The very last chapter in our USA road trip, this installment has us giving up road trip food for the high life in Dallas. Because while eating burgers and road food is fun, sometimes a girl just wants to live the high life in a cosmopolitan city like Dallas. Read on to see what this city has to offer!
The woman at the large table next to us declares in a trans Atlantic accent, "Well that baby needed a thousand dollars!" The Mansion at Rosewood Creek is that sort of place, a special occasion restaurant in Dallas where the old school decor and couples and groups celebrate and congregate. Dallas is regarded as a cosmopolitan area in Texas where you might encounter someone from Dallas or Dynasty rather than someone wearing a 10 gallon hat (that's Fort Worth).
It's also one of those restaurants where there are little surprises around the corner, literally. "You're sitting right next to the secret door" our waiter tells us. And sure enough, he presses against a wooden panel near the joint and it presses open. Having had our fill of burgers and road food, we decided that it was time to go high end and avail ourselves of what Dallas had to offer.
We take a look at the menu and the choices start with a Petrossian Caviar service and then segue towards modern dishes with luxurious ingredients. Interestingly though, they are known for the tortilla soup which is interesting given the upscale location and other items. French born chef Bruno Davaillon hails from France and has been in the United States for 15 years.
A bread basket and amuse bouche is brought to our table. Belinda, Barbara and I are too busy talking about our day at the Dallas State Fair but once the food arrives, we give it an appreciative pause.
Tortilla soup $13USD
They divide the tortilla soup into three serves for all of us to share and it comes with strips of crispy corn tortilla at the bottom of the bowl. It's a dish that has been on the menu for decades and is considered the restaurant's signature dish. They pour the tomato based soup at the table. The soup is smooth and rich with tomato and there are small pieces of chicken and avocado in each spoonful as well as bits of tortilla. I like it so much that it inspired me to try and make my own tortilla soup.
Green asparagus risotto lemon froth, pink peppercorn $21USD
The green asparagus risotto is mum Barbara's choice and it is an excellent one. The risotto had a great texture to it and wasn't mushy at all (you might be able to see it from the photo above). It comes with a refreshing lemon foam, asparagus spears and pink peppercorns which gives the risotto more dimensions of flavour.
Grilled matsutake sweet corn, 62° farm egg, asparagus, curry $22USD
This is my favourite starter and features grilled matsutake mushrooms, sweet corn, asparagus and oh so soft and a jellied 62 degree farm egg with an aroma of curry which really permeates the dish. I particularly like mopping up the creamy egg with the bread from the bread basket.
Shrimp cocktail horseradish panna cotta, tomato syrup $18USD
The shrimp cocktail has five large shrimp sitting on a bottom layer of soft, jellied horseradish panna cotta with salad leaves and a slightly sweet tomato syrup. The shrimp had an excellent texture to it and the tomato has just the right amount of sweetness.
Day boat scallops and pearls cauliflower, charred onion, seaweed dust $48USD
Next comes the mains. Prices for mains here aren't inexpensive and generally speaking Dallas isn't an inexpensive city to visit. The day boat scallops are from the Chesapeake area and are topped with roe pearls, tiny florets of cauliflower, creamy puree and are decorated with dark green seaweed dust. It's one of the most popular dishes here and I can see why as the star of the dish the scallops have a soft, succulent texture.
Filet mignon smoked duck fat fries, tomatillo chimichurri, kale $57USD
The Texan filet mignon is a no brainer for us, after all Texas is known for its beef. This is a flavoursome steak perfectly cooked with fat and crispy smoked duck fat fries and a delicious spicy tomatillo chimichurri sauce that spices it up well and lightens the rich beef and fries.
Pheasant two ways, brussel sprouts, chestnuts, pear onion soubise $42USD
The pheasant is recommended to us by our waiter and it's served two ways on two plates. The first way is the succulent breast, skin on and crispy with a pear onion soubise and a poached pear and chestnuts. On the second plate are the pheasant meatballs with crispy Brussels sprouts which have a good sweetness to counter the natural bitterness of the Brussels sprouts.
Strawberry cheesecake surprise $12USD
It's amazing what three gals can eat especially after the deep fried fest earlier that way but dessert just has to be eaten! The strawberry cheesecake surprise is the most popular dessert and their signature dessert. We can't coax any information out of our waiter on its format though. It comes in a thin white chocolate shell spray painted red and you lift off the top half of the orb and reveal a bottom layer of light cheesecake, plenty of sweet cooked raspberries and a layer of basil sorbet. For Barbara, she doesn't like the basil sorbet and there's a bit too much of it in the dessert. We'd have preferred less of the basil sorbet as the cheesecake was delicious but hard to get to without getting a lot of basil sorbet.
Corn & lime $12USD
This is a really interesting dessert, mainly because of the polenta ice cream that has an interesting texture and flavour. Like a cornbread ice cream, it has the comforting sweetness of corn and a smooth, rich texture. It comes with a sweetcorn financier cake also made with polenta with star bursts of lime curd and blueberry compote.
Hazelnut & mandarin $12USD
The hazelnut dessert is a crunchy hazelnut and milk chocolate bar with lots of feuilletine to give it a nice crispiness. It's served with tangerine pouffs and mandarin sorbet.
Lemon & coconut $12USD
The bottom layer is coconut shortbread and is topped with lemon curd cream, batons of meringue and a very refreshing lime milk ice cream scoop.
With our teas are the petit fours. There are three types of petit fours: a chocolate gianduja triangle, a black and white sesame seed one and a buttery triangle. I'm almost embarrassed to say that I ate and enjoyed every one of them (although the idea of breakfast seemed so far away at this stage).
As we get up to leave, the "thousand dollar baby" woman starts demonstrating the Charleston to her dining pals. Ahhh Dallas! We bid a sad farewell to Barbara, my "adopted" mum who has flown all the way from Utah to meet with me. See, family does that! :)
The next day Belinda and I wake up and decide that we need to give our tummies a break. So we do the next best thing which is shop. All I can manage is a frappe all day as I am sure I was still digesting the food from the day before. Later that evening, we are scheduled to catch the late Qantas Dallas to Sydney flight (the longest flight in the world) so we figure that we have one more night of food. Because ya'll never get enough food on a plane (okay that is sarcasm).
Which brings us to the final meal in America. An epic journey eating road food for 2 weeks around North America should always end with a bang. Dallas is known for its steakhouses so we figured what better way to end off the trip than at one of the city's finest steakhouses. Nick and Sam's was founded in 1999. Sam is the name of one of the owner's sons and Nick is the name of a friend's son.
As we're leaving on a 10pm flight, we book in for the first dinner session at 5pm. We arrive early, the valet takes our car (oh how we wish that Sydney restaurants had free valet parking!) and we take a seat at the bar opposite the caviar bar while the dining room is prepared. After a few minute's wait we make our way into the room.
It's all dark and moody lighting with dark woods and glass topped tables covered in wine glasses. Waiters polish glasses carefully inspecting them in what little light there is. There are the art deco style murals on the walls and beautiful canvases on the walls.
The display of beef cuts brought to every table
Our waiter Javier is very friendly and goes through the menu with us quickly before promising to come back with a display of "off menu" items or meat specials. He does so a few minutes later showing us a selection of meat. There is a sizeable cut called the "welcome to Texas" which is made for sharing.
All of the cuts bar one are wet aged but because I prefer dry aged beef, we decide to choose the only dry aged cut called the cowboy (or known as the "tomahawk" in Sydney). It's a cut of beef served on the bone and is best shared between two (or three!). What we're both impressed with too is that all of the sides and salads can be made into half shares to maximise the possibility of tasting which is a fantastic idea - the restaurants here in the United States really seem to understand the way that customers think.
The amuse bouche comes from the caviar bar - it's triangles of melba toast with caviar, sour cream, chives, diced red onion, egg yolk and egg white. It's utterly delicious and such a nice indulgent amuse bouche.
Crab cake $17USD for two crab cakes
They split the serve onto two plates for ease of eating so you would normally get two of these. I take a knife to it to ease it open and all I see is crab meat, there's no potato filler. Another thing that I find is that sometimes breadcrumbs can overpower the taste of crab meat but here crab is the star item. I've had plenty of crab cakes and this is one of the best.
Lobster chopped salad $6.50USD half of a half serve shown
I've heard so much about chopped salads and because this had lobster in it to sweeten the deal, we thought that we should order it. It too is split into half and is actually a half sized serve so in effect this is one quarter of a salad. There isn't a lot of lobster in this and the salad is fine but really not at the same level as the crab cake.
Our waiter smooths a perfect crease-free black napkin on the table in preparation for our steak. It comes out in all of its enormous glory glistening so brilliantly that I can almost hear the hiss with which it hit the grill. Then all of the sides arrive and they are regular sized - we check and yep they're the half side size!
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Cowboy steak $90USD serves two
The steak is perfectly juicy and so full of flavour, not just from the meat itself but also from the dry ageing process which intensifies the flavour. There's two discs of black truffle butter and a side of soft, delicious garlicky spinach and we do a double take as it is a half serve and we can only imagine that a full sized serve of spinach would be comically large and invite Popeye jokes.
Spinach half serve
Lobster mac and cheese $7.50USD half serve
The other sides are the lobster mac and cheese which is wonderfully strong and rich with both lobster and cheese (which sounds obvious but sometimes places can skimp on lobster). The top remains crispy crunchy until the very end and it has an intense flavour - one thing I had found with mac and cheese is that it can be quite bland whereas this was not.
Brussels Sprouts $4.50 half serve
The Brussels sprouts are probably our favourite side dish though and that's because of the bacon and sweet cider sauce that is served with it cutting out any potential mustiness or bitterness.
Damn good fries $4.50USD half serve
Yes these are damn good fries but they are also really big fries! They've got extra crunchiness on the outside and are cooked until bronzed. I know I keep going on about it but this half sized serve is still a mountain.
Garlic Mashed potato $4.50USD half serve
The mash was so creamy and buttery it was weighty to pick up with a spoon. It's hard to choose which side to eat when they're all this good.
Red Velvet cake
Something unexpected was the arrival of the dessert. I saw the red velvet cake out of the corner of my eye and thought "What a lucky person to be getting that!" Then it comes to our table. It's enormous - easily 25 cms or 10 inches tall and causes everyone around us to stare. The red velvet cake is then sliced in half horizontally and the top half is placed on a plate next to the vanilla ice cream scoops in a wafer bowl. I am not prone to bouts of speechlessness often but my mouth just hangs open. It's the treat that they bring out for special occasions. The red velvet cake was so moist and suited the sweet sauteed strawberries perfectly.
If we'd known that this red velvet cake was coming our way then we wouldn't have ordered these desserts. It was perhaps why our waiter Javier looked a bit worried for us when we ordered them because he knew that we'd be eating them after the red velvet cake.
Peanut butter and jelly bar $14USD
The peanut butter and jelly dessert is my favourite of the three. There is a bottom layer of chocolate and on top of this is a layer of peanut butter, then raspberry jam and a white peanut mousse as well as peanut brittle. I loved the way that the layers worked together to bring back memories of a childhood sandwich but at a more adult level.
Almond joy cheesecake $10USD
I preferred the other two desserts to the almond joy cheesecake but that was perhaps my issue as I have never had an almond joy before and I was curious to see what it tasted like through the cake. It tasted a lot like almond essence which isn't my favourite flavour but for almond joy fans, perhaps they like this about the chocolate bar. It's a Oreo crust with toasted coconut, almonds and chocolate ganache.
Texas peach and blackberry crisp $9USD
The Texas peaches are soft and sweet (and hooray for using fresh peaches as we'd only encountered tinned up until then but hey it was road food). They're paired with a crunchy, crumbly spiced pecan crumble topping and a large scoop of vanilla gelato and a bourbon caramel sauce.
Seeing all of the dessert that we have left over we rue the fact that we can't take it with us. Or can we? They immediately offer to box it up for us and within minutes we're holding a large paper bag with several boxes worth of red velvet cake in them. See, that's hospitality, American style. Is it no wonder why we loved it and can't wait to return to do Road Trip: Part 2 sometime in the future!
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever done a road trip? Would you want to do one like this or is there too much food for you? When you travel do you mostly eat road food, street food or at fine dining restaurants? Do you have any recommendations for our next road trip in America?
So much road
So you want to do a Road Trip? Here are some tips for a cross country American road trip along with some candid snaps that I took on my iPhone!
-Buy a prepaid SIM card. For around $70USD you get internet data, phone calls and texts included. I found it absolutely invaluable when looking for places to eat and general information especially during the long drives and it lasted the two weeks we were there.
The beast or the boat. Considering my car at home is a hybrid and I fill it once a month the gas bills were alarming! But it was comfortable...
-We ended up driving a beast of a car, a Chevrolet Tahoe but that was because that was the only one that they had with GPS navigation which is a must. If you have internet access you can also use your smartphone for a GPS. The Tahoe's tank cost us $70USD to refill each time and had to be refilled roughly every four hours of driving which is very expensive. However, it was very comfortable and easily fit our luggage.
We tried so many types of chips. These were my favourite! And they were really spicy!
-Try to drive during the day as much as possible which sounds totally obvious right? But driving on the other side of the road can be confusing enough, let alone at night. Stop every two hours - Belinda used TravelMath to help calculate halfway distances which we'd use to have a food break too.
I always love looking at supermarkets. That's a lot of meat for $10!
I wanted to buy this outfit for Mr NQN. He said no.
-Always check restaurant opening and closing times and days. Some of the restaurants in smaller towns and even some big towns close at 8pm so if you arrive late, your food choices will be limited.
-The food can be fattening so I found that the three bite rule allowed us to try everything without letting us put on too much weight. I snacked on fresh and dried fruit and always tried to order salads and vegetable sides (although these can be sweet and calorific too).
-Tipping is a minefield especially for those of us not used to it. The general consensus is that you should tip your waiter about 20% for good service (15% for adequaate, 25% for excellent). Taxi drivers 10%, limo drivers 0-10% and bell hops $2-$3 per bag. For beauty treatments $5 per person seemed adequate.
-Decide on the music beforehand ;) And choose your companion/s carefully! Belinda and I didn't exchange a cross word and have been firm, close friends ever since. We both have similar interests and while we love eating at road food stands, from food vans and high end restaurants but we both only like to sleep at 5 star hotels. If your travelling companion differs from you in these respects, I would imagine that it could be a source of possible tension. And the whole aim is to have fun!
Belinda and me in San Antonio
Me and Barbara in Dallas
NQN and guests dined at the Mansion at Turtle Creek as their guest but Nick and Sam's was independently paid for.
Rosewood Mansion On Turtle Creek
2821 Turtle Creek Blvd, Dallas, TX 75219, United States Phone:+1 214-559-2100
Nick and Sam's
3008 Maple Ave, Dallas, TX 75201, United States
Sunday to Wednesday 5:00-10:00 pm Thursday to Saturday 5:00-11:00 pm www.nick-sams.com/