May 31, 2013

Home Cooking: Sichuan style

I've been fooling lately around with some recipes from the new book, Every Grain of Rice, by Fuchsia Dunlop. Dunlop is an English writer and cookbook author who specializes in Chinese cuisine. She was the first Westerner to train as a chef at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine in China.
The new book focuses on interpretations of classic Sichuan-style Chinese cooking somewhat simplified for everyday home cooking. The recipes are not terribly long or complex as many feature less than a dozen ingredients. However, Dunlop does stay true to the traditional ingredients of real Sichuan cooking, which lead to me scrambling around Buford Highway Farmer's Market several trips looking for things like Chinkiang vinegar, fermented black beans, and ya cai.
Hot and numbing beef. Good, but not nearly hot and numbing enough. More chili next time.
Garlicy, spicy, smacked cucumbers. A tasty snack. I also made twice cooked pork belly with fermented black beans and peppers, as well as traditional dan dan noodles.No pics, but both were tasty. Next up to make are hot and numbing fish and cold, black bean chicken.

May 27, 2013

Summer Wines

I haven't posted much about wine lately. Not sure my posts on wine are helpful to anyone, considering most people aren't crazy enough to invest the time and money needed to track down many of the wines I drink. It's a bit of a sickness, be glad if you don't have it. However, I recently had some good wines I sourced locally that are perfect for summer drinking now that the heat is upon us.
I recently picked up the 2010 Nikolaihof Gruner Veltliner Hefeabzug some interesting white wines from my favorite wine shop, Le Caveau in Chamblee. The Nikolaihof is a gem of white wine from the Wachau region in Austria. Gruner is primarily an Austrian grape variety that shows a load of minerality and brisk young fruit. This one, while young, is refreshingly clean, with lively acidity making it a total winner for summer white wine drinking in the $20 range.
Another interesting little wine that Le Caveau carries is an Altesse from Franck Peillot in the Bugey region in eastern France, not far from the border with Switzerland. You most likely haven't seen or heard much about Altesse; it's just not a widely grown or distributed grape. It's reminiscent of Chardonnay, this one similar to a baby white Burgundy, just without the depth. It is a rugged wine with crisp acid that makes it ideal for summer drinking around $20. I liked it a good bit.
Finally, I also picked up a couple bottles of Rose from The Little Wine Shop in Avondale Estates.The Couly-Dutheil is an interesting Chinon Rose made from Cabernet Franc. As such, it has a bit more body than many roses you may be used to drinking. It stands up well to burgers and grilled stuffs as it did for us Saturday night. Well worth a purchase in the $16 range.

May 19, 2013

Recent Eats & Drinks around Town

Nothing specific to write about lately, but some pics of eats and drinks around town. I found myself at Leon's twice in the past week. I hadn't been to Leon's in a couple of months, and there are some welcome tweaks to the menu.
The charcuterie board was solid, featuring tasty head cheese with ramp kimchi, coppa, house sausage, and customary pickles.
The radishes with butter and sea salt.
The crispy chicken confit biscuit.

After Leon's we headed over to Paper Plane. No pics, because it's dark in there, but go if you haven't been as it's a gem.
Lunch at Big Tex was decadent as always; a solid grilled chicken sandwich and green chili side. Still nap inducing. Also had family in town visiting and we opted for dinner at No. 246. Sad to say, like my last visit to 246, much of what I tasted was a miss. No. 246 is becoming unreliable to me and my attraction to the place wanes with each visit.
Earlier in the week I had lunch with Foodie Buddha at Chicago Supermercado. These asada and barbacoa tacos are the real deal and perhaps the best in town. Chicken tamales good, too, just a bit dry this time.
Capping things off with an Abita Wheat in a Biggie glass. A good week. Until next time...

Leon's Full Service on Foodio54

May 13, 2013

Paper Plane in Decatur

In case you have been out of the country, or just tuned out for a bit like I occasionally do, Paper Plane opened in Decatur back in late March. The long-awaited bar/restaurant from one of Atlanta's most gifted mixologists, Paul Calvert, is located behind an unmarked black door past the ping pong table on your way to the restrooms in the back of Victory Sandwich in Decatur. No kidding, that's where it is. You can also access Paper Plane via a door that opens to the alley behind Cakes & Ale.
While it might sound like it's easy to find Paper Plane, it's worth the effort to belly up to the bar and take in the speakeasy-like (it is not a speakeasy, I get it) atmosphere and enjoy some killer cocktails. I wasn't going to take pictures, it's dark in Paper Plane, as it should be. If you want to see some good pics check out my friend Jimmy's review at EatItAtlanta. When I grow up, I'm going to get a fancy camera like Jimmy's that takes pretty pictures in the dark. Nonetheless, I offer you some grainy Galaxy Nexus (I can be bought) phone pics of some the drinks and food.

Best dishes we tried were the the quail with quail egg and fava beans pictured above and  the beet salad with rye crumb and goat cheese below.
The small plates coming out of the kitchen Paper Plane shares with Victory show promise.The real strength of Paper Plane is Paul Calvert's cocktail program that rivals any in town.  Undoubtedly, you'll be asking Paul, or one of the other bartenders about the obscure elixirs that find their way into some the cocktails. The Herbert Mead pictured above, Paper Plane's riff on a Corpse Reviver, was a standout. The Mezcal-based Trouble in Paradise pictured below was also strong. It should also be noted that there is also a very smart beer selection and wine list at Paper Plane.
Paper Plane is not a large room, basically seats for a dozen or so at the bar and a half dozen booths for larger parties. Expect it to be crowded, it has been both times I've visited. Yet, that's part of the charm. Paper Plane feels edgy; yet, it's homey, a place where you want to meet friends for a couple of cocktails after work and a place where you can belly up to the bar and probably see familiar smiling faces.

Paper Plane on Urbanspoon

May 6, 2013

Decatur Lunch Crawl

I met up with a buddy to eat some lunch around Decatur last week. First stop was at Chai Pani.
I hadn't been to Chai Pani since my couple of visits during their opening weeks. We didn't do too much damage as we were making several lunch stops.
The Somosa Chaat was good, but I was somewhat underwhelmed by the level of seasoning this time. The kale fritters were good, as always. We also got some masala fries. I don't understand the matchstick-sized french fry. Eating one or two at a time is tedious. Taking a fork and shoving a dozen or so in your mouth at a time seems gluttonous. This isn't so much a knock on Chai Pani as it is the matchstick-sized fry in general.
Next stop was Cakes & Ale for some grain bowl action. This itieration had a distinct Mexican-tilt to it, with black beans, cilantro, and avocado topping saffron-seasoned yellow rice. It was very good. Perhaps not as refined as some of David Sweeney's best bowls, but there was still an interesting depth to the contrast of flavors.
After Cakes & Ale we strolled up a few doors to the new Steady Hand pop-up at Iberian Pig for a cortado. We only had coffee, but the lunch menu sounded great. For a much more detailed post on Steady Hand, see my friend Broderick's great pics and post at Savory Exposure.
We finished off our little lunch crawl with beers at The Brick Store. If you don't know The Brick Store, you should. The Farmhouse Tank 7 Ale from Boulevard Brewing was a good cap to the lunch crawl. Until next time.