There are chefs that go on quietly about their business, executing great menus and revealing their talents, passion and a certain playfulness in their kitchens. Rodman Shields is such a chef. Recently, Shields accepted the position as executive chef and general manager of The Common Table in Uptown Dallas. This is the hot spot that serves up an superior selection of beer from around the world, and has always offered an excellent meal as a supplement.
Originally from Orlando, Executive Chef Rodman Shields was lured into the culinary world when his passion for this industry and for food was recognized at an early age watching his grandmother, a great cook of southern cuisine. Prior to college, Shields apprenticed at Interlachen under William Wolf, member of the 1994 Gold Medal winning Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg. Shields went on to study the culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina, one of the more respected halls for learned chefs.
Shields held numerous Executive Chef and Executive Sous Chef positions in Dallas Fort Worth including Executive Chef at Nick & Sam’s Steakhouse. Most recently Rodman has been working for Consolidated Restaurant Operations where his role included R&D and menu development for new concepts in addition to operational duties as Executive Chef at Cool River in Las Colinas.
We recently took Shield’s new brunch menu by storm, having sampled most everything you could possibly order on a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon. This required much skill, loose pants, and a requisite nap afterwards, but we were up for the task.
We began exactly as the menu suggested with the section titled “Start Here”. This included a playful, and ever-so-tender Fireball French Toast Sticks, served up with a side of Fireball Maple Syrup. This is a perfect brunch item worthy of sharing as the largish shards of pain pardu melded deliciously with the Fireball infused syrup. This item should be offered daily as a dessert, for I would surely order this on a regular basis. Other items on the starter menu included Three Little Pigs, which were pastry wrapped sausages, each different and made locally. We also enjoyed the cinnamon sweet donut holes, which were bodacious balls of sugary goodness.
Shield’s take on the poutine must be devoured quickly, as it is a cooperation of crinkle cut fries, cheese curds, brown gravy, with the addition of another layer of cheese by way of a smoked gouda sauce. Nibbling back later the dish was not nearly the man it was when first served hot. This is due to the nature of cheese, and the freshness of the smokey gouda sauce. Eat quickly my friends.
How many times have we extolled the virtues of the Monte Cristo sandwich? Not often enough, as a decent version is as rare as a DoDo sighting. When our table first perused the menu, it was in unison we all shouted “Monte Cristo” as if to stake claim on the sandwich. As it turned out, we decided to be diplomatic and share the beasty made of jalapeno Texas toast, layered with ham, turkey, Swiss and American cheeses. This baby is dipped in a batter then fried to its glory of browness, then crop dusted with a mess of confectioner’s sugar. A side of raspberry am is on the side, of course. Magnificently executed; deliciously demolished.
The Breakfast Schnitzel: A breaded pork schnitzel, crowned with twin fried eggs, candied bacon and brown butter. Thank you very much.
Other well played items include the BCT, which was simple enough but actually one of favorite items. This is grilled sourdough bread, sandwiched with fluffy scrambled eggs, cheddar and provolone, thick applewood smoked bacon, tomato wit a side of hash browns.The sandwich has that crisp, yet relenting outer layer, with a soft and inviting center of buttery goodness, and a sweet saltiness from the bacon. It is a symphony of flavor that is to be enjoyed slowly with a side of their house mimosa. This is brunch.
One item that chef Shields has carried with him in his cheffy toolkit is his 50/50 burger, which he continues to perfect. I have written about it before when he was at Cool River. I recall a text from Shields one afternoon saying that I needed to try this ridiculous burger he just made. It was every bit as good as he described. The patty is close to the same, made with 50% applewood smoked bacon and 50% fresh ground beef, but that is where the similarity to his previous version ends. The Common Table burger is bunned with a toasted English muffin (love this as a bun), glazed with beer cheese and garnished with a soft fried egg and tomato. This is burger brilliance.
Our brunching table was getting weary when the short rib hash arrived, but quickly perked when we had our first bite. Shredded braised short rib, spicy potatoes, peppers, onions, a fried egg (for good measure) and topped with a smoked gouda bechamel. You can imagine how appetizing this dish is.
We were not able to complete the entire menu, but did some room reconnaissance and scouted some good looking chicken and waffles, eggs Benedict and breakfast tacos.
The best part about brunch a Common Table is, nice completed you are able to sit back and enjoy one o the many games played on the sets across the bar an hunker down to the brilliant beer list. Common Table is good about allowing its guests to sample out the brews, allowing you to make a perfect selection. This is why they call it Sunday Funday.