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Surprises in Plano

Written by , published December 3, 2008

My husband, Randy, and I spent most of this past Thanksgiving holiday visiting his folks in Plano, a north Dallas suburb that often feels more sterile than interesting, at least on the surface of things—mile after mile of super-sized retail stores and large suburban homes in developments set off by brick gates. However, on this trip I took the time to explore a bit, and I found a surprising and exciting multiculturalism. In recent years, Indian and pan-Asian supermarkets have popped up on major intersections, their patrons perhaps drawn to Plano for such major technology employers as Ericsson, EDS, and Perot Systems. (I could spend hours exploring aisles of garlicky, chile-laden condiments, not to mention the hundreds of different kinds of beans, lentils, and other pretty seeds.)

After our traditional Thanksgiving dinner on the 27th, I was thrilled when my in-laws agreed to accompany us for Thai food the next night. We made tracks for a well-reviewed spot called Tamarind Thai Cuisine, which, like many establishments in Plano, is in a strip mall. We brought our own wine--a bottle of viognier from Pillar Bluff Vineyard in Lampasas, a wine that my father-in-law didn't care for much ("tastes like cat pee," he said) but my more agreeable mother-in-law deemed "interesting."

We ordered a round of appetizers for the table—a platter dubbed the "Tamarind Sample," which offered a few dumplings, tempura vegetables, skewers of chicken in peanut sauce, and some spring rolls, plus three dipping sauces. I liked the broccoli tempura, but I found the rest of the appetizers underwhelming.

Our entrees, however, didn't disappoint. Three of us planned to share our meals, while my father-in-law ordered the flank steak (called "frank" steak on the menu—I love that!) and planned to stick with his dish.

So Randy, his mom, and I ordered the Papaya Salad (shredded green papaya with chile, tomato, garlic, green beans, and ground peanuts), the fragrant Green Curry (chicken with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, peppers, basil, and eggplant), and a dish called the Happy Pepper & Garlic, which featured beef slices, lots of fresh garlic, carrots, and broccoli. I highly recommend this place, though we'll have to scope out a different wine for next time. I think the viognier simply didn't work well with the complicated spices.

Also in Plano, I recommend a visit to the Wooden Spoon Scandinavian Shop (at 1617 K. Avenue; 972/424-6827), where you'll find all sorts of jams, jellies, cookies, cheeses, meats, and kitchen accessories from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The Wooden Spoon offers classes focusing on Scandinavian culture, too—on January 17, the Wooden Spoon offers a Kransekake class, which will teach cooks how to prepare the distinctive 18-layer cake often served at Danish and Norwegian weddings and other special events. (Google "kransekake" for fun—the cakes look like pretty donut towers; Homer Simpson would go kransekake crazy.)

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