Pink Magnolia sets open date

Oak Cliff Cristo 1Our current edition of Dallas Voice is what we call The Food Issue, and the cover story is of the gay-owned new restaurant Pink Magnolia. In the story, we note that the opening date would take place “by Labor Day,” and that’s exactly right — Casie Caldwell has announced that chef Blythe Beck’s food will be ready on Thursday, Sept. 3 … just before Labor Day weekend. It’ll be open for dinner Tuesdays through Sundays, as well as for Sunday brunch (with items like the Oak Cliff Cristo, pictured); lunch will come later. Can’t wait!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

LISTEN: Learn more about how I drink coffee than you care to know

ThinkstockPhotos-101838225Last year, Ron Thompson started a blog and movement that he calls Chef and Song, which gives him an opportunity to talk with local musicians and chefs — and others — about whatever comes up over a cup of coffee at a local hangout. Last week, he invited me — who is neither a chef nor a musician — to sit down at Buzzbrews on Lemmon Avenue and discuss life, the universe and everything. But mostly about how I make coffee.

Anyway, it was a hoot! Listen to it here. And there are a dozen more, much better interviews with actually interesting people on the website, including Gary Lynn Floyd, Denise Lee, Cedric Neal, Casie Caldwell and Blythe Beck. Enjoy!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Blythe Beck to open new concept, Pink Magnolia, in Oak Cliff

BlytheBlythe Beck has barely a week left leading the brigade at Kitchen LTO, Casie Caldwell’s “permanent pop-up” in Trinity Groves. She’s the longest serving chef as the concept, which is itself intended as a laboratory for concepts and chefs who might be able to open another restaurant somewhere else. And that time has come.

Beck and Caldwell are uniting for Pink Magnolia, their new partnership that will take over the shuttered Driftwood space in Oak Cliff. The name combines Beck’s famous love of one color  with her steely Southern influences, and will surely feature her signature “naughty” recipes. Best of all, it gives Beck, finally, a place to truly call her own, floorboards to shingles. It will open later this summer. Congrats!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Quinones named new chef at Kitchen LTO

Anastacia Quinones

Anastacia Quinones, the former chef at Komali, won the polling among supporters of Casie Caldwell’s Kitchen LTO in Trinity Groves to become the fifth person to lead the stage there with her twist on Mexican cuisine.

The current chef, Blythe Beck, had two four-month terms leading the “permanent pop-up” concept, but Quinones will actually be on board for a full six-month stint, running June 2 through December.

At the same time, artist Crimson Shults was selected as the winning artist, whose work will establish the decor in the restaurant.

Beck’s last night there will be the end of May.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Kitchen LTO is about to pick a new chef, and you can vote

LTOLast last year, Blythe Beck became the first chef to repeat her stint leading the kitchen at Kitchen LTO, Casie Caldwell’s “permanent pop-up” restaurant in Trinity Groves. Well, Beck’s delicious tenure is about to come to an end, and five new chefs are vying for the spot, all of whom were introduced to diners at an event on Sunday night.

Some you might already know: Anastacia Quinones, who led Abraham Salum’s kitchen at Salum for about two years (as you might expect, her cuisine is Modern Mexican); Adrien Nieto, who may look familiar (he was on Season 2 of MasterChef) and has lived in Dallas about a year, making California-inspired food; David Rodriguez, who served a braised beef cheek and white Anson Mills grits in support of his Modern Texas style; and two chefs who ran out at the tasting before I got a sample: Ken Patrick (Southwestern) and Chris Stephens (New American).  Attendees got to vote for each of the chefs and weigh in on their favorites.

But there’s no reason you can’t vote as well. You have through Saturday, May 9, to cast your support in favor of any of the five (as well as several artists aiming to set the decor theme at LTO). Vote with a click here. And may the best one win!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Pretty in pink

Blythe Beck doubled down for a second bite at Kitchen LTO, and your arteries (and taste buds) aren’t safe. That’s a good thing

oyster

BUTTER THAN EVER | Beck’s traditional fried oyster recipe, above, and her ‘naughty’ ribeye, opposite, have only improved with time. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor

Time can really slip away from you. It seems just the other day that Dallas foodies were voting on the selection of the fourth chef to take over Kitchen LTO (Limited Time Only), restaurateur Casie Caldwell’s Trinity Groves dining experiment that recruits a new chef every four months with online polls of candidates. The winner then creates a menu to reflect his or her style, but which will only be around as long as the chef’s tenure.

Last summer, the winner turned out to be Blythe Beck, already a known quantity in the Dallas restaurant scene. Beck’s stint should have ended in January, but instead, Caldwell savvily mounted a Facebook campaign to keep Beck around for a second four-month engagement.

So when I got the notice last week that announced the search was underway for the next chef, it occurred to me it was now-or-never time to write a review of Blythe Beck’s Kitchen LTO before it’s forever lost to the ages.

In some ways, it’s more of an exercise than a requirement. I’ve known Beck since she was sous chef (and later exec) at the now-defunct Hector’s on Henderson, and followed her to her “naughty” stay at Central 214 (also now gone in favor of John Tesar’s Knife steakhouse). She’s always had a culinary point of view, like it or not — what she calls her “naughty recipes:” Buttery, gluten-y, hedonistic dishes that embrace what dieticians like to shame us for. Might they cut a few years off your life? Yeah, so? What else is life for?
Steak
I exaggerate … slightly. Beck isn’t out to kill anyone, and it’s not like she throws a spoonful of lard in a frisée salad just for the helluvit. I suspect even she doesn’t indulge in the extravagances she creates on a daily basis. But she’s creating a mindset as much as a menu: Forget food-shaming and calling good meals “guilty pleasures.” Enjoy life! Tip a glass! Don’t skip dessert! There’s a reason the first three letters of diet are “D-I-E.” She’s gourmand as much as gourmet, a living embodiment of Wildean epigrams (“moderation is a fatal thing — nothing succeeds like excess;” “the only way to get rid of temptation is the yield to it”).

All of which could make a review of her Kitchen LTO experience — I’m already on record as a fan — superfluous. Only it’s not.

That’s because, even if you liked Blythe at Central 214, you should love her here. There are familiar dishes on the menu: the deviled egg and southern-fried oyster ($16) appetizers, the “iceberg babies” salad ($10), the chicken-fried quail and waffles entrée ($19 small, $27 large). She’s not new to this, but I’ve never had better versions of any of these from Beck before. Maybe there’s some nostalgia at work, but I think the opposite: It’s not that the older versions have grown better in my memory, but that the new ones exceed them. She has polished the recipes, made them just as sinful yet deftly elegant.

A good way to prove this is by focusing on the new-to-me items, starting with the champagne brie bisque ($8). Bisque is a cream soup; brie is a potent cheese; champagne is, well, champagne — all the earmarks of a Blythe Beck creation. You expect to be bowled over by its heaviness, its richness. One spoonful, though, and I knew I was in foreign territory. Creamy, yes, but it danced on the tongue (I suspect the bubbly infuses it with lightness). It preps the palate, not overwhelms it.

The breads and spreads ($12; we ordered an additional side of grilled sourdough for $3) were equally as disarming. Beck was an early champion of the bona fides of pimento cheese, so I wasn’t surprised to see a ramekin of it among the trio, but two others created a savory trinity: the so-called pink duck sauce (a dip made with duck fat in Beck’s signature Pepto-colored palette) and a salty trout “salad” that had me and my dining companion trawling the bottom of the dish like junkies for every last morsel. (That’s always been Beck’s goal, to have people throw decorum away and just live a little. If that’s the criterion, it’s a success.)

The familiar entrées were just as addictive. The ribeye ($21/$27) combines a well-marbled cut of beef chicken-fried with coffee-and-bacon-infused gravy, “naughty” creamed corn and braised mustard greens, a combination that would be considered a hate crime in the Land of Low-Fat Food Nazis. Fortunately, we live in Texas. Frying can sometime mask flaws in a dish, but here it simply brings out Beck’s ethos, which unexpectedly balances bold and nuanced flavors. That’s especially evident in the bacon-cheddar meatloaf ($14–$19), where a slab of exquisitely glazed meatloaf, banded but a retaining wall of bacon, draws as much symphonic power from a salad of Brussels sprout petals as from the sharpness of her pimento mac-n-cheese. (She does a disservice to even call it mac-n-cheese, as the pasta was more like a gemelli awash in a bath of cheddar rather than something a fourth-grader chokes down with cut-up wieners.)

The menu really comes together holistically, from the accessible drink list to desserts like the oatmeal cream pie ($10) sandwiching rum raisin ice cream to create a sort of idealized comfort-food vibe. It’s home cooking elevated by a chef who, unlike your mom, wants you to be naughty and doesn’t care if you each your vegetables. Now that’s guilt-free dining.

Denise Lee appears for Chef and Song’s free concert series at Kitchen LTO on March 30. Full menu available. Reservations from 7 p.m.; concert at 8 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 27, 2015.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Blythe Beck doubles down at Kitchen LTO

Blythe

Chef Blythe Beck will continue on at Kitchen LTO in Trinity Groves

The concept of restaurateur Casie Caldwell’s Kitchen LTO — where the “LTO” stands for “limited time only” — was to swap out chefs every four months so that the restaurant is continually reinventing itself. But when chef Blythe Beck took over at the beginning of October, it seemed like an especially good fit, so she started at campaign: “Keep Blythe” became its own local meme, and a Facebook page was even set up to keep her on through May 2015 … as long as she got at least 1,000 “likes” before the end of the year. As of yesterday, the number hit nearly 1,100, and so it’s official: Beck will continue on another four months at the Trinity Groves location. So if you haven’t enjoyed her naughty cuisine yet, you have more time to. And if you have, there’s always room for another visit.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Blythe Beck runs away with the spoon at Kitchen LTO

Blythe Beck, naughty ... and new at Kitchen LTOCasie Caldwell, the entrepreneur responsible for creating Greenz, branched out with a new concept last year with her Kitchen LTO (for “limited time only”) at Trinity Groves. The idea was: Change out the menu and the chef every few months so that each visit is a new experience … or one you can’t enjoy for long. The fourth iteration of the restaurant — which began with a competition between chefs last month — is set to open soon, and the new chef there will be gay fave Blythe Beck.

Beck was the saucy chef at Central 214 whose “naughty” recipes embrace indulgent, non-calorie-counting decadence. (She was even a Dallas Voice Readers Voice Award winner.) She’ll start at Kitchen LTO with the first dinner service on Oct. 2, and the first lunch on Oct. 3 — her return to Dallas as a regular kitchen denizen. Congrats, Blythe!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Blythe Beck introduces 1st-ever cooking series

If there’s a gap in most home cooks’ repertoire, it’s probably that they don’t deep-fry enough kobe beef or use enough butter. OK, maybe not that exactly, but the thing is, that’s the specialty of Central 214 exec chef Blythe Beck. Now, for the first time, she’s gonna share some of her creations in intimate cooking classes this fall.

There are three classes planned so far — Sept. 17 (Pride Weekend!), Oct. 15 and Nov. 19 — in which she’ll share some of her secrets in making a three-course dinner complete with wine pairing. Class size is limited to 25. Cost is $125 per person.

To sign up, visit Central214.com.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Pink AND green: Hotel Palomar receives eco-friendly certification, visit from mayor

So, we all know Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar is TAG-approved and very gay-friendly (chef Blythe Beck even chastised me for not attending their Sordid Pride event last week), but now the accommodations on 75 and Mockingbird are also eco-friendly. At a breakfast Tuesday morning consecrated by Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, the Palomar was certified “Green Seal Silver,” a designation indicating a high level of environmental consciousness. How high? It’s the first hotel in Dallas to achieve that level, and only the fourth in the state.

“They made it with flying colors,” Leppert said, quoting Green Seal auditor Michelle Hallahan. “More and more, people are making decisions based on these things.”

The requirements, set in 1996, range from having recycling bins in the guest rooms to water conservation, eco-friendly landscaping, options for re-using towels and linens, and staff training. It is also extending a program with Dallas Area Rapid Transit to encourage public transportation.

“Are you enjoying your sustainable breakfast?” Leppert asked me at the event. “Not so sustainable for the pig,” I noted. “Hey,” interjected Blythe, “no hormones! I treat that animal as well as I can.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones