Recently, a hot new neighborhood in Dallas was a wonderland of food and drink. It was an evening designed to tantalize taste buds and introduce people to the new restaurants located in the Trinity Groves development. The exicing new culinary destination is  located on the west side of the landmark Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. The event celebrated wine, food, and a newly re-energized neighborhood.

The Place

The gathering, called “Pairings”, pulled together people from all parts of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metropolitan area.  Guests enjoyed celebrating  wonderful food and a wide variety of wine (and even a very nice beer). Choosing 1305 Gulden St. (also called 1305 Trinity Groves) as the location for Pairings was a very smart choice by the Sponsors.  All of the restaurants  featuring food were local to the area. Guests had the opportunity to try the food prepared by the chef’s  alongside wines chosen just for the occasion.

The Wine

Wines were available to please any palate. They came from places as diverse as Argentina, Italy, France, Texas and California. All of the wines are available in Texas, however, some of them might need to be handled through a special order from your favorite wine shop.

As we entered Pairings, we were given a large, crystal, logo wine glass, which begged to be filed with wine, a very nice way to begin the evening.  The first I visited, La Playa Wines featured a Cabernet Savignon, a Carmenere,  and a tasty blend, called Primo, from their Chilean Label, Axel, as well as two Malbec wines from their sister winery Belsco de Baquedano in the Mendoza valley of Argentina (AR and Swinto). As always, the Chilean wines were smooth and easy to drink. The Malbecs were classic examples of the wine, simple but not overbearing.

Inside the building (home of the Dallas Stainless Steel Chef competition), the large room was lined by offerings of food and wine. Since there were almost three dozen wines available to taste.  Description of a few of the offerings I enjoyed the most will give you an idea of what was available.

The first option was a long bar serving world famous Stella Artois beer from Belgium. It was delivered in the traditional Stella Chalice. Many stopped here first, but I passed by to try and preserve some of my sense of taste for the more delicate taste of the wine.

I first stopped at Becker Vinyards, a native Texas business.  I  tasted their 2011 Claret, which won a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco   Pairings - Marie AntoinetteInternational Wine Competition.  If you have never tasted Claret, this is a fine example . Velvety smooth and a bit fruity at the first taste, it mellows out to a wonderful long raspberry and chocolate finish.

Becker’s other outstanding wine is their 2012 Viognier. Perfectly balanced between fruit and acid, this wine would be perfect to sip, ice cold, just as summer starts to slip away. I imagine drinking it when the temperatures are just cool enough to sit outside and enjoy the mosquito-free, southern fall breezes.

 Next, I visited a table hosted by Fredrick Wildman and Sons.  The first wine, a 2008 Museum Reserva from Spain was a very big, full, velvety wine, in true Spanish style.  I was intrigued by a white wine from Burgundy, the 2011 Maison J.J. Vincent Marie Antoinette. It was a wonderful white for non-Chardonnay drinkers.  It does not have that buttery, oaky taste that Chardonnay drinkers love, but still has a crisp dry taste that many look for in a white wine.

Finally I stopped at  Frexinet, who offered up some surprising sparkling wines. The most outstanding was the sparking Pinot Noir; a good compromise for full bodied red drinkers who must, on occasion, indulge in something a bit bubblier.

Nobody could taste all those wines and not be a little tipsy. Fortunately, there was another half to this duo of delight…the food. 

Pairing Foods

The Restaurateurs, who helped sponsor the event, truly outdid themselves. The food was widely varied, interesting, and, overall, delicious.  I started at the front door with Resto Gastro Bistro and their twist on Oyster Shooters. Flavored with a dash of Ponzu sauce,Pairings Oyster Shooter Cilantro, Tabiko (Flying Fish Roe), and a dash of hot sauce, these small bites had a very big taste. Those who were brave enough to try it once, soon came back for seconds (and thirds).

The next table, just on the other side of Stella Artois, continued with more seafood.  The site for the festivities, 3015 Trinity Groves, offered up bowls of Steamed Mussels in a Tarragon cream sauce, and pieces of crispy French bread for dipping into the savory sauce. Chefs were cooking at  the Stainless Steel Chef competition stoves that line the back wall of the venue. The wonderful fragrance of  white wine, tarragon, and cream infused the air with a scent that called people in from across the room. Very few people were able to resist the lure of the sauce, some skipping the mussels altogether, and opting for just the sauce, and the bread to soak it up.

Across the room was the final seafood entry for the evening. The Amberjack Fish Market Grill served up Louisiana Blue Point Crab Cakes with a Creole style Remoulade Sauce (and tiny bottles of Tabasco, for those who needed the extra spice).

 I am a purest when it comes to Crab Cakes.  The main ingredient must be (fresh, local) crab, and you should not notice either the binder (often eggs) or the filler (bread crumbs). I am very happy to say that Amberjack delivered (which seems to be very rare as far as crab cakes go in Dallas).  Perfectly browned, and tasting only of large lump crab meat, the mouth-watering crab cakes meant that the crew at Amberjack had their work cut out for them.

Pairings Amberjax crab cakeFrom the moment the first guests arrived until the last crab cake was served, the people were at least three deep in front of the table, trying to get a hand on one of the plates.

LUCK (Local Urban Craft Kitchen), which specializes in food and drink sourced locally, created an interesting spin on Jerk chicken. It had the intense flavor of standard Jamaican Jerk chicken, without some of the heat. It was a very nice compliment to some of the spicier red wines from around the room.

Chino Chinatown’s Chef, Uno Immanivong, (who is still working on opening her nearby restaurant) created a dish called Conchinita, perfectly seasoned pork, served in a steamed bun instead of a tortilla.  To contrast with the slightly sweet sauce, Chef Uno added  touch of cilantro, which was perfectly chosen to bridge the gap between Mexican and Asian cuisines and a dot of spice with some Shiracha. Conchinita picked up quite a future following during the evening, and was a favorite among those I asked.   

The final group of offerings came from two different Chocolatiers. The first was a series of flavored chocolates from Kate Weiser Chocolates. The most popular seemed to be Key Lime Pie.  My favorite was the mint chocolate, with a real mint leaf inside. Each one was hand painted with edible colorings  to show what was inside.

Last, but not least were Strawberry Rhubarb Chocolate MigPairings Strawberry chocolatenon from Haute Sweets Patisserie. The taste from these small bites was so intense that I had to ask how to order some for myself. 

Luckily, I was told that, as long as you can get ahold of someone between catering events (they make dessert trays for many of the major hotels downtown), they will be more than happy to make you a batch of whatever you’d like. You can bet I’ll be putting them on speed dial.

The evening, sponsored by CBS Radio Dallas-Fort Worth, Savor Dallas, and Trinity Groves was quite a success. It was great way to introduce the area to some up-and-coming new chefs, as well as force people to visit an area of Dallas that, up until a year ago, was almost unknown on the culinary scene. I am looking forward to exploring the area, and enjoying more of the eclectic contributions from this, soon-to-be well known area of Dallas