Monthly Archives: August 2013

Smyth: An appealing mix of swank and shag

The word “swanky” hasn’t been in my vocabulary long, and since it has been, I haven’t used it often. But really, there’s no other word that comes to mind when looking at the experience at Smyth.

That’s not to say anything bad about this place that’s decked in wood paneling and has a small room devoted to shag carpeting for flooring.

While this is a place worth taking a date or group of friends for a Friday night, it’s not a place like the Old Monk, where you casually stop in for a drink after work. In fact, there’s not much that’s casual about Smyth.

The bar at Smyth is well stocked, and on any given evening, you'll see a few bartenders behind there, busy making custom drinks. (Photo from Facebook: it's way too dark in there to take decent photos.)

The bar at Smyth is well stocked, and on any given evening, you’ll see a few bartenders behind there, busy making custom drinks. (Photo from Facebook: it’s way too dark in there to take decent photos.)

First, we made a reservation – calling or visiting OpenTable: Dallas Restaurants is not a common move for us when going out for a couple of cocktails, but in a way, that just made it more special.

Once we parked somewhat close to Travis Street, we walked over to the dark doorway that had a small, white paper taped to the glass door: “Please buzz the call box,” was written in curly font next to three arrows pointing to a doorbell-like button.

All my husband said was, “Reservation for Danser,” and they let us in, telling us to go through the door – which led to more darkness through a hallway.

A savvy-looking man (admittedly, looking very trendy) guided us to our seats. We passed tables in the main room, which I can’t call a dining room because only beverages are served, and entered the smaller room. We lucked out with the space with the shag carpeting and comfortable chairs. What topped it off was a small, folded card on the miniature table between us that read, “Reserved, Michael Danser.”

Not soon after getting a couple of highball glasses of water, we were greeted by a man – who turned out to be one of the four or so bartenders – dressed in a rubber apron. He won’t offer a cocktail menu, but he’ll ask you one thing.

“What do you like?” he asked.

Don’t bother saying you’d like a Moscow mule; they want specifics. I said I loved ginger, basil and vodka. After plenty of time, our drinks came, and mine was a ginger, mint and gin concoction. Sure, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was close enough to please and off just enough to give me something different.

The decor is just the right kind of retro. (Facebook)

The decor is just the right kind of retro. (Facebook)

The second drink was sweeter with muddled fruit – a sweetness that I would have liked to have known about beforehand. The Old-Fashioned-like drink (with rye bourbon and  Applejack) was a solid choice, too. It’s a safe bet that anything you sip from here is a well-crafted cocktail.

Smyth isn’t far off from Cedars Social, its sister establishment, in that regard. But this experience is over-the-top – in a good way, yes, but not in a way you would want every week (which you definitely would want at Cedars Social).

So, give it a shot. Just make sure to make a reservation and be prepared to pay a less-than-modest bill.

Contact: 214-520-0900, smyth@barsmyth.com
Hours: 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Service: attentive and seemingly sincere; drinks can come out slowly
Ambiance: dark and intimate
Payment information: major credit cards accepted

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Dallas Affaires: Cakes to grow up, celebrate with

Dallas Affaires Cake Company

Wedding cakes are a specialty of Dallas Affaires; they look great, but they taste even better. (Photo by John Cain Photography)

When the smell of frosting fills a room, you know it’s fresh. And when that creamy, sweet frosting protects a delicate moist cake, you know you don’t want to share your piece.

This is how I felt as a toddler trying out the baked goods of Dallas Affaires Cake Company. Of course, at the time this Lakewood business was functioning out of one of the owner’s homes. Today, it stands on Abrams Road still serving and delivering my favorite cakes in this city.

So when it came to picking a bakery for my recent wedding, there was really no discussion on where we would go. But, my then-fiance, my parents and I went for a tasting anyway.

When I was a child, I remember going to tastings and having owner Sibby Barrett serve me entire pieces of cakes (and my mom claims I ate each one all by myself as a small – surely gluttonous – child).

Our consultation for the cakes consisted of matching up different flavors of frosting with the standard cake flavors.

Our consultation for the cakes consisted of matching up different flavors of frosting with the standard cake flavors.

For this tasting, wedding cake consultant  Margaret Gragg gave each of us two slices of cake, one chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and one white cake with vanilla frosting. Cups of various frosting flavors took over the center of the table. The best,  creative ones were the champagne frosting for a simple, sophisticated flavor, and the orange-cream, which lent a sweet creamsicle-like taste – the latter was a final option in our auditions. But I couldn’t resist the birthday cake of my childhood – that sweet, with a subtle hint of saltiness – the Italian cream frosting.

I have never in my life had better tasting frosting than that center filling that graces the layers of this cake. I’m not the kind of person who prefers to swipe the frosting off of a cupcake and eat the sweet topping by itself, but I could easily do it with this Italian cream frosting.

Despite all of my adoration for this perfect frosting, at the wedding, I actually ended up eating more of the groom’s cake, which was a standard chocolate cake – it boasts a richer, darker flavor – with chocolate frosting on the outside and a chocolate-amaretto frosting on the inside. Yes, chocolate-amaretto: now you can understand why I ate so much of it. It’s an almond-sweetness, but balanced out with the decadence around it in the cake.

And, of course, the team at Dallas Affaires makes pretty good looking cakes.

The bride's Italian cream cake (left) and the groom's chocolate-amaretto cake were an attraction for their smell and looks that night. (Photo by John Cain Photography)

The bride’s Italian cream cake (left) and the groom’s chocolate-amaretto cake were an attraction for their smell and looks that night. (Photo by John Cain Photography)

I was lucky enough to have these cakes at every birthday – Italian cream for me and my mom, and chocolate with chocolate-covered strawberries for my brother and dad – and it was even more exciting to have that cake for my wedding. Now, I need an excuse other than a life step to get my fork in a slice of that dessert.

The groom's cake was a rich chocolate-amaretto. (Photo by John Cain Photography_

The groom’s cake was a rich chocolate-amaretto. (Photo by John Cain Photography)

Dallas Affaires Cake Company
Location: 2307 Abrams Road in Dallas, 75214
Contact: 214-826-9409, info@dallasaffairescakeco.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Service: If you’re just going in to grab a cake ball, they’re friendly enough to get you in and out with a sweet treat. If you’re meeting for a wedding cake tasting – you’ll have fun, and they’ll make sure of it.
Ambiance: It’s a bakery – it’s cool, well lit and smells like frosting.
Payment information: All major credit cards accepted

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