Dallas’ cheese scene came into being on a quiet corner in Deep Ellum 33 years ago when Paula Lambert founded Mozzarella Company. A visit by day to the tiny factory — still on the corner of Elm and Walton — is on the bucket list of every cheese lover or chef who lands here. This is where we’ll begin our first day in Dallas.
Today, Deep Ellum is one of the trendiest places for an after-dark crawl. Pubs, clubs, the chef’s tasting menu at Local, the Taproom at Deep Ellum Brewing Company — there’s something for everyone. The Traveling Man sculptures and music venues ranging from indie to alt, dance, blues and jazz remind us that legendary music permeated these streets a century ago.
DALLAS’ PREMIER AMERICAN CHEESEMAKER
The sweet gum tree Lambert planted in 1982 shades the entrance, hinting at the gracious southern hospitality within. Someone is always here from 9 to 5 to give you samples and tell you what’s going on. The retail case is brimming with 30-plus varieties made on the other side of the clear curtain. Everything is made by hand in small batches from farm fresh milk delivered to the door.
You’ll notice Southwestern and Latin American nuances in cheeses, such as Hoja Santa, Montasio Festivo, and Queso Blanco with chiles and epazote. Smoldering pecan shells — pecan is the state tree of Texas — provide the smoke for the addictive Smoked Scamorza and Smoked Mozzarella. Look for the 2014-award-winning Deep Ellum Blue.
A quarter mile away is the barbecue joint that’s taken the city by storm: Pecan Lodge. In Dallas, barbecue is almost as important as football, so we’ll line up before 11 a.m. About the awesome brisket — notice the bark and the smoke ring, and don’t fear the fatty end.
Next we head to Oak Lawn.
CHEESETOPIA: SCARDELLO ARTISAN CHEESE
This cut-to-order shop is fresh, impeccable, and has a great vibe. You’ll probably be offered a taste before you have time to ask. There are handmade American and European gems, and a seasonal Texas selection at Scardello that you won’t see anywhere else.
You’ll want to return here to linger at a table while you nosh on a made-to-order cheese plate, charcuterie board or sandwich. The most popular sandwich is the Sweet Italian: thinly sliced prosciutto and luscious Mozzarella Company Burrata on an Empire Baking Company baguette with fig confit. The Cheddar Press stars Redneck Cheddar from Veldhuizen Family Farm, two hours away. Redneck has a mild, malty sweetness and tart tang; the curds are soaked in a dark Texas stout. Sip wine, soda or craft brew — try Community Mosaic. Evening classes are exuberant and educational, and the well-tended cheese is always paired with something exceptional.
Scardello owners Rich and Karen Rogers built their business — now in its seventh year — from scratch. They and the staff, called Cheese Enthusiasts, are at the top of their game. Shopping for yourself or looking for a gift, you’ll find everything you didn’t know you needed: a special small production bottle of wine, a cheese saver (who doesn’t need a cheese saver?), a beautiful cheese-board, a Zingerman’s Zzang! bar, or crazy-good local chocolate.
THE ASTONISHING GROCERY STORES
In Texas, the land of the ubiquitous grocery store, two chains operate cheese departments you’d think were fromageries.
A walk through Central Market’s wonderland of cheese will amaze you. The upscale chain is found only in
Texas and belongs to the privately owned H-E-B Grocery Company. Central Market has elevated its cheese department with an unsurpassed selection, dedicated service, educational events, and cheesemaker visits.
Whole Foods was founded in Texas. When it expanded to Dallas, it was the first grocery store here to offer a com-pelling cheese selection. It continues to raise the bar for selection and service. Whole Foods Market Park Lane (near NorthPark Center) has added two wine and beer bars. You can sit, sip and have a cheese plate; or a burger and fries; or fill your growler with one of their brews.
EVENING IN THE BISHOP ARTS DISTRICT
At the heart of chef-owned Lucia is David Uygur’s celebrated cooking. Antipasti, primi, secondi, and dolci vary daily and seasonally, but count on the presence of a cheeseboard, Uygur’s handcrafted house-cured meats, fresh pasta made in-house daily, and the bliss of luminous flavor. He expresses himself through the menu. Uygur’s wife Jennifer, who is knowledgeable about wine, tends the front-of-the-house.
Other chefs come to Lucia to cele-brate their own special occasions. If you don’t have a reservation, don’t give up: phone and ask to be put on the waiting list, or arrive before the 5:30 p.m. opening. Four seats at the chef bar are for walk-ups — first come, first served.
Live music at The Kessler, an intimate entertainment venue with a pristine sound system and mellow ambience, will cap the evening. Emerging and iconic singer-songwriters and bands from Texas and afar perform here. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was built before World War II as an art deco movie house, owned at one time by movie cowboy Gene Autry.
DAY TWO: ARTFUL SHOPPING
After an early morning walk, we’ll go to Smoke at the Belmont Hotel for food, fire and glory: the best biscuits you’ve ever tasted plus Chef Tim Byres’ breakfast.
While enjoying the art, sculpture and architectural eye candy in the Downtown Arts District we’ll browse the shops at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA), the Nasher Sculpture Center, and The Crow Collection of Asian Art. Beautiful samurai armor is housed in the nearby Barbier-Mueller Museum. If you’re new to the DMA, see the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection. It recreates Villa La Pausa in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Reves from the woman who built it — Coco Chanel. You’ll want to see the dining room and all its furnishings. The wondrous Perot Museum of Nature and Science, opened only two years ago, is exciting to explore.
LIVING IT UP
For a breath of air, we can walk, picnic, or dine at celebrated restaurants such as Savor, Relish or Lark on the Park — or get a bite at a food truck — in Klyde Warren Park, a green space linking the arts district to Uptown.
Tucked inside Highland Park Village, near posh purveyors the likes of Hermès, Harry Winston, and Stella McCartney, is Molto Formaggio, The Cheese Shop. It’s the happy realization of the vision of three friends who vacationed together in Italy. They dreamed of creating a shop offering epicurean specialties, cheese, charcuterie, fine service and wine. In 2008, they opened the first stand-alone cheese shop in Dallas — a slam-dunk.
You’ll find everything you’d expect a cheese shop to stock. Then you’ll discover the cheeses you don’t expect: Pecorino dei Templari, an aged sheep’s milk cheese washed in balsamic vinegar and sea salt; an Alpine cheese from Austria named Hubaner; a Buffalo Mozzarella and Burrata. Co-owner Michael Perlmeter travels extensively in Europe seeking foodstuffs he loves — and he wants you to taste them.
After a stroll we’ll delve into Lower Greenville, a hipster haven, stopping at hotspot Blind Butcher, where well-curated beers get what they deserve: food that shines. Cool down with Carnival Barker’s handmade ice cream. If you like vinyl, Good Records is just down the block.
For our farewell dinner, three cheese experts single out restaurants with the spirit of contemporary Dallas.
FT33 in the DesignDistrict, featuring the 21st century cooking of Chef Matt McCallister, is Rich Rogers’ pick.
Nonna in Highland Park, which showcases Chef Julian Barsotti’s personalized Italian food, is Michael Perlmeter’s choice.
Paula Lambert’s picks are San Salvaje, Stephan Pyles’ pan-Latin newcomer, especially if you’re returning to the arts district for a nighttime event; and Casa Rubia, featuring the creative tapas and warmth of Chef Omar Flores, for an evening at Trinity Groves. Restaurants at Trinity Groves have front porches where diners can enjoy the view of the towering Margaret Hunt Hill (suspension) Bridge and Dallas’ nighttime neon skyline.
Our finale will be a late-night cheese tasting in the amiable bar at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, the quintessential landmark. CC
THE CHEESEMAKER’S TAQUERIA
The cheese trail leads to El Paraiso Taqueria for authentic Mexican food. A dish called The Molcajete, with chicken, beef, butterflied shrimp and melted cheese, is delicious. Corn and flour tortillas, salsa and guacamole are made in house. Owner Octavia Flores is in her 31st year of cheesemaking at Mozzarella Company. When she finishes her cheesemaking, she goes to work at the restaurant she opened five years ago. Yes, she uses Mozzarella Company cheeses. El Paraiso is located at 4224 W. Jefferson Blvd. in Dallas.
INSIDER SEASONAL TIPS
- Savor Dallas, the wine and food extravaganza, runs March 19-22, 2015. savordallas.com
- The 2015 season of Shakespeare in the Park runs from June to September in Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre. shakespearedallas.org
- The Texas State Fair runs from Sept. 25 to Oct. 18, 2015, in Fair Park near downtown. bigtex.com
- Dallas Bites Food Tours: each month there are a variety of tours that take you to restaurants and specialty establishments. dallasbitesfoodtours.com
- Dallas craft breweries offer Saturday tours (Community Beer Company is air-conditioned).
CHEESEMAKERS IN NORTH TEXAS
- Bonham: On Pure Ground (Goat)
- Dallas: Mozzarella Company (Cow, Goat)
- Dublin: Veldhuizen Family Farm (Cow)
- Flower Mound: Latte Da Dairy (Goat)
- Granbury: Eagle Mountain Farm House Cheese (Cow)
- Kemp: Full Quiver Farm (Cow)
- Longview: Haute Goat (Goat)
- Waco: Brazos Valley Cheese (Cow); Caprino Royale (Goat)