Monthly Archives: August 2011

#FoodTruckFail

Roach coach. Kitchen on wheels. Drunk’s delight. Who doesn’t appreciate a good food truck?

Generally I appreciate food trucks most around 2am after a long night of fist pumping, Jersey Shore style. However, the folks at Sigel’s on Greenville had the genius idea to have their first Food Truck Festival this past Saturday evening. After reading the expert’s guide to eating your way through this shindig, I was salivating much like my dogs do right before I put kibble into their bowls.

After cleaning up my puddle of drool, I talked with some of my work peeps (well, we emailed actually) and some of us planned to meet up for some good old-fashioned food trucking. Oh, and did I mention there was supposed to be free wine and beer tasting too? That alone would have sold me.

Hubster and I show up around 6:30pm (the hours were to be 6pm-9pm), park about a block away outside the Sprint Store and make the walk over to Sigel’s. Upon arriving, we take note of the sea of people crowded into the Sigel’s parking lot where the food trucks had decided to hold court. It was nearly impossible to see where one line ended and another began. It was at this juncture we realized we would need copious amounts of booze to handle this endeavor.

Inside we went to enjoy some free spirits of the drinkable variety. And, we were fortunate enough to run into Mr. and Mrs. Trishmas upon entering the store. Drinking with friends is always more fun right? After standing in line for about 15 minutes (note: this line was considerably shorter than the ones outside in the 105-degree heat for the food trucks) we get our tasting glasses and belly up to the bar.

To say that the person behind the counter dribbled wine into my glass would be a compliment. I was just lucky that the pour didn’t evaporate before I had an opportunity to bring the glass to my lips. Seriously. I mean, I’m all for responsible tasting but this was ridiculous. Two types of wine and I guarantee I hadn’t even cleared a 1/2 ounce of liquid consumed.

In the midst of this Nam and his lovely gal popped in. Smarter than the rest of us, they took one look at the crowd and decided to bail. Turns out, they were smarter than all of us.

Already committed, we continue in the line toward the beer tasting. This had to be better, right? Eh..not really. I have to give props to the Sam Adams folks for at least using respectable tasting cups. The folks at the Rahr table were using something akin to those tiny plastic cups hospitals use when they have to bring someone a bunch of different pills that they want them to take all in one swallow. Wasn’t even the equivalent of a shot glass.

After the lackluster experience with the drink portion of the evening, we all contemplated what, if any, luck we might have in jumping into one of the food truck lines. However, one look showed us that people who had been in line when we went inside for our “tastings” were STILL toward the back of the very same lines nearly 30 minutes later. That was it. We threw up the white flag and decided to abandon ship.

Thanks to the good folks at Twisted Root Burger Co., for providing hubster and I with an excellent dining experience. Not only did we get to have big-kid sized tasty beverages, but I got to order (with a straight face) a Big German. With a side of fried green beans, of course.

I guess the food trucks and I just weren’t meant to be this time. But if one – or many – of them could be hanging out in the Bishop Arts District, say, on Sept 10 after my friend’s birthday celebration, that would be just amazeballs.

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And now, for something from a real writer

This guest post is courtesy of my pal Robin, who is actually a writer by profession. She was nice enough to write this for me gratis, which is a good thing, since I can’t afford her hourly rate.

Ahh, Restaurant Week. That precious, 7-day window in which Dallas’s fanciest restaurants offer meals for one low fixed price, passing along a cut to charity too. It’s a wonderful summer tradition, at least for foodies like Ms. Bueno. For me, the tradition goes something like this:

1. Realize it’s Restaurant Week when Sarah starts talking about some amazeballs new place she just tried. 2. Kick myself for being clueless and not making reservations. 3. Vow to make up for it next year. 4. Repeat the process exactly 12 months later.

This year started the same as ever:
Sarah: So it’s Restaurant Week next week.
Me: Oh, f***
Sarah: But I’m gonna be out of town … You want my reservation?

Success! My very first Restaurant Week dinner. My friend Jennifer would be joining me Monday night at Abraham Salum’s eponymous restaurant for three courses of new American cuisine.

Monday came, and – ever the worker bees – Jenn and I ended up rushing from the office to make our 7:30 reservation. Luckily, the place is easy to find. Like so many fine Dallas establishments, Salum is located in a strip mall across from a liquor store and boasts a large parking lot with a totally unnecessary valet.

Once seated, we immediately began composing our guest post: “Elegant, yet relaxed” … “Unpretentious” … “Understated” … “What’s up with the weird fabric panels over those Capiz chandeliers?” Jenn’s right; it’s an odd lighting choice. But this is a food blog, not a design blog, so I’ll let that one go.

Our waiter greeted us promptly, guided me to a suitable pinot noir (more fruity, less earthy), and brought Jenn her requisite Riesling. Apps followed shortly: caprese salad and baked goat cheese with bread. Simple, tasty, unfussy starters. No complaints.

For my entree, I ordered the pork tenderloin with polenta and pickled blueberry sauce. A fun and unexpected combo – or “flavor profile” as a professional food writer or amateur douchebag might say. And while it was all very good, I can’t say it was great. It was well conceived, perfectly cooked, and artfully presented, and yet nothing about the dish was particularly… spectacular. It felt like something I might be able to make at home, when I’d hoped for something totally out of my league.

Jenn seemed to be faring better, pronouncing her grilled swordfish and the best she’d ever tasted. This is quite the compliment coming from someone I believe to be a either a supertaster or just the world’s pickiest eater. Case in point: the too-big chunks of cucumber made her tabouleh “too crunchy,” and thus inedible. I’m not sure what was wrong with all the pretty little heirloom tomatoes she left on her plate, unless she was just saving room for the Dessert Duo headed our way.

Now, I’m not a big sweet eater, and when I do pick up a dessert menu, bread pudding is pretty much the least likely thing to catch my eye. So I was truly surprised at how much I enjoyed Salum’s bourbon-infused version. Straight-from-the-oven hot, homey, and just plain yummy. The other half of the duo was some sort of rich chocolatey thing. Was it fudge? … I don’t even remember now. Salum’s bread pudding stole the show. Even the supertaster agreed.

All in all, a very enjoyable dinner. A bit shy of “amazeballs,” but certainly not disappointing. Especially for the tasty $35 prix fixe price.

I tipped the valet for his 30-foot drive and headed home, happy and full, with one Restaurant Week meal experience under my slightly extended belt.

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Just a little nosh

I’d waited and waited…a restaurant called Nosh. It was like the mother ship calling me home. I mean, that might have been one of the most-used words of my childhood. Every Sunday when we would go to my Zada’s, his wife would always ask if I wanted a “little nosh” even if we had just eaten dinner. I think I was being punished for being thin.

Fast forward – and I’d seen the restaurant Nosh a couple of doors down from my regular salon. And, I knew it as the former location of Aurora. Add to that, my gal Robin had been there before and raved about the short ribs…I was in.

So my gal pals and I make a reservation for 8:45pm. Thanks Open Table for getting us in. We arrive a couple of minutes early and are told we’ll need to wait at the bar for a few minutes. After dodging servers, we land a couple of stools at the bar. Thanks to the cute bartender Moses (actual first name, Aaron), we were able to enjoy a cocktail to accompany our wait. After gossip and questions about Moses’ tattoos…we realized that it had been an inordinate amount of time since we’d arrived. Thus – it was time for a second drink.

It was also about this time that I started asking for freebies from the hostess. I mean – what’s the point of a reservation if you are going to end up waiting an hour for a table, right? I manage to score us some free hummus…despite the hostess’ protestations that she was likely to get in trouble for comping us something if management found out. Really? Perhaps I should have told her up front about my blog and maybe they might have been more accommodating. Surely the avoidance of a scathing review is worth a plate of so-so hummus. Did I mention that we got charged for all of our drinks too?

I guess I should note – we could have been seated sooner had we been willing to settle for spots at either the food bar that overlooks the kitchen (would have forced the 3 of us to sit side-by-side which doesn’t really facilitate conversation plus it was about 110 degrees there) or at a high-top in the bar. At that point, it was a matter of principle. I made a reservation – I expect a proper table.

And after an hour and five minutes, we received that proper table. We were assured by the hostess (whom, by now, I shouldn’t trust) that our waiter was awesome. Let’s put it this way – he was so the opposite of awesome, it wasn’t worth it to me to remember his name for this post. Plus, the only time his name was ever mentioned was when the hostess said it; he didn’t even bother introducing himself when he greeted our table. We should have left and headed for the Jack in the Box drive through immediately. But…it turns out that we’re gluttons for punishment.

There are FGTs under there somewhere

We order their special appetizer of the evening – fried green tomatoes (FGTs). Robin and I are, after all, on the prowl for the best fried green tomatoes. These were pretty tasty and were different from others I’ve had. This one was almost a fusion of traditional FGTs and a caprese salad, given the addition of fresh mozzarella on top. Either way, it beat the hummus, but still doesn’t measure up to the FGTs at Hattie’s or Screen Door.

Get ready for the most grievous offense of the evening. You ready? I already know that I’m going for the short ribs. I mean, they’re accompanied by cheddar grits. Done and done. Jennifer is thinking scallops or tuna but hears the siren song of the cheddar and bacon potatoes that accompany the beef tenderloin medallions. What’s a girl to do? Ask for a substitution, of course. What is our no-name waiter’s response to this seemingly small request? “I’m not going to be the one to ask for that.” Seriously? Seriously.

Now, I can’t help myself. So of course I ask, “Aw…is there a little bit of strife between the wait staff and the kitchen tonight?” At this juncture, NNW backpedals a bit and notes that the menu kindly requests no substitutions but reiterates his original statement. What’s that sound? The sound of your tip dropping exponentially.

Braised short ribs and GRITS!!

After all of this, you’re probably wondering…what about the food? Well, the short ribs were good, but inconsistently cooked. I had one that just melted and fell apart just as any good braised short rib should. Then I had another that was crazily tough. Perhaps this particular guy didn’t get his fair share of the braising liquid, I don’t know. Had the texture been consistent, my reviews would have been better, despite my irritated mood. The grits kicked ass. So, at least there was that. The rest of the table seemed to enjoy their food as well – yet I didn’t see anyone whipping out pen and paper…er…I mean, their iPhones – to write home about it.

Lest I forget. Midway through our meal, we see a girl at the table next to us get the tenderloin medallions with a side of those delicious potatoes. One look and Jennifer decides she just has to have them, so we order a side a la carte. Note – the kitchen staff is far more generous with the side items when they accompany an entree than they are when you actually pay the a la carte price and order them solo. At least, this is the case with the potatoes.

Tiny pot o' potatoes.

We had dessert – but it isn’t really worth mentioning. It was chocolatey. It was tasty. It wasn’t memorable. The pecan pie I currently have baking excites me more, to be quite honest. That’s a big statement, actually, because there isn’t even the least bit of chocolate in said pie.

All in all, what’s my official verdict? I’m sure Nosh is a perfectly lovely restaurant on a Tuesday night when there is a steady flow of customers but the place isn’t bustling. The food is solid – not terribly creative – but everything was properly seasoned and (aside from my lone short rib) cooked quite well. But on a busy Saturday night, avoid it at all costs. The shoddy service will overshadow the food. At least, it did for me. Saving grace? The girls and I wanted to debrief and vent about our experience, so it gave us an excuse to go out for drinks after. To the guy we met at Marquee Grill in Highland Park Village: I’m still waiting on the bottle of Pappy Van Winkle you promised. Chop chop.

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Filed under Drinking, Eating

Steak Tuesday

At one point, the hubster and I had tried to start a tradition of having steak every Sunday, affectionately (and creatively) known as Steak Sunday.

Now that you’ve recovered from the awesomeness of the name, I’ll tell you that it didn’t last very long. Getting the grill going and all that jazz proved to be too much for some lazy Sundays. So, imagine my surprise when the hubster offered to grill steaks tonight. Whee!! I think it might have had something to do with the fact that I was mowing the lawn this evening. Maybe it was guilt steak. But who cares?

Tuesday night deliciousness

Ribeye seasoned with just salt and pepper, cooked on the grill to a medium rare, paired with broccolini and potatoes. So simple and yet, so delicious. And, incredibly indulgent for a weeknight. The fact is, it didn’t really take all that long. Granted, Mike is a whiz when it comes to doing his mis en place (fancy term for having everything prepped and ready to go prior to cooking), so things tend to happen in a more timely manner for him. But , the steaks only took about eight minutes to cook and then took a few minutes to rest. I think the longest part might have just been getting the coals going.

*checking to verify that was the case* 

Yep – that was the most time consuming part. Not too shabby, huh? 

Now, if you’re like me, the thought of standing in front of a grill during a Texas summer heat wave sounds about as appealing as clawing out your left eye. So, if you’re not a heat-seeker like the hubster, you can totally make this meal from the comfort of your air-conditioned kitchen. Sear the steaks in a pan on the stovetop first then finish them off in the oven to achieve the desired doneness and maintain juiciness. Oven-roast the potatoes and saute or steam the broccolini, and you’ll end up with a similar result, minus the smoky flavor. 

Pronounced "who" not "ho"

Paired with tonight’s dinner, for once, was not wine. Largely because, few things are as satisfying on a hot day (especially after mowing and trimming the lawn) as an ice cold beer. On the menu tonight, one of my all-time favorites: Hoegaarden. A Belgian-style wheat beer, with citrusy and zesty notes. Pale and cloudy in appearance, it has a light flavor and, for me, pretty much goes with anything. It has been my summer beer of choice for some time now. If you like Blue Moon, but sometimes wish it was a bit lighter (as I often do if I’m in for a marathon evening), then this is an excellent alternative

Good thing I hit the gym last night and yoga tonight, because now I can end the evening with some mint chocolate chip ice cream. So, if someone asks me how today was, my answer will most definitely be, “delicious.”

By the way – the dogs even got some leftover steak bits. This is what Gryf looked like throughout the entire meal: one ear inside out staring at both plates, anxiously awaiting the inevitable. According to all of the chop-licking and tail-wagging that occurred, I think he liked the dinner too.

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