March 30, 2012

Home Cooking: Pizza

I worked on some pizza lately. I've made pizza at home plenty, I've just never been too fond of what I turn out. See, the secret to great pizza isn't just in the ingredients; the fact of the matter is that you need to cook your pizza hot. Now, 800 and 900 degrees are not temps most home ovens can reach. Unless you get creative (and like to break shit) like this guy, or this guy. I decided to stick with my trusty, non-jailbreak oven at 550 degrees, but I did try out a new dough for my pizza. 
Tartine is a now legendary bakery in San Fransisco. The Tartine method begins with a 5lb mix of white and wheat flour, which you use to develop your natural wild starter.
By using a natural starter, there's no need to add yeast, as you would normally making dough. 
The picture above is the started on day one. It's basically a handful of the 50/50 flour mix with an equal amount of water. This is covered with a towel and left on the counter. Each morning you discard 80% of the starter, and then add another handful of flour and equal parts water. This process is called "feeding your starter.
After several days of feeding, the starter will smell rather funky, like dirty socks, but somewhat sweet like over-ripe fruit, too. It will also bubble as in the picture above.
After a week or so, the started can be used to make a dough. This part of the process is similar any other dough-making process with several periods of resting and rising. The dough is very easy to work with once risen, it requires very little kneading to shape into a pizza.
The pizza was tasty, especially the dough, but I found I still didn't get it exactly as I wanted. The was some nice blistering in spots and firm, crisp bottom, but there was still some spots were the dough stayed moist and dough on top of the pie. It was good, but I'm going to tweak some things for the next round in my quest for it taste as good as Rowdy's (see below):

March 26, 2012

Spring Visit to Cakes & Ale

Some pics from our meal at Cakes & Ale last weekend. It had been a couple months since I had visited, which is far too long. Billy Allin really continues to impress with his embrace of seasonal ingredients and flavors. The octopus, GA shrimp, and chickpea stew with aioli pictured above is perhaps the best dish I've ever had at Cakes & Ale. Tender octopus and perfectly cooked GA shrimp in a rich broth. We had some other tasty stuff including the veal tongue with frisee and sauce gribiche, as well as the dishes below.
Steelhead trout, fregula, carrot-fennel puree, and minted yogurt.
Vermont Burrata, arugula, spiced pumpkin seeds, and lonza.
We also tried a couple of desserts from Cakes' new pasty chef, Eric Wolitzky. The Mississippi mud, flourless chocolate cake, with stout whipped cream was pretty damn good.
It was another very good meal at Cakes & Ale. I consider myself a bit of a foodie, yet, I'm man enough to admit that every time I eat at Cakes & Ale I encounter a flavor or ingredient that is new to me. I feel like a smarter and better eater every time I dine there, this time was no exception. Oh yeah, we had some wine, too.

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March 20, 2012

Fried Chicken at Big Tex Decatur

I recently posted about my affinity for Big Tex in Decatur. It's close to my house and an easy place to have a few drinks and some Texas-style comfort food. This past week I tried the Big Tex fried chicken plate again. I first tried their chicken back in February after it had been given the thumbs up by The Legend.
The fired chicken at Big Tex is pretty good. Nice crunch to the exterior and a good bit of flavor to the meat coming from the 24 hour brine. I will say that the meat itself was a bit dry this time; it wasn't the first time I ordered. And, it's not nearly as juicy and flavorful as the kick ass fried chicken I had at OES last month. That being said, it's a worthy plate of fried chicken, though other folks, more well-versed in fried chicken-ry, may have to weigh in on its absolute merits. I will say, the fried chicken plate at Big Tex is a good deal at only $10 for the half order (pictured above), which also comes with your choice of two tasty sides, such as the smokey collards or potato salad.

March 16, 2012

A Couple of Good Buys

Once in a while I get around to recommending wines that are both decent values and available around town. The 2009 Clos du Tue Boeuf La Butte is a Loire Valley wine of the people that I have posted on before. This wine is loaded with acidity, earth, and lean red Gamay flavors. For $20, it's an intellectual wine that takes time to grow on you, but if you open it for wine geeks, they will love you for it. I got mine at Le Caveau Fine Wines in Chamblee.
The 2009 Jean Paul Brun Morgon is an equally interesting wine. It's from the heralded, though somewhat overrated, 2009 vintage in Beaujolais. It features a nose that is alive with notes of lavender and floral aromas. The palate is meaty, it actually has a raw meat essence along with notes of ash and spicy-sour raspberry. Another good wine for around $20. I got mine at Tower in Buckhead, though, they may have moved on to the 2010 vintage by now.

March 9, 2012

Pine Street Market

I will confess that I have been terribly negligent of Pine Street Market in Avondale Estates. I feel especially negligent considering Pine Street Market is walking distance from my house. I suppose you could miss Pine Street Marker altogether with its inconspicuous frontage on a little side street in that no-man's land between Decatur and Avondale Estates.
In case you don't know, Pine Street Market is a meat shop that hearkens back to butcher shops of days gone by when people knew their local butcher. Pine Street produces vast array of handmade artisan meats such as bacon, coppa, salami, chops, bratwurst, and more. Aside from the retail store, they also supply some of the metro area's best restaurants with meats and charcuterie.
On my last visit, I picked up some speck-like prosciutto, and two salami; one Petit Paprika, and one Dark Chocolate Mole. 
Both salami were very tasty, with a good texture, and balance of flavor and salt. The prosciutto was equally impressive.
If you haven't been to Pine Street, it's definitely worth the visit if you are a fan of hand-crafted, artisan meats.

March 5, 2012

High West Silver Whiskey

I recently bought a bottle of High West Silver Whiskey Western Oat. Unlike High West's popular Rye, the Silver is a clear whiskey, not unlike moonshine. It's made from 85% oats and 15% barley malt, and spends all of 5 minutes in barrel, hence it's clear color.
High West Distillery is located in Prk City, UT. They make some tasty ryes and they also make they also make the very cool pre-mixed Barrel-Aged Manhattan pictured above.  As for the High West Silver, one of the suggested uses, aside from drinking it neat or on the rocks, is to use it as you would Shochu. What's Shochu you say? Shochu is a Japanese distilled liquor that is similar to vodka. I had my first experience with Shochu last summer at Miso Izakaya. True Shochu has less alcohol than traditional alcohol, but the same cannot be said for the High West Silver I used. 
What I concocted above is a shochu type mojito with fresh mint, simple syrup, and fresh lime juice topped with a little bit of soda water. It's a tasty drink, more for summer sipping, perhaps, but tasty nonetheless. I also used the High West Silver to make a tasty whiskey-spiked basil lemonade, but more on that later...
You can find High West Silver around town for $35 at places like Tower, Greene's, and Toco Giant.