Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tucson AZ: Tucson Tamale Company

I made a U turn when I saw Tucson Tamale Company and I wasn't disappointed. I have always loved tamales but fresh, handmade tamales aren't that easy to find. Tucson Tamale's product was outstanding. It also came out so fast that I didnt' even have time to put away my wallet before the plate was in front of me.

I ordered the Santa Fe and the blue corn. The Santa Fee is a pork tamale. The masa was soft, creamy, and rich. The filling balanced the pork with a variety of other flavors. I ordered the hot salsa, which is of the sneaky variety: not too hot initially but delivers a good 10-minute slow burn.

The blue corn tamale, a vegetarian option, deserves a closer look. If you haven't had blue corn before, it does have a distinctive taste. The yellow corn in the filling makes a great contrast in both taste and color. Thiw was a wonderfully complex filling that I really enjoyed.

Tucson Tamale Company on Urbanspoon

Tucson AZ: Biscuits Country Cafe

I can understand why so many people like Biscuits: great food and homey, welcoming atmosphere. The decor has a touch of country with the peg toys on each table. The service was very attentive and courtous. The wait staff was great and the owner made the rounds to check on everyone.

This is my veggie omlette with grits and biscuits. The omlette was chock full of great vegetables---mushrooms, peppers---that add a savory taste to the eggs. The grits were perfectly cooked, with just a bit of tooth.

The biscuits did not disappoint. They were soft and flaky and the gravy was perfect. Making gravy that is creamy without becoming wallpaper paste requires both patience and freshness. This gravy was perfectly executed and very fresh. Wonderful stuff.

Biscuits Country Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Eating Around Georgia Tech: Mac the Cheese

Mac the Cheese satisfied me with comfort food that was about as far from the boxed variety as you can get. It has become one of the regular food trucks at Georgia Tech.

This is my veggie mac and cheese. The cheese was soft, creamy, and very tasty. The base seems to have had some ricotta in it as well as other cheeses; some parmesan graced the top. The artichokes were a great complement to the cheese, an interesting variation on the traditional butter for artichokes.

Mac the Cheese on Urbanspoon

Denver: Guard and Grace

I enjoyed my lunch at Guard and Grace which allowed me an imaginative variety of tastes in a relatively short time and without blowing out my arteries.

I started with a three cheese plate. My favorite was the bleu cheese but all were wonderful; they showed a pleasant variety of textures as well as tastes. The accompaniments included green onions and almonds. The bread had just a bit of char, giving a wonderful charcoal aroma. The texture and smell of charred food was a consistent theme throughout my meal, which was a very astute point of presentation for a steak restaurant such as this.

Guard and Grace mercifully provides small portions of steak at lunch. This was my 4 ounce strip. It was perfectly cooked at medium rare.

My brussel sprouts continued the charred theme. The fuji apple strips on top were a great idea---the provided a great contrast with the brussel sprouts in color, texture, and moistness.

I finished off with an espresso...

And this cheesecake. The graham cracker crust was just a little too thick for my tastes but overall it was excellent.

Guard and Grace on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Denver: Ship Tavern

I just enjoyed a superb steak dinner at the Ship Tavern in the Brown Palace. The decor is old fashioned wood paneling, just the sort of atmosphere you want to go with your steak. The room has a bar but it is very family friendly with many kids in attendance. The service was very courteous and efficient.

Dinner started with bread. The white slices on the right are a form of Melba toast. One of the rolls was half white, half wheat.

This is what I have been thinking about for days---my ribeye. The meat was heavily marbled with the most delicious fat that left a wonderful coating of fat. The steak was served boneless. It came with superb string fries, very crispy. It also came with a very nice selection of vegetables: green beans, broccoli, carrots, I think a piece of asparagus. They were cooked to just the right texture, soft but not falling apart.

Ship Tavern on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cheese Straws

I have been initiated into the Society of Cheese Straw Eaters. Cheese straws are one of those things that I had never encountered before moving to Atlanta. I vaguely remember seeing them at Rhodes Bakery. Then I heard Alton Brown, as I recall, extol the virtues of a particular cheese straw baker. So when I found myself standing in line at the supermarket with this bag at eye level, staring back at me, I realized that my destiny had been fulfilled.

They are pretty good, although I must say that I would prefer a sharper cheese flavor. They have a texture close to that of a soft cookie. They of course substitute cheese for overt sweetness. I ate three before I left the store, then I managed to get them back in the shopping bag.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Decatur: Java Monkey

Java Monkey is in a narrow storefront with a low-key (and very elevated) sign, so it may be easy to miss. But it's been around Decatur for a long time.

This picture pretty much says it all: a warm cup of coffee and a place to relax. The coffee was more of a medium roast, which I prefer. I found the seating to be very comfortable. The crowd is hipster-ish, the bulletin board is filled with concert posters and a smattering of eclectic services.

Java Monkey on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Doraville: Calcutta Palate

Calcutta Palate just opened and I very much enjoyed my meal. It took me a little while to figure out where it is---a separate building on the north side of the Buford Highway Farmer's Market. It's a large space with plenty of tables and they seem to be putting in a bar. The service was very helpful and friendly, although still a little disorganized. I met one of the owners coming in; I also met the chef as he walked around the tables to check on the diners.

I started with papadum, always a crunchy favorite. The tamarind sauce was tasty, not overly tamarind-y.

The chef sent out this small plate of delectables to keep me busy while my entrees were being prepared.

As an example of the rough edges, I ordered the vegetarian thali but ended up with two entrees. The vegetable korma was suitably creamy. The okra was my favorite; the spices and oils combine very well with the green of the okra.

I asked for a small bit of raita to cap things off, which I enjoyed.

And I finished with a rice pudding, which was creamy and just sweet enough without being overpowering.

Calcutta Palate on Urbanspoon

Calcutta Palate

Monday, January 5, 2015

Eating Around Georgia Tech: Amelie's French Bakery

Amelie's is on Marietta Street, at the south end of the hoppin' Howell Mill district. They are in a large space that has been decorated in comfy, plush, and slightly eccentric style---a nice mixture of a coffee house and someone's living room.

This case shows you some of their variety on the sweet baked good side: croissants, muffins, pastries, etc. They also have a good menu of sandwiches and soups.

I ordered a tartine and a small lemon cake. The tartine is spinach and Gruyere cheese served on bread and toasted. I enjoyed the wonderful combination of the bread, the moist, green spinach, and the warm, slightly browned Gruyere. The lemon cake was similarly well-balanced: a nice bit of citrus along with lingering sweetness on a very moist cake.

Amélie's French Bakery on Urbanspoon

Amelie's French Bakery

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Asheville NC: French Broad Chocolate Lounge

French Broad is on the main square in downtown Asheville. The room is full of large windows that give it an extremely sunny feel, even on a rainy day. It's also a big room, with enough space not only for a lot of tables but also what seems to be a combination coffee/wine bar.

As you can see from their cases, they cover the waterfront of chocolate: chocolate candies, baked goods, and puddings. They don't seem to be open for breakfast, which is a shame. Chocolate for breakfast is one of life's wonderful little treats.

This is their chocolate chunk mint brownie. As the name implies, it has some nice little chunks of chocolate as well as mint. It was a truly great brownie. The texture was just right, in my view: firm and shape-holding but very moist. The amount of mint was just right; the mint gives a nice buzz during and after the chew but it never overpowers the chocolate.

French Broad Chocolate Lounge on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 2, 2015

Asheville NC: 12 Bones Smokehouse

12 Bones in the River Arts district is a happenin' place. The line when I arrived took about 10 (15?) minutes; by the time I finished the line was over twice as long, curved around the edge of the building. They do keep things moving and have plenty of both tables and parking.

This is my wedge salad, which is a great spin on the steakhouse standard. As you can see, it comes with loads of onion crisps. The dressing is a spicy ranch. The heat is perfectly balanced---it gets your attention, then lingers, but never becomes unpleasant. My only critique is that the dressing was served on the side and much of it ended up on the onion crisps; I would have preferred to have more of it land on the iceberg. The cornbread is great; is that molasses I taste and see in the bread?

I couldn't come to a restaurant named 12 Bones without ordering ribs. I ordered without sides since I wanted to try the salad. The rib meat pulled off the bone with just the tiniest amount of effort. They have a daily choice of sauces for the bones. I went for nekkid, which is just a rub. This allowed me to try two sauces: the Carolina vinegar and the spicy mustard. Both were great but I found the vinegar sauce to be a great complement to the pig.

12 Bones Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Asheville NC: Sunny Point Cafe and Bakery

Sunny Point Cafe is on the main drag in West Asheville. This time of year, their porch is sealed in and was pleasant on this cold winter evening.

My dinner started out with a salad that I forgot to photograph. Trust me, it was great: very fresh, greens and carrots, topped with a wonderful dressing that was creamy but not in the least bit heavy.

For my main course, I ordered the portobello stack. It's a combination of breaded portobello mushroom on top, zucchini in the middle, and polenta on the bottom. As you can see, it comes with two sauces---three if you count the dollop of pesto on top. The parmesan sauce was good, but I am a sucker for tomato sauce and this one had a great balance of sweetness and acid. The savoriness of the mushroom made this a great vegetarian choice for dinner.

While they have a wide range of vegetarian options, they don't ignore the carivores. I got a chance to taste the chicken sandwich, which was very juicy.

Sunny Point Cafe & Bakery on Urbanspoon

Clayton GA: Ishy's Grill

Ishy's is hidden in a small strip mall behind a row of car dealers off Clayton's main highway. Inside, the space is large and tasefully decorated. My service was friendly and helpful.

This is my vegetarian quesedilla. It wasn't spicy hot but it was flavorful: rich cheese, fresh vegetables, and fresh pico and sour cream on top. It was satisfyingly savory without being heavy.

Ishy's Grill on Urbanspoon