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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Hot or Cold?

We are finally getting a taste of winter in Atlanta, accompanied with rain. And wind. And more rain. The wet, windy weather doesn’t compare to summer’s warm beckoning to sip cocktails on a restaurant’s patio while basking in the sunshine. Okay, maybe summer wasn’t that elegant, but why leave the house when you can cozy up on your couch and sip on a warm cup of tea?

King+Duke outdoor patio (Photo Credit: Tuan Huynh)

King+Duke outdoor patio (Photo Credit: Tuan Huynh)

Restaurants heat their lamps and surround their patios with curtain enclosures to entice you to dine outdoors in the chilly temperatures. It makes me think of Barcelona Wine Bar’s outdoor fireplace, which always seems to have a wait regardless of the time of year. When you dine out, do you sit indoors despite restaurants’ attempts to lure you to the patio?

Then there are the special holiday cocktail menus that roll out this time of year, donning festive names. Hot toddies, Kahlua hot

Salted Caramel Eggnog from Chops Lobster Bar

Salted Caramel Eggnog from Chops Lobster Bar

chocolate and mulled …

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Get inspired to create your own gingerbread house

This $5000 grand-prize winning entry, “A ʻPeaceʼ of Life” by Kimberly Thalman of Franklin, WI, sits inside an acrylic case for protection as it rotates, granting a 360° view.

This $5000 grand-prize winning entry, “A ʻPeaceʼ of Life” by Kimberly Thalman of Franklin, WI, sits inside an acrylic case for protection as it rotates, granting a 360° view.

In our family, it’s a tradition to bake, build and decorate gingerbread houses each December. This year we expanded this ritual to include a visit to Asheville, NC to get a peek at the entries in the National Gingerbread House Competition at The Grove Park Inn.

Each November, contenders young and old truck their creations to Asheville to be judged in this annual competition. Entrants are divided into four categories: child (ages 5-9), youth (ages 9-12), teen (ages 13-17) and adult (18+). After the pieces are judged, the top ten structures from each category are displayed throughout the hotel. The contest, open to the public Sundays-Thursdays, draws crowds from all over the Southeast.

Entries must conform to size requirements, must be completely edible (save the plywood base) and be made of at …

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Chef Todd Mussman talks grilling and shares a Big Green Egg-style mussels recipe

Todd Mussman (credit: Marcus Kraus)

Todd Mussman at Local Three (credit: Marcus Kraus)

As we debate the finer points of Big Green Eggs, gas and charcoal grills this week on the Food and More blog, I checked in with Chef Todd Mussman. He uses a Big Green Egg. Well, actually, it’s blue. His personal egg, purchased for him as a wedding gift, was one of only 190 limited run of the color.

Mussman is now a culinary partner with Big Green Egg (BGE) and uses the Kamado-style cookers in his restaurants Muss & Turner’s and Local Three. In fact, when he opened Muss & Turner’s 8 years ago, he was one of the first to incorporate eggs into an indoor professional kitchen. After much research, a special hood and dealings with the fire marshall, two BGEs now serve as the primary cooking vessels at the restaurant.

Why charcoal over gas?

Mussman says this question is like “using stock to make soup versus water.” Charcoal adds flavor, “If you char the edge of your steak on a propane grill, it tastes burned. If you char …

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Smoking tomatoes on the Big Green Egg

smoked tomato and corn salad

smoked tomato and corn salad

Our deck holds two grills, one gas, the other a Big Green Egg. Guess which one sits languishing in the corner? It’s not the Big Green Egg. In fact, I don’t think we’ve used the other since we got our egg about two years ago.

It was all meat at first on our egg — ribs, pork shoulder, salmon, chicken wings. Since we’ve got the protein covered, we’ve moved on. I’ve found that while the egg’s fired up, I like to throw on some veggies for a little grill and wood-smoke flavor. I may use them immediately or save them for another use, adding to other dishes to boost flavor. For example, if I have leeks on hand, I may grill them and then add them to a savory leek and gruyere custard.

But one of my favorite vegetable projects is smoking tomatoes. Once cooked, I incorporate the tomatoes to sauces, soups or other dishes and they really make the flavor pop. For a nice summery dish, add them to a salad of fresh corn kernels with basil and white …

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Celebrating Father’s Day with food in Atlanta

Treat dad to a free burger at The Counter. (courtesy of The Counter)

Treat dad to a free burger at The Counter. (courtesy of The Counter)

It’s time to think about celebrating dad. Offer your thanks with food at one of these meals and events around town.

Freebies

  • At STK dads will receive a complimentary Bell Meade bourbon cocktail with dinner on Sunday. 1075 Peachtree St., Atlanta.
  • Score a free 1/3 lb. standard burger for dad at The Counter on Sunday by telling your waiter “My dad is a BFD” (big ****ing deal). 850 Mansell Road, Roswell.
  • Bone Lick BBQ will offer dads a complimentary upgrade from the two-meat entree ($14) to a sampler platter of all five meat options including spare ribs, brisket, sausage, pulled pork and chicken (regularly $26). The only catch? Dad must polish off the plate himself. No sharing allowed. 1133 Huff Road, Atlanta.
  • Cypress Street Pint and Plate will serve dads a free meal on Father’s Day from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. 817 West Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta.
  • P’cheen will serve dads one complimentary Old Fashioned …

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Countdown to barbecue season

IMG_1694-300x235In addition to being the unofficial kick-off to the beginning of summer, next weekend’s Memorial Day holiday marks the beginning of another very important time of year – Barbecue Season.

For many, myself included, Memorial Day acts as the opening bell for months of early Saturdays filled with slow roasting meat and hickory smoke, and smokers and Big Green Eggs across the city will get their official dust-off of 2013. Of course, at my house, The Egg is a year-round fixture, but this is the beginning of the high-season.

Me? I’m trying to justify to my wife that I need a special “big smoker” since she won’t let me build a permanent in-ground brick pit in the back yard. Because sometimes, especially if we are entertaining a large enough group, even a BGE won’t cut it. I mean, how else am I supposed to smoke another whole hog next weekend if she thinks the cinder-block pit I used last time was too much of an eye-sore? On a regular ole’ smoker?

Please…. I think I …

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Make a plan for Mother’s Day at one of these spots

courtesy of West & Mill

courtesy of West & Mill

It’s sneaking up on us. Mother’s Day is just around the corner. Have you made plans for mom? Here are a few suggestions to get you planning. We won’t tell her that you needed a little nudge!

Tea

Roswell Teahouse: Tea will include a choice of soup like the signature cold cherry soup, light sandwiches, blueberry scones with lemon curd and desserts including the apple strudel. Mom will also choose a bottomless pot of tea to accompany her delectables. Seatings at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. 108 Magnolia St., Roswell. 770-643-5813. $26 adults, $15 children under 11.

West & Mill: Tea time will include a three-tier tray of sandwiches, petit fours and scones. In addition to tea service, tea-based cocktails will also be featured on Mother’s Day. 2-5 p.m. 1000 Marietta Street, Atlanta. 678-974-8953.

Brunch

103 West: This Buckhead Life Restaurant will once again serve it’s annual mother’s day brunch buffet complete with piano entertainment. The buffet …

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Mother’s Day gift idea: recipe-printed kitchen towels

Recipes from each of my grandmothers to be printed on towels

Recipes from each of my grandmothers to be printed on towels

Mother’s Day shopping can be a challenge. We all know you can’t get mom a vacuum cleaner or anything that smacks of domestic chores, but here’s an item you can get: kitchen towels. Yes, we’re walking a fine line here, but trust me.

There’s a nostalgic component to these towels that negates any accompanying objectionable household expectations. No one would expect mom to actually use them. The towels are printed with your handwritten recipes. Or, in my case, my grandmothers’ handwritten recipes.

A quick Google search will provide you with a number of do-it-yourself methods for creating these on your own. And while I consider myself somewhat crafty, printing on linen and iron-on transfers sent me straight to Etsy where I found someone to print them for me.

You’ll be able to find a number of places that can create these custom towels, using a variety of methods. I prefer the ones printed directly on …

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Macaron obsession: where to get them in Atlanta

Alon's

Alon's

At Thanksgiving, they were cornmeal with a molasses buttercream and Christmas brought peppermint with dark chocolate ganache filling. Such has been my recent obsession with macarons (not to be confused with coconut macaroons).

Making macarons requires a little skill, practice and definitely patience. If that’s a challenge that doesn’t tempt, you can find macarons at several bakeries throughout the metro area.

Here’s the scoop on where to get these gluten-free goodies around town. They might make a nice alternative to chocolates for your Valentine this year.

Alon’s

Alon’s has one of the most extensive collections of macaron flavors ranging from the simple almond to a bluish-purple black currant. Well puffed, the macarons have the hallmark crisp crust and sticky interior. Fillings are generous and not overly sweet. Try the creamy-filled coconut macaron. You’re welcome. $1.99

Douceur de France

This bakery/cafe, with locations in Roswell and Marietta, serves two …

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Stay home or go out for Valentine’s Day?

Piece of Cake (Becky Stein)

Piece of Cake (Becky Stein)

About this time last year, I posted a list of Atlanta restaurants offering special menus for Valentine’s Day and suggested that reservations should be made soon. I mentioned that I’d tried to make a reservation at one spot that no longer had availability.

One of the commenters (“Steven”) wrote, “Shocked that a food blogger would suggest going out on Valentine’s day. One of the best days of the year to stay home and cook.”

While I do love to cook, I also love any excuse to go out. I admit I also have a hang-up about celebrating holidays on their actual date. I’ll be going out again on Feb. 14 this year. But that’s me. Do you go out on Valentine’s Day?

I surveyed a few individuals working in various capacities in the food industry to see how they celebrate Valentine’s Day. Here are their responses:

I take my wife out either a few days before or a few days after Valentines Day, to avoid the masses. You get better tables, and servers …

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