Sunday, April 20, 2014

Blacksburg VA: India Garden

The last official act of my visit to Blacksburg was lunch at India Garden's buffet. The interior is well-decorated. They also feature music performances, although not during my visit.

A vegetarian lunch was a pleasant option. All my dishes were quite tasty. They were rich with cream and moderately spiced but not hot. The hit of the meal was the eggplant and potatoes---a very satisfying combination. The chaat was a nice treat, too.

India Garden on Urbanspoon

Blacksburg VA: Ceritano's Ristorante

As part of my visit to Virginia Tech, Haibo took me to Ceritano's across from campus. The owner is Italian and the food reflects great care. Our service was the sort of unforced graicousness that I have come to expect from Italian restaurants.

We started with a plate of mussels, which was large, as were all our dishes. The mussels were tender and had a wonderful butter sauce.

My lasagne was excellent. The pasta was fresh and very tender. The filling was surprisingly light, showing off the Bolognese sauce.

I'm a cannoli nut and this one met my expectations.

Ceritano's Ristorante at Tina's Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Blacksburg VA: Preston's

As part of my lovely visit to the CECS group at Virginia Tech, I stayed at the Inn at Virginia Tech and breakfasted at Preston's. The breakfast buffet is, I believe, the only option in the morning. The service on my first day was very good; on the second day it was a little spotty.

Overall, this was a very good breakfast. The omelet station cranks out great custom creations. You know you're in the South when breakfast features biscuits and creamy gravy. (No Virginia ham, though.) The fruit was excellent. Everything on the buffet was very fresh.

Preston's on Urbanspoon

ATL: Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill

I just discovered Garbanzo. They have several locations in ATL; I tried the D concourse location. I'm very glad to have another vegetarian option at the airport.

My very generous meal included hummus, falafel, and diced vegetables, among other options. The falafel was a tad overdone but overall the food was quite good, not to mention filling. I always appreciate the luxury of a meal on a plate when I travel. This light but filling vegetarian meal was a welcome treat for dinner.

Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 11, 2014

Chamblee: Rincon Latino

Grant and Marie suggested a restaurant expedition and selected our destination---Rincon Latino. It's a family-run Central American restaurant with a good, well-rounded menu and very friendly, nice service. We all felt very comfortable and welcome.

I ordered the pork platter. The pork comes with a rich, thick tomato sauce that's almost the consistency of tomato paste. I greatly enjoyed the sauce; I'm sure there's more to it than tomato paste but I can't quite put my finger on it. The rice came mixed with some vegetables. The refried beans were quite good. The plantains were a special treat; they are one of my favorite things about Central American food and they complement pork very well.

I also had a chance to try the pupusas. They come with a variety of fillings: meat, cheese, beans. The outside is corn meal but thicker than a tortilla. The assembly is pan fried. These were tasty and very filling. This is the sort of food that fills you up after a hard day's work.

Rincon Latino on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Nana G's Chik-N-Waffles

Today I had the chance to try Nana G's. Their truck features a super sized portrait of a rather stern-looking Nana G. I would be afraid for my personal safety if I complained about my dinner to her. But according to the Web site, the truck is run by Nana G.'s grandson, who appears to have come out not only unscathed but with a talent for cooking. The inside of the truck features a battery of flippable waffle irons---think Courtyard Inn on steroids.

This is my bacon-infused waffle; I decided to hold off on the chicken for today. The waffle was right off the griddle, piping hot and crisp. The critical question is that "bacon-infused" part, of course. It really did have a bacon flavor. I'm not sure exactly what they infused (the milk?) but whatever their technique, it worked.

It appears that most of the GT food trucks run out of food early---a lot of the food trucks told people in line that they were out of certain items. A lot of students come out of class at 1:25 on Tuesdays and Thursdays ready to eat after hearing their professor drone on for not just 50 minutes but an entire hour and twenty minutes. Let's hope that they figure out their provisioning to be sure that those hungry students get fed.

Nana G's Chik-n-Waffles on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Fresh Lard

Yes, you read that title correctly. Yesterday, I bought some fresh lard at the Buford Highway farmer's market, something that I have wanted to do for awhile. I have used supermarket lard for several years. I recently found out that commercial lard is processed much like shortening. They process with the same goal---longer shelf life---and with much the same results. I wanted to compare and see what difference fresh lard would make.

So far, I have made both peach pie and biscuits. This is my mise en place for the biscuits. You can see that the lard is light brown in color, very different from the translucent white of the industrial-grade variety. Even after sitting in the refrigerator overnight, it is still soft and pliable, also unlike factory-made lard. That makes it very easy to work into the dough.

Here is some of that peach pie...

And here is a biscuit. In both cases, the taste was subtle but definitely there. At first, both the pie and the biscuit tasted similar to what I would expect from factory lard. After a few minutes, particularly for the biscuit, a bit of pork flavor came through in my mouth. I suspect that the peaches in the pie masked whatever pork note may have been in the crust. I'm sure that some people wouldn't like it, but I think it is pretty tasty. And, as I understand it, fresh lard is healthier, although I understand that is a relative concept. But I will definitely put fresh lard on my rotation of fresh ingredients.