Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Heirloom Market BBQ

Heirloom Market BBQ's location certainly pays homage to BBQ tradition but it's heck to find, particularly if you are driving in from the west. You are looking for this building on Akers Mill Road. The "food mart" next door seems to specialize in liquid foods of the fermented and distilled varieties, just like so many BBQ places, but it serves truly outstanding and original food. The entire place is tiny. The order stand could fit in a shoebox, there are only a couple of small tables and counters, and the kitchen staff isn't any better off for space. I was there in mid-afternoon and didn't have any problems finding a place to sit but I understand that the wait in line at lunch can be very long.
I went for the North Carolina pork sandwich with Korean sweet potatoes. The pork was tender while retaining its texture. It was served on a great egg bun; I consider white bread to be my sole complaint with BBQ culture. I'm not sure what was Korean about the sweet potatoes, which were extremely fresh potato chips, but they were so good that I had to restrain myself. One of the standards sauces is Korean, which I used on my sandwich. The place definitely has a Korean bent, as evidenced by their home-canned cucumber kimchi. Heirloom Market BBQ on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Alpharetta: La Casa Italian Grill

La Casa is in a house in what I think of as old downtown Alpharetta. The atmosphere is definitely elegant without being showy. The service is of the excellent, friendly, attentive, yet unassuming style that I have come to expect from Italian family restaurants.
I staretd with a salad, which was very fresh and light. My main course was a Margherita-style pizza. The crust was excellent, chewy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The sauce was rich with tomato flavor. The cheeses were fresh and excellent. Overall, I had a wondeful meal. La Casa Italian Grill on Urbanspoon

Sandy Springs: Hearth Pizza

Jennifer and I had lunch at Hearth Pizza. It's in the Whole Foods shopping center on always-crowded Roswell Road. The atmosphere is upscale casual. The decor is rich, dark woods. The bar is central to the space and it has its share of TV screens but they aren't too obtrusive. The walls sport photos of some of the most famous New York pizza venues. Hearth Pizza Tavern on Urbanspoon
We started with salads and some meatballs. The meatballs were rich and moist and the tomato sauce was of the fresh variety, populated by small chunks of tomato. We then followed with a pizza. Beware, their pizzas are fairly small. Their larger size was just enough for both of us. The pizza was OK but not, in my humble view, entirely worthy of the surroundings. The crust didn't have the chewy/crusty combination that is the essence of New York pizza. We also found the service to be a little spotty; we generally had to ask for help rather than being checked on. Overall, come here for the atmosphere, not the food.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pressure Cooker Candied Ginger

I made candied ginger a few years ago. It's not something I would do every day but I had a lot of fun doing it. I recently acquired a pressure cooker and it inspired an interesting idea to me: why not make candied ginger in the pressure cooker? It should be very soft and flavorful.
Here is the result. I peeled two large ginger roots, cut them into small cubes, and put them in the pressure cooker with heavily sugared water. The traditional method first boils the ginger in plain water to soften it and then again in sugar water to candy it. The resulting candy was very tender but still with the characteristic ginger texture. It was also sweet without being overpowering. The traditional method leaves a lot of sugar crystallized around the ginger. The pressure cooker gives a much more subtle result. The ginger stays moist even after it cools but you can dry it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. That inspired me to dip it in chocolate.
While I was in the business of dipping candies, I also decided to make a batch of caramel. I ended up making two: the first one was just a little too hard and the second one was very soft. The temperature I cooked the second batch was only 3-4 degrees below the first batch but the result was very different. The candies were soft enough that gravity would flatten them out just a little. But that is a perfect consistency for chocolate dipping.
Here is the final result, thanks to my newfound chocolate skills. I dipped the ginger in small clusters which makes a very nice visual presentation. Dark chocolate is the perfect complement to the subtleness of the pressure cooker ginger. And the caramels are just luscious.

Marietta: Red Elephant Thai Cuisine

A business lunch took me to Red Elephant, located near the intersection of the Perimeter and I-75 in the business park district. The atmosphere is bright and modern.
I started with Tom Kha Kai, the chicken coconut soup and followed with mixed vegetables and tofu. Everything was pleasant but the spices, one of my favorite parts of Thai food, barely raise their heads. This is a fine place for someone who is new to Thai food or not a big spice person but I wouldn't call it adventuresome. Red Elephant Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gnaw Bone IN: Gnaw Mart

Yes, Gnaw Bone is the name of the town, to the extent that this wide spot in the road qualifies as a town. To cap my meaty tour of the Midwest, Jennifer and Steve took me to Gnaw Mart to sample the specialty, the tenderloin sandwich.

They don't start to serve these beauties until 11 AM. We made sure that we got the first ones by ordering 20 minutes early. The tenderloin is broasted---fried in a pressure cooker. The result is very flavorful and tender. The potato chips were also handmade and just right. This isn't a light meal---I felt it for several hours. But the company and the food were both well worth the trip.

Lavendar Bistro on Urbanspoon

Bloomington IN: Little Zagreb

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. So my IU host Steve Johnson arranged for us to have dinner at the local shrine to carnivores, Little Zagreb. No wimpy goulash here, this is all meat.
We started with a pork rib appetizer. The sauce is zesty but not overly hot. The pork was very tender and a good way to start out the meal. I also had a salad, my one lapse from meat frenzy.
Look at that steak. It was very tender and juicy. Plus it was huge---Steve and I split it. Eating the whole thing would have put me into a meat-induced coma but this was an excellent, classic steak dinner. Janko's Little Zagreb on Urbanspoon

Bloomington IN: Sugar and Spice

My visit to Indiana University started with a late arrival. So when I woke up, I was ready for a little treat. The IU Student Union is one of those things that makes college towns great: a hotel plus all the conveniences of student life. Sugar and Spice is a bakery in the student center that specializes in two of the basic food groups: sugar and caffeine. I believe the pastries are organic; the coffee definitely is. My cherry turnover was delicious, with flaky pastry and a very cherry filling. Sugar 'n Spice on Urbanspoon