An Unbiased, Around-Town Mini Tasting With Chef and Simply Suppers Author Jennifer Chandler

Visiting chef and cookbook author Jennifer Chandler digs Dallas' comfort food.

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of hanging out with my old friend, chef/cookbook author/radio & TV host Jennifer Chandler (in town from Memphis to sign copies of her latest book, Simply Suppers).

I don’t deny that I sweated the restaurant choices a little; after all we only had one day and Jennifer did earn her stripes at Cordon Bleu Paris—but in the end, Jennifer’s predilection for of down-home, comfort food made my job easy.

I thought it would be fun to take her to a couple Dallas favorites and see what someone with no local prejudices or loyalties had to say about them. The following is a edited conversation from our lunch and Meddlesome Moth and dinner at the original Neighborhood Services on Lovers Ln.

jump to read what she had to say…

At 12:30 we arrived at Meddlesome Moth in the Design District for lunch.

What we ordered: Deep-fried hominy appetizer, grilled cheese/tomato soup combo, mussels diablo with fries, and unsolicited samples of the New Belgium/Allagash “Lips of Faith” Vrienden Ale.

JC: Talk about friendly service! Love the atmosphere, the décor. Is this really deep-fried hominy? Outstanding. Who’d have thought; it’s like popcorn meets polenta with just the right kick of cayenne. Can you say addictive?

me: Yes, I can.

JC: But you won the ordering contest. I love a good grilled cheese, and that one goes above and beyond. Three cheeses, tomato, and amazing jalapeno bread—the Moth nailed it. Worth every calorie; grilled cheese and tomato soup is a marriage made in heaven.

me: What about your mussels? Was the waiter’s suggestion on the money?

JC: They were good, but the sauce didn’t have the kick I was expecting. A little more heat and it’d be a different story. But they were great with that beer. Was it really bittered with endive? Bonus points for having people on hand who can explain how the beer’s made. That really helps make the experience. We’re totally coming back next time I visit.

Read about dinner after the pictures…

Clockwise from top left: Meddlesome Moth's fried hominy; Neighborhood Services' calamari with mango and peanuts; Neighborhood Services' fish & chips with malted coleslaw; Meddlesome Moth's cleaver & block burger.

Flash forward to dinnertime…

At 10 am that morning I had called Neighborhood Services and got our name on the list for a party of three at 7pm. I invited a date who is hopelessly crushing on Jennifer solely from having cooked his way through Simply Suppers. He brought her a present: a pound of jalapeño bacon.

The three of us crossed the threshold at 6:45. We were seated at 8:20.

What we ordered: Crispy calamari & rock shrimp with mango, peanuts, and greens; salmon with smoky Brussels sprouts and pancetta; cleaver & block burger, fish & chips.

JC: Love the appetizer. Crispy calamari & rock shrimp with mango, peanuts, and greens. I never would have put all those flavors together; this one shows real creativity in the kitchen. Delicious and perfect for sharing.

me: Fish and chips are good, too. Just greasy enough without spilling over that line.

(At this point, Jennifer and I are distracted by my date who is plotting a strategy to help him actually take a bite of his monstrously big burger—an effort he soon abandons in despair in favor of fork and knife.)

me: A burger too big to bite into? Bummer.

date: Isn’t there a term for that—for having a beautiful thing in front of you but not being able to take advantage of it?

me: It’s like not being able to consummate your marriage.

date: Now I’m just sad.

me: How’s your salmon?

JC: Perfectly cooked. Love the smoky Brussels sprouts and the pancetta. And the small frissee salad on top of the salmon was the perfect foil to the richness of the other components. Thumbs up.

me: So, what’s the verdict?

JC: Well, the food was good, but given the 90 minute wait, it feels like too much hype for the end result. I’d have to see what it’s like on a weeknight.

(At this point we are again distracted by my date who is staring down at his decimated burger.)

me: Looks like you consummated.

date: I had my way with it, just not in the way I’d hoped.

me: I can’t think of a more fitting way to end this than with a bad allegory between food and sex. Well played, date.