Saturday, January 30, 2010

Delish Dish #2: Pizza at Cafe Gecko

Oh, the pizza conundrum! Marriage is, of course, the ultimate conundrum and involves many challenges daily between my self and my spouse. For example, we both love pizza (who doesn't?), but we have two distinctly different pizza philosophies. My lovely wife the Rock Star grew up in an age when doubling or tripling meats and piling on tons of extra cheese was the norm. Unfortunately, this type of pie doesn't work for me; I prefer the old-time pizza parlor variety featuring balanced ingredients, great crust, and most of all, great sauce. Needless to say, it's like pulling hen's teeth to find a joint that will give us both what we want on one pie. Luckily, since we have discovered Cafe Gecko and cooks that will give us what we want, we are both quite content.

Although Cafe Gecko sports a few premade pizzas like the sweet and spicy Chichinitza and the seafood-friendly Pizza Del Mar, we usually opt to build our own. After numerous attempts that were only partially successful, we've hit upon a favorite that works for us: Double pepperoni with extra sauce. You see, Gecko puts enough cheese on their pizza that you don't need to order extra, and if you were to load a pizza with extra cheese, meat, and sauce, the resulting mess is usually a cumbersome disaster. Plus, the cooks here truly understand sauce and add just enough extra to give the pie a saucy flavor profile that is far from messy. Instead, the slightly sweet, spicy sauce plays perfectly with savory pepperoni and crunchy chewy crust. We seldom leave leftovers. Toss in a wonderfully convival atmosphere, and waitresses who know our drink preferences when we walk in, and you can see why we're regulars. Website is if you care to investigate. Solve your own pizza conundrum today, and remember:


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Delish Dish #1: Enchiladas Suizas at Veracruz Cafe

"Few places have had a history as stormy as that of Veracruz, Mexico." So ring the stentorian tones of the website of Veracruz Cafe. This little bistro is located in the ever-evolving Bishop Arts District, which is a kind of Hispanic Deep Ellum, if you will, where newly-renovated buildings welcome the adventurous. I made my way to this quaint little corner of Oak Cliff in search of Enchiladas Suizas, a rich, creamy chicken concoction I first sampled in Austin many moons ago.

Veracruz Cafe sits next to Cafe Madrid in one of these refurbished gems, with plenty of free parking in the back if you just turn the corner and drive about twenty steps down the sidestreet. The ochre interior bespeaks Mexican Coastal, although the chairs are fairly straightforward. The Cafe's dish is part of its Authentic Blue Corn Enchiladas series, three largish tortillas stuffed with marinated chicken and topped with Huasteca red sauce, queso fundido, and cream sauce. I'm getting smarter in my adventuring and asked for an off-the-menu salsa. Happily, Veracruz Cafe has one of the best in town, and the molten, slightly oily picante fused the dish into a silken, caliente delight. In all, the Enchiladas Suizas at Veracruz Cafe were the stars of one of the better Mexican lunches I've had recently. Website is, if you're suitably intrigued. Set off on your own adventure soon, and remember:


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wine Corner Review #58: Wilhelm Bergmann Eiswein

Contrary to what many people believe, ice wines did not originate in Canada, although our northern neighbor crafts some very nice ones. The phenomenon dates back to the Romans, but Germany is said to have crafted the first modern ice wine in the late 18th century. Production really took off in Germany in the sixties and in Canada in the eightes leading to the iced vino craze of the past decade or so. Today, some twenty or so countries produce the frosty fetish, and the one we are taking under consideration today hails from the mother country of Germany herself, the Wilhelm Bergmann Eiswein.

The robe of the Wilhelm Bergmann Eiswein is minty straw and hay. The nose can be quite off-putting, reeking a bit too much of nail polish, old rags, and Gewurztraminer-like turpentine. The patient tippler, however, will be rewarded with meade and honey on the palate, finishing nicely with mown grass. Like all fortified wines, Bergmann Eiswein is best enjoyed after dinner, probably with a nice plate of nuts and/or cheese. Good luck finding a website; after sifting through three or four Googled pages, I gave up. Still, I know some stores in this area carry it, as I received my bottle as part of a belated Christmas present. Discover your own icy treat today, and as always:


Saturday, January 9, 2010


Lawrence L Frank and Walter Van de Camp opened the original Lawry's The Prime Rib on La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills in 1938. You might know Franks legacy better as the creator of Lawry's Seasoned Salt (and Pepper), cococted specially for the restaurant and an adornment of virtually every pantry in America since. Frank also designed the famous silver carts, which are brought tableside so the chef can personally cut the rib roast to suit the diner's exacting taste. Lawry's now sports ten locations worldwide, four in the States and six overseas. The Dallas location is actually now in Addison, having moved from Turtle Creek in the late nineties. My lovely wife the Rock Star has always loved prime rib since her Steak and Ale days (as a diner, not an employee). I've always had a penchant for prime myself, so it was one recent night that we decided to investigate Lawry's for ourselves.

The atmosphere at Lawry's is decidedly old-school, so much so that you will likely see as much silver atop the diner's heads as you will see it on the famous carts. Nonetheless, the dining room features white tablecloths, tall-back wooden chairs, and is guarded by lions, a combination that still connotes elegance. In fact, the decor is described as English Edwardian, but since Edward was not present to confirm this rumor, we must instead take it on faith.

Old school was in session with the menu as well, so we decided to make the most of it. My bride had seen the special program on the Travel Channel featuring Lawry's as one of Chicago's famed meat palaces, so she wanted to start with the famous spinning bowl salad. The presentation was indeed impressive, as our waitress spun the bowl, then raised the dressing bottle above her head to coat the greens from on high. Featuring crisp romaine, baby spinach, beets, chopped egg, croutons and iceberg, and topped with the dressing that reminded me of Green Goddess spiked with sherry, the salad was quite good if not as spectacular as the presentation. I fared much better with my shrimp cocktail: Five jumbo tiger prawns with a horseradish cocktail sauce that packed plenty of punch, reminding me of the days when a great steakhouse was the ultimate dining experience. The shrimp, salad, and all our dishes paired quite nicely with Greg Norman Shiraz, which added cabernet boldness and a touch of spice. In due course, the silver carts arrived. My wife and I have smaller appetites these days, however I wanted to try a bone-in cut, which is usually designated for the larger portions such as the Diamond Jim Brady. Luckily, our waitress assured us that they do have some smaller bone-in cuts, and that if one was available, we could certainly have it. My wife selected the California Cut, which was specified for lighter appetites. I assume they mean a portion designed more for a quarterback than a defensive lineman, because her slab was still quite large. I selected the traditional Lawry's Cut, and received a generous-sized portion with a bone. One bite told us instantly why Lawry's has managed to survive and thrive for over seventy years, because this was without question the most beefy tasting slab of prime I've ever tasted. The whipped cream horseradish added just the right touch of creamy burn to the meat, and the mashed potatoes were very good as well. Lawry's also serves Yorkshire pudding with every prime rib entree, which is not a dessert but rather a scorched batter meant to be served with drippings or gravy. The generous portions reminded me that Lawry's still hosts the Beef Bowl dinner to honor the two combatants in the Cotton Bowl every year, and in fact the Dallas cut is their largest cut, "as served to the Cotton Bowl teams." Ours was quite sufficient, thank you. After such a meal, how could we find room for dessert? However, we could not pass up a hot fudge sundae, made with Blue Bell ice cream and CC Brown's Hot Fudge Sauce, also sold by the restaurant if you wish to take home. After such a meal, we had no choice but to box up what was ours and leave.

Service was very accomodating and professional, as evidenced by Lawry's wish to honor my rib bone request. Website is, if you wish to make reservations or order products.

In sum, we felt we graduated magna cum laude from Lawry's The Prime Rib, and we now understand its considerable reputation. Attend your own culinary old-school yourself, and remember:


Saturday, January 2, 2010


I have to admit that I've been very lucky this year in many ways. My nonblogging writing activities have picked up steam considerably, plus I've gone to many top-notch restaurants in quest of the transcendent experience that is food at its best. Fortunately, I've not sought the Holy Grail alone, my lovely wife and partner-in-crime The Rock Star has accompanied me on all these journeys. When I consider this past year, the quality of truly superb restaurants has been staggering, and I look forward to many such endeavors in the New Year. So, again without furthur ado, here are the Food Czar Top Ten Restaurants of 2009.


At Mon Ami Gabi, the steaks are quite thin, but the sauces are quite rich. The Steak Roquefort and the Steak Bearnaise are classic examples of French saucery, and I wish more Dallas restaurants served wafer-thin frites like Gabis. The late-nite dining hours are a bonus as well.


Our Valentine's repast continued our recent brunch tradition. If destinations are too crowded and expensive at night, how about a nice, relaxing brunch? My wife's giant Lobster and Scrambled Egg Burrito was absolutely stuffed with fresh seafood and crispy bacon, while my Sliced Filet with Crab and Asparagus boasted a swarthy bite of smoked tomato hollandaise. The tender medium-rare beef reflected the endless hours Al spent toiling away at The Palm before opening his own place.


More fabulous French beef, with classic Prime Filet au Poivre prepared perfectly rare, and New York strip medium-rare with blue cheese and sherry reduction. After the main course, we were very wise indeed to save room for chocolate ganache cake.


Turkish cuisine makes good use of the grill, and Terbiyeli Sis Kebap sported charbroiled lamb marinated in hot sauce and spice, guaranteed to appeal to peppery Texas palates. Kayisi Tatlisi, dried apricots filled with cream and served with walnuts, proved that light desserts can be very satisfying after a hearty meal.

CRAFT (June)

"Let the flavors speak for themselves," is an oft-heard, much-misunderstood cliche in the restaurant business. Chefs Tom Colicchio and Anthony Zappola truly understand this concept, with a brunchtime feast of medium-rare Craft Burger with white cheddar and applewood-smoked bacon and exquisite New York Strip Steak and Eggs. The wine list is very well chosen, and we spent as much time talking about the establishment's unique architecture as we did devouring our food.


Steven Pyles is the once and future master of Southwestern cuisine, so why not enjoy a repast that showcased said mastery? Scallop and pork belly carnitas and red snapper in Thai red curry masa proved the evolving, adaptable nature of this cuisine to modern palates. Artisan breads such as blue cheese scone and potato foccacia are highlights, while desserts nearly stole the show with Mexican chocolate fondant and Deep Ellum goat's cheesecake. Himself was also onhand to meet and greet while making sure the food held up to his exacting standards.


Pappas Bros is often touted as the best steakhouse in Dallas. When former Dallas Morning News food writer Bill Addison was given a farewell party by his adoring colleagues, where do you think they dined? Perhaps they enjoyed the sensuous lobster bisque, the swarthy, char-broiled flatiron steak with triple peppercorn sauce or the dry-aged, prime New York strip that was both beefy and buttery in nature. Possibly they ended their feast with the tart lemon sorbet or the decadent chocolate peanut butter cake with chocolate ganache. If so, they truly dined as well as we on this hot August night.


My lovely wife and I were invited to this Ritzy hotspot as a part of the Go Texan celebration. For our efforts, we were rewarded with course after course of sheer bliss. Poblano shooters. "Million Dollar" Chicken Tortilla Soup. Barbecued Shrimp Taco. Peach BBQ Glazed Bobwhite Quail. Dublin Dr Pepper Braised Beef Short Ribs. English cut NilGai Antelope. Cheese courses. Matching wines and port. Finally, Fearings excellent coffee. One of the best meals we've had in 2009. Period.


Coast's Daily Excursion is a three-course delight offered during weekdays, and ours featured splendid Roasted Halibut and Julia Child favorite Atlantic Lemon Sole Meuniere. Desserts were a highlight, and the stunning view of the Bellagio-style fountain is always a special treat at night.


The restored private house is a charmingly rambling setting for rustic fine dining, and the nutty, buttery trout and perfectly prepared filet made for a memorable celebration indeed. Corn soup was a sinfully rich concoction, made thoroughly Texan with pepper jack cheese and tortilla strips.

2009 Honorable Mention Worthy of Mention:

-Yolo's Mexican Grill, Las Vegas, Nevada (Jan)

Thus, I must stick a fork in 2009 and call it done. Possibly my finest year of dining bliss ever. Hopefully, 2010 will be equally well disposed. Discover your own dining bliss soon, and remember: