Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Eight top tastes from Dallas-Fort Worth restaurants in 2009
Like the eight maids, we're milking this 12-day Christmas theme for all it's worth.
Compiling a "Top 10 Restaurants of 2009 in Dallas & Fort Worth" list works only if you have eaten at every restaurant that opened in 2009.
In lieu of that, you could dummy up a list of places that have generated foodie buzz like Samar, Park, Bolsa, and Smoke. You could deliberately pick a few stinkers so that everyone would become irate and post a lot of comments.
Instead, this is a list of the most memorable items I consumed this year. But it's not just "10 things I liked." Everything on the list is from a place that opened or that welcomed a new chef in 2009.
o "Snow cones" at Twisted Root in Roanoke, and Roanoke only. At first glance, Twisted Root's ice chips look a tad large. Uh-oh. Snow cones are best when the "snow" has been shaved extra-extra-fine. But no worries, this snow cone melts on the tongue like a cool mist, and the flavors burst with fresh fruits and herbs paired in unusual ways, like the one pictured, which is blueberry basil.
o Any taco at Good 2 Go Taco. It's enough to make you want to move to Buckner. In the morning, you could jog over to the Green Spot for a Honey Bear taco with chile-honey bacon, spinach, goat cheese, and egg. At lunch, a Big Chill (pulled pork, sweet potato, poblano cream). At 2:30, right before chef-owners Jeana Johnson and Colleen O'Hare call it a day, you could grab a Charlie Brown (Thai peanut chicken, rice, carrot, and cilantro). Join their Facebook page to see their luscious menu updates.
o Pizza at Russo's. Russo's is a major plus for the neighborhood, as there is absolutely nothing comparable on this stretch of 75. But this would be top-five pizza, regardless of the 'hood. The crust is thin, yet stretchy, and has char marks around the edges. And it has FLAVOR: There's a yeasty thing plus some salt in there. Topping selection is way above usual; they do a pizza with egg. But they don't overdo; they let the crust and the toppings shine.
o Fried cheese at Love Shack So7. Second branch of Love Shack is in the So7 complex and has a big bar scene. The open layout, adjoining patio, and fast-food-style service conspire against a serious eating experience. But this branch has a couple of items the Stockyards original does not -- including the best-fried-cheese-on-the-planet. The batter is a tempura style and the cheese is Port Salut or Brie, so you get this incredible crunch, plus cheese that is neither rubbery nor stringy and that contributes real flavor.
o Red velvet cake at Grace in Fort Worth. Chef Blaine Staniford goes back to the root (ha! root, like root vegetable) of this classic Southern cake by folding in mashed cooked beet. It gives his cake an unparalleled moistness and a "meatiness" to the texture. You can almost convince yourself that you're eating something healthy, like an exotic carrot cake. The cream cheese icing is thick and substantial enough to stand up to the cake.
o Bison tenderloin at Loft 610. Top Chef Tre Wilcox really has the goods. His bison tenderloin is impossible to forget. Rectangular slabs of bison drape languidly over a pouf of airy sweet potato puree, joined by a buttery pile of sauteed spinach. Red-red at the center, the bison is soft enough to cut with a fork but firm enough to give you a little attitude when you chew it.
o Lamb chop at Tre Amici. It was free, which maybe unfairly weighs in its favor; on the other hand, I don't love lamb. But this lamb had a panko crumb crust that sealed in all that was good about the lamb: its juiciness, its firm, ragged texture, its Dijon and rosemary seasoning.
o Kale salad at Bliss Raw Cafe. Anyone who can take a straw broom of a vegetable like kale and turn it into something tender is a miracle worker. Bliss shreds the greens and basically marinates them in a sesame dressing until they lose their stiffness. In the summer, they toss in shredded carrot and grape tomatoes.
Minestrone at Mandola's Market. It's vegetarian, with a whole produce bin full of stuff: kale (oh that again), beans, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, carrots, and celery.
Butternut squash ravioli at Cibus. Thick pasta pockets enclosing a filling that's savory with a little sweet, in a simple sauce of butter and fried sage.
The crazy-powerful hand blowers at Geisha. Remember in Blade Runner, when Deckard goes to question Zhora? She comes out of the shower and stands in this uber-dryer that dries her hair in seconds. The hand blowers at Geisha are straight outa Blade Runner.
On the 12th day of Christmas, PegNewsers gave to me: