Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Trenton Tomato Pie

A recent article in Epicurious on Trenton tomato pie brought back old memories and inspired me to make a pizza. Trenton tomato pie has several characteristics: very thin, crispy crust; cheese on the bottom; crushed tomatoes. It comes from the Chambersburg district of Trenton, a.k.a. the Burg. Chambersburg was for many years the home of Roebling Steel, the company that built the Brooklyn Bridge. Roebling Steel closed many years ago but the Italian neighborhood that grew up around it still lives on. The neighborhood is now known for its many wonderful Italian restaurants and bakeries; food lovers up and down the Eastern Seaboard know about the Burg. The neighborhood has a very specific geography---you can see as you drive down the street when you have entered the Burg. The Trenton tomato pie is similarly specific to its locale. As I recall, not all restaurants in the Burg make the tomato pie, instead offering a traditional New York style crispy-crust. And a trip of just a few miles to the wonderful restaurants of Lawrenceville will provide you with mostly New York style.

The Epicurious article talks about De Lorenzo's pizza. I never went there, but I was pleased to find out that they relocated to Robbinsville, a few miles away. I did visit Joe's Tomato Pie several times. The blog Mack Trucks of Wisdom (great name!) describes Joe's here. Like many restaurants in the Burg, it was on the main floor of a row house. Even though it had a large dining room that was perpetually busy, it still gave the feel of eating in someone's dining room. And the pizza was delicious.

I made my own pizza dough from the Epicurious recipe. Nothing magical here: flour, salt, yeast, water. I let it rest overnight in the refrigerator, then started stretching. I was mildly hopeful at this early stage that I would end up with something round. But my dough skills let me down and I ended up with the odd shapes that always result.

I did make a little progress on technique. I stretched a little, then rotated, concentrating almost exclusively on the edge. When I came to a thick spot on the edge, I stretched more. The result wasn't as thin as a tomato pie should be, but it wasn't bad for my low skill level.

I spread some mozzarella and started to work on the tomatoes. At this point, I realized that I had bought crushed tomatoes, not whole. Oh, well, another blow to authenticity.

Here are the pizzas ready for the oven....

and here are the pies out of the oven. The may not be particularly authentic or artistically pleasing, but they did taste good. My dough was very yeasty after that night in the fridge. I liked it, but in my experience Trenton pies and New Jersey pizzas generally aren't so yeasty. This is a very simple pie, but pizza is simple, good food.

Update: New Lan Zhou Noodle

My visits to New Lan Zhou Noodle have become more frequent as of late. The Taiwanese food court in Chamblee is a good place for a simple, wholesome, inexpensive meal. Lately, I've consistently gone to Lan Zhou for their delicious stretched noodles. I didn't have a chance to take a photo of the cook stretching the noodles; perhaps another blog. This is duck noodle soup, with delicious bits of bony duck that I chewed down carefully. The noodles have a wonderful, chewy texture that you can't find in other types of pasta. I order my soup spicy; it comes out with flakes of pepper that excite the tongue and open up the nostrils but don't endanger any lives.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Lithonia: Mabel's BBQ and Smoked Meats

When I searched for "BBQ Lithonia GA" my screen lit up with Mabel's. So off I went. This is clearly a family place, with a photo of the namesake owner and her husband proudly displayed. You order at the counter and then sit down at one of the tables. I asked the young man at the counter what I should order; he smiled and said with an air of certainty, "meat sandwich." That's a chopped brisket sandwich. As I sat at my table, I could hear the knives going away in back, chopping my meat. This sandwich was made for me.

I really enjoyed this sandwich. The meat was neatly diced; it was moist and tender, coated in just enough sauce to add flavor. The bread had been nicely toasted on the flattop. I found it easiest to eat while holding the sandwich in the foil. I chased down every last bit of meat that fell out.

The corn was tasty and prepared in an interesting, unusual way. It gave the aroma of turkey stuffing; the green specs are herbs added for flavor. My original guess was sage, but the green bits don't look the right shape. Perhaps parsley? In any case, very enjoyable.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hollywood GA; Blue Creek Farmhouse

Blue Creek Farmhouse is at the intersection that is Hollywood GA, located on U. S. 23. This little town is at the edge of the mountains; this area seems to have quite a few pleasant surprises that I need to explore further.

The establishment offers a variety of preserves and fresh local foods that seem to be aimed at travelers. But the clientele for the restaurant was resolutely local when I visited. The workers greeted several patrons by name. The restaurant is of the order-at-the-counter variety and with a simple menu---sandwiches, burgers, some BBQ---but it promises fresh, local, farm-to-table ingredients.

My burger took some 25 minutes to arrive but once it did, it was pretty tasty. The bun was lightly toasted. All the toppings---tomato, lettuce, onion---were very fresh. The meat was freshly ground and made by hand into a patty. It came out medium well but still very juicy.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Happy Birthday

My birthday (which, oddly enough, comes along every year or so) is a perfect opportunity for me to stretch my cake-baking muscles. This year I decided to concentrate on my newfound interest in pecans.

The cake is a three-layer genoise (egg foam cake) which I soaked in peach preserves made from Pearson Farm peaches. I filled in between the layers with a combination of chocolate ganache mixed with pecan meal. The icing is genoise, which I topped with Ellis Brothers pecans of the Elliott variety.

To complement the cake, I made a batch of espresso ice cream.

I like to pass out small treats during the day. I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies to which I added pecan meal. The cookies had extra body but were still very soft and extra moist, a very pleasing effect overall.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Eating Around Georgia Tech: HB Food Anatomy

HB Food Anatomy is in the relatively new Engineered Biology Building (EBB) on campus. It's a beautiful building both inside and out. The restaurant is an outpost of the Highland Bakery empire and serves both meals and baked snacks.

Here is my blueberry scone. As you can see, it was so tempting that I could't wait to try it. It was a perfect blend of sweetness and creamy richness, a great way to get myself going in the morning.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Lane Orchards Restaurant

I went back to Lane Orchards specifically to try their restaurant. It turns out to be a full-service menu with emphasis on dessert. I concentrated on the desserts.

Here are my peach cobbler and fried peach pie. The cobbler was good but very, very sweet, almost candied. My tastes run to slightly less sweet desserts. The fried pie was also sweet but it's hard to pass up a good fried pie when you find one. McDonald's didn't invent the fried pie. It is a Southern tradition in the If-Its-Good-Enough-To-Eat-Its-Good-Enough-To-Fry tradition. This pie was very generous, possibly twice the size of a McDonald's specimen.