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Archive for September, 2011

Restaurant Inspections, Uncle Julio’s Casa Grande

A host of non-food-type shortfalls led to a near-unsatisfactory food inspection score and a moderate follow-up grade for Uncle Julio’s Casa Grande.

The chain’s Atlanta eatery at 1860 Peachtree Road suffered a 20-point drop from a year ago, receiving a 72 (C) earlier this month (below 70 is an unsatisfactory score). Almost a week later, it managed to correct some items and climb to an 82 (B). A follow-up inspection is required for scores below 80; therefore, Uncle Julio’s would have to request a new inspection if it wants to try for a higher score in advance of its next routine exam.

During the routine exam on Sept. 1, the list of infractions ranged from failure to store wiping cloths in a sanitizing solution to not repairing or replacing a sensory that ensures the hand sink has hot water pressure. The inspector noted all of these as new violations, according to the report. Improper temperature-relation shortfalls were also cited.

Although Uncle Julio’s corrected some failures, …

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Stock options

Pork stock on the stove

Pork stock on the stove

Open our freezer door, and you will always find three things: a box of lime ice pops, an emergency Tombstone pizza and an endless supply of old yogurt tubs filled with homemade stock.

That stock keeps us from breaking out the pizza because it always and forever gives me the motivation to cook real food. We currently have chicken stock, fish stock and ham stock. I go through more chicken stock than anything else because it tastes good in, well, chicken, but also any other kind of sea or land creature. Or vegetables. Or risotto.

In fact, risotto made with real chicken stock, white wine, onions and Parmesan holds that comfort-food spot in my heart that many reserve for macaroni and cheese.

But back to that stock, which in all likelihood came from a roasted chicken. It may even have come from a supermarket rotisserie chicken. I know chicken bones are a gift for the taste buds, so I never let them go to waste. Dinner leftovers get scooped into the pressure …

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Roasting bone marrow at home

bonemarrowHave you ever tried roasting bone marrow at home? When I mentioned doing so recently to some friends — foodie friends — they asked, “Yum?” And, yes, yum is right!

If you’ve never made it, you’re missing out on this nutrient-rich, delightfully decadent, surprisingly inexpensive and exceedingly simple dish. The trick is to avoid thinking about what exactly you’re eating.

Check with your meat provider to purchase marrow bones or purchase them at Whole Foods for $2.69/lb. Our CSA farmer raises cattle, so we order ours from him and keep a supply in the freezer. Whenever you have a good crusty loaf of bread, pull out a couple of bones and roast them for a little marrow to slather on the bread.

Anthony Bourdain made famous the parsley-caper-lemon salad that is now a standard accompaniment for roasted bone marrow. In Melanie Dunea’s book, My Last Supper, Bourdain cites this version from the dining room at St. John in London as his chosen last meal. The brightness and acidity of the …

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Opening night at HD1

IMG_1541Though I’m not usually in the habit of eating anywhere on opening night, proximity and curiosity got the best of me, and I couldn’t resist heading over to HD1 in Poncey-Highland yesterday for its first night open to the public. For those who haven’t heard, HD1 – once rumored to debut as Haute Doggery – is the newest joint venture between Richard Blais and Barry Mills of Flip Burger.

Aside from Mr. Blais chatting it up with a few patrons, the first thing I see as I walk through the door is a large blackboard-style menu. Other than a few leaked recommendations in interviews, there has been no menu available online, so this is really my first chance to see what HD1’s food is going to be all about.

No matter how much they may try to distance the two restaurants, comparisons between Flip and HD1 are inevitable. The space, also designed by ai3, is strikingly darker than either Flip location, but keeps with the communal tables and hipster friendly soundtrack. The low lighting, wood …

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Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Precise Execution — Tomohiro Naito, Tomo Japanese Restaurant

Chef Tomohiro Naito (credit: Becky Stein)

Chef Tomohiro Naito (credit all photos: Becky Stein)

Here’s what I had to say in the original letter:

Please work on your execution: Set high standards, train your cooks well, and if you don’t yet trust them to execute the food as well as you do, don’t leave the kitchen. I can’t tell you how many good restaurants have served me limp salad greens, pan-fried fish without crisp skin, steaks without sear and seasoning that is all over the place.

Here’s why I think Naito exemplifies this quality:

Naito has taken the long, slow path to sushi supremacy in this town. Without ever alienating his bread-and-butter crowd who come to Tomo Japanese Restaurant for California rolls and lunch bentos, he began proposing more and more special appetizers and unusual kinds of fish flown in from Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market. But what has been most intriguing is how the small things keep getting better — the sushi rice slightly warmer than the fish, seasoned with a gentle sweet/sour interplay of …

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Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Dazzling Finesse — Gerry Klaskala, Aria

Gerry Klaskala (AJC Staff)

Gerry Klaskala (AJC Staff)

Here’s what I had to say in the original letter:

Dazzle us with your finesse: People go out to restaurants to eat the kinds of dishes they can’t make at home. We want to marvel at how you cut that amazingly tender braised short rib into such a perfect square or how you coaxed that infinitely velvety texture from a parsnip.

Here’s why I think Klaskala exemplifies this quality:

What a pleasure to revisit Aria after many years and find this Buckhead stalwart hasn’t, after a decade, turned into one of those maturing restaurants with an aging clientele and ossified menu. Sure, the greying folks at the next table all order the signature lobster cocktails with potato and broccoli purees and quietly wash them down with clinking cocktails. But then another party celebrating a 30th birthday has a grand time passing plates around the table and exclaiming over the food. Aria attracts such a diverse clientele for Gerry Klaskala’s menu, which he updates …

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Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Healthy Perspective — Stephanie Panek, Rise N Dine

Stephanie Panek

Stephanie Panek

Here’s what I had to say in the original letter:

Think about our health: When I look to the stars, it appears the heavenly body that brought us this Age of Meat is in retrograde. People are starting — gingerly — to speak of vegetables and sensible eating again. But the “gluttony-is-good” ethos just won’t go away. Pork fat and bacon are delicious — even more so in moderation. I hate that feeling of going home clutching my stomach, even after leaving half the food on my plate.

Here’s why I think Panek exemplifies this quality:

There’s nothing wrong with those hangover gut-bomb breakfasts we all love — the biscuits with sausage cream gravy, the three-cheese omelets with bacon and hash browns. But there’s something incredibly right about the variety of breakfasts you can build at Rise N Dine in Emory Village. Order your eggs with roasted sweet potatoes and sliced tomatoes, or any kind of fruit you want from berries to melon, or even amazing sage-quinoa grits. …

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Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Real Specialist — Candice Reynolds, Red Queen Tarts

Candice Reynolds

Candice Reynolds

Here’s what I had to say in the original letter:

Make one thing really well: This whole food truck mania is not about the pleasures of diesel fumes and plastic forks. It’s about young cooks who make brilliant pizza, or serious ice cream, or bizarrely original tacos. Every chef needs a signature dish that is all hers or his, a lure to the restaurant, a mouthful of nothing-else-like-it that diners dream of days later.

Here’s why I think Reynolds exemplifies this quality:

When she was growing up in Snellville, Reynolds was never allowed junk food, such ascommercial toaster pastries. “We were organic before organic was cool,” she jokes of her upbringing. Not that she minded: it didn’t take long to realize that the peanut butter cookies her mother made with freshly ground peanuts and honey from her backyard bees were far superior to Nutter Butters. Years later, she was working as a paralegal and part-time caterer when a friend gave her the idea for Red Queen …

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Fall 2011 Dining Guide: True Wit — Ryan Smith, Empire State South

Ryan Smith (Credit: Empire State South)

Ryan Smith (Credit: Empire State South)

Here’s what I had to say in the original letter:

Show some wit: Each dish should be a story well told, even if it’s one that has been told many times before. Maybe you are making a beet and goat cheese salad, or macaroni and cheese. Instead of cutting the beets into wedges, you might sliver them into carpaccio rounds. And with so many La Brea truffle oil pit versions of mac and cheese around town, wouldn’t it be fun to envision one that is surpassingly light and delicate?

Here’s whyI think Smith exemplifies this quality:

Southern food is big. Pork is big. Cured meat is big. Farm-to-table cooking is really, really big. We all need to give Ryan Smith, the executive chef at Hugh Acheson’s Empire State South, a hand for not only sidestepping the clichés of contemporary Southern cooking but for giving it a fresh, urbane perspective. Let other restaurants tout their country ham; Smith makes his own “city ham” — a house-cured cooked version …

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Fall 2011 Dining Guide: New Fusion — Guy Wong, Miso Izakaya

Guy Wong credit all photos: Becky Stein)

Guy Wong (credit all photos: Becky Stein)

Here’s what I had to say in the original letter:

Work toward the new fusion: Atlanta is one of the country’s best cities for new immigrant cooking. Our mainstream restaurants need to better reflect the reality of today’s multiethnic South. Have you heard of the Indian vegetable called drumstick? It can be as delicious as artichokes. Have you tried mashing boniato sweet potatoes, which are as white as clouds? Have you ever tried a sprig of fresh fenugreek at the DeKalb Farmers Market? Might you consider trying local goat for a winter special? If you like to go to Korean joints on Buford Highway, do you ever think about how to incorporate those flavors (chile, garlic, sugar, fermented vegetables) to a smart, wine-friendly dining sensibility?

Here’s why I think Wong exemplifies this quality:

Wong’s attempt at an izakaya (basically a Japanese-style pub with a small-plates menu) got off to a rocky beginning. For starters, he couldn’t get …

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