Thursday, December 31, 2009
In case you're wondering, Buckhead Pizza Co. is in Buckhead, specifically in one of those spiffy new highrises on Peachtree. They have complimentary valet parking, which makes visiting much easier. It's an upscale casual bar/restaurant/hangout spot. They seem to be pretty new.
I went there for lunch and tried their slice and salad special. My usual caveat applies---the slice is not the ideal way to evaluate a pizzeria. But based on my limited experience, I'd say that they have good intentions but is still in its formative stage. It's a classic New York style, but the crust was a little soggy (perhaps due to the slices). The tomato sauce was very sparse and not a major flavor component. My salad was pretty good.
Monday, December 28, 2009
I just had lunch at Havana, which I guess was at another location but is now at the new shopping center next to the Alda supermarket on Buford Highway. It's a casual place where you order at the counter. It was jam packed for lunch.
I had the Cuban sandwich special with rice and beans. The sandwich was good, although not killer; things probably move a little fast at lunch to have all the flavors blend. The rice and beans were tasty and a good balance. So far, I'd classify this as a great lunch spot: good, fast, and not expensive.
Chamblee is home to many Vietnamese restaurants that specialize in pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup. Pho #1 is one of the better known examples. It's on Buford Highway across the road from Atlanta Farmers Market.
I started with some spring rolls. The Vietnamese spring roll is served cold, wrapped in a very thin crepe, and served with peanut sauce. Mine were light and refreshing.
I ordered a large bowl of beef pho. It is traditionally served with some ingredients that are added by you at the last minute. The side plate included bean sprouts, mint, a few slices of chili pepper, and a slice of lime. The side ingredients cook quickly but still retain some texture. The broth was very rich and flavorful. Overall the soup was delicious and, at $6, a bargain.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Leslie came through again with Holy Taco. It's near the corner of Glenwood Avenue and Flat Shoals Avenue. I have no idea what this neighborhood is called but it seems very hip in an unspoiled way. The atmosphere is casual but nice. You order from a waiter rather than standing in line as at Taqueria Del Sol. The menu is small plates, which is a natural for tacos, but they have several items that don't fit the standard Mexican food categories.
Christine and David joined us, which allowed us to try a wider variety. Leslie and Christine model the guacamole, which is always a good way to start off a Mexican meal. The chips were very handmade and were made of two layers. They were very fresh but beware, they are greasy.
David models his chile relleno. I didn't sample it but he said it was quite good. David and Christine also ordered this non-typical Mexican item,
which is a has cheese, Mexical-style sausage, anchovy, capers, and cilantro on a bread base.
Here are a pair of beef brisket tacos and a side of black beans. I also had the free range chicken taco. The free-range chicken has a pretty subtle taste, and although it was very good I got a little more kick oujt of the stronger taste of the brisket. The beans still had some tooth to them, which is the way they're supposed to be, so far as I am concerned.
This dessert is another item that has Mexican inspirations but isn't really Mexican food. It has plums and other fresh fruits on top of a pancake. It goes great with coffee. Don't worry, we didn't actually put the hot sauce on the dessert.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
My restaurant connection, Leslie, showed me another interesting spot. 5 Seasons Brewing is at the intersection of Roswell Road and the perimeter, located in the Target shopping mall. It is an upscale brewpub. The bar has a sports flavor but the table seating is a little calmer.
We both really enjoyed our salads. I had the traditional wedge with bleu cheese and Leslie had a beet salad. Both were flavorful and well prepared.
To balance the rabbit food we ordered a margherita pizza. I have to say that it was successful as upscale bar food but not as a traditional pizza. As you can see, it has tomato chunks on it, but no tomato sauce. Strictly speaking, a margherita has sauce. The crust was nice and crisp but lacked the chewy texture that you get from a hard-core pizza dough and oven.
I'm the wrong person to ask about the beer, but Leslie reports that they are excellent and come in a wide variety.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The relatively new Northwest terminal at Detroit, Terminal A, is very nice, but it doesn't have a high-end restaurant. Terminal C at Newark, in contrast, has Gallagher's Steak, which is a very nice option to have. But Terminal A does have a Westin attached with its own restaurant, Dema. You have to go out of security, but it doesn't take too long to get back in.
I had soup, salad, and osso buco. I was a little disappointed with the food---it was OK but not outstanding. The osso buco was tender but the sauce on it was a little overpowering. The accompanying vegetables were only partially cooked. I know it is a trend to serve harder vegetables, but I agree with Julia Child, who believed that vegetables should be served soft so that they can be digested. I think that's a particularly good rule when you're about to get on a plane. But the atmosphere is very nice and the service is good. It does make a nice break in the middle of a trip.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
For me, no trip to Penn State is complete without a trip to their world-famous Berkey Creamery, which dates back to 1896. Penn State has its own herd of milk cows, its own processing plant, and its own ice cream factory. Their ice cream short course is probably the best in the world. Benn and Jerry are the most famous alumni of that course but I think that many of the big names in ice cream have studied there.
Janie had the cookie dough and I had the bittersweet mint. The mint was noticeably mintier than in the standard commercial concoctions. The base ice cream is truly a delight. It's extremely rich and creamy. But it doesn't scream boutique gourmet---it's just great ice cream. At football games they sell huge quantities of this stuff to people who take it home, but I don't think it would keep on the airplane...
Research takes me to Penn State, where my colleague and friend Mary Jane Irwin took me to her favorite local pizza place, Faccia Luna. Penn State is in a very rural part of the state and is generally not known for its ethnic food. But it does get enough students and parents from Philadelphia and Pittsburg that the locals do understand Italian-American food.
As you can see, it has a wood-fired oven. They also have access to excellent local cheese supplies.
We ordered a quattro stagione, which was excellent. The crust had the right level of chewiness, better than most of the good pizza places in Atlanta. The cheese was excellent and added a good salty note to the pizza.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
My new startup friends Andrew and Danny took me to Antico. This is a hot new spot in town in the building formerly occupied by Jaqbo. It offers truly outstanding pizza whose style is more Italian rather than New York both in the style of pizza itself and the atmosphere of the restaurant. This view is of the back entrance, which lets you say hi to the chefs and see their three wood-fired ovens. Everyone sits at communal tables, some of them in the kitchen itself. The place was hopping when we were there but the service was remarkably fast (though somewhat unsystematic in a charmingly Italian way).
Danny models our pizzas, a Margherita and a bianco. The sauce was ligher than what you see in the typical pizza, very delicate and flavorful. The cheese was outstanding in taste and texture. The crust was excellent, though we all agreed that it was slightly soggy and could use a little more crispiness.
As you can see, Antico also has an extensive collection of Italian desserts. The chef told me that they make all the desserts themselves. I had a sfogliatelli and my friends had cannoli. My sofgliatelli was the best I've had in probably a decade: crispy layers on the outside and soft creamy filling on the inside. The cannoli were reported to be excellent and very satisfying.
We were there for lunch but it is also open for dinner. But they stop serving when they run out of dough, so don't wait until too late at night. This is a must-eat restaurant in Atlanta. I plan to be a regular.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Rain is a relatively new restaurant, about a year or so old. My friend Leslie recommended it and I was finally able to try it. It's at the corner of LaVista and Cheshire Bridge Road. It serve both Thai and sushi. The decor is tastefully modern.
I started off with a vegetable spring roll. As you can see, the presentation of the food matches the modern decor. The dish was lovely and it tasted good, too.
I'm a tuna nut so I went with the tuna lunch. The serving in the upper left was more of a Western salad style while the others were more traditional Sushi. The quality of the fish was very good and everything was very well prepared.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
The Highlander is in midtown on the southeast corner of Piedmont Park. It's received a fair amount of media attention (Diners, Driveins, and Dives, for example) so I decided to check out their burgers. It's a classic dark wood bar with pool tables and video games. I'll have to come back with someone to give the pool tables a fair workout.
After driving across town I couldn't just get a straight burger so I decided to try the chili burger. The Highlander's burgers are more normal size, which is appropriate for someone of my advanced age. They aren't trying for the monster burger appeal of The Vortex. I found the chili burger to be subtle, which I found very appealing. The chili added a nice twist to the underlying burger but it wasn't sloppy or overdone. The most interesting part was the jalapeno corn fritters. My taste buds failed me, but I think that the bread was some sort of gingerbread. In any case, it had a dessert taste that I found fascinating. There was a touch of heat from the peppers, but the corn is sweet and goes very well with the breading. I did think that they were slightly overdone (at least compared to my mom's corn fritters) but that is a very small quibble.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Cameli's is on Ponce de Leon next to the old Ford plant. The sign on the road is perfectly visible, but as you can see the restaurant itself is pretty low key. This is a very beer-oriented place, with what I presume is some interesting beers and lots of TVs to watch. This is another on my list of New York style pizza places to try.
They have several styles of pizza, but I tried the traditional New York with pepperoni and mushrooms. It was quite good. The crust was the right combination of chewy and crunchy, the sauce had a nice tang, the cheese was of good quality, and they used fresh mushrooms. S
At this point I'm beginning to rethink my position on Atlanta pizza. You don't find excellent pizza on every corner as you do in New York, but there are enough good neighborhood places. You just have to know where to look. It will take me a little while to metaphorically digest my sampling of pizza places and decide a more appropriate ranking for them; I might have to make the ultimate sacrifice and visit each of them again.