Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hsinchu, Taiwan: Mister Donut

I'd like to give a quick shout-out to Mister Donut in Asia. Although based in Boston, Mister Donut has a huge presence in many parts of Asia. This shop was located in a fancy shopping center. Their donuts and coffee are both outstanding.

In this small shop, patrons help themselves with the aid of tongs and trays. In larger shops, patrons who dine in can eat on nice china in a room that is noticeably more upscale than the U. S. donut experience. I haven't noticed those necklace-like donuts before; they must be molded somehow.

Hsinchu, Taiwan: Snacks

A meeting to hear about Chao Tung University's startup accelerator started with this welcome and delicious selection of fruit. Taiwan's climate makes it a cornucopia of fruit.

Back at Tsinghua University, our workshop started with these snacks. I didn't have a chance to try the crackers, but the cookie was filled with red bean paste.

Hsinchu, Taiwan: Forte Hotel Breakfast

A trip to Taiwan found me back with old friends and in familiar locations. A quarter century ago, my friend Steve Lin organized the High-Level Synthesis Workshop at the Forte Hotel. My breakfast at this old haunt was a comforting reminder of past visits to Taiwan.

This station is yet another example of Asian obsession with breakfast salad. At least they don't put "salad" on their burgers like those crazy Europeans do.

A well-appointed bread station.

The protein station.

Rice and porridge station. On my second day, I found that rice with peanuts made a great combination. Taiwan's hot, humid climate makes it a big peanut producer.

Miso soup made a very comforting and nourishing breakfast item. The small pancakes were served as a sandwich with red bean paste in the middle.

A made-to-order fried egg. The headline shows that our country isn't the only one with interesting politics.

Some steamed buns. The reddish one was filled with bean paste while the yellow one was plain.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Happy Birthday, Sublime Donuts!

Today is Sublime Donut's eighth birthday. Happy birthday, everyone! Sublime makes some of the best donuts in the country. It's good to see them flourish.

Gordon Biersch

A staff lunch gave me the opportunity to revisit Gordon Biersch. Some beer gardens serve mediocre food; I have found Biersch's food to be consistently enjoyable.

We started with a crab and artichoke dip that everyone agreed was delicious. It had a creamy texture from which the crab flavor emerged nicely. I must say that the artichoke was a subtle taste but it gives a good texture component.

Our main dishes ranged over much of the menu. Pam and I both ordered sausages with great flavor. Kristen's fish and chips was huge.

We had to finish with chocolate so we ordered a brownie. The texture tended toward the fudgy side but was somewhere between fudgy and cakey. It had nice drizzles of chocolate and carmel; the chocolate was warm on the plate and frozen on the ice cream.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Trenton Tomato Pie

A recent article in Epicurious on Trenton tomato pie brought back old memories and inspired me to make a pizza. Trenton tomato pie has several characteristics: very thin, crispy crust; cheese on the bottom; crushed tomatoes. It comes from the Chambersburg district of Trenton, a.k.a. the Burg. Chambersburg was for many years the home of Roebling Steel, the company that built the Brooklyn Bridge. Roebling Steel closed many years ago but the Italian neighborhood that grew up around it still lives on. The neighborhood is now known for its many wonderful Italian restaurants and bakeries; food lovers up and down the Eastern Seaboard know about the Burg. The neighborhood has a very specific geography---you can see as you drive down the street when you have entered the Burg. The Trenton tomato pie is similarly specific to its locale. As I recall, not all restaurants in the Burg make the tomato pie, instead offering a traditional New York style crispy-crust. And a trip of just a few miles to the wonderful restaurants of Lawrenceville will provide you with mostly New York style.

The Epicurious article talks about De Lorenzo's pizza. I never went there, but I was pleased to find out that they relocated to Robbinsville, a few miles away. I did visit Joe's Tomato Pie several times. The blog Mack Trucks of Wisdom (great name!) describes Joe's here. Like many restaurants in the Burg, it was on the main floor of a row house. Even though it had a large dining room that was perpetually busy, it still gave the feel of eating in someone's dining room. And the pizza was delicious.

I made my own pizza dough from the Epicurious recipe. Nothing magical here: flour, salt, yeast, water. I let it rest overnight in the refrigerator, then started stretching. I was mildly hopeful at this early stage that I would end up with something round. But my dough skills let me down and I ended up with the odd shapes that always result.

I did make a little progress on technique. I stretched a little, then rotated, concentrating almost exclusively on the edge. When I came to a thick spot on the edge, I stretched more. The result wasn't as thin as a tomato pie should be, but it wasn't bad for my low skill level.

I spread some mozzarella and started to work on the tomatoes. At this point, I realized that I had bought crushed tomatoes, not whole. Oh, well, another blow to authenticity.

Here are the pizzas ready for the oven....

and here are the pies out of the oven. The may not be particularly authentic or artistically pleasing, but they did taste good. My dough was very yeasty after that night in the fridge. I liked it, but in my experience Trenton pies and New Jersey pizzas generally aren't so yeasty. This is a very simple pie, but pizza is simple, good food.

Update: New Lan Zhou Noodle

My visits to New Lan Zhou Noodle have become more frequent as of late. The Taiwanese food court in Chamblee is a good place for a simple, wholesome, inexpensive meal. Lately, I've consistently gone to Lan Zhou for their delicious stretched noodles. I didn't have a chance to take a photo of the cook stretching the noodles; perhaps another blog. This is duck noodle soup, with delicious bits of bony duck that I chewed down carefully. The noodles have a wonderful, chewy texture that you can't find in other types of pasta. I order my soup spicy; it comes out with flakes of pepper that excite the tongue and open up the nostrils but don't endanger any lives.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Lithonia: Mabel's BBQ and Smoked Meats

When I searched for "BBQ Lithonia GA" my screen lit up with Mabel's. So off I went. This is clearly a family place, with a photo of the namesake owner and her husband proudly displayed. You order at the counter and then sit down at one of the tables. I asked the young man at the counter what I should order; he smiled and said with an air of certainty, "meat sandwich." That's a chopped brisket sandwich. As I sat at my table, I could hear the knives going away in back, chopping my meat. This sandwich was made for me.

I really enjoyed this sandwich. The meat was neatly diced; it was moist and tender, coated in just enough sauce to add flavor. The bread had been nicely toasted on the flattop. I found it easiest to eat while holding the sandwich in the foil. I chased down every last bit of meat that fell out.

The corn was tasty and prepared in an interesting, unusual way. It gave the aroma of turkey stuffing; the green specs are herbs added for flavor. My original guess was sage, but the green bits don't look the right shape. Perhaps parsley? In any case, very enjoyable.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Hollywood GA; Blue Creek Farmhouse

Blue Creek Farmhouse is at the intersection that is Hollywood GA, located on U. S. 23. This little town is at the edge of the mountains; this area seems to have quite a few pleasant surprises that I need to explore further.

The establishment offers a variety of preserves and fresh local foods that seem to be aimed at travelers. But the clientele for the restaurant was resolutely local when I visited. The workers greeted several patrons by name. The restaurant is of the order-at-the-counter variety and with a simple menu---sandwiches, burgers, some BBQ---but it promises fresh, local, farm-to-table ingredients.

My burger took some 25 minutes to arrive but once it did, it was pretty tasty. The bun was lightly toasted. All the toppings---tomato, lettuce, onion---were very fresh. The meat was freshly ground and made by hand into a patty. It came out medium well but still very juicy.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Happy Birthday

My birthday (which, oddly enough, comes along every year or so) is a perfect opportunity for me to stretch my cake-baking muscles. This year I decided to concentrate on my newfound interest in pecans.

The cake is a three-layer genoise (egg foam cake) which I soaked in peach preserves made from Pearson Farm peaches. I filled in between the layers with a combination of chocolate ganache mixed with pecan meal. The icing is genoise, which I topped with Ellis Brothers pecans of the Elliott variety.

To complement the cake, I made a batch of espresso ice cream.

I like to pass out small treats during the day. I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies to which I added pecan meal. The cookies had extra body but were still very soft and extra moist, a very pleasing effect overall.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Eating Around Georgia Tech: HB Food Anatomy

HB Food Anatomy is in the relatively new Engineered Biology Building (EBB) on campus. It's a beautiful building both inside and out. The restaurant is an outpost of the Highland Bakery empire and serves both meals and baked snacks.

Here is my blueberry scone. As you can see, it was so tempting that I could't wait to try it. It was a perfect blend of sweetness and creamy richness, a great way to get myself going in the morning.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Lane Orchards Restaurant

I went back to Lane Orchards specifically to try their restaurant. It turns out to be a full-service menu with emphasis on dessert. I concentrated on the desserts.

Here are my peach cobbler and fried peach pie. The cobbler was good but very, very sweet, almost candied. My tastes run to slightly less sweet desserts. The fried pie was also sweet but it's hard to pass up a good fried pie when you find one. McDonald's didn't invent the fried pie. It is a Southern tradition in the If-Its-Good-Enough-To-Eat-Its-Good-Enough-To-Fry tradition. This pie was very generous, possibly twice the size of a McDonald's specimen.

Cordele GA: SL Sausage Company

SL Sausage on Georgia 300 isn't anywhere near the town of Cordele, but in this neck of the woods it's close enough to count. It serves as a general store and gas station in these parts with the butcher shop in back.

As you can see, the butcher shop is very well appointed with both smoked and fresh meats. I purchased two smoked pork chops, bacon, smoked sausage, and some beef jerky. The beef jerky was excellent. Most of the so-called jerky you find shrink-wrapped in stores is chemically processed and harsh on the stomach. This was naturally made and delicious.

Unfortunately, the restaurant attached to the store was disorganized enough that I didn't eat there.

Columbus GA: Ruth Ann's Restaurant

I had a wonderful breakfast at Ruth Ann's. The restaurant has several rooms to seat lots of people and is cheerily well lit. The staff is appropriately friendly and ready with the coffeepot. Patrons enjoyed their breakfasts, talked, and visited with each other.

I ordered a veggie omelet with hash browns and a biscuit, then added a bowl of tomato gravy. The omelet was tender and rich with good, fresh vegetables. The hash browns were superb---some great crunchy bits around tender potatoes. The tomato gravy was the highlight of the meal to me as I don't think I have ever had it before. It was probably made by mixing crushed tomatoes into a white gravy. The entire gravy had enough tomato juice to give it tang but not so much as to water it down. The bits of tomato gave a nice textural contrast. The biscuit was of the beaten style and very fluffy. I used it to sop up every last bit of that gravy.

One word of caution to the disabled---the bathroom doors are too narrow to allow a wheelchair to pass.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Columbus GA: El Flamboyan

El Flamboyan is a fun surprise in downtown Columbus. It specializes in Puerto Rican food. As I ate, a disc jockey set up for later in the evening and played tunes from his collection. The building is old with a beautiful high ceiling. Service was very warm and helpful.

Here is the first side of their menu. I decided to try mofongo, something that I have heard about but never had the chance to eat.

Out came this beautiful dish. The outside is plantain. Inside is a stuffing, in my case chicken, green pepper, and onion. Everything about it was delicious. The sauce was subtly spiced and just slightly rich. It reminded me a little of chicken and dressing, a perfect comfort food.

Given the quality of my main course, I had to try their flan for dessert. It did not disappoint. The flan was rich and not too sweet, with beautiful texture. The sauce combined sugar and chocolate; the touch of chocolate was a perfect touch.

Columbus GA: Clearview BBQ

A trip to Columbus seemed like an ideal time to try some local BBQ. Clearview BBQ is in an unassuming neighborhood not particularly near the highway. But it must have a large base of loyal customers based on the crowds I saw. Luckily, I arrived at the start of the lunch rush, before the line wrapped itself around the far side of the lunchroom.

As I got out of the car, I went through the laundry list of items I could order for lunch. After watching the proceedings for a minute, it became clear that the chipped BBQ sandwich was the item to order. Person after person stepped up to receive their bag or tray. And as I waited in line to order, I observed the well-orchestrated process used to fulfill that demand. Two ladies collaborated on the sandwiches. One slathered the buns with mustard sauce and lined them up on a sandwich grill, 9 at a time. The other lady first dipped the pork into a pot of sauce, then ladled it onto the waiting buns. They wrap and pack the batch, hand them out, and then return to do it all again.

Here is the result; this is a large-sized sandwich. Even without the sauce, the meat is tender and juicy. It has just enough sauce to add character but not so much as to disguise the meat or destroy the bun. It went down quickly and I picked up the stray pieces of meat from my tray as dessert.

The BBQ is excellent and it is also cheap. Their regular-sized chipped sandwich was listed for 99 cents, as I recall. It's cash only but you don't need much cash to walk away satisfied.