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Archive for March, 2011

Restaurant Inspections, Shami Kabab Restaurant

Getting a restaurant up and running is difficult enough, but add to that the pressure of having a food service health inspector watch your every move.

Shami Kabab Restaurant in Duluth knows this pressure all too well.

The Afghan restaurant at 6590 Sugarloaf Parkway has been open for less than a month, but already draws a following of customers hungry for their meat kabobs, roasted eggplant and other Middle Eastern delicacies.

Before serving its first customer, the restaurant scored 96 out of 100 on an initial inspection. They received a Gwinnett County food service permit and opened for business.

The first routine inspection March 22 didn’t go as well. They were given a failing score of 65.

A restaurant supervisor said an employee didn’t show up to work that day and they had to bring in someone new. They weren’t prepared to be inspected so soon, he said.

Points were taken off because employees failed to wash their hands between glove changes. Points also were docked …

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Flip Burger Boutique and Yeah Burger: A tale of two patties

In lieu of a starred review this week, we’re taking a look at the sequels to two of Atlanta’s best known burger restaurants — the new Buckhead location of Flip Burger Boutique and the Virginia-Highland installment of Yeah Burger.

Now that Richard Blais has just completed his second mega-successful run on “Top Chef” — having narrowly won in a chopping, sautéing death match against Mike Isabella in the finale — he has cemented his status as Atlanta’s most famous chef.

Review by John Kessler

By John Kessler

Among his many ardent fans count my sister, who can’t wait to eat at his restaurant when she next visits us in Atlanta.

“It’s a hamburger place, you know,” I remind her.

“Blais’ restaurant is just a burger joint?” she says, with utter surprise in her voice.

Well, no, not just a burger joint. Atlantans do actually get to eat those witty little plates fashioned from unlikely ingredients and highfalutin’ culinary technique. Only thing: They come between two halves of a …

Continue reading Flip Burger Boutique and Yeah Burger: A tale of two patties »

Tempo Doeloe dining review, Doraville

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To understand Indonesian food, one should first understand the country’s cultural makeup. Indonesia’s largely native demographic is heavily influenced by a hodgepodge of Arabic, Chinese, Indian and European immigration that has brought a mixed bag of techniques and ingredients to the cuisine.

Review by Gene Lee

Review by Gene Lee

The Chinese introduced soy sauce, Indians brought turmeric for curry, the Europeans contributed peanuts for satay sauce and chili peppers popular in sambals (crushed pepper sauce), and the Arabic influence instilled halal, Islamic dietary laws. Indonesia is also split up into provinces, each area varying its styles similar to the differences in regional cuisines of China and India.

Everything I’ve mentioned is encompassed by Tempo Doeloe. This includes the practice of halal, even though the owners, the Ariesandi family, are Christians. That means there is no pork or alcohol on the menu. Although I spied hot dog in a fried rice dish, halal practitioners can …

Continue reading Tempo Doeloe dining review, Doraville »

Top Chef All-Stars finale recap: One Chef to rule them all

Credit: Bravo TV

Credit: Bravo TV

Well gang, we finally made it. Unless Bravo decides the extend tonight’s episode to next week for a sudden death round of blindfolded kumquat julienning, we will finally crown the Top Chefs of Top Chefs.

This finale is all business. We start things off with Richard lamenting about how he wishes that Mike had lost because he’d rather go up against Antonia. Mike is raring to go, confident that he can beat Blais, and Richard is concerned because Mike came back to the Bahamas as a stronger chef creatively, which used to be Richard’s advantage.

ELIMINATION CHALLENGE

There is no Quickfire this week. Instead, Padma and Tom explain to the chefs “your last challenge contains no twists or turns…we want you to create for us the restaurant of your dreams.” It is going to be a four-course tasting menu showdown for the title.

Back at the suite, Richard and Mike argue about who is the underdog. I wasn’t sure who to believe less…Richard, because he is so …

Continue reading Top Chef All-Stars finale recap: One Chef to rule them all »

And the winner of “Top Chef All-Stars” is….

richard-blais-2005-197x300Richard Blais, the Atlanta chef who is currently the top toque at three branches of Flip Burger Boutique (including one in Birmingham, Ala.), was crowned the victor on “Top Chef All-Stars.” Blais, who had lost in the finals of the fourth season of the Bravo TV reality program, joined 17 other contestants from previous seasons for a second try at the title. For the finale, Blais faced off against Washington, D.C., chef Michael Isabella.

In addition to the title, Blais takes home a $200,000 prize, the largest in the show’s history.

The judges feasted on a multi-course menu that included oysters, hamachi, braised beef and something that wouldn’t surprise any Atlantan familiar with Blais’ cooking: foie gras ice cream.

Take a look at  Jon Watson’s recap of the finale as well as a look at Flip Burger Boutique’s newest location in Buckhead from me.

Congratulations, Chef Blais! You’ve made us proud.

Continue reading And the winner of “Top Chef All-Stars” is…. »

It’s just cabbage, isn’t it?

katsu-cabbageA little while ago, I had dinner with a friend and her family where she prepared homemade tonkatsu with steamed rice. Tonkatsu is deep-fried, panko-covered pork cutlet generally served with Japanese-style Worcestershire sauce and spicy mustard for dipping. It is a dish influenced by European cuisine, but wholly embraced by the Japanese and a delight to eat with a bowl of miso soup and a selection of tsukemono (pickled vegetables).

Being the Japanophiles that we are, my friend and I wondered 1) what purpose does the mound of sliced cabbage that accompanies tonkatsu serve, and 2) how do you achieve the crisp texture like the versions you find in restaurants? The book, Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, states the cabbage is a salad accompaniment to tonkatsu. A friend of mine who runs a Japanese restaurant confirmed this and also mentioned that this “cheap salad/pickle alternative” serves secondarily as a prop because he likes “to raise his food.”

So now I wondered, why does the …

Continue reading It’s just cabbage, isn’t it? »

Bourdain belches on food writers, Eatocracy bites back

Anthony Bourdain in 2004 (AJC Staff)

Anthony Bourdain in 2004 (AJC Staff)

Yesterday author and TV personality Anthony Bourdain took to the blog for his Travel Channel show, “No Reservations,” and in a few quick, vitriolic paragraphs railed on the James Beard Awards, the journalism component of this annual event,* and then the entire enterprise of food writing, which he apparently hates. He calls it:

“a profession whose vast majority spend their hours and days writing about “kicky new muffin recipes” , ” Pie: The Next Big Thing” or attending launches for bottled water, restaurant openings, and anywhere they can fill their plastic lined pockets with free food and swag.”

As someone who has posted lousy pictures of refused cookies to document my approach to freebies, I took offense with Bourdain’s characterization. So did Kat Kinsman, the editor of CNN’s Eatocracy blog, who fired back. She wrote that his accusations of

“promiscuous freebie-grabbing and inconsequential subject matter amongst the entire food …

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Turkish pişmaniye

P1010683Even though the item pictured to the left looks like a mound of thick string liberally covered in dirt, it’s actually food. It’s called pişmaniye and is a Turkish sweet.

I bought pişmaniye last night from Bakkal International Foods off Roswell Road (5690 Roswell Road, 404-847-9942), which is a delightful Turkish grocery that Christiane Lauterbach’s long circulating Knife and Fork newsletter put on my radar.

P1010684Pişmaniye is similar to cotton candy in texture and appearance, but to me tastes a little like cookies due to added ingredients of wheat flour and vanillin. It’s not as sticky as the carnival/fair treat and is garnished with ground pistachios – a nice touch.

Check out this video on Youtube that show a group of men making it by hand. To watch the whole process from beginning to end, you’ll have to select the continuing videos labeled second (2.Bölüm Ustasından Çalçı…), third (3.Bölüm Ustasından Çalçı…) and so forth that are displayed to the right. Let me …

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Royal wedding cakes revealed

Fiona Cairns, royal wedding cake designer, AP

Fiona Cairns, royal wedding cake designer, AP

Is it possible to please everyone when planning a wedding? There are family traditions and expectations to consider. Couples work to make the event both traditional and uniquely personal. Such is the case with Prince William and bride-to-be Kate Middleton.

Details of their wedding cake were recently revealed to the delight of those hungry for royal wedding tidbits. In keeping with British-wedding tradition, the wedding cake will be a brandy-flavored fruit cake made with dried and candied fruits and nuts. Because fruitcake tastes better after a four-week aging process, chosen cake designer Fiona Cairns has already begun the baking of the cakes.

Cairns, whose bakery in the English countryside makes 27,000 cakes a week, is known for her fruitcakes and for using traditional British ingredients. She says that being selected is “terribly exciting. [She] felt privileged, excited and daunted all at the same time.”

According to Cairns, …

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Not local, but a welcome harbinger of spring

photo-74 Every year around this time Star Provisions brings in a shipment of giant California asparagus, with each spear as fat as an index finger. Nothing local about it, but there can’t be a better first bite of spring.

I love using it to make the dish pictured at left for a weekend lunch outside on the patio. A basket of warm, crusty bread is all you need on the side. (Then again, a chilled bottle of Muscadet doesn’t hurt.)

I brush the asparagus with olive oil; season it well with salt, black pepper and finely minced thyme; and grill it until it is steaming hot and well scorched all over. While it’s grilling, I cook some fresh farm eggs sunny side up in a bit of olive oil over low heat, covering the pan so the yolks come out runny but slightly thickened, and the whites lose their translucence. In another pan, I cook diced pancetta until it colors, then I deglaze the pan with a healthy splash of vinegar that is neither too acidic nor too sweet, such as Banyuls vinegar. No salt …

Continue reading Not local, but a welcome harbinger of spring »