Matt McCallister & J. Chastain “Play” at 2nd Floor Bistro, Dallas

The name might be fun, the preperations whimsical – but Chef Matt McCallister is serious about his “Play.”

Play is the name of McCallister’s moveable feast – a combination of collaboration with the chef of the hosting restaurant, interaction with the diner, and yes – just plain fun.

On this occasion we are hosted by Chef J. Chastain at Second Floor Bistro Bar. We start with some of Chastain’s Molecular Cocktails (J. offers a Molecular Mixology Happy Hour on Friday evenings in the Second Floor bar – I’ll show you more on that soon).

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^ Right: Don PX Sherry with Bacon Cotton Candy; Albrecht Champagne & Caviar; Cherry Mojito Sorbet; Vanilla Mudslide; Glenmorangie Nectar with Lemon.

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^ Detail of the Don PX Sherry with Bacon Cotton Candy. ^ We diners sit at the Second Floor bar as the chefs prepare the meal before us.

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^ A note about the Bar at Second Floor: they have one of the best – if not THE best – whisky programs in town. Seen above are the over 100 selections – heavy on single malt scotch, with a nice choice of blends, Irish whiskies and even Japanese Yamazaki. I’m a scotch freak and this bar always gets me twitching.

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^ Right: “Borscht” – beet-top, beet, potato, horseradish, creme-fraiche, pickled quail egg.  Matt: “I wanted to take all the components in a borscht and reinvent them in the form of a salad with an emphasis on perfecting each ingredient on their own and bringing them back together in a playful way.”

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^Whipped Mortadella – pickled sunchoke, grilled toast. This went right to the deviled ham loving soul of the child inside me – fun! ^ Right: Tuna – shallot, Australian finger lime, espelette.

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^ Blown Up Blue Cheese – honey mustard, watercress, radish, bacon powder.

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^ Slow Cooked Potato – leek, olive oil, brandade, American osetra.

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^ Duck Sugo – house fettuccini, shaved foie gras; ^ “Roast Beef” – caramelized onion, turnip, carrot, celery, truffle jus.

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^ J. and Matty. 

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^ Bay Leaf Panna Cotta – lemon gel, strawberry sorbet, almond crumble (LOVED this.) Matt: ” I love bay leaf so I wanted to incorporate it into a dessert…this is what I came up with. With desserts I always try to incorporate extreme contrasts… whether it be cold and hot, sweet and salty, or acidic or basic.:”

^ Right: Brioche Sponge – cardamom coffee soil, brown butter ice cream, pistachio, milk chocolate.

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Happy food lovers (and/or chocolatiers as in the case of (r) Zach Townsend).

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You can still catch another Play by Matt, this time with Salum chef Abraham Salum on March 3rd. Better hurry on that res – and to see Matt before he sets off on his months long journey to ‘stage’ at some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country. “I am really excited to go work for the chefs at the restaurants I am staging at. I just want to absorb as much knowledge of technique and flavors as I possibly can in the next year, I also want to see how the flow of their kitchens are and hopefully get some insight on the operations as a whole,” Matt explains. Go get ‘em, dude!

Matt also appearing at: Cedars Social Supper Bowl on February 2; and the Chefs for Farmers event on March 13.

And now for tonight’s musical guest…