DREAMSCAPES FALL/WINTER 2021
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A TASTE OF TEXAS: DALLAS AND FORT WORTH ARE ON THE MENU
 
(2021 - Fall/Winter Issue)

Writer: CYNTHIA DAVID



It’s hockey night at the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas and the Hero sports bar next door is filling up fast with Dallas Stars fans in green jerseys and visiting Toronto Maple Leaf fans in blue.

The airy 540-seat main dining room offers the usual staples: burgers, chicken wings and ice-cold Budweiser. But like the city itself, and sister city Fort Worth, Hero’s menu is full of surprises, including smoky carrot hummus, avocado toast with charred corn and a delectable salad of shaved Brussels sprouts and kale.

To burnish its new-found culinary reputation, Dallas has opened the Exchange Hall, a food hall of 16 local restaurants at the new AT&T Discovery District. Meanwhile, minutes from downtown in Trinity Groves, chef Julian Rodarte of Beto & Son is supervising the preparation of 500 handmade tortillas and slow-roasting kilos of local pork shoulder.

“Dallas is full of Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants,” says Rodarte, who doubled the size of his family’s busy restaurant this year. “We wanted to make dishes you can’t get anywhere.” Like Hero, Beto goes nuevo with items like seared salmon tacos and next-gen noodle bowls, common in Mexico, featuring short golden fideo pasta topped with meat or seafood, summer squash, avocado, roasted peppers and fresh cheese. Servers make guacamole right at the table with charred jalapeño peppers. Fajitas are cut from prime Texas wagyu beef from a ranch less than an hour away. There’s even a scrumptious Mexican poutine of masa (cornflour) fries.

AN ORDER OF BBQ

Of course, visitors must also try famous Texas barbecue. Lockhart Smokehouse in the historic Bishop Arts District is a blast from the past, its walls covered with licence plates and neon beer logos, strings of white Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling, a pile of post oak logs in the corner to fuel the smoker, red vinyl chairs and a fat roll of paper towels atop each varnished table. “We stick with tradition,” says general manager Kenny Gonzaba, who’s been known to deliver his meat to the Vancouver Canucks’ private plane after a hockey game.

Lockhart customers order meat by the pound from a daily chalkboard menu at the back. Pit boss Juan Esparza pulls blackened beef ribs from the smoker and carves the meat off the bone, leaving a quivering mass of blackened fat and streaks of luscious meat. He smokes his signature beef brisket 12 to 16 hours, serving it with less fat, more fat or extra bark (crust). There’s sausage with a kick, dry-rubbed smoked pork ribs and thin slices of smoked turkey breast. The meat is weighed and wrapped in butcher paper, which quickly becomes shiny with grease. Sop up the juice with the pile of sliced white bread on each table. Don’t forget the sides, perhaps thick, cheesy mac’n’cheese, devilled eggs, creamy coleslaw or smoky pinto beans. Gonzaba recommends washing it all down with Texas-brewed Shiner Bock.

After lunch, spend a few hours wandering the Bishop Arts District,  a lively neighbourhood of quirky shops and galleries that can be reached from the EBJ Union Station via the Dallas Streetcar. Stop for a slice of pie at the cosy Emporium of Pies. The selection changes with the season, from apple and pecan bourbon to the blissfully dense chocolate Smooth Operator, paired with a mug of fresh cold milk. Also check out Melt Ice Creams with its cheerful yellow sign and unique flavours like pineapple upside down cake studded with roasted pineapple. Much of Melt’s menu is dairy and gluten free. If you need presents for friends back home stop at Dude, Sweet Chocolate for Crack in a Box.

FORT WORTH: STEP OUT OF YOUR COWBOY BOOTS

An hour from Dallas and connected by an international airport, Fort Worth is a city of contradictions. Order a glass of sparkling Prosecco in a downtown doughnut shop and visit a museum dedicated to cowgirls. Watch drovers coax a herd of sleepy longhorns down Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards by day then watch cowboys and cowgirls perform death-defying feats with gnarly bulls and fast horses by night at an honest-to-goodness rodeo. Then there’s the luxury hotel fashioned from a 1930s oil company high-rise that maintains its art deco splendour while the latest hip-hop music blasts through a high-tech bathroom mirror.

A STOMPING SHOWDOWN

When it comes to food, red meat still rules, though both Dallas and Fort Worth have embraced meat and vegan dishes from around the world. “We’re the second-fastest growing city in the U.S. with everything a big city has to offer, including food,” says FW star chef Marcus Paslay, owner of three local restaurants. “We’ll go out for sushi, Indian food or barbecue and enjoy it all. The bar for quality is rising every year.”

Located in Fort Worth’s trendy West 7th District, Paslay’s Clay Pigeon is a neighbourhood gem and an ode to American cuisine. After smearing grilled bone marrow on sourdough bread, order the grilled duck breast. If you’re in the mood for steak, this is the place for finely marbled certified Angus. Regulars whisper Spinalis in their server’s ear. The chef considers this rib-eye cap steak the finest cut of beef, and a rare one, which he cooks to perfection over an oak fire.

STOCK UP AT FORT WORTH’S STOCKYARDS

From sipping sophisticated cocktails at Blackland Distillery just north of West 7th to visiting world-class museums, there’s much to do, but all roads in this former Cowtown lead to the Fort Worth Stockyards. Here, history has been preserved in new ways. An alley of low red brick buildings that once housed horses and mules has been transformed into boutiques and restaurants including Paslay’s Provender Hall, which dishes out soul food from chicken gumbo to shrimp and grits. At the end of Mule Alley stands brand new Hotel Drover.  

THE BIG REVEAL

They may be friendly rivals, but there is one thing both Dallas and Fort Worth chefs agree upon. “We’re ready to take you in and treat you right,” Paslay says.

LIVE LARGE DRINK MARGS

Dallas is the official home of the frozen margarita machine, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Margs are also this North Texas city’s favourite cocktail and the inspiration for the Margarita Mile app (MargaritaMileDallas.com), a self-guided tour of the city’s best and chilliest ’ritas. Most outrageous is the liquid nitrogen margarita at Beto & Son. A server rolls a butcher block cart to the table topped with a giant stainless-steel bowl and fills it with fresh lime juice, agave nectar, orange liqueur and aged Mexican reposado tequila. Steam envelopes the table as he slowly adds a pitcher of frothing liquid nitrogen, whisking until it’s the texture of lime sorbet. The now frozen mixture is piled into a glass and sprinkled with passion fruit pearls. The result—pure pleasure, bursting with clean lime, smooth alcohol and a tangy hint of passion fruit.

Travel Planner

VisitDallas.com

FortWorth.com

Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo: fwssr.com

Hotels

Dallas: adolphus.com

Fort Worth: thesinclairhotel.com

Restaurants

herobyhg.com

theexchangehall.com

betoandsondallas.com

lockhartsmokehouse.com

claypigeonfd.com

provenderhall.com

 
 
 
 
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