In August a dear friend was returning from weeks in Japan, stopping in Austin before returning home to New Hampshire. She alerted me and, never needing much of an excuse to bomb down to Austin, off I went for a dinner date. She’d asked me what’s the hotsy-totsy dining place in Austin these days. Ironically, I responded that it was Uchi – a Japanese inspired venue. Having been in Japan for weeks, her response was, “F that, let’s get some BBQ.” So no Uchi for me … until last night.
Aria Stone Gallery in the Design District had a fab event catered by Uchi. And before we get to the stone, I have to admit that the meal from Uchi gave my tongue a flat tire. Everything I’ve put in my mouth since then (huuush!) has tasted like dorm food.
The media event featured an intimate table-full of fellow writers and designers. Aria went to a lot of trouble and expense for this seated, multi-course dinner and yet a couple of guests were no-shows. That’s just tacky and rude. If it were my house, you’d not get invited back. It doesn’t take much to tap “reply” or to text the host/hostess of an event. For shame.
What these uncivilized no-shows missed was an 8-course tasting menu that caused “Oooooo” as each course was explained, followed by “Ahhhhh” as each was tasted. You know how these things typically go. A tattered Romaine leaf and a blade of rosemary and suddenly it’s Tuscany. Not this time.
One course was called Muskmelon Rustica. Imagine petite droplets of lobster, Iberico ham, Japanese hami melon and pistachio. I say “imagine” because, ya know, I wanted to eat it more than I wanted to photograph it.
Another course was called Bacon Steakie (the perfect name for a boyfriend). It was pork belly, radish, citrus and (a shmear of) herbs. If you want to see these dishes “before,” you’ll have to pop over to Uchi on Maple Avenue for yourself. 🙂
But enough about my tongue-gasm, I was there for the rocks. If you’ve been to a stone yard in the past, likely there are a few showcase slabs inside that are displayed on A-frames (that you can’t afford). The rest are outside on dusty, slab-laden racks. (TIP: If you’re shopping for slabs in an outdoor yard, either go after a rain or bring some wet wipes to clean the stone.)
But at Aria, the stone is artwork. Brazilian owner Vinny Tavares is a stone whisperer. Each slab is purchased in individual, sequential packets. It’s like slices of bread, but Vinny leaves the heels for someone else. He’s only interested in the best of the best and everything in sequence. That means he doesn’t pick stones 1, 7, and 42. He buys 1, 2, 3, so that customers wanting to book or quad-match can do so without the stone’s natural veining and movement changing too much. Pretty nifty and time consuming.
And no, that doesn’t mean every stone is gravely expensive, but you’re also not going to see contractor favorites Ubatuba and Baltic Brown here either.
Being the last guest standing (I took the bullet … well, wine … for my readers), I had plenty of time to chat-up the Aria folks about stone and a mutual enjoyment of the variety and vagaries of nature. Marketing gal Jordan Taylor and I laughed about uninitiated buyers who see a slab and comment, “I like that, do you have it in red” – as though Mother Nature is a short-order cook.
I also introduced Vinny to my concept of design and stone. Simply put, I ask myself, “Do I want to live with it or spend the weekend at the hotel?” Translation: is it something I want to live with daily for years or is it something cool, flashy and trendy I’d love to experience for a little while.
We also spent a lot of time discussing my etching problem that you’ve read about here. Me being a dog with a bone when I’m annoyed, I wanted to make sure they told customers of the pros and the cons of each variety of stone – especially those more fragile and prone to staining, marking and etching. They assured me they were, at one point I think everyone had gotten involved with the conversation.
Interestingly, the same IMC “quartzite” I’ve had so much problem with was on display in a bathroom vignette where it was mounted on a wall in back of a vanity – where it wouldn’t come in contact with anything that would etch it. When I pointed it out, they completely understood my frustration because they said it was not quartzite (as IMC labeled it), but calcite and that of course it would etch and they’d NEVER recommend it for a kitchen.
Also in attendance was dishy Houston store manager Phillip Hudson who’d been up for the week while the Dallas manager was … somewhere else. Trying to beat the expected traffic from Ebby Halliday’s memorial service, I’d arrived early so we spent time walking around the store commenting and chatting about the various stones on display. The showroom is really like an art gallery it’s just that the “pictures” are REALLY big and REALLY heavy.
I was also seated next to designer Ruthie Staalsen of DecRenew. I gave her my usual riff on the problems being a consumer/pariah in the Dallas World Trade Center. She completely got it. Even if you’re going to hire a designer, you should go out and get ideas to give the designer a sense of what you like. Otherwise everyone’s time is wasted if you want chintz and you’re being shown Donghia. She said she’s happy to help clients who want a whole house (obviously) or if they just need help finding a specific piece of furniture. My kinda gal! (Gosh, I’ve used “gal” twice in this post, is that bad?)
Secret Backroom Lair
You know me, I want to see everything and so after all had gone, I got a sneak peek into the backroom. This is where buyers can see the sequence of slabs for book-matching or perhaps seeking out a slightly larger or smaller slab for a specific need. You’ll notice it’s still indoors and dust-free. It’s also handy if you’re REALLY hands-on (like me) and want to understand how a slab’s veining changes from slab to slab.
The Next Day
No walk of shame for me, but I was in the area so popped in the next day with a counter and tile sample from my kitchen, and sure enough, they really doubted its “quartzite” name. We looked around at what might make a good replacement given my (very nifty) backsplash that I didn’t want to also replace. We found a couple of options and I’m thinking about it … so peeved am I with my etching problem.
If you’re looking for stone, do yourself a favor and pop over to the Design District. They’re not fusty about your not being a designer and welcome all stoners stone lovers.
Aria Stone Gallery
1617 Hi Line Dr, Suite 310
Dallas, TX 75207
214 939 8000
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