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Showing posts from February, 2018

DCA: Cava Mezze Grill

Cava is a DC area chain with light Mediterranean food. Saibal encouraged me to try lunch at their airport location and I was very happy with the experience. I ordered falafel on SuperSalad with assorted other toppings. The falafel was tasty. The SuperSalad was light, flavorful, and very easy to eat. Overall, a healthy and enjoyable lunch, something you can't always say about airport eating.

Athens GA: Savannah Room

My University of Georgia colleagues took me to a wonderful lunch at the Savannah Room in the UGA Hotel and Conference Center. The service was very good and the room was the perfect spot to discuss work and academic life. Lunch started with a delivery of rolls; when we demolished this first basket, another promptly appeared. Each basked offered a variety of rolls. I went for one with a soft, pillowy texture. Next, we shared this huge cheese plate. All of the three cheeses were outstanding. I always enjoy a good blue and this one definitely caught my attention. The plate also showed off Georgia peanuts, Georgia pecans, and a small slice of Georgia honeycomb. My main course was the excellent mahi mahi on a bed of kale and quinoa. The fish was great and the quinoa bed really hit the spot. I had to try the room's famous strawberry ice cream pie. Everything about it was outstanding, starting with the homemade, flaky crust. The pie itself is made of a very rich ice c…

Asheville NC: Moose Cafe

Moose Cafe is a gem located at the entrance to Asheville's Farmers Market, one of those serious, wholesale truck farm markets that draw food nerds like magnets. Moose Cafe clearly takes advantage of the ingredients brought to their door; I'm sure they also reach out to other local purveyors for items that may not come through the gates of the market. They list several local partners, for example, for their meats. The large restaurant was very busy. My server was very friendly and efficient. The manager explained that they open their doors at 7 AM seven days a week. They clearly take their work ethic seriously. Breakfast started with this superb biscuit and outstanding applesauce. The biscuit was tender and the size of my not-inconsiderable palm. The applesauce was clearly homemade and full of apple flavor. The menu contains a number of breakfast items. But I chose the all-you-can-eat breakfast, so big I couldn't show it all in one photo. The scrambled eggs…

Asheville: Afternoon Tea at the Biltmore Inn

The Biltmore Inn is part of the Biltmore Estate, located perhaps a half mile as the crow files from the original mansion. The service at the inn is modeled on what the Vanderbilts would have given their guests. The service has a bit of a Southern twist---I've never heard "my dear" so many times in one afternoon. As you can see, the view was beautiful. The service started with tea and this amuse bouche. Everything went by quickly but I believe that the treat was topped with a pate. I also managed to miss a shot of the tea service. Rest assured that it was exquisite. Each guest has his or her own pot, with water frequently refreshed. Tea is served with lemon, sugar cubes, and honey. The cheese course offered three different types of cheese each with its own preparation. The cheddar on the bottom was paired with a wonderful mustard sauce. The savory course included a broad range of items that went well beyond the traditional English finger sandwiches. My…

Arden NC: 12 Bones

I took my chance to visit the new 12 Bones location in Arden, near the Asheville airport. The space is a little larger than their original location. The staff is just as friendly. And the BBQ is just as good. I kept my order simple: the naked half rack, just ribs and rub. This presentation allowed me to enjoy the ham flavor of the ribs, something that is often overwhelmed by sauce. The texture was just toothy enough. A very satisfying meal.

Yellow Cupcakes With Chocolate Buttercream Icing

Have a dozen too many eggs? Perhaps a pound-and-a-half of butter is clogging your refrigerator? Why not let these ingredients clog your arteries instead? Just make them into cupcakes with buttercream icing. I used the yellow cake recipe from the King Arthur cookbook. First, I creamed the sugar and butter. I then incorporated the eggs (four, plus two yolks) and flour. For the liquid, I used some buttermilk I had in the refrigerator. I loaded the batter into cupcake cups... ...and twenty minutes later I had cupcakes. The icing was based on the neoclassic buttercream from The Cake Bible. I boiled a combination of sugar and corn syrup. I beat a half-dozen egg yolks to a lemony yellow. I then beat the boiling syrup into the eggs using my trusty hand mixer. After adding the butter and some baking chocolate, I had this rich, glossy icing. I let the cupcakes cool for a little while, then I applied the icing. The next morning, I used those eight egg whites fo…

Simple Tools Are The Answer, Even If They Are Unitaskers

My next post will be about the project that inspired this post. Today, I am here to talk about kitchen tools, not foodstuffs. I was brought up with lots of hands-on experience with lots of tasks. Along the way, I was taught two guiding principles: use the right tool for the job, and do things simply. On their face, these rules might seem contradictory. In fact, they are complementary. Not only is making a task overly complicated a waste of effort, it often leads to worse results. But using the wrong tool leads to inefficiency as well. The goal is to find the balance between simplicity and appropriateness. In the shop, sometimes we used the Bridgeport mill, and occasionally we used our fists. (Trust me, the fist is a valuable diagnostic tool. I earned my first money in electronics by using my fist to diagnose an intermittent connection.) In the kitchen, sometimes we used the Kitchenaid mixer and sometimes we used our hands. The photo at the top of this post illustrates t…

Beef Stew Redux

I decided to make another attempt at beef stew, this time without the slow cooker. I started by browning some onions along with bacon. I had marinated the beef in red wine. It went into the dutch oven along with the onions, bacon, beef stock, and chicken stock. The dutch oven went into the oven, lid ajar, for about two hours. After the beef had cooked for awhile, I added an assortment of vegetables: chunks of carrot, turnip, parsnip, pearl onions, okra, and green beans. Another hour of cooking and I had enough stew for several evenings.

Hummus

Hummus is one of those things that tastes so much better fresher. I make it every once in awhile for a lunch treat. I started with dried chickpeas that I first soaked for an hour or so, then cooked for another two hours until tender. Into the blender they went. I typically use my own cheat as a substitute for tahini---I add sesame seeds and some sesame oil directly to the hummus. The blender helps to pulverize the seeds. I will admit that some seeds remain whole; this is not a perfect solution. For my next batch, I will try blending the seeds and oil by themselves to see if the isolation treatment pulverizes them more thoroughly. Here it is churning away in the blender. After about a minute, I had what you saw at the start of the article. I made a loaf of whole wheat bread to accompany it---delicious.

Banana Pudding

I've been thinking about banana pudding for awhile. When I decided to make a batch, I thought about skipping the vanilla cookies entirely but I ultimately came to my senses. I went all the way and made my own cookies. I based my vanilla cookies on the sugar cookie recipe from the King Arthur cookbook but with some substitutions: butter for the shortening and heavy cream for the buttermilk. The result was a spheroid cookie that was also pretty dense. The heavy cream was a little too thick for this purpose and didn't let the cookie flatten out in the oven. I thought about making another batch with something a little thinner but I ultimately decided to use them in the pudding. For the pudding, I used the recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook substituting heavy cream for milk. I heated the cream and sugar, then used it to temper the egg yolks. I cooked the cream, egg yolks, butter, and cornstarch until thick. When it was ready, I coated the bottom …

Rustic Bread

I wanted some crusty, hearty bread to go with my soup. This is the result, let's see how I got there. I started with the basic hearth bread recipe from The Bread Bible. It starts with a poolsh made from flour, water, and a little yeast. I mixed those ingredients together in the bread machine and let them sit for a little while. Next, I added the rest of the ingredients---mostly flour---and let the machine do its magic. After the bread machine's two rounds of rising, I put the dough into my dutch oven and stored it in the refrigerator overnight for a final slow rise. The next day, the bread had about doubled in size, not bad for a refrigerator rise. I baked it with the lid on to keep the bread steaming and crisp up the crust. The result was beautiful and tasted good, too.

Tucker: Southern Seafood

Southern Seafood, located in the Happy Stores strip mall on Lawrenceville Highway, is a neighborhood stalwart. I have bought fresh fish there a few times but this trip was my chance to try their steamed seafood. The setup is simple---watch the monitor for the menu to come up, figure out what you want, step up to the cash register and order. I spent longer than usual deciding since the menu kept being swallowed up by animated graphics. I finally chose a pound of spicy crayfish and a piece of spicy corn. The proprietors used a scoop to load a plastic bag with my crayfish out of a giant vat. The corn came in a styrofoam box. It's really that simple. The price was very low. The store has a couple of long tables but both were filled by other customers. I went outside to my car to eat. There is only one way to eat this---get busy. I grabbed a crayfish, broke it open, and worked out some flesh. It was very good: meaty, spicy enough to give my lips a tingle, a gentle seafo…

Potato Soup

Winter is soup season. Mom always loved potato soup as a special treat; she would make it occasionally and visit the Brown Palace in Denver just for their potato soup. Mom reminded me that she sometimes ate it for breakfast during the winter. I stuck mainly to the outlines of Alton Brown’s recipe although I used chicken stock rather than the vegetable variety. I also cheated by starting the potatoes in the microwave. I sliced the leeks and browned them in butter. I would normally use olive oil for browning but butter melds better with the flavors of this soup. I microwaved the potatoes and cut them up, skin and all. The skin contains many of the nutrients. Microwaving the potatoes saves time. I then added the chicken stock and cooked the soup for 10 or 15 minutes. I moved the mixture to the blender for smoothing. The result was something similar to mashed potatoes. I added buttermilk and heavy cream. I ended up adding a little more chicken stock as well. The result …