Monday, October 31, 2011

Anthony Bourdain in Dallas

     I attended Anthony Bourdain’s talk last week at the Majestic Theatre (here’s a link to the D Magazine review of the event  It was definitely an adult talk (cursing, talking about drugs, etc) about his show, his perspectives, his travels and of course his views about food.  It included a few shots at his fellow hosts on the Travel Channel (at the same time confessing he himself was a “whore… compromised, jaded, bought and paid for”).  He had some warnings for people in the audience who might want to work on his show including bug bites in places you don’t want to be bitten, various injuries and sicknesses, and the doing that needs to be done for good TV.  Along with the funny stories and witty jokes, there were a few pretty profound statements. 
            The first that struck me was about being a gracious guest while traveling.  In his travels, Bourdain has been to plenty of high-end restaurants, but also had many meals in people’s homes.  He stressed that when you are a guest, you eat what is given to you, whether it’s appetizing to you or not.  It’s the “grandma rule” as he called it; when you go to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving, and she serves dry turkey, Stove Top stuffing and cranberry sauce out of a can, you happily eat it and say how good it is.  Bourdain has been to plenty of places and had plenty of meals where most of us would probably pass on a dish.  To refuse something offered, especially when served in a home, would be offensive the hosts who may have spent more time and money on this complete stranger than they do on their own family.  I think we can all stand to be reminded of the importance of being gracious guests wherever we go. 

            Another important point was that what we consider upscale food often started from poor people like, for example, escargot: “The first person to eat escargot wasn’t a gourmet, it was one hungry SOB.”  He described how if you are planning on opening an Italian restaurant and can’t cook better than every grandmother in Italy, don’t bother.  Watching his show, he often spends just as much time eating street food as he does in fancy restaurants.  I certainly prefer a small mom-and-pop restaurant where the chef is making the same food his family has been eating for generations to some fancy fusion celebrity chef restaurant.

            He also talked about how food is important!  Food unites people.  There are people that we many disagree with on many things, but we can agree on good food. “There is no red-state food and blue-state food… I don’t have to agree with you to like you or respect you,” Bourdain said. Coming from DC to Dallas, I am sure there are plenty of differences with me and fine people of Texas, but I’m sure I can find one thing to agree on: Good food. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Texas State Fair, full experience

I spent Saturday at one of the most revered Dallas institutions, The Texas State Fair.  This was the 125th fair, which was a mix of carnival, agricultural show, infomercial, car show, and lots of food…..There was grilled food, food on a stick,  and of course nearly every kind of  heart clogging, cholesterol raising, deep fried food you can think of.

             I started off with one of the best, or worst things depending on how you look at it, the fair had to offer: fried butter.  It consisted of pieces of breaded butter, fried, then, in my case, covered with honey and cinnamon.  It tasted similar to a Greek dessert dumpling, other than the ball of butter in the middle.  

            Then we moved on to a State Fair Classic: The Corny Dog from Fletcher’s (  It was the perfect mix of hot dog and corn breading (I also splurged for one with jalapeno and cheese).  

                  There is more to the fair than fried food though.  We walked around to experience the marketplace, which was like a live infomercial, and the auto show.  Not only could you get food, but you could also buy a car, a mattress, a cow, a tractor, and the shamwow, along with other assorted handmade crafts.

            The best food I had all day was unexpected.  We had extra tickets and saw a pretty nondescript stand. Desperados Mexican Restaurant ( had a stand, which I am hoping is a taste of what their full restaurant has to offer.  The brisket taco was perfectly seasoned and topped with tomatillo sauce, freshly chopped onion, cilantro and lime.  I also had a Desperado Flauta, similar to the brisket taco, just in a flour tortilla and deep-fried (couldn’t avoid the fried food if I tried).  Same great stuff inside, with a different texture on the outside.  In the spirit of the fair, they also had deep-fried frozen margaritas. Not sure how they are made, but by that point I had reached my limit of fried food.  Can’t wait for a full meal there!

        My fair experience concluded with a celebrity chef presentation by John Tesar, an East Coast transplant like myself.  Tesar, who is regarded as one of the most talented chefs in Dallas (and apparently one of the most despised chefs in Dallas, click here for the article), gave a presentation on the science and art of a burger.  This was only fitting considering he recently opened a high-end burger joint in Dallas named The Commissary. (  He explained the chemistry behind a burger on a grill, and his method for how he cooks burgers at his restaurant in a controlled vapor oven.  He also explained the difference between grass-fed beef and corn-fed beef, grass-fed being leaner and having a little different flavor..  The samples that were handed out were awfully good, and just enough to add the Commissary to the list of must-eats in Dallas!

       At a time when obesity is taking a bigger and bigger toll on Americans' health the health of people throughout our country, the food at the Texas State Fair doesn’t exactly promote a healthy lifestyle, but it also reminds us that the good things in life might not always be so good for us.   

Big Tex and the Cotton Bowl
Fried Butter

Fried Butter Stand, also serve fried P.B & J and fried pineapple

Jalapeno & Cheese Corndog


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Texas State Fair

Spent the afternoon at the Mecca of fried food, the Texas State Fair. Tried the fried butter and fried pumpkin pie, decided to pass on the fried bubble gum. Best thing by far was the brisket taco from Desperados Mexican restaurant.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lunch with Larry

 I met up from a friend who is from New York, but lives in downtown Dallas, for lunch a few weeks ago.  It was the day of the parade for the Texas State Fair, so I got my first taste of the fair (brisket taco).  My sense was that very few people live downtown.  He said a few thousand people do, and it's becoming more of a livable downtown.  There seemed to be plenty of restaurants and bars, but very few places to shop for groceries and basic needs.  As far the restaurants, he said I shouldn't even bother with Italian food.  Keeping in mind his New York bias, I'll have to come to that conclusion myself.  I'd be open to any suggestions people may have.  He said there are a few pizza places that would be acceptable, he suggested Coal Vines (, and I have heard good things about Cane Rosso (  I'll leave recommendations on true Texas fare like steaks, Tex-Mex, and BBQ to the people who have the authority to speak about it.
        He did have good things to say about the Arts Scene.  The Dallas Arts District spans several blocks and includes everything from theaters to museums (  I certainly give credit to the city for making the Arts an important part of life in Dallas.
        The parade was quite a sight, everything from Elvises on scooters to belly dancers with a whole lot of belly.  Looking forward to the full state fair experience.  

Texas pride at the parade

Nothing says parade like Elvises on scooters