If you have an out-of-town food lover visiting for the first time, we have bad news: You're going to gain weight hanging out with them this visit. The good news is that you'll be able to rediscover the marvelous range of food that Texas offers, from dirt-cheap barbecue to celebrity chef-created haute cuisine.
Stay: If money is no object, we'd suggest booking the visitors into a room at Dallas' Ritz-Carlton (2121 McKinney Ave.; 214-922-0200; $379-$3,000 per night). The place is gorgeous and staying there will give you a leg up on securing a reservation at Fearing's (see below). Plus, Top Chef: Just Desserts finalist Morgan Wilson serves as executive pastry chef, so you'll be able to sample some of his wares via room service. On the west side of the Trinity, our vote goes to the Omni Fort Worth (300 Houston St.; 817-535-6664), where the in-hotel eating options include the excellent Bob's Steak and Chop House.
Breakfast: When in Texas, you must start the day as all Texans do, and embrace the pleasures of the Mexican breakfast. Plenty of places can mix you up a tasty plate of migas, including Esperanza's (2122 N. Main St., Fort Worth; 817-626-5770). But for our buck, you'd be hard-pressed to top the chorizo, egg and cheese burrito at Fuzzy's Taco Shop (2917 W. Berry St., Fort Worth; 817-924-7943, one of our favorite local haunts that's rapidly becoming a statewide chain. For an extra kick, ask for a side of habanero sauce (and remember to drink plenty of water).
Lunch: The Texas barbecue experience is an essential one for any newcomer, and while there are many claimants to the throne, our feeling is the 52-year-old legendary Angelo's Barbecue (2533 White Settlement Road., Fort Worth; 817-332-0357) has long been the ruler in this category. Located just west of downtown, in a rambling, wood-paneled space that makes you feel as if you have stepped back 50 years in time, Angelo's serves up all the classics -- brisket, sausage, pulled pork -- with exquisite simplicity. The other place you might consider: The original location of Dallas legend Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse (2202 Inwood Road, Dallas; 214-357-7120). Grab a spot inside the screened-in porch/dining area, with its beat-up wooden seats and no-frills atmosphere, and you'll start to wonder what century you're in.
Dinner: The Metroplex offers no shortage of rock-star chefs who have been lauded by the likes of Top Chef and the Food Network, including Stephan Pyles ( Samar and Stephan Pyles), Grady Spears ( Grady's) and Casey Thompson ( Brownstone). But one star rises above all the others, and that's Southwestern cuisine legend Dean Fearing, formerly of The Mansion at Turtle Creek, now at Fearing's, inside the Ritz-Carlton (121 McKinney Ave., Dallas; 214-922-4848). Try Dean's tortilla soup, followed by chicken-fried lobster. Or maybe the halibut with crab succotash. Oh, hell, try anything -- it's all masterfully made and exquisitely presented. Just be warned: Such delights don't come cheap and, with drinks, a night at Fearing's is apt to set you back $100 per person or more.
Shopping: Surely your visitors will want to bring a taste of Texas home with them. In which case, plan a detour to Chocolate Secrets, (3926 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas; 214-252-9801), a sinfully luxurious shop in Dallas, which sells wine, candy and a dazzling array of sweet confections. There's even a small sitting area, where you sip a glass of wine and recharge after a long afternoon on the town.
Attractions: OK, so it's not exactly Napa Valley, but Grapevine has a number of surprisingly accomplished wineries that turn out a range of locally produced wines. The best way to experience what the city has to offer -- and not have to worry about drinking and driving? Sign up for a tour with Grapevine Wine Tours (817-259-9463). You'll make stops at the tasting rooms of three local places, and learn about the history of winemaking in the region.
Nightlife & cocktails: Hard-core foodies are usually just as serious about their cocktails. You'll find excellent options at two Dallas hot spots, The Porch (2912 N. Henderson Ave., Dallas; 214-828-2916) and Dish (4123 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas; 214-522-3474). But the most impressive drinks menu might just be at The Usual (1408 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth; 817-810-0114) , where owner/mixologist Brad Hensarling serves up an array of old-school, Jazz Era delights. The gorgeously decorated lounge is the ideal place to unwind and get in touch with your inner F. Scott Fitzgerald.