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85°C Bakery Cafe

Richardson, TX

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I am lucky enough to have a very diverse group of  “foodie” friends who love trying new foods and eating at new places. One of my friends recently introduced us to a Taiwanese chain of coffee shops and self-serve bakeries that she was familiar with in California. A new location of 85°C Bakery Cafe just opened three months ago in Richardson and it was our choice for a ladies’ lunch – and what a GREAT choice it was!

This location in Richardson is part of a new strip mall dedicated to Asian stores and eateries. The huge statues of warriors, poets and philosophers that line the entrance are pretty good indicators that you are in the right place! If you can locate parking near the statue of Confucius, you will be close to the bakery. 

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Confucius say…….

As we stepped through the doors of 85°C Bakery Cafe, I noticed this place was approximately twice the size of a Starbucks, but with the same relaxed coffee house vibe. The left side of the bakery was dominated by numerous self-serve cases of baked goods.  The right rear area housed the counters where you order drinks and check-out.  Various sizes of tables and chairs were scattered throughout. The entire place was casual, bright, modern, and extremely clean. The staff was extremely helpful and friendly.

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This location serves tasty breads, cakes, pastries, teas, slushes, smoothies, and coffees. The “bakery & cafe” combination is certainly not a new idea, but at 85°Bakery Cafe, this seems like a very new and fresh concept – and they do it quite well! I really loved the self-serve aspect. (The name is a nod to the ideal temperature of brewed coffee.) 

After I walked through the door, everything was very visual. I grabbed a tray, a sheet of waxed paper and a pair of tongs and let my eyes dictate my choices. Each item was well-marked with signage indicating name, price, and what ingredients were used. Nothing was over $3 (most were $1 to $2 each) and the portions were not small! There were savory breads & rolls and sweet pastries. I actually picked out three savory rolls – a cheese dog, a potato & cheese croissant, and a ham & cheese roll and I could not finish all three. Other savory choices included: Hawaiian chicken rolls, Teriyaki chicken rolls, egg tarts, cheese tarts, salty butter rolls, red bean bread, squid ink rolls, taro rolls, and calamari sticks (for those more adventurous that I am!). Sweet pastries included: cinnamon rolls, fruit turnovers, chocolate croissants, cookies, brioche bread, coconut twists, mango tarts, sweet snow bread, cream puffs, fruit panna cotta, mocha rolls, etc. There were also prepackaged displays of cookies, macaroons, sliced egg bread and moon breads. As we were making our selections and placing them on our trays, staff members were periodically restocking items shouting “Fresh bread! Fresh bread!” as they brought out warm trays or more baked goods. Decisions, decisions……

Located near the checkout counter were refrigerated cases (not self-serve) that contained full-sized cakes, individual custards & tarts, mousse, and all types of single cake slices. I saw a range of flavors including: black forest, cheese cake, red velvet, creme brulee, chocolate, taro, lemon, almond, mango, vanilla, etc. They were all decorated beautifully and were well-packaged for eating in-house or taking out. (check out all the photos for more details)

We made our choices, paid, then sat and ate our savory selections. They were all light, flaky and delicious! We then wrapped up what we couldn’t finish (in clear cellophane bags that are provided) and took the leftovers home. Dessert came next! Once more, we grabbed a clean tray and pair of tongs to choose our “sweet” selections – some to eat while there, others to take home. Needless to say, every sweet pastry was fresh and tasty. This may be a Taiwanese bakery, but you will swear you at eating dessert in a very fancy French patisserie. (Note: the staff does a great job of wrapping bakery items for carry out and placing in small individual boxes, bags, or cardboard boxes.)

I would highly suggest checking this place out if you are in the mood for something different! We had a great experience and truly enjoyed all the food here – nice quantities, top quality, and good value. What’s not to like?!

Note: This is a chain restaurant and other nearby locations are in Carrollton and Plano.  85°C Bakery Cafe was started in Irvine, California in 2003.

After dining here, be sure to walk a few doors down and check out the Good Fortune Market, a Chinese supermarket. There are produce items, seafood, and boxed goods that are well worth viewing. I saw things that I have never seen before!

 

Abacus

Dallas, Texas

I look forward to August every year because that means Dallas Restaurant Week is here! For a certain week(s) during August, many prime Dallas restaurants will offer a price-fix menu and give proceeds to the North Texas Food Bank. It is a great way to try new places and sample their menus (at a considerably lower cost) and it helps benefit a very worthy cause .

One of my restaurant choices this year was Abacus. I have heard about this high-end restaurant for years but never had the opportunity to dine there. Luckily I got reservations on a weekend evening and anxiously looked forward to our visit.

From the moment we stepped into the foyer, I was impressed. Two friendly hostesses greeted us and we were seated at a romantic table for two with a white tablecloth and napkin, candle, fresh flowers and a beautiful place setting. The noise level was energetic, but not too loud, as most of the sounds were coming from the open kitchen and bar area. Our waiter was very professional, friendly, and provided just the right amount of attention. I was very impressed with his knowledge of the menu and the wine list.

The restaurant’s ambiance is sophisticated and romantic. The upscale decor, music, lighting, and art all spell out “fine dining.”  There were many couples dining out this particular evening as well as large groups and a few families. It was perfect for a date night but not too stuffy for a business dinner or a nice dinner with friends or family. 

We began with a couple of the Abacus signature cocktails. The Lucy in the Sky was a fruity, champagne drink and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Gin Basil Gimlet was very tasty and refreshingly good. We were brought a nice bread basket with 3 choices of freshly baked breads and seasoned butter. All were delicious, especially the raisin & nut bread!

Our menu for Dallas Restaurant Week offered a choice of a small plate or appetizer, an entree and then a shared dessert. We opted for the Crispy Coconut Rock Shrimp and Texas Melon plate for our starters and both were great choices. The rock shrimp had a crispy tempura batter and was served with sliced jalapenos, toasted cashews and a mango and red curry sauce. The Texas Melon appetizer was a tasty as it was colorful. Chunks of watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon were arranged in a circle around shaved hearts of palm. It was topped with queso fresco, red onions and a cilantro and lime vinaigrette dressing. This was my favorite dish and the combination of colors, textures and tastes was sheer perfection. Delicious!

Next, our server brought over a complimentary Watermelon Mojito Mint Shooter to clean our palates between courses. It was served in a shot glass and tasted like watermelon juice with minty tapioca balls. Loved it!

We both ordered the Blackened Sockeye Salmon for our entree and it was cooked to perfection. The portion was quite large (2 fillets per plate) and the salmon was well-seasoned, but not overly seasoned, as I prefer for blackened dishes. Each entree was beautifully plated with the fish being served over blue corn grits and a red pepper butter sauce. Once again, the dish was visually appealing as well as being satisfying to our taste buds. Our server had suggested a perfect Merlot wine-pairing for this dish and it was spot-on. 

Dessert consisted of a shared plate with small servings of a chocolate and caramel torte, a scoop of chocolate chip mint ice cream and a fruit tartlett. Each one was enjoyable and ended up being a perfect end to a perfect meal.

We had a most pleasant dining experience this particular evening. I am always impressed when you get high quality food, top shelf spirits, innovative dishes, unique flair, and stellar customer service all at one time and in one place. Dining here is certainly not cheap but when all expectations are met, the cost seems justified. 

If you are interested in dining at Abacus, check out their diverse menu on-line. They have a wide variety of menu choices including fresh sushi, lobster shooters, buffalo tenderloin, and black truffle risotto. Monday through Thursday evenings they offer a 5 or 8 course Chef’s Tasting Menu with or without wine pairings. I hope you get to check it out!

Abacus is located in the Knox-Henderson area on McKinney Avenue. Complimentary valet parking is conveniently located out in front of the the restaurant.

Crumbzz

Forney, Texas

This little European-style bistro is located in the heart of historic downtown Forney.  Open since 2011, my girlfriends and I have made several visits to Crumbzz for breakfast and lunch. I recently took my husband David there for brunch and decided it was time to let other foodies know about this little hidden gem.

The interior resembles a little chic, uptown Dallas cafe. There is seating along the Italian marble bar where you may sit and watch the live action in the open kitchen. The front area has several cozy round-topped aluminum tables and comfy leather chairs. The decorative ceiling, slate floors, succulents on the tables, and stage lighting add to the ambiance. The walls are usually lined with nature photographs or colorful paintings by local artists. 

I highly suggest that you not be in a “fast food” frame of mind when you dine at Crumbzz. All of the food is made to order and takes a little time. Order a cup of their delicious custom blend coffee or iced green tea and sit back, relax, and chill for a few minutes. Chef J Stephen Sadler will proudly tell you that every item is fresh, prepared on site and made from the finest natural ingredients. Most of his butter, eggs, dairy products and produce comes from local producers. Many of his spices and flavorings are imported from all over the world.

When David and I dined here for brunch a couple of weeks ago, we started our meal with a delicious, very smooth, vanilla latte (notice the cool asymmetrical coffee cups). Our first order was the Taylor Ham & Egg Sandwich which was delicious. Taylor Ham comes from New Jersey and is similar to the country ham I grew up eating in Mississippi, just not as salty.  The eggs were cooked to perfection and the fresh ciabatta roll and melted Gruyère cheese made this breakfast sandwich a hit.

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Gaufre Liege Waffle with Cinnamon Streusel Butter

Next up was one of my favorites – the Gaufre Liege Waffle. This is not your normal waffle-maker waffle! This is a dense and rich waffle that is made from caramelized brioche-based dough. It is chewy, tasty, and no topping is necessary – but  fortunately, it is served with a cinnamon streusel butter that melts as your spread it on the waffles and elevates this dish even more. Yum!

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Gruyere Egg Souffle

The entree that keeps me and my gal pals coming back to Crumbzz is the Gruyère Egg Soufflé. It takes a little longer to cook, so order this first thing. This soufflé is a light and airy, golden-colored delight. The Gruyère cheese gives it a rich saltiness and parmigiano-reggiano enhances the flavor. The fluffy, cheesy bites literally melt in your mouth. 

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Tomato Basil  Soup & Sandwich

If you are not in the mood for breakfast foods, try one of Crumbzz’s house made soups. The Tomato Basil and the French Onion are standouts. I have also enjoyed their Tuna Salad and Fribourg Grilled Cheese. There are several lunch specials that include soup, half of a sandwich or salad. The menu seems to have something for everyone.

Chef J Stephen, owner and executive chef,  frequently comes out of the kitchen and visits with patrons. He seems to enjoy his customers and is a joy to talk to.  He has made a name for himself and gained notoriety for his crumb cakes. These tasty cakes are made to order and ship nationally and internationally. This crumb cake recipe is a 400-year-old Sadler family recipe! When dining at Crumbzz, there are usually five flavors available each day: cinnamon, raspberry, apricot, chocolate, and a “flavor-of-the-month.” The fresh crumb cakes come in several sizes, so save room for one of the small individual sizes for dessert before you leave. Or better yet, take home one of each flavor to sample!

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Ladies enjoying lunch with Chef J Stephen Sadler

 

 

Sixty Vines

Plano, Texas

I had the opportunity to dine here for a friend’s birthday brunch and we had an amazing time and a delicious meal. How had I not heard about this wonderful place? Sixty Vines is located in Plano off the tollway next to Whiskey Cake. I would describe it as a “casual American / Italian kitchen meets wine bar meets Farm-to-Market.” Now that I have you totally confused, I will try to describe it more accurately!

When I first walked in, I noticed how welcoming the interior was. There are high ceilings, many windows and lots of greenery. It is very spacious, clean and modern and I would describe it as “fun, vibrant and chic”. The entire place (and menu) remind me of  the Northern California wine country and that local cuisine. The decor works perfectly with the wines and style of food they serve. The kitchen, wood-fired oven, and charcuterie bar are all open-viewing.

The centerpiece of Sixty Vines for me was the entire back wall. There is a huge line drawing (made with one line!) depicting the farmers, the grapes, wine making, farm animals, etc. The more you look at it, the more items you see. Underneath the drawing are 60 spigots – each labeled with the 40 wines and 20 beers they serve on tap…hence the name “Sixty Vines.” The slogan on their wine menu is “C’mon, get tappy!” 🙂

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There is quite a variety of seating options. Choose from communal tables, high tops, secluded sectionals, greenhouse, patio, bar or the charcuterie bar to dine in or out. I can imagine dining here on a date, for a business dinner, for a family meal or with a group of ladies enjoying brunch – like we did. I would like to note here, the food is a little “adventurous” and maybe not for the picky eater (leave them home this time)!

My group of ladies started our meal off with Mimosas and Bloody Marys – both were made with wine and tasted quite delicious and refreshing. We enjoyed the Wood Fired Cauliflower, an entire head with pesto, parmesan and a lemon dill yogurt dipping sauce…yum! We had the Roasted Beet Salad with gorgeous red, pink, and golden beets. Next up was the Butcher’s Brunch Pizza with prosciutto, provolone, mozzarella, soppresseta, and over-easy eggs (one of my favorites this day). The Egg White Frittata with goat cheese, mushrooms and spinach was also enjoyable.

Next came the desserts – my favorite part of the meal! The Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes were AMAZING. Words cannot describe how fluffy and delicious they were. (There is no photo because we devoured them so quickly.) The Angel Food French Toast with fresh berries and whipped cream was light and sweet. The Texas Olive Oil Citrus Cake was our birthday girl’s choice and she seemed to enjoy it.  The Sweet Board was another favorite of mine. It had sea-salt shortbread cookies, chocolate ganache, pistachio cookies, brie, walnuts, pear butter, and matcha cake. There was not one bad dish our entire meal – everything, and I do mean “everything” – was eaten in its entirety!

I felt that I would do a disservice to Sixty Vines without trying some of their wine. I had watched other patrons tasting their wine flights and enjoying their wines by the glass, so I gave in finally and ordered a “Vine Hugger” (their house brand) rose’. The glass of rose’ was served at the perfect temperature and was crisp and delicious. I plan to return soon for dinner and give some of those other wines a try. (Only 39 left to sample!)

From beginning to end, we had a wonderful experience at Sixty Vines. The service was very attentive. The quality of the food was perfect. The food selections were plentiful. The ambiance was most enjoyable.

Anyone up for a night out? I know just the place!

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Fun birthday brunch!!!

Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill

Dallas, TX

This restaurant is one of Dallas’ best kept secrets. It is located in a commercial strip mall next to a Jason’s Deli and you would never guess from the outside what a little jewel this is on the inside.

You walk in the front door into a “chophouse” setting – well-lit bar, dark woods, cozy booths and tables, and low lighting. It is a classy, warm, and relaxed atmosphere. Kenny’s offers a very nice setting without being the least bit stuffy.

There are three things that make Kenny’s one of my favorite places to dine. Number one: when you make reservations, your server promptly addresses you by name…”How are the Brysons this evening?” I was impressed! Number two: you can order anything on the menu in any amount. You want to try just two coconut shrimp appetizers instead of six? You may.  Do you care for only one grilled oyster to taste? Just ask. I love this idea! Number three: When you are halfway through drinking your martini, your waiter comes by and pours the remainder of your drink into a new ice cold glass. Are you impressed yet?

We have dined at Kenny’s for both brunch and dinner and both are equally good. Our very first visit was for dinner. After our waiter discovered that this was our first time to dine at Kenny’s, he brought us two artichoke wontons, two coconut shrimp, and two tenderloin crostini as free appetizers. What a great way to get a customer hooked! Next we were served their fresh popovers with butter. These big warm rolls are certainly not the most attractive things but they are light, airy and delicious. Ask for two!

There have not been any dishes that we did not enjoy at Kenny’s. The Grand Marnier French Toast and Eggs Benedict were both delicious brunch dishes. The Eggs Benedict entree is served with either salmon, steak or a crab cake. For dinner, the French Onion Soup and Wedge Salads were both very good choices for appetizers. The Wood Grilled Oysters were fantastic – smoky and well-seasoned. The Pork Ribs were PERFECT – meaty and fork-tender with a great BBQ sauce. We are not usually huge meat fans, but the large pork chops and thick steaks being served all around us looked quite appetizing. The Brussels Sprouts and Bubbies Potato Cakes were great sides.

This is one of those restaurants that keeps you coming back. The impeccable service, the great food, and the friendly and attentive servers make for a perfect combination. Check it out!

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Toulouse Cafe & Bar

Dallas, Texas

If you are anything like me, when you hear the words “French restaurant”…..it conjures up thoughts of snooty waiters, expensive wines, and icky snails floating in a butter sauce. That is what I always thought until I found Toulouse Cafe and Bar in Dallas. Luckily, after dining here I have a whole new appreciation for French cuisine.

Toulouse is a French bistro located in the trendy Knox-Henderson shopping area. There is convenient valet parking located right across the street from the restaurant. Once you enter the main doors, you can choose to sit in the covered patio area or inside in the casual dining room. The patio area is all draped with bright red fabric and was very quiet and relaxing – that is where we chose to dine on this particular evening. The cane-back chairs, the black & white floor tiles, the small table candles and the patrons with their dogs table-side all enhanced the feeling of dining in a cafe in Paris.

Service was really attentive and we felt like we were well taken care of this entire evening. We started with a couple of  featured cocktails – a Chanel No. 6 Champagne Cocktail and a Mint/Cucumber Gimlet. Both were very nice and quite refreshing. We ordered the Cheese Board as an appetizer and it was exceptional. There were four types of imported artisan cheeses, fresh honeycomb, fruit, prunes, candied walnuts and grilled baguette slices. We followed up with French Onion Soup which was one of the best I have ever had. The Gruyère cheese was thick and lightly toasted and the overall taste was delicious – good to the last drop. 🙂

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Short Rib Bourguignon with noodles

We were almost too full to eat more at this point, but decided to keep going….the food was just too good not to! My husband ordered the fish special which was an Alaskan Halibut with Beet Risotto and Brussels Sprouts. The fish was very nice and cooked to perfection. I ordered the Short Rib Bourguignon which was absolutely “mouthwatering” delicious. I am not a huge fan of meat and I honestly ordered this dish for the carrots, onions, mushrooms and wide butter noodles. I was really surprised; the ribs were red wine braised and cooked for hours until fork tender – great taste and great texture. I ate what I could and had the remainder for a really fancy lunch the next day!  

Though being completely full and satisfied at this point in the meal, we had souffles served to us. We had ordered souffles for dessert at the beginning of our meal since they take some time to cook. Who cannot make room for dessert….right?!  The Chocolate Souffle and the Grand Marnier Souffle were both extremely light in texture and in taste, the perfect finale to this excellent meal.

Overall we had a most enjoyable evening with good service, delicious food and drinks, and a nice ambiance. If you would like to dine at Toulouse, they are located at 3314 Knox in Dallas, just a couple of blocks west of Central Expressway. This is a great place for a date night – casual but very nice. Bon Appétit!

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What have you got “to lose?” Get it?!

Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions about this post. I would love to hear of your experiences if you have dined at Toulouse. Also, please subscribe to my blog if you enjoy reading about my dining and travel experiences. I appreciate it!

 

Dalrock Diner

Rowlett, TX

This is a nice little diner located near the intersection of Highway 66 and Dalrock Road in Rowlett, Texas. It feels like you step back in time when you enter through the front door. This old-school diner has the black & white checkered floor and red & white booths that take you back to the 1950’s. Everything is very clean, neat and intimate.

I have dined here several times now and have really enjoyed it each time. Dalrock Diner serves American homestyle breakfast, lunch and dinner. The surprise for me was the Greek influences throughout the menu.

The menu is quite varied – with breakfast foods, sandwiches, salads, and “down home” foods. Breakfast choices include Tex Mex migas, omelets, pancakes, fried chicken & waffles, breakfast skillets, and a gyro breakfast. Their burgers and sandwiches are all delicious and come with French fries. (The Yankee Ruben is my favorite!) They also have a few seafood and cajun options, which are very good. The Greek salad (with gyro, grilled chicken or grilled shrimp), the gyro sandwich and chicken souvlaki are especially tasty and a welcome change when in the mood for something different. The meat is very tender and perfectly seasoned. This diner also serves the usual comfort foods – chicken fried steaks, chili, smothered steaks, fried chicken, and a variety of homemade country vegetables and sides. The food is served in a timely manner and is always piping hot. All the meals have nice-sized portions and are very reasonably priced.

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Chicken Souvlaki

Each time we have dined here, the service has been very attentive. The servers are very personable, helpful, and are on hand to refill your drinks and check on you. The owner is present most days and personally greets patrons and visits with regulars. Dalrock Diner is definitely a little neighborhood gem and is perfect for dining solo, couples, or families.

Be sure to check out the glass display up front when you enter or when you pay your check. It is filled with all types of delicious house-made pies and cakes. Have a slice for dessert or buy a whole one to take home. 

Dalrock Diner is simply good food at good prices – nothing fancy – no more, no less. Check it out.