Most Saturday afternoons you’ll find us in Houston, enjoying Tintos tapas and tastings with a group called the Urban Wineauxs. As defined by the groups’ creator Iris Allen: an Urban Wineaux is “A wine connoisseur who consumes large quantities of wine from a glass at inner city dwellings!” Even though we currently live in the suburbs, they are nice enough to let us join them. You can read more about Iris and the Urban Wineauxs in our current post in Palate Press.
But last Saturday, Iris led about 16 members of the group on a Dallas road trip for a wine dinner at Chef Kent Rathbun’s five star restaurant Abacus. Kent and his brother Kevin defeated Bobby Flay on an episode of Iron Chef America (the secret ingredient was elk).So rather than the 30 minutes up I-45 to River Oaks, we headed four hours north on 1-45 to Dallas’ trendy Cityplace, a neighborhood near Uptown Dallas in the Oak Lawn area and not far from Southern Methodist University.
Dinner began with lobster-scallion “shooters” in a red chile-coconut sake. Just as the name implies, the scrumptious little morsel comes in a sake cup and you consume it as you would a shot of whiskey with a tender lobster bite at the end. Paired with Banyan Gewürztraminer from Monterey County, our waiter suggested we save a bit in our glass for the first course.
Next came grilled Atlantic salmon in a lemongrass-ginger broth, and Wagyu beef dumpling. Wagyū (和牛) refers to several breeds of cattle genetically predisposed to meat with intense marbling characteristics, a naturally enhanced flavor, tenderness and juiciness. The Wagyū cattle also yields a beef that contains a higher percentage of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids than typical beef. The increased marbling also improves the ratio of mono unsaturated fats to saturated fats. Several areas in Japan are famous for Wagyu cattle and ship beef bearing their areas’ names. The Wagyu dumpling practically melted in my mouth!
The second course made Joe’s eyes roll back into his head: a pan-seared scallop atop a celery root puree with truffle sauce. I’ve never been a big fan of truffle flavors but I liked this course so much that I forgot to take a picture. It was paired with a 2007 Viognier from Miner Family Vineyards, a family-owned winery tucked along the eastern hills of the Oakville appellation in the heart of Napa Valley. The citrus and honeysuckle notes in this wine paired perfectly with the buttery earth of the truffle sauce, over the perfectly seared scallop.
Between the courses we chatted with Melanie and her husband John Ofenloch, Dallas locals who are frequent guests at Abacus. John takes cooking classes at Abacus, swearing off twitter (where we first met Melanie). Both provided us with insider info about the art behind our table — it was painted by Abacus’ pastry chef Rick Griggs. This is just a small section of the much larger painting.
Course three was wood-grilled buffalo tenderloin with Homestead Mills yellow corn grits and tequila-lime butter paired with 2007 MacMurray Ranch Sonoma County Pinot Noir. Melanie tells us the winery ranch was owned by the famous Dad from one of my favorite childhood television shows “My Three Sons.” Fred MacMurray purchased the ranch in 1941, where he raised his real family and lived until his death in 1991. His daughter Kate McMurray, a screenwriter, moved back to Russian River Valley from Los Angeles with the introduction of MacMurray Ranch wines. I finished the course before I remembered my camera. The buffalo was extremely tender; the corn grits perfectly prepared.
The fourth course was Dry Sack Sherry Braised Short Ribs with Golden Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto, paired with 2004 BV (Beaulieu Vineyard) Dulcet, Cabernet-Syrah blend from Napa Valley, one of the “Eclectic Reds” available from Abacus extensive wine list.
The dessert course was a decadent Schaffen Berger chocolate pate with candied ginger-Persian pistachios, with a Pistachio Crème Anglaise. Chocolate truffles followed. Grahm’s “Six Grapes” Reserve Porto completed the course pairing.
We bid adieu to Abacus and headed to Veritas Wine Room, billed by Melanie and John as a quiet little place where you could sit down and relax with a glass of wine. Owned by attorney brothers Brooks and Bradley Anderson, Veritas is just a few blocks east of the Central Expressway on Knox/Henderson. It reminds me a bit of our local Chelsea Wine Bar — a little more pub than posh. The printed wine menu included your typical mid-range selections augmented with a wall full of bottles under “Coat of Arms”-type signs labeled West Coast, France and Spain. West Coast wines appeared to be the most popular – with about 60 percent of the dedicated wall space.
We happened to pick a night with a live band, and finding enough seats for us was a bit of a challenge, especially given that it was beginning to rain, and the front patio crowd quickly moved indoors.
We started with bubbles, followed by Siduri Pinot Noir. We found a Spanish Granacha on the menu but alas, they were out. By the time we decided to go with a Tempranillo Brooks suggested we were opting for water. We corked the bottle, said good-bye to the Urban Wineauxs and newest members Melanie and John, and headed back to our hotel in what had become a downpour that continued through most of the next day.
Lucky for us, it let up while we were camped out in BW3s watching the Detroit Lions “not win” their first regular season game, and we were able to get back on the freeway to head south for Houston.
All in all it was a great road trip — and we are looking forward to Iris’ Next Big Adventure!
The WineWonkette* For more pictures click on the links in the body of the post, above!