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Archive for July, 2010

Sunday Column: Goodbye awkward kitchen

Before

Before

In yesterday’s print edition of the AJC I wrote about our kitchen renovation. After many years we’re finally getting rid of a space that never really worked.

This kitchen was too inviting

I had pictured the demolition of our home’s kitchen like a cinematic car crash — a slow-motion ballet of violence. Shards of wood, ceramic and granite would go flying through the air. And our contractors, with sledgehammers slung over their shoulders, would be attacking the counters with an expression akin to bloodlust in their eyes.

But after hearing an hour of banging and crashing downstairs, I warily wander down to find appliances and cabinet doors missing. The loud crashes belied a precision-tuned dismantling. The kitchen looked much as it had before — ordinary, sad, grimy.

One young man who had a chaw of tobacco stuck under his lip had found a hidden bag of Japanese eggplant pickles and asked me many questions about them. He was clearly a budding foodie.

During

During

Did it feel like …

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Postcard from Chicago

photo 1

I spent the past few days visiting my nephew in Chicago. It’s not a city I know well at all, so it was fun for me to walk around and get a sense of the different neighborhoods. One day we rode bikes from Logan Square, his neighborhood on the city’s west side, straight east through Bucktown and Lincoln Park before turning south and riding along the lake shore bike path to downtown. This is a phone snapshot from where we turned around just before the Navy Pier.

photo 2

Caldo de camaron, Frontera Grill

I didn’t want to make this an eating vacation, but of course that’s what it became. We were dining out most every meal, so it was hard not to want to try a few of the places I had heard about.

Late one morning we stopped by Xoco, Rick Bayless’ new fast-casual spot right next door to his celebrated twofer, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo (which serves a higher-end menu in a less-boisterous back room). Xoco specializes in tortas (Mexican sandwiches), churros and hot chocolate. After waiting …

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“Top Chef” dating profiles

Credit: Bravo TV

Credit: Bravo TV

Okay, please let me preface this post by saying that when “Top Chef ” was airing last night I was in Chicago eating a very strange sushi meal at the newish hotspot called Macku. Do you want white tuna with banana-wasabi puree? Do you want mine? Because I’d gladly step into the time-reversal desushification machine and un-eat it for you.

That aside, stuff apparently happened last night on “Top Chef.”  I read the blogs and found out that there was a very special variety meats Quickfire Challenge, and Angelo was all set to make something called “duck testicle marshmallows.” Upon hearing that squishy tidbit, I just wanted to cover Daffy Duck’s ears and personally apologize for the current state of popular televised entertainment. I also thought: how perfect. If ever there was a chef and a dish…

And then what? Something kind of elimination challenge involving cold food and a boat? A guest judge (Michelle Bernstein) who did not recuse herself despite a …

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Taking a couple of days off

I’ll be back Thursday.

xxoo,

John K., the food dude

Continue reading Taking a couple of days off »

First Look: Home Grown GA — the next-gen meat and three

photo 3Home Grown GA – a cheerful, next-generation meat-and-three — sits along a grimy stretch of Memorial Drive like a daisy on a roadside median. It may bring to mind a hundred restaurants you’ve been to around the South. Or it may strike you as the freshest new concept to come along in years. Either way, I dare you not to break out in a grits-eating grin the second you walk in.

Chef Kevin Clark (who owns the restaurant with partner Lisa Spooner) told me it took several weeks of solid scrubbing to restore the luster the knotty pine paneling inside this restaurant that was long Mammy’s Kitchen. The bright front room holds a counter and a few tables; booths line the wall of the back room. A young woman who was as pierced and full-sleeve tattooed as a Japanese yakuza sat at the next booth with her two adorable, squirming children and tried to cajole them into mouthfuls of egg and biscuit.

photo 5The name: Spooner says the GA was added “for legal reasons” to the name, but everyone there calls …

Continue reading First Look: Home Grown GA — the next-gen meat and three »

Sweet Grits Pie: Ever heard of it?

photo-29I’ll have a post up tomorrow on the sweet new breakfast and lunch spot called Home Grown GA. But in the meantime I wanted to highlight this dessert called “Sweet Grits Pie.” The grits are suspended in a creamy, vanilla-scented custard. Whipped cream and fresh blueberries come on top.

The whole thing reminds me of a mash-up of chess pie and tapioca pudding, and I mean that as praise.

Has anyone tried one of these before? I Googled the recipe and (of course) came up with Paula Deen, Paula Deen, Paula Deen.

Continue reading Sweet Grits Pie: Ever heard of it? »

Freaky Hot Dog alert!

photo 1This, my friends, is the teri-mayo hot dog at Wonderful World Burgers and More — the Emory Village redoubt of vaguely Asian fast food.

It is a split, griddle-cooked tube steak topped with squiggles of mayonnaise, teriyaki sauce and many shreds of nori seaweed. It cost about 3 bucks.

I can only describe the taste as the culinary equivalent of déjà vu. Somewhere, in some past, life I have eaten these flavors together. It made some kind of weird, disturbing sense to my palate.

I’m not 100% sure I liked it, but I want another.

Has anyone had one of these hot dogs?

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Specials Shout Out: Come and get ‘em

This week I put a call out on Twitter for any chefs who wanted to send me pictures of their weekend specials with a promise to slap them up on the blog. Well, here are the two I got. Maybe I’ll get a bigger crop next week.

129940190SoHo restaurant in Vinings sent this picture identified only as “fresh-off-the-tree peaches.” I spy with my little eye some greens, chives, nutmeats and some sort of dry, crunchy protuberances that may be dried peaches or fried wonton skins or even Japanese dried squid, though I highly doubt the latter. It looks tasty.

IMG00021-20100714-1300Chef Craig Richards at La Tavola Trattoria in Virginia Highland sent this lovely snap of a special he identifies as “baked pennoni, fennel sausage, heirloom tomatoes, béchamel and Thai basil oil.” That sure does look tasty, and I learned a new word: Pennoni! I’m assuming that they are very big penne or very small…um, never mind. Let’s go with big penne and say it looks might fine.

Chefs, keep your antennae out for the next specials shout out …

Continue reading Specials Shout Out: Come and get ‘em »

Atlanta high on PETA’s list of veg-friendly cities

Credit: Wikimedia

Credit: Wikimedia

You would think a city where vegetables are usually simmered in porky goodness would prove problematic for the die-hard vegetarians who compile research for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

But on The PETA Files blog yesterday, Atlanta ranked fourth among large North American cities for its vegetarian-friendly menus in restaurants.

The site cited Cafe Sunflower (a pair of vegetarian cafes in Buckhead and Sandy Springs), Green Sprout (a vegetarian Chinese spot in Midtown) and Ria’s Bluebird (the veg-friendly breakfast and lunch spot across from Oakland Cemetery).

The blog editors ranked Atlanta above New York, San Francisco and Seattle for its veggie vibrancy, but they did not share their methodology.

The group PETV immediately decried the inhumane treatment of carrots in Atlanta. Okay, that was a stupid joke.

But, seriously, is Atlanta really that veg-friendly?

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The tomato glut is upon us

Tomato bread pudding

Tomato bread pudding

So the tomato plants in the back yard are starting to look weedy and droopy, but the tomatoes are ripening faster than you can say Hellmann’s.

What to do?

Every season, it seems, I try and come up with new ways to capitalize on the salient characteristic of homegrown tomatoes — their juiciness — in new recipes.

This year it has been this simple tomato bread pudding that takes advantage of two ingredients we always have around the house:

  1. Odd ends of cheese — mostly cheddar and gruyère, with occasional blobs of goat.
  2. Stale bread — usually half baguettes or “artisan” rounds that have turned into rocks.

Here’s how I made this one:

  • I chopped up the tomatoes until I had about 4 cups, placed them in a bowl and covered them with a teaspoon of salt
  • I carved the stale bread into chunks with a stonemason’s chisel. Okay, I sliced them up with a large knife and then tossed them with the tomato.
  • I looked for any scraps in the fridge, which yielded a quarter cup or so …

Continue reading The tomato glut is upon us »