Garden to Table Dinner: Independence Gardens Hosts Dinner For a Good Cause

I love eating food, but when all that noshing is for a good cause, it tastes even better. That is exactly what happened last weekend at the Garden To Table Dinner hosted by Independence Gardens. Sarah Allen is a first grade teacher at a school with a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students. The students live in an area referred to as the “food desert” because of the lack of grocery stores within walking distance from their homes. The need for access to healthy foods and the knowledge of nutrition is heartbreakingly real. When she heard about Independence Gardens and their mission she knew she had found the perfect partner. I am a first grade teacher as well. I have seen first hand the effect lack of nutrition can have on children. I was beyond excited to receive an invitation from Chonnie Richey, Founder of Independence Gardens, to attend the event.

The six course menu was inspired by the fruits and vegetables growing in the community schools gardens and each course was cooked by a different local chef. It was an absolutely beautiful night to eat outside and the entertainment put on by the students was stellar.

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Desserts After Dark: Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival

Desserts After Dark
Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival
Panther Island Pavilion
395 Purcey Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102
http://fortworthfoodandwinefestival.com/events/desserts-after-dark/

The Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival is a three-day food spectacular including a BBQ Showdown, Main Event, Desserts After Dark, Rise +Dine and Burgers, Brews and Blues. The events are held at different venues in the Fort Worth area. I can’t think of a better way to end the week than by devouring a ton of sugar-laden delights. I headed over to Cowton for the festival’s “Desserts After Dark,” presented by the Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation… time to enjoy something sweet and listen to some music!  Here are some of the lovelies. (My apologies for the grainy photos but it was desserts after dark.)

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cherry pie, pi day

Pi Day or Pie Day?

cherry pie, pi dayHappy Pie Day! Okay, so today is Pi Day, not Pie Day. I am using a little poetic license to make the most of it by eating some pie. I love pie and will pretty much eat any kind of pie: apple pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, bumbleberry pie, mincemeat pie, shepard’s pie. I am an equal opportunity pie eater. You know the best thing to put into a pie? Your teeth.  In honor of Pi Day I am sinking my teeth into a couple of my favorites: cherry and coconut cream.

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onion rings, Texas Hill Country, Harper, Longhorn Cafe

A Tale of Two Texan Onion Rings

On a recent trip to the Texas Hill Country I chowed down on some amazing onion rings. “Onion rings?! Big deal!” Well, they are a big deal; especially in Texas. Not all onion rings are created equal and there is more than one kind of onion ring. Fill up the car with some gas because you will be wanting to hit the road soon to try these two.

Longhorn Cafe
23624 W. US 290
Harper, TX 78631
http://www.longhorncafeharper.com/

onion rings, Texas Hill Country, Harper, Longhorn Cafe
Harper, Texas is home to the Longhorn Cafe. They are known for their good food. Look at those onion rings. I’ll wait…..They look delish don’t they? They were. The sweet onions were dipped in a cornmeal-based batter. The batter here is substantial and the onion slices have to be big enough to handle the batter. There is nothing worse than biting into an onion ring and having all the crispy batter crumble to bits or worse yet, bite into the onion rings and have the hot onion slide out of the crust and burn your chin. No worries here. Each bite of these onion rings left me with a perfect ratio of batter to onion. No crumbles. No burnt chin. Don’t forget the ranch for dipping. Yep, we have a winner here.

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The Morning After, A Dallas Observer Brunch Event

The Morning After
A Dallas Observer Brunch Event
http://www.dobrunchthemorningafter.com/

morning after brunch, Dallas ObserverIt was a picture perfect day here in Dallas for the inaugural Morning After, a Dallas Observer Brunch Event hosted by Whole Foods Market.  I am here to tell you these people know how to put on a food festival. This venue was the best. The brunch was held at the Dallas Farmers Market. The shade from the open-air shed was needed on this unseasonably warm and sunny February Saturday. More than 20 of Dallas’ shining brunch stars were out cooking up free samples to chow down on. Oh, did I mention free drinks and music too.

Here are just a few of my faves…in no particular order!

Lucky’s Cafe: Chicken and Waffles with a side of gravy AND syrup. This boneless chicken needed nothing. What was in that crust?

Jonathon’s Oak Cliff: Peppered biscuits, peppered gravy and kabob of smoked sausage, ham and bacon glazed in coffee. GLAZED IN COFFEE. Am I in heaven?

Asian Mint: Fried rice for breakfast? Well, of course! Especially if it is loaded with bacon, eggs and a little sriracha sauce.

Full Circle Tavern: Biscuit with sausage gravy and candied peppered bacon. A perfect bite.

Hypnotic Donuts: The Canadian Healthcare will put you in the hospital it is so good. This maple-glazed donut is topped with…wait for it…BACON. 

Ida Claire: First up, mini blueberry pancakes, blueberry-cardamom compote, butter and yogurt whipped cream. Followed up with superseed granola, honey greek yogurt, seasonal fruit and basil. Neither with bacon…they were sublime without it.

Amazing food, amazing venue. Can’t wait until next year. I might not eat until then!

Oysters for People Who Hate Oysters: Fish City Grill in Dallas

Fish City Grill
18149 N. Dallas Tollway, Dallas, TX 75287
http://fishcitygrill.com/

Confession time: I don’t like oysters. I have tried them raw, fried, smoked and all the other ways imaginable. Really! I just can’t stomach them. Well, that has all changed since I chowed down on the Oyster Nachos at Fish City Grill. These babies are exquisite.

First, the fresh oysters are coated with a cornmeal batter and fried crispy. Then the little babies are nestled on a dollop of chipotle tartar sauce on a tortilla chip and sprinkled with with fresh pico de gallo. The perfect bite: crispy, savory, smoky and sweet. I know these are an appetizer, but I find it really hard to share these. Fish City thinks these nachos are so good they are guaranteed: “Love ’em, or we’ll buy ’em.” I doubt they have ever had to buy them!

I like to split the nachos with a friend and finish up with Raphael’s Mexican Shrimp Cocktail. Picture a shrimp cocktail on vacation at a resort in Cancun, Mexico. Loaded with shrimp, avocado, jicama, tomatoes and onions in a spicy cocktail sauce. So spicy, so buttery, so peppery. Sabroso!

Moral of this story: Forget what you know about oysters and head over to Fish City Grill for a new interpretation. You can thank me later.

Fish and Chips Over the Pond

On a recent trip to London I had the opportunity to eat…a lot. One dish I HAD to try while I was there were the fish and chips. Though it is served everywhere, it isn’t edible everywhere. So I stalked researched all the recommendations and ate more than my fair share but one stood above the rest. Drum roll please….

Golden Hind
73 Marylebone, London, UK W1U 2PN
http://thegoldenhind.com/

The restaurant had a diner feel with a comfy, no-frills atmosphere. The menu was what you would expect: fish and chips. What I wasn’t expecting were the choices. You could order cod or haddock and have it fried or steamed. They also offered cod fishcakes, salmon, plaice and skate.
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artichoke; parmesan; olive oil; florence; cantinetta antinori

A Feeding Frenzy in Florence

I had the pleasure of spending Christmas in Florence, Italy. There is truly no place else in the world like it. The sights, the people, and THE FOOD. When I sat down to write this article, I said to myself, “Boy, you are in trouble!” To whittle down all those wonderful bites to five almost became a mission impossible. In my many trips to Florence, I can honestly say I’ve only had three subpar meals. On the other hand, I have had many, many meals that are imprinted on my taste buds as if branded. BUT I am tenacious and accepted the challenge…so here are my top five bites. Enjoy!

Numero Cinque:
Arà: è Sud
Via della Vigna Vecchia 4r,
Florence, Italy 50122
http://www.araristorante.it/home/

cannoli; florence; dolci; foodie; travel; europe; italy

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puffy tacos

A San Antonio #TacoTuesday

Las Carretas Restaurant
4054 Naco Perrin, San Antonio, TX 78217
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Las-Carretas-Mexican-Restaurant/116019481753408

For this installment of Taco Tuesday I sunk my teeth into some amazing puffy tacos. After devouring all that turkey and dressing I needed to cleanse my palate. The puffy taco was invented by Henry Lopez. The puffy taco has been a San Antonio staple since then. Puffy tacos are made with a dough called masa. Fresh masa dough is available at most mexican specialty stores. The dough is then pressed into discs and fried in oil. The water in the dough puffs up when fried. The shell the perfect combination of soft and crispy. Picture a little pillow for meat! The great thing about puffy tacos is that they can be filled with anything!

The first taco was filled with amazing and savory picadillo. Picadillo is a savory meat filling including beef, potatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic and cumin. Some recipes for picadillo include raisins. Don’t judge. It is amazing.  img_8849

Second up on the taco train was a chicken puffy taco. This taco was filled with shredded chicken. The chicken was moist and seasoned with garlic, cumin, tomatoes and peppers. 
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These tacos were just what the doctor ordered…my turkey coma is cured.

Dawn Does Tacolandia in Dallas

Tacolandia
City Hall Plaza
1500 Marilla Street, Dallas, TX 75201
http://microapp.dallasobserver.com/tacolandia/2016/

tacolandiaMan, I love some tacos! I was so excited to attend the 2nd Annual Tacolandia hosted by The Dallas Observer and Tabasco, held at City Hall Plaza. It was a great spot with plenty of room to move around and flow through 40 taquerias serving up some amazing tacos. Here are my top picks from the festival.

Numero Cinco: Fuzzy’s Taco Shop – A corn tortilla topped with spicy  pork then topped with lettuce, tomato, cilantro and feta cheese. A good, solid taco and the feta was a nice twist.
fuzzys

Numero Cuatro: Taqueria La Ventana – This calabacitas taco was the only veggie option I came across. It was seasoned well and substantial. A nice change of pace from all the meat offerings!ventana

Numero Tres: Gas Monkey – I don’t think of  Gas Monkey when I think of tacos, but they delivered. The wagyu beef taco was tender and juicy. It was topped with queso fresco, pickled onions and cilantro. One note of caution: the salsa was HOT. Have a libation on hand to chase it down.wagyu-beef

Numero Dos: El Padrino –  Man, this taco was good. This was your classic barbacoa—juicy and tender with all the flavor that comes from cooking in its juices. All that served up on a corn tortilla with cilantro, onion, green salsa, and a little lime. barbacoa

Numero Uno: Digg’s – Winner, winner taco dinner. This taco was spot on! It was aptly named the Smokey Porkinson. The taco was filled with savory pork and laid on a pillow of a flour tortilla. Then it was topped with slaw, cilantro and salsa. The squeeze of lime added just the right amount of acidity.  This taco got my vote for the day. diggs-smokey-porkinson

Already marking my calendar for next year!gates

dallas chocolate festival, dallas, kate weiser, chocolate, foodie

Getting Chocolate Wasted at the Dallas Chocolate Festival

Dallas Chocolate Festival
Addison Conference Center
15650 Addison Road, Addison, TX 75001
http://dallaschocolate.org/

dallas chocolate festival, just eat it up, dessert, dallas, foodieThe Dallas Chocolate Festival was everything I thought it would be and more. This year marks the 7th year of the festival. They kicked off the festival on Friday night with a first-ever movie night. They screened the documentary Bean to Bar: A Film About Artisan Chocolate and it was an excellent way to segue into the festival. I considered myself having a better-than-average knowledge of chocolate, but this film proved I was a novice. Let’s just say I was schooled. The film takes you on a journey from the pollination of the cocoa flower to the completion of the final chocolate product. Artisan chocolate has a vernacular of its own. I was introduced to new terms such as conching and winnowing but discovered new associations for other terms. One example being fermentation. Did you know that cocoa beans go through a fermentation process? It is truly an amazing process. Chocolate artisans are passionate about what they do. They are chocolate pioneers in a sense forging into a new era of chocolate changing it for the better. They accomplish their goal through better quality chocolate and better quality relationships with the farmers. It was a treat to listen to the Q&A session with the film’s producer, Bob Ridgely, Art Pollard (Amano Chocolate) and Rob Anderson (Fresco Chocolate). Oh yes, I almost forgot. Did I mention all the sweet and savory treats we got to sample before and after the film? What a great night!fullsizerender_1Bright and early on Saturday morning I headed over to the DCF. I was handed a box for all my goodies, and I opened the door and entered heaven. The room was bustling with over 40 chocolate makers, chocolatiers, candy makers, bakers, and chefs. I took a chocolate tour of the world. I tried it all! I was provided with a chocolate sample checklist. While I meandered about sampling, each vendor would check their name off my list. Very orderly! I love checking off a list…especially if it involves food! img_7517Tickets are sold with a scheduled entrance time. This was an ingenious idea. It allowed for staggered entry rather than a mad rush. I never felt rushed nor did I have to wait too long in any one place. I was able to visit with the different artisans and learn more about their particular specialties. While browsing, sampling and chinwagging the mistress of ceremonies, Madame Cocoa, was conducting interviews with the various vendors which were broadcast on a big screen. Nice touch.

dallas chocolate festival, dallas chocolate, addison, foodie, dessert, sweets, dallas, whole foods
Freshly dipped sandwich cookies and pretzels from Whole Foods.
dallas chocolate festival, dallas, kate weiser, chocolate, foodie
Kate Weiser Chocolate’s sweet potato chocolates.
dcf-yellibelly
Yelibelly’s wonders.
dallas chocolate festival, dallas, dessert, chocolate, foodie, Fera Wyn
Matcha chocolates from Fera Wyn’s.

cookies, dallas chocolate festival, wadkym's, dessert, dallas, foodie

Wackym’s Kitchen was there with all of their wonderful flavors.

img_7586
Chocolate chip cinnamon rolls from RoRo’s Baking Company.

In addition to all the artisans, DCF held workshops on Saturday. I was able to attend two of them. The first was Unlocking Chocolate’s Many Flavors with Roasting and Conching by Rob Anderson of Fresco Chocolate. Rob explained the differences in roasting and conching and how they affect the depth and flavor of chocolate. We were able to taste and compare chocolates with the same percentage of cacao but roasted or conched for different lengths of time.
fullsizerender-2

The second workshop was Chocolate Coming Attractions with Tessa Halstead (Chocolaterie Tessa), Art Pollard (Amano Chocolate), Ben Rasmussen (Potomac Chocolate), Carla Barboto (Pacari Chocolate) and Pam Eudaric-Amiri (Chocolate Secrets). I learned about the evolution of chocolate and how this craft has evolved and the why they are so passionate about buying from a particular grower with high standards to produce the best chocolate possible.img_7536

I left with a box of yummy goodness. This is what made it home…the rest was eaten.
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What I learned:
Chocolate melts at a temperature of around 93 degrees. The universe designed it to melt in your mouth.
Chocolate is an appetite suppressant.
Dark chocolate reduces the risk of heart disease.
Chocolate prevents tooth decay.
Chocolate was originally consumed in liquid form, not solid.
White chocolate is not white, and it is not chocolate. It is sweetened cocoa butter.
Cocoa butter is what gives chocolate its creaminess. Most non-artisanal chocolate makers use wax.
I love people who love food.
I will NOT miss next year’s festival. Head over to Dallas Chocolate and sign up for the chocolate updates, so you don’t either!

Guanabana Panna Cotta, lucuma manjar blanco, chocolate sponge cake, foodie, farm shed dinner, pacha chefs, tres dallas, dallas farmers market

Dawn and Stephanie attend the Farm Shed Dinner at Dallas Farmers Market

dopest chef, foodie, farm shed dinner, pacha chefs, tres dallas, dallas farmers marketStephanie: The August Farm Shed Dinner at Dallas Farmers Market was unlike any of the previous dinners put on by the incredible minds behind Tres Dallas. Typically Farm Shed dinners are prepared by Chef Mike Kelly and Chef Chris Waltman while #GirlBoss Tia runs front of house but this month they enlisted the brilliant talents of a private chef team from Houston, TX.

foodie, farm shed dinner, pacha chefs, tres dallas, dallas farmers marketChef’s Alejandro and Masaru are behind PACHA Private Chefs And Creative Catering. Known in Houston for their unique Colombian and Asian flavors, as well as, for their incredible Ceviche and Taco Bar Pop Up events that often feature DJ performances and almost always sell out.

We were all very lucky to be able to experience their talents before they blow up making it harder to try anything they create.

Ready. Set. Eat!

Mini Arepa, waffle bacon fried chicken, cilantro butter, bourbon honey, foodie, farm shed dinner, pacha chefs, tres dallas, dallas farmers market

Dawn: First Course – Mini Arepa Waffle, Bacon Fried Chicken, Cilantro Butter, Bourbon Honey
The amuse was Texas-sized. Bigger than a bite, but I shoved all of that goodness right in! Tender chicken breaded with a blend of dehydrated waffles and maple bacon. It was fried until crispy and nestled into the arepa pillow with cilantro butter. So perfectly comforting.

quinoa salad, season fruit, mint, poppyseed, lychee dressing, foodie, farm shed dinner, pacha chefs, tres dallas, dallas farmers market

Stephanie: Second Course – Quinoa Salad, Seasonal Fruit, Cucumbers, Mint, Poppy Seed & Lychee Dressing
This salad was so simple, but it was still one of the most impressive things I’ve ever had. I would never have thought to mix Quinoa, cucumber, peaches and lychee!? It was wonderful.

Ceviche Nikkei, salmon, panca yuzu leche de tigre, strawberries, radish, cancha, sweet potato, chorizo oil, foodie, farm shed dinner, pacha chefs, tres dallas, dallas farmers market

Dawn: Third Course: Ceviche Nikkei, Salmon, Panca-Yuzu Leche de Tigre, Strawberries, Radish, Cancha, Sweet Potato, Chorizo Oil
Oh. My. Goodness. This dish was exquisite. There are seriously no words to describe how good it was. The salmon was swimming in the fresh and spicy Leche de Tigre. The strawberries and sweet potato brought in sweetness and depth that was sublime. The cancha and choclo added a chewy, crunch. Leche de Tigre should be bottled and sold. It was the thread that wove this rich tapestry together. If I had been alone, I would have licked the dish.

Mini Bandeja Paisa, beef tenderloin, chicharron, red beans, jasmine rice, ahogado, torched avocado, foodie, farm shed dinner, pacha chefs, tres dallas, dallas farmers marketStephanie: Fourth Course Tenderloin, Chicharron, Red Beans, Jasmine Rice, Torched Avocado
This course was another fantastic example of how good Chef Alejandro and Chef Masaru are at mixing unexpected components. The red beans and jasmine rice were just amazing, so creative and it worked so well with the beef. Beautiful dish.

Guanabana Panna Cotta, lucuma manjar blanco, chocolate sponge cake, foodie, farm shed dinner, pacha chefs, tres dallas, dallas farmers market

Dawn: Guanabana Panna Cotta, Lucuma Manjar Blanco, Chocolate Sponge
This dessert was ecstasy. Do not laugh or scoff because you have no clue how good this was. The guanabana cooked cream flavored was creamy and sinful. On top of the pannacotta was the manjar blanco infused with lucuma. Try to imagine a fruity cajeta. All served with just enough chocolate sponge cake. I believe it was dark chocolate with few sprinkles of salt. The sponge cake was a brilliant way to offset the sweetness of the rest of the dessert.

 

foodie, farm shed dinner, pacha chefs, tres dallas, dallas farmers marketBravo to Tres Chef and Pacha Chefs! The food, the people, and the venue were stellar. I never thought I would ever say I was jealous of Houston, but I am jealous that they have Pacha!

Below is a glossary in case you weren’t sure of ingredients:

Arepa – a flat, round, unleavened patty of soaked, ground kernels of maize, maize meal or maize flour that can be grilled, baked, fried, boiled or steamed and stuffed with good stuff.

Bandeja paisa – the national dish of Colombia. A dish characterized by a variety of foods including red beans cooked with pork, white rice, ground meat, chicharrón, fried egg, plantain, chorizo, arepa, hogao sauce, black pudding, avocado and lemon.

Cancha – a sort of popcorn made from a particular variety of corn called maiz chulpe. This popcorn is not like regular popcorn. Think corn nuts but much lighter and softer.

Choclo – a large-kernel variety of field corn from the Andes. It comes on a cob like regular corn, but the kernels are substantial. A corn kernel on steroids. They are sweet and chewy.

Guanabana – also called soursop, is a fruit found on an evergreen tree found in South America. The guanabana starts as a flavor combination of pineapple and strawberry then evolves into a milder creamy coconut/banana.

Leche de Tigre – translated tiger’s milk. A Peruvian marinade that is citrus-based and used in ceviche containing juice, onion, and chiles. Oh, and it is an aphrodisiac!

Lucuma – or eggfruit, has a flesh like a hard-boiled egg yolk. It tastes like a sweet potato infused with maple syrup.

Lychee – a fleshy fruit covered by a pink, inedible, rough rind. The interior is a layer of sweet, translucent meat.

Manjar Blanco – is South America’s version of cajeta or dulce de leche.

Nikkei – a South American culinary tradition with cultural influences from Japan and Peru. For example, fresh fish combined with limes, corn, peppers, and yucca.

Panca – a South American chili that is deep red in color and three to five inches long. It has a sweet, spicy and smoky flavor. The peppers are often made into a paste or dried and used in fish dishes.

Yuzu – a fruit similar to an orange, but not often eaten on its own. Its flavor is tart. Think about the offspring of a grapefruit and mandarin orange. The juice of the fruit often is used as a seasoning.

tredallas tablesetting