Photo by Becca Wright

When Connie Bally founded the Facebook group Fort Worth Foodies in 2017, she was just looking for some dinner friends. But when the group attracted hundreds of members within its first few weeks, she realized it had potential for much more than restaurant dates.

Now, five years later, Bally has proven herself right. Fort Worth Foodies reached 100,000 members on September 22, making it the largest public Facebook group in North Texas. The group’s mission is to be the most reliable and dynamic source of where and what to eat in Fort Worth while increasing commerce in foodie-related stores and services. Members ask for restaurant recommendations, offer food advice, and share dining-related news articles.

Bally, 69, a Fort Worth resident since 2009, says the group reached the milestone through organic growth. Before starting Fort Worth Foodies, she had no experience in social media management, but she says she has a “really good business head” thanks to 32 years of working in finance. Now that she’s achieved this member milestone, she wants to take her group to the next level.

“We will always be where you go to get the best banana pudding,” Bally says of the group. “We will always be a good resource, but we could be so much more. And we’re ready for that next step.”

Bally says she has been able to fully monetize the group thanks to hands-on guidance and feedback from Facebook. So far, she only works with "brand partners" (similar to paid advertisers) and has held off from seeking out investors, admitting that she’s not ready for that step yet.

The group has six volunteer administrators, but Bally hopes to be able to pay them by next year.

For now, Bally is working to strengthen her startup business and increase revenue. She’s gunning to be selected for a Community Accelerator program started by Facebook to provide mentorship, training, and a $40,000 grant to the leader of a community Facebook group. Being chosen for the program would allow her to make significant headway in developing her business and strengthening city relations. Her dream is to work with the Black Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the city’s economic development department to host an expo or hiring fair focused on culinary arts and connecting community members with culinary resources and networking.

If she’s not selected for the program, Bally is confident her vision will still come to life. She says she’ll seek out sponsors independently and capitalize on opportunities like North Texas Giving Day next year to fund her plans for the group.

In the future, Bally wants to start a foundation that creates scholarships for those pursuing culinary arts. It takes half a million Facebook members for a group to start a foundation, but she’s already a fifth of the way there. She sees no reason why Fort Worth Foodies can’t make it the rest of the way.

“It sounds crazy, but who better than us?” Bally says of her goals. “Fort Worth is the 12th largest city in the nation, the DFW area is the fastest growing metroplex in the nation, we’ve got eight million people in 14 different municipalities. I am enormously proud of my 100,000, but it is just the beginning.”

Bally is developing an interactive map of Fort Worth’s restaurants called Steps and a digital directory of restaurants. She also publishes an online foodie magazine called Fort Worth Foodies Presents.

In the meantime, Bally hopes to see the group continue to grow and hopefully reach 150,000 members by next year.

To celebrate the current milestone, group members will have the chance to win one of three giveaway gift baskets filled with more than $500 worth of hotel packages, gift cards, and more. She hasn’t made any plans on how to celebrate her achievement personally, but her real prize, she says, is the community she has built.

Texas Rangers

Oat milk giant scores naming rights to wiffle ball park in Arlington

Arena News

The Texas Rangers have created a new kid-friendly feature inside Globe Life Field. Called Oatly Park, it's a free wiffle ball park that'll be open during games for kids who want to take a swing.

According to a release, it'll make its debut on July 8.

Kids 12 and under who attend a Rangers game at Globe Life Field will be able to take five swings for free. It'll be open 30 minutes prior to the start of each game and will stay open until the end of the game.

It's a fenced-in park located in the upper-level center-field concourse above the Grand Slam Team Store, near section 233.

The Rangers previously had a wiffle ball park at The Ballpark in Arlington from 1995-2011. Now they've brought it back, says ballpark executive VP Chuck Morgan.

"Not a game day goes by without a Rangers fan letting me know that some of their best memories at The Ballpark in Arlington were hitting wiffle ball home runs at a Rangers game — it could be one of the best ideas I have ever had," Morgan says. Gotta love someone with self confidence.

Interesting that it's named for Oatly, which an Oatly spokesperson says reflects the oat milk company's tight partnership with the Rangers.

In 2021, Globe Life Field introduced oat milk soft-serve ice cream as part of their partnership. They were one of the first in the U.S. to serve this irresistible vegan treat, available in two flavors, chocolate and vanilla, as well as an option for a swirl.

That's when Oatly became the Official Sustainability Partner of the Texas Rangers, which included touches such as a Kids Zone and a giant Oatly carton display.

Oatly, which sells nondairy milk, ice cream, and yogurt made from oats, is also building a production facility in Fort Worth, anticipated to open in 2023.

And now they've scored naming rights to this new Globe Life Field amenity. I mean, it's no Starplex, but "Oatly Park" has an OK ring.

"We've loved partnering with the Texas Rangers to bring Oatly's non-dairy treats to the Globe Life stadium and we're proud that they've been a hit with fans so far," says Oatly's senior director of communications Mary-Kate Smitherman.

"Oatly Park was a natural extension of our partnership and a really fun way to bring a unique experience to life for kids of any age, adults included, to show off their baseball skills," Smitherman says. "Look for the gigantic Oatly carton at the stadium, you can't miss it, and give it your best shot for a wiffle ball home run!"

Oatly Park will be open for play beginning July 8, as the Rangers return to Arlington for a 10-game homestand, beginning with the Minnesota Twins on Friday night. The game is said to start at 7:05 pm, so one presumes the whiffle ball action will begin at 6:35 pm.

Wikimedia Commons

Hear this long-lost recording of Fort Worth's Van Cliburn on classical WRR

Van Cliburn News

A classical music treasure has been discovered in Dallas: It's a long-lost audio recording of a performance by the late concert pianist Van Cliburn, dating back to 1967.

According to a release, the 55-year-old recording was unearthed at the studios of WRR, the City of Dallas' 101-year-old radio station.

The 35-minute tape is a recording of Cliburn performing Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra at Southern Methodist University’s McFarlin Auditorium in 1967.

This is the only known recording of the concert. It's believed to have aired once on WRR in 1977.

Dallas city archivist John Slate found the recording with assistant city archivist Kristi Nedderman.

"It’s a delight to turn up a gem like this," Slate says in a statement. "For us, it’s like finding an unpublished Gertrude Stein poem."

Written in 1900, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 2 is one of the most popular concertos in classical music, but difficult to play and therefore tackled by only the most skillful pianists.

Cliburn performed the concerto many times and was hailed as among the best pianists to ever perform the piece; aficionados say that his execution "holds up virtually over all others before and since."

A hero in Fort Worth and in the DFW classical music community, Cliburn, who passed away in 2013, earned worldwide recognition when he won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958.

The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, held in Fort Worth, was founded in 1962 and has been held at Bass Performance Hall since 2001. Yunchan Lim, an 18-year-old pianist from South Korea, just won the 2022 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition on June 18.

The unearthed recording was done in mono audio on 7-inch reel-to-reel tape by WRR staff, and is one of the many arts-related collections in the Dallas Municipal Archives, which includes records of WRR, the South Dallas Cultural Center, the Office of Arts and Culture, and other City of Dallas institutions.

The digital transfer work to preserve the recording was accomplished by George Blood Audio of Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, funded by the Friends of the Dallas Municipal Archives.

"This is a golden example of the worth and value of archives," says WRR General Manager Mike Oakes in a statement. "It shows that preserving this tape adds to the local history of Van Cliburn and the DFW classical music community and the larger picture of Cliburn the international performer."

WRR was recently handed off by the city to KERA to assume management.

The radio station will air the performance — as well as the backstory of the discovery — on Saturday, June 25 at 7 pm on Classical 101.1 WRR.

Photo courtesy of Red Rabbit

New podcast series delves into cold-case murder of North Texas woman

Media News

A new season of Final Days on Earth, a crime podcast from Texas investigative journalist Claire St. Amant, returns with a murder in mind: Jennifer Harris, a 28-year-old woman who disappeared in Bonham, Texas, on Mother's Day in 2002.

The investigation into her murder was reportedly botched, with evidence such as her car keys, clothes, and laptop that was contaminated or missing entirely. It was the subject of a 2018 feature on 48 Hours, an episode that St. Amant, a development producer for CBS News and former CultureMap Dallas editor, also produced.

Harris owned a massage and wellness center in Frisco, and had moved to Bonham to temporarily live with her grandmother. On May 12, 2002, she said she was going to meet someone, but was never seen again. The next day, her Jeep Wrangler was found on a county road, and on May 18, her nude body was found in the Red River by fishermen. An autopsy determined that her uterus had been removed, elevating her death to the category of violent homicide.

The podcast, which premiered on May 10 and runs through July 12, recounts the final days of Jennifer’s life and follows the investigation into her disappearance and death.

St. Amant says it made a worthy podcast subject because it remains unsolved and the family and sheriff's department were seeking fresh eyes.

"I had been aware of the case for years, and it always struck me as one with so much potential for investigating," she says. "There is a lot of information that is known about what Jennifer was doing in the final days of her life, and I wanted to see if I could find any more answers in her case by going back through the file, conducting new interviews, and making a detailed timeline of events."

The first season of Final Days on Earth debuted in 2021, focusing on Dammion Heard, a college wrestler who vanished after a party in 2014 in Gunnison, Colorado. St. Amant says that making a timeline was a key element on that podcast, and she repeated that formula for Season 2.

"Much like in my first season, the timeline is the crux of the story," she says. "I used the case file from the sheriff's office and conducted additional interviews with Jennifer's family and an investigator who has been working on the case for years. I'm still reporting and writing the final episodes of the podcast, and next month, I’m heading back to Bonham to do a drive along with the investigator to get a better understanding of his research in the case and what he has come to learn about Jennifer’s final night on earth."

St. Amant, who has deep experience across a variety of platforms including broadcast and print, sees podcasting as a growing industry with great potential for telling all kinds of stories. Her first season hit half a million downloads, and she's aiming for 1 million with Season 2.

"For so many years, the concept of Final Days on Earth just lived on my laptop," she says. "To be able to share it and have people all over the world listen and respond to the story has been so gratifying. The podcast audience is engaged and loyal and that makes for a really rewarding production experience."

The 10-episode podcast from Cold Case Productions and PodcastOne is out now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast sites; it's available here. New episodes are released every Tuesday through July 12. For a peek, there's a teaser trailer on YouTube.

Photo courtesy of Kuluntu

No love for Fort Worth on list of Best Bread by Food & Wine magazine

Bread News

One of the biggest pandemic foodie trends was a surge in popularity with bread, and here is national food magazine Food & Wine exploiting that trend with a new best-of list.

Called The Best Bread in Every State, it's a list of breadmakers in each of the 50 states, including Texas.

Texas being so large, the blurb highlights bakeries in three cities, none of which, alas, are Fort Worth:

Written by David Landsel, the magazine's editor, the article references the "quiet revolution taking place within American bread" spurred by the pandemic, with bakers cooped up at home that led to "an absolute explosion in the cottage baking industry."

The blurbs are written in a conversational style — heavy on chattiness, light on stats.

Here's the Texas summary:

Bread in the Lone Star State has come very far in not very much time at all, which is to say that 2018 already feels like ages ago. That's the year Ryan Goebel took the bold step of opening ThoroughBread in Austin. At his modest-seeming shop, tucked away from view in the Zilker neighborhood, Goebel was, from the very start, turning out some of the finest naturally-leavened loaves in the state, back when there weren't a ton to choose from. These days, that's still true, but there's no denying that the drought is officially over. From the sprawling North Texas suburbs on down, sourdough is kind of a big deal right now. There are two standouts: the beautiful, catch-them-if-you-can loaves at the online-only Kuluntu Bakery in Dallas, and Magnol French Baking in Houston, where chefs Otto Sanchez and Brittany native Matthieu Cabon have been shaking things up since 2019.

There's no question that all three of these breadmakers are doing great bread. But might the "Best Bread in Texas" headline be a little misleading? The list bypasses some well established names (hello Black Rooster), and instead skews towards new, hipster, and independently owned entities. Maybe "Best New Post-Pandemic Breads"?

It also seems to be focused on bakers who are doing sourdough breads. Maybe "Best New Post-Pandemic Sourdough Breads"?

ThoroughBread in Austin fits the filter: Founded in 2019, they're a small operation that does only five breads, dominated by sourdough: white sour, wheat sour, rye sour, white loaf, and wheat loaf. (Non-bread-wise, they also do cookies and their signature kolache-style "Burridoughs.")

Kuluntu in Dallas does incomparably amazing breads and baked goods, but it's not something you can just walk in off the street and buy. Founded in 2018, it's a cottage business, requiring that you order via email, then pick it up at a house in Oak Cliff a few days later. The selection is limited and changes every week, but follows the article's sourdough-centric theme, offering 2-3 sourdough options, plus seasonal items such as a fall croissant filled with Delicata squash, goat cheese, & sage.

Magnol was founded in Houston in 2019 by two veteran bakers, one a native of France, and has a big wholesale business supplying bread to restaurants such as Bludorn and Coltivare. They're bigger than the other two Texas bakeries that made this list, with a broader menu that focuses on French breads rather than sourdough. They definitely have hipster cred, with big lines on weekends.

Landsel, the author, very likely sought advice from local "experts." He could hardly have, for example, ordered bread from Kuluntu. Or did he go by Instagram photos? (Neither he nor the magazine's PR team responded to a query regarding their methodology.)

"Two years later, where are we? This list aims to answer that question, and one thing is clear—we're left with far more good bread than we started with," he concludes.

Time/Facebook

Texas' Simone Biles scores Time Magazine's Athlete of the Year honor

time for simone

Simone Biles is truly having a gold medal year.

Take her stalwart Olympic run and not long after, her positively heroic Senate appearance — where she condemned the FBI and U.S. Olympic Committee for their botched handling of the sex abuse against she and her teammates by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Finally, there was the triumphant and sold-out stadium tour where she performed with her Tokyo 2020 teammates.

Now, the longtime Texan has been named Time Magazine’s 2021 Athlete of the Year. This is the second time this year the publication has honored the gymnastics G.O.A.T.; she was previously named to Time’s Most Influential People list in September. The cover image features a simple close-up with Biles looking forward — almost defiantly so.

In its laudatory piece, Time scribes Alice Park and Sean Gregory detail Biles’ tumultuous, July Olympic performance in Tokyo, where she famously made the controversial decision to back out of competition after a case of the “twisties,” which could be described as Biles simply losing her positioning and whereabouts whilst in midair.

Critics (basely) lambasted the 24-year-old for “quitting” while fans united in her need for mental wellness. “Biles’ assuredness in speaking her truth and taking ownership of her fate offered permission for athletes and non-athletes alike to talk more openly about challenges they’d once kept to themselves,” Time notes. Indeed, athletes such as fellow Olympic icon Michael Phelps and NBA star Kevin Love quickly rose to her defense.

“To see her choose herself, we’re going to see the effects of that for the next generation,” Allyson Felix, he most decorated female track-and-field athlete of all time, told Time. “When thinking about role models . . . wow, here is someone showing you can choose your mental health over what the world says is the most important thing.”

Indeed, Biles has proven that she is unafraid to prioritize. She has maintained a relatively low profile since her return to Houston after the Tokyo 2020 games.

Will she compete in another Olympics? Time will tell.

But, if her 32 Olympic and World Championship medals — plus her utterly transcendent poise in the face of global adversity — are any measure, she’s forever a gold-medal champion.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

NFL legend Terry Bradshaw's ranch north of Dallas-Fort Worth listed for $22.5 million

Celebrity listing

An Oklahoma ranch around 70 miles north of Dallas-Fort Worth that’s owned by NFL Hall of Famer and Fox Sports analyst Terry Bradshaw is back on the market for $22.5 million.

Bernard Uechtritz, owner of Dallas-based real estate agency Icon Global Group, says the 744-acre ranch was relisted after a deal with a would-be buyer fell through. Cancellation of the purchase followed a series of contract extensions, along with repeated assurances from the potential buyer and their representatives that the deal would close, according to Uechtritz. It’s unknown how much that buyer was willing to pay for the ranch.

Over the years, Uechtritz and Bradshaw have been “inundated” by inquiries about selling the ranch, where the E! reality TV series The Bradshaw Bunch was filmed, according to an Icon Global news release.

Terry Bradshaw ranch The E! reality TV series The Bradshaw Bunch was filmed here.Photo courtesy of Icon Global

Bradshaw says in the news release that he and his wife, Tammy, are “sad to leave this great big ranch and our wonderful home, which has been our idyllic retreat of so many years; however, it is time that we slowed down a little, freeing us up to travel more, as well as enjoy new grandchildren, family, and other interests.”

The Bradshaws now live on a smaller farm in Texas where they continue to operate their Quarter Horse breeding business. In conjunction with the sale of the ranch, the Bradshaws are selling 150 Quarter Horses at an October 22 auction.

Terry Bradshaw ranch The ranch sits on 744 acres.Photo courtesy of Icon Global

The ranch, just east of Thackerville, Oklahoma, and a few miles west of the Texas-Oklahoma border, will keep operating until the new owner takes over. The property, overlooking the Red River, sits within the boundaries of the Chickasaw Nation, which is home to the massive WinStar World Casino and Resort.

“The property and facilities are a turnkey-ready proposition for a major equestrian player in the horse business, or continued use as a cattle or private recreational ranch,” Uechtritz says.

Highlights of the ranch include:

  • Rustic 8,600-square-foot home with six bedrooms, six bathrooms, two half-bathrooms, and four fireplaces
  • 2,600-square-foot manager’s house
  • Four-bedroom bunkhouse
  • Outdoor patio encompassing about 1,000 square feet, with a full kitchen, bar, fireplace, hot sauna, and fire pit
  • Eight lakes and ponds
  • Outdoor pool
  • Two-story doghouse made of stone
  • 12-stall stallion barn
  • 20-stall show barn
  • 50-stall mare barn with a laboratory, breeding facility, office, and covered arena
  • 20-stall barn for weaning horses
  • Hay barn
  • Show-pig barn

The property has been on and off the market for a number of years. At various times, it’s been priced at $11.9 million, $10.8 million, $10.6 million, and $9.9 million, according to media reports.

Terry Bradshaw The Bradshaws are selling 150 Quarter Horses at an October 22 auction.Photo courtesy of Icon Global

As quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s and ’80s, Bradshaw led the team to four Super Bowl victories and twice clinched Super Bowl MVP honors. The Louisiana native, who celebrated his 74th birthday earlier this month, retired from pro football in 1984 after a 14-year stint with the Steelers and then joined CBS Sports as a football analyst. He’s been a Fox Sports football analyst since 1994.

Gucci unzips first sumptuous Fort Worth boutique at Shops at Clearfork

Luxury shopping news

UPDATE 9-27-2022: Opening day has been pushed back to Monday, October 10, a store representative says.

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Fort Worth fashionistas who, for months, have eagerly watched for the "Open" sign to appear on the city's first Gucci store, can finally grab their handbags and head over. Gucci will open at The Shops at Clearfork on Friday, September 30.

The Italian luxury brand's first standalone Fort Worth boutique spans more than 4,500 square feet and carries a wide selection of men’s and women’s shoes, handbags, luggage, small leather goods, jewelry, watches, and eyewear, according to a release.

The Clearfork location is the seventh Gucci boutique in Texas. But it's the first time Fort Worth shoppers don't have to trek east across the Metroplex — to Dallas' Galleria or NorthPark Center, or even further to Plano's Legacy West — for a full-scale Gucci experience.

And while the luxury goods may pull shoppers in, the elegant Clearfork store itself may keep them entranced.

"With a look that invites customers to feel welcome and relaxed, the interior design is discreet," the release says. "In keeping with the elegant and contemporary eclecticism that characterizes Gucci’s collections, the store sees the combination of traditional and modern, industrial and romantic. Contrasting merchandising elements represent different design codes, combining to create curiosity, inviting customers to feel like they are constantly discovering new aspects of the store."

Design details include:

  • Custom geometric carpet, which, they say, produces decorative three-dimensional effects on the floors.
  • Mechanical display units that contrast with soft, rich fabrics adorning the rooms.
  • Round tables that offset rectangular ones.
  • Varnished, gold iron wall finishes that complement red velvets on upholstery and fitting rooms.
  • Luxurious chairs and benches for a textured effect.
  • LED lighting to promote energy efficiency.

"The result is a space that entices, surprises and feels personal to Gucci," they say.

Established in Florence, Italy, in 1921, Gucci is one of the world’s leading luxury brands. President and CEO Marco Bizzarri and Creative Director Alessandro Michele now lead the brand, which is part of the global luxury group Kering.

"Following the House’s centenary, Gucci forges ahead into the next hundred years, continuing to redefine luxury while celebrating the creativity, Italian craftsmanship, and innovation at the core of its values," the release says.

The Shops at Clearfork boutique is located next to Louis Vuitton, near Tory Burch and Kate Spade New York. Hours are 10 am-7 pm Monday-Thursday, 10 am-8 pm Friday-Saturday, and 12-6 pm Sunday.

This tiny green inchworm is why Dallas-Fort Worth trees are losing their leaves

Worm News

If your backyard tree has suddenly and completely lost its leaves, there's a tiny green worm you can blame. It's called the cankerworm, AKA inchworm, and it has invaded trees across Dallas-Fort Worth.

These tiny caterpillars feed off trees, completely defoliating the canopy — specifically the hackberry tree, their favorite. And in fall 2022, they've arrived in North Texas with a vengeance.

Residents from Mesquite on the east to West Fort Worth on the west have spotted the bright green worms, less than an inch long, swaying from silken strings, hanging from door eaves, yard furniture, open porches, anyplace they can catch a breeze.

These cankerworms are a regular part of Texas' fauna, but DFW is experiencing a rare widespread outbreak, says Amy Heath, a Board Certified Master Arborist and the owner of Texas Tree Surgeons, a tree trimming company based in Garland.

Heath says that her staff of arborists has been seeing the little critters — which she identifies as the sciota celtidella moth also known as the hackberry leafroller — all over North Texas.

"We've just started getting calls because the defoliation has become so dramatic over the last week," Heath says. "People become concerned when they see their trees losing all of their leaves."

While it's weird to see hackberry trees basically stripped of their leaves, it's not a real issue to the health of the tree — it's more of a nuisance, she says.

"You'll find clusters when you go outside, they're dropping out of trees, and the silken string is a little like a spider web," she says.

If they're in your doorway, prepare yourself because once you're inside, you'll probably find one or two in your hair.

Cankerworm outbreaks only come every few years, says Wizzie Brown, an Extension Program Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

"They don't following a calendar year," she says. "Outbreaks usually occur every 3-5 years and it’s not widespread — it's usually in geographic pockets. We had one in Central Texas last year."

Their occurrence is based on environmental conditions.

"Is the temperature right? Is there moisture? Even the daylight cycle," Brown says.

The weird 2022 summer in North Texas — where there was no rain for 100 days, then massive flooding storms — looms as a significant factor.

"That rain prompted vegetation to come out, with new growth," Brown says. "Insects are going to say, 'There’s food available, we need to get cranking'."

The last outbreak that hit DFW was in 2015, Heath says. This 2022 outbreak began surfacing the week of August 15, and their lifespan is about 4-6 weeks, so they're in their very final days, and their exit is hastened by the cooler nights we're finally starting to see.

"The bigger problem is the underlying stresses we have on our trees right now," Heath says. "This year has been hard on trees. We had the huge freeze in 2021, then this summer of drought, with higher temperatures that came early so the ground around the roots was hotter than it usually is."

"Hackberries get get a root fungus when they get stressed which makes them a risk for total failure," she says. "Most people look at the canopy, but the arborist looks at the bottom of the tree first."

Spraying pesticide isn't considered effective since the inchworms are so widespread and floaty in the air that they're impossible to capture.

"Maybe just get out the water hose and spray your doorway," Brown says.