Recently, I attended a Dallas Supper Club dinner, and I ate chef Robert Lyford's food for the first time. It was great. Like, freakin' great. I loved the food, and I fell head over heels in love with his strawberry apricot jam. I know that's a strange thing for a meat-eater like me to say when short rib pastrami was on the menu, but that should also tell you how tasty this stuff was. Lyford told me he makes the jam from scratch, and there are no gelatins or weird binders in there — it's just sugar and fruit and time.
"He spends the whole night with it," his wife, Kaci, said. "Turns on baseball and just stirs forever."
I had never been to Patina Green, where Robert Lyford chefs, before. It's in McKinney, and being a person who was born and bred in Dallas, I'm a lazy bastard who sighs at the thought of having to drive 20 minutes anywhere. I'll drive three hours to Austin without a grumble. I've driven to Seattle from here, and to Rhode Island, too. But to drive to McKinney or Denton or (God forbid) Frisconsin — it's not appealing. We have to pout about it and drag our feet first.
Or there has to be a pull so strong that it cannot be quieted. For me, Robert Lyford's strawberry apricot jam was that pull.
I drove to McKinney the next morning to get more of that jam. Parking was scarce, so I parked a block or so down the road. This meant that I got to walk past Local Yocal, where Matt Hamilton stands out front like the best small-town carnival barker, yelling greetings to passersby and in my case, making fun of me from across the street. "Oh, I see you made it out here, but not to see me?"
"I'm headed to see Robert Lyford's strawberry apricot jam and get a sandwich," I admitted.
"Get the brisket on a biscuit!" Hamilton suggested, loudly.
Anyone who knows me knows that isn't a sentence you even have to say to me — if brisket is an option, I'm getting it. If biscuit is an option, I'm getting it. Hamilton knows that about me, too. He just wanted to see my eyebrows shoot up to the top of my head and my pupils dilate. Success.
Because I was in McKinney and I had a road trip home ahead of me, I had to order my sandwiches to go. When I asked Lyford which sandwiches I should order if I needed four, he, of course, said it "depends on what you like." The top seller of the moment was the ham and cheese, and he really enjoys the cauliflower sandwich, too. I added the turkey sandwich and the Friday special, brisket on a biscuit (the Briscuit?), to my order.
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Cruelly, they were out of strawberry apricot jam. McKinney knew about it first, and they beat me to the strawberry-apricot-jam-hoarding punch. I'll have to wait until it's the season for that again, but I can say without a doubt that if that man decides he's gonna jam anything again, you need it. (I hear it and I don't care.)
I placated myself with a giant jar of giardiniera, which is everything you want it to be.
Lyford's lunch menu changes frequently, so you might not be able to get exactly what I had, but there are no missteps here — you're in safe sandwich land. There's no wrong order. Right now, it looks like he still has a roasted cauliflower sandwich with raw cheddar and arugula (super good). And there's the hickory-smoked ham with smoked cheddar and jalapeño peach jelly on jalapeño cheddar loaf, which was my favorite of the whole bunch. The roasted turkey sandwich he's offering looks as if it's on wheat bread now, and I look forward to trying the spaghetti squash, goat cheese, sweet onion, and kale and walnut pesto on sourdough.
Make the drive to McKinney and make your face happy. You can gripe about the drive on your way out there, but shove a briscuit in your mouth and I promise you won't be griping on the way home.