Monday, January 30, 2012

Year of the Dragon

This is a bit overdue but with New Years, as with wedding gifts, we have all year right? 

A few weekends ago my immediate family traveled from 3 Southern points (Raleigh, Asheville, and Atlanta) to converge at my brother's place in Charlotte, NC, the effective half-way point, to celebrate Chinese New Years!

The Lunar New Year has been a big deal for my family as long as I can remember. We're a family of many heritages, so the Lunar New Year gets as much attention as Christmas. 

The event is always supplemented with a feast cooked by Mom, which hasn't hurt its estimation within our family.

This year, she really outdid herself. 

The picture above is curried duck with kaffir leaves. Below, a roasted bass.

 Tempura shrimp.

 Barbecued pork.

 The chef herself.

 Calamari salad (a new addition to the table, and one we'll be looking forward to next year!).


And a great time was had by all!  Happy Year of the Dragon!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Octopus Bar

We finally made it to Octopus Bar last week. Octopus Bar is a late-night concept in the porch of So Ba in East Atlanta Village. So Ba serves standard Vietnamese fare during the day but after 10pm Chef Angus Brown takes over.

The porch is barely enclosed with plastic and we had the misfortune of going on the coldest night Atlanta has seen in a while (24 degrees!). The few space heaters and mini-fireplaces didn't warm us as much as the hearty and flavorful dishes.

"Oyster Our Way" was a revelation. The bracing flavors of the uni and oyster were a perfect pairing with the freshness of the mint. The chicharonnes were just a hint of crunchy texture, balancing the other soft elements. 

We had heard great things about the salt and pepper shrimp and they did not disappoint. A crackly texture, bursting with flavorful juices, we ate these whole. I appreciated the spice from the jalapenos, though they gave Alex the hiccups.

Braised duck with home-made pasta was substantial and full of flavor, the perfect cold-night dish. The flavors of the duck didn't come through very strongly but its heat and richness were appreciated.

Uni carbonara with pancetta was not as interesting as the braised duck and pasta. The uni lost most of its flavor through being cooked and ended up being just creamy mush on the palate. The pasta was nice, but overall this dish was forgettable.

It was well past midnight by this time so we didn't make it to dessert.  Octopus Bar is definitely worth checking out whether you're waiting til 10pm to eat or looking for a more intentional late-night snack.

Gu's Bistro

We recently went to Gu's Bistro, per recommendation of Chow Down Atlanta (my favorite Atlanta food blogger... this girl finds great stuff). The name is a funny combination of Chinese surname and French-style restaurant but the food is all Szechuan.

We started with Chengdu Style Cold Noodles. They were a good appetizer, but the most uninterested dish compared to what came next.
 Hot and sour fish soup was my favorite. Peppery and with that perfect cornstarch muddled consistency, I was in heaven.

Cumin lamb was another win.

Fried shrimp with fresh cilantro (whoops on the picture).

Sauteed snow pea leaves, a special that day. Fresh, lightly stir-fried in garlic, it was all I want out of my Asian vegetable dish.

This is a place we'll definitely return to.

Gu's Bistro
5750 Buford Hwy NE, Suite A
Doraville, GA 30340

Friday, January 13, 2012

Baking Babka

Chocolate, lots of chocolate.

1 lb into chopping ghana 65% chocolate I wondered what I'd gotten myself into.

I'd been eyeing this babka recipe for years but had never gotten around to making it. It's rich (5 sticks of butter!). It's expensive (really good chocolate). It's daunting for a lot of reasons.

Well, this week I finally got it together to make it.
I chopped.

I blended with butter (and cinnamon).

I kneaded. I spread. I rolled.

I twisted (and shouted!).

I made....babka!

Neither Alex nor I have had babka before so we don't have much to compare it to. However, we've got a friend whose grandmother made it on a regular basis and he said it was a bit dry (I overbaked it) but other than that, spot on! 

Til next time, babka.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

To Tybee and Back: a Georgia Food Road Trip

With some time before the next semester Lilly and I decided to utilize our free time and go on a good ol' fashioned road trip. We took a few days stopping in Macon, Madison, Jonesboro and Tybee Island. We slept in Savannah and spent a full day sight seeing. Lilly had the camera so there are a lot of pics of me and almost none of Lilly...
 Downtown Savannah...
 Tybee Island Lighthouse...
Ocmulgee National Park Macon...

But who really wants this  when we one could see pics of fine southern food we found. 

While there are a some standard eateries in Savannah like Paula Deans "Lady and Sons" and "The Olde Pink House". We went to these places but our comments would just be redundant on what Frommers and Zagat already said. But we found some real gems outside of the tourist path as well. Both of these places have received almost no web attention. The first is Neighborhood Soul Food. An unpretentious and tasty meat and three with regularly changing daily specials. 

A memorable plate of smothered shrimp (with mac n' cheese and black eyed peas)

Best piece of sweet potato pie we've had in GA. 

Second, is the awkwardly named "Seafoodlicious". Luckily their food rolled off the tongue and into ones stomach far better than the name. 

We got deviled crab.

Spicy conch...
Low Country Boil with Shrimp/Blue Crab/Potatoes/Corn

When we hit the coast we made sure to stop by at the Breakfast Club on Tybee Island. For those who make it to the Atlantic Islands this place is an institution. But beyond the islands it is less well known. I first came across it on a PBS travel program, but it has had only limited web attention. Lilly and I agree that is serves  Platonic form of American breakfast. 

Waffle with Pecan and a side of Bacon.
Omlette, grits, toasst, and home fries...

Finally on our way back to Atlanta we pulled off the highway in Hampton GA. There we found a rare mom and pop donut shop. We chatted with the friendly owner Henry for a while. Got his whole story about growing up with parents in the donut business and finally deciding to open his own shop. Donuts are in this guys blood. Too bad he's so far outside of Atlanta. The donuts were tasty, without any gimmicks, and well worth the stop.



All and all a wonderful and delicious get away.