I Ate One of the Best Meals of My Life This Weekend...and It Was in Dallas
Some people call it sibling rivalry. Others say that Houstonians are jealous that Dallas is thought of as wealthy and sophisticated, while we have more of a gritty, urban reputation. Maybe it's because Dallas always seems to get national attention for good things, while we end up on lists for crime and such. Whatever the reason, we Houstonians love to hate Dallas.
Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg The charcuterie board at FT33 is one of the best things on the menu.
So when I told my local friends I was taking a weekend trip to Dallas to see what the city had to offer, food-wise, they scoffed. Why would anyone leave the dining mecca that is the Bayou City for the cultural wasteland of the Big D? I wondered this too on the drive up there, Iggy Azalea playing too loud on the radio and the sun tanning only my right arm as I sat in the passenger seat. What could Dallas have to offer that's better than Oxheart or Chinatown or Killen's BBQ?
Along with Fluff Bake Bar chef Rebecca Masson, I'd been invited to dine at FT33, the restaurant helmed by recent James Beard Award semifinalist Matt McCallister, known for his foraging tendencies and modern, seasonal dishes. He was also recently named a Food & Wine best new chef, and FT33--an abbreviation of "fire table 33," the chef's table--is consistently at the top of lists of best restaurants in Dallas.
But enough about the restaurant's and McCallister's local and national accolades. I'm a Houstonian. I ate at a restaurant in Dallas. And in spite of any nebulous urban rivalries, I loved it more than I've loved any food in quite some time. Here's why.
It was a birthday dinner of sorts for Masson, and as such, we were presented with a 10-course tasting menu featuring some of FT33's current greatest hits, as well as a few new inventions. In fact, our favorite dish of the evening was something McCallister "whipped up this morning." That's freaking talent.
The amuse bouche featured chilled potato noodles marinated in vinegar and thyme. The one-bite dish tasted like a salt and vinegar chip, only much, much classier.
Chilled potato noodles.
The charcuterie came next, and featured most notably chicken liver mousse (left), pickled lamb tongue (lower center) and blood sausage (upper center). The pickled lamb tongue was tender and not at all gamey as lamb usually is. McCallister said he doesn't actually care for lamb, but the pickled lamb tongue is something he really enjoys. The morcilla, made with goat's blood, was also mystifyingly good, with earthy notes that played off the strawberry jam garnish.
The ever-changing, but ever-wonderful charcuterie board.
Even fresh oregano leaves atop the thin ribbons of squash couldn't overwhelm the flavor of the black bass, which was slightly briny but rich with the flavor of roasted onions. Earlier in the day, I'd witness line cooks prepping the roasted onions by delicately removing each layer with tweezers.
There's flaky black bass buried under that squash.
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