Monday, February 28, 2011

Comfort food

There are days when all you crave is some delicious fried food... I had one of those about a week ago. It was a Tuesday, but Cashew and I decided to go get dinner at a place called The Nook. It's right next to Piedmont Park, and I guess they're famous for ginormous drinks... (Huh, my spell check is not flagging "ginormous," must be a real word now.) Well, we didn't feel like trying them. All we wanted were the Coca Cola hot wings :) I don't think the wings actually tasted like Coke, but they were insanely good! They had a very deep flavor that was very different from all other hot wings I've tried.

Because it's me and Cashew after all, the wings weren't going to be enough to fill us. So, we also ordered a side-sized version of the brisket tater tots and a full version of the Asian salad with fried chicken. The tots were so cheesy and oh-so-good :) The salad was also great. We ate it last, and that felt right for some reason. I did enjoy the freshness of the spinach after a greasy fiesta. The dressing was also quite refreshing after the heavy tater tots. Plus, we got our daily serving of veggies with that salad; let's just ignore the unhealthiness of the rest of the dinner :P

Wine and cheese

One Friday afternoon Cashew and I were hanging around Atlantic Station. All the stored started closing, but we weren't feeling like going home yet. Instead, we decided to try The Grape, a restaurant with a good wine selection. After taking some time to pick out a glass of wine (and enjoying free samples in the meantime), I chose a glass of white wine and Cashew decided on a sweet rose champagne. We had already had dinner, so we didn't want to order a full meal. As a result, we decided to try some of the appetizers that the menu suggested to pair with wine. I guess we were in a truffle mood because we settled on Cypress Grove truffle tremor cheese and Truffle mousse pate. The cheese was really nice and creamy. The pate looked like it was homemade (not the pink canned stuff, which is still tasty, though!). The came with a simple French bread and whole grain crackers. I liked how the bread and crackers had very subtle flavor on their own and didn't overpower the cheese and pate. To me, that's the perfect pairing. If the bread or crackers are flavored, they should be eaten by themselves.

The regular dinner menu had some interesting offerings that attracted my attention. I'm curious to try them, so I'll be going back. In other words, expect another post from The Grape.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

MY Moussaka

My mom's moussaka is one of my most favorite things to eat. You might have seen it on the menu of Greek or Mediterranean restaurants and even ordered it. But let me tell you, my mom's version is NOTHING like the ones they sell in restaurants. The most obvious difference is that my mom uses potatoes instead of eggplants. She also makes it with ground pork rather than a pork/lamb mixture. Finally, from the one time when I actually tried it, the moussaka in restaurants resembles a stew, and my mom's is a lot drier. In summary, you probably have no idea what my mom's moussaka tastes like. So just take my word for it when I say that it's amazing :)

Anyway, the reason why I'm writing about moussaka now is because I made it myself today. Well, it was probably my 5th attempt to re-create my mom's moussaka, and all other attempts failed pretty miserably... Today was different, though! This is the closest I've gotten to getting the recipe right! I did use ground turkey rather than ground pork, so I'm going to attribute any differences in taste to the different meat. Other than that, it had the familiar taste and texture that I love :D I'm so proud of myself, haha. Now I can make my favorite dish whenever I want :)

Out All Day/Eat All Day

This last weekend there was an Oysterfest at Park Tavern. Both Cashew and I love seafood, so of course we were there. Our friend Virginia (her state of origin) also came with us. Truth be told, the festival was more about the bands and the alcohol than the oysters, but we still had fun.

We tried both the fried and the steamed oysters. The fried ones were battered and oily and deep-fried and oh-so-good! I couldn't detect any oyster/seafood taste, but who cares, the fried taste was great by itself. At least we got some oyster taste from the steamed oysters. They were still in their shells, so we had to open them up. Some shells were completely closed, but a safety pin and a plastic fork were the only props we needed to get the meat out. It seems like the steaming process removes some of the fishy taste and slimy texture. I'm not sure yet whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. On one had, it makes them easier to eat, but on the other hand, they're no longer what I think of as a quintessential oyster.

After spending several hours in the sun and listening to live music, we were hungry again. Cashew and I left the festival while Virginia remained there with some friends from Virginia :P Cashew and I agreed that we wanted some Indian food, so we drove over to Little Five Points and ate at Niramish for dinner. I'm no expert on Indian food, but even I could tell that it wasn't supposed to taste like that. We were both very very disappointed. We shared the Vegetable Thali (a tapas like dish) and the Begoon Bhorta (a traditional eggplant dish).

First of of all, since when are spring rolls Indian?!?!?!? Yet, they were part of our thali dish. The other components were: naan bread, mixed vegetable korma, shaag aloo (potatoes with spinach), and tarka daal (lentils dish). The potatoes and the lentils dishes were actually pretty good. They did have the flavor that I typically think of as Indian. However, the mixed vegetables didn't have any flavor at all (despite being served in heavy coconut milk).

The eggplant dish is supposed to be one of Cashew's favorite Indian things, so I was pretty excited to try it. However, I bet that what we got is not what it's supposed to taste like! Technically, the dish we got had absolutely no taste: no salt, no Indian spices, nothing... It was so inedible, we asked for something spicy that we could add to it. And what were we given? The hot sauce that you add to pho soup - not Indian either!

We did finish everything eventually and received the dessert that was part of our vegetable thali. I don't know what it was supposed to be, but here's how I think they made it: they steamed some white rice and then mixed it with canned evaporated milk. For good measure, they added a bay leaf that didn't contribute any flavor to the dessert because it wasn't cooked together with the rice. By the way, leaving a bay leaf in a dish is a big no-no. You're supposed to remove it before serving.

The only good part of the dinner was that we had a 50% off coupon, so we each ended up paying only $9. However, we agreed that we wouldn't go there again even if someone paid us to.

After dinner we did some shopping, but the eating wasn't over yet. I had made chocolate pudding earlier in the day, so it was time to try it. I personally loved it. It had a perfect mousse texture and a rich chocolate flavor. It tasted professionally-made. I don't think I'll be buying mousse ever again when I can make it myself :)

Friday, February 11, 2011

With a Name like Empire State...

Earlier this week I went to a place called Empire State South. Interesting name, I know... I'm still not sure why it's called that; there wasn't any hint of the Empire State Building anywhere inside the restaurant.

Anyway, despite the confusing name, the restaurant is supposed to be one of the best in Atlanta. Well, I do agree with that :) I usually don't order pork chops when I go out to eat, but I decided to try them this time (Riverview pork loin). Best pork I've ever had! Seriously! It's so hard to keep pork moist, but this pork was perfect. It didn't even taste like pork to me. Maybe that's why I liked it... The pork came with a side of kale. I think this was my first exposure to kale, and I liked it. I wonder how much of the good taste I can attribute to the restaurant, though ;)

The friend that I went with ordered the night's special, veal. It must have been roasted the whole day because it was really, really tender. Once you tried it, it had a very nice buttery taste and just melted in your mouth. Yummy!

We also got the cheese platter as an appetizer. The cheeses were good, but nothing special. I even liked the goat cheese... The other two cheeses were made with cow milk. The platter came with raisin sourdough bread. I wish the bread didn't have anything sweet in it. It would've let us taste the cheeses much better.

As much as I loved the food, I was really disappointed with the service. Our waiter took a very long time before he came to get our order. When the food runner brought us the cheeses, he couldn't even tell us which cheese was which. The only way were able to figure them out was by looking at their little side items on the menu (goat cheese with olive salad, etc.). At the end, we had to wait a long time to get our check too. Despite everything, the quality of the food made up for the shortcomings with the service, and I don't mind going there to try more things.

P.S. I don't have any pictures of the food, sorry!


Well, this post is way overdue... Good thing the food was memorable, so I can afford to write about it late.

More than a week ago Cashew and I decided to try an organic burger place in Decatur called Farm Burger. That's a cool concept. I usually think of burgers as a guilty pleasure, but they don't seem as bad when they're organic :) And yes, they're a little healthier...

Farm Burger is a small place and they don't have too many menu options, but I assume that means that everything they offer is great. Both Cashew and I got the Original burger (#1 on the menu). We also shared the FB fries (with garlic, herbs, and parmesan). The burger was the right size (not huge), had the right amount of moisture and was overall really tasty. Nothing fancy, but tasty. No crazy toppings or sauces. Only meat, caramelized onions and melted cheese. My only complaint is that the meat could have been a little "smokier," for example by adding some cumin to it... By the way, the fries were amazing as well!

Overall, I loved the place. Can't wait to try more things!