Good eating in Dallas

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Bullion

In a world dominated by mega franchises and celebrity-chef chains, it’s refreshing to see a handful of new and original dining options emerging deep in the heart of Texas. Dallas might be proud of her storied reputation for Barbecue, but I stumbled upon a couple of culinary standouts that are taking the city of big hair to even bigger heights.

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Bullion

Curiously suspended in mid-air like a golden-tiled hornet’s nest clinging for dear life to the 3rd floor of a downtown office tower, is an oblique chocolate box that is home to Michelin star chef Bruno Devaillon’s newest bistro – Bullion. It’s hard not to wonder what a French bistro might be doing just a block-and-a-half from the Kennedy assassination site, and after overhearing a fellow diner climbing down from her white Yukon Denali proudly exclaiming: “I eat French food all the time. French fries. French toast. French bread. All of it!” I couldn’t help wondering just how much chef Bruno might have to “Tex-ify” some of his Franco masterpieces. But my fears were unfounded. After ascending the spiral stairway, you leave Texas behind you for an hour or so, and find yourself in a cruise-ship styled cocktail lounge that leads via the pastry rack to an ornate, yet unpretentious dining space with dark woods and golden trims, somewhere along the border of cosy and chic.

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Bullion

The menu reads like any you’d find along la rive gauche with a few contemporary items wedged between stalwart classics like a hearty saffron and tomato Bouillabaise with a mix of seafood shells and scales served with shards of grilled country bread, and an immaculately charred Foie Gras Torchon complete with berry marmalade and squishy brioche. But nothing gets a table arm-wrestle match going like a bowlful of the most amazing Gougéres au Gruyere. These caramel colored puffs are lighter and fluffier than a cheerleaders’ pom-pom. And as they go about their miraculous disappearing act, it feels like a kiss to the lips from a cheese-dusted feather.

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Gourgéres de Gruyére, Bullion

I was intrigued by the notion of a leek salad and so had to try the Poireaux, which features a regimented row of steamed leeks trying their best to impersonate white asparagus, dotted with soft goat-cheese and roasted hazelnuts in a super light truffle vinaigrette.

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Poireaux, Bullion

Even though this is grill country, the sumptuous Tournedos filet mignon with potato gratin and a trickle of mild oxtail au jus is an extraordinarily smooth cut that submits its salty umami without resistance.

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Tournedos, Bullion

The Cabillaud & Brandade awash with a tart tomato and caper confit is just light enough not to kill the subtle cod flavor, and the Agneau is an incredibly toffee-tender lamb loin, very gently accented with a sparkle of anchovy vinaigrette, accompanied by a bright and crunchy summer succotash. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, there was enormous restraint from over-flavoring the food – true to the kitchen’s mission to prepare dishes that don’t overshadow the key ingredients. Even the table-side flambéed guava and coconut ice-cream centered Baked Alaska is meek, mild, subtle and delicate.

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Baked Alaska, Bullion

Foxyco, chef Jon Steven’s latest effort in the Design District, is anything but meek and mild. His 6-week old second act following nearby neighborhood darling Stock & Barrel is a bucking bronco of runaway flavor. He coyly describes it as “modern American”, but that seems far too reticent for his brave, adventurous and (dare I say) aggressive approach to breaking rules and ignoring conventions. Even as you walk into the monochrome open space flanked by a massive mural that could be the result of a toddler’s paint party or a wannabe tribute to Jackson Pollack, you smell wafts of hickory coals emanating from his open kitchen. He’s obviously having loads of fun flexing his dexterous abilities with a mélange of cooking styles ranging from sous-vide to wood-fire grilling, to both at the same time!

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Foxyco

The menu is a tornado of way too many “must try” items like a red curry and Thai basil Warm Crab Dip, or a Farro Risotto, or perhaps a crab and hazelnut Squid ink Spaghetti (which will hopefully still be there on a return visit). I finally landed the plane on two starters, a main and a vegetable.

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Foxyco

First to emerge was an astoundingly delicious row of 4 cubes of crispy rice-cakes supporting a mound of miso-marinated Big Eye Tuna Tartare topped with basil, cilantro and a grate of lemon.

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Big Eye Tuna Tartare, Foxyco

Just as I was recoiling from the electric jolt of Asian flavors, a gorgeous snowball of scrumptious Burrata sailed in, surrounded by a bed of harissa and orange blossom infused olive oil. But the deal-clincher was the sprinkling of mint, salt flakes and honey-comb on top. That’s it. From now on, everything I eat will have to be topped with mint, salt and honey-comb.

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Burrata, Foxyco

As I waited for my Wagyu Short rib, contemplating how slowly it must have cooked in a sous-vide bag for 72 hours before being espresso-rubbed and then flame grilled to fall-apart perfection, the three strands of saffron continued to stain my Canary gin and kaffir lime cocktail a soft and rosy shade of gold.

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Wagyu Short rib, Foxyco

Needless to say, the combination of shaved horse-radish with pickled onions together with an anchovy salsa verde elevated the incredibly beefy flavor of the Wagyu – just the way meat used to taste in the olden days. Switching back and forth between the short rib and a heap of corn-flour dusted florets of Fried Cauliflower anchored in a spectacular cilantro-heavy green goddess dressing with parmesan and shaved dates felt like juggling between diamonds and rubies.

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Fried Cauliflower, Foxyco

So next time you’re passing through the big “D”, consider a bold detour from in-room dining. Because there’s more than oil in them there hills.

www.bullionrestaurant.com

http://foxycodallas.com/home/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surprisingly sensational summer secrets

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-3-46-48-pmBest-selling novelist Barbara Kingsolver penned the phrase: “Cooking is 80% confidence”, but for whatever reason she never got around to divulging the rest of the equation. So if it were me I would add: “… and 20% reading”, i.e. if you can read – you can cook! But there is a distinction between faithfully following a recipe, and creating something entirely new, inspired by your memory, guided by your tongue or compromised by the limitations of your grocery cabinet.

There are two reasons why I seldom (never) post recipes on my blog:

  1. I don’t want rogersdigest to turn into a re-publishing link for recipes that have debuted elsewhere.
  2. If I happen to invent a dish, a large part of me wants it to remain a secret.

What to do?

Well, maybe it’s the weather or maybe I’m just in a curiously generous mood, but I thought I’d share a couple of surprisingly successful – yet simple dishes that have come dangerously close to “hit” status this past summer.

The first comes in the form of a challenge I frequently set for myself – whereby I try (with mixed success) to recreate a dish I’ve recently enjoyed in a restaurant. Using the smattering of ingredients they list on the menu (rarely the whole story) and my ability to decipher the proportions (with varying accuracy) in the hopes that eventually I might get lucky. This creamy, yet ridiculously light and refreshing rendition of a Cucumber Gazpacho is within sipping distance of its original from the Little Beet Table on Park Avenue.

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Cucumber Gazpacho

Cucumber Gazpacho – Serves 4

  • 4 large cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup green, seedless grapes
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened, unflavored almond milk (if you can’t find unsweetened, then leave out the grapes)
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 3 – 4 Tblspn white wine vinegar (to taste)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • ½ cup roasted Marcona almonds for serving (or for snacking while you cook)
  • 1 Tblspn Chili oil (optional but highly recommended) *
  1. Peel, seed and roughly chop the cucumbers. Discard the peel and seeds. (Did I just write that?) Add the first 6 items to a blender (i.e. stop before you get to the salt) and puree thoroughly until smooth. Season with salt and feel free to juggle extra vinegar, salt or grapes to balance the sweet:salt:sour ratio. Don’t stop until you’re happy.
  2. Use a spatula to press through a fine sieve into a large bowl to remove all the solids.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours until well chilled. (If you don’t have 3 hours don’t add ice cubes. Leave the mixing bowl in the freezer while you’re making the soup.)
  4. Divide into serving dishes and toss in a few Marcona almonds. Dribble a few sparse freckles of chili oil on top and serve immediately.

* You can make your own chili oil by adding 1 Tblspn crushed red pepper flakes to ½ cup olive oil. Simmer over low heat in a small saucepan until fully absorbed for about 20 minutes. Strain and discard the chili flakes and let the oil cool to room temperature before using.
This shamelessly simple, down & dirty but delicious Crunchy Caramel Peaches was the result of a desperate think-outside-the-cereal-box moment when a crowd showed up with an unmistakably “what’s for dessert?” look on their faces. In less than 6 minutes, I whipped up whatever I could find before it became the most frequently requested dessert of the season.

 

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Crunchy Caramel Peaches

Crunchy Caramel Peaches – Serves 4

  • 2 ripe peaches
  • 2 Tblspn butter
  • 1 Tblspn Dulce de Leche *
  • Vanilla Ice-cream
  • Granola (The nuttiest one you can find. i.e. full of nuts – not crazy! See recipe below)
  1. Halve, pit and dice the peaches. Discard the pits. (There I go again.)
  2. In a large skillet at medium-high heat, melt the butter and sauté the peaches until they soften slightly and begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. (You’ll know you’ve gone too far when they start to disintegrate and you have the makings of peach marmalade in your pan. If so, discard and start over at #1.)
  3. Add the Dulce de Leche and continue to cook, stirring constantly until well blended for about a minute.
  4. Dollop a healthy spoonful of the peach mixture over one or more scoops of Vanilla ice-cream, and top with a handful of granola. Serve right away.

* Don’t use Caramel sauce or the sugar will crystalize. If you can’t find Dulce de Leche, you can either curl up in a corner and weep for 20 minutes, or you can make your own by boiling an sealed tin of condensed milk submerged in a deep pot of water for 2 hours. (Oh, and you might want to remember to top up with extra water as it evaporates from time to time or the tin will explode. Trust me. I’ve done it before. Took nearly 2 months to clean up the mess. And let the tin cool completely before you open it, or you will have 2nd degree burns and stalactites of molten caramel dripping from kitchen ceiling. #notfun, #betterthingstodowithmytime)

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Have you ever noticed on the label how much sugar they add to store bought granola? It’s insane! And not surprisingly, the better they taste -the more sugar/syrup/honey they add. And those that are supposedly “good for you” just have insipidly dry, boringly beige oats. For me, granola has to be choc full of rich, dark, brown, sticky clusters of nuts, so that when you make your way through the crunchy deliciousness, you get a mélange of flavors from hazels and pecans and almonds and pistachios with every bite.

This recipe comes with a strict warning: Keep out of reach of habitual in-between-meal snackers, or you’ll have nothing left for breakfast!

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Sugar-free nutty Granola

Sugar-free nutty Granola – About 12 servings, depending on whether you lock it away or not

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raw coconut flakes (unsweetened)
  • 1 cup pistachio nuts that are roasted, unsalted, shelled and talented
  • ½ cup roasted hazelnuts chopped in half – big pieces, not crumbs
  • ½ cup raw pecans
  • ½ cup raw almonds
  • 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tspn salt
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup Blackstrap molasses (see, no sugar/syrup/honey here)
  • ½ cup dried tart cherries
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Combine the first 9 ingredients (all the dry stuff except the cherries) in a large bowl.
  3. Warm the oil and molasses in a small saucepan and stir constantly until combined.
  4. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and stir well. (Except the cherries. That comes later.)
  5. Spread the mixture evenly onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a latex baking mat.
  6. Place in the center rack of the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Stir the mixture around and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool completely. This is where everything becomes nice and sticky so don’t rush this part. Go do something else. Read a book. Binge watch House of Cards. Practice the piano. Vacuum the drapes.
  9. Evenly distribute the tart cherries into the granola as you pour it into an airtight container. #yum.

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https://www.thelittlebeettable.com/