Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fruit Preserves

I have finished my fruit preserves. I have 30 pints of peach preserves at a cost of about $1.50 per pint; I also saved peaches for four pies. I also have 27 pints of strawberry preserves at a cost of about $1.25 per pint. These are all low-sugar preserves. All this took me over two weeks of steady work, first prepping the fruit and storing it in the freezer, then steadily canning it batch by batch. Some of this will be given away as gifts, the rest will keep me going until next spring. I use preserves almost every day. I may have overdone it a little bit this year but I do make good use of them. When I give them away, I counsel my friends to not open the jar right away but to wait for a cold winter's day to brighten things up.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Decatur: First Watch

First Watch is in the white-hot Scott Avenue area of Decatur. They specialize in breakfast and lunch. This is their first location in this part of town that I know of. The space is decorated in a country motif.

Here is my veggie omelet, which was rich and creamy. The potatoes were wonderfully brown on the outside and soft on the inside. The bread came with a thick coating of butter but my server very graciously replaced it with a dry slice. The multigrain bread turned out to be excellent.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Decatur: Honest

Honest is the latest restaurant in Patel Plaza. The menu is vegetarian and based on South Indian dishes. The walls are adorned with photos of the company's beginnings as a street food cart in India. The staff was very friendly and helpful.

My lunch was an onion chili uttapam. The red onion on a flat bread reminded me a little of certain pizzas that use red onion. I am not sure of the name of the light green sauce but it is always my favorite. This was a very good, hearty meal. You don't have to be Indian to have your belly warmed and your mind calmed by Indian comfort food.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Chamblee: Lan Zhou Ramen

Lan Zhou Ramen is one of the new crop of restaurants on Buford Highway. The space is large and a little dark; the service is very friendly and accommodating. Lan Zhou is the city that originated hand-stretched noodles. A window in the kitchen allows everyone to see one of the cooks stretching noodles. He must keep pretty busy given the crowd.

Here is the amuse bouche, pickled radish and carrot. I always love these pickled vegetables.

I of course had to try a noodle dish. I had my choice of soup or fried and I chose the pork noodle soup. The noodles had that wonderful chewy texture that you get only with lan zhou noodles. The pork and broth were both very good.

I didn't get a chance to sample these meatballs but they looked very good.

The scallion pancake is always a fun snack. It goes particularly well with soup as a textural contrast.

The owner suggested these Shanghai-style dumplings and they didn't disappoint. The filling is pork. The outside is moist but with just a bit of crispiness and seeds for extra texture.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Columbus GA: Fountain City Coffee

I stopped by Fountain City Coffee to relax with an espresso. The establishment's name refers to the fact that Columbus is the birthplace of Coca-Cola; they naturally pay homage with Coca-Cola umbrellas outside.

Inside, the atmosphere is quiet, calm, artistic, and slightly eccentric. The back wall is adorned with a giant portrait of Klaus Kinski as Aguirre.

These folks roast their own beans. My double espresso was very smooth and refreshing.

The street outside the coffee house is nice, low-key fun. The historic opera house and part of Columbus State University are in the neighborhood. Columbus seems to have always exhibited the pleasant eccentricities of small towns, ones that are all too often steamrollered out by modernization. This fountain is known as the "Man and Beast fountain." The bottom bowl is for dogs, the middle bowl for horses, and the top bowl for people. Those were easier days when such different creatures could co-exist peacefully...

Friday, May 26, 2017

Columbus GA: Minnie's Uptown Restaurant

Today was a beautiful day, perfect for a drive to Columbus. And it was a perfect day for a very nice lunch at Minnie's Uptown Restaurant, paradoxically located south of downtown in the residential historic district. Its beautiful tree-lined streets convey peace and contentment.

Saturday is fried catfish day, so of course that is what I ordered. The catfish was excellent. The meat was tender, moist, and sweet with not a hint of fishiness. The crust was light and crispy, giving a good texture contrast. The greens were very good, the black eyed peas were excellent. That is a corncake on the plate, a traditional Southern variation on cornbread. It was delicious and delightfully salty.

I apologize for the partial portrait, but this is what was left of my fried peach pie when I remembered to take a photo. The fried pie is well-known from the golden arches but its roots are in the South. This one was pretty good but I think that it could have stood a minute or two more in the fryer to crisp up the crust. But overall, this was an excellent, enjoyable, and relaxing meal with extremely gracious service.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Prepping Peaches

Now that I have bought all those peaches, I need to prep them for canning.

I put the peaches into hot water for a few minutes until their skins are loose. The water is steaming but not boiling. About five minutes is usually enough.

Once I pull them out, I take off the skins quickly to help them cool more quickly. After a few minutes, when they are cool enough to handle, I pit them and cut the flesh into pieces.

I then put them into a plastic bag along with a little sugar to absorb the peaches' water. I can freeze the bag until I have a little more time to cook and can the preserves.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lane Southern Orchards

My quest for peaches took me to Lane Southern Orchards. I visited them last year so I knew that I had to sample their peach cobbler once again. The smell hooks you as soon as you walk in the door.

They do also have peaches so I picked up a box, equal to a half bushel. They were still firm so I let them sit for a couple of days before prepping them for preserves.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Thomaston GA: Slices

Fruit shopping expeditions require fuel. I refueled with a very nice lunch at Slices in Thomaston, across the street from the county courthouse. This is a family-run place with very gracious service. The owner also told me that her husband made sure that the restaurant was easy to navigate for people in wheelchairs.

These fried green tomatoes were great. They had been thinly sliced, lightly breaded, and kissed with just a little bit of gorgonzola or similar cheese. The cheese provided the perfect bite to set off the tomatoes.

This is a mostly veggie pizza with some chicken for variety. the pizza was a little light on sauce, leaning toward a white pizza, but very good. The vegetables were plentiful; I particularly liked the twang of the green olives.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Fitzgerald Fruit Farms

The primary goal of my farm tour was to look for peaches. That's why I went to Fitzgerald, whose signature crop is peaches. This year's peach crop was badly damaged by frost earlier this year, but Fitzgerald did have some in stock. Their farm is at the end of the road. A beautiful cabana sits in the middle of their fields. Several people sat in the shade and chatted. They have a small kitchen, but they were out of strawberry shortcake for my visit.

I bought this half box of small peaches, which equals a quarter bushel. A taste after I made it home showed them to be very flavorful. Since they are destined for preserves, the cosmetics don't matter.

I also scored a bargain on this half gallon bucket of strawberries. The staff told me that I should do something with them right away, so I topped and froze them as soon as I got home. They will also make great preserves.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Moreland GA: Eight Oaks Farm

As part of my effort to better appreciate Georgia agriculture, I took a road trip through middle Georgia. My first stop was Eight Oaks Farm in Moreland. After driving down a pretty side road for a mile or two, guided by signs with strawberries on them, I found the farm with the stand right at its edge. The owner explained that they have pick-your-own strawberries as well as fresh-picked strawberries and other vegetables. I bought a box of strawberries that will reside on top of my pancakes in the morning. I also bought some nice looking zucchini that will grace some future lasagna.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Tandoori Chicken Pot Pie

I plan my meals way, way too far in advance. My only consolation is that every once in awhile, too much thinking about food pays off. In this case, two plans collided to create an interesting new variation. On the one hand, I decided to make chicken pot pie on Friday. That meant picking up some chicken. On the other hand, I visited an Indian restaurant and left with some leftover chicken tikka. Eventually, these two ideas combined: I didn't have to buy more chicken, nor did I have to freeze the chicken tikka for some unspecified future meal. I could put the two together.

Here is the filling just before I topped it with the crust. I made a roux using some chicken broth I had canned a few months ago along with some cream and milk. I added as vegetables onion, a diced potato, some diamond-cut carrots, mushrooms, and some frozen mixed vegetables. At the last minute I added the chicken tikka. I added the usual chicken herbs.

Here it is just out of the oven.

And here is my portion ready to eat. I wasn't sure if the tikka flavor would come through but it certainly did. I am very happy with the cross-cultural combination. One could clearly make an Indian chicken pot pie with all sorts of interesting spices; I might just do that soon. But the tikka also enriches a traditional American hearty meal, too.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Star Provisions

I visited Star Provisions' beautiful new digs for lunch. They opened here about two months ago. The new building is much more spacious than the old building and filled with natural light. The staff seems very happy there and I can see why.

Unfortunately, they stopped serving their quiches. At least that caused me to branch out a little and try something new. This is a proscuitto sandwich. The meat was, of course, flavorful and with a wonderful texture that allows for delectably thin slices. The bread was oustanding: crunch on the outside, chewy on the inside. It was coated with a thin spread of butter with a great dairy taste. The little salad included a thin coating of oil and vinegar and gave just enough balance in texture and taste.

I saved the chocolate biscotti for later. It had a nice, mid-range texture between soft and brittle.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake

I've made this chocolate buttermilk pound cake several times lately. This cake started as a way to use up buttermilk that I had purchased for pancakes but it has taken on a life of its own. I started with this recipe from Allrecipes and added three tablespoons of cocoa. It doesn't need any icing to be enjoyed. Like all pound cakes, it is very portable---it makes the perfect snack for a car trip. The sour note of the buttermilk goes amazingly well with the bitter note of the cocoa. Don't worry, this cake has plenty of sugar, butter, and eggs to smooth things out.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hankook Taqueria

Hankook Taqueria is on Collier Road in Underwood Hills, in that funny industrial section wedged up against the edge of Buckhead. It is a small building next to the train tracks. The parking lot was very, very full when I arrived. Inside, the atmosphere was bustling and efficient. The owners were up front taking care of customers. The food they serve is excellent and it is easy to see why they have so much business.

Here is my tofu taco. I enjoyed the sauce and the lime slice gave it a very nice little bite. The tortilla was very fresh.

The real star of the show was this order of sweet potatoes. They were breaded and fried, then served with aioli spiked with hot sauce. They were steaming hot when they plunked down on my table---just out of the fryer. They were addictively good. I kept telling myself that the heart attack would be worth it. The breading was fluffy. The sauce was the perfect complement in both texture and taste. Wow---what a fun and satisfying dish.

Monday, May 15, 2017

R. Thomas

I decided to celebrate the re-opening of I-85 with breakfast at R. Thomas. It is located on Peachtree next to Sufi's. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day.

The restaurant entrance is guarded by this large and impressive collection of birds. The owner clearly loves his birds and they seem to enjoy themselves. I heard them chattering as I ate my breakfast inside. As I left, I said "hello". One of the birds replied with a "hello" of his own.

This is my veggie omelet, which was quite tasty. Zucchini is one of the ingredients, which works very well for omelets. It can be sliced thinly for easier handling both by the chef and by the eater. Those are cinnamon sweet potatoes on the side, a great idea.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Columbia SC: Ray's Diner

I visited Ray's for a hearty and tasty breakfast. It is located next to an auto parts store. I visited on a weekend but I suspect that it draws a hardworking crowd on weekdays. The space is large and open. The service was very welcoming.

This is my veggie omelet, which comes with cheese. The vegetables were hearty and generous: broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. The omelet itself was very nicely cooked. The cheese melted to give a hearty heft to it. The home fries were very good. The biscuit, of the beaten variety, was also very good.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Hemingway SC: Scott's BBQ

Scott's BBQ is widely considered to be one of the top BBQ restaurants in the country; some consider it the best. The pitmaster specializes in whole hog BBQ, although they also serve chicken. I was in the mood for adventure, so I climbed into the car in the morning and drove most of the day to get here. It is located at a country crossroads. Given the national reputation, I expected the patrons to be more touristy, but many seemed to be locals. But hey, if I lived here, I would eat here regularly myself. I didn't get a chance to look at the pit out back. Inside is a country store with a few tables. The walls are adorned with photos of the Obamas, a variety of stars, and BBQ awards. The ladies who run the store are very, very nice.

This is the first time I've seen a whole hog on the menu. That price seems pretty reasonable. But I wasn't quite that hungry so I ordered a BBQ plate plus a bag of pork rinds.

The rinds were great, with superb crunch and great flavor.

Here is the complete package. Below the bread are a fork, cole slaw, and beans. The cole slaw was good. The beans were perhaps the best I've had at a BBQ place. They weren't overpowered with sugar. The two flavors that came through very clearly were the richness of the beans and the pork.

And here is the pork. It was superb, well worth the trip. Most pulled pork ends up at least a little dry. This meat was moist and flavorful, a real joy to eat. I first ate some as-is, then added the sauce, which is a thin vinegar sauce. The sauce looks innocuous enough but it makes itself known with a nice finish. I really enjoyed it.

The pork was so good that I went back for ribs. I don't think that I've ever had ribs from a whole hog before. I think it gives a superior experience. Ribs that have been butchered are cooked very evenly, giving a uniform experience around the rack. In the hog, some parts come out crunch, other ribs softer. I really enjoy the variety of textures and flavors.

Scott's definitely lives up to its large reputation. I won't be here every week, but I will come back.