Category Archives: Restaurants

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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Filed under Fort Worth, Restaurants, Shopping, Travel, TX, Weekend

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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Filed under Austin, Restaurants, Travel, Weekend

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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Filed under Brunch & Breakfast, Restaurants, Weekend

On how Chipotle saved me after a failed lunch at T Room and Kozy Kitchen

I love the little restaurant T Room behind the boutique Forty Five Ten. It’s fresh, hidden and the menu is just what we women love: little salads with quiche, little sandwiches with salad. Since I can’t afford anything at the fancy store, having lunch brings me a little bit of that luxury without crashing my credit card. Today, after shopping with a friend, it was just the perfect place for a quick lunch. We parked our cars in front of the store, entered the place which had 2 to 3 tables available only to hear from the waiter: ah, we are really busy today. It will be a long wait till you get your food.

Well, I didn’t feel particularly welcomed and decided to try Kozy, just across the street. I’ve been here before for a brunch and loved their white eggs omelette. We ordered fresh lemonade with agave (a little too much agave) but still very refreshing. Grilled chicken with vegetables were my choice for a healthy monday lunch. It arrived fast enough and at my first bite… oh! Burned. Just like my chicken when I forget them on the grill and go for a shower. The vegetables looked sloppy and the broccoli was certainly NOT fresh, with all those yellow spots when it starts to age. I could put up with the veggie, but not the meat. I called the waitress and we had an interesting dialogue I will try to reproduce as literal as possible:

– Hey, do you mind changing the chicken? the taste is not good, it’s burned.
_ Well, it looks good to me.
_ The problem is not how it looks, but the taste.
_ This is how our chicken tastes. Don’t you wanna change for something else?
_ No, I’m fine with the dish. I just want a chicken that isn’t burned, if you can change it.
_ Let me speak to the chef.

She takes my plate and comes back without my plate and a menu on her hands.

_ Choose something else because according to the chef you must not like the flavoring of our chicken.
_I’m sorry. I don’t have more time to order a new dish and wait for it, just bring me the check.

She nicely offered us NOT to pay for our lemonades, which I didn’t mind paying at all. But, at the same time, she didn’t allow me to eat the chicken and vegetables I’ve chosen from the menu. The waiter and chef decided NOT to let me eat chicken since I had a problem with the chicken. Not for one single moment they thought the chicken had any problem. What’s wrong with you, people? Btw, the blackout on the windows on Kozy isn’t working. Gives the place a very somber ambience instead of just keeping the heat away, making it an unpleasant place to dine. Unfortunately, when they make such nice white eggs omelette.

See it for yourself:

Kozy - chicken with vegetables

I thought I would never write a post complimenting Chipotle – just across from Kozy- for existing but here we go: Thanks Chipotle, for actually having the food and the service in the consistent conditions you always do. Maybe something Kozy and T Room can learn from you.

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Filed under American, Restaurants, Uncategorized

2. Best new places in Dallas: The Common Table

The restaurants and bars in Uptown Dallas have always something in common: food is less important than the vibe, the bar, the scene. All of them aim to attract the hot and young with special mimosas and  girl’s night out promotions. Because of that, The Common Table and its quite ambience is an oasis. In the three occasions I visited the restaurant in the last weeks I had meatballs (just ok), a great arugula salad (simple, as it should be) and tried an outstanding salmon from a friend’s plate. The bruschetta goes well with the good white wine selection they bring and one day, after a hard run on Katy Trail, the cold beer brewed in NY, was just heaven. Bad choices: chicken rib-eye and kind of boring short-ribs.

I hope The Common Table remains like that: nice and quiet. Don’t spread the word. Not yet.


Address:
2917 Fairmount St
Dallas, TX 75201
(214) 880-7414

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Filed under American, Beers, Hamburger, Restaurants

1. Best new places in Dallas: Meddlesome Moth

Whenever  I hear about a place far from the obvious Mckinney-Knox-Henderson-Greenville, I just can’t wait to try it. Does it have dozens of beers and is one step ahead in the kitchen? Even better. I visited the new arts district bar Meddlesome Moth two times in the last month and I continue to like it!

Meddlesome Moth patio is empty right now, but not for long

The food is not consistent at all, but they have great winners: homemade homus, a hot bread and butter from a local bakery and the classic mussels with butter and wine. I love the fact that 90% of the menu can be shared (like all bars in my hometown country) and that they have beers I’ve never heard about. Just because of that I’m willing to forgive the horrible fish and chips I tried there on wednesday (July 21st). Chef Chad Kelley, go have a bite at the fish & chips served at Hilo Bay Cafe in Hilo, Hawaii. You would be ashamed to serve these mushy version!

The patio with rustic wood common tables still remain empty due to the high temperatures, but I’m pretty sure it will be impossible to get a table there in the next fall. So, head now!

Go there:
1621 Oak Lawn Ave
Dallas, TX 75207

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Filed under Bars, Beers, pubs, Restaurants