Two of Fort Worth’s signature dishes — Reata’s tamales and Buffalo West’s bread pudding — delight time and again.
A major component of the fine dining experience is exclusiveness — not so much waitlists and reservations, but food that’s beyond the capabilities of most home chefs. For a special dinner out, you want food that feels, well, special. Two signature dishes found at Fort Worth’s Reata Restaurant and Buffalo West hit the sweet spot of deliciousness and exclusivity, and keep customers coming back for more.
Tenderloin Tamales at Reata
Diners used to tamales no bigger than a roll of quarters will experience shock and awe at first sight of Reata’s tenderloin behemoths. One of the restaurant’s signature appetizers, these tamales sell like hotcakes, with thousands of them ordered during special events like the Main Street Arts Festival.
“It’s probably our number one appetizer,” says Mike Micallef, president of the Reata. “We love to add new items, but people know what they like and come to the restaurant for these favorite items.”
The heart and soul of these tamales comes from five ounces of tenderloin filling, blended with chopped onions, bell and jalapeño peppers, garlic, cumin, salt and coriander. It takes a special masa to contain such a wealth of flavor, and Reata makes it own from scratch. Fresh corn combines with lard, cilantro, salt, paprika and the restaurant’s signature chicken broth to render a masa that’s light, moist and never cloying.
Despite their role as one of the Reata’s most popular dishes, the tenderloin tamales got their start as a happy accident.
“They originally came about from the need to do something with our tenderloin scraps,” says Micallef. “When you’re cutting a whole tenderloin, you only yield 60 percent for steaks. A good portion of the rest gets ground up for our tamales.”
Not many tamales can count delectable tenderloin as a prime ingredient; as if this weren’t enough, the Reata also tops its tamales with a flavorful pecan mash and sun-dried tomato cream. If you’ve never experienced Reata’s tamales, make it a priority on your next visit; you’d never guess that corn husks could contain such magic.
Bread Pudding at Buffalo West
It’s an indelible taste of home, with a scent, flavor and texture that inspires a rush of sentiment, warmth and cheer: bread pudding. Many people have memories of grandma’s signature dessert, served on holidays or as a special treat for the grandkids. At Buffalo West, you can get your bread pudding fix whenever you want; not only that, but you may just forget all about grandma’s speciality.
“I was initially not sold on the idea of a bread pudding,” says Chris Piekarski, general manager and co-owner of Buffalo West. “My grandma used to make bread pudding, and I was convinced that there was nothing better than hers.”
Chris worked with Buffalo West’s kitchen managers to refine the bread pudding recipe, and surprised himself when the final product came out better than he believed possible.
“I can say that it’s better than what my grandmother made,” says Chris. “And it’s one of those comfort foods that people enjoy because they can’t get it all the time.”
With Buffalo West’s bread pudding, it all starts with the custard. Heavy cream combines with eggs and a dash of cinnamon and sugar, then gets poured into a pan over sliced and pulled bread.
“Any day-old bread is good to make bread pudding,” says Chris. “As long as it doesn’t have seeds like rye or caraway. One of the better ones we use from time to time is Hawaiian sweet bread, which gives the pudding a unique flavor.”
A generous amount of custard comprises the secret to exceptional bread pudding, which should remain moist and easy to eat. Once in the pan, Buffalo West’s bread pudding gets gently cooked at a low temperature, a necessary step to avoid overdone custard. To top the bread pudding, the kitchen prepares a signature Irish cream whiskey sauce, which gets sautéed with pecans and brown sugar. A touch of powdered sugar and dashes of chocolate syrup and vanilla sauce complete this masterpiece of decadence.
“It’s definitely one of the favorites,” says Chris. “We get phone calls where people will order four or five desserts to take home to a party. A majority of restaurants around town don’t have made-from-scratch desserts.”