EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY, YALLIt has been nearly two years since the announcement that Fort Worth would have its first food and wine festival, and now local chefs are preparing to put their best dishes forward as festivities kick off at the end of this month. The purpose of the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival, organizers say, is to bring national and regional attention to the local food scene, to raise funds for grant programs and scholarships, and to elevate participants culinary knowledge. Among the various tastings, strolls and soirees for food-lovers and savvy sippers to put on their plates is the decadent Tastes of the World lunch event happening March 29 at Bass Hall. A limited number of lucky patrons will dine on stage and experience four courses paired with live performances, including appearances from artists of the Fort Worth Opera, Texas Ballet Theater, the Texas Boys Choir and a former Cliburn competition pianist. Dallas chef Stephan Pyles and Fort Worth chef Jon Bonnell will team up to take guests through a gastronomical journey across the United States, sharing dishes that represent Creole, Pacific Northwest, New England and the low country cooking of the Deep South. Lunch will be served in high style with synchronized service from the banquet team at Ashton Depot; local historian Quentin McGown will act as master of ceremonies and food tour guide, sharing historical details highlighting the worlds influence on U.S. cuisine with each course. Guy Stout, master sommelier (one of only three in Texas) and president of the Society of Wine Educators, will be on hand to select rare, fine wines well matched to the menu. Stout owns Stout Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country and is an active wine judge for several national competitions. Hell pick pours to pair with, among other dishes, Bonnells seared rabbit and grilled andouille jambalaya. Patrons will also be wined and dined with champagne and caviar, and will view prized images from local museums on display. The event takes place 11 a.m.-2 p.m. March 29 at Bass Hall, Fourth and Calhoun streets, Fort Worth. Tickets, $500 per person, can be ordered through www.fortworthfoodandwinefestival.com. FROM WATERSTO TABLEJon Bonnell learned how to clean a trout by age 6, and hes been catching and cooking seafood ever since. In his just-released cookbook, Waters: Fine Coastal Cuisine, ($35, www.bonnellstexas.com, Amazon.com), named for his newest restaurant, he talks about his love for fishing and seafood sustainability, and he shares recipes for more than 35 varieties of fish and seafood. We appreciate the full-page photos that accompany each entree, leaving the guesswork out of how the end product should appear, and that the recipe for Waters decadent lobster mac and cheese is included. Content categories offer chilled and raw items, poached and steamed, crispy fried, on the grill and more. Here, Bonnell shares his recipe for whole artichokes (which are just coming into season) stuffed with shrimp salad. This shrimp salad is fantastic on its own or sandwiched between slices of toasted bread with crisp lettuce or arugula, he writes in the book. I like to pair this dish with a light riesling or pilsner-type beer. SPICING UP THE SOUTH SIDEI had some customers say, We live near Magnolia Avenue, in the south side, says Amy Thanpaisarnsamut, part-owner of Fort Worth restaurants Thailicious, Thai Select and Thai Rice N Noodle. You should try to get a space there. Its really growing right now. That suggestion, and the fact that many of her favorite restaurants already are in the area, led her and her chef sister-in-law Jang Comvieng to open Spice, which brings Thai back to West Magnolia Avenue after Junsuree Thai House closed in 2011. The small eatery focuses on Northern Thailand cuisine, including one of the owners favorite dishes, khao soi, a noodle soup with Burmese roots she says is not found in every Thai restaurant. Thanpaisarnsamut also loves pad gra pow, a ground meat stir-fry dish with basil sauce. Its my all-time favorite, she says. Spice is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, which is noteworthy, as many of the areas restaurants go dark Sunday evenings. 411 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817-984-1800. BIG BITES, SMALL BITESIts Round 4 for the corner space in Montgomery Plaza that has seen four restaurants shutter since mid-2011. But this time, a James Beard-featured chef is involved. Eddy Thretipthuangsin left a brief gig at a Thai restaurant in Dallas to open Bite City Grill this month. He promises Modern American cuisine with global influence, to include an ample selection of both small and big plates. The small bites will include lamb meatballs and wild mushroom flatbread, and big bites will boast lobster ravioli, Colorado rack of lamb and seared duck breast. The owners brother, Chris, will head the bar, where patrons will find a signature cocktail list, wines by the glass and regional craft beers. 2600 W. Seventh St., Fort Worth, 817-877-3888, www.bitecitygrill.com. A NEW VIETNAMESE VENTUREKenzo Tran opened Piranha Killer Sushi in a nondescript Arlington strip center in 2001, where his prettily presented rolls, chic martinis and a snazzy vibe helped modernize Tarrant Countys sushi scene. Now hes aiming to do the same for Vietnamese cuisine with his new concept, Pho District Vietnamese Street Food, set to take over the former Bayou Jacks Cajun Grill location in the So7 development on West Seventh Street by summer. Vietnamese food is my heritage, says Tran, who was born in Vietnam and learned to cook from his grandfather. I believe Vietnamese is still underserved here. In mainstream America, you see Chinese and sushi restaurants on every corner, but to get Vietnamese food, you have to go into the Asian community. Fort Worth is a grown-up city now, and I think customers are ready for this. I think they will appreciate something different, unique and new. The restaurant will offer small and large plates for both lunch and dinner and will feature unfamiliar items such as goi ca, a sweet and spicy salmon salad that resembles ceviche, and pan-fried rice patties topped with pork or chicken floss a term used to describe dried caramelized meat that has been ground and made to resemble cotton. My grandfather would make that for my lunch, Tran says. His pork belly buns, caramelized pork belly stuffed between sweet rice buns that mimic small tacos in size and shape, were a big hit at a recent menu tasting, as were pork banh mi sandwiches topped with quail eggs. Tran is also excited to bring his family recipe for pho to Fort Worth, as his dad owns a pho restaurant just outside of Saigon. Renderings show Pho Districts interiors to be a bright mix of orange and wood grain, offering patio seating, cocktail tables and a bar. The restaurants logo shows a cone hat-wearing motorist riding a Vespa a sight he says covers every corner of Saigon. Im excited about this opportunity because we get to introduce our culture and our cuisine, he says. Piranha has been a blessing for me. Its gone through so many growth stages; from a very modest hole-in-the-wall to having locations all over Texas. It will always be my first baby. But as a chef, Im driven, and I want to do something to satisfy my appetite for creativity. THE TOAST OF MANSFIELDFormer Fort Worth wedding planner April Ragsdale has partnered with culinary arts graduate Carroll Burney to open Poured, a new wine bar in Mansfields Shoppes di Lucca. The two have studied to become level one sommeliers, which means we have to keep learning, April is happy to admit. We want to make wine accessible because thats how you learn. The more we learn, the more we can help customers enjoy it. Poured has paired with Magnolia Cheese Company and Black Rooster Bakery in Fort Worth for cheese and baguette boards (which come in two choices: red wine and white wine) and charcuterie plates. Ask for Aprils French rosé recommendation, as its her favorite selection to sip for spring. 1601 E. Debbie Lane, Suite 1105, Mansfield, 817-453-7919, www.pouredtx.com. AUSUM FUDGE FOR DIABETICSFort Worth fudge makers Aubra Wilson and Sumer Searcy, gal pals who partnered to launch AuSum Fudge last year, have introduced a sucrose-free variety thats sweetened with concentrated fruit juice and is suitable for diabetics. Customers have asked for it, says Wilson, who adds that the new version is slightly stickier than her traditional fudge but is just as decadent. Look for the new fudge, which only comes in plain chocolate right now, along with other AuSum varieties such as chocolate peanut butter, almond coconut, Oreo cookie and penuchi, made with brown sugar, to have a presence at the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival Sip and Savor event March 29. The sweets also are sold at the Historic Camp Bowie Mercantile. 7200 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth, 817-733-7787, www.ausumfudge.com. TAKING TEX-MEX TO COLLEYVILLEColleyville isnt known as a Tex-Mex dining destination, but that will change when Matts Tex-Mex opens a location there this month. The family-owned company, which has four outlets in Dallas, is buzz-worthy for its legendary beginnings in Austin in 1925, when Delfino Martinez opened El Original on Congress Street after selling tamales by pushcart. His son, Matt Martinez, opened Matts El Rancho in Austin in 1952 and it still draws crowds. It was Matt Martinez Jr. who brought the brand to Dallas in 1985 and now his son, Matt Martinez III, leads the helm of the family operation. Regulars know that the Bob Armstrong dip, a souplike chile con queso concoction, is a must-order along with enchiladas and a margarita, but venture out to try the pan-seared frog legs or the chicken-fried steak offered four ways. A Roanoke location will open on North Oak Street this summer. 4843 Colleyville Blvd., Colleyville, www.mattstexmex.com. DISTILLING DREAMS COME TRUEBlack-eyed peas tend to take a back seat to corn on the cob as far as crops go, says West Texas farmer Deborah Nickels. But her son, Trey, discovered how to use the lucky legume in a way that will put not only the Nickels, but Fort Worth, on the spirits map. The mother-and-son duo will launch the worlds first black-eyed pea vodka, and theyve chosen a historic firehouse in south Fort Worth, not far from Rahr & Sons Brewing Company and Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co., as their distillery home. We know black-eyed peas inside and out, but we had to educate ourselves on the validation of vodka, Deborah Nickels says. So the two visited distilling schools, studied equipment in Kentucky and worked with a master distiller who has consulted for national names like Jim Bean and Makers Mark. The mother says she and Trey knew they were meant to make vodka after finding welcoming support from the Near Southside community. Production is anticipated to begin this month, and bottles will hit local liquor store shelves soon after. 503 Bryan Ave., Fort Worth, www.unhingedproductionsllc.com. HERES THE BEEFWendy and Jon Taggart have sold their cuts of grass-fed beef to local restaurants and nutrition-minded customers since they began their operation in 1999. This month, the Grandview ranchers are expanding their business to Fort Worth with a storefront opening on West Seventh Street. We had to make our products more accessible and convenient to our customers, Wendy Taggart says. And that meant moving to their neighborhood. The retail outlet will cater to the home cook engine starters for what she calls a food revolution going on right now and will offer ground beef and dry-aged steaks along with other products like antibiotic-free chicken, free-range eggs and weekend hamburgers. Fort Worth was once truly Cowtown, and that was a free-ranging type of beef, she says. To me, were bringing back the beef. 3326 W. Seventh St., Fort Worth, www.burgundypasturebeef.com. LUCKY NUMBER 24?This is indeed my first restaurant gig, but I have been a foodie for years, says Joel Kleven, former chiropractor and occasional caterer-turned-restaurateur, who owns 24 Plates, set to open this spring on West Magnolia Avenue. Kleven decided to follow his fervor for food when the opportunity arose to sell his Weatherford-based practice. Now hes working with executive chef Beau Johnson, who comes from Waldron Lodge in Dallas, to share a menu of globally inspired tapas that will, in fact, number 24. As we were brainstorming menu ideas, we were always at or near 24 dishes, Kleven says of the names origin. Two of two dozen items on the list will be short rib tacos and queso flameado blended Mexican cheeses with roasted poblanos, red peppers and chorizo served flaming table-side with tortilla chips. Our focus will be small, shareable plates, Kleven says, adding that the menu will change seasonally, based on products and produce that the chef can find locally. Look for live music and local art also to be on the bill of fare. 407 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817-840-7670, www.24platesfw.com. NOTEBOOK Fort Worth and Southlake Central Market stores will source specialty Irish cheeses from small, family-run farms in Ireland just in time for St. Patricks Day. Look for Coolea (similar to gouda; the silky Gubbeen; and the white wheels from Cooleeney Farm. For Irish cheeses well-suited for beer pairing, pick up blocks of Wexford Creamerys green wax cheddar or the pungent Irish Erin gold. 4651 West Freeway, Fort Worth, 817-989-4700; 1425 E. Southlake Blvd., Southlake, 817-310-5600, www.centralmarket.com. Taco Diner is the newest of the designer taco eateries to hit Fort Worth. It comes from the Dallas-based M Crowd Restaurant Group, owner of Mi Cocina. Opening late March in the Sundance Square Plaza, the location will feature plentiful patio seating and will be ready in time for ESPNs Final Four live broadcasts April 2-7. The menu features 20 taco varieties including sauteed shrimp in cream sauce, fried avocado and braised pork, as well as chicken pozole soup and Mexican hamburguesas. Breakfast, which offers chorizo cream gravy-topped tamales next to scrambled eggs, will be served all day. Plan to visit Saturdays and Sundays for brunch. 156 W. Fourth St., Fort Worth, www.tacodinerrestaurants.com. Chadra Mezza and Grill owners Christina and Nehme Elbitar plan to open West Fork Grill in the former Summit Deli space this month. Christina Elbitar says menu items will feature Mediterranean influences, and boxed lunches and platters will be available for catering. 1200 Summit Ave., Fort Worth, www.chadramezza.com. Casablanca Greek Mediterranean Cuisine has taken over the former Two Brothers Bistro in north Fort Worth, and is generating praise for its lamb kebabs, mixed grill dishes and mezze platters. The BYOB restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner. 7355 N. Beach St., Fort Worth, 817-232-1155. Ellerbe Fine Foods executive chef Molly McCook has been invited to cook June 9 at the prestigious James Beard House in Manhattans Greenwich Village neighborhood. The public is invited to the multicourse dinner event, and were told McCook would love to see Fort Worth faces in attendance. Ticket details are forthcoming. www.ellerbefinefoods.com, www.jamesbeard.org. Queenies Steakhouse, Tim Loves Denton venture, has launched Sunday brunch. For a very reasonable $19.50, diners can choose from several main dishes, including chicken-fried quail and waffles, Jamon Iberico eggs Benedict and pheasant confit hash, and also have access to a buffet of breakfast breads and pastries along with roasted salmon topped with caviar. A complimentary mimosa is included. 115 E. Hickory St., 940-442-6834, www.queeniessteakhouse.com.
Kickoff Event. Twelve Fort Worth chefs, including Donatella Trotti (Nonna Tata), Keith Hicks (Buttons), Lanny Lancarte (Lannys Alta Cocina Mexicana), Tim Love (Lonesome Dove Western Bistro), Molly McCook (Ellerbe Fine Foods) and Dena Peterson (Café Modern) will offer tastings paired with Texas-made craft beers, wines and spirits. Music by Stoney LaRue. 7 p.m., concert at 9:30 p.m., March 27, Billy Bobs Texas, $65.
Grand Tasting. More than 20 wineries, craft breweries and distilleries will be showcased, along with 40 area chefs and food artisans, making this the festivals largest event. Special guests include John Tesar (Spoon Bar & Kitchen), Tom Perini (Perini Ranch Steakhouse) and Matt McCallister (FT33). Patrons will be able to visit the Texas Lounge for drinks from Rahr & Sons Brewing Company and Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co., and a champagne and vodka lounge. 7-11 p.m. March 28, Renaissance Worthington Hotel, $125.
Burgers, Brews & Blues. Local burger institutions including Freds Texas Cafe, Tommys Hamburgers and more will offer sliders to pair with beer from 26 craft breweries, including Fort Worths Martin House Brewing Company and Rahr & Sons Brewing Company. 6-9 p.m. March 29, Heart of the Ranch at Clearfork, $60, $75 VIP.
Sip and Savor. Local family-owned restaurants and food artisans, including Dude, Sweet Chocolate; Hot Damn, Tamales!; Little Lilly Sushi; Stir Crazy Baked Goods; and Los Vaqueros will present sweet and savory bites to pair with wine, spirits and craft beer. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. March 29 and 30, Renaissance Worthington Hotel, $75 per day.
Meals on Wheels for Meals on Wheels. A dozen North Texas food trucks and chuck wagons will provide tastes to benefit Meals on Wheels, Inc. of Tarrant County. 3-5 p.m. March 30, Coyote Drive-In, $50.
Culinary Plaza in Sundance Square. The festival also will include chef demonstrations and culinary-themed activities in the pavilion of the Sundance Square Plaza from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 29. Activities will be complimentary, and beer and wine will be for sale. Guests also will be able to purchase a souvenir wineglass and visit Sundance Square retail outlets for a shop-and-stroll event 4-6 p.m. March 28 and 29.
Details: General-admission subscription packages, which include one ticket to several signature events, is $324.75. No one under age 21 will be admitted to the signature events. For more information and tickets, visit www.fortworthfoodandwinefestival.com.
4 large globe artichokes
1 pound cooked Gulf shrimp, 26-30 count
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Juice of 1 small lemon
1/2 teaspoon Texas Red Dirt Rub, Creole Blend
(Available at www.bonnellstexas.com.)
1-2 dashes hot sauce
3 tablespoons red bell pepper, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons cucumber, diced
3 tablespoons celery, diced
Pinch of dry mustard powder
1. Prepare a steamer large enough to hold the artichokes and preheat the water with the lid on.
2. Trim the artichoke stems up to the base so they can sit flat once cooked. With a serrated knife, cut the tops off the artichokes about 2 inches down from the tallest leaf. Once trimmed, place very quickly into the steamer and cover. Steam for approximately 40 minutes, or until the hearts are tender. Remove and chill in the refrigerator.
3. Once cooled, scoop out the inside of the artichokes with a spoon, removing the thistles but leaving the hearts intact.
4. Combine the shrimp with all remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss well to combine. Scoop a large helping of the shrimp salad into the center of each artichoke and serve chilled.
Chefs note: Be sure to mix the shrimp salad at the last minute so it doesnt get watery. Over time, the salt in the salad pulls water out of the shrimp and causes it to pool up.
2901 Crockett St., Fort Worth, 817-984-1110, www.waterstexas.com