Food Tourism: French Food and Fashion in Dallas

Dallas might be known for the volume of chain restaurants that call it home, but it has some awesome local restaurants, as well. You just don’t hear about them often what with the inundation of places like On the Border, Chili’s, and Olive Garden. And Dallas has an excellent museum district. On a recent visit to Dallas, I tried some amazing souffles, and visited a traveling exhibit on Jean Paul Gaultier at the Dallas Museum of Art.

First, Gaultier. If someone had told me that Madonna, Bruce Willis, Lady Gaga, Milla Jovovich, and Pedro Almodóvar all had something in common (apart from being celebrities), I wouldn’t have believed them. But they do. I had never thought about who had designed Madonna’s iconic cone-shaped bras or the futuristic costumes in The Fifth Element, but over the course of the exhibit I learned that Gaultier had designed a number of the iconic costumes I’ve seen in popular culture.

Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the exhibit (and there were only a couple of things to photograph from outside of the exhibit), but I’ll give a few highlights of my favorite parts.

The room you enter first is the one pictured on the exhibit page on the Dallas Museum of Art’s website. It has a number of models wearing Gaultier designs, including a few mermaid designs. I recommend spending a bit of time in this room and looking at the models very closely. There’s something very interesting about them. If you plan to visit the exhibit and want to be surprised, then skip the following paragraph.

So, for those of you who don’t plan to see this exhibit, I’ll explain. When I first entered the exhibit, I thought I was looking at very lifelike mannequins. Then I noticed one of the mermaids’ lips moved. I thought I’d imagined it, so I watched a bit closer and, yes, they did move. Then I began to notice that occasionally the eyes or lips on some of the other mannequins would move. I began to think that maybe I was looking at models that had been made to look like mannequins (even down to painting seams on their arms where the pieces of a mannequin would fit together). This thought made me a little uncomfortable since I’d spent the last few minutes staring at the clothing, not realizing I might have been rudely staring at people. Then, on looking a little closer, something didn’t seem quite right about the models’ faces. As you moved, the perspective of their faces didn’t quite change the way it should have. Looking closer yet again, I realized that these were, in fact, mannequins, but projectors that were discreetly and artistically mounted on the ceiling (see the cylinder shapes hanging from the ceiling in the exhibit photo on the museum website) were projecting videos of models’ faces onto the mannequins’ heads. Very interesting idea! This was probably my favorite part of the exhibit.

The following rooms of the exhibit described the life of Gaultier and various phases and aspects of his fashion design. I learned that Gaultier had designed the cone-shaped bra look that Madonna made famous (they had her stage costumes on display), and that he’d designed some of the costumes I’ve seen in Pedro Almodóvar’s movies.

I was particularly surprised to learn that Gaultier had designed all of the costumes in The Fifth Element. The exhibit displayed Chris Tucker’s leopard print jumpsuit and cylindrical wig, and Gaultier’s sketches of the designs for the rest of the characters’ costumes, including Bruce Willis’ neon orange shirt and Milla Jovovich’s orange rubber suspenders. I never would have guessed that a couture fashion designer had designed the costumes for a popular culture sci-fi movie, but he did an awesome job of it! The costumes are in part what made me love the movie. :)

Beyond celebrity and film costumes, the exhibit also displayed a number of designs inspired by various regions of the world, from Africa to Spain to Asia. Altogether, it was a very interesting exhibit, especially if you enjoy looking at fashion and costumes. The exhibit closes on February 12, so there’s about a week left to see it, if you’re interested.

Now for the souffles. Yum.

Before checking out the fashion exhibit, we had lunch at Rise n°1, an amazing souffle restaurant. My sister discovered this restaurant when she gave me a Dallas Classic Desserts cookbook one Christmas and saw the restaurant’s chocolate souffle recipe. So she checked the place out and fell in love with their seasonal pumpkin dessert souffle.

Located in Inwood Village near the Dallas Love Field airport, the restaurant has so many things I love that I hardly know where to start. From the outside, it looks nice but is not particularly notable, but inside, everything from the interior design to the dishes used to the story of the place makes it unique.

For starters, the interior of this restaurant is designed in such a way as to make it feel cozy and spacious at the same time. I’m not sure how they do it, but it’s just the right intimate setting for a local restaurant. I love the branches that separate the bar area from the restaurant, and the sitting area filled with cookbooks and other kitchen gadgets to occupy your attention while waiting for a table. At the table, I love that they use colorful mismatched antique linen napkins, mismatched antique silver flatware, beautiful ceramic dishes stamped with the restaurant name and glazed in a variety of color combinations, and glasses made from recycled wine bottles.

And the food is amazing. We tried the marshmallow soup, the crab souffle, the truffle infused mushroom souffle, and the pumpkin souffle. All were delicious.

The marshmallow soup is much more appealing than it sounds. It’s not actually marshmallows floating in your soup, but instead a tomato-based soup with mini goat cheese souffles (that look like marshmallows) floating on top and a little bit of basil pesto poured over everything. I’m a fan of tomato basil soup, cheese, and pesto, so I loved it.

The crab souffle was also delicious and very rich, but not so much so that I wouldn’t have been able to eat a whole souffle if I hadn’t been sharing.

And the truffle infused mushroom souffle was a much more subtle flavor by comparison, and just as delicious. Sometimes I find mushroom dishes like risottos to be a little overpowering (which is amazing considering how much I love mushrooms), but this souffle was just right. Unfortunately this souffle looked a little sad compared to the crab souffle, but that didn’t matter much considering how delicious it was.

Finally, the pumpkin souffle was everything my sister had described. It was amazing. Imagine a pumpkin pie in souffle form, maybe with a bit more vanilla in it and a creamy sauce and whipped cream on the side, and that’s the souffle.

I think I’d like to make that chocolate souffle recipe, now. :)

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