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Showing posts from March, 2011

Food Trucks: Yum Yum Cupcakes

I was walking down the street in Tech Square today and what do I see but a heretofore unknown food truck.  I love food trucks.   They usually have very good food, are pretty cheap, they offer the fun of discovery, and in many cases you can talk with the owner.  The kind lady who masterminds the Yum Yum cupcake truck told me that she has had a bakery for six years, started a cart last year, and opened up the truck this year. But let's get down to business---the cupcake.  I ordered a strawberry.  It was light in texture, very moist and cakey.  The large dollop of strawberry icing was rich but not overly so.  I know that I've railed against cupcakes before, but here's why I like this one: it's rich but not overly sweet; and I simply think the truck adds an element of fun.  In fact, I think that cupcake trucks fit nicely with my mom's tradition of feeding the neighborhood kids with her cookies and cupcakes. This is a nice addition to the cityscape.

The Cheesecake Experiment

I decided that this is my week to try baking a cheesecake.  It's one of those things that I never ate as a kid and learned to love in the Tri-State Area.  (Junior's in Brooklyn serves a truly amazing cheesecake.)  But there's always a first time for everything, including baking cheesecake. The name "cheesecake" pretty well describes what's in it: a whole bunch of cheese, some egg to bind it together, and a surprisingly small amount of sugar.  All too many cheesecakes use gelatin as a filler.  If you see even a hint of gelatin in your cheesecake, flee from it as quickly as you can.  The difference in taste and texture between a real cheesecake and a faux cheesecake is unmistakable. I started with Giada De Laurentis's cheesecake recipe on the Food Network site, but ended up making some changes.  Her recipe called for 4 1/2" springform pans, but I could only find an 8 1/2" springform.  Sizing up a baking recipe is always tricky. Doing it for a ty

Decatur: Sprig

Category: Local date-night-out spot. Verdict: Long on style, not as much substance as I had hoped. Sprig opened a few months ago on LaVista Road in the spot where Quinnie's used to be. One couldn't come up with a bigger change in atmosphere. Sprig is another buzzword-compliant Southern restaurant: local, organic,  etc. The decor is very nice. I sat outside where I had a nice view of a small stand of trees and could largely ignore the parking lot. I had high hopes for this restaurant, which was started by an up-and-coming chef who has attracted a fair amount of local attention. And while I think the place is good for a date night out, I didn't think the food was as exciting as it should have been. (Date night restaurant is, by the way, my term for a restaurant that is primarily designed for show, some place that puts more emphasis on the words on the menu and not enough time into executing what's on the plate.) This seems to be my week for cheese and chops.  I enjoyed

Eating Around Georgia Tech: Pacci

Category: Stylish midtown meeting restaurant. Summary: Good in a competent way. Pacci is in the stylish and relatively new Hotel Palomar.  (One of my colleagues stayed at the hotel and really enjoyed it, by the way.) The room itself is, quite frankly, a little overdesigned for my taste.  I think it looks like an interior decorator's attempt to emulate the sort of very stylized rooms that people in 1950's movies seemed to live in.  The entrance is wacky---the receptionist' podium is at a vestibule that no one uses, not near the bar where everyone enters from the hotel.  But these are minor qualms. I started with a cheese and meat plate, which turned out to be both very sumptuous and the hit of the meal.  Pacci allows you to choose the combination you want and provides both meats and cheeses. I tried a ham, a hard cheese, and a softer cheese. For my main course, I had the veal chop saltimbocca.  This is a big chop; it arrived with a very meaty aroma, which immediat

Decatur: Burnt Fork BBQ

Category: Definitely worth a stop, perhaps worth a drive. Summary: Juicy, tender, flavorful meat; friendly, welcoming atmosphere. Burnt Fork BBQ came into Decatur in stealth mode.  It's at Church and Commerce, around the corner from McDonald's.  I noticed a small sign the other day and just made it in.  The place is in a convenience store style location but it has been fully renovated.  We've seen a move toward buzzword compliance (organic/local/sustainable) to simple foods like burgers and BBQ.  Burnt Fork follows along those lines. As is increasingly common in BBQ, they make several different regional styles.  The atmosphere is very friendly and welcoming; one of the gals I spoke to said they have been open for about six weeks. I went for the brisket sandwich and some cole slaw.  The brisket was very tender with just a little bit of tooth, which I like.  It was very moist and juicy.  It came with some of the fat attached, which I also like.  They have a wide variety of

Washington DC: 2 Amys

My Maryland friends took me to dinner at 2 Amys, a very popular pizzeria in the District of Columbia.  The decor is fairly simple and bright.  The pizzas are somewhat rustic, more like what you would see in Italy than the New York variety.  All our food was excellent. I ordered a calzone because I saw one on the way in and the ricotta flowing out spoke to me.  (They give their calzones some other fancy name, folded pizza as I recall, but a calzone is a calzone is a calzone.) I ordered one with meat and vegetables.  The ricotta was just as luscious as I had anticipated.  That red spot on the middle off the calzone is a thin slice of meat that was made crunchy in the baking.  The texture was marvelous. We tried a selection of desserts: cannoli (pretty light filling, very good), almond cake (great), and roasted pineapple ice cream (wow!). The problem now faced by my friend Ankur is whether he can keep up the pace of excellent restaurant recommendations.  Based on his recommenatio

Washington DC: Red Velvet Cupcakery

After dinner at Jaleo, we ran through the rain across the street to Red Velvet Cupcakery.  It's a tiny storefront with no seating, but it is connected to the yogurt emporium next door and you can eat your cupcakes there.  Lucky thing---a soggy cupcake is a sad thought indeed. I must admit that I am a little skeptical of cupcake stores in general.  They do fit into the small, affordable treat category, but every time I see one I can hear my mother saying "If I had a nickel for every cupcake I made, I'd be a millionaire."  (And trust me, her cupcakes are great.)  But I really liked Red Velvet because their cupcakes aren't overly sweet.  Regular readers know that Americans-make-desserts-with-too-much-sugar is a regular rant of mine.  And Red Velvet goes a little beyond the obvious to make something that is sensuous without being overpowering. Despite the strong hint given by the name of the establishment, I didn't get the red velvet cupcake.  Instead, I had a

Washington DC: Jaleo

Luckily, my friends from the University of Maryland have good taste.  For my visit, they took me to dinner at Jaleo (plus a cupcake emporium I'll report on next).  Jaleo is the flagship restaurant of a nationally-known chef (Top Chef judge, etc.).  It's a tapas restaurant that, unlike the garden variety of tapas bars, actually pays homage to Spanish food.   Unfortunately, my camera went on the fritz so I don't have photos.  We tried a total of nine dishes.  We discussed after dinner what we liked most and I think we had a rough consensus, but here are my top picks.  Head and shoulders above the rest was the bacon-wrapped fried date---need I say more? An egg with caviar was a pleasant surprise in its presentation.  The egg was a very light souffle, although it seemed to have a soft yolk.  The caviar served to add a salty note and some toast helped us to eat it.  The rabbit came with a red sauce that was almost like that one would see in a beef stew, although it wasn't b

Tucker: Technique

Technique is the teaching restaurant of Le Cordon Bleu in Atlanta.  I've always enjoyed eating at cooking schools.  The staff are invariably very friendly, they have uniformly good food, and they are inexpensive.  Technique scored very well on all three accounts: a very attentive staff, excellent food, and unbelievably low prices. The kitchen is huge---bigger than most apartments.  The appliances gleam, the students are spotlessly robed in their kitchen whites.  The chef stands at the front, intermittently calling out tasks.  He seems to inspect every plate before it goes onto the table.  My server explained that the kitchen staff are in their final week of a two-year program. The standard meal is a five course dinner with choices on all but the initial amuse bouche.  At $15, that is an unbelievable bargain. The amuse bouche (mouth amusement) was an eggplant concoction with a light sauce.  I believe that my server said it was fried but it was very light. For my appetizer

A Rumination on Airport Food

Folk wisdom among travelers holds that pilots know all the good places to eat on a trip.  The underlying theory, I suppose, is that they have tried everything and know what is good and bad.  If airline pilots were flying chefs, I'm sure that would be great advice.  But airline captains have a tough ladder of training and lowly jobs to get to the top of their profession. They survive it by having a cast iron stomach and hermetically sealed taste buds.  When a pilot says "That airport has pretty good food" he means "I don't know anyone whose cause of death has been attributed to that food." Airports can be lonely places for hungry people.  As I worked on my private pilot's license, I looked forward to the long three-legged cross-country flight that is one of the basic requirements.  I scheduled the trip for Labor Day, which turned out to be a beautiful day to fly.  I flew from Princeton to Harrisburg for my first leg.  I told myself that I should wait fo