Saturday, October 29, 2016

Asheville NC: Ultimate Ice Cream

I finally had a chance to try Ultimate Ice Cream and I understand what all the fuss is about. It's a cozy little shop in a cozy little neighborhood. The freezer, as you can see, is no fuss.

I ordered the dark chocolate ice cream. It was superb in both taste and texture. The cream and chocolate both came through perfectly. The texture was fluffy and silky.

I enjoyed my ice cream outside. I didn't enjoy the company of a dog, but I approve of any ice cream place that puts out a dog bowl. Why should your dog suffer while you enjoy?

Asheville NC: Luella's BBQ

Luella's is a nouvelle BBQ outfit on the north side of Asheville. It is nestled among the trees in a lovely neighborhood. The restaurant has lots of windows for inside seating and plenty of outside seating. Service was courteous and amazingly fast.

This is a combination plate with pork and brisket. Both were very moist and tender. For the pork, I tried both the mild and hot vinegar sauces. To my surprise, I preferred the milder one because it didn't assert itself too much. I enjoyed the spicy tomato sauce for my brisket. The hushpuppies were very good. The fried okra was fresh out of the fryer and excellent. The slaw was of the vinegary variety, which I usually enjoy, but this version is heavy on the white stuff and didn't have quite enough variety in tastes for me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Columbia MD: Eggspectation

Shuvra, Jarmo, and I talked about online education over a great breakfast at Eggspectation. It's a local chain that serves breakfast and lunch. The décor was spacious and welcoming; they went to a lot of trouble to recreate an old brick factory décor in a new building. The service was very helpful with coffee and water always on the ready.

This is my Southwest sunrise omelet. It was filled with peppers and avacadoes. The omelet was very tender and fluffy. Lyonnaise potatoes are their signature side dish; they delivered on starchiness with a hint of crispness. The rye bread was a light bread that didn't interfere too much with the omelet.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Decatur: Pyng Ho

I recently had an early dinner at Pyng Ho in Decatur. It has been part of the Emory neighborhood for a long time. The décor is classic old school Chinese-American restaurant. The service was efficient and very courteous.

This is my tofu with vegetables. Nothing fancy, but it was well prepared and I was grateful to have it. 5 PM is a good time to have dinner out; the room is quiet and contemplative.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Doraville: Sunrize Cafe

Sunrize Café is across the street from the Doraville MARTA station, ensconced in a cozy brick storefront. The owner tells me that he has been open for about three months.

The baked goods come from a Mexican bakery. Supersized items seem to be the norm at these bakeries and Sunrize's collection certainly fits that description. Most of the items in the case here are sweet but they also offer a variety of savory pastries. I went with the fig croissant and a coffee.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

B's Cracklin Barbeque

Update: Chef Brian unfortunately displayed his unwillingness to give full hospitality to the disabled on a return visit. The wheelchair ramp was blocked; the chef handled the situation poorly.

Grant and Marie invited me to join them for dinner at B's Cracklin Barbeque. I'm glad they did---the food was excellent and the location was great for a fall evening. The restaurant is located in the Riverside neighborhood of west Atlanta. I parked next to the portable smoker; the restaurant also has a much larger BBQ shed. I could smell the smoke as I walked in, always a good sign.

Chef Brian stopped by and very graciously talked with us for several minutes. This location is an outpost of the original Savannah location.

I ordered the two-meat plate with brisket and ribs. The brisket was excellent, very moist and rich. The ribs were my favorite---very flavorful and moist. It's hard to find a real corn cake and this one was outstanding. The okra and slaw were also excellent. The peach mustard sauce was superb on both the beef and pork. The chef told us that the vinegar sauce also contains some peach nectar.

Grant and Marie concentrated on the sandwiches, which they reported to be outstanding.

Cherokee NC: Peter's Pancakes and Waffles

Peter's Pancakes and Waffles is just outside the boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I managed to snag a counter seat for breakfast and was lucky to do so. The food here is truly excellent, which means long lines. I ate breakfast at 10 AM and still faced a wall of hungry faces at the front waiting for tables.

I ignored the strong hint in the restaurant's name (it is Peter's Pancakes and Waffles, after all) and ordered an omelet with biscuits and gravy. The omelet was excellent, fluffy and rich. The biscuits and gravy were outstanding.

I sat in front of the griddle and watched the pancakes roll out. They were beautiful specimens, perfectly round and tall. I also saw a pair of strawberry waffles being prepared. The waffle looked excellent. Covered with waffles and ringed with whipped cream, it was a heart attack on a plate and a wonderful way to go.

Cherokee NC: Chef's Table Buffet

I acquired a fondness for casino buffets as a teenager in Reno. The buffets are a godsend to hungry teenagers. The days of bargain pricing for the buffet is over, but they still offer a wide variety of food that is well-prepared. After some exercise in the mountain air above Cherokee, the buffet at the Cherokee casino seemed like a good way to sample some proteins and maybe sneak in a dessert.

This photo shows you the scale of the place.

I started with sushi.

In casinos, everything is big, including the lemons.

My next stop was the Italian bar for some pizza and salad.

Onto the highlight of the meal, the BBQ station. This plate has salmon (a nice surprise), roast beef, a rib, and some brisket.

The Oktoberfest station was a seasonal treat. I had some sausage, sauerkraut, tomato salad, and chopped salad.

I wound things up with a slice of cheesecake; I also snuck in a piece of chocolate cake. The cheesecake was my favored dessert.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Flowery Branch: Fini's Pizzeria

Fini's is a delightful surprise on I-985. It's located in the mall near the highway in Flowery Branch. The menu and atmosphere are that of the kinds of restaurants I used to eat at in New Jersey. In the Northeast, many pizzerias also offer a full menu and table service in a homey atmosphere. The owners, as it turns out, are from Italy. Italian-American food culture is distinct from Italian food. I suspect that the owners made a stop in the Northeast before moving down here. The staff was very helpful and friendly.

I forgot to take a photo of my salad. It was very fresh with non-iceberg lettuce, vegetables, and nice little tomatoes. The oil and vinegar dressing was light and refreshing.

My server also brought out some bread knots with sauce. The sauce was very good; it nicely balanced sweetness and tartness.

Here is my eggplant parmesan. The eggplant was very tender on the inside. The crust was nice and crunchy. The portions were very neatly cut and coated. I used my sauce from the knots on top. This was a very satisfying meal. I will make this a frequent stop on my trips to the mountains.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

East Point: This Is It!

Debbie and I caught up over a very enjoyable dinner at This Is It! in East Point. The food was quite good and the service was extremely gracious. The restaurant has a long history going back to Miami in the 1950's.

The service is cafeteria style. Some of the dishes, such as the catfish, are cooked to order and brought to your table.

Debbie ordered the fried catfish. I was able to sample it---moist on the inside, crispy on the outside.

The restaurant's motto is "It's the Rib Tips!" so that's what I ordered, along with hot sauce. They were tender and meaty. The greens were delicious, tender but not over-cooked. The sweet potato was rich with butter and brown sugar.

We sampled two desserts. The banana pudding was classically good. The banana flavor came through well. The vanilla wafers at the bottom were moist and fun. The sweet potato pie was moist, just rich enough, and very nicely spiced.

Decatur: Golden Drops American and Latin Coffee Bar

Golden Drops is the latest establishment to occupy the old Arby's chuckwagon on Clairmont just south of North Druid Hills. It's a charming little coffee house with tasty baked items, something you can't always say about a coffee house.

The original Arby's floor is still intact after all these years.

This is the big pastry case; another smaller case was on the counter. Most of the items are interesting-looking South American items. I also noticed kibbe in there.

Here is my cappuccino, beautiful as well as tasty. I also was able to sample a carrot cake with a chocolate filling. It was deliciously most.

Big Baking Weekend

I spent a lot of time over the weekend baking. Two items were noteworthy, each a notable addition to breakfast.

I made a German chocolate cake for the first time. For the cake, I used the chocolate pound cake recipe in the King Arthur cookbook. It turned out to be a great cake overall and perfect for this application: dense and rich. I also used King Arthur's recipe for the icing. Many recipes skimp with brown sugar; King Arthur calls for caramel. I looked at caramels at the store. They seem to be an endangered species. The ones I finally found were relatively expensive. So I made my own caramel, to which I added cream and ultimately the coconut. The result was superbly rich and flavorful.

I also made a banana cream pie. I made my own crust out of pie dough that I blind baked. I then made a bit of chocolate ganache to cover the inside of the crust. That thin coating is just the right amount of chocolate to accent the pie; it also provides a moisture barrier to keep the crust crispy. I then made the pudding and spooned it over the bananas. Delicious.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Clarkesville GA: Harvest Habersham Restaurant

I greatly enjoyed my meal at Harvest Habersham; it was well worth the hour drive from Atlanta. The restaurant specializes in farm-to-table cooking, with a large map at the entrance to show the locations of their farmers from around the state. The interior is decorated much like an upscale but welcoming home, with big, comfortable chairs and solid wood tables. The staff's very courteous service does much to make one feel at home.

I started with a cucumber and onion soup. Rather than mix cream into the soup, it featured a dollop of sour cream in the middle. This allowed the soup to remain light and show off the ingredients while still allowing me to spoon in some richness. The flavors of the vegetables really came through nicely. Cucumbers must be in season; they featured in several other dishes as well.

My main course was trout coated with cornmeal. This dish displayed an impressive balance---the trout was perfectly cooked, moist and tender, while the cornmeal coating was perfectly crisp. Underneath was a composition of potatoes, cucumber, and a few greens. I wasn't sure to expect but I thought that all the flavors worked together extremely well, not to mention the textures.

I was very impressed with Harvest Habersham. I intend to return.

Clarkesville GA: Java Joe's

I stumbled across Clarkesville on a detour off US 23. It's position just off the highway allows it to be pretty and unrushed, with a nice town square on top of a hill. This exhibit just behind the square shows an early cabin. The town seems to be quite prosperous, probably buoyed by retirees who enjoy the mountains. It offers quite a few restaurants to be explored.

Java Joe's is across from the theater in an attractive, old storefront. The interior offers comfy furniture and board games. After ordering my latte, I went up to the front to enjoy the view out the windows. The proprietor graciously brought me this huge mug of smooth coffee. I sat back, sipped, and enjoyed the beautiful afternoon.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Clermont GA: Mountain Fresh Creamery

Mountain Fresh Creamery is on the road to Cleveland (Georgia, not Ohio). It's the outlet of a local dairy farm. Their store sells milk, butter, etc. They also have an ice cream stand. The line was a dozen people long as I pulled out of the parking lot. You can see their fiberglass cow next to the sign; just to the left of the cow is a nice set of shaded picnic tables at which you can enjoy your ice cream and the beautiful views.

I ordered salted caramel ice cream. Boy, was it good. Not only was it rich and creamy, it also tasted like milk. Not only is their milk fresh, they use low-temperature pasteurization, which I'm sure helps preserve the taste. I also bought a block of smoked white cheddar to take home; I look forward to some wonderful bowls of macaroni and cheese.