Tasting notes: Valentine edition

Need ideas for how to spend a romantic dinner with your sweetie? We got ’em

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Lots of restaurants are getting in the mood for romance, so you and your sweetie can choose from among these options — and many more:

La Duni — The Oak Lawn and McKinney avenue locations offer a four-course dinner for $50/person that includes a champagne toast. Don’t forget to pre-order a lovey-dovey cupcake. LaDuni.com.

The Mansion on Turtle Creek — A three-course meal, including dessert, runs you $125 on Feb. 14. Make it more romantic by booking a room for the weekend rate. 214-443-4747.

Nana — The Hilton Anatole is doing the same as The Mansion, offering a $99 four-course meal plus the option to book a guest room for as low as $79. 214-761-7470.

The Landmark — The restaurant inside the Warwick Melrose is really keeping it romantic, with a set price per couple. For $150, you can each put together the ideal four-course meal, served Feb. 12 and 14. Call 214-224-3152.

The Grape — The romantic bistro features a la carte choices Friday through Sunday, then a three-course tasting menu for $65/person. 214-828-1981.

Bijoux — Full disclosure: I spent Valentine’s Day here last year, and for good reason: The food is superb, and it really stands up as event dining. For $85/person, chef Scott Gottlich will whip up an exquisite four-course meal that includes lobster bisque, duo of veal and a filet, among other delectables. 214-350-6100.

The Second Floor — Over at Gottlich’s other restaurant, adorable chef J Chastain has something unusual in mind for a holiday dinner: You put it together. Rather than the traditional prix fixe menu, from Feb. 12–14 you can select from a range of popular and romantic items, from $9 to $34, for the ideal custom meal. Call 927-450-2978.

Salum — Chef Abraham Salum has a jazzy menu planned for Feb 14, that includes jazz music from singer Nadia Washington and a complimentary glass of champagne. The three-course meal costs $65. SalumRestaurant.com.

Sprinkles — Those demons at Sprinkles have taunted me again with new flavors, available for Valentine’s. You can choose from a red hot velvet (with spicy cinnamon aroma) or raspberry chocolate chip. Both are available through Feb. 14 in the Preston Center location.

On the heels of Valentine’s is a food and wine showcase to warm the blood. Bonne Sante features chefs including Scott Gottlich, Abraham Salum, Tony Bombaci (Nana), Dean Fearing (Fearing’s), Bruno Davilion (The Mansion) and Blaine Staniford (Grace), as well as several wineries. Individual tickets run $200 and benefit the National Kidney Foundation. It takes place at the Westin Galleria on Feb. 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. 214-3512-2393.

Central 214 is instituting a “pick your plate” option, starting Feb. 15. For a flat price of $30, customers can choose one salad or soup, one entrée and one dessert from Blythe Beck’s menu. 214-443-9339.

We blogged recently about John Tesar’s new restaurant in the Cedars, Cedars Social, which officially opened this week. Well, he’s got more on his plate, including The Commissary, which will open in April in the space last occupied by Dali in One Arts Plaza. It will feature burgers, wine on tap and late night meals.

Fin Sushi, from the people responsible for Sushi Axiom on Henderson, has officially opened in the ilume. BEE, Monica Greene’s new enchiladaria, is open in Oak Cliff.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

What has he done to deserve this?

Music director Adam Wright glams Uptown Players’ Pet Shop Boys musical

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

WEST END GAYS | ‘Closer to Heaven’ explores the dark world of gay ’80s  London through the music of the Pet Shop Boys.  (Photo courtesy  Mike Morgan)
WEST END GAYS | ‘Closer to Heaven’ explores the dark world of gay ’80s London through the music of the Pet Shop Boys. (Photo courtesy Mike Morgan)

CLOSER TO HEAVEN
Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.
Oct. 1–24. $30–$40.
UptownPlayers.org

………………………………………..

Mention the Pet Shop Boys and what comes to mind is techno-pop — hardly the stuff of musical theater. But when Uptown Players opens Closer To Heaven Friday, that mindset will change. The company is producing the sole stage venture by the band, which comes with the same tone as their albums. And that means the production’s musical director, Adam Wright — whose background is in classical and jazz music — is doing some major gear-shifting.

“We had to reconstruct a lot of the music,” he says. “The music that was sent with the materials had just two parts and not a lot to go off of.”

His job might have gone easier if Wright were in communication with the Pet Shop Boys … or if he was already a fan.

“The extent of my communication with them was through their Twitter updates,” he says. “I’d love to learn more about how they program and write. I wasn’t as much a fan as some of the people in the cast. My parents did buy me the Liza Minnelli album Results they produced. I’m certainly more of a fan now after working on this.”

The subject of the musical is perhaps more relatable to Wright. Set in gay London in the 1980s, it’s a dark show with racy queer content he can appreciate. But the task of turning that vibe into a musical theater idiom was a challenge.

Wright had only the original London cast recording to work from, which is dominated by the Pet Shop Boys electronica sound, which he orchestrated for a six-man band to offer a live concert experience. His priority, however, was staying true to the songs PSB wrote.

“With electric drums and two keyboards, we can mimic some of that techno sound,” he says. “There are some guitar moments. It’s really intricate programming and having the band makes it easier and way less complicated.”

His musicians will not only recreate the dance beats, but also meld them in accord with choreography and plot — and PSB’s signature style.

“There is a lot more going on in the songs than you think, so it was pretty daunting,” he says. “Normally with a live band, embellishments are added, but we had to stick to the appropriate style. Even the minimal songs have a repetitive, dance-y nature.”

All that required a close collaboration between Wright, director Bruce Coleman and choreographer John de los Santos. Wright especially sympathized with the challenge de los Santos faced of balancing fluid and narrative movement against Wright’s job to keep the proper but continuous beat of the music — and to primarily keep the audience interested.

“There have been ups and downs in this creative process,” he says. “I’ve certainly felt overwhelmed, but I enjoy the challenge doing new things. That motivates me even if I have to pace in a circle for an hour until it comes to me.”

With weeks of preparation and arranging, Wright’s work still hadn’t clicked with him until Uptown began running the full show in rehearsals. After seeing it as one cohesive piece, he settled and relieved some of his stress going in.

“At that point, it felt possible and easy,” he says. Now he’s more concerned if the audience will be fans: Many out-of-towners are flying in especially for the show, which makes its North American debut — but Uptown knows this is difficult material. The litmus test will be opening night.

“I know some expect a certain kind of music in theater, but the nice thing is the show starts with a bang and they’ll know right away what they are in for. “

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 1, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas