Friday, December 18, 2009

Ibérkshirco Pork

First, a humble apology to my two loyal followers, I am crap at updating my blog. I can never make the pictures go where I want them to, and formatting is such a hassle, I know I will never be asked to be on the Martha Stewart Show.

Tonight, though, tonight I am compelled to post, if only to preserve the memory of this meal for a time when I can't remember it. Unfortunately, I am sans photos, as I accidentally left my camera sitting on the counter while I was re-charging the batteries. So as Chef Nick says, I will just have to paint a picture with my words.

For the past two days, the twitterverse has been abuzz with the news of a new meat in town. I first saw it from Live to Feast ( ) and was instantly intrigued. I mean who doesn't want to know how Berkshire hogs, fed in the style of Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, taste when served as fresh pork, not ham? Certainly not me, so I drove all the way down to Parish in Inman Park ( ) in the nasty, cold, rainy weather to get me a plate.

Even though I only had one thing on my mind, I couldn't resist trying a few other bites from the menu. I porked out on a savory pork and sweet potato cheesecake with homemade worcestershire sauce, as well as these dreamy little cloud-like parmigiano dumplings sauteed in sage butter and stuffed into a roasted acorn squash. Both were so delicious, I had to ask my fabulous server, Monica, to take them away or I would have eaten every last bite and been too full to eat my pork.

Then came the pièce de résistance, the pork. It was beautifully presented on a bed of garlicky mustard greens with a sweet/acidic/clovey sherry reduction on the plate to perfectly complement the rich fatty meat. A golden brown turnip & chestnut gratin sat in its own little Staub saucepan, crowned with perfect buttery bread crumbs.

But really, aren't we here for the pork? It's almost indescribable, it's nutty, a little sweet, a little gamey and meltingly tender after its sous vide bath. If I could have somehow grafted a few thousand more tastebuds on my tongue to better appreciate and describe the flavor, I would have done so in a heartbeat. This easily ranks as the best meal I have had in a restaurant in 2009.

Chef Nick Melvin has set the bar high, now I can't wait to hear what the other four chefs in town who got some of this amazing pork are going to do to try and match him.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Grindhouse Killer Burgers

Alex's dream of reviving the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, may have taken a detour, but its one that has benefited us all. I recently had a chance to chat with him a little about the restaurant and what led him to open a burger joint. It started with his desire to revitalize the crumbling market and led to his help getting a good sized grant to make that happen. His enthusiasm for what he is doing is contagious. You can't help but be charmed, even with the long waits to place your order and get your food, and the smell of past it's prime meat and seafood wafting towards you from the market stalls behind you. It's not the kind of wait that leaves you feeling annoyed and unwilling to return, there is kind of a party atmosphere. I ran into 3 people I knew, plus made new friends - Patti of fame and her husband Eric, just standing in line.

I ordered the turkey burger with cheese, avocado and bacon. It was maybe not the best combination ever, in part because the avocado was rather on the crunchy side, and in part because I didn't realize that the turkey patty would be heavily seasoned and include chunks of mango to help keep it moist. It was moist and had a nice brown crust, one of the better turkey burgers I have ever had, but just didn't quite "go" with what I had on it. Knowing what I do now, I would top it differently. I also had the sweet potato chips, which were good, but a little oily and didn't love the chipotle ranch dipping sauce. Luckily, Patricia T. had a bottle of Hot Squeeze, which was a way better condiment for them.

The much lauded shakes were a little bit of a disappointment for me, but I am an ice cream snob. I really don't think it's worth the calories unless it is super premium, ultra high milk fat. Unfortunately their ice cream was more Dairy Queen than Haagen Dazs, so I probably wouldn't order it again.

The Grindhouse Killer Burger experience ended up being a really fun experience and one that I would happily repeat, although not frequently, because seriously y'all, this is not in my 'hood.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I am hoo hoo for Halloween

Please forgive the Cocoa Puffs pun, I really couldn't help myself. So Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, not just because of trick or treating or candy, both of which I long since outgrew, and to be honest never enjoyed that much even when I was young enough (all that walking up hills for less than Callebaut or Scharffen-Berger quality candy? I think not). What I love best about Halloween is the decorating. I have boxes of amazing things picked up here, there and everywhere and can never pass up something cool. To that end I was delighted to find the Uber-Talented Jamie Lott at the Norcross Art Fest. I purchased a gorgeous hand crafted skeleton shaker, very similar to this one on her Etsy page. You can see more of her work here or if you would like to win a pumpkinhead ornament of your own, just check out her blog

Other treats in the Halloween round up include
painted gourds from
Haunted Swamp Designs,
you can win one here: A
fabulous addition to any collection.

How can you possibly top that? Well the talented Lisa Lecture is also giving away one of her hand-stitched pieces here
vintage-women-4-1-1-1-3-1.jpg I so have to have one of each for my collection. Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mill City Farmers Market

I was in Minnesota this past weekend, which coincided with the last Mill City Market of the season, something I discovered thanks to Sarah P. putting it up as an event on Yelp. Who knew the Twin Cities have such a thriving farmers market scene? This is one of several in Minneapolis, plus I heard tell of a couple of good ones in St. Paul, plus even one in Bloomington. I was greeted by the sound of live bluegrass and cloggers, what a great welcome to the market.

There was such a great selection of vendors, and sights of the season, pumpkins, gourds, winter squash, and dried flowers.

And of course, let's not forget the food. After all, what is a market without food? There were plenty of samples, I had the most amazing sheep cheeses, lamb merguez sausage, 6 different kinds of chocolate sauces, jams and jellies, plus about 3 apples worth of apple slices (it's hard to choose the right one, but i ended up with Apricot and Snowcrisp). As if I hadn't already gorged myself enough, around 10:00 I decided it was breakfast time. What to choose? Aunt Else's Aebleskivers? Why, yes, I believe I will try the apple ones and the sausage ones with maple syrup AND ginger pear jelly.

And wait! Is that Chef Shack I see? What better complements round balls of pancake than Indian spiced fried doughnuts? Oh and fries with bacon katjup (sic) and maybe a Thousand Hills Farm hotdog with 5 different pickles (kohlrabi, radish, 2 cucumber, plus relish)

The best way to enjoy all that food is sitting down and taking a break from all of that shopping. Luckily they have a great little central courtyard with a practically professional kitchen for chef demos provided by Target and Archer Farms. I enjoyed my little feast while learning how to make artisan bread in 5 minutes. After that, I made one more pass through the market, wishing I had brought more cash and several more hands, especially since mine were completely frozen and considered it a morning well spent. I can't wait to go back next summer and see how the market is when it isn't 35 degrees outside.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Varasano's, Yes Virginia, there is a Pizza Claus

I'm going to keep this short because it was opening night, but I have to say that I was very impressed. I sat at the pizza bar and the crew there worked like a well-oiled machine. There was one guy who just turned dough blobs into crust, another who just put toppings on the crust then put the pizzas into the oven, then a woman who monitored the pizzas in the oven - turning them, moving them, and taking them out, and the final guy who monitored the temperature on the completed pies to make sure they didn't go out too hot and anointed them with fruity olive oil, freshly grated parmegiano or arugula and cured meats.

What was most impressive was how they all managed their individual stations in concert with each other, there was never a delay as one waited for the step before to be completed, it all just worked. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that while full they weren't slammed, but for opening night I was impressed.

The servers however, not so flawless. From my prime observation seat, I noticed that there seemed to be some confusion as to which pie was which and what the seat numbers were. I watched as my pizza took a quick tour of the restaurant before being delivered to me. They seemed to be friendly and tried hard, but more what you would expect from opening night.

I got the Nanna's, despite being advised that it wasn't quite what it should be yet, and was a little disappointed. It was missing something, but I can't really complain since I was warned and ignored the warning. I also got to try a slice of the salume and that was fantastic with crispy salume and the occasional briny bite of olive.

I'm really looking forward to seeing where they go from here and if they can replicate the amazing Nanna's I was fortunate enough to try at Jeff's house so many months ago or if it was just a figment of my imagination.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I really don't know why anyone would rave about this place. My experience was bad enough I wouldn't go back. I met a friend, who is in the industry, on a Tuesday night. I made reservations and requested seats at the chef's counter.

First tip, don't sit at the chef's counter.

The chef never even acknowledged our existence. I understand that restaurants are busy and he has a lot going on but he never even smiled in our direction. Another drawback, the server for the counter is the service bartender. He was basically unavailable to us all evening because he was busy filing other people's drink orders and he also had zero menu knowledge. When I asked if the burger used grass-fed beef he had to ask 3 or 4 other servers. Of course the chef was standing there and could have easily turned around and said yes or no, but it's obviously more entertaining for him to leave us hanging for 5 minutes as our server runs all over the restaurant asking other people.

As for the food, I actually enjoyed the tuna tartar on the potato chips, even though the whole thing was so spicy my lips and mouth were on fire and you couldn't taste the tuna at all. I also ordered the white asparagus, which I should have known better than to order as they are not in season yet, but I didn't count on them being so woody they were inedible. I know that it's not that practical to break them by hand in a big restaurant, but then you have to peel them, which is even more time consuming. Unless you just don't care, like at Serpas, then you just serve them as is and your customers get to spit stringy woody pulp onto their plates. Also, the dressing was so overwhelmingly vinegary, you couldn't even taste the ham.

For dessert I ordered the pecan tart with Jack Daniels cream. The pecans had a slightly soggy texture, although the crust was a very nice crispy short crust and the cream was about a 1/2 tsp size dollop on the top.

My companion had the fried apple pie, which was my favorite part of the meal, perfect crust to apple ratio and nice tender flaky pastry.

But the best part of the experience was yet to come. As our server was reaching across the counter to shake hands with us while thanking us for coming, he knocked my water glass over and it spilled all over me. I really enjoyed walking out with a giant water mark across my lap and standing outside in the bitter cold waiting upwards of 5 minutes for the valet to bring my car with wet jeans and sweater was not really a high point in my life.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Deal of the Week

People kept telling me I should have a blog, so now I've got one and I don't know what to say. One thing I've been thinking about is having a Deal of the Week listing every Friday, provided I can find a new deal worth posting every week. I've decided that this week, for my first blog post ever, I will let you the readers in on a very good deal I've just discovered. The newly opened Cellar 56, in the old Cafe at East Andrews space, has announced some fantastic weekly specials via their Facebook page. They don't seem to have a real website as yet, so here are the details:

Cellar 56
56 East Andrews Dr
Atlanta, GA
(404) 869-1132

About those specials, here they are:

Sangria Mondays: $10 carafes of sangria

Two-For Tuesdays: Two-for-one small plates

Why Not Wednesdays: $12 bottles of wine

I don't know if Monday and Wednesday are that great a deal because their wine prices are so reasonable, $3 for a half glass, but I went on a Tuesday with a friend and had $15 taken off the check. Score!