FOOD & DRINK

OUR MONTHLY MENU OF TRENDS & TIDBITS

CHEAP EATS

Vincent’s Home Cooking



RESTAURANTS CAN MAKE money on all-you-can-eat bu-fets because customers usually taste the food that’s been heat-lamped or steam-tabled to death, and fill up on bread instead, But, even though chef-owner George Basil Stergios of Vincent’s Home Cooking bakes his own sesame-studded loaves every1 day, it’s his buffet lunch that has people lining up for seconds and thirds.

You’ll most likely see Basil bustling about, topping off a steaming tureen of smoky lentil soup or slicing the bread. Mediterranean specialties such as dolmades, hummus, and baba gha-noush share equal space on the buffet table with a half-dozen salads, and the selection of meats changes daily. If you’re lucky, you’ll be there when juicy roast chicken, roasted red potatoes with dill, and golf ball-sized, onion-studded meatballs are offered. This feast costs a low $5.95. The display of homemade desserts drove a friend and me to wretched excess on one recent visit-four desserts later, we voted the chocolate cream pie the best. 2574 Walnut Hill Ln., 214-351-1860.

-Suzanne Hough

TRENDS

WHAT’S BEHIND DOOR #1?



QUICK, WHICH ARE YOU: A gull or a buoy? A pointer or a setter? Sometimes it’s hard to break the code on the restroom doors. We’ve rounded up some of the most outrageous signs-can you identify the restaurants that boast these doors?

-Suzanne Hough



1 It was all Greek to patrons here until the owners added a couple of significant letters to these doors.



2 Cucumber or melons? This place may be a little too back-to-nature for some customers.



3 Good luck figuring out the meaning of these horseshoes.



4 What if your name’s not listed here? What if it’s Pat?



ANSWERS: 1:ZIZIKI 2: NATURA CAFE

3:WALT GARRISON RODEO BAR & GRILL

4:STAR CANYON

COOKBOOKS

TRY THIS AT HOME



We ate our way through the whole crop of local cookbooks and are ready to name the year’s five best. (They all make great holiday presents.)

No Jacket Required, by Neiman Marcus. 1,500 InCircle members’ recipes were distilled down to this 250-recipe collection of simple yet company- special recipes. Meat-lovers need to try the heavenly thick salt-and- pepper-crusted sirloin.

The Artful Table, by the Dallas Museum of Art League. This coffee-table class act fea tures beautiful photos of table settings. Try pairing the grilled swordfish Oriental with the noodles in peanut sauce and sesame oil.

The Texas Sampler from the Junior League of Richardson features recipes for busy families. The chocolate chip Bundt cake is a crowd-pleaser, and there’s a great section with ideas for kids’ parties.

Dallas Cowboys Wives’ Family Cookbook and Photo Album. Cowboy fans will love the photos; cooks will appreciate the recipes.

Zoo To Do from the Dallas Zoo lists only a couple of dozen recipes, but they’re from the best restaurants in Dallas, including Star Canyon and Nana Grill. Zoo-perb! -S. H.

CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK



TOO DAMN HOT!



THINK OF THIS AS AN OPEN WHINE AIMED at the great chefs of Dallas-i.e., Stephan and Dean and Kent, et al.-whose current assumption is that all diners prefer pain to pleasure.

Not that some don’t–indeed, our part of the world seems at times to be totally peopled with scarlet-faced Bubbas and their babes moaning with jalapeno-induced joy.

But what about us others? Nobody has ever complained about the incendiary qualities of such cuisines as Tex-Mex, Cajun, and Thai: Their piquancy was expected and almost always flagged with little stars. Then the kitchen kings began burning culinary boundaries, sneaking an Asian herb here, a potent spice there, into regional dishes. Now the culinary rage is for sun-core hot.

While I applaud the creativity of chefs, I find myself wondering: Is this particular emperor wearing any clothes? Surely I am not the only one tired of menus, like those at The Melrose and The Mansion, that are studded with explosive surprises.

So here’s my pitch : Is it really socially unacceptable to ask for some sign to measure the blister index of menu items? The old standby stars would work, at least until this obsession subsides a little. -Betty Cook



DRINKS

Infused Pleasure



REMEMBER WHEN SOME BRAVE-heart upperclassman would steal a flask from his father’s liquor cabinet and then spike the prom fruit punch under the coach’s nose? Some bravehearts are still tinkering with the spirits, but this time, they’re spiking the vodka with fruit.

The sawy word for it is “infusing,” which basically means soaking anything from vanilla beans to pearl onions in a jar of liquor for 72 hours.

Sfuzzi bartenders have soaked strawberries, lemons, even three kinds of melons, but Mitch Kauf-fman, regional vice-president of Sfuzzi, says the marination of their infused liquors is subtle, giving only a hint of the fruit taste. Customers mostly choose the homemade vodka for their martinis.

At Arcodoro, owner Efisio Farris has infused pears in tequila, apples and cinnamon in vodka, and dry figs in grappa. His most authentic creation is the mirto grappa, made with dark Italian berries; the result is similar to cognac. Farris also serves Bloody Marys with pepper vodka, a combination of jalapeno, bell, yellow, red, and purple peppers. -Christine Postolos

Cowboy Cuisine



THEY’RE MORE THAN AMERICA’S TEAM. DALLAS GRIDIRON GREATS HAVE DEVELOPED a sphere of influence in our city’s business world with clothing lines (Michael Irvin’s Masterpeace Ragz), telecommunications companies (Emmitt Smith Communications), real estate ventures {Robert Shaw’s Columbus Realty Trust), and, above all, restaurants. Here’s a look at the newest-owned by perennial good guy and special teams kamikaze Bill Bates-and some of the older Cowboy cafes.



Bill Bates Cowboy Grill

18101 Preston Rd, Suite 204, 214-380-4040.

On the menu here are ribs, chicken-fried steak, smoked pork chops, and budgets, along with a few token salads and pastas, two “training camp healthy” choices, a menu for kids, bottled beer, and Dom Perignon. See Bill’s personal collection of memorabilia, including years of team photos (Bates is now the longest-tenured ’Boy) and buy a T-shirt or hat to take home. Bates is highly involved here and broadcasts his radio show every Tuesday night from a stage in the restaurant. You’ll see cutesy Cowboy references on the menu: Kick Off (appetizers) and Forward Pass-tas. The menu is “maybe a year away,” as they say of promising rookies, but did you come here for the food?

Randy White’s All American Grill and Bar

10821 Composite Dr, 214-351-3261.

Randy’s usually our selling trucks, but his Restaurant Row standby offers decent quesadillas and burgers, a good beer list, and enough televisions to watch all the NFL games at once. The entryway shrine overflows with awards and trophies dating back to White’s college days; don’t miss the knockout photo of the Doomsday Defense near the front door.



Cowboys Sports Cafe 9454 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving, 214-401-3939.

Lots of appetizers (most fried), burgers, sandwiches, and salads on the menu at this restaurant-bar owned by Tony Dorsett, Eugene (the Hitting Machine] Lockhart, Everson (Cubby) Walls, and Alfredo (Fettuccine) Roberts. Not surprisingly, Tony D.’s brilliant career gets most of die focus with loads of memorabilia. The owners drop by often, as do Barry Switzer and Jerry Jones. Enjoy the company, because the food wins no culinary Super Bowls.



Walt Garrison Rodeo Bar and Grill

The Adolphus Hotel, 1321 Commerce St., 214-742-8200.

Don’t look for Walt or much gridiron memorabilia in this overpriced and tourist-crowded eatery. Garrison’s interest in rodeo and all things Western sets the tone; die food is forgettable, and the service forgetful.

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