Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Food Lover's Weekend In Dallas...Part 1

The next installment of A Food Lover’s Weekend In… takes us a few hours north of San Antonio to Dallas. All it took was a tank of gas and a four-hour drive up I-35 for us to enjoy a fun, food-filled weekend! Dallas is Texas’ third largest city and home to tons of great dining and entertainment. We both graduated from University of North Texas just north of Dallas, in Denton. We don’t make it back up as often as we’d like, so this trip was a fabulous way to explore some of the best food options in Dallas. Our home base for the first leg of our trip was the NYLO Dallas South Side. This modern urban loft hotel is located just south of Downtown Dallas, and it was a fantastic place to stay. The décor is modern, industrial and funky…and its location was very convenient to some of the best restaurants in the area. Most of the restaurants featured in this two-part travelogue are located within a 15-minute drive of the property.  

We arrived at the NYLO Dallas South Side as the Sun was setting on a warm Texas summer evening. We dropped our car with the friendly valet and went inside to check in. The front desk staff offered us chilled water to drink, quickly checked us in, and helped us get our bags onto a cart. As we looked around the spacious lobby area, we immediately knew that we weren’t in some standard cookie cutter hotel. There were tons of comfy, brightly colored chairs and sofas that were perfect for relaxing and people watching. Then we saw the colorful piano in the middle of the lobby that was worthy of Elton John! This is our kind of place: fun, funky and out-of-the ordinary.
We dropped our bags in our room and quickly freshened up for dinner at our first featured restaurant: DISH. DISH offers fun spins on traditional comfort food…served in a gorgeous modern, cosmopolitan setting. Chef Garreth Dickey warmly greeted us and chatted with us for a few minutes as we looked over the menu. We ordered a pair of cocktails and a trio of appetizers to share. We opted for the Tenderloin and Ribeye Chili, the Imperial Crab Dip and a Black Truffle and Smoked Trout Deviled Egg. The crab dip was creamy and packed with lump crab, perfect for spreading on the crispy lavash and endive. As much as we loved the crab dip and the deviled egg, that chili had us nearly doing cartwheels in the dining room! Made with beefy house-made chili and topped with a crunchy and cheesy Frito-infused crust, it was upscale comfort food at its best. Amazing!
Next came our entrees. I opted for the Oven Roasted Atlantic Salmon with Smooth Sweet Potato Puree, Avocado-Lump Crab Relish, Jalapeno Buerre Blanc and Fried Brussels. Yes, it tasted as amazing as it sounds! Michael decided to give the 18oz Ribeye alla Fiorentina with Cheese Crusted Whipped Potatoes a try. We also shared a side dish, the decadent Truffle-Bacon Fries. Both entrees were perfectly cooked and full of creative flavors and textures. I’m not normally a huge Burssels sprouts fan, but the roasted ones served on top of my perfectly cooked salmon brought a perfect earthy balance to the dish. 
Then…it was time for dessert. We tried the super-creamy Salted Caramel Pudding and what is one of the very best desserts we’ve ever enjoyed: Lemoncello Marinated Strawberries with Champagne Sorbet. This was dessert was utter perfection…sublime. Not only did it taste amazing, it was gorgeous! It was the perfect ending to an amazing meal.
We headed back to the NYLO to turn in for the night and noticed that the place was really jumping! Turns out the Dallas South location is a popular weekend hotspot for locals. The rooftop pool bar offers a great spot to enjoy cocktails and amazing nighttime Dallas skyline views. We went up for a few minutes…and quickly realized that our clubbing days are firmly in the past. We briefly admired the gorgeous skyline view and headed back to our room to chill out. The bed in our room was really comfy, and we loved the urban loft décor. 
We woke up the next morning and headed out for one of the best brunch locations in Dallas: Bolsa. Located in the Oak Cliff neighborhood, Bolsa offers a menu that focuses on local sustainable ingredients. The food we tried was simple, fresh and full of flavor. We started with a bowl of refreshing chilled tomato soup. We then shared a Twigs & Branch Flatbread that was suggested by the manager. The crisp crust was topped with creamy caprino chevre, peppery arugula and sweet roasted grapes. All of the components worked perfectly together in this really creative dish. For our entrees, I selected French Toast "Cakes" with Roasted Peaches. They were crispy outside and moist inside, and they paired nicely with the roasted peaches and a lovely vanilla-infused maple syrup. Michael tried the highly popular Brunch Burger. It came topped with a fried egg, sharp cheddar, lettuce and tomato...with some fabulous house-made chips on the side. It was indeed a very good burger.
It was my birthday that day, so we celebrated that evening with a fantastic dinner at Chef Stephen Pyles’s Texas food restaurant Stampede 66. The multi-course dinner was followed by a Texas-sized celebration dessert tasting at his eponymous Stephen Pyles just up the street. I’ll be featuring this experience next week for this month’s The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out feature, so make sure you come back by to read all about my amazing birthday soiree. Sneak preview: an over-the-top prickly pear-infused margarita prepared tableside with liquid nitrogen was involved! 

After another relaxing evening in our loft at the NYLO, we woke up Sunday morning and headed to one of the best fine-dining restaurants in Dallas for Sunday Brunch. The Mansion on Turtle Creek has long been considered one of the very best dining experiences in Dallas. Their Sunday Brunch is a fantastic way to sample their amazing food at a bit lower price point. For $49/person, you select a starter and entrée, along with a trip to a buffet of mini desserts that would make Willy Wonka proud! Not only that, you get to enjoy your brunch in a gorgeous setting. We arrived and were seated at a table overlooking the beautiful courtyard. We selected our starters while we enjoyed a mimosa. 
Michael selected their signature Mansion Tortilla Soup for his starter, while I opted to try the Vanilla Yogurt Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries and Mansion Granola. The soup is presented dramatically tableside, and it’s full of robust Southwest flavors. My panna cotta was like silk…topped with juicy berries and crunchy granola. For our entrees, Michael selected the Steak & Eggs, featuring Wagyu short rib, eggs, chimichurri and duck fat fries. I opted for the seafood route and had the Roasted Prawns with Ancho Grits, Chorizo Bolognese, Poached Egg and Whipped Avocado. We both thoroughly enjoyed our entrees! Mine combined rich egg, spicy sweet shrimp and earthy grits. Michael’s short rib was fork tender and paired perfectly with over-easy eggs and the rich duck fat fries. 
Then? It was time to visit the dessert buffet and pick out a variety of bite-sized treats. The selection was large and included pistachio financiers, lemon meringue tarts, macarons and other seasonal sweets. Because each one is only one or two bites big, it allowed us to enjoy numerous items...and a second trip to the buffet. Here’s how my plate looked after a visit to the dessert buffet.
We ended the first leg of our trip with a casual burger joint. Twisted Root Hamburger Company. They have 10 locations around the DFW Metroplex, but we opted to visit the original Deep Ellum location. Twisted Root offers what many consider to be the best burger in Dallas; after visiting, its easy to see why. The meat is juicy and flavorful, they offer a ton of great burger options, and the atmosphere is just plain fun! They offer traditional beef burgers, but they also offer more exotic options like venison, elk and kangaroo. When you enter, you walk up to the front and place your order. Then, you take a seat and wait for your order to be ready. Everything's cooked to order, but the wait isn't long at all. Hang tight...your patience will be rewarded!
We started with their signature appetizer: The Fried Ride. It contains fries, sweet potato chips, onion strings, fried pickles (it's a Southern thing!) and green beans. It comes in a huge basket, served with ranch and spicy chipotle ranch. Texans like our fried foods...and those green beans are downright addictive! Then came the burgers. Michael likes his food extra spicy, so he picked The Western: pepperjack, bacon, fried onion strings and jalapenos. I went for the equally flavorful, but less fiery Big Tex: cheddar, guac, fried onion strings and chipotle sauce. Both were excellent...and messy. To me, the hallmark of a good burger is how many napkins I need to properly enjoy it. These are pretty much 10-napkin burgers!
To cap off this burger bonanza, we selected two shakes for our dessert: S'mores (complete with toasted marshmallows!) and Oreo Cookie. Twisted Root's shakes are made with ice cream made in house, so they're the real deal! They are creamy and rich...and oh so good. Although you can order them to enjoy with your burger, I recommend having them for dessert so you can simply enjoy them solo. 
Our visit to Twisted Root capped off the first leg of our Dallas culinary adventures. Come back on Tuesday to read the second half of our Dallas restaurant tour. I'll be featuring our stay at another great NYLO hotel, a fantastic bakery in our college town, Tex-Mex and margaritas at El Fenix...and our first visit to In 'n Out Burger. 

Disclosure: NYLO Hotels provided us with hosted accommodations while we were in Dallas. The restaurants featured provided us with meals to facilitate inclusion in this article. All opinions expressed are my own, and all photographs are copyright Michael K. Garcia. They may not be copied or otherwise used without express prior permission.

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