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eG Foodblog: bmdaniel (2011) - Going off the diet in Dallas and Chicag

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Hello from Dallas! – and congratulations to Kerry on her impressive detective work. I figured I was too infrequent a poster to have any shot on getting guessed.

I’ll start with a little background on myself and some overview on the general plan for the blog. There are three of us here in Dallas – myself, my wife Nicole, and our 8 month old (tomorrow) son Charles (who’s just getting started on solid foods – happy to include if anyone is interested). We’ve also got two pups, Delilah (the pug who snuck into the teaser pic) and Isabelle (an insane American Staffordshire Terrier).

For 10 years I’ve been in various stages of coming to grips with the fact that for whatever cursed combination of genetics and willpower I’ve been dealt, it’s basically impossible for me to manage my weight whatsoever if I’m eating carbs. Moderation and carbs just do not go together for me. For someone as food focused as myself this is an especially difficult fact; it’s hard to read eGullet everyday while thinking in the back of your mind that you can never eat 80% of the great food that everyone is posting.

After going through different phases on this (trying to be absolutely strict and ending up failing, trying to do it halfway and ending up failing, giving up altogether and really failing), over the past 2-3 years I’ve settled into a routine that works for me. Basically, I divide the year up into 2-3 month cycles; each cycle starts with 3-7 days of me eating whatever I want (usually tied into a special occasion or a vacation), then 2-3 weeks of strict low-carb induction (no booze, no dairy!) , then a month or two of manageable low carb (and then the process starts again). It’s definitely not the fastest way to weight loss, but it has been a much more manageable and long-term sustainable approach for me (now I can read eG and look forward to eating all those delicious things in a few weeks), and I’ve lost over 100 pounds so far essentially on this approach.

All of that is kind of a long-winded way of saying that this blog will not be a typical week in the Daniel household – nope, this is a cheat week, starting by going for all the things I crave in Dallas and then going to Chicago for some serious eating starting on Thursday. A typical meal for us while I’m eating low-carb is something like this (apologies for the ugly picture – I’m working on it!):

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SV wagyu ribeye with mushroom cognac cream sauce, steamed broccoli with sriracha hollandaise, and a blue cheese salad – not bad for diet food!

For the blog, however, I’m going to be branching out into carby cooking (a bit out of my comfort zone) while we are in Dallas (with hopefully interesting lunches and a couple of dinners out thrown in). I will definitely need help here! Chicago will be a good example of the type of trip I try to take advantage of for my “cheat weeks”, with mostly destination-type dining. Hopefully it will be interesting!

One last thing I forgot to mention – one of the toughest casualties of the low carb lifestyle is my affection for well made classic cocktails (pretty much wine and spirits only during low-carb time), and so I will be taking advantage of this week in that respect as well; for sure there will be a punch, some tiki cocktails, and hopefully an interesting Dallas bar visit - we’ll see what else I can cram in.

Apologies for the long-winded first post – I’ll get to the action now!

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Alright, let’s get going – I originally wasn’t planning on getting started until tomorrow, so consider today a bonus foodblog (no extra charge). We ended up getting a lot of the weeks shopping done today (and visited some pretty interesting places), so I thought I might as well start sharing.

No interesting breakfast today – I had my normal cappuccino (more on that another day) and Nicole had a bowl of cereal.

Earlier this year we decided to join a Dallas area CSA – Eden’s Organic, a small farm about 20 minutes outside of downtown in Balch Springs, Tx.




While we have been enjoying what we get, it’s been a bit of a rough year for farming in North Texas weatherwise. Things seem to be picking up for the summer though – today we got tomatoes, peaches, squash, cucumber, and the potatoes and onions we weren’t able to pick-up last weekend (in Houston for a wedding).



Every other weekend they have a small market day, which happened to fall this weekend. Today there was another local organic farm (Larken Farm in Waxahachie, Tx), a breadbaker, two local honey producers, a grass fed beef rancher, and a local coffee roaster.






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We ended up snagging some carrots, some extra peaches, and a loaf of sourdough.

Next – off to a couple of other local stores to pick up some more ingredients for tomorrow’s dinner.

P.S. Should mention Nicole get's all credit (or blame) for today's pictures; you'll be able to tell the ones she takes because they aren't blurry and poorly composed.

Edited by bmdaniel (log)

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Next stop was Paula's Mozzarella Company in Deep Ellum - Paula Lambert has been making mozzarella here longer than I've been alive.





Thought a caprese salad might be nice with the tomatoes (although not the highest-carb option admittedly), so grabbed some fresh mozzarella and burrata on the way back from the farm (well, Nicole did, I stayed in the car with sleeping Charlie).

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Last stop - FM1410, Tom Spicer's (aka Spiceman) local produce market and urban garden. Spicer (brother of Bayona's Susan Spicer) supplies produce to a lot of local restaurants, and runs a kind of a retail store (it's hard to describe - when you walk in you are as likely to interrupt an impromptu dinner party as not). He sources excellent local produce and grows what he can in the backyard (really just an empty lot on a commercial block - his neighbors are a restaurant, italian grocery, and catering company) - he's also the best source for wild mushrooms in Dallas.




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We went for the mushrooms (ended up with morels and porcini), but also picked up some more tomatoes, blueberries, basil and parsley.

Here's our total haul for today:

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Not bad! We'll head to Central Market tomorrow to supplement for the rest of the week.

Could also use some suggestions on what to do with squash, cucumber, peaches and blueberries (maybe a dessert of some sort with the latter two?)

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Could also use some suggestions on what to do with squash, cucumber, peaches and blueberries (maybe a dessert of some sort with the latter two?)

This peach blueberry cake is good: epicurious peach blueberry cake

That's a great looking haul.

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After getting the shopping done, time for lunch. First carby meal since our trip to California 2 months ago - thought Cajun sounded good.

Gator Cafe is the very definition of unassuming - first, the location is, I'm pretty sure, a former Wendy's.

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Food is simple, good cajun food - gumbo, po-boys, fried seafood, broiled fish, and a few other entrees.

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We got an order of fried green tomatoes to start -

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and then I had a fried shrimp po-boy with french fries (with plenty of their gator sauce, a tangy remoulade)

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and Nicole had the cajun fettuccine (fettuccine in a spicy cream sauce, with blackened chicken, andouille sausage, peppers and onions).

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We also got some fried corn fritters

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and I had an Abita Turbo Dog.

Everything was delicious (although neither of us are wild about steak fries).

Charles tried some of the blackened chicken and red pepper - still working on figuring out swallowing chunkier food.

Edited by bmdaniel (log)

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great blog so far ben, its going to be a fun week following you!

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If you're still carbing, you could make some fun grated squash fritters or pancakes, flavored with some of that basil. Cucumber either in sour cream/yoghurt with mint and dill, garlic optional, or chop the cucumber with the onion and the basil, toss with salt and pepper and some vinegar/oil and chill, just before serving toss in the chopped tomaters. If it's super hot outside, add some crumbled feta and black olives and eat with that sourdough bread and some wine, makes a complete meal for too hot to cook days.

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Those fresh tomatoes are making me drool. I cannot WAIT until I can get some from my garden.

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Can't wait to see what else you have to share with us this week, Ben! Does your little guy have any food preferences or aversions yet? My 11 month old eats everything, unlike his older sisters :hmmm: ...

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Genkinoanna - it's a bit tough to figure out what his preferences are because they seem to vary all the time. I think its safe to say he doesn't like sweet potatoes, squash, or avocado, and really likes whole milk yogurt, peaches, broccoli and spinach (unless we are traveling, we feed him purees/mashes that we make at home). When I post fridge/freezer picks in the next couple days you'll see that he has taken over the freezer!

Still working on chunkier stuff and drinking water out of a sippy cup.

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Enjoying your blog Ben. The farmer's market shots really convey how hands on and "non industrial" the process is. Wonderful to see.

The fried green tomatoes and po' boy had me smiling. My first and only one was shrimp from a gas station on a bayou eaten during my first canoe adventure. Your shot brought back great memories.

Thank you also for giving us an overview of your eating plan. It is fascinating to see how different things work for different people. Congrats of course on the weight loss, but even more so for finding a way to combine it with eating wonderful food!

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Tonight we met my mom (up from Houston), my sister (who goes to medical school in Dallas) and my grandparents (who live in Denton) at Babes Chicken Dinner House in Carrolton.

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Babe's is something of a Dallas institution known for their fried chicken and chicken fried steak. The only choice is what main you want, everyone gets bowls of salad (iceberg with a sugar/white vinegar dressing), biscuits (with butter, honey, and sorghum on the side), mashed potatoes, green beans and corn. The sides are all you can eat (and the meat portions are huge as well). Besides fried chicken and chicken fried steak they have chicken tenders (very good) and smoked chicken and pot roast (neither of which is worth it, in my opinion).

Tonight we had everything at the table except smoked chicken - nothing fancy obviously, but very well done, satisfying food (and I promise, not everything in this blog will be fried). It's pretty dimly lit inside, so the pictures aren't the best, but here you go:

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Somehow after all that my wife and I decided to split a dessert, so we split a coconut meringue pie - meringue and crust were very good, filling a little too sweet (should've gone for the lemon meringue). You can see Charlie trying to steal a bite (he didn't succeed, unlike the handful of wedding cake he snagged last weekend).

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Edited to add: Nicole reminds me that I completely forgot they also serve fried catfish - I don't think I've ever been with anyone who ordered it.

Edited by bmdaniel (log)

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We were pretty full after dinner, but made room for one simple cocktail each -

For my wife, a Sloe Gin Fizz:

2.0 oz Plymouth Sloe Gin

0.5 oz lemon juice

1 teaspoon caster sugar

Soda water

Shaken with ice, pour over ice, add soda water from siphon

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For myself, a Jack Rose (mostly to try out the grenadine I made for tiki drinks this week):

2.0 oz Laird's Bonded

0.5 oz lemon juice

0.25 oz freeze concentrated grenadine

Shaken with ice and served up

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Nicole wants me to clarify that I took these pictures, not her - I'm not sure she intends that as a compliment.

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Great post, Ben, Congratulations on the weight loss combined with great eating. It is the most difficult high-wire act in the world IMHO. I've lost 60 lbs and kept it off for 17 years and consider it the greatest accomplishment of my life since cooking is my hobby and food is an obsession. Austin is my home town, I live 5 years in Houston and have relatives in Fort Worth (where the West begins) and have spent lots of time in Dallas (where the East peters out). Thanks for this blog. I'll be your constant companion. Long may you run.

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Thank you to Heidi and slo_ted - definitely still have work to do weight-wise, but getting there!

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Cappucino this morning - currently drinking Klatch coffee's FTO house espresso - guilted my wife into making it for Father's Day. The milk is half and half, I take it with half a sweet and low and half an equal (don't ask why, but that's the only way it tastes right). I usually have one of these pretty much every day (except for the two weeks I give up dairy).

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We do rorshach latte art - I'll go with donut for today.

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Funny, I see a bagel in your coffee. Happy father's day -- any big food plans to celebrate?

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Thank you Pam - yes, we had Father's Day Brunch this morning, then got the rest of the weeks groceries at Central Market, and now having a quick relaxation break (as much as Charlie will let us at least) before having friends over for dinner.

Posts forthcoming!

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Alright - Central Market first. We are very lucky in Texas to have Central Market; it's definitely the best grocery store I've ever been in, and there's I think there's probably a good chance its the best in the country.

Unfortunately, they don't allow pictures inside. Luckily, my scofflaw wife was able to grab some good surreptitious iPhone shots. Apologies that it's not as well documented as it could be (but I think we did pretty well given the circumstances).

Produce first:




Pretty solid pepper selection




Great fresh herb selection (Charles' feet make a cameo).


Pre-chopped fruit and vegetables - I admit, I go in for peeled garlic

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Never seen these kind of potatoes before


Great tomato selection in the summer (though we were already set in that department)


Always have an interesting exotic fruit selection

Not pictured are great apples and local summer fruits. They also rotate between different "festivals" which can lead to other interesting produce - big fan of citrus festival. I think they are on hamburgers right now.

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Okay, less pictures of other stuff:


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Just a small portion of the meat counter:


Great bulk section - especially bulk spices.



Amazing cheese selection; only one picture, this is less than half of the total

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Great meat counter, especially for charcuterie options (bellota ham, lots of highend salumi). You can also see the house smoked/cured salmons and different terrine options.




There's obviously a ton we didn't capture, but hopefully this gives you a feel for it. We got a hodgepodge of different stuff - it'll pop up throughout the next few days.

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So, brunch this morning was at Smoke, Tim Byre's restaurant at the Belmont Hotel in Oak Cliff (southwest of Dallas; incidentally has one of the best views of downtown as well). Tim has gotten a lot of recognition recently - his pork jowl bacon dish was one of Food and Wines top 10 restaurant dishes last year and won their best chef Southwest. I think they do the best brunch in Dallas (apparently I'm not alone - we had to wait an hour to eat).

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View from the hotel bar

Drinks first - my wife had a strawberry lemonade (made by shaking fresh squeezed lemonade with housemade strawberry-rosemary preserves) - very good

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I had a Bluebonnet - gin, lime, mint, blueberries, blueberry-cinnamon syrup, soda - it was very minty, but good (the mint was grown in their little garden)

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Also had a 901 - basically an old-fashioned with housemade maple-wood infused Bulleit Bourbon and Paula's Texas Orange liquor and luxardo maraschino cherries (a little strange that it was served up).

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For brunch - Nicole got the Hungry Bear Smoked Ham Steak and Farm Egg Fritter - housemade ham, sitting on a big corn griddlecake, with Dublin Dr. Pepper redeye gravy and a fried softboiled egg.

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I had the brisket-cornbread hash, with poblano rajas and a poached egg on top

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Before and after breaking the egg

We also split a pancake with housemade ricotta, blueberries, vanilla poached apricots and whipped cream.

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Everything was exceptional - hard to pick a favorite thing. Need to eat something bad, or you will start to doubt my credibility (hopefully it's not my cooking).

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Okay - dinner plan for tonight is to have a few friends over, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to make a punch (next few nights will probably just be the three of us, and Charles hasn't started drinking his share yet). Settled on the Boston Club Punch from Punch

Made the punch base after we got back from Central Market -

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Full cast of characters

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Making the oleo-sacchrum with microplaned orange peel and sugar

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Added pineapple and muddled

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Juiced the oranges and added to oleo-sacchrum to dissolve

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Strained the whole thing through a chinoise, pressing to get all the jucies out

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Resulting orange-pineapple-sugar juice

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Added 3.5 oz raspberry syrup (made up of 3 oz seedless black raspberry jam, 0.5 oz of hot water, pushed through chinoise), 1 oz armagnac, 1 oz kirsch, 0.5 oz lemon hart 151, 0.5 oz orange curacao and a pint of white wine (a nice, inexpensive fruity white from Novy called four mile creek). This base is cooling down in the fridge - to serve, just need to add ice, a buttle of champagne (Mumm Brut), and a liter of seltzer (which I made up last night for the sloe gin fizz).

I'll post a picture of the finished product later.

Edited by bmdaniel (log)

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Rest of the dinner plan for tonight:

Caprese Salad

Beef Stroganoff (adapted from Ad Hoc cookbook, using 72hr short ribs)

Garlic Bread

Blueberry-Peach-Ginger Cobbler (Nikki is adapting the Ad Hoc blueberry cobbler recipe - I cannot bake to save my life) with vanilla ice cream

Caprese is just slice and serve, short ribs are finishing up in the Sous Vide Magic (went in Thursday night) and I think Nicole is getting the cobbler crust ready as I type. Hopefully it's not too crazy (company coming in about 2 hours).

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