It’s a thrilling time for Dallas Mexican food. The renewed interest in heritage techniques, presentation, and recipes is transforming the city’s reputation from that of a Tex-Mex stalwart to that of one of the great Mexican food cities of the U.S. Among the vanguard is Olivia Lopez, who might be single-handedly changing the Dallas Mexican food scene. Lopez’s reputation—and fan base—is built on methodical respect and treatment of both corn and history. The chef’s company, Molino Olōyō, nixtamalizes heirloom Mexican corn for tortillas and other masa preparations. Some of that masa is used by local restaurants, barbecue joints, and taquerias. Her tortillas are communion wafers of Mesoamerica. They bring the individual closer to the sacred.
Lopez works alongside her partner, Jonathan Percival, to sell preordered meals out of her commissary, collaborate with other chefs and cooks, and host private dinners and public brewery pop-ups. One of the breweries in Molino Olōyō’s rotation is Oak Highlands.
This week, Lopez and Percival are changing things up. Instead of slinging tacos and other favorite Mexican snacks at Oak Highlands, they’ll be teaching a class on making tamales on Friday, April 8, beginning at 8 p.m. The class will demystify the production of tamales and reward you with tasty results. (Fingers crossed that the lesson will include Molino Olōyō’s candy-comforting strawberry tamales made from cónico rojo corn from the Mexican state of Tlaxcala.) Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online.
—José Ralat, taco editor
See one of the rising stars of Texas jazz in concert
For a delightful, concise introduction to Houston-born jazz pianist and composer Helen Sung, play “Coquette,” the third track off her latest album, Quartet+. For the first minute, the Harlem Quartet, the Grammy-winning string group out of New York, plays a spry rendition of one of nineteenth-century German pianist and composer Clara Schumann’s “Romances.” Then Sung’s piano chimes in and launches her jazz quartet—John Ellis on sax and flute, David Wong on bass, and Kendrick Scott on drums—into a chipper, Sung-composed deconstruction of Schumann. The track neatly embodies both Sung’s biography and artistic ethos. A graduate of Houston’s prestigious Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Sung studied classical piano until her early twenties, when, while a student at the University of Texas at Austin, she went to see Harry Connick Jr. perform and experienced a jazz epiphany. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s from UT and went on to an illustrious career—she’s a freshly minted Guggenheim Fellow—as one of the precious few female and Asian American (Sung’s parents immigrated from Taiwan) artists in the scene. Sung uses her work to highlight female and minority artists; almost every track in Quartet+ is made up of compositions by female composers, including Geri Allen, Carla Bley, Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland, and Toshiko Akiyoshi.
This Saturday, Sung returns to UT’s campus as the featured artist for the annual Longhorn Jazz Festival, where she’ll perform her works with the school’s jazz orchestra.
—Josh Alvarez, senior editor
Pay homage to a cartoon Houstonian
While you might expect a country band from the name Hey Cowboy!, the Austin-based trio combines synthetic music with high, harmonious vocals. The group’s debut EP, Sandy Cheeks, is a shout-out to a fellow beloved (if fictional) Texan, with three songs that introduce listeners to the ethereal world of synth-poppers Sydney Harding-Sloan (synthesizer and vocals), Micah Vargas (bass and vocals), and Gaby Rodriguez (drums and vocals). “Cherry Jerry Citrus” is comforting and upbeat, but with lyrics like “I linger on the one I love / I linger on you,” Hey Cowboy! powerfully evokes the feeling of overpowering infatuation.
In its most recent album, Get in My Fanny Pack and Let’s Go, the band’s cowgirl aesthetic is in full force, especially on “Midnight Sun” and “Detective Farmer Brown.” Rodriguez is a master on the drums, a grounding force for the band’s psychedelic sound. But the comfort and emotion of Sandy Cheeks remains, with wandering vocals that evoke feelings just as masterfully as any country singer could.
—Lauren Girgis, editorial intern