Going Gourmet at El Centro College
YOU HAVE $6 TO SPEND ON dinner. You could binge on Big Macs or have a burger at Chili’s or T.G.I. Friday’s.
Or for the same price you could be dining on cheddar cheese and leek soup, cucumber salad, London broil with mushroom sauce, garlic-roasted rosemary potatoes, grilled eggplant and tomato with Parmesan cheese topping, and Creole bread pudding for dessert.
Continuing through April 24, El Centro College’s Food and Hospitality Service Institute serves such gourmet lunches from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Wednesday and dinners from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. every Thursday at the downtown campus, Main and Lamar streets. Reservations are required (214-860-2217).
Gus Katsigris, program coordinator for the Institute, started the budget gourmet meals in 1971 as a learning lab.
“Back then, we charged $1.25,” he says. “Now, $6 barely covers the product costs.”
Jennifer Weisenburg, one of the Institute’s 350 students, was head chef during last semester’s “final exam” dinner. Weisen-burg’s meal was spectacular, but diners should remember that their chefs are students. Katsigris cautions.
“We’ve had spectacular failures. That’s how we learn,” he says. -Dawn McMullan
Field of Greens
IF YOU WORK DOWNTOWN OR IN RlCHARD-son. Field of Greens should be on your lunch list for its healthful food, quick cafeteria-style service and great prices. A star is the salad sampler plate ($4.95); choices varying daily include rosemary chicken, tarragon seafood and penne pomo-doro. Other best bets (most come with a salad choice): stuffed pita sandwiches ($4.95); Southwestern Torte ($5), a layered egg, chicken and cheese dish; and rotisserie chicken ($3.99 with two side dishes). Dallas: 1910 Pacific Ave, Ste. 103, 214-953-2292; Richardson: 1144 N. Piano Rd., Ste. 115, 214-231-5266. -Renee Hopkins
ON THE MENU
WHERE TO FIND HEALTHFUL MEALS FOR KIDS
It is practically. taboo these days for a restaurant to feature only cream sauce and fried foods without a grilled chicken salad or steamed fish for the health-conscious.
But skip down to the kids’ menu: corn dog, fried chicken fingers, hot dog, hamburger, grilled cheese sandwich, spaghetti.
An average kid needs between 25 and 35 grams of fat a day, and a kid’s order of spaghetti and cheese sticks at Red Lobster or a kid’s beef enchilada at On the Border blows your child’s entire daily fat gram allowance-and more.
Some Dallas restaurants however, do offer healthful kids’ meals. At Bless Your Heart (three locations in Dallas) the Big Cheese-a steamed (not pan-fried) cheese sandwich with a cookie, piece of fruit and mini-yogurt-has 258 calories and 7.8 grams of fat. The Turkey Monster-the Big Cheese with turkey-has 229 calories and 6 grams of fat.
At other restaurants, try these tips:
● Order milk for your child instead of a bottomless soft
● Use crackers or bread as an appetizer.
● Share your healthful entrée with your child- restaurant portions generally are two to three times what we need to eat.
● Try ordering a la carte to piece together a meal.
● Load up on fruits and vegetables from the salad bar.
● Order pasta sauce on the side.
● If your child cant skip dessert, choose a small serving of ice cream or share one dessert among members of the whole family. -D.M.
GRAPEVINE DRINKS TO SISTER CITY
DURING THE 10th ANNUAL GrapeFest, an accord between the cities of Grapevine, Texas, and Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila, Mexico, was officially born, promising exchanges in business, techology and tourism. The agreement is ripe with symbolism: Parras de la Fuente literally means “grapevine of the spring,” and Grapevine was known as Grapevine Springs until 1854. Most important, the accord ties together the oldest and one of the newest winemaking communities in the Western Hemisphere.
While Grapevine’s modern wine industry is barely a year old, Parras de la Fuente-in the foothills of the Sierra Madre-is home to Casa Madero winery, Its roots trail back to 1597, making it the oldest winery in the Americas. The accord’s potential benefits are perhaps the clearest for these industries. Both cities host winegrape harvest festivals that are just a month apart, and this year. Casa Madero wines were featured in an international tasting during Grapevine’s GrapeFest in September. In August, Texas wines will be poured at the festival in Parras de la Fuente.
In terms of production muscle, Casa Madero produces 320,000 cases of wine and brandy annually compared with Texas’ estimated 500,000 cases. The local winery exports close to 80 percent of its production to Europe, with the rest consumed in Mexico and Central and South America. Casa Madero officials are reportedly laying the groundwork for a flow of their products into the U.S. wine market. Is there a Little NAFTA here? -Mark Stuertz
Greer Tackles Tex-Mex
The words “southwestern cuisine” bring chefs Dean Fearing and Stephan Pyles to mind immediately, but ’round these parts, Anne Lindsay Greer is the queen of that cuisine.
The Dallas-based restaurant consultant helped light the Southwestern fire in the early 1980s, when she brought together a group of Texas chefs for regular meetings and dinners. The group included Fearing, who says, “If it weren’t for Anne, we’d all still be working at little podunk restaurants.” Greer’s first book, Cuisine of the American Southwest, served as chapter and verse on the then-new trend in 1994.
Now Greer has published a third cookbook. Contemporary Mexican Cooking, that renders homemade Tex-Mex a lot easier. The book compiles the favorite recipes of celebrated chefs at popular restaurants in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio, such as The Mansion’s famed cortilla soup and Casa Rosa’s shrimp enchi-adas.
Her exposure to Southwestern cooking began luring her childhood in San Antonio. The indigenous, diverse flavors of Mexican, Spanish and Continental cooking inspired her creations.
As a restaurant consultant, Greer uses her 20-plus years of experience to advise restaurateurs on everything from concept to menu. Greer is a strong believer in traditional good cooking: too much innovation can be dangerous.
“People are tired of looking for squirrels to cook.” she says. “They want things that go together. And things that go together have always gone together.”-A.E. McGill
DECODING THE NUMBERS
Enigma, where no dish is served the same way twice, may be our most puzzling restaurant, but also enigmatic are restaurants that, like the spy in the old pop song “Secret Agent Man,” have only a number, not a name to clue you in as to their cuisine. Here, we decode a number of restaurants who choose to play the numbers game.
8.0 RESTAURANT AND BAR
2800 Routh lin the Quadrangle), 214-979-0880; 111 E. 3rd St.. Fort Worth, 817-336-0880 Southwestern/ bistro-hip, arty
400 Decorative Center, 214-698-3001 Lunch only; light Asian, Brazilian menu
650 N. Pearl (in the Le Meridien), 214-979-9000 New American
1802 Greenville Ave., 214-826-6229 Bistro with pasta, seafood, chicken and some Mexican and Italian
1717 N. Harwood St., 214-922-1260 Dallas Museum of Art restaurant, New American cuisine with Southwestern and Asian influences in upscale surroundings
1801 N. Griffin St., 214-720-2224 Restaurant with Continental cuisine at the Dallas World Aquarium
400 N. Greenville (between Belt Line and Arapaho), Richardson, 972-907-8868
International cuisine; sushi, teriaki, chicken, fish
8780 FM 1187, Fort Worth, 817-443-1473
Home cooking, plate lunches