Thursday, September 22, 2011

Catching Up With History

Al Badger (r) and Al Badger Jr. (l),
owners of The Golden Pheasant
from 1940 - 1962.
Photo courtesy of Al Badger, III

Two more stories have been published over on SideDish about Dallas Food History. Story #3 is about a man named Eltee Dave, who despite an early life of poverty worked very hard, becoming a Dallas barbecue legend. From the 1940's through the 1970's his Dave's BBQ (near the old Love Field) and Dave's Places (various locations) is still remembered by those who ate his cooked meats.

The 4th story was inspired by a foreword written by Caroline Rose Hunt in Dallas Is Cooking! (Renie Steves, 1992) where she remembers her favorite restaurants during downtown Dallas' golden age. Digging into the history of The Golden Pheasant restaurant revealed an almost 50 year old treasure, three families owned and worked the restaurant from 1915 until 1962 before it was sold to a man who'd lost his previous restaurant in a fire. Bad luck struck again in 1964 when a fire took down the financially failing Golden Pheasant, killing 4 Dallas firefighters when the building collapsed. It remains to this day the worst loss in the Dallas Fire Departments history and befitting the background of an early 1960's Dallas, mob connections, hit men, and murder.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Finding Ida

Published yesterday on SideDish is the story of Ida Chitwood, a lady known to hundreds of thousands of women in the early 20th century, forgotten to all but her family today. I "met" Ida when I wrote a story on TDCB about pecan pie, little did I realize that finding Ida was also in a sense about finding myself. First, let me clarify, I know who I am, senility has not yet set in. But in the last two years, since the oldest went off to college and the youngest got her drivers license, "what's next" had been rattling around in my brain.

And it was tied into the writing I was doing on this blog. Repeating "what am I doing" as I formulated posts unpublished, the question sealed those stories in my memory instead of here.  So instead of posting about an incredible week in Napa, I read the autobiography of Elmer Scott. Instead of posting about Sevy's new One Pot Braising sauce, I sat for hours in the UT-A library looking at microfiche of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. My new Friday evening pastime (when hubby was at work) was logging into the Dallas Historical phorum and reading the memories of my neighbors. Or sometimes it was scavenging Ebay and antique stores for old postcards and cook books.

But I still couldn't formulate what it was I was trying to accomplish. It took almost two years of researching Ida before the breakthrough came, and when it did, it set a course of what I needed to do. Just as Ida's breakthrough came from the most simplest of Google searches (duh, why didn't I think of it earlier), my purpose was as close to hand.  I needed to find these old stories of people and favorite eating places - put the pieces together and share them, before they were gone forever.

Because food is large part of our cultural history. While not a native, research has shown to me that Dallas has had over the last 150 years some of the most progressive dining in the country. One that goes with our culture, not with cities on the east or west coast. Other transplants would disagree, writing "Dallas feels to me as though it may just be beginning to blossom into a serious food city."

To which I can now reply, "Been there. Done that."

Extra Credit Where Due

Yesterday the second installment of Dallas food history was published over on SideDish, it is about an amazing woman named Ida Chitwood, who in the 1920's, 30's and 40's rocked the nation with her free cooking demonstrations. We're not done with her story, she had a profound impact on food that is still being explored. Consider this an introduction.

These stories are a collaboration of many people, including the families who share their memories. In many ways they could not be fully told without their help. Many, many thanks for sharing.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lookee There!

It's not that I've stopped writing, I've been working on a pretty big project over the last year actually, and the first story was just published over on D Magazine's SideDish food blog. I hope it does grow up into a book one day, but I've learned that the business side of writing is in some ways far more difficult than the actual writing. But for now it's fun, fascinating and important - my heart tells me it needs to be finished. Plus I get to work with the talented Nancy Nichols, who first pointed me in the right direction by whispering the words, "Bird by Bird."

I'll still be writing here from time to time, don't stop checking back.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Eating Reruns: How To Cook For Kids

In todays Dallas Morning News there is an article about the little leaguers at Dave Andres Ballpark in Old East Dallas and their big leaguer helpers at the Texas Rangers Foundation.  It reminded me of a story I wrote about how the Dave Andres Ballpark came to be back in September 2008.

It was the first story in the "How To Cook" series.  You can read it here:  How To Cook For Kids.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

Best Cancellation By An Email Recipient Ever

Somehow, this accountant has become the internet marketing chief of Sevy's Grill.  Whatever, I hate it.  Almost as much as I hate filing and cleaning the toilet.  But we received a cancellation that made me laugh, and I thought I'd pass it along.

"In 2,753 days, when my last child goes to college, I will look forward to enjoying myself. Until then, please remove me from the constant reminders of what I am missing."

I'm sending this lady a certificate for a martini on me because she will need a break before then.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What's Up With The New Old Terrilli's?

Dunno, but snapped this shot of the reconstruction yesterday.  It's been almost a year since the fire closed down the popular Greenville Avenue restaurant.  At that same time, Popolo's at Preston/Royal had closed leaving an empty space with neighbors eager to get some Italcho's in their part of town.   My suggestion was to turn the property quickly with a Terrilli tenant, cooking up a romantic byline, Phoenix-from-the-ashes style.   Then use the proceeds from that restaurant to help build the new Terrilli's in the old location.

Nobody listens to me, it's looking like a while longer before this will be open for business, in the meantime brand loyalty erodes, competition moves in, and employees find new employers they may chose to remain with. 

And the old Popolo's space?  Still empty.  Still not generating rent.  Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Mexico: Crop Freeze, Price Increases and Unemployment

Word from produce powerhouse FreshPoint about the recent freeze in northwestern Mexico at the beginning of February when temperatures dipped into the mid-20's  for up to 6 hours:

MEXICO FREEZE: CULIACAN UPDATE:  On Wednesday February 9th 2011, Quality Assurance traveled to Culiacan Sinaloa Mexico to visit and view the impact the recent freezing temperatures had in the growing region and surrounding areas. Initial assessments after the freeze had outlined an event not seen in the region since 1957.

Produce endured low temperatures on February 3rd and 4th for a period 1 ½ to 6 hours in length at anywhere from 22 to 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures were cold enough to impact all open field (85 to 99% loss), shade house (60 to 80% loss), and green house (10 to 30% loss) grown product in Mexico.

The mass of cold air cut a swath from Mexicali to the Nogales Border down into Mazatlan and portions of Baja California San Quintin.

At the time of the freeze production in the area was in full swing from Hermosillo in the North and down through La Cruz Sinaloa along the highway 15 Corridor of Mexico. About 80% of Mexico’s production has been affected. It has been reported that in Sinaloa alone, 714,000 hectares (1.7 million acres) were affected by the freezing temperatures. An Area covering approximately the size of the States of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

In addition to the loss of vegetables, tomato, and corn crops; 200,000 to 300,000 farm workers have also been affected by the frost. The mass migration south of unemployed agricultural laborers will begin between mid to late February as production slows in the region. Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon also visited Culiacan on February 11th, assessing the damage and pledging support in the form of seed vouchers and emergency aid.
Other highlights of the report include bad news for tomatoes (Roma quality to vary, open field tomato plantings a total loss, grape tomatoes extensive damange); cucumbers, eggplant, bell peppers (all total losses); squash (small plantings survived).  There are limited crops that were harvested after the freeze, but quality will be poor.  Time estimates for plant recovery ranges from 4-6 weeks (tomatoes), to 45-60 days (squash), 6-8 weeks (bell peppers), 4-5 weeks (cucumbers) and gone for the season (eggplant).

Plan menus accordingly.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dallas Farmers Market Loses One Of It's Best Friends

Ida with Sevy
1996 Friends of the Farmers
Market Hoedown

 Ida Papert, great mother (Mombo), wonderful wife of the late Sam Papert, Jr, cookbook author and founding member of Dallas Farmers Market Friends passed away yesterday. She was needed elsewhere.

It’s not about how or when you die, it’s about how you live. Ida lived well. She was instrumental in organizing a non-profit way, way back in the 1990's to help support and build up the Dallas Farmers Market. From implementing the Farmer’s Hoedown fund raiser every year, to organizing and working the seasonal Chefs Cooking Series at the DFM Resource Center, to writing and selling 1000 copies of the Papert Family Cookbook whose sales enriched the market. And this was what she did for retirement.

Looking through my archives I’m finding many, many pictures of Ida, from the cooking classes, hoedowns, dinners and even a cruise we went on together over the last 20 years. After 15 years of DFM cooking classes, she wrote a second cookbook, Extra Helpings, to help fund a DCCCD scholarship endowment named after Jim “Sevy” Severson. To thank him for a good 15 years of success and friendship, but to also help finance a student’s dream of becoming a chef.

We saw her last having dinner at Suze with one of her sons, about a month ago. She looked beautiful. Frail, but appearing to be in good health, she was wearing a stylish white coat, her smile as big as ever. Hopefully that smile, and her good name will be remembered by Dallas in years to come as we miss her spirit and enthusiasm.  Rest in peace, Mama Ida.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It Was Just Like A Video Game

Fellow Texans, credit one 19 year old with ending the life of  a 200 lb. scourge, scoring his first hunting kill.  The Boy, home from college for the holiday, joined the duo of chefs Sevy and Chamberlain for a little east Texas hog hunting, leaving the house in North Dallas at 4:00 today.

As I was leaving Neighborhood Services at 6:30, post-dinner, the phone rang, caller ID tipped me off, "Did you kill something?"  I ask into the phone.

"Mom, I killed a 200 lb. hog, first shot.  I'm covered with blood."  OK, if you have a boy, you understand the excitement. 

Me, I was just as happy to stay home with Sister and watch Beauty and the Beast on cable.  Dang, now our three dogs want to know what smells in the garage refrigerator.

Whether it's pork or turkey this holiday, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving, with plenty of good shopping mixed in.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Has Anyone Been To Bill Smith Cafe?

McKinney, Texas?  Because it looks like they're serving up a healthy slice of humor.

First Taste - Crossroads Diner Has Officially Opened

I was fortunate to be invited on Friday to a mock service meal at Chef Tom Fleming's new place, Crossroad's Diner on Walnut Hill Lane just east of Central Expressway.   Out and about running errands, I stopped by the diner around 10:30, and sure enough, was welcomed to my solo table.  Sitting at the table next to mine was Meaders Ozarow of Empire Bakery, and we spent a pleasant breakfast chatting across our tables about our teenage children (she's a Booker T mom) and the restaurant business in general.  

Serving breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, the menu is extensive for both meals.   As a hard-core oatmeal afficianado I love places that know their rolled grains, their's had the requisite bite and flavor.  Crossroad's breakfast specialty is a large cinnamon roll drizzled with a delicious caramel sauce and sprinkled with pecans - I could have eaten three.  I don't review restaurants, but I will say it's nice to have a new spot in the neighborhood to visit that serves a great breakfast and lunch menu.  I'm hoping this is it, they are certainly filling a niche.

Breakfast - click to enlarge

Lunch - click to enlarge

Friday, November 19, 2010

And Now, On With The Show

Been quiet on here, I know.  Who knew ancient sewing skills, long buried, would be dusted off for help with costuming this year's musical at Hillcrest?  With two other moms, we  managed to sew 29 golden dresses for one musical number (or a total of about 90 seconds onstage), and they turned out fabulous.  This has nothing to do with food, or restaurants, but it did eat up about 30 hours of spare time that would have been used blogging, thus the post.

Art doesn't get more "local" than a great high school musical! Seats for Hillcrest High School Theater Department's final performance of "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" (Saturday, 7:30) are still available, and only $10 ($12 for reserved seating). Hillcrest High School Theater Boosters would like to invite all in the community to come and enjoy the performance, ticket purchases may be made here .
As with most artistic endeavors, we rely on the support of our community. Thank you for coming to watch our show, we guarantee you'll leave with a smile.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Who Said Food Porn Is Dead?

Don't think so.  Just take a look at the 2011 North Texas Food Bank/Kent Rathbun/Central Market calendar.  13 months of pictures and recipes that will leave you wet drooling.  With photos by Pat Haverfield, Central Market underwriting and Kent's impeccable, 5-star sense of style, it's absolutely orgasmic delicious that 100% of the proceeds go to help feed the hungry.   Each month features an Elements by Kent Rathbun ingredient, and there is an accompanying coupon for purchasing same ingredient during the month.  So in a way, you get paid back for good food porn behavior.   Available November 16th at the Dallas and Plano Central Markets as well as , $19.95.

I need a cigarette and a glass of wine now, please.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How To Cook For The Guest

I read the same book twice this summer. Danny Meyer’s, “Setting the Table, The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business” (an autographed copy no less) was a gift from the manager of Gramercy Tavern  as Sevy and I left one evening. We didn't know him, he didn't know who we were, we had only mentioned how hospitable we thought all the Meyer clan of restaurants were.  At the time I didn’t realize the core truth of the gift was what was enclosed within the covers. It’s a clearly stated vision of how empowering your organization with the key concepts of hospitality creates "excellence, success, good will and soul" for all stakeholders in a business - and he’s not just talking restaurants and hotels here.

Many of us in the restaurant industry are well familiar with the tenets of hospitality, it’s easy to think that we already know all the how’s and the why’s. But which of us cannot refine how we operate each day within our organization - especially in today's business climate? I’m just saying that this book provided a wealth of ideas for Sevy and I to apply to our own business, in our own manner - reading the book empowered us to do this. A week after returning from NYC we ordered 4 more copies of the book from for our managers to read.

The definition of hospitality, a noun, is: 1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers. 2. the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way. Mr. Meyer’s definition of empowered hospitality turns this in to a verb. It is actions or behaviors towards your staff, guests, community, suppliers and investors in a warm, friendly, generous way - it goes beyond welcoming the guest at the door, serving the food they order and presenting a check. But like most policies that succeed, it has to start at the top.

There is a Dallas link in this book, Mr. Meyer recounts a dinner with Stanley Marcus who gave him some excellent advice. I could share this, and more, since I’ve read the thing (did I mention, twice?).  But truly, Mr. Meyer deserves every penny of royalties he gets off of this business guide. So I’m not going to give away his secrets, I’m only going to recommend that if you own a business - any kind of business at all - there’s something in here that will help you see how to improve.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An A & W Without Root Beer Is Kind Of Like A KFC Without Chicken

The Freakonomics economists discussed this on Marketplace on KERA this morning.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Eat Pancakes For Hillcrest High School

This has become such a fun community event for parents, teachers, alumni and students, we are very excited to announce the
6th Annual Panther Pancake Breakfast at Sevy's Grill on Sunday, October 24th.  

100% of all income goes to fund Hillcrest High School programs.  This years beneficiaries are HHS Theater and HHS Panader Booster clubs.

Anyhow, here's the deets:  Everyone is welcome, but tickets are by reservation only due to limited seating, cost is (still only) $10 per person for a fixed-menu:  fresh fruit cup, pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon and choice of coffee, tea, milk or juice.  We will be serving breakfast from 9:00 am until Noon, to make your reservation contact (Amy Severson) with the TIME you want to come and the NUMBER of peeps in your party.  I will save you a spot.

It's a great kickoff for homecoming week, especially since I'm not working on the PTSA Parade-gang this year (moved to fund raising, yum).   Last year we had a very large alumni group from the 1960's spread over 4 tables in the front.  They had so much fun we didn't think they were going to leave. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cattle Baron's Report: More Success, Less Hangover

Jeff Barker and Richard
Last years Cattle Baron's Ball will go down in infamy, not for it's title, "Honor of Cowboys", but for the flood of rain that moved everyone into leaking tents, including the bands.   But at this weekends Ball, all was laughs and fun recountings, the mildewed odor of ruined leather blown away by the incredible event hosted by this years Committee.   "Need a ride home?", Taylor Allday asked the chefs, referring to the ride he gave Richard Chamberlain last year, leaving the rest of us to dig a limo out of the mud until 3 am.  Thanks Taylor, this year we all drove separately - and drank a lot less.

This years "The Great State Fair" was a brilliantly crafted showcase of all things amusing - State Fair-wise - carny games, cotton candy and an actual ferris wheel.  Mother Nature gave us a beautiful light show early in the evening with a stunning cloudless sunset, and after dark a fireworks display lit up the sky (word has it the fireworks were purchased as a gift from a husband to a wife on the Committee, but this is unconfirmed at this writing).   With the lights and the beautiful evening you could really believe you were, well, maybe not at THE State Fair, but at a small county fair, somewhere in Texas.   A small county fair with Jack Ingram and Allan Jackson providing the live music, that is.

It seemed as if the live auction bidding started out a little slow, it may have been because attendees were having too much FUN and enjoying too much FOOD (brisket, enchiladas,
Jim "Sevy" Severson, Kevin Garvin,
Richard Chamberlain
corny dogs, hush puppies, tacos) to wander over to the stage.  But by the time the annual Chefs Package came up, bidding was heating up.   This year "The BBQ Boys" as they were listed (Richard Chamberlain, Kevin Garvin, David Holben, Kent Rathbun and Jim Severson) added former Dallas-ite Kevin Rathbun, the band Collective Soul and Kosta Browne Winery to their private barbecue party for 30 people. 

And the bidding was steep, their package auctioned for $50,000, twice, adding a cool $100,000 to the over $1.5 million the Chefs package has raised to date over the last 20 years.  At the end of the Live Auction, everyone refilled their drinks before the bars closed down and meandered over to their tables in front of Allan Jackson's performance stage.   Sevy and I (not being huge country music fans) decided to beat the end-of-party rush.   Perhaps a vestige memory of last years conclusion in the back of our minds, we collected our gift bags, put the top down on the convertible and enjoyed a nicely uneventful drive home from Plano.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Alee Burger New To Northwest Dallas

Everyone in the restaurant business knows where Acemart is, even a few folks not in the industry shop there.  It's a restaurant supply store at Forest and Webbs Chapel where you can buy anything from aprons to a cotton candy machine.   On my way in I noticed a "Grand Opening" sign hanging over the store next door, Alee Burger, who claims to make the "Best Burger In Town" and "We Don't Make Until You Order".

I didn't have a chance to check that claim being short on time so I'll leave that verification to a local reviewer who's the "expert" on burger food.  But the salesgirl at Acemart said the burger she had was great.  So there's that.  They have 13 different styles, plus a Turkey Cheeseburger and a Vegetable Cheeseburger, and 10 different sandwiches, nachos, salads and Kid's Baskets.

At $4.25 for 1/2 lb. burger, it seems like a great deal. 

Get Your Pie Baking

Tomorrow, Saturday October 9th is North Haven Garden's annual pie contest.  While I've previously recommended a pie recipe, or two, this is one of the NHG contests I know I should stay away from, these are some seriously talented bakers.  Besides, with Sevy's Grill being a contest co-sponsor, for me, what's to win?  A meal cooked by my husband, while wonderful, is pretty common in our house.

There is NO pre-entry required, rules are here.  So if you have a great pie recipe and want to prove it, get busy baking.  OR, if you're not a baker, stop by for their free classes being held tomorrow on growing fruit trees, canning and pickling or how to make a no-fuss pie crust.  And then stay to sample the contestants pies.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Refilling The Cup

Dear Readers,

No, that last post (Getting the HTML out of here) was not another way of saying that I've stopped posting.   This blog was supposed to be a creative outlet that is also fun and informative.  Except after two years it was starting to feel like a job.  And I already have like 5 or 6 of those, only one of which pays a salary.

So I gave myself September off, to read books, to travel, and to try to get caught up with those unpaying (and paying) duties so I could go back to posting on TDCB on an (almost) daily basis.  And I'm looking forward to it, I hope you are too.

Back on October 1st with some new stuff.

Amy S.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Getting The HTML Out Of Here

We have a website,, and a few years ago we hired a web designer who understood the mysterious language called HTML Code to set up our website for us.  But that also meant that every time we had a new menu, or wanted to update promotions, post newsletters, add information, we had to call and have the changes made by the designer - or risk screwing up our website.

And then I found Homestead, by Intuit (y'know, the Quicken/ Quickbooks company).  And now I'm the web designer, kind of, with help from the experts from Homestead.  It's a whole new look for Sevy's Grill, and every time I visit I see something that needs to be tweaked.  But the great thing is I can log in and do it - I even added a Monthly Events page.  All. By. Myself.  No HTML knowledge required.

Maybe you've got a small business but haven't the funds to expand on the web?  Homestead has over 2000 free templates to choose from, many designed for specific industries.   Their web hosting costs as little as $10 per month.

We opted to pay for a Homestead designer to set up a custom template for us, set up the initial 5 pages (we can have up to 10), money well spent even though I've gone through and changed all the fonts and moved buttons, added links.  Because it allows us to put our own personal imprint on our business' web portal, and I think that's important. 

And it did not all go smoothly - transferring over our domain and then linking it to our design was a little stressful.  They have a help staff, it sometimes takes about 24 hours for them to get back with you (depending on the subject).  It would be lovely if they had a "Live Chat" button, even if the result is the same ("We'll get back with you"), at least you feel like you've reached a person.  There were some gaps in the published Help guide when it came to setting up a new page (it does not include instructions for setting up a page with a custom designed template).  But there was a solution for all of my questions, it just required a little patience.

So check out our new look, and please, I'd love some feedback.  I'm thinking of adding a "Chef's Corner" page with some recipes from Sevy and Buzzy.  Oh, and I can set up a blog on it - but wait, I already have one of those.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

2010 Continues To Be Tough

Independent restaurants took the hardest hit.  So sayeth Mark Brandeau on Nations Restaurant News.

To which I reply, "I know".

My ongoing review of Dallas restaurant Mixed Beverage tax receipts shows that few of us who were open two-plus years ago are back up to our 2008 (alcohol) sales numbers.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Security Reservations on OpenTable Checks

UPDATE:  Friday, 8/20 - Upon checking the website, the company has changed their pdf poster.  I have removed the copy of the original poster from this website as well.
But I have to say, this is a poorly constructed mechanism to inform their members about important financial transactions.  And there is a very important difference between OpenTable Restaurant checks and Traveler's checks, even if phony, a Traveler's check will never be returned to the payee.
I was visiting the website today (this is where businesses conduct their OpenTable relationship) not logged in, just a "regular Amy" checking it out, and noticed an alert in red ink:

Who knew that OpenTable was getting in the "traveler's check" business, I guess it's their way of capturing part of the gift certificate market, or maybe they issue their rewards this way.   Anyhow, it was news to me, we haven't had one presented before at Sevy's Grill.

Apparently anticipating greater numbers of these checks during the holiday season, they were letting us know to train our staff should one be presented as payment.  Continuing, they added the next really helpful message:

Useful Facts about Dining Cheques
1. Accepting Dining Cheques is part of the OpenTable contract.
(Does this seem a little pushy for a company that makes money off of their  client transactions?  I mean it's not like they're VISA or anything).

Attached was a PDF file "an informational poster to download and print and post for your employees".  And upon downloading it, this is where the SHIT HIT THE FAN

Photocopied onto this PDF file (completely accessible to anyone who goes to was full pictures of the two types of checks OpenTable is issuing - including their bank account and routing numbers.

So let me get this straight - me, member, paying YOU fees, must accept a check that YOU HAVE PROVIDED FREE OF CHARGE TO ANY ONLINE THIEF WITH A PRINTER AND A SUPPLY OF BLANK CHECKING PAPER?  Don't think so.  Because when we are presented with this old-fashioned payment, we have to deposit it, and won't find out for days that it is a forgery. 

And I have a reservation with that, "Security"!

UPDATE:  So admittedly I'm not the best at explaining a situation, re-reading the above is confusing even to me.  So to elaborate, let me put it in the form of a fictional story scenario.

One night at a restaurant, not so far away, a random guest pays for all, or a portion of his dinner check with a "Checque" [please].  The server takes it to the back of the restaurant (it's printed as payable to any Member restaurant) compares it to the check photos on the "informational poster" provided, and hey, it's a match.  Thank you sir and have a good night.

The check is deposited in the bank, and a few days later the restaurant is informed that "sorry", it was a forgery.  Downloaded off the internet - in fact the company website itself, graphically perfected, printed on blank check paper by a ring of (fill in your favorite ethnicity here) thieves, who printed thousands of these checks, selling them over a 24 hour period for 25 cents on the dollar on an internet sales site, called Teebay.

By the time the first check is redeemed, refused and returned to the restaurant, the site is closed down and the restaurant eats the lost money.  Or OpenTable does.  Which would it be?

Brothers II Grill Coming to North Dallas

We were driving up north for an evening of Quiddler with friends, when at Frankford and Preston (northwest corner) I noticed a dumpster parked in front of the former Berryhill Grill spot.

Brothers II Grill is already in Plano and Frisco.  And their website has one of the best musical backgrounds of any restaurant website I've ever visited.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Fondest Educational Dream Comes True

No, not the one where the DMN gives Dr. Hinojosa unqualified credit for bringing up our schools.  The other dream, the one where DISD schools get salad bars

Stopped by the Greenville Whole Foods after shopping at Half Price Books (purchased The Secrets of the Jennivine Restaurant by Jennifer Messina), and at checkout they asked if I'd like to make a donation to Project Salad Bar?

"Whassat?"  I asked, maybe fuzzy from the four white wines I'd sampled while buying dinner ingredients.  "We're trying to raise enough money to put salad bars in seven Dallas schools," nice checkout lady said.  The only elementary school they were sure of is Jill Stone at Vickery Meadows Elementary (DISD).

Thank you, Whole Foods, for opening the gates to better eating for kids all over.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dallas Zoo Is Getting "Cheesy"

They're having their annual photography contest at the Dallas Zoo, "Feathers Furs and Scales" entries may be submitted until September 30, 2010.  The $15 entry fee lets you submit up to three 8 x 10 photos just attach an entry form, here

Four categories eligible to win, Children (to age 12), Junior (13-18), Novice (beginner/nonprofessional) and Advanced, awards given to First, Second, Third and Honorable Mention as well as a Grand Prize winner. 

Wet, Wetter, Wettest

I downloaded the lastest Mixed Beverage TABC tax report for the city of Dallas, it covered remittances received in July (mostly for June sales, but I did see many businesses that were paying for May as well).  Total taxes received for the period were just over $6.5 million, so with the help of Excel I did a little numbers analysis.  Hello, are you still awake?

First we have the dry areas, which are really wet, restaurants just have to license as clubs.    Club licensees located in "dry" Dallas paid over $1.4 million, or 22% of the total tax receipts.  The top five booze-selling "dry" zip codes in Dallas (as a percentage of "dry" booze tax totals) are:  75287 (14%), 75240 (11.7%), 75208 (8.3%), 75230 (7.4%), 75243 (6.6%).  Other "dry" sales of alcohol transact in zip codes 201, 203, 206, 207, 211, 212, 214, 217, 218, 219, 220, 224, 225, 228, 229, 231, 248, 252, 254.

Wetter, is the licensees located in "wet" Dallas, whose restrictions and limitations are less stringent and whose 78% of total tax receipts equals total alcohol sales of over $31 million (for one month).  This does not include packaged beer, wine or liquor sales at retail locations, this is bars, clubs, hotels and restaurants.   Wet zip codes include: 088, 201, 202 204, 205, 206, 207, 209, 210, 214, 215, 219, 220, 223, 225, 226, 227, 229, 231, 235, 247, 287.

And wettest, the top five booze-selling zip codes (% total wet  / % total city) are 75201 (17.6/14.1), 75206 (16.3/12.6), 75220 (13.4/10.4), 75204 (12.1/9.4), 75219 (10.5/10.4).  These five zip codes account for almost 57% of poured alcohol sales in Dallas.  

The top ten liquor paying taxpayers for the month ending June 30th are:

Baby Dolls ($68,298)
Ritz Carlton/Fearings ($56,934)
Hilton Anatole/Nana ($55,643)
The Lodge ($50,609)
Sheraton Dallas Hotel ($46,120)
Far West ($44,886)
Escapade 2001 ($44,194)
Ocean Prime ($43,414)
Ojo Loco Sports Cantina ($40,118)
Dallas Gentlemans Club ($39,809)

Conspicuously absent (at least to me) is the American Airlines Center.  Can't find numbers for them anywhere.

June Contest Winners Announced

There were three "Memory Lane" contests in June.

Name The Chefs Winner:  "Michael", who named 6 out of 12 correctly, and who wanted to know where this was taken (Dallas Farmer's Market in the shed that is now enclosed - which wasn't back then).  Michael, honey, you didn't let me know who you are, so contact me about collecting that prize at .

For the record from left to right, back row:  Bernard Mueller, Tom Fleming, Marc Cassel, Helen Duran.  Middle row:  Samir Dhurandhar, Gilbert Garza, Joanne Bondy, Kevin Ascolese, Kathleen Ellington, Jim Severson.  Front row:  William Guthrey, Annie Wong.

Who Dat? Was won by another chef who used to be cooking in Dallas, Ron Rosenbaum, formerly of Nana and the Crescent.  He correctly identified the mystery man above as Robbin Haas, former Executive Chef of Nana who we lost track of after he moved to Florida. 

Ron, it turns out is now in Chicago, Executive Chef at The Casino.  Ron - great to hear from you!  I spent an hour yesterday digging in boxes - because I knew I had a picture of you and your wife, and here it is.  Aspen Food & Wine Festival (we were all at Maroon Bells) in.... '89?  '90?  Dude, you won a jar of Sevy's Ancho Chile Relish, please drop me a line and let us in Dallas know how your doing!
The second part of this puzzler involved naming where Robbin Haas is now.  And a few weeks ago while at dinner at Salum, chefriend Kevin Garvin provided the answer, without realizing there was a contest going on.  "Hey, did you hear?  Robbin's up in Montauk (Long Island), he's executive chef for Montauk Yacht Club."   Kevin doesn't know it yet, but he won a $25 gift certificate to Sevy's. 

Looks the same.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Diary Of A Daycation

A few weeks ago Sevy mentioned he wanted to drive out to East Texas to pay a visit to Strube Ranch, producers of Wagyu beef, also known as American Kobe.   Their ranch is near Pittsburgh, and we decided to make it a scenic day, driving out on Highway 80, sticking to the small towns like Terrell, Wills Point, Grand Saline.  Eventually, when we hit the piney tree forests of East Texas we were going to cut north, skirting the west edge of Lake O' the Pines.

Chefriend Samir was having a birthday in a few days, so we decided to stop at Bob Well's Nursery in Lindale to pick up an olive tree as a gift.  Nobody was there when we arrived, so we called the phone number on the door.  Bob remembered us!  But he'd just had shoulder surgery and was laying low, so he told us to just take the tree we wanted and leave a check on the desk.  That's good country friendly.  He had many varieties of fruit trees in stock if you're looking, his prices make it worth the drive.

We arrived at Strube Ranch offices, located in a tidy metal barn surrounded by pastureland and encircled by miles and miles of red fencing.  And cows, lots of cows everywhere.  Meeting us was Tia Strube Ables, daughter of the founder, J. Larry Strube a "wildcatter" of wagyu when it was first developed in Texas, going to Japan and bringing back full-blood Wagyu semen during a window in time when exports were allowed.   Tia drove us all over the ranch in her truck, she was good country friendly.

They carry two grades of meat, Mishima and Gold,  scored using a Japanese BMS system grading the visual marbling of each piece of meat.  On their 2000 acres at any one time there is typically upwards of 5,000 cows, calfs and bulls.  They are fed minimally processed grains with no hormones or antibiotics, and are allowed free roam of the countryside, not caged inside barns during Texas heat.  About a year before they are to be butchered they are shipped to "select Iowa feedlots to be fed for 350 to 400 days in an all-natural, sheltered, low-stress environment".

About 80 percent of their product after processing is sent to the Chicago and New York City markets, including Kosher.  The 10 percent that does not grade "Prime" is shipped to different processors, but not sold under the Strube name.  According to Tia, a few years ago her dad was convinced that there could be a strong local market for his excellent beef, so he invested in a refrigerated truck and started visiting chefs and restaurants.  They do not use distributors, and supply a number of area buyers, including Rosenblatt Meats, Bonnell's in Fort Worth, and Chamberlain's in Addison. 

And now at Sevy's as well.  What can I say, good is good.  We've switched to their all-beef hot dogs for our All-American Kobe Beef Corny Dogs on our bar menu, we've switched to their tri-tips for our Kobe Skewers and inside round for our Pot Roast. 

So finding our way home required driving on several county roads before we came to Winnsboro, a charming town that Tia told us included a small pub tucked behind a bakery.   Hot day, cold beer, that sure sounded good, so we stopped for a snack and a couple beers at Brewbaker's Restaurant & Pub. 

We must have screamed "city folk" because owner Jeff Heath came by and introduced himself.  Formerly from the Dallas area, he bought a bakery and added the pub on the back.  On the weekends they feature live performers and bands.  Anyhow, Jeff was sure good country friendly, he sent Sevy and I some Bacon Wrapped Shrimp to go with the Pork Shank Ribs (excellent) we'd ordered. We'd put this on our "go back" list next time we're in the area.  

Continuing westward, facing the setting sun, we crossed Lake Fork, then a few miles down the road passed through East Tawakoni and West Tawakoni.  Twenty minutes later we were at I-30 and LBJ, another 10 minutes and we were pulling into the driveway.

Sevy's August Food And Wine Dinner

Join us on Monday, August 23rd at 6:30 p.m. for our monthly four course food and wine dinner, featuring
“A Night in Venice”
Sevy and Buzzy have created a special menu to take you away for the evening, specially paired with wines to compliment each course. $59.95 per person (plus tax and gratuity), seating is limited, reservations are required. Please contact Stefaan, Amy M. or Hillary at (214)265-7389 or

Beef Carpaccio with Arugula and Shaved Parmesan
“The Bellini” from Cipriani Restaurant

Insalata Di Mare
Torresella, Pinot Grigio, Veneto, 2009

Summer Vegetable Risotto
Pieropan, Soave Classico, 2007

Osso Buco with Creamy Mushroom Polenta
Bertani, Valpolicella, Rpasso, 2007
Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d’ Asti “Le Orme”, 2007

Peach and Amaretto Tart
(Torta Di Pesche all’ Amaretto)
Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d'Asti "Nivole", 2008

8201 Preston Road, Dallas, 75225 * (214) 265-7389 *

"Like" us on Facebook: Sevys Grill

Subterranean Aviators "Who Cares" Album Release

Cover art by Tommy Lewis
The party is tonight at the Curtain Club, 2800 Main in Deep Ellum.  They take the stage at 8:30 pm SHARP and play for the next 50 minutes.   $10 cover.  One day you might be able to say "I saw them when....".  Just saying.

Four teenagers playing their dreams.

Meet Mack-Daddy, The Knife

So we're in Naperville Illinois a few weeks back visiting my sister during a heat wave and 90+ percent humidity (lovely) when my brother-in-law, Andy (co-owner with sis of The Hammer Source, serving all your hammer needs), says, "Hey, have you met Bob?".   Looking around, I only see him, with his arms crossed across his chest, holding a knife in one hand, a beautiful knife, a knife that glimmered with the craftsmanship that was put into it's making. 

Now let me regress a little, a while back I posted about listening to an episode of The Splendid Table, and an interview with Master Bladesmith Bob Kramer who was formerly a chef, but fascinated with creating the perfect chefs knives.  Father's Day was coming up, so I went on his website to see about ordering one of his creations, only to find out his custom knives cost THOUSANDS, gad, and are so popular that he's not even taking orders right now.  So, no go for a papa present.

So (flash forward) here in Andy's hands was a Kramer knife, not one that was handmade by Bob Kramer, but handmade by his direction by artisans at SHUN Cutlery in Japan and sold at Sur la Table in the USA.   Unfortunately, or fortunately, later that day we had lunch downtown Naperville at Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House which happened to be right next to Sur la Table.   So we decided to take a peek, and it must have been fate, because they were On Sale - I had the credit card out before Jim could pick out his knife.  But not cheap - his 10" Chefs knife was "marked down" to $379.95, or just over $400 with tax.

But it's been one of the best gifts I've ever given him.  "Look honey, see how it cuts," as he touches the knife to a watermelon and it splits in half, well maybe thats an exaggeration, but it is one hell of a killer knife

"Denn die einen sind im Dunkeln
Und die andern sind im Licht
Und man siehet die im Lichte
Die im Dunkeln sieht man nicht"

Blogathon Friday

Time to clear off my list of things waiting to be written about, don't know how many I'll be able to get in today - the record is 10, so far.  But "other" work intrudes a little, treasurer duties for the school spirit team, financial duties for the restaurant.   Oh and around mid-day the Mom Job kicks in, that's when hubby and the Boy leave for a 9 hour caravan drive for College, Year 2.  Expect something either about alcohol or crying right about then.

And yes, this counts as post #1.

UPDATE:  Where'd she go?  You might wonder.  Took a shower to get my thoughts organized, and in the process thought of about 5 more things to write about.  So I'm making this a two-day Blogathon, overlapping into tomorrow (up until the boss gets home).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer Is Almost Over

It's time to get back to work.  Well, actually, work has been what has been keeping me from blogging.  But I have so many things to share, so, be ready, I'm callin' it:  Blogathon Friday this Friday.  Hubby and the Boy are headed out on a 9 hour caravan drive back to school, Sister's in drill team practice (and just got her drivers license), and the dogs, well, they love laying around while I type.

It's too damn hot to do anything else.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Glen Lakes Grill Opening Soon - But No Mention When

We were driving 'cross town to pick up our Goody-Goody supplies (yes, we  buy retail just like everyone else), and I noticed that Glen Lakes Grill has progressed to where it has a sign, and a Craigslist ad for staff.

Last time I checked, they were applying for a late-night liquor permit.  We also saw in front of Dave & Busters (in the same shopping center), an "eye-in-the-sky" Dallas Police cherry-picker/observatory thingee.  Maybe a crime spike?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Amynomics 101 - The Silly Economics of Dry Dallas

I took Economics 101 (at least twice) in college, and would like to talk about the economics of the wet vs. dry argument in Dallas.  Everyone thinks it's about a change in packaged wine and beer sales and sales tax revenue, or that it's about how much restaurants (licensed as clubs) spend to keep up a club membership database.  Chump change, guys, don't be like a pack of dogs distracted by Squirrels on the sidelines.  Into this argument let me introduce Amynomics 101, surely no Nobel Prize winning thesis, but an aspect of the economic consequences of the current law that are as relevant, if not more so, than those being currently discussed.

First, before we get into a discussion of what is best for Dallas, let me state that I'm very much for a system that controls alcohol consumption - especially when it comes to 1) minors and 2) over-imbibing and driving.   I agree with a system that works towards controlling both, while allowing those who don't break the rules the freedom to enjoy something that is completely legal.  I'm an accountant who loves to "follow the money", with a Bachelors of Science in Business Management from UT-D.  I am no economist, but for 20 years I've been working in the industry, trying to figure out the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, only to repeatedly find that just when you think you know it, you don't.

I completely agree that the sales tax revenue of retail store beer and wine (Squirrel - it's not really about sales tax revenue!) will vary little (relative to the total) between the wet-dry lines, but in these times can our city really afford to turn away any positive cash flow?   What will happen is a gradual shifting away from traditional Dallas "wet" area liquor stores to more grocery store/corner store purchasing within Dallas.  As beer and wine sales are siphoned from these high density liquor strips, there will be fewer stores that can survive on the leftover hard liquor sales.  Something like that seems to be going on up on Inwood Road in Addison since the suburbs surrounding them have voted themselves modified wet - lately I've noticed many shuttered stores that previously sold liquor, beer and wine.

It seems a break-even economic proposal unless you consider the cost to Dallasites who currently have to travel the extra distance to purchase (what in most towns is available on their neighborhood corner) beer and wine.   But Amynomics deals with the larger financial issues and how these ancient restrictions limit Dallas' economy, taxes, club licensees and their guests. 

Because of the way Texas' over 70 year old law was written, restaurants licensed as clubs in dry areas (Squirrel - it's dry, but it's not really dry!) must purchase their alcohol they sell through a 4th tier retail package store, paying as much as 20%-30% more for their inventory as a restaurant located in a wet area who can buy directly from a wholesale seller.   Highest in markup is wines, and a restaurant's alcohol sales are typically around 50-60% wine sales.

So based on the June 2010 report issued by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts (which was mostly payments for the month of May), I added up all the club licensees Mixed Beverage Gross Receipts payments and came up with the following numbers:

3 sample pages of June's TABC report,
yellow highlights are Dallas club licensees. 
Addison has zero club licensees.
Dallas clubs paid:  $1,061,163 in Mixed Beverage taxes in June, which mathematically translates to $7,579,736 in liquor, beer and wine sales. (These are not bars, they are restaurants, hotels, Veteran's organizations, country clubs.  They have strict requirements of how much alcohol can be sold relative to the amount of food sold.)   Let's say purchasing costs of alcohol for those sales is 30% of total sales, a pretty typical industry average and for purposes of this argument, by removing the 4th tier, let's use a lower 10% savings rate of overall purchases.

Wow, that's a savings estimate of $227,392.  For one month.  Almost $3 million per year.  Consider that this savings would be returned to Dallas business owners and their guests through lower prices.  And it costs the city NOTHING in lost tax revenue.  Higher cost-of-sales necessitates higher prices - an anecdotal story is my comparison of Merryvale Chardonnay at Houston's Park Cities vs. Addison. A $1 higher sales price per glass equivalates to a 10% buying premium for the same product in dry Dallas.   But laws of Economics (general laws, not just mine) dictate that as costs rise, demand drops, or in other words people will find ways to limit the higher costs of dining  out - by either doing without, by searching out BYOB places, by drinking at home, or by dining in a lower cost area like the 'burbs.   All of which results in lower taxes to the city.

Higher production costs means thinner margins for those businesses, which translates to less incentive for new businesses to grow in the area. This is huge, no, HUGE economics.   Between sales taxes, mixed beverage gross receipts taxes (14% of alcohol sales), payroll, property, unemployment and franchise taxes, few businesses generate tax-revenue-per-square-foot like a full-service, full-bar restaurant.  So dis-incentivizing these maxi-tax generating businesses is like saying "Thanks, but no thanks".  No problem, (they say), looking to the modified wet suburbs to the (north, south, east west) where the mix of residential and commercial rivals that of any Dallas neighborhood.  Leaving Dallas residents to figure out how to keep our libraries and community centers open without raising property taxes on our homes.

Entrepreneurs will always look to locate in the areas where they have the greatest opportunity to succeed, lower costs mean more money to pay back bank loans or other financing that helps open these very businesses.  Making the suburbs a better breeding ground for success means jobs and sales tax revenues move out of Dallas.  Add to the mix the high density of suburban residences and commercial areas that can help support community-based restaurants out there, and you have a higher chance of payback success outside of the city.   I am unqualified to put a $dollar amount on this loss of future business development, but am certain to my very business core that it is NOT insignificant.  Or else the suburbs would have stayed dry, I think.

Wet/dry politics is tied to land (Squirrel-it's not just Addison landowners that likes wet real estate!), in Dallas like no other large city in Texas.  Austin, San Antonio, Houston, El Paso......which are dry?  None.  One factor facing a modified-wet Dallas, where wine bars or beer bars would be allowed on local corners like in other cities, is what happens to the old "wet".  As retail sales and restaurant sales move to other more residential locations, the density of these businesses in traditional wet strips becomes less populated, reducing rental income and inviting redevelopment. 

Until then, what, pray tell, invites redevelopment of a scuzzy swab of industrial late-night clubs and liquor stores when a landlord can "churn and burn" differing bars or stores - as one fails and another tries to re-open to success. Keeping these strips of areas as "exclusive sales belts" limits regeneration in some of the precincts most needing a redo.  For now it also keeps cities like Addison in fireworks on the 4th of July, and promoting their local restaurants through city-sponsored advertising campaigns.

There are some incidental costs to dryness that are more nuisance than than prohibitive (Squirrel-these are not the real fight!).  For one, club restaurants have to transport their own alcohol from the sellers location to theirs, sometimes they do this themselves, or there are a few companies specially licensed to do this for a fee.  So while a beer truck delivers to Centennial Liquors, a block away from Sevy's Grill, Rathbun's or Hillstone, they are prohibited from crossing a 70 year-old line to deliver to our doors.  And then there is the membership database, most of us utilize Unicard which has a modest monthly cost considering the service they offer.  However both are just other expenses deducted from profitability, vs. a wet neighborhood (to the north, south, east, west of Dallas); another cost for an entrepreneur to consider when opening the restaurant of their dreams.

Let me digress about another economic point that seems unseen by the public (Squirrel! Squirrel! Squirrel!).  I am all for alcohol enforcement when it makes sense.  But tell me, does having TABC agents (licensed to carry guns, no less) go through boxes of membership records from the (months or years) past make sense to anyone?  Because the last time we had an audit, two agents spent 4 hours going through boxes of membership records going back 3 years. 

Perhaps, like me, you'd rather they'd find out the whys and hows of wrong-way drunk drivers on the tollway vs. who came in to have a gin and tonic at Sevy's bar six months ago.  To the agents credit - they are only following what the law requires, but in these economic times, is it wrong to question the entire premise of this rule of law and how our enforcement of alcohol is misguided?  Is it time to do away with the requirements of club membership simply based on the fact that it is a waste of taxpayer's money?

So Amynomics points you to keep the eye on the real prize, the higher costs and loss of growth and tax revenue to the city only results in profitibility to a few - and certainly not the Club restaurants, guests or citizens of the city.  If we want to see strong, vibrant restaurants in our neighborhoods we must keep up with our suburban neighbors, or risk losing business development to them.  Unlike many in these times, our industry is not asking for government financial handouts, only for fairness in laws, from which all of Dallas could benefit.