Saturday, May 31, 2008

Daily highlight #10: Empty lunch room, but delightful pasta - Restaurant: Antica Posta

The styling of Antica Posta deviates far from my usual taste. The dark wood and old world decor seem to shrink the already cozy dinning rooms even further under the dim lights. But I've never seen the place in daylight until a recent weekend, when it presented itself as a lunch choice of convenience.

The bar room in front appeared much brighter with plenty of sunlight rushing in through the tall windows. We hesitated a bit in the hallway, seeing the almost empty front room until a waitress warmly welcomed us in. After settling in with some bubbly, I decided on a summery pasta composed of crab meat, tomatoes, and peas. A rustic plate came back to the table shortly. There weren't any clever plating or artful flourishes here. What came was a simple plate of lightly dressed pasta loaded with crab and vegetable goodness. The savoriness of the dish came through in layers, through the perfectly al dente pasta, the fresh crab meat, and the light sauce made with non-mealy tomatoes and non-mushy peas. A truly delightful early summer indulgence.

Antica Posta
519 E. Paces Ferry Rd. N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30305

Friday, May 30, 2008

Daily highlight #9: the unexpected delight: Muss & Turner

Sometimes the best things in life are those that are unexpected. I ordered an innocent looking s’more and got this crazy flambĂ©ed chocolate mousse on a sandy chocolate crust topped with fluffy homemade marshmallow. The torching action didn't hurt either. The adorableness put a big smile on my face. Every bite was as enjoyable as the first.

Besides the unusual, we also got the ultra homey whoopie pie. A favorite of New England, the soft chocolate cakes, to my surprise, exhibited great chocolate nuances even after being mixed with flour and baked in a hot oven. They played super nice with the creamy frosting, which echoed the fluffiness of the marshmallow.

I will definitely come back for dessert again!

Muss & Turner
1675 Cumberland Parkway, Ste 309
Smyrna, GA 30080

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Daily highlight #8: a welcome addition: Parish Market

I haven't tried the restaurant up front, but the little market in the back is awfully charming. It's not just all for looks either. The croissant gives the one at Alon's down the street a run for its money.

Parish market
240 N. Highland Ave.
Atlanta, GA 30307

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daily highlight #7: Let's kick off summer! - Restaurant: Shaun's

Last Thursday, Shaun's hosted a great cocktail party on its ultra adorable back patio to helped us kicked off the firm's busy summer social calendar. I have always loved this patio hidden behind the bar for its private urban oasis appeal, but Shaun's really took it up a notch this time with wonderful vines on the fence, lovely plants along the walkway, and an awesome retractable awning on the back wall.

Of course there was the food. Shaun's definitely did not drop the ball on flavors just because everything was served in smaller portions. Much of the rather large nibbles came off of their regular menu. As a small consequence, many offerings were a bit too big or messy to make one neat trip to the mouth. But when the food is this good, messiness is a small price to pay.

Oysters set the tone for the party. An assertive but not overwhelming mignonnette pre-applied to the half shells punched up the fresh briny flavor of the cool fleshes.

One of the most surprisingly awesome bite of the evening turned out to be the vegetarian offering that was labeled a ravioli. A deconstructed play on ravioli components, the blanched zucchini made a great pliable wrapper while sun-dried tomatoes and ground almond provided bright flavors and interesting textures. I loved this.

One of my all time favorites at Shaun's is the not always popular chicken liver on toast. Here, the normally ginormous appetizer has been hacked up into much smaller portions. I am not sure how many others enjoyed it as much as I did, but many at least tried and didn't hated it.

Next up was smoked salmon salad on toasted bagel chip. The bagel chip rocked with a great chewiness that is hard to find outside of the big apple. Smoked salmon, on the other hand, was slightly overshadowed by the large amount of mayo and accompanying hard boiled egg bits.

I like mini everything, so these little shrimp poboys naturally appealed to me. The shrimp was cooked to the correct doness and the batter wasn't too thick. It would have been a super package if only the seasoning had turned up the volume a bit more. Still, it's hard to argue with eating a hot poboy outdoor at the start of summer.

I loved the look of this sausage with a roasted pepper sauce. But I am sure you see the problem here. There was just no good way to eat this without dripping all over oneself. Check out the pepper sauce falling big time from my face as I tried to eat it with as much grace as I could manage!

I can't argue with the flavor here, it was robust as a sausage of its statue should be. If I must pick a bone, it was a tad greasy, but then again, it is a sausage. A little grease is part of the game. :)

I actually managed not to eat these after taking this picture. I have no idea what happened. The conversation much have been good, really good...

The Sardinian flatbread has never been my favorite, but the cheese on top sparked a lot of interest as we couldn't quite place the type. It had a texture almost like that of a Greek feta, not meant for crumbling. The server solved the mystery and revealed it as a ricotta. Great stuff.

There were other nibbles I didn't photograph, but you get the picture. It was a great food filled party ending on some very very tasty banoffee pie! I can't think of another place in town that serves it and I can't understand why. It's such a lovely combination of creaminess, caramel goodness, and banana essence. It reminded me of a similar version at April Bloomfield's always packed Spotted Pig in the village.

1029 Edgewood Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30307

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Daily highlight #6: There must be grilling on memorial day

I love loft living, except for the fact that the home owner association prevents my usage of anything that resembles a respectable grill (electrical grilling is not respectable). So on this memorial day, when grilling is a must, J tactfully invited ourselves over to the K house for some proper grilling. Thanks for having us G and A!

There were A's excellent bird parts marinated in a spicy also cajun type seasoning (above),

her prettily skewered spicy shrimps,

my not so prettily skewered Korean BBQ shrimps,

my poppy seed scones with balsamic and honey marinated strawberries, some pork chops, sweet potatoes, spicy creamed corns, and a big salad plate. Of course, there was also some awesome sparkler action as post face stuffing exercise.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Daily highlight #5: renovated space, renovated slice? - Restaurant: Cameli's

Occasionally, when I am not in the mood to fix late night snacks, my man J makes the trip to Cameli's around the corner from our loft in the crack Kroger complex for a monster slice. I heard from him that they had undergone renovation some time ago, but since he is not one to elaborate on such things, that's about as much I knew until a few days ago.

This time, I also wanted to snack and thought some baked dough would do the trick nicely. The renovated place looked awesome, especially considering the shabby joint that used to match the crack Kroger next door. It's no fancy venue by any means, but now there is a good bar with a decent beer selection and plenty of comfy seating for pizza eaters.

But the best part of our visit was the slice, the monster slice to be exact. In order to provide some perspective on the monsterness of the thing, I made J put his hand in the picture. In case you were wondering, the man is five eleven and his hand is not abnormally small for his size.

I loved this slice. I mean I always liked the version Cameli's put out, but never as much as this one this night. Despite the overwhelming amount of toppings J requested, the crust remained unburdened by the extra stuff on top and seemed to have suffered little from the double baking, the ultimate obstacle for the slice to overcome. Check out the underskirt shot above. The nicely charred bottom showed no signs of cracking or sogginess. If you are like me and eat your pizza from the rim in, this is one superb treat.

Now I don't feel so bad that my friend Jay has this (below) downstairs on his block just south of hell's kitchen 24 hours a day.

699 Ponce De Leon Ave.
Atlanta, GA 30308

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Daily highlight #4: Surprisingly moist - Bakery: Kalonji

Nine times out of ten, when faced with a decision between a cupcake and a regular slice, I'd go for the later. As pretty as the cupcakes tend to look, most of the time, I bite through to find dried-out innards. This is of course not to say that I'd turn down a pretty little treat in the middle of the afternoon, especially on a Friday afternoon when the day seems endless.

Lady J knew this well and brought me this little treat right around that four o'clock mark when desperation starts to set in. Her friend had gotten a bunch of these from a small bakery near Stone Mountain called Kalonji. Having never heard of it, I wasn't expecting much. The expectation rose tremendously when I picked up the cake and found it quite hefty for its size and squishy to the touch, sure signs of a moist crumb. Sure enough, one bite confirmed the incredible moistness of the yellow lemon cake. And the moistness didn't seem to come from an overwhelming amount of butter - there wasn't the accompanying richness. Instead, it almost seemed as if someone had doused the cake in a bit of lemon syrup prior to frosting. Whatever it was, it was successful in preserving the tender crumb without turning the whole thing mushy. The frosting, I also adorned. It's a simple lemon buttercream made special by the controlled butter to sugar balance. It impressed by being just rich enough and not toothache-inducing. The lemon favor came through fresh and vibrant. Every bite urged me on to take another.

I shall definitely go to the bakery and check out some other siblings of this little gem.

Kolonji Bakery
4757 Stone Mountain HWY, Ste 400
Lilburn, GA 30047

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Daily Highlight #3: Size matters here - Restaurant: Agave

When size matters, Agave simply cannot be ignored. This neighborhood favorite of many in and around Cabbagetown serves up some well-loaded plates every night of the week. Even with blockades obstructing the most immediate path to its front door, Agave manages to fill its dinning rooms with locals night after night.

The margaritas are always excellent, blended with great selections from a long list of tequilas, and are always of more than sufficient strength. When comfort is the goal, the beer braised pork shank should hit the spot. Just looking at the hefty hunk of meat should have a grounding effect on the stomach. There is nothing fancy here, just tender long cooked meat with simple seasoning that is savory, but not overpowering. The braised greens provided the much needed fiber for a bit of balance.

Not everything on the menu exemplify simplicity, however. This mountain trout stuffed with crawfish, mushrooms, onions, and basil over Spanish rice with a roasted tomatillo sauce and cilantro complicated things a bit, but somehow still managed to come off looking and tasting rather rustic. There was a nice kick of acidity from the tomatillo sauce. But it was not pronounced enough to make one take notice with every bite. One thing remained consistent throughout all the dishes - the size never got smaller.

Nothing at Agave is earth shatteringly good. Yet, it's a place I want to go back to, if only because it feels good to lean back into the chair.

242 boulevard se
atlanta, ga 30312

Friday, May 23, 2008

Daily highlight #2: It's almost time for blue crabs

Every year around this time, I start waking up in the middle of the night craving blue crabs. They should be fattening up nicely near the Chesapeake. Having spent my teenage years near Baltimore, I am spoiled by the days when large female crabs (my preference) can be taken home at $6 a dozen with a free dozen thrown in.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Daily Highlight #1: what to do when delayed at SFO - Restaurant: Hong Kong Flower Lounge

With my first installation of daily highlight on this blog, I thought it fitting to let you in on one of our secrets. You see my boy J travels out of the country almost half of the year. To make the trips easier to take, he frequently stops in Frisco for the day to spend some time with friends. As delays seem more the norm than the exception these days, sometimes, when I happen to travel with him, we find ourselves here, at Hong Hong Flower Lounge (, about a ten minute drive away from the airport, for a good meal that comes close to make the delay almost bearable.

Don't think for a minute that this is mediocre food just because it's near the airport. I dare say that everything here blows what we got in the atl out of the water. The last round, we snacked on my favorite - chicken feet. These shown above are just to my liking, meaning I am able to easily separate the meat from the bones with my mouth closed and spit out the clean bones discreetly onto my chopstick, to be transported to my plate. It's really amazing how neat one can be eating chicken feet when the feet are cooked to the right fall off the bone doness. At that stage, the gelatinously collagen rich skin almost melts with the heat of the mouth.

Finished and almost ready to pay, we spotted these babies coming out of the kitchen steaming. J, always one to seal the deal when I look tempted, quickly grabbed them off the cart for me. Fluffy and tender, the bun was pleasantly sweet and hot. Chopped roast pork made up the innards. Sweet, but not coyly so, the fatty pieces provided great contrast to the lightness of the bun. However, these still didn't come close to the best version I've had with my all knowing dim sum buddy in Hong Kong. I still dream about that stuff on certain hungry nights. Maybe next time I'll fly through Hong Kong.

This first installation of the daily highlight is a bit longer than I intended. The idea is for me to get a lot more of my pictures posted without having to spend too much time. It's just a shame not to share more of them when I enjoyed taking them so much.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Best cookies in Atlanta? - Bakery: The Cookie Studio

Some have called these the best cookies in Atlanta. Having tried four this past weekend, including a chocolate chip variety straight out of the oven, I must say that they are really pretty darn good! But I am wary of that word "best." After all, taste is a very personal thing, colored by such multitude of factors as genetics, upbringing, and even mood. I, myself, remain most partial to the Alon's double chocolate cookie. Having said that, I will provide a comparison of the two as a way of constructing a virtual taste profile of the Cookie Studio's excellent chocolate chip cookie.

On appearance, the CS CC cookie, at the size of a saucer, is larger than that of the large cookie at Alon's. Perhaps due to its size and abundant butter content, when warm from the heat of the oven, the CS cookie required rather delicate handling as at least half of the cookie towards the center was soft and had a tendency to fall apart where the chocolate chips oozed. Unlike the Alon's cookie, which is more or less soft and chewy throughout, the CS cookie boasts a crisper rim that, when allowed to cool, hardened to offer a crumbly first bite. The center never quite lost its pliability, however, even when cooled. The slightly undercooked dough provided a very enjoyable chew and offered a generous dose of chocolate indulgence unshadowed by too much sugar. Thoroughly enjoyable!

So why do I remain loyal to the Alon's double chocolate chip cookie? Well, that come down to what I referred to earlier as personal taste preference. I love, above all, a soft and crumbless texture that is almost borderline wet. Perhaps it's because of my inner neat freak who is afraid of leaving evidence behind on the car seat. Whatever the cause of my preference, Alon's approximate my desired texture better with its consistent softness from center to rim. With that said, I must declare again that the CS CC cookie is one "DARN GOOD COOKIE!"

Saturday, May 10, 2008

What's the difference between fried green tomato and green tomato fries? Find out at restaurant: Wisteria (atl)

Wisteria doesn't serve fried green tomatoes, it serves green tomato fries. The difference is subtle yet profound (see above). It exemplifies Wisteria's entire approach to southern cuisine - it stays true to the southern soul without being a slave to the southern form. Unlike many "new twist on tradition" places, the Wisteria take is unpretentious and unforced.

These "fries" were quite successful. The light batter provided a great crunch without masking the slight tart flavor that is uniquely refreshing about the green tomato. What's profoundly different about this approach is that the tomato portion that became the fries were separated from the seed portion of the tomato, curing the soggy mess problem that tend to plague the whole tomato slice method.

Along with the green tomato fries, my group of three shared a very refreshing fennel salad that incorporated a wonderful citrus element. Some grapefruit segments nicely set off the tang in the goat cheese. It was a great summer salad perfect for the grapefruit forward Sauvignon Blanc we were drinking.

One of my favorite restaurant fish dish is pan-fried skate wing and Wisteria's version hit the spot. The lemon butter sauce was sufficiently browned to provide a nutty flavor and the fish was not too aggressively salted.

My vegetarian friend opted for the special ravioli of the day (I can't remember what the filling was), but he obviously enjoyed it, having wiped the plate clean.

My man J went for the jumbo shrimp and grits. While you can hardly see the grits in this photo, I assure you that it was there, underneath the truly "jumbo" shrimps, soaking up the abundance of tasty sauce. The shrimps were cooked well, not well done. It retained just the right crunch without slipping down the rubbery slope.

We all saved room for dessert, a trio of them to be exact. The sampler plate is not for those trying to save calories as the samples were not exactly "mini." I was wholeheartedly rooting for the blackberry cobbler, but at last it was not the winner. The topping was just too under cooked and retained the unpleasant raw oat taste. The warm blackberry filling, however, was nicely warm and not too sweet. The winner turned out to be the chocolate thing that is somewhere between a denser cake and a brownie. There was no skimping on chocolate here. The package of cake/brownie and ice cream put forth a full on chocolate assault and succeeded in taking over the senses. The carrot cake fell in the middle in terms of taste. It was certainly competent for a carrot cake, but didn't rise high above its peers.

Beyond food, Wisteria excels at staying true to its identity as a neighborhood place. The interior is warm from its red bricks and tastefully decorated with art from local artists. Like the food served within, the space doesn't try too hard to impress. It's simply pleasing and comfortable. What truly keeps this place grounded are the staff. They are always nice and seem genuinely happy to see the neighbors walking in. On any given night, there is always a handful of regulars hanging out at the bar, drinking wine, eating dinner, and chatting with the bartender. This is a place to go when you just want a great meal in comfortable surroundings populated with nice people.

471 N. Highland Ave.
Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 525-3363

Monday, May 05, 2008

Birthday weekend in nyc - Restaurants: Annisa, Resto, Katz's Deli, L'Arte del gelato, Grom, Momofuku Ssam Bar, Ippudo, Lady M, and Blue Hill

It's simply amazing how much two people can consume over a single weekend in the name of a special occasion (J turned 31). Truth be told, J and I don't even need the excuse to eat up this much most of the time. What's more scary is that this is only about 70% of what we actually ate... (comments to come soon)