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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

AF+B Opens, Chef Jeff Harris Shares His Story and Excitement

American Food and Beverage just opened in Fort Worth across from the Brownstone and Waters on Crockett Street completing a trifecta of elegant dining experiences. Its open and airy space feels as fresh as its menu.

I caught up with AF+B's executive chef Jeff Harris about his passion for food, his story that ends at this restaurant, and why he left Bolsa in the Dallas Bishop Arts District.

Jeff grew up in East Texas on his grandparents' farm. His grandmother prepared southern meals with fresh vegetables from the garden. His whole family—cousins, aunts, uncles and parents—would often eat these home-cooked meals together. They didn't need a special occasion, they had good food. He loved watching his grandmother throw things together in the kitchen. He said she didn't even use measuring spoons because she knew how to make most things by heart.

Later he went to college changing his major until he finally got his real estate license and a desk job at a bank. But he never stopped dreaming about food, flipping through cookbooks and preparing meals at home.

A pile of wood for their grill
At 30 years old, Harris quit his day job and moved to New York City to pursue his passion for cooking at the Institute of Culinary Education. While there he was exposed to the farmer's market and top notch food scene. He then got a job at Craft NYC for several years, and later moved to Dallas to be the executive chef of Bolsa.

It didn't take much persuading to get him to here. "I love the concept of what they're doing," Jeff said. "They have responsible sourcing so they buy from local farmers that treat their animals well." It's a neighborhood upscale tavern, with dishes that have great ingredients but aren't overly complicated. The menu is sophisticated, yet relatable. The same can be said for their mixology.

And with fun kitchen tools like a wood burning grill, a rotisserie and smoker, Jeff will be prepping smoked duck breast, wood-grilled sterling lamb saddle, wood-grilled steaks, spicy grass-fed beef ribs and oh-so-much more.

So why share this chef's story you may ask? Because his experience and vision will be reflected in what you see when you come to check out AF+B.

Best New Restaurants (and Best New Food Blog!)

I stumbled upon this beautiful fledgling food blog when researching for a story I'm working on. I loved its best-new-restaurants-in-Fort Worth list. I will definitely refer to this list when trying to think of a new place to try! It has beautiful photography. Check it out.

Beautiful food photo from blog Food, Fort Worth

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cooking Class Fun!

By Jocelyn Tatum 

Ready, set, GO! The big screen TVs reveal the stove top at the front of the room. Chef Christine bellows information to get the class started, and the first glass of wine is poured. It's time to play.

If you haven't guessed yet, I am at a Central Market cooking class. I tried this because it appeals to many passions—my love for cooking and learning new things, and my love for meeting new people and hearing their stories, and my love for doing something different.

Each group of four sat at one of the four assigned tables. That equals 16 people, which means the intimate feeling wasn't lost. We sipped wine, whisked egg whites until they held peaks, delighted in each other's stories, and learned things like "cooking light is about concentrated flavors [and] egg whites must be room temperature and in a metal bowl before they can hold peaks." Who
salad ingredients

Before we prepared each course, Chef Christine demonstrated on the big screen what to do next. Then each group divided up duties and walked to our station in the kitchen. The industrial gas stove flared its bright flame. The lady next to us joined in on the discussion of whether we should put the herbs in the wasabi rice milk slurry or directly onto our "composed" salad (composed means it's not tossed...another thing I learned). We decided to put it into the hot dressing because the heat kicked up the aromatics. This was later poured onto our fingerling potato, fennel, corn and avocado salad. It was time for our next dish so we scurried back to our tables.

Listen, cook, taste and repeat.

Folding the egg whites into the sugar and yokes.
Did you know sugar cooks yokes so you have to move fast?
No? I didn't either. 
The three-hour experience flew by, and at the end we got to enjoy the fruits of our not-so-hard labor. The first course was the aforementioned salad. The second course was grass fed bison filets, poached green beans with lemon juice and low fat au gratin potatoes. The desert was a lemon pudding soufflĂ© that melted onto our palates. 

The Central Market cooking school offers everything from lobster dinner, cooking light (my class), grilling with Jon Bonnell to couples Chinese New Year. Classes typically cost about $75 each, but after eight classes you get to try one for free.

This is definitely something new and different I recommend in Fort Worth! And if you want to share this experience with your children, check out the Young Chef's Academy on Camp Bowie.


We had to work for dessert!

Lemon pudding soufflé

Cooked fingerling potatoes, corn, herbs, fennel, avocado salad
with warm wasabi dressing.

Grass fed bison filet, herbed au gratin potatoes, poached lemony green beans.

*Side note: please remember that I do not accept gifts to write these stories. This content is pure and we paid for the class ourselves. This is important to me as a professional. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Coming Up: Marfa in a Teepee

Yet another trip to Marfa, Texas. This time I got to sleep in a teepee.

For 2014, dare to do something different than usual. Stretch yourself. I left my comfort zone when I entered the community outdoor showers and slept in a fabric hut with only a zipper between me and the rest of the world.

I hope to finish my article about this weekend getaway soon and will post. I just need to find the time to write it and pitch it to a travel magazine! Stay tuned...

Our front door had a zipper. 

I loved this so much I had artist Kristen Soble paint it for me in watercolor.

We rented bikes.