Thursday, April 30, 2009

Heaven in the Hill Country: Recipes from Hoffman Haus

Heaven is Hoffman Haus on a warm, sunny day.

FP and I both adore Hoffman Haus, a unique bed and breakfast in the Hill Country town of Fredericksburg.  Comprised of several guest cottages surrounding a generous home and dining hall, the property is naturally landscaped for a casual Central Texas feel.  Each room has its own theme, but all share owner Leslie Washburne's classic, minimalist style.  In other words, you won't find any doilies or porcelain knick-knacks at this B&B.  And that's just one of the many reasons to love it.

The best part of any stay at Hoffman Haus just might be the food.  Each morning, a basket filled with homemade treats is delivered right to the door of your cottage and no matter what it holds, you know you're in for a treat.  Maybe you'll enjoy some home-baked muffins while watching the sun rise in the courtyard (feed the last bite to a lucky koi fish in the pond), or you might decide to curl back into bed with a cup of coffee and a plate of cheesy, comforting eggs.  Good morning, indeed.

As I was organizing my kitchen yesterday, the following recipe fell from between the pages of a cookbook, and it seemed like the perfect time to share it on the blog.  Leslie gave me her recipe for easy Eggs Florentine years ago, and it's a simple way to get a little taste of Hoffman Haus whenever you're in need.  I've also thrown in a recipe for Artichoke Phyllo Packets from an article I wrote on the Natural Palate, Leslie's farm house cooking school just up the road from the inn.  It's not as easy as the eggs, but it's well worth the effort.  

Hoffman Haus Eggs Florentine

1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
8 eggs, beaten
4 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
1/2 lb. havarti cheese, grated
1/2 lb. feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a round pie plate or quiche pan and set aside.

Using a colander or your hands, squeeze as much liquid out of the thawed spinach as possible.  Combine spinach with remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl - mixture will be thick.  Pour into the prepared dish and bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Artichoke Phyllo Packets with Creamy Lemon Tahini Sauce

Artichoke Filling:

1/2 c raw almond slivers
2 tbsp. pine nuts
1 c frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1/4 c vegenaise (vegan mayo)
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Place all ingredients in bowl of food processor and process until combined and mixture is the consistency of a coarse paste. (This filling is also great tossed with pasta and served hot or cold.  - C&S)

To make packets:

Frozen phyllo dough
Canola, olive, or other vegetable oil

Thaw phyllo dough overnight in refrigerator.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Cut the stack of sheets lengthwise down the center, along the fold.  Depending on the
brand, you may need to make two cuts.  Sheets should be approximately 12x4
inches.  Use three of the cut sheets per packet, with a light brush of oil in between
each layer.  Place 2-3 rounded teaspoons of filling toward one end of stack and fold up triangularly, like a flag, trimming any excess phyllo after the last fold.  Brush top of packet lightly with oil.  Bake packets on a cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Serve with Creamy Lemon Tahini Sauce.

Creamy Lemon Tahini Sauce

2 tbsp. tahini
2 tbsp. mellow white miso
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 c water

Place all ingredients in bowl of food processor and process until smooth.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

For Your Little Chow Hound

Imagine Max's surprise when his new friend Eddie showed up the other day with a big ol' bucket-full of homemade cookies just for him.  Imagine my surprise when I learned how easy they were to make.

I've baked dog treats in the past, but they always seemed to have about 20 ingredients and required me to haul out my food processor and a rolling pin.  Needless to say, I haven't done that in a while.  This recipe, on the other hand, is super-simple, and I can personally attest that many kinds of dogs find them irresistible.  ...Not only did Max love 'em, but his friends Waylon, Romeo, Pickett and Coco all enjoyed one, too.

Thanks to VegSpinz and DJ Karma for this recipe, and another big thanks to Eddie!

Yummy Peanut Butter Doggie Biscuits 

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup whole oats
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
3 tbsp. molasses
3/4 cup water

Mix all ingredients into a stiff dough.  Roll into balls and flatten to about 1/2-inch thick and arrange on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, turn off heat and let them sit in the oven until nice and hard.  Makes about 12 treats.

NOTE:  Eddie removed the cookies from the oven immediately after baking for a softer treat.  Depending on your dog's taste, bake them hard or soft as you wish.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Pantry: An Update

It was touch-and-go there for a while, but after six weeks of intensive care, I'm pleased to report that the patient - er, pantry - is largely out of the woods.  Thank you all so much for your words of care and concern; this recovery would not have been possible without your support.

I'll continue to monitor the pantry's progress on an ongoing basis, and will keep you apprised of any further improvements or, heaven forbid, relapses.  We still have a long way to go, but the future looks bright.

Your friend and food confidant,


p.s.  Click here to see the before picture.  If you dare.

p.p.s.  Yes, those are purple Easter Peeps.  I'm waiting for them to get stale - they're better that way.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Comment Card

"Yeah, man - you just gotta try it!"

I had the best talk with my nephew Nate last night.  After discussing baseball, dogs and his upcoming move back to Texas, we got around to the subject of dinner.  "What did you have tonight?" I asked.  "Mashed potatoes," he answered.  "With cheese and bacon bits!"  I allowed as how this sounded very yummy, and he replied with a five-year-old boy rave review:  "Yeah, man - you just gotta try it!"

How cute is that?  It made me remember my favorite dinner when I was five:  macaroni and cheese - from the box.  Nothing could compare.  So, what was your dream meal when you were little?  What kept you hanging around the kitchen asking "Is it ready yet?" every three minutes until dinnertime?  Was there a school cafeteria dish that you would count down the days to each week?  Or maybe something from the ice cream man? (Remember him?  I couldn't get enough Chocolate Eclair bars...)  Tell us all about it!


p.s.  Nate's sister Abby is also a trip...but she'd still rather be playing than stuck at the dinner table.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You'll Love 'Em, Pho Sho': Vietnamese Faves

FoodiePrincess and I share an all-consuming love of Vietnamese food.* Especially now, as the temperature begins to climb to its August apex, we long for the fresh, vibrant flavors of our favorite Southeast Asian cuisine. But let's face it - it's not really the kind of food you want to make at home. Ever tried to wrap your own rice-paper spring rolls? 'Nuff said. This stuff is better left to the experts. Good thing we've been scouting out awesome Dallas-area Vietnamese restaurants for, oh, about fifteen years or so... 

Below you'll find a few of our pho-tastic faves - and we're always on the lookout for more. Have we missed one of your favorites? Must we rush right out to crunch and slurp at a new spot? Please do share! In the meantime, get ready to program your GPS:

DallasEats' Vietnamese Favorites

4812 Bryan St # 100
Dallas, TX 75204

FP and her adorable hub love this little East Dallas spot. She's partial to the Pho Tai (as she is pretty much everywhere), and the Spicy Chicken Soup is also to-die-for good. P.S. - don't miss the crispy spring rolls. Yum.

Pho 95
9780 Walnut St #120
Dallas, TX 75243

Both FP and I have been hitting Pho 95 since high school. A fancy chef I interviewed recently proclaimed a love for this hole in the wall, too. But don't expect white tablecloths and fawning servers - it's strictly "slurp 'em if you got 'em". We haven't tried anything we haven't liked, and the prices are such that you'll have plenty of pocket money left for a shopping spree at Hong Kong Marketplace after lunch (Pocky for dessert!).

Pho Bac
153 N Plano Rd
Richardson, TX 75081

Pho Bac is similar to Pho 95 in its aesthetic (or lack thereof), but also similar in that the food is just delicious. Excellent Pho, vermicelli dishes and crispy little Vietnamese Eggrolls.

4302 Bryan St
Dallas, TX 75204

This recently-discovered favorite offers a full menu of delicious dishes in addition to a pretty darn good lunchtime buffet. Judging by the crowds, we weren't the first on the scene with this one, but that hasn't stopped us from spreading the word. Pho, Banh Mi and spring rolls are all great at Vietnam, and the aforementioned buffet made my Dad very happy on our last visit - and he knows his stuff!

3211 Oak Lawn Ave
Dallas, TX 75219

What can we say about Green Papaya that we haven't said before? Well, plenty actually - in recent months, we've discovered the #24 and the #35 (we think), a cool bowl of chicken and vermicelli with all the good stuff (much like pho without the broth) and a wicked delicious shrimp coconut curry that might leave you licking your plate. Both pair well with a tall, cool glass of Sauvignon Blanc on a warm spring evening. They might even tempt FP away from the Canh Chu next time around...

Happy slurping! Enjoy!

* It's just one of the things we have in common with the incomparable Anthony Bourdain. But we're not telling what the other ones are. Yet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oak Cliff Earth Day: Green Tastes Good!

Oak Cliff Earth Day was a blast!  

I attended the OCED 2009 festival at Lake Cliff Park last Sunday - along with about 7,500 other earth-loving folks.  What a gorgeous day to celebrate the planet!  In addition to exploring dozens of eco-friendly vendors and exhibits, I munched some tasty treats and met some real characters.  Here are a few highlights from the event: 

1.  First and foremost - the food!  Right inside the stone pavilion which served as the entrance to the festival, several restaurants and food vendors were offering yummy things to eat.  Bolsa, It's a Grind (see smiling faces above), Marble Slab Creamery and Kessler Cookie Company were just a few of the tempting choices...

2.  ...but I only had eyes for Spiral Diner.  This brownie lasted exactly 1/10 of a second after the picture was taken.  It was amazing.  (Thanks for the tip, Eddie!)

3.  Speaking of sweets, I'm sorry to report that these colorful cupcakes were inedible.  You put them in your bath.  Hmph.  Not sure how I feel about the food-themed toiletry craze - but they sure look cute.

4.  Susan and Brandon Pollard of the Texas Honeybee Guild were in full costume for the festival.  These "Urban Beewranglers" offer bee rescue and relocation services, in addition to various products and educational programs.  (Maybe Jason should give them a call.)

5.  There were adorable dogs everywhere you looked (like the blonde cutie above), and lots of pet-centric booths.  I picked up a few samples of Innova holistic pet food for Max at the Green Pet tent.  He liked the cheese puff treats almost as much as I liked that brownie.

What a wonderful, feel-good day.  I'm so glad I made the trip to the OC to see what it was all about, and I've already marked my calendar for next year's event.


p.s.  Earth Day is coming up tomorrow, and I'll be celebrating at Mockingbird Station.  How 'bout you?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Now that's what I call "local"...

Check out this hilarious video of our friend Jason Lye setting up a backyard bee hive.  Heck of hazardous hobby when all you get is honey, if you ask me.  Makes my dream of a pet nanny goat (hello, homemade chevre!) seem downright tame.  Enjoy!


Friday, April 17, 2009

Comment Card

Do your eating habits change as the weather warms up?

Traditional thinking goes that we're more likely to munch a salad or sip cold, refreshing drinks when the temp begins to climb upward in the spring ... but in all honesty, I'm up for a steaming bowl of oatmeal or a big, bold Cabernet even if it's 100+ outside.  Really.  

So, how 'bout you?  Does your eating and cooking change this time of year?  If so, how?  If not, why not?  I'm curious!


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bliss & Tell: A First Look at Bliss Raw Cafe

How much do you know about the raw food movement?  
Until last week, I didn’t know much – and what I learned 
might surprise you...

My good friend Eddie G. of Dallas Vegan, an all-around awesome guy, invited me to attend a “first look and taste” at Bliss Raw Café and Elixir Bar on Greenville Avenue last Friday, and it was an experience I won’t soon forget.  In preparation for our feast, I grilled Eddie (who is not a raw foodist, but knows a lot about it) on the various ins and outs of this peculiar and fascinating way of life:  What does it mean, exactly?  What are its purported benefits?  And most of all, why is it so hot-hot-hot (or “cool”, as it were) right now in 2009?

In its simplest terms, eating “raw” means consuming foods that have not been cooked.  Pretty simple, right?  Well, not really.  Foods deemed acceptable by raw foodists have not been heated above 115 degrees, but more importantly, great attention is paid to certain “super foods” – additives derived from plants and medicinal herbs that enhance the flavor and increase the health benefits of raw dishes.  More on those later.  Further, special kitchen contraptions – dehydrators and the like – are employed in advanced raw kitchens to simulate baked goods and other cooked items using raw ingredients.  The lengths to which a raw chef will go to simulate a hamburger bun, for instance, without the benefit of leavening agents or a conventional oven, is nothing short of alchemy.  More on that later, too.  To put it mildly, there is much more at work here than tossing salads and blending smoothies.

But why go to all this trouble in the first place?  Well, raw foodists believe that consuming foods in their raw state is the best way for the body to receive the full benefit of everything they have to offer.  They believe that optimum health (including increased energy and stamina and the prevention of disease) is achieved only by eating food that has not been subjected to the damaging power of heat.  Many Hollywood celebs have adopted this way of life in recent years, and as Eddie pointed out in his article for the City of Ate: As L.A. does, so does Dallas – eventually.  But there's much more to Bliss than jumping on the latest designer diet bandwagon.

Eddie and I arrived at the café on a sparkling, sunny afternoon, and the tiny spot was bustling with busy chefs and food-lovers eagerly awaiting this “first taste” experience.  We were greeted by Maria Whitworth, official spokesperson of the new restaurant, who showed us to our seats at a small bar on one side of the tiny, street-car shaped space.   Chefs Brian Hudson Smith, Brett Thompson and Johnny Raw Appleseed were hard at work in the kitchen (that's Ms. Appleseed and Mr. Hudson clowning for the camera, above).  After meeting and greeting the other guests – two lovely local actresses and a friendly girl who, like me, would be experiencing her first raw meal – Maria presented us with menus and the food parade began.  What a spread!

Here is a run-down of everything we sampled – the hits, the misses and the show-stopping surprises:


Nori Bites:  This dish was all about presentation – it looked like a beautiful plate of sushi from any top Asian restaurant in town.  A dipping sauce of Nama Shoyu (unpasteurized soy sauce), ginger, lemon juice and garlic was a refreshing condiment.  The flavor was not unlike a California Roll with a little of Mom’s tuna salad in the background.  Eddie didn’t care for it, but I enjoyed its subtle play on traditional sushi-roll flavors.


Corn Chowder: I am sad to report that this was the “thudder” of the meal.  Both Eddie and I felt the dish was too rich and the raw green onion garnish overwhelmed the subtle flavor of fresh corn.


Rawko-Taco Plate with Chocolate Salad: (pictured at left)  This was my very favorite dish of the day.  These “rawko-tacos” are a wonderful twist on traditional tacos, featuring all the comforting Mexican spices you’d expect and a few surprising new flavors.  The rust-colored taco shell, containing corn, flax meal, onion and spices, had just the right sturdy but chewy texture to stand up to its filling of sundried tomato and sunflower seed paste.  Might sound strange, but it was absolutely on-the-money.

Chocolate Salad on the side was a cole slaw-like combo of cabbage, avocado and “Chocolate Bliss”, one of the aforementioned “super food” powders containing cacao, hemp seeds and all manner of dried fruits.  According to the package, those who consume “Chocolate Bliss” can expect “continuous peak mood, energy and beauty”.  Such benefits don’t come cheap, but the folks at Bliss Café have figured out how to work “super foods” into many menu items while keeping prices reasonable.

Pesto Pizza:  Unfortunately, after the stunning success of the taco plate, this pizza faded into the background.  It did, however, feature nice Italian spices and the pesto topper was as delicious as any conventional pesto I’d ever tasted.

SunnBurger:  (pictured above) Johnny also calls this her “SuperBurger”, as it features another “super food” called "Revitaphi".  This powder contains over 40 probiotics, along with various veggies and enzymes, and Johnny believes it inspires her artistically in addition to its physical benefits.  I have to admit that I wasn’t thinking too much about all that, however, after I took my first bite. This burger was delicious!  The bun was especially clever, approximating a tender Mrs. Baird’s by way of kamut, agave and who-knows-what else.  The patty itself was standard fare, but in combination with that bodacious bun and a schmear of cashew “mayo”, it went far beyond the usual boring beef-less burger.  Bravo!


Both the Coconut Berry Parfait and the Strawberry Sheezcake were creamy and comforting and not overly sweet.  The Sheezcake was my fave, owing to its rich crust that tasted a lot like halvah, one of my favorite childhood treats.


With each course, Brian presented one of his special smoothie-like concoctions, all of which were intriguing and a couple of which were downright sinful.  We especially liked the Minty Hemp Drink, which tasted just like your favorite minty milkshake from the corner ice cream shop.  (photo, left:  Brian the Elixir Mixologist)

Ultimately, the experience was eye-opening – but not at all for the reasons I had anticipated.   For starters, Johnny and the gang are so down to earth, so absolutely approachable, I didn’t end up feeling like a heathen in church on Easter Sunday (as I was afraid I would).  If anything, they are even more excited for their food to reach those of us outside of their immediate circle.  Second, far from pretentious or too-cool-for-school, the restaurant is actually so “Austin” it’s not even funny.   It embodies the laid-back, casual cool we associate with our neighbor to the south, and Johnny herself, pierced and be-clogged and sparkling with health, looked like she beamed up from Guadalupe St. just in time for the tasting.  And last but not least, I’d totally go back.  While I don’t intend on converting to a raw diet any time soon, I’m sipping a “Chocolate Bliss” smoothie as I write this post, and am now tuned-in to another delicious niche cuisine available here in Dallas.

6855 Greenville Avenue
Opens April 28th

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Catty Corner

Are you ready for some more meow?  

Catty Corner #2:  New Edible Wasn’t as Tasty as I Expected… 

Can I tell you how excited I was to read the first issue of Edible Dallas and Fort Worth?  I was given a copy of Edible Austin some time ago by a friend in Fredericksburg and I proceeded to devour it cover-to-cover on the car ride back home.  I eagerly anticipated the arrival of this magazine dedicated to local, seasonal and artisanal foods when I heard it was coming to the Metroplex – and I finally got my hands on a copy last Saturday.  Sigh.  It wasn’t all that I had expected...

First of all, I’d like to point out what I enjoyed about Edible:

Variety:  The articles presented covered a wide range of topics – gardening, cooking, farming, etc.

Tom Spicer:  I loved the profile of the man behind F-M 1410.  Kim Pierce captured his passionate conviction and eccentric individuality.

Recipes:  Who doesn’t love recipes?  My mouth really watered for “Deborah’s Herb Crusted Chevre Medallions”.

…However, I’d be fibbing if I said that the good outweighed the bad. I think it was about a 50/50 split.  Here are my issues with the issue:

On the detail-oriented side, I’d like to strongly suggest that Edible add photo captions.  For example, I had no idea who the fellow was who was pictured with the article on Bolsa.  Is he one of the owners or the chef?  And what is the name of the delicious dish to his right? Likewise, other mystery photos detracted from my enjoyment of the magazine, instead of adding to it as they should.

Second, I would have liked a short bio on the contributors in the style of other magazines.  The section called “Notable Edibles”, for instance, is written by the “Edible Staff” – who are they? What are their backgrounds and areas of expertise?  The magazine is about getting more personal with your food, after all, so why not give us a little info on the folks behind the words, too?  (The website offers background on a couple of contributors, but why not the magazine itself?)

Third, some of the content left much to be desired.   Case in point: “The Pleasures of Eating” by Wendell Berry was, in my estimation, a rambling, reprimanding rant against the very folks who would be reading it for not being aware enough to recognize the shortcomings of their own food supply.  I’m sorry, but wouldn’t the audience for such an article (readers of Edible magazine) be quite aware of why, how and what they were eating?  Various parts of the essay also seemed – how to put it? – folksy and outdated.  Take the following quote: “Like industrial sex, industrial eating has become a degraded, poor and paltry thing.”  What exactly is Mr. Berry getting at here?  I don’t think I even know what “industrial sex” is.  The rest of the paragraph didn’t adequately explain the comparison.  

Later, while discussing food advertising Berry states, “If one gained one’s whole knowledge of food from these advertisements (as some presumably do), one would not know that the various edibles were ever living creatures or that they all come from the soil or that they were produced by work.”  Has this man watched television or read a magazine lately?  Not only do I believe that most advertising these days strives to achieve a goal opposite of his claim – in fact exaggerating the connection between their products and the earth – but I’d further hypothesize that any grade-schooler in the country knows that beef comes from cows, which are living animals, and that vegetables grow in the ground.  Only when I flipped to the end of the article and saw that it was originally printed in 1990 did I understand why some of the statements in the piece seemed out of touch with 2009.

Further, a profile of Khatter Vineyards left out a crucial detail.  I have visited this small vineyard and winery, and I think the most important point to mention when suggesting it as a destination (as the article did) is that it is located in the side and back yards of a private home in a residential neighborhood in the suburb of Parker.  Reading a passage like “…nestled among towering pecan trees, overlooking a crooked creek…” gives a very different impression, no? Carolyn Khatter is a lovely person and she makes some damn good wine, but we must be clear about these things.

There’s more, but I won’t press on.   I have high hopes for the next installment of Edible Dallas and Fort Worth, even though this initial effort didn’t satisfy my appetite.  Perhaps issue two will have worked out some of these kinks.

And now, I'm off to my scratching post.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Reader Recipe File: J.R.'s All-Carb Edition

Many of you loyal readers may feel like you know J.R. Gower already - he often composes hilarious novellas in the comments section and once captivated an entire party-full of DallasEats regulars with a plate of his 'Witches.  

The cook in question (right), with his schwag-bag 

In truth, everything this guy touches in the kitchen turns to gold.  And now we know his secret:  don't be shy with the butter.  Or the cream cheese.  Or the mayo.  He's provided a couple of smack-your-Mama delicious recipes for us today that will be a hit at any spring barbeque or dinner party.  Just be sure everyone pops a Lipitor first.

Better Than Yours Potato Salad

4 Large Baking Potatoes (Washed and dried....these are not dishwasher safe)
1 30 oz. Jar Hellman's Mayo (NO MIRACLE WHIP)
1/2 cup Red Onion (optional)
Olive oil
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Course Kosher Salt
Dill Weed

Preheat oven to 350. 

In a piece of aluminium foil large enough to wrap an inividual potato, pour a generous amount of olive oil, add a pinch of salt and a few turns of black pepper. Roll the potato in the mixture and then wrap with foil; repeat for additional spuds. (I like to add a generous amount of Olive Oil - at least a TBSP - because you are going to bake the potatoes and it will absorb and give them a little bit of a fried taste which is what really makes this salad.)  Bake the potatoes for 45-60 min. or until you can pierce easily with a knife.  Allow potatoes to completely cool in foil. 

Once cool, place potatoes, skins and all, in a large mixing bowl and add any remining olive oil to the bowl as well. Then add the entire jar of mayo and the dill. The dill should be added to taste. I would say I typically add 1/8 to 1/4 cup.  Gently mix everything together to combine.  (The potatoes will fall apart but you want to be careful to leave them a bit chunky.)  Add the red onion and any additional salt and pepper to taste.

MMMMMMMM Mashed Potatoes

10 Red Potatoes, halved
1 Red Onion, chopped
1 TBSP White Vinegar
2 Sticks Butter
1 8 oz. package Cream Cheese, softened
3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Place potatoes in pot and cover with COLD water.  Add vinegar.  (The vinegar makes the potatoes extra-vibrant in color and allows them to be fluffier when whipped.)  Bring potatoes to a boil and simmer until tender, but not falling apart.

In a separate pan, melt one stick of butter and saute the red onion until tender and translucent.  Set aside.  Also, warm your cream to hot but not boiling.  

Once the spuds are done, drain and place them back in the pot.  Add in sauteed onions with all butter, and add the additional stick of butter, cream cheese, and warm cream. Mix with hand mixer until completely whipped and light and fluffy.  Add additional warm cream as needed to reach desired texture.  Add Kosher salt and pepper to taste. 

*J.R. says:  "The best part about these mashed potatoes is that the onion will completely disappear and give them a great flavor - so any anti-onion guests will never ever know they're in there.  But they'll love these me...I have done it a million times with a Cheshire grin on my face the entire time!"

And finally, a shameless plug:  Check out J.R.'s House of Style for a unique shopping experience!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

We've Worked Up Quite an Appetite!

Have you checked out Appetite for Instruction lately?  Today's featured chef is Michelle Carpenter of Zen Sushi who generously shared her delicious and stylish recipe for Ceviche Martinis (pictured above).

I have to admit, this weekly bug-a-chef column is a lot of fun to write.  Not only does it give me an awesome excuse to call up any restaurant in the city and ask for one of their most delicious recipes, but it also offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the chefs themselves make the dish.  For instance, following along with Chef Michael Tyler, I learned that making Italian Buttercream Frosting isn't nearly as difficult I'd always assumed it would be.  They key, he showed us, is patience.  (And a reliable candy thermometer.)  And speaking of patience, I don't know that I'd have the self-control to wait 12 hours while Jeffrey Kowitz's brisket braised in the oven, but now I've got the recipe if I'm ever feeling up to the challenge.

Click here to check out the A.F.I. archives.  We're working up quite a collection!  And feel free to chime in with any suggestions for future chefs you'd like me to bug.  ...I mean interview.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Restaurant Bargains from Texas Monthly

I love getting something for (almost) nothing...  Don't you?  

The cover of April’s Texas Monthly magazine promises “Free Food! (Almost.)” and Patricia Sharpe’s feature, “How to Eat Well in Hard Times” definitely delivers. Her selection of exceptional, economical restaurant meals from across the state includes four picks from right here in Big D: 

1.  Grilled Pork Over Vermicelli with Green Papaya from Bistro B
2.  The Fried Chicken Dinner from Bubba’s
3.  The Beef-and-Cheese Cachapa from Zaguán Latin Café and Bakery
4.  Chicken Potpie from Cowboy Chow

My mouth is already watering.  Has anyone tried any of these dishes?  If so, how do they rate on *your* cheapskate gourmet scale?  Some of her picks from other cities also looked tempting - I'll definitely reference this article on my next trip to Austin or Houston or even Fort Worth (but I'll let you pick up your own copy for those).

Click here for a extra-bonus slide show, narrated by Ms. Sharpe.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Reader Recipe File: Gazpacho Dip and Tiramisu

Cynthia Hurley isn't just a legal eagle, she's also a wicked good cook.

(Couldn't resist the post - gotta love the 80's!)  

We've known Cynthia for going on 10 years now, and she's always been one of our favorite folks to talk food with - restaurants, cooking shows and most of all, recipes.  She's shared two of her finest with us today, a quick and easy party pleaser and a sinfully delicious dessert.  Of her Gazpacho Dip, Cynthia says, "This dip is awesome - easy to make and easy to prepare ahead.  Add the avocados right before you serve."  Her recipe for tiramisu follows.  It's a frequent fund-raiser at dessert auctions, but we won't tell anyone if you make it for your own selfish purposes...

Gazpacho Dip

*Courtesy of The Texas Experience, the Richardson Woman's Club's first cookbook

1 4-oz. can chopped black olives
1 4-oz. can chopped green chilies
2-3 tomatoes, diced
4-5 green onions, diced
1 1/2 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. garlic salt
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
ground pepper to taste

2-3 avocados, diced

1. Combine all ingredients except avocados.  

2. Marinate and chill 1-6 hours.  Add avocados before serving.


6 egg yolks 
1-1/4 cups sugar 
1-1/4 cup (2 tubs) mascarpone
1-3/4 cup + 1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream 
3 packages, (3 ounces each) ladyfingers
1/3 cup Kahlua
1 cup strong coffee
1 tbsp. powdered sugar 
1/4 teaspoon vanilla 
chocolate curls to garnish (I use dark chocolate)

1. In a small mixer bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, about 1 minute.

2. Place in top of double boiler over boiling water.

3. Reduce heat to low and cook 8 to 10 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat. 

4. Add mascarpone cheese, beating well.

5. In small mixer bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks form.  Fold into egg yolk mixture; set aside. 

6. Line bottom and sides of 2-1/2 to 3-quart bowl or souffle dish with ladyfinger halves, split sides up.

7. Brush with coffee liqueur and coffee, blended together.

8. Spoon half of egg yolk-cream mixture into ladyfinger-lined bowl.

9. Repeat ladyfingers, espresso and cream layers.

10. Garnish with Sweetened Whipped Cream (directions follow) and chocolate curls.

11. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Sweetened Whipped Cream:  In small mixer bowl, combine 1/2-cup heavy or whipping cream, 1 tablespoon unsifted confectioners' sugar, and 1/4-teaspoon vanilla extract.  Whip until stiff peaks form.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Comment Card

Speaking of tricks, which one's your favorite?

All of us cooks have a little something up our sleeve to save time, add flavor or impress our guests.  Whether we learned them from Grandma or (gasp!) Sandra Lee, these secrets run the gamut from simple to complex to slightly bizarre.  Here's a couple to kick things off:

Freezing bananas: When making banana bread or anything that calls for mashed bananas, I freeze them first (in the peel), then thaw them out on the counter before proceeding with the recipe.  It makes them much easier to mash, and they'll blend right into any batter - no lumps.

Mayonnaise in cake:  Anyone heard of this one?  I've never tried this trick, but adding mayo or Miracle Whip to cakes dates back to the 50's, I think, and is supposed to yield unbelievably rich, moist results.  I wonder if it really works...

Now let's hear yours!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Catty Corner

You all know me pretty well by now. (So you also probably know that this isn't my cat - it's FP's.)

I'm a sweet girl, and I like to play nice...but sometimes plain ol' nice just doesn't cut it.  Know what I mean?  I've decided to add an every-now-and-then feature in which I can get some things off of my chest - and hopefully info-tain you in the process!  To that end, I present Catty Corner (with thanks to my hubby for the clever title).

Catty Corner #1: Disses and Disappointment 

Not long ago, I met a friend for lunch at a new place we'd both been dying to try.  It's a smaller offshoot of a beloved local legend, tucked into a cozy corner near the Crescent.  I arrived at 12:20 (a little early) that Friday afternoon to find the place hopping - great-looking cars buzzed through the valet line and the patio was packed with pretty people.  As I approached the front door, I momentarily regretted my jeans-and-tank-top attire (I'd decided to play it L.A. that day), but shrugged off my worries in favor of focusing on the great meal ahead.  

Inside at the host stand, I spotted a Silver Fox-type that I was sure was one of the owners chatting up a couple of botoxed blondies in low-cut tops.  "How do you like our new place?" he asked with a grin, and whisked the pair to a table as they gazed about in admiration.  He returned to his post an offered me a warm smile, but when I asked for a table for two, he directed me to the bar and told me I'd have to wait.  Though I spotted several free tables here and there, I kindly obliged (he was very sweet about it) and squeezed into a space at the end of the bar behind a giant plant.  I thought perhaps the delay was due to my "incomplete party", though I wasn't told this in so many words.  In fact, I was assured that my table would be ready very soon.

As I waited (and waited), servers buzzed around me, a man to my left munched a burger and I began to feel very much in the way.  My lunch date eventually came to my rescue, however, and we were seated at a small two-top in the back of the dining room.  It still wasn't clear whether our being seated after her arrival was a coincidence or not, but I decided not to worry about it.  I also didn't fret the nook-and-cranny table location, as I hadn't requested a specific spot, and sometimes these things are the luck of the draw.

I'd had plenty of time to look over the chalkboard while I was waiting at the bar, so ordering was quick-and-easy:  the pasta with seafood special for me, and the club sandwich for my companion.  We settled into the friendly banter of two old friends with a lot of catching up to do, but when our food arrived, my relaxed demeanor quickly turned sour as this restaurant racked up strike three.  The special had been billed as a dish of whole wheat pasta tossed with trout, scallops, mussels and the like ($12, I believe), but it arrived looking more like spaghetti from a kids' menu.  The only discernable sea creatures in the bowl were the mussels - four to be exact - one of which hadn't opened and necessitated quick disposal.  Digging around, I found various bits of other fish, but the dish was awkward to eat, as someone had decided to break the long strands of whole wheat linguine in half before the boil.  The result were floppy, flappy noodles that refused to twirl and threatened to throw tomato sauce across the table with every dip of the fork.  To top it off, fragments of mussel shell peppered the dish (one of the bivalves had cracked), adding a gritty grind to every other bite.  In short, there was nothing special about this special.

To be fair, my friend liked her sandwich and our server was quick to please.  (She crossed the line to overly-solicitous a couple of times, actually, but it wouldn't have bothered me if everything else had gone off without a hitch.)  We exited to a quick goodbye from the same Dapper Dan who greeted me, and on the way back out into a glittering sunny day, I spotted the blondies from the door at a prime table on the patio.  I'll admit a touch of envy.  I'd give this spot a second chance, but I'll avoid the pasta and hand-pick my own table next time, thank you very much.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

This girl loves wine even more than we do...

Up for an out-of-the-ordinary outing?  

A DallasEats regular sent me some info today on a very intriguing one-woman play called "Still Spinning the Bottle" starring a cheeky chick named Krissi Reeves.  This trustworthy reader assures me that Ms. Reeves' antics are well worth the price of admission, and you've got three performances to choose from this weekend.  Here's a personal message from the star of the show:


I'll be performing my one-woman comedic play, Spinning the Bottle, this weekend at the DFW Fringe Festival @ The Dallas Hub Theater. In 2008, Spinning the Bottle won '1st Place Producer's Pick' & '3rd Place Audience Award' at DFW Fringe! So, you know, it's pretty dope.

This year, I'm back with more wine, more adventures in absurdity and more mind-numbing inquiries into the human heart. Hiccup. I have three shows this weekend - listed below. And afterwards, we can have cocktails! Come out this weekend - support local theater and definitely support Deep Ellum!"

- Krissi Reeves


Friday, April 3rd @ 10 pm
Saturday, April 4th @ 2:30 pm
Sunday, April 5th @ 2:30 pm

Click here for more information on the show and a link to purchase tickets.  Click on the "Fringe Festival" box, then scroll down until you see "Still Spinning the Bottle".