Seeking to move past its niche as a once-a-year event, Earth Day Texas is launching a monthly program to make its environmental message more frequent and more accessible.

The kick-off event is a conversation about local food that takes place September 17 at Craft & Growler in Exposition Park. From there, it'll happen every third Thursday of the month, at breweries such as Deep Ellum Brewing and Community Beer Co.

The goal of the series, says spokeswoman Jillian Mock, is to make eco-conscious thinking a part of daily life for every North Texan. Each session will feature a panel of speakers tackling a theme, such as sustainable food for the masses, smart energy, and eco-focused careers.

"Hosting events throughout the year is part of our mission," Mock says. "Rather than the way it's been, which is a blast in April, and then it's gone. Instead, how can we make this meaningful for people every day?"

That also explains their goal in choice of breweries as a venue.

"We're taking it to a place it hasn't been," Mock says. "It makes Earth Day more accessible, and maybe reaches people who haven't gone out to the annual event at Fair Park."

The program is called Earth Day Monthlies, aka EDMo — and as an aside doesn't that seem kind of mean to the "o"? —and is a collaboration with The Westwood School, an eco-focused K-12 school in North Dallas. At the inaugural event, speakers will include chef Chad Houser from Café Momentum, Katherine Clapner of Dude Sweet Chocolate, and Dustin Thibodeaux of Slow Food.

Mock says that the idea was an initiative of the Westwood School, which also wants to elevate its profile and its ecological curriculum. Earth Day Texas, which is adopting an abbreviated moniker EDTx — and as an aside doesn't that seem kind of mean to the "x"? — has been stepping up its game in the past few years, including booking higher profile speakers and allying itself with the Texas Veggie Fair. The 2016 event takes place on April 22-24.

"We're trying to connect with a part of Dallas culture we haven't been connected to, to promote the idea of sustainability," Mock says.

Photo courtesy of Town of Addison

Festivals of all kinds feed this week's best food events in Dallas

This Week In Gluttony

It's September, which means for most of America the temperatures are starting to fall and the pumpkin spice everything is creeping onto menus. In Dallas, however, the temperatures are still lingering in the 90s and that pumpkin spice is probably being served in an iced latte.

That said, the fall foodie festivals must go on. This week's food events round-up has a fall theme, along with a few fun, random options too.

Thursday, September 17

GrapeFest in Historic Downtown Grapevine
Toast the wines of Texas, Oregon, and Argentina at this 29th annual wine experience. Guests can affordably experience wines not normally available in Texas. The event has different events, like the People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic and GrapeStomp, happening until Sunday, September 20. Tickets start at just $5.

Foodiepalooza at Seven for Parties
The East Dallas Boys & Girls Club Advisory Council invites guests to visit food and beverage tasting stations featuring chefs like John Tesar of Knife and Oak, and mixologist Mike Martensen of Proof & Pantry. The evening includes silent and live auctions filled with dining events, getaways, and much more. DJ Wiki is spinning the tunes. Tickets start at $65, and the event kicks off at 7 pm.

Addison Oktoberfest at Addison Circle Park
This year, more than 70,000 people are expected to come together to share a love of polka, German food, and the same Paulaner Bier that is served at Bavaria’s favorite festival. As part of its award-winning tradition, Addison has timed the festival to coincide with the famed Munich Oktoberfest and features much of the same music, folk dancing, sing-a-longs, and great German food. Tickets start at $10, and the fun lasts through Sunday, September 20.

Friday, September 18

Harvest at Dallas Farmers Market
Chef chair Sharon Hage recruits some of Dallas’ top chefs to take over The Shed, resulting in delicious food along with specialty cocktails, entertainment by DJ Lucy Wrubel, and silent and live auctions. All proceeds benefit the senior and child programs of the North Texas Food Bank. Tickets are $200, and the event starts at 7 pm.

Saturday, September 19

The Great Texas Food Truck Rally at Reunion Park
This event benefiting Executives in Action returns for the second year at a new and larger venue. This means better parking and more food trucks. Guests enjoy live music, a beer garden sponsored by Nodding Donkey, and more than 20 food trucks. Tickets are $10, and the event begins at 2 pm.

Sunday, September 20

Sunday Cinema Series at Knife
This culinary-themed film program rolls on with a patio screening of the acclaimed documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Chef John Tesar is serving up gourmet bites, while Four Corners Brewing Company provides the beverages. Tesar and Lee Papert, president and CEO of the Dallas Film Society, are speaking prior to the film about its impact on the culinary and restaurant industries. Tickets are $35, and $10 of each sale benefits the Dallas Film Society. Call Knife at 214-443-9339 to purchase.

Enjoy the best of German food, drink, and entertainment at Oktoberfest at Addison Circle Park, from September 17-20.

Addison Oktoberfest
Photo courtesy of Town of Addison
Enjoy the best of German food, drink, and entertainment at Oktoberfest at Addison Circle Park, from September 17-20.
Stock photo

Check out the popular book that Dallas readers can't put down

Hot Library Reading

Are you on-trend with your reading material? Fifteen cities across the U.S. reported their library records to Quartz, which then narrowed down the top two adult novels in circulation. Some of the results are predictable, but others are a bit surprising.

In Dallas, the most checked-out book is Paula Hawkins' mystery thriller The Girl on the Train. The book is the most popular in the country, the top pick in five other cities including New York and San Diego, and it was checked out enough to make 11 top 10 lists.

Coming in second is Harper Lee's controversially published Go Set a Watchman, the top read in Seattle, Phoenix, and Baltimore. Watchman was popular enough to be a top 10 most popular book at nine of the libraries.

Houston is devouring James Patterson's latest bestseller, Truth or Die. Some public libraries of well-known bookish cities, including Austin, Boston, Charlotte, and San Antonio, did not provide Quartz with rankings prior to publication.

Quartz notes that the time period for the checkout lists varied by library, but all were each library's most recent figures. Because Go Set a Watchman was released on July 15, its popularity could be underrepresented by some libraries' lists.

If we exclude Hawkins and Lee's books, then Dallasites can't get enough of Gray Mountain by John Grisham. Hollywood-inspired titles such as Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and John Green's The Fault In Our Stars are also popular around the country, along with Janet Evanovich's Wicked Charms and All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Photo courtesy of Crow Collection of Asian Art

Crow Collection puts on block party unlike anything Dallas has ever seen

Korean Culture Lesson

As part of its After Dark series, the Crow Collection of Asian Art introduces Dallas to Korean culture in a way they’ve likely never seen before. The inaugural Korean Thanksgiving takes place Friday, September 18, from 6 pm to midnight, and best of all, it’s free.

Korean Thanksgiving Day, or Chuseok, traditionally is celebrated for three days and marks the beginning of the harvest season. This block party is the first and only large event to celebrate the holiday in Dallas.

The celebration brings a little bit of Seoul to the Dallas Arts District. Dallasites can immerse themselves in Korean culture by witnessing folk tales by Twice Upon a Time Storytellers, song and dance with Mimi Shin, and a crossover musical performance featuring Grace Baek. Listen to Arirang, a song dating back 600 years that is recognized as a national song among its people, and participate in hands-on art activities like origami, sotdae, or making gift boxes.

No harvest festival would be complete without food and drink. Check out a Korean tea ceremony demonstration, then sample cuisine as you learn about its origin. For example, Koreans prepare a special rice cake called songpyeon and present it to their families on this special day, and you can taste it here.

“Our hope is that this event provides diverse audiences the opportunity to experience Korean culture and learn about a tradition that they may not have been familiar with in the past,” says deputy director Stacie Adams.

Although this event is free, guests are asked to register online. For more information, check out the Crow Collection of Asian Art website.

Photo by Mike Morgan

Dallas-Fort Worth theater critics declare standouts from 2014-15 season

Theater Critics' Picks

The members of the Dallas-Fort Worth Critics Forum gathered on September 12 to nominate and debate their picks for the most outstanding performances, productions, designs, and new plays of the past season.

Eleven critics duked it out (myself and Jan Farrington of TheaterJones.com were absent due to prior commitments, but sent our lists in early) before finally deciding on the winners. There are several for each category — rather than only one — that are listed alphabetically, and this year for the first time we demolished the gender separation in best performance. Shows that opened between September 1, 2014 and August 31, 2015 were eligible.

This list is the consensus of the group. There are several honorees that I did not vote for, and several more I submitted that did not garner enough votes to make it to the final round. Look for my own list of this year's best as we close out 2015.

Without further ado, these are the critics’ picks for 2014-15:

Outstanding Direction:

  • Akín Babatundé, Don't Bother Me I Can't Cope and The Color Purple, Jubilee Theatre
  • Bruce R. Coleman, The Nance, Uptown Players
  • Cheryl Denson, Catch Me If You Can, Uptown Players
  • Jeremy Dumont, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Uptown Players
  • Blake Hackler, The Flick, Undermain Theatre
  • Katherine Owens, Tomorrow Come Today and The Testament of Mary, Undermain Theatre
  • Matthew Posey, The Egg Salesman, The Ochre House
  • vickie washington, Mississippi Goddamn, South Dallas Cultural Center

Outstanding New Play/Musical:

  • Mississippi Goddamn by Jonathan Norton, South Dallas Cultural Center
  • The Show About Men by Danielle Georgiou, Justin Locklear and Trey Pendergrass, DGDG, Festival of Independent Theatres
  • Standing Eight Count by Van Quattro, Rite of Passage Theatre Company, Out of the Loop Fringe Festival and Dallas Solo Fest

Outstanding Acting Performance:

  • Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso, Lydia, Cara Mía Theatre Company
  • B.J. Cleveland, The Nance, Uptown Players
  • David Coffee, King Lear, Trinity Shakespeare Festival
  • Hassan El-Amin, Radio Golf and A Soldier's Play, African American Repertory Theater
  • Anthony Fortino, Catch Me If You Can, Uptown Players
  • Kyle Igneczi, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Uptown Players
  • Shannon Kearns, The Testament of Mary, Undermain Theatre
  • Jenny Ledel for:
    • The Arsonists, Kitchen Dog Theater
    • Belleville, Second Thought Theatre
    • Othello, Second Thought Theatre
    • Wilde/Earnest, Kitchen Dog Theater
  • David Lugo, Catch Me If You Can, Uptown Players
  • Janelle Lutz, Lady in the Dark and South Pacific, Lyric Stage
  • Ebony Marshall Oliver, In Real Life and The Color Purple, Jubilee Theatre
  • Sally Nystuen Vahle, Medea, Dallas Theater Center
  • Allison Pistorius, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, Stage West
  • Paul Taylor, Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, Stage West; and The Hot Mikado, Theatre Three
  • Lulu Ward, The Two-Character Play, WingSpan Theatre Company
  • Sherry Jo Ward, Precious Little, Echo Theatre
  • Pat Watson, Streamers, L.I.P. Service

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble:

  • The Brothers Size, Jubilee Theatre
  • The Egg Salesman, The Ochre House
  • The Flick, Undermain Theatre
  • Hands on a Hardbody, Theatre Three
  • Mississippi Goddamn, South Dallas Cultural Center
  • Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, Stage West
  • The Nance, Uptown Players

Outstanding Achievement in Design or Creative Contribution:

  • Robin Armstrong, fight choreography, Lovers and Executioners, Circle Theatre
  • Clare Floyd DeVries, set design, The Explorers Club, Stage West and WaterTower Theatre
  • Danielle Georgiou, choreography, NICE and The Show About Men, DGDG
  • Bob Lavallee, set design, The Rocky Horror Show, Dallas Theater Center
  • Joshua L. Peugh, choreography/movement, Colossal, Dallas Theater Center
  • Adam C. Wright, original composition, The Nance, Uptown Players

Outstanding touring production:

  • Buyer & Cellar, AT&T Performing Arts Center
  • Endurance, Split Knuckle Theatre, The Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts
  • The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville, The Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts
  • Once, AT&T Performing Arts Center and Performing Arts Fort Worth
  • Pippin, Dallas Summer Musicals and Performing Arts Fort Worth

Special Citations:

  • To Lyric Stage and musical director Jay Dias for their contributions to the musical restoration of The Golden Apple and Lady in the Dark, and for the first cast recording of the complete score of The Golden Apple.
  • To Audacity Theatre Lab and Brad McEntire for bringing quality local and national performances to the second annual Dallas Solo Fest at the Margo Jones Theatre, and for advancing the art of solo performance in North Texas.
  • To the producers of Shakespeare in the Bar for attracting new and large audiences to non-traditional spaces and reminding us that Shakespeare can be unexpected and fun.

Participating Critics:

  • Lindsey Wilson, CultureMap Dallas
  • Alexandra Bonifield, CriticalRant.com
  • Nancy Churnin, The Dallas Morning News
  • Jan Farrington, TheaterJones.com
  • Martha Heimberg, The Dallas Weekly and TheaterJones.com
  • Arnold Wayne Jones, Dallas Voice
  • Elaine Liner, The Dallas Observer
  • Mark Lowry, TheaterJones.com and Fort Worth Star-Telegram
  • David Novinski, TheaterJones.com
  • Punch Shaw, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
  • Lauren Smart, The Dallas Observer

Kyle Igneczi was rewarded for his star-making turn in Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Uptown Players, directed by winner Jeremy Dumont.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch in Dallas
Photo by Mike Morgan
Kyle Igneczi was rewarded for his star-making turn in Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Uptown Players, directed by winner Jeremy Dumont.
Photo courtesy of Esé Azénabor

Dallas designer tempts the Big Apple with Garden of Eden collection

Dallas Does NYC

For the second time, Dallas designer Esé Azénabor is headed for New York Fashion Week. But this time she's taking what she calls her most unique collection yet, dubbed the Garden of Eden.

Fashion Gallery NY is producing Azénabor's show, thanks to a recommendation from Project Runway's Korto Momolu. Attendees can expect the unexpected, she says.

"All of the pieces include custom digital print work, beading on top of custom prints, and hand-painted fabrics. And, of course, my classic jumpsuit is present," Azénabor says. "It is very feminine, with form-flattering shapes and splashes of color throughout."

We adore Azénabor's brightly colored kaftans, which are available online for $425. A particular favorite of ours is this one, due to its bold blend of orange and pink accented with Tibetan gold beads.

This showing at New York Fashion Week is coming at an incredibly busy time in the designer's career. Be on the lookout for her new showroom and flagship store in the Dallas Design District. Also on her mind: international expansion. She credits her fashion idol, Elie Saab, for those dreams.

"He combines Western with Eastern culture using the finest materials," Azénabor says. "His detail work is fascinating, and the shapes are flawless. He literally creates garments for queens — that's how precious his work is!"

Esé Azénabor shows her collection on September 14, 5 pm, at the Manhattan Affinia Hotel.

A look from Esé Azénabor's spring/summer 2016 collection dubbed Garden of Eden.

Es\u00e9 Az\u00e9nabor, The Garden of Eden Collection
Photo courtesy of Esé Azénabor
A look from Esé Azénabor's spring/summer 2016 collection dubbed Garden of Eden.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

5 Dallas chefs and restaurants make list of James Beard Award finalists

Awards News

An unprecedented five chefs and restaurants from Dallas and one from Fort Worth are in the running for a prize from the James Beard Foundation, which has selected finalists for its annual Restaurant and Chef Awards.

The awards recognize chefs and other culinary professionals in a wide range of categories, ranging from Outstanding Chef to Best New Restaurant. These finalists emerged from a pool of semifinalists announced in January.

Candidates from Dallas-Fort Worth who are in the running for national awards include:

  • Best New Restaurant: Lucia Dallas
  • Outstanding Bakery: Kuluntu Bakery, Dallas
  • Outstanding Bakery: La Casita Bakeshop, Dallas
  • Best New Restaurant: Restaurant Beatrice, Dallas
  • Best New Restaurant: Don Artemio Mexican Heritage, Fort Worth

In addition to the DFW nominees, three other Texan restaurants and chefs are in the running for national awards:

  • Best New Restaurant: Tatemó, Houston
  • Outstanding Wine and Other Beverages Program: Nancy’s Hustle, Houston
  • Outstanding Bar: Las Ramblas, Brownsville

Texas also gets its own regional award in the category of Best Chef: Texas. The finalists are:

  • Reyna Duong, Sandwich Hag, Dallas
  • Benchawan Jabthong Painter, Street to Kitchen, Houston
  • Emiliano Marentes, Elemi, El Paso
  • John Russ, Clementine, San Antonio
  • Ernest Servantes and David Kirkland, Burnt Bean Co., Seguin

Notably, all of this year’s finalists for both the national categories and Best Chef: Texas are new. None received nominations in 2022.

Last year, Texans did well in the awards, with Houston cocktail bar Julep winning Outstanding Bar Program, Austin chef Edgar Rico (Nixta Taqueria) winning Emerging Chef, and Austin chef Iliana de la Vega (El Naranjo) winning the first ever Best Chef: Texas.

In addition, two Texans won media awards — Austin chef Jesse Griffiths (Dai Due) for his cookbook, The Hog Book: A Chef’s Guide to Hunting, Butchering and Cooking Wild Pigs and Texas Monthly taco editor Jose Ralat for his Tex-Mexplainer columns.

The Foundation will reveal its Restaurant and Chef Award winners at an awards ceremony on Monday, June 5 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Media Award winners will be announced on June 3.

Where to find the most iconic — and best — meals in all of Texas

Hit the Road

Texans don't need much of a reason to hit the open road. Our state is brimming with natural beauty and charming small towns, but nothing motivates us to fill up the tank like a bonanza of regional foods.

There are renowned Texas flavors to be found throughout the entire state, from small towns like Round Top to the far west end in El Paso. And with meals ranging from Tex-Mex and barbecue to Frito Pie and kolaches, the Lone Star State is known for some of the most iconic foods in America.

When you hit the open road to explore (and taste) it all, know that a Hilton Hotel is nearby for a good night's rest. Whether you're traveling with family, friends, or as a couple, the right room is waiting with a warm welcome.

Hope you're hungry, because here is but a small slice of some of the best.

Goldee's BBQ, Fort Worth
Few barbecue joints in Texas can make a name without serving the holy trinity of brisket, sausage, and ribs. Still, the young chefs and pitmasters at this Fort Worth stop one-up the competition with unexpected sides like chicken rice and collard greens and crowd-pleasers like fish and chips.

Chicken Fried Steak
Babe's Chicken Dinner House, Carrollton
All Texans take their chicken fried steak with some degree of seriousness. We dare say this eatery — which originated in Carrollton and has locations all over North Texas — takes it the most seriously of all, with plenty of family-style sides to round out the table.

La Cocina, McAllen
Former oil worker Evin Garcia combines tradition and innovation at this McAllen haunt. Enjoy everything from birria tacos dipped in a luscious consommé to an octopus version served with traditional al pastor fixings like onion, cilantro, and grilled pineapple.

Elotes Fanny, Austin + North Texas
With locations in Austin, Fort Worth, and Garland, this snack shop mini-chain knows everything about corn. Get it by the cob or in a cup, and make sure to douse it in the fiery homemade Atomic Salsa.

Fried Chicken
Dolli's Diner, Nacogdoches
This diner does just about everything right, but the crowning jewel of the menu is undoubtedly the chicken fried chicken. It's served with mashed potatoes, gravy, and fresh veggies for color and is best enjoyed with funnel cake fries for dessert.

Frito Pie
RD's Burger, Cibolo
This casual stop does its namesake dish with aplomb, but found pure magic in its Frito Pie. It's served with no muss or fuss and occasionally on the insanely delicious burger.

Slovacek’s, West
When it comes to kolaches, any bakery in West will serve the real deal. Relative newcomer Slovacek's gets the vote for its dozens of fruit flavors and creative klobasnek (the meaty cousin of kolaches) filled with boudin, pepperoni, or kraut.

Royer's Round Top Cafe, Round Top
No trip to Round Top's famous antique fair is complete without a stop at this darling cafe. "Pie Man" Bud Royer makes every visit sweet with pies like buttermilk, pecan, and the multi-fruit Troy's Junk Berry.

L & J Cafe, El Paso
This El Paso tradition is by a graveyard, sure, but don't let that deter you from enjoying its queso. The miraculous concoction made with roasted green chile, tomatoes, and onions is served with just-fried tostadas.

Leal's Tamale Factory, Lubbock
A Lubbock classic, this mainstay doesn't go for newfangled tamale flavors like sweet potato. Order pork, chicken, or cheese and rediscover the fundamentals.

Viet-Cajun crawfish boils
Crawfish & Noodles, Houston
Who knows what James Beard-nominated chef Trong Nguyen puts in his secret sauce. What we do know is that it's one of the most intensely flavorful experiences in all of Houston.

Texas knows no bounds when it comes to to where you can go (and eat). No matter where your next foodie adventure takes you, a Hilton hotel is waiting for you.

With over 550 Hilton hotels spanning across the state of Texas, the possibilities to earn more while exploring the Lone Star State are endless.

Sexy and daring Magic Mike Live show comes to Frisco for one-month run

Art of the Striptease

On the heels of Magic Mike's Last Dance, the first-ever tour of the stage show Magic Mike Live will make its debut in a custom-built venue at Stonebriar Centre in Frisco, May 11-June 11.

The show, which will put on 10 performances every week, features professionally trained dancers delivering 90 minutes of sexy and daring dance routines, acrobatics, live music, comedy, and more in front of, above, and all around the audience.

The global stage sensation, created and directed by Magic Mike star Channing Tatum, has previously had long residencies in both Las Vegas and London prior to this tour. (Sorry, Channing fans - he's not actually in this show.)

“We considered a number of amazing cities to open our first production of Magic Mike Live after the release of Magic Mike’s Last Dance, but the Dallas-Fort Worth area rose to the top,” said executive producer Vincent Marini in a statement. “North Texas audiences have been visiting our Las Vegas show in huge numbers for years, but this touring production is something new. It’s the culmination of everything we’ve learned about our show and our guests after selling over a million tickets around the world."

The venue features an indoor-outdoor courtyard space that fans can enjoy prior to entering the multistory, 600-seat performance area, which incorporates design features from Magic Mike Liveproductions around the world.

Guests are invited to come early and stay late to enjoy music, multiple bars, and more in the courtyard space. The venue’s bars will offer signature beverages inspired by moments in the show.

Tickets start at $69 (nice) per person, but fans looking to - ahem - upgrade their experience can do so with Ultra Seats, front row seats featuring complimentary cocktails, meet-and-greets, and more for $299 per person. Any ticket level can add on Mike's Exclusive Package for $99 extra, which offers the meet-and-greet, commemorative lanyard, and more.

All tickets are now on sale at MMLTour.com.