Texas tastes

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Jul 19, 2016.

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Met lili at SFO to start another excellent adventure
    centering on the wonderful world of beef.

    The Centurion Lounge is in the United terminal, and
    we were flying American, so this involved an extra
    security, which on this occasion set us back no more
    than 5 minutes.

    The main course offering of Cedric Vongerichten, who
    I figure to be some sort of offspring of some famous
    guy, was braised beef with parsnip puree: at least it
    wasn't called short rib, but it was chucky and fatty
    enough to merit that name. I scooped up several of
    the fattier pieces from the buffet, saving the less
    desirable lean bits for those that appreciate them.
    The meat was quite good and the parsnip quite sweet.

    A side of cannellini in tomato sauce did not impress,
    and I didn't bother with the rest of the vegetative

    Vanilla panna cotta with lemon glaze and cardamom
    crumbs was just fine, especially with the house
    pour Remy 1738.

    In San Fran, there's a wine tasting opportunity -
    they give you a coupon good for 5 free 1-oz pours
    of midrange wines out of a machine in addition to
    the stuff they pour at the bar. The thing to remember
    is that you have to wait a decent interval before
    requesting a second pour of the same wine, otherwise
    the machine will take away one of your pours, this
    presumably to prevent greedy piggies such as myself
    from requesting multiple shots of a preferred wine.

    lili didn't want to mess with the rigmarole so got
    a glass of Hill Estate Merlot, which is perfectly
    okay but not as much fun ... so I got her a couple
    double shots of Pinot Noir and a single of Merlot.

    The Artesa was my recommendation, and it was of a
    good standard, plummy and ripe with a bit of that
    waxy Napa quality that I think is okay in a Cab
    but not so much in a Pinot. lili liked it better
    than the Ceja, which was thin and rather brothy, or
    I guess fans would call it "elegant."

    Farallon Merlot, a brand I know nothing of, was
    uninteresting to both of us.
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  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    AA 259 SFO DFW 1359 1935 32B 1DF

    The catering didn't look or smell too interesting
    so we passed on the meal that was offered. All I
    recall is that both choices had chicken.

    the seats weren't great - better than the 738 seats,
    anyone's, but not as comfortable as United's 320 seats
    used to be.

    We landed on time, not substantially early, so there
    was no chance of getting barbecue - Meat U Anywhere,
    terrible name but apparently very good meat, closed at
    1930 and Bartley's at 2000.

    If we'd had unbelievably swift service at the rental
    agency and didn't get lost, we might have had a fighting
    chance of making closing time at Bartley's; but neither
    of these obtained. Service was friendly enough at Avis,
    so lili got lulled into buying the gas in the tank at
    2.05 (looked like a great deal to her, because in
    California it costs maybe 50c more, so if we returned
    the car 4/5 empty we'd make out at those prices).
    Spoiler: Avis won, but not by more than $5.

    Anyhow, we somehow got on the tollway, which is a bad
    thing for rental cars. I paid the toll with my credit
    card. Secret: the tollways in this part of Texas have
    service roads, which are free. Secret #2: they cheat you.
    We eventually got retro-billed $17 for toll roads that
    we didn't take. I guess it should not be an amazing
    secret that Texas cheats.

    I was not particularly hungry, but lili needed to eat
    something - she eats on a schedule rather than if she
    is hungry, and it's a minor miracle she's not fat.
    Actually, she eats relatively little but three times a
    day. There's a Mexican place not too far from the airport
    and sort of on the way to our hotel, called Mi Dia from
    Scratch, Mi Dia for short. She was cranky because it
    was feeding time, and I was cranky because whatever
    nasty crap the airline offered it couldn't be nastier
    (especially for me) than the fare at a Tex-Mex
    restaurant, even one that gets decent notices.

    I was kind of relieved when the hostess quoted a
    20-minute wait, but out of politeness or self-preservation
    I asked about sitting at the bar, to which the answer was
    first come, first served, which was welcome news for
    her if not so much for me.

    The bartendress was pleasant but on the short side.

    lili ordered a combo plate with a number on it - came
    as a cheese enchilada, rather bland, standard, a beef
    taco with not so much beef in it, standard, rather bland.
    Decent beans and tomato rice that was astonishing in its
    chemically badness. An overyoung Punto Final Malbec from
    Perdriel in the Mendoza was attractively fruity with a
    touch of oak; good with the food, of which lili ate most
    of her serving, except for that nasty rice.

    I stuck with booze.

    The height of our server became relevant because of the
    multi-tiered beverage storage system. I ordered a flight
    of what I thought would be ordinary tequila selections,
    all from Cazadores, the agave distillery associated with
    the Bacardi company. She had to go and find another
    staffer who was tall enough to get the higher-shelf
    liquors, which took a few extra minutes, as even he
    had to clamber up on the counter to get them.

    The Blanco was water-clear, with a mild agave aroma,
    quite smooth, almost wimpy. Sweetish. None of these had
    a burn to speak of going down except when drunk in
    conjunction with a mouthful of the chips and salsa.

    Reposado didn't seem as complex as I'd hoped - it was
    almost the twin of the blanco, and in retrospect there
    might have been a mild flim-flam in the semi-darkness.

    The Anejo had a little color and a little oaky aroma;
    it was still sweet, but that was muted, and it seemed
    more herbal flavor. Also a better finish.

    So we ended up reasonably satisfied for not too
    awfully much money and continued eastward in the
    fading light to the Hampton Inn Dallas-Addison, which
    awaited us. This hotel gets great reviews on the net
    for its friendliness, but the desk guy on a weekday
    evening was taciturn to the point of coma. Not a big
    deal, he did his job and sent us expeditiously on
    our way.

    A perfectly ordinary room on the HHonors level.
    Comfy beds.
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  3. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Meshack Bar-b-que Shack, Garland

    This is supposed to be one of the hidden gems, and by
    the time we got there at 11:30ish, there was a sizable
    line. One of the few places with a mixed-age and mixed-race
    clientele (the staff are all black). It's really a shack.

    We waited for a while to place our order and then a good
    deal longer to get our food. The waiting area is a bunch
    of logs in the sun next to the building.

    I asked for a Diet Pepsi for lili and was told "we don't
    have anything diet," which gave me a chuckle, and I would
    have high-fived the order-taker if she hadn't been behind
    a hold-up-resistant screen. Regular Pepsi and regular Dr.
    Pepper it was, then.

    When the food came, the brisket erred on the lean side,
    though there were a few promising streaks of intramuscular
    fat. It was rather firm; good smoke. By a good margin the
    least good of the briskets we had, but still acceptable.

    Ribs were very salty, shrivelled, and seemed to have
    been exposed to too much heat. The hot sauce, a vinegar
    and tomato thing that was actually very tangy and a bit
    hot, was needed to redeem both the meats, but I took most
    of the ribs back for a rainy day - they sat around for I
    believe three days before being consumed, and like the
    famed McDonalds food they hadn't changed a bit.

    Our next stop was the newish Plano outlet of Lockhart
    Smokehouse, which many deem better than the original in
    downtown Dallas, which many see as reason not to have
    to drive to Lockhart any more.

    Free 4-hour parking downtown, but please note that
    it's just a couple blocks from the Dallas light rail.

    It's a nondescript storefront with a bar in front and
    the pit in back. Seating was not generous bot adequate
    for a weekday midday - I don't know, maybe 40 tops.

    I recognized the meat cutter from the Internet photos
    of the original place.

    A bit of a line, despite its being just after the noon
    rush. Worth it for the beautiful moist brisket - good
    bark, perfectly seasoned, not quite as balanced as the
    meat at, say, Franklin or Snow's, but, guess what, I
    liked it better, because it was fattier. I could eat
    this all day every day. Just to try, I also got a
    perfectly moist rib that had a sweetish rub, almost
    like char siu but in a good way.

    The people in front of me had gotten vast quantities
    of mac and cheese, so I decided to take a flyer and
    get a pint (I had my pills with me). The stuff was
    almost as much cheese as mac, and the infantile appeal,
    considerable on its own, was multiplied tenfold by a
    lot of dice of jalapeno stirred in.

    Sauce here: meh, but you don't need sauce.

    Great selection of brewskis.

    I'm already making plans for my next visit, as I can
    get here easily from the airport (it'll take over an
    hour, but it'll be worth it).

    Next stop - Hutchins in McKinney, a bit north of the
    city, in what was terra incognita for me.

    McKinney is another jumper onto the cute Texas historic
    town bandwagon. We parked by the courthouse and checked
    it out - I thought there was nothing that particularly
    stood out; maybe if you wanted a lazy weekend where you
    got soaked by hipster-friendly wine bars and bakeries,
    it would be a good hideaway. Hutchins is a mile or two
    out of town and seems to have cultivated the ramshackle
    Q joint atmosphere, not that that's a bad thing. It
    looks like Black's inside, but the meat isn't nearly
    so enticing. We had a decent semi-moist brisket that
    was nothing to write home about, and when I asked for
    one rib, the counter guy cut me three small rib ends,
    saying that was to make it up to a quarter pound. Well,
    it was more like half a pound, but they charged me for
    a quarter. The ribs were a bit chewy, though smoky
    enough, and they suffered the same shelving as
    Meshack's had.

    A condiment bar, which was fine; a couple flavors of
    sauce, none of which did any favors to the meat.

    Soft drinks only.

    Back at the hotel a bottle of Stump Jump 12, a Rhone blend
    from d'Arenberg that I scorned when in Adelaide but that
    seemed like nectar of the gods in the middle of Texas.
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  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    A lot of our eating was at the Hampton, because it was
    cheap free. Sausage gravy with not that much
    sausage in it, premade Western omelets, waffles from
    a pair of waffle machines that had been abused by
    generations of HHonors members who had been unable to
    read. We figured, heck, a big free meal, we need only
    one or two regular ones later, and not too big ones
    at that, a concern as we are entering budget phases
    of our lives.

    As we had been conned into getting the "return it empty"
    option, we decided to give Fort Worth a look.

    The Interstate is a mess, being under reconstruction
    from what appears to be ground up, and we got lost
    a lot, spending half an hour going in circles being
    berated by the GPS when we didn't turn off onto a
    series of torn-down exits. But what we saw was worth
    the hassle.

    The Kimbell Art Museum has to be one of the greats
    anywhere for its architecture alone. Designed by
    the famed nutcase Louis Kahn, the older building
    is a self-indulgent gem and I'm not so sure suited
    to the display of art (rather to the genius of the
    architect), and the new building, by Renzo Piano,
    is made to reflect the qualities of the old one.

    The art itself, nothing much, just some of the
    greatest Picassos, a smattering of Impressionists,
    typical works of the first-rate artists from the
    last two thousand, maybe three, years, nothing
    that you'd see in the books, oh, yeah, Michelangelo's
    first painting, which might appear in the books, and
    Cranach's Judgment of Paris, and Hals's self-portrait
    as a drunken party entertainer, and, well, maybe not
    nothing much, I take it back. Them Texans were rich.

    Nothing like a day at the museum to get one's appetite
    up, so we decided to give Longoria's a try. This is
    a bit south of town in an area relatively untouched by
    backhoes and earth movers, so we found it easily.

    I forget what we'd had before to take away our appetite,
    but we just got a fatty brisket sandwich, which was
    moderately smoky but erred on the lean side. It was
    enough meat, but I bought an appetizing-looking slice
    of pound cake, which turned out dryish but still of a
    fairly nice texture; the flavors were muddled, a little
    of this and a little of that - lemon, almond, vanilla.

    The help were extremely friendly. Soft drinks only.

    As I'd done my couple days, it was lili's turn to get
    her stays in, so we moved over to the Meridien by the
    Galleria, which looks to me to be a former Embassy
    Suites or maybe Hyatt. It's pretty well kept up, and
    we got a suite that put my offering to shame. Points
    in favor.

    Instead of supper, we decided to eat leftovers and
    have drinks at the bar.

    The bartender was entertaining and kind of friendly
    in a superannuated surfer dude type of way (though
    he said he was from and always lived in Texas). He
    made a mean margarita out of a mix and poured a big
    glass of Velvet Devil 2011 Merlot (pretty decent,
    the wine of the week, good fruit and not overtly
    sweety disgusting). One good thing he did, though, was
    put us over the edge on whether to go to Cattleack,
    which he reminded us was just two miles away and
    served only on Thursday and Friday, being a caterer
    the rest of the week. He waxed superenthusiastic,
    and we decided to take his recommendation - it had
    been one of half a dozen possibilities for next day.
  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Cattleack. We'd heard stories about how the line
    starts half an hour before opening, and when something
    is out, it's out, so we showed up half an hour before
    opening, and there were maybe half a dozen people
    milling around, so we took a seat and let the folks
    congregate. A few pulled up in front of us, which given
    the relatively sparse crowd wasn't a big deal; a couple
    carefully made sure they stayed behind us, which I
    figure was somewhat nicer but by no means necessary.

    At the appointed time the rather cute wife of the owner
    sounded the chow call, and we got in line in the
    delightfully smoky restaurant.

    I got a half pound of moist brisket, a sausage link, a
    rib, and a quarter pound of the special beef cheek
    pastrami (1/3 lb maximum order).

    The brisket was great. The fat was not quite as soft
    as I'd have liked, but the flavor was terrific,
    balanced smoke, not too salty.

    Sausage perfect, with a good casing snap. i decided to
    save most of it for later, figuring it would reheat
    okay, which it did.

    The rib was a tad chewy and had that sweet-salty rub
    that seems to be popular here, but it had enough
    internal fat that it was quite decent, actually,
    reminding one of what you'd get in the better sort
    of Chinese restaurant. By the way, this trip was
    the first in which I gave in to the 21st century
    and gotten a variety of ribs - when I lived in
    Texas half a century ago, I don't think that
    they grew pigs in the state, and they certainly
    didn't smoke them.

    The beef cheek pastrami is supposedly their pride
    and joy. It had an enticingly gelatinous texture
    (lili went eww) and wonderful moisture. It was
    also almost too salty and peppery to eat; good
    smoke flavor, though. So I saved most of it for
    nibbles later. Guess what. Cold the gelatin
    solidifies and the texture is of rubber erasers,
    no longer enticing at all. A spell in the nuke at
    half power helps but not completely.

    Note 1. This was along with Pecan Lodge the most
    expensive meat we had, with prices going up to
    $22.95/lb (1/3 lb maximum) for the beef cheek

    Note 2. On the other hand, as the place doesn't
    have a license, there's a cooler of beers out
    front with a sign that says one per person, help
    yourself. I got a Lone Star to see if it's as
    nasty as I recall it having been four to five
    decades ago - it is - and a Shiner Bock for lili.
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  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    The Dallas Museum of Art - a whole day trip, pretty
    much. Not better than its Kimbell rival, but
    certainly its equal, with much more volume but
    maybe not as cherry-picked. An eccentric and
    confusing layout, which is reflected in its
    eccentric and confusing Website. I'll come back,
    especially as it's a quick DART ride from there
    to the

    Pecan Lodge, where we arrived in the late afternoon
    on a day when they are open for dinner, so we got
    fresh new food with hardly a wait at all.

    There's not much I can say about this restaurant
    except that it's now a restaurant - a lot of the
    mentions on the Internet say it's a food stall in
    a farmer's market type arrangement, but it's moved,
    even though Google Maps doesn't think so. The food
    is of an exceedingly high standard, but what I had
    was in fact standard. Of course, there are weird
    things on the menu, but I didn't get any of them
    (e.g. a loaded baked sweet potato with barbecue
    on top). Oh, yeah, a very important thing to say
    - you can bypass the line if you go to the bar
    and have a drink and ask the bartender to order
    food for you.

    We split a plate of moist brisket, superb, perhaps
    worth its position in the Texas Monthly top 4 along
    with Franklin and Snow's (which I do prefer) and
    Louie Mueller's (which I don't, though it is very
    good, as good perhaps as the brisket made by
    other Mueller people).

    The ribs were good but not as good, an afterthought,
    in my opinion overbrined but tasty enough.

    We also got an unadvertisedly spicy (tiny dice of
    jalapeno) red cabbage slaw which I liked pretty well.

    The Stone Rose Cabernet had a tart edge and went well
    with the brisket. Kind of expensive for an off-brand
    wine that I thought from the name to be a local
    product (it turns out really to be from Napa).

    For me, the chocolaty spicy Tupps Tuppkin porter,
    which went well enough with the meal that I had a
    couple, despite my general dislike of spiced beers
    (nutmeg advertised in this one, but luckily not so
    much in evidence).

    Followed by the more typical Peticolas Golden
    Opportunity a German-style pilsner that is claimed
    to be a Kolsch. A bit grainy tasting for the style,
    almost as though it were trying to straddle the
    American and German styles. Good to wash down the
    peppers in the slaw.
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  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    End of trip.

    Bartley's, in Grapevine not far from the airport,
    was our last stop. We split a plate -

    moist brisket was very moist, good marbling, but
    not much of a ring, and the bark wilted by sitting on
    the steam table: the flavor was quite good;

    ribs were fattyish and not all that well trimmed, which
    might put some off, but I enjoyed them; they were not of
    the absolute freshest, and I could detect a slight edge
    of that weird fishiness that not-greatest pork gets just
    before it starts to go slimy. The counter man gave us an
    extra rib, so I guess they hadn't been selling as well
    as they'd expected.

    There were turnip greens on the sides table. lili
    thought they were okra (who has the defective eyesight?)
    and I thought they were collards. I got myself a big
    serving with lots of extra pot likker. These had been
    cooked with a ham bone and were very good.

    Fried okra were way too irregular to be a factory
    product - they were excellent, the corn coating tasting
    like hushpuppy of the best sort, the bigger pieces
    very okra-y and green slimy in a good sense, the small
    pieces crunchy and greasy in the good sense.

    lili wanted cowboy beans, which came as small brown
    beans cooked almost to explosion in a cuminy gravy.
    Quite moreish.

    This is a BYOB place (big sign out front), and our
    bring was the Baritone Maxim Shiraz Cab 13, a decent
    Australian blend mostly I believe from the Barossa,
    slightly acid but with pleasant spice and bite, good
    with barbecue.

    We dawdled a bit and got slightly lost (the Google
    Maps lady gets confused with several parallel roads
    in close proximity, and the construction information
    is by no means up to date) and so returned the car
    with mere minutes to spare.

    PreCheck was quite speedy despite there being lots
    of infrequent flyers in the lane (how does this
    happen?), so we had over an hour at the slightly
    elitist and pseudo-posh Centurion Lounge to savor
    Remy 1738 and various Dean Fearing oddities of which
    blackened asparagus was the nicest. There was a rather
    fishy brown sausage and shrimp gumbo over overcooked
    Texmati rice and sage-roasted chicken thighs with
    caramelized onions that might have been a good idea
    but lost a considerable bit in the execution - the
    meat tasted like boiled chicken, but it had hard
    dried out edges. Desserts looked dreadful, so I
    stuck with Cognac.

    UA 510 DFW IAH 1706 1820 320 2E

    A nothing but strangely elite-heavy flight, and I was
    lucky to get the last front seat and happy that it was
    a good one. A half hour flight, and there was plenty
    of time to enjoy Pappadeaux or the club; I chose the
    latter because it was free.

    UA1953 IAH BOS 1930 0019 739 3F

    The flight attendant announced a choice of beef
    provincial or garlicky shrimp with cheese grits. I
    said I'd take either, being distrustful of both
    provincial and cheese grits.

    The beef turned out to be a stewed concoction in
    a tomato-scented but not flavored sweetish extremely
    salty brown gravy with crushed olives, vaguely in a
    southern French (provincial, get it?) style, with
    carrot, celery, and potato bits on the side. It
    could be eaten, if one left the gravy behind, but
    even so I blew up like a balloon shortly afterward
    from the sodium.

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