Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Food Lover's Weekend In Dallas...Part 2

It's time for the second installment in our most recent culinary travelogue, A Food Lover's Weekend In Dallas. Our trip continued with a change in venue to a different NYLO Hotels property in Plano, located in the northern part of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex. The NYLO Plano Legacy features the same urban industrial style that we enjoyed at NYLO Dallas South Side, with a slightly more laidback vibe. Since the second leg of our trip featured several locations in the northern part of the area, this was a perfect home base. We arrived, walked through the vibrant orange door and were immediately impressed with the look of the building and the decor in the lobby. The friendly front desk staff welcomed us and quickly checked us in. We admired the soothing, sophisticated decor as we walked to the elevator.
We got to our room and discovered that we had been placed in a huge suite complete with a living room, a semi-private outdoor courtyard, a large bedroom and a wet bar. Management welcomed us with a chilled bottle of champagne and fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies...what a nice touch! The comfy queen size bed had huge windows that provided gorgeous nighttime views. To say we loved this spacious suite would be an understatement.
Photo provided by In-n-Out Burger
After we settled in for a bit, we decided to venture out for a casual dinner. Dallas is the first city in Texas to have In-n-Out Burger, so we simply had to try it out so we could see what all the fuss was about. In-n-Out lovers are a loyal bunch, so we headed out to initiate ourselves! When we arrived, the manager suggested that we try the Animal Style Double-Double. Animal Style is part of In-n-Out's not-so-secret menu and features two mustard-cooked burger patties, two slices of American cheese, lettuce, tomato, spread, pickles and grilled onions. The combo was served with fresh-made fries and a rich, creamy shake. 
Photo provided by In-n-Out Burger
We were immediately impressed with the quality of the ingredients used in these burgers! The manager explained that since they're focused on a few items -- burgers, fries and shakes -- they use the best ingredients possible. We were surprised to learn that you'll never find a microwave, freezer or heat lamp in an In-n-Out Burger...and that they hand-cut their fries in each store to ensure they're fresh and cooked golden brown. I can vouch for the quality of their food. Our burger was juicy and flavorful, the fries were perfectly crisp, and our strawberry shake was made with real ice cream. We're now In-n-Out converts and can't wait for the Austin location to open later this year! 

We woke up early the next morning and headed north of Dallas to Denton, home of our alma mater The University of North Texas. We wanted to feature one of our favorite bakeries, which we've been visiting since the late 1980s. Candy Haven is a Denton institution, and we make a point of stopping in for a cupcake or sweet confection anytime we're visiting campus. 

Candy Haven is a family-owned bakery that's been in business for 30 years. When we were in college, they were located in a small strip center. Since then, they've expanded to a large bakery on the freeway just up the street from the UNT campus. They offer custom cakes, gourmet cupcakes, cookies, hand-made candy...and now they even offer delicious sausage kolaches. We stopped by during our trip for a tasting of some of their sausage kolaches and signature cake flavors. We were quite literally like kids in a candy store!
After admiring all the goodies in the display case, we enjoyed a cake tasting featuring all of Candy Haven's cake, icing and filling flavors. We sampled strawberry, red velvet, chocolate, German chocolate, white chocolate, yellow, marble, and butter rum cakes. The cake pieces were paired with white butter cream cream cheese, chocolate cream and fudge icing. The fillings included dulce de leche, pineapple, fudge, bavarian cream, lemon, strawberry and raspberry.  
We had a fabulous time mixing and matching different combinations of cake, icing and fillings. When the owner heard that Michael's favorite cake is German chocolate, she disappeared momentarily and came back with a cup of their amazing coconut-pecan icing so we could give it a try. Heaven! Needless to say, Michael has requested a Candy Haven German chocolate cake for his birthday cake this year. We left with a fabulous cake that Candy Haven baked and decorated in honor of The Weekend Gourmet's third blog anniversary. As you can see from this picture I posted on Instagram, it was absolutely gorgeous!

The final culinary destination of our trip was a visit to a North Texas landmark, the original location of El Fenix in Downtown Dallas. The restaurant started in 1918 and has since expanded to 20+ locations in the North Texas area. If you're looking for great Tex-Mex, this is the place. They're one of the early pioneers of this delicious cuisine, and they do it right! We arrived just as the dinner rush was starting, and we were warmly greeted and quickly seated in the charming dining room. We decided to start out with a couple of cocktails and some appetizers. We quickly settled on a berry mojito and a margarita, along with some guacamole, queso, picante sauce and chips.
The margarita was the bomb! In fact, it's been named best margarita in Dallas for three years running by D magazine. We agreed it was the best traditional margarita that either of us has ever tasted, the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. It paired perfectly with the creamy guacamole, cheesy queso and perfectly fried tortilla chips. It was a great start to our meal! Before we knew it, our entrees arrived. I chose the Puebla Plate, which featured one cheese enchilada, one sour cream chicken enchilada and a soft cheese taco topped with more of the delicious queso. Served with rice and beans, it was the perfect combination plate for an enchilada lover!
Michael is a fajita lover, so he decided to try their Beef Fajitas Rancheras. They came served with grilled onions, bell peppers and tomatoes. They were juicy and cooked perfectly, and the veggies complimented them very nicely. The fajitas were served with fresh handmade flour tortillas, guacamole, sour cream cheese, and pico de gallo for making personalized tacos. 
We left El Fenix with full bellies and big can't ask for much more than that. After a fabulous Tex-Mex feast, we headed back to our suite at the NYLO Plano Legacy. We hung out on our semi-private outdoor sitting area. We shared it with one other suite, but we had it to ourselves that night. We enjoyed the nighttime view and had a nice relaxing evening. It was the perfect ending to our Dallas culinary weekend.

Disclosure: NYLO Hotels provided us with hosted accommodations to facilitate inclusion in this article. The bakery and restaurants that we featured provided us with complimentary meals as well. All opinions expressed are my own, and we receive no additional compensation. Unless otherwise noted, photographs are copyright Michael K. Garcia. They may not be copied or otherwise used without prior permission.

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