December 23, 2013

Things Learned, 2013 Version

As we wrap up another year, some refection on the food and drink-related things I've learned in 2013:
I'm fortunate to live in Decatur, with new and interesting restaurants making us a destination locale for great eats and drinks. Paper Plane, Kimball House, and Chai Pani were all welcome additions to the neighborhood this year.
I really like visiting Charleston, SC. Three trips in 2013 and I'm looking forward to going back. Great food town. Next time, I'm visiting Westbrook Brewing, the one visit I've yet to make.
I also made my first trip ever to New Orleans this year. When you live in the south and say that people look you at you sideways. Seems everyone down here has spend time there. I loved it and look forward to returning in February next year. Some really outstanding food and culture.
I rediscovered craft beer in 2013. I drank less wine in 2013. Part of it was driven by financial realities, part by the fact that I rediscovered beer. Some great beers in 2013.
Some of my favorite new cookbooks from 2013. From these books I've learned I still have a lot to learn.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention things learned from dinners shared with friends where food and wine tend be the topics of choice. More than once this year I drank better than I should, and for that, and the generosity of friends, I am thankful. Onward...

December 14, 2013

Totally Awesome Randomness

Some older pics from last few week including this Thanksgiving turducken from the Cajun Meet Company in Marietta. Great cajun shop that is a new find to me. A long drive from Decatur, but worth a trip once in a while to stock up on all kinds of cajun food stuffs.

Turducken cut open.
Recently had an opportunity to try some great beers from the Maine Beer Company. Great beers! These are only available in Maine and around the northeast, so it pays off to have family in CT who can source these fine beers. According to the brewery: "Freshness is key with our beer. We produce hoppy american style ales. Hops do not like age.  So, please do not age them." Heeding their advice, I drank mine quickly. So good. 
Stopped by Pho Dai Loi 2 a few weeks back for some tasty brisket and tendon pho on a cold, rainy Friday. This stuff rocks. 'Nuff said.
The San Gennaro from Antico. I hadn't had an Antico pie in a long time. They didn't miss me. This SG great, as usual. pie made this week using the skillet-broiler method from Kenji at the Food Lab. My favorite way to crank out Neapolitan-style pizza at home in a traditional oven.

December 8, 2013

Home Cooking: Ivan Ramen

It's been a while, but I'm back...I recently spent some time with Ivan Orkin's new cookbook, Ivan Ramen. I've become increasingly interested with ramen in the past couple of years and Ivan's book is an homage to all things ramen. More than just a cookbook about ramen cookery, Orkin's book is also a fascinating memoir full of tragedy and triumph and his quest for great ramen.
Let's get on with the ramen making. I spent several days making the various components to Orkin's ramen. You could probably knock it out in one long day, but it just made sense to me to tackle each component separately. In fact, in the book, Orkin divides the master ramen recipe into eight separate recipes that all come together in the end for the bowl of ramen.Toasted bonito flakes for the katsuobushi salt which is used as one of the flavorings in the early steps that lead to the completed bowl of ramen.
Shio tare with sofrito pictured above with the salt and pork and chicken fat that hit the bowl first. Orkin adds sofrito of onion, garlic, and ginger to provide a unique depth of flavor to the tare.
The dashi is seasoned with konbu, dried mackerel, dried squid, dried sardines, and more bonito. Definitely produces a "fishier" ramen than the pork-based stuff I'm used to. Fishier, in a good way. Trust me.
Orkin's chicken stock is just that. A whole chicken, simmered in water at around 175 degrees for five hours. No vegetables, herbs, or other seasonings needed. Just a chicken cooked in water that produces a pure stock that tastes like the essence of chicken.
I did not make my own noodles. Sorry, maybe next time, but these noodles at Buford Highway Farmer's Market were so tasty that I don't think I'll ever kill myself making ramen noodles.
The ramen prep area: Each item above gets added to your bowl just before serving. A couple ounces of pork fat, then chicken fat, a little katsuobushi salt, a spoonful of sofrito, a little tare, then dashi and stock, partially soft-boiled egg, pork belly, and green onion threads.
The finished product: It was a tasty bowl of ramen. Well worth the effort and something I will make again with regularity. It is a "fishier" broth than I was used to having had and made mostly pork-based ramen in the past. The various dried fish added to the dashi really provide a taste of the sea that adds to the complexity of the dish. The pork and chicken fat added in step one are key as well. A tasty bowl of homemade ramen on a cold December night makes for a good evening. Cheers.

November 10, 2013

Drinks and Things

Some recent tastes of cocktails around town and other tidbits Stopped in at The Pinewood Tippling Room a couple of Mondays ago for Greg Best's guest spot behind the bar. The Blood be Damned with tequila, orange, Aperol, Dolin, lime and sea salt. Good drinks. Fun night. The food at Pinewood still doesn't wow me, but this night was about the cocktails, and Greg seemed to be having fun behind the bar.
Behold the Windbreaker. A terrific new mezcal cocktail at Cakes & Ale. Tasty combo of Barsol pisco, Strega, Dolin blanc, lemon, bitters, and Del Maguey Mezcal. Also worth checking out on the new list is the Future Primitive with new Holland Freshwater Michigan rum,  Amaro, Montenegro, apricot liqueur, allspice dram, and grapefruit.
Also from Cakes, an excellent country pork terrine with mostardo, pickled huckleberries, fig.
A beer interlude: Praise for one of my new (to me) favorite beers. Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa has been lighting things around ATL as their beers are beginning to be more available in our market. The beers don't sit on the shelf long, though, as there isn't much and fans go crazy for the stuff. The Jai Alai India Pale Ale is crisp, hoppy, and so drinkable. Get some. And then get some more.
Rabbit leg from a recent lunch at Empire State South. I just don't get to ESS very often. I wish it was just a little bit closer as I've never had anything but great food experiences there.
From a recent wine-wonk dinner at Park 75, Atlanta's under-appreciated fine dining gem in midtown.Compressed veal breast, over pumpkin ravioli, with truffle shavings. Yes, please. Park 75 knows how to host a wine dinner. Each dish is complimentary, never overpowering, and when you are drinking 20 and 30 year old Grand Cru Burgundy (see below), this type of polished execution is key. Nothing exceeds like excess, or something like that. The wines pictured below, they didn't suck.

October 25, 2013

Randomness and Ramen

Haven't updated the 'ol blog thingy lately. No reason. No silly excuses. Just haven't. But, I still can't seem to let it here we go...

Had some very tasty ramen at chef Mihoko's lunch ramen service in the SoBa space in EAV. Pictured above are the three ramen on the menu: traditional Tonkotsu (pork), Chicken Shoyu (chicken and lobster), and Mabu Nasu (Spicy miso-chicken).
Chicken-Shoyu: made with chicken and lobster stock. A delicate broth with a nice touch of lobster flavor in the back ground. The slightly crunchy and charred Brussels sprout leaves on top are a perfect little addition of texture and flavor contrasts.
Close up of the Tonkotsu. Yum on the soft-boiled soy egg. Gum Creek Farm pork belly. Another delicate broth with some complexity and depth. Tasty. The Tonkotsu was perhaps overshadowed by the complex and bold flavors of the other two on this day, but it is a winner in its right.
Now the randomness...I made this tasty short rib dish. Braised the ribs for 4 hours in red wine and stock. Served on top of pickled chard (I'm pickling all kinds of shit theses days!) and Logan Turnpike grits. This dish did not suck on the first really cold night this fall.
Hippie beer! The good folks at DogFish Head Brewing have payed an homage to the Grateful Dead
with their new American Beauty Pale Ale. (American Beauty being the title of what is considered by many to be the best studio album by the Grateful Dead). The recipe, with plenty of oatmeal and hops, was submitted by a fan as part of a contest, with the winning brew being chosen by the band and brewers.
I was also spoiled by these two great wines a couple of weeks ago while celebrating my brother's b-day. 1989 Jaboulet Aine Hermitage La Chapelle and the 1973 Cune Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva. There is nothing like great wine that ages well. Nothing! Two great wines that I wish I could afford to drink more often!

October 10, 2013

First Taste of Sobban

I finally made it over to Sobban for lunch this week. Though, I suppose I needn't say finally, since they've been open just over one week. Too many new eats to try lately, and just not enough time.
In case you missed it, Sobban took over the spot most recently occupied by Kitch'n, and had previously been an Athens Pizza express and an Arby's. It's located in that sort of no-man's (person's?) land on Clairmont between North Decatur Road and Druid Hills. Sobban, the latest restaurant from the team behind the kickass BBQ at Heirloom Market BBQ, chefs Jiyeon Lee and Cody Taylor, is billed as a Korean-Southern Diner. Here are a few pics from lunch.
Kimchi Gogi Mandu--filled with local ground beef, kimchi, chives. Spicy dipping sauce.

Salad with crunchy rice-cake crouton, sesame leaf ranch dressing, and spicy pepper. I really liked this salad. Great flavor in the sesame dressing and a good contrast in textures. Simple, but tasty start.
Fried Kimchi and Bologna Sandwich with Korean mustard and sticky-glazed white sweet potatoes. This dish was strong. House-smoked bologna was tender and showed a good bit of smokiness. I want more of this one.
Nori Corndog with hot mustard and spicy bimbop sauce. Playful. Tasty, but maybe a bit unremarkable. Below was one of the lunch specials, bulgogi roll with kimchi remoulade and pickled veggies.

No complaints on anything we tasted and nothing I wouldn't order again. The bulgogi, house salad, and bologna were standouts. Take note, if you want to try Sobban, get there early as they have been drawing huge crowds from day one and you could very well find yourself waiting for a table at both lunch and dinner.
Sobban on Urbanspoon

October 1, 2013

Kimball House Opens

The much anticipated Kimball House opened recently in the old train depot on the tracks near Agnes Scott College on the south side of downtown Decatur. You can read about the history of the name and the folks behind the project here (the Brick Store and Leon's team almost guarantees success!). The menu speaks to a bygone era of hotel menus; there is a large selection of raw oysters and other raw bar treats, and an expanded menu that features fish, meat, and veggie sections that go from small to large plates. I only got a few pics before sunset as it gets Paper-Plane-dark inside later in the evening.
We started with a variety of oysters (half price raw bar items M-F from 5:30-7:00!) and then the cold smoked hamachi with beet puree, lime vinegar, and greens pictured above. This dish could be awesome, and it sure is pretty, but it lacked some punch and fell kind of flat in the end. However, being that the place has only been open for five days my comments are really just my observation of one moment in time at a very busy and very new restaurant.
Parmesan cheese straws. Fun stuff. Think gougeres in straw form. Not easy to refrain from quickly shoving these in one's mouth. We also had some mussels escabeche which were excellent, and grilled lamb leg, that needs some attention to be memorable.
A real strength at Kimball House is the bar program with Miles Macquarrie, previously of Leon's, at the helm. We tried a number of cocktails, one being the The Mexican Razor Blade pictured above which was tasty concoction of alma blanco tequilla, east india sherry, lime, coconut, cinnamon, cayenne. While there were some lapses with the food and service, the place was jammed on a Monday night, five nights into service. I'm sure things will only get better and Kimball House is yet another great new addition to Decatur's food and drink scene.

Kimball House on Urbanspoon

September 26, 2013

Evil Twin Brewing

I'm a relatively new convert to the beers of Evil Twin Brewing. The stuff is mostly brilliant; I have yet to not like one of their creations. Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø is the slightly twisted mind behind Evil Twin Brewing, which is technically based in Copenhagen. Why Evil Twin for a name? Well, Jeppe's brother, Mikkel Borg Bjergs makes beer under the Mikkeller label.

Evil Twin Brewing is part of a growing "gypsy brewer" movement. Gypsy brewers mostly forgo owning a permanent brewery set up; instead, they travel as Jeppe does, making beer at various brewery locations around the world. Picture above are a couple of the easier-to-find beers from Evil Twin that are brewed in Stratford, CT. The Molotov Cocktail is an intense, explosive (wink-wink), Imperial India Pale Ale that clocks in at 13% alcohol. Yes, 13%. It's not a beer to pound. The Low-Life is a refreshing pilsner, and a parody of the classic Miller Hi-Life. Also pictured, the Lil' B, an Imperial Porter that also clocks in at 11.5% alcohol.
The Bikini Beer is Evil Twin's light beer. It lacks a bit of intensity and flavor for me, but it's a decent summer IPA that only carries 2.5% alcohol. If you are looking for an interesting "light beer" this one is for you.
Also very cool, the Hipster Ale, brewed at Westbrook Brewing in SC. There are numerous other creative and interesting beers made by Evil Twin, and many have equally quirky names. Consider the Spicy Nachos Pale Ale with jalapeno, or the Even More Jesus Imperial Stout to name a few. No kidding, if you poke around the Evil Twin website and you'll find at least 50 unique brews in the past couple of years. Many are bottled and sold in larger 22 ounce formats, like the Yuzu Femme Fatale below:
The Evil Twin Yuzu Femme Fatale IPA is one of my favorite beers in recent memory. Hard to find, and not cheap, but worth the effort and cost involved. Bright, citrusy, with great acidity and body. Yum. If you've got an open mind and like trying unique craft beers, go get some Evil Twin.

September 16, 2013

Recent Eats and Drinks: Folly Beach Edition

I recently spent a few days on Folly Beach and did a good bit of eating, drinking, surfing, and just hanging out. Some pics on food and beverages...
Rita's Seaside Grill right off the water is a good spot for drinks and beach-style casual eats in the heart of Folly.
The Shrimp Po Boy. Not bad, tender fresh shrimp pulled from the water across the street from the restaurant are the key. The blackened shrimp quesadilla was a standout as well.
Had decent tacos at Taco Boy. I wouldn't go out of my way for these tacos, though I only sample four of the 20 or so on the menu. But, the margaritas were decent and the atmosphere is shanty-beach bar-drunken fun all the way, so there is that...
One of our best meals was the seafood boil we did at home with shrimp from Crosby's right over the bridge when you hit Folly.
Shrimp boats off the back deck at Crosby's.
We also made our way into Charleston a couple of times and had another lunch at Husk. The shrimp and grits above with house sausage and local shrimp from Crosby's. A decent rendition of shrimp and grits, but the whole dish was in need of seasoning, as were most dishes at this visit. 
More from Husk, the pimento cheese crostini with house pickles and Benton's bacon bits. Decent, but the pickles were pretty weak this time.
Stopped by the Charleston Beer Exchange and had my mind blown by the inventory in this little shop a block from the water on Exchange Street. Any fan of craft beers would go nuts in this place.  Worth making a special trip if you ever in the Charleston area.
Picked up a few big bottles from Westbrook Brewing Company, one of my new favorite American brewers that just happens to be from Mount Pleasant, just outside the city of Charleston . The Citrus Ninja Exchange, a collaboration bewtween Westbrook and the Charleston Beer Exchange, is perhaps the best beer I've had this summer. Great acidity and citrus flavors in a double IPA. Just great summer drinker. Also got some of the rare Evil Twin Femee Fatale Yuzu Pale Ale pictured below. Another killer beer. 
More on beer later. Now back to planning my next trip to Charletston, which has quickly become one my favorite places to visit. Cheers.