Thanks for stopping by,
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.
Vickery Plates Blog...
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.
We really loved the modern middle-eastern music that played throughout the night. In fact, one track was even Shazamed for later inclusion in a playlist: Arpeggio by Feeraz, off the album Dubai Spirit.
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.
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.
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.
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