Food and Drink

Blue Label Burger Blend – Beer Cooler Sous Vide Burgers

Back when John Tesar was slinging those divine burgers at his much missed “The Commissary,” many people heard the term c-Vap for the first time. It’s all about getting a perfectly even and accurate temperature throughout the entire beef patty while maintaing virtually all the juices. He explains it here:

It is basically a sous vide process. I had yet to purchase my Polyscience Sous Vide Professional Immersion Circulator, but wanted to give it a whirl at home. Some googling turned up this awesome phrase: Beer Cooler Sous Vide. You basically use a cooler and a meat thermometer to keep the water temperature in the correct range for a poor-man’s sous vide. This technique should only be used for certain foods, as it is not accurate enough for finessed results, and could cause some problems for long term immersions. But it’s cool for burgers!

First, the meat – I found this recipe for the Blue Label Burger Blend. A mix of sirloin. brisket and oxtail.

Blue Label Burger Blend: Sirloin, Brisket and Oxtail.

Blue Label Burger Blend: Sirloin, Brisket and Oxtail.

Blue Label Burgers pattied out.

Blue Label Burgers pattied out.

Now that the meat is portioned and pattied, we need to get it into vacuum bags for our sous vide process.

The burgers in individual zip baggies (open).

The burgers in individual zip baggies (open).

Instead of using a vacuum sealer, here is a great trick: Submerge your bag fully in water and the air is forced out. Seal, et voilà. Easy.

Each bag is slowly submerged in water to force out the air.

Each bag is slowly submerged in water to force out the air.

When the air is out - zip seal the bag.

When the air is out – zip seal the bag.


Now we need to get the water up to temp – I was going for “medium” on this batch so went with 140F/60C. The burgers need at least an hour at this constant temp, but they can go for 3 or 4 hours and hold steady there at a perfect medium. Such is the magic of sous vide cooking.

The Beer Coller Sous Vide bath is brought up the temperature with water heated on the stove.

The Beer Cooler Sous Vide bath is brought up the temperature with water heated on the stove.

The bagged burgers are introduced into the water bath.

The bagged burgers are introduced into the water bath.

With the cooler lid closed, the temperature stays pretty constant – occasionally you will need to slowly add some hot water to bring it back in range and keep it there.

The Blue Label Burgers blissfully swim.

The Blue Label Burgers blissfully swim.

After an hour or so we have perfectly medium burgers – evenly cooked throughout. To finish them, just throw them on a very hot griddle and sear the outside to get some Maillard Reaction action going!

Once cooked through, the burgers are finished on the plancha (hot griddle).

Once cooked through, the burgers are finished on the plancha (hot griddle).

The Blue Label Sous Vide Cheese Burger

The Blue Label Sous Vide Cheese Burger

Some cheese and homemade gourmet Special Sauce and artisan fixin’s complete the process.

The Brad's Sauce. Ehem.

The Brad’s Sauce. Ehem.

Good stuff.

Behold the Blue Label Beer Cooler Sous Vide Burger.

Behold the Blue Label Beer Cooler Sous Vide Burger.

Casa Rubia, Omar Flores’ Spanish Spot in Trinity Groves – Dallas

The latest addition the the burgeoning “food mecca across the bridge” – Trinity Groves – comes from Driftwood‘s Omar Flores and team. This is Casa Rubia:

Omar Flores has created a delicious menu featuring “Modern Spanish and Catalan inspired” offerings. Cody Sharp is sous chef.


^ Exec Chef Omar Flores with a Tasting Embutidó Plate featuring Jamon Iberico de Bellota.


Casa Rubia offers and all Spanish wine list, with a number of selections by the glass.


^Aceitunas –  Arbequina Olives Confit, Orange, Herbs, Garlic

^Erizos –  Sea Urchin, Rustic Bread, Quail Yolk, Iberico Lardo

^  Croquetas de Bacalao Piperade, Aceitunas, Pimenton Honey

^Boquerones –  Anchovies, Olive Oil, Fennel, Pickled Shallots

^Setas – Maitake Mushroms, Quince, Duck Egg, Idiazabal,Soft Herbs

^ Alcachofas – Crispy Artichokes, Meyer Lemon, Fresno Chile,Mojama, Saffron Aoili

^ Codorniz – Texas Quail, Merguez, Sunchoke, Kale,Smoked Onion Broth

^ Vieiras – Nantucket Bay Scallops, Black Trumpet Mushrooms Olive Oil Potato Espuma Tapenade, Sherry Brown Butter

^ Mejillones En Escabeche Cape Cod Mussels, Sour Orange, Sherry, Herbs, Trout Roe

^ Paella Del Dia. Here, Squid ink and Sardine.

^ Chocolate Cremoso –  Dark Chocolate Ganache, Olive Oil “Bread”, Satsuma, Canela Crumble

^ Leche y Miel –  Torrijas, Brittle, Honey Ice Cream, Milk Espuma

^ After service, contemplate Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia.

Finally, the “Bridge to Somewhere.”

Casa Rubia on Urbanspoon

Chef John Tesar’s Spoon Bar & Kitchen

Obviously, I was looking forward to the opening of Chef John Tesar's Spoon Bar & Kitchen in Preston Center for some time.

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Everyone knows John and I are buddies – (I have no financial interest in the
restaurant, however I have consulted on certain design elements).
Regardless, it is my opinion that Spoon is excellent and is another
important chapter in the renaissance of the Dallas dining scene.

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As the critics chime in (Dallas Observer, Modern Luxury, Dallas Morning News) the consensus has been extremely positive – I concur …and I get around. This place is good.
But critics are not always able to experience a restaurant with the depth afforded a devoted, food obsessed patron.

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With that in mind, I'll do what I do best – here are a bunch of
pictures from some of the many meals I've enjoyed at Spoon, along with my trademark sentence fragments:

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Spoon already has a crowd of devoted regulars and still sees its share
of curious customers looking for a glimpse of the deftly crafted
character Tesar has created and Top Chef promoted – "The Most Hated Chef
in Dallas."

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^L: Oyster and Truffle Stew

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^L: Lobster Pot Pie

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^ Remarkable Smoked Sturgeon Head Cheese.

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Sommelier Sabrina Snodderley's wine program features interesting and nicely priced
selections that match wonderfully with the food. John and Sabrina
continue to add depth to the White Burgundy program – music to my ears.

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Tesar's passion and pedigree are reflected in the constantly evolving
menu of exceptional seafood dishes as well as other "Not Fish"
selections (not pictured, lol.)

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The recent addition of David Collier as pastry chef completes the meal in an artful manner – creative, whimsical and delicious:

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To be sure, Tesar has his fair share of haters, and now – many more devotees. He is without question an outstanding seafood chef.

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Spoon is easily one of the most important and exceptional new
Dallas restaurants to open in some time. The city's diners, critics, and even bloggers need to support and
encourage more of this passionate risk-taking and attention to detail –
less. …and the place also has a cool logo.

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Spoon Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

The Brad at The French Laundry

As The French Laundry chef de cuisine Timothy Hollingsworth prepares to hand over the reigns to his executive sous chef David Breeden, we popped in for a blowout.

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Here’s what went down (and nicely, I might add):

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^L: Amuse.
“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar.

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^L: “OEUFS EN GELEE” Royal Ossetra Caviar. Brioche “Soldiers.” Lobster “Salpicon” and Scaliion Salad.
^R: Beurre

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^L: SALAD OF FRENCH LAUNDRY GARDEN FENNEL Tokyo Turnips. Sour Michigan Cherries. Sicilian Pistachios and Mache.
^R: “KOULIBIAC” OF COLUMBIA RIVER STURGEON “Pomme Puree,” Nantes Carrots and Tarragon Jus.

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^R: SWEET BUTTER-POACHED MAINE LOBSTER “FRICASSEE” Caraway Melba. Heirloom Beets. Melted Cabbage and Horseradish Creme Fraiche.

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^L: RUSSET POTATO GNOCCHI with Shaved Black Winter Truffles.
^R: Some old bottle of wine…

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^L: SALMON CREEK FARMS PORK BELLY “EN FEUILLE DE BRICK” Gamet Yam.. Brussels Sprouts. Pearson Farm Pecans. Noble Maple Syrup and Black Truffle.
^R: HERB-ROASTED ELYSIAN FIELDS FARM LAMB SADDLE Pearl Barley. Creamed Mushrooms. Petite Onions. Mizuna and Sauce “Soubise.”

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^R: “BREBIS DES PYRENEES” Moroccan Olive. Piquillo Pepper Marmalade. Pine Nuts. Eggplant and Olive Oil Jam.

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^L: POMEGRANATE “SODA” Jasmine Ice Cream and “Fleur de Sel” Shortbread.
^R: PASSION FRUIT “SWISS ROLL” Valrhona Chocolate Cremeux, Caramel Mousse and Banana Ice Cream.

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^R: “Coffee and Doughnuts>”

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What’s not to like? A wonderful experience.
On a side note: It’s nice to realize after a meal like this just what talent we have here in Dallas. Bruno Davaillon’s tasting menu at The Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek is equally superb. An omakase meal from Teiichi Sakurai at Tei-An is equally sublime. Enjoy!

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The French Laundry on Urbanspoon

A View to a Steakhouse – SER Steak + Spirits, Hilton Anatole – Dallas

We've had time to mourn the passing of Anthony Bombaci's Nana Restaurant, the previous occupant of the 27th floor of the Hilton Anatole Hotel – now let's look at the handsome replacement – SER Steak + Spirits. Yes, another steakhouse – but this one is pretty cool.



^ Selections from a unique collection of early 20th century "Mascots" (hood ornaments) accent the dramatic entry.


The room has been opened up a bit and the textures and surfaces exude a clubby elegance. I joined my friend (a guest of the house) for dinner last week:


^L: Nifty new iPad wine list is actually fun and informative.
^R: Duck Rillette & Jamon Iberico. 


^A dramatic and delicious Wagyu “Big” Rib: sous-vide and served with chocolate glaze, basil, green mango.
We also had (Not pictured) the 7oz Wagyu “Spinalis”: w/ fingerling potato and a nice house "SER steak sauce;" Creamed Corn: candied cipollini onions, popped corn; House-Made Tator Tots: house-made ketchup; Hen of the Woods: lightly grilled, garlic, parsley. All nicely done.


^L: Pistachio Layer Cake: morello cherry compote.
^R: Butternut-Apple Crisp: yogurt-pecan ice cream.


^The communal table and open kitchen are very inviting.




I know – we don't need another steakhouse – but one could argue that this hotel does. The result is a beautiful room with stunning views and a rather nice menu from Exec Chef Anthony Van Camp. With the design district about to be a culinary hot-bead, the Anatole doesn't seem so far off the beaten path these days. I will be going back.


Dipping into TJ’s Seafood Market and Grill on Oak Lawn – Dallas

Quickie here:

Jon Alexis can be proud of his new digs in the Shops of Highland Park.


TJ’s Seafood Market and Grill is now open – I just ran in to take a look and loved the place.


There is a daily menu available – or grab a piece of fish and have them prepare it for you – or select a marinade and a finishing sauce and do it yourself, at home. Dig. It. The Lobster Roll is already news. More on this later. …and the ‘Charcuterie of the Sea’ looks amazing.



We could not resist and snagged some caviar and blinis, then bribed Avner next door at Nosh with a bite in return for a set up and some lovely lemon crème fraîche. 

Fried Paradise 2012 – Fried Food Fun at The State Fair of Texas

State Fair time again!


I took a year or two off from my Fried Food Fiesta, but was back in the mood this year. We did our best to find each of the finalists for the 2012 Big Tex Choice Awards. Alas rain and fatigue conspired to cut short the search. We did get some serious research done, however:


^ Deep Fried Mac-N-Cheese Slider
Baked three-cheese macaroni, battered in bread crumbs, and deep-fried. Placed on a slider bun with a griddled beef patty. Hmmm – I found that just a bite of the fried Mac n’ Cheese part was fine. I liked the waffle fries.


^ Fried Mexican Fire Crackers
Spicy chicken, cheese and jalapeno wrapped in masa dough and deep fried. Served with fiery TNT sauce. I liked it. What can I say. The GF just looked at me. She passed.


^ Fried Bacon Cinnamon Roll
Crispy fried bacon crumbles fill a cinnamon roll dipped in a sweet pancake batter, then deep fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. We nodded and smiled. OK good enough.


^ Fried Pork Wing – Six hour slow-cooked pork rib lightly deep fried, tossed in a smoked bacon chipotle glaze. Fine. We had a few bites.


^ Picnic on a Stick – A skewer alternating with three pieces each of spicy fried chicken, sliced dill pickles and tater tots, then dipped in batter, rolled in bread crumbs, and fried. Ha! Yep! She wouldn’t touch this one either. Meh. More for me.


^ Deep Fried Jambalaya
Jambalaya with shrimp, cajun sausage and seasonings, coated in lightly seasoned flour and fried – served with spicy ranch sauce. This was the taste winner. I agree – not bad!

Now some non-finalist fun:


^L: Cyclone Potato
Turned potato deep fried on a stick. Sure!
^R: Pork Chop
She claims victory!


These rig is seriously bad-ass.


Of course, I had my Fletcher’s Corn Dog drenched in mustard – but I was drenched while eating it. No matter – it was nice to be back in the spirit!


Tip: Find one of the Freshly Brewed Iced Tea stands. Only 4 coupons, and you get a refill for 2. Not bad tea, and you can mix between sweet and un-sweet. A real Fair bargain.

Dallas’ John Tesar, Danyele McPherson, and Joshua Valentine on Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle. Let the fur fly!

The Bravo details:


“… is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin.”

This is about to get crazy all up in here.

Mesa Veracruz Coastal Cuisine – Oak Cliff, Dallas

After a bit of recent social media chatter, I realized I had yet to visit Mesa Veracruz Coastal Cuisine on West Jefferson in Oak Cliff. My friend, Mesa neighbor Jim Richardson of Oak Cliff Cellars, suggested we run over there. Jim's wines will be featured on the new Mesa patio, and he is also planning some fun wine dinners with the Mesa folks.


Mesa strikes a pose on the bustling little strip of West Jefferson between Beckley and Zang – just a couple blocks from 35E.

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The Reyes family – with Olga and Raul in the kitchen, daughter Jaret front of the house and Raul Jr on the floor – radiate genuine enthusiasm for the cuisine and the guests. The rest of the staff is equally warm and helpful. Let's eat:

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^L: Surtido Veracruzano: enfijoladas, plantanos rellenos, empanada, picadas.
^R: Robalo and Gulf shrimp Ceviche. Nice.

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 ^L: Chilpachol de Jaiba y Camaron: spicy seafood broth with fresh crab, Gulf shrimp, dumplings, mussels. The broth was remarkable.
^R:  Sopa de Lentejas: lentil soup with pork ribs, plantains, tomato, boiled egg.

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^L: Costillas en Adobo: pork ribs in red chile and plantain sauce, jasmine rice.
^R: Huachinango ala Veracruzana: fillet of Gulf snapper sauteed with stewed onions, capers, olives, tomato, jalapeños, carrots. 

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^ and my destination dish, Mole Mama Cata: Chef Olga's unique mole with over 20 ingredients, recipe has passed down from her mother Catalina. Here with duck. Mole, Mole, Mole! Just divine.

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^L: Chocoflan Flan de Naranja; Tres Leches; Arroz con Leche.

We enjoyed both the meal and the convivial atmosphere this Friday night. I think they could use some support during the week as well – so head on over and enjoy this little "joya."
Mesa on Urbanspoon

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