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Yes! It’s been FOREVER! Almost a year and I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart…but I am BACK, YES I AM!

If anyone knows me, they know that I am very finicky, well my stomach is very finicky, with certain foods.  My throat could start itching, my lip could blow up, my tongue could swell.  Let’s just say that I have a slight food allergy.  Not Hitch-like, but it’s pretty noticeable, ESPECIALLY with spicy stuff.

Any-who, this brings me to the subject at hand: guacamole particularly guacamole.  I’ve never been into the fruit, yes, it’s a fruit, because it turns my stomach upside-down.  Don’t gasp when I say this, but avocado toast makes me want to barf.  I know it’s the rave now with foodies, but I’m not on board at all.  Now, I can eat it in the form of guacamole. I believe I’m able to tolerate it and actually munch on it because there are other ingredients incorporated into it.  Tomatoes, salt, pepper, cilantro, lemon, lime, they tend to cut the raw form of it.  Put that on a fresh tortilla chip and I can go to town.

Now comes the good part.  I’m all for meeting up for a bite to eat.  Friends, family and food go so well together.  On this day, my girl and I tried out this restaurant in Plano, TX called Mi Día From Scratch.  Their food is described as a fusion of flavors from the past and present, Santa Fe and Tex Mex.  I’m all about trying new things, especially when it comes to F-O-O-D.  Being that I had never been to this restaurant, I decided to keep it simple, order things that I’m familiar with and that I would think can’t be messed up.  I started with an alcoholic beverage and the Margarita of the Month was a Mexican Mule.

IMG_1834I’m always down for a Mule.  They’re so refreshing and crisp.  I looked up what’s in a Mexican Mule and it’s pretty simple: tequila, lime & ginger beer.  Very tasty.  To start off, and this is pretty much the “WOW” of this experience, and honestly I didn’t have to eat anything after this, the Tableside Guacamole. Oh. My. GAH.  This amazingness starts tableside. From what I remember, it was the generic recipe for guac: fresh avocado, cilantro, tomatoes and lime.  That’s all mixed up, kept kinda chunky, which I like and then comes *drumroll* BACON.  Lots and lots of BACON!  It was so much, I honestly could not believe it.  It just kept getting piled on.  I did not complain at all.  Once finished and placed between my friend and I, I believe we stared at it in amazement for about five minutes. No lie.

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That first bite.  Nothing like it, something I’d never had and could not get enough of.    The smoky, savory flavor of the thick pieces of chewy bacon went so well with the smooth, yet chunky texture and mild, creaminess of the guacamole.  We were shocked that we kept picking up chip after chip.  It was a true addiction.  I made sure to drink lots of water while indulging in this deliciousness, because at the end go the day, it was still avocado and I did not want to be scratching my throat at the table, making that embarrassing noise, like I do in the privacy of my own home.  Don’t act like y’all don’t know that noise.  We finally stopped eating the guac, we still had entrees to eat, tacos, nothing fancy, and honestly, I wasn’t that impressed.  Grilled steak street tacos.  Lacked seasoning, pretty bland. Blah. Blah. Blah.  We wanted to take the guac home so bad, but you know how that is.  It would’ve been brown in color by the time we got home.  Not very pleasing to the eye.  So, we kept our gluttony levels low.

I’m sure you guys get what I’m saying.  WHEN you go to Mi Día From Scratch, sit at the bar, order the tableside guacamole, make friends with the bartender and try out all those interesting drink concoctions on the menu and I’m sure you’ll have a great time!

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I’m not a person, or should I say a foodie, that tends to frequent a place outside of Dallas more than once, especially on vacation.  There’s always an exception though.  Atlanta is a place that my mom and I love to visit when we can, make a quick little girl’s trip every once in a while.  The variety of food, good food, good Southern, home-cooked food in Atlanta is overwhelming, but one place that always makes my “Let’s Go Here” List is Serpas True Food.  Everything about this place I absolutely love.  The location, the people, the ambience, the construction of the bathrooms (yes, you read right lol), the menu, it just all works, and it works well.

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Of course, every one of my visits to Serpas, is during my favorite meal of the day…BRUNCH!  I love how busy it is, I love that most of the time, the weather is nice, you hear people laughing, in a great mood, because usually they just got out of church and the menu selection is on point.  Not quite breakfast, not quite lunch.  Once again, BRUNCH!

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What you see above, that semi-devoured bowl of savory goodness, that’s Shrimp & Scallop.  Which could also be called Shrimp, Grits & a BIG OL’ Scallop.  I think it might be the best tasting shrimp and grits dish I’ve ever had.  I don’t order shrimp and grits at a lot of restaurants, but 9 times out of 10, when I go to Serpas, this will be placed in front of me to enjoy.  Juicy, plump shrimp, this red, savory tomato-ey gravy and one ginormous scallop that I always save for the last bite.  It’s like two scallops put together, so sweet and succulent.  That one little, but big thing, makes this dish stand out.  I love the consistency of the grits, surprisingly, because I’m a fan of thick grits, that stick to the spoon, but these were completely opposite.  They weren’t too, too thick, but not soupy.  I like it though.  The flavor trumps all, so no complaints.  It’s so pretty before it’s gobbled down, right?

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To start us off right though, every time, the Buttermilk Biscuits.  Four flaky, golden brown, hot, fresh, biscuits, served in an iron skillet, which I love, gives the appetizer so much personality.  They come with soft butter, that is key, and a cup of house made blackberry jelly, I think it is.  Something I could eat everyday.  You bit into it and you can see the layers of baked yumminess, topped with that sweet jelly and salty butter, melting all over.  Forgive me as I snap out of it, y’all can tell I went back to that moment.

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This may be a tiny little additive, but they deserve recognition.  The hash browns.  Only thing is, they’re not what you think.  They were actually more like home fries.  The way they were prepared, touched all of my heart, soul and stomach.  They were crispy on the edges and soft on the inside, cooked with onions, red and green bell peppers, reminded me so much of my Grammy’s cooking.  So much seasoning and flavor, I couldn’t stop eating them.  My mom even reached for a couple and I kindly pushed her fork smooth to the side.  I don’t play.

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Sadly, I left out of that restaurant miserably full, but every bite was damn sure worth it.  The “itis” set in right away, nap mode was right around the corner.  Places like that, that put you in a food coma after, they keep you coming back for more.  That’s why Serpas will always see me, whenever I’m in the “A”.

With my family being from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, attending school there as well at THE Southern University, I know a thing or two about some good seafood.  A couple of things that grew on me while living there…turkey necks, potato salad (specifically my cousin Cathy’s, my favorite), crawfish pie and hot, boiled crawfish.

There’s a secret to a good batch of crawfish.  I’ve never boiled crawfish, but I’ve been around enough excellent cooks to know how it’s done.  You gotta season your water!  It’s crucial.  If you don’t, they’re pretty disgusting when eaten.  That big steaming pot should contain mountains of flavor.  Just when you think there’s enough, ADD MORE.  Lemon, garlic, onion, Zatarain’s seasonings, or whatever brand you prefer, bay leaf, like Guy Fieri says, “FLAVOR TOWN!”  This brings me to say, the places I’ve been in Dallas, they don’t do this, at all.  Let’s see, the places I can remember specifically are Aw Shuck’s and I believe Pappadeaux.  They boil the crawfish and then sprinkle this spicy “seasoning” on top.  It’s not seasoning, it’s like hot, spicy powder, all over the shell, but not a one speck touches the delicious meat inside the crawfish tail.  So pretty much when you’re eating it, all you get is a numb tongue and lips on fire.  I hate that.

All that brings me to my amazing experience I had this past week on a regular ol’ Wednesday.  One of my girls had a craving for crawfish, so I decided to join her at Nate’s Seafood & Steakhouse.  I’m always down to eat, so why not?!  I’m very familiar with Nate’s.  My family and my God family used to frequent this place back in the day, when we were a lot younger.  Seeing as though my palette wasn’t as experienced as it is now, my first time having crawfish here, all I remember was way too spicy and my poor little juvenile tongue could not handle it.  It just wasn’t a good, at all.  Fast forward to today, I was a little skeptical to order the crawfish, because I didn’t want to be disappointed again.  Trying to be positive, I went to my trusty Yelp Community, saw nothing but great reviews, so I went for it, “Let me get two pounds of crawfish, mild, one pound of shrimp and a side of JP Juice!”

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JP Juice.  It deserves a paragraph of it’s own.  If you ever visit Nate’s, you must order a bowl of this delicious liquid on the side.  The only way I can describe JP Juice is, “Oh my GAWD!”  It’s this hot mixture of garlic butter, starting off right already, lemon juice and for more tang, half pieces of lemon floating in the bowl so beautifully, and other secret seasonings I’m sure.  If I could’ve bottled this up, and taken it home, which I’m sure if I asked they would’ve made it happen, I would have.  When my crawfish and shrimp came out, the bowl sat so pretty in the middle of this boiled seafood Heaven.  It was love and lust at first dip.  The crawfish were huge, tails full of meat, the shrimp was colossal, this made it so easy for each piece to cradle that JP Juice and make it right into my mouth.  I got so greedy and so caught up in the sauce, I remember at one point, I was dipping the seafood with three fingers.  It was so un-lady like, but I didn’t give a damn. LoL.

Never have a finished every crawfish platter that has been placed in front of me.  Let me tell you, my how things have changed.  That crawfish was so good.  Just the right amount of heat, with a boat load of flavor, the spice didn’t linger.  I don’t even think my nose started running.  That’s pretty big, and no numb lip either.  I truly enjoyed my food.

Ever since that night, I’ve craved them everyday, no lie.  Don’t give me any corn, don’t want potatoes either.  So, any takers on a blind date to Nate’s?! It won’t be much talking, I just don’t wanna sit at a table, by myself, and devour two or more pounds of crawfish and shrimp.  When someone’s with you, it’s not as … piggish.

 

 

“Real Food Done Real Good”.  Elizabeth’s first owner Heidi Trull was REAL right when she said this.  Ever since the first time I visited Elizabeth’s for Sunday breakfast, with a group of my closest friends, I make it a point to go on every visit now.  Brunch or breakfast.  Doesn’t matter, cause I know I’m going to eat REAL GOOD!

I don’t know how my friends found Elizabeth’s, but then again I DO, because word travels fast when it comes to delicious food.  Tucked away in the Upper Ninth Ward at the corner of Gallier St. and Chartres St., you’ll see a two story, older house, decorated with artwork and bright colors, looks very “lived in” and old school.  Like somebody’s grandmother is in the kitchen doing major damage.  You really can’t miss it.

Before we were even seated at our table, I knew exactly what I wanted to treat the table to.  It’s something you can’t resist, one of their menu items that is just too good to miss out on.  They found a way to make bacon, better.  Who knew?!  Praline Bacon.  That’s all you need to hear.  A pretty white plate with four candied pieces of pork.  One of the best teaser appetizers I’ve ever had.  Bacon Candy.  Two words that go so well together.

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Do you SEE this?! *sigh*

Now let me take you back for a second.  On one of my visits to New Orleans, for the Dallas Cowboys vs. Saints game, we visited this little bar, next to a restaurant called Stanley, AMAZING brunch might I add.  Not sure what the bar was called, but it’s right next door.  We waited here while our table was prepared.  It’s located in the heart of the French Quarter, right by Jackson Square.  There was a drink they served called Brandy Milk Punch.  Simple concoction of Brandy, whole milk, powdered sugar and nutmeg to garnish the drink with.  I liked it so much there, that I saw fit to go ahead and order one at Elizabeth’s.  Just as good as I remember from the first time.  Reminds me of the holidays.

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***Just a disclaimer, when I’m on vacation, I EAT! I tend to go all the way in, I mean I liked to taste the local flavors of the city.  I like to share food, I will order A LOT, so y’all don’t judge me and my greedy a** LOL***

Along with the pig candy, I ordered the Fried Boudin Balls in Creole Mustard Sauce.  These balls, oh I just wish they gave us six instead of three.  The worst is when you take that last bite, because it’s gone, there’s no more.  So, savor every bite.  What really hits it off is the mustard sauce that they sit so pretty in.  It’s the perfect addition to really make the flavors in the boudin balls shine.  It’s smoky, it’s thick, it’s got a sweet hint to it and y’all know sweet and savory is my thing!

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Sadly, but not surprisingly, I was on the full side after indulging in these delicious delicacies, but what do they say? The show must go on!  An entrée was ordered, the French Toast Burrito.  So big, I couldn’t even finish it.  STUFFED with bacon, egg AND crumbled sausage.  Drizzled with maple syrup, sprinkled with powdered sugar.

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I definitely over did it, BUT I had no complaints.  How could I complain when all that goodness cooked with love was in my belly?! The service was great, everything I ate, with no surprise, was delightful!  Don’t forget, when you go, start off with that Praline Bacon and your day will definitely be A-OK.

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This review, this acknowledgement, this recognition of culinary goodness is well overdue.  It brings me joy to write this, really.  I’ve been putting it off only because I want it to be nothing less than fantastic.  Let me say, I absolutely loved everything about Pink Magnolia.  My expectations were more than met.  Let me keep it really real though – they exceeded my expectations, above and far beyond, even with our rather sarcastic, somewhat slick-talking waiter Mr. Chip.  I’ll leave that subject sitting right here though.  It’s all about the part that y’all wanna hear about: the FOOD.

From the moment my reservation was made for Sunday Funday brunch, I could not stop looking at the pictures and suggestions on Yelp (of course), couldn’t stop perusing the restaurant website, looking at what I might possibly order and I was most excited about meeting the amazingly fun, Chef Blythe Beck.

If you don’t know about Chef Blythe, get into her.  Quickly. I fell in love with her brash, blunt, colorful, saucy attitude back in 2009 on her reality show The Naughty Kitchen, especially when she hosted former Dallas Cowboy Bradie James’ engagement dinner.  It screamed classy, elegant, yet casual and entertaining.  So well put together and I remember one thing specifically – the Mini Chili Dogs.  The fact that she could prepare such a nostalgic item, with her flare to it, I knew for sure when I saw it served, along with every other mouth-watering meal, I was sold on Chef Blythe Beck.

Walking up to Pink Magnolia, well just looking at the building, located on Davis St. in the heart of Bishop Arts District in Dallas, TX, it’s so home-like, comfy and cozy.  Walking inside, everything is literally right in front of you.  The bar, the kitchen, an open kitchen, which is love, it’s so personal and intimate and an outside, covered patio area for more seating.  The place gets pretty packed, from what I could tell on this beautiful Sunday.  As soon as we sat down, I saw her.  Chef Blythe and her bright red hair, going to work over the fire-blazing stove, flicking her wrist, pots and pans everywhere.  I was so star struck, but I had to focus and figure out what I was about to devour.

What’s crazy is, the weekend I chose to to visit Pink Magnolia, it was within the 21 days that I chose to give up any form of bread *blank stare*.  So, unfortunately I wasn’t able to indulge in the Garlic Biscuits & Cinnamon Brown Sugar Butter.  I must say, they looked so flippin’ good and smelled even better.  So flaky, hot and fresh.  Because I didn’t get my bread fix, I was ready to eat.  Fast.

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I decided on the Corned Beef Hash.  I see it on pretty much every brunch menu I’ve ever looked at, but I’ve never had it, so what’s what I got.  It was very good, a filling portion, lots of thick, flavorful, savory corned beef, not thin and shredded like I’ve had before.  Chunky potatoes, seasoned perfectly, a little too much grease at the bottom of the bowl, but I saw it as flavor.  The egg on top, was supposed to be sunny-side up, but it wasn’t runny at all.  Cooked hard, kinda rubbery, but I just moved it to the side, didn’t let it ruin my moment.  Along with my main entree, I couldn’t resist ordering sides, a side of grits, buttery cheese grits and Kentucky Bourbon sausage links.  So much food, but who was not complaining?! Is this girl right here.  I didn’t get to taste the other dishes at my table: Steak & Egg Tacos and the Fried Chicken and Mini Waffles, but judging from the clean plates spread about the table, I’d say everything was pretty dang tasty.

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One really neat aspect of this restaurant, the restrooms.  Weird huh?!  Sure you weren’t expecting me to say that.  You walk in, and plastered ever so neatly on the walls are Chef Blythe’s family recipes.  To share such personal keepsakes with complete strangers, strangers that have fallen in love with her food within an hour or two, is just so cool, such a loving touch.  It really shows where her passion for food comes from.

The hospitality from Chef Blythe and her staff, was awesome, so energetic.  We paid our bill and ended up talking more, an hour or so more, and ended up ordering dessert and coffee.  It was only right!  If you have the pleasure of visiting Pink Magnolia, which it should already be on your “To Visit” List, get the Butter Cake or the Gingerbread Cheesecake.  Trust me.  I would not steer you wrong.  You all should know that by now.  The ending to a great Sunday, happened when Chef Blythe Beck, took the time out, even while running a hectic kitchen, to take a picture with little ol’ me.  Smelling like “bacon and shame” as she said, with a huge smile on her face, we were both ready for the camera.  It truly made my day.

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The magnolia flower is a symbol of sweet, southern strength.  Chef Blythe Beck spreads positivity in everything that she does, from every picture that she takes, to every customer she greets in her restaurant.  Not just any kind of positivity, PINK positivity.  Pink Magnolia exemplifies this all.

 

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