Bringing the East to the West at Bistro 31

November 17, 2011 by · Comments Off 

BEYOND THE BUBBLE

By Victoria Ahmadi
vhmadi@smu.edu

Bistro 31 in Highland Park Village. (Photo by Victoria Ahmadi/Beyond the Bubble staff)


European design, French tableware and Mediterranean decor fit side by side at Bistro 31. The restaurant opened its doors in the historic Highland Park Village on Oct. 3.

Alberto Lombardi is at it again. The restaurant tycoon owns and operates a handful of the city’s top eateries, including Penne Pomodoro, Taverna, Café Toulouse, Sangria Tapas y Bar, Romagna Mia, Cibus and La Fiorentina.

Lombardi chose the prestigious location for his newest venture because he says it is simply the best around town. He brought his vision to life in the heart of the Highland Park Village shopping center built in 1931.

“It feels like Europe and has a certain brightness,” Lombardi said. The restaurant exudes elegance and class while embracing a casual menu.

Lombardi enlisted the help of interior designer Ron Guest, whom he has worked with on numerous projects, including his restaurant business and his home.
“We went to Italy, New York and Paris to get a sense of what I wanted for Bistro 31,” he said.

Mike Hiller, award-winning restaurant critic and editor of Escape Hatch Dallas described his experience at the new restaurant in an interview:

“Bistro 31 feels perfectly suited for its Highland Park Village location: swanky digs with a spacious patio, attentive service, and a menu that feels familiar yet vaguely exotic ‘didn’t we have waffles like these in Brussels last year, Charles?’”

Sixty-three year old Alberto Lombardi of Forli Italy says that he knew what he wanted to do from a very young age. He attended The Hotel Palace hospitality school in Rimini, Italy.

“When I was 13-years-old I left Italy for Berlin and since then have traveled all over including Miami, San Francisco and Dallas,” he said.

The restaurateur made Dallas his home by accident nearly 35 years ago. Lombardi traveled to the lone star state to visit a friend and ended up never leaving. He began his work at The Pyramid Room of The Fairmont Hotel where he later served as Manager of the Fairmont’s Venetian Room.

He is married to Vivian Escobar Lombardi and the two have a 7-year-old son Luca. Lombardi also has three daughters from his first marriage, Sara Lombardi, Anna Lombardi Daigle and Laura McDonnell.

It is no secret that the restaurant business is a tricky one considering that local eateries come and go like the seasons. With a handful of restaurants under his belt, Lombardi is no stranger to the industry’s fluctuations. What keeps him afloat?

“I always say to do whatever you love, be persistent,” he said. ”Sometimes you fail but keep trying.”

Lombardi began working in restaurants as a young boy and found the flexibility factor most appealing about the business. “I loved working in restaurants because I was able to travel,” Lombardi said.

“You can pick up and move anywhere in the world and find a job the next day at a restaurant.”

Eric Brandt is the king in the kitchen at Bistro 31 and has earned notoriety for his culinary creations at Rosewood Mansion and the Ritz Carlton. Brandt was with the Ritz-Carlton in Washington D.C. when celebrity chef Dean Fearing called asking him to join the Mansion team. He took the opportunity and headed down south.

He worked closely under Chef Fearing for a year until Fearing ventured off to open Fearing’s at the Ritz-Carlton Dallas. During the search for his replacement, Brandt ran the kitchen with an iron fist and continued to deliver Fearing’s southwestern favorites.

Some of Brandt’s Bistro 31 highlights include tuna tartare, rock shrimp cocktail, escargot paired with pork belly, Kobe beef hamburger and handmade pastas.

First-time customer Hubert Peek, 69, of Irving said that it’s the ambiance that sets this place apart from others.

“The outdoor space reminded me of the sidewalk café’s in Italy and the bread was different than any I’ve ever had,” said Peek. “It was warm and crunchy with a soft buttery center, but then again I like bread.”

General Manager Hans Raina said that Bistro 31 is unlike any other restaurant in the area. While the eatery has only been open for just a few weeks, Raina says that he is eager to see people’s response to it.

He also said that expansion plans are already in the works. The new Lombardi establishment will feature a second story with a full bar and floor to ceiling windows offering a unique view of the Village.

As general manager, Raina says that he is excited about working with a new clientele. His managing career has consisted of some of the city’s top eateries including Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck and The Blue Fish in North Dallas.

Raina spoke admiringly of Alberto Lombardi, calling him a “ very well-respected man in town.”

“We get people in here who have been eating at Lombardi’s restaurants for over 20 years, it says a lot about a man to have such loyal clients in a town where there’s so many options,” he said.

Staying in Dallas for Thanksgiving Break

November 23, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Kalyn Harper
kharper@smu.edu

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays completely dedicated to seeing family, but not this year.

If you are staying in the Dallas area for break, you are not alone.

SMU freshman Jake Higgins stood outside Boaz Hall last week, talking to his friends about the upcoming Thanksgiving break. He listened as they chatted about their anticipation to see their parents and eat homemade meals. Nodding occasionally with a forced smile on his face, he kept thinking about the fact that he will spend Thanksgiving break on campus, away from his family for the first time.

“I’d rather go see my family, but Christmas break will come soon enough,” Higgins said. “I’m not too upset about it.”

A lot of Americans are changing their Thanksgiving travel plans this week because of tough economic conditions. That doesn’t mean students can’t still enjoy the six-day break with reasonably priced turkey dinners and Thanksgiving-inspired events available throughout the metroplex.

Although the travel industry appears to be recovering at a faster pace than the economy, it still has a long way to go.

This year’s predicted increase in Thanksgiving travel doesn’t make up for the 25 percent drop in travel in 2008, according to the American Automobile Association’s annual Thanksgiving survey.

The group said many Americans are in a better financial position than they were last year, but high unemployment and economic uncertainty are still lingering concerns.

Higgins, born and raised in Las Vegas, is staying in Dallas for Thanksgiving because most of his family is traveling to other places instead of staying in Nevada.

“My uncle is coming to Dallas and we’re going to go out to dinner or just order food to go,” said Higgins.

Thanksgiving Meals

This year, Central Market is offering a complete dinner, from gravy to stuffing, made from red quinoa and dried fruit. This gluten-free turkey dinner feeds four for $139.99.

Another option is a vegetarian Thanksgiving with a hazelnut fig roast, sweet potatoes and all the fixings, which is $39.99 for two. To order, call the Central Market Holiday Hotline at 1-877-263-1379.

Here are some suggestions for the college student on a budget, who wants to add cheap, hip ideas to their dinner party:

• Serve your guests Frito chili pie in small Fritos bags with plastic spoons. It’s innovative, simple and chili is great for cold weather.

• If you want your guests to leave with something more personal, give them something you’ve baked- along with the recipe, like a cookies or chocolate mud bars.

• Doniphan Moore of Dallas’ Doniphan Moore Interiors, suggests giving friends a basket of homemade potpourri using cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon peel, cloves and dried cranberries.

Thanksgiving plans are difficult for international SMU students who can’t afford the long trip home since Christmas break is less than three weeks after Thanksgiving.

“I’m not going home because it’s too far and would cost too much so I’m spending Thanksgiving with my fraternity brother,” said SMU senior and Paris native Chris Chauve. “Plus, there’s no point to go home for Thanksgiving because we don’t celebrate it back in Europe.”

Thanksgiving Day Plans

Any sports-loving students can visit the Dallas Cowboys website to raise money for Salvation Army and have a chance to spend Thanksgiving Day at the sold-out Cowboys game.

Keith Urban will show his support with a halftime performance to kick off the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign.

If you aren’t able to get tickets to the game, you can serve food to the homeless at Carr P. Collins Social Services Center by Parkland Hospital.

Gloria Brown, a Salvation Army volunteer, said that a large number of young adults volunteered on Thanksgiving day last year and she expects about the same outcome this week.

“We have volunteers come all the time to help throughout the year, but more people volunteer during Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Brown said.

To celebrate Thanksgiving for free, check out Thanks-Giving Square at 1627 Pacific Ave. in Downtown Dallas. Attractions include The Hall of Thanksgiving, which features maps of nations that celebrate Thanksgiving, and a spiraling series of stained glass windows in the Glory Chapel.

Thanksgiving day hours are 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and general admission is free. Call 214-969-1977 or visit their website for more information.

Black Friday Deals

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is infamous for being the best shopping day of the year. Malls and retail shops will open early and even all night long to offer shoppers access to discounted merchandise.

This year, students don’t have to wait until Friday to get holiday bargains. A large number of stores are opening Thursday for shoppers who want to avoid the crowds.

For the first time, Sears is opening on Thursday from 7 a.m. until noon. The Wall Street Journal reported that Kmart, which has opened on Thanksgiving for 19 years, is allowing shoppers to buy online and pick up their purchases at stores on Thanksgiving day this year.

Locally, Black Friday at NorthPark Center is from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tory Burch in Highland Park Village will have 40% off their fall collection and Saks Fifth Avenue at Galleria Dallas will have discounts in every department.

There are more deals online and local deals in your city. Get updates on Black Friday sales here.

Whether students are going home or staying in Dallas for the holiday, Thanksgiving is a time to count your blessings and be thankful for what you have, a tradition that has remained strong since 1621.

High-end Stores Pop Up Amidst Recession

October 26, 2010 by · Comments Off 

bubblelogo 
By Rachael Borne
rborne@smu.edu

On a recent sunny Friday afternoon, the Highland Park Village parking lot is filled with Mercedes, BMWs and even Bentleys. Groups of women and solo shoppers crowd the sidewalks with their shopping bags. To an outsider, it looks as if the recession didn’t hit here.

As the rest of America tries to recover from a hard-hit economy, Highland Park Village shows no need for recovery. Instead, the shopping center is expanding, adding two more high-end stores, Christian Louboutin, which is now open, and Diane von Furstenberg, opening in November. Both stores are located off of Douglas Avenue, amidst many other expensive stores.

Stephen Summers, a partner and the director of leasing at Highland Park Village, and his team took over ownership of the Village last May, in hopes of adding as many new venues as possible, even in a rough economy.

Due to the recession, he knew it would take a few years to bring in the right kind of tenants his team wanted. Summers overestimated the time frame he determined. With so many interested stores, they now have a “problem” deciding which deal to take.

“Obviously we have been able to attract a great amount [of attendants] in a much quicker time frame,” said Summers.

Highland Park Village is filled with high-end clothing, furniture and jewelry stores along with a grocery store and a variety of restaurants. The outdoor center, with over 200,000 square feet, contains over 100 store fronts, which are almost all rented. Located at Mockingbird Lane and Preston Road, the Village sits in the middle of the affluent town of highland Park and attracts many local residents, especially those who love high-end fashion.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the average income in Highland Park is over $150,000 and the average house value is over $800,000.

Many shoppers of Highland Park Village are well aware of the new stores arriving, including Tiffany Miller. Even through the recession, she shops at the Village the same amount, twice a month.

“I shop there usually for handbags,” said Miller.

With Christian Louboutin now open, she will have to branch out and try on a pair of shoes. Miller said she isn’t opposed to spending over $1,000 on a pair of shoes, if it is the right pair.

Shelby Flaten, a Dallas resident and mother of three, had no idea two new stores were coming to Highland Park Village. After shopping for her children’s school supplies at a south Garland Target, Flaten is pleased with the amount of money she just saved. She shops at the Village occasionally, but only at the grocery store.

“Spending over $1,000 on a pair of shoes is just overboard, completely overboard,” she said.

While some shoppers say they are excited for the stores arrivals, other residents focus more on necessary purchases.

Tara Mason, a Dallas resident and mother of two, enjoys window-shopping at the high-end stores in Highland Park Village. Mason is more a frequent shopper of Target and similar stores, where she can get almost everything on her list in one stop.

“I rarely purchase super high-end merchandise. If I spend $1,000 on a pair of shoes, they would have to be the shoes of a lifetime,” said Mason.

The stores neighboring Christian Louboutin and Diane von Furstenberg, mostly apparel and accessory stores, were not able to comment on the arrival of Christian Louboutin and Diane von Furstenberg. However, Summers said that these stores do not feel threatened by the new ones. Instead they are thrilled with the openings, he said.

“The new additions make other retailers want to be here because of it, because they know they are drawing in the right kind of traffic,” said Summers.

While some shoppers of the Village were seem indifferent of the recession, Mason has seen the effects of it through her work with Dallas elementary schools fundraisers. She has seen how people now have limited donation dollars, which challenges her work, she said. Even though the recession might not have hit Highland Park, other areas of Dallas were clearly affected.

Summers said that the center actually was affected by the recession, but not as severely as other areas of Dallas.

“We withstood the recession quite well, most retailers were down 25 to 35 percent and in our worst year we were down only 3 percent. We actually had several retailers that were up, which was shocking and impressive,” he said.

Fashion’s Night Out Hits Highland Park Village

September 13, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Caroline Foster
cfoster@smu.edu

The tree-lined sidewalks of high-end shopping center Highland Park Village were busier than usual on Friday night. Empty parking spots were scarce as shoppers roamed from store to store with their hands full, carrying glasses of champagne, balloons, and shopping bags.

This was the scene of the second annual Fashion’s Night Out festivities taking place at Highland Park Village. Over 20 stores participated in the event, each store celebrating fashion in its own way.

Anthropologie had live music from 6-8 p.m. as well as hors d’oeuvres and artisan chocolatier, Stephen Smith, on hand. Smith brought three different varieties of his Nib Chocolates that complemented the fall clothes. He said, “My chocolates are artsy and fashion oriented.” The shoppers enjoyed eating the sweets while scouring the racks of ruffled sweaters, sweetly printed blouses, and eye-catching accessories.

At Scoop the staff promoted Genetic Denim while a DJ played energizing music for the crowd. The Carolina Herrera store installed a photo booth for the event that instantly printed black and white photos of each participating guest. The new Christian Louboutin store was packed as guests viewed brand new shoes premiering just for the event.

A few doors down, Los Angeles based knitwear store, Vince, hosted a party featuring photographer David Woo’s new coffee table book about Dallas celebrities and their dogs. Attendees along with their pampered pooches walked around the store eyeing sweaters as music played and drinks were poured.

Vince Store manager Stacy Gibbons said, “It’s fun to shop in a different environment.” This fun shopping atmosphere seems to be exactly what Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Diane Von Furstenberg of The Council of Fashion Designers of America had in mind when they, along with the City of New York initiated Fashion’s Night Out in 2009.

The event was started when the economy was slow and people were not shopping as much as they had during past seasons. Vogue and CFDA worked in New York City to create an event that put the fun back in shopping, while also helping the economy.

The date was set on September 10th and stores all over New York City and the country participated in the event. This year many other cities around the world including Madrid and London decided to join the fun making the event bigger than ever.

Gibbons is not surprised by the expansion because of the millions of fashion devotees around the world. Gibbons said, “It’s viral this year, people want to support something they love.” Dallas fully supported the endeavor as stores such as Stanley Korshak, Forty Five Ten, Barney’s, and Neiman Marcus stayed open late for the night.

Love for fashion is exactly what Fashion’s Night Out is all about. This doesn’t just apply to the fashion elite – Fashion’s Night Out is an event for everyone to enjoy. The crowd at Highland Park Village is a perfect example: pre-teens wearing their graphic printed Fashion Night Out t-shirts took pictures in the photo booth as older couples waited behind them.

Long-time Dallas residents Olga and Rob Levin said the concept of Fashion’s Night Out was remarkable, and they planned to visit almost all of the events Highland Park Village had to offer, citing Tory Burch and Jimmy Choo at the top of their hit list. Mr. Levin joked, “I’m taking back the credit card.”

Fashion’s Night Out at Highland Park Village added extra excitement to the area on a rather ordinarily warm Friday night. It was obvious that guests were delighted to be a part of such a large event promoting a common love. Judging from the great amount of shopping bags and smiling faces, the event was a success.