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Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Chocolate

22 Feb

The Chevy Sweet Hunt

The Aussie & The Longhorn

Words cannot express how fun this event was!  My company, Fleishman-Hillard, held a sweet scavenger hunt, so to speak, for foodies who are prominent in the Dallas social media scene.  Not only did I transition myself immediately to this account solely to help plan this project (OK, I ❤ Chevy, too), but I also was able to tag along as an “undercover” blogger.  I helped recruit some familiar faces to participate, too!

So, the rundown:

  • 2 Video Cameras
  • 4 Stops Along the Way
  • 4 GM Vehicles With OnStar to Get Us “There”
  • 12 Foodies, Mouths Watering
  • 100+ Tweets and FB Posts For the Event
Rise No. 1

The Strawberry Soufflé

Participants were given either a Buick Regal or the new Chevy Cruze to test drive for the weekend in honor of the Hunt!  How cool is that?  Free gas and that new car smell? YES please!  Participants went from restaurant to restaurant, dessert tasting to dessert tasting, in their designated car with the help of clues and the use of OnStar.

We started at rise nº1 in Inwood Village, one of my favorite spots in Dallas!  After Urbano had to pass at the last minute due to a large party renting out the space, Sarah F. and I had an epiphany: RISE to the occasion!  And that the restaurant did!  It was definitely a favorite of the day.

Choc Secrets

Chocolate Well Kept Secrets

Second was Chocolate Secrets, a fabulous sweet boutique on Oaklawn.  I have driven by this place millions of times, but I had failed to ever stop by.  The decor was so cute, and the soothing sounds of live jazz set the mood.  Smells of wine and chocolate swirled in the air.  It was definitely a delectable experience; stop by and try the dark chocolate with sea salt caramel!

Dude, Sweet Chocolate

The Dudes & The Sweets

A quick jaunt across town to the Biship Arts District took us to Dude, Sweet Chocolate.  This was a great experience, as the owner Katherine Clapner opened up her store to us as a school of the savory and sweet!  She shared with us how she concepted, created and sold her wares, all while chopping, mushing and sharing a taste of said wares.

Bolsa

A Plate Full of Bruschetta

And finally, we ended up at Bolsa for a fun lunch.  We shared apps (like the bruschetta sampler) and enjoyed what local produce and goods the Bag had to offer.  Several hunters enjoyed what the proclaimed Bishop Arts mixologist had to offer as well.  Me? I needed a tall glass of water after all of that sweetness!

What a fabulous day, and what a fabulous way to promote local restaurants and an incredible brand!  Thank you @ChevyTexan!  Check out the new blog page, Driving the Heartland for a write up and more information on the foodies who took the tasty tour about town.

Chevy Sweet Hunters

Chevy Sweet Hunters

Almeh…

21 Feb

Triston Simon’s New Digs Are A-OK – And That’s About It

Alma

Almost...

Perhaps it was the prolonged opening, pushed back again and again by torrential winds, ice and snow.  Perhaps it was the excitement that I let build too high.  Perhaps it was the legacy that sits before the Simon restaurant name that ended up leading to a let down.  Either way, our experience at Alma (the old Cuba Libre spot) was just Ok.

The Drinks

It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great.  We started off with some signature cocktails: hmm, interesting selection but nothing stood out.  I was expecting sangrias and margaritas, but instead we saw odd tequila based punches and brandy meets milk.  I really felt this was mixology gone sour.

Sopes

The Brandied Horchata and Tasty Sopes

The Apps

The queso fundido, featuring Chihuahua cheese and touted by the select few who enjoyed the pre-opening private dining event, was greasy and the cheese almost seemed to curdle.  A crony at the table brought up a good point: you must be careful when mixing oily and greasy together.  Chorizo is a very oily sausage, and when mixed in a mini crock with melted cheese you’ll need multiple napkins and some hand sanitizer to feel clean.  The sopes? TO DIE FOR!  They were great!  Perfect mix of veggie, crunch and flavor!

Enchilada Rojo

Just Alright: Enchilada Rojo

The Mains

Everyone on our four-top ended up ordering something different with a few sides!  This is a prime opportunity to showcase how well rounded your menu is.  I opted for the signature pork dish, the cochinita pibil (anchiote-marinated pork shank).  It was tasty, and I thoroughly enjoyed the side of mole sauce the waiter brought me; sadly, the latter was the best part of the meal.  The main component was just OK.  The enchilada rojo, featuring braised short rib, left MUCH to be desired.

Street Corn

It's the Small Things That Count: Side of Street Corn & Mole Sauce

The enchilada de pollo verde was very good!  The flavors were definitely there, and the Chihuahua cheese fit in wonderfully with this mix.  However, keep in mind  you are still pay $16 for chicken enchiladas.  The breadwinner was Michael who actually ordered the tacos de carnitas (pork jowel – you heard me) but received the tacos de carne asada.  He definitely had no complaints as this was the best entre of the night.  The meat was very well seasoned, came with an array of sauces that were delightful but not even needed, and the house made tortillas were soft and delicate.  The sides and sauces really made the meal.  The favorite of the night was the “street corn,” scoops of grilled sweet corn mixed with queso fresco and chili mayonnaise served in mini husks.  Talk about delicious!

The group was too full for dessert, but the menu didn’t even provide many tempting options. Once again, nothing stood out and no one was “WOWED” instantly.  So, it was easy to pass.

To sum up, the overall experience was fun.  The ambiance was great.  I really love what they did with the decorating, especially upstairs.  They added a fireplace which was a nice touch to a fun lounge area where patrons enjoyed pre dinner cocktails and apps.  The service was friendly – but almost too friendly.  There’s something to be said about a waiter who knows his boundaries and when to leave the table alone.  I left feeling like I wouldn’t really go out of my way to come back to Alma.  With anchors like Hibiscus and Victor Tango right across the street and at similar prices, that’s a no-brainer.  Plus, I have a problem picking out my courses at those restaurants because everything sounds SO good!  At Alma, nothing was exciting or really jumped out.

Cafe San Miguel

Try the Pomerita!

For the price, I just really was not impressed.  As before mentioned, it wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst either.  Just a tip for those who want to be in the know: Cafe San Miguel is right down the street if you want regional Mexican cuisine; they are the self proclaimed inventor of the pomerita (pomegranate marg) and have a FABULOUS queso fundido, sans the grease-o.

NOSH > NOM

10 Feb AuroraClosed

Move over, Aurora!  Avner Samuel, you made a very wise choice in reinventing your little restaurant on Oaklawn.  The buoyant atmosphere and constant crowd at the bar is a strong indicator of the successful revamp.  Not to mention, the food speaks for itself.

Nosh

The New Aurora

Not a stranger to the location (across the street from Al Biernat’s and down the strip from La Duni) and having heard acclamations from plenty of my fellow foodies, I had been dying to try Nosh.  It has been open for six months, maybe, but I just had not taken the opportunity to stop by.  A partner in crime, Jodie, texted with an open invite to her reservations on Super Bowl weekend – I couldn’t possibly pass up!

The arctic blast coursing Dallas’ every vein tried to foil our plans.  My ride showed up a few minutes late due to the treacherous road conditions, and THEN his car got stuck in my driveway (which might as well have served as an ideal sledding hill).  Having averted a real crisis of sliding the Bimmer into trash cans, trees and a few pipes, the poor car was at a standstill, tires whirling in place on a sheet of solid ice with no snow shovel in sight (we live in Texas, people).  What to do? Pass on the reservations and settle for a cozy night in by the fire?  Of course not…

Twelve pitchers of steaming hot salt water later, the sheet of ice was ready to be picked at and broken up by a dust pan.  Free at last, free at last – we finally showed up to meet the group almost an hour late.  Whoops!  Oh well, TOTALLY worth it!

On the menu for our table –

  • Starters: humus with hand crafted pita, the life changing Egyptian falafel, and creamy parsnip soup with truffle shavings
  • Entrés: lamb chops for Jodie (if you think I passed up an opportunity to share, you are sick), the flat iron steak “au poivre,” roasted pork shoulder, the Kobe burger (simple, but one of the best burgers I’ve ever tasted), and the fish special – a comforting breaded and pan seared fluke; OH, can’t forget the side of mac & cheese with truffle oil and shavings (the latter we actually didn’t ask for – HUGE pet peeve when waiters assume you want an addition, but it was TASTY).
  • Dessert: what?
Port

Port = Much More Elegant Than This

Several bottles of fabulous wine (Silver Oak at wholesale, thankyouverymuch) lead to and even more fabulous decision to end the night with port wine.  Content and completely full.  Thank you, Jodie Fagan.

Insignificant notes from the night: we were stationed at a table by the entrance to the back room where Jennifer Aniston and her entourage were dining.  Two diners whose attention spans were not as consumed by the food were escorted out of the restaurant after making fools of themselves while trying to catch Jenn’s attention.  Upon heading out, we passed a vibrant Chelsea Handler at the bar.  The camera does actually add a couple of pounds; she is TINY in real life.  Glad she was getting ready to eat a full meal of fabulousness.

Having a Moment: Linda Richmond Would Be Proud

27 Jan

Sharing Sentiment w/ Morgan, Mussels & My Old Friend, Pinot Noir

That’s right – I had a life changing experience last night.  It all started over a Benny’s Bad Day recovery plan, Dancing Bull and some juicy gossip.

Urbano

An Absolute Must

My friend Morgan called me with news that employment with her current company was finally over, and she was moving on to much better things.  Celebrating the new job was immanent! BYOB + Urbano Cafe was a must; I had the wine (so I thought) and I live super close.  Reality check: my wine stash had drastically depleted since arriving home from work – what happened???  A quick text from Morgan affirmed everything was alright; a bottle of La Crema and a bottle of Dancing Bull were on the way.  Stress release – it would indeed be a good night!

I had been to Urbano for lunch before, but never dinner.  What a fabulous experience!  The venue is intimate (as you very well know if you have ever been there), but there is an adjoining bar studio next door for overflow and first taste libations.   Pop goes the La Crema.  Perched at the bar counter, we mingled with some of the staff and learned about a wonderful online community for artisans and craftsman called Etsy.com (touted as the world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace for all things vintage, artsy and, well, handmade).

On the way back to the main cafe, we passed a long, family style picnic table where appetizers were abundant – particularly a mussel dish that looked bright with color.  I thought to myself, “We will revisit this.”  Then a quick aside – when have I ever considered ordering mussels???

Good conversation, appetite evaluation and consumption of another glass of Pinot finally lead to menu selection.  Everything we tasted was amazing.  The mussels put everything to shame in comparison.  They not only melted in  your mouth immediately upon contact, but the soupy tomato sauce the mussels were served in acted as a grade-a dish in it’s own.  You order extra bread to lap up goodness such as this!  The pork poppers, salads (we tried the 1410 and shaved fennel) and chicken Saltimboca were all spectacular; I knew they would be.  We kept eating – and eating – and eating.  But I digress; let me get back to the mussels. A-MAZING.

Having a Moment

Still Having a Moment

I fear that I set too high a precedent with my first mussel eating experience.  I might never recover or find anything close to its equal in a similar dish.  Maybe I simply discovered a new favorite food?  Either way, I highly recommend them!

Last taste of the night: completely stuffed and satisfied, we rolled our way back to my house to see what Dancing Bull had to offer – NOT MUCH.  I do not recommend…

New Dallas Dives

26 Jan

Don’t Miss These New Dining Hot Spots

I came across this Pegasus post about new ventures in the area: Restaurant openings spell good times for Dallas scene and economy.

Huge Knife & Fork

Big Silverware is Funny

I would definitely take a minute to peruse that list towards the bottom of the page which spells out more than twelve new restaurants that are sure to peak your curiosity!  Note a prominent trend in this list, too.  Looks like elevated south of the border is the new black.

As you know, I will be partaking in Alma’s soft-opening next week, so I found the info on Komali to be of special interest as well.  For those who don’t know, Komali is yet another local favorite to-be which will feature regional Mexican cuisine, conceptualized by Salum head chef and restaurateur, Abraham Salum.  Let’s hope Komali is a bit better than its next door neighbor, which I found overrated.

My apologies for all the posts regarding new restaurants!  I guess it’s just that time of year…

Nourishing and Delicious – Alma Arrives!

25 Jan

The highly anticipated opening of Tristan Simon’s new Henderson hot-spot has finally arrived!  Filling in the old Cuba Libre space across from the Old Monk, Alma sings to new inspiration focusing on regional Mexican flavors.  Reports of the past weekend’s private event Tristan hosted for personal friends to preview the Alma experience have left the every-man hungry for more!

Alma Executive Chef, Michael Brown

Executive Chef, Michael Brown

Sorry Rick Bayless, but Dallas has gained one hot chef!  Previously the executive chef at Red O in LA, Michael Brown comes to the Big-D with high hopes of carrying on the Tristan Simon dynasty.  Brown brings quite a bit to the table, including a resume rich with history (including stints at several Wolfgang Puck restaurants throughout California).  I have the highest hopes for this restaurant rejuvenation as all of the elements are starting to come together.  Reading about, as well as talking about, the projected menu is enough to wet my palate.

Alma will feature an elaborate range of elevated Mexican cuisine, from the Chihuahua cheese appetizer (queso on steroids), to a spit-roasted whole pig (cochinita), to delicate and delectable dessert options (tres leches anyone?).  Brown promotes an experience that includes new and extremely familiar food options – all of which will leave you and your stomach in a state of dining bliss.

Alma Offers New & Exciting Flavors

Alma Offers New & Exciting Flavors

The closing of Cuba Libre’s doors has been a topic of frequent conversation.  The overall mentality regarding the restaurant in its last days was simply, “Meh…”  The management had changed.  The staff was not as sharp.  The prices had increased, while unfortunately the quality of the food had decreased.  It just wasn’t the same.  With Alma comes a Tristan intervention!  Bright and shining days are on the horizon!  Words cannot express how excited I am to see for myself the fruits of this face lift.  Needless to say, I will have much to report back after my first Alma dining experience at the soft-opening on February 1st!

Tasty tidbit: “Alma” is the feminine version of the Latin word, “almus,” meaning bountiful and nourishing.

Kogi Comes to Dallas as Goghee

19 Jan
Korean-Style Tacos

Korean-Style Tacos

I noticed an announcement on THRILLIST the other day.  One of California’s hottest taco trends, Kogi BBQ, has influenced one of Dallas’ newest grab-n-go’s.  Goghee-to-Go features a variety of Korean BBQ dishes, specializing in Korean-Mexican fusion and rich flavors.

Goghee’s principals are based on speedy service and quality food.  All their ingredients are fresh, and food is made to order.  Critics and bloggers are already touting the beef tacos; their beef is shaved rib-eye, seasoned and marinated overnight in soy sauce with sugar, ginger, and garlic.  Looks like the menu offers up traditional options (tacos, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, etc) with complex and new flavors.

I really want to try out this new spot!  It’s located by the original Sonny Bryan’s off of Inwood – south of Lover’s Lane, closer to Harry Hines and the Medical District.  It’s a little out of the way for me, but it sounds like it’s definitely worth it.  Let me know what you’ve heard or if you’ve tried it for yourself!!!

Little tidbit of trivia: the Korean word “kogi,” which translates to “meat,” is often mispronounced.  When said properly, it sounds literally like go-ghee, hence the owners’ choice in name.  Gimchee (Korean slaw, formally spelled “kimchee”) is a great addition to any plate at Goghee-to-Go.