Friday, October 28, 2011

Des Moines: Maid-Rite

Mom insisted I try Maid-Rite. As it happened, it was on my to-do list thanks to a long piece on Maid-Rite on one of Alton Brown's shows. It's a very Iowa thing that dates back over 80 years. They call their sandwich a "loose meat" sandwich. As you can see, it's hamburger that has been broken apart and cooked with their own seasonings. The usual burger acoutrements are underneath the meat. I have no idea how someone came up with this idea, but it's not bad. It is very much like a burger but with a different texture. The seasonings are definitely subtle and I can't put my finger on what they are. But straight ground beef wouldn't taste the same. As fast food goes, this little sandwich is a nice change of pace. Maid-Rite on Urbanspoon

Des Moines: Woody's Smoke Shack

I've spied Woody's on my last few trips to Des Moines. Mom and I finally made it. It's not too far from Drake in a smallish old storefront. The decor is Texas-centric but the BBQ is pork-centric.
I tried the rib plate with my standard sides of beans and cole slaw. The meat was tender with just a little bit of tooth. It tasted slightly sweet off the bone but when I tried a spoonful of the sauce I found it was pretty vinegary. Could they use a glaze on the ribs rather than the sauce? The beans and slaw were both good but nothing flashy. Mom enjoyed her pork sandwich which came on the classic white bun. Woody's Smoke Shack on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

L'Ecole de Chocolate a le Maison Robert

This article is about a chocolate class I took at Maison Robert in Chamblee. I've been looking forward to taking a class there for a long time. I finally found one that fit into my schedule. The class lasted all morning, which we used to build a chocolate birdhouse. Chocolate is one of those materials that provides a well-rounded sensory and creative experience. It's very plastic and can be used to make all sorts of things. It is relatively easy to work with but it does respond to careful handling. It smells and feels wonderful as you work with it. Wood has many of the same characteristics, but chocolate is a lot more fun to eat than sawdust.
This is Chef Robert showing us how to temper chocolate. He is a very good teacher who mixes explanation to the group with one-on-one. Tempering chocolate is, he reminded us, a critical operation in working with chocolate. Tempering requires keeping the chocolate at exactly the right temperature, about 89 degrees F, so that it gives a smooth, glossy texture when cooled. You need to keep the chocolate at this temperature during all the time you are working with it. We spent the morning in a pas de deux with our bowl of chocolate: too cool and we warm it in the double boiler, too warm and we add a little chocolate to cool it down.
Chef Robert has a special and very clever technique for building a birdhouse. We used an egg mold to cast an egg that serves as the walls of the house.
We cut the birdhouse door and the flat spot for the stand by heating spots of the egg on a warm pan. We then spread chocolate into a sheet to make the roof and stand. We then glued them together with chocolate and applied some decorations. Voila!
My hands have smelled of chocolate all day long. This class has been a welcome respite from what turned out to be a long day in a long week. Maison Robert Fine Chocolates on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Milledgeville: Chops Downtown

Milledgeville has several blocks of downtown commercial area, bolstered in part by the local colleges. Given the population, one would expect to see several burger/sports bar establishments. Chops Downtown is one of them. A more accurate name would be Chops Downstairs. The location has atmosphere but is very brightly lit. It also has amazing cell phone reception for a rural basement.

I started with a Caesar salad. The burger was about the right size for me, not overly large. They use natural beef and I could taste the difference. The potatoes also tasted very fresh. As I've noted before in this column, bars sometimes rely on their clientele's inebriated state to maek up for the quality of their food. But Chops turned out to be a pleasant experience while sober. 119 Chops Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Madison: Ye Olde Colonial Restaurant


Rev. Beth suggested Madison as a cute town to visit, explaining that Sherman didn't burn it. She also recommended the restaurant in the old bank building. "You can even eat in the vault" was the kicker for me. You can see here my table in the old bank building. The vault is behind me complete with table. The vault scene looks ready for a photo shoot of a dogs-playing-poker poster.


The fare is classic Souther meat-and-three. I stuck with the vegetables: sweet potato, rutabaga, and fried okra. This isn't an exotic or must-visit place but the food was good, all the staff were very friendly, and the room was a joy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Suri


Hyesoon introduced me to her favorite Thai restaurant Suri. It's located on a quite side street on the edge of the Virginia Highlands business district. I came up from the residential area and almost missed it. Inside, the atmosphere is quiet and elegant. The menus are printed on the sort of paper more usually used for stationery. The service is very attentive and elegant.


We started with soup which impressed me very much. The soup presented distinct flavors of all the ingredients: mushroom, chicken, coconut, spices. For our main courses, I had a tofu dish and Hyesoon had eggplant. Both our dishes exhibited the same high-quality ingredients carefully prepared to blend the flavors without reducing them to obscurity.

Mali on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Harold's Barbecue

A Habitat project brought me to the West End/Atlanta University area. A random pick on the GPS led me to Harold's Barbecue, a place I thoroughly enjoyed. My server proudly told me at the end of the meal that her grandparents had founded the restaurant over 60 years ago. The staff greeted several patrons as regulars. This is one of those places where nothing changes and everyone is welcomed.

They didn't make beef today, which made my choice of pork very easy. I had a classic Carolina-style BBQ plate: chopped pork, Brunswick stew, creamy cole slaw, and cornbread. The food was simple and good. I ended up using a blend of the hot and sweet sauces, both of which are of the vinegary variety.

Harold's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Doraville: Little Szechuan

Hyesoon and I used one of those two-for-one coupons to try Little Szechuan on Buford Highway.  The restaurant is festooned with signs proclaiming that it was named one of the top 100 Chinese restaurants.

We tried eggplant (left) and ma po tofu (right). Both were well-executed but nothing out of the ordinary.  Hyesoon and I agreed that it's a good neighborhood restaurant but not an extraordinary find.

Little Szechuan on Urbanspoon