Writing a weekly column nearly two weeks ahead brings on a jet-lag-like disorientation. This being its first column of 2008, Chow, Baby should be setting out y’all’s resolutions (Eat more indie) and bemoaning its New Year’s Eve hangover.
But in real time it’s still a few days before Christmas, and Chow, Baby’s friend Lorraine has just arrived in town – from New York City, where she works for A Famous Magazine and gets invited to all the chic places – to spend the holidays with her family and a Sunday brunch with her old college buddy. (Oh, all right: Hook ’em Horns!)
The problem is where to take an old friend who has both Texas-native tastes and Big Apple sophistication. (Chow, Baby is still being fondly teased about the El Rancho Grande fiasco of Xmas 2003.) Here’s a telling tale: Lorraine was at one of the soft-opening dinners at Lonesome Dove New York in the fall of 2006, and though she liked the dishes, she couldn’t forgive that … the food touched. Specifically, the cream from her risotto actually trickled into the crispy spinach. The horror! Everybody at the table, which included restaurant critics, agreed that this was quite the country-bumpkin move on Chef Tim Love’s part. OK, yet another culinary rule that Chow, Baby was not aware of. So where to find, in Tarrant County, great Texas cuisine that’s guaranteed not to touch?
Chow, Baby is still singing its “I Am So Smart” song for suggesting we partake of a few small plates at Olenjack’s Grille (770 Road to Six Flags East, Arlington). On one, huge (three-bite) salt & pepper shrimp ($9) with a touch of garlic-chile oil; on an entirely different plate, a rich, creamy roasted duck risotto ($8); a third held lamb lollipops ($16), a dish we had ordered on a whim because the name grossed us out, but that turned out to be amazing – grilled ruby-velvet medallions on their own convenient bone-handles, arranged around (not touching) a pond of splendid sweet-potato polenta. Of course we ended with the classy crème brulée trio ($8), each in a separate ramekin. Thank you, Chef Brian, for making Chow, Baby look clued-in.
Chow, Baby spent Christmas Eve Day enjoying lamb-pop leftovers and obsessing: Does the food at Lonesome Dove (the one here) touch, or not? Somehow, on several enjoyable visits over the years, this crucial detail had escaped Chow, Baby’s notice. Unfortunately for column-cohesion purposes, Lonesome Dove was dark that night, so Chow, Baby and the beloved wound up pursuing the mission at Silver Fox (1651 S. University Dr.). Would the food touch? And if it did, would that ruin it?
Yes; not at all. Our plates of melt-in-the-mouth filet medallions ($24.95) and gorgeous jumbo scallops ($31.95), each with mashed potatoes, fresh-kernel cream corn, snap peas, and a juicy tomato slice, looked like a relief map of the Balkans: varicolored mountains shmushed together, with each area bleeding into at least three others. But this, for Chow, Baby, was good touching. Bad touching was the constant body-slams from patrons winding around Silver Fox’s irritatingly crammed-together tables. Since that wouldn’t have fazed a New Yorker accustomed to the F-train at rush hour, perhaps the moral of the story is that touch, like everything sensory, is a matter of personal taste.
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