Category Archives: Andrew Chalk

Neighborhood Italian Comes To Preston Center

cucinaby Andrew Chalk

If you want a reasonably-priced Italian meal or a bar that is great for people watching in Preston center check out Cucina Neighborhood Italian. The cozy spot has been open under its current ownership and culinary team since May and, although we reviewed their menu for the Restaurant Week period, we had not sampled the regular menu until now. At a media event this week we got the chance to get a comprehensive look at the regular menu and get a feel for the ambiance of the place.

First, you are going to find familiar red-sauce Italian comfort food on the menu here at prices that make it viable as a regular neighborhood spot for dinner. The lunch menu is an abbreviated version of dinner, with a ‘$10 lunch’ section that features a sandwich and/or salad with a drink. A kids menu makes it family friendly, and a Sunday brunch menu departs the Italian theme for what might be called ‘Eggs Benedict Mainstream’. The restaurant features a full bar and wine list.  Continue reading

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Dallas Chocolate Festival is September 13th

IMG_20140821_181000Rain McDermott, Founder and President of Dallas Caramel Company

by Andrew Chalk

This year is the 5th anniversary of The Dallas Chocolate Festival and it is bigger and better than ever. There will be over 30 craft chocolate makers at the event September 13th at the Addison Conference centre. Attendees can walk around sampling the products of chocolate makers and chocolatiers and take instructive classes throughout the day. Confirmed exhibitors include Barry Callebaut USA; Amano Artisan Chocolate; Valrhona; Tejas Chocolate; Taza Chocolate; Pacari Chocolate; Chocolates El Rey; Potomac Chocolate; Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Company; Sublime Chocolate; Chocolate Secrets; Wiseman House Chocolates; CocoAndré Chocolatier; Dr. Sue’s Chocolate; Nib Chocolates; Toffee Treats; Bark Chocolate; Dude, Sweet Chocolate; Goodies Texas; Kate Weiser Chocolate; Haute Sweets Patisserie; Dallas Caramel Company; Steel City Pops; Tarrant County College; Elegantly Chocolate; Spoon Bar and Kitchen/Knife; The Mansion; JK Chocolate, Kiskadee Chocolate; Srsly Chocolate and ChocoSutra. If you are serious about chocolate, the local producers in the list above are a who’s who of the best.

There is a special room rate at the within-walking-distance Intercontinental Hotel, Dallas for out of town visitors.    Continue reading

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Three Wine Finds

IMG_20140819_175926 by Andrew Chalk

1999 Artéis Champagne Brut ($50)

It is not often that one sees a Champagne this old and not for this price. But this newly introduced brand is the real thing. It introduces a new name into the Champagne market, Artéis and Co. which began distributing in the U.S. last fall. They now have four wines, this being the oldest.

This wine has a moderate yeastiness, long-lived bubbles and a vibrant acidity making it suitable for a wide range of food. The hardest thing may be getting it due to its small production. Currently Crave readers on one of their regular trips to a list that includes Colette in Paris, The Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood and Le Baron in New York as well as gastronomic destinations including Daniel in New York, Fig, FarmShop and Nikita in Los Angeles as well as Saison and La Folie in San Francisco.

Whoever is taking over from the inimitable Michael Flynn at the Mansion should give the U.S. importer a call and get some of this.   Continue reading

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Brian Zenner’s New Menu At Oak

 zennerby Andrew Chalk

Whither Oak? Consider the moves since its opening in December 2011 under execuchef Jason Maddy (culled from The Mansion) and sous chef Brian Zenner (also from The Mansion) . When the couple behind Oak, Richard and Tiffanee Ellman, decided to open the quirkily-named Belly and Trumpet in February 2013, Zenner was their man to be execuchef. However, for some reason he remained as sous at Oak until April. Then Thomas Gray took that position. At that point in time things sped up. Just a month later Maddy left Oak for unexplained health reasons. Gray improvised until July when Richard Gras was hired as the permanent replacement. Gras, whose background had mainly been at large luxury hotels, lasted a year at the relatively small Oak before moving back to Pier A in New York City. The Ellman’s immediately moved Zenner back as execuchef at Oak.

In addition, over the same period (August 2013), the Ellmans opened a modern Thai restaurant, Pakpao Thai, and suffered a split with the inaugural chef at that venture just six months later.   Continue reading

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Psst…The New Best Place For Your Big Event

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by Andrew Chalk
Which hotel will you use for your next wedding/charity fundraiser/corporate event? If you think it may not matter because of their similarity, and if you have already done the marvelous  Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field, then consider moving south….to the Dallas Zoo. I attended a 100 person meeting there recently at the Flamingo Room. That picture above is the view. There is a deck outside and the zoo is taking advantage of its biggest draw — the animals. They bring well-behaved ones out where guests can get up close. You won’t find that at the hotel you were thinking about.   Continue reading

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Join Parallel Restaurant Week Now

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by Andrew Chalk

Diners love the low price of the all-inclusive menus of restaurant week ($35 or $45) but hate the crowded dining rooms leading to slammed kitchens and fatigued serving staff. What if you could have all the pluses of restaurant week (RW) without the negatives?

One restaurant is offering pretty much that, as it opened too late to be included in the RW program. In fact, their special restaurant week menu (available through August 24th) is less than the price of  the official menu! Cucina Neighborhood Italian restaurant in Preston center (in the old Ocho/ Mi Piaci space) is offering three courses for just $25 – and that includes a glass of house wine! I attended a media event last week and can confirm it is a real bargain. The helpings were large enough that I took food home for lunch the next day. The appetizers were good. The main courses excellent. The desserts less memorable. The menu is available every evening right now. Overall, it was an excellent value and the experience comes Crave Recommended.    Continue reading

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Hendricks Search of the Perfect Botanical

View of areaby Andrew Chalk

If you have a successful and distinctive gin on the market, do you rest on your laurels? Is the recipe put to bed? Not if you are Hendrick’s, the family-owned distiller of the cucumber-rich spirit that is always the first to be recognized in blind tastings. They explore for new botanicals that stretch the limits of the definition of gin.   Continue reading

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