Friday, October 31, 2008

Skillet-Sizzled Heaven from Crescent Dragonwagon

As some DallasEats readers may recall, last year at this time I was busy working on a review of a new cookbook for San Antonio's alt-weekly, The Current.  The cookbook in question was The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon, and I chronicled my mouthwatering adventures exploring its fascinating subject matter in two posts - here and here.

Dragonwagon, the James Beard Award-winning author of Passionate Vegetarian, turned food historian for her follow-up book, tackling a homespun subject and revealing its deep-rooted relevance to cultures all around the world and right here in our own American back yards.  In The Cornbread Gospels she presents dozens of variations on the "basic cornbread" theme (illustrating in the process that cornbread is anything but basic), as well as recipes for cornmeal-based quickbreads, flatbreads, yeast breads and desserts.  

I fell in love with this book, quite by accident.  Hautily, I'd expected to maintain my professional detachment with ease while working on the project, ambivalent as I'd been about cornbread for most of my life - I'd always thought I could take it or leave it.  My first batch of Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread changed all that.  The moment I poured golden batter into a pool of butter as it bubbled in my mother's cast-iron skillet, I knew I'd been converted by Dragonwagon's Gospels.  I continued cooking my way through the book with a newfound hunger for the soul-warming comfort of cornbread.

Below you'll find Crescent Dragonwagon's signature cornbread recipe (pictured above in the top left quadrant), named for the acclaimed bed and breakfast she ran for many years in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  It would pair beautifully with FP's recipe for Green Chile with Pork, presented earlier this week.

Crescent Dragonwagon's
Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread

vegetable oil cooking spray
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter

1.  Preheat oven to 375.  Spray a 10-inch skillet with cooking spray and set aside.

2.  Sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.

3.  In a smaller bowl, stir the baking soda into the buttermilk.  Whisk in the sugar, egg and vegetable oil.

4.  Put the prepared skillet over medium heat, add the butter, and heat until the butter melts and is just starting to sizzle.  Tilt the pan to coat the sides and bottom.

5.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine quickly, using as few strokes as possible.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cornbread is golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Slice into wedges and serve.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wine of the Week: Feeling Fall-ish

Times Ten Cellars
Zinfandel (Sierra Foothills)

Yesterday I wore an argyle sweater and corduroy pants.

I woke up Tuesday morning and, in keeping with my routine, I set the coffee to brew and poked my head out the back door to check the weather report. I was treated to a breath of clean, cold air, and I spotted the first streaks of a clear dawn stretching across the sky overhead. What a pleasant surprise! The warm, moist, hazy mornings that passed too quickly into steamy afternoons had come to an end for another year. Finally, lazy, plodding summer had handed off her barometric baton to brisk, energetic fall. I settled into a patio chair with a steaming mug moments later and smiling, tightened my robe against the chill. This, I thought, excited in a back-to-school sort of way, calls for a celebratory outfit. Hence, the argyle.

That evening, after a day that will go down in the books as one of my most stressful this year, I looked forward to a glass of wine that might return my spirit to the uplifted, hopeful fall place I'd found at the back door hours earlier. I couldn't dive into a pile of crackling, golden leaves, so I wanted to taste something that made me feel the way I'd felt when I put on my sweater that morning.

Times Ten Cellars Zinfandel had just what I was looking for. It burst with the ripe berry flavors that we expect from this rich, red grape, and hints of oaky toast and comforting spice in the background made it perfect for a brisk autumn evening. This bottle was part of my take-home haul from last week's visit to Times Ten in Lakewood, and their sale goes on through the end of the month. I now wish I'd added a couple of extra bottles of this Zin to my bag - good thing the winery is right here in Dallas. Maybe I'll pull on another sweater and drive over with the top down later this week.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Green Chili with Pork (FP takes a crack at Pozole)

The bulk of the inspiration behind this warming, hearty and slightly spicy dish came from a recipe I clipped out of Gourmet last year. The recipe is inspired by Pozole, a dish originating in South America and Mexico and popular in the Southwest. I added the Shiner and the lime, which I think adds a bit of a Texas twist to the more traditional recipe.

My husband and I are both obsessed with this recipe. We both love that it’s a relatively healthy, one-pot (plus one blender) meal. For the record, the reason he loves that is because he does the dishes.

  • 2 medium white onions, quartered

  • 5 fresh jalapeños, seeded, stemmed and quartered (leave some seeds if you want more kick)

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

  • 1 bottle of Shiner Bock

  • ½ cup + ½ cup of chicken broth

  • 1+2 tbs. Canola Oil

  • 2 lbs ground pork

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 (14- to 15-oz) cans white hominy, rinsed and drained

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

  • Juice of two limes

Purée onion, chiles, and garlic with 1/2 cup chicken broth in a blender.Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown pork, stirring and breaking up clumps with a fork, just until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to pot and heat over moderately high heat until hot, then carefully add purée (it will spatter), cumin, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is thickened and most of liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes.

Add pork, hominy, remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth, and Shiner and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens and liquid reduces by about half (30-45) minutes. Add the cilantro and lime juice and serve.

I have found the best way to serve it is with cornbread and sour cream. It makes four to six servings, depending on how large you want them to be. Yum!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bloggers' Brunch & Pepe's y Mito's Mini-Review

When: This past Saturday, 11:00 a.m.
Where: Pepe's y Mito's Restaurant, Deep Ellum
Who: Dallas-area Bloggers
Why: To get to know each other and to eat delicious Tex-Mex food

Well, Saturday was full of "firsts" for us DallasEats ladies. It's not often that we venture into Deep Ellum while the sun is still shining, and rarely if ever do we arrange to meet new people *before* cocktail hour. Still, we were both excited about the idea of talking shop with a group of Dallas bloggers while tucking into what was purported to be some pretty great Tex-Mex at Pepe's y Mito's on Elm Street.

Miss Margie, author of one of our favorite online food diaries, Eating in Dallas, had arranged this internetworking brunch (get it?), and the folks behind many Dallas food blogs had been invited. We arrived together and were greeted with open arms by Margie and her hubby, Hubbard, as well as the Food Czar and his wife, the "Rock Star". All faces were bright with smiles and we settled in with menus, chips, salsa and conversation.

Neither of us had ever been to Pepe's y Mito's, and while it does present a "dive"-like facade, the interior of the restaurant is quite large, encompassing two dining areas and one of those nifty partially-enclosed patios for semi-al-fresco dining just about all year round. It reminded FP a lot of some of her favorite places in Cozumel.

Our table was located in the bar area, which is decorated with all manner of colorful Tex-Mex kitch, and we were treated to some of the friendliest service we've ever encountered. (Note: We were especially impressed by this fact, given that early weekend brunch is notoriously loathed by waiters, often inciting resentment on their behalf which can translate into poor service on ours. Not the case at P's y M's!)

Conversation continued to flow through the aforementioned chips and salsa, an appetizer of crispy tacos and on into the main course. The crispy tacos, while a tad on the greasy side, were great eatin' nonetheless. FP sampled one of the chicken variety, and the meat was tender and flavorful with the lettuce and salsa (of course, she picked the tomatoes off) adding just the right amount of freshness and spice.

C&S's veggie fajitas were excellent - fresh and sizzling and seasoned to perfection. She swooned over bites of crisp potato, caramelized onion and sweet bell pepper piled into fresh, warm, homemade flour tortillas. That's right - homemade tortillas - the ugly, spotty, misshapen kind that taste like pure, lard-laced heaven. Awesome!

FP has been unable to stop thinking about the Cheese Enchilada included on her combination plate since leaving Pepe's y Mito's on Saturday. They seemed to actually contain--wait for it--actual honest-to-God cheese, not the processed kind you normally find in this type of enchilada. This made them chewier and more flavorful than your average cheese enchilada, and sent her to Tex-Mex heaven.

All in all, it was a lovely time. Margie was every bit the sweet, sunny lady we expected her to be from reading Eating in Dallas, and Hubbard was a treat to meet as well. Food Czar and his wife were also funny and fun, and our group was joined by another blogger, Donna of Donna Cooks, along with her better half, toward the end of the meal. She is friendly and sweet and we wished we could have chatted with her some more. So nice to meet everyone!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wrappin' Up TWM in Style!

Where, oh where, did October go?  Texas Wine Month just flew right by!

Click the link below to see today's final article in my TWM series for D Magazine's Side Dish. 

I hope this year's annual celebration of our state's wonderful wines has inspired you to taste something new, plan a weekend adventure or otherwise explore what the world of Lone Star wine has to offer.  I've enjoyed reading everyone's comments on Side Dish so far as well - thank you all so much, and feel free to comment on this final post, too.

And remember, you can always check back here on DallasEats for regular Texas wine recommendations.  Cheers!


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Link Fever

DallasEats is proud to now be linked from the GuideLive Eats Blog:

Next stop, world domination.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Big Sale at Times Ten Cellars!

Just a quick note to give all our wine-loving readers a heads-up on some great wine at a great price:  

Times Ten Cellars in Lakewood is having a big sale right now on take-home bottles of their wonderful wines in honor of the upcoming election.  The winery is offering 20% off on all bottles to-go and an extra 10% off when you buy 6 or more.  Awesome!  They even pack 'em up in an adorable earth-friendly wine tote for easy transport.  Love it :)

As Texas Wine Month comes to a close, this is a perfect way to stock up on top-notch wines made right here in Dallas for the upcoming holiday entertaining season!


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Mom Scoops Everyone

My mom got some interesting Food Network gossip from Tim Love while dining at Lonesome Dove last week.
Check out her blog for the scoop, as well as for an adorable picture of her and Chef Love...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wine 1, 2, 3 - Part II: Wonderful Whites

The first installment of this DallasEats series was a success!  In Part I of Wine 1, 2, 3, we took it from the top, beginning our exploration of wine with a discussion of size, shelf life and color. Judging by your comments, you all found it fun and useful, and that’s just what I had in mind.

And so, in Part II, let’s take one step forward.  Today we’ll begin talking about the many kinds of vino we have to choose from, beginning with white varietal wines.  With this post, I hope to help you put into words what it is about Sauvignon Blanc that you love so much, or why you don’t care for Chardonnay.  I thoroughly enjoyed researching these wines, and I invite you to take all the credit next time you're pondering a restaurant wine list or just relaxing with friends at happy hour.  Maybe you’ll also be tempted to choose a different white next time around – I’m all about expanding horizons.  And as an added bonus, today's third question will cover the matter of serving temperature, to achieve optimum deliciousness, no matter which wine you choose.

Now, on with the 1, 2, 3:

1. So, what is a varietal wine?

A varietal wine is a wine that is named for the type of grape (or variety) it’s made from.  For example, Kendall Jackson Chardonnay is a varietal wine.  We like to name our wines this way in America, and many (maybe most) of our favorites from California and elsewhere are varietal wines.  These wines are a good place to start, because they eliminate a lot of guesswork when it comes to selecting a bottle.  If you have an understanding of some basic characteristics, the name of a varietal wine will give you a good idea of what you’re going to taste when you pop the cork.

Varietal wines need not contain 100% of the main grape, but they must contain wine made mostly from that grape (percentage requirements vary). Small amounts of other types may be added for flavor or balance or a whole host of other reasons, but the overall character of the wine will reflect the type of grape on the label.

Not all wines are named this way, but we’ll get to blends and brand names and other categories later. For today, we’ll focus on varietal wines and touch on the basic characteristics of some of the most popular whites. Reds will follow in the next installment.

Bottom line: Varietal wines are named 
for the grape they’re made from.

2. The Wonderful Whites

Below you’ll find descriptions of the most popular types of white varietal wine, based on expert stats and the empty bottles I take to the recycling bin after a party.  By no means is this list complete, but these are the stars that you'll find headlining wine lists and shop shelves.

These descriptions are basic and broad - they are not an in-depth analysis of any or all wines made from each grape. Much like saying that New Yorkers wear a lot of black, ride the subway to work and have very small kitchens, these are general descriptions, but not applicable as a whole in each and every case.  ‘Nuff said.

Chardonnay: By far the most popular white varietal wine, Chardonnay is known for being full-bodied (as whites go) and its flavor can range from crisp to smooth and buttery.  It is also often oaky.  A discussion of Chardonnay, in fact, will often evolve into a discussion of oak.  You see, American Chards have a reputation for being aged in or otherwise flavored with oak, and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.  Some brands, in fact, are overwhelmingly woody.  I enjoy the smoky, toasty quality that a just a touch of oak lends to Chardonnay, but if you prefer a lighter wine with more prominent fruit characteristics, read the label notes or ask your wine merchant for an un-oaked version of this varietal.

Riesling:  Light-bodied, fruity and food-friendly, Riesling is also sometimes lower in alcohol than other reds and whites.  Germany is famous for this wine (and the tall, thin bottles it comes in), and it has been cultivated there for centuries.  Rieslings from the Alsace region of France are wonderful as well, as are those from around the United States. Often mistakenly believed to be a universally sweet varietal, Riesling can actually range in style from sweet to quite dry.  Try it with spicy foods for a real treat!

Sauvignon Blanc:  I last enjoyed Sauvignon Blanc poolside, many nights’ sleep ago.  So, in order to do best by this post (call it research), I sniffed and swirled and sipped a glass of Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc last night.  New Zealand does wonders with this wine, and this particular brand is, as I understand it, a classic example of its style.  The winery’s tasting notes tout tropical flavors and herbal notes in the wine, and I also detected hints of apples and pears.  Light and crisp and perfect for pairing with a variety of cheeses, Sauvignon Blanc is also sometimes labeled Fume Blanc.

Pinot Grigio:  One of my favorite go-to wine gurus, Andrea Immer, writes that this varietal “has instant meaning to most people – the words Pinot Grigio connote, quite accurately, ‘dry white wine’”.  Many versions of this varietal wine from Italy are sure-fire crowd-pleasers, and affordable to boot.  In fact, Immer points out that spending more for Pinot Grigio is almost always unnecessary, as the quality level does not tend to increase with the amount of money you spend.  I'm hoping to hold a personal tasting here in my laboratory (living room) soon and learn more about Pinot Grigio, which is also known as Pinot Gris.

Viognier:  I’ve added Viognier because I’m so fond of it, though it’s not nearly as popular as the whites I listed above. DallasEats is all about the up-and-coming, though, and this varietal is totally worth a taste. Viognier hails from the Rhone River Valley in France, and is prized for its intoxicating floral aromas and complex, distinctive flavor.  French Viogniers are among the most expensive white wines in the world, but American versions are getting great press, and they come at a much more affordable price.

Bottom line: White varietal wines represent 
a wide range of flavors and styles to suit any mood.

3. Too hot, too cold or just right?

I know which one this perfectionist prefers!

Most of us know the drill - serve red wine at room temp and white chilled, from the fridge.  The thing is, though, this is Texas, and “room temp” is often just too darn warm.  Likewise, our home refrigerators are also kept much cooler than is ideal for tasting everything a great white has to offer.

My strategy for satisfactory service is simple - I call it the “10 Minute Rule”: Ten minutes before service, place your bottle of red in the fridge.  For whites, reverse it, removing them from the icy depths of the chill chest (thanks, Alton!) ten minutes before you uncork.  Easy, right?  That’s my kind of rule.

Bottom line: Follow “The 10-Minute Rule”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Food Network to Launch Magazine

So, my beloved Food Network is launching a new magazine. Not surprisingly, they are calling it "Food Network Magazine". Although I haven't seen it yet, from what I understand, the intention is to be aimed toward the casual home cook (like Everyday with Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart's Everyday Food) than toward the hard-core Foodie.

The magazine launched its first test issue on October 14, and it will launch a second test issue in January 2009. It plans to start its regular distribution in June of 2009.

My question is, who will be reading this magazine? I am a HUGE Food Network fan, but I am not sure how I see this translating to print. My favorite Food Network star is The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. I've seen all of her shows, and I own all of her cookbooks. Is there going to be anything in the magazine that I haven't seen before? I find that unlikely. Unless they have a Tyler Florence centerfold in each issue, I don't see any reason that I'll become a regular reader.

I know I sound like a Grinch, but I already subscribe to Food & Wine, Everyday Food, and Cooking Light, so it's not at all that I am opposed to these types of magazines. I just don't think I'll be looking to take on another one.

What do you guys think? Is anyone completely psyched about the new magazine or are you pretty bored with this news as well?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Food for Thought

If all Americans observed one meatless day per week, 
we'd save an amount of carbon equal to taking 
20 million midsize sedans off the road for a year. 


I learned that from Michael Pollan's article, Farmer in Chief, in last weekend's New York Times Magazine.  Check it out - there's plenty more where this came from.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New York Times Magazine Food Issue

Fellow foodie friends, if you have not yet seen last Sunday's issue of the New York Times Magazine, click the link below to check out a collection of incredible readables on a wide-ranging array of food-related topics.

This week's special Food Issue is chock full of interesting, though-provoking and downright entertaining stuff. Why Tip? by Paul Wachter got me thinking about, well, why we tip, and presented an interesting study of a restaurant that decided tipping should be a thing of the past. Mark Bittman, as usual, was awesome, and I'm smack in the middle of Samantha Shapiro's Kosher Wars (will finish up right after this post!). I'm also curious about the interactive feature titled Inside the Fridge of a Foodie.

The real stand-out, however, is Michael Pollan's Farmer in Chief. This author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto has presented an eloquent and persuasive argument for the sweeping change of this country's relationship with food and farming in the form of a letter to our next President. Holy cow - talk about food for thought...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

And the position goes to...

Dave Faries!

I'd heard a while ago that the Observer was looking to fill the position of food critic, and since then I've waited with bated breath to see who might emerge as the candidate tasked with writing the knowledgeable, compulsively readable reviews for city-dwelling diners that I fell in love with in my local alt-weekly over the past 20+ years. Looks like they've settled on Dave Faries, and I couldn't be happier with the choice.

I've been a fan of Faries for a long time, and his first review reminded me why. It's comprehensive (many dishes sampled over multiple visits by a tongue that knows what it's tasting), well-written and entertaining for the reader. Here's looking forward to a return to looking forward to each week's new dining posts on

Friday, October 10, 2008

Drink Local Wine ... while you surf Drink Local Wine!

Pour yourself a glass of Lightcatcher Cab or Brennan Viognier - we've got a site you'll want to explore while sipping your favorite local vino:  

Drink Local Wine is Jeff Siegel (The Wine Curmudgeon) and Dave McIntyre's guide to the world of non-Cali wines.  Check it out to find thoughtful commentary and info on 16 states and Canada in honor of "Regional Wine Week", which is drawing to a close as we speak.  

Though designed with just this one week in mind, something tells me Drink Local Wine has staying power.   DallasEats loves the site and Siegel's mission statement: "Regional wine deserves respect!"  Right on.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Freebirds Vs. Chipotle: In this Battle, Everyone Wins

Over the weekend, my husband and I ate at Freebirds, which was probably the first time I had done so in about a year. The trip got me thinking about a subject that I have discussed with many of my friends—which is better, Chipotle or Freebirds? While this is obviously a matter of opinion, I have done some serious thinking about it, and I have my answer. But before I get to my opinion, let me give you a little background on the extensive research I’ve done on this subject…

Me and Freebirds go way back. I first sampled their burritos back in 1996 when I was a senior in High School. I went down to College Station to visit a friend of mine who was a Freshman at Texas A&M, even though I already knew that I was Longhorn bound the next year. I figured it didn’t hurt to see where the enemy sleeps.

I wasn’t particularly impressed with College Station, but when it came to Freebirds, it was love at first sight. This whole build-your-own-burrito concept was completely new to me, but I knew immediately that I was totally into it. I am kind of picky, so being able to get something exactly the way I want it—and without the annoying, “I want the cheeseburger, but can you please make it with cheddar instead of American cheese and hold the tomatoes and mayo, please”—was (and still is) very appealing.

In 1999, when I was a Junior at UT Austin, Freebirds opened their first Austin outpost just a few blocks from my house. I was completely psyched. It became my Sunday hangover fix. Over the next two years I perfected my formula, and I still get exactly the same thing when I visit now. Freebirds Burrito with a spinach tortilla, steak, refried beans, Monterrey jack cheese, sour cream, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, and BBQ sauce. Heaven.

My love affair with Freebirds continued until I graduated from UT in 2001 and moved back to Dallas, which at the time was Freebirds-less. What Dallas did have, however, was Chipotle, and by that time, I was a burrito addict who needed her fix any way she could get it.

Oh, Chipotle. Like most great love affairs, although we hit it off right off the bat, it took a little work to get our chemistry just right. But once I worked up my standard formula (burrito with chicken or barbacoa with rice, fajita peppers and onions, medium salsa, extra corn salsa, sour cream, a little cheese and guacamole), I never looked back. And as those of you who have read our blog for awhile know, I consider Chipotle to be among the best restaurants in Dallas.

Freebirds, on the other hand, was just a distant memory for me until 2004, when they opened one in Addison, right down the street from where I was living at the time. I was excited, but it still took me a couple of weeks to get there when it opened. When I did finally go, the smell hit me as soon as I walked in the door—so familiar and so entrenched in my brain. Visions of my days in Austin started swimming through my head. I ordered my standard formula and sat down to enjoy. Of course, the burrito was delicious and certainly held a lot of nostalgia for me (as well as refried beans and BBQ sauce).

So, the question still remains...which is better, Freebirds or Chipotle? Frankly, as much as I love Freebirds, Chipotle is the clear winner for me. Better quality, better ingredients, better selection, and better presentation. Not to mention, the guacamole at Chipotle can stand up to any in Dallas, in my humble opinion. And I’m pretty sure the corn salsa contains crack cocaine or crystal meth or something else that is highly, highly addictive.

What do you think? Anyone out there want to defend Freebirds' honor?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Lisa is Famous

Check out Lisa's new "Texas Wine Month" posting on the SideDish blog. It's always nice to see someone recognize the fabulousness that is C&S!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Read This: Red, White, and Drunk All Over by Natalie MacLean

When it comes to books on subject of wine, Natalie MacLean's Red, White, and Drunk All Over is in a class by itself.  Successfully sidestepping the "textbook" trap, this collection of episodic chapters feels more like sitting down to catch up with an old friend - a smart, funny friend who happens to know a hell of a lot about wine.  Both a sommelier and a gifted, award-winning writer, MacLean transports readers across the country and around the world as they tag along on her adventures in wine in this immersive, engaging read.

I was pleased to discover, and I'm sure you'll find, that this book lends itself to a style of study involving a sofa, a quilt and a glass of Pinot Noir, as opposed to a desk, a hard chair and a stack of various volumes of viticultural reference.  It's an entertaining, often laugh-out-loud tutorial.  Time and again, MacLean reeled me in with her tall tales and thoughtful profiles, and before I knew it, I'd learned something new.  In Red, White, and Drunk All Over, MacLean effortlessly sheds light on precious gems previously hidden behind a dusty curtain labeled "oenophile" - ideas and facts I'd believed to be too mysterious, too obscure or too complicated to ever fully understand.

Take this passage for instance, one that I circled with my pen and marked with a post-it note:  "The most affordable and easiest way to discover the wines of Burgundy is to buy from reputable negociants.  The best merchants are restoring wine lovers' faith in burgundy by making consistently good wines at less outrageous prices..."  MacLean goes on to list several producers from this prized French region whose wines can be had for a (relative) song.

Another chapter offers empowering advice on ordering wine in restaurants, as MacLean recounts the amusing tale of her night as an "Undercover Sommelier".  Upon completing a successful portion of the evening, she beams, "I've nailed every pour and feel like a gymnast who dismounts from the parallel bars with a backward flip and a perfect landing."  Her legwork, our reward.  Mixed in with her musings are helpful hints on navigating restaurant wine service.  I found this passage particularly powerful:  "Many scrupulous people feel guilty about sending back a bottle... But an establishment can usually return rejects to the wine merchant for full credit.  Remember, too, that restaurants take the cost of returned bottles into account when they price their wines, which means that anytime you buy a bottle, you're already paying for the privilege of being able to send it back."   It sounds so simple, and yet we've all found it difficult to act on our own behalf in such a situation.  I'll have more gumption after reading this book.

As a die-hard fan of anything glam, I also loved the chapter entitled "Big City Bacchus", in which MacLean spends an evening with celebrated novelist and wine-lover Jay McInerney.  And toward the end of the book, you'll find MacLean's must-read guide to pairing wine and cheese.  I'll be referencing her specific, fool-proof recommendations in the approaching holiday soiree season.  

Head to Natalie MacLean's website,, to order a copy of Red, White, and Drunk All Over.  While you're there, sign up for her free newsletter and take a moment to explore her food and wine matching tool.  In fact, I've been known to get lost in this popular site for an hour before I know what's hit me.  See for yourself, and pick up a book or two while you're at it.  I'm thinking stocking stuffers - how 'bout you?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Are You Ready For Some Football (Food)?

In my house, football season is greeted with the same excitement usually reserved for kindergarteners on Christmas morning. Every weekend we anticipate the Longhorn’s and Cowboys’ match-ups, and catch as many games our Fantasy Football players are playing in (yes, I play Fantasy Football) as possible.

Few foods pair as well with football and beer as chili. However, few foods make a room full of guys (and gals) as sluggish and let’s face it, gassy, as traditional chili. Over the years, I have cultivated a healthier chili recipe. It is satisfying, easy and deeply delicious - if a little unconventional - and pleases any football fan (and even those who aren’t - just ask C&S).

Robin’s Four Pepper Turkey Chili

2 tsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped

1 poblano pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 tsp. salt (preferably kosher or sea salt) + 1 tsp. salt
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded (or not, if you like it uber-spicy) and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. of lean ground turkey (93/7 is good)

28 oz. can of tomato sauce

28 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes (drained)
28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

15 oz. can of Rotel tomatoes, drained
2 tbs. chili powder
2 tbs. cumin
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
6 oz. can of tomato paste
15 oz. can of hominy, drained

In a large non-stick pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, and poblano pepper and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of salt. Sauté for 5-7 minutes or until the onions start to get translucent. Add the jalapeños and sauté for another minute. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Transfer the pepper mixture to a plate.

In the same pot, add the turkey breast and brown. Once cooked through, add the peppers back to the pot and combine. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, Rotel tomatoes, 1 tsp. salt and the rest of the spices. Bring to a slight bubble and add the tomato paste until completely incorporated. Add the hominy last, reduce the heat to medium low, and cover. Cook for at least an hour or as long as you can stand it.

Serve it with:
Sour cream

Favorites: Cabana Boys, Pineapple Heads and Two Desperately Inventive Chefs

Here at DallasEats, we love a little healthy competition.  Or, not-so-healthy, as the case may be (I don't think anyone would have called my CVS Salmon Croquettes salubrious).  So, when it came time to play favorites in honor of our 100th post milestone, I knew that our contests were at the top of my list.

Drugstore Gourmet:  Back in July of '07 (far in advance, might I add, of any of the recent 99-cent store cooking adventures), Foodie Princess and I faced off in a culinary competition with one simple yet cringe-worthy rule:  all ingredients for our respective 3-course meals had to come from the neighborhood CVS.  Click the link above to read all about the dishes, the judging and who ultimately earned bragging rights in the first ever DallasEats Cook-Off.

Mixology Competition:  This follow-up contest left our judges with great, big smiles - and maybe headaches to match.  Opening up the floor to a few loyal readers, FP and I were joined by several other gifted amateur bartenders in a challenge to see who could mix the tastiest cocktail concoction.  Read on for the shaken, stirred, fruit-flavored and umbrella-garnished details.

Enjoy!  And please let us know if you have an ideas for future face-offs!


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wine of the Week: Almost Famous Edition

Texas Wine Month is finally here!  Today is the first official day of a month-long celebration of the deliciousness that is Lone Star Wine.

Click the link below to read up on a few of this little wine lover's local recommendations.  As a special contributor to the D Magazine Side Dish blog, I listed four Texas wines that will help you get in the celebratory spirit without breaking the bank (or having to drive from here to El Paso and back).  

Enjoy the post, and don't be shy - post a comment on Side Dish and show this hard-working wine girl some love!