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.

November 6, 2014

Toronto Eats: Bar Buca and Momofuku

I recently spent some time in Toronto. While I was there "working," I did find the time to eat some good food. Toronto is huge, like the third largest city in North America behind NYC and LA, and it feels distinctly like Manhattan in many parts of the city. As such, I was in decision-making-overload trying to decide where to eat with the countless options. By chance, the first night in town I happened to walk upon Momofuku Toronto, and since I have been meaning to eat at one of David Chang's restaurants, this sounded like a good option. Plus, it was freezing, and ramen sounded good. I was dining solo, and I ordered a lot of food at Momofuku, prompting my server to say, "That's a lot of food, is that ok with you?" The Momofuku ramen was as I had hoped it would be, a very good bowl of ramen. Not life-changing, but a rich, almost-too-salty (as Chang says it should be), with a pork broth with a background sweetness. The fatty pork belly melted as it should, and there was a few pieces of tasty bok choy that I think was pickled. A good bowl, and perfect on a cold night.
This was a fun and addictive dish at Momofuku: Noodle-like roasted rice cakes with a crispy exterior tossed in a spicy chili and garlic sauce, topped with the ubiquitous scallions, and toasted sesame seeds. Popped almost all of those in my mouth.
I also tried the Momofuku spicy-grilled chicken wings and the brisket buns pictured above. The brisket buns weren't really anything to write home about, but that didn't dampen the experience too much. I'd definitely go back to Momofuku if I was a local, and the local appear to come out as the place was packed from 5:30 on.
The next day for lunch I took a tip from Bill Addison and tried Bar Buca, tucked back on a side street just outside the Fashion District. Baby octopus at Bar Buca. I'm glad I did. Bar Buca is open 7am-2am every day and features everything from an espresso bar to lunch, dinner, and a comprehensive wine program. The food menu mostly features small tapas-like plates. The dish above was a skewer of baby octopus and soppressata over whipped potatoes that were creamy and thinned to point of being sauce-like. Just a killer little dish if you are an octopus fan.
Another hit from Bar Buca: Involtini di molanze: rolled eggplant stuffed with ricotta and prosicuttio, with stracciatella and red gravy. A wow dish. Not unlike the flavors might find in eggplant parrmesan, but even richer. Of the five restaurants I visited in my 48 hours in Toronto, Bar Buca was an easy favorite. I left wishing there was something like it in Decatur or Atlanta. More from Toronto later.