Dallas Food Blogger Event and Pink Martini

I think one of the perks of blogging is the opportunity to meet new people -- since starting my blog back in October I have met so many different bloggers from all corners of the world and also many who live in the same city.  Thankfully I met Natalie who graciously arranged a Dallas Food Blogger Pot Luck, I was pumped!

We were asked to bring a Spring-themed dish -- I chose to make some sweet and spicy chicken wings with toasted sesame seeds.  YUM RIGHT? Yeah pretty not yum when you burn them to a blackened crisp in the oven while you were waiting for the rollers to set in your hair...oh the pains of being a woman sometimes.

With my head hung low in shame, I had no other choice but try to butter up Natalie with roses and wine, hoping she would overlook my cooking disaster.  Thankfully she was understanding and said she would forgive me just this once. :) Upon arriving I was greeted by Kelly from Evil Shenanigans, Heather from Heather Bakes, Jose from Left Field Lengua, Natalie and Emily from the City Sisters, and Alta from Tasty Eats At Home.

(Pictured on the left, Alta from Tasty Eats at Home)

Everyone brought their signature dishes and boy oh boy was the food plentiful! Jose made some AMAZING pulled pork, and YES I ate the crispy skin as well -- it's my favorite part :) chicharrones? Si por favor. Alta made the cute little Gluten-Free brownie bites and Natalie made the adorable Hummingbird cupcakes.

Kelly made this ASTONISHING multi-layered cake with chocolate ganache and white chocolate buttercream --- yes I just now realized I left word "buttercream" out of the picture (sorry Kelly).  It was fantastical yall -- every time I try to muster up the words to describe this cake I become overwhelmed.  It was just delicious, like I want a life size version of this cake so I can dive in and lose all inhibitions, kind of delicious.  I would try to make it at home, but I really didn't want to ruin the picture of perfection I had embedded into my head (and tastebuds) of Kelly's wondrous creation.  (Kelly please open up a bakery ASAP!)

(Pictured on the right, Jose from Left-field Lengua)

Natalie made this Old School Pea Salad which brought back memories of Texas summer BBQs -- I am definitely making this salad this summer!  The City Sisters made a delightful Mediterranean Lentil Salad with sundried tomatoes and some tasty lil Corn Fritters with Avocado Crema, which were also magnificent. Alta also made a refreshing and healthy Citrus and Beet salad, which Collin loved.

I really felt at home with these group of wonderful bloggers, we ate (alot), took pictures of EVERYTHING and chatted about food, blogging and life in general -- though I was not able to stay long I had a great time and hope to host a get together of my own one day :). Many thanks to Natalie for hosting this wonderful event and to everyone else who brought all the delicious food (I am still embarassed I failed at my dish.)

The reason I had to leave early from the potluck was because I was attending The Pink Martini Concert that night for a friend's birthday.  For those of you who have never heard of Pink Martini, I strongly encourage you to look them up.  I LOVE their music, but I'll get into that later.  We first stopped for dinner at Ferre which was located right across the street from Fort Worth's Bass Concert Hall.

I found Ferre through Google, which ranked this swanky Italian restaurant as one of the top places to eat in Fort Worth.  I LOVE authentic Italian cuisine, none of that blah stuff that's smothered in cheese smothered in cheap tasting tomato sauce.  I longed for the hand-made pastas with rich tomato sauces made from scratch.

So you must understand my disappointment when Ferre failed me, miserably.  Let's start with the simple stuff, the free bread -- they offered two types: a soft loaf and some type of flat bread, the flat bread was so hard I almost broke a tooth.  That alone made me a little nervous.  If they can't even make flatbread correctly what the hell is the pasta going to be like?

Luckily, the waiter recommended a nice Cabernet (to help the pain), Ghost Pines 2007, which had strong berry notes and rich aromas of vanilla with a smooth nutty aftertaste.  My friend Eric ordered their Organic Spring Salad with Pine Nuts and Goat Cheese tossed in a Lemon Vinaigrette, I felt there was a tad too much dressing but the overall flavors were good.  He also ordered their house Tomato Basil Soup which we all agreed tasted like "blood" -- yes scary.  Liz ordered their special of the day -- The Soft Shelled Crab, which she thought was very good (I should've ordered this!).

The appetizer -- Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto topped with Goat Cheese and Balsalmic Glaze was forgettable.  The pancetta was over cooked to a rubbery texture and the combinations were just a little off for me. At $10 an appetizer I expected to be wowed but only left me with a "meh".

For my entree, I went for the Linguine Pirate which had fresh rock shrimp, crab meat & calamari in a spicy arrabbiata sauce.  The seafood was cooked nicely, except for the disappointing child like portions.  They claim to be known for their house-made pastas -- though the noodles were cooked al dente, the flavor and consistency was boring.  If no one told me it was fresh made pasta, I would hardly know the difference.  The arabbiata sauce had nothing "spicy" about it -- this sounds terrible, but it tasted like cheap Ragu.

The ambiance of the restaurant felt really nice, with the tall windows surrounding most of the walls along with the soft candlelight at each table, gave the dinner a sense of intimacy and warmth.    However,  overall I found the food very disappointing, especially for the price.  Thankfully Pink Martini would make everything better.

My dear friend Eric was the one who first introduced me to Pink Martini, and since then I have not stopped listening to their music.  Any time I am driving, editing pictures, writing posts -- Pink Martini is constantly playing in the background along with some Norah Jones and Corrine Bailey Ray.

From the Pink Martini website --

15 years ago in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, Thomas Lauderdale was working in politics, thinking that one day he would run for mayor. Like other eager beaver politicians-in-training, he went to every political fundraiser under the sun … but was dismayed to find the music at these events underwhelming, lackluster, loud and un-neighborly. Drawing inspiration from music from all over the world – crossing genres of classical, jazz and old-fashioned pop – and hoping to appeal to conservatives and liberals alike, he founded the “little orchestra”Pink Martini in 1994 to provide more beautiful and inclusive musical soundtracks for political fundraisers for progressive causes such as civil rights, affordable housing, the environment, libraries, public broadcasting, education and parks.

“Pink Martini draws inspiration from the romantic Hollywood musicals of the 1940s or ‘50s … with a more global perspective. We write a lot of songs … but we also champion songs like Ernesto Lecuona’s “Andalucia”or “Amado mio”from the Rita Hayworth film “Gilda”or “Kikuchiyo to mohshimasu (My name is Kikuchiyo)”made famous in the 1960s by the great Japanese group Hiroshi Wada & His Mahina Stars. In that sense we’re a bit like musical archeologists, digging through recordings and scores of years past and rediscovering beautiful songs.”

Pink Martini has twelve musicians (and sometimes travels with string sections), and performs its multilingual repertoire on concert stages and with symphony orchestras throughout Europe, Asia, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Australia and New Zealand and North America. Pink Martini made its European debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 and its orchestral debut with the Oregon Symphony in 1998 under the direction of Norman Leyden. Since then, the band has gone on to play with over 25 orchestras around the world, including multiple engagements with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Boston Pops, the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center and the BBC Concert Orchestra in London. Other appearances include the grand opening of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s new Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, with return sold-out engagements for New Year’s Eve 2003, 2004 & 2008; two sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall; the opening party of the remodeled Museum of Modern Art in NYC; the Governor’s Ball at the 80th Annual Academy Awards in 2008; and the opening of the 2008 Sydney Festival in Australia.

It was the BEST live performance I've ever seen.  The exquisitely performed instrumentals of the Fort Worth Symphony was impeccable and the energy of the entire Pink Martini band was absolutely infectious.  All around people were tapping their feet, drumming their fingers along with the beat.  At several points of the program I had urges to jump up and dance, but thankfully was able to restrain myself.  UNTIL THE CONGO LINE that is.

That's right folks. During their encore performance of their last song, Brazil, they asked the audience memebers to start a congo line through the entire concert hall.  I immediately grabbed Eric's hand "LET'S GO DUDE IT'S CONGO LINE TIME RIGHT NOW!!!!!" And you better believe I danced my little heart out. :)

Now if only I had $30,000 for them to perform at my wedding... -_-

I also have one more piece of exciting news...I am hosting my very first GIVEAWAY!!!! ding ding ding ding ding!!

The lovely folks of Challenge Butter sent me this loooovely Zoo Animals Pancake Griddle from Nordic Ware($35 value), it is the most ADORABLE thing I've ever seen.

Are you kidding me?  Zoo Animal-Shaped Pancakes for the rest of your life?? What could be better than that? Yeah, exactly, nothing.  You will ALSO receive a Framed and Matted 5x7" photo of your choice from my Spring Flower photography series ($50 value).

I will select one winner on Friday, May 7th at 7:00 PM using a random number generator service.  In order to be eligible for this giveaway please:

1. Leave a comment about your favorite Zoo animal and why.

2. Become a fan of Joylicious on Facebook.

3. Follow me on Twitter.

Good Luck!

****note: I originally posted my giveaway on the ICBINB post but due to a minor discrepancy I had to move my giveaway onto this post.  DO NOT WORRY -- all comments that have been previously posted will be kept and counted!!