Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Highlight #189: Asian bakery desserts can also be sufficiently rich - Bakery: Maun's

Finally an Asian dessert pastry that is creamy and rich.

Cafe Maum
3182 Steve Reynolds Blvd. Ste 110
Duluth, GA 30097

Friday, June 26, 2009

Highlight #188: the one that everyone likes - Restaurant: Red Bar

Every time I asked for a must go place on the emerald isle, the red bar came up. So here I was, but not during the most popular drinking hours. I was there bright and early for breakfast.

From my quiet table on the back patio, I enjoyed the house special shrimp and crab omelet in the morning breeze. Plenty of shrimp and crab coexisted in this omelet and the red bar had no problem melting plenty of cheese onto the seafood combination. Equally cheesy grits stood up to the omelet and the very buttery biscuit. It's amazing that I didn't go promptly back to sleep after this loaded meal.
The sad truth is the little town of watercolor had much more fabulous macarons than the whole of Atlanta. These were found at Fabrice, a french bakery newly relocated to a charmingly street corner across from the Watercolor Inn. I had a hard time deciding between the raspberry/lemon and the lemon/chocolate bags. In retrospect, I should have just gotten them all. These were wonderful because of the perfect filling to macaron ratio. Delicate and delicious, they reminded me yet again why macarons are my hands down favorite.

I also took a slice of chocolate cake back to our guest condo for our afternoon coffee. Very intensely chocolaty, the flavor was spot on, but the cake layers were slightly too dense, bordering on being dry. Nonetheless, it made good accompaniment for a cup of black coffee.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Highlight #187: Beach and fish - Restaurant: Bud & Alley's (Watercolor)

I so needed a quiet beach, a place to forget about people and work. Despite the summer high season, such a place was found away from the crowd at the brand new Watersound resort on the gulf. Miles of white sand and blue sky were ours and ours alone for most of the weekend, one of the unexpected benefits of the horrible economy.

We had plenty of room to hang about in our suite and a very nicely outfitted kitchen in which to cook. But we were in a lazy mood, so mostly just assembled our lunch with the exception of pan frying some potatoes and mushrooms for the salad. Looking at this photo makes me happy. Champagne and snack food just shout out vacation.

At night fall, we ventured out to where the people are and found us a two top in front of the band at Bud & Alley's, a local favorite. One glance around the room and we had no doubt that we'd be getting seafood (that's what everyone is eating.) The menu confirmed our observation. Of the short list of eight entrees, six were fish.

We started things off with a crab salad of sort. The presentation was impressive and the tomatoes weren't all for colors either. They were bursting with brightly flavored juices. Most lovely, of course, was the crab meat. Translucent and firm, the tasty morsels needed no extra flavoring and were indeed treated with a light hand.

I was told that grouper is the fish of the gulf, so naturally I ordered it. This B&A special was pan seared and still showed the bright colors on the skin side (unfortunately blocked by the mango cubes in this photo). The meat was moist, but firm. This I learned is not a fish that flakes or falls apart easily. I liked everything including the plump shrimps that came along for the ride, even though they weren't exactly needed on this plate.

Jason's pan fried flounder knocked it out of the park. Lightly coated with panko, the fried fish combined an extremely satisfying crunch with very flaky white flesh. The homemade tartar sauce did a great job of introducing just the right amount of tartness.

When in Florida key lime pie is a must for me. I took this photo to show the cool way that Jason learned from his mama to squeeze juices out of a slice of lime. First he cut the slice so it is only attached on one side of the rind, then he stabbed the halves with forks and twisted in opposite directions. I was amazed that he was able to get every last drop of juice out of the single slice without breaking it. Very cool! Mama really knows!

The extra tang from the lime juice elevated this already very good dessert to awesomeness. Creamy middle and buttery crust, what's not to like?

An exception meal to end a great beach day!

Bud & Alley's
2236 E County Highway 30A
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Highlight #186: Don't hate the chain - Restaurant: Ted's

I am not a chain hater. There are some chains that do what they do very well and the fact that they bring good food to the masses is nothing but a plus. I have a particular soft spot for Ted's Montana Grill. My husband and I ate there quite a bit when we first moved down here to start his business up in Kennesaw. It was a part of my life changing experience, going from busy law firm life in NYC to hanging out with Suburban families on Barret Parkway, but I loved all of it.

Look at that plate. It's pure comfort and makes me sign every time. Nothing is extraordinary here, but it just warms the insides. The mashed potato is competently made to border chunky and creamy. The gravy is savory but not too salty. The pot roast is not pretty, but homey. And the green beans, well, there are green and crunchy. Good stuff, all of it.

We are finally off to the beach! I so needed this after not having a weekend off for over a month now...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Highlight #185: dreamy hummus - Restaurant: Olive Bistro

Continuing with the theme from the previous post, here is a shot of my favorite hummus in Atlanta. It looks much better in this to go container than it did in the dark displace case. In fact, nothing in the dim Olive Bistro display case looked especially good, but all were much more appealing in appearance once viewed in proper light.

I love this hummus for two simple reasons. One, it's incredibly creamy, probably from a good dose of tahini that ups the calorie value, but also the delicious factor. Two, it packs a punch of great tartness without going too far. Considering how many styles of hummus are out there, I am sure everyone has got their own favorite. On my scale, this one is as close to the top as I've found.

Olive Bistro
650 Ponce de Leon Ave. Suite 680A
Atlanta, GA 30308

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Highlight #184: potential revealed - Restaurant: Cafe Antalya

Jason orders yaprak sarmasi or stuffed grape leaves at every restaurant he could find them in. I always try one and then leave the rest to him. Mostly they are too chubby and overstuffed. Sometimes the content is too mealy. Sometimes the rice is too hard. And often times, the stuff is too sour. So when he ordered these at Cafe Antalya, I half expected the same. But the other half hoped to be proven wrong, since I have heard much good things about this place.

These were a revelation. The size of small cigar, each piece is sufficiently but not tightly stuffed. I tasted lots of wonderfully subtle flavors of pine nuts, currants, well cooked rice, etc. that were often covered up by sourness. I can eat these all day!

The hot borek also far exceeded expectations. Incredibly crunchy and flaky, the almost greaseless shell gave away to a slightly more chewy center perfumed by ground lamb and onion. Lovely lovely stuff.

We love lamb, so also ordered it in the form of kofte or spiced and ground lamb chargrilled on a stick. Jason likes to comment on how unappetizing it tends to look. I don't see it that way. Food generally looks good to me. In any case, looks aside, this is a mighty yummy dish when done well. Here the spicing is very controlled, so the meat is neither too salty or too herby. If you like the natural flavor of lamb like we do, this is a great way to experience the lightly herb enhanced taste of it.

We'll definitely be back for more of the grape leaves and try some other meats. This is a great little spot worth the drive up Roswell Rd. for. When we were there, almost everyone else in there spoke the language of their homeland.

Cafe Antalya
8290 Roswell Rd.
Sandy Springs GA 30350
Phone: (678) 527 0900

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Highlight #183: Too too much food - Restaurant: Tairyo

Jimmy and Jennifer (it's amazing how many Js are in my life, so I am actually going to use names now) became child free for the summer. With so much time on their hands, they arranged for a long lunch with Jason and I a week ago. Little did I know, by long, they meant three hours long. :)

Tairyo is the one of few places in Atlanta with tatami style seating. Although the owner did considerately provide for a foot pit, so patrons do not have to seat kneeing down on their feet, which, to the uninitiated, is quite painful. Actually, such seating position is even becoming unpopular in its native Japan due to its tendency to cause bow leggedness, which, when not covered by a kimono, is quite unattractive.

We were brought the lunch menu, but Jennifer quickly waved it away in favor of the more elaborate dinner menu. Since it's our first time here, we wisely settled for their pick of the set menu (U-mi course) for four. So begins the endless parade of food.

Tairyo started us off easy with a smooth chawanmushi (steamed egg custard). The custard wobbled attractively as I attacked it with my spoon. The lack of air bubbles indicated a slow steam on low heat. This preparation of eggs is probably my favorite growing up, so I ate happily and savored the chunks of abalone. The side salad, I ignored. It didn't look too attractive.

Next up were fried cod pieces with a tartar like sauce on the side. The panko breading was predictably crunchy, but the cod meat tasted just a tad frozen in texture. But then again, fried crunchy fish is easy to put down.

There was also a large piece of eel. Obviously the winner of the two, its tender and sweet flesh won over all at the table.

There is just something so appealing about a bento offering. Perhaps it's the idea of having so many varieties. Perhaps it's the cuteness of it all. Whatever it is, it makes me happy. Of the six items in the box, my favorite was the egg salad. A perfect mound of creaminess sprinkled with additional yoke. Also good were the meatballs in the clay pot. If you don't like sweetness, then these are not for you. But if a sweet mirin is your thing, then this classic meatball dish cooked in soy sauce and mirin is comfort all the way.

Then we got into serious sushi territory. There were different cuts of salmon and tuna, ranging in fattiness. I personally prefer the fattiest cut of salmon to the fatty toro. I have no reason for it, just a preference. I know, I know, this take me out of serious sushi eating category, but so what. Food is personal. Superb were the sweet shrimp, shelled but with the heads still attached. I know I use this word too much, but the flesh was really creamy and distinctly sweet. Also acceptably fresh tasting was the uni. By far my number 1 sushi choice in general, freshness is key for this item, even more so than the rest. The generous portion here was good enough for sure, but the quality was not exceptional. Then again, very few places can have great uni for Saturday lunch.

The next large platter contained the prized live lobster. Yes, the lobster was still moving, yet his tail meat was glistening next it on the bottom left of this photo. If that disgusts you, make sure you ask for no lobster or removal of the body from the platter. Like the sweet shrimp, the lobster tail meat tasted faintly sweet. But rather than creamy, it was a little crunchy and reminded me of the ocean.

On the bottom right was another favorite, monkfish liver. Foie gras of the sea!

Grilled fishes. Crispy!

If you are not use to salmon collar that comes with the head still attached, you may be taken aback by this dish. But once you get pass the eye balls, the neck meat is really great and full of fatty flavors.

Getting near the end with spicy salmon roll.

Lightly braised fish in a soy and mirin broth. Pure home comfort. There were spots of scales left on though... Definitely a missed detailed.

At the very end, after being stuffed to the neck, one gets to choose whether to finish things off Japanese style with udon or Korean style with kimchee soup cooked with the lobster shell from before. Most went for the lighter udon, but I wanted spicy. Thank goodness we waited a good hour talking before ordering this. It was very filling.

We started this meal at 1pm and didn't finish until well after 4. Jason and I pretty much waddled out of the door and were rendered useless (at least for anything active) for much of the evening. So plan accordingly. I would try to avoid eating this meal for dinner later in the day. You need time to digest.

5953 Buford Hwy NE
Atlanta, GA 30340

Friday, June 05, 2009

Highlight #182: Really great friend - Bouchon Bakery (Vegas)

If you come to this blog often, you know that I am obsessed with these light and oh so delectable things. And you also know that we are seriously lacking bakeries that make them here in the atl. So needless to say I was laughing out loud happy to walk into my office and find this sitting pretty on my chair. Thank you thank you Jenna. You are a wonderful friend.

Here is the orange one half eaten and showing its delicately moist center and slightly flaky crust.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Hilight #181: Worth the price - Restaurant: Eats

Living across the street from Eats for years has failed to make us regulars. This does not speak poorly of the food quality. Rather, it's because we are just not take-out people. When we eat in, we cook. When we eat out, we want to leave the immediate vicinity of home.

Last Wednesday evening, Jason was again getting ready for a trip to Seattle. Normally, I try to send him off with a home cooked meal, but I was too late heading home and then I saw Eats. My one experience a year ago yield some pretty tasty food, so I made the difficult left turn into the parking lot (who decided to put an entrance right after a busy red light, so one can't turn at the light and then is inevitably blocked by the oncoming traffic?)

I went straight for the jerk chicken that the place is known for and rounded out our nutritional needs with a baked sweet potato, green beans, and collards. A salty cornbread of proper southern style came on the side. That's a lot of food for less than $8. Back home, we shared some of the jerk chicken. The aggressive seasoning on the skin caught me by surprise, while the meat underneath was very juicy and tender. When eaten in the proper proportion of skin to meat, the mix was down right addictive. The veggies were good as long cooked southern veggies go. My favorite was the sweet potato in the foil. So soft and sweet in its own juices, it almost tasted candied.

Considering that I have thought about this meal quite a few times this week, I'd say that we'll be doing take-out a bit more often.

600 Ponce De Leon Ave
Atlanta, GA 30308