Sunday, November 30, 2008

Quickie Review #36: Olivers Eatery

My lovely wife the Rock Star and I love to celebrate Thanksgiving. This year, we were joined by her sister the Wild Thing and her formidable mother The Momma for a day-long gorgey (in other words, an orgy of gorge) of food, wine, song, and conversation, and the hours passed far too quickly. However, our good times were somewhat hampered by my wife's sinus infection, which still gives her fits even as I write this. Although we have been able to dine out once or twice during our holiday, she has spent the majority of time at home recovering, and this morning declared that she could not leave our casa today so that she could concentrate on getting better. Since I give my bride my undying support, I somewhat ruefully cancelled our brunch plans, and instead searched online for a takeout place. Remembering a nice review from my blogging colleague Foodie Princess (of Dallas Eats fame), I resolved to give Olivers Eatery a try.

Olivers Eatery can best be described as a casual eatery, featuring soups, salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and pastas in a counter-service setting hard by the Tollway in Far North Dallas. My wife has always loved the legendary Salad Trio at Cafe Max, and noticing that Olivers offered something similar, made their Salad Sampler her lunchtime selection. She enjoyed the shell pasta, tuscany tuna salad, and pecan chicken salad tossed with homemade ranch over field greens. However, no bread was offered with her meal, and we had to substitute a leftover roll from Thanksgiving. As usual, she let me try her repast, and I thought all three selections tasted fresh but somewhat bland. My own tuscany tuna melt sandwich fared better, due primarily to the perfectly-grilled panini, yet it could have used a kick of spice as well, perhaps a nice stone-ground mustard or chipotle mayo. We really love good tea and felt that the tart black currant iced tea was the highlight of our meal. In short, a good lunch, but I feel my assessment of Olivers Eatery is incomplete until I try their pastas and perhaps a pizza. Website is, and they do now offer delivery. When you tire of your Turkey Day leftovers, please consider Olivers Eatery, and as always:


Wine Corner Review #41: Fess Parker Frontier Red

Do you remember the scene in the movie Sideways when Miles has just learned that his novel has been turned down for publication? He's attending a big Pinot Noir festival, so he immediately marches to a tasting bar, has the wine representative pour him a sample, and asks for refills time and again. When the rep refuses, Miles lifts the entire spit bucket, and guzzles it down voraciously, all the while shouting out tasting notes. (In the book, he yells, "Notes of burnt raspberries and truffles comingled with fresh dingleberries.") Of course you've seen Sideways many times, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this post, but on the off chance you're one of the three people in the United States of America who haven't watched this movie yet, I urge you to rent it at once. Please note that it is proper to pour yourself a glass or three of vino to imbibe while viewing Sideways, and since this pivotal scene takes place at the Fess Parker Winery, then it is totally apropos to select a Fess Parker wine, such as the very affordable Fess Parker Frontier Red.

The robe of the Fess Parker Frontier Red is misted magenta from a sunlight-strewn stained glass window. The nose suggests red bell peppers and plum for days. Black and white pepper, currant preserves, vanilla, and definite notes of cinnamon and cardamon will assault your palate, with a finish that lingers. This ravenous blend of syrah, grenache, petite sirah, mouvedre, cinsault, and carigname is fabulous with flatiron steak and barbecued pork steak and burnt ends. Website is, which also contains Fess Parker's fan site, for those of you old enough to remember when this University of Texas graduate played both Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett ("King of the Wild Frontier") on television. Get a little sideways yourself soon, and remember:


Sunday, November 23, 2008


When my formidable mother-in-law The Momma summons me, I know it's best to answer right away. Recently, she called me with a dilemma. She wanted to host a family celebration, but she didn't want to spend an arm and a leg, just an arm, and she noted that the guest of honor preferred steak as their repast of choice. However, she could not afford Pappas Brothers or III Forks or any other high-end beef palace; in short, did I happen to know of a mid-level steakhouse that would serve no-frills, top notch quality in a warm and cozy setting? My response was immediate: Dunston's. Since 1955, Gene Dunston and his family have been mesquite-broiling beef to your exacting specifications, first at their Harry Hines facility and later at their Lovers Lane location, which was where we would be dining on this evening. (Some of you may remember their Forest Lane operation fondly; regrettably, it has since closed.) So, fortified with the knowledge that we would be enjoying the hospitality of a family with half-a-century of expertise in their field, we set off. My lovely wife the Rock Star, her sister the Wild Thing, The Momma, and myself picked our way down the Tollway one recent Saturday evening.


Most of you youngsters out there would probably call Dunston's kitschy, but I prefer to think of it as old-school Texas charm circa 1969, which was when the Lovers Lane branch opened its doors. Wood paneling and carpets with diamond patterns. Pictures of old movie stars and the 1977 Dallas Cowboys lining the walls. A fake parrot and a man in a hammock hanging from the ceiling. A full bookshelf and coatrack adorn one wall, while a complete salad bar stands ready in a central location. Trend-followers probably wouldn't be caught dead in such a place, but the very attractive, mostly gray-haired regulars felt right at home and so did we. After a short delay, the attentive Jose found his way to us and took excellent care of us the rest of the evening.


For those of us with long memories, Dunston's evokes dining from days of yore, when such establishments as Night Hawk, Hoffbrau, and Cattlemen's ruled the steak scene. We decided to start our repast with that old Southern classic which inspired a movie, fried green tomatoes. Like its kissing cousin fried okra, I feel that this dish is an acquired taste and was actually somewhat rubbery, but the accompanying remoulade was redolent of spice and the turnip greens were fresh. Next, we decided on a bottle of Louis M Martini Cabernet Sauvignon, and the fruit-forward style of this wine was an unqualified success, even for such dedicate white-wine imbibers as the Wild Thing and the Momma. The ladies soon decamped for the salad bar, while on Jose's recommendation, I tried the jalapeno cream soup. Surprisingly mild and creamy, I could really taste the firmness of the pepper in the potage and not just the heat. The old-school assault continued when baskets of paper condiment containers filled with cheese, sour cream, and bacon bits were dropped on our table, in anticipation of the baked potatoes and entrees soon to follow. The Rock Star and The Momma were quite content with their ribeye and filet respectively, both cooked precisely to order and full of mesqute goodness. Feeling somewhat more adventurous, The Wild Thing and myself upgraded to the prime tenderloin. Beef served at the high-end places such as Bijoux is often silken and buttery, here the emphasis was on campfire texture, more firm and chewy, and in my case, perfectly medium-rare. Bread pudding proved light and not too sweet or cloying, an appropriate ending for this meal.


Once he found his way to our table, Jose was quite adept with recommendations and special requests, even ringing a large hand bell to single out those patrons with special occasions. Website is, where you will be treated to the delightful history of this venerable establishment, complete with photographs.


Dunston's prides itself on serving "honest" drinks and steaks in a setting "as close as you will get to home without being there." Discover their downhome hospitality yourself, and remember:


Friday, November 21, 2008

Wine Corner Review #40: Biltmore Estate House Red Wine

Here's a surprising fact: The most visited winery in the United States is NOT located in either the Napa or Sonoma valleys of California. Instead, it operates near the largest private house in North America (not actually at the house, but just down the road in a separate facility), specifically The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Built by George Vanderbilt in 1895, the Biltmore house and legacy are preserved today by great-grandson William Cecil, who is also direct descendant and namesake of Lord Burghley, Lord Chancellor to Queen Elizabeth I of England. If all this talk of history and royalty muddles your head, then William Cecil the younger might have an excellent solution: Try a glass or three of one of the Biltmore Estates renown wines, in this case the Biltmore Estate House Red Wine.

The robe of the Biltmore Estate House Red Wine is deep garnet, the perfect color of January's birthstone. The nose is musty plum, with light touches of blueberry. Black currant, blackberry and black pepper play softly upon the palate, resolving themselves into a surprising finish of ginger. This very approachable quaff is marvelous when paired with pork chops and grilled meats, but is also uncomplicated enough to be served with pizza. Website is, where you will learn that there is much more to Biltmore than just a big house. Imbibe your history lesson soon, and of course:


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quickie Review #35: The Counter Custom Built Burgers

As Americans, we pride ourselves on individual freedoms. Freedom to worship, work, and speak in any manner we see fit, as long as we're not yelling "Fire" in the proverbial crowded theatre. We particularly cherish freedom of choice. By God, we will shop, eat, and drink wherever we choose, whenever we choose, for as long as our precious dollars last. The Counter, a year-old denizen of The Shops at Legacy in Plano, has built a burgeoning burger empire on this very idea, giving patrons the opportunity to construct their own burger any way they so desire, as well as offering a limited number of sandwiches, bar food (there is a full bar, if you're so inclined), fountain shakes, and other goodies for the intrepid adventurer. My lovely wife the Rock Star has long been intrigued by the concept, and since she always intrigues me, we decided to scoot our metaphorical boots northward one recent Saturday lunchtime.

Parking in the front of the restaurant is competitive, and patrons are limited to one hour, so please plan accordingly. The Shops at Legacy does have a central parking garage and that may be your best bet if you plan on lingering and don't mind a brisk walk. Interior is Spartan minimalist, with clean lines, high ceilings, and simple metal chairs. Walking in, we were quickly handed a clipboard by one of the Surfer-Dude-esque waitstaff, who politely explained the concept to us. Basically, The Counter works like your standard sushi joint, where you mark your own selections on said clipboard, then wait patiently for the (hopefully) magical results to arrive.
Scanning the options, we both decided not to partake of the premade burgers, but rather jump off the deep end into the build-your-own waters. The Counter offers four choices of protein (beef, chicken, turkey, and veggie), which can be customized by a dizzying array of sauces and toppings, resulting in literally thousands of possible combinations. Also, you can have your burger on a bun or in a bowl, with lettuce or baby greens substituting for the bread, very convenient if you're watching you carbs. My wife decided on the traditional approach, with beef, Tillamook cheddar, hard-boiled eggs, lettuce, fried onion strings, dill pickle chips, and ranch dressing astride a rather conventional bun. She was quite happy with the results, although I tasted it and felt it needed a kick of spice. The beef is custom-grilled Angus, medium unless requested otherwise, and was indeed quite tasty although the patty seemed premade and slightly tough texturally. I decided to forego the bun, and instead had my beef in a bowl of baby greens, with Danish bleu cheese, Bermuda red onion, roasted corn and black bean salsa, pepperoncinis, and roasted red peppers, served with a side of Southwest Caesar. Personally, I found this approach more successful than my wife's choice, the Danish cheese adding richness to the dish, balanced nicely by the beef, salsa, and Caesar kick, resulting in a seductive burger salad that I devoured happily. We also ordered cheese fries, and they were good, particularly when dipped in the Caesar and not the accompanying ranch, which was rather boring. Service was pleasant but preoccupied and forgetful, and we were left alone for rather long stretches of time. Website is, where among other things, they feature a Counter Culture Community, which gives you the opportunity to interact with like-minded burger fans, and perhaps win a gift card in the bargain. Exercise your freedom of choice soon, and don't forget:


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wine Corner Review #39: Campo Viejo Crianza Tempranillo

When you ask most red wine conesseurs to name their favorite varietals, most would respond with cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, syrah/shiraz, or maybe merlot. I posed the question recently to my colleague Classy and Sassy (a Wine Chick known to readers of D Magazine Sidedish blog and her own Dallas Eats blog), and she responded with tempranillo as one of her choices. I knew, of course, that tempranillo was practically the most important wine grape of Spain, and that the Rioja region, in particular, was known for producing quality tempranillo tipples of good value. After a little internal consultation, I decided some further research was in the offing, and the upshot of all this folderol was the wine I bring to you today, the Campo Viejo ("old friend") Crianza Tempranillo.

The robe of the Campo Viejo Crianza Tempranillo is regal rust. The nose suggests plum, raisins, and white chocolate. The palate is cleansed with black cherry, leather, maple wood, and more plum, finishing nicely with vanilla. This tempramental tempranillo can best be tamed by pairing with saucy veal, pork tenderloin, or tuna tartare, and will also work well with dishes featuring beans. Website is, but unless you're fluent in Spanish, I would not suggest this option; you'll have to go further afield to such websites as to get your questions answered. Enjoy a bottle of this classy tempranillo today, and as always:


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Quickie Review #34: Scardello Artisan Cheese

My colleague Donna Chen founded the blog Donna Cooks, which should be essential reading every day for all Dallas food lovers. As my lovely wife the Rock Star so eloquently puts it, she has her finger planted firmly on the pulse of the Dallas food scene, and so when she reports that Scardello Artisan Cheese opened in Oak Lawn, we were quick to respond to her call. In particular, we were taken with the final line of her review, which suggested that a tasting at Scardello's was "a lovely way to spend an hour or a relaxing afternoon," and since we are staunch defenders of the concept of weekends that feel like vacations, we eagerly pointed the car down the Tollway in search of fromage one recent Saturday afternoon.

Scardello's interior leisurely evokes a small town downtown vacation, with exposed original brickwork in its narrow 1920's storefront (with extra parking in the rear.) High ceilings create an open, airy feel. Large display case of said cheese and a cooler for wine stand along one side of the store, while a wine shelf and salt bar/bookshelf dominate the other, with a scattering of tables at the back. In short order, Rich The Cheesemonger and his sidekicks explained the setup. We decided to purchase a sampler plate of four cheeses and an accompanying pair of white wines to make a light lunch. Soon, we began our repast with Hoja Santa, a young goats-milk Texas cheese (a mere kid, as it were) wrapped in the Hoja Santa leaf, which imparted touches of pepper and sassafrass with a slight finish of mint. Next, we progressed to the Marin (California) Yellow Brick, a cows-milk Camembert which was similar to brie but with a slightly stronger, more nutty flavor that really pleased my lovely bride. Then, we moved on to the Idiazabal Raw, a sheep's-milk selection with a slightly smoky bite reminiscent of Gouda, which made it very gouda to a smoked cheese lover like myself. Finally, we finished with Bosque Blue, a raw cows-milk number as salty as an old vaudeville trouper like Irene Ryan and twice as intense. Throughout, we paired our bites with Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc, and a blanc de blancs sparkling wine with pear notes which worked well with each of the cheeses, not to mention olives and almonds, which added nice savory touches. Thoroughly sated, we soon took our leave. Website is, where you will note that they have already started having tasting events; please log on if you wish to secure reservations with your credit card. Finally, they will not only take your email address for their mailing list, if you so desire, they will also record your cheese preferences in their database, so you won't have to worry about remembering what you ordered last time if you wish to enjoy it again. Next time you wish to spend a lovely afternoon on vacation, please consider cheese, and remember:


Sunday, November 2, 2008


Bijoux defines Dallas dining in a very literal sense. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary notes that bijoux is the plural of bijou, which means jewel or trinket. More specifically, this term refers to "anything small and of elegant workmanship". Bijoux Restaurant, the pride of Lovers Lane, sparkles like a polished gem in the noonday sun, offering unparalleled French food in a delightful jewel-box of a setting situated just behind the Inwood Theatre. My lovely wife the Rock Star and I jumped at the chance to experience this often-misunderstood cuisine one recent Saturday evening. If you decide to venture there yourself, keep in mind that you will have to drive behind the Inwood, looking for the valet stand and the lovely, scripted letter B emblazoned on the entrance awning, located at the rear right corner of the shopping center as you face south.


Bijoux's interior is lover-intimate, without quite the overt sexiness of the assignation. Taupe and turquoise curtains. A dozen or so tables arranged strategically so as to avoid crowding. That marvelous chandelier focussing your attention like the Star of Bethlehem over the goodness that awaits within. Some might call it oh-so-slightly-stuffy, but interaction with the staff will soon suggest otherwise. Chef-owner Scott Gottlich and sommlier wife Gina have prioritized elegance paired with approchability, and they diligently orchestrate staff, food, and atmosphere into a symphonic whole of top-notch quality. Upon our arrival, we were graciously welcomed like old friends, even though we had never dined there before, and were guided to a table managed by Doug's assured yet comfortable care.


Best in Dallas? Maybe, maybe not, depending on your proclivities, but to paraphrase an old saying, if Bijoux isn't the very best, it sure don't take long to call the roll. Bordeaux? Mas oui, and the 2003 Chateau Sisson that we chose displayed the perfect, gravel-washed characteristics that would accompany our celebration of red meat. The three course, prix fixe menu screamed affordability, and we took careful note of its siren song. After an amuse bouche featuring apple and pear, my wife started with the English Pea Angnolotti, a carefully crafted ravioli creation of boure noisette, Parmigiano-Reggiano and her beloved black truffles. Light and layered with fresh cheese and flavor, I was quite fortunate to get just a taste. Despite being tempted by the East Coast Oysters, I bowed to the crowd for once and selected Crispy Pork Belly, with corn, tomato, rich bacon fat, and fava bean succotash (no, Hannibal Lecter was nowhere to be seen), seared to the point of pig deliciousness. Pork belly means bacon, and I truly wish I could dine on this every morning with eggs and coffee. The Rock Star, like many real women, loves red meat, and her veal tenderloin displayed melt-in-the-mouth silken layers of lusciousness. This begs the question: Why order red meat in a town full of great steakhouses? Because the French prepare beef like no other culture, with an almost bishop-like reverence of sauces and flavors. My dish reinforced this fact: Filet of beef, seared perfectly medium rare, and served with haricots verts (green beans) and baby carrots proved possibly the best beef dish I have ever enjoyed in this city's confines. Chocolate bananas without the Foster were light and refreshing, and a simple preparation of French cows-milk cheese was stimulating and almost wholesome, particularly after such a decadent dinner. Finally, a dish of chocolates was offered to us, and we especially enjoyed the peanut butter fudge and the dark chocolate truffle.


Although most male patrons wore a jacket, Bijoux does not require one, and Doug and his colleagues treated all patrons with the same level of respect, which greatly diminished any aura of stuffiness. Website is, where you can get a good idea of the cuisine, even though as Doug emphasized, both menu and preparation are subject to change nightly.


Bijoux rises to levels of greatness that most other Dallas establishments can only imagine in their wildest dreams. Discover this magical ruby yourself, and remember:


Quickie Review #33: The Fillmore Pub

The Fillmore name conjures up acid-washed memories of the sixties to many classic rock fans, when the San Francisco sound was king and bands such as Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service played the Fillmore venue managed by rock emprasario Bill Graham. Today, The Fillmore is still hosting live music events in its San Francisco digs, while closer to home, The Fillmore Pub quenches the thirst of many a visitor to the burgeoning downtown Plano scene. My lovely wife the Rock Star and I were searching for sustenance after a morning spent wine-shopping (always a pleasant pastime), and were making a beeline straight for Kelly's Eastside for lunch, when we spotted The Fillmore Pub, made a quick revolution in our plans, and decided to investigate at once. We had never dined there previously, but since it was on D Magazine's most recent list of Best Neighborhood Restaurants, we knew that it came well recommended.

Inside its classic, oblong-box structure, The Fillmore Pub sports an intimate and quite masculine, pub-like interior, with dark woods, chalkboard specials, and the requisite TVs. (It is an obscure Texas law that flat-panel or big-screen TVs must be available for viewing within 100 feet of the public consumption of alcohol. Would I lie about somthing like this?) Fish and chips and great burgers are always pub favorites, and my bride and I saw no reason to deviate from the norm. The fish was fresh-fried and served with slightly spicy tartar sauce and good malt vinegar, and I was lucky to get a couple of bites of their silken deliciousness before they all disappeared down my wife's gullet. The fries basically came along for the ride, fine but nothing special. I loved my Guiness-Cheddar burger, with tasty meat juices flowing freely, needing just a touch of mustard and pickle to pull the dish together. Most often, I prefer homemade chips to fries, and The Fillmore's were excellent, making for a perfect noontide repast when paired with a robust glass of Stone Smoked Porter. (My wife loved her usual Black Velvet as well.) Service was friendly and well-paced. We dined well, enjoying a brief mini-vacation of sorts, and in due course went happily about our business. Website is Discover your own dining venue soon, and as always: