FOOD & DRINK

OUR MONTHLY MENU OF TRENDS & TIDBITS

FAMILIES REAL KIDS DO EAT CRABS

PICTURE IT-A CLASS OF 6-YEAR-OLDS, AND their teacher asks the children to describe their favorite meals. Child by child, they eagerly answer, “Cheeseburgers! Pizza! Hot dogs! Icecream!” Until it’s Gavin’s turn. He decisively peals: “Artichokes with vinaigrette sauce and grilled quail.”

No wonder. Gavin’s parents are Francesco and Jane Secchi, owners of the Italian restaurant Ferrari’s, in Addison. Jane, “an absolute fanatic” about what her children eat, says her kids love pasta, quail, and seafood.

Maybe the key to getting finicky little taste buds to eat is simply early exposure (parents, take note). Chef-dad Richard Chamberlain who owns Chamberlain’s Prime Chop House, reports that his 4-year-old daughter Tori’s favorite taste treat was acquired at the tender age of 18 months. While most kids were wolfing down meat sticks, Tori was savoring smoked salmon with capers. Tori also loves aioli and crab cakes.

Sixteen-month-old Sterling James, son of David Holben, executive chef for Medi-terraneo and The Riviera, has also acquired some exotic tastes. While he packs away a toddler-typical breakfast of oatmeal and frozen waffles, his fruit of choice is mango. And his favorite food at Mediterraneo? The cigarette cookies. -Suzanne Hough

FINDS Choice Chocolate

CHOCAHOLICS, MAN YOUR phones! You’ll need to make a reservation, pronto, at Star Canyon, the only restaurant in the Dallas area that serves what’s known as the Rolls Royce of chocolate. My introduction to it came totally by surprise-my two sisters and I were splitting a serving of Star Canyon’s signature Heaven and Hell Cake. Great cake, no surprise, but before I’d barely swallowed a bite, I looked up and saw my sister, bug-eyed, eating one of the slabs of chocolate that were propping up the cake. I took one bite and immediately understood. This superior chocolate, produced by the Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate Company, is served at fewer than two dozen restaurants in the United States. The New York Times called it the best chocolate in the world, and Star Canyon uses it in as many of their desserts as they can. It’s made from Hawaiian-grown cacao beans that are aged to develop their intense, richly smooth flavor. It’s pricey stuff-sold in little disks of bittersweet/semi-sweet chocolate in eight-pound boxes for $80. White chocolate will be available soon. Order it by calling Continental Food Corporation at 800-3454543. -S. H.

Down-home at Daybreak

For a heaping helping of pure comfort food, try one of these local diners.

POOR RICHARD’S CAFé

2442 Avenue K at Park Boulevard, Piano

Atmosphere: Country cafe attracts lots of families and the World War II generation. On weekdays, working folks stop in to start their day. Waitresses are plentiful, courteous, and efficient.

Food: A range of stout breakfasts-from fluffy pancakes and pecan waffles to nine different omelets to a New York strip steak or pork chops with eggs (an egg substitute is available at no charge). Warning to dieters: Even die “Lite Breakfast” will fill you up. One of the best bets is the “signature’ BBQ Omelet.

NORM AS CAFE

3330 Belt Line Road

Atmosphere: Southern diner/Gumpesque quirky. Painted on the wall are words of wisdom: “Life is like a blue plate special…” Waitresses are friendly: “How those grits, honey?”

Food: Man-sized portions of standard breakfast fare: pancakes, cereal, lots of egg/hash brown/grits/ sausage/bacon combos ranging from $3 to $5. Don’t miss the fluffy homemade biscuits. Coffee is good, it’s hot, and your cup is always full thanks to die cosseting waitresses.

BARBEC’S

8949 Garland Road.

Atmosphere: East Dallas casual-i.e., socks are formal wear. Lines can stretch out the door on weekend mornings.

Food: Traditionally good, hut can be uneven. On last visit, eggs ordered over medium were runny; sausage had stayed too long under die warming lamp; grits were the standout item. If you like your biscuits slightly sweet, you’ll love the beer-batter version here.

Prices are Pre-Nixon era; most b’fasts under $4.

DRINKS VINTAGE MONROE

WITH A NAME LIKE MARILYN Merlot, a wine should have good legs. We decided to put them to the test, swirling the wine and watching as it flowed down the sides to see if the streams, or legs, ran thick-a sign of high alcohol content, sweetness, and overall good vintage. And while the legs certainly fell into the acceptable range, it was the more desirable packaging on this wine bottle that drew our attention.

Marilyn Merlot, first released in 1985, has become a collectors item, primarily because of the bottles it’s sealed {with a bright pink kiss) in. Photos of the glam goddess grace the label.

Jasper Russo, wine buyer at Marty’s on Oak Lawn, where the wine is available this month, calls it “rich and full-bodied, with lots of soft, supple texture.” Our own walk on the wild side with Marilyn was somewhat less sensual, and not exactly cheap. A bottle of this fairly average merlot is about $20.

Still, we thought, it would make a good gift-after all, can you think of a better way to wish that special someone a Happy Birthday?

-Catherine Newton

NIGHT LIFE Music, Not Muscles

Curiosity has driven me on a Tuesday night to the Addison Sambuca where I hope to find the meaning of the night spot’s cryptic calendar announcement: “Fabio meets E.T. Jazz Set. ” The women at die table next to me seem to share my curiosity.

“Do you think its really Fabio? Does he know how to play jazz?” gushes the big-haired bleached blonde as she laps up a flavored martini.

“It’s probably not Fabio,” states her friend, underscoring her point with the click of hot pink fingernails on the table top. “It’s probably a look-alike that lip-synchs.”

The band members take die stage, but the mystery remains unsolved. No flaxen haired, muscle bound men. No extraterrestrials. But there’s something unique about that Jazz Set. Joe Vincelli, the golden boy of the Dallas jazz scene, picks up his alto saxophone and leads the band in Keith Jarret’s “My Song.” Unlike pop jazz, the music relies primarily on harmony and melody rather than on rhythm.

As the band winds its way through the first tune, Daniel De Silva, usually a wild man on percussion, takes a back seat and adds strictly color. Drew Phelp, with a waif-like body and bug eyes that may account for the group’s “E.T. ” moniker, teases with mellow undertones from his acoustic bass. Meanwhile, pianist Tony Palos and Vincelli execute a perfect example of what I like to call “sophisticated cocktail jazz. ” As the first melody ends with a crescendo, they melt into an original composition. Ah, music.

I notice that the women next to me are also eagerly analyzing the performance.

“If mat Joseph Vincelli thinks he’s Fabio,” says the martini maven, “then he is going to have to do something about that black hair. Everyone knows Fabio is a blond. “

The Fabio meets E.T. Jazz Set takes place at the Addison Sambuca one Tuesday or Wednesday a month, chosen arbitrarily. See them this month on the 28th at 8 p.m.

-Gregory Kallenberg

PEOPLE Breaking the Sushi Ceiling

ANITA FRANK FELL IN LOVE WITH SUSHI IN the 1970s after ordering it accidentally off the unreadable menu of a Japanese restaurant. But, unable to find any books or classes on the ancient art of preparing raw fish, she had no opportunity to learn sushi-making until years later when her mother married a Japanese chef. Her stepfather, however, was no eager mentor. In Japan’s patriarchal society, the art of sushi is reserved for the male elite. “Sushi not for girls,” he’d say. “Girls hands too hot.”

It took Frank four years of badgering before he relented. Now she is die only Caucasian woman in the country qualified to teach sushi making.

A certified chef and cooking teacher for the Dallas Community College system, Frank came to Dallas in 1986, and has since instructed about 2,000 students-including most of the American chefs who prepare it at Dallas’ finer hotels-on the finer points of rolling raw fish. Despite her mastery, her petitions to attain the highest level of sushi chefdom have been ignored by the Japanese government, the only authority that teaches the preparation of fugu, the venomous blowfish that can be fatal if cut incorrectly.

Apparently, Japanese officials hold as much disdain for Frank, she claims, as do local Japanese sushi chefs, who scoff at an American woman revealing die secret handshake of their ancient fraternity.

-Dan Michalski

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