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Now, you can read me at: Alexal Guide to… shopping, food, traveling and all the superficial things of life.

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10 Days in Jequitinhonha – Taking the kids to the pool

I know. This blog is about my life in Dallas. But nothing more strange than my life in Dallas than comparing it with my life in Jequitinhonha, where I came for the Holidays. As I write this post I’m being a nanny for my little cousins. I was supposed to take them all to their first swimming class but the teacher only comes on Tuesday and thrusdays. Today is wed. Instead I took them to my hotel pool, a mediocre rounded pool that was more than enough for an hour of intense activity for the children. For the first time I felt how it is to take care of children. YOU REALLY HAVE TO WATCH TEM! I thought I could read a book or browse the internet. Hahahahaha in the first 5 minutes one of them fell, the other drank a gallon of pool water. I want them to remember this as a good vacation, as it was for me when I was a kid and my older cousins would take me on motorcycles or for a ride in their cars. Btw, I discovered something about me: I don’t like to correct the kids and tell them what to do. They were so afraid of everything that having such a permissive “aunt” must have been a glory.

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Chefs Smackdown 2010 – I wish we had more of those in Dallas

To my surprise, the Cordon Bleu Chefs Smackdown 2010 (see photos) was a really great event, even though strangely organized. We paid 75 bucks to taste four appetizers from a minievent inside the real chefs smackdown named “Restaurant Wars”, which started around 7h30 and after that, Tre Wilcox (Loft 610) and Edward Mendoza (Ocean Prime) cooked while we drank red wine for an hour. At this part of the event, we -that didn’t auctioned for one of the sits- could only vote on the presentation of the dishes while the judges ate. It was like being at home and watching Top Chef on TV. Weird. But since our money went to Ten for 10, a nonprofit organization providing clean water to Sub-Saharan Africa- it’s all good. Now, down to business in what I actually ate:

1. Butternut squash soup with honey comb and pecan mousse, Abby Team

What can possibly go wrong with a butternut squash? Too much of a safe bet from the first team. The pecan mousse wasn’t too soft and the overall dish was slightly sweeter than it should. (0 vote)

2. Arugula salad + short rib stuffed potato
by Greenhousetruck.com

It bothered me a little that the hot potato was on top of a bed of salad. Which one should I eat first? After I made my choice, couldn’t be happier with the nicely chopped and dressed salad followed by yummy baked potato. Ben Hutchison had also the smallest team, counting with the help of Le Cordon Bleu student Bertrand Davis, who was just the perfect assistant. That’s what finger food should be: simple, delicious, uncomplicated. (2 votes)

3. Wolf street chicken and waffles
by Bolla Restaurant Team

The winner of the battle evoked to the strangest combination of fried chicken and waffles, so beloved by Roscoe’s fans. It’s the first time I had the dish and was pretty happy with the rose (!) fried chicken that you could eat with your hands and toss it in the gravy. Finger food that works. Now when it comes to have a waffle after a chicken.. well… don’t count on me. (1 vote)

4. Seared scallop with roasted beet and truffled spinach puree from Northwood Club

The most beautiful dish of all four competitors, hands down. Too bad my scallop was cold, which is one of the disadvantages of being the last one on the line for the tasting. The white coconut “caviar” was a nice touch on top of the roasted seafood. More beauty was added with a fried beet slice, but unfortunately it didn’t add deepness to the plate that could have gained more richness if it was a beet purée. (1 vote)

See more photos of Chefs Smackdown 2010 Dallas here!

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A day in Fort Worth – my way

Fort Worth is so close to Dallas, yet so far. I love to go there have a lunch at The Cafe Modern in the Museum of Modern Art. The view of the pool with its steel sculpture is just a setting you can’t get in Dallas. But, the visitors are much more interested in the cow town traditions, since Fort Worth still embraces its Western heritage and traditional architecture and design. A perfect day, Alexal way:

10AM – Start on the Design District
The best museums in Dallas are in.. Fort Worth. Start by the Kimbell Art Museum, where you can find modern pieces but also antiquities from all over the world. Just across the street, the Museum of Modern Art Fort Worth is composed of five pavilions of concrete and glass set on 11 naturally landscaped acres, including a 1.5 acre reflecting pond. Beautiful. Beaufitul. The Modern maintains one of the foremost collections -3,000 works- of postwar art in the central US. Oil money, I suppose.

Me and a friend Tatiana Foresta, after a visit at the Forth Worth Art Museum followed by Mint drinks

1PM – Time for lunch
Fort Worth best spot for lunch is still at the museum. The Cafe at the Modern Art serves salads, appetizers and delicious hamburgers in a all glass window restaurant. So civilized you forget you’re in Texas. Sorry. Another spot, less modern and much more cozier is Lili’s Bistro, at Magnolia Avenue. The street has become one the most gourmet neighborhoods of the city in recent years. For just 12 bucks you can choose between chicken, tabouli, wedge salads and many other options. Just too bad that on my recent visit the pita breads were cold and stale. For a patio lunch, locals head to Joe’s T Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant where margaritas and lines are famous. Ribs? Railhead BBQ is your spot.

Lili's Bistro, at Magnolia Avenue, is an easy choice for an informal lunch.

Supposedly the best ribs in town, Railhead BBQ is packed on the weekends

4PM – La dolce far niente
La siesta. Ah, how nice it would be if the famous Sundance Square, in downtown, had a beautiful coffee shop for an afternoon expresso coffee. Not the case. Make yourself comfortable at the Starbucks on Houston’s street and look at those who swing by: college students doing assignments, a couple of homeless here and there and girls on cowboy boots. Tons of them. A good stretch is also to take a walk till the Milan Gallery, where there’s always some good exhibit.

Quiet view from the downtown Starbucks


Girls drive the strip in downtown Fort Worth - cowboy boots are a must have.

7PM – Oh! Dinner time
There’s no other place you should be dining tonight but Ellerbe Fine Foods, on Magnolia Avenue. Great ambience with candle light. Check. Organic, fresh and comfort food. Check. On a recent visit I had the best stuffed quail of my life. And I’m an avid quail eater. Hands down to the bread and attentive service. Just one negative point: they’re not in Dallas!

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Alexal quick guide to Austin

When I moved to Dallas, Allen Olivo (a marketing executive from my previous job) told me: oh, Dallas! I hope you travel a lot to Austin. It took me 6 months to follow his advice only to discover I’m a democrat, yes. But my taste is certainly republican. After 3 days in the hippiest texan city, I didn’t have any fancy dinners even when I tried.

Dallas fashionable habitants love Congress Avenue for the bars and stores

But there’s no other place in Texas like Austin. Residents are all smart, white people who came here to go to college -or as a teacher-, live a hippie life or work in one of the many technology companies. Google, Dell, IBM and Ebay all have offices here. And where there are hippies/intellectuals and artists, proliferates veganism, fantastic juice places and outstanding taco joints. Here’s a quick guide to the city basics:

WHERE TO STAY IN AUSTIN:
Hotel San Jose, Saint Cecilia or Motel Austin
Here is where the trendy people stay or at least have a drink at the patio if the hotel was fully booked. If you wanna splurge, Austin Saint Cecilia, from the same group, is a good choice. Hipster on a budget? Go to Austin Motel where comfortable, yet simple rooms, begin at USD 100.

Hotel San Jose is your best bet.

WHERE TO EAT IN AUSTIN
In Austin, like the austian. Here, vegan, juice spots and taquerías rule. But, new spots are trying to serve upscale cuisine. Ones with more successes than others.

Restaurants
Lambert’s Downtown Barbeque
Best cocktail in a long time, best hamburger in a long time. And, we didn’t even have a table at the restaurant. All eaten in the bar with immense pleasure. Hands down.

Lamberts has an old style and sleek look

A drink, a hamburger, a good bar. Lambert's Barbecue do not disappoint


401 W 2nd St
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 494-1500

La Condesa
Just across the street from Lambert’s, La Condesa invites for a late lunch or informal dinner with your friends. Probably, one of the most well decorated restaurants in the entire city.

La Condesa's menu infuses classic Mexico City cantina fare with regional specialties and street food favorites

La Condesa won the People's Choice Award for best restaurant at the AIA Los Angeles Restaurant Design Awards

400 W 2nd St
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 499-0300

Wink
Probably, my most overrated dinner in Austin. They change the menu everyday, they only use organic and they’re well intentioned. But, when it comes to delivering all those promises, I was frustrated. First, our waiter was rude, then they didn’t have the pasta of the day at 8PM! Being the most expensive dinner of the trip didn’t help it either: USD 150 for 2.
1014 N Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78703
(512) 482-8868

Uchi
There’s nothing not to love about a well designed restaurant full of beautiful people. Uchi is not trying to be perfect but doesn’t fail to deliver good japanese cuisine to an upscale clientele. Loved the foie gras (!!) sushi, a real surprise.

Uchi: well done sushis, like the foie gras one, attract an upscale clientele

801 S Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 916-4808

Tacos, juices & others
Daily Juice
Thin, white and tall servers prepare strange combinations of organic fruits with milk and whey protein in small take out spots. B-e-s-t peanut butter + banana smoothie of my life. After that, you won’t go to Jamba juice ever again.

Juice spots that look a lot like Hawaii deliver healthy options

1625 Barton Springs Rd
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 480-9501

Tacodeli
The city is full of good taquerías and I only had time to visit one. Famous for their breakfast tacos, I loved to sit below the trees and the amicable servers. A keeper.

Tacodeli - a winner between the breakfast tacos

At Tacodeli local triatletes and late brunch friends come to hang out below the trees eating eggs and spinach tacos


Explore more taquerías than me checking the most rated ones on Yelp.

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Because breakfast is the only time I can drink; best brunches in Dallas

Training for the Chicago Marathon 2010 has proved to be harder than I imagined. Running around 35 miles, 5 days a week doesn’t leave much time for drinking and nights out. My party days have become the sunday brunches, after my long run. It will start with white chardonnay and, if this is a good sunday, end in red wine by the Glass House pool where me and my neighbours traditionally barbecue. While the Dallas crowd prefer anyplace with dollar mimosas, I judge my breakfast by, hmmm higher standards. Fresh bread, good butter, perfect eggs, decent coffee. Shouldn’t be hard, no? Here we go to my favorite brunch/breakfast places in Dallas:

Dream Café
Almost hidden little gem full of Uptown folks on saturdays and sunday mornings. The healthy options are as interesting as the meat-eggs-potatoes-all-you-can-eat options. Gotta love the ricotta pancakes.
2800 Routh St, Ste 170
Dallas, TX 75201
Neighborhood: Uptown

Dream Cafe white omelette


Not so healthy options are very yummy at the Dream Cafe

Toulouse
The french bistro is full of Highland Park high heeled women and their younger daughters with boyfriends. You can dine al fresco and observe the movement on Katy Trail. Bread, butter, egg whites make me happy. The oven roasted leg chicken -if you’re more inclined to have lunch- makes me even happier. Decent steak tartare. The only semi-authentic french bistro of the city. We gotta support that.
3314 Knox St
Dallas, TX 75205
Neighborhood: Highland Park

All Good Café
Wow. This is really an Austin alike breakfast joint lost in the middle of the stores in Deep Ellum. Random people and families were here for breakfast on friday morning. Eggs, toast and tons of mexican plates like Dallas customers like it. For a good espresso, walk a block to Murray Coffee shop. It also has shows on the weekends at night.
2934 Main St
Dallas, TX 75226
(214) 742-5362

All Good Cafe - An Austin look & feel


All Good Cafe - empty but nice on a friday morning

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Nice little stores during a weekend shopping in Dallas

In the sunny days of August, I’d rather be a the pool the entire weekend. But, sometimes, you don’t have a choice and errands need to be done. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Prosciutto only at Jimmy’s, wine at Cork, cheese at Scardello, lychee at a thai grocery store. Believe it or not. Dallas, the city with more shopping malls in the US, is full of little guetto places to be explored. Forget about Whole Foods and Central Markets and dive in the hidden places of downtown.

Jimmy’s Food Store
What I love about Jimmy’s is that everything is messy and deliciously homy. Old style market where the owners get to know you if you’re a frequent customer and where fantastic prosciutto and parmesan cheese are sold for the half of the price than Whole Foods. Sometimes, they have burrata directly from Italy. Cheap wine selections and homemade tomato sauce are the other advantages.

Jimmy's Food Store - the best italian grocery in Dallas


Jimmy's is messy as we like it.

Thai Oriental Food Store
Came for lychee cans and fell in love with their asian charisma (quiet, dirty, messy). Doesn’t have the huge selection of other asian markets, but it’s close enough to Uptown for a quick fix.

Thai Food Store - little hidden gem


Thai Food Store - messy as we like it

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