Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What if Anthony Bourdain came to Dallas?

Most of us can agree, Anthony Bourdain has the BEST job in the world. On his show No Reservations, Bourdain travels around the world as hosts from each locale help to expose their unique culture and cuisine, however wacky or mundane.

It is my fantasy to be Bourdain's Dallas episode tour guide and my mission to MAKE him like Dallas (or Texas, for that matter). With his dry sense of humor, irreverent persona, passion for the culinary arts, and insatiable thirst for alcohol, I'm certain we will be fast friends.

The phrase, "I would definitely take Bourdain here" has been incorporated into my everyday vernacular as I constantly refine my 'No Reservation itinerary'. Needless to say, when the Travel Channel comes knocking at my door to host 'No Reservations: The Dallas Episode', I'm ready to go!

First stop: Fuel City. Tell me where else you'll find a gasoline station with roaming longhorns, a swimming pool complete with bikini-clad women, and a karaoke truck (just in case you might want to belt out your favorite Latin tunes) as the setting for a 24-hour taco stand with surprisingly authentic al pastor and barbacoa tacos.

Next up: Tillman's Roadhouse for Dallas' twist on a Texas staple. Amongst wooden animal heads and over-sized chandeliers, we will feast on venison Frito pie and braised buffalo short ribs in culture-ridden Oak Cliff (I can hear Bourdain's raging commentary now).

Then onto Rattlesnake Bar in the Ritz-Carlton for a margarita and to scope out Dallasites at their finest. Gotta go to Fearing's to sample southwestern fusion cuisine at its best, after all Dean Fearing has been an icon for so long that he is woven into our Dallas tapestry.

On the hole-in-the-wall circuit will be Odom's for BBQ, Chapman Chile Kitchen for Texas chile and stuffed jalapenos, La Hechizera for chicken tinga huaraches (pictured above) and ice-cold Mexican soft drinks, and the The Grapevine Bar for bloody mary's and people watching. Then, with an invitation from Ricardo Avila, we will enjoy Avila's brisket chile rellenos and throw back shots of various tequilas until we are salsa dancing down Maple Street (or until our stomachs can take no more).

But to dispel Bourdain's stereotypes of Dallas, I'm gonna need some help. As only one of many Dallas foodies, I need other's opinions of what sums up our unique city. Tell me your 'No Reservations itinerary'!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mom's milkshake meets its match

It was my mom’s and my favorite homemade treat, but I could never quite make it as well as she did. It only takes three, well four, steps but those simple steps come together to make the best milkshake anyone has ever had.

1) Scoop chocolate ice cream into a large brightly colored plastic tumbler

2) Pour just-the-right amount of skim milk over the ice cream (the proportion of ice cream to milk was VERY important)

3) Stir until you bring the concoction to the perfect consistency (not too thin nor too thick)

4) Eat with a spoon - too thick to drink with a straw

It isn't brain surgery but no one can perfect it like Mom does, and that includes me.

I can remember sitting in our turquoise colored kitchen watching her make the frosty milkshake for our after-dinner treat, taking meticulous mental notes, and wishing mine came out as silky, creamy, and luscious as hers.

Still to this day, I still cannot master her simple milkshake. But, I have found the next best thing. Burguesa Burger, a drive-thru Mexican burger hut on lower Inwood, makes a delicious, chocolaty, rich milkshake. While their monstrous burgers and salty fries are out-of-this-world good, it is their milkshakes that keep me craving. Topped with a sugar doughnut, this shake is so thick that you will resort to using the straw as a makeshift spoon. And the best part, it tastes just my mom's milkshake complete with childhood memories.

So here’s a question for all you out there…well two questions. Where do you find your favorite milkshake in Dallas? Secondly, is there something that your mom made that seems so simple but you can’t seem to master (those that may conjure up great memories)? I look forward to reading your comments!!

  • 2222 Inwood Rd., Dallas, TX 75235
  • 214.350.7772

Friday, October 16, 2009

YUTAKA: Add some zen to your lunch

I found the BEST lunch spot and I want everyone to know about it. The usual lunch suspects might be a quick sandwich, salad, soup, etc. But hold on to your seats friends, because I want to introduce you to sushi and bento boxes for your mid-day munchies.

Yutaka Sushi Bistro on McKinney is my new fav lunch spot. Just run into this tiny little Asian shoebox of a restaurant and brush all your daily stresses and to-do lists to the wayside.

Our days are chalked full of cell phones, responsibilities, emails, crisis moments, and controlled chaos and Yutaka is its antithesis. Calm, serene, unassuming, relaxing, zen - those five words manifest themselves into Yutaka’s atmosphere. Sit, sip on lush green tea, take a deep breath and exhale your daily grind. (And don't worry, you can still get in and out in 30 minutes!)

Silky smooth Yellowtail sashimi with jalapenos in a bright, citrus yuzu sauce will immediately lift your spirits when you order it as an appetizer. Wanting a quick jump start, order the shishito peppers and perk right up.

At $14, lunch can’t get much better with Yutaka’s Bento Box 'B'. For your mere 14-dollar purchase, you receive a soul-warming cup of fresh miso soup, a springy green ginger salad, a beautifully delicate California roll, crunchy vegetable tempura, melt-in-your-mouth miso glazed black cod and fresh fruit too. Trust me, this lunch will satisfy for the whole day.

Make Yutaka Sushi Bistro your getaway destination for lunch and hush those 12 o'clock hunger pains.

  • 2633 McKinney Ave., Dallas, TX
  • 214.969.5533

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

HACIENDA - Bold colors, bland food

I wanted to love Hacienda on Henderson. Tex-Mex cuisine, spanning patio with a gorgeous fountain, vibrant colors, up-beat music, yummie cocktail menu…Hacienda had my name written all over it – well until I ate there.

While the prices are quite reasonable, nothing particularly tasted all that good. Im not saying that everything was terrible, but Im not saying that anything was great.

We tried the tuna crudo, shrimp cocktail, beefy and cheezy enchilada, brisket tacos and a few other house specialties and none had much flavor. The food is just bland and dumbed-down. At one point our server warned us that the sauce on the enchiladas was "very, very spicy". I was shocked when I was actually able to eat it (I have a very low tolerance for spicy food). Just one example of how nothing seemed to deliver.

This is my two cents – go to Hacienda for the bar. Go for the music, go for the drinks and just go for the scene.

Don’t go for the food.

  • 2326 N Henderson Ave, Dallas TX
  • 214.515.9990

Bailey's Prime Plus

After much debate and flip-flopping, we decided on Bailey’s Prime Plus for our dining destination last night (and boy, what a destination it turned out to be!). First step inside this sprawling eatery, I was immediately transported to Las Vegas. A restaurant of this grandeur belongs on The Strip rather than in the Big D. From the water features to the black and gold motif, this is a beautiful restaurant. And the bar…sexy! Red crystal chandeliers, black lacquer floors and nude art draping the walls screams “new Dallas hot-spot”!

The food was good. Steaks, perfectly seasoned and prepared, being the best part of dinner (as they should be), while appetizers somewhat disappointed. The almond-encrusted fried brie was glorified fried cheese sticks and the chicken-fried lobster stuffed avocado lacked a reasonable amount of lobster (4 tiny pieces to be exact). But dont get me wrong, we ate every bit of both appetizers! Order the lobster bisque and you will be licking the bowl for every last drop! Sides were just O.K. We had the button mushrooms in a red wine sauce and the lobster mac-and-cheese and neither seems to win us over. Next time we will try the scalloped potatoes as I have heard they are fabulous.

Special thanks to Mr. Ivy (the sommelier) for the great wine recommendation. Never before this night had I tried a white from Chateauneuf -du-Pape. I was looking for a unique white and he definitely steered me in the right direction! Interesting wine, beer and cocktail selection, so go and check it out!

  • 8160 Park Lane Suite 130, Dallas TX
  • 214.750.8100

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bolsa- 'They've got it in the bag"

The space is a converted automobile garage. Anything salvageable or reusable was. The old garage doors make for a beautiful wall of windows letting in natural light and a sense of nakedness. Original concrete floors have been transformed into patio stepping-stones while old timber, carbon piping and cinder blocks have been reincarnated making Bolsa restaurant and market perfectly “green”.

With no deep fryer or deep freezer and an honest effort to use local produce and meats to develop their ever-changing menu, Bolsa is all too perfect for the bohemian-ish Oak Cliff location. 

I walked through the door and was instantly over taken by the smell of fresh mango swirling in the air. Glancing towards the bar, I notice both bartenders diligently muddling mangos through strainers to infuse vodka and rum. While saying a quick ‘hello’ to an old friend, Jullian behind the bar, handed us a mango mojito (a potential newcomer to the cocktail menu). Ah ha, the reason for all the elbow grease. With a little tweaking and less sugar, Bolsa’s mango mojito will be a hit.

First thing I notice is a gorgeous wood table in the middle of the dining room. It looks like a simple slice of an enormous tree trunk. It would definitely look MUCH better in MY house! The wall of produce (hand selected at local farmer’s markets) is equally eye-catching. Whatever the kitchen might need or is currently using can be found there. Everything from spices to veggies are tucked away, no need for a pantry in the back.

Keeping with the open, breezy feel of the space, the bar opens to outdoor bar seating and a patio. (Simply popping open the windows behind the bar creates an inventive indoor/outdoor, double-sided bar). Weather permitting; sit on the patio, its lovely. With only a few two-top tables, multiple picnic-type tables and benches reinforce the friendly, comfortable atmosphere.

Enough gawking, it was now time to sit and enjoy (of course we opt to eat outside). Our super casual and totally friendly waiter immediately came over and fielded a multitude of questions about the cocktail list. With names like “bloodhound/bluehound” and “the recession” and no descriptions of the drinks, you know I had to drill him before making a decision. The fresh-juiced sandia margarita (watermelon margarita for all you non-Spanish speakers) easily sold me. Light, refreshing and packed with serious watermelon flavor, it’s the perfect summer-time drink. My only complaint, too sweet (seems to be a theme). Next time I’ll ask for half the sugar.

Exploring an exciting cocktail menu can get a bit dangerous with no food in my tummy so we immediately ordered the bruschetta tasting plate. Four different bruschetta preparations are served, and on this night my favorite was the Texas tomatoes over Dallas goat cheese and basil. On a second visit, I bogarded the salty prosciutto with sweet Medjool date bruschetta (my mouth is watering thinking about it now).

Next, I had the P.E.I mussels in a coconut, lemongrass and cilantro broth. Light, sweet and savory, this dish was perfectly balanced and perfectly suited for a summertime dish. Using the toasted bread, I was definitely that person sopping up every bit of the broth without inhibition (at some point the coconut broth was dripping down my chin I’m sure).  

While I thoroughly enjoyed my entrée, I found my fork more often than not digging in my friend’s plate. I am not a pork tenderloin girl, but apparently I am at Bolsa. Someone (that someone being the former chef of Dragonfly) in the kitchen knows how to cook pork. The searing gave the impeccably cooked tenderloin great texture. The red-fleshed escabeche peaches (marinated in acid then poached) paired with the pork needs a whole article dedicated just to them. That article would include the story of hand picking them at the Canton market days before, and would end with a summary of my obsession of them.

Usually skipping dessert, I ordered the white chocolate rum “tile” not wanting this dining experience to end. O-M-G!! On nilla wafer crust and drizzled with a toffee sauce, this piece of white chocolate “pie” was pure deliciousness. If you see it on the menu on your visit to Bolsa, make sure that you reserve your piece of the pie!  

Bolsa can be described as everything that the Dallas restaurant scene is craving. It is humble, chef-driven, locally-food forward, unique and completely unpretentious. The focus is simply in the fresh ingredients, the food and the drinks rather than the crowd who may show up to dine. Exposed and vulnerable, this eatery is taking a major chance. My advice; GO!! Lets support this gem of a restaurant.

  • 614 Davis St. Dallas, TX 75208
  • (214) 367-9367

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Addition to Shinsei

Perfectly smitten with my modern, Asian-inspired Dallas hotspot, Shinsei could do nothing more keep me coming back. But surprise Reagen, they certainly did! 

I was quickly getting my fix of fried rice and crispy brussel sprouts at my zen-like green and brown restaurant when co-owner, Lynae Fearing,  came by for a quick 'hello' and then casually asked, "Have you seen our new patio?" 

What? A patio? I was sold before even having seen it. But friends, I am here to tell you that Shinsei's new patio is             A-mazing. Complete with over-head fans, lounge chairs, candle light and a water feature (soon to come), this new addition to an already impeccable restaurant is exactly what foodies' dreams are made of!  

Enjoying fresh, exciting sushi and sipping on wine or sake sangria while sitting in an excluded, peaceful patio (perfectly feng shui I should add) is what we all need in these stressful times.  
  • 7713 Inwood Rd. Dallas TX 75209
  • (214) 352-0005

Monday, May 18, 2009

BELLA - not only the name, but a prerequisite for all who dine

“I am so sorry to say, but sir, we are out of the Caymus Conundrum Rutherford as well.” 

This was my dad’s third attempt at ordering a glass of wine from the quite interesting wine list. With defeat, and slight irritation in his voice he gestured toward my glass and said, “I’ll just take whatever she’s drinking.”

Being an early Sunday evening, the lack of available wine spoke loudly of the night before. Although we were the only table dining in the dining room at the time (there is a great, COVERED patio), all signs pointed to a busy, rock-and-rolling Saturday night for Bella Restaurant and Bar.

A new addition to the Quadrangle, Bella is THE place to go. Round up your posse, dress in your most stylish, figure-flattering and show stopping outfit, pile into whoever drives the flashiest car and get to one of the most talked about restaurants in the area.

With out-of-town family visiting and a free Sunday night to fill with dinner, I took the opportunity to see what all the rave was about (and happy to miss the over-the-top weekend night crowd). 

After getting the wine situation under control, we immediately dove into appetizers. This is when we ran into issue number two. Unlike encountering a lack of available wine, we faced an abundance of oh-so-tasty-sounding starter options, making it difficult to make a decision.

Shredded beef stogies served with plum sauce and accompanied with a small, refreshing mango, arugula and onion salad were an easy choice. Served in a clever ashtray, think spring rolls with an updated twist. The crispy shrimp appetizer was a crowd (and personal) favorite. Served over a crisp salad, these succulent, flavorful shrimp were dressed with fresh ginger, lime butter and fresh jalapenos. Order this dish for yourself, you won’t want to share.

While the shrimp caprese salad sounds interesting, skip it. (Wanting a salad, definitely order the crispy shrimp). Hung-over? Order the Tuscan club melt, guaranteed to be the perfect fix. As my aunt described, “Everything in the kitchen can be found in this sandwich.”  For the larger appetite, go with either the braised short rib (stamped with my brother’s approval) or the seared Diver scallops with apple-braised pork belly. The sweet, buttery and rich pork belly is a perfect match for the impeccably cooked scallops.

I know this will come as a surprise to all of you, but I actually did not try one of Bella’s signature cocktails. However, judging by the sleek, urban, sexy ambiance and menu, I am fairly positive that their drinks will follow suit. And they must, because isn’t it great drinks with a stylish atmosphere that is the deciding factor on where to go on a Friday or Saturday night, Dallas?  

  • 2626 Howell St. Dallas, TX 75204
  • (214) 855-5001

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Neighborhood Services: Simply Delicious

What is it that brings me back time after time after time? Why is it always the first restaurant to pop into my mind when asked the “Where should we go eat” question?

Simple, it’s its simplicity. It’s the American flag humbly hung it the back of the restaurant. It’s the black and white pictures of grandfathers working oilrigs. It’s the unpretentious food and drinks that anyone, from any walk of life, would enjoy.

Neighborhood Services is my favorite restaurant in Dallas (at this moment of course). But be forewarned, the saying “good things come to those who wait” should be the motto for this tiny, tucked away joint. A 2-hour wait for its easy cuisine is not unusual. Although they do have a small bar area for waiting, there’s only so long that staring at designer purses and overly styled hair remains entertaining. My advice, go early and avoid weekend nights.

Trust me on this, once you finally get a table, you CAN’T go wrong with anything on their menu. But for first time goers, I feel obligated to tell you what not to miss.

First, start out with a cocktail or one of their ever-changing beers on tap. Try the Sage Advice, their take on the margarita with a touch of sage and garnished with red clay sea salt, but order it on the rocks (just a quick insider tip). Or, the Pops Martini served up with an adorable Mason jar overflowing with house pickled veggies (YUM!). And the best part, the drinks ar strong!

Next, order the fried little asparagus. Served over a frisee salad, this delicate asparagus dish is lightly tempured, drizzled with a Meyer lemon, dill aioli and fresh lemon juice. You’ll thank me. The green chili crab dip makes an easy-to-share table snack. Paired with the crab dip, a citrus, cucumber salsa (or at least that’s what I think it is) is a refreshing balance to the creaminess of the dip. My only complaint, more salt and spice to the dip. But hey, I’m a salt freak.

OK, onto the main event. I have not sampled an entrée that I have not enjoyed. Let your always friendly and slightly quirky server run over the specials, but please, please do not pass up the beyond fork-tender pot roasted short rib. Prepared in a shiraz-rosemary jus and plated with French toasted gnocchi, the melding of flavors and herbs create a melt-in-your mouth, delicious experience. You will taste comfort in this dish. If you are willing to go carb crazy, order a side of three jack and mac gratin. Enjoy now, work it off later.

No matter if you are in jeans and a t-shirt, or dressed to impress, Neighborhood Services is calling your name. Meant as the gathering place for family and freinds, this neighborhood eatery and watering hole is comfortable and inviting while satisfying the simplest of eaters, the most discerning of palates, and even Dallas’ 30k millionaires. Tell me another area restaurant that can accomplish that.

  • 5027 W Lovers Ln. Dallas, TX 75209
  • (214) 350- 5027
Photo provided by D Magazine