Written by: Kristi Roe Owen. Originally published on TulsaKids.
Before Plano, Arthur and I had only been on one press trip, a day trip to Oklahoma City where we spent the day museum-binging and were treated to a single, lovely little lunch at the OKC Museum of Art. Due to our limited experience, we didn’t realize that press trip eating is a marathon for which one must be both mentally and physically prepared.
The goal of a press trip is to introduce you to everything fantastic your readers need to know about back home, which means the food pretty much never stops coming. If dinner out on any given night is a concert, a press trip is more of a culinary rave where the meals flow back to back from one tasty sample to the next.
Rather than review every restaurant, we decided to make a list of the things we hope you try when you’re in Plano.
1. Umami Classic Poké at Freshfin*
Legacy Hall is an incredible place. A three-story food hall and live music venue, it’s home to craft beers and a wide range of artisan foods from local chefs. It’s also a surprisingly affordable way to sample what Dallas’s most talented culinary artists have to offer.
Full disclosure, this was my first time trying poke (pronounced “po-kay,” which is why it’s often written with an accent). If you’re a landlubber who’s unfamiliar with poke, it’s a Hawaiian dish prepared with raw fish with Japanese influences. I’m a huge fan of sushi and fresh fish, and I had always wanted to check out this popular Polynesian dish. After spending the morning in hot, crowded airports, the fresh ingredients at Freshfin looked awfully fresh and inviting.
Culinary Institute of America-trained Chef Joon Choe sources all of his fish from responsible, sustainable fisheries. I ordered the Umami Classic Poké Bowl, which is prepared with yellowfin tuna, Scottish salmon, red cabbage, carrot, green and red onion, avocado furikake, umami shoyu, and black sesame. I ordered mine over lettuce, but you can also order a sushi burrito or rice bowl.
That meal was my favorite all weekend. It was everything I love about good sushi, the way all the flavors and textures blend together to create a savory little food party that’s filling without being too heavy. With my drink included, the entire meal was under $14.
2. Margherita Pizza at Forno Nero
Forno Nero is located directly adjacent to FreshFin in Legacy Hall. The creation of Chef Chase LaFerney, Forno Nero specializes in Neapolitan pizza—that is, pizza originating in Naples with an emphasis on fresh, simple ingredients that include basic dough, fresh cheese, basil, mozzarella, and olive oil. The pizza is fired in a 900-degree wood-fired oven for a thin, airy crust.
Like all good 11-year-olds, Arthur loves pizza, especially because as a pescatarian he’s found there are always plenty of good meat-free pie options at most pizza restaurants. When he saw the artisan pizzas coming out of the oven at Forno Nero, he was sold on them.
Lovingly crafted with house mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil, Parmigiano Reggiano, and extra virgin olive oil, the pizza Margherita he ordered would have easily fed two of my kids for $9. It’s been two weeks and he’s still talking about that pizza.
3. Gourmet Hydrate Coconut Water Pop from BerryNaked
Berrynaked is a magical place filled with gorgeous popsicles that will pop-ulate (teehee) my dreams for years to come. I have been fascinated with gourmet pops for ages, checking out library books with artisan popsicle recipes and pinning them on Pinterest.
Standing before the colorful rows of popsicles at Berrynaked, I found myself completely captivated by all of the lovely options and struggled to make the right decision. Luckily, the pop artist behind the counter served as a pop guru to guide me through my journey, asking questions to gauge my taste and finally recommending a pretty little pop made of something she called “Hydrate” filled with strawberries and kiwi fruit and artfully decked out in white and milk chocolate drizzles.
I felt skeptical about choosing an option that sounded like a GNC supplement, but she assured me I wouldn’t regret it and she was correct. Hydrate is lightly sweet coconut water, which was absolutely perfect with the fresh fruit and drizzles. I am now making it my life’s mission to recreate this popsicle at home because I’m fairly certain it is the perfect summer treat.
Located in Legacy Hall, Berrynaked is the creation of Chef Heather Kim, a mom who was inspired to give her kids a healthier dessert that introduced them to lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. All of their treats are organic and free of artificial colors, sugars, and dyes. Their wide range of flavors includes blackberry elderflower, honey lavender lemonade, Thai iced tea, hazelnut-butter banana, matcha latte, blueberry lavender, and rose peach, just to name a few.
4. Chocolate Cream Pie Cookie Sandwich and Pistachio Macaron from Haute Sweets Patisserie
If you eat nothing else at Legacy Hall, stop by Haute Sweets Patisserie to check out some of the tasty treats dreamed up by CIA-trained Chef Tida Pichakron, who has appeared on TLC and Food Network.
Before my press trip, I had erroneously thought macarons were overrated. Every macaron I had ever eaten was sort of cakey and dry. When I took that first creamy, buttery bite of pistachio macaron, the delicate confection seemed to melt on my tongue. At that moment, I realized I had simply never eaten a properly prepared macaron before and, in fact, it is probably one of my favorite foods. I also never realized how truly artful a well-crafted macaron is from the smooth surface of its dome to its ruffled pied.
The chocolate cream pie cookie sandwich is essentially a grown-up Moon Pie. As much of a full-fledged dessert as it is a cookie, this plump fellow can easily be shared between two people and would pair well with a glass of merlot.
5. Donuts and Cold Brew at Wow! Donuts and Drips
Wow! Donuts and Drips is a charming little study in pastels and dreamy, Instagrammable decor. But it’s the lovingly crafted recipes that put every other donut shop I’ve ever tried to shame.
I’ve eaten donuts that came in clever, interesting flavor combos and were lovely to look at, but Wow! Donuts are in a category all their own. With more than one hundred unique donut flavors and endless possibilities, their selection includes flavors like blueberry cobbler, raspberry with lime cream cheese, matcha with azuki bean, honey lavender, gourmet cinnamon roll, and banana split. So much more than just a donut topped with candy or cereal, each donut is a unique work of art.
Having overindulged the night before to the point of physical pain, Arthur and I didn’t get to try as many donuts as we had hoped when we were there. Arthur ordered the Over the Rainbow, a donut topped with blue glaze and whipped cream under a sour candy ribbon “rainbow.” I tried a maple bacon donut, covered in maple-candied bacon, and a crème brûlée donut. All were delicious, but the crème brûlée, topped with caramelized sugar just like the dessert, was absolutely spectacular.
The coffee was exceptional as well. I had a cold brew because it was so darned hot outside, but it’s worth mentioning that the shop has a $15K steam-powered coffee and tea brewing machine.
6. Gelato Rose at Amorino
Within walking distance of our hotel in Legacy West was this bustling little artisanal gelato shop. Amorino is a European gelateria found all over the world from Germany to the UAE, but there are only a dozen of these stores in the United States. We were there on a Saturday evening around 9 p.m., and the line was all the way out the door, but it was completely worth the wait.
Available in three sizes, the gelato flower can be made with a different flavor for each petal and a macaron added to the center, so of course, that’s how we had it. I ordered mine with stracciatella (milk and chocolate chip flavor), Mawardi pistachio, and a caramello macaron because I now love macarons. The pistachio gelato was the only pistachio-flavored food I’ve ever eaten that truly tasted like pistachios, and it was absolutely incredible.
7. Ceviche Tasting and Fresa Guacamole at the Mexican Bar Company
Stop by Mexican Bar Company for cocktails and appetizers on your way to the Crayola Experience. We loved the Mexican pop art-inspired decor and friendly, disarming service here as much as we loved the great food.
A tasting of two or three ceviches paired a couple of orders of guacamole is a great way to fuel up before diving into the world of anthropomorphic crayons and messy art supplies. The fresa guacamole is a surprisingly tasty blend of avocado, tomatillo pico de gallo, habanero, strawberry, oregano, and queso fresco. I also loved the camaron ceviche, made with lime and lemon-cured shrimp, pineapple, tomatillo pico de gallo, key lime-roasted jalapeño broth, and mint.
What’s your favorite thing to eat in Texas? Leave me a comment below and share your favorite lone-star treats. Thanks for reading and have a beautiful week!
Cover photo credit: @the.vickmeister
Photo credit: Kristi Roe Owen
*Freshfin has since closed its stall since the publishing of this article.