Maggiano’s – Little Italy in Dallas

I’m in Dallas for the 9th Annual Literary Conference of the Golden Crown Literary Society. Tonight, my publisher, Linda Hill and Bella Books, took her authors to dinner. We climbed aboard the shuttle from the hotel for the short trip over the highway to Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant.

It was marvelous to be around so many established authors who I’ve respected for years and exciting to hang out with the ones (like myself) who are just starting out. There was so much story telling variety in the group. I was seated across from Kenna White and Gerri Hill and really hope I didn’t make a fool of myself during our conversation. Kenna did the math and determined there have been over 125 books published by the authors around the table.

I started out by admiring Chris’ tomato caprese. It was almost too pretty to eat with fresh mozzarella and leaf of basil drizzled with a balsamic glaze.

tomato moz

I went with the stuffed mushrooms appetizer. The stuffing of spinach and breadcrumbs wasn’t particularly memorable but the garlic wine sauce was worth sopping up with the bread.

stuffed mush

My main course was the veal piccata. Lovely lemon flavor but the bowl of angel hair pasta was pretty much wasted as I just focused on inhaling the meat and capers (and leaving the rest of the green on the plate).

chicken picacta

Erica Abbott made the poor choice of sitting next to me and learned quickly that the position required her to allow me to snap a picture of her food before she could start eating and for her to acede to my demand for a taste.  She had the veal Marsala and the marinated mushrooms were particularly good in this dish with the Marsala sauce. With remarkably good humor, she even let me have additional mushrooms from her plate.

chicken marsala

For dessert, I prevailed upon Erica to have the creme brulee (in my defense, no real arm twisting was required). Nice hint of citrus and a very crunchy sugar topping.

cream bruelle

I had the chocolate zuccotto cake for dessert and I swear the slice was as big as my head. I enjoyed it with a 10 year tawny port.

chocolate cake

Dealing with a table of that many in a crowded restaurant required a team of servers. There were some errors and plates delivered to the wrong diner but they were pleasant and friendly and quick to provide refills.

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Bourbon House

I’m the chair of the Host Committee that will be bringing the Golden Crown Literary Society Annual Conference to New Orleans in 2015. I’ve been going around to a lot of hotels and today was the Astor Crown Plaza at the corner of Bourbon and Canal.

At the end of my tour, I went for lunch at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House. We waited at the oyster bar until they opened up the dining room and then enjoyed a terrific meal.

The Leidenheimer French bread was perfect and I could have filled up on that alone but we also had the Calamari to start. Usually a fan of cocktail sauce, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the chipolte aioli went with the lightly breaded squid.

For lunch, I went with the Gulf Fish on the Half Shell – today’s catch was Redfish that was sprinkled with spices, broiled skin side down and bathed in butter before being topped with lump crabmeat. Absolutely delectable.

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It was more than I’m usually comfortable spending for lunch but the meal was very delicious (Thanks, Glenn, for buying me such a good meal!). The staff was excellent – drinks filled up before we reached the halfway point, friendly and knowledgable about the menu and they checked in regularly without being obtrusive.

Jacob’s Andouille

I was watching John Besh’s cooking show on PBS and he mentioned that he thinks the best andouille is found in LaPlace, Louisiana. I immediately contacted my friend Beth and she gave me the names three places: Jacob’s, Bailey’s and Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse where she recommended I make a special trip to go to have a meal.

I made my first foray for tasting to Jacob’s World Famous Andouille. It is on Airline Highway right past US 51.

jacobs

I purchased some andouille, boudin, their version of Slim Jims and a couple of smoked chicken breasts. You could smell the smoke outside the store, so you know they’re doing the smoking on premises and have since 1928.

jacobs truck

I scarfed the pork sticks down before I made it back to Orleans parish and had one of the two smoked chicken breasts with a baked sweet potato for dinner that evening (while watching the US Men’s National Soccer Team beat Honduras in World Cup Qualifying). Very good flavor to the chicken.

I can’t report on the andouille yet as my week went pear shaped but, I’ve got a recipe for shrimp and andouille that I’ll be doing as soon as I get back from Dallas. I’ll post part 2 of Jacob’s soon.

Fellini’s Cafe

Before going to see the Running With Scissors production of Hell’s Belles at Mid City Theater, a group of us met up at Fellini’s Cafe in the Bayou St. John area. The place was nearly empty when we arrived at 6pm and it didn’t get too much busier before we left for the theater an hour later.

They have a pretty eclectic menu but I didn’t want anything heavy before the show so I ordered the small pizza. This crust but a nicely flavored tomato sauce with just a hint of peppery heat.

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The waiter was quick to offer cocktails and take our order, although, since the specials board couldn’t be seen from our seats, he should have covered those. My Bloody Mary was good and he kept my water glass full, too.

Overall, it was a decent outing, made more enjoyable by the convivial conversation of our group than the ambiance of the place.

Refrigerator Pickles

I’ve got a picnic scheduled for tomorrow and I figure that a good way to beat the heat is with refrigerator pickles.

Here is the recipe I got from my Mom, exactly as she sent it to me:

Thin slice cukes, put about an equal amount of thin onion slices in the bowl with them. I usually used white onions, ’cause that’s what I had on hand.  Red onions would be good as well as decorative.  Use water and vinegar -half&half or less water, to taste.  I never measured this.  Are you surprised?  Love, MOM

Here is what I actually did:

pickles

2 cucumbers, medium sized and scrubbed well
3 sweet onions
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups water

Using a mandolin, slice the cucumbers and onions. They need to be fairly thin – thinner than hamburger dills. This is a no cook pickle and too thick is very difficult for the vinegar to penetrate.

Pour equal amounts of water and white vinegar to cover. Taste and then add water if too sour. Mix well and then cover and refrigerate overnight.

mixing cukes

Caffe! Caffe!

My part time job is being a Book Vendor to the Macy’s stores in Louisiana for Barbara’s Bookstores. I finished with work at the Lakeside Mall at noon today and on the suggestion from my friend, Charlotte, we headed over to Caffe! Caffe! on Esplanade near Causeway.

The place was quite busy with young families and older ladies who lunch. They have a good sized menu of sandwiches and wraps, as well as a bakery with lots of sweet treats.

I went for the Shrimp Remoulade wrap. It included a good number of shrimp and the sauce was tasty but there were a lot of green things in it, too. The lemonade I got with it was excellent.

shrimp wrap

Charlotte, ignoring the June temperature, got the Lima Bean soup with half sandwich combo. I’ll forgive her liking both lima beans and soup in summer because she split her Chocolate Cream Pie with me. Chocolate crust, silky chocolate goodness inside, it was a pretty darn good piece of pie.