Category Archives: Restaurants

Patina Green: Fresh, Local Lunch and Vintage Finds on the Square in McKinney

Patina Green. I’ve been meaning to blog about Patina Green on the square in McKinney, Texas for months. Tara did such a great job; check out her account of a recent visit for lunch and shopping.

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Mexico City-Style Tacos at a Dallas Chevron: Bachman Tacos and Grill

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For Dallas residents, one benefit of having the Super Bowl in town, was learning from the national media about great things in our own backyard. In one recent Wall Street Journal article, lauded Dallas chef Kent Rathbun (Abacus and Iron Chef America) said his favorite tacos in town were at Bachman Tacos, located inside a Chevron station in a working-class area of town.

I first checked it out about a month ago, and have been back several times, taking coworkers and family members. Do  you think I like it? Yes; it reminds me of days gone by when I’ve eaten tacos and burritos from street vendors in Mexico.

The tacos at $1.29 each are not only a bargain, they’re so delicious. Served on toasted corn tortillas with fresh chopped onions and cilantro, and wedges of lime, they’re some of the best tacos I’ve had. I’ve tried four versions:

  1. trompo (marinated pork, sliced, skewered and charbroiled)
  2. combination chicken and trompo
  3. carnitas (braised pork)
  4. beef fajitas

The first three were outstanding, with trompo topping the list. The beef is not something I’d order again; it just didn’t taste good to me. I rarely eat meat, eggs or dairy that isn’t from a local farmer I’ve met personally, but there’s just something about these tacos that I make an exception. If you try them, I’d love to hear what you think. Buen provecho!

Tips for gas station tacos newbies:

  • pre-pay for your tacos at the cash register in the gas station; just tell them how many tacos you want
  • if you want a drink, get that first and pay for it when you pay for the tacos; they have small Mexican Cokes in glass bottles that are a fun sugar splurge
  • take your receipt to the grill and tell them what kind of tacos you want
  • there’s a platic bucket for tips, if you’re so inclined
  • the tables are not cleaned regularly, so you may want to take your tacos to go
  • don’t bother with rice and beans, they’re terrible
  • the salsa is smokin’ hot

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Organic Restaurant Nora in DC is Not All That: Food Needs Fat

When traveling, as at home, I make an effort to eat fresh, local real food. Last week in Washington, DC I visited tony Restaurant Nora near Dupont Circle for what I expected to be a spectacular meal. Having read that in 1999, Restaurant Nora became America’s first certified organic restaurant, and that chef Nora was a pioneer in the sustainable food movement, I had high hopes. The $75 (plus tax and tip, not including wine) tasting menu left me flat; the food wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t all that great. Here’s what I had:

  1. First Course: Apple and Butternut Squash Soup
  2. Second Course: Goat Cheese Tart
  3. Third Course: Grass-fed Beef Filet with Carrots and Mashed Potatoes
  4. Dessert: Banana Bread Pudding with Coconut Ice Cream

The best thing I had was the filet which was absolutely tender and flavorful; there is nothing like a good steak from a cow allowed to forage, breathe fresh air and … well, be a cow. As for the rest of the food, I think Nora may not have gotten the message that traditional fats are actually good for you (e.g., butter and lard). I think that’s the missing piece in her menus.

Other observations: the wait staff that served my table were aloof and slow; the restaurant is decorated with museum-quality antique Mennonite and Amish crib quilts that are spectacular and perfectly lit.

The bottom line is that I wish I had read the following Zagat review about Restaurant Nora before my trip: “Never trust a skinny chef: the food here is as dull as it is overpriced. If you care more about seeing the organic label than you do about food quality, then …”

P.S. The perfect place to stay in that neighborhood is Embassy Circle Guest House.

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My First Farm-to-Fork Dinner

Boston Marrow Squash Mousse with cranberry compote, candied squash, coffee braised hazelnuts and shortbread cookie crumble, by Chef Matt Maue of Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro in Foxborough, Massachusetts

I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “Life’s short; eat dessert first,” so I start this post with a picture of the scrumtious dessert from a recent RAFT Heirloom Harvest Dinner sponsored by Slow Food Boston. If you’ve never heard of RAFT, it’s my pleasure to share it with you. Here’s the official description:

Managed by Slow Food USA, RAFT (Renewing America’s Food Traditions) is an alliance of food, farming, environmental and culinary advocates who have joined together to identify, restore and celebrate America’s biologically and culturally diverse food traditions through conservation, education, promotion and regional networking.

What that means, is that some of our traditional heirloom foods are in danger of going extinct, and the RAFT initiative’s objective is to save these foods. This amazing three-hour, four course dinner (not counting appetizers) was a tremendous experience for me. As a recent escapee from the prison of junk and fast food, I was delighted with every morsel from Tastings’ Chef Matt Maue’s kitchen. I had eaten at Tastings for the first time the night before, and was so taken with the fresh, local, uniquely-prepared food that I had to eat there again … and pronto. Here’s what I had the first night:

Native Rhode Island Popcorn with duck fat and lemon thyme;

Spinach Salad with a free-range fried egg and house-cured bacon;

Black Truffle Macaroni and Cheese;

Bombster Scallops on a bed of creamed corn, garnished with arugula 

The next night was the Farm-to-Fork RAFT Harvest Dinner for nine guests, mostly from around Boston and Providence. The evening started with passed hors d’oeuvres, which included a large piece of slate covered with salami, cheeses, olives, pickles and caperberries. There were also some pork meatballs in a tomato/pepper sauce and the popcorn with duck fat and lemon thyme. I was so taken with that popcorn that I made it at home a few days later – yum! I’m so glad that Nina Planck taught me to appreciate good traditional fats as a healthy part of my diet. Here are the courses, with links to the farms and links to the descriptions of the veggies whose existence is in the hands of a small few (order some seeds to grow in your garden!).

Course One
Whitebarn Farm Speckled Trout Lettuce Salad
with green beans, roasted garlic ranch dressing and Benton’s Country Ham
Note: a fellow diner said that Whitebarn has the best garlic. And I loved Benton’s Country Ham; I will definitely be ordering some.

Course Two
Brambly Farms Pork Croquette
with Jimmy Nardello Pepper Romesco Sauce
Note: Chef Matt said that Brambly Farms raises “amazing pigs.”

Course Three
Braised Blackbird Farm Short Ribs
with maple yogurt, gilfeather turnips, glazed wethersfield red onions and arugula
Note: Ann Marie (left, with Chef Matt) from Blackbird Farm attended the dinner. I enjoyed hearing about her Angus cattle: the way they’re bred, raised, harvested, aged and brought to market. The calves nurse until they’re about eight months old; news to me. These braised short ribs were some of the best food I’ve ever eaten!

Course Four
Boston Marrow Squash Mousse
with cranberrry compote, candied squash, shortbread cookie crumble and coffee braised whole hazelnuts

This dinner was very special, and I’m so thankful that my trip to the Boston area coincided with this Slow Food Boston event. The conversation over dinner was lively and uplifting, and mostly about real food. I was inspired by it, and reminded of a time that I visited a church in which a baby was baptised during the service. The priest held up the child and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Church has a future.” With young chefs like Matt Maue, and family farms like Blackbird, real food has a future. And that is worth rejoicing!

If you’re interested in joining the Slow Food movement, they have a memberhip drive special right now for $25/year. Slow Food started in Italy in the late ’80s to “counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.” Be well.



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