Chow, Baby: Wednesday, June 06, 2002
Nuts about Grady

Chow, Baby’s petition urging Reata to put crème brˆulée back on its dessert menu already contains nearly a thousand signatures, but it probably won’t get many more. Chow, Baby’s hand is cramping up too badly. On to Plan B, which, unlike most of Chow, Baby’s plans, is based on unimpeachable logic. Premise No. 1: Reata had crème brˆˆulée back when Grady Spears was in charge of the kitchen. Premise No. 2: Spears now owns The Nutt House restaurant, on the courthouse square in Granbury. Conclusion: Road trip!

With the Chowbabymobile gassed, oiled, and properly inflated, the 37-mile trip took 37 minutes, by virtue of denying passenger requests to stop at antique malls along Highway 377. Arriving promptly at reservation time, Chow, Baby’s party was immediately seated in the historic hotel’s dining room amid polished wood and fresh yellow paint and was handed oversized menus — that didn’t list crème brˆulée. It would be a long drive home.

The non-sweet food was delightful. Blanched spinach was molded around candied pecans and morsels of Texas blue cheese for an enchanting salad ($6). The Dr Pepper-marinated hanger steak ($9), sliced into fajita strips and served with tortillas, had a neato fruity aftertaste. The chicken-fried steak ($9) wasn’t the greatest in the history of Texas — which is what Chow, Baby expected of an establishment that has “A Grady Spears Restaurant” stamped on every logo-friendly surface — but it was pretty darn good.

As the server reminded the table of Nutt house’s dessert options, Chow, Baby was jolted from digestive stupor:“... And, of course, we have crème brˆˆulée.” What? Would this undertaking have a happy ending after all? Here’s some foreshadowing: No. The purported custard, listed on the menu as “Brian’s Caramel Pudding” ($4), did have a hard sugar glaze, which Chow, Baby gleefully tapped into shards. The surprise inside was a glop of sugar and eggs as shockingly and unsubtly sweet as pecan pie innards. This sugar bomb would take out any diabetic within a 10-foot radius. For relief, Chow, Baby turned to its neighbor’s blackberry crisp (with buttermilk ice cream, $5), and was rewarded with teeny hard seeds stuck painfully between its sweet teeth. Chow, Baby directed MawMaw’s harshest criticism to the pastry chef: Most inconsiderate.

Good news for the aging Chowbabymobile: Spears is bringing his cowboy cuisine back to Fort Worth with the cattle-baronish Chisholm Club, slated to open this summer in the Renaissance Worthington Hotel. Now, like most of Texas, Chow, Baby thinks the handsome ex-cowpoke is the greatest thing since Frito pie, and is even (almost) ready to forgive him for marrying somebody else earlier this year. But here’s some free advice for the budding restaurant chain: Pay attention to the bottom of the menu. Dessert-wise, as far as Chow, Baby is concerned, the Spears brand is treading on thin glaze.

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