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Archive for February, 2012

Learn culinary techniques and more on iTunes U

Go back to school with iTunes U. (Hyosub Shin / hshin@ajc.com)

Go back to school with iTunes U. (Hyosub Shin / hshin@ajc.com)

Have you ever wanted to press the rewind button so that you could attend college all over again? For those of us who would be happy as career students, there’s an app for that — iTunes U. And, it’s free.

iTunes U offers a variety of courses and lectures presented by industry leaders. Take a statistics class from Harvard, an astronomy class from Yale or learn about knives with a Certified Master Chef. Culinary learning experiences range from basic technique classes to interviews with leading chefs.

If you’re looking for an introduction to culinary school, try the Basics of Culinary series by The Art Institutes. These videos range in length from one to 32 minutes on topics like basic knife skills, how to prepare and clarify a consomme or how to braise meat. You’ll also find a series of courses on preparing ethnic cuisine (Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian, etc).

I’m ready to delve into the science and cooking …

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A little bitters makes life better

IMG_5005Most people I know have normal liquor cabinets: a bottle of gin, a bottle of rum and so on. We, on the other hand, usually have a bottle or two of rye or bourbon and more than a dozen bottles of bitters. We don’t actually drink bitters very often. Rather, I tend to buy them obsessively. Every time I try a new one in a bar or (better yet) on a vacation to a distant land, I pick up a bottle.

I should specify I’m not talking about aromatic bitters, such as Angostura, that you add by the dash to cocktails (though we have a fair number of those as well). Instead, I’m talking about potable bitters: strange, dark distillations of barks and berries, snips and snails and puppy dog tails. Witch’s brews that people traditionally sip from dainty little cut crystal glasses and brace themselves for the onslaught of throat-clenching spice and horror.

Old European bitters makers boast of 43 or 76 secret ingredients that go into these dark concoctions, usually a mixture …

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Anthony Bourdain plans to launch new line of books in 2013

(image courtesy of HarperCollins)

(image courtesy of HarperCollins)

Food celebrity Anthony Bourdain and publishing imprint Ecco (of HarperCollins Pubishers), have announced the first three titles to be published under Bourdain’s new line of books.

First up, Roy Choi, Los Angeles based restaurateur and co-founder of the Kogi Bbq Korean taco food truck, pens Spaghetti Junction. The book is Choi’s memoir/cookbook that explores Los Angeles street food. “This book shows you how I see things.” states Choi. “This is a book that searches the appetite of a city that grew right before my eyes and shows you how I cook. And how a city constantly pushed me against the current to find my flavor.”

The second book will be Daniel Vaughn’s Prophets of Smoked Meat, which promises to be the “definitive guide to the best of classic Texas barbecue” and will feature recipes for all the Texas smokehouse classics including sides. Bourdain hails Vaughn as “the Yoda of Barbecue” with “impeccable smoked meat credentials.”

Bourdain’s …

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Restaurant inspections, Panera Bread Dunwoody

Recently, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reader, called with a food safety complaint about a Panera Bread location in Dunwoody.

The DeKalb resident said she wanted a resolution to the service provided to her and her husband, but she decided not to release her name. The complaint covered her experience with the cashier, as well as a complaint that her husband killed a roach in the dining area when they first arrived at the 1625 Mount Vernon Road location one late evening.

Asked whether they dined at the restaurant after the experience, she said yes. “It was late,” so we decided to stay, she said, noting that they have previously visited Panera locations. The DeKalb resident said she decided to call especially because of unsatisfactory service with the cashier.

The manager at the restaurant acknowledged knowing about the complaint, but referred the AJC to a Panera Bread spokesperson for comment.

Following Panera’s internal investigation, spokeswoman Linn Parrish …

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Fifth Group to open seafood restaurant Lure in July (and more news)

rendering courtesy of Fifth Group Restaurants

rendering courtesy of Fifth Group Restaurants

Following on the heels of recent favorable reviews of its newest restaurant Alma Cocina, Fifth Group Restaurants has announced yet another new restaurant in the works. Lure, a seafood spot, will open this July in Midtown in the former Vickery’s Crescent Avenue Bar & Grill location.

Lure, which has been in the making for over three years, will serve “simple, high quality seafood dishes in a fun, uniquely designed atmosphere,” said Fifth Group partner Robby Kukler in a press release. David Bradley, Ecco’s current chef de cuisine, will head the kitchen, preparing coastal cuisines from around the world.

Lure’s menu will feature an extensive selection of oysters and offer dishes like house-smoked seafood samplers, grilled whole Georgia trout with pickled-ramp butter, and Acadian redfish fried in sourdough batter with malt-vinegar marinated cucumbers. The restaurant will open with dinner service with plans to add lunch service …

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Feast Restaurant in Decatur to close tomorrow night

www.feastatlanta.com

www.feastatlanta.com

Decatur’s Feast Restaurant will close after service tomorrow night. Owner Teri Rogers wrote this announcement on the restaurant’s website and Facebook page:

Hey Everybody!

I just wanted to let everybody know that I have decided to close the doors of Feast.

After seven years of business, it has come time to say good-bye. Most of you know that I am battling breast cancer for the second time. Although I am very positive that I will kick this disease again, it has been difficult for me to stay as focused on the business as I should be. For the first time in my life, I am going to put my health first.

In addition, our sales have suffered with this challenging economy. It has been a difficult year, not only [for] Feast, but for our customers as well. Although I have enjoyed seeing your friendly and supportive faces over the years, there just does not seem to be enough business to cover my expenses, much less make a profit. I appreciate the patronage that you …

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Homebrew chronicles, Day 1: The hardware

homebrewI never would have discovered my love for cooking had I not first fallen in love with food itself. It was a natural progression. Some of you may not know this about me, but I also love beer. Therefore, I am optimistic for my first crack at home brewing.

Home brewing is a practice as old as beer itself, but fermenting your own bottle of suds at home was illegal in the United States from the beginning of Prohibition in 1920 through 1978, when President Jimmy Carter lifted the Federal ban and left it to the states to decide. Since then, American has gone from being home to six mega-breweries to thousands of craft breweries, and twenty times as many home brewers.

Thankfully, I have a family member that is into it, and the dude makes himself some tasty beer, so he got me on board. I have heard that if you can boil water, you can make beer, so I’m feeling encouraged at this point. My plan is to document the journey along the way, for better or for worse.

Before you do anything, …

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Alma Cocina restaurant review, downtown Atlanta

$$-$$$

$$-$$$

I’ve been to a number of private homes, mostly in the West, where the occupants favor a look I’d call “expensive Mexican handicraft.” The walls are various shades of splotchy burnt orange and mustard, the chairs made of intricately carved wood with luxurious leather slipcovers, the silver platters enormous creations of hand-hammered metal.

Review by John Kessler

Review by John Kessler

I bring this style up not to draw attention to the dining room at Alma Cocina but rather the food, which feels to me like an edible cognate of the same soulful yet highly decorative design sensibility. The menu here may at first glance offer the homey, handcrafted fare of Mexico we all love — the chips and salsa, the tacos and tamales, the beans and rice. But it does so with a carefully wrought tastefulness that always let you know you’re in a nice restaurant.

This observation may sound like a dig, but it isn’t. I would be forever happy with a sampler of four salsas ($8) — roasted tomato, bright …

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World Dish: Dollar tacos around the city

World Dish with Gene Lee

World Dish with Gene Lee

Many years ago while traveling through Central America, my companions and I stumbled upon a lady selling tacos by the side of the road.

Her hands were stained blue from preparing tortilla dough with blue cornmeal, which she formed into flat discs then slapped onto a comal (griddle) propped over a small fire. Minutes later, she removed the bubbly tortillas, stuffed them with grilled beef and raw onions and distributed them to me and my hungry friends in exchange for a handful of centavos (Guatemalan coin currency). That was the first time I had tacos prepared this way.

Luckily for us, we can find many Latin American establishments here in metro Atlanta offering tacos similar to that cheap, roadside version I sampled years ago.

I culled a shortlist of places scattered around town where you can go get your taco fix and for around a dollar each. However, there is a caveat to the price: All establishments offer these dollar tacos as miniature versions. Two …

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Top Chef Texas recap, Episode 16: The Three Amigos

Credit: Bravo

Credit: Bravo

Before you get all excited, let me get the first big SPOILER out of the way: This is NOT the finale.

Despite the fact that we are now down to the final three, the traditional lineup for the finale, Bravo wants to stretch the season out just a little longer.

Paul, Sarah, and Lindsay are all the remain, and the girls couldn’t be more sure that this is how it was meant to be: The sourpuss twins and the favorite battling it out, with nary a Beverly in sight.

Anyone else notice how Lindsay and Sarah talk about how tight the three of them are a LOT more than Paul does?

The chefs head to the exotic destination for the “finals”: Vancouver. They head into Chinatown, to Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie, where they find Padma and Emeril waiting for them. For the Quickfire, in honor of Vancouver’s huge Asian population, the chefs will pair up with three Top Chef Masters Asian maestros. In walk Anita Lo, Floyd Cardoz, and Takashi Yagihashi. If you cock your head to the …

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