When Eater last published my picture, Nancy Nichols told the crowd at Sidedish that it looked like I needed to eat more. Her remark was perhaps snide, perhaps sexist, but definitely true.
I've lost 10 pounds since moving to Dallas, a result of my nightmarish reaction to short Texas ragweed and a host of other noxious plants and grasses I've never before encountered. Until my suffering started, I had no idea allergies could prey on the digestive system. It's a nasty situation, and one my doctors counseled could only be solved by switching to a bread-and-water diet or relocating. Since I like what I do, I chose the latter.
Village Voice Media, the parent company for the Dallas Observer, has kindly agreed to transfer me to a place where short Texas ragweed doesn't grow, which makes April 1 my last day here. I'll be taking on my very same job way, way further north, serving as food critic for a sister paper, the Seattle Weekly. I've already been warned I'll need to outfit my rain-adverse bike accordingly.
I struggled mightily with the decision to leave Dallas, but felt my health necessitated it. As someone whose health care over the past decade has consisted of a single bottle of ibuprofen, it's been discouraging to have to devote tremendous amounts of time, money and worry to my physical well-being. I want to be in the best shape I can be to do my job, and was deeply disappointed to discover the environment here isn't compatible with my allergy chart. (It's a doozy. When an allergist first reviewed it, she said, "You must feel like you have the flu all the time." Yup.)
I'm heartsick about leaving Texas when there's so much of the state still to explore, but am grateful for all the edible adventures I've had here. I've learned to appreciate queso and pronounce kolache and attack barbecue with my bare hands. I was there when Big Tex Choice judges first sampled fried beer and when cowboys tried to revive a fellow hot sauce contest judge felled by capsaicin extract. I've eaten puffy tacos in San Antonio, oysters in Galveston, chicken-fried steak in the Hill Country and -- right here in Dallas -- some of the best burgers I expect to ever eat anywhere.
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My experience in Dallas hasn't been Edenic. Restaurants here are too often shackled by pettiness and posturing (a complaint I laid out in detail in "Forked Up," a feature story last fall). And I'm still disappointed by how much mean-spiritedness pervades the local food scene. But there are signs that dining is on the upswing: My downtown block, where a year ago it was nearly impossible to find anything worth eating or drinking, is readying to welcome a pho shop and a classic cocktail bar. That's a tremendously exciting development.
It's difficult to leave when the barometer's pointing to a lively food scene ahead, but I trust you'll understand my reasoning -- and perhaps even empathize with my excitement about covering a city where, as a former Seattle food writer put it, "people forage and fish and pick berries and brew."
While I don't nurture any fantasies that you'll speak well of me when I'm gone (I thoroughly expect a number of good riddance-themed responses), I like to think this blog has contributed in some small way to our collective understanding and appreciation of eating in Dallas. I've striven to create a City of Ate in which writers and readers could thoughtfully explore and debate food culture, and hope I've been at least somewhat successful in achieving my goal.
Thank you for keeping me company during my brief stay. And enjoy In-N-Out, y'all.