Food writer Josh Ozersky - who this year covered the locavore movement, coined the word lardcore and found himself at the center of a journalistic ethics firestorm - yesterday told Eater the biggest dining surprise of 2010 was "how great the food was in Dallas," a city he previously believed "existed in the culinary dark ages."
In a Time Magazine column this summer, Ozersky called Fearing's "the quintessential postcrash luxury restaurant," so perhaps his lingering awe isn't extraordinarily newsworthy. But while the other members of Eater's expert panel found their surprises in New York City - other contributors mentioned Del Posto's four-star review in the New York Times and Lincoln's shaky start - Ozersky just couldn't get over eating with his in-laws in the Big D.
"It's a paradise," Ozersky told Eater (although he added he still prefers Portland.)
When I rang up Ozersky to ask what he'd found so impressive, he zeroed in on the sheer number of restaurants citywide, Fearing's and the burgers at Keller's.
"I basically fell in love," says Ozersky, who authored The Hamburger: A History. "Keller's is like everything I always dreamed of and idealized in hamburgerdom."
Ozersky reports he didn't have time to visit Fuego or The Mansion, he was taken with the refinement and modernity he encountered at Fearing's. "I had a really remarkable, remarkable meal," he says.
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That came as a shock, partly because of "the narrow provincialism for which we're famous in New York," but also because Ozersky was among the many New York-based food writers who assumed Tim Love's cooking was a fair representation of the region.
"I guess I was a little prejudiced because of the experience we had here with Tim Love's restaurant, which really bombed badly," Ozersky says of Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, which only made it six months in the Flatiron District. "I think Love's a natural star, but it's rare a transplant restaurant does well."
But Ozersky says his low expectations were erased by the food at Fearing's - especially the fried lemon pies.
"The dessert program at Fearing's deserves special praise," he says. "I have a lifelong aversion to savory and bombastic desserts. The Fearing's dessert program was refined and imaginative, but still wholesome and gratifying. It restored my faith in American pastry."