Missouri. My interest in Marxist/Morrison philosophy has swayed to some exponential degree, but my love and Swayze-induced hot sweats have endured and even strengthened. While the new Lakewood restaurant, The Lot, doesn’t possess the threat of a rib stabbing or a powerful roundhouse boot kick from a brutally apt martial arts henchman, it does appeal to our American Roadhouse desires and hopefully beckons to the late Mr. Swayze’s iconic “Dalton” and his passion for a friendly, lively and safe roadhouse gathering.
The Lot, which opened this Monday, has covered a great deal of space with its robust remodeling of the old Backyard Beach Bar. Its countrified barn house appeal is friendly and welcoming. There are two playgrounds (one for kids and one for adults), an outdoor stage, and an outdoor bar that will serve burgers, Hoffman hots, tacos and beers. Plenty of communal picnic tables are there for you to rest your bum while you indulge in the sights, sounds and tastes that surround you. I normally avoid the kid zoos that call themselves restaurants, but this place was surprisingly tempered thanks to the playground and the well-designed acoustics of the interior. The bar area is separated from the main dining hall by glass garage doors, which helps maintain its adult-necessary privacy.
I tipped my cappuccino just slightly toward my nose and drifted into a frothy, coffee fueled warmth of mind and it descended into my chest. You know the flash that flies through your brain and body as the first hint of coffee aroma lifts you into your day. Your eyes sink heavily behind your lids. For a moment, you become a part of that wandering sinewy transcendence that calms and invigorates with resplendent escape. It’s a pleasure and necessity for many, and there is a new contender on the block that you should consider when planning where to grab that first cup before you launch into your day with vigor and success-crushing determination. Most of you probably know The Alcove as a craft beer and wine bar, but in November they started offering fine espresso drinks from behind that same bar.
After a Kid ‘n Play listening party at my uncle’s garage apartment, we discovered our appetites soon overpowered our dancing needs. The Yellow Belly food truck sat just down the street waiting to finish us off with some hearty food goodness. We ordered in the cold and waited inside an old phone booth for our food to get itself ready. When the Flying Swine (pork wings served on local greens tossed in their signature vinaigrette with blue cheese crumbles) came out, it screamed authenticity. The meat was tense at the bite, and then it fell tenderly and cleanly from the bone. It was a savory little basket, and the vinaigrette covered the local greens with ease and brightness.
I rolled my smokes up into my sleeve, polished up with some nice pomade (Dapper Dan’s to be exact), and hustled my way over to the media event for Hofmann Hots on Wednesday night. I love any chance I get to cross the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, and this night was just swell with good vibrations. I stormed in with jazz hands flaring and mouth watering for some juicy hot dogs. The first thing I noticed was the commanding presence of the mastermind behind this new joint, Phil Romano. He hugged me with his eyes, so I thought it appropriate to ask him for a picture. Success. We discussed contemporary metal music, swan migration in South America, and swapped a few recipes for our favorite soufflé. While none of that actually happened, Mr. Romano was warm and welcoming and seemed wildly enthusiastic about Hoffman Hots, in spite of all this lawsuit craziness that’s going down.
If Tyler Durden opened a coffee shop after he married Janis Joplin and made babies atop Mount Badass, Mudsmith on Greenville Ave. would be that coffee shop.
The first time I ventured in here, I immediately turned around realizing that I wasn’t cool enough yet to patronize this cozy, wide open coffee shop. Its long and fertile interior beckoned to me like the lilies of eastern Fiji that crawl and tenderly awaken your pores before bringing you to your knees before the sun. I returned and quickly realized that I needn’t fret over my style or coolness, for the people at Mudsmith welcome you with warmth and generosity. They are quiet and gentle, and they work to please you without spoiling the privacy that so many come to coffee shops for.
Little brown bags (nostalgic images of childhood frivolity and happy lunchtime indulgence) arrived at the D offices yesterday from a charmingly peaceful young woman. Katy Priore runs Bark Chocolate, and her philosophy and method of cooking is as enchanting as the chocolate is delicious. “It’s made with love, and that’s the most important ingredient… the fundamental importance of cooking with intention.” She delighted a few of us with samples of seven different chocolate barks, each unique and definitive in its flavor profile. Her chocolate coupling calls to mind the ethereal pairing of Zeus and lightning, Elizabeth Taylor and diamonds, Ryan Gosling and eyesight. Let the listing begin.
I spent most of the weekend perfecting my brush flow, diminishing concentrics, and dancing with the spirit that moves through all things, so pardon any tiresome attitude with which I convey my most recent lunchtime excursion at Sammy’s Bar-B-Q.
I know most of you are familiar with Sammy’s. It’s been here a long time, and it’s no recluse. It’s a lunchtime institution for all walks: the suits, the boots, the scrubs, and the domestics. We all come to this open, brick palace of meat for all things barbecue. The cafeteria-style dining lends itself to the casual effort we all strive to allow ourselves in that short hour we take from the clock. There’s a festive patio, lots of sunlight, and plenty of space to stretch your belt. It’s a neighborly American powerhouse of smoked meats and backyard side dishes, and the clatter of dishes from the kitchen, the jubilant conversations of the diners, and the wooden comforts all wrap their arms around your waist, offering whatever level of squeeze you desire. You will certainly smell of Sammy’s meats and smoke after you leave, and that’s a good thing.
Deep beneath the winds of rainy streets
In old East Dallas a tavern beats
And pulses and dances along the glades
Of Bryan Street, where troubles fade.
A legend tells of a wandering soul
Guided by whispers and owing no toll
To man nor beast, nor season or flame
In winter’s arms he seeks refrain
He casts his sword beside the hearth
And glides with grace upon the earth
This tavern sways and soothes his heart
With whiskers and songs and joy a part
Of every laugh and chuckle and bounce
The patrons live and ne’er renounce
A stranger’s needs and long respite
For in these arms be his home tonight
Our resident voracious eater, Matthew Shelley, usually takes pretty pictures and writes pretty words about other peoples’ food, but this time he’s showing you what he can do in a kitchen. I’m sorry to report that he’s off the market, ladies. Mr. Shelley is engaged.
I am no chef. I am no baker. Now that I am absolved, let me say this, I do love to make food. I like to think of myself of a practitioner of love in the kitchen. I want my home to be a place of production, not just consumption. So I found this recipe on the Whole Food’s recipe website, but I decided to make some minor changes. I will share this with you, as well as a recipe for nut milk, which goes well with this savory and sweet loaf of banana bread.
I will try and be brief, but the caffeine pulsing through my veins is beckoning a shake, a jump, and a long winded recounting of my morning at Ascension Coffee, this new and beautiful coffee laboratory/bar in the Design District. I was greeted happily by the shop’s coffee sommelier, Mike Mettendorf, and the passion and joy exuding from this hospitable gentleman is contagious. He loves what he does, and he says that Ascension Coffee caters predominantly to the luxurious coffee drinkers, while still leaving no short straw for any convenience drinker.
In my junior astronaut training I learned that to nobly love and care for a woman, one must always prepare a dish just before midnight that will titillate and elevate her spirit, bringing her closer to the stars. I have yet to determine however the hell that is possible, but I came pretty close this weekend and decided to celebrate by treating myself to a sumptuous dinner.
The curling winds of last evening’s temperate weather brought me to a destination I have seen before. You probably don’t remember the restaurant in north Oak Cliff called CampO. Well, shame on you. It was divine. However, the owners, John Paul Valverde and Miguel Vicéns have created a new restaurant in the same space called Outpost. It’s an American tavern with comfort-driven food.
I learned a wonderful lesson on this venture, and I might even say I embraced a new perspective. The first hour I spent at the new beer joint, Craft & Growler, was muddled by sunlight. Initially, I thought of the interior and its personality as an empty classroom space with very little warmth. It seemed unfinished and not particularly conducive to the cavernous regions of depth and darkness that I prefer whilst I drink the sweet nectar of hops. But as the sun set softly behind the city streets, I found my eyes growing used to this large brew house of joy and wealth. I immediately realized that perhaps it was because I started imbibing at 4 in the afternoon, when no one else was there, and the hefty wooden tables that covered the place shone too brightly. I asked a stranger to slap my face for my shortsightedness and initial snobbery. The night came with a soothing winter gust of bar folk, conviviality, and dimly lit coziness. I sat back in my low leaning leather chair at the front corner, all patrons before me enlivened by the energy and ease that swept through Craft & Growler. Darkness descended with its loving arms. I apologize.
I began my stroll through the Shops at Park Lane, and without my henchman, I initially felt some lightness in my loafers amidst all the concrete and retail fountain spouts. I approached the new boutique bowling arena, Bowl & Barrel, with a giddy, girlish glee. My fingers were ravenous with nostalgic muscle memories of 12 pound glistening balls launched gracefully down greased lanes. My toes tapped along the sidewalk, and spritely into the alley I leaped.
Bowl and Barrel has an intensely hip and lively interior. The restaurant area is adorned with large wooden tables straight from Renaissance-era Scotland, enchanting earth toned walls, and shelves laden with all sorts of pastoral accoutrements above the open kitchen: barrels, jugs, bottles, books, boxes, and copper. The bowling area rises out from the restaurant and bar, and possesses an equally well-crafted space to unhinge your bowling demons. The vintage-style leather bench seats sit across from each other at each lane, and the rustic brick and extended soft tones greet you with casual esteem. It’s a cozy den reminiscent of something Christopher Nolan’s Bruce Wayne might construct and allow only the hippest of friends to enjoy. The tables are shared between two lanes and might run a little tight on space if everyone is ordering, but there is plenty of room away from the lanes to drink while you wait in this fantastically boisterous bowling den. And as my fingers probed the glistening neon balls for the right fit, we ordered some drinks and settled in for what I hoped to be a record breaking pin smashing.