An interesting controversy erupted late last week after DMN restaurant critic, Leslie Brenner, released her Best in DFW: Barbecue list. In case you have been leading a normal life and missed the brouhaha, you can catch up by reading the recap post published last Friday on SideDish.
First, I would like to talk about print publications and “best” lists. I have been generating them for 14 years and I know how hard they are to put together. Or rather, how hard they can be if you actually do the legwork. As the food editor of a major city magazine, I’ve learned a few of the dirty secrets in the publishing business. Especially when it comes to lists relating to “bests” and food.
Here is a big one: Most print publications do not spend the time or money necessary to create genuine, editorial “best” lists. The task of compiling them is usually doled out to staffers and underlings to do the research before the “editors” take over. (In some–too many–cases, that never happens.) It is an accepted practice for national food publications to call local food publications for input when they are working on their best lists. Do you really think Esquire eats at all of those burger joints before they declare the best in America?
I have no idea how the Dallas Morning News researches their Best in DFW: Whatever lists. I can only give you my opinion of those they have printed over the last couple of years. They are lazy, weightless amalgamations. None of them include a description of the methods used in quantifying the “winners.” The paper promotes them as “Leslie Brenner’s” but, in small print, claim: “How we choose. The Best in DFW series presents critics’ and staff picks and asks readers to chime in with their favorites. Critics’ picks are presented without ranking.”
If that is the way you conduct your research, put it in your first paragraph. And add authority by ranking the picks.52 Comments »
After the World Series, I asked you guys to tell me where to ease my depression by going face down in a plate of enchiladas. I took all of your suggestions to heart, but headed to one of my usual down-and-dirty favs, Escondido. As I drove down Maple, I passed Avila’s. I haven’t eaten there since the high-drama family feud that sent Ricky Avila to open Mextopia on Greenville erupted.
I’ve always liked Avila’s. One of my favorite things about the place is the smell that greets you when you open the door—fresh chopped jalapenos, onions, and cilantro. The “new” Avila’s, now run by one branch of the family, has an updated interior. The walls are a cheery blue and the enlarged Mexican Loteria cards hanging on said walls pop out like friendly greeters.
But grrrrrrrrr on the enchiladas! I ordered the “Anita’s”: one cheese enchilada, one soft cheese taco, and one meat taco. The ground beef in the hard shell taco was inedible, almost sour. The soft cheese taco was covered with a runny yellow queso that, save for the pickled jalapenos I threw on top, was void of flavor. Even an enchilada covered with a meaty chili sauce was bland. There were no crunchy onions in the center. No think gooey melted cheese oozing out. No comfort. Oh, and the guacamole was just a scoop of mashed avocado we had to dress with spoonfuls of salsa, salt, and lemon. The underlying lettuce was brown. I know they can do better than this, but next time I want to use up valuable calories, I will head to El Jordan or Escondido. Or, at this point, Mexico. So depressed.
On my last birthday, I celebrated with one too many gimlets and a joy ride in some guy named Chuck’s convertible (legalities prohibit me from saying whether it was Norris or the guy from that spy show. Suffice it to say, I won’t be going back to LA anytime soon). Turns out, however, that not everyone celebrates with such willful disregard for good taste. Take Scardello, the site of my introduction to great cheese. Turns out they’re turning 2 on October 30 with a free, come-one-come-all party — our favorite kind — from 5:30-10:30 pm, during which owners Rich and Karen Rogers plan to trot out some rare surprises in the form of “cheesemonger’s choice” cheese plates. Your first glass of wine will only run you $2 (after that, you’re on your own at $6). But if you have one too many, stay away from anyone named Chuck. Take it from me, it won’t end well.
After two local email newsletters featured J. Black’s Feelgood Lounge in the same week, I had two friends ask me to go. One was seduced by the idea of the Bloody Mary bar; the other by the words “brunch” and “Austin” together in a sentence. I based my decision on the online menu, which looked like a solid field of tasty American dishes. And so with my Austin-loving friend I went for brunch on Sunday. It was a lot to, ehem, digest. Continue reading "Restaurant Review: Brunch at J. Black’s Feelgood Lounge in Dallas"5 Comments »
Here’s something for the whole family that involves eating something good for a good cause.
WHAT: Take the kids to meet the Cupcake Queen (no, not me), sample cupcakes until their stomaches ache, get their faces painted, play games, and more to benefit Musical Angels, which gives kids in hospitals access to musical instruments.
WHEN: Sat., Aug. 14, 2-5 p.m.
WHERE: South Side on Lamar, 1409 S. Lamar St., Studio 101.
HOW MUCH: Admission is free, and so are the cupcakes. Donations will be accepted.
More info at www.MusicalAngels.net.
I feel badly that I didn’t get this up sooner. But what can I say? A carton of frosting fell on my head.1 Comment »
My thermometer reads 104 degrees. I am attempting to make margarita popsicles but my mother wants one now. Let’s all go to….1 Comment »
Sorry, I was writing a post to run tomorrow morning and accidentally hit publish instead of save. Therefore, if you are looking for the story about Bob Sambol, you will have to wait until 9:00 am on Tuesday.5 Comments »
Blame it on the full moon. Blame it on the bossa nova. What. Ever. A few gals from the office went to dinner last Saturday at Horne & Dekker and one slipped part of a centerpiece into her purse. It wasn’t an elaborate candle or flower arrangement, the centerpieces at Horne & Dekker are a trio of house-labeled peas, carrots, and whoopass wrapped in kitschy H &D labeling. On their way out, one eagle-eyed darling spotted a lonely can of Whoopass on the patio and couldn’t contain herself. She had to know what was inside. (Full story here.) I sent a note of apology to owners Shawn Horne and Flynn Dekker and they replied:
I thought we were a little light on the Whoopass around here. We forgive your associate, but ask that she please return the silverware and fine china. Just remember that opening the can of Whoopass may cause harm…serious harm.
For the record, no china or silverware was swiped from the restaurant—just one No. 303 can of Whoopass. We asked you to guess what was in the can and we had a few bets going on around the office. Watch The Whoopass Mystery for the reveal.13 Comments »
Unfortunately, Uncle Nancy wasn’t feeling well yesterday, so she sent me along with People Newspapers photographer Christina Barany to cover The Last Supper at Aurora. Chef/owner Avner Samuel said he was going to pull out all of the stops on this dinner, and he most certainly did. It was an elaborate 11-course meal that consisted of some of the most exquisite ingredients around. Think black summer truffles, prime osetra caviar, and gold-leaf garnishes. And the service was superb – the waiters were polite and attentive. It was my first time to dine at Aurora, and I’m heartbroken that I won’t be able to return like so many of Avner’s loyal customers have over the years. I can easily say it was the best meal that I have ever had. But my post-meal happiness quickly turned to panic when I received the bill. I thought this was literally going to be my last supper. I was either going to die of a heart attack right then and there, or Uncle Nancy was going to kill me with her bare hands for somehow managing to rack up a $560 ticket. I tossed and turned all night trying to figure out the best way to break the news to Nancy, none of which really sounded like great options. I thought up story after story, but I decided the truth was the way to go. Jump for Nancy’s reaction and the recap.23 Comments »
I’m 0 for 2 this week in assignments I’ve made to interns. This time, I send Hannah Boen to cover a preview of the Caesar Salad Competition. Hannah hates Caesar salad. Her report after the jump.9 Comments »
I’m pleased to become one of SideDish’s new guest bloggers with a series called CuriousDish. My goal is to explore food memories: the smell, the visual, the surroundings, and the people you dine with. No in-depth reviews on food and wine. I want to get you thinking and talking about dining in Dallas.
Almost 20 years ago I arrived in Dallas, legendary for oil, technology, and women with big, beautiful hair. A 30-something single man, originally from elsewhere in Texas, but most recently expatriated to Europe, I was back in the U.S. and starting a new era in my life in Dallas. Strolling down the aisle at Love Field, I noticed a nice, glossy magazine with a Big “D” on the top right corner. The cover story of the August 1999 isse, written by Mary Brown Malouf and others, was “The 100 Best Restaurants.” I bought my first D Magazine.
What better way to get to know my new home town than through visiting local restaurants? I vowed that I would work my way through the list.
My first stop was, number 28 on the list, Dakota’s, described by Mary as “seriously handsome.” However, I would never make all 100 as some closed soon after I arrived. I missed Scott,s – A Seafood House (#23) on McKinney where La Duni now has a location and many more in cursed locations and are now closed. Of the original 100, about half are still open. Of course, that means half have closed.
Over the course of the last 20 years, I have huge memories of many of these places. For many years, I circled each of them in my old copy of D as I crossed them off of my list. I remember the disappointment when Café America (#30), one of the sexiest on the list, burned down. And in the early 90s, many a Thursday night was spent at Arcodoro/Pomodoro (#25). I’ll bet everyone has a special memory of The Grape (#29).
I never did make it through the entire list. Too many had shut down. Seven years after my stroll down the Love Field aisle, when my then-fiancé found the 7-year-old D Magazine, I faced serious questioning. What did those circles mean? Fortunately, The Mansion and The Riviera had not been circled. I had “saved” the best for her.
So what are your favorite taste memories from this list. I’d like to know. I’m curious.
Complete list below the jump. Continue reading "CuriousDish: Exploring the Food Experience in Dallas"13 Comments »
Last July, thanks to the nice folks at Arts & Letters Live, several loyal SideDish readers were invited to a private screening of the movie Julie& Julia. I wrote a review of the movie.
The following night I attended the Arts & Letters Live program that featured the Julie Powell, the Julie who wrote the blog that the movie was based on. After the program, Julie and I had a chat. I told her I didn’t like her.
I wish I could chat with Julie today. Actually, I wish I could pick up the phone and call Meryl Streep because she got screwed at the Academy Awards. Julie & Julia was not the greatest movie ever made, but Streep pulled off the bigger-than-life character of Julia Child. She took acting to another level.
Which brings me to last night. Over a plate of King Ranch casserole I watched The Blind Side. Other than Waiting to Exhale, The Blind Side is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I have nothing against Sandra Bullock—even her cute little body can’t pull off tight white pants. But she was not “Best Actress” material by any stretch of the imagination.10 Comments »
Several people have emailed me about the spelling of macaroons. Some say the cookie should be spelled “macaron”; others insist on “macaroon.” I debated the spelling with two food peeps who double as grammarians. They disagreed with each other. So, I picked “macaroon” because that is how it is spelled in Larousse Gastronomic. However, this person, makes a good point: the two spellings refer to two different types of cookies. Macarons are a French cookie made with almond flour, sugar, and egg whites. They are meringue-y. (Oh, that sounds like a new dance!) Macaroons are a coconut-based cookie made of egg whites, sugar and shredded coconut. I am so confused. The smartest person I know insists on “the double o” because it is the American spelling and we live and write in America. You guys decide. I’m sure Kirk is lurking out there somewhere. He’ll clear this up. Go.12 Comments »
Don’t know how it happened but our web listing for Chic From Barcelona said the restaurant is closed. It’s not. It’s open. Go. Eat. Report.8 Comments »
Long story short: Yesterday I wrote a post about Bundles Gourmet in Lewisville. A co-worker brought me some samples and people in the office seemed to like them. A bundle is a yeast roll filled with sweet and savory fillings such as spinach and feta, chicken curry, chocolate hazelnut, and cinnamon. (Here is the menu.) Anywhoo, after I posted the news I asked the co-worker how she came across Bundles Gourmet in Lewisville. She admitted that her father owned the store. I took the post down. Several of you sharpshooters out there noticed the edit and asked me why I removed the post.
I decided to give them a try. Last night I took the leftover bundles home and heated them in a real oven—all we have here is a microwave and I couldn’t imagine radiation plus yeast would equal gourmet. I sampled the chicken curry and broccoli and sun dried tomato. I love yeast rolls—I grew up eating them for lunch every day in the cafeteria of Arthur Kramer Elementary School—and these little bundles are good yeast rolls. However, the fillings are skimpy—there isn’t a good proportion of roll to meat or chocolate and after two you are full and feel like you will burst if you drink a glass of water. The product is an appealing idea—this morning I tried the cinnamon roll with my coffee—but I get that these little bundles are better when they fresh from the oven. The Bundles Gourmet in Lewisville is the first store. You can visit and buy a bundle or a Bundles Gourmet. They are trademarked and ready to roll out.6 Comments »
Yesterday, after I confessed my addiction to the Swirly Goodness of Pinkberry, a commenter, John M, admitted he is tempted to mainline frozen yogurt. He’s even begs you for a place to score. Light a cig, pull up a cold folding chair, and listen to his story:
OK, now I have a Red Mango a block away from my house and a Yogalicious, Orange Cup and Pinkberry half a mile and a free trolly ride away. I’m too lazy and a creature of habit to figure this out and have tried none of them so could someone please tell me where I should be going since I apparently live in the yogurt district now?
A yogurt district. Brilliant. The thought of a yogurt district in Dallas makes my heart race. Image a city full of froyo addicts. Taking public transportation to get a fix. Pinkberry’s secret recipe sold to undercover agents in the alley behind Landry’s in the West End. Red Mango corporate executives gunned down in an Italian restaurant. (Oh wait, we don’t have any good ones. Okay, a New American restaurant with truffle fries.) Dallas, once again, will make international headlines. Al Pacino is still around. He will play John M. in a remake of Panic in Needle Park .
Do you have two or more froyo spots near your house? Are you scared? Do you let your kids go to Menchie’s alone? (Full disclosure: I relapsed last night and hit Pinkberry at 7:30 pm. There were 16 kids between 14 and 18 in that tiny store.) You think this is a joke? Then your mother never allowed you to eat baked cellulite.11 Comments »
Once upon a time in a faraway land, I fell in love. Truly, madly, deeply in love with a boy. I think of my first love often, especially when I hear Dionne Warwick sing “I Know I’ll Never Love This Way Again.” For me, he will always hold a special place in my heart.
The Green Room also holds a special place in my heart/stomach. The restaurant was a sexy loveable place that ran on spontaneity and free spirit. Each meal I shared with family, friends, and lovers at the Green Room was magical. The Green Room was stocked with talented, risk-taking people. The cutting edge cuisine was created on the fly. Customers entered the grungy-from-the-outside spot with low expectations and emerged like religious converts. I can’t think of another restaurant in Dallas that gripped the souls of Dallas diners like the Green Room did.
Yesterday when the Teegster reported that the Green Room and Club Dada were reopening, the news opened a flow of happiness from diners who were baptized in the foodie temple. Don’t get me wrong—I hope the upcoming incarnation is a success, but I have to ask the question: Can you go home? Warwick asks/sings, “A fool will lose tomorrow reaching back for yesterday.”
The expectations of former Green Room customers will be over-the-top. Even though much of the old staff has been assembled, there is one grim reality—it is 2009. “Green” has a whole new meaning. The once innovative prix fixe Feed-Me-Wine-Me program is now done all over town in one way, shape, or form. The challenge for the new Green Room may be to put the romantic past behind and come up with a new formula for success. It will be an interesting project. I’d love to hear your thoughts.36 Comments »
Yesterday at 2:59 p.m., Dave “Fairies” Faries announced on City of Ate that he hated candy corn. At 4:29 p.m., Leslie “Catch a Falling Star” Brenner proclaimed, “Here at the Dallas Morning News, we love it.”
I’ve gotta go with Faries on this. That stuff is nasty. It tastes like wax-coated “sugar.” But if Dave Faries would ever talk to me, I’d like to ask him why he insists on doing these silly wine and “food” pairings. Why would you pair a wine with candy corn or Frito’s or other random junk food? I’m just curious.
However, Mr. Faries inspired me to explore the Internet and search for my identity. Here are the results.
According to this website, I am a Snickers Bar.
“You’re a nut. Like a Snickers bar. You like to be around people and you are friendly. You are a constant smile. Some people consider you overly energetic but if you stopped being so cheery, everyone would miss the real you.”
According to this website, I am a Sauvignon Blanc.
Engaging and energetic, you have a lot to offer the world – most of it they’ve never seen anywhere else! You are the type of person who carves your own path in life… and you invite everyone else to come along. The only thing predictable about you is that you could have anything up your sleeve. You’re all about sampling all of life’s experiences. Both the savory and unsavory ones.
Deep down you are: Laid back and young at heart
Your partying style: Anything goes… seriously!
Your company is enjoyed best with: Smoked meats or spicy food.
So, there you have me. What about you? La Brenner and Mr. Faries, I think it only fair you weigh in here. And Teegster, spit that candy corn out of your mouth and play. Anything goes!5 Comments »
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I was working at La Cave Wine Bar on Henderson and a man called ahead to reserve a table in the back of the room near the cellar. He said he was going to have a flower arrangement sent to the restaurant and he would like it placed on a table along with a champagne bucket filled with ice and a chilled bottle of Dom Perignon. He pre-selected a cheese and pate plate. “I don’t want my wife to have to think,” he said. “No problem sir,” I said. (Whoops.)
That evening the couple showed up on time. They were dressed to the nines. I can still see her silver sequined dress. She’d had her hair done by Mr. Larry across the street. She moved through the room and perfumed the air with the strong scent of Opium. The dapper gentleman pulled out her chair. They sat side-by-side. They held hands across the table. I moved in to open the Champagne. It was then that I noticed the 4X6 note cards on his lap. Pop! went the cork. She sliced a bite of aged Mimolette.
I’m stuck at home in my little glass house. I see a few pebbles on the floor and I think I will toss them.
I just scanned through the Dallas Observer’s 2009 Best of Dallas® Food list. It reminds me of that Who song. What is it, Kirk? Something about the new boss and the old boss? YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Bomp, bomp, bomp. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Dave Fairies, I have a quick question: Does the Observer repeat “Bests” if, when the next year rolls around, no one else fills the category as “Better®?” (That’s mine, dude.) This is a serious question and I ask it because I have to deal with the beast of ‘Bests” and understand the difficulty at uncovering them. So, Mr. Fairies, do you roll over “Bests” from year to year by moving them into different categories or because they are the “Best” of their original category? Let’s go through the list together and see. Jump with me. It’s not far. Continue reading "Dallas Observer 2009 Best of Dallas® Food List: What do You Think?"17 Comments »