Sunday, August 28, 2011

Missing the WOW factor: Cupcakes from Trailercakes are ok

Trailercakes - 3*s

I was psyched about going to this rummage sale at The Gypsy Wagon that happened the weekend of Friday, August 19. Let's be honest. I was more excited about the cupcakes from Trailercakes that they would be selling during the sale. An article in the Dallas Observer's "Side Dish" blog made the Peanut Butter and Jelly cupcake sound ethereal. I admit it. I was planning to try it at the Food Truck Festival. But I thought back to these cupcakes and thought.. meh. I do have to say the trailer, or food truck, they had out at the Food Truck Fetsival was very cute. It was silver, had bubbles painted on it, and there was a bubble machine outside the truck. I give them credit for their packaging.

On that note, I have to say the best thing about these cupcakes was their packaging (and I give them credit for that). They were absolutely adorable. The Slap Your Mother Chocolate cupcake had a piece of chocolate stuck in the frosting, the Strawberry Fields cupcake had a mini poptart (I think?), and the Cookie Monster cupcake had an oreo. I also appreciated the small sizes. As much as I love food, I'd prefer that my body not announce that fact. I bought 3 for $4. Really a pretty good price. They also gave me new ones when I smashed mine on the floor. No charge. Awesome!
Ok I admit it. These pictures make me salivate a little.

Food Truck Festival... Fail.

An article in the Dallas Morning News  this morning by Katherine Unmuth motivated me to get off my ass and write something about the DFW Food Truck Festival I attended last night. Those writers do post their articles quickly..

I will agree (with Ms. Unmuth) that there is a food truck revolution happening in Dallas. It is also quite a recent one. The way it seems to work in Dallas is that people stalk the food trucks on twitter and drive out to their locations, which vary quite a bit, for lunch or dinner. Of course, the part of town will have an effect on the traffic. A visit to Gandolpho's, which I reviewed earlier here, in the industrial part of town had hardly any customers in attendance. On the other hand, a visit to Nammi at Flora and McKinney had a good amount of people. In places like New York or Austin, they just seem to be floating around. People go to them when they see them rather than following their twitter feeds. Perhaps if our food truck community gets large enough, we will get to that point.

After glancing at an article by Scott Reitz about how crowded this festival would be, and how bad parking would be, I was planning to get there early. I think he posted it on the Dallas Observer, I found the post from twitter, but I don't see it any more. He suggested arriving at 5 PM, that most of the trucks should be setting up by then. However, my state of mind interfered. I had run off to this Chocolate Conference that morning with no coffee. I had the idea the chocolate would give me energy. But that so didn't work. I need more caffeine than that. By the time I got home, I was beyond stuffed and exhausted. I had a cup of espresso and was trying to wait till I had more energy. I also wanted to wait till I was a little less stuffed before we left. We got into the lot with the food trucks around 6:45 PM.

I know it was the first of it's kind, and I was later than I should have been, but the lines were ridiculous, the heat was ridiculous, and I just thought it was a miserable time. My friend Zeena wanted grilled cheese from Ruthie's Rolling Cafe, so that's where we started. We waited on line for a little while and filled out pieces of paper to select the kind of grilled cheese we desired. I chose San Francisco sourdough bread, sharp cheddar, mozzarella, bacon, roasted tomatoes, and pesto. However.. I actually never got to try this sandwich. I thought after we got to the cashier, we would get our food. But no. They informed us there would be a 30 minute wait for our orders. Ok fine. More than an hour later, we were still waiting. At this point, we decided to cancel our orders and get our money back. I, on the other hand, exchanged my order for a t-shirt since I thought it was adorable.
I do think their mascot is adorable!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Salivating over Valentino Designs

While salivating over the odors coming from the Nammi food truck at Flora and Pearl today, i decided to post pictures of the Valentino purses and shoes I was salivating over in  Neman Marcus earlir today. I'm not one of those girls who typically goes gaga over purses. parda purses bore me to tears. I find Chanel purses repulsive. Quilts belong on beds, not purses. Valentino purses however are gorgeous. Artisitically and beauty wise they beat out any designers I can think of by far. I love the curves, the folds, and the way they involve floral designs. Just like I salivate over a well presented dessert or meal, I salivate over these.

My cell phone doesn't alway take the best pictures..
The reflections make it hard to see but this is a
black leather purse with roses.

Nice soft leather

This is blurry but.. I crave that black one.


These pictures were taken at the Neiman Macrus downtown on Main Street.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Velvet Taco on Knox-Henderson

Velvet Taco - 3 *s

After meeting a date at The Pearl Cup, we happened to be strolling down Henderson when my bright eye noticed the  Velvet Taco I had read so much about. The reviewers seem to be in a tizzy about this place. There was even a review about how many reviewers are writing about it. They're not quite reviews, just buildup and excitement about the coming of this place to Dallas. Velvet Taco only opened last Thursday, according to the Manager we spoke with, so it's been open a little over a week.

Perhaps all the excitement is due to the  name. Maybe Texans just can't contain themselves when they hear there's a fusion taco place coming their way. Then again, it's more likely that the buildup has something to do with the co-owners of the joint.

Mark Brezinski, one of the co-owners, also founded Tin Star, Pei Wei, and Bengal Coast. He was also involved with Genghis Grill, a place I was always quite fond of. Marks' partner is a group called Front Burner Restaurants. They own Twin Peaks, Whiskey Cake, Red Dog Right, and The Ranch. John Franke, the man responsible for the recipes at Velvet Taco, is the corporate chef of Front Burner Restaurants.1

I'm not a huge taco fan, so I'm not going to be one going for the traditional al pastor pork tacos. Not that I'm sure their pulled pork tacos are prepared in the al pastor style. Yes, somehow I even end up reading too much about the styles of food I'm not a fan of.. maybe I still hold out hope for tacos. I do like quesadillas. Anyways, the non-traditional aspect of this place is part of what appealed to me.

Keeping on par with that line of thought, I ordered the Ahi Poke (Raw) with ginger-soy vinaigrette, avocado, watermelon radish, picked Fresno peppers, sesame seeds, and pea tendrils, all inside a lettuce shell. When I ordered it, I didn't realize the taco would come in a lettuce shell, but I thought that was awesome. I'm a big fan of things that make my meals healthier and don't decrease the deliciousness factor. In fact, I actually prefer the taste of a lettuce shell to every taco I've ever had. Then again, maybe that's just me. I'm also a fan of raw tuna (or salmon, and so on..) so I quite enjoyed my taco. I was worried about it being a bit spicy, so I asked. The woman at the cash register said it wouldn't be, and that was the case. My taco didn't have an especially amazing preparation of raw tuna, but it was enjoyable.
Mine on the left, his on the right

My date got the Grilled Adobe Shrimp taco with applewood bacon, roasted corn & avocado pico de gallo, epazote (a Mexican herb), and sriracha aioli. This taco came in a homemade corn tortilla. The sriracha aioli would make me hesitant (whereas my brother drenches all his food with it), but I had a bite and it actually wasn't all that spicy. The corn tortilla was pretty good, and homemade is certainly an improvement over any place that buys them pre-made. The taco overall was pretty good. Edible and whatnot. However, it wasn't anything that really blew me away.

For my concluding remarks on the tacos, the main event, I enjoyed my tuna taco, but honestly, it doesn't seem like one that would be difficult to make at home. I give them credit for serving some more interesting versions. I'd come back for a taco. I certainly wouldn't waste my time ordering the shrimp taco. The reviews I've read seem to rant and rave about the Cornmeal Fried Oysters  taco. I have a feeling it would be standard, but you could try it if you're in the area.

Dee Lincoln's Tasting Room & Bubble Bar, by the Crescent Hotel

Dee Lincoln's Tasting Room - 3.5 *s

Dee Lincoln was a co-founder of Del Frisco's Steakhouse and left to establish this place. Her first place was at the Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. We came to the Rosewood location for our first Restaurant Week dinner. I loved the glittery, silver style of this venue. There were dancing images of bubbles on the wall projected by some kind of light. Shiny glitter and silver was the theme of the place. I loved the silver pillows and the paintings of women drinking wine.

The emphasis here seems to be more on hosting events, parties, and perhaps people at the bars. They have wines on display with their prices for 2 ounce glasses, 4 ounce glasses, and 6 ounce glasses. We saw people coming up to these machines, inserting cards, and somehow receiving wine in glasses. According to the website, these are special machines shipped from Italy that deliver customers wine at the perfect temperature. I do think having a small taste of wine sounds great. Dee Lincoln's is one of those places that has that Sex in the City girl talk vibe. Most of the patrons were groups of women tasting wine. There may have been 2 male patrons, other than us, who looked like they were on a date. It would be a great place to host an event or go out for a Girls' Night Out.

However, we did not try any wine, and I am here to review the food. It did have quite an extensive food menu for a bar and would be a great place to go if you're looking for a bar/lounge with good food. They do have a Cigar list on the wine menu. I'm not sure I would pay $20 for a cigar, but that did make me grin. Apparently the owner is a smoker.

Dee Lincoln mentions her cajun background in the website for the restaurant. That may be why the New Orleans Barbeque Shrimp was the star of our dining experience. It may also be why, with a quasi-Northeastern background, our party was so disappointed in the cheesecake.

The sauce on the shrimp was delicious. I was getting some more bread to dip in it (to feed my addiction), but the waitress had taken away the plate by that time. The shrimp had smokey, salty, awesome flavor and a nice blackening from the grill. Considering that I've never been a huge fan, I'm impressed with any rendition of shrimp that leaves me wanting more. I think the real lesson here was that if you eat here, the Cajun items are the way to go. This item came from the regular menu, not the Restaurant Week menu. I admit, though, I'd be tempted to try the Swedish Meatballs next time. A Sushi Pizza also intrigued me.
For my first course I chose the Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho. I'm pretty much addicted to gazpacho. It's one of those weird things where I hate tomatoes, but can't say no any tomato-based product. I was a little wary of the pimento-stuffed shishito pepper since I am deathly allergic to spicy food.The waitress, however, said the gazpacho itself wasnt spicy and that the pepper was served on the side. So it wasn't exactly on the side. More like in the gazpacho. Originally I picked the pepper out, but I later had a bite and it wasn't spicy at all. In fact, nothing seemed overly spicy here at Dee's tasting room, which suit me just fine. The gazpacho itself was very good. It had burrata, which is a soft cheese, some interesting herbs, and that delicious tomato flavor I'm addicted to. It was unusually well presented, had a nice thin texture, and is among the best gazpachos I've tasted.
My father ordered the Salumi plate since he was eager to try  the "raisins on the vine." The raisins just kind of tasted like fancy raisins. They were raisined (dried out) still on the vine of the grape. They looked like grapes that had been left in the refrigerator for a long time.  I came up with a name I liked better: withered grapes on the branch. The plate of salami was a-ok. Pretty standard. I had a favorite salami and a least favorite, but I forget the names.
Salumi. Or perhaps Salami?
A closeup of the wizened grapes.
The Ricotta Nudies were the free Fourth Course we got with our coupon from Central Market. Everyone at the table quite liked them. They did have good flavors and reminded me of a Pasta Carbonara (a dish with eggs, parmesan, bacon, and black pepper). I liked the mushroom, bits of Parmesan, and the taste of oil and bacon. My dad aliked the herbal flavor the dried sage leaves imparted, as well as the texture they added. The bacon itself was very good, and the little japanese mushrooms were delicious. However, the nudies had the texture of mashed potatoes which left me personally in a state of ennui.
Ricotta Nudies. Just how I like them. Nude?
The Braised Short Ribs with peach and kimshi emulsion was my favorite entree. Its a good thing I ordered it. Then again, with the huge size of entrees Americans seem so fond of (by the way, I am American), I still didnt quite finish my plate. Plus, this was a 4 course meal. It's a cooked thing my plate -lapping father was there. I thought it was well-cooked, salty, smokey, beefy, fatty deliciousness. Not super-fatty, but enough fat to keep it interesting. I love it when the shortribs fall in tasty shreds off the bone. The kimshi (aka the spicy korean vegetation known as kimchee) emulsion was, of course, a bit spicy for my blood. I still liked the flavoring on the rice around the beef. It was nice and savory.

The Braised Short Ribs. I'm not sure how well this picture
translated. The sauce on the rice was another addictive sauce.
More food on the next page...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gandolfo's New York Delicatessen - Mobile NY Deli [FOOD TRUCKS!!] Side Dish Food Truck Schedule Added

Gandolfo's NY Deli - 4.5 *s

I read about Gandolfo's, along with several other food trucks in Dallas, last night as I was binge reading to catch up on restaurant reviews. I've actually been meaning to go to the Nammi Vietnamese food truck in Dallas for a month or so. There is something deliciously intriguing about food trucks. Greenwich Village used to have a Dessert food truck I visited every time I was in New York. It was delicious... bread puddings, ganaches, and so on. I think they eventually moved to one of those silly brick and mortar locations.

There was chatter around the truck about other food trucks. The consensus seemed to be that the Nammi food truck was good, but Jack's Chowhound, a truck with comfort food like sandwiches and burgers, not so good. I will pass my own judgment later.

When I read there was a New York deli good truck, I knew it was right up my alley. I've spent a good amount of time in New York, my parent are from Long Island, and like any good Jew I love my Deli meats and lox. In fact, the reception at my parents' wedding consisted of a bagel spread.

 The pastrami in our sandwiches was amazing, deliciously salty, and fresh. Next time I would get a sandwich without the cheese or mayo, so that I could focus on the best part - the meat. Randy Wolken, the regional franchisee and one of the 2 men who prepared our sandwiches, told me that they get their meats cured in Utah and shipped here.

He told us that he isn't from New York (I could already tell from his voice). He grew up in Texas, but was a stockbroker in New York for a while. This truck is his retirement.

My sandwich and pastrami, mmm.

This is my sandwich again! The Knuckle Sandwich. It came with a
very sour pickle. Not bad. Just more sour than I'm used to.

My companion's Gandy's Coney Island Dog: 1/4 lb. all-beef
(it makes a difference!) Nathan's hot dog with sauerkraut, onion,
and spicy mustard. Again, the bread, or the hero, didn't impress.

He has an appetite. He also got the King of Queens: Pastrami,
no Swiss, tomato, cole slaw he had many kind words about,
and Russian dressing. Nuked.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Beer-battered Cod with Tartar Sauce... I give it an A.

Since posting my cooking attempts is a lot less work, that's what I shall do. I made these in concert with hamburgers for a barbecue type of Sunday (today). There was also corn and coleslaw. It seems natural to stick to the part I actually made. Since I've always been a bit bored, by cooked fish, I've tried to amass a collection of recipes that add to the flavor. Beer, of course, makes everything taste better. Try boiling hot dogs in beer - it's delicious! Of course, cheap beers work just as well for that. I used Samuel Smith's pale ale. There was plenty left over to drink with our meal. I was supposed to use 3 inches of oil (I tend to always use olive oil, it is healthier), but I had nowhere near that much. I used enough to almost cover the pieces of fish, and it was more than fine. Everyone at our meal liked my fish, and especially liked the tartar sauce. I think the beer added a sweetness to the fried fish I don't usually get. I made home-made mayonnaise for the tartar sauce. It makes a huge difference and is actually relatively easy. The mayonnaise was from a recipe on a health website I get emails from, but it's really easy and really doesn't require a recipe. I have edited the recipes below to reflect the way I made everything. To sum up, this was a delicious fishy meal and I highly recommend it for a hot Sunday!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Henry's Homemade Ice Cream in Plano, TX

Henry's Homemade Ice Cream - 4 *s

I know it's been a long time since I've kept up with this blog. I had tests to study for, food to eat, food to make, cats to cuddle with, and so on.. So I've decided to start posting backwards: most recent till least recent. And there have been a LOT of outings meant to go in my blog, as well as a few cookings. I haven't done as well at taking pictures of my ventures in the kitchen.

As it says, on their website, Henry's Ice Cream is served in over 400 establishments. I've had his ice cream in various flavors served along with pie, of course (or the like) in several restaurants. Henry says they don't do chains: TGIF's, Chili's, etc. (Of course, neither do I - if I can help it.) He also encourages you to demand that all your favorite restaurants start carrying his ice cream. I certainly wouldn't argue. His ice cream has always been delicious. I'm also in love with their slogan: "Ice Cream Makes You Pretty!"

I signed up for an email list with Henry's a while ago. They emailed me about their 17th Annual Pajama Party on June 18th (today). Along with being pajama-clad, we each got a free pint of ice cream. We arrived promptly at 7 pm (the time the event was supposed to start) and there was still a bit of a line. They probably opened up the line to forgers half an hours early. Cancer survivors were scooping the ice cream and a lovely young lady sent around a tip bucket (tips were donated to the American Cancer Society).

Our pajamas proved quite popular. We got our pictures taken twice: once by The Plano Courier, and once by the people at Henry's Ice Cream. Henry himself even told us we had a shot at winning the prize for the "Best Family PJ's" contest. Henry was dressed in a cow-spotted robe and had a cow hat with horns. I know I've spent a lot of time discussing the non-food aspects of my experience. However, the atmosphere was probably my favorite part. Everyone was friendly and a lot of them seemed to know each other, as well as who Henry was. They all seemed quite fond of Henry. It sort of had a homey Texas town vibe. I flipped through some books children had written thanking Henry for his ice cream.

I thought the Superman family was adorable.

Me, my father, and our super-cool pajamas.
He had a double scoop with Citrus ice cream and Hazelnut ice cream.
I had Mango Pecan ice cream in a cup (I'm not a coner).

Our free quart of rum raisin.
I chose Cinnamon.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Grimaldi's - The Best Pizza in Dallas!

Grimaldi's - 5 *s!

There are a few locations in Dallas, as well as the famous location under the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. The location in Brooklyn has long lines at all hours. Thankfully, that's a non-issue at the locations in Dallas and Plano. The pizza is delicious. The sauce has an excellent flavor, and there's not too much cheese. I always appreciate pizza with basil. The regular pizza automatically comes with basil on it. One of the last times I was there, a friend asked for ranch dressing, and the waiter said they don't carry ranch dressing. As I said, you only need ranch on bad pizza. I used to have a thing for getting Papa John's and dipping it in ranch dressing. With this pizza, however, there is definitely no need for ranch. They use charcoal ovens at Grimaldi's so it's a different type of pizza than the conventional New York-style pizza. On this particular occasion, we came for my father's birthday in January. They send him a coupon for a free pizza or free cheesecake every year. Make sure to sign up! I'm always pleased by the flavor of the sauce and am not hesitant to say this is the best pizza I've ever had in Texas. As for the cheesecake, I also think it's delicious. The cheesecake was creamy and had a nice, firm texture. As far as cheesecake in Dallas goes, it's definitely among the best. The cheesecake at Macaroni Grill may be better. They all make me happy. Cheesecake Factory fails on all counts.

Mushroom Onion Pizza
Cheese Pizza
New York style Cheesecake

Big Al's Smokehouse BBQ by the Tollway & Lemmon

Big Al's Smokehouse BBQ - 2*s

This barbeque place was one of the places I read about in the barbeque blog Full Custom Gospel BBQ. I thought it was.. ok. Honestly, I wouldn't go back. Also, for me, it's certainly too out of the way. The beef just didn't have enough flavor, the same applied to the ribs. We went to a bunch of delicious barbeque places in Lockhart, Texas (near Austin),of which this place fell desperately short. I also always compare ribs to the ribs at Pappa's Bar-B-Q, which are delicious and full of flavor. The ribs were some of the few ribs I've had that weren't very good - they lacked caramalezation and flavor. If you want ribs, I would suggest going to Pappa's instead. I'm usually a fan of meat, so the shredded beef met the bill to a certain extent. The barbeque sauce on the shredded beef was probably what led me to be satiated with that dish. I also filled myself up on bread. I did love the creamed corn. The corn was in some sort of delicious mayonnaise-based sauce. That was actually my favorite part. So.. (since the meat is almost always my favorite part) that's saying something. Don't go to a barbeque place just for the corn. Somehow that seems like blasphemy. As long as you're in the area, the original Sonny Brian's is right down the street. Go there instead. As picky as I am, even I'm happy Sonny Brian's every time.

Shredded beef, sliced beef, creamed corn, fried okra.

Ribs! They look good..

The random BBQ place next to the car dealership. Odd.

Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt in Addison, TX (by Sherlocks)

Tutti Frutti - 2 *s

We stopped by this fro-yo place while in Addison. It was.. ok. I wouldn't go back. There are better places in Dallas. It has the normal setup: you choose a bunch of flavors, add toppings, and pay by the pound. So yes, its fine. I like the place by Starbucks at Arapaho & Hillcrest better, Froyo Workshop.  In my opinion, it has better flavors than Tutti Frutti. I did enjoy the atmosphere at Tutti Frutti. It was clean, relaxing, shiny, and quiet. Of course, perhaps it does more business after the bars close. Or perhaps more during the day. They have some TV show-watching events they hold there. These certainly could be a good excuse for a Girls' Night Out.

Pizza and Porchetta (Pork Sandwiches) in NYC - Superbowl weekend

Porchetta - 5 *s!

I read about the porchetta that a town in Italy (somewhere near Rome) specializes in, along with beautiful pictures of the pork on spits, in the cooking magazine La Cucina Italiana. I was convinced (despite my kosher-at-home, anti-swine background)... The magazine also mentioned a restaurant that serves these porchetta sandwiches in the US, Porchetta in Manhattan. I've been dreaming of a trip to devour some porchetta for a while. It was delicious! My Italian friend said he expected it to be good and it was even better. The pork just had a delicious flavor to it, and I'm usually not one for pork. Pork normally seems like a less flavorful white meat to me. Of course, Jews are probably raised not to like pork. The porchetta was deliciously flavored and marbled. The sandwich costs $10, they also have a porchetta platter, mozzarella sandwich, and so on. I can only comment on the sandwich since that's all we had.

As with many places in the Manhattan area, it is a bit of a cramped space. When we arrived, there were 2 people enjoying their meal. I and my friend made 2 more, with one spare seat left in the restaurant, if you could call it that. It's really more of a food stand with walls. Not that you should be deterred. It was amazing, and I would certainly wait in line if I had to. I added a $3 tip after my meal to express my happiness. To traif!

Mmmm pork!
Rosa's Pizza - 5*s!

I had some pizza in Penn Station at Rosa's Pizza. It was pizza stand inside one of those gas station store of sorts. The kind that sells drinks and magazine, along with hot dogs and beer. I chose the margherita pizza. Again, delicious. Pizza in Dallas shouldn't even be called pizza. Maybe the one exception in Dallas is Grimaldi's, but, of course, I still preferred this pizza. It's a different style than the charcoal ovens they use at Grimaldi's. This is the "typical New York-style pizza." Yum! New York is a place where even the pizza in the train station is delicious! It's times like these that food cravings almost make me want to move to New York. The sauce is delicious, and they don't over-cheese their pizza in New York. Even the flavor of the dough is great. I'm the sort who normally throws my crust away. You can taste the freshness of the mozarella, the slight flavor of basil, the wonderfully flavored sauce, and dough that actually drives you to polish off every last crumb. As I always do, let the pictures speak for themselves.

I know, I know. I ranted about how awful Dallas pizza is, which is certainly not a new idea. I can't help it. I feel these pangs of loss...

This is my kind of heaven.