by Lee Jamison
What a perfect weekend for Park and Palate. This sequel to last year’s debut fundraiser benefiting Klyde Warren Park, both Friday and Saturday – and no wonder. The weather was that perfect mix of clear skies and bright sun, with the occasional crisp breeze hinting at Fall.
The cuisine and cocktail offerings featured at Saturday’s Grand Taste followed the weather’s lead. Some chefs featured warm -weather staples, like shrimp, tacos, tostados, and barbeque, spritzy, citrus-forward drinks. Others opted for root veggies, soups, and gorgeous gourds®, or bourbon and bitter-forward spirits.
Our end of Summer favorite food and spirits included:
CBD Provisions’ (at the Joule) poached pickled shrimp salad, from Junior Borges and Richard Blankenship. The acid of the vinegar solution offered such a crisp, bright flavor, with carrots, red onion, and cilantro creating a colorful plating.
Another pickled shrimp dish, Jason Dady (San Antonio restauranteur) complimented his by adding avocado mouse, a Japanese mayonnaise, toasted cumin oil, and Thai basil. Chelsea and Jenny announced that its “flavor was out of bounds!
John Tesar’s (Knife) “street tacos” live on a much fancier street than mine. He marinated his swordfish in white wine, olive oil, white wine, and lime juice, before roasting it whole. Watching him expertly slice delicious morsels off that mound and carefully prepare each taco by hand explains the delicate layers of flakey flavor, enhanced by jalapeno crema. We overheard Chef discussing this season of Top Chef (premiering December 1), promising the best season yet. Get excited!
Whole Foods’ Executive Chef Jose Perez, and Sous Chefs R. Trevino and Brandon McGee concocted our other favorite shrimp offering of the day, with their take on shrimp ‘n’ grits. When asked who was primarily responsible for the recipe, McGee chimed, “All of us. The whole team,” cheerfully grabbing hands with Trevino and singing “Kum Ba Yah.”*
Adorable camaraderie aside, I wish someone would tell me whose idea the spicy sausage link was, because that teammate is a damn GENIUS.
Speaking of grits, Savor Gastropub’s cheddar grits supported chef Matt Hanck’s espresso-rubbed pork brisket heartily, while his “Napa cole slaw” with peaches, sweet corn, and radish complimented with sweetness, crunch, and color.
Mixtli Progressive Mexican Culinaria is all about educating new audiences by exploring the foods of all 31 states of Mexico, so it’s no surprise their concept traveled so well from San Antonio. “We want to protect and preserve Mexican cuisine,” chef Rico Torres explained. Nothing was “lost in translation” with the dish he and Chef Diego Galicia created: braised octopus on a squid ink tostada, red wine aioli, avocado mouse, radishes, greens dressed in a lemon avocado oil, then we hit it all with smoked chilis and cacao. Are they planning on a DFW location anytime soon? “Not yet — we are still expanding the empire in San Antonio!”
Summer sweet: Whole Foods’ mascarpone gelato mini cones. Bonus: You could finish the whole thing in one bite and pretend it never happened. I actually heard one girl cooing over it like it was a baby. Adorablicious.
Cocktails (there were so many great ones!):
Location, location, location…
Michael Martensen’s bar was the first opportunity upon entering the park. I loved that he chose an Aperol spritz, the traditional Italian aperitif, to set the tone. Light and refreshing, it amused my bouche.
After a twenty-minute wait, I understood how Fairmont Tastemaker Nader Chabaane’s Absolut Elyx basil smash earned the insane queue haunting it throughout the event. Refreshing, herbal, and packed a punch. Expert bartender Jason’s palm were looking a little pink by the time I got there, after individually slapping each basil leaf, promising an optimal aromatic experience for each guest.
You know what they say: you always need a friend with a boat, or a PhD in BioChem. That’s what they say, right?
Donald Short wanted to make something special, so he engaged Robert Del Grande — that friend — and Roxor Artisan Gin was born. “I came up with the name and the bottle,” boasted Short. “We went down to Mexico City to the people who made the bottle for Patron, and I said, ‘Can you make me a building?'”
I’m sure that went over well.
He ended up with their signature Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired, decanter-style “Skyline” bottle, and a name describing a feeling beyond euphoria. That’s about how I felt drinking their hibiscus nib-enhanced take on a G&T, which turned pinker the longer you held it.
I may or may not have used that knowledge as a time stamp by which to heckle those nursing their drinks.
Anyway, in the spirit of continuous improvement, this is Roxor’s recipe attempt #61. How did del Grande know it was finally “right”? “Nothing is logical, like love: you just know.” I rolled my eyes so hard I could see the future. He laughed and tried again, “I tested it against… everything: I’d pour different blends for my left and right hand. Which finishes first? that’s information. Then, it has to work with a movie. I notice, ’em I so interested in the movie I forgot my drink?’ That means we aren’t there yet. Or even is the last sip just as good as the first? Or as it melts, does it get more interesting? You can when you’re there because the glass is empty. If there’s still some there, you lost interest. So, try again.”
And now, our Fall Faves:
Nick Hurry of Proof + Pantry’s lovin’ spoonful of beets, golden raisin, pine nut had enough festive “curb appeal” for me to drive-by twice. The texture was soft crunch plus a little chew from the raisins, which added a concentrated sweetness against the earthiness of the beets. The subtle goat cheese tang “really tied the room together.” The Dude abides. And approves.
Madrina’s David Fingerman reminded me with his pumpkin bisque it’s been far too long since I’d been in (a few weeks). Of note: I’m a blonde, white chick, who proudly identifies as “basic”: a sporter of legging and Uggs, connoisseur of all things pumpkin. I have to say, David’s is one of the best. How did he know that adding smoked cocoa nibs and ancho peppers was exactly the way to my heart? I know he did it all for me. Or maybe I’m just hoping so, because he is totally adorable and a natural on camera, as well. I’ve watched the seven-second video I took of him describing this dish way too many times to still consider it just a professional resource.
Chef Jared Harms’s (Pyramid – Fairmont Dallas) layered savory custard dish was a slurp of luxury: celery root custard and lobster bouillabaisse gelee, crunchy “Fall salad,” topped with smoked caviar, securing a slightly salty finish to rebound the flavor. Ah, the finer things…
Justin Richardson (San Antonio’s Brigid) compressed apples with simple syrup and burnt cinnamon to win Crave’s, “most likely to be described by foodies ad nauseum over the next year” award. The thin, translucent slice of apple was placed upon a crostini with a piece of porquenta and grainy mustard, all plated alongside a bacon wrapped asparagus, served upon a vindaloo curry yogurt. Intriguing? Pack your bags and head South. Chef literally winced at the idea of opening a Dallas franchise.
Kent Rathbun also opted to bring curry to the party with his coconut tempura chicken thigh, green mango slaw, and yellow curry sauce. His choice of dark meat made the dish extra rich and savory, with a hint of spicy sweetness.
Lark on the Park’s dish struck an unintended political chord. Chefs Melody Bishop and Dennis Kelley topped an olive crostini with their take on muhammara, a dish that originated in Aleppo, Syria. Someone should feed some to Gary Johnson.. (#zing).
Lark’s version blended piquillo peppers and walnuts to a consistency, “a little like hummus,” according to the adorable Aston Smith, who took great joy in walking me through the dish. Topped with tangy sheep’s milk feta and pinenuts, it was so perfect I had to go back.
So that means I ate three.
If you missed out, I was my fault. #sorrynotsorry. It was for science!
“So there was a contest for Park and Palate’s press release and we won!” chef Julie Vorce said, describing how Pink Apron Pastry’s mixed berry friend pie earned the designation, “Park and Palate Signature Dessert.” We’ve long enjoyed Chef Vorce’s creations at the Ritz Dallas and in her role as Savor Gastropub’s Pastry Chef. Here’s hoping Savor adds this lemon curd, granola, and fresh berry blend to their Fall menu!
<It’s hard to make a fried pie look pretty. Just go with me on this one…>
Best cocktail to usher in the change of season:
We liked Russell’s Reserve’s Old Fashioned Old Fashioned. No tricks. No weapons. ‘Nuff said.
A few high fives:
Three snaps in a circle for Snap Kitchen’s Creole Fab, a gluten- free, vegan take on a crab cake. Unexpectedly and delicious and now on their regular menu.
A third and final shout out to Whole Foods (man, they really outdid themselves today) for bringing refreshment and balance, offering up three artisan lemonades to remind us that, sadly, sometimes one must imbibe something other than wine, craft beer, or cocktails to live. In with flavors like kale-cucumber, cranberry, and ginger, we didn’t even miss the booze — unless you are me, and immediately began creating new cocktails recipes using these bases.
Thank you, TopKnot for your grilled matsutake and chestnut puree dish, prepared and served by Alex Astranti, whose hair was more than appropriately styled.
And finally, thanks to gentlemen at the Lucchese Boot Company’s booth — truly, the only non-foodie/drinky vendor I found — for chuckling when I asked how they prepared their boots: if they were braised or dry-rubbed.
As the tastings concluded (AKA, worst moment of my life), Chef Kent Rathbun took the stage, issuing heartfelt thanks to all chefs, vintners, spirits providers, and specialty grocers who’d provided for Park and Palate’s second annual event, as well as Klyde Warren Park Foundation and staff ,for putting such a great weekend together. Further, Rathbun promised that the festival would be back next year and continue to grow.
“We’ve got potential here for this to be Dallas’ #1 food and wine fest,” he baited the happily well-fed crowd, who obediently erupted in tipsy cheers. In his final official act of the day, Chef Rathbun commanded we all turn this park into a dance party, which we obliged.
Even this basic white girl can dance after a few of these stiff drinks.*
* = might not actually be a real thing