Sunday, June 25, 2017

Update: LT Organic Farm and Restaurant

I posted an entry on LT Organic after my last visit two years ago. I am posting again because this place is seriously underhyped. The term farm-to-table does not do it justice---your table is in the middle of the farm. The dining room's picture window looks out over this peaceful scene. Every aspect of this family-run enterprise contributes to inner peace: the beautiful place, the delicious and easy-to-digest food, the gracious service.

Here is the menu for the evening: some chicken, wonderful vegetables, and wonderful spices and flavors from both India and South America.

Here is my palte. The chicken is underneath the sautéed spinach and coconut, with rice below that. One of the reasons this place is so peaceful is that everything is perfectly cooked. The meat and vegetables are soft enough to be very easy on your system yet still retain texture and flavor. You can work your way around the plate and find an amazing variety of tastes.

I couldn't resist dessert and was able to taste both. The cupcake was very moist and rich. The cheesecake was rich and dense. They were perfectly sized, just enough to give me a satisfying end to a wonderful meal.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Des Moines: George the Chili King

I finally made it to George the Chili King and I'm really glad I did. It sits at the edge of the Merle Hay neighborhood, low-key but ever present. It is an honest-to-goodness drive-in, complete with "turn on lights for car service" sign. Because I was in a bit of a rush, I went in to order my food and brought it back to the car.

I just needed a small snack so I ordered a cup of chili. This is classic thin chili, the type made to go with hot dogs and burgers. It has the perfect cumin flavor that this type of chili calls for. And when they pulled out a bag and carefully loaded it with oyster crackers, I knew they cared about their chili. This is great food made by nice people. My next visit will be to eat a coney dog loaded with that wonderful chili.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Oh, dear reader, I must report grave and serious events. These events occurred at the Red Lobster in West Des Moines, Iowa. The nature of these was unfortunate to experience and sad to remember. Beware, dear reader! Now that the homage to Lemony Snicket is over, let me explain why I was in Red Lobster. We had limited choices in the neighborhood and Mom likes seafood. Red Lobster was actually an important force to introduce seafood to Americans who knew only fish sticks. Mom has fond memories. I ordered the blackened salmon. (Perhaps you think blackening is an insult to good fish. All I can say is that I enjoy blackened fish every once in awhile.) The server asked if I wanted the small or large portion and I replied large. The other meals came in good order. My dish, however, had a small piece of salmon and a heap of shrimp with sauce. Our server explained that this was a New Orleans style. I reminded her that I had ordered the large piece of salmon. She asked me if I wanted to eat the dish she brought out instead. I reminded her that no, I did not. She took it back. A moment later, a manager appeared and tried to convince me to eat their mistake. I declined. Then I waited and waited. Once everyone else was close to finishing their meals, I explained to our server that if my dish did not arrive soon, I would cancel my order and eat down the street. A few minutes later, she came back to explain that my dish was not yet ready. I cancelled my order and asked for our check. A couple of minutes later, another manager appeared with a long story. I reminded him that I simply wanted my check. He eventually brought it and I gave him sufficient cash to require change. He took some time to return. When he did, he did not directly hand me my change but instead launched into a story. I asked him for the check. When I received it, I took my change and left. Mistakes do happen. But asking a customer to eat your mistake is not good restauranting. Repeatedly doing so over several layers of management compounds the error. Is it any surprise that the Red Lobster chain is in difficult circumstances?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Pella IA

Pella is aobut 45 minutes southeast of Des Moines. It is a cute town with a strong Dutch heritage as you can see from this monument to flowers in the town square. It is also the home of Pella windows.

The Dutch are the carb kings---chocolate, baked goods, pancakes, they do it all. I sampled the wares of a local bakery and chocolate shop while I was in town. The bakery bills itself as "the other bakery on the square" having been there for only 120 years; the chocolate shop is new.

This is a Dutch letter, something that I hadn't noticed before but is common in Iowa. It has a flaky pastry and is filled with almond paste. This one had a nice, strong almond flavor and was very enjoyable.

I waited until evening to try these dark chocolate caramels. They were sweet and creamy and nicely chocolate.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Des Moines: Strudl Haus

My sister recommended Strudl Haus for its great breakfast pastries. It turns out to be a full service restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The décor and atmosphere are what you would expect in an elegant European restaurant. They hearken back to a day in which eating out was an occasional special event, not a thrice-daily habit. The chef seems to be Austrian, although I could be wrong.

They certainly do have a tantalizing array of pastries. I suspect that they serve breakfast in part because they are busy making pastries and breads for the rest of the day.

My coffee was served on this elegant tray.

Here are a selection of pastries that I was able to try: apple, vanilla, and apple strudel. The flaky crust was superb. The filling on the strudel was very apple-y, not overly sweet.

But the pastries were only a starter. For my main dish, I ordered an omelet with sausage. It came with this delicious roll and spreads. It also came with a glass of apple juice. The omelet was very tender. The sausage was wonderfully porky and just spicy enough to give the dish a good zing. The combination was outstanding. The service was very elegant and welcoming. My breakfast was a wonderful experience and I look forward to dinner on some other evening.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Des Moines: Classic Frozen Custard

My brother-in-law suggested that I try this frozen custard stand. He couldn't remember their name but their ice cream left a strong impression. The stand is simple and classic, with tables outside, a walkup window, and a drive-thru window. It's a great place to spend a summer afternoon.

And my lemon custard was superb. You don't find this flavor every day so I always jump at the chance to have some. The custard was rich and creamy. The lemon flavor was smooth. I can see why my brother-in-law drives across town for this treat.

West Des Moines IA: Nan's Nummies

West Des Moines has a well-preserved downtown, filled with cute little shops. I stopped by Nan's Nummies for a treat and a rest.

As you can see, they stock a wide variety of treats, all in an old-fashioned décor.

I went for this kettle corn, coated with just a taste of sugar. The popcorn was very fresh and flavorful. A nice treat for a summer afternoon.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Des Moines IA: Breakfast at Perkins

Perkins is a long-running Midwestern chain restaurant. THeir original name, Perkins Cake 'n Steak, suggests their emphasis on breakfast. I ordered a frittata, which came with a healthy dose of vegetables.

Since it was Pie Society Monday, I also received a free slice of pie. Here is my cherry pie, which was the perfect way to wrap up breakfast.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Mt. Pleasant IA: Panda Kitchen

Mt. Pleasant is in southeast Iowa. It is an hour from the Interstate and best known for its thresher museum. But it has at least three Chinese restaurants and a Chinese grocery store. Who knew? All I know is that I enjoyed and appreciated my meal there. The décor included a large Chinese mural and an impressive Chinese sword.

Here is my hot and sour soup. As you can see, it was served on the official Chinese zodiac placemat, fresh from the printing press beneath Cheyenne Mountain that supplies all Chinese restaurants.

And here are my mixed vegetables; I ate the egg roll before I took this photo. The vegetables were fresh and hearty. This was a lunch special, which the restaurant offers seven days a week, so the meal was a good value. Thank you!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Clayton MO: Kolache Factory

Kolache Factory is a chain of Polish bakeries. I visited one housed in a repurposed Dunkin Donuts, and Kolache Factory continues the emphasis on breakfast pastries. But they serve both savory and sweet kolaches, making for a nice variety.

These are savory kolaches with eggs and cheese. I didn't have a chance to try them but I got a good report.

I concentrated on this apricot colache. The bread is eggy and fairly rich but not overpowering. The apricot filling was dense and fruity. The kolache was a sweet, handy treat for the car. I can see the attraction of these little treats.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Clayton MO: Red Pepper

A trip to St. Louis gave me a chance to catch up with my former student Jason Fritts. He is well-known for his work in multimedia computing so this is a joint blog post with my embedded computing blog. ALl you nerds out there can follow this link.

Red Pepper is a salad and pizza place with emphasis on custom. I was too hungry after the day's drive to take a photo of my salad, but it was tasty. I went with a simple Caesar salad but they can put together just about anything. The pizzas are individually sized and pretty good. This is my veggie pizza with a nice crust and very fresh vegetables.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Anadama Bread

I bake a loaf of bread each week. I occasionally go wild and crazy with something different but I usually bake either 100% whole wheat or anadama. Anadama, like most recipes, has variants, but it combines corn meal, some other grain, plus white flour. It also uses molasses to sweeten the bread. I use King Arthur Flour's recipe but many other recipes are available.

The cornmeal is prepped by soaking it in hot water for a few minutes. Here they are along with the molasses, butter, and salt.

After the cornmeal has had a chance to soften, everything else goes in. I modified King Arthur's recipe by using rye flour instead of white whole wheat.

Here is the loaf ready to go into the oven.

Here it is hot out of the oven.

And here is the heel, ready to eat. I love cornmeal in just about anything and I love how molasses and cornmeal play together here. The rye gives a nice touch of complexity. The result is great on its own or as the basis for a superb French toast.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Eating Around Georgia Tech: Touch

I enjoyed my lunch at Touch Mix, located on 14th Street near Georgia Tech. Lunch is a buffet. The food was very nicely spiced and the service was very friendly and welcoming.

I concentrated on the veggie items but the buffet does have a good selection of meat dishes. The red beans were good enough to motivate me to go back for seconds. Their spices grow on you slowly but leave a warm, gentle buzz in your mouth.

Naan is delivered to the table and was very good.

For dessert, I tasted the rice pudding. It had a comforting, velvety richness without being too sweet.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Coco Cabana

Coco Cabana is a restaurant and entertainment venue in Northlake. As you can see, they have a large dance floor; I arrived too early to see the action. They also serve a full menu of meals. I thoroughly enjoyed mine.

I was able to sample from two meals, including this mofongo. That's a plate of rice and beans in the back. Up front is the mofomo: chunks of pork, plantains, and chicharrones. I ate the pork chunks with gusto. The plantains were hearty. The chiccarones were tasty and gave a nice texture complement.

I also was able to sample this pork with onions. Once again, the pork was tasty. The rice and beans were quite good and a somewhat different presentation than I'm used to, with more emphasis on the rice. I really enjoyed the potatoes and onions, a very hearty complement.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Breakfast at The General Muir

I decided that this week deserved a special kickoff. So I headed to The General Muir, across from CDC, for breakfast. The space is ideal for an elegant, restful breakfast with plenty of light and space. My service was very gracious.

I ordered two items. The omelet was very different from the standard diner omelet. The omelet itself was thick, fluffy, and light. The cream cheese filling was equally light and airy. I was initially wary of lettuce for breakfast but once I tried it I really enjoyed it. The Bibb lettuce was a perfect textural complement to the fluffy eggs; the light dressing with a hint of lemon was elegant.

The other dish was a side of schmaltz potatoes, schmaltz being chicken fat. The potatoes weren't quite as Maillard-ish as I had hoped, given the promise of frying in chicken fat. I found that their taste was dominated by the starch. But some onion and red pepper provided a nice complement.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Birmingham AL: Top Top Grill

I ran across Tip Top Grill on an earlier trip to Birmingham and made a note to return. I'm glad I did. It sits atop a ridge that overlooks what used to be historic iron ore mines and is now the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. The view is spectacular and the food is a perfect complement to a sunny day.

Here is my hot dog, which was ready seconds after I ordered it. It features mustard, slaw, and onions (and maybe something else). The hotdog was classically good. The condiments gave a wonderfully rich flavor and texture---rich, mildly savory.

The fried food took a couple of minutes. It arrived blistering hot. A few minutes cooling proved it to be very tasty. I was able to try the fries, which had a mild coating on them and were hard to resist.