Chef of Year: FT33’s Matt McCallister tops our 2013 list of The Best in DFW: Chefs.Read More
Chef of Year: FT33’s Matt McCallister tops our 2013 list of The Best in DFW: Chefs.Read More
Last night I fell in love with HumBotanical, a sexy 70 proof herbaceous liqueur made with organic rum, fair trade hibiscus, organic ginger, green cardamom and kaffir lime. The drink was featured as the Seasonal Smash at FT33. If it isn’t on the ever-changing cocktail list when you go, ask them to make you one. It’s a gorgeous concoction of Ketel One Oranje, Hum, muddled cranberry, lemon, and habanero simple syrup, apricot, and fresh thyme poured over clear cubed ice (my favorite!). The drink is made with organic rum and is pungent with pepper, fragrant with lime, and finishes with a slightly sweet and spicy kick of cardamom. One of my very experienced dining partners said she’s never seen it for sale in Dallas and wondered how FT33 managed to smuggle the booze in from it’s epicenter in Chicago. However, one quick visit to Hum’s website informed me the spirit is alive and well at Pogo’s. BTW, the bar at FT33 opens at 4:30PM. See ya later.
Uppity Date: Jasper Russo of Sigel’s says: “Hum Botanical was introduced to the Dallas retail market by Sigel’s in April.It has been stocked in at least 4 of our stores continually since that time ($44.99): Greenville Ave, Fitzhugh, Addison, The Quadrangle. We are also the class B wholesaler responsible for supplying FT33.Read More
I spent the year scouting Dallas’ new restaurants, and I’m happy to report it was difficult to narrow this list to 10. It could have easily been 20. (Note: A calendar year for magazines is October to October. The restaurants considered for this list must have been open at least 6 weeks before October 1, 2012. Deadlines.)
I take you to be The Ten Best Restaurants of 2013 for better or for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till 2014 do us part.
Restaurant of the Year: FT33Read More
It is time now—drumroll, trumpets, gongs.—to announce the winners of the 2013 Eater Awards. In over a dozen categories in 27 cities, the winners comprise a diverse group of the finest and most interesting chefs, operators, and characters in the continent that have defined this year in dining. We applaud them. You are hereby instructed to applaud them. So, without further ado—actually, a few quick pre-ambling thoughts…
To recap, Eater’s local editors in 27 cities nominated candidates for five major local categories: Restaurant of the Year, Chef of the Year, Bartender of the Year, So Hot Right Now Restaurant, and Stone Cold Stunner. Eater readers then voted to narrow the field to a final three in each category. From that final three, the Eater editorial team chose the winner. Our Eater National brain trust then got together to decide the national winners for those categories. In addition to these main stage winners, said Eater editorial team has named worthy winners in more specialized categories, for myriad notable achievements.
Nominees and winners alike will be feted at a party tonight in Manhattan. Those winners that couldn’t make it should watch their mail for packages containing cans of Italian peeled tomatoes. And now, without further ado, the winners in Dallas:
Click through for the full rundown of winners across the country on Eater National.Read More
Somewhere between the oysters mingled with nasturtium leaves, kale and sunchoke and the heartbreakingly beautiful walnut tart adorned with tiny pickled chanterelles and wild carrot flowers, I knew we had it: a new five-star restaurant in Dallas.
Well, the restaurant, FT33, isn’t exactly new. Chef-owner Matt McCallister, who was named The Dallas Morning News’ Chef of the Year last week, recently marked the Design District restaurant’s first anniversary by introducing a seven-course tasting menu. The oysters and walnut tart were among its courses.
I’ve loved FT33 from the start, but over the course of the year, the experience has become even more stupendous, whether you start the evening with a thoughtfully mixed cocktail (like a Sheep Skin, with Sheep Dip scotch, Suze, Cherry Heering and Braulio amaro) or a flute of Bruno Paillard Première Cuvèe, a wonderful Champagne that wine director (and general manager) Jeff Gregory offers by the glass.
McCallister’s aesthetic is more New Nordic-style naturalist than molecular- gastronomy modernist, favoring the old-fashioned arts of pickling, curing, smoking and fermenting over showy technique. Yet it feels very modern, and the chef’s plates — always visually striking — are meticulously composed. Impeccably sourced ingredients, often foraged or custom-grown, speak for themselves and of themselves.
If you’re in the mood for charcuterie, McCallister’s offerings — including paper-thin slices of lonzino (pork loin), faithfully French pork rillettes, spectacular pickled lamb tongue and more, all cured in-house — make a fine entry into dinner. They’re presented on a rustically beautiful burl board, garnished with crunchy, lightly pickled Jerusalem artichokes, peach jam and other condiments.
Otherwise, you might go for the gulf crab salad. It’s so gorgeous, the crab hidden under thin slices of Japanese turnip arranged to look like a flower or a seashell, you may be reluctant to eat it. You’d be a fool not to, though. Tucked under the turnip petals are tender braised pears; taken with a forkful of crab salad, a swipe of the deep, vibrant green tarragon emulsion and just the right touch of crunchy, peppery turnip, the dish is as delicious as it is beautiful. Don’t be surprised if it disappears soon, though; with the exception of McCallister’s signature smoked-potato appetizer, nothing stays on the menu long.
Even more startlingly good lately are thin slices of top-quality hamachi topped with shavings of spicy lardo (cured fatback). An unusual pairing to be sure, and McCallister pulls it together brilliantly with small pools of intensely flavored house-made XO sauce and dabs of fermented peach purée, plus tiny puddles of lime juice, paper-thin radish slices, crisp shards of sesame wafer and bits of parsley. It’s a crazy balancing act that first had me gasping at its audacity and then had me clapping my hands in delight.
At a recent dinner with friends, I sat smugly as everyone chose their main courses (I always let my guests choose first), guessing that no one would go for chicken. McCallister is an enthusiastic user of social media, and somewhere I’d seen him posting about a dish he was working on that involved salt-curing chicken legs for a day, braising them in olive oil with garlic and thyme, air-drying them for a day, then, just before serving, deep-frying them. Had to have it.
I held my breath as they ordered: sterling lamb duo; heritage pork duo; short rib with buckwheat polenta and smoked maitake mushrooms. I claimed the chicken, and it was absolutely superb — the crisped leg rich and flavorful as a great duck confit, and the thigh and breast meat fashioned into a roulade. McCallister set them, dressed up with a crème fraîche sauce given depth and dimension with garlic and fermented cucumber, in a deep bowl with sautéed spinach leaves and poufs of silky celery root purée shot through with celery leaves. The finishing touch, crunchy bits made from fried pork lard and chicken skin (like wicked gribenes, kosher chicken cracklings!) added soulful flavor and texture.
Another evening, a heritage pork dish was the standout. McCallister arranged columns of super-tender, succulent, gorgeously cooked tenderloin in and around a brown-buttery potato purée and let black trumpet mushrooms work their umami magic (deep notes with fermenty tang) on the balance of the dish. Toasted hazelnuts, spicy paper-thin turnip chips, sautéed Brussels sprouts petals and pretty nasturtium leaves completed the strikingly beautiful composition, musical in its textural and flavor variations.
If you’re looking for a special gastronomic treat, consider asking for FT33’s new seven-course tasting menu, available only Tuesday through Thursday. At $95 per person, it’s the way to experience McCallister’s cooking at its most daring and creative. Indulge in wine director Gregory’s thoughtful wine pairings with each course ($55 per person), and you’re in for the most exciting dining experience Dallas has to offer at the moment.
Because the chef likes to keep his options open, the menu itself is a baffling list of ingredients run together incomprehensibly. Don’t worry about it; just go for it. One of the able waiters, all passionately enthusiastic and knowledgeable about what they’re serving without being the slightest bit pretentious or cloying about it, will explain as you go along.
The inaugural tasting menu glorified the season’s vegetables. A skinny roasted carrot with intense flavor came with a brown-butter potato purée for dipping; the whole thing was blanketed in fluffy shaved hazelnut, so original. Earth and sea and forest came together gorgeously in the oyster dish, with its sauce of oyster liquor boosted with butter, lemon and chives. McCallister appeared at the table to pour a test tube of carrot distillation over a tasting of root vegetables draped in tender sheets of turnip — and again to pour a sauce of Burgundy truffle stock finished with chicken drippings over salt-baked celery root with dots of black trumpet mushroom purée.
Pickled salted grouper on a buttery cauliflower purée came covered in tiny bits of cauliflower floret that acted like a dill-flecked crumble; it was spot-on with its wine pairing, a 2010 Scholium Project Midan Al-Tahrir, an “orange” wine (a white that has had some skin contact, adding an orangy tinge) from California. On its heels came the showstopper: cubes of rich English-style black pudding (blood pudding), pliant on the outside and soft on the inside. They played magnificently with glossy dollops of chanterelle purée, crisp slices of local McKinney apples and grains of puffed wild rice, farro and quinoa. Gregory’s smart pairing was a tangy, nutty Rodenbach Grand Cru Flemish red ale from Belgium.
A couple of meat courses — pork belly with butternut squash and rye berries cooked risotto-style in spinach, and slices of grass-fed rib-eye drizzled with roasted-bone-marrow vinaigrette — were less compelling, though still delicious.
But with the desserts, dinner took a dramatic turn. If there had been one thing standing between FT33 and a five-star review up to that point, it was its sweets. Its first pastry chef’s self-consciously modernist creations, more fussy and formal than delicious, seemed to have come from a different playbook than McCallister’s savories. The appointment in April of Maggie Huff, whose desserts I’d admired when she worked at the Pyramid Restaurant, was encouraging, but it has taken some time for her to find her footing aesthetically. She’d taken a sharp turn away from the straight- ahead fruit-topped panna cottas and classic marquises of her Pyramid days, and her crumbs and gels just weren’t coming together.
Now I think she and McCallister, with whom she collaborates on the desserts, have found their sweet voice.
I heard it first with the tasting menu’s lemon sorbet on a streusel delicately flavored with almond and coriander; celery leaves provocatively, yet deliciously, brought it in line with the restaurant’s nature-forward aesthetic. And then even more melodically when the real dessert landed: the walnut tart that seemed to have been imagined by a woodland sprite. Huff sent it to the table with a marvelous candy-cap mushroom ice cream infused with bourbon and oak.
But it’s not just on the tasting menu that Huff’s desserts are now thrilling. Recently her almond-brown-butter cake with apple and quince, topped with an unexpectedly wonderful roasted-parsnip ice cream, was a harmonious hymn to the season.
Matt McCallister is one of the most talented young chefs working in the country today. What a joy that he has now pulled all the threads together so beautifully at FT33.
Follow Leslie Brenner on Twitter at @lesbren.
FT33 (5 stars)
Price: $$$$ (appetizers $12 to $17; charcuterie board $21 or $40; main courses $25 to $35; cheese board $19; desserts $10; seven-course tasting menu, available only Tuesday- Thursday, $95 per person, or with wines $150 per person)
Service: Impeccably professional. Most of the servers are so serious, I sometimes feel like tickling them. But behind that seriousness is a passion for — and knowledge about — what they’re serving.
Ambience: A stylishly casual, rustic-industrial dining room with an inviting bar. Table 33, for which the restaurant is named, offers bird’s-eye views of the open kitchen.
Noise level: Usually acceptable, though not quiet, by any stretch, and if you get stuck near noisy diners, conversation can be very challenging (when I was seated next to such a table, my decibel meter maxed out at 95). Acoustics could use improving.
Location: 1617 Hi Line Drive, Dallas; 214-741-2629; ft33dallas.com
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 6 to 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 6 to 11 p.m.
Credit cards: AE, MC, V
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar. Head bartender Lauren Festa’s cocktails are appealing and original. Wine director Jeff Gregory’s four-page list features an appealing selection of wines from around the world, with plenty to intrigue and tempt the wine adventurer; 20 are offered by the glass.Read More
FT33 is One of Dallas’ Best, So Why Aren’t There More Like It?
Unlike many restaurants entering their second year, Matt McCallister’s Design District gem is gaining momentum.
Maybe, just maybe, Dallas’ long-bitched-about problem with flighty, temperamental diners is just an epicurean crutch. For years, chefs have blamed customers for safe, boring, innovation-free menus, swearing that North Texas diners don’t understand or desire new and evocative cooking. They blame their empty dining rooms on a dearth of loyalty, a misplaced value on trendiness, the Dallas customer’s constant desire to flock to whatever restaurant is shiny and new for their empty dining rooms and shuttered doors.
There’s some truth to all that, sure. Dallas is the land of Tex-Mex and steakhouses, and for a city this size, it has more than its share of customers who want nothing more than a medium-well filet, a baked potato and stamp on their valet ticket. But for chefs, blaming his culture is still the culinary equivalent of dropping the ball in the outfield and blaming the misstep on the sun in your eyes. A pro always makes the catch, and good chefs keep diners coming back with a consistent execution, high-quality ingredients and attractive plates, whether here or Williamsburg or Williamsport.
Matt McCallister has proven as much with FT33, his restaurant in the Design District. His dining room has been humming since it opened in October, despite a kitchen that turns out powders, emulsions and other confusing preparations. In fact, as he closes in on his first year — a time when other restaurants in Dallas start to see their dining rooms idle — McCallister’s restaurant gives the impression of one that is gaining momentum. Clearly, with enough creativity, chefs can keep Dallas diners coming back to the table.
It helps that McCallister draws from a diverse base of customers. Come to FT33 at 6 p.m. on a Saturday and the bar may be empty but the dining room will be full of older diners who have, at least for one night, had enough of Nick and Sam’s. Sit at the bar at 8 and you’ll be elbow to elbow with a much younger crowd, whose energy carries the sparse dining room late into the evening.
The blonds, grays and wood tones of the space are tranquil and meditative, and the soft glow of Edison bulbs casts the room in a dusky monochrome. There’s very little color, which makes the important things pop. Notice the pass, lit up like a stage, where McCallister gingerly tweezes ingredients into position like a hobbyist looming over an impossibly tiny model.
The plates he’s working on burst with color and imagery. Like the cobia crudo, which pairs thin slices of the sweet and firm-fleshed fish with vibrant green slices of serrano and impossibly smooth carrot puree that’s flavored with miso. Orange pearls of trout roe glisten like wet gems and pop in your mouth with vibrant salinity.
The fingerling potatoes and maitakes, on the other hand, are a study in forest browns. The woodsy mushrooms are draped in fragrant herb butter, while subtle smoke impregnates the potatoes. Only a few quenelles of spicy mayo lend color to the plate, like the last rusty embers of campfire about to go cold. The dish is one of the few to make repeat appearances on a menu that changes not only with the seasons but also with McCallister’s mood.
You want steak? You won’t have it here. The closest you’ll find, provided the menu hasn’t changed again by the time you arrive, is a small square of flap steak rubbed with coriander, cooked sous-vide (or under circulation, as it’s called these days) and paired with a cashew puree. There are perfectly cooked okra on the plate, cut to stand on end like the hats of little gnomes, and tiny tomatoes that sit perfectly upright.
The cut end of the tomatoes is an entry point for vinegar, a clever trick that plays up the fruit’s acidity. Suddenly they’re not just tomatoes but super-tomatoes, the envy of gardeners everywhere. The flavor is intense at the first taste, but the effect withers a little with every bite. After a while, they’re just tomatoes again, especially when they’re encountered a second time alongside a crab salad. Tart, pickled green strawberries the size of marbles land on multiple plates too. Repeated ingredients are a letdown here. When a constant stream of new and exciting flavors surrounds you, they interrupt the show.
A squash agnolotti points out another of McCallister’s weaknesses, though it may have been a temporary one. The pasta is too thick and the purses that should be delicate are big and clumsy. A hefty shaving of truffles adds no flavor, and the whole dish swims in a heavy, buttery sauce. It tasted like a practice dish, which may have been the case considering a subsequent plate of pasta ate like a dream.
A true Italian purist might scoff at noodles made with whole-wheat flour, but what McCallister has accomplished with rye is undeniably outstanding. The noodles are so thin you could read newsprint though them, and pork gives the sauce richness and body. The slipperiness of the pasta is juxtaposed with toasted breadcrumbs and caraway seeds, and there are just enough ribbons of kale to let you lie to yourself — yes, this is healthy — as you decimate the bowl.Read More
Whether menus change daily, weekly or monthly—or cease to be presented to diners at all—eating at these restaurants is nothing less than a thrill.
While some restaurants depend on signature dishes and classic wine pairings to keep customers coming back for more, eateries from coast to coast are embracing an outside-the-box approach to dining out—in some cases, changing menu items by the hour. See how sommeliers at top restaurants navigate the challenge of pairing wines with ever-evolving dishes.
The menu at FT33 changes on a weekly basis, allowing the Owner and Executive Chef, Matthew McCallister, to work with items that are hyperseasonal—like Porcini mushrooms and ramps—a tactic that has quickly put the Design District-area restaurant on the Dallas dining map.
“The constant evolution of the menu is definitely welcomed by the vast majority of our diners who enjoy the chance to try a new selection of dishes each time they visit, rather than selecting from a static selection,” says Jeff Gregory, wine director and general manager.
“New menu items also challenge us to keep a sharp sense of what wines are working well with the season’s bounty,” he notes. “Right now I’m in the market for rustic Old World whites and lighter reds. Heavier reds tend to slow down once the temperature climbs above 90 [degrees] here in Texas.”
We’re living in a golden age of stuffing our pieholes. And because there are so many mad-genius chefs and mixologists out there right now, we have a problem: separating the merely great from the transcendent, book-a-flight, text-everyone-you-know stuff. So we gorged our way across america to divine the country’s fifty best dishes and drinks, from brisket tacos and chinese pork-belly sandwiches to carbonated margaritas and cilantro lime ice cream. Grab a fork, a pair of chopsticks, a straw, or hell, just use your hands.
Soup, once little more than a warm liquid rich in the promise of enhanced health, has become a chef’s playland, filled with fun foods that float or sink. Chef Matt McCallister’s soup, luscious enough to stand alone, is uplifted with tiny rye croutons and crumbs of malted barley that sit atop it, circumnavigating the rim. Within the circle floats a drizzle of hay-infused grapeseed oil. Hay, he says, isn’t there because he’s in Texas and cows love the stuff, but because it adds a grassy note. He most likely could have gotten the same effect from using simple olive oil, but who ever heardof a star chef doing things the easy way?
by ALAN RICHMANRead More
Futo Estate 2009 Oakville
Etienne Sauzet 2009 Champ Canet Premier Cru (Puligny-Montrachet)
Chiara Boschis (E. Pira e Figli) 2008 Cannubi (Barolo)
FT33 specializes in regional, seasonally inspired modern cuisine. Our wine list features an international selection of lower alcohol, balanced wines that complement complex, nuanced food.
Wine List Description
The philosophy behind the wine list is to showcase the best producers of the world’s best grapes, highlighting classic regions and great prices. We love small-production, family-owned, amazing wines that both surprise and indulge. The list tries to avoid the “big” names but special attention is given to the Loire, Anderson Valley and Willamette Valley.
Wine Enthusiast editors asked America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants of 2013 “which dish would start a riot if it was taken off the menu?” Their
riot-worthy dish is…
“The local smoked fingerling potato, maitake mushroom and chili kewpie mayo dish would be a signature dish. “It tastes like smoked meat,” says Matt McCallister, executive chef and owner.”
Uni and chive pancakes with yuzu kosho and bonito aioli, paired with Pierre Henri Morel’s 2010 white Côtes du Rhône Villages from Laudun.
We have hosted 3 Texas Master Sommelier wine dinners at FT33 featuring wine-and-food pairing theory, Italy’s classic red wines and France’s classic wine regions. Special dinners featuring “guest chefs” occur throughout the year, where 8–15 courses are served, alternating between McCallister’s preparations and the guest chef’s.
While the food scenes in Austin and Houston continue to gather buzz, chefs like Matt McCallister are out to make sure Dallas gets cred right alongside them. His contemporary cooking (duck breast with pickled celery root; grouper with charred local potatoes) is nothing if not precise—no surprise, given that the guy worked at Alinea and Daniel. The Design District space that houses FT33 is easy on the eyes, but the attention’s on the plate.
Lamb tartare with eggplant-tomato relish; house-made charcuterie board
That FT33 is shorthand for “fire table 33,” which just happens to be the four-seat chef’s table.