Not a conventional banquet

APLIC doesn’t do things as others do – let’s be clear about that.

This was my first conference and, truth to tell, my heart was not beating especially fast knowing I would be spending five days in Dallas, Texas. Preconceived ideas, you see.

So – conference hotel, the usual story: big spaces without intimacy and a maze of meeting rooms spread out on two or three levels. You spend the first day just figuring things out. At some point you forget about the environment and remember that the meeting is about people. Folks who are doing something like you do and who may have some insights. Folks who end up being fun to know, too.

At any rate, the 2010 planning group hit a home run with this year’s banquet.

There’s always a banquet at these kinds of things – I’ve been to so many they all run together in a blur. Of course, you’re there to enjoy each other’s company and maybe gab about things beyond the profession, common interests, or maybe give an award or two. Nobody pays attention to the food, certainly not the chefs who shovel it out by the hundredweight. Let’s be honest – most conference food is boring. In a place like the Hyatt it’s not bad quality but it won’t make you sit up and take notice.

Leave it to APLIC to think outside of the box – or, in this case, the hotel. We held our banquet outside the facility at a very unique local restaurant named . . . Local.

In my other life I translate a restaurant guide to the South of France called the Guide Gantié. For 20 years Jacques Gantié has been writing up restaurants large and small all over Nice-Provence-Cote d’Azur and I get to create the English language edition every year. Yum. His criteria are simple: welcome, service, food, décor. So, in the spirit of the South (France or USA) here’s a Gantié-style look at Local :

“More than one person wondered what Tracy Miller was thinking when she purchased the old Boyd Hotel deep in the Deep Ellum district at 2936a Elm in 1998. Almost 12 years later the results speak for themselves: Clean modern lines from Dallas designer Alice Cottrell, classic Eames walnut chairs, pine floors, 16-foot ceilings; thoughtful arrangements create intimacy in numerous discreet areas within a complex space. It’s comfortable and trendy but we come here most of all for the playful and tasteful New American cuisine of Tracy Miller. Fried green beans with creamy thyme and garlic-infused dipping sauce for an amuse-bouch; appetizers like roasted roma tomato soup with two baby farmhouse cheddar cheese sandwiches or lettuces of endive, radicchio and frisee with haricot vert, blue cheese, crisp pancetta and lemon-shallot vinaigrette; main courses like cornflake-panko crusted seabass, spring pea-lemon risotto, herb beurre blanc and sauté of sunburst squash; grilled grass-fed tenderloin filet, panko crusted tater tots, baby arugula toss and tawny port balsamic finish; special vegan preparation of small vegetables, swiss chard, and fragrant sauce… are all prepared with the utmost care using the best products, presented with delight, and served briskly. The chef’s signature “chocolate constructed” dessert features a seemingly bottomless chocolate soufflee, two small, crunchy brownie-type cookies, and a thimble-sized “milkshake” of ovaltine-chocolate malt ice cream, complete with straw. While occasionally tipping her hat to Thomas Keller, Tracy Miller’s cuisine is anything but derivative. She creates, crosses flavors, seeks the essence of the product, and plays with our memory. Welcome is warm and efficient, service is impeccable, and wines and beers have been carefully selected to match the food. One regret: it’s too bad the entry-level price on wine doesn’t get lower than $44 a bottle (white). At evening’s end, however, we really don’t mind, because we have been treated so well and had such fabulous adventures with the food.”

Wish you were there ? It’s not too early to start planning for next year in Washington.

—submitted by William Fennie

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