Oh my, Malai!

I won’t bore you by waxing philosophical about brunch. If you’ve read this blog even once before, you know it induces a tiny o for me. Courtesy of my fashionable friend and former colleague, NB, Malai Kitchen in the West Village is now at the top of my brunch list.

Malai Kitchen is in the location where Tom Tom Noodle House used to be. Tom Tom had been an okay place for food – better for beverages, especially their coffee drinks – but Malai is definitely a welcome replacement.

Saturday morning – NYE day – I found myself on the patio, enjoying a mimosa and pondering what to choose from the short, but well-curated brunch menu. For me, it was a toss-up between the Banh Mi French Toast (they had me at flambeed bananas) and the Thai Eggs Benedict. To complement my sweet mimosa, I opted for the more savory of the two dishes.

Malai’s version of eggs benedict features coconut biscuits topped with spinach, Thai basil, shrimp and poached eggs with a Thai chili hollandaise. If that wasn’t enough, it was paired with a green-curry rice prepared in the style of cheese grits. I’ll give you a moment to marinate on all of that.

*It’s okay…keep thinking*

*I’ll give you another second*

*Wipe your mouth, you’re drooling*

The biscuits had just a slight hint of sweetness that proved to be a nice contrast to the heat from the hollandaise sauce. The creaminess of the poached eggs was nice with the texture of the shrimp and the basil provided a nice note and some additional texture.

Then the faux grits – heretofore referred to as “grits” – oh the “grits”! Spicy with green curry and a bit of sriracha. Despite the fact that they were just slightly too spicy for my palate, I couldn’t stop eating them. So delicious. And, the mimosas were just the thing to douse the fire that occurred in my mouth. I love that mimosas can be multi-purpose.

Malai serves its brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. The patio is great – especially right now while it is still warm and sunny in Dallas – and I have it on very good authority that lunch and dinner are just as satisfying as brunch. I plan to find out for myself quite soon.

Spicy deliciousness

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Gluten-free goodness

Brunch is a beautiful thing. It is a great excuse for day drinking and for consuming all of my carbolicious favorites: pancakes, french toast, hashes of all kinds. Yum. Plus, there’s bacon. Lots and lots of bacon.

To continue the holiday eat-fest, I invited three (well, three and a bit…one is preggers) of my pals over for a post-Christmas brunch.

Before you get too excited, this isn’t going to be one of those posts where I get all giddy about trying some really involved new item. Everything was delicious – don’t get me wrong – but my efforts this go-round were a bit more pedestrian in nature. But sometimes that’s the best way to go so you have time to actually talk with your guests. And consume mimosas. How could I have not mentioned mimosas?

The menu was basic – turkey bacon, scrambled eggs – which I make using evoo in the pan and just salt, pepper and a little bit of ginger in the eggs – fresh fruit and pancakes. The pancakes are where things get interesting though.

My fabulous gal, Kristi, does the gluten-free thing. Which is cool and good for her. But I had no idea how to make pancakes that she would be able to eat. And then – ta-da! – while browsing the aisles of Albertsons-I-hate-you, I found it. Gluten-free Bisquick. Totally worth the gamble because I’m sure the good people at Bisquick have already done the trial and error thing to get the formula right. Probably would have taken me weeks to end up with something edible had I tried to go from scratch.

So, after adding some vanilla and tart dried cherries,  we ended up having some pretty fabulous pancakes. In fact, the group agreed that we liked them better than regular, gluten-y pancakes. Lighter consistency and a nicer profile for adding other flavors. Brunch success!

But – just to keep things balanced, I went ahead and made regular old-fashioned cupcakes for dessert.

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A duo of haiku, eh?

Holiday soiree,

Trying to schmooze co-workers

Don’t drink too much wine.

 

 

Offered moose sausage,

Tried with much trepidation

Refill my wine, please.

 

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Date night on Henderson

October was a month of many dining experiences across the country. Vegas. NYC. Tennessee. Chicago. In the midst of them all, the hubster and I managed to carve out a night to dine at Hibiscus here in Dallas. He was already a fan, having dined there on numerous occasions with colleagues. I, however, was a newbie…which was embarrassing enough seeing as how Hibiscus isn’t new to Dallas (and after almost nine years, neither am I).

We arrive and are escorted by some of the nicest hosts I’ve ever met to a cozy booth near the front of the restaurant. Great view of the whole place. The whole place just feels warm and comfortable. Clearly upscale but not pretentious. Ahhhh…an oasis in this jungle that is Dallas.

More crab than cake. Perfect.

Jumbo lump crab cake to start. Served with avocado, tomato and greens. Simply prepared and nicely cooked. Was it the most special crab cake ever? Not really, but the ingredients were fresh and the dish wasn’t overdone. Most importantly, there was enough for us to share, so we didn’t have to argue over who got the last bit, as often happens when you get a crab cake appetizer made up of multiple small cakes. I have mentioned that I like to eat, right?

Taters and shrooms

Hub went with a steak for his entree. Put that guy within five miles of a steak and he will sniff it out, have it prepared to a medium rare and take it down with a side of whipped mashed potatoes and roasted wild mushrooms.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Scallops

Me? Well, clearly I have a refined palate (okay, not really, but it is certainly something to shoot for). I opted for the dayboat scallops, which were served with corn, tomatoes and…BACON. Yes, that wonderful, salty, indulgent pork product. It really does make everything better. And to think, I’d been missing out on this for most of my childhood. Good thing I’m making up for it now.The scallops were perfectly cooked. The corn mirrored the slight sweetness of the scallops nicely. And the saltiness of the bacon was a great contrast. Happy tummy. Happy girl.

But date night isn’t date night without dessert. Get your head out of the gutter – I’m talking about dessert of the food variety. Anything else would totally change the nature of this blog. Normally, we would order one dessert and split it. In this case, we were jonesing for different items, so we splurged and each got a dessert. Ice box pie for the hub – with crushed Butterfingers, vanilla ice cream, oreo cookie crust and chocolate ganache. So delicious that he ate the whole thing. And Hibiscus doesn’t skimp on the dessert portions.

Apple, walnut and lavender foodgasm

This girl had the sour cream apple pie, topped with walnut crumble and lavender ice cream. This dish comes all bubbly and hot. If only I’d had the stomach space to shovel the entire skillet of goodness into my person. Alas, I did not. I do wish that I could buy a tub of their lavender ice cream though. Wow.

For once, the drinks didn’t have a starring role in the evening. They were good – hubster started out with one of their signature cocktails – a gin-based drink that seemed to make him quite happy. To accompany the entrees, I selected a half bottle of a Patz & Hall Pinot Noir. Opted for something reliable, that we know well. The kicker was that the waiter ended up bringing us a normal sized bottle. We ended up taking home the rest of the bottle as a souvenir. It’s nice when you’re given a gift that keeps on giving. Now if only I could have figured out how to box up the rest of that apple pie…

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Funny name. Funnier food.

This post comes from a brunch experience a couple of months ago. Yes, I’m woefully behind on my bloggery. If only I could make this my day job. Eating, drinking and writing. Just had a tiny O thinking about it.

Anyway, I love brunch. The hubster hates it, which is why it works out perfectly. Brunch ends up being a wonderful time to catch up with a girlfriend or two. Even better when mimosas or bellinis are involved, but that’s just a nice-to-have.

On a warm August morning, Robin and I ventured out for brunch and decided to hit up Sfuzzi in Uptown. I realize that I’m late to this party – as Sfuzzi has been open for quite some time and is better known for being a weekend hot spot than a brunch destination. I mean, it made an appearance in an episode of Most Eligible Dallas. It is clearly past its prime.

On this particular day, we were one of probably 8 tables of people in the place – not super busy. Then again, we may have been there too early, as most of the party animals likely hadn’t risen yet. This nuance is only important in noting that it took multiple tries and nearly the entire brunch to get Robin an acceptable cup of coffee. The story isn’t really worth telling – but I’ll just say that I hope the service is better than what we experienced. Our waitress was well meaning, and fortunately we weren’t in a hurry. But still, if you’ve read this blog before, you know I’m a stickler for service.

Really – the whole point of this particular post is the photo. Ordered frittatas – in this case, featuring goat cheese, spinach, marinara and meatballs. I generally think of a frittata as a delicious, savory egg pie – meaning the ingredients are all chopped up and are IN the eggs. As the evidence shows, Sfuzzi’s version of a fritatta doesn’t quite match what I generally picture in my head.

Yep. Meaty balls.

 The balls were delicious. And that’s where this post ends.

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Viva Botero

You know those snobs…those bastards…who like to think of food as bordering on art? I’m one of them. Go ahead and laugh/curse/snort/whatever. I’ll wait.

Okay. Hope you got that out of your system. Since I find that food and wine can be a means for expression as much as dance, music, paintings and the like (it is called the culinary arts, after all), I’m especially a sucker for a restaurant whose concept fuses art and fine cuisine. Which is why I was thrilled to end up at Botero inside the Encore in Las Vegas.  

Side note: I find very little to be liked about Vegas, but there are so many great restaurants in a concentrated space, the thought of it triggers a mouthgasm for me.

Anyway, Botero is named for the Colombian artist, Fernando Botero, who is famous for his paintings of exaggerated (read: fat) figures. Original works hang throughout the restaurant. And, with the menu from Chef Mark LoRusso, fat is how you will feel upon exiting this restaurant.

My Botero experience began at the bar with a much-needed Manhattan after a long day. I should mention, I was in Las Vegas for work, not play. So, this drink was purely for sanity. Upon being seated, having been the one who made the reservation, I was presented with the wine list….er…wine binder. The list was an oenophile’s playground. All the stars are there. Everything from Napa favorites like Screaming Eagle to French Grand Crus that I’ll never be able to afford like Petrus, Haut-Brion and Rothschild. As I wisfully perused the list, I opted for two distinctly different cabernet sauvignons for the table. One from Pride Mountain Vineyards. The other from D.R. Stephens. We went with the Pride first, as it was a bit lighter. The Stephens was saved to accompany the steaks that would come later in the meal.

Caprese

To start off  the meal, I went for the heirloom tomato caprese salad. A good caprese salad can turn any day around. The tomatoes were beautifully unfussy – simply dressed with oil, salt and pepper and a slight drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Accompanied by pillowy buffalo mozzerella, fresh basil and microgreens, it was a light and fresh way to lead into the main course.

It is at this juncture that I should mention I could have made an entire meal out of the side items offered at Botero. They got my attention with jalapeno creamed corn. Made me drool at the thought of goat cheese polenta. And won me with the truffle mac n cheese. Had I not been with work associates – some of whom I was seeing face-to-face for the first time – I may have just buried myself in the mac n cheese and eaten my way out. But alas, I had to behave like a proper adult.

As it relates to steak, I’m a very simple, predictable girl. Petite filet for me. It is generally about the maximum amount of cow I can consume in one sitting and the cut is just so tender. And, when in the hands of a pro, it genuinely is a little slice of heaven.

Oh the carnage!

Botero’s petite filet is 8 oz. of greatness. Wonderfully crisp on the outside and beautifully pink – when ordered medium – on the inside.  All of Botero’s steaks can be ordered one of three ways – traditional, pepper or chimichurri. I’m a sucker for a good chimichurri sauce, so I went for it.

When the ingredients are this high-quality, very little additional accoutrement is needed. Props to Botero for high standards. As a diner, you’ll appreciate it. And you should, because you’re paying for it. The petite filet all by itself costs $50. But, it’s Vegas, right?

In the photo – note the bit of truffle mac n cheese that the upper right of the plate. I kept myself to 2 helpings of that size. Nothing short of a miracle.

You might be thinking to yourself, that must be the end of the meal, right? Who could keep eating after all of that? Answer: me.

Enter the dessert menu. I was craving something chocolate to go with the remaining bit of D.R. Stephens cabernet gracing my glass. The wine was velvety smooth, with nice tannins and balanced fruit. Who wouldn’t want some chocolate to go with it? I opted for the milk chocolate bon bon lollipops. It was great for sharing with my companions, not super heavy like a chocolate cake or torte would be, and featured vanilla bean ice cream as one of its main ingredients. Alas, no photo, as the group dug in pretty quickly and the camera phone got caught in the crossfire.

I thoroughly enjoyed this restaurant. Respectful treatment for great ingredients is always a quick way to my heart – via my stomach, of course. I likely couldn’t afford to eat at Botero on my own dime unless I saved up for quite some time (options for wine are few under $200), but it is certainly a worthwhile spend if you’re in Vegas and looking for a special dining experience. Of course, at a restaurant of this caliber, the service was quite good as well. So, next time you find yourself winning in Vegas, take that first $500 of your winnings, set it aside, and enjoy a night at Botero. I assure you it will be far more enjoyable than watching the dealer take your money, because the house usually wins, no?

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Let me eat cake

I love dessert. Love. Love. Love. Have I mentioned I love dessert?

After dinner with friends – thank you mushroom ravioli with chicken, artichokes, spinach and creamy marinara – I asked the good people at Kathleen’s Sky Diner for my dessert options. Now, I like any place that brings me a multi-tiered display of cake choices. Even better when they say these magical words:

“Someone else ordered a slice of double fudge cake to-go and left it here. I can give it to you for free if you want it.”

Excuse me, free dessert?

Um….yes please!!!!

My slice of double fudge cake and I came home. After getting to know each other for a bit, we decided to open a bottle of wine. The mood was right, so we went for it. Enter a bottle of 2005 Licorella, a Spanish red wine produced by Cellers Unio and imported by Miller Squared, Inc., out of Buffalo Grove, IL.

On its own, the wine is just okay. I’d drink it on a random night (it is Wednesday after all) but knowing what I know now, it requires chocolate. The cake itself was rich and smooth. Moist cake with icing that was sweet, yet restrained. Add the wine, and you ended up with hints of cinnamon that weren’t in either component, yet appeared when the two were combined.

A beautiful marriage was made tonight. In my mouth. Make one happen for you. Your taste buds will thank you…even if your hips don’t.

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