Global Cuisine With a Southern Flair at Cafe Modern

A series of intimate dinners called Twenty at the Tower continues this month in Fort Worth where diners have no idea who's cooking until they arrive.

The pop-up dinners cost $75 a person and proceeds support the Fort Worth Food and Wine Foundation, which will host the inaugural Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival in March 2014.

It's a busy lunch time at Cafe Modern, one of the most respected kitchens in Fort Worth.

It sits inside the oldest museum in Texas - The Modern Art Museum. The chef who runs the kitchen is a woman, one of the few female executive chefs in a primarily male-dominated industry.

Dena Peterson's been the top chef at Cafe Modern for a decade now. Her food is described as "global cuisine with a Southern flair."

Watching her whip up a German chocolate ganache tart is surprising for the simplicity in which she prepares it.

For instance, like a lot of home cooks she flattens out the crust by weighing it down with parchment paper filled with beans. And she's not above using premade pie dough when there's no time for made-from-scratch.

She doesn't have a double boiler. So again, relying on trusted home methods, she boils a small amount of water in a sauce pan, sits a metal bowl with chocolate chips on top and lets the hot seam melt the bittersweet bits.

And when it's time to decorate the serving dish with chocolate paint, it's very likely she'll use a paint brush, a clean one, instead of a pastry brush.

"All of this is super simple," she said. "Very easy."

She may say that about her chocolate tart, but Peterson puts in plenty of long days. Still, she jumped at the chance to be part of the pop-up dinners called Twenty at the Tower to support the 2014 Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival.

"It's a lot of work here in my kitchen or out of my kitchen, so why not have some fun with it?," she smiled. And she did. She brought nothing from her Cafe Modern menu for her night at Twenty at the Tower. Every dish she prepared for the sell-out crowd of 50 was new.

That German chocolate ganache tart we watched her prepare later was the fudgey finale. A "work of art," she giggled. See the recipe here.

Twitter: @FortWorthFWF

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