Thursday, February 20, 2014

Miller Union

A visit by my friend Eby gave us a chance to visit Miller Union. We had a wonderful meal. The setting, in a low-key building a block from Howell Mill, was modern but not overly sterile. The service, as one would expect in a restaurant of this caliber, was helpful but low-key.

We started off with a fennel soup, which was outstanding. The fennel flavor came through very nicely and was complemented by the cream.

Our scallops were extremely tender and very flavorful.

We also tried an egg cream as another appetizer. We scrambled the egg into the cream ourselves, then spread the mixture over bread. Eby and agreed that it was interesting but not compelling. The egg/cream mixture was very rich. The bread helped to balance the dish but the result was a little bready---it was hard to get much egg on a slice of bread that was pocked with airholes.

We both had duck and brussel sprouts for our main course. I ordered my duck medium rare. The duck breast was rich and succulent. The other parts of the duck went into the little sausages, which were very tasty and quite different from a pork sausage. The spaetzle was made with rye flour, an interesting twist. But the cabbage was the surprise stand-out of this plate---it was prepared with several different ingredients to give it an amazing flavor. The brussel sprouts were also outstanding. They had been roasted just a little for texture, color, and carmelization. I must say that brussel sprouts are popping up on menus all over town---I nominate them for Vegetable of the Year.

We each had a tart for dessert: chocolate for Eby, lemon curd for me. The lemon curd was a wonderful balance of tart and sweet. A meringue on top balanced out the strong tastes of the curd. The tart's crust and the ice cream were both outstanding.

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Miller Union

Friday, February 14, 2014

Cooking Up A Storm, Day 3

Day thee started off with a blanket of snow covering the ice. But by early afternoon much of it had melted. I made a quick trip to the store. While they had clearly received at least some items---the supply of bananas was refreshed---many other items were still completely out of stock. The egg cooler, for example, was completely barren. Once again, I spent less time cooking and more time enjoying what I had cooked on Day 1. My big project for the day was a batch of chocolate mint lozenges. Here they are in the mold.

And here are the finished mints.

The key to chocolate is tempering, which is the process of forming crystals in the chocolate that make it firm and shiny. This process takes time and patience as you run the chocolate through an annealing cycle: hot, then cool down with stirring, then warm back up. This batch came out fairly well. The mints didn't all release cleanly from the molds, leaving some spots, but they are nice and bright as a chocolate should be.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cooking Up An Ice Storm, Day 2

My cooking slowed down yesterday, the second day of the storm; I spent some time enjoying some of the things I made the day before. This is a loaf of 100% whole wheat bread I made to enjoy with yesterday's chicken soup. I have come to love the recipe from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Cookbook.

I made another pizza using some of that batch of pizza dough. My shaping technique still needs work. I'm beginning to think that a key to success, is starting with a perfectly uniformly shaped, symmetric dough. The pizza needs to be of uniform thickness but I keep getting blobs around the edge and thin spots in the middle. I think those blobs are the inevitable outcome of the misshapenness of the dough with which I start. Perhaps those beautiful domes waiting on the racks in New Jersey pizza parlors have a practical as well as aesthetic purpose.

And I finished off the evening with a little popcorn.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cooking Up An Ice Storm, Day 1

Given the way the weather is going, perhaps we need a bad weather cooking blog...Here's what I made on the first day of what the Weather Channel calls Winter Storm Pax. Please post comments on what you've been cooking, too.

For breakfast, I pulled some brioche dough and almond paste out of the freezer and made a few pastries. Some of assembled pastries went back in the freezer.

During my last minute run to the grocery store, I snagged some chicken thighs for stock and chicken soup. I will have some of the soup today, the rest went into the pressure canner.

I also made some pizza dough and a pizza, with more than enough dough left for another pizza today. This is the first time I've made pizza since the snowpocalypse. My dough stretching and shaping skills are a little better but I still have a long way to go. I used some of the sauce I canned last summer and fresh organic mushrooms on the pizza.

And at night I made a peach cobbler using some peaches I vacuum packed and froze last summer. I was too tired to make a full-fledged crust, so I used this as an opportunity to work on my cobbler skills. I normally use half cornmeal in the cobbler, but I discovered that I had run out of cornmeal. Too late to do anything about it...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What An Atlanta Storm Looks Like

Atlantans always stock up before even the smallest storm. The combination of hilly streets and insufficient equipment makes what other cities would consider to be a non-event to be a major undertaking. The storms of the past few weeks have been much worse than what this town is used to, amplifying people's reactions.

This is the vegetable section of my local grocery store. Just a few forlorn sweet potatoes, wrapped in plastic as if ready to go to the prom without a date, plus some garlic.

For some reason, fresh fruits weren't quite so popular. But at the banana section, the only things left are boxes of chocolate-covered banana kits.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Decatur: Osteria Cibo Rustico

Osteria Cibo Rustico is the new pasta place in the Druid Hills shopping center. (Curiously, it's in the location recently vacated by Mirko, another pasta restaurant.) The decor is dark wood with a nice, casual feel. The service was very friendly and responsive.

This is my delicious squash soup. The cream in the soup blended perfectly with the squash. The croutons floating in it were scrumptious taste, adding the perfect texture.

For my main course, I tried the radiatore. It came with fennel sausage in a pistachio and parmesan sauce. The pasta was al dentebut still quite soft---I suspect that it had not been dried. The sauce was very comforting on a cold evening and the fennel in the sausage complemented the nutty sauce very well.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Pittsburgh: Yuva India

I really enjoyed my dinner at Yuva India near the CMU campus. The restaurant is very attractively decorated in a modernist style with large photographs on the walls. Yuva's owner told me that they have been open for aobut a year and a half.

I tried the Mughai kofta curry. I asked for spicy; the result definitely had a nice afterburn but was still quite tolerable. The sauce was very rich and wonderfully spiced. I'm a big fan of garlic and the garlic naan was fresh, chewy, and properly garlicky.

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Pittsburgh: Primanti Brothers

Primanti's is a Pittsburgh classic; I visited the Oakmont location. They specialize in working man's food: big food you can eat fast. Primanti's solution to this perennial problem was to put everything, including the fries, in the sandwich.

My friend Phil Koopman joined me. As you can see, our sandwiches are huge. I expected this to be a fun, messy treat. I was pleasantly amazed at how good my sandwich was. I think there are two reasons why Primanti's stands well above the standard greasy spoon restaurant. First, they use high quality ingredients. The very fresh Italian bread and the very fresh, tasty fries stood out. Second, they didn't coat those ingredients in glop. The sandwich has no mayonnaise or oil dressing. The resulting clean taste makes the meat, fries, salad, and bread really stand out.

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