Petra and the Beast – Dallas, Tx
It has been months, hasn’t it?
This time, I have no excuse except that I have been sort of in a rut. While it has been nice to be back in Iowa, taking some time to apply for jobs and being with my family (and pets!), it is difficult to be on the trajectory of your terminal degree and be suddenly met with a year without career development. Consequently, I’ve developed a bit of melancholy and cabin fever. Fortunately, I have some much-needed travel (and, of course, the requisite culinary delights that come with said travel) forthcoming, with a visit to Salt Lake City, two trips to Chicago, and New Years in Austin first on the docket for December, and a trip to Philadelphia, Princeton, and NYC in early February followed by my annual trip to San Antonio for TMEA. What better time to begin blogging again?
To begin, I'll give you a few summer throwback posts from my journey back to Iowa.
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Back in August, it was finally time to collect Mr. Mini Cooper, my trusty little automobile, and transport him to his new home in Iowa. I returned to Austin after my little jaunt to DC, and after I landed, took a few minutes to enjoy a bite at the beautiful new Sky Club in AUS’s new east concourse extension. It is strangely shaped, sort of hideous from the outside, and absolutely gorgeous inside. Easily the nicest Delta club I’ve been to in the US. Tons of seating, very quiet, beautifully decorated, with warm, western-esque tones, and with lots of local touches, such as Texas-themed art and local beer. The winner was the patio, which was my destination for much of my visit to the club despite the heat, which the breeze made more bearable, and had excellent views of the tarmac.
After a night celebrating Suzanne Pence, one of my mentors from my DMA, and her 60th birthday, I was up bright and early to head to Lexington, TX, home of the stalwart BBQ joint Snow’s, which it’s been said has the best brisket in Texas. I will say that this round of brisket was not as transcendental as the first, through there were bites of the point that were utter heaven.
I needed a little breather before the great schlep to Iowa, and needed to wait another day before my last cheap roundtrip to finish my Platinum Medallion qualification, so I spent a night in Dallas and a relaxing day working from my hotel, and after working for a bit, made my way down to the Dallas Aquarium. The aquarium was rather mediocre, like much of Dallas, and there were SO many damn people there, which exhausted me, made me grumpy, and worked up my appetite, so I headed off to one of the most celebrated dining destinations in Dallas for a rather early dinner and some foodie therapy.
Petra and the Beast is a peculiar joint, and feels a bit out of place in gaudy and corporate Dallas given the restaurant’s offbeat hipster vibe (would fit right in in Austin). Having been unable to slide into their reasonably priced tasting menu seating the evening before, I showed up around 5 for an a la carte experience. I was a little flabbergasted by the building, which seemed to have formerly been a sort of seedy-looking Mex place in a bizarre part of town. I entered to a basic dining room, much like a café, decorated with all sorts of bizarre trinkets and drying herbs hanging from the ceiling. The a la carte menu was listed on the blackboard at the counter, so I made my way forth to partake in the counter service; to my mind, an interesting choice for a restaurant of this caliber.
The name “Petra and the Beast” is a marriage of the word “petrichor,” the name for that magical scent after rain falls on dry earth, (an homage to farming) and ostensibly their focus on meat. They are best known for their house-cured charcuterie, adorably but also somewhat childishly called “Meatums” on the blackboard, as well as their interesting pastas. The Chef focuses on local produce (who doesn’t anymore tho), and often includes fermented, pickled, or otherwise preserved ingredients in her cooking. The flavor combinations are surprising, unexpected, progressive, and often rather wonderful, making this one of the most unique spots not just in Dallas, but likely in the country.
Much of the charcuterie selection was pâté-type items, for which I tend to not care, so I skipped the full meat board and went with two choices from the listed selection: an ‘nduja, a chili-spiced soft pork spread, and coppa, a traditional and earthy Italian pork aged one year in-house. The ‘nduja was served on slices of their house-made focaccia, which was excellent, if a shade oily, alongside some really amazing pickled veggies, a house mostarda, and a mouthwatering pear jam. The coppa emerged shortly after with the same set of accoutrements, plus some crispy and scrumptious celery seed crackers. I could eat these things as snacks!
It’s a damn good thing I didn’t get the whole meat board, because I upon presentation of the next course, I was becoming alarmed by the volume of food appearing. Here I was presented with generous helpings of three local cheeses: a blue served with pumpkin seed brittle, a “Julietta” goat’s milk coated in herbes de Provence served with a pear “fluff,” and a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese, much like a brie, called “Green Hill,” which was served with sweet puffed sorghum with black mint powder. This was one of the most effective presentations of cheese I’d encountered. Each accompaniment was perfect with its paired cheese, although there was so much of the cheese that the accompaniments were sometimes scarcely enough! I particularly loved the Julietta cheese, which had the fresh, vegetal character of the herbs pressed into its bloomy rind. Really lovely.
I was already pretty full, but pressed on with one of their signature dishes: a bowl of fried pig tails with peaches, peach mostarda, pickled and fresh baby leeks, and dollops of preserved lemon foam. I can’t say I’d eaten pig tails before, yet alone heard of their comestibility, but these were really great; they reminded me of crispy pork belly, except even fattier. This could have made the dish far too rich, but the combination with the fruit and pickled leek added a freshness, lightness, and acidity that served as an excellent counterpoint to the fatty meat. A pretty wonderful dish, I must say, and the presentation was fabulous.
I had to sample one of their pastas, of course, and asked them what the most unique thing was. They recommended a goat “boraki,” a type of Armenian stuffed pasta that is formed as a single entity in the shape of a honeycomb with pockets of filling connected by dough. Not sure how else to describe it––just look at the photo, I suppose! This was filled with ground goat, the dumpling sliced open at the top, with a very light sort of cream sauce surrounding, complete with chili oil, and topped with pickled okra a crumbled, puffed rice. Really interesting dish––the goat wasn’t at all fatty, the sauce was rich but transparent, with the slight heat of the chili oil, and the crispy, tangy okra added a nice acidic counterpoint.
Was given a little snack of puffed sorghum coated in black mint powder. A tasty little morsel to save for my forthcoming flight to Las Vegas.
Can’t wait to visit this restaurant again, especially for their tasting menu, despite the fact that I’d have to go to Dallas again! ;)
Stay tuned for a few more historical reviews, including a panoramic Las Vegas dinner and a delightful middle-eastern restaurant in Chicago.