Zach told us that after the exhausting but gratifying class at Central Market he was planning a low key dinner at Smoke, the place where his brother always requests to go on his visits to Dallas (and which we will now as well). Exec chef Tim Byres makes the best pulled pork and coleslaw with blue cheese ever and I've tasted many! It was deliciously smoky. His margarita, made with smoky tequila, was also one of the best. And you can see from this plate that his key lime pie was also not bad. Most unfortunately, Woody couldn't take the next day off, so the next surprise treat was just for me. Zach took me for lunch to a restaurant called Rise, which specializes in soufflés. And he told me that owner Hedda Dowd, was eager to meet me because she had washed dishes for me 25 years ago when I came to Dallas on tour with the Cake Bible and did a demo where she worked at Sur la Table. Her partner, executive chef Cherif Brahmi, was originally from Lyon and we knew so many people in common we sat and talked to them for a good hour in addition to eating some amazingly original and tasty food. The decor, by the way, was equally amazing such as this chandelier made of wine bottles and the large metal domes designed by chef Cherif to minimize the sound of the electric mixers when continuously beating the egg whites for the soufflés. We started with the Artichoke Andrée with their famous lemon vinaigrette, a family recipe from Hedda, in the hollowed center. Next was the very popular marshmallow soup. No, not sugary marshmallows but don't they resemble them?! They're made of goat cheese, and float atop a base of tomato and carrots. For my main course I couldn't resist the escargot soufflé which was beyond fabulous! The snails in garlic butter were nestled in their little cup depressions and covered with puff clouds of flavorful soufflé batter. Hedda most generously comped our entire meal, gave me their cookbook (Rise to the Occasion, Pelican 2011), and invited me to come back when our next book comes out for a book signing at the restaurant (yes!) I told Hedda that I was next heading for a shopping expedition to find a replacement for my outgrown Luchese boots and they both directed me instead to a nearby place called Romano's that make boots to order. So mid April I should be receiving my handmade pair of cowboy boots made with a skin called pin ostrich brandy.
I couldn't imagine eating another thing that day except that dinner was the grand finale and just before dinner, Zach planned to take me to a special event hosting the famed, personality par excellence chocolatier Michael Ricchiuti who was at Central Market that day with his chocolate line for Valentine's Day. He and I have exchanged so hilarious emails over the years and I was thrilled to get to meet him in person. Of course I also had to sample his chocolate which is one of my top favorites and I plan to visit his new café in San Francisco in April when I'm there for the IACP conference. On to dinner at Abacus where Zach's good friend, executive pastry chef Rick Griggs www.rickgriggs.com (joined and treated us) for an haute cuisine dinner, starting with an exquisite gin and lemon cocktail and ending with an endless array of what was probably every one of his desserts on the menu! Quel bonheur. I can never resist short ribs so that was my main course We were too busy eating all the desserts to stop and photograph all but a few.
Old friends, now new friends as well, we were three happy camper chefs! The morning of my departure, glorious host that he is, Zach woke up extra early to make me biscuits and I broke my rule of not eating breakfast to enjoy one of the best biscuits ever. Another two followed me home in my carryon. I fell in love with Dallas/Fort Worth on my last trip when I taught at Judie Byrd's cooking school but seems with each trip I love it all the more and look forward to our return.