Before I head out of town for the next two weeks (first to Tampa/St. Pete and then to Minneapolis/St. Paul), I thought I’d update everyone on the fundraisers I mentioned at the beginning of the month.
The Food Blogger Bake Sale was a HUGE success! Tami of Running With Tweezers secured a great location and TONS of bakers, and the sale raised over $1,600 for Share Our Strength. I donated three key lime pies, and I have no idea how much they went for or who got to take them home, but I am honored to have been a (small) part of such an important and awesome event. Congrats to all who participated, especially Miss Tami!
As for my cooking class…well…that wasn’t so successful. I had a little bit of interest, but at the end of the day, there wasn’t enough to justify the event (I’m not sure if it’s my Gwinnett county location or something more personal…haha). So, I found a different way to incorporate my love of cooking into my Team In Training fundraising. I’ve started selling my wares! So far, I’ve sold a key lime pie and probably 8-10 jars of homemade jam (raspberry and fig/balsamic), and everyone has given me really good feedback. I tried the raspberry myself on some pancakes last weekend, and it was the bomb. After I get back from my business trips, I’m going to do some more canning and maybe even some pickling, so let me know if you’re interested in purchasing anything! I’ll also do special orders, if you have a particular item in mind. Of course, you can always just make a donation here!
Now…tonight is my last dinner at home for a while, so I better go figure out what to cook!
On this beautiful Friday morning, I thought I’d give you Atlanta peeps a heads-up on some ways you can eat well AND do good!
Two weeks from tomorrow, on April 17, 2010, is the 1st Annual Food Bloggers Bake Sale!!! The bake sale is a nationwide event happening across the country on that date, and it’s all in coordination with Share Our Strength – the country’s leading hunger based charity – and the opening of their fundraising season.
In Georgia, delicious goodies will be on sale on the 17th from 9 AM to 1 PM at the Cabbagetown Market in the heart of the Cabbagetown area of Atlanta. The nice folks at Agave Restaurant have donated the use of their parking lot for the day. It’s less than a block walk to the Cabbagetown Market. AND, to sweeten (haha!) the deal, Agave has agreed to give a $10 off coupon to every person who makes a purchase at the bake sale!
I will be contributing a few of my famous key lime pies and probably some blueberry muffins (hell, and maybe even some savory scones, if I’m feeling particularly ambitious). So, come on out and treat yourself to some treats – baked by your very own local food bloggers! (If you can’t make it on the 17th, you can make a donation here: http://join.strength.org/site/TR/CEM/General?team_id=92800&pg=team&fr_id=1110)
The following day, I am hosting a cooking class to benefit my fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (I am training for the Chicago Marathon, in addition to my usual triathlons – read more here). The theme is “Eating for Athletes,” and it will focus on quick and healthy meals and snacks for the athlete on the go! While gearing up for these endurance events, I have had to learn how to prepare GOOD fuel for my body so that I don’t gorge on junk when I’m hungry – which is basically all the time.
I will demo at least three meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and at least one snack. I will also provide munchies and adult beverages during the class, in addition to recipe cards and perhaps some other surprise goodies. :-) The cost for all of this is a mere $50 tax deductible donation – such a deal!
Again, the class is April 18, at about 1 PM (in the Lawrenceville/Duluth area). If you’d like to attend, please email me at email@example.com in order to confirm your spot and get payment instructions and directions. Of course, if you cannot attend the class, feel free to make a donation here.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have questions about either event. Hope to see you at one or both!
Though I travel a fair amount for work, there isn’t really an expense account situation going on. Rather, I get a fair per diem that is meant to sustain rather than to entertain. Some of my colleagues like to eat on the cheap and save as much of their per diem as possible, but me? When I’m on the road, I eat as high on the hog as I possibly can for the money I’m allotted, and I am usually willing to spend some of my own dough to experience the cuisine of whatever city I happen to be visiting.
Recent business brought me to our nation’s capital, a veritable food fairyland for me. Not only do I think DC holds its own as a culinary destination, but I lived there for three years and I still have a lot of local friends and contacts, so I’m usually pretty up-to-date on what restaurants are rockin’ out. Here’s what I ate and what I thought about it…
Sunday: Upon arriving, my hetero life mate, Lexa, took me to Comet Ping Pong for some pizza and beer (natch). It seems to be a great neighborhood joint, and very family friendly. The beer list is varied and interesting, though they were out of a couple of my top choices. They claim their pizza is “New Haven- style,” which I don’t really get (probably because I’ve never been to New Haven), but it appears to be a thinner crust pie. We ordered the “Smoky,” with mushrooms, smoked Gouda, smoky bacon, and melted onions, and it was pretty delicious. The service wasn’t anything to write home about, and the prices were a touch high, but it’s a great gathering place in a residential area that doesn’t have much else.
Pizza was just the opening act on Sunday – steak was the headliner. Ray’s the Steaks, to be specific, in its shiny new Arlington digs. The Sunday night special ($25 for a three-course meal, and there is a decent amount of choice) is a frickin’ steal, but I knew I wasn’t going to be interested in dessert, so I just ordered a cup of the crab bisque and the hanger steak, rare, with sauteed garlic. The bisque was as good as it has ever been, with a perfectly creamy texture and a flavor that was simultaneously rich and light. And, of course, it had what seemed like POUNDS of fresh crab meat. As for the steak, it just doesn’t get any better than Ray’s, especially for the price. Traditionally, hanger is a tougher cut of beef, but Ray’s finds a way to make it deliciously tender (a hint: follow the suggested cooking temperatures on the menu, they’re there for a reason). With the garlic and the accompanying (complementary) mashed potatoes and creamed spinach, I had everything I ever needed on a plate. I was just sad that I couldn’t finish the whole thing, and that I knew it would be a while before I could come back.
Monday night found me at the bar at Vidalia, one of my old favorites. I had the bar to myself, which was kind of disappointing (not only does it mean less money for the deserving restaurant, but it also means I was unable to strike up a random conversation, which is part of why I love sitting at bars), but the meal more than made up for it. From the regular menu, I started with the olive-oil poached monkfish cheeks, which were light and refreshing and perfectly textured. I moved on to the free-form lobster ravioli, which was ridiculously decadent – and absolutely chock-full of impeccably cooked lobster (claw and tail). Finally, from the bar menu, I wrapped things up with the “Korean BBQ” pork belly with kimchee, served on a pancake. Now, I’m not usually the hugest fan of kimchee, and I didn’t start out enjoying this version. But somehow it grew on me, especially when combined with the out-of-this-world pork. Combined with a glass and a half (gotta love options in terms of pour sizes) of a deliciously dry Basque white, the meal was simultaneously refined and comforting, and it reminded me of why Vidalia was one of my fine-dining standbys.
On Tuesday night, I was picked up and whisked to Wheaton, MD, for a night of Vietnamese deliciousness at Mi La Cay. This was an event organized by some folks on donrockwell.com, a food and dining message board of which I’ve been a member for a few years. It is a wonderful online community, and I truly wish we had something similar in Atlanta. The event was a “$20 Tuesday,” which meant that we were going to eat all-inclusive for twenty bucks. And eat we did! For $20, we tried summer rolls (pretty standard, though others said the peanut sauce was delish), beef wrapped in grape leaves (delicious, and unlike anything I’ve ever had before), Vietnamese spicy hot and sour soup with shrimp (perfect for a cold, rainy night), roast duck soup with egg noodles (great flavor, but I got a lot of bone and gristle in my portion of duck, so it was hard to eat), stir-fried lemon-grass chicken (very tasty), French-styled beef cubes marinated in whiskey and peppers (a little heavy on the whiskey), grilled beef, pork, and chicken (my absolute favorite, no question – so tender and flavorful!), and a Vietnamese pancake with bean sprouts. There were a few other dishes that I couldn’t eat due to heavy peanut content, but I still had PLENTY of food to enjoy.
For happy hour on Wednesday, I headed to Againn, a new (to me, anyway) gastropubby concept. The bar was already pretty packed when I arrived at around 6:30, but it’s a shockingly comfortable space, even when busy. The beer list is interesting, though, as a dedicated hop-head, I wish there had been more hop-crazy options on draft; to be fair, they did have some of my favorites in bottles. The group (also a bunch of people from dr.com) ordered a bunch of food, and I tried a little bit of everything – the crispy fried brussels sprouts were darn tasty, and I don’t even like brussels sprouts very much. I guess you can make just about anything better by deep-frying it. The hot dog was the perfect little bar snack, especially with many beers. I had bites of the fish and chips, the chicken pot pie, and the skate, and everything was very good. One of the best features is the 4-7 PM happy hour, during which certain bites and beverages are only $5 (the options change frequently, I’m told). The servie was awesome, too, so I’ll definitely keep Againn in mind when I return to DC.
I’ll be leaving for Salt Lake City on Sunday, but I hope to post some recipes while I’m gone. Have a wonderful weekend, all!
Hello, again, internets! After a cold, dreary week in DC (which I will write about soon), Atlanta’s 70-degree weather yesterday was just what I needed to re-energize.
I have lots of recipes to share with you all, and I have restaurant reports from Atlanta and Washington, but all I can think about is the (hopefully) soon-to-be-harvested spring bounty. Asparagus, radishes, ramps, avocados, morels, shad roe, stawberries…oh, my!
It’s not that I don’t love root veggies and winter greens (and hearty, slow-cooked meats), but for me, spring is one of the most exciting times to eat. What do you love about springtime eating? What ingredients are you just dying to get your hands on? Spill in the comments!
Thanks to a well-timed honeymoon, my new decade started with some amazing culinary experiences in our nation’s capital. I am extremely fortunate to have broken bread at Churchkey, Matchbox, Rasika, Palena, Jaleo, and Proof, and really, there wasn’t a bad meal to be had during our entire trip to DC. There were so many highlights, and I know I am super lucky to have had these and many other food experiences over the past year.
So…what about 2010? What does the year hold in store from a culinary perspective? Here are my food “resolutions” for the first year of this new decade:
* Eat less meat – More specifically, my biggest goal is to prepare at least one vegetarian dinner each week. I’m already pretty good about meatless breakfasts (I eat a lot of yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, and soy sausage), and I’d consider it a bonus if I could incorporate some veggie lunches as well. This is a small gesture, I realize, but hopefully it will start me on a path that will involve healthier and more eco-friendly habits.
* Master the art of breadmaking – Prior to 2009, the thought of making my own bread was totally horrifying. Then, not only did I acquire a breadmaker, but I actually managed to bake a homemade loaf without any gadgetry! My first couple of attempts have been far from perfect, but I am determined to keep at it and bake healthy and delicious bread on the regular.
* Attempt to make cheese – I’m not going to turn into a milkmaid or anything, but I’m told that homemade ricotta is pretty darn simple and tasty. Once I get the hang of that, maybe there are other cheeses that I can explore.
* Eat at Woodfire Grill – Due to Chef Kevin Gillespie’s popularity and success on Top Chef, reservations have been really difficult to come by. While I am thrilled that a local chef is enjoying an increase in business, I hope that calorie- and budget-related resolutions cause the crowds to taper off, allowing me to score a table by February or March.
* Perfect Chef Vikram Sunderam’s recipe for chicken green masala – This is a recent addition/obsession, but I am determined to give it the ol’ college try.
* Reduce waste – While my husband and I are pretty good about meal-planning and eating leftovers, we can always improve in terms of not throwing food away unnecessarily. I’m thinking about things like dating ground spices (or, better yet, buying small quantities of whole spices and grinding them myself), keeping the fridge/freezer organized so nothing gets overlooked, and shopping smarter (meaning, smaller trips to the market more often, and not buying groceries while hungry).
* Buy a whole fish and take it apart (and use as much of it as possible) – Every year, I say that I’m going to do this. 2010 is the year when I actually accomplish the goal, I’ve decided. Fish is so good for you, but it is VERY expensive. Buying a whole fish is pound-for-pound cheaper, and I can definitely find uses for the “nasty bits,” since my husband won’t eat the head or tail or skin or anything that reminds him that the fish was once alive. I just need to sharpen my knives (another resolution, actually) and get down to business.
* Continue the “Personality Profile” series, focusing more on Atlanta-based food figures – This one is pretty self-explanatory. I have so much fun conducting the interviews and writing up the stories, and it is such an interesting break (for me AND for you, I imagine) from the usual recipes and restaurant reviews. If anyone has any ideas or contacts, feel free to hit me up.
* Try to make homemade pasta – I’ve already done gnocchi, but now I’d like to attempt some sort of filled pasta, perhaps ravioli. I have more counter space now, and it would be great to have fresh, scratch-made noodles to go with the various homemade sauces I make.
* Explore my neighborhood’s ethnic dining scene – There is a large Korean population where I live, but international restaurants of all sorts surround me, and I’ve not given them their due. That is going to change ASAP.
I think that’s enough for now, though if I accomplish all of those tasks by mid-year, perhaps I’ll add a few more. How about you? Any food-related resolutions/goals/hopes/dreams for the coming year? Share them in the comments!
As I look back on the past twelve months, I can’t help but wonder what the hell I was thinking. I mean, I crammed an AWFUL lot of action into one year. I got promoted. I ran two half-marathons. I completed two triathlons. I traveled a LOT. My cat was deathly ill, then miraculously recovered. I got married. My husband got laid off and then started his own business. We moved to the suburbs. Whew.
Food wise, it’s also been quite a year…
I started the year in DC, eating my way through the city and making cheap and delicious food with Miss Lemmonex, and then I came home to be interviewed by the AJC. In February, I perfected roasted chicken and granola, and Tom Colicchio redeemed himself to me. In March, I finally wrote about the life-changing experience that was my dinner at The French Laundry, and I made grapefruit cake with Lexa after binging on burgers. April found me turning the tables and interviewing John Kessler, and since my triathlon training was in full swing in May, that month brought some fantastic healthy recipes (in addition to another fascinating interview). June was a wash, but in July I mastered pesto and made some great seafood dishes. In August, I started recapping Top Chef, but my biggest hit was this non-traditional take on tiramisu. September’s highlights included my wedding (duh) and my bachelorette party meal at Tomo. October was a big month: first and most importantly, I challenged myself (and my husband) to eat and drink on $60 for an entire week, and it was an incredibly eye-opening experience that I hope to try again in the coming year. Also in October? I met Kevin Gillespie and discovered the beauty of the perfect pancake. I made bread for the first time in November, and in December, after a really cool interview, comfort food was the name of the game.
I find it cathartic that I will end 2009 where I (sort of) started it – in Washington, DC. Yes, my husband and I leave tomorrow for our belated honeymoon in the nation’s capital, which happens to be where we met. We’re going to see some dear friends, ring in 2010 at a James Bond-themed party, eat and drink at some of our favorite haunts, see some shows and museums, and gear up to start another incredible year together. I hope to have lots of interesting nuggets to share about the DC dining scene when I return!
This will be my last post until early 2010, so I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year! As far as resolutions, I only have one – to have as much fun with this blog in 2010 as I did in 2009.
See you next year!
First things first, congratulations to the winner of Top Chef, Michael Voltaggio. He may not have been my favorite contestant, but he’s clearly a talented chef and a hard worker. And I will definitely be interested in where his career goes from here.
The two-part finale pitted four excellent chefs against each other, and depending on the day, any one of them could have taken the top prize. While that is GREAT for those of us who love the food first and foremost, we have to remember that Top Chef is, at its core, a reality television competition. A finale with no conflict, no surprises, no gasp-worthy moments? That’s not good (reality) TV. So there may have been some creative editing and some production slight-of-hand that made the decision seem more dramatic, but it is clear from Tom’s blog at least that the judges truly felt that Michael presented the superior meal.
I really liked the final challenge. The first course, where they had to create a dish inspired by their childhoods, really plugged into the fact that many of our strongest memories center around food and eating. Not to mention, it allowed the audience to see the contestants’ mothers AND adorable family photos. The “mystery box” course, despite being a BLATANT Chopped ripoff, really challenged the chefs, since the ingredients were difficult AND they all had to use the same ones. I enjoyed that the third course was totally unrestricted, and I appreciated that dessert was on the table (so to speak) from the get-go, rather than being a cheap surprise twist. It also avoided the inevitable chefly monologues regarding “Do I make a dessert, or don’t I?” That internal dialogue gets old.
Overall, this season was really enjoyable; it will be really tough to top the caliber of chefs that competed this time around. While you’re waiting for the next go-round to start, head on over to John Kessler’s blog and read an interview with Chef Kevin Gillespie, our hometown hero here in Atlanta. He may not have taken home the title, but he’s in the running for “Fan Favorite” (tune into next week’s reunion show to see if he nabs the cash), and I know a lot of folks who can’t wait to dine at his restaurant and congratulate him on his fine showing.
Have a great weekend, everyone. New recipes to come next week!
Edited to add: Here’s another interview with Kevin, this time from Creative Loafing.
* I should not commit to recapping Top Chef when I often find myself unable to actually stay up and watch it at its scheduled time. Cut me some slack, I get up at 5 AM. Anyway, I will write up some closing thoughts once I actually watch the finale, and I will try to keep my bitterness regarding spoilers (come on, major newspapers, can you PLEASE not announce the results on your websites’ front pages????) in check.
* Relatedly, I had a happy little dream last night involving BOTH of the Voltaggio brothers. I think that is because I read this hilarious and brilliant post yesterday, and I also tuned in to this WaPo chat. Both are definitely worth checking out.
* I don’t think I could justify an entire post on Little Barn, the first truly local joint we’ve tried in our new Gwinnett County surroundings. However, here are some initial thoughts: first off, it really is a little barn, with inside seating for about 20 (ish) and a drive-through window (definitely the more popular choice, while we were there at least). The biscuits, which are highly lauded and the reason I wanted to visit, are as big as my head and very, very good. I ordered a chicken biscuit ($2.29) and a sausage biscuit ($1.79), and I couldn’t finish them. The meats on my biscuits were just “meh.” Jason ordered a breakfast platter, which included scrambled eggs, a biscuit, gravy, and country ham, all for $4.59. The gravy was delicious–great texture, and incredibly flavorful. The country ham was awesome, too. Counter service was quick and friendly, and prices are definitely reasonable (I think our breakfast for two, with OJ and TONS of food, was about $13). I think that once you figure out what you really like on the menu, Little Barn is a great alternative to fast food or chain breakfast places.
* My hubs and I are hosting a little housewarming/holiday get-together on Saturday night. I am serving heavy appetizers, and I think I’m pretty set on the menu, but I’m always up for suggestions. Does anyone have just a KILLER h’ors d’oeuvres recipe that they’d like to share? Leave it in the comments!
As some of you may be aware, for the past year and a half, we have called Poncey-Highland home. We were basically smack in the middle of Atlanta, with many of the city’s tastiest and most interesting restaurants located within a short walk or cab ride. We often struggled with having too MANY dining choices (wah wah, I know). For a food-crazed individual like myself, it was perfect–the true definition of “location, location, location.”
Then the bottom fell out. After our air conditioning went kaput in July (of course) and our landlord was less than responsive in fixing it, we started getting a little suspicious about the state of the property. As it turns out, our rent was not going to pay the mortgage, and the condo was facing foreclosure. Long story short, after months of arguing with our landlord over whether he was going to make things right, we convinced him to cut us loose and let us out of our lease early. Hooray! We got out of there in record time and moved to Lawrenceville (about 30 miles north of Atlanta, for those not in the know). It is definitely a good thing overall, as we have more space for the critters, we are closer to husband’s office, and I have a HUGE kitchen to play in. The down side? We are in chain restaurant hell. Which brings me to today’s questions…
1) If there are any readers who are familiar with the Gwinnett county dining scene, such that it is, what are the places I should put in the “must try” column?
2) When you have moved to new places, what tools have you used to discover local dining options? Do you just drive around and check things out? Do you look in local media sources? Sites like Yelp and Chowhound are great, but they have limited utility once you step outside the city borders.
Any ideas to jump start my little foodie brain would be much appreciated. We did try out a local breakfast place last weekend (Little Barn; the verdict was mixed and I’ll post something eventually), but we’ve been pretty stumped otherwise in terms of where to start.
Thanks in advance! Oh, and recipes will be following shortly…there are a couple of really good ones in the pipeline!