Wednesday, June 24, 2009

now on hiatus

Unfortunately, Atlanta etc. has to go on hiatus. Life is complicated. Hopefully we can come back in the future. In the mean time, I hope that these entries are useful. -Wayne

Monday, June 22, 2009

Decatur: Greene's Fine Foods

I recently discovered Greene's on the south side of downtown Decatur. It's on Trinity Place, a street that I hadn't been on until recently. The building it's in appears to be an old bank or post office. It's quite large for a candy store and interesting to look at. I assume that they have party facilities but I didn't ask.

I decided to try a peanut butter cup. It was much more delicate than a Reese's, which has oily and coarse-textured peanut butter. Greene's cup was smooth and blended the peanuts and chocolate very subtly. It does seem to me that chunky peanut butter cups would be a good idea, but I don't recall ever tasting such a thing. Greene's Fine Foods on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Donut Hamiltonian

After a false start, we finally held the Donut Hamiltonian today. This is a Hamiltonian path (if you have to ask, it isn't worth explaining) through the independent donut shops of Atlanta, with a nod to the chains. The rules were simple. Each participant ate two donuts at each stop: a control donut, a glazed donut; and a free choice donut. Throwing up was not allowed.

First stop was Sublime Donuts on Tenth Street. It did not disappoint. My free choice donut was a chocolate raised donut, which had chocolate dough and a chocolate icing. Both that one and the glazed donut lived up to the high standards that I expect of Sublime. We all enjoyed the handmade coffee as well.

Next stop was the Krispy Kreme mother ship (Gabe's term) on Ponce. My glazed donut was warm and that was enough to make it very tasty.


Third stop was Happy Donuts (every city has to have one), which is near Grant Park. The less said about this stop the better. I' showing you the empty containers of glaze they were selling ($2 each) to spare you the sight of the donuts. Our glazed donuts were stale. I decided to eat it as quickly as possible to get it over with. After this stop, the sugar started to hit me.

The fourth stop was Dandy Donuts in Chamblee. (Nate was out of the game at this point, not due to lack of bravery but due to another appointment.) This place was a solid contender, as I expected. My free choice donut was a chocolate iced donut, which was pretty good.

We had originally planned six stops but we decided to stop at four. The sugar was getting to all of us at that point. (I did eat my donuts the fastest, even though I was the oldest person there by a large margin.) Eating eight donuts in an hour an a half wasn't as bad as my Bell Labs experience of eating a 10-scoop sundae, but it did take a day or two off my life expectancy. Nonetheless, the quest has its own rewards.

Sub-Base Sandwich Shoppe/Dandy Donuts on Urbanspoon

Krispy Kreme on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

French Toast Redux



I took another stab at the ricotta French toast today. The toast stayed the same but I concentrated on the ricotta. First, I fried some bananas and then let them cool. I then combined the bananas, ricotta, nutmeg, and a little maple syrup. After topping the toast with this mixture, I added a little more nutmeg for color and some ginger for zing. This was definitely better---combining the bananas and ricotta made a big difference. But there is room for improvement. I may need to study some cannoli for inspiration...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tamarind Seed


Tamarind Seed, on Peachtree, is one of the well known Thai restaurants in town. The proprietor also runs Nan, a few blocks away.


I've been there several times. Today, I tried the flounder in green curry. The fish was perfectly cooked. It had a delicate texture and served to carry the flavor of the curry. The curry itself was rich without being ridiculous and just the right amount of heat for me. Their signature dish is the fried fish wrapped in a spiral, which I'll have to have again on another visit. Tamarind Seed Thai Bistro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Chamblee: Tofu House


Tofu House is at the intersection of Buford Highway and I-285. A more accurate name would be Soup House since it has a lot of soups, many of which have meats and seafood.


Tofu House is Korean restaurant. Given the name, I decided to order the tofu soup. This was my spread, which cost $9. This seems to me to be a traditional Korean spread, with a variety of hot and cold side dishes. The egg is raw and is to be dumped into the soup to cook. This was really excellent and enjoyable. The soup had a vegetable base that I couldn't easily identify but was both delicious and thick. The fish was served warm and was a very nice complement. The rice and beans includes both red beans and sprout beans; I'm not sure I've had it before but I liked it. I'm a kimchi fan and this is the first I've had in awhile, so I enjoyed it. I ordered everything with medium heat, but that was still enough to restore my sinuses.

Just to be clear---this is very good food, not to mention an incredible bargain. I will definitely be back to try more dishes.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

More French Toast Experiments


Thanks to a grocery aisle inspiratin, this is my latest experiment in French toast: bread from Great Harvest (more on them later); soak of buttermilk, eggs, nutmeg, ginger; lightly fried strawberries; ricotta cheese; all prepared in lard (hey, you only live once). Not bad but not as good as I had hoped. The buttermilk flavor was completely lost. The cold/hot contrast between the ricotta and the toast wasn't as interesting as I had hoped it to be. I think that the next step is to make a ricotta preparation, perhaps with fruit. It's peach season...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Osteria del Figo


Osteria del Figo has several outposts around Atlanta; this is the location in the industrial area west of Georgia Tech. I visited their with my colleague Saibal Mukhopadhyay. We both felt an obligation to go for the ravioli today. In some ways, I would like to be able to look down my nose at this place as yet another yuppie outpost. But I have to admit that these people know their ravioli.



I had the five cheese ravioli with pesto. The pasta itself was perfectly done. The pesto was also outstanding with a good balance between the pine nuts and basil.


Saibal's ravioli came with a cream-based sauce with shrimp. He reports that the sauce was very well executed. Osteria Del Figo on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jimmy Carter Blvd: El Pastorcito


Jimmy Carter Boulevard is like Buford Highway in its variety of ethnic foods. I've tried the Chinese restaurants there but never any Mexican food. So I decided to try El Pastorcito in one of the local strip malls. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect of the interior---whether it would be a bar or a restaurant---but the decor was pleasant.


I decided to try the chicken mole, which I use as one of my reference dishes. This is the spread I received---very nice for only $9. The mole sauce was good---not the best I've ever had but tasty and smooth. The chocolate note could have been a little stronger, but I was quite satisfied. I am a tortilla nut and I thought theirs were above average. El Pastorcito on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 8, 2009

Nonna Mia

Nonna Mia is a new Italian restaurant in the Grant Park neighborhood. It serves pizza as well as a number of plated dishes, so I wouldn't strictly call it a pizzeria. But it is definitely a casual place with a great deal of outdoor seating.


I started with a salad, which was just fine. The pignoli were a nice touch.


My pizza was a Quattro Stagione. The cheeses were excellent---the best I've had on a 4-stations in quite some time. The quality was excellent and they were plentiful on the pizza. The crust wasn't bad; I wish it were a little crisper on the bottom.

Fat Matt's Rib Shack


Fat Matt's is another Atlanta icon. It's on Piedmont Road in an old section that predates the suburban expansion of DeKalb.


This isn't the first time I've had their ribs. I'm beginning to notice a trend---these ribs are very similar in appearance and taste to those of Maddy's and 5th Street. The meat is fall-off-the-bone style. The big surprise was the beans. I hadn't remembered that they were so good. They are called rum baked beans and you can really taste the spike.

Fat Matt's Rib Shack on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Rolling Bones BBQ


Rolling Bones is in the Martin Luther King District. As you can see, it's a pretty nice hangout built in an old gas station. Some of the seating is under the old carport and some is in that cool, glassed-in office. If you're in a hurry, they also have a drive-thru window.


I believe that the owner came from Texas and the style of BBQ certainly fits into that mold: a lot of beef, including brisket and ribs. I've eaten there on many occasions. This time I had the chicken. As you can see from the photo, I couldn't contain myself and started eating before I took the photo. The chicken is perfectly cooked. I usually get the hot sauce, which is pretty hot but not painfully so. The sides are all excellent. One of the most interesting things about the meal is the Texas toast bread. The gummy white bread that is standard BBQ fare has always bothered me, but these guys show that great BBQ doesn't have to be accompanied by bad bread. Rolling Bones BBQ on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 5, 2009

Philadelphia: Reading Terminal Market


Jason Schlessman and I visited Reading Terminal Market, which is a century-old market in Center City Philadelphia. It has a wide range of vendors, including both ingredients and food stands.

Lunch was at Pearl's Oyster Bar. We were in a seafood mood, but an additional attraction was that they have a counter, so we didn't have to walk around and eat. I tried the combination platter. As you can see, it was a festival of fried food: trout, scallops, oysters, and crabcake. The crust was excellent. The crabcake was pretty good, though it was sort of drowned out by all of the other foods. I enjoyed the fried trout---this wasn't how I would think to prepare a trout, but I liked it.

We then went onto the main reason to go to the market, Bassett's Ice Cream. It is 150 years old and the only original tenant of the market. Jason went for a cup of ice cream. They do an incredible volume here and it's strictly standup, but that's how you want to eat ice cream.

I had a malted milk shake---these are hard to find and I take advantage of them whenever I can. Their ice cream didn't disappoint. It's very rich and (I hate to say it) creamy. A few other places I know of make ice cream this good---Rick's Rather Rich in Palo Alto comes to mind---but I haven't yet found anything in Atlanta to match. Reading Terminal Market on Urbanspoon

Philadelphia: Ristorante La Buca

The Schlessmans, Jason and Celia, introduced me to an excellent Italian seafood restaurant, Ristorante La Buca. When they mentioned Italian, I assumed that they were taking me to the South End, but this is in Center City Philadelphia. The restaurant has a more European feel. It's located in a below-ground location, like many fine older restaurants on the East Coast. It's tastefully decorated and the service is formal but friendly.

We shared a tomato and mozzarella salad, which was served with fresh basil and roasted peppers. It was very refreshing and light.

For my main course, I went with the tuna, which is one of my favorites. It was lightly blackened and cooked medium rare. It was served with roasted potatoes. That meant that I didn't get to try their pasta, but the potatoes were the right accompaniment.

For dessert, I had to try the tiramisu, which was served from their dessert cart. One of the most interesting aspects of this dessert to me is that the liqueur makes it dense without feeling heavy. Ristorante la Buca on Urbanspoon

Princeton NJ: Teresa's Caffe

On a recent trip, my colleague Andrea LaPaugh joined me to discuss the state of computing over a decent Italian meal. We went to Teresa's Caffe for their well-known pizza. Teresa's also has several neighborhood-style pizza outlets, but this is a fancier, sitdown restaurant with a more advanced style of pizza.

I started off with a salad just so I wouldn't feel too guilty. The pizzas, as you can see, are individually sized. This one, the Ortolana, had tomatoes, eggplant, spinach, zucchini, ricotta, mozzarella, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. That's a pretty rich combination of vegetables. It provides not only flavor but also texture. The cheese was excellent---no Mafia cheese here. If I had to complain, I would say that the bottom of their crust could be just so slightly crispier. But I won't complain... Teresa Caffe on Urbanspoon

Sometimes You Just Want To Eat


I was doing errands around Northlake Mall and needed a quick dinner. My first choice, the local Indian restaurant, was in a mysterious state of open but uninhabitedness. A real foodie would have spent the next hour searching for the perfect spot. I was hungry and I just wanted to eat. I ended up at a place that I had seen many times but never been in, Mandarin Palace. I had absolutely no expectations for my meal; the 1070's suburban Chinese restaurant decor didn't heighten those nonexistent expectations. But my mapo tofu was just fine. Just goes to show...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lawrence's Cafe and Restaurant


My friend Donna Hardaman introduced me to Lawrence's Cafe and Restaurant. It's a Middle Eastern restaurant on Buford Highway at North Druid Hills.


Since it was my first trip, I had to try the combo lunch. As you can see, it had a selection of greatest hits, all of which were very well prepared. Although this was a fairly large lunch, the feel was very light and pleasant. The salad on the right was additional, but a welcome addition. I've been eating too much lettuce lately. Coffee is usually a hit at such places, and this was no exception. My coffee was prepared by steeping in my own little pot. It had a wonderful rich flavor without being in any way bitter. All too often in this country, people try to make coffee rich by overroasting the beans (are you listening, Starbucks?) and trying to cram too much caffeine into the cup. My cup here was what a good cup of coffee should be---handmade. Lawrence's Cafe on Urbanspoon

A Tale of Two Burgers

This review covers two very different restaurants: Flip Burger and Five Guys.


Flip Burger is located in what I'm told is called the Howell Mill District. As you can see, it's a very hip location and pretty new. As you can see from the sign, it's a burger boutique.


I got the basic Flip Burger and onion rings. The preparation and presentation of the burger are as hip with as the building. The burger itself is fairly modest in size; don't go here to satisfy your carnivorous cravings. But it was quite good. They recommend that burgers be prepared medium; I chickened out and went for medium well. The onion rings were the best part, with a light, fluffy batter. I don't usually dip my rings (hmmm, did I just say that?) but I really enjoyed their mustard sauce.

Five Guys couldn't be more different. It is a mid-size chain with several locations in Atlanta. When I saw them at Lindberg Station today, I knew that I had to try them. This is a guyburger place---all about the food. Their regular burger is two patties. The patties, in true fast food fashion, are thin for fast cooking, but it's a generous burger. You can get it with a variety of toppings at no extra charge; I tried fried onion, mushrooms, mustard, and ketchup. I didn't have my camera with me, unfortunately. The burgers and fries come in bags that are steaming hot to the touch. The fries are piled satisfyingly on top of the burger. One of the advantages of the bag is that you can close it up in between fries to keep them steamy. The burger was very good, the fries were the best I've had in quite some time. FLIP Burger Boutique on Urbanspoon

Eating around Georgia Tech: Toscano and Sons

Toscano and Sons is in one of the new developments at Marietta Street and Howell Mill Road. I was joined there by my Georgia Tech colleagues Lisa Caudill and Brenda White for lunch the other day. As they pointed out, just the fact that there's parking makes it worth the visit. Unfortunately, I lost my cell phone, so the photos of this visit are lost to history.

The main fare is sandwiches, which are served in a more European style. The bread is very fresh with a hard crust and tender inside. I went for the Genoa, which has Genoa salami and asagio. It's billed as spicy, but it's pleasantly hot, not a challenge to one's breathing. The salami was great---that sort of thing is hard to find in this neck of the woods and it was a very refreshing treat. I had an Italian soda with it, one of the ones that isn't too sweet but doesn't taste like cough syrup. Lisa and Brenda went for the gelato, which they declared was excellent. Toscano & Sons Italian Market on Urbanspoon