Wednesday, June 24, 2015

LAX: Mr. Marcel at Farmer's Market at LAX

LAX is, unfortunately, a third world experience. (In fact, I found New Delhi's airport to be more pleasant than LAX.) There is, however, one exception: the Farmer's Market at LAX Terminal 5. It features several vendors from the market plus some take-out. The excellent food compensates for a fair amount of exhaustion.

A particular favorite is Mr. Marcel. They stock an excellent selection of cheese-centric sandwiches and breakfasts. Today, I ordered the European sampler cheese plate for my flight. The presentation suffered a little from the jostling around the airport but the food was still excellent. The plate featured seven types of cheese, olives, little tiny pickles, marmalade, and mustard; a generous bag of sliced baguette accompanied the plate. I ate it slowly in my middle seat, savoring every bite. It almost made the flight worthwhile...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Los Angeles: Aroma Cafe

My friends Miodrag and Nada treated me to a wonderful dinner at Aroma Cafe, one of their regular spots. It's located a few block south of Pico Boulevard, not too far from UCLA. The atmosphere is pretty and casual, befitting LA. They also stock a small selection of Eastern European groceries. I must say that this was my first experience with Bosnian cuisine...

I started with a shopska salad, the Bosnian equivalent of a Greek mother's salad. It consists of feta cheese sprinkles, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and bell pepper. Everything about it was refreshing.

For my main course, I ordered what Nada and Miodrag always order, the cevapi. The sausages are beef; they announced themselves with a great, beefy aroma. The bread is slightly crispy on the outside and full of holes on the inside. Nada tells me that the batter is thin. The combination is a very nice change, with the bread's texture giving this sandwich a special spin.

Englewood CA: Randy's Donuts

Randy's Donuts is a classic, known both for its iconic sign as well as for its impeccable donuts. It's located just off the 405 north of LAX---the giant donut is clearly visible from the highway.

A donut makes a perfect post-flight salve. I kicked off this visit to LA with a devil's food donut and mocha iced coffee. The donut actually has icing on the other side---I was in too much of a hurry to enjoy it to flip it over for the photo. The iced coffee was a great complement. They made the rest of the day more enjoyable.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Brookhaven: Hovan Mediterranean

I had a great lunch at Hovan Mediterranean in Brookhaven. It's an uncomplicated place to eat---go to the counter, order what you like, and enjoy. But their menu goes beyond lunch to include dinner items as well as a selection of beers and wines.

I ordered the falafel sandwich with a Greek salad. The falafels were made by hand based on my order---they couldn't be fresher. Everything about my sandwich was extremely fresh and enjoyable. The salad was also excellent. And it's a real Greek salad! Greeks, who call this salad "Mother's salad," would be perplexed if they saw the pile of lettuce and feta that passes for a Greek salad in the U. S.

Hovan Gourmet

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Hull GA: Bill's BBQ

When I asked Marie for advice on a place to eat in Athens, Bill's BBQ was on the top of her list. I can see why. The food is great and everyone there is wonderfully nice. The owner explained the restaurant's long history, starting out in Athens and later moving several miles out of town. The restaurant has all the calling cards of a small-town Southern restaurant: plywood paneling, a rack of potato chip bags at the cash register. But they also sport a very modern, stainless steel kitchen and a giant TV that played Jurassic Park as I ate.

I ordered pork, which came with the canonical sides of Brunswick stew, cole slaw, and white bread. I adorned the pork with the hot sauce, a vinegar sauce that gave the pork a perfect touch of sweetness along with sour. The pork was outstanding as were the Brunswick stew and the slaw.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Food Trucks: Incrediball Falafel

The Incrediball Falafel food truck came to my neighborhood. The owner explained to me that he has been on the road for about three years. His truck is equipped with a falafel machine (who knew?) and the falafel comes out fast and fresh.

My falafel and a cucumber and tomato salad was wrapped in a very tender, pillowy pita. The falafel was, indeed, outstanding. The salad was a great complement, moist and tasty but not goopy or overwhelming. The owner gave me a mint lemonade to try---the mint was a great addition to the lemonade.

I think that neighborhood food truck visits are a great idea. There's no reason why only a few parts of town should have a monopoly on fresh, interesting, relatively inexpensive food. Let's hope that the food trucks continue to come to both my neighborhood and yours.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

San Francisco: Carousel Cafe

I got away from my conference with a dash to the Carousel Cafe. It's located, appropriately enough, next to the carousel that is perched on the roof of the Moscone Center. As you come up the stairs it may not be obvious---if you face the carousel the cafe will be directly behind you.

They have a good selection of sandwiches but I ordered iced coffee and a shortbread. The proprietress mixed it with milk for me on the spot---shaken, not stirred. It was a great pick-me-up.

San Francisco: Oasis Grill

Mohammad and I enjoyed a lunch at Oasis Grill across from the Moscone Center. We managed to beat the lunch crowd. But by the time we had finished, the line was out the door.

I ordered a veggie sampler. The falafel was superb with a great crunch on the outside and great flavor. The cucumber and yogurt dish was another particular favorite of mine. The hummus was very good. Mohammad ordered a wrap, which he declared a winner.

San Francisco: Amber

My friends and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner together at Amber at which we both reminisced about the past and planned for the future. Amber is located in the base of the San Francisco Marriott. The service was initially a little hectic but it settled down by the time we got to the table. The wait was worth it----everyone loved the food.

We started with a selection of appetizers. The samosas were very good. Our server suggested cauliflower with a mint sauce that was excellent. The last dish was a chaat dish but with baked spinach serving as the crunchy component, an inspired choice.

We shared a range of main courses; chicken, lobster, fish. My personal favorite was the okra served with a hot and spicy sauce that really pleased my mouth.

San Francisco: Town Hall

I had a wonderful meal at Town Hall in SoMa. It's in a beautiful old brick building. The service was extremely gracious starting from the moment I walked in the door. The menu is an interesting mix of seafood and Southern.

Loaves of bread are kept prominently at the entrance to the dining area. The bread was as good as it looked.

I started with two oysters, one from California and one from Washington. The sweetness of the oyster and the salt of the sea is an unbeatable combination.

For my main course, I ordered the sea bass with a beautifully crisped skin. It was served in a broth with an assortment of tidbits: ham, okra, small oysters.

I succumbed to temptation and ordered the cherry and goat cheese tart for dessert. The combination was as spectacular as I had hoped---a perfect combination. The baked cheese was a wonderful complement to the rich cherries.

San Francisco: Ozumo

Graham and I had a wonderful meal at Ozumo. The room has a spectacular view of the Bay Bridge. The service was impeccably gracious.

We started off with some outstanding sasimi. The tuna belly was just one of the spectacular pieces of fish. The octopus was beautifully tender.

Our tofu was spectacular with a light crunchy coating over a soft, delicate ccenter.

This dish was a risotto with seafood that was spectacular. A streak of roe over the center gave us a taste of the sea.

We finished with dessert. My flourless chocolate cake came with the best green tea ice cream I have ever had----a rich taste of tea without losing the cream.

Friday, June 5, 2015

College Park: Lunch on Main Street

Lunch on Main Street is only open on weekdays and I finally had a chance to try it. It is a classic Southern small-town restaurant housed in a renovated gas station. Their food is great.

This is my fried catfish. Everything about it was excellent: the fish itself was flavorful without being gamy; the cornbread coating was crisp and light. My green beans were very soft and with a kiss of pork. The sweet potatoes were rich with brown sugar and butter. I finished off my plate with an excellent piece of cornbread.

Lunch on Main Street

College Park: The Pecan

Hyesoon and I had a very enjoyable dinner at The Pecan in College Park. It's in a storefront on Main Street that has been restored with an elegant interior. The service was very courteous and prompt without being the least bit pushy.

We started with fried wontons stuffed with shrimp, among other things. A bit of remoulade sauce was on top. This was a very rich and very enjoyable way to start our meal.

The bread basket had a two types of bread in mini-muffin form. I tasted the cornbread with pecans, which was just right.

I ordered oven roasted chicken, an update to the classic dish. I think that it had a pecan crust on it; the texture was very different from a standard flour crust and worked very well. The chicken was served on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes with some fried sweet potato strings and perfectly cooked green beans.

Hyesoon ordered the salmon. It was very moist and with great salmon flavor. It also came on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes with sweet potato strings on top.

We finished off the dinner with a superb piece of pecan pie. The pie was full of pecans---none of that little layer of pecans stuff here---and they were clearly very fresh with superb flavor.

The Pecan

Tucker Farmers Market

I finally tried the Tucker Farmers Market. It's tucked away in an alley off Main Street on Thursday afternoons (4-8 PM). It has an impressive variety of artisnal food producers and chefs.

My big stop was to Pearson Farm for a box of peaches. Pearson grows both peaches and pecans. It supplies a very impressive list of top restaurants. I tried a bit of each while I was there. The peach was at the peak of ripeness---extremely flavorful, soft, and juicy. The pecan was very nutty but in a subtle way; its texture was equally impressive.

I was happy to find Java Genesis there, a small-batch roaster that used to attend the old Georgia Tech farmers market. Their coffee is superb, rich and flavorful wihtout being overly strong or acidic. I picked up some ground coffee (yes, I'm a philistine) and an iced coffee.

I also stopped by JB Farm Fresh Eggs. This is the omelet I made with them and a little bit of coconut milk. The eggs had very small cholesterol sacks (those little white things hanging onto the yolk), which is typical of naturally raised eggs. The omelet had great texture and a very rich taste.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Kabob Land

Moin and I convened our latest technical discussion at Kabob Land. It's located at Piedmont and Peachtree just across from Bones. The space has a lot of outdoor covered seating, New York style as Moin pointed out. The service was very friendly and helpful.

Moin tried the beef shawarma; I had chicken koobideh. We agreed that the meat was excellent, very juicy with lots of flavor. Mine came with two sauces. I'm not sure what the white sauce was but it was fairly mild. The greenish sauce was much spicer---great stuff. Overall, a very enjoyable lunch.

Kabob Land