January 26, 2015

January Eats & Drinks

Some recent hits on wine and food from the last couple of weeks. Tried to get back to normal after the holiday binging, so perhaps a little less food and wine than unusual this January. I did try Golden Bbq on Buford Highway for some traditional Cantonese food. It was good. I wouldn't go out of my way for it, but the flavors were mostly solid; though, the place isn't much to look at.
Last week's Dude lunch at the new Qing Mu in Buckhead. You want to pay a little more for your authentic Chinese noodle bowl? Buckhead can do that. Qing Mu gets points for their focus. They do one thing, noodle bowls, and they do it fairly well. My lunch date said it was "inoffensive." That translates to 5 stars using his rating system. You can choose from five bowls: brisket, veggie, seafood, chicken, double beef, or make your own concoction. At $12, my chicken and pork bowl wasn't a great deal, but the broth was rich enough with a little bit of spice. Billed as a spicy broth, I wanted more spicy, but that might just be my palate. If I lived in Buckhead (and thank god I don't!), I might visit here often to scratch that noodle bowl itch on a cold day.
 Return visit to Yalla at Krog Street Market. It's great. That's all.
Las Brasas. The best chicken in Decatur that no one ever seems to talk about. Las Brasas just keeps cranking it out and always delivers. Great people. Great chicken. Again...do one thing, and do it well. There's a beauty in that.
Beer-battered onion rings at home, along with a not-pictured fish fry. Harissa mayonnaise right there because in case you didn't know it, every other thing you make in 2015 must contain harissa. Wut?
Another limited production gem from Eric at Le Caveau Wines in Chamblee. Herve Souhaut makes limited amounts of Syrah, and Rhone blends from around the Rhone Valley in France. This white wine is mostly Rousanne, with a little bit of Viognier. A versatile wine that matches well with seafood, chicken, or even pasta dishes. Hard to find anywhere, and nearly impossible to find in GA, unless you go see Eric. Tell him I sent you.

January 13, 2015

Home Cooking: Prune & More

Thanks to a heads up from this guy, one of my favorite new cookbooks is Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton. It's like no other cookbook I own in that it is a copy of Hamilton's notes to her cooks and staff. No flowery introductions to the recipes, just the lists of ingredients and Hamilton's pointed commands as to how to plate the dishes during restaurant service. There are countless interesting recipes, and I look forward to tackling the whole book. However, being that I am recovering from the post-holiday haze of over-eating and over-drinking, I was drawn to some of the vegetable dishes in the book. Above is a dish of pre-salted and pan-fried zucchini strips dressed in chili oil. Nothing too amazing here, it's just tasty. Thin strips of zucchini are salted for an hour to remove water and then pan-fried to browned and crispy in spots. I would like to get the zucchini crispier next time.
Whole roasted cauliflower with capers and brown-butter bread crumbs. My new favorite way to prepare cauliflower. After roasting for 50 minutes you top with the caper-brown butter crumbs. The whole roasting leaves renders a tender head of cauliflower that falls apart with a little pressure allowing you to scoop up spoonfuls of cauliflower, bread crumbs, and capers. Yum.
Turmeric stewed lentils with chard braised in cardamom and cream, and top with fried shallots. Replete with deep and earthy flavors of India, this side dish is easily hearty enough to be work as a main dish on veggie night.
Finally, I dove back into another favorite book, Sean Brock's Harvest. One could never have enough variations on fried chicken in the repertoire. Brock brines his chicken in a salt/sugar mix with the addition of traditional black tea. I tweaked the recipe by replacing the black tea he uses in the brine with lapsang souchong smoked tea. It added a very mild smokiness in the background that played nicely off the salty-corn meal/flour crust. A winning fried chicken that I will add to my regular rotation.

January 5, 2015

Starting 2015 Off Right

I spent some time up north welcoming 2015 with family. New Year's Eve was done right with oysters from Island Creek Oysters harvested the day before and delivered overnight to your door. Duxbury's finest with Wellfleets and Island Creeks. Great oysters from the cold waters off Cape Cod, some of my favorites. Washing your oysters down with Krug is highly recommended.
One cannot go to CT and not eat Frank Pepe's legendary pizza at least once. It's holy grail pizza, regardless what you might hear, and there's none better for my palate.
We also made time for some good wine including a great 1970 Leoville Las Cases above the brilliant 1990 La Gaffeliere from Saint Emilion in Bordeaux pictured below.
1970 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve is an amazing old-school California Cabernet at the age of 45. Thanks to my brother for keeping an eye out for my birth-year wines like this one.
We put New Year's Eve over-the-top by finishing off with a little Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. Back before these developed the rampant cult status they have now, normal folks like us could afford to buy some for special occasions. Now that the 15 yr goes for $500+ and the 23yr is over $1000, we have to savor the stock we have left. Good bourbon. Worth the insane craze and prices? Most likely, no.
I don't know what it is about the New England area, but quite simply, some of the best beer comes from the area. Despite the good stuff we have down south, nothing comes close to the numerous brilliant beers coming out of the northeast. Last week, my brother turned me on to yet another brilliant beer, the Sip of Sunshine from Lawson's Finest Liquids. I used to think Heady Topper was a perfect beer, this beer has redefined perfect for me. Not sure a beer could ever taste better than this beer. Need more soon! I guess I've set a high bar for 2015, going to try my best to keep it going!

December 22, 2014

Favorites, 2014 Edition

A quick reflection on some favorite things in 2014. From the home-cooking files, a few dishes I was happy with. The ricotta and fig salad above hit the right notes when fresh figs were in season back over the summer.
Fried oyster and steak tartare with pickled red onions and chive oil. Made this for a dinner with friends. I stole the idea from Mike Lata's rendition at The Ordinary in Charleston.
I've gotten pretty good at making ramen and pho at home. Let's just say it's good enough to scratch that itch when I don't feel like driving up Buford Highway and I get the satisfaction of knowing I can pull it off at home. For ramen, I really like making Ivan Orkin's seafood stock version from his Ivan Ramen cookbook, which is also one of my favorite things this year.
I like Kenji's recipe for tradtional beef pho, but I also find myself gravitating to the clean, pure flavors of Ed Lee's chicken and country ham pho from his excellent book.
Domaine Olga Raffault makes great Cabernet Franc from Chinon that can age a good while. This 1990 was one of my favorite wines of the year. Great Cabernet Franc that won't break the bank.
I also reaffirmed my love for Savart's Champagne this year. One of my favorite wines. I drank a good bit of this in 2014. While it took me a while, I'm fully on board with the fact that Champagne is not just for special occasions. I drink Champagne regularly now, it goes with everything.
Summer of Cheeseburgers with my son. We had a good time, he ate a lot of cheeseburgers. One Eared Stag's Meat Stick came out on top for us, but General Muir, Holeman & Finch, and Bocado were all winning burgers.
Charleston Eats: Still one of my favorite cities to visit. So much good food, and several new places came out swinging in 2014. I made multiple visits to Edmund's Oast, The Obstinate Daughter, and Leon's Oyster Shop this year. Strong stuff. Can't wait to go back!
Beer! Drank some good beer this year. Including the cult favorites Heady Topper and Ghandi Bot. The Maine Beer Co are always solid, and a nod to my favorites from the south: Westbrook Brewing out of Mt. Pleasant, SC. It was a good year, see you in '15.

December 9, 2014

Grand Champion Bbq at Krog Street Market

Krog Street Market, I can't quit you. If I keep visiting Krog Street Market multiple times in a week it isn't going to end well for my wallet or my waistline. That being said, I was easily talked into another visit to KSM with a friend who had not yet been. This time, Grand Champion Bbq was open, having been the most recent addition to the growing food offerings. Having established themselves as a serious bbq contender in the OTP bbq scene, the outpost at KSM is Grand Champion's first foray ITP. Based on the compact size of the food stalls at KSM, we thought Grand Champion might be smoking there meats offsite and bringing it in, but sure enough, they managed to maximize their space with a decent size smoker behind the counter. The ribs and brisket were excellent, fully of peppery spice, smoke, and tender goodness. Huge sides of gooey mac-and-cheese and collards (that lacked a little oomph) would certainly feed more than a couple people.
The brisket. Nice bark, melting-ly tender, and full of smoke and pepper. Very good. It will be hard to resist return visits to Grand Champion and they are definitely another winning addition to the KSM food scene.
Despite stuffing our faces with bbq, we saved some room for more snacks at Fred's and Yalla. The smoked catfish po-boy above can be added to your list of can't miss sandwiches at Fred's. One of the keys here is the bread from jedi-bread-ninja Rob Alexander who has conjured up a respectable recreation of Leidenheimer- style french bread that makes po-boys in Nola so special.

For dessert, some more snacks from Yalla, including the pita special with sweet potato, maple labne, and cracklings. With, of course, banging fresh pita from Rob Alexander and crew. Until next time, Krog Street Market, and it won't be long...