Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Asheville NC: Favilla's New York Pizza

After spending an afternoon around downtown Asheville, I was in the mood for a homey dinner. Favilla's more than satisfied me---it is an outstanding exemplar of the neighborhood New York pizza place, more authentic and homey than anything I can think of in Atlanta. Our server explained to me that the owner moved to Asheville from Brooklyn five years ago and found "nothing" in the way of pizza. A second location is now on the way. The atmosphere is comfortable and inviting. The only thing it lacks is a photo of Sinatra.

Here is a medium pizza with pepperoni, mushroom, and tomatoes. The pepperoni was great, with that hint of fennel that makes it more than just meat. The sauce was just right, with a clear tomato taste not masked by false sweetness or excessive acidity. My only small complaint was that the crust wasn't quite as tender as I would like, but that didn't seriously detract.

This stand is a demonstration of Favilla's authenticity. Real pizzerias use it to make extra room at the table. It's a nice touch.\

The meal ended, of course, with a wonderful cannoli.

Favillas New York Pizza

Asheville NC: Chorizo

Chorizo is located in the charming Grove Arcade, an early 20th century shopping center in downtown Asheville. The restaurant is easily accessible from the sidewalk. The decor is eclectic and charming.

Here is the chicken enchilada, served with a nice dollop of fresh avocado, rice, beans, a slice of fried plantain (!), and salad.

I managed to mess up my photo of my vegetarian paella. This was an intriguing idea that I had to try. As one could imagine from the name, it was a stew cooked in rice with tofu substituting for seafood, along with a selection of vegetables. I'm not sure what they used for as a broth to cook the stew. As with the enchilada, it came with salad, fried plantain, and beans. The black beans were extremely tasty and rich, the real hit of the meal.

Chorizo

Asheville NC: The Chocolate Fetish

Asheville has an amazing number of chocolate shops. The Chocolate Fetish is probably one of the oldest and best known. It's right in the middle of downtown. The store has a half-dozen cases with chocolates of every variety. A few tables are available to enjoy your treat on the spot, although most people seem to carry theirs home.

I sampled several types: an almond rocher, candied ginger, and salted caramel. The candied ginger was wonderful with a great zing. I ordered the salted chocolate with a dark chocolate coating, which had quite a bit of cacao in it. The creaminess of the caramel contrasted perfectly with the salt, although perhaps a little less salt would have been ideal. The almond rocher had a firm texture and plenty of almonds.

The Chocolate Fetish

Asheville NC: Biscuit Head

Biscuit Head is an outstanding practitioner of the find Southern art of biscuits. Being in uber-hip West Asheville, they also offer trending alternatives like tempeh. But I think it's safe to say that most of the dozen or so people who stand in line at any one time are waiting for biscuits.

Here is a biscuit au naturel. It's known as a cats head biscuit because it is the size of the head of a cat (and a scarily large cat at that). A large toppings bar provides a selection of fruit preserves and other toppings.

Here is a biscuit with their pork sausage gravy, one of about a half-dozen varieties of gravy they offer. The texture of the biscuit is a little hard to parse out with the gravy but I suspect that these are of the beaten variety. Mine certainly gave a very tender, soft texture when I cut it with a fork. As you can see, the sausage comes in healthy-sized chunks. The sausage itself isn't your standard supermarket variety; both the color and the taste are very rich. The texture of the gravy is perfect; anyone who has made gravy knows the skill required to pull off this consistency. The flavor perfectly balances pork and milk. The song "Jessie's Girl" played as I ate; let's hope that was an ironic statement.

Biscuit Head

Monday, December 21, 2015

Asheville NC: Cinnamon Kitchen

Cinnamon Kitchen is off the tourist trail in the suburban area of Asheville, up the road from the Vanderbilt mansion. I had a very enjoyable meal and the chance to get away from the crowded downtown area. The service was extremely courteous and helpful.

Papadum are obligatory and always enjoyable. These were very flavorful. The lentil flavor came through very clearly. I'm not sure of the identity of the green vegetable but it provided a good complementary note.

The meal started with a selection of fried vegetarian appetizers, all very tasty.

Here are the main courses. Top is chili paneer. The paneer had a wonderful texture. I asked for spicy; the result was attention-getting but not tear-inducing. The sauce was shiny with cornstarch, perhaps a Chinese influence. The bottom photos are chicken tikka, served with sauce on the side, something that I've never seen before. The vegetables served with the chicken also reminded me a bit of a Chinese presentation.

Garlic naan complemented the meal. It was fresh and soft with just the right amount of garlic.

The finishing touch was a mango lassi that disappeared quickly.

Cinnmamon Kitchen

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fortune Cookie Restaurant

The Fortune Cookie is a beneficiary of the strip mall makeover that brought The Fresh Market to North Druid Hills. The decor is brand spanking new, nicely traditional. I sat near the door and heard the owner chat with customers as they entered and left. She seemed to know everyone.

The menu is retro Chinese-American, as you can see from this sample page. But the food was pretty good. This restaurant is not an exotic food museum but it does serve a satisfying meal.

Here are sesame chicken and spicy eggplant. In my hunger, I forgot to take a photo of the fried vegetarian dumplings, which were crispy on the outside and full of vegetable flavor on the inside. The sauces on the main dishes were a little sweet but not overpowering. These dishes disappeared quickly.

Fortune Cookie

Thursday, December 10, 2015

EWR: Garden State Diner

Garden State Diner is in Terminal B of Newark Liberty. It's on the opposite side of the terminal from where I usually fly, so it's a new experience for me. The service was very friendly but the kitchen was very, very slow.

I ordered the japapeno veggie griller. Its texture was pretty soft but that is a common complaint with veggie burgers The taste on the other hand, was great. Even without the japapenos it had a nice little bite of spice along with a variety of other veggie-friendly flavors.

Garden State Diner

Monday, December 7, 2015

ATL Terminal D

Terminal D has always been the worst of the terminals at Hartsfield-Jackson. The gates themselves are still narrow and crowded with passengers spilling out from the gate into the hallway. But the central food court has received a wonderful makeover as you can see from the photo. The space is light-filled, high-ceilinged, and attractive. The restaurants include both fast and more leisurely choices. The area also includes several shops.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Decatur: Mason Tavern

An outing gave me a chance to try Mason Tavern in Decatur. It's in the same shopping center as Community Q. It has an extensive drink menu, as befits the name, but a casual upscale decor and an interesting menu.

We started with some outstanding onion rings. The crust was rich and stood on its own, sheltering the onion.

I ordered the roast chicken for my main course. The meat was very juicy and tender with a nice brine touch. The skin was just a little spicy and very flavorful. The greens were IMHO not cooked enough and a little hard to eat---there's a reason that Southerners cook their greens to death.

These mussels and their broth looked great.

We ended with the apple pie. As a nice change of pace, the apples were diced into small pieces. A bit of ginger set them off perfectly.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Beef Bourgigone

I was in the mood for beef. Beef bourgigone seemed like the perfect antidote. I used the recipe from the Culinary Institute of America's Professional Cookbook. Here it is after several hours of cooking. I used at least three cups of beef stock in this dish so you can imagine how beefy the sauce tasted. I used a piece of bread to sop up every drop.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Meal of Thanksgiving

This is the Thanksgiving meal I made for myself: turkey, brussel sprouts, corn pudding, cranberry sauce. I used this meal to remind myself to be thankful for everything. Sometimes it takes a special occasion to remind us of the the importance of every day.

Squash and Carrot Soup

I finally had a chance to make something that I've been thinking about for awhile, namely squash and carrot soup. It's a comforting meal on a cold day.

I started by cooking down the squash, carrots, an onion, and a little ginger for zing. After a few minutes, I added chicken stock and let it all simmer.

Once everything was cooked, into the blender it went.

The blended vegetables went back into the pan for cream, a little nutmeg, and some pepper.

Here is the result. It was just rich enough to satisfy. All the flavor of the vegetables came through wonderfully.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Update: Hop's Chicken

Helen and I made a Gang of Food visit to Hop's Chicken to try their fried chicken. They sell it by the piece, a half bird, or a whole bird. Here is a breast: very moist and tender; crust is crispy but not extra crispy. It was excellent.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pittsburgh: Eleven

My CMU friends treated me to a wonderful dinner at Eleven. The food was outstanding and the wonderful atmosphere gave us the perfect chance to reminsce.

We started with a selection of breads. I chose the cherry bread, which added a fairly subtle touch since the bread wasn't sweet.

My first course was the squasy soup. It was rich but very well balanced between cream and squash and it was perfectly seasoned.

Phil's first course was the crabcake which also came with a small potato and a few other items. Phil enjoyed it but said that the crabcake came with a full dose of Old Bay.

My bread for the main course was salted focaccia. My main course was this amazing beef tenderloin. I was drawn to order it by the promise of bone marrow. But the Flintstone bone spanning the plate was an impressive surprise. The meat was superb. The marrow was excellent (although probably not the best marrow I've ever had but, hey, how often do you get bone marrow?). This dish was a huge success both in terms of flavor and style.

For dessert, I ordered the dark chocolate cake. It was very good although not quite the chocolate orgy I was hoping for. Chocolate and beef make an excellent pairing for some reason..l

ELEVEN

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Chamblee: Pan Chapin

I was in the mood to get out of the house. I decided to try Pan Chapin, a small place on the second floor of Intown Plaza on Buford Highway. What I found was a combination Hispanic bakery and convenience store: baked goods and a few tables on one side; sardines, chewing gum, and phone cards on the other. The ordering system is standard: grab a tray and some tongs, put what you want on the tray, head to the counter to pay. My inability to speak Spanish made things interesting but hand-waving goes a long way in these situations.

I started off with the sugar roll. It was a fun little treat that was just sweet enough. I saved the plain roll until dinner. It reminded me a little of Italian rolls: good carmelized crust covering a pillowy center.

Chamblee: Saigon Tofu

Saigon Tofu is in the newly renovated shopping center on Buford Highway that also houses City Farmers Market. I really enjoyed my lunch.

For some reason, I didn't take the words "To Go" on the sign seriously. I expected at least some tables. But these folks mean what they say. As you can see, the store has two long counters of serve-yourself food. Some is hot, some cold. Some is vegetarian, some is meat or fish. They also serve made-to-order sandwiches.

I took my food home and enjoyed it at my table. My vegetarian spring roll was good but the fried spicy tofu was the real hit. A sign in the restaurant explains that they make their own tofu fresh daily; several gallon jugs of soy milk attested to their diligence. Tofu has an often well-earned reputation for blandness but this tofu offered a complex of interesting flavors: milky from the soy; a bit of heat from the chilis sprinkled through the tofu; and savoriness from the frying. Really great stuff and so filling that I had to take a nap.

And here's the punch line: this very filling lunch cost me only $1.60.

Saigon Tofu