Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chihuly at the Dallas Arboretum

Back on my feet...literally after tearing my achilles tendon.

I decided to do some rehab by walking around the Dallas Arboretum ( for the first and seeing the Chihuly exhibit.  It was a great way to spend an afternoon.  The pieces are spread throughout the Arboretum in various settings.  Rather than taking away from the pieces added to it.  With White Rock lake in the background, the Arboretum offers a great break from the concrete, highways, and chain restaurants which seem all too often in Dallas.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Return of Dallas

I happened to watch the series premiere of the reboot of Dallas last night (Call it Market research).  Within the first few minutes I saw two of three things I noticed the first time I came here driving out of the airport: an oil rig and cows (the other being a mega church). 

Here are a few things I learned about Dallas by watching Dallas:

-Forget the vegetable garden in backyerd, I should drill for oil!!

-When you catch someone breaking into your house, shoot first ask questions later (even if it may be your husband’s nephew).

-There is something to be said about doing business in person with a handshake (make sure you know where those emails are actually from the person who sent them).

-Everyone is a schemer!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Republican or Conservative Republican

Pretty much those seem to be the choices here.

Full disclosure: I did see one sign for a democrat at a polling station and one sign for a democrat in Bishop Arts

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Taste of two Cities

I spent last weekend at two events, Main Street Days in Grapevine and Taste Addison in Addison.  They were pretty similar events, both consisting of various food and beverage options, carnivals rides, vendors and live music.  But each also had their own distinct flavors...literally and figuratively.  Friday evening I went to Grapevine for Main Street Days.  Grapevine is located around 20 miles outside of downtown Dallas.  This was the 28th year for the Festival, which consisted of closing several blocks of Main street in Grapevine, and filling it with food, vendors, games, and carnival rides.  The theme was  "A Pizza Experience", although they had many food options other than just pizza.  Walking around, I got the sense that the Grapevine has kept much of the character of the small town, complete with a theatre that was showing Goldfinger, a boot shop, and a few places which seemed to me to be basically general stores.  But, in contrast there were also a few seemingly high-end restaurants, cigars shops, wine shops (there are several wineries in Grapevine), and even a bakeshop that was featured on TLC.  I got a few beers and tried about three different pizza places; the most memorable was Farina's  (, whose restaurant is located on Main Street.  I'm looking forward to a visit there.  Most of the places serving pizza seemed to be small local, places.  There were also a few big chains (why someone would get chain pizza from a pizza experience themed festival is beyond me).  They had all the carnival rides and games one would expect at a local fair. They had a few different stages with different kinds of music varying from blues to country.  The vendors ranged from artwork to wine stoppers with designs from various teams (of course I got one from my beloved Maryland Terrapins).  Overall, Main Street Days offering a nice taste of what Grapevine had to offer (literally and figuratively).   I'd like to visit Grapevine again for a full taste of what it has to offer.

So take Main Street Days, put it in an urban setting,and you've pretty much got Taste Addison.  Instead of a small town, the festival was held in the shadow of office buildings and condos. The setting was a large park around Addison Circle, and the food was from restaurants in Addison, offering a sampling of their menus at cheaper price.  Like Grapevine, it certainly had a family friendly atmosphere (although I got there late afternoon, so I can't say what it was like at night), there were plenty of kids splashing around the foundation.  After walking in and getting a sense of the festival, I got some sangria and a small order of ceviche from Taco Diner (,it definitely hit the spot on a hot afternoon.  They had a great variety of food, everything from crawfish to sushi.  I started out with a few sliders from JC's Burger House (;taste wise there were very good, I definitely want to see how it compares to the food at the restaurant.  I also had a slice from Pastazio's ( and Pizza by Marco, ( were quite good....for Texas Pizza.  I got an order of Pad Thai from Star Thai (  I have eaten there, and it was awesome.  Having had the real thing, the Pad Thai had at Taste Addison was a bit disappointing, but shouldn't have been surprising given the setting.  I topped my gluttonous visit to Taste Addison with cookies from Tiff's Treats ( .  The chocolate chip cookies were warm chewy, and very tasty.  There were two stages, one of which was rather large.  They had bigger names than in Grapevine (Rhett Miller and Mat Kearny), and that was probably part of the draw.  The vendors seems a bit more eclectic here, they included a vendor selling items from India. I gained about four pounds over the weekend, but it was worth every calorie!


Friday, May 18, 2012

Dallas Farmers Market

I took my first trip to the Dallas Farmers Market ( on Saturday.
The Market consists of four large “sheds,” one of which is enclosed, along with an adjoining floral area. At the open sheds, farmers and produce vendors sell everything from fruits and vegetables to eggs and meat.  At first, it reminded me of a place Anthony Bourdain might go to in a developing country on “No Reservations.” There was a crowd, cars attempting to maneuver through, and one vendor barking about out how he had the sweetest strawberries while a competitor offered a taste of her tomatoes.  

It was quite different than a suburban farmers market you might find in the middle of a planned development with balloon animals and face painting. After thinking about it, It only made sense that a city surrounded by agriculture would have real farmers trying to make a living rather than just growing plants to be green or cool.   
After taking in the physical structures and the lay of the land, what really struck me were the colors. From the bright reds of the strawberries and tomatoes to the deep greens of the cucumbers and zucchinis, the colors almost made me want to be a vegetarian (until, of course, I talked to the cattle rancher selling his grass-fed beef and I made it inside to the Old World Sausage Company, but I’ll get to those later).  
It was nice being able to talk to the actual people who grow the food I’m about to buy and know where my food is coming from. One shed is full of produce vendors who get their food from wherever and I had little interest in spending much time there. If I were going to buy pre-packaged produce from California, I’d go to Tom Thumb and get a rotisserie and two-for-one toilet paper to go along with it.  
After walking some more, I decided on some great tomatoes and peaches from “Betty’s Tomatoes” and some tart, green plums.  I also decided on a steak from Northstar Ranch ( They raise strictly grass-fed beef with no hormones or antibiotics. Along with the farmer’s market, Northstar Ranch also sells its meat at a supermarket in Denton.  I really enjoyed talking to the ranch’s owner; he even gave me some tips on grilling the steak: add a little bit of lemon pepper and garlic and only add salt after the meat is cooked since it pulls moisture. The steak certainly did not disappoint the next day! It was very tender, and because the meat itself had a lot of flavor, a little bit of seasoning was more than enough. (This beats anything at Tom Thumb!). 
After exploring the outdoor sheds, I made my way inside.  There were a few vendors selling crafts in addition to different kinds of food, including craft cheese, honey, and meat. There were also a few places to eat. 

I got lunch from Old World Sausage (, a Chicago-style deli. Along with sausages you can eat there or take home, Old World Sausage has a bunch of great-looking sandwiches, including corned beef, pastrami, and Ruebens. I ordered the roast beef sandwich … and it was a whole lot of roast beef.  It was made thinly sliced to order and served with a choice of sides. I chose the coleslaw and pasta salad.  The sandwich was so thick I couldn’t fit the whole thing in my mouth.  I was pretty much full by the time I finished half of it; I felt like Adam Richman from “Man v. Food” when I started the other half (food won).  The sandwich only consisted of roast beef, provolone, lettuce and tomatoes, but each bite tasted amazing.  
Not that I had room for it, but I also got a piece of cheesecake.  The cheesecake was very creamy and rich without being heavy.  
Here's an interview with the owner Al Cappua

I was a bit disappointed by the options inside; half of the space was empty.  I feel like there is a whole lot of potential with that space. Apparently, the Dallas Farmers Market has been struggling financially and the city has been considering different options with what to do with it.  I have also been to the Deep Ellum Market and the Urban Bazaar in the Bishop Arts District, and while both had a better variety of vendors, neither could compare with the Dallas Farmer’s Market’s produce. So I hope the Market can continue to grow because, although I enjoy pre-packaged salami and cheese Danishes filled with who knows what as much as the next guy, I also really like being able to buy food straight from those who actually grow it.   

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Urban Bazaar in the Bishop Arts District

I spent last Saturday at the Urban Bazaar in the Bishop Arts District ( of Dallas.  The thing I liked about the neighborhood is that it seemed like a walkable urban community with plenty of small businesses as opposed to the sprawl and strip malls full of big box stores and fast food chains that seem to dominate the landscape around Dallas. We were able to find parking within a few blocks and headed over. The main area covers around four blocks, with some other shops scattered around. The neighborhood is full of independent businesses, including a soda shop, chocolate shop, and a few boutiques along with several restaurants.

One of my favorites was M'Antiques: It was full of old posters, prints, etc -- pretty much any knickknack you could imagine from the 1920's to today. The bazaar itself consisted of many types of vendors ranging from tarot card reader to crafts to custom shirts. Of course, I tried the soda shop (got a Fanta), and then went to Eno's Pizza Tavern ( Along with pizza, Eno's serves pasta, sandwiches, etc.  The pizza was quite good.  The crust was thin, but not too crispy. They also serve a variety of microbrews, including the East Coast's own Dogfish Head!  Then I headed over to Dude Sweet Chocolate (, a chocolate shop. As soon as we walked in, we were introduced to the store. They make all of their chocolate on site, and we were encouraged to sample as much as we wanted.  If you want a Hershey’s bar or a Kit Kat, there is probably a 7-11 or CVS near by. If you want a chocolate bar with Hawaiian chocolate made with cane sugar and honey or chocolate with sea salt and hazelnuts, this is your place. After a few tasty samples, we left with a chocolate bar (WHAT KIND?) and a box. As we left, a chocolate tour came in (how do I sign up for that!!).  

My visit to Bishop Arts was a breath of fresh air from the Wal-Marts, Chipotles, and gated communities of the world.  I worry that with a neighborhood like this, they could be a victim of their own success and the little café’s and burger joints will be forced out by Starbucks and In-N-Out Burger; or struggle with  $6 dollar chocolate bars and $4 soda, I hope the businesses can make it. I, for one, am happy to spend a few extra support them!

(Sorry no pics)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mama Pita, a Taste of the Mediterranean in Dallas

 I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have a lot of credibility when it comes to judging Tex-Mex or BBQ; and although I’ve had a whole lot of steaks in my day and been to  plenty of very, very good steakhouses, I’ll grant that I don’t have a much authority when it comes to steaks either. But, when it comes to Middle Eastern food, I’ve got the creds to stand with anyone this side of Beirut.  I’ve been to Mama Pita ( in Plano a few times, and I am definitely a fan. Middle Eastern food varies pretty significantly depending on where you are (Greece, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, etc.).  Mama Pita describes itself as a “Mediterranean Grill” and they pull aspects of
food from throughout the region. The easiest way to describe it is a Middle Eastern Chipotle.  First, you tell them what you want (wrap, salad or platter), and then you can choose from a variety of dips such as hummus, baba ghanouj (which is similar to hummus, but made with eggplant).  Next, you can choose which type of salad you want including fetoush (a mixed salad with vegetables, toasted pita bread, and herbs), couscous (chick peas, tomatoes, onions, etc) and orzo (orzo pasta with feta cheese and vegetables); along with potatoes or rice Then you pick which meat you want (chicken beef, shrimp…..along with the option of getting falafel); along with all of the fixings to go with it.  The staff is very friendly and does a good job explaining all of the food to customers, most of whom I am guessing can’t tell the difference between fetoush and falafel, and asking if customers needs anything while dining.  The flavors are very good, a little underseasoned for my pallet, but I’m also used to lots of seasoning; the words “too much garlic" were never uttered at home.”; but plenty of seasoning for the average pallet.  The décor is industrial; concrete floors and brick walls, which are contrasted with large images of the fresh food and scenes from the “old country”.  The food is very good here, and with the all of the options, someone can go countless times without having the same meal twice.  I’ve been there around five times, and haven’t had a bad meal….but who’s counting?

Here is a piece from NBCDFW about mama pita:

Just like mama used to make!

Beef kebab with orzo, potatoes, fetoush salad and humus
Look familiar?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Granada Theatre

     When I think of live music in Texas, certainly Austin, rather than Dallas, is what I think of.  Last week I went to check out the Granada Theatre (, which has been voted the best music venue in Dallas by several sources.  The 1,000-seat venue was built as a movie theatre in the 40’s and still has a beautiful marquee out front which makes it hard to miss.  It is located in the lower Greenville neighborhood of Dallas with a bunch of restaurants and bars nearby.  We went for an Old 97’s show.  We parked in a residential neighborhood about 5 blocks from the Granada, plenty of other people did the same (much to the chagrin of the people living there no doubt).  Walking in, will-call was done with a few laptop setups, I assume because it was a sold out show.   There are a few bars throughout the venue, and there was an area where pizza and tacos were being sold; perfect food for a concert.  We got there are about halfway through the opening band (they were average).  The inside of the venue is beautiful, with murals on the walls and ceiling.  It has certainly kept the flavor of an old movie theatre.  After the opening band a screen came down in the front of the stage.  There were also large screens on either side of the stage.  On one screen, they were projecting info about upcoming shows and on the other they were projecting a live twitter feed (!/GRANADATHEATER).  I thought that was a great way to keep people occupied between bands and engage the audience as well as to stay in touch with the audience in the future.  I think it also helped build a sense of community among those in attendance.  The Old 97’s put on a good show and as a local band, definitely had a captive audience.  Unfortunately, the audience had plenty of “I’ve got a babysitter and I’m getting crazy like I did in college [30 years ago]” crowd which was a little annoying.  Granted one night and one venue doesn’t say a whole lot about the music scene here, but certainly the Granada is doing their fair share to ensure a good music scene in Dallas.