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I'm Siouxsie, and I live in Vickery Place, one of the most happening historical neighborhoods in Dallas. The best thing about this sometimes-quiet suburb of craftsman, tudor, and prairie style homes is that there are loads of quaint shops, diverse restaurants and hip bars within walking distance. Join me as I explore everything within striking distance of my Birkenstocks.
Afghan cuisine has arrived within walking distance of our Vickery Place! Nora Restaurant and Bar
is a new restaurant that has been open for a couple of months on Greenville Avenue in the (formerly notorious) section known as Lowest Greenville. This is the part of Greenville Avenue that saw substantial streetscape improvements last year. If Nora R&B is indicative of a new breed of nighttime business moving to that strip, we're excited!
Well this certainly is nothing like it used to be, whatever was once in this spot along Lowest Greenville! Nora is modern, trendy, tasteful and so very clean.
The menu is short and concise with good descriptions, and cocktail and wine choices on the back. Talking about wine, the list is very affordable and not at all pretentious. We started with a bottle of Writer's Block Pinot Noir. We were happy to see several vegetarian choices on the menu as well. Although, we were not in a herbivorous state of mind this evening.
We asked our friendly server for suggestions from the small plate list, something that would be a fitting introduction to the flavors. A short while later, the Bulanee (leek or potato filled pastries with mint sauce), Kadu (sautéed pumpkin with garlic yogurt and meat sauce) , Sambosa Goshti (pastries with ground beef, chick peas and green peas) and Mantoo (steamed meat dumplings with meat sauce) plates arrived. This was a lot of food for an appetizer course, but so deliciously authentic we demolished it in no time at all. The Kadu (pumpkin) in particular was a delightful surprise. What an explosion of unusual flavors.
We arrived at the restaurant shortly before Sunset, and noticed Nora's lighting was on the intimate side. Although this makes for awesome ambience, it makes photography a little more challenging.
Side note for photography geeks: Here on the Vickery Plates blog, we do not use flash photography... all photos are taken with the light that is available in the restaurant. We prefer the photos to look like the real thing, and not bathed in a bright artificial light. Sometimes we use a monopod to help with the slower shutter speeds, but at Nora this evening it was all handheld photography. Interestingly, Our server told us how surprised she was to see so many people with large expensive looking cameras over the last few months. Food blogging seems to have taken off in a big way in Dallas over the past year.
I did mention that the menu has tons of vegetarian choices on it, but that is not what we sampled this evening, apologies to the herbivores. The combination plate included rib-eye and beef kofta kabobs, and a lamb chop, with grilled vegetables and saffron rice. the meat had a perfect char, just the way I like it. The other dish we ordered was the Qabili Palao, a seasoned chicken dish served with saffron rice and covered with sautéed sweet carrots and raisins.
Whew! Too much food. A large box came home with us for the next day's lunch. But we will never be too full to skip the dessert. First up, the Firnee dessert, a chilled custard sprinkled with pistachios. This was described as "delicate" in the menu, but I would rather use the word "subtle" in reference to the flavor. The firm texture was awesome, so unlike what I think of as custard. This was my favorite of the evening. So good it may even bump crème brûlée down a notch on my list of favorite desserts.
We also tried the Bastani, a cardamom and rosewater flavored ice cream topped with crushed pistachios. This has got to be the most aromatic dessert I have ever eaten. Absolutely delicious.
We shall definitely return to Nora!
Has it really been 4 months since the last Vickery Plates blog entry? Well, there is no time like Restaurant Week to start it up again, and what better place than at a restaurant that does not participate in Restaurant Week! ACME F&B is a new restaurant that opened up within walking distance of our neighborhood, on Monticello Ave just on the other side of Central Expressway.
ACME has been creating all kinds of waves in the food blogosphere, mainly because of the dreamteam behind its creation (Good 2 Go Taco and Barcadia). But we're here because we are hiding out from the hordes of rabid Yelp reviewers who have descended upon our part of town from the far-flung leafless suburbs... but they are all at the Restaurant Week participating restaurants this week. And we're not!
The inside of the restaurant inspires all kinds of colorful descriptions. Trendy Rustic.... contemporary rustic.... or even "steampunk farmhouse", as described by one of the owners. That's a great description, steampunk farmhouse describes the quirky metal-meets-lace interior almost perfectly.
To start things off, every table is greeted by the waiter and a complementary aperitf of Lillet. Lillet is a French aperitif wine that contains mostly white Bordeaux wines, and some citrus liqueurs from the peels of sweet and bitter oranges, as well as the addition of a liqueur from Peru which contains quinine! It was quite refreshing and summery, with a velvety sledgehammer effect.
Our waiter proudly asked us if we knew about ACME's "wine program". We had not, so he explained that all the wines are marked up 8-15% over retail, instead of the usual 150% - 300% at many other restaurants. So maybe that was a suggestion for us to try one of the better wines on their list, and we obliged. Jack Larkin 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a big and full bodied cab, with a wonderfully long finish. Our waiter thoughtfully offered to decant the wine for us, seeing the reaction to the first taste.
The appetizer course arrived! Fried artichokes with aioli and pickled tomato salad. We're in Texas and if the August sun doesn't get it first, they'll toss it in a vat of oil and try to fry it. These were delicious, with a great crunchy outside dusted with coarse sea salt and a soft artichoke heart inside that was complimented perfectly by the sauce.
... and yukon skins, with braised beef and horseradish creme fraiche. Very Gastropub, begging to be downed with one of their great draft beers. Note to self... need to return to try out the awesome draft beer selection...
The owners of ACME buy entire animals, and use all of it at their various restaurants. So the menu changes day by day, and occasionally even on the same day! Today we were informed about the various specials, including beef heart schnitzel (which was unadventurously declined), and leg of lamb. But the beef dish of the day was flat iron steak with brisket, with grilled fingerling potatoes and endive salad. The steak was perfectly seared and seasoned, with a delicious wood fired smokey charcoal taste.
Braised Rabbit with Three Onion Risotto. This would be a great dish for those fantasizing about cooler winter weather. Dark and hearty, and the risotto was perfectly creamy.
While we were waiting for dessert, we admired the vintage decor... in particular, the mechanical belt-driven fans above the bar. And the impressions of the original tin ceiling in the old weathered insulation. Very cool!
Dessert arrived! And what a wonderful rustic farmhouse presentation. Pineapple upside down cake, in an iron skillet. So delicious!
... and a banana's foster bread pudding. Who doesn't love bread pudding in a rustic dining room?
A wonderful early evening spent at ACME. We shall be sure to return again.
Ahhh, The Grape. That wonderful little neighborhood wine bistro on Greenville Avenue, the hidden gem that is consistently voted one of the "Most Romantic" restaurants in Dallas. My first visit was to celebrate a close girl friend's birthday over ten years ago, seven years ago my husband gave me my engagement ring here, and two and a half years ago we ate dinner here the night before my daughter was born. I confess, The Grape was one of our main motivations for making our home in Vickery Place. In your people watching you'll notice the couple next to you is on their first date and the couple on the other side of you is celebrating their 20th anniversary, because once you've been here you can't help but be drawn back.
Inside, the restaurant is wonderfully intimate, with subdued lighting and soft hues. You could forget you were in East Dallas, and instead imagine yourself in a small European bistro. Husband and wife team Brian and Courtney Luscher are now the owners of this Dallas institution (as of 2007), with Brian as the Executive Chef and Courtney as the General Manager and Sommelier. We have watched and applauded how Brian and Courtney have continued and improved the quality of the Grape Restaurant, that is poised to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2012. The Grape is truly Dallas' original and favorite wine bistro, with the best wines-by-glass happy hour menu in the entire Metroplex. Right here, in Vickery Place!
Of course, for most of the year, except on the very hottest days in the early evening, the patio provides the best seats in the house. It is the combination of the European experience of the sidewalk cafe with delicious food, fine wine, and the sights and sounds of Dallas' most popular cruising strip, Lower Greenville.
Tonight we were here to enjoy the monthly Wine Dinner at The Grape, this month featuring the Bouchaine Vineyards, from southern Napa Valley, in the Carneros region.
This digestive cracker with creamy blue cheese mousse and sliced grape was a perfect little tease to get things started. The first glasses of wine made their appearance at our table of eight, and so did Mike Richmond, the General Manager / Wine Maker of Bouchaine Vineyards. A soft spoken man with an impressive command of adjectives, he explained how Bouchaine was known for its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. The Carneros area is cooler than the northerly parts of Napa Valley, and therefore is better suited for the cultivation of cooler climate varietals, such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Their Chardonnay, he said, was particularly known for its mouth feel and texture.
The first course consisted of littleneck clams and Chef Brian's chorizo, with green garlic, caramelized lemon, and Italian parsley. The chardonnay was the 2009 Bouchaine Estate Chardonnay. What a feast of the senses! Brighter citrus and grapefruit flavors with a velvety texture, contrasted with the spicy chorizo and delicious flavors of the broth that just begged us to dip the fresh warn bread in it. We complied. And then requested more bread for our dipping pleasure...
When Mike returned to our table to converse about the wine, it was obvious that Pinot Noir is his redhead mistress. He demured that Pinot Noir is the most emotional of the reds, while Cabernet's are more intellectual. When he said "Cabernet Sauvignon knocks your socks off, while Pinot Noir slips your stockings down", I'm pretty sure all four women at the table swooned.
The Pinot under discussion was the 2008 Bouchaine Pinot Noir ~ One of our companions said the finish reminded him of grape soda, in a happy reminiscent way from his childhood. Layers of flavors and brightness of fruit, with luscious and juicy cherry and raspberry, roses, coffee and peppery spices. Whatever your adjective preference, it was the wine we liked best from the evening and we ordered two more bottles of it for the table.
The Pinot Noir was paired with Crispy Duck Confit, fennel-black pepper sausage, Texas shiitake and beech mushroom blanquette, favas, fiddle heads and german butterball potatoes. A whole mouthful of good. Random Note: We've noticed that the Grape's chef seems to have an affinity for making amazing homemade sausage. It's always a treat.
Owner Chef Brian came by the table to greet us and to see how we were doing. When we expressed our appreciation of the excellently paired dishes, he explained how he likes the wine dinners to be about the wine, not the food. Ideally, as he explained to us, the food should play the supporting role, while opening the wine up to all the senses.
We ordered another two bottles of the Pinot Noir for the table, which in retrospect may have been a mistake! By the time the final course came out, we were sufficiently lubricated that we forgot to take a photo before the dessert was devoured! We asked our server if Chef Brian would be gracious enough to prepare another dessert plate for photography, which he kindly obliged. Thank you Chef Brian! I'm sure he thought we were just making up an excuse to get an extra yummy dessert, but we were too tipsy by far to be that clever.
The 2010 Bouchaine Bouche d'Or Late Harvest was paired with a roasted pear tartlette with sweet onion jam & cave aged blue cheese, toasted hazelnuts, texas honey, pear caramel, and buttermilk sorbet.
Mike returned with a plate of lemon slices, and suggested that we explore and experiment with our sweet wine, by squeezing in a little lemon juice. I can hear all the wine puritans gasping in horror, but stop being so stuffy and learn to play with your wine! Sprinkle lavender flowers in your sparkly as my friend Ann does or try various aromatic herbs in your white wine. The pungent blue cheese was a great complement to the opulent sweetness of the dessert wine, but after the dessert was gone...the lemon's acidity took the sweetness down a notch, leaving a mellow afterglow.
The crescent moon led us due West along Goodwin Ave back home to our Vickery Place craftsman bungalow. We love The Grape, our favorite restaurant on Earth.
Time for a nightcap.
...because sometimes it's fun to kick off the Birkenstocks and put on the Louis Vuittons, though admittedly it may make walking to the restaurant and staggering back after a wine paired chef's dinner a bit more painful, so be sure to pack a pair of flip-flops in your purse!
Last night's walk took us across Central, to the Knox side of the Knox-Henderson entertainment district, past the newly renovated Highland Park Apple Store, past the maniacs camped out to be the first in line for the iPad 3, and onto the modern exterior of the Abacus Restaurant. For us, it was about a mile walk from our house in the middle of Vickery Place, and just two blocks off the western boundary of our historic neighborhood.
Our reservation was early, the Sun still shining, and we prepared for our astronomic gastronomic adventure, as bravely as we could! Ten courses, with wine pairing. Here goes!
The tasting menu is actually a 9 course meal, but we decided to start with the renowned Lobster Shooters, to make an even (and masochistic) 10 course epic. These are little lobster-scallion dumplings in a spicy red curry coconut cream sauce. An experience that has to begin every meal at Abacus!
Let the drinking begin! The first "wine" of the evening, was a generous glass of TY KU Sake Black, a Super Premium, Junmai Ginjo, Japanese Sake. This dangerously deceptive drink was delicious, refreshing, and seemed so light. Seemed. It wasn't.
And onward to the first course! A Tuna Tartare, with cucumber, avocado, cumin, and a sweet soy sauce. A wonderful pairing with the Sake.
The next bottle of wine has arrived! A 2006 Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc Reserve. Everyone at the table commented on its nose, definitely quite earthy, prompting some descriptions that you wouldn't read in Wine Spectator, and which we shall not repeat here! And quite buttery too.
The Fume Blanc was masterfully paired with a crispy pan seared Texas Gulf mangrove snapper, with couscous, broccollini and goat cheese, atop cauliflower puree, and a sturgeon caviar-lemon hollandaise. And that was masterfully typed into my smart phone as Ryan (our wonderful waiter) rattled it off! I probably missed an ingredient or two.... I recall sun dried tomatoes too. Spectacular!
Oh dear, now we were beginning to understand the gravity of our situation (not even halfway through the meal), as the next bottle of white came out. Ryan poured a crisp 2009 Jordan Chardonnay for the four of us...
... paired with what he described as a fresh take on a classic Carbonara dish, with a prosecco glazed gulf shrimp. The twist being that this dish used a salsify tagliatelle instead of the usual pasta. Salsify being a root vegetable... did you know that? Intriguing. And delicious. The little bits of bacon were actually of pork jowl bacon. So good and I even devoured the fried basil leaf on top!
At this point, the palette cleanser came out, to signal the end of the seafood portion of the meal. There was no wine pairing with this refreshingly cool blood orange and grapefruit sorbet, but Ryan very kindly (evilly) poured a second glass of Chardonnay for those who didn't know any better.
Ooooh, what is this. A sweet wine? Hmmmm, we're only halfway through the tasting menu. That can only mean one thing....!
Foie Gras!! Yay! If there is one thing that you can always count on at Abacus (besides the Lobster shooters), it is a decadent Foie Gras dish on the menu. Seared Foie Gras, of course, the buttery melt-in-your-mouth goodness that the Ancient Egyptians discovered thousands of years ago, and now available 6 nights a week within walking distance of Vickery Place. This evening's version was a take on a PB&J theme. Gooseberry Jam, crispy toast, and sarsaparilla syrup, the perfect blend of sweet, buttery-melty-heaven and texture, and so perfectly complimented by the rich, sweet golden nectar.
Ah, now we're talking. Onto the red wine! A big Spanish red, a 2006 Numanthia Tempranillo from the Toro region.
... and a spicy pinenut and sun-dried tomato crusted oven roasted pork tenderloin dish, with a chianti demi, crispy trumpet mushrooms, and basil-ricotta tortellone. Heaven!
Then Ryan opened a bottle of 2006 Mount Veeder Reserve Cabinet Sauvignon. We all tried to guess what kind of hearty red meat dish was coming next. It had to be good, to be paired with such a fine (and big) red.
Hickory grilled cervena venison, from New Zealand, that's what! And so perfectly cooked, medium rare as it should ALWAYS be. Toasted oat spoon bread, roasted turnip puree, and a cherry port syrup. And garlic chips.
We were starting to feel this wine! And we were all certain that it was the sake at the beginning that did us in! But who couldn't finish this delicious red wine. Red wine is what makes life worth living!
Oh be still my beating heart! Ryan is spoiling us with our favorite port on the Abacus list!! A 1960 Kopke Colheita Port. And he opened a fresh bottle tableside, as he did with ALL the wines this evening, something I always appreciated about the Chef's Tasting Menu dinners at Abacus. This port is so good, we know that *it* has to the main feature of the next course.
A beautifully arranged cheese plate. Starting with the obvious six year cheddar from Wisconsin, counter
clockwise to the Caciotta di Bufala (water buffalo milk) from Italy,
Ewephoria sheep's milk cheese from Holland, apple slices.
To the left, a Texas wild-flower honey, a peach and poblano chutney, and
candy spiced nuts, and crackers.
Champagne! As you can see from the quality of this photo, the sake has dazed us, plus the port from the last course seems to be kicking in, and we're starting to have double vision and our hands are none too steady.
The champagne was meant to be enjoyed with this, a white chocolate passion fruit bombe (semi-frozen mousse) topped with a strawberry sorbet. Yum!
And Ryan brought a bonus dessert, to be shared between the four of us! This one is from the current Abacus dessert menu, and is called "Cloud 9". It is an indescribably delicious chocolate-caramel-vanilla dessert. What a beautiful presentation! It did not look like this for long, despite being at the end of a long gluttonous evening.
The end of a lavish four hour feast of the senses. I found myself staring at this tiny morsel and wondering where on earth I would find room in my stomach. But somehow, I managed.
If you've never been to a Food Swap, the general gist is you bring homemade, canned, jarred, homegrown, or foraged goodies and you barter your yummies for the yummies that others have brought to the table. Tonight, my friend Anna was hosting the March Food Swap in Vickery Place. This was my first experience with a food swap, so of course I spent all week since getting the invitation obsessing like a High Schooler that what I brought would be unpopular and everyone would pity the poor girl whose dance card was left empty all night.
The table was soon filled with homemade pies, jellies, granola, biscotti, and canned pickles. Thankfully there was plenty of wine and sweet pickles to boost my confidence, and it turned out my homemade vanilla was not shunned and I wound up with lots of yummy treats to dance my happy way home with. My toddler is now munching on "Honey Crew Granola", my husband is crunching cinnamon Chex mix in my ear, and I will dream tonight of the smell of homemade Vegetable Pot Pies for dinner tomorrow night. I only regret not bringing enough homemade vanilla to trade for the Habanero Jelly and everything else on the table.
The Libertine Bar, just one block off the southern boundary of Vickery Place, has been one of the trendiest watering holes around for a couple of years already. On any night of the week, you'll be hard pressed NOT to bump into a Vickery Place neighbor / drunkard, enjoying the latest local craft beer special and gastropub fare.
Once a month, the Libertine hosts a beer tasting dinner: a five course gastronomic spectacular involving a featured brewery. Tonight, it was the Deep Ellum Brewing Company featured, with 5 hand selected beers paired with 5 courses.
First up was a tempura Croque Monsieur with raspberry thyme reduction, paired with Festivus Black Ale. Wow... and this was the first course? This was a real ass-kicker. How are we going to survive an additional 4 courses? This was just about enough for the whole evening!
Second course featured a spicy Cioppino with rosemary foccacia bread, paired with IPA. And what an IPA this was... can you say hoppy? Can you say bitter?
But the most intense and darkest brew of the night came with the next course. A Barley and pomegranate salad with derby sage cheese and smoke walnuts, paired with The Darkest Hour. Only the manliest of men at our table could finish the entire glass, of this intense imperial stout. A brutish, savage brew.
The main dish of the evening featured a tasty wild boar duo of braised boar chop and house made sausage over local mustard greens and a sweet cipollini onion jus, paired with Rye Pils. This time the beer choice complimented the food, which led this dance. My favorite of the evening.
Finally, dessert. Wait.... which was the dessert.... the rhubarb raspberry goat cheese trifle, or the Cherry Chocolate Double Brown Stout? I vote the latter. The combination worked, it really did.
Another happy and tipsy evening spent at The Libertine. And just a short stumble back home to Vickery Place.
February 28, 2012
The newest addition to the neighborhood restaurant scene is Sissy's Southern Kitchen and Bar, located where Hector's on Henderson once stood. Music from Amy Winehouse and Etta James played through the speakers. Our server, looking retro-spiffy in red suspenders, bow tie and white apron tied around his waist, was friendly and attentive.
Even Miss Ela Hockaday would approve of this restaurant's elegant take on Southern Comfort foods. The Squash Puppies with Jalapeño Jelly and Honey Butter were a fab blend of hot & sweet plus soft inside & crunchy crust. The gumbo was velvety smooth, the Cast Iron Texas Quail and aged ribeye were both utterly perfect, and the "Better Than Sex Chocolate Cake" was pretty darn close to orgasmic. Ok, so maybe Miss Ela would have ordered the bread pudding instead, but she'd be missing out.