Bowl o’ Red — or White
Figuring that it’s never too late in life to become a wine snob, Chow, Baby hit the 2007 People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic during Grapevine’s GrapeFest, Sept. 13-16. If you’re wondering why you’re only just now reading about this, it’s because of a new Weekly policy: bogus deadlines.
Supposedly if we non-breaking-news columnists turn in our copy two weeks before print time rather than the historical 20 minutes, angels (in the form of editors and production staffers) will walk the earth while it’s still light outside instead of having to work until the wee hours every Tuesday night. Chow, Baby gives this policy (a) its full support and (b) about three weeks.
Anyway, the way the People’s Choice works, wine-snob-wannabees buy a ticket ($18, though could be more next year) good for 90 minutes in a tent where 37 Texas wineries pour an ounce at a time of their 122 best wines (could be more next year). Surprisingly, no riot ensued during Chow, Baby’s time slot; most attendees had pre-planned which wineries and varietals they would hit, and were eagerly lined up at their favorites like fourth-graders at Six Flags. Whereas Chow, Baby flitted around to whatever fanciful names caught its eye. This system worked out well as far as Flat Creek Estate’s lovely 2004 “Super Texan” sangiovese and Purple Possum Winery’s honeyed spiced mead, but not so much with the puckery 2005 merlot from Three Dudes Winery.
After its 90 minutes, a slightly wobbly Chow, Baby could think of just one foodstuff that goes with 27 ounces of different kinds of wine: chili. Of course chili means Tolbert’s (423 S. Main St., Grapevine) – original founder Frank X. Tolbert Sr., the famous Texas journalist who was probably never given a bogus deadline, wrote the chili bible A Bowl of Red and co-founded the Terlingua International Chili Cookoff. Chow, Baby’s bowl of Original Texas Red (large $8.99) was certainly a winner: chili-powder-red, bean-free, full of beef chunks, thick enough to stand a spoon in. Tolbert’s jalapeño ice cream ($2.99), smooth and sweet with just a tiny kick, would go great with the graceful 2005 syrah from Kiepersol Estates – or so asserted Chow, Baby’s wine-snob companions. Chow, Baby was too busy licking its bowls to be bothered.
Song of the South
Actually Chow, Baby was just cruising for a pho dive, one of those slightly grubby but authentically delicious mom-’n'-pops that orbit Asian supermarkets at South Arlington’s major intersections. Instead, it happened into Pho 21 Noodle House (2230 S. Collins St., Arlington). This near-bistro must have the same decorator as Belknap Street’s appropriately named Pho Bella – sherbet-colored walls (here, lemon), wooden tables and chairs, real linens, nicely framed and levelly hung photos, and piped-in Vietnamese classical guitar versions of 1960s-70s American hits, though hard to say if any song-choice irony (“Yesterday,” “Killing Me Softly”) was intentional or not.
The food at Pho 21 is not super-fantastic outstanding; it’s just your basic refreshing spring rolls ($2.75 with shrimp), long-simmered beef pho (“small” bowl $4.20), lemongrass chicken ($5.50), and five more pages of traditional Vietnamese-café menu items. Chow, Baby very much enjoyed its meal, and the pretty room, and its chat with sociable proprietor Lee Huong. For all that, having a Vietnamese Muzak version of “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” stuck in one’s head all night is a small price to pay.
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