January 12, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Photography by Kevin Marple, text by June Naylor
NO SERIOUS DISCUSSION of fine dining in Dallas is possible without waxing poetic about Stephan Pyles. The chef-restaurateur’s very name has been intricately woven into the fabric of great Dallas cooking since 1983, when he opened Routh Street Cafe. During that decade, Pyles—alongside his fellow chef compadres Dean Fearing and Robert Del Grande—became an architect of the creative and contemporary approach to Latin-inflected regional Texas cooking that we now call Southwest cuisine.
Pyles’ résumé glitters with the names of restaurants that have helped shape the Texas culinary landscape—including Star Canyon, AquaKnox, and Samar—and he now operates a pair of Dallas hot spots, Flora Street Cafe and Stampede 66. He recently developed tantalizing wedding menus at both restaurants.
A West Texas native who calls upon his family heritage and an abiding fondness for our region’s meats, chiles, vegetables, and seasonings to craft his signature dishes, Pyles also draws influences from his well-documented travels. He’s brought home ideas and ingredients from extensive food journeys in the Middle East, Northern Africa, and throughout Mexico and South America, implementing his finds in genius ways and to extraordinary effect. His frequent adventures in Europe, quite often alongside good pal Paula Lambert of the famous Dallas Mozzarella Company, imbue his ever-updated menus with notions harvested from kitchens and tables in France, Italy, and Spain.
Pyles forever illustrates the brilliant ways in which a clever chef can marry experiences from the kitchen with discoveries made during more leisurely moments. Indeed, everyone who knows him agrees that he’s someone who—though he takes his restaurants very seriously—brings fun to the job. He happily observes about himself, “I have long considered myself very fortunate to not know entirely where work ends and life begins.”
From his great passion for exploring Latin America, he’s opened his newest destination-dining restaurant, Flora Street Cafe. His other recent creation, Stampede 66, is an ode to his homeland and the brand of cooking he calls New Texas Cuisine. From the kitchens of these two eateries, which are less than a mile apart in downtown Dallas, he fashions two different kinds of wedding-dinner experiences. To hire Pyles, who happens to be gay himself, to cater the most important day of your life is to give yourselves the ultimate wedding present.
In planning such special events, Pyles likes to work closely with his clients, making sure the vision is right. “At this point in my life and career I’ve narrowed my focus. If you just want a wedding catered, I’m not the guy to call, but if you want something unique, refined, and specific—and you have the resources—we can create something wonderful.”
The Stephan Pyles wedding dinner from Flora Street Cafe runs about $200 per person for food and wine; service, rentals, gratuities, and other off-site amenities are extra. You can also arrange a buyout of the restaurant for a minimum of $20,000.
Stampede 66 wedding dinners vary in price, depending on the venue and how many dishes you decide to serve, but they typically cost a bit less per person than Flora Street Cafe affairs. Contact the restaurant’s catering team to discuss specifics.
Flora Street Cafe Favorites
Pyles enjoys putting together a very high-end seated dinner at Flora Street Cafe, and he suggests that larger parties may even want to buy out the restaurant for the night to create an especially grand affair, something he describes as “the dinner of a lifetime.”
Examples of dishes served during a Flora Street Cafe wedding can include his signature appetizer, a lobster tamale pie with smoked-corn custard and paddlefish caviar, and continue with the caldo of summer squash and smoked tomatoes with red snapper escabeche, or hoja santa–wrapped lamb loin and belly with roasted banana, chewy beet, and black rice.
Among entrées, you could choose sea scallop ceviche with coconut gelée, pineapple textures, and jasmine tea essence, or Texas-raised Akaushi wagyu rib eye with bone-marrow custard, brisket in kale, and sweet chile relleno.
Enticing finales at Flora Street include the fennel-coconut cake with smoked-vanilla sorbet, white-chocolate ganache, and espresso glaze; and cassis parfait with hibiscus sorbet, berry-glazed jicama, and a brown-flour sable.
Stampede 66 Options
This is the ideal Tex-Mex-centric menu for a reception at some special venue, perhaps a ranch or some other intriguing outdoor site (preferably not a hotel). Pyles can create memorable meals for up to 100 guests—he builds pits for cooking rib eyes, salmon, goats, and pigs under the Texas sky and serves food at big communal tables. The effect, says Pyles, “is spectacular.”
You can also hold your reception at Stampede 66. The food is easily as fabulous as at Flora Street, but the presentation—family-style or even buffet—is less formal. Whatever you choose from the extensive menu, your big day will be a love affair with some of the finest food in Texas.
Highlights among the starters are the pickled and deviled eggs, “faux” gras mousse with jalapeño jelly, and a selection of brisket, fried oyster, chicken mole poblano, and crispy-sweetbread tacos. Other preliminaries can include chicken mole, wild boar barbacoa, and mushroom-huitlacoche tamales, as well as Mexican cornbread, Mable’s buttermilk biscuits, and Ms. Corbitt’s popovers with pimiento cheese.
Among main courses, consider barbecued brisket with spicy three-potato salad and assorted pickles; chicken-fried buffalo steak with mashed potatoes, and gun-barrel greens; venison meatloaf with adult mac and cheese, honey-fried chicken with buttermilk biscuits and mashed potato tots, red snapper Veracruz with clay-pot black beans and caramelized bananas, and one of the chef’s classics: bone-in cowboy rib eye with red-chile onion rings.
The seasonal fruit cobbler with vanilla-bean ice cream ranks among the most delish desserts.