CHOMP! Views

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

First Ever Chipotle Cultivate Festival

Last last weekend was the first ever Chipotle Cultivate Festival. It was held at Lake Carolyn in Irving on Saturday, October 18. And the best part? Admission is free!

I first found out about this festival when I went to pick up some dinner at Chipotle. They had a poster up. Food festival? Free? And FOOD?!? I'm soooo there! I immediate looked it up online and sent the info to all my friends to let them know about it. I also told my fiance we were not to schedule anything else for that day! haha.

Other than the reasons I've already presented... I was super excited because there were also chef cooking demos and the line-up was fantastic.

First up was Chef Paul Qui from Austin. I love this guy. I first cheered for him on Top Chef Texas, which he won. Woot! Then I was lucky enough to dine at his restaurant (Qui) over Christmas last year and got to meet him!! Can you tell I'm a fan?? haha. And he is just the nicest guy ever. He made Filipino Squid Adobo
I haven't had much Filipino food in my lifetime but I'd really love to try. But I do love baby squid, my mom used to cook it a lot when I was young. It looked so good. I wish it was one of those demos where the audience could sample the finished product... Oh well. After the demo, people lined up to take pictures with him. Of course I was there! I got my picture. And better yet, he signed my CHOMP! shirt. *Squeal* Oh and did I mention that my fiance was actually wearing the shirt? hehehe. I know I got a good one when he lets other dudes sign his chest. :P So the day started off really well. I was super psyched to check out the rest of the festival.

After the demo, we walked around for a bit. They had several areas set up with different exhibits and demos. You can learn about fresh vs. processed foods, GMO (genetically modified organisms), how livestock is raised in factories vs. those that are responsibly raised and more. The festival was created by Chipotle to celebrate food that is "responsibly raised, skillfully prepared and delightfully enjoyed." It's such an awesome way to spread awareness for better processes and ingredients for food.

I was hungry so we went to find some lunch. There wasn't that many options for food, but they all sounded really yummy.

ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen (a new concept of Chipotle) 
Meatball Bowl (Jasmine rice, green curry, green papaya slaw, herb salad, charred green beans with chili jam & crispy garlic) $6~ 
My fiance got this. I wanted to try it too. I absolutely loved it. The meatballs were super tender, and that green curry was delicious. It had a spicy kick to it too. The papaya slaw on top added a crunch and freshness to it. It was the best dish of the day, in my opinion. It was a little too spicy for him though, he ended up liking my kale salad more. Seriously though, we totally need a ShopHouse in Dallas (currently there's only 2 or 3 states in the US that has it)!!

Kale Salad (Baby kale, roasted corn-escabeche, crumbled cotija, crispy tortillas, and chipotle-honey vinaigrette; Choice to add grilled steak) $7~ 
I'm loving the whole kale craze because I think it's a great vegetable and so good for you too. It was a little salty... I think they were a little heavy handed with the cotija. I do like the steak addition, it had a lot of flavor. Overall it was good, lots of textures and flavors. But the meatball bowl was better.

Sofritas® Tacos (Sofritas® organic tofu, in soft corn tortillas with fresh tomato salsa, Romaine lettuce and shredded cheese) 2 for $6~ 
A friend of mine got this. I have to say, it looked a bit sad. Other than the lettuce and hot sauce, I didn't see anything else. I tried a bite. The tofu was cut into little teeny tiny pieces and I really couldn't get much of it at all. I wonder if their chicken taco was better...

Next, we moved on to the Artisan's Hall. There were many local vendors showcasing and selling their products. More food! Yay! hehe. A lot of the products looked yummy, but I had to choose one... I was already a little full.

Texas Honeybee Guild
Whipped Honey (cinnamon) $9~ I've never even heard of whipped honey but it sounds cool! My fiance said he's had them before and it's awesome. So he got a jar of the cinnamon one. I tried it when we got home and it's pretty tasty. And I'm not even a huge fan of honey!

Pop Star Handcrafted Popsicles
Cucumber Lemon Mint $3~ He also got a popsicle. Personally I would've opted for the strawberry lemonade flavor but I had my eyes set on a different vendor. The cucumber popsicle definitely tasted like its listed ingredients. It wasn't too sweet and was very refreshing. He really liked it. That combo isn't for me...

Butterfield Gourmet
Chocolate Pie Slice (topped with whipped cream) $5~ I got a slice of pie. It looks so ooey gooey, I just had to try it. Yummers! The filling was dense and gooey. A bit too sweet for my friends but I liked it. I wish I had some ice cream or milk though. The bottom of the pie had kind of caramelized so it was even sweeter during a few bites. It's definitely very decadent. Thumbs up.
 

They also featured several other businesses that have partnered up with Chipotle for the event. One of them was Tabasco! Holla. Shout out to one of my favorite hot sauces. And I'm traditional, just the original flavor for me thanks. All the mini sample bottles were so cute!

Then it was time for the next chef demo I was waiting for... Matt McCallister of FT33. The hottest restaurant in Dallas right now I'd say. And I agree, I think it's probably the best restaurant in town. 
I was lucky enough to go to a special event there with my friend and got to eat a 3 course meal prepared by the chef. I ate lamb! I never eat lamb because I don't like the flavor, but his dish, I cleaned it. That's a VERY big deal. We got to the tent after it had already started so I wasn't sure what he was preparing. It was a porridge of some sort? But using different grains/oats that I wasn't as familiar with. He showcased his knowledge on a variety of ingredients. And the final product looked delicious. I also got a picture with him and he also signed the CHOMP! shirt! :) Wheeeeee!


After the demo, we hit up Ben & Jerry's. Another partner business and one of my all time favorite ice cream brands. They were giving out free samples! Chocolate Fudge Brownie.
It was soooo chocolatey and decadent. I pretty much love all their flavors and their creative names. I would LOVEEEE to work for Ben & Jerry's some day. :P
The next chef demo we watched was Chef Kent Rathbun, a big name in the culinary world (especially Dallas). Most of you have probably heard of his restaurants Abacus and/or Jasper's. 
He also owned Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen which was my favorite restaurant in Dallas for the past many years. I found out this year that it closed down. :( I was devastated... He was demoing chili, but not your typical ground beef stuff, this was giant chunks of choice steak. When the breeze came through, you can smell the aroma. OMG! Salivating! We can definitely tell that he's more seasoned in doing demos because he seemed very comfortable on the stage and talking to the audience. Afterwards, I got to ask him about Blue Plate Kitchen and he told me to "stay tuned", things are in the works. That cheered me up some. I can't wait to see what he's going to do next.

It was a great day. The festival was going on til 7PM but we left around 3:45PM. Amanda Freitag was going on next, but we missed her... She's frequently featured on Food Network's Chopped as a judge and also competed on the Next Iron Chef. I wish I could've met her. I love all those shows.

I would say the festival went very well. It was well organized, all the people/volunteers were very friendly. They featured great food, information, demos, and oh yea, live music! There were multiple bands playing on the stage throughout the day. So a little bit of everything for everyone. :) I definitely look forward to next year's event. I would love to see them add more to the chef's demo list and also more vendors in the Artisan's Hall!

Overall Experience:




~~ CHOMP CHOMP ~~

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lalo's Fine Mexican Cuisine

I've never been a fan of Tex-Mex... I always find it a bit repetitive. But... I LOVE Mexican food. There's a big difference!

Two of my friends were in town for the weekend from NYC so of course Mexican food is on their list. I found this place and they had mole!! OMG! I love mole and ever since I had it again in Cancun, I was dreaming about it. So I suggested this place.

Lalo's Fine Mexican Cuisine
18484 Preston Rd. Ste 118
Dallas, TX 75252
(469) 298-3017
www.lalosmexicancuisine.com/
Price: $$

I didn't even know about this place! It had really high Yelp reviews too. Looks promising! We arrived on a Saturday around 6:30PM. The place wasn't completely full but business was pretty good. I thought the decor was nice. Casual yet somewhat elegant.

We got some complimentary chips with salsa and black bean dip. The salsa had a kick to it! :) And the black bean dip was almost as good as the ones at Gloria's... almost... hehe.

Mango Strawberry Frozen Margarita. My friend got one of these. It was really pretty. And she said it was good. I couldn't try it though since I'm allergic to mango. I'll take her word for it though.

Chile Con Queso. Her husband had thought this was "chili" so he was a little surprised. teehee. But this was really good. He totally enjoyed it. It was great with the chips and the salsa.

Pollo Oaxaca (chicken breast simmered in Oaxaqueno Mole served with beans refritos and arroze blanco) $14.99?~ 
I already knew I was going to get this. Normally I see mole on enchiladas, which I always end up subbing the corn tortilla with flour. But this is perfect because there's no tortilla at all (less heavy)! It was delicious. The mole wasn't as good as the one from Mexico, but it was still really tasty. Lots of complex flavors with that tiny hint of sweet from the addition of chocolate. Just a disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on mole. I just know what tastes good to me. hehe. The chicken was super tender. I didn't even use a knife. I loved the pairing with the sauce and the rice. I asked to sub the beans for veggies. It was the perfect side to the chicken and rice. I also liked the slaw on the side. The whole thing was great. I would totally go back and get this again. And it was a big portion too. I took almost half of it home. And it was still good the next day when I had it for lunch. :)

Carne Asada (grilled steak or grilled chicken breast served with Mexican rice, Sopa de Frijol, guacamole and pico de gallo). My friends shared this since they weren't too hungry. Also a good sized portion. The guac was very good. And the Mexican rice had good flavor. They both liked it.

Tres Leches Cake. I love tres leches so I ordered it before I even finished my dinner. Even though I wasn't that hungry either. haha. It was good, not the best I've had but I would get it again. I wish they had served it on its side with more milk to soak up but it was still surprisingly moist and fluffy.

Sorry I didn't include the prices. I forgot to take a picture of the menu... But both dishes were arond $14-15 which was decent for the portion size. And my friends paid for me... again... Sigh. Everytime they come visit, they always end up grabbing the check. I feel bad. I'll get them one day! haha. And I have such awesome friends. :D

It was a great dinner. Our waiter was also really nice and attentive. The ambiance was nice. I will be back for sure!

Quality of Food:




Service:




Ambiance:




Value:




Overall Experience:




~~ CHOMP CHOMP ~~

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Kate Weiser Chocolate - Trinity Groves

We were saving some stomach space because we wanted to get dessert at Kate Weiser Chocolate. Not only does she make amazing looking chocolate, I found out she also has ice cream in the new store!

Other than Cake Bar, this was the other place I really wanted to check out at Trinity Groves.

Kate Weiser Chocolate
3011 Gulden Ln, Suite 115
Dallas, TX 75212
(469) 619-4929
http://kateweiserchocolate.com/
Price: $-$$$$+

Loved the decor. It was bright and open and lots of colors from the picture on the wall to the chocolates on display. Her chocolates are definitely works of art, All have lots of color, almost too pretty to eat!

We were there for the ice cream though, first and foremost. Each one is $5, which I thought was reasonable. The chocolates were half that price EACH! Dang...

The ice creams were pre-packaged in these little containers. They were VERY frozen so we sat outside and let them thaw out a bit before digging in.

(From left to right)
Ascension Coffee Ice Cream (crushed biscotti, chocolate espresso bean) $5~ This was pretty good. I particularly liked the biscotti to add texture. I've heard Ascension coffee is really good, but since I'm not a coffee drinker, I haven't checked out the cafe yet. Very bold coffee flavors. It's probably the best one of the three.
Chai Tea Ice Cream (black tea, cardamom, ginger streusel) $5~ I chose this one. It was very interesting. Kind of a deconstructed ice cream. The bottom was the black tea ice cream, the top was cardamom ice cream (we think) and when you eat it together, it creates the chai! I loved the ginger streusel.
Pecan Butterscotch Ice Cream (mandarin orange, candied pecans) $5~ We liked this one the least. The top was a mandarin orange sorbet. I guess the bottom ice cream was the pecan butterscotch. I found the combination of orange and butterscotch a little weird. The butterscotch flavor was actually overwhelmed by the orange a bit. The candied pecan pieces were too big. I think they should've crushed it up a little. Meh...

French Macarons (per piece) $2.50~ I forget what the flavor was that my friend got. I think something maple? I'm not a macaron connoisseur at all. I thought it was ok? But I find them generally unsatisfying and seriously overpriced since most of them are semi-hollow. This one was hollow in the cookie part too.

We walked around the area a bit after dessert. Before leaving I went back and bought some chocolates to try later. Since I'm here and all... :P

Bonbons and Truffles (per piece) $2.50~ I got 2 pieces. They had lots of flavors I wanted to try, but they were too expensive... I got the Truffle Honey (milk chocolate, truffle honey) and the Yuzu (dark chocolate with Japanese lime). 
They were so pretty! The lady at the register was super nice. She told me that each of them was packed with the listed flavors. She also recommended that I eat the Yuzu first since the Truffle was heavier in flavor. 
I was super excited about the Yuzu (on the right). It's a Japanese citrus and I love it. However, I took a bite of the chocolate and didn't even get a hint of citrus... What?? She told me it had lots of yuzu flavor... I took another bite, still nothing. Needless to say I was very disappointed. And here's where my dilemma comes in. As a piece of chocolate, it's pretty awesome. The quality and craftsmanship of the dark chocolate is great and I absolutely enjoyed it. But since you tell me it's yuzu, I expect to get the citrus flavor. Which I didn't, AT ALL. That was a big let down. Next, I still had high hopes for the Truffle Honey. 
Now this isn't the chocolate "truffle", it's straight up black truffles infused honey. The lady at the store told me, again, that the truffle flavor packs a punch. I love truffle. I took a bite. The truffle flavor was so slight that if I didn't know what was in the chocolate, I wouldn't have guessed it was truffle. Upon the 2nd bite, I got a little bit more but still not "a punch". Double disappointment. Again, really great craftsmanship on the chocolate and the filling was silky and luscious. But only as a regular piece of chocolate. I have to say I'm disappointed, especially after the reputation I've heard and expected from her chocolates. Has anyone had these flavors and had a different experience? Part of me is hoping that for some reason these batches were just flukes and they forgot to add the flavorings or something. XP

Well, I'm not sure if I'll have these again. Sigh...
At least all the people there, including Kate Weiser herself, were very friendly.

Quality of Food:




Service:




Ambiance:




Value:




Overall Experience:


 

~~ CHOMP CHOMP ~~

LUCK - Trinity Groves

After my dessert first at Cake Bar... I met a couple of my friends for dinner at LUCK. None of us had been there so it'll be fun to try a new place!

LUCK (Local Urban Craft Kitchen)
3011 Gulden Lane, Suite #112
Dallas, Texas 75212
(469) 250-0679
http://www.luckdallas.com/
Price: $$-$$$

Their concept is pretty cool. They are a craft beer inspired kitchen so they promote items that pair well with beer. They also try to use locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. Unfortunately I don't drink beer, so the pairing is a little wasted on me. But I do enjoy pub fare.

I was a little disappointed to find out that their menu had changed and all the dishes on yelp that I wanted to try were no longer available. Booohoo. :( Their menu is pretty small and I didn't really see anything I really wanted. (Which is rare... I might add...)

None of us were super hungry and we were also saving room for dessert. So we got some stuff to share.

Bierocks "Beer-Rocks" (meat and cheese filled pocket pastries served with beer cheese fondue and au jus) $10~ 
 
I liked the presentation on the wood board with the name of the restaurant carved into it. It was basically a meat bread bun. Very delicious. There was a lot of the meat filling which was good. The top of the bread was a little heavily salted, but overall the flavors were good. Totally loved the beer cheese fondue sauce. We kept that around for other stuff to dip in. hehe.

Blueberry & Raw Butternut Squash Salad (mixed greens, candied pecans, goat cheese, citrus honey vinaigrette) $10~ 
I got this because I didn't want something too heavy and I love butternut squash. It was a big salad. I opted for no goat cheese since I don't like it. The butternut squash turned out to be thin strips chopped and put on top of the salad. I think if it's in the name, it should be more of a star than a topping. It was good though. Quite filling. I always liked candied pecans in a salad...adds sweetness and crunchy texture.

Signature Pastrami ("Texas Brisket Style", house-cured for 3 days and smoked for 15 hours with stone ground mustard, caramelized onions, swiss cheese, on sourdough) $13~ 
My friends shared this. The waitress said it's one of their big sellers. The pastrami wasn't really pastrami but more brisket. It was really good. Soooo much flavor. You can definitely get the smokiness of the meat. It's a very heavy sandwich though. Their housemade chips were also really good. Especially dipped in the beer cheese fondue. :P

The food was pretty good and they've not a nice patio area. The service was ok. Our waitress was nice but I don't think she checked on us enough. I probably won't go back. The food options were not super enticing or exceptional. If you like beer though, definitely check them out since they've got a big selection of craft beers.

Quality of Food:




Service:




Ambiance:




Value:




Overall Experience:




~~ CHOMP CHOMP ~~

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cake Bar - Trinity Groves

I was finally able to go check out Trinity Groves a few weeks ago. It's been on my radar since forever and just never made it out there. I had planned to meet up with 2 friends for dinner on a Friday night. My fiance was busy so I was on my own to do some damage. :P

I tried to get to that area earlier so I could bypass the nightmare that is Dallas rush hour. And on a Friday... Unfortunately I didn't leave work early enough! Took me a little over an hour to make it down there. I was still quite early for dinner so I had planned to go check out Cake Bar. This is probably one of the places I was most excited about. I mean... it's a freaking cake shop, what could be better?

I did walk around Trinity Groves before going to Cake Bar, just to get an idea of the area. It's much smaller than I had expected, but it's still growing. Lots of patio seating, and cool places to chill with friends. Although, after the sun went down, there were more issues with flies and mosquitoes... you'd think they would have some lamps or torches for a place that has a ton of outdoor seating. Maybe they should look into that! *hint*hint*

Cake Bar
3011 Gulden Lane, Suite 117
Dallas, Texas 75212
(972) 684-5801
http://cakebardallas.com/
Price: $

Walking in, I was a little overwhelmed. You immediately see all the cakes on display. In front you have the refrigerated display case with all cakes of difference sizes. To the left is a bunch of cakes displayed at the window. I thought the layout of the shop was a bit confusing, with the displays wrapped around the middle area and the register is facing the inside wall of the store. I dunno, it would be better if it was more open.

I was the only customer in there... it was around 5:15PM. I wasn't really greeted when I walked in. There were a few employees in the shop. A couple were talking to each other and some were in the back prepping. I didn't really feel welcomed....

All the cakes look amazing, but I've read some reviews saying their cakes are really dry. :-/ But a friend recommended the red velvet, saying it's really good. I do like red velvet! So I decided to be safe since it was my first time there to get something I know will be good.

Their cakes are all made from scratch. They have 15+ flavors. They also sell a variety of pound cakes, quick breads, cookies, ice cream, and drinks. I had to resist the temptation of getting more than one thing. I was by myself and I was going to eat dinner in an hour! XP
 

Red Velvet Cake (moist red cake with a mild chocolate flavor, iced with cream cheese frosting) - 1 slice $4.50~ It was a pretty big slice. Although I wouldn't mind it being bigger. hehe. My friend was right. It's really good! Probably one of the better red velvets I've had in a long time. The cake was super moist. It was super red but didn't taste artificial at all. The best part was the frosting to cake ratio. It was perfect. I hate it when cakes have too much frosting. This was just enough and not overly sweet. I liked the addition of pecan bits in the frosting for some added texture. I enjoyed it a lot. If all their cakes are as good as this... this place will be around for a long time! It was so hard not to eat the whole slice too... Ackk! haha.
 
 

Hot Tea $2.50~ I also got a tea, which pairs well with desserts. They use Mighty Tea leaves which I really like. But I thought the size of their cups was almost comical. It was tiny! For $2.50?!? Damn... It's almost like the size of those cups you get at the water cooler. At least they let me get a refill on the hot water so I was able to get 2 cups out of it.

After I sat down, business picked up. There was a steady stream of people coming in. Most people got cakes to go though. Only a few stayed to eat it. I'm assuming they get more dine-in customers AFTER dinner time.

Service wasn't that great. There were only 3-4 tables and I was the only one sitting there for a while. No one asked how I was doing or how I'm liking the cake. They're lucky that the cake was good! Otherwise I would probably never go back again.

Quality of Food:




Service:




Ambiance:




Value:




Overall Experience:




~~ CHOMP CHOMP ~~