Fast Burgers, Slow Brews
In Grapevine, restaurateur Steve Brown is famous for opening the popular Esparza’s Restaurante Mexicano, where locals have met for margaritas and Tex-Mex since 1985. But “craft beer and burgers are two of the hottest things going right now,” he says, leading him to his latest venture, Brewster’s West 7th, open in the restaurant’s namesake corridor. Although burger competition is brutal, with standouts including Fred’s Texas Cafe and Rodeo Goat just steps away, Brown is proud of his high-tech electric grill, which cooks patties from the top and bottom in about 75 seconds, he says, sealing in juices and providing for quick service. Menu items include a crunchy peanut butter and candied bacon burger, another smeared with jalapeño jam and spicy pickles, and fries doused in beer-cheese sauce. And with the official start of swimsuit season upon us, look for red quinoa burger and bun-less burger bowl options, too. 2837 Crockett St., Fort Worth. 817-887-9233; www.brewsterswest7th.com.
Molly Takes Manhattan
All eyes will be on Molly McCook next month when she cooks for lucky guests at the prestigious James Beard House in Manhattan on June 9, five years after she and childhood friend Richard King opened Ellerbe Fine Foods in a former gas station on West Magnolia Avenue. Those who aren’t able to travel and experience McCook’s menu of heritage pork rillettes, Gulf seafood and summer shell pea salad and braised beef cheeks with roasted morels can watch her in action from home via a kitchen cam set to go live at 4:30 p.m. CDT on the James Beard Foundation website, www.james
beard.org. Or bring McCook’s signature flavors to your own kitchen with Ellerbe’s new culinary product line — Hawaiian red sea salt ($13), the same stuff we’re always giddy to sprinkle atop buttered bread upon arrival for dinner at the restaurant, and aromatic Za’atar spice blend ($11), popular in Middle Eastern recipes and a savory addition to vegetables, salads and grilled meats. Both 3.5-ounce bottles are available at http://thechefshelf.com or at the restaurant. Ellerbe fans are invited to attend McCook’s James Beard House event with a three-night travel package organized by Sanders Travel Centre. 817-737-1434; www.sanderstravel.com.
Bringing the Heat to the Table
Nolan Ryan may be gone from the seats at Rangers games now (he’s serving as an executive with the Houston Astros, where son Reid is team president), but fans can take comfort in the carnivorous cuisine found in the baseball Hall of Famer’s first cookbook: The Nolan Ryan Beef & Barbecue Cookbook: Recipes From a Texas Kitchen (Little, Brown and Co., $25).
Fact is, the strikeout king Rangers fans know and love was a cattleman first, having bought his first heifer when he was 10. By junior high school, Ryan decided to sell his small herd when he started playing football, basketball and baseball, although ranching remained in his future. After taking classes on cattle breeding at the community college in his hometown of Alvin, he started a herd while he was pitching for the California Angels in 1973.
Ryan never left the industry throughout his storied baseball career, and he shares his love of ranching and beef in the book, which includes accounts from his wife and children. (His daughter, Wendy, followed in her dad’s boot-steps, having studied ranch management at Texas Christian University before going to work for him.)
Ryan partnered with Rangers executive chef Cristobal Vazquez to create 75 recipes that range from ballpark fare like the Tex-Mex taco dog to the rib-eye steak with adobo butter, shown here. Throughout the book, Ryan offers forthright advice when it comes to beef. “I believe that the bone-in rib-eye craze is a gimmick for restaurants to make a greater profit on selling beef to the consumer,” he writes. “You will find that the flavor in the rib-eye is in the meat — not in the bone. I don’t buy the hype that the bone adds even more flavor.”
Recipes aren’t limited to beef and beef only, as we found with the inclusion of Ruth’s favorite summer salad — a pretty feta and tomato compilation with Greek vinaigrette, and a take on the creamy spinach side dish found at Del Frisco’s in Fort Worth, one of Ryan’s favorite restaurants, he says. It even includes a recipe for what Ryan writes is his favorite pecan pie — the one served at Fort Worth’s Paris Coffee Shop.
The book is a must-have for beef-eaters, backyard grillers and baseball fans alike, no matter where your game-day loyalty lies.
Big-deal Dining in Big D
Two notable Dallas chefs, who gained a band of Fort Worth fans thanks to their participation in the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival in March, are opening new restaurants well worth the drive east.
Barbecue Gets a Brine Bath
When Austinite Scott Sapire moved to Los Angeles for work, he longed for the taste of Texas barbecue, ultimately resorting to making it himself and finding that brining, or soaking proteins in a bath of spices and juices before preparing, made for the juiciest final product. Now he owns Sweetwater Spice Co. and makes the only ready-to-use brine concentrate on the market. His line has grown since its launch in 2007 and includes a variety of “baths” for barbecue, fajitas, brisket, turkey and even pork butt and ribs. Bonus: Each brine contains less sugar than most barbecue sauces (sweeteners include apple juice, pineapple juice and molasses) and ingredient lists aren’t bogged down with junk we can’t pronounce. Sweetwater Spice Co. 16-ounce bath brines sell for about $9 and are available at Whole Foods, Cabela’s, Academy Sports & Outdoor stores and www.sweetwaterspice.com.
Buzzy New Salsa
At the inaugural Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival Sip + Savor event, which offered bites from local food artisans and some of the city’s smaller eateries, we ran into Southside Salsa Co. founder Jason Harskjold, who was excited to share his latest Rahr & Sons beer-infused salsa, Texas Roja. Harskjold found success last fall when he created Ugly Chipugly salsa, which marries smoky and very piquant chipotle peppers with the coffee and dark chocolate undertones found in Rahr & Sons Ugly Pug black lager. Texas Roja is milder, infused with Rahr’s smooth Texas Red amber lager, and makes for easy inhalation of tortilla chips as well a robust garnish atop scrambled eggs. Find the 16-ounce jars, along with Southside Salsa Co.’s other varieties, at Central Market in Fort Worth and Southlake, all DFW Total Wine & More locations, and at the Rahr & Sons brewery gift shop. Word from Harskjold is that a Rahr’s Blonde variety is in the works. www.southsidesalsaco.com.
Love at the Colonial
Fresh from battling on Esquire TV’s Knife Fight and filming CNBC’s new Restaurant Kickstart, set to premiere in July, chef Tim Love will be back in Fort Worth for the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial (May 19-25) as the event’s exclusive on-course concessionaire and private hospitality caterer, overseeing the 20 concession stands and more than 50 on-course private hospitality venues. The menu will include his signature Love burger, the Colonial chicken “sandy” with bread-and-butter pickle slaw, scratch-made pimento cheese sandwiches, South American skirt steak tacos with pineapple salsa, smoked pork tamales, split and grilled hot dogs with pickle relish, truffle Parmesan fries and chilled, “chili-spiked” watermelon. Love is also responsible for the cocktails at Hole 13, where he’ll serve cucumber jalapeño margaritas and a new Colonial-inspired concoction — the Plaid Jacket, which combines Grey Goose L’Orange with pomegranate and cranberry juices. Daily admission starts at $45; multiple packages available at www.crowneplazainvitational.com.
Monster Food Truck
Southlake-based BellaTrino Neapolitan Pizzeria & Cucina’s mobile unit is a monstrous truck, featuring a kitchen with covered bar stool seating, a soda fountain and flat-screen TVs. Tracy Sanford, who co-owns the concept along with his buddy, John Cooper, says, “John’s got an engineering degree and I’ve got a liberal arts degree. Between the two of us, we were able to envision this thing.” We noticed the enormous eatery generating a crowd at the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival Meals on Wheels food truck event in March and quickly learned folks were flocking to it just as much for the hot Neapolitan pizza as for the truck’s flash. BellaTrino’s Texas-made 5,000-pound oven set at 1,000 degrees is visible through glass and responsible for grilled sandwiches, pastas al forno and Neapolitan pies. The oven “cooks a great product in 60 seconds,” Sanford says. Three trucks serve the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and the company also does catering. Find BellaTrino at Times Ten Cellars (1100 Foch St., Fort Worth, 817-336-9463) on Thursday and Friday nights. www.bellatrino.com.
The Fresh Taste of Spring
Plates around town are finally featuring much-anticipated spring and early summer produce. One of our favorite finds is the arugula and watermelon salad, tinged with vanilla bean seeds and champagne vinegar, at the Capital Grille in downtown Fort Worth. The colorful ensemble of heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh herbs appears on the restaurant’s new $18 lunch-plate menu, along with seared scallops with asparagus risotto and a Maine lobster roll. Use this easy-breezy recipe to whip up your own batch, perfect to pack for a picnic or to make in bulk as a summer potluck dish, as it may be made an hour before serving and enjoyed at room temperature. Or take advantage of the Capital Grille’s new lunchtime valet service and indulge in the pretty, and healthy, dish during your lunch break. 800 Main St., Fort Worth, 817-348-9200; www.thecapitalgrille.com.