April 25, 2015

Chicago Eats

I spent a couple days in Chicago last week. Somehow, it was my first visit to the windy city. I was busy with work, but found some time to sneak in some good eats. Grabbed a stool at the bar for a quick bite and beer at Avec. At 4:30 on a random Saturday afternoon the place was already packed with hipsters, which tells you something, I suppose. The charred octopus dish picture above was a great bite with white beans, persimmon, and preserved lemon. Wish I more time to explore the menu at Avec, it all looked good.
The Au Cheval cheeseburger. Au Cheval, an old school-ish diner with a nod to simple, French bistro cooking, is one of the new "it" places in Chicago. I was probably 50th in the line that formed 30 minutes before they opened at 11:00 Saturday morning, and I waited another 45 minutes for a stool at the bar. It was mostly worth it. The cheeseburger Au Cheval was recently picked by Bill Addison as one of the top burgers in the country, and a couple years ago, Bon Appetite named it the country's best. Who am I to argue?
When someone asks if you want a fried egg on your cheeseburger, the correct answer is "yes."
Cranking out cheeseburgers on the crowded line along the galley kitchen at Au Cheval as seen from a stool at the bar.
Spicy huevos rancheros at Dove's Luncheonette. Dove's is another of Chicago's hot places. For good reason. Another 30 minute wait on Sunday morning for a seat at the crowded counter. Dove's is another place at which I had more time to work through menu. The chicken-fried chicken looked amazing, I just didn't feel like a huge plate of fried chicken at 10am. No pictures, but I also had a great meal at Publican the last night in town. It over-delivered, with a strong charcuterie game, great local beers, and a wine list with many interesting choices. Feeling the need for another trip to Chicago soon as my list of places to try was long and my time short. Maybe next time...

April 15, 2015

Spring Breakery: Perfect Pig and More

Spring Break in Seagrove has come and gone, but I did manage to have some tasty bites this year. Our place in Seagrove was right next door to The Perfect Pig, thankfully some of the best restaurant food I've had in the area in the past five years. It's a fun space that opens for breakfast and serves up satisfying and thoughtful bites all day with some fun provisions to go.
The decadent nachos above are not for the faint of heart #HealthFood. House potato chips covered in ramp aoili and and blue cheese. Wut? Tasty, and you won't be hungry for a few hours.
The flatbread with arugula pesto, roma tomatoes, and just a bit of Parmesan. Now you really won't be  
     hungry for a few hours. The lunch menu featured some fun smaller plates and a killer ham and  
    cheese sandwiches that has changed the way I think about the lowly ham and cheese sandwich.
 Per usual, we had to do a shrimp boil at the house one night while in town. Thanks, Goatfeathers.
And this is how one kicks up the beach-house party. With spicy boudin from the Boudin King in Jennigs, LA. Hard to describe, but probably the best sausage I've ever eaten. A singular experience that just isn't replicated outside of Cajun country.
Some tasty wines were had as well, including this gem from Ultramarine. Single-vineyard, California sparkling wine from a boutique producer. Ultramarine and ultra-rare. Worth tracking down if your nuts about wine and like to spend money frivolously on fermented grape juice.

April 2, 2015

Beer Talk: Second Self Beer Company

So...Eater Atlanta has a new Beer Talk column written by yours truly. Each month I'll be talking to the brewers, alchemists, and all-around crazy beer folks who are chasing their dreams in building Atlanta's growing craft beer scene. First up this month is an interview I did with Jason Satamaria of Atlanta's newest and coolest brewery, Second Self Beer Company. Jason talked about his love of beer, the genesis for the company, and the struggles craft brewers in Georgia face today. You can read the whole article here. 

And be on the lookout for more Beer Talk on Eater next month.

March 29, 2015

March Ramblings

Some recent food and drink ramblings. The pollo perfecto from Superica in Krog Street Market. This chicken leg, with super crispy skin and rich, cinnamon-laden mole is probably the best thing I've had at Superica. I'd order it again tomorrow.
From a prior lunch visit to Superica, very solid barbacoa tacos. I like Superica, perhaps more with each subsequent visit. It appears that most of the east side of Atlanta likes Superica, too, judging from the size of the crowds on my last two visits.
I hadn't been to The General Muir in about six month and had forgotten how much I love that place. We did all veggies dishes for dinner, a standout being the black lentils with charred cauliflower and yogurt above.
Another one from General Muir, kale fritters covered in a blanket of Parmesan. Here's to putting The General Muir back in the regular rotation.
I made a quick weekend trip down to Tampa with my brother and some friends for two nights of debauchery at Bern's Steak House. What? Who flies to Tampa for two dinners at an old steak house? Thing is, Bern's is no ordinary steak house; they happen to have one of the largest and oldest wine cellars of any restaurant in North America. Think hundreds of thousands of bottles, with many bottles dating back to the early 20th century. It's a wine lover's dream. Like Disney World, for adults.
The main lobby at Bern's. Stepping into Bern's is kind of like stepping into a hole in the time-space continuum. It's windowless, and dimly lit, and woody, and carpeted. It feels a bit like Vegas, and a bit like Vito Corleone's basement. Most of all, it feels like party time.
Like Fight Club, the first rule of Bern's is that you don't talk about Bern's. To that end, I won't be sharing pics of the numerous bottles we enjoyed. I'll tease with just the one above to leave you in awe of the treats you can find in Berns' cellar. A 1977 California Zinfandel from Ridge that will change your mind on what Zinfandel is an can be. Amazing. Now back to chasing the Bern's dragon...

March 17, 2015

March in the Kitchen: Banh MI

I'm a sucker for a good banh mi. It's probably one of my all-time favorite sandwiches, and I stand by my assertion that one Atlanta's best sandwiches ever was the lemongrass chicken banh mi at the now-long defunct Pangaea, that opened in the early days of the west side's rebirth. I recently made banh mi at home using pork shoulder that I smoked on BGE for about 12 hours. I basically follow David Chang's Momofuku-style recipe, it's become my go-to for banh mi at home. I tend to interchange pork or chicken depending on what I have around the house, though Chang's version is made with pate. I got some baguette from Lee's Bakery on Buford Highway, a place I had heard about plenty, but never visited. These baguettes were a revelation; light and airy with a perfect amount of crunch to the flaky exterior. I used to waste my time trying to make my own, which is something I'll never do again after tasting these. Oh yeah, you can get 3 for $1.00! How many food items today can you think of that are actually kick-ass and cost 33 cents!
I also made a batch of Kenji's Sichuan-style dry-fried green beans. His lifehack on the traditionally deep fried dish is to broil the beans raw before dressing. The beans were tasty, and rightfully spicy with powdered and whole Szechuan peppercorns throughout. I could have gotten more color on the beans; just need a little longer under the broiler next time. A simple dish with robust flavors that can be whipped up quickly.