They named a drink for me

The folks at Tillman’s Roadhouse in the Bishop Arts District were awesome enough to name a specialty cocktail the Sassy Sara. Now, obviously this wasn’t actually named for me (note the absence of the ‘h’ at the end). However, the bartender offered to tell people they really meant it for me when we were there last weekend celebrating Robin’s 30th birthday. So, thanks sir. Appreciate you identifying my inherent sass upon our first meeting. Must have been the fact that I was a chick ordering Bourbon.

Nom nom nom nom

After an annoying wait, despite having a reservation (this seems to be a theme for me lately), our group of six sophisticated ladies were seated. There are many things I love about Tillman’s: they call their brunch “Blunch”, their servers wear plaid shirts, the private room in back is gorgeous, s’mores are on the menu, and they start your meal with a bowl of truffled popcorn. Yes. Popcorn drizzled with truffle oil. It takes everything I have in me not to pick up the bowl once all of the corn has been devoured and let the remaining truffle oil drip into my mouth. But as mentioned previously, I’m trying to be a sophisticated lady.

Time to order wine. The generous gals at the table send the wine list over to me to make a selection. As the biggest wino of the group, it is always my pleasure to peruse a restaurant’s wine list and (more often than not) pick something none of us has tried before. On this particular evening, I opted for the Innisfree Cabernet Sauvignon from Joseph Phelps Vineyards. I’d never tried this wine before – but I have warm feelings about others that I’ve tried from JPV, so I assumed this would be pleasing as well. Fortunately, my intuition was right on this one. The year 2006 isn’t as talked about as 2005 as it relates to Cabernets coming out of the Napa Valley (the growing season started a bit late), but I’ve had some pretty tremendous 2006s and this was no exception. The fruit was nice and balanced, with relatively smooth tannins (next time I’d decant) and it paired nicely with the delicious burger I was to have later in my meal. And at just $66 on the wine list – a rather good buy as well.

Heirloom tomato salad

As mentioned in previous posts, Robin and I are forever on the hunt for the world’s best fried green tomatoes (FGTs). But really, we love tomatoes in nearly all their forms. Which is why, when it is this time of year and an heirloom tomato salad is on the menu, we order it. And in the case of Tillman’s version, they go a step further to fully win my heart by incorporating grits into the dish. The photo doesn’t really do it justice due to overexposure, but the tomatoes were incredibly ripe, fresh and delicious, dressed simply with oil, salt and pepper. The accompaniment of baby arugula had just enough zip to it to help balance the creamy, coffee-enhanced grits. Again, I had to remind myself “sophisticated lady” so as not to pick up the plate and lick any remaining bits before they cleared for the next course.

Which brings me to the second-most gluttonous part of my evening. I haven’t mentioned the first? That’s right – because dessert was the most gluttonous. Keep your pants on. I’ll get there. Anyway – for my main course, I elected to go with the 7th Street Burger – Tillman’s creation of wagyu beef, goat gouda, jalapeno aioli, baby arugula, tobacco-fried onions…all on a challah bun. I think I just had a tiny o writing about it. So imagine my reaction when this beefy masterpiece landed in front of me.

I even hid my tots from you in the picture.

And let’s not forget the side of tater tots that came with it. You may be thinking, “tater tots? really?” Yes, really. Much like the popcorn starter, these tots have been grown-upified. Tillman’s adds chevre and truffle butter to its version, which has a crispy exterior and a creamy, mashed potato-like interior. These are not for sharing, friends. When you order them, keep every last one for yourself. Just remember to go to the gym the next day.

With my belly full of indulgent animal products, it was time for dessert. I may be relatively small in stature, but this girl loves to eat. Plus, if you’re headed to this Oak Cliff gem for dinner, you would absolutely be remiss in not ordering their tableside s’mores. This dessert is meant to be shared family-style, as they bring you a long board with three types of marshmallows, homemade graham crackers and chocolate. Oh, and a giant flame at one end. Each person at the table gets a skewer for roasting the marshmallow of his/her choice – choose from coffee, orange or caramel – then you grab your cinnamon graham and piece of chocolate and let the gooey, melty party commence in your mouth.

Like Girl Scout camp, only fancier.

Now look, I love desserts in all their forms. And I have yet to meet a s’more I don’t like. But since this blog is about having an opinion, here it is. If I were to attempt to improving upon this nearly-perfect dish, I’d first opt for a slightly thicker graham cracker. The thin, crispy style is nice, but doesn’t really hold up well enough to the marshmallows and chocolate, given their size. A slightly thicker base and greater crunch ratio would be helpful for the overall texture and handling of the dish. Next, the chocolate. I realize milk chocolate melts better, but given the strong flavors of the marshmallows, dark chocolate may prove to be a better foil. Finally – the flavor profiles in each of the marshmallows (yes, I tried all 3) were spot on, but the size/shape/consistency of the caramel ones is different from the others and is a bit tougher to handle over the flame. But in the end, this sophisticated lady sucked it up and ate that particular marshmallow right off the skewer.

All in all, a great night. Robin was serenaded by the staff and received a special birthday treat. Many glasses of wine and specialty cocktails were consumed. And we all left with full, happy bellies. So, here’s to #30  Robin. Looking forward to our next decade of dining adventures.




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Bacon and booze

When your schedule for the evening includes taking in a drag show with a bride-to-be and her girlfriends, a glow-in-the-dark replica of male genetalia and Dirty Mad Libs, you need to start out with a solid dinner. You know, to sop up all of the booze that you are bound to consume on such an evening.

My dear friend Lindsay is getting married in a mere nine days, so over the Labor Day weekend I headed to KC for the shower and bachelorette party. Fun times had by all. I mean, how could you not when a silver wig is involved?

We started the evening at Houlihan’s. Now, I don’t mean to sound like a snob (maybe I do a little), but I’m not generally a fan of restaurants of Houlihan’s genre. Some are worse offenders than others, but most of them sort of blur together for me because the menus are so similar and massive, much like the entrees themselves. But, as referenced at the start of this post, when you’re trying to lay down a good base for copious consumption of adult beverages, this sort of eatery is actually ideal.

The next time you find yourself at your local Houlihan’s, be sure to start with the jumbo stuffed ‘shrooms. Aside from my disdain for referring to mushrooms as ‘shrooms (unless hallucination is likely to ensue), this appetizer is a delicious bit of fried, creamy goodness. And, fried is the number one food group for a night out.

See the bacon?

The second important food group on this type of evening? Bacon. Hence my choice of the Brentwood chicken sandwich, which smoked bacon, gouda cheese, dijon-spiked mayo and some vegetation on top. Not wanting to fill up on bread and get too full for the chicken-y, bacon-y goodness, I ended up foregoing much of the bun (despite its deliciousness), relying on my side of fries to help me carbo-load.

Did the sammich knock my socks off? Nah. Was the chicken a bit overcooked? Sadly yes. And the fries were a bit flaccid. But, when your dinner comes with a side of great conversation with some fantastic women, you tend to overlook these details. So much so that, I went ahead and took the plunge into dessert. I was technically on vacation (read: in a different area and zip code), so splurging was allowed.

For me, it was a toss up between a few items. Have I mentioned dessert is my favorite food group? Creme brulee, Bourbon pecan pie, Snickers crunch ice cream dome, s’mores fondue…all were calling my name. I ended up deciding to keep it simple and go with the creme brulee. Great caramelization on the top. Nice vanilla bean flavor. Thin consistency.

Tasted way better than it looked

I was quite jealous of my dining companions who opted for the chocolate espresso cake. It should have been a no-brainer for me. Chocolate? Coffee? Done. I’ll blame the Ketel One for blurring my dining judgement. My new pal Denna was nice enough to part with one bite for me to give it a go. Quite tasty. It was no wonder she didn’t offer me a second taste.

Once the glasses and plates were empty, it was off to begin the shenanigans of the evening. I am happy to report, though, that dinner did its job. No hangover for this happy chowhound. Which was a great thing, because the next day I found myself taking in a Royals game with the family. And, it just isn’t a day at The K without copious snacks. And a beer of course.

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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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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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Better’n ramen

As I sit here having just finished my Oriental-flavored Ramen noodles (the name kills me), I’m enjoying a lovely cotes du rhone and thinking about how much more delicious part 2 of Morimoto’s dinner will seem in comparison. Not that it needs any help.

By the time the fourth course had ended, my jaw was starting to cramp a little bit from all of the chewing and drinking. But – this was a marathon, not a sprint – so I dug deep and dove head-first into the intermezzo of rice milk sherbet with 10-year-old soy and cilantro crumble. The crumble was a nice addition for texture while the soy kept the dish from being too sweet. Note – I’m counting every new dish that landed in front of me as a course, so in case you’re trying to keep track, this one is numero cinco.

Duck course. Sorry, duck friends.

Palate now cleansed, it was time to get serious. Course six was a duck tortellini soup with a rice “popsicle” and shaved vegetables. No offense to any of the other courses, but this was hands-down my favorite. From the delicate tortellini (alas, there was but one) to the rich, silky duck broth, each bite was a bit of perfection. However, the rice popsicle was the star of the show. Such a simple concept – sticky rice wrapped around a popsicle stick, sauteed in oil to make it crispy and then rolled in spices. The whole table agreed we wanted an entire plate of just these babies. One of my colleagues commented that he thought he could make these himself. Still waiting for him to give that a go so we can determine how his stack up to those of the master. I won’t be holding my breath.

It is important to note at this stage that we were enjoying the Gargiulo Money Road Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. Delicious, of course. But I’ll save all of my effusive comments for the final wine of the night, the G Major 7 Cabernet. Did I mention I have a bottle of this in my personal collection as well? Be my pal and you might just get a glass.

Lucky number seven was a lobster course. Well, I guess that course was lucky for everyone but the lobsters. Normally I steer clear of this delicious crustacean because it makes me sad to think about how they are prepared. Also, I always think of Phoebe from Friends and how she describes lobster couples as walking around the tank holding claws.

Chefs preparing lots of lobster couples

Anyway, the official description for this course was as follows: lobster epice with lemon cream and braised octopus with English pea “guacamole” and crispy rice. Here’s all I know. I practially got half a lobster that had been treated to a bath of zesty Indian-inspired spices. Not what I’d have expected given the rest of the meal, but then again, Chef Morimoto is all about fusion in surprising and different ways. It was a great wake-up call for the palate, because, let’s face it, there were still two more courses to go.

The penultimate course was the beef course. This was an absolute blessing for a colleague of mine who was in attendance and has an aversion to any uncooked foods. Boy was she miserable for the first several courses. Her tablemates were quite pleased, as they got to vie for whatever she didn’t consume.

The beef course featured a duo of roasted Australian Wagyu New York strip and a veal cheek tempura with a wasabi beet puree. Count me out on the beet puree…I never have and never will like beets…but the rest of it was great. Between my cries of “it’s so good, but please no more,” I quickly shoved bites into my mouth. I learned this from watching Adam Richman of Man vs. Food fame. It appears that part of why he is so successful in eating inhuman quantities of food is that he’s quick about it. The NY strip was tender and a perfect medium rare, as all Wagyu beef should be (any more cooked and you may as well skip the fancy beef) and the veal tempura (I omit the word ‘cheeks’ from here on out because it just seems icky) was a nice contrast with its crispy outside, but succulent center. Since I gave a shout-out to the lobsters, I should mention that eating veal makes me sad too, but at this stage, I was so caught up in the evening (and the multiple wines I’d sampled) that it didn’t really matter. Go ahead, call me names. My vegetarian brother does it all the time.

Looks like an egg...but it isn't.

Dessert. My favorite part of any meal. Well, after the wine, that is. Despite its appearance that resembled an egg sunny side up with various accoutrements, it was actually a polished sushi rice pudding with mango cream “egg yolk”. I have to admit, this was my first experience with rice pudding, and I’m sort of ambivalent about it. Maybe it was because I’d already eaten enough rice for the evening to feed a small third-world country. Or maybe it is because I’m a silly American who expects all of my dessert items to be full of sugar, butter and processed items. It’s probably the latter.

The subtle sweetness of this dish was a nice change from what I would find in the restaurants I typically frequent. The mango “egg yolk” was stunning to look at and had a smooth creamy texture that was a slight contrast to the rice pudding. All in all, it was a lovely and delicate way to end the meal.

In retrospect, it was a nice departure to have a meal that didn’t swing you from one end of the flavor spectrum to the other from course to course. Instead, this meal provided a thoughtful progression of flavors. Most amazingly, Chef Morimoto and his army of talented culinarians made the whole thing look effortless. Absolutely a night I’ll never forget. How often does a Midwestern gal like me get to experience greatness like this first-hand?

Oh! I nearly forgot. To close the evening – the G Major 7 Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a big, badass cab. Lots of fruit. Some nice espresso notes and a fabulously long finish.  Nice, round tannins and a silky mouthfeel. Paired with a performance of La Vie en Rose by the evening’s jazz trio, it was a sublime way to end a sublime night.

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