by Steven Doyle photos by Robert Bostick
Celebrating the storming of the Bastille in France 222 years ago yesterday causes us now to think of crepes, silly tunes played on an accordion, wispy thin mustaches and mussels. In the case of the celebration yesterday in Oak Cliff’s hipster Bishop Arts District thoughts fell on the latter with seven heavy-weight local chefs standing toque-to-toque in the third annual rocking mussel contest.
With music blaring through the streets, crowds gathered to challenge the heat, play games, drink wine and sample what the chefs brought to the table.
As a judge for the contest I could not tell you who made what dish of mussels, but knowing the styles of each chef I had a fairly good clue and so did many of the other judges that included Nanci Taylor from Edible Dallas-Forth Worth, Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Observer and Christopher Wynne from the Dallas Morning News (there were actually as many judges as their were entries).
There were three rounds and most chefs prepared a different style of mussels for each round. A few were obvious, and well received. Marc Cassel undoubtedly offered his Green Room Mussels that he also made famous during his stint at Park (along with pal chef Garreth Dickey who was the more recent helmsman at the Henderson Avenue restaurant that just closed a few weeks ago). The tell-tale shards of ginger, slivers of jalapeno and savory shiitake mushrooms bathed the bivalves, and it was good to taste this version once again.
As the merry gatherers danced through the streets sampling wine from each shop that lined the city block on Bishop near Davis, they smiled passing by our assigned table – offering advice on which mussel they enjoyed the most.
Other chefs flexing their mussels included Tim Byres from Smoke, John Tesar from Commissary, Tony Gardizi from Decanter, Scott Romano from Charlie Palmers, Matt McCallister and David Anthony Temple.
Trudging through the many platefuls of mussels was an enjoyable task, but certainly arduous. At the end of the evening there seemed to be a clear cut winner and Matt McCallister (assisted by Maple & Motor’s Jack Perkins) took home the prize and was pronounced this years winner. Coming in a close second was Scott Romano. We are not exactly sure which versions the chefs created since it was a blind tasting, but we can say that all the mussels were pretty spectacular.
Thank you Bishop Arts for a really nice party, and special thanks to Eno’s and Calais who kept the judges in great beer and wine all evening. See you next year.