Monday, March 28, 2011

Stennifer Does Dallas

You may all remember back last summer when I was holding a contest connected to the release of my book Good Enough to Eat where the winner got lunch with me and my BFF Jen Lancaster in their hometown.

The winner, Alyson, with her bestie Bertta were very patient with the Stennifer schedule, and finally last week we headed out to Dallas to have our special lunch.  We were very lucky on the way there, no delays and an upgrade to Biz Class, making the journey enormously pleasant.

We arrived in the early afternoon to 80 degree sunny weather, a very welcome difference from the gray 30s we've been enjoying in Chicago.  We headed to our hotel, the very lovely Warwick Melrose, and got settled, and then shared a quick cheese plate in the bar.  I knew I wanted to try a restaurant I had read about, Lucia, and called for a reservation.  The message on the voice mail said they were full up for the evening, but in my experience, while travelling, concierges can be your best bet.   Our hotel didn't have one.  What is a Polymath to do?

Simple.  I called the Ritz Carleton and asked for the concierge.  Kenny was very helpful, but unable to get us into Lucia.  "They have some availability in May..." he offered.  "But nothing for tonight.  I booked you at Villa O instead.  And I have a wonderful place for your lunch tomorrow, Toulouse, a classic French bistro."  Thank goodness for Kenny. 

Also?  Remember to make reservations well in advance if there is a nice place you want to try....otherwise you may not get in, even on a Tuesday.  Lucia will have to wait for the next trip.

Once we had fortified ourselves with cheese, and finished mooching off the Ritz concierge service, and after I e-mailed Charming Suitor to ask him to look over the wine lists and send me some recommendations, we grabbed the courtesy car at the hotel, and headed to DryBar.

What on earth is DryBar you may ask?  Oxymoronical? Not at all.  It is a salon where they only do blow-outs.  No cuts, no color, no manis, no pedis.  Just shampoo, blow out, and go.  Flat fee, with an option to add a scalp massage for an extra ten smackers.  Five options of styles. Ipod/Iphone charging docks at every station.  Cocktails and little sweet snacks if you want them.  GENIUS!

I knew I had wanted to do a little something special for Jen for being my partner in crime on this contest, so I thought we'd go for a fun little hair date. 

Shampoo?  Glorious.  I love when someone else washes my hair.  Massage?  Yummy.  Really made my scalp tingle and got all the airplane knots out of my neck.  Blow out?  50/50. 

And by 50/50 I mean that I got a fantastic head of shiny Breck girl straight with just the teeniest bit of flip at the ends. 

And Jen?  Got insane Shirley Temple Sticks Her Finger in a Socket Enormocurls.

Sigh.  I know with gifts it is the thought that counts, but when the gift is a spa treatment, it is the execution that matters.  Jen learned a valuable Chicago when you want volume, ask for Texas hair.  In Texas?  Don't order the Southern Comfort Blow Out.  It will look like your head exploded.  For two days.

Oh yeah, she tried to tamp it down, but it was UN-TAMP-ABLE. Welcome to ponytail Jen for the rest of the trip.  Ooops.

We headed to dinner, where we sat on the patio which was so lovely for our Chicago bones, ordered a bottle of Chardonnay on CS's rec, which was bright and juicy, and had a dinner that was entirely, um, unmemorable.  Except for the green beans, which had so much garlic they were inedible and we sent them back.  But we didn't really care, it was perfectly passable, if not spectacular, and it was just so nice to hang outside and drink wine and be together.

It had been a long day, and we hit the rooms as soon as we got back to indulge in some quality PJ time.

Alyson and Bertta picked us up at the hotel the next day, we gave them their giftie bags full of out-of-print books, promotional items, cupcake holders

(couldn't deliver on baked goods, but at least now their cupcakes won't go squishy in their lunch bags),

and some of my favorite teas from Tea Forte

I packed them in  Baggu bags, in Jen approved neon 1980s colors. 

We headed to lunch at Toulouse which was just wonderful.  All the food was delish, the champagne cocktails and the wine (another CS pick, he is King of the Wine List!), and most importantly, the company and conversation, all so wonderful.

Truly, just magical.  I think we all felt like we were old friends catching up.  I'm not going to share any other deets, after all, the lunch was just for the four of us, and some things get to be private.  But I feel very blessed to have met them both, and suspect we will see them again.

After lingering over desserts, we did have to say goodbye, and headed back to the hotel to grab our gear and hit the airport.  This is where things went a little hooey.

First off, Dallas?  Um, you need to get your airport in order.  Having two lines for security only really makes sense if you also have two people checking IDs, and two Xray machines and two metal detectors.  Otherwise what you create is two lines constantly merging into one large f*** of the cluster variety.  Seriously.

We suspected that we were unlikely to get upgraded two flights in a row.  We did not suspect that our flight would be delayed by over two hours.  Had we suspected that, we might not have headed to the airport two hours early in an attempt to get on an earlier flight.

What Dallas airport lacks in security genius, it makes up for with an AWESOME Admiral's Club.  But the best AC in the world does not prevent Stennifer Punchiness after four hours.  We laughed a lot.  We got irritated at the loud celery crunching girl near us.  We drank a lot of free orange and lemon flavored water.  And finally got on our flight.

Despite that last little snafu due to snow and ice and ick here in Chicago, we got home in one piece, having had a terrific time, both with each other, and our new pals.

It reminded me that no matter what your situation, you should never forget to make time to get away with your BFF now and again.  Does the heart good.

The hair?  Not so much.

The Ladies Who Lunched


  1. I was hoping for a pic of Jen's hair. now I am doubly sad I didn't win because it sounds as if it was as fabulous as I imagined.

  2. Everyone's hair was beautiful:) It was a magical day.

  3. congrats to the lucky winners!
    Looks like a great time was had by all!
    The thought of sitting outside for lunch is heavenly right now...

  4. I had so badly wanted to win this contest! I knew it would be a blast... and I'm always up for that! I'm glad to hear you all had fun... sounds like even the hairdresser had fun, poor Jen! Glad your fans/lunchmates weren't freaky, or stalker-ish.

    Thanks for sharing and making me green... with envy!


    P.S. That 'dial a wine critic' thing sounds pretty handy!

  5. Sounds fun. A patio and short sleeves? Jealous.

  6. I was hoping for a photo! And laughed to see that both of you had your beautiful locks in ponytails! Sounds like a fun weekend away!

  7. I was hoping for a photo! And laughed to see that both of you had your beautiful locks in ponytails! Sounds like a fun weekend away!

  8. Great picture and what a lovely day! I spent 6 years in Dallas, and this is the prime time for lunching outside. Forget your delay in scheduling the trip, I think it worked out for the best.

    I'm traveling to New Orleans with my college BFF this weekend. I live in Chicago and work in Denver, and I am SO READY for warm weather!

  9. I tried to win this contest. I had a moment of hateful jealousy when I saw the pictures but I am so happy for the girls who did win. What a great idea that was! If you write something else, maybe you can do it again. (HINT) Maybe the next winner can be in Austin, Texas (Hint)