Not long ago, chef Dominic Shipp and his wife, Stephanie Shipp, opened the Red Onion Bistro in Denton. It was an effort to bring sophisticated fare to that northern suburb, and it was mostly successful in its quest. But then the Shipps decided to move from their strip mall location to a place closer to Interstate 35. "I think we moved too soon and our customers didn't all know that we moved," Stephanie says. "It didn't work out. So we closed it and decided to do something easier." And that something easier is the first personal chef service in Denton, which they've named Galloping Gourmets. When a client calls, Galloping dispatches from an army of two chefs to prepare in-home meals according to client specifications. "The difference between running a restaurant and a chef service is night and day, I'll tell ya," Stephanie says. "For our sake, it's a lot less pressure.
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As a journalist, I have lots of job perks that take the form of bribes, payola, kickbacks, palm grease, gratuities and other inducements people are willing to put out in an effort to dip into our ink barrels. So, as the Christmas season comes upon us, I decided to share some of the action. What kind of action? For starters, I have coupons good for complimentary focaccia bread at Lombardi Mare. Not cool enough? Well, then, how about two tickets for Super New Year's Eve at Club Clearview with special guest Sugarbomb. Not yet grabbed? Well, try a $25 Web gift certificate from Melissa's produce and specialty foods. Or how about a bulk gift certificate from Rockfish Seafood Grill that permits you to purchase $200 in gift certificates for $150? The year's weirdest piece of graft comes from Mentos Cool Chews. The promo comes in a brown paper bag blemished with sesame oil stains and a guest check stapled onto the top. Inside is an oil-stained menu and a Chinese meal carton with a flier stuck to the outside that says, "Create some dragon breath and then kill it with kindness." Hard to warm up to a gratuity like this in the wake of terrorist anthrax disbursements. But journalists are known for their courage under fire, so I opened it. Inside were two sealed boxes of Mentos imbedded in raw rice hardened to a concrete consistency with glue or maybe shellac. This little plugola came complete with a crushed fortune cookie, chopsticks and three pouches of sauce. Tickled yet? E-mail me with your favorite, and I'll attach your name to the desired item and leave it at the Observer receptionist's desk. First come, first served. Merry Christmas. Isn't there a reindeer named lagniappe?