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Archive for January, 2010

Looking for local food bloggers

wordpressDo you write an Atlanta-based food blog? If so, I’d love to put you in my seriously outdated blogroll.

typepad-logo-150x119Please send me an email at jkessler@ajc.com with the link to your blog, and I’ll take a look. I’m happy to send any readership (clickership?) your way if your blog satisfies some very simple criteria:

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  1. You should be writing from somewhere in northern Georgia.
  2. Your blog should be topics in food (cooking or dining) at least 50 percent of the time.
  3. If you do write about dining out in restaurants, you should feel that you’re being ethical about it. That means you don’t announce you’re a food blogger with hopes of a comped meal.
  4. You post at least once a month. Some of the best local food bloggers are infrequent posters.

If I have described you, please let me know. Thanks!

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Soup’s on

-2Last week I visited the Decatur branch of Saigon Cafe, figuring I’d make a quick lunch of a bowl of pho. But the weather was so frigid that the pho didn’t appeal. The cinnamon, star anise and other cooling spices in the broth just seemed wrong when the temperature was 20 degrees outside.

So instead I got a bowl of hu tieu. This noodle soup is based on a pork/seafood broth rather than a beef broth, and it comes with a choice of clear or egg noodles. It also features a flurry of fried shallots over the top, which give the soup a toasty, warming accent just like the onion strings on the string-bean casserole.

This Chinese-influenced soup is popular in various guises throughout Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. Try it, and you’ll immediately recognize the shared parentage with wonton noodle soup.

This version came with shrimp, chicken and barbecued pork slices over egg noodles, which are the same as Chinese mee. It wasn’t a great rendition, truth be told — the broth was too weak — …

Continue reading Soup’s on »

First Look: Bhojan Market

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Masala spice box

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Market interior

If your lunch is a ham sandwich, an apple and a bag of potato chips, you’re good to go with a rudimentary lunch box — say, a durable plastic box with a latch, a handle and a picture of Scooby Doo on its lid.
But if your lunch consists of a variety of hot curries, dal, rice, and flatbreads, then you’ll need something more elaborate. Throughout India, people transport their meals in tiffins, which are stacks of round metal containers latched together. Unlatch the tiffin, and you’ve got a set of attractive serving dishes, filled with food.
Would you like a tiffin of your own? Bhojan Market, an unusual new Indian food shop in Decatur, offers the kit as well as the kaboodle. Purchase one of the gleaming insulated tiffins ($40-$60, depending on the size) and it will come filled with a meal for 4-6 people.

Tiffin

Tiffin

“Pick it up hot, serve it hot in the same containers and then put it in the dishwahser,” says market owner Archna Becker. “You can then …

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Sunday Column: Negotiating a terrible kitchen

Hilton Head fish soup

Hilton Head fish soup

For my Sunday column, I tried to explore the idea of how working in a really bad kitchen in a rental house encourages you to be more creative and resourceful when you cook. Alas, I don’t have a picture of the shrimp and grits I cooked, but here’s a fish soup prepared under the same constraints.

And, by the way, this is my new go-to shrimp and grits recipe.

Making Do Come Through

The beach rental house had everything my mother-in-law had hoped for — the ocean view, the private beach access, the game room to entertain her rambunctious grandchildren, and enough bedrooms to sleep the extended family.
The kitchen had everything I had expected — the one warped aluminum frying pan with a scuffed nonstick surface, the flat-top electric range with two apparent settings (incinerate and off), the wooden block holding all sorts of dull, flimsy stainless-steel knives that couldn’t pierce a tomato skin.
In the spice cabinet I found several cardboard salt-and-pepper …

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Front Burner: News You Can Eat

photoWhy do pubs look so timeless?

Hasn’t Mac McGee Irish pub always been on Decatur Square? Apparently not. It opened so quietly earlier this week that it didn’t even have a phone number or a public listing. (It did, however, have one crucial element in place: its liquor license.)

But when you walk inside and see that long bar with knickknacks sharing shelf space with whiskey bottles (lots of them, malt fans) and that big palladian window in the rear,  your first reaction is sure to be “Oh, yeah, I’ve been to this place before.”

photo 3The fare is a definite step up from typical pub grub. Chef Ryan Stewart, formerly of the Glenwood in East Atlanta Village, makes a variety of pasties (savory pies) as well as his own blood sausage. He tops oysters on the half shell with tiny pellets of a kind of gelatinous faux caviar made from Talisker scotch whisky.

Mac McGee is next door to the Pharmhouse (that restaurant with the Rx symbol in its name, which always makes me think it’s a medical …

Continue reading Front Burner: News You Can Eat »

G-Ma’s Butter Tarts

Butter tart

Butter tart

Ask, and ye shall receive.

Here, by popular demand, is the recipe for gen-u-ine Canadian butter tarts from my mother-in-law, Kathleen Chapman — otherwise known to her seven granddaughters as G-Ma.

As I mentioned in this earlier post, Christmas isn’t Christmas in Canada without a ready supply of these gooey-centered, flaky-crusted, wholly addictive treats. They are basically bite-size, pecan-less pecan pies. You can’t eat just one. You may have trouble stopping at six.

If you google “butter tart recipe,” you will find other variants. Some cooks like to use  corn syrup in the filling for a looser texture. I personally think this version can’t be improved upon.

By the way, I have not tested this recipe, so I’m not 100% sure of the yield.

Now, if I can just get G-Ma to teach me curling, I might finally be able to pass as an honorary Canuck.

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Butter Tarts

Pastry:

  • 2 cups vegetable shortening
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 large …

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Ever heard of “curly ribs?”

photoThe other evening we decided to get some carryout from Community Q BBQ in Decatur. The restaurant had been slammed at lunch and was already out of several meats by 7:30. So instead of the pulled pork we were hankering for, we got a rack of the special baby back ribs, which came with a high recommendation from the owner, Dave Roberts.

“These are the curly ribs,” he said. “They’re a big deal on the barbecue competition circuit.” As Roberts explained it, the curly ribs are trimmed from the loin as a byproduct of butchering, so the cut of the bone differs a bit.

These ribs were a little more curved than typical baby backs, and they had a good amount of meat on them.

photo 2They were also quite tasty and well imbued with smoke. This photo doesn’t do justice the appetizing pink tint that permeated the meat clean to the bone.

I did a little lazy researching to find out more about curly ribs, but so far have come up with nothing.

Have you ever heard of this cut?

Continue reading Ever heard of “curly ribs?” »

Tasty plates at Shoya Japanese Restaurant

King oyster mushrooms

King oyster mushrooms

Long before this blog ramped up I wrote a post about Shoya Japanese Restaurant based on a visit I made soon after it opened. It was exciting for me to find a full-tilt-boogie Japanese izakaya in Atlanta. When I lived in Japan after college, I routinely ate in these lively restaurants that served ginormous mugs of draft beer and a huge selection of dishes to pass and share. I was an izakaya devotee long before I had ever set foot in a tapas bar.

I returned recently to this interesting spot by the new Super H Mart in Doraville for perhaps my fourth visit and had another fun meal. The menu is beyond huge here and, truthfully, I’m not sure the small kitchen is always up to the task of giving every plate of food its due. But the good flavors and engaging format make for a good time. This kind of meal — where the plates come helter skelter and make the rounds — always encourages good conversation around the table.

I got a pint of draft Sapporo beer served in a …

Continue reading Tasty plates at Shoya Japanese Restaurant »

Sunday Column: What’s for Breakfast?

Livermush (credit: Hanna Raskin)

Livermush (credit: Hanna Raskin)

For those who missed the long comments section on unusual breakfast ideas a couple of weeks ago on this blog, here’s the condensed version that went into print.

Odd Breakfast Isn’t Unusual

Our family goes through enough rice to feed a typical Chinese village. We generally buy short grain brown rice by the 25-pound bag, but on any given day the pantry holds fragrant Thai jasmine rice, Japanese short-grain white rice and carnaroli rice for making risotto.
I usually cook a large batch so we’ll have ample leftovers for future meals, including breakfast. Yes, it sounds strange, but a fairly common breakfast in our house consists of rewarmed rice topped with a fried (or, alas, microwaved) egg, some olive oil or soy sauce and a grind of black pepper. I have trained my children to appreciate this unusual breakfast.
Recently, I shared this information on my blog and asked people what unusual breakfasts they enjoyed. I was astounded not only by the huge …

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Sunday Column: Favorite Bites of the Past Year

Holeman & Finch steak tartare (image courtesy of Jennifer Zyman)

Holeman & Finch steak tartare (image courtesy of Jennifer Zyman)

When I was the restaurant critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I used to write a year-end column where I looked back on my favorite dishes of the past 12 months. It was always a gratifying exercise combing through the reviews and reliving meals because the most memorable dishes  popped right out.

I revisited the idea recently, looking through the past two months of dining blog posts as well as earlier columns from 2009 and memories of restaurant meals I’ve enjoyed as a civilian diner. Again, the favorites were easy to spot. Some of these dishes wowed me; others made the cut because they were so supremely satisfying.

What were your best restaurant dishes of the year? I’d love to find out about the stellar ones out there that I’ve missed.

12 Dishes to Remember

If I took every restaurant dish I ate in the past year, they could probably fill a large outdoor storage unit. But when I conjure up the dishes …

Continue reading Sunday Column: Favorite Bites of the Past Year »