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Showing posts from February, 2011

Breakfast at Interstate Bar-B-Que

On the way back from Miami, I had to get up early and fly through Memphis to get back to Atlanta.  I consoled myself in my pre-dawn travel by reminding myself that the effort would pay off if Interstate Bar-B-Que was in operation.  As I got off the plane in Memphis, I walked into an invisible cloud with the unmistakable fragrance of BBQ.  My heart leapt, I turned the corner, and there it was---the happy neon pig. Interstate is widely considered one of the top BBQ places in the country.  Airport food has certainly improved over the years, but it is still rare to have a truly great restaurant inside an airport.  Interstate is a welcome stop for all sorts of travelers.
They have some breakfast items but they offer their full BBQ menu all day (I'm not entirely sure when they open, but I was there about 9 AM).  I wanted something fast and simple so I ordered a pulled pork sandwich and a tea. I then rushed over to my plane.
I got to the plane just in time to start boarding, so I was able…

Miami: Shorty's BBQ

The Widens introduced me to another Miami favorite, Shorty's BBQ. We had three different meats: brisket, ribs, and chicken. All were excellent. I would say the brisket was my favorite, which was was fork tender and moist.
Shorty's is best known around town for its piquant sauce. In the photo, the top sauce is a standard red, sweet BBQ sauce.  The bottom container holds Shorty's special BBQ sauce.  It was great---the highlighted spice is, I believe, cumin.  The sauce is of a lighter color than the sweet sauce, so there are other things going on as well; I suspect it has less sugar. I love cumin because it tweaks the palate in a different way than many spices.  I loved this sauce so much I ate it by the spoonful.  Bill and I agreed that this sauce is reminscent of the sauce from Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City. 

Miami: Captain's Tavern

My friends Bill and Henry Widen took me to one of their favorite local Miami spots, Captain's Tavern.  Just as they warned me, the decor was clearly brought from the 1970s by time travelers.  But no one seemed to mind---the restaurant was buzzing with people having fun.
Bill thought we should try some local specialties, so we got busy ordering.  This is the conch salad.  The conch itself has some tooth to it, which contrasts well with the tomato salsa.  The accompanying herbs were very nicely done.
This is the yellowtail ceviche, one of the chef's specialties.  If you haven't heard of ceviche, the fish has been chemically cooked in acid from plants, etc.  Everything is done cold but we still get the effects we want from cooking: tenderness and doneness.  Our waitress thought it would be very spicy for us but we thought the peppers added just a nice zing.  However, Bill did also ask for the scotch bonnet pepper salsa, which lived up to its reputation for heat.
I had the Flori…

Decatur Diner

Category: Great local place or worth a drive if you are Greek diner deprived Summary: Hoppin' atmosphere, open 24/7, very solid food  Decatur Diner has been open for a week or two now.  Word seems to have spread fast.  We got there just in time to get a table without waiting and the line started building as soon as we sat down.  The entryway was packed with people the entire time we were there. We saw all sorts of people: students, families, senior citizens. The combination of the food and the atmosphere is what brings people in.
This is a classic New York Greek diner.  Perhaps that's not too surprising considering the owner ran a restaurant in New York for 17 years, as he told me.  The decorations on the walls, the neon signs, the huge cakes in the refrigerator case all spell diner.  The waitstaff is friendly.  Everything moves quickly here; you don't have to wait long to eat if you're hungry.
I went for the chicken parmigana (chicken parm to the cognoscenti).  This is …

Cake Decorating with Fondant

I had to make a very special birthday cake featuring Elmo.  When doing such things in the past, I've hand-drawn them with decorating tips.  This time I decided to use rolled fondant.  Fondant allows me to make complex shapes from a pattern.  I can also make it before commiting it to the cake. When drawing on the cake you have to get it right the first time, an iffy proposition given my hand skills.
Here is the fondant being prepared.  I bought fondant in a box although it is quite feasible to make it yourself. The left bowl shows the yellow fondant for the nose to which I've already worked in the color. The bowl on the right shows the white fondant with the food dye added but not yet mixed.  It takes a small amount of food dye, as with coloring icing.  I always use a toothpick to add the dye.  You mix in the color by kneading the dough like a ball of clay.  It takes quite a bit of work to get an even coloring---thisis  great hand exercise.
To prepare, I found a picture of Elmo,…

Roswell: The Counter

Category: Good local place. Verdict: Very good burgers with lots of design-your-own freedom.  A nice homey feel within the modernist decor.
The Counter is on Alpharetta Road in Roswell.  As you can see, it's in a very modern location---think postmodern burger. Inside, the vibe is chrome modern with surfing decorations.  But the place is, underneath the decor, a traditional luncheon counter.  It actually has a counter, a relative rarity among new restaurants, where teenagers sit to talk and eat their burgers.  The Counter emphasizes the build-your-own-burger theme.  They seem to have been at it for several years, putting them toward the leading edge of the Great Burger Revival that is sweeping our great nation.  I tried a burger with bleu cheese (I've become a huge fan of bleu cheese burgers), peanut sauce, and fried onions. I really enjoyed the peanut sauce, which went well with everything else but isn't something you find on burgers every day.  The meat itself was fine.  Th…

Empire State South

My friend and colleague Steve Nowick visited, giving us the chance to try Empire State South, a relatively new restaurant at Peachtree and 10th.  It's the Atlanta outpost of a well-known Athens chef.  The restaurant itself is very spacious with large dining and bar areas. They also have some dessert items out and wrapped, as if in a small-town store.  I'm quite frankly not sure whether those are for show, carry-out, or snacking in the bar.

Steve and I agreed that we enjoyed the first two courses the most.  This is the cheese course, which had three Georgia cheeses, all of which were delicious.  The cheeses came off as fairly light, probably a combination of their intrinsic characteristics and the fact that the portions were small.
For a second course, Steve had a bean soup that he loved.  I had a field green salad which had several very thin, delicate slices of ham as a garnish.  The ham didn't overwhelm anything else because the slices were so thin---they complemented the v…