It hardly seems possible but Fearing’s, Dean Fearing’s eponymous restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Dallas, is ten years old this month. What seemed like an audacious venture in 2007 has not only survived, but thrived. To celebrate, it is offering a special menu (in parallel with the regular menu) built around favorite recipes from its first decade. The menu is available through the end of September.
Make a beeline for the anniversary Reminiscing menu, and choose between three appetizers and three main courses, each identified by its dates of introduction on the menu. For starters, start in August 2007 with the chilled sweet corn vichyssoise with poached Maine lobster, October 2007’s apricot barbecue-glazed Bob White quail on an iceberg wedge salad, or May 2008’s big-eye tuna duo, a tartare and sashimi.
Entrée choices span from March 2008’s Alaskan halibut on Gulf lump crab “succotash” to July 2010’s South Texas Nilgai antelope with rabbit enchilada to September 2010’s roasted Van Vooren Ranch pheasant with sweet corn pan stuffing.
The vintage 2007 vichyssoise is an ethereally smooth and soft sweet emulsion with the unmistakable earthy flavor of corn. In the center sits an island made from a generous helping of sweet Maine lobster. (Just don’t make any jokes about ‘the soup being cold.’)
On a quirky, cute plate, shaped like the speech balloon from a Snoopy cartoon, came the bigeye tuna duo, at once both poké and sashimi. In 2008, this predicted the poké craze by half a decade.
I have always liked Dean Fearing’s focus on game. It is welcome, especially, given hunting tradition in the state. The anniversary comes at just the right time of year, too, to showcase game at its best. The 2010 Van Vooren ranch pheasant recipe was a great example of well-prepared game with its earthy side of Gun Barrel City greens, contrasting sweet corn-sage pan stuffing, and natural gravy. Ideal for fall, even if the Texas weather is not cooperating right now.
When you select the anniversary menu (or the regular menu for that matter), choose the matching wine pairings from beverage manager, and Fearing’s lifer, Paul Bottomer. Bottomer is from the old school of sommeliers. Unimpressionable by fads that come and go, he judges solely by how what’s in the glass goes with what’s on the plate. Thus, to start, a refreshing chenin blanc from the Loire. The corn vichyssoise got a bracing and earthy Assyrtiko, from the volcanic soil of Santorini. For the tuna, at the request of the customer for a soft red, he chose a Vernaccia di Serrapetrona, a rare sparkling red wine, made in an elaborate three-stage fermentation. I doubt there is another list in Dallas with this wine and recommend you ask for it if you have a taste for the unusual. For the pheasant, Bottomer chose an unusual Sonoma blend of Zinfandel and Syrah.
Desserts from Jill Bates, another Fearing’s lifer, wowed me with banana pudding and homemade ice cream, and blackberry crumble. Another course attuned to the seasons as well as having historic significance.
Pondering for a moment on the significance of Fearing’s, it is a credit to Dean Fearing’s management style that the sous chef, the beverage manager, the pastry chef, and even one of our waiters, Michael, have all been there as long as the place has been open (not to mention others on the staff who I do not know). It is also a tribute to Ritz-Carlton management that they can keep talent in the organization. Compare that record with The Fairmont Dallas in 2012 that sent the culinary team, patiently built over years by Andre Natera, scattering.
This is the kind of meal that shows why Fearing’s remains in The Daily Meal’s Top 10 Dallas Restaurants.