Sunday, September 25, 2016

Atlanta Greek Festival

The Atlanta Greek Festival is an Atlanta tradition. Every fall, the Greek Orthodox church on Clairmont becomes a beehive of activity. The drive-thru lane seems to be a fairly recent innovation and that's how I sampled the wares this year. The drive-thru offers a variety of entrée items with plenty of meat on hand, vegetables, and pastries.

I ordered the pastry sampler. As you can see, it's a rich collection of beautiful pastries. My first sample was I will refer to in my best food culture terminology as the shredded wheat thingie. It is, of course, not shredded wheat but shredded puff pastry that encases chopped nuts and honey.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Why Do Good Restaurants Serve Bad Tea?

I visited a nationally-known restaurant a few weeks ago. I sat down with my meal, including a cup of iced tea. One sip told me that it was bitter. I looked up and noticed what had escaped me when I poured the tea---it came from a dispenser marked with the name of an obscure, commercial tea vendor.

If I'm at a fast food chain, tea that upsets my stomach is par for the course. But why do so many restaurants who put a great deal of effort into the rest of their menus serve tea that is just plain bad? Gastric upset is an extreme reaction to tea; bitter, acidic tea just tastes bad to anyone.

Bad tea is a feature of many cuisines. I remember one dinner in Princeton at our local Chinese restaurant during which one of my colleagues told the owner, "My wife thinks your tea tastes like dishwater." Ooh, snap!

But I am deeply disappointed that disciples of the New Southern Cuisines would take such a cavalier attitude to their tea. Iced tea is one of the signature dishes of the South. Its preparation should be taken as seriously as that of collard greens or fried chicken. So please, folks, can we have better tea next time?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Coffee Cake

I was in the mood for a treat so I made a half-batch of Mom's coffee cake. Her recipe in turn comes from her grandmother, who Mom says used to make this cake and then dip it in her coffee. We used to get it as a special treat. Here it is ready to go into the oven. This half-recipe includes a stick of butter and a half cup of yogurt (a substitute for sour cream). I topped it with pecan meal, cinnamon, a touch of cardamom, and honey.

And here is a finished slice. It is very rich and moist; dipping it in coffee is redundant but fun anyway. Simple and satisfying...

Monday, September 19, 2016

Food Trucks and Eating Around Georgia Tech: Cape Pies

Cape Pies is another one of the new food trucks on the Georgia Tech rotation. They serve a variety of savory meat pies.

As you can see, they have posted directions on how to eat the pie like a sandwich. They're right, by the way, The pie looks like a traditional two-crust meat pie, but since it is served outside of the pie tin, it's easy to pick up and eat.

This is my spinach and feta pie, which was very satisfying. The filling had plenty of taste and wasn't too drippy, critical given the two-fisted style of eating. The crust was excellent: buttery and flaky.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Columbus GA: Chester's BBQ

Chester's is a local BBQ establishment on the edge of downtown Columbus. Located in a shotgun-style storefront building, it's bright and efficient inside, with two rows of counter. A lot of the business is takeout; I saw a steady stream of customers as I waited and ate. The proprietors were very friendly and welcoming. I was hungry, so I was grateful for both their food and hospitality.

I was told that the ribs were their specialty so that's what I ordered, along with two sides: collard greens and corn on the cob. The meat had the right amount of toothiness. The sauce was mustard-based. They also featured a mustardy creamy cole slaw, which I really enjoyed. The collard greens were tender and flavorful.

Newnan GA: Sprayberry's BBQ

Sprayberry's is conveniently located just off I-85. Despite (or perhaps because of) its interstate-friendly location, it has been in business since 1928. It still has the attention to hospitality that marks a long-running family restaurant. One of the proprietors greeted me as I sat down at the counter. The hallway is covered in local newspaper articles, including a few on Newnan resident and humorist Lewis Grizzard.

I ordered the regular BBQ plate with a pork/beef combination. The sauce and bread arrived as a teaser. A couple of minutes later, this plate arrived, covered edge-to-edge with meat. Lordy, lordy, lordy! I hate to think how much meat comes with the BBQ sampler. The meat was very good, moist and tender. The pork was very finely chopped, the beef a little less so. The sauce was red vinegar, which I think works very well with pork.

I came in not intending to have dessert. But one of the proprietors dished out a slice of lemon meringue pie in front of me and its siren song was too hard to resist. My slice was both beautiful and delicious. The meringue was perfect, a word I do not use lightly. The interior texture was a perfectly uniform sea of tiny bubbles; the meringue was applied to the top of the pie with perfect smoothness. The lemon filling was sweet but not overwhelmingly so, allowing the tartness of the lemon to show through while modulating the taste. I confirmed with the proprietors that the graham cracker crust is made in-house---it had a much finer texture than I have seen in any other.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Food Trucks and Eating Around Georgia Tech: The French Truck

The French Truck is a new entry to the Georgia Tech food truck cavalcade. The owner tells me that this is his second year of operating the truck. Crepes are the main feature of their offerings. This menu concentrates on sweet items, although peanut butter is kinda savory. They also have a separate menu of savory crepes; today's menu included salmon as well as other proteins.

I couldn't resist the peanut butter, Nutella, and banana crepe. Peanut butter is something I wouldn't expect to see on a crepe in France, but it certainly works well. The combination of toppings was delicious, particularly with the whipped cream. The crepe was right off the griddle, warm and tender.