Trip to the Dallas Farmers Market

So in keeping with my promise to recreate recipes from each Saturday’s class for dinner Sunday night, off we went to the Dallas Farmers Market to get our knives sharpened and scoop up fresh and fabulous fruits and veggies.

The recipe called for tomatoes, onion, bell peppers, jalapeno, limes, garlic and seasonings. We ended up with a lot more, but what else is new?

The Farmers Market is just a fabulous place to go. It’s an underrated gem in Dallas and I’m hoping it only gets better from here with the increasing popularity of using locally-grown ingredients. If you’ve never been, GO!

Sidenote: the Mobile Knife Sharpening guy in Shed 2 is great. He seriously knows his choppers, sells knives and other various cutting tools at a great price, and sharpens yours real quick.

 

Pictured: The Bounty

Photos shot using Hipstamatic for iPhone

foodbitch’s Adventures in Culinary Basics, Day 1

I walked into the fantastic facility at Viking not really knowing what to expect! What I found was a 10-person class where we all got to chop along with the chef and create our own lunch, basically. 

Each station was set up with the ingredients for the day: tomato, onion, carrot, jalapeno, mushroom, garlic and … cilantro. I was NOT looking forward to chopping that vile weed, but I figure I need to be a grownup and just suck it up. We each had a cutting board, peeler, paring knife and chef’s knife (maybe 8-inch?). 

Since the first class was all about knife skills, we made salsa fresca and fajitas. Lots of chopping, basically. First we learned how to peel and chop a tomato. This was something I did not know how to do. Turns out peeling a tomato is not necessary for salsas, but it showcases a certain amount of skill to take the skin off. That way, when you make a soup for example, there’s no skin found floating down around. How embarrassing.

So first we took out the spot on the bottom of the tomatoes that connects to the stem, and cut an “X” in the other end to start the peeling. Then we dropped our plum tomatoes, one at a time, into boiled-then-turned-down water for about 20 seconds. Then we shocked them in ice water and the skin came off pretty easily. I was feeling good.

Then came the chopping. For this the chef demonstrated a technique where you slice sections off vertically around the core, then scrape the seeds out of the core flesh and finish by chopping up the pieces. I personally still need to work on the whole “guarding the fingers” chopping technique, because to me it still feels pretty awkward. Like when you first learn to use chopsticks.

The onion was a bit of a revelation. We chopped off the end, and then on the root side we didn’t chop it deeply, so the online would hold together throughout the chopping process. We cut slices that didn’t go all the way through, and then a couple “lateral cuts” and then chopped vertically until we had tiny chopped pieces. Fancy. Pants.

The carrot (used in the salad we ate for lunch) was fun. We learned to julienne! We basically cut the long carrot into 2 inch long sections (after peeling) cut to create a flat side, laid it down, cut another flat side, and then make rectangles. Those rectangles were stacked 2 at a time and cut into 1/8 square by 2 inch long pieces. This was exciting.

I’ll skip to the most entertaining part: where I inevitably made a fool of myself. All the veggies were in the woks and the instructor was doing some great tossing work. He then offered to let me try. He should have known. I attempted to toss the veggies and instead slammed the top of the wok against the stove, spilling about a third of the veggies onto the floor and grill. Awesome. I’m glad I could take the pressure off anyone else being crowned the biggest eff up in class. You’re welcome, classmates!

Aside from that, the class was great! At about 12:15 we all got to eat our fajitas with the salsa fresca, some warmed tortillas and a green salad with some of our chopped veggies and a quick vinaigrette the chef whipped up from olive oil, fresh parsley and thyme, salt and pepper.

So you knew this was coming: Presenting what I now believe I need to buy for my own kitchen: a grill pan, a citrus juicer (pictured above) and possibly a wok. I also really need my knives sharpened. ASAP. We were lucky enough to score some nice Wusthof knives when we got married, but they have dulled in the past 3 years. Tomorrow I’m off to the Farmers Market to get them sharpened while I buy the ingredients I need to recreate the recipes from class. Yes, that is the plan. In order to make sure my husband sees a quick return on his investment, I have decided to purchase the ingredients Saturday afternoon or Sunday in order to attempt to recreate the dishes from class on Sunday night for dinner. I will try to post my recreation here…unless I totally bomb. ;)

I can’t wait for next week: Stocks, Soups and Sauces!!

My husband is an evil genius.

Okay he is a genius, but he’s really not evil at all. Let me explain. This past September 2, we celebrated our third anniversary. I bought him a really cool clock for his office (a modern interpretation of the third anniversary gift is glass) and he bought me…cooking classes. For. The. Win.

Now anyone who doesn’t know me thinks this is just a little too crafty, a little too selfish, of my husband. But anyone who knows me knows this is the absolute most perfect gift. I love to cook! I am not, however, trained in the least. So the idea of spending 3 hours every Saturday for 6 weeks in a Viking kitchen learning everything from “Knife Skills and Kitchen Orientation” to “Braising, Boiling, Poaching and Steaming” just thrills me. Seriously. I’m weird.

Now I don’t aspire to be a chef — I don’t need that kind of stress — but I plan to continue to use food to show my love to family and friends for as long as I can. Therefore I plan to build a serious food foundation that will last a lifetime. That’s a tall order!

Stay tuned as I recap each class here on foodbitch.posterous.com!

Lunch Quickie at Maple & Motor

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At the crowded yet efficient Maple & Motor, it turns out I should have listened to my gut and gotten a burger. The brisket was an unusually bad mistake! Nothing good about it. In my opinion, if you are going to put brisket on your menu, it had better be amazing. This wasn’t even good. It was sad, unseasoned, and had an odd color to it. Luckily, I dined with a burger-eater who didn’t mind sharing. Onion rings were solid. Bottom line: Skip the sad brisket sandwich. Staff were quite pleasant, unlike what you’ve likely heard. “Jolly Rancher Tea” represents an interesting departure from regular fruit-flavored unsweet tea, but it wasn’t to my liking. I’d go back and get a burger, try the tots, and sample what looked like their take on a whoopie pie.

Golly Sandra: Bess in Austin

Tonight I realized I never wrote about this meal. Which is odd considering I’ve been dreaming about that heirloom tomato and moz salad ever since bite one. The cheese was different; not like regular mozzarella. It was something more. And the tomatoes were the ripest! A friend gave me her avocado slices and I added them with glee. The dish was perfectly dressed with basil of course, salted and peppered to perfection in a delicious vinaigrette. I want this salad every day.

The second photo is of a dining partner’s ham & cheese open-faced sandwich.

Next up was my ahi tuna appetizer that had a great combination of grapefruit, tuna, vinaigrette, avocados and toast to eat it all up with. Real good.

Last photo is of the scallops. I’m sure everything I didn’t try was as amazing as what I did. Highly recommended: Bess in Austin on 6th.

#RestaurantWeek Report: Grace Fell Flat

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Well folks, every once-in-a-while, I have to put the bitch in @foodbitch and write a negative restaurant review. Unfortunately, some restaurants do not consider Restaurant Week an opportunity to showcase their excellence to an entirely new array of diners, but rather take advantage of the smaller price point to downgrade their offerings. Unfortunately, either Grace did the latter, or it’s just not that great of a restaurant. The point is, I probably won’t ever know which.

I was pretty excited to try Grace, a newish, new American spot in Fort Worth. I’d heard good things from friends and the RW menu looked appealing for sure, so my husband and I headed there this Tuesday night.
Valet was $5 but prompt and once inside we were seated right away at a corner booth. Intimate, sure, but a little chilly. The decor at Grace is clean and modern, but for the prices on the menu, my dining partner smartly noted that the waitstaff should probably be wearing ties. But I digress. Let’s get on to the food!

I had of course, being the bossy foodbitch that I am, already decided what we were ordering for each course. The fresh, warm bread came to our table, accompanied by fresh butter at the perfect, softened temperature. Bonus points: my iced tea came with chilled simple sugar.

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I ordered:
First: The Heirloom Tomato and Melon Salad
Main: The Rainbow Trout with Beurre Blanc
Dessert: Texas Peach Cobbler

He ordered:
First: Roasted Pepper Soup
Main: Petit Filet with Demi-Glace
Dessert: Red Velvet Cake
…and the wine pairing option for $20 more.

Whiney Wine Note: When ordered as a pairing, I believe it’s proper for the waiter to announce the wine varietal upon bringing the glass to the table. Ours did not. Who knows what he was drinking? The glasses were small, too. More like a tasting than a pairing. I’m not a wine person, but I did see a customer across the room with a half-full glass, when the one at our table was more like 1/4.

First Course: My salad was over-dressed with run-of-the-mill balsamic vinaigrette. Tasty, but way too wet. The croutons were obviously many days old leftover bread like what is brought to the table fresh, and I nearly cracked a tooth on one. Perhaps that’s why they drown them in dressing! The heirloom tomatoes were tasty and fresh, but they were in chunks and there was likely 1.5 tomatoes total on the plate. The melon was just chunks of cantaloupe. Altogether the salad was tasty, but just okay, nothing formal.
His soup was very tasty, served with a basil-cream on top, but nothing special, honestly.

Main Course: In hindsight, I should have known this course would be lackluster when the menu listed the very same accompanying items for the beef as the fish. I ignored the repeated “Brazos Valley stone ground polenta and sweet corn succotash” on both choices because it sounded pretty fantastic! And the succotash was pretty tasty. The polenta was a little too oatmeal-y for me. But both beef and trout were cooked perfectly. The fish was pleasantly crispy which impressed, but the filet was lacking in seasoning. 

Dessert: I’m always excited to see a cobbler or knuckle or buckle or crisp turn up on a menu. I like to divert from chocolate at the end of an awesome meal and am usually not disappointed. This was not the case at Grace. The warm, peachy stuff looked like it would be caramel-y, slightly salty and subtly sweet but it was none of those. It was honestly, just okay. There was an accompanying fresh “buttermilk biscuit and cinnamon ice cream” that looked great, but fell short. The biscuit was okay, kind of like a shortbread, but the ice cream was the real disappointment. It tasted like cream-flavored ice cream, not sweet enough or with enough cinnamon. You couldn’t even SEE cinnamon! Sigh. I didn’t finish the dessert which, for me, speaks volumes.
The red velvet cake was very good. Thick-cut from a bundt-type pan, it was moist and dense and served with whipped cream. The issue here is that I unfortunately spied another order of the cake delivered to a non-Restaurant Week table. While our order contained one slice and a helping of whipped cream, the non-RW order I saw had three. Like as in ours was one third the size of a regular portion. And with CAKE, that’s just bad form. 

And that was that at Grace. Based on this bitch’s opinion, I simply can’t recommend it. Maybe the regular menu is multitudes better (I believe I spotted some fantastic-looking sushi-grade tuna floating by at some point), but I probably won’t find out.

Late night bites at the Meddlesome Moth

 

We went to the Moth for a late night dinner (9:30 PM) this past Saturday, and thank goodness because our lovely waitress told us the’d had a three-hour wait earlier that evening. We marveled at the extensive beer list, and my husband landed on a worldly flight of beers while I enjoyed a fresh lime & basil spritzer to help me cool off. Then we ordered small plates (which I love to do because it lets me try more things): the caprese salad, lamb skewers, sweet corn and broccolini. Everything was made with fresh ingredients and bold flavors, scoring big bitch points with me all around.

The caprese included sweet, thick-cut beefsteak tomatoes, fresh slices of mozzarella and a basil reduction with an intoxicating scent. I could eat that salad every day.

The lamb skewers were a tad salty but I happen to love salt. The dish surprised us with a base of hummus, fresh teardrop tomatoes, salted arugula and pickled grapes, which were certainly a new taste for me!

The broccolini was perfectly al dente, with a lemony sauce that had just a bit too much chili flake for my taste. I ate it happily, but I drank that lime & basil spritzer pretty quickly.

The corn was fantastic! I asked for a steak knife so I could shuck the messy deliciousness braces-style. The seasoning was an awesome mess, almost like mushed up creamy breadcrumbs with a touch of spice.

 

Overall, this new Design District gem lived up to what I’d heard about it. Way up. We will definitely be back. Especially to give those desserts a try.

@foodbitch’s nod from the Observer

Thursday, May 20th, my blog, in-this-economy.com, and I got a surprise shoutout in the Dallas Observer. The front page article about Dallas’ top Tweeps was cool enough in and of itself, since a lot of our friends were interviewed and featured for the piece. But when a sidebar showed two of the Twitter avatars I use every day, that’s when I got really excited. So hopefully I can gather a few more followers and impress them with my food photos and <140 character reviews. Onward and upward!

Tei Ahhhhhhhn

My second post for ILiveInDallas features my review of One Arts Plaza’s soba restaurant Tei An. I’ve been there a few times, and I always leave feeling just a little more zen than I was when I entered. Want my recommendations? Read them here, and let me know what you think!

Food Find: La Tartine Gourmande

My friend @wkay introduced me to this site for food porn, I mean inspiration. So consider me inspired. And hungry.

Excerpt from LaTartineGourmande.com:

“I started with grated cucumber sprinkled with salt to release some water. Then, I added local radishes, sticks of apple and plain yogurt. With a drizzle of lime juice and one of olive oil, more yogurt and slices of smoked salmon, I had food perfectly right to cool off. My dinner.”

verrine smoked salmon cucumber yogurt apple radish

 

Read the rest…