Saturday, January 30, 2010

Remembering Darryl Beeson "The Wine Guy"

Cheers, old friend! Here's to you.

Darryl Beeson,
54, passed away Friday. Almost everyone in the restaurant business in Dallas, and the wine business in general, knew Darryl. He was a wine educator, writer, former sommelier and cellar master. We worked together very closely for several years. We were also friends. He had a knack for that. People liked Darryl. I'd like to share a few recollections .
(Darryl with Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson)

Mr. Beeson's Class--and a class act
by Jim White

The first time I ever met Darryl Beeson he seemed very professorial. Maybe it was his tweed jacket, vest, bow tie, horn rimmed glasses and Adolphe Menjou mustache. Or, perhaps it was his thorough awareness of "things" and his tendency to conduct "mini-seminars" on them. He could talk about everything from sports and current events to broadcasting or social-scene gossip. But it was his encyclopedic knowledge of wine that impressed me as I got to know him. He was producing Jody Dean's midday talk show in the winter of 1994 when I returned to Dallas to become KRLD's morning news anchor. I was also charged with developing a "Restaurant Show". Something operations director Michael Spears had been quite keen on while we were still in Chicago plotting our return to Big D. Darryl was to be my producer for the program, slated to start in the spring of 1995. I was quite intimidated by the prospect of hosting a program devoted to cooking and wine. I did very little of the former, although I could hold my own with the latter. But since Spears knew I had a love of these things and travel, cultivated by radio stints in San Francisco, numerous forays to Europe, and about a year of being in the dining circle of a Chicago restaurant critic, he insisted I could do it. It was Darryl who helped smooth what seemed like a rocky road ahead to me. And a damn steep learning curve--it was a daunting assignment just getting to know who the players were in the Dallas and Texas restaurant biz after several years out of town.

Darryl was the sommelier at the beautiful French Room in the Adolphus Hotel at the time and was moonlighting part-time at "Newsradio 1080". He seemed to know everyone in town. And, boy did he do a great job of making a fine wine program come alive. He was a service master and had a natural talent for regaling his wine customers with stories and anecdotes about the widest range of wines, vineyards and winery personalities I have ever heard. Always upbeat. Always entertaining. He was a showman with a tastevin. When he moved his "act" to the Mansion on Turtle Creek--kind of a Jay Leno moves to prime time, but with better results transition--he also became increasingly adept at keeping the staff on their toes about VIP customers who were joining them in the storied dining room. After checking the guest list one evening and seeing "Francis Ford requests special wine". He asked a fresh-faced hostess, "Do you mean Francis Ford Coppola?"

Darryl's job on the "KRLD Restaurant Show with Jim White" was producer and "Wine Guy". He handled both roles with panache. More "absent minded professor" as a producer--sometimes keeping program rundowns and guest phone numbers on crumpled notebook paper, the backs of napkins, or matchbook covers. He still managed to get outstanding guests like Julia Child and Wolfgang Puck booked and on the air. When wine royalty like Robert Mondavi and his wife Margrit were in-studio the proverbial red carpet was always apparent. He catered lunch for Fess Parker's appearance with us and made sure we had the theme from Davy Crockett to play during the show. He loved his time to shine on the air during his "Wine Guy" segments, which often featured luminaries like Robert Parker, Hugh Johnson, or Clive Coates. His efforts helped us get a nomination for a James Beard Award in 1999 as "Best Radio Show on Food".

In almost nine years of working together on the radio show and online projects, Darryl introduced me to so many wonderful and talented people (many of whom became friends): wine legend Tony LaBarba, favorite son restaurateur Matt Martinez, Jr., cheese maker extraordinaire Paula Lambert, Gus Katsigris, who founded the El Centro culinary program, culinarian Renie Steves, a chef you may have heard of, Dean Fearing, and the list goes on. Darryl even helped me orchestrate a most unorthodox proposal to my dearly beloved Vicki at the French Room with a cigar band for a ring and a bottle of Thunderbird for the toast. It worked! (But I had to deliver the real goods before any vows were exchanged).

Through ups and downs, "technical difficulties", and road shows from divergent destinations like the State Fair of Texas, a cruise ship in Alaska and Dijon, France, trusted producer and friend Darryl was always there to hold down the fort, and keep those guests coming. He often told me he was content to play the "second banana" role on the program (in the spirit of Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon). Somehow he turned it into Bananas Foster (or Beeson).

For the last several years Darryl taught a rigorously academic wine program, and I'm told, before his untimely departure, he was ready to return to teaching these classes and a weekly commute between Dallas and Houston to conduct them. Always the professor. Always the people person. A gentle soul and a gifted spirit. The wine service in Heaven is now 5 star. Look out, Mr. LaBarba and Mr. Mondavi. Darryl's coming with a bottle of '59 Lafite and a joke he wants to tell you.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Join us for an impromptu FREE wine tasting

Taste more of the "Great Wines of Savor Dallas" this weekend.

The delightfully food friendly wines from Sonoma's MacMurray Ranch are the stars of the show this weekend as we continue our great showcase of some of the best wines (and soon spirits too) coming to Savor Dallas March 5th and 6th.

Our good friends at Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits are hosting complimentary tastings of three delicious MacMurray Ranch wines today and tomorrow. I'll be stopping by several of the locations, so I hope I get to see you and say hello--and taste with you! Here's the deal:

On Friday, January 29th from 5-7 PM and Saturday, January 30th from 2-4 PM the following stores will be hosting a special complimentary tasting featuring wine from the MacMurray Ranch portfolio. Items to be tasted include: MacMurray Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Gris, MacMurray Ranch Central Coast Pinot Noir and the MacMurray Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. MacMurray Ranch was purchased from the Porter family by famed actor Fred MacMurray in 1941. Fred raised his family on the ranch, and for 50 years the MacMurray Ranch was nurtured under his hand. MacMurray Ranch is quickly becoming known for producing world-class Pinot Noir. Whether from the Russian River Valley or Sonoma Coast appellations their Pinot Noirs express the legacy of the land from which they are produced. The hillside and valley vineyards of MacMurray Ranch offer a rich diversity of soil providing a unique expression of terroir. Susan Doyle, the winemaker, has learned to coax the character from land and vine. "You have to wait for the flavor," she says of the famously finicky Pinot Noir grape.

In-store Tasting locations at the fine Centennial locations:

•6312 La Vista Drive, Dallas.................

•1613 W. Northwest Highway, Dallas... 972-506-8193

•6805 W. Northwest Highway, Dallas... 214-368-4162

•8123 Preston Road, Dallas.................. 214-361-6697

•8007 Walnut Hill Lane, Dallas............. 214-361-0929

•5709 W. Lovers Lane, Dallas.............. 214-352-4161

•15055 Inwood Road, Addison............ 972-239-5891

Thanks to the intrepid souls who braved the monsoon and stopped by to taste Quintessa Estate with us last night at The Grill on the Alley. Randy Wooldridge with Quintessa conducted a fascinating tasting of Quintessa barrel samples from 2008 along side the 2005 and 2006 Quintessa Estate wines. Outstanding! Thanks for Executive Chef Daniel Winans for the great food, and to GM James Shull, sommelier Paul Doherty and the great service staff for a great job. A special "Dinner Club with Jim White" event happens every month thanks to our partnership with KRLD 1080 and Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits. Stay tuned for more details and your invitation to join us for a GREAT wine dinner in February.

Savor Dallas and Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits promote responsible consumption by bringing back the popular "Savor Dallas Shuttle" to the International Grand Tasting on Saturday March 6th. This FREE transportation (with purchase of ticket to the International Grand Tasting) gives you the chance to ride downtown in style and back to your car safely. Or, if you want your commute to be "up the elevator to your room", Savor Dallas' official host hotel, the Sheraton Dallas Hotel (site of the wine tasting seminars, Reserve Tasting and International Grand Tasting on March 6th) is offering fabulous room rates for both Friday and Saturday during the wine and food lovers' weekend. Get all the details at the Savor Dallas website and be sure to ask for the "Savor Dallas special" if you call the Sheraton Dallas for reservations.

Happy trails. Cheers! Jim

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sample great wines from Savor Dallas

Friends of Savor Dallas
Can enjoy great complimentary wine tastings every week!

Taste some of the great "Wines of Savor Dallas" during the upcoming weeks at selected Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits locations. You're invited to stop by for these FREE tastings--no reservations needed. This week, on Friday, January 22nd from 5-7 PM and Saturday, January 23rd from 2-4 PM the following Centennial stores will be hosting a special complimentary tasting featuring wine from the Louis M. Martini portfolio. Items to be tasted include: Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Louis M. Martini Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Chardonnay. Mike Martini, the winemaker of Louis M. Martini, believes that these wines express the best characteristics of Cabernet and Chardonnay by highlighting the personality of the special places where the grapes are grown. He believes that great winemaking begins with great vineyards and he wants the land to speak through the wines to produce balanced, engaging, and memorable wines. Stop by any of these Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits locations in Dallas:

In-store Tasting locations:

·6312 La Vista Drive, Dallas...................214-821-6294

·1613 W. Northwest Highway, Dallas......972-506-8193

·6805 W. Northwest Highway, Dallas......214-368-4162

·8123 Preston Road, Dallas.....................214-361-6697

·8007 Walnut Hill Lane, Dallas.................214-361-0929

·5709 W. Lovers Lane, Dallas..................214-352-4161

·15055 Inwood Road, Addison.................972-239-5891

Savor Dallas March 5-6 Get tickets now at

Wining and dining "news you can use"---

The Capital Grille presents a special "Comfort Foods with a Gourmet Twist" four-course menu for only $49 per person now through February 28th. Get details and reservations online or phone 214-303-0500.

Canary Mediterranean Steak and Seafood presents a three-course dinner paired with three wines on Monday January 25th. $59 plus tax and gratuity. Call 972-503-7080 for reservations.

Pappas Bros Steakhouse offers four-courses and Plumpjack Winery on Friday January 29th. Winemaker Tony Biagi is featured. $175 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Call 214-366-2000 for reservations.

Nana in the Hilton Anatole presents a Chivas Regal Scotch Tasting on Friday, January 29th, from 6 until 8 pm. $50 per person includes a sampling of Chivas 12, 18 and 25 year old Scotch Whiskies paired with "cuisine bites" from Chef Anthony Bombaci. Limited to 40 guests. Call 214-761-7470 for reservations.

Chef Avner Samuel has another Aurora cooking class and lunch coming up January 30th. Four-course and wine pairing are $95 per person. Call 214-528-9400.

Take a trip with Tre! Chef Tre Wilcox from Loft 610 (and "Top Chef" fame) invites you to join him "on vacation" March 8 through 10 in Marble Falls, Texas at beautiful Villas of the Hills. This is your chance to get to know Tre and cook with him. He'll be preparing sumptuous five-course dinners with wines both nights. It's a short vacation, but he's a busy guy. Check it out online ( or call 512-755-5412.

Happy wining and dining! Cheers! Jim

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Learn how a winemaker tastes wine during an exclusive component tasting

Here comes an amazing opportunity for lovers of great Cabernet Sauvignon.
Join "The KRLD Dinner Club with Jim White" on Thursday January 28th at Grill on the Alley in Dallas, when Quintessa Vineyards conducts a special guided component tasting. You'll have a chance to sample three individual Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard block samples from the Quintessa Estate, along with two vintages of the finished wine. This gives you the "before" and "after" perspective on the wines and allows you to update your palate from barrel sample to finished product along the winemaker's journey. Randy Wooldridge from Quintessa will conduct the one hour tasting. Grill on the Alley executive chef Daniel Winans makes sure you don't go hungry during this "strenuous" business of wine appreciation and education. Daniel has a handcrafted a "carte du jour" of delicious heavy appetizer to pair with this exceptional tasting. This limited attendance event can only accommodate 29 tasters. So, hurry please, and make your reservation now by calling Grill on the Alley at 214-459-1601 to assure your place at the table. The tasting starts at 6 p.m. Thanks to our good friends at Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits for staging this incredible wining and dining experience. Oh, it's free to be a member of the "KRLD Dinner Club with Jim White". Just register for the tasting and you're a member. Or, go to the website to sign-up "officially". You'll be the first to hear about all the great events we have coming up--even before the events are announced on the air.

The wine and food extravaganza that is Savor Dallas returns March 5th through 7th.
Popular events return including the "Arts District Wine Stroll" and the incredible "International Grand Tasting" featuring over 60 great chefs from the Dallas-Fort Worth Area and more than 400 premium wines, spirits and beers from around the world from which to sample. In the interest of responsible consumption, Savor Dallas has created a nifty shuttle service to provide roundtrip transportation to the International Grand Tasting, which will be held at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. FREE shuttle service is available right now for the Saturday March 6th tasting experience from 5 conveniently located areas around the Metroplex:

  • Watters Creek in Allen, from Crú a Wine Bar--serving the US 75/Central Expressway Corridor (McKinney, Allen, etc)
  • The Shops at Legacy in Plano, from Crú a Wine Bar, serving the North Dallas Tollway Corridor (Frisco, Plano, etc.)
  • Village on the Green in Dallas, from Go Fish Ocean Club, Serving North Dallas
  • Lincoln Square in Arlington, from Olenjack's Grille at Collins and the Road to Six Flags, serving Arlington and the mid-Cities
  • Ferrari's Villa in Grapevine on Main Street at Highway 114

(Get complete location details at

Just go to the Savor Dallas website and select the shuttle location that is most convenient for you on the "Buy Tickets" page. Transportation on the "Savor Dallas Shuttle" is free when you buy a ticket to the International Grand Tasting. Your transaction will automatically reserve your seat on one of the comfortable shuttle buses provided by ALT Limos (they provide transportation for the Cowboys and the Mavericks). Savor Dallas will have volunteers on the shuttles who will check you in for the tasting downtown and give you your special Riedel Crystal tasting glass and Savor Dallas program. This means that when the shuttle arrives downtown at the beautiful Sheraton Dallas Hotel, you can walk right into the Lone Star Ballroom and start enjoying the evening; no waiting in line to check-in at the door! Also, you'll save the parking fee at the Sheraton. The "Savor Dallas Shuttle" is a great deal. No driving worries to and from downtown from your pickup point. You save gasoline. No parking fees. And, the transportation is FREE! All part of your ticket to the International Grand Tasting. This community service is sponsored by Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits in the interest of promoting responsible consumption and eco-friendly alternatives. Visit for all the details and to reserve your spot on the Savor Dallas Shuttle.
Ride FREE, CLEAN and GREEN to the Savor Dallas International Grand Tasting!


Monday, January 4, 2010

A wining and dining view of Paris from the Seine

Those huddled masses yearning to see Gaugin. Or, how I spent my Christmas holiday in Paris.

In a word, Paris is CROWDED. The most popular tourist destination in the world is busy year-round, but the holiday period seems to be a particularly crazy time. It is, after all, "The City of Light". And it more than lives up to its reputation this time of year--glittering and glistening glamorously in all its historic splendor. There in nothing in the world like seeing the Champs-Elysées on New Year's Eve! Perhaps a million revelers and many more lights!

Everywhere we went there were lines--LONG lines to see the top attractions. Even with a Paris Museum Pass (a MUST!!! the usually manageable lines for those WITH tickets (avec billets) were lengthy. The poor schlubs who haven't read Rick Steves' "Paris Guide" were standing in line for hours just to buy a ticket and then in another line to enter the exhibits. This story repeated itself again and again. From the Louvre to Musée d'Orsay to Sainte-Chapelle, lines often snaked around the block! At one point, we witnessed people lined at least twelve deep around holding stanchions and THEN around the block at Orsay in a line that would make Disneyland (or airport security) look like clear sailing.

Even with a "reserved" time to tour the Eiffel Tower (available online at, we waited 45 minutes in the freezing cold to get inside and up to the second level. Here you have the opportunity to wait in another line for the privilege of traveling to the top of the monument. I don't know about you, but lines are not my favorite activity. Especially in the cold. Did I mention that it's cold, and usually rainy, this time of year in Paris? The best photos are from level two anyway, and that vertigo thing usually kicks in for me at altitudes higher than my roof. So, I was just fine viewing beautiful Paris from 377 feet above ground level.

Now what, you may ask, does any of this have to do with food or wine? Well, of course, Parisian restaurants, cafes and brasseries are the hallmark of this great city, and we had our share of dining out (which I will highlight shortly). We also had a rare opportunity to experience Paris from a completely different perspective: in the city's pleasure boat harbor, Port de Plaisance de Paris Arsenal. Our "hotel" for the week was a beautiful 65 foot yacht docked near the River Seine. A dear friend invited us to use his boat as our base for our visit. What an incredible time. We were docked near the historic Bastille (only a monument now), with immediate access to one the city's oldest and most exciting neighborhoods, The Marais district. We had the best of both worlds: the heart of Paris at our fingertips, and a place to escape the crowds and "go home" on our boat. Our special accommodations allowed us to prepare numerous meals in the comfort of our own galley and to spend a lot of time shopping in the various markets, boulangeries, and pâttisseries that make Paris so much fun.

One foodie district that all seasoned visitors to Paris recommend, and we concur, is the famous Rue Cler near the Champ de Mars (the Eiffel Tower neighborhood). Here you'll find a fabulous assortment of shops and cafes, including some of the most delightful fromageries in the city. When we weren't having home-cooked meals on the boat, or waiting in line for Van Gogh, we did manage to scoot away on The Metro (the most wonderful public transportation system in the world) for some outstanding lunches and dinners.

Our most memorable experience was at Michel Rostang's incredible Dessirier. This may be the ultimate Paris restaurant for fresh fish (poisson). Our dining companions (both Parisian natives) call it the best in the city for fresh seafood. Our meal proved them correct. Smoked salmon appetizers (Le Saumon marine "Gravelaks" from Norway) were the most flavorful I have ever tasted. Succulent roasted turbot and seabass main courses were perfectly prepared. The wine list is outstanding. Desserts are the perfect closing compliment. This is polished dining at its best. And, well worth the price.
9, Place du Marechal-Juin, Paris 75017 (17th arrondisement) 01 42 27 82 14, or

A lively experience that gives Paris café dining a good name can be found in the 7th in the heart of the bustling Place de l'Ecole Militare: La Terrasse du 7ème. Tables outside give you access to the entertaining people parade on the street. Inside, comfortable banquettes and cozy tables offer a great setting to enjoy the simple brasserie menu. Steaks are recommended (l'entrecote). The tenderloin I had came with the tastiest pepper sauce I have ever had. I know it's rude to sop it up with the bread, but the combination was irresistible and unbeatable. Crêpes are succulent. The wine list is brief and inexpensive. The service is brisk, but friendly. English is well spoken, and your attempt to speak French is embraced. 2 Place de l'Ecole Militaire, Paris 75007, 01 45 55 94 67.

After escaping the long lines at Notre Dame, we ducked into a little spot nearby in Ile de la Cité called Les Deux Palais, a great place for a sandwich--see the giant Croque Monsieur here that dazzled the Japanese tourists sitting next to us ("It's so big!")-- or a slice of quiche, a beer, coffee (avoid Café Américain) or glass of wine (verre de vin).
3 Boulevard du Pal
ais, Paris 75004, 01 43 54 20 86.

A double treat is touring the Rodin Museum and then stopping for a quick lunch at the museum's cafeteria in the beautiful gardens. It's quick and inexpensive, and the setting provides a beautiful backdrop for your meal. Musée Rodin, 79 rue de Varenne, Paris 75007.

An upscale museum meal that is well worth trying is the delightful restaurant at Musée d'Orsay. Located on the upper level of the museum, Restaurant du Musée d'Orsay's décor is a work of art in and of itself. Your meal is set among beautiful Louis XIV frescoes and objects d'art, with a beautiful view of the Seine. Look for a full-range lunch menu and beverages (boissons) until 3 p.m., and lighter plates and tea service (thé) until closing at 6 p.m. We found the service to be very friendly despite a reputation to the contrary. 1, rue de la Légion d'honneur, Paris 7e, 01 45 49 42 33,

A very interesting spot in our Marais neighborhood is an Algerian restaurant called Chez Léon (its name paying homage, we think, to the nearby Gare de Lyon). The sign on the door simply says "Cous Cous Restaurant". We found a fascinating menu of skillfully prepared and tasty tangine dishes featuring lamb and chicken. The cous cous was light, airy and delicious. This simple restaurant is a prime example of the joy of Paris dining. If you're willing to experiment and be slightly adventurous it usually pays off. 25, rue de Lyon, Paris 75012. 01 43 43 60 22.

Of course, there are about two dozen more restaurants we wanted to try and did not have time to visit. Notable among them is La Fontaine de Mars. This is a favorite of President Barack Obama. Our good friend Troy Dungan recommends it, too. We haven't had a chance to ask the president, but Troy and his wife Janet love it. Located at 129 Rue St. Dominique, 01 47 05 46 44.

Another restaurant that comes with high recommendations from Paula Lambert and Patrick Esquerre is l'Entrecote just off Boulevard Saint Germain and Rue Bonaparte just behind the world famous Café Flore. This is supposed to be one of the best steak restaurants in Paris and very inexpensive.

Alas, both of these fine restaurants were closed when we were nearby. Too early, I fear, for proper dining in Paris. Ah, so little time to try the great restaurants. That is why Vicki and I join the throngs who say, "We'll always have Paris" and so many reasons to return. Now, THAT'S a nice crowd to be in! Bon appétit!

(breakfast on the boat-petit déjeuner)

a bientot!