Trouble With Toast

Thoughts from the South

February 29, 2008

Last week, I voyaged to Georgia for some job-hunting and some reliving of my college years (note to self: you are NOT 20 anymore).  Since I’ll be moving to Atlanta in about three months, I was excited to start living and learning the culinary scene in and around the city.  Here’s the report:

In Atlanta proper, I didn’t get a chance to do TOO much exploring (since I was staying with my parents in Lawrenceville).  However, I did confirm that the best burger in the city is still at The Vortex.  When I was a teenager, going to the Vortex was a rare treat usually reserved for pre-concert fun (I distinctly meeting a bunch of fellow Sarah McLachlan fans at the midtown location prior to Lilith Fair one year–don’t you dare judge me).  The atmosphere has sort of a kitschy-with-an-attitude kind of vibe, and the food is awesome.  I had a bison burger with swiss and mushrooms, cooked medium rare, and I absolutely inhaled it.  I was tempted to go for the tots, but I remembered that the Vortex was famous for its creamy, bacony potato salad–and I was glad I opted for that particular side item.  So much deliciousness on one plate!  The kicker, though, was that I was able to order a Sweetwater 420 (quite possibly my favorite beer ever) on draft.  Heaven.  Some tourists saw my deliriously happy post-feasting face and said, “You look like you know what’s good here!”  Tee.

In Lawrenceville, it’s easy for a food fiend to be discouraged by the sea of chain restaurants on nearly every corner.  There are some real gems, though, if you have the patience to look for them.  One of my favorites is the Kirin House, a little hole-in-the-wall Japanese place near my parents’ house.  They have some hibachi tables, but I have no idea if their cooked food is any good–I always get sidetracked by the sushi bar.  It’s teeny tiny, with only about 8 seats and one sushi chef, but the fish is incredibly fresh and the “special” rolls are all really tasty, creative, and beautifully presented.  It’s always a highlight of a trip home (along with Chick-fil-a, which is a sacred and yummy Southern tradition)!

In Athens, I’m never sure whether my affinity for certain places has to do more with truly good food or just college nostalgia.  Either way, I ate pretty well while I was visiting my alma mater.  At the Five Star Day Cafe, I had a great breakfast of a “scramble” (eggs with cheese, veggies, and ham), a potato cake with sour cream and corn relish, a chocolate chip muffin, and coffee–all for less than $10.  I enjoyed another great breakfast (and a killer chocolate milkshake) at the Grill, which is a campus landmark.  The only disappointment was Uncle Otto’s, which used to be called Achim’s, where I got a chicken “k-bob” and fries.  It was passable, but it was nowhere near as good as I remembered it–the chicken was dry, the sandwich was oversauced, and the fries didn’t taste delicious and fresh-cut like they once did.  Two out of three ain’t bad, I guess.

I also visited Athens’ culinary pride and joy, 5 & 10.  However, due to the buzz surrounding that particular establishment, it probably deserves its own post.  Look for that sometime within the next couple of days.

All in all, though I’m excited about moving back home, I’m torn in my feelings about the food.  I don’t doubt that there are great places to eat in Atlanta, but after living in DC for three years, I have to admit that I’m pretty spoiled.  Hopefully, with enough persistence, I’ll be able to find the folks who are devoted to making the Atlanta culinary scene as diverse and dynamic as the city itself.

Boob-related, not food-related

February 25, 2008
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Though I have much to report from my recent jaunt to Georgia (including a review of 5 & 10, the most recent recipient of the “Best Restaurant in Atlanta” title), I wanted to quickly plug a non-culinary event that I’m hosting.

Tomorrow night (Tuesday 2/26), please consider joining me and my friend Heather at Chi-Cha Lounge for a Happy Hour to support the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer!  Heather and I met at the event in 2007, and we’ll be walking and tenting together this year.  We each have to raise at least $1,800 to participate–and that’s where YOU come in!

A $10 donation at the door gets you happy hour specials till 10 PM–and the opportunity to mix and mingle with me.  🙂  You’ll also get an incredibly warm and fuzzy feeling from supporting such an important cause.

Once again, Chi Cha Lounge, tomorrow night, 6-10 PM, $10, happy hour fun.  Please bring as many other guests as you like–more people means more money, and more money means more work towards finding a cure for breast cancer.  More money also means more cheap drinks–and who couldn’t use THAT on a Tuesday evening, eh?

Hope to see you all there–let me know if you have any questions.  Thanks for your support!  We will return to your regularly scheduled foodie programming tomorrow…

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Day off = breakfast deliciousness!

February 21, 2008

The best part about federal holidays?  The fact that neither my sweetie nor I have to work, which means that we can enjoy a tasty and leisurely breakfast.  This past Monday, it was blueberry pancakes (with bananas, for me), soy sausage links, and hot, fresh-brewed coffee.  It definitely gave us the stamina…to vigorously clean our apartment (you all have dirty minds, by the way)!  Yum…


Recipe: Spinach Artichoke Pesto Bake

February 12, 2008

After making a couple of successful shrimp pasta dishes, I decided to play with a vegetarian version. I found this one on Slashfood, and it seemed like a great pasta bake–easy, cheesy, and likely even better as leftovers (which are sacred in my house). The dish was tasty, though it could have used a little more salt or spice (for my taste). Maybe next time I’ll throw in some red pepper flakes for kick. In any case, the flavors got even better as they sat in the fridge, so this is definitely a great recipe to cook in advance and then eat all week long. Enjoy!

  • 1 pound whole wheat pasta (I used rotini), cooked al dente
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 shallots, diced
    2 cans artichoke hearts
    3 bags of fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup of pesto
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound fresh ricotta
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When it’s boiling, toss in a generous pinch of salt and pour in your pasta. In your largest saute pan, heat the oil and start to saute the shallots. When they’ve started to soften, add in the artichoke hearts.

When they appear to be browning up a bit, add the first bag of spinach and gently toss it with tongs. When that bag wilts, add the second. When the second bag wilts, add the third.

By this point, the pasta should be cooked. Before you drain it, reserve a cup (or so) of the cooking liquid. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Pour in the sauteed veggies and stir to combine. Now add the reserved cooking liquid, ricotta, pesto, and parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

Pull out a 10 x 15 baking pan and pour the pasta and sauce concoction into it. Dot the top with the sliced mozzarella and place in a 350 degree oven until the cheese browns and the top looks crispy.


Calling All DC Food Bloggers!

February 6, 2008

In a former life, I was a “regular” DC blogger–I wrote about whatever tickled my fancy, and I frequently attended happy hours organized by various individuals in the community.  When my writing became unfocused and unfulfilling, I shut down my old site and made the move to food bloggery.  I really enjoy writing on this site, and I love that I’m learning a lot about all things culinary, but I do miss interacting with other like-minded bloggers and meeting wonderful new people.

During a recent chat with Lemmonex (frequent commenter and writer of the highly informative and entertaining Culinary Couture), we decided that it was time to organize a get-together for the DC food blogging community.  So, without further ado, we present to you…

“Blogger Buffet: A DC Foodie Funfest”


Okay, once you contain your excitement, here are the (somewhat limited at the moment) details: we would like to host a potluck where DC food bloggers can meet, greet, and eat!  We can share recipes, trade tips and tricks, and gossip over which local chef we’d most like to…um…eat with.  Yeah.

We were thinking early- to mid-March, and either of us would be happy to host the shindig (as long as attendance isn’t more than about 10–we have roommates and small apartments).  We can dole out course assignments (which will, of course, be flexible) once we’ve gauged interest.  So tell us your interest!  🙂

We think this could be really fun, so definitely let me know in the comments if you want in.  If you have a big, Metro-accessible house that you’d like to offer up, all the better!  We really hope you’ll join us for food and friendship.  Looking forward to hearing from everyone!

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Tuesday’s dinner

February 1, 2008

Courtesy of Serious Eats–you really don’t need a recipe for pan-seared pork chops or flavored butter, but here’s the one that inspired our spicy feast.  Instead of simply salting and peppering the chops, I rubbed them with the leftover Essence spice mix from the weekend’s shrimp pasta.  The result was a VERY spicy (but very delicious) meal, complete with boiled potatoes (with leftover chipotle butter, of course) and a crisp green salad.  Easy and impressive!