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Café Pacific

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Highland Park Village: The theater

I was back in Dallas last week. (Hence the lack of posts for over a week. See here, here, and here for posts on last month’s Dallas visit.) I flew in Wednesday afternoon and had dinner that night at a lovely restaurant, Café Pacific, located in Highland Park Village, a historic upscale mall a few miles north of downtown.

I would happily eat there again, if the opportunity were to arise, as there was much on the menu that I wanted to try. I started simply, with the soup of the day, a cream of asparagus, which was excellent, but I was tempted by the crab cakes on fresh greens, offered with a choice of remolaude [sic] or cocktail sauce. For my entree, I had the sole almondine, described as “Almond Crusted Atlantic Sole served with Red Bliss Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables & Lemon Butter Sauce.” I would have liked to try as well the “Three Onion Crusted Sea Bass with Sweet Corn Risotto and Ancho Cream Sauce.” Or how about “Roasted Corn Snapper On Jasmine Rice with Avocado, Cherry Tomatoes and a Light Corn Sauce”? The sole, by the way, was superb.

I wasn’t too hungry after that, so I passed up some of the more enticing dessert options, such as the crème brulée and the pecan ball vanilla ice cream rolled in toasted pecans with fudge sauce, in favor of the simpler “Fresh Seasonal Fruit Served in a Crisp Almond Cookie Cup With Raspberry and Caramel.” Nope. Interesting idea, good presentation, but the fruit turned out to be berries, which didn’t have much flavor. I surely would have been happier with the crème brulée. (The restaurant struggles with French on the menu. The accent grave over the ‘e’ in crème was there, but not the accent aigu over the first ‘e’ in brulée.)

When I say that Highland Park Village, the mall in which Café Pacific is ensconsed, is upscale, I should make clear that I mean real upscale. During dinner at Café Pacific, whenever I looked out the window, the handbags in a display window would catch my eye. At some point, I realized they must be the work of Hermès, and sure enough, when we left, I confirmed that the adjacent store was an Hèrmes, and next to it was Harry Winston. Back in Seattle I learned more about the mall, and the community of Highland Park, at the Highland Park Village website. The town of Highland Park was developed by John Armstrong and his two sons-in-law, Hugh Prather and Edgar Flippen, in 1907, following the purchase in 1906 of land along an old cattle trail. Flippen and Prather used some of the land to establish the Dallas Country Club, the oldest country club in Texas, in 1912. Years later, Prather and Flippen decided to build a shopping center and traveled to Barcelona and Seville to study the architecture for inspiration. They hired architects Marion Fresenius Fooshee and James B. Cheek to design the center, which opened in 1931. The family sold the mall in 1966 and it began a long decline. As the site explains, “little attention was given to proper tenant mix, landscaping deteriorated, overhead wires began to criss-cross the property, inappropriate signage appeared, and tenants were permitted to make facade alterations that were not in keeping with the classical architecture of the Village. Spanish arches were covered up and newer materials that did not blend with the basic stone and stucco began to appear.” A new buyer, the son of an associate of Prather and Flippen, took over in 1976, and the mall began to be restored. In 2000, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.

I mention all this because the mall really is unusually attractive, well worth visiting for its architecture and layout if you’re in the neighborhood. And you can stop by Café Pacific during the visit for a fine meal.

In Control Here

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

[D. Gorton/The New York Times]

When I read on Saturday that Al Haig had died, I immediately thought of his famous line, uttered in the aftermath of the assassination attempt in 1981 on Ronald Reagan, that he was in control. The fact that as secretary of state he was fourth in line to succeed Reagan as president didn’t seem to get in the way of his assertion of power. I can’t think of Haig without thinking of that moment.

It turns out I’m not alone. Every obituary or remembrance that I saw led with this low point in his career. I especially enjoyed Tim Weiner’s clever lead-in to the incident in his NYT obituary. In case you missed it, here are the opening three paragraphs:

Alexander M. Haig Jr., the four-star general who served as a confrontational secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan and a commanding White House chief of staff as the Nixon administration crumbled, died Saturday at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, according to a hospital spokesman. He was 85.

Mr. Haig was a rare American breed: a political general. His bids for the presidency quickly came undone. But his ambition to be president was thinly veiled, and that was his undoing. He knew, Reagan’s aide Lyn Nofziger once said, that “the third paragraph of his obit” would detail his conduct in the hours after President Reagan was shot, on March 30, 1981.

That day, Secretary of State Haig wrongly declared himself the acting president. “The helm is right here,” he told members of the Reagan cabinet in the White House Situation Room, “and that means right in this chair for now, constitutionally, until the vice president gets here.” His words were taped by Richard V. Allen, then the national security adviser.

As you see, Wiener had the good sense to fulfill Nofziger’s prophecy. The obituary continues:

His colleagues knew better. “There were three others ahead of Mr. Haig in the constitutional succession,” Mr. Allen wrote in 2001. “But Mr. Haig’s demeanor signaled that he might be ready for a quarrel, and there was no point in provoking one.”

Mr. Haig then asked, “How do you get to the press room?” He raced upstairs and went directly to the lectern before a television audience of millions. His knuckles whitening, his arms shaking, Mr. Haig declared to the world, “I am in control here, in the White House.” He did not give that appearance.

Categories: History, Newspapers, Obituary