Remind us again: What exactly makes Dallas the "buckle" of the Bible Belt? Granted, when it comes to vice we're no New Orleans--our food isn't nearly that good--but when you consider the availability of nudie bars, porn shops and illicit slots here, it ain't exactly Vatican City either. Case in point: Dallas-based Mutuals.com Inc. this summer launched its Vice Fund (www.vicefund.com), a mutual fund devoted to investing exclusively in tobacco, alcohol, gaming and defense stocks--i.e., the growth industries. We can't speak to the wisdom of their investment strategy, but their honesty, at least, is refreshing.

Whole Foods Market

We begrudgingly part with our secret: When we're headed out to a party and don't have time to cook, we stop by Whole Foods, race to the deli, grab a large container of traditional hummus, book it over to the bakery, snatch a large loaf of rustic Italian bread and head for the checkout line. For $10, you get a classier version of potato chips and French onion dip and something less expected than tortilla chips and salsa. Even when we've splurged for the large sizes, we still have never made it back to the car with leftovers. Unless you count smudges of chickpea in the corner of the bowl and a few crumbs in the bag leftovers.

Beading Dreams

If you've ever found the perfect bracelet, but it just wasn't the right color, or a pair of earrings that matched the new dress you bought, but they weren't the right style, then you know how frustrating jewelry-buying can be. But at Beading Dreams, no such problems exist. Here, you choose the color. You choose the style. You even choose how much each particular piece of jewelry will cost. And you make it yourself. So you not only get a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry, but you get the sense of accomplishment that you created it with your own hands. But if your particular hands are more like two left feet, don't worry; Beading Dreams offers classes on everything from basic jewelry-making to stringing on silk to advanced wire wrapping and forming. Classes change with the seasons, though, so call or go by to get a complete schedule.

The Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, allowing us to keep in up-to-the-minute contact with friends, family and associates around the globe. The only downside to all the instant chatter is its lack of intimacy. For those who still enjoy the old-fashioned art of writing by hand, a good pen makes the experience all the more pleasurable. In Dallas, Penwright is the best place to find a quality pen. Of course, Penwright sells the Rolex of pens--Mont Blanc, but informed pen connoisseurs appreciate the store for its wide selection of elite brands, which include Waterman, Parker, Delta and Stipula.

Best Place to Buy an Accordion and, uh, Food

Fiesta

Fiesta

There are plenty of reasons to shop at this grocery store, not the least of which are the fresh tortillas for which regulars line up from dawn till dusk. But we come back here for all kinds of reasons: the fresh tomatillas (we make a superior home-cooked salsa; you can't have any), the various Mexican ingredients for which Stephen Pyles pines (he doesn't use brown sugar, only canella), that authentic vibe of a store where whitey's too dumb to tread. And we love a place where you can buy an accordion from the merchants up front; we went shopping one day for a little mole sauce and came home sounding like Flaco Jimenez without the talent.

While some big-name designers are finding it's now cool to shop--and be sold--at Target, don't expect to see fashions by folks like Judith Lieber, Stuart Weitzman, Cole Haan, Chanel, Gucci or Prada being racked up near the snack bar anytime soon. Yet you can still find great prices on classy clothing at this North Dallas consignment shop, which specializes in designer and "better label" wear, much of it coming from closets in Park Cities and North Dallas homes. This 4,500-square-foot shop offers sellers a 50-50 split and season-long consignments, while buyers can choose from a wide variety of new and like-new clothing and save even more with frequent sales. (Whenever Foley's has one of its "Red Apple" sales, Clothes Circuit runs a competing "Yellow Banana" sale, with additional 20 percent markdowns on clothing.) On the Web at www.clothescircuit.com.

"Our philosophy is to build a home that's going to age like a fine wine," says Vintage Contemporaries' Jeff Fairey, who recently spoke from the comfortable interior of his latest project: a gorgeous Spanish Eclectic home, complete with clay tile roof, that's located in the M Streets but could fit right in on Lakewood Boulevard, alongside the 1920s homes built by noted Dallas architect C.D. Hutsell. As the company name implies, Fairey specializes in new homes made to look old. To accomplish that, Fairey does not cut corners on the materials or build blowouts that loom over the neighbors. Instead, he reduces the size of his homes and finishes them out with expert craftsmanship we thought had become a thing of the past. "We make our smaller spaces a lot more grand."

Part of the Bishop Arts District's Renaissance, this pleasant shop carries a wide range of gift items and objects from local artists. Among the constants are personal care items from the Thymes Collection and scented candles from Ergo and Votivo. Co-owner Michael Harrity says he has "without a doubt the strongest candle collection in Dallas." About 70 percent of the market's inventory is unique items, many from local artists, including furniture, paintings, pottery, turned wood bowls, handmade jewelry and metal sculpture. Prices range from about $10 to more than $150. Gift wrapping is free. Because the shop serves a wide geographic area, it has a wide price range that in recent years has been trending upward with the revitalization of the neighborhood.

As we anticipate Halloween, the fond memories of years past come flooding back--those days of pinning a black bath towel around our shoulders, wedging two pointy candy corn under our top lip and chasing our younger sibling with the forbidding chant, "I vant to suck your blood!" in the best Transylvanian accent we could muster. Now, as an adult, the times we thirst for human blood are rare. Yet, on some level, it would still be fun to have fangs. Enter Pamela Sedmak, owner of Fangtastic Fangs. For $125, she will hand-carve a set of fangs custom-fitted to your mouth. In the past 10 years, Sedmak has made hundreds of fangs for actors and Halloween costumes, but most of her clients are just "normal people." (Once vampirish dental prostheses are involved, "normal" becomes a very subjective term.) The fangs are incredibly realistic and durable--she's had her pair for 12 years--but she doesn't recommend eating ("OK, maybe a Jell-O shot") or trying to open beer cans with them. Plus, if Anne Rice likes them, how can we argue?

Grapevine Mills Mall

This 1.5 million-square-foot mall near D-FW has everything anybody could possibly want in the way of escaping the weather and wasting time. The 5-year-old mall is one of the largest in Texas and offers a bunch of stuff to do besides shopping. The mall has a 30-screen theater, restaurants and a GameWorks that has a bar. If you get bored with the mall, a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World is right across the parking lot. There you will see all manner of outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen who make a pilgrimage to this fishing mecca. Also, when you get bored, play "Guess Which Shopper is From Oklahoma." That's always fun.

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