Friday, June 9, 2023 Jun 9, 2023
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Eating For Love

At the sexiest restaurants in Dallas, hunger and passion go hand in hand.
By Liz Logan |

A neurologist once explained to me (alter 1 had ordered two desserts rather than choose be-tween them) that the desire for food and the desire for sex emanate from the same pan of the brain. Al the lime, I thought: it was a pretty weak come-on. But it turns out he was right. In Delicious Sex. a new guide to gourmet perversity, the always entertaining and filthy-minded food writer Gael Greene expounds on this theory: “Whal do great sex and great food have in common’? Each makes you ravenous for more. They are two of life’s unsurpassed sensual thrills. Food and sex have another crucial link. The same neural transmitter, norepinephrine, carries the sensory messages of eating and making love. The same neural link registers the crunch of celery, the chiaroscuro of an Oreo cookie, the smell of a young Beaujolais, the curve of your lover’s mouth, the seem of his hair.”

Pretty powerful stuff, this food/sex connection. Two primal urges, separately intense, intoxicating in tandem. Another link: both fully avail themselves of die five senses. al least if you’re exploring all the possibilities. Certainly, given the right attitude, a man, a woman, and a refrigerator can have a deeply meaningful relationship, as Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke demonstrated in 9 1/2 Weeks.

Having decided to explore the frontiers of the food/sex connection, the next question for the erotically inclined gastronome is where. Although cooking for your beloved at home is sweet, I think that particular intimacy should be saved for later in the romance, Doing the dishes together may be comradely, but it’s not sexy. No, in the early, tantalizing stages of a romance-or later on. to rekindle that sensation-a restaurant is where you want to be.

M.F.K. Fisher explained it best in An Alphabet for Gourmets: “I think a delicately chosen, artfully presented, lingering, and languorous meal, indulged in publicly, can be one of the most successful fillips to a love affair, but only when il is done with some intelligence. The presence of the other near-invisible diners makes the promised isolation seem even more desirable. The waiters float in a conciliatory cloud. The food-but there is no need to give details of that in such an amorous pattern: almost anything in a good restaurant will be tinder to the flame, breath blown on the ash.”

Ah yes. the lunches that last until 4 p.m.. when would-be lovers stagger back to the office half-drunk and entirely dazed with desire: the dates that begin with dinner and end with dawn; the breakfasts when you both, flushed with the memory of delight, look better than you have any right to, given the excesses of the night before. The pleasures of looking one’s best, the dream-like sensation of being removed from mundane reality, the electric charge of holding hands, the thrill of anticipation (“Just you wait till I get you home,” as the line in “West End Girls” goes)- all these elements that contribute to a sense of an unstated sensual conspiracy are possible only in a restaurant. Home, however sweet it is, is the wrong context for the beginning-or the renewing-of passion. It lacks the delicious contrast of overpowering private sensation and public place.

1 think of a friend’s tale of restaurant romance. “We had met through work and spent some time together on a project,” she says. “Then there was a Good Eats lunch and a sushi dinner, but I didn’t take it seriously because I had a boyfriend, and he knew it. But the third time it was dinner at the Mansion, and the evening ended in a way I would never have expocted. It was almost like a formal presentation over the cappuccino about what a good boyfriend he’d be. ’So you see,1 he said, ’I think you need to leave your boyfriend, because I’ve fallen in love with you.’ It was all we could do to pay the bill; it took a certain amount of restraint to get through it. And then we went home and made the earth move.”

The couple in question is still together, now happily cooking at home. Somehow, I think this story wouldn’t be nearly as good set in a T.G. I. Friday’s. Although your definition of what is romantic depends on who you are. still, certain features-comfort, privacy, flattering lighting, alert but unobtrusive service, and absolutely no automobile parts on the ceiling or walls-tend to recur in romantic restaurants. For many romantically inclined diners, in fact, they’re enough, but for this list of seven settings for lunch or dinner à deux {one for each day of a week of wild romance), I’ve worked on the assumption that passion, however overwhelming, doesn’t numb the palate. These are restaurants for lovers who are as serious about food as each other.

San Simeon

Here is the setting for an elegant, post-modern romance. Paul Draper’s sumptuous but subtle green- and gray-toned interior is such an aesthetic pleasure to behold (especially if you’re ensconced in a corner banquette, the ne plus ultra of romantic seating) that you and your intended can congratulate yourselves on your taste in restaurants as well as paramours. Lunch is lovely here, but the nighttime is the right time to appreciate the lighting. For dinner, order the chowder of corn, wild rice, and duck sausage and the grilled swordfish with grapefruit tequila, with its counterpoint of tart sauce and bland fish-and if vegetable love is your department, take your time in choosing from the array of imaginative choices. If Horace was right and Bacchus does indeed open the gates of the heart, better stand clear; San Simeon’s wine list is a knockout.


With its red walls and emblematic fiddles. Nero’s is a wonderful place to feel wicked in. especially if you were raised Catholic. (Gazing into the eyes of your heartthrob, you’ll also get a peripheral view of the Michael the Archangel lamps.) Get a booth, and if you don’t have the nerve to sit together on the same side right away, make your move after a glass or two of the Italian wine that is the house specialty. The food will take you the rest of the way: Italian food was made to be shared, and satisfying one appetite together is good practice for working on others later in the evening. Although there are plenty of pasta, veal, and seafood options, Nero’s regulars tend to settle on the pizzas, especially the Giuseppe.

Baby Routh

If feeling absolutely au courant is the ultimate thrill for your beloved, then Baby Routh is where you need to take him or her. At least for the moment, no place is more hip and now than this spinoff of Routh Street Cafe, open since December. Some cynical nullifidians have likened the blindingly white decor to that of a chic hospital. But those under the influence of limerence (the predisposition to fall in love) prefer to think of it as heavenly; certainly, it’s easy to imagine Baby Routh as the porfect hangout for Warren Beatty in Heaven Can Whit. As the crayoned logo suggests, Stephan Pyles and Amy Ferguson have worked up a menu of gourmet kid stuff- sophisticated versions of your favorite foods, circa age seven-like honey-fried chicken with mint sauce, sweet-potato purée, and tiny biscuits; and ice cream sandwiches with homemade chocolate cookie outsides and peanut butter ice cream insides.

The Mansion

The Mansion on Turtle Creek is so well known for its power-lunch punch that it’s possible to forget that-at dinnertime anyway, tucked away on one of the side banquettes-the place was made to order for romance. The peach-to-terra cotta color spectrum is the most flattering known to man, and comfort reigns supreme here. There may or may not be more visually striking restaurants in town, but none where one can so happily take up residence for hours at a time. The menu offers such lushly comforting options as chicken with a maple-pecan crust, roasted garlic potatoes, and walnut sour cream cake with cinnamon spiced cream sauce. Chef Dean Fearing*s daily specials, which are never the same twice, serve as an exemplar to longtime lovers, who also should never be the same twice.


Be careful who you take here if you don’t like company for breakfast. Bohemia is so utterly charming in an almost fairy tale-like fashion that it would take a heart of stone to resist its appeal. Its delicate, Eastern European-inspired decor speaks volumes about the Czech culture, without feeling even faintly hokey. Everywhere you look, there are nice touches, both expected (fresh flowers) and unexpected (little deer horns mounted on the wall). And never mind the old joke about Czech food (“A week later and you’re hungry again”); if you order well, there’s no need to waddle out. The Wiener schnitzel is pure poetry, and the apple strudel makes a worthy prelude to at-home cognac (page RG7). Bohemia’s cozy milieu is especially well-suited to cold-weather romance.

Cafe Royal

Cafe Royal is for classicists who like their romance belle-époque style. With its roseate glow, updated old-school French food, classical piano music, and comfortable velvet banquettes. Cafe Royal is transcendentally traditional, The fixed-price meals-$14.50 at lunch, $34.50 at dinner-are so beautiful it’s tempting to gaze at your plate rather than the countenance of your sweetheart. A long lunch at Cafe Royal is a particularly nice idea, because you’ll have the place almost to yourselves-and in workaholic Dallas, nothing is a more flattering indication of ardor than the willingness to sacrifice the greater part of the working day.

Beau Nash

Urban voyeurs love to eat to the beat of Beau Nash, the Hotel Crescent Court’s lively bar/restaurant. No secluded, hushed temple of love, this. Instead, Beau Nash is where, sooner or later, both of you will run into former-or, if your life is sufficiently contemporary and complicated, current-friends, lovers, spouses, and also-rans. For romantics who believe that being in love justifies massive consumption of champagne, Beau Nash offers the perfect edible accessory to the sparkling elixir (which is available by the glass in four varieties: Roederer Brut, Deutz, Maxim’s, and Piper Sonoma): pizza with smoked salmon, sour cream, and golden caviar. Vodka drinkers also have an appetizer designed for their tipple of choice: potato pancakes with three caviars, sour cream, and chives. And since love rarely operates on a tidy timetable, Beau Nash’s late serving hours give dramatically inclined dawdlers a chance to fight, make up, and still get something to eat.

Making Your Move With Cognac

Here is why It’s a good idea to keep a bottle of respectable cognac around the house. After the romantic dinner at the restaurant of your choice and the drive home (accomplished in a haie of possibility), a transitional activity is needed to help you move from entryway to bedroom-some civilized way of occupying hands and mouth before the hoped-for, uncivilized portion of the evening.

Even if you don’t ordinarily smoke, this is a good time for cigarettes. Except for the most rabid fitness fanatics, who are no fun anyway, everyone falls for the Forties movies aura of glamour that a well-smoked cigarette lends. That takes care of an activity for one hand. For the other, you need something to drink, and cognac gets my vote, since it makes you taste great when you finally get around to kissing or getting kissed.

Recommended procedure: pour healthy slugs into snifters (reasonably sized ones, please; giant snifters are hush-league). Serve on a tray with cognac bottle (for refills), cigarettes, matches, and ashtray. Rick off shoes, arrange self on couch next to object of desire. Light cigarettes or wart to have cigarette lit. With cigarette in right hand, strike an elegant yet inviting pose; with left hand, swirl snifter and meditatively taste cognac. Repeat procedure as desired through a maximum of three cigarettes. At some point when cognac and cigarette consomption is completed, decisively put out cigarette with left hand and Knoch bach remaining cognac. Place snifter on table with smooth but decisive gesture, and make lour move.

The rest of the scenario I cant help ou with, but I can offer advice for the purchase of cognac. The choices are numerous and confusing, but one thing makes it simple: with cognac more than most things in life, there is a direct relationship between cost and quality. To my taste, anyway, a $30 bottle of Hennessy ?SOP (which has been aged at least four years) tastes better than a $25 bottle of Hennessy VS (a mere two-year-old), and an $80 bottle of Jules Duret Bronze Label tastes better still.

True, this is moving into the category of major investment, but under the circumstances, if you aren’t willing to spring for the price of excellence, then perhaps you’re not sufficiently entranced. The quick way to accomplish the task in question is to go to a good liquor store, buttonhole a clerk, state your price range, and ask for a recommendation. If you prefer to do your own research, you can turn this into a more complicated project by scoping out what costs how much at the liquor store, then sampling the possibilities at a bar before investing in 3 bottle – L.L.

Room Service With a View

If you can’t find a restaurant furnished with a bed, the next Oest thing is checking into a hotel with first-rate room service for the weekend-or for lunch, à la Joyce Daven port and Frank Furillo of “Hill Street Blues.” The Mansion on Turtle Creek and the Hotel Crescent Court have the best twenty-four-hour room-service menus and the most cachet for purposes of Monday-morning name-dropping, but worthwhile romantic options are all over town. The Adolphus. 1321 Commerce St. 742-8200. Hotel Crescent Court. 400 Crescent Court, Maple at McKinney. 871-3200. Mandalay Four Seasons. 221E. Las Minas Blvd. 556-0800 The Mansion on Turtle Creek. 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. 559-2100, Westin Hotel. The Galleria. 13340 Dallas Parkway. 934-9494. -L.L.

The Morning After

Even if-especially if-your breakfast partner is also your partner in life and the two of you are bound together by mortgage and multiple Yuplets as well as passion, a truly memorable morning after requires getting out of the house for breakfast. Upturned cereal bowls, eau de cat food, and stacks of unpaid bills do not make for a sexy repast. And a sinkful of skillets and egg-encrusted dishes never put anyone back in the mood for love.

In my opinion, the all-time great post-seduction breakfast is beignets and cafe au lait at Café du Monde. If, however, circumstances preclude a weekend in New Orleans, the following Dallas establishments will help you to ease from sleepiness to wakefulness-and very possibly back to bed again:

Beau Nash (Crescent Court Hotel, 400 Crescent Court, Maple at McKinney; 871-3240). The upscale, large-scale setting is the farthest thing imaginable from the standard greasy-spoon coffee-shop ambience, and the imaginative but not too outre breakfast menu encourages exploration. Especially nice: the bagel, triple-crème cream cheese, and smoked salmon.

Dream Cafe (3312 Knox; 522-1478). If I could only go to one place for breakfast with my beloved, this would be it. Fresh-squeezed 0J, a baked German pancake, and thou-who could ask for anything more? Although the menu includes diverse, off-the-beaten-path options, nobody does basic eggs and hash browns better.

Good Eats Cafe (3531 Oak Lawn; 521-1398). The most efficient way possible to let all of Oak Lawn know who you woke up with. Good Eats’ basic, heavy-on-the-omelets breakfast fare is reliably good, if never breathtakingly great Just avoid the biscuits unless feeling leaden is your idea of a good time.

The Promenade Room at The Mansion on Turtle Creek (2821 Turtle Creek Blvd.; 526-2121). You can only have weekend branch, not a proper breakfast, in the Mansion’s main dining room. Happily, however, the light, airy Promenade offers a first-rate breakfast every morning, beginning at 7 a.m.-and the chance to do some celebrity-watching as well, just in case you like to steal glances at, say, James Garner in between bouts of gazing at your true love Sonny Bryan’s (2202 Inwood; 357-7120). You learn the most surprising things in the course of research. More than a few D staff members polled for this story wistfully recounted late, hung-over breakfasts at Sonny’s. -LL.

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