Tasteful endeavors

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WHAT A GRIND | Ted Allen used to run from ‘Queer Eye.’ But now he jokes about it with a signature campy twinkle. (Arnold Wayne Jones./Dallas Voice)

‘Chopped’ host Ted Allen still keeps his queer eyes on the prize

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

Ted Allen wants people to enjoy their food and enjoy their wine. He just wants to make sure they are doing it the right way.

“If you’re a white zinfandel person, we’re not gonna be mean to you,” he says to a roomful of gourmands gathered for the kickoff of Taste Addison last month. Not mean, huh? Well, not too mean.

But Allen can be fussy in that oh-so-gay way we all enjoy. He emphasizes that “bruschetta” is properly pronounced “broo-SKET-uh” (“some people pronounce it ‘broo-shet-uh’ … and they are wrong” he chastises) and he defends “arugula, which sounds like a fancy east coast lettuce, but it’s not — it’s very peppery.”

He’s composing his own chimichurri, dressing a “Texas sized” piece of flank steak and pairing it with a California cab. He leaves nothing to chance.

Allen has a sense of humor, too. He’s doing a cooking demonstration alongside Dallas restaurateur Richard Chamberlain, who hands him a giant peppermill. Allen brandishes the unit like a pro.

“You are aware of how I got my start in television, right?” Allen jokes. The room laughs, Chamberlain included. “This is supposed to be a family show.”

Actually, everyone does know how Allen got his start in TV.

Unlike a lot of TV culinary experts, Allen was never a chef or caterer — “the only cooking I’ve ever done is for my family and friends,” he says. Rather, he was a journalist, best known as a restaurant critic and food writer for Esquire and other publications, when he was tapped, in 2003, to join a new Bravo series where gay men give metrosexual makeovers to hopeless heteros. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy exploded on the pop culture scene, winning Allen and his co-hosts an Emmy Award and, it’s safe to say, giving a fun, friendly face of gay to middle America.

Queer Eye went off the air in 2007, and, despite its influence, ran only 99 episodes (“They thought it was 100 but somebody miscounted”). Yet there are still “people who only know me from that,” Allen says.

Top Chef, on which he served as a judge for four seasons after Queer Eye went off the air, doubled QE’s ratings, but still his moniker as “the Food Guy” became his inescapable shorthand. It used to bother him, but not anymore.

“When [the show] was starting to tail off, I thought, ‘I need to get away from this.’ But you can’t. It was futile. It opened all these doors for me.”

His gig for the last few years has been hosting Chopped on the Food Network, which he describes as a “completely self-contained culinary game show” where, round-robin style, chefs go head-to-head in cooking a full meal, with one emerging victorious. “Those are 12-hour days,” Allen says, “and I am standing the whole fucking day!” It’s even worse for the contestants, he asserts. (The seventh season of 39 new episodes launches at the end of July.)

Then there’s his role as spokesman for the Robert Mondavi Discovery Wine Tour, which is what brought him to Taste Addison for the third time. And a new cookbook coming out. And … Well, let’s just say life did not end with Queer Eye.

It’s not only sweet for Allen, it’s something he savors. Especially with a Thai fish stew and three-layer cake.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Tasting notes

Addison casts a ‘Queer Eye’ on food (again); Axiom spins for charity

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

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DRINK UP | Ted Allen returns to Taste of Addison to deliver a presentation on wine.

With summer basically here (on the thermometer if not the calendar), restaurants and bars are revamping their menus. At Fearing’s, that means complimentary two-bite mini tacos and three new cocktails, including a sangria and gin drink, for midweek (Wednesday and Thursday) happy hour from 5:30 to 7 p.m.  inside at the Rattlesnake Bar or al fresco at the Live Oak Bar.

Scott Gottlich and J Chastain have launched a new menu at their Second Floor restaurant inside the Galleria. Among the entrees are now a croque madame pizza, day boat scallops and a Meyer lemon meringue cake. Gottlich’s other restaurant, the fabulous Bijoux at the Inwood Village, will present a showcase of classic dishes during May and June. From May 17–20, then June 17–18, you can enjoy a five-course meal with time-honored dishes like oysters Rockefeller and beef Wellington. Cost is $68 ($95 with wine pairing).

Fin Sushi — now officially Axiom Sushi — holds the “Spin 4 a Cause” event  twice monthly on Wednesdays. Each time, the restaurant will choose a local celebrity to serve as guest DJ, who selects a non-profit of his or her choice as beneficiary. Money raised from 6 to 8 p.m. directly benefits that charity.

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IS THAT REALLY EDIBLE? | You bet your last taste bud you can feast on the raspberry and vanilla cheesecake ‘surprise’ from The Mansion’s new pastry chef, Nicolas Blouin.

The Mansion on Turtle Creek has named Nicolas Blouin as its new pastry chef, and just a quick look at some of his architectural creations, pictured, will set your mouth watering.

Tiff’s Treats, which could single-handedly undo all my exercise gains, has opened its third Dallas location, at Hillcrest and Northwest Highway. To celebrate, on May 14 it will sell boxes of fresh-made (and still warm!) cookies and brownies, proceeds of which will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

When we think of pizza meccas, Grapevine doesn’t pop quickly to mind, but that changes for a bit this weekend. The burb’s Main Street Days festival in its historic downtown celebrates pizza for three days putting it on a most deserving pedestal. Napoli’s, Farina’s Winery and Café and Gepetto’s Pizza are just some of the restaurants making an appearance. We hear the latter’s medium pizza is a hefty five pounds. While pepperoni is the stuff dreams are made of, think a step up with some of the offerings from Farina’s Scorcher pizza with chicken and jalapenos to Napoli’s s’mores pizza.

Speaking of, the Uptown pizzeria Coal Vines has opened a branch at The Shops at Legacy. That joins the latest branch of Deep Ellum’s Twisted Root Burger Co. which also opened there, making The Shops — with a Kent Rathbun restaurant (Jasper’s), an Angelika Film Center and other shops — is really becoming the Uptown of Plano.

Addison’s annual Taste of Addison food extravaganza starts Friday, May 20 and runs through May 22, not only with samplings from dozens of restaurants, but also music from Third Eye Blind and others. Queer Eye food expert Ted Allen and Robert Mondavi spokesperson returns to give a wine seminar for eager palates. Learn more at AddisonTexas.net.

Dickey’s Pit Barbecue has made the first permanent change to its menu in 50 years. The spicy cheddar sausage, a special item in recent months, will now be a fixture on the menu.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Vegetarian Times has nominated Dallas’ Hail Merry for a Foodie Award, recognizing its raw-vegan blond macaroons. You can vote for it at
VegetarianTimes.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas