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...

December 1, 2014

Yalla at Krog Street Market

I think Krog Street Market is going to be problematic for my wallet and waistline. After a visit to Fred's Meat and Bread for lunch earlier in the week, I returned for dinner at Yalla on Saturday night. From the same team behind General Muir, and Fred's,Yalla is a middle eastern food stall right adjacent to Fred's. They are only doing dinner at Yalla for now as they adjust to the huge crowds at both stalls. 
Our first visit was great, though the staff was clearly struggling to work through the many variations one could make to the menu. Proteins and mains can be ordered as pitas or platters, each fully customizable with numerous roasted and grilled vegetables as well as things like labne and tahini. Each of the five dished we tried were strong, many flavors true to what I remember from my Syrian grandmother's kitchen as a kid. The falafel above offer a lighter rendition of a chickpea fritter packed with mint, cilantro, and parsley flavor.
Sabich pita filled with roasted eggplants, eggs, and pickles. This was excellent with fresh pita made just prior to service.
Blurry picture of the excellent schwarma platter with added pickles, labne, harissa and roasted onions and eggplant. I could see eating at Yalla often, with numerous options and variations there are multiple ways to approach each meal, and by today's standards, there is a good bit of value for what Yalla delivers.
One of the many cool things about KSM is that you have numerous options for dining and drinking under one roof. For example, after strolling and shopping a bit we stopped in to The Luminary for drinks and snacks before our dinner at Yalla. Good drinks at The Luminary; the smoked wings had decent smoke flavor and a curry aioli that added a nice spicy lift.

November 26, 2014

New Eats: Ribalta Pizza & Fred's Meat & Bread

Ribalta recently opened in midtown in a space that was previously a pizza joint, but Ribalta is bringing a renewed focus on pizza according to our server. Rather traditional Neapolitan-style pizza with a paper-thin crust and nice char. A solid choice in this style, though, perhaps not reaching the heights of Antico or Verazano's. However, for the price of $14-$15, a solid option if you are in the area.
Sausage and broccoli rabe. Good pie, local Italian sausage made by artisan sausage maker. I liked this one, real nice char on the crust, though it did lack a real flavor punch that one might expect considering the toppings.
In case you missed it, Krog Street Market officially opened Monday. Sure to be a food and drink destination, it is a welcome addition to the Atlanta east dining scene. Before the official grand opening, both The Luminary and Craft Izakaya opened several weeks ago. We stopped in for some bites at Craft Izakaya last weekend. The spicy-crispy tuna and quail egg above is as tasty as it is purdy. I like Craft, it's great space with enough interesting offerings on the diverse menu to keep you intrigued and satisfied.
Fred's Meat and Bread was the first "stall" to open Monday and as of now it's the only option for lunch at the Market. Brought to you by the good folks behind The General Muir, it's hard to imagine that Fred's won't be excellent. We tried a few sandwiches. All were solid, with excellent bread from Rob Alexander. The cheesesteak is a standout.
The cheesesteak. Kind of perfection. Unless you're from Philly, than you can play contrarian.
Korean fried chicken with pickled veggies.
Mortadella and bacon. Yum.
Fred's double stack with bacon and mushrooms. Not unlike the renowned burger at General Muir, this one was just a bit sloppier as we ordered it with bacon and mushrooms. A solid first experience at Fred's but that was what I was expecting. Judging by the very long line when we left, you want to get there early. When all the other food stalls open up, watch out, Krog Street Market will be jamming.

November 17, 2014

HomeCooking: November Edition

It's cold out. That's a good thing. Fall is my favorite time of the year for getting busy in the kitchen. I started getting serious about making ramen and pho last year and I now feel pretty confident that I make damn good renditions of each for a home cook. Pictured above, a riff on Ed Lee's recipe for chicken and country ham pho. Lee's recipe calls for a super clean and delicate broth that is made simply from chicken, blackened onions and ginger, peppercorns, and a little star anise. This stuff will make your kitchen smell awesome on a cold Saturday afternoon with football on in the background.
I also tried my hand again at Ivan Orkin's shio ramen. Orkin's broth is dashi-based-there's a good bit of dried fish used to make this stock. Yes, one does get well-acquainted with the frozen dried fish aisle at Buford Highway Farmer's Market when shopping for this dish. It is definitely different than the rich pork flavor of a traditional Tonkotsu ramen.There are seven separate components to this bowl of ramen, preparation is best spread out over a couple of days as you have to make an overnight dashi, a soffrito,  pork belly that cures overnight, etc. I'm not sure it's always worth it, and I was certainly  more enthusiastic about the effort it took when I first made this ramen last winter. That being said, for ramen at home on a Sunday night, it pretty much kicks ass.
I also made a few dishes from Sean Brock's first book, Heritage. I'm a fan of Brock's Charleston eateries and he certainly has cemented his place as a force in new Southern cooking over the last decade. His cookbook is massive, and beautifully laid out, though I can't say I felt the urge to make many of the recipes at first glance. Anyway, I took a shot on a couple of dishes including the hearty farrotto with kale pictured above that uses farro in a risotto-like preparation. A nice vegetarian meal option for cooler weather and farro is quickly becoming one of my new favorite grains.
Another one from the Brock book: grilled and smoked chicken wings with a burnt scallion bbq sauce. These were addictive. Grilled for a few minutes on each side, and then smoked over the same coals for about 10 minutes. The burnt scallion bbq sauce is going to be a mainstay in my house now.
Honey glaze roast duck. Another Ed Lee jam. Lee recommends scoring the skin of the raw duck and ladling boiling water over it prior to roasting. The boiling water bath releases a good bit of fat and allows you to get a nice crisp skin during the roasting process. Winner!

November 11, 2014

Lunch at Ah Ma Taiwanese Kitchen

I'll admit it, I don't eat a lot Taiwanese cooking. In fact, after the conversation we had at lunch, I don't even really know that much about Taiwan. That being said, I stopped in for lunch at Ah Ma Taiwanese Kitchen, the fairly new Taiwanese restaurant on Monroe in midtown. Ah Ma means grandmother in Taiwanese, and there is a nod here to simple, family recipes and street food of the common people. We sampled seven or eight dishes, and each was solid, if slightly understated in flavor and wows. The Lu Rou Fan bowl above  features slow-cooked pork, mushrooms, cilantro, and a soy-braised egg. A solid, seasonal fall dish to me, and a nice buy at $5.50.
Shrimp bao with remoulade and pickled vegetables was a standout. Hard to go wrong, though, with crunchy fried shrimp, pickled veggies, and a spicy remoulade.
Beef tongue bao was also a standout. The tongue was fall-apart tender in a rich, hoison-like sauce.
Slow cooked pork belly. I like my pork belly cooked to show a little more color, but this was fresh and tender and tasted like pork, in a good way.
Salt and pepper chicken. Eh. I was thinking about the chicken nuggets mu kids ate when they were young. Fun, but not enough salt or pepper to live up to the name.
Egg pancake roll. Tortilla wrapped around a soft scrambled egg, mushrooms, and cilantro, with a sweet-spicy dipping sauce. A fun bite. The nice thing about Ah Ma is that the small plates and baos, which make up most of the menu, are all fairly-priced in the $4-$7 range. This means means you can go with a couple people and devour a large sampling of the menu without breaking the bank. I enjoyed all of our bites, and will definitely be back for another visit to try the rest of the menu.