Creativity Steps Up to the Plate
THESE DAYS, RESTAURATEURS are giving as much attention to plates as they do to the food that’s served on them. The red, white and blue plates, glasses and napkins lend a patriotic note at Americana, while nearby restaurant Yellow sports plates that blaze a ray of sunshine.
At Star Canyon, Stephan Pyles’ cutting-edge food graces specially designed plates ringed with barbed-wire designs, carrying his Southwestern theme right onto the table.
Many restaurateurs don’t like to limit themselves to just one design. At Enigma, no two plates match, and you’d need to round up more than 3,000 hungry customers before they would run out of service plates. At Piano Cafe, if there’s time, they like to choose special plates-such as a farm scene for a child-from their collection of 429.
Hotel St. Germain’s collection of hundreds of plates dating back as far as 1890 is not only on display in their “porcelain cabinet” room, but is in constant use, with customers asking for their favorite pieces. (A gold-rimmed plate with “Will you marry me?” written in chocolate on it is very popular).
Proprietor Claire Heymann speaks for the others when asked what they do when one of the plates gets broken. “We cry,” she says. -Suzanne Hough
GRAPEVINE LIVES UP TO ITS NAME
Delaney Vineyards recently opened the 600-pound, four-inch-thick Louisiana cypress doors of its multimillion-dollar winery, with its French winemaker (Jacques Recht] and 10-acre vineyard in an urban area where prime commercial real estate fetches well in excess of S100.000 per acre. There’s only one question for owners Jerry and Linda Delaney: why?
And only one answer the Grapevine Vintage District, created by a Grapevine city ordinance in 1993 to allow wineries to open tasting rooms and offer tastings and onsite wine sales to the nearly 11 million tourists per year that pass through Dallas and Fort Worth.
Since the ordinance was passed, the town has been a magnet for winery tasting rooms. First to sink roots in Grapevine was Spring-town’s La Buena Vida Vineyards, which opened a tasting room and demonstration vineyard in the city’s historic district in April 1995. La Bodega Winery followed in November, opening at gate 6, terminal 2-E at D/FW International Airport La Bodega-which showcases only Texas wineries and their award-winning wines-is the world’s first and only fully functional winery operating in an airport. Homestead Vineyards and Winery will join Delaney with a new Grapevine tasting room this year when Homestead at Grapevine opens in October. -Mark Stuertz
FOOD S A F E TY
Oysters: ’R’ They Safe in Summer?
AN OLD WIVES’ TALE WARNS against eating oysters in months without an “R” in the name. To see if this is an outdated notion or something to eat by, we asked local oyster purveyors to explain. As it turns out, there’s a pearl of truth in the old superstition: In warmer months, water tern peratures rise and Eastern oysters begin to spawn.
“One problem with the summer is the oysters breed…they are not as good and tend to get real milky, ” says Cafe Pacific’s Brian Dietz. “We don’t carry the oysters when they are breeding. This is in late May, June and early July. “
However, most Dallas restaurants serve Gulf oysters, says Randy DeWitt of Shell’s Oyster Bar & Grill. Gulf oysters spawn year-round, which decreases your chance of getting a bad one. The Blue Point oysters, an expensive Eastern cousin, spawn seasonally and should be avoided in summer.
Another reason for the fishy tale: lack of air conditioning. “The main reason (for not eating summer oysters) was refrigeration…now everything is controlled; from the harvesting all the way to our back door,” says Mike Connelly of Pap-padeaux Seafood Kitchen.
Despite the fact that the caution rests in reality, however outdated, waiters say they are infrequently asked about summer oyster dangers. Most restaurants even report an increase of oyster sales in the summer. So enjoy those August oysters with cold beer on a patio; just worry about keeping the libido in check! -Amy Zimmer
The Return of the Cheese Course
THE CHEESE COURSE IS MAKING a comeback, at least in finer restaurants,” Gourmet magazine’s spring newsletter trumpeted. This very European alternative to dessert-a selection of cheeses sometimes accompanied by bread or crackers and fruit-is finding its way onto more Dallas restaurant menus.
Watel’s manager Thierry Plu-mettaz says that a cheese plate is always on his menu. According to Plumettaz, the rising popularity of after-dinner cigars is leading to increased sales of port as well as cheese plates, both of which complement cigars.
Many restaurants, such as Adeline La Trattoria Lombardi, Old Warsaw and the Riviera, whose menus don’t list a cheese course, will put one together on request. Hotel St. Germain’s seasonal prix fixe menus always include a cheese course, and few customers skip it.
With 13 cheeses listed on its menu, Jennivine might offer the best variety around for a design-your-own cheese course, and general manager Ron Newton says that they’re seeing an increase-especially among European-traveled people-in the consumption of both port and after-dinner wines and cheese courses. North Dallas cheese-]overs can now enjoy a cheese course accompanied by homemade bread at Chez Gerard’s new restaurant, La Vendou.
Seduction Sans Sin
WHAT WOULD YOU GIVE FOR a summer dessert that delivers all the joy of a sweet happy ending with none of the guilt? How does S5.95 for a dozen servings sound?
No, really-a versatile Czech baker named Gladys Farek, down in Flatonia, Texas, offers a truly celestial answer to this impossible dream. Owner of Gladys’ Cookie Shop (which bears the Department of Agriculture’s “Taste of Texas” seal of approval), she is best-known for her Texas fruit cakes (you may recall, she drew nationai attention by sending a 150-pound, state-shaped monster to crew members serving on the John F. Kennedy during Operation Desert Storm). Ah, but it’s her “Angel Cakes” that deserve world-wide applause. Vast, high and handmade, these fat-free, low-calorie indulgences, made one at a time, come in four flavors-lemon, chocolate, strawberry or poppyseed-each so divinely rich-flavored that a single taste tells where angel food got its name in the first place. Not available in Dallas stores (production’s too limited, she says), Gladys’ Angel Cakes can be ordered by phone (512-865-3682) or mail (11625 N. State Hwy. 95, Flatonia, Texas, 78941-5234) and charged to Visa or MasterCard. The price? A petty $5.95 per 1.5-pound cake, plus $3.75 for overnight shipping. The pleasure? Infinite, served sliced on a fruit sauce, with ice cream or-as we prefer them-unadorned. Unshared, too, although they make marvelous hostess gifts as well as guest pleasers, if you can bear to be so unselfish. -Betty Cook
ON THE MENU
REMEMBER THE A LA MODE!
IT’S WORSE THAN FINGERNAILS scratching on a blackboard, worse than getting a letter from the 1RS, worse than wearing white to a ball game. We’re talking about misspelled words on menus-they drive us crazy. We’re so used to seeing “portabello” mushrooms spelled wrong that we’re amazed when someone gets it right (portobello or porto-bella). We don’t blink an eye anymore when Caesar’s “Ceasar,” Reuben’s “Rueben,” or Monterey Jack cheese comes out “Monterrey.” (The cheese originated in, and thus is spelled like, Monterey, Calif., rather than Monterrey, Mexico.)
But it’s hard to keep the caps on our red pens when we see:
Obzeet’s outdoor banner announcing that they were serving “deserts” late at night;
Trattoria P.J.’s wine list including “savuvignon” and “zinfendel”;
“Main ” lobster at The French Room and Yellow;
“Julianne” vegetables at Monica Aca Y Alla;
“Lettce” with “parmeasan” cheese at Frantoni’s;
“Linguini,” “fettucini,” “bruchetta,” “foccacia,” and “capuccino” on too many menus to list.
But the final blow came when Peggy Sue BBQ’s menu announced that for $ 1 more, you could have your dessert “Alamo.” When I called to ask just what alamo meant, the man who answered the phone politely explained that alamo means with a scoop of ice cream. I guess it’s similar to “a la mode.” -S.H.