My first thought: a hundred reasons and more than a dozen years would prevent me from reviewing Monica’s Nueva Cocina & Mi Lounge. I have known the owner, Monica Greene, since before I became a restaurant critic. Despite my closet full of disguises, I figured there was no way I could sneak in without being recognized.
One late-September morning, though, I called Greene to ask her how the restaurant was doing. She outlined many of the changes she went through during the year it took to open. Her original plan for the space was to create a 70-seat, chef-driven, regional Mexican restaurant called Tajin. At the time, Greene was itching to get back in the kitchen and cook the food she grew up eating. She chose the name to honor Mexican history. At the El Tajin ruins near Veracruz, archaeologists uncovered relics from the Olmec people, the first major civilization in Mexico.
After neighboring restaurant Sushi Axiom closed, Greene changed her concept. She incorporated that space and geared her food to a more mainstream audience. She doubled the original fl oor plan to 7,600 square feet that include two dining rooms, two bars, room for 200 guests, and the sushi bar left by Sushi Axiom. She changed the menu from fried grasshoppers, venison carpaccio, frog legs, and no chips and salsa to “real Mexican food with a respect for Tex-Mex.” Greene hired chef Hector Hernandez from Alma and Hibiscus, and she put herself in the front of the house.
Near the end of our chat, Greene said something that I now wish she hadn’t. She told me she was leaving forNew York in a couple of days and, after that, she was taking a vacation inTurkey. I decided to write the review. I could eat anonymously, and, if it came to that, I figured our friendship could survive a negative review.
I’m a sucker for birds. So is Mexican artist Luis Sottil. You may have seen his work in other Mi Cocina restaurants: he currently has paintings in six other restaurants. The mural at the new Mi Cocina in Lakewood, in the old Matt’s space, is scheduled to open in July. Sottill uses only natural pigments such as cochinella, mother of pearl, minerals, vegetables dyes, and14kt gold in his paintings. For this painting he was inspired by these birds: “Hooded Oriole, Altamira, Golden Cheeked Warbler, Painted Bunting, Texas Hummingbirds, and the Northern Mockingbird.” Tex-Mex for Twitchers!
UPDATE: Scott from dallasfood.org brings up a good point in the comments section. Several of the birds listed above would be a rare sighting at White Rock Lake. The press release reads:
This is the first time Sottil has studied the local natural environment and incorporated it into his Mi Cocina murals. The artist has chosen to feature birds including the Hooded Oriole, Altamira, Golden Cheeked Warbler, Painted Bunting, Texas Hummingbirds and, of course, the Northern Mockingbird.
Luis Sottil was inspired by his research of the history and “exuberant beauty” of White Rock Lake and the Lakewood area, and it reminded him of the lush biodiversity on his native Tampico, Mexico. In particular, Sottil was drawn to the many colorful birds that are common inhabitants of White Rock Lake which reminded him of home.
Hmm. Methinks Sottil should seek the advice of JR Compton and switch out the golden cheeked warbler for a monk parakeet. If you truly want to represent the “exuberant beauty” of White Rock Lake.
How many times have you returned from a vacation and rushed to your favorite restaurant for a fix of your favorite food? For almost 20 years, I drove from the airport to Mi Cocina in Preston Royal and went face down in a plate of nachos. Then came In-N-Out. Okay, so Andrew doesn’t love it. He’s British. He ingests cans of Spotted Dick Sponge Pudding and Vegemite, a nasty paste I use as a bug killer.
I lived in California for 11 years so perhaps I am experiencing the reverse-home-town-food-nostalgia syndrome that affects older people because when I returned from vacation last week, I drove straight to In-N-Out and devoured a DDAS (double-double animal style) like a rabid coyote. EVERYBODY knows you order the fries crispy at INO. Everybody but Andrew.
Anywhoo, where do you go when you re-enter your life in Dallas?
I realized a little too late that the Uptown Theater I purchased tickets to was in Grand Prairie, not in the Uptown neighborhood of Dallas, where I live. Always up for an adventure, I decided to make the most of my mistake — eat someplace on Main Street, Grand Prairie before the show. Surely a Main Street anywhere has something worth eating, right?
I hit up the city’s website for a recommendation after discovering D’s own couldn’t help and chose Agua Azul. The restaurant’s website read “Mexican Seafood.” “I don’t know what ‘Mexican Seafood’ is,” I wrote my dining companion, “but I am willing to find out.”
As you can tell from the headline, I am deep in the process of procrastinating. While my real job calls for thousands of words about dining, I am convinced it is far more important that I drop what I am supposed to be doing and answer a question sent to me by PR boy toy Jef Tingley. Yes, he spells his name with one “f,” but I will save that analysis for a later procrastination post.
“Jef with one f” asked me how to boil an egg. Don’t laugh. How many times have you had tiny shards of shell pierce the delicate skin beneath your fingernail? I shared my secret with “Jef with one f” by private message on Facebook which made several people curious enough to email and ask (BEG!) for my secret.
You are going to have to jump hard. Continue reading "The Perfect Procrastination: How To Boil an Egg"11 Comments »
I love press releases. I live for them. I get maybe 60 a day. Sometimes more. Sometimes they piss me off. Other times they crack me up. In the spirit of fun, I bring you the opening line of : RATHBUN’S BLUE PLATE KITCHEN INTRODUCES CHEF JENNIFER NEWBOLD
“Today Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen introduced Chef Jennifer Newbold, who will work directly under Executive Chef and Partner, Kent Rathbun.”
Yow. Zah. That could make it hard to reach the salamander! But seriously, Rathbun has added a new female chef which always makes me happy. Newbold has been in Rathbun’s fold (clearing throat) for some time. She’s cheffed at Jasper’s. Before that she cooked at Blue Point Coastal Cuisine in San Diego. She’s originally from Washington where “she often hunted, fished, and cooked with her dad, as well as cultivated fruit and vegetable gardens at home. Working directly with the land and its bounty developed her interest in food and has carried over into her career, as Newbold regularly engages with local farmers to ensure that Blue Plate Kitchen’s menu features dishes as fresh and local as possible.”
Kinky. Okay, all in fun. If we can’t kid each other who can we kid?
Forgive me Master Sommeliers and wine collectors around the world, I have sinned. I am here to confess my deepest darkest wine secret: I improperly stored four bottles of fabulous wine. For nearly 35 years.
Look at the photos and weep with (for?) me. I recently uncovered these bottles in a box buried beneath a pile of old Christmas decorations in my garage. Yes, my garage, where it sat for close to 35 summers, winters, springs, and falls. I am a human species of Phylloxera.
I could have pulled another Billionaire’s Vinegar and called Sotheby’s and claimed the wine was given to me by Richard Nixon and I’ve kept it hidden in a bricked-up Paris cellar. Instead I’m posting pictures of my crime. Perhaps there are others who have committed the same dirty deed.
Full confession below. Continue reading "Confession: I am Guilty of a Heinous Wine Crime"22 Comments »
A friend just called and told me Mai’s Oriental in Snider Plaza had closed. I looked up some old reviews of the spot which was opened by Mai Phom in 1994. Then I realized that sometime within the last two years, the name of the restaurant was changed to Jiang’s Cuisine. I had no idea the restaurant had switched hands until this moment.
I feel horrible. Mai Phom was Dallas’ primary Vietnamese cuisine evangelist. She opened the city’s first popular Vietnamese restaurant in 1980. The original restaurant in East Dallas still bears her name but she moved to the tiny spot in Snider Plaza where she could be found every day. My former colleague Mary Brown Malouf once wrote:
“Those were the days when ethnic food meant Mexican food, unless it meant Szechuan. Now Vietnamese is practically mainstream and even has at least one almost upscale representative. Mainly, it has become habitual; many of us go out for Vietnamese as often as we go out for Mexican. So it seems strange to me that Mai, who was a pioneer, is now relatively unknown. Her little restaurant in Snider Plaza is practically a secret.”
I tried to reach someone with the restaurant to get a clear picture of what has transpired, but they have already closed and there is no voicemail. If anybody out there has the story, I’d love to know it.
UPPITY DATE: Jiang’s Cuisine has moved.11 Comments »
In 1971, I spent most of my Sunday mornings in a line around the original Herrera’s on Maple Avenue. My friends and I would sit under a dripping window AC unit for hours, waiting for our turn at one of the nine tables inside the tiny, lard-based Tex-Mex restaurant. Once seated, you popped open the six-pack of Coors you brought with you and watched founder Amelia Herrera hand-pat flour tortillas by the front door. The food was such a religious experience for me that, 17 years later, I got married at Herrera’s, which by then had moved into a bigger building across the street and expanded into more locations all over Dallas. Recently, they moved into a newer building down Maple.3 Comments »
Two days ago, I approved the post “Nine Best Milkshakes in Dallas” written by Danielle Glick (DallasFoodie). Sarah Reiss and I met with Danielle before she was asked to write one post a month. I knew Danielle was a social media marketer and that she had some clients in the food business. I asked her to write a disclaimer if she ever mentioned any of her clients in a post. (She was not paid by SideDish for the post and we paid for her milkshakes.) The milkshake post gave Twisted Root the highest rating of the group she sampled. Unfortunately, Twisted Root is one of Danielle’s clients. Within 24 hours, a sharp-eyed SideDish reader pointed the fact out to me. I pulled the post.
Obviously there was a miscommunication.On SideDish, we do everything we can to avoid a conflict of interest. We pay for the food we review, we let you know if a report is from a free event or media dinner, and if there is a conflict with a restaurateur, we report that as well. And we have a closet full of wigs to prove it.
UPDATE: Danielle Glick: “I had no reason to hide anything and every reason to try to prevent something negative from happening, so I was taking careful notes on what you said I needed to do. In Nancy’s follow-up article about me she wrote, “I asked her to write a disclaimer if she ever mentioned any of her clients in a post.”, but I do not have that statement in my notes or my memory. If I did, I would have gladly written such a disclaimer.”22 Comments »
Wednesday night, Travel Channel show Man V. Food Nation aired the episode they shot in Dallas. Our ace reality TV food reporter, Harrison Smith, dutifully watched the show and turned his report on time. I, however, failed to post it in a timely manner. My apology to Harrison. Below he recaps the show and incorporate lots of pho-ny puns in the process. And yes, that’s pronounced “fuh,” not “foe.”
Adam Richman lives the life I dream of: traveling the country, eating lots of food, acting silly, and getting paid. Richman hosts Man V. Food Nation, which, if the show doesn’t sound familiar, is to Man V. Food as tomato bisque is to the tomato. It’s the next step, naturally.
After traveling the country, eating lots of food, acting silly, and getting paid to do Man V. Food for three seasons, Richman now does the same thing—but invites seemingly normal eaters (like Pete McGillis of our own Dallas, Texas) to do it with him. Adam coached Pete to take down the Super Pho Challenge at Sprout’s Springroll & Pho. Pete had to consume five pounds of the Vietnamese noodle soup in 30 minutes.
Jump.14 Comments »
Beginning today, July 15, 2011, I am banning the use of the word YUM from any post on SideDish. You can YUM away all you want in the comments, but I will do my best to keep it from appearing in an official report. I do my best to stay away from “foodie,” but have yet to find the perfect replacement. YUM, however, has many. HOWEVER, I reserve the right to use “yummers” or “yum” when I am being sarcastic or quoting a person.
If you spot the word YUM in a post after today, you will win a prize. Carry on.9 Comments »
I spent the whole weekend in front of my computer. That doesn’t mean I was working the whole time—I should have been—but a lot of the time I performed many other important tasks such as checking updates on TMZ, Facebook, and “the fightin’ SideDish followers” on Twitter.
Anywhoo, two names kept popping up in my Twitter @box: @chefpyles (as in Stephan) and @beyondthekit (chef David Gilbert. Remember him!). They were in Santa Fe together and eating all over town. Now, I wasn’t born yesterday, I was born 21,389 days ago, so I have a little experience in predicting what the mischievous behavior of these two chefs means. I’m feeling bold enough to predict Pyles has a new restaurant in the works and he’s grooming David Gilbert to be his chef. Perhaps the Southwestern will rise again! But that’s just me. I could be wrong. It’s happened.4 Comments »
Good morning, SideDish Nation. I’d like to begin this fine day with a rumor. True or false? Sharon Hage is going to be the new chef at the Place at Perry’s which has plans to move into new digs across the street. I’ll be back in a minute with the answer. (If you get bored, count how many times I used “at” in this post.)
UPPITY DATE: “False-ish,” Hage said. She has been asked to “explore a menu refresh.” The gig is only for a week.
I have mixed feelings about Ruth Reichl. For many years I devoured everything she wrote. After reading her first couple books, I grew a little weary of her style. Her writing is florid like perfume. Sometimes she says so much with just a spritz; other times her words overwhelm your senses.
However, she has been a talented, successful, and authoritative voice to my generation of eaters and writers. When I got a chance to sit down with Ms. Reichl at a conference in Minneapolis, oh about ten years ago, I was ready to bond.
Didn’t happen. She was rude. She never looked me in the eye. She didn’t ask me one thing about myself or Dallas. (Wouldn’t a national food magazine editor be curious about the dining scene in a major US city?) She was deep into her job as Queen of Gourmet and she didn’t want to talk about food criticism. She was “past that.”
Well, goody for her. Gourmet died and Ruth rose above the rubble. She’s had a series of glam jobs on TV, she wrote books, and is the executive producer of Garlic and Sapphires, a film based on her memoirs. And she has great hair (which I’m sure she hates). My disappointment in Reichl has morphed into mind-numbing mixture of jealousy and resentment. Especially when it comes to her hair.
Today, cue Elton John, Ruth Reichl is back. She is the editorial advisor to Gilt Taste, an online magazine/catalog (webazinelog?) featuring fine writing, artisanal products, and lots of Ruth. Does she get on your nerves or do you love her flowery prose (and The Bridges of Madison County)? But here’s the good news.3 Comments »
NBC’s Greg Janda sent me a link to Annie Potzasznik’s story on the official announcement: The Green Room is closed. The only question remaining is: Am I still a rumor monger?
From Green Room’s Facebook page on Jan 12:
3 Comments »
I used to love to cook. My ex-husband used to invite scads of people over whenever I decided to get down in the kitchen. However, for a variety of reasons (love the shoes!), I don’t cook much anymore. I tend to do a lot of heating up and potato baking. This morning, the James Beard Foundation hit me with a divine recipe for duck meat loaf. I am born again. The master of my new universe? Chef Ryan Angulo of Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn. All I need is a Dallas source for ground duck meat and I’m good to go on this. Duck fat can cure the blues for sure.3 Comments »
According to the Green Room Dallas’s Facebook page:
“Contrary to Nancy Nichols’ uninformed rumor mongering, the Green Room is not closed. We will reopen Tuesday, January 18th with a new menu and new wine list for the new year.”
Okay, well thanks for posting it on FB instead of returning my calls. I guess if you open on January 18 with a new menu you can throw a pie in my face. And, where will chef Harloff be in this picture? I still smell something fishy. Why in the world would you close your restaurant and not update your voicemail? Why would you not put out a release (Taylor Allday’s wife runs a PR company) stating the restaurant was closing to revamp menu, etc. Just curious. Sure I jumped the gun and I apologize if I reported a non-truth. I guess only time will tell.
UPDATE: Leslie Brenner called the Green Room. She reports the message has been changed to reflect the fact that they plan on reopening.
UP-UPDATE: This email from Brynn Bagott Allday, wife of GR owner Taylor Allday and owner of PR company that reps the Green Room. “We have been trying to confirm the details and obtain additional information to share with you about the Green Room’s plans. As soon as we know more, we will be sure to let you know.”