Woooo, Pig!

October 2, 2011


Razorback band on the field at halftime in the Dallas Palace

I’m back.

Oh. You didn’t know I was gone? Well, I was gone. I had a weekend jaunt to Dallas where some 40,000 of my closest friends and I screamed ourselves hoarse as the Arkansas Razorbacks made a most improbable comeback to welcome the Texas A&M Aggies to the Southeastern Conference.

(Aside: I am batshit crazy over college sports. I am also in the peculiarly schizophrenic position of being both a Tennessee Volunteers and Arkansas Razorbacks fan, which is troublesome in the moderately infrequent occasions they happen to play each other. If the stars ever align and they’re up against each other in the SEC championship, my head will likely explode.)

(I face no such divided loyalties in basketball. I am a Memphis State alum and a Tiger fan through-and-through when it comes to the hardwood. As Memphis State has not won a football game in recorded history, and is tagged by no less noteworthy an authority than the Wall Street Journal as possibly being the worst football team in the U.S., it is not a factor until December.)

But I digress. I’ve been to Dallas, I’ve seen Cowboy Stadium, aka (most appropriately) the Dallas Palace; I’ve had one most excellent meal, one decent meal, two execrable hotel breakfast buffets, scored a pound of the best coffee in the world, and eaten some of the better food I’ve ever had at a sporting event (kept from being the best only by virtue of the fact I can get Rendezvous cheese and sausage plates at AutoZone Park). And I’ve experienced a new and most convenient method of getting to and from Dallas, which remains one of those places I really don’t care that much about, though I’ve had some awfully good meals there.

So. Starting at the top. I had one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life, if not the very best, at Al Biernat’s steakhouse in Dallas. It wasn’t cheap. It was worth it. It was my maiden voyage with Wagyu beef, and if it’s an exemplar, the taste is exceptional. It was a “Spinalis” cut, which the waiter explained was the endcap of a whole ribeye, so it has that good ribeye flavor.¬† It’s also a little thinner on the edges and a little thicker in the middle, so you get varying degrees of doneness. They had coated it in a nice rub and seared it with a lovely crust, and they served it with a raspberry coulis that I could have done without.

What I did ask for, on the side, was a dish of the port wine foie gras sauce, which was possibly the most sublime substance that has ever been concocted in a restaurant kitchen. Dark. Silky. Rich. Barely, barely sweet. It married to the steak in a way that just — I have no words. I don’t know what they charged for that dish of sauce. It doubled or trebled the value of that steak, though.

Steak came with an order of sweet potato fries which were fried impossibly crispy, with a dusting of what tasted like barbecue spice. Yummy. I had peach sorbet for dessert, which combined the peaches with a nice touch of mint.

And I went back to the hotel and had them roll me to my room. Dear Sweet Baby Jesus, but that was fine.

The next day, it was off to Cowboys Stadium, which is, well, pretty freakin’ spectacular. It’s one place the Texas tendency for over-the-top does not go amiss. It’s luxurious, and roomy, and gorgeous architecture, and shiny and new. And the menu in the luxury suites is not to be sniffed at.

We had freaking huge shrimp — really, they were so big they almost weren’t good. I find with shrimp that are the 7-10 count babies, unless you’re butterflying and grilling, if you get the skinny end of that baby cooked, the thick end is not completely done; if that end’s done, the skinny end is overdone. These were steamed or boiled, with cocktail sauce, and were just OK. The truffled mac and cheese, though — now that was pretty special. As were the little bacon-wrapped slices of meat loaf, designed for serving as sliders, but I passed on the bread. There was really good guacamole that I really wonder what they did to keep it from turning dark for four hours. There were beef brisket sliders, and a cheese tray, and snack mix and popcorn and a tray of luscious desserts. All in all, it was a quite nice spread.

And Arkansas came back from beyond the grave to win the damn game in a fourth-quarter thriller. Couldn’t believe it. It was amazing.

That night, we went to Mi Cucina, a popular upscale TexMex eatery that was mobbed by the Dallas elite, most of whom appeared to be 20- and 30-somethings, the females all wearing shoes with the most impossibly high heels I’ve ever seen. Big Texas heels to go with big Texas hair, I reckon. I had some sort of combo plate, and it was good, but no better than I can get at half a dozen places in Hot Springs without the crowds. And the high heels.

I won’t detail the breakfasts. They were execrable. They were free, which was about their only redeeming virtue. Well, that and good coffee.

A final word. If you and y’mama ‘n ’em need to get from Hot Springs to Dallas, you need to take SeaPort Airlines. Little nine-passenger toy-looking plane, no security on the Hot Springs end, you have to go through security at Love Field when you’re going back but so help me God, I strolled up there and it was me and five TSA agents and not another passenger within shouting distance.

And we wonder why the federal government is broke.

You and y’mama ‘n ’em remember to call the Hogs home against Auburn next weekend.


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