Friday, October 30, 2009

How Sweet it is to have Tiramisu - Antico Pizza

This just in... Antico is now a full blown Italian bakery. Went tonight and they had tons of new items. There were about 5 different cakes/tarts including a cheesecake, a chocolate tort, and a fruit-based cheesecake? Today was also their first day making about 5 varieties of biscotti and an Italian-style croissant with creme filling. Additionally they have tiramisu and a chocolate, Roman rendition of tiramisu which I ordered. The dessert was fantastic but pricey at 5 bucks. It had hints of Amaretto and lovely thin layers of flour-less chocolate cake. Go get you some!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leon's Full Service - Fell 'er up!

Whenever I hear the name Leon, I am immediately taken back to Midnight Madness', quirky but brilliant scavenger hunt mastermind, Leon. Now that I got that out of the way, let's talk about the restaurant.

Apparently this place is run by the Brickstore folks, and it shows in the beer list and wait que. Leon's is already immensely popular but I only found myself here for the first time this past weekend. And crowded it was. Fortunately for Kins and I, some of the tables are screwed into the floor and can only be occupied by two guests. Needless to say, we were seated immediately. I really liked the interior design of this place and while it was very crowded, it wasn't too noisy.

We started out with an order of pommes frites, which come with two (out of about a list of ten) complimentary dipping sauces. Sadly, this was a tough choice and I wish they gave the customer two more additional choices per order. The fries are very tasty with a great exterior crunchiness and interior puffiness that is ideal. Unfortunately, our order was over-salted. Both the sauces were lacking in the flavor and texture department, but I preferred the spicy mango catsup over the goat-cheese fondue. The fondue was not fondue-y at all; it was more grainy like Kraft Mac & Cheese.

For my main, I got the brisket sandwich with the side special of the night, duck-curry soup. The sandwich was served open-faced with tender brisket covered in peppercorn gravy and onion strings. The real star of the sandwich was the bread. It's a thick, crusty slice but is excellently chewy and it never got soggy through entire the course of the meal. I love peppercorn gravy, but it was used pretty sparingly. The onion strings were actually excellent - they were flavorful and firm, not like the soggy mess that is served at too many other places.

The duck-curry soup was tasty, but was a little too close to chicken soup. All the typical vegetables were present and the broth really didn't taste heavily enough of curry. There were only about three detectable pieces of duck in the cup as well.

Kins got the shrimp gyro and enjoyed it very much. She opted for the warm chickpea & cherry salad with basil, aged provolone, and red wine vinaigrette. Chickpeas are not my cup of tea but these, with the cherries (although we thought they were cranberries) were a tasty preparation of something I typically dislike.

All of the other sides, outside of the fries, are much healthier than what you will find at gastro-pubs. In fact, they were all salads. This is both a negative and a positive in my book. They have a great sandwich menu and most times, people want something starchy to go with the sammie besides the quintessential fries. However, I give them props because not only are they providing some healthier options to onion rings or mashed potatoes, but the salad Kins got was unique and actually tasted good!

So collectively, Leon's was a great success in my book. I'd go back for the sandwich and pomme frites alone and most of the other items sounded and looked tasty. If there actually is a guy named Leon behind this place, perhaps it is the genius from Midnight Madness who never reappeared after 1988's Riding Fast. Poor guy.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but it was too dark to take photographs inside.
Leon's Full Service on Urbanspoon

Turkey - The other, other white meat.

I was inspired. By whom you ask? Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto or another cast member of Iron Chef? Nope. Rachel Ray. Yes, Rachel Ray - the celebrity chef that is currently in a daytime-television ratings battle with Oprah. That's the one. While I don't watch her network television spot, and dislike her traveling show, I (from time to time) end up watching 30 Minute Meals. In all fairness, that show is completely applicable to most viewer's lives; we all want to make great meals, but the process can sometimes be very time consuming and draining.

While watching one episode, I was inspired to try one of her recipes. She essentially took turkey sausage, rolled the meat into meatballs, and stuffed it with fresh mozzarella. Simple, right? But did you think of it? And that's why they pay her the big bucks.

I actually completely forgot that I had bought turkey sausage (I thought it was ground turkey), so I ended up over-seasoning it. I also opted to cook the meatballs under the broiler rather than a pan for two reasons. 1. You can avoid any excess oil this way and get a nice crust to the meatball and 2. It's by far a maintenance free approach.
The end results were awfully tasty atop some pasta (even if over-seasoned), but I wish I could have kept the cheese from overflowing. This recipe will be surfacing again. Thanks Rachel!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Takin' it to the Streets - Battle Szechuan

Up until about a year ago, I don't think I'd ever encountered authentic or semi-authentic Szechuan cuisine. Featuring spicy Szechuan peppercorns, chili peppers, and usually garlic flavors, Szechuan cooking was not even on my radar. Fortuantely, Kins talked up Tasty China for months when we first started going out and we finally went nearly a year ago to the day. Never a spice-hound myself, I left with a numb mouth, a full stomach and a slumber full of nightmares (yes peppery grub can induce bad dreams). But that was fine by me because the food, albeit spicy, was delicious. Even though Tasty China is tucked away, deep in Marietta, we keep returning because it's an unbeatable option for Szechuan style fare. But this weekend we found a worthy candidate for some of Atlanta's best Szechuan.

Saturday night, we ended up at Man Chun Hong. Another place that Kins recommended and eatbufordhighway had suggested, MCH is located in a Korean shopping center on Buford Highway just OTP. They have quite a bit of Korean food here but dedicate an entirely separate menu to Chinese and Szechuan cooking. We ordered very similarly to what we would order at Tasty China while here and we were extremely pleased.

So without further adieu, I give you the first ever throw-down of The Food Abides: Battle Szechuan.

Tasty China:

The Food -
We always like to start out with an order of dumplings at most Chinese restos we visit. When ordered at Tasty China, the servers will always warn you that it will take a while for it to be prepared. This leads me to two theoretical conclusion; either they don't have them pre-made for cooking or they're frozen and take time to be reheated. I'm leaning toward the frozen idea as they just aren't typically as tender as most dumplings I've had. I enjoy the dumplings here, but they just don't measure up to other places around town (primarily on BuHi and the greatly missed Eastern Pearl). Unfortuantely, I do not have a picture of the dumplings from TC.

I've had a handful of dishes at Tasty China now, but we usually find ourselves gravitating towards these two.
1. Shan City Chicken - When ordered the first time, Phuong (who we'll get to later) eyed me up and down and said, "This dish is VERY hot. Like 90% chili pepper." Intimidated I was, but I stuck with my order and my taste buds were greatly rewarded. The dish is hot, but is more likely 40% chili peppers. The real heat, I've found, comes from the Szcheuan peppercorns which stud the dish and must be avoided like tiny little landmines. If you swallow one of these (and I have) game over. The Shan City Chicken is lightly battered and fried and when cut with some rice, is Szechuan perfection. It exhibits subtle hints of garlic as well, but most of the focus is on the chilis and peppercorns.
2. Dry Fried Eggplant - It's exactly how it sounds but better. The eggplant has an extremely crisp exterior and creamy interior much like the best french fries. It's dusted with some seasoning and also cooked with chili peppers. I cant recall if they use the peppercorns in this one, but it does not pack the punch that the chicken does. It's still one of the tastiest vegetarian-friendly dishes I've ever had. It's probably the best eggplant I've ever had.
3. The Rice - Tasty China's rice is usually good with maybe two occasions of rice excellence.

The service -
The atmosphere of Tasty China is like many other typical Chinese restaurants. It's clean and usually quiet. However, the similarities stop there. The owner, Phuong is a character. She is extremely comical and will give most anyone a hard time when given the opportunity. Aside from her great personality, she can usually size you up and make educated (and usually accurate) guesses as to what you might like. Seriously, if you aren't sure, ask her. Additionally the servers also make great suggestions, always smile, and exhibit a pleasant demeanor.

Man Chun Hong:

The Food-

Thick skin - stubbornly delicious

I found the dumplings here to be much better than those at Tasty China, but they still lacked the delicate nature that really great dumplings can have. The skin of the dumpling was very dense and more heavily fried with a very crispy exterior. When done right, a pan-fried dumpling can have both the crispness from frying and some more tender/gummier skin like that of a steamed dumpling. Additionally, the meat is very tightly packed and often falls out of the skin after the first bite. The sauce was much lighter and less flavorful from the usual dark, garlicky, vinegar, and green onioned varieties I'm used to. Aside from those minor shortcomings, I really enjoyed the dumplings and an order gets you about 10 very large ones. Jalapenos add some more flavor and nice coloring.

1. Shan City Chicken - This dish was delicious, but didn't quite hold up to Tasty China's rendition. Again I got sized up when ordering it - "You know this is very spicy?" "Yup." There were slightly less peppercorns but an additional and unexpected heat element and flavor of jalapenos. The batter is not as crispy as Tasty China and the chicken is diced so small, that you can barely detect it in each bite. However, I wouldn't really hesitate before ordering this dish again as it's darned good.

2. Spicy Fried Eggplant - Notice that the title does not mention dry-fried. I thought it would be the same dish, but it wasn't at all. The flavors were very similar but the eggplant was another animal-it's battered and deep fried. This makes it moister, but also soggier and greasier. This dish again was tasty but really didn't hold a candle to the Tasty China version.

3. Rice - The rice here was incredible - perfectly moist, while still not having any clumps and perfect grain separation. I've only been to MCH once, but it's still better than Tasty China's on their best day.

The Service -
The service at Man Chun Hong was perfect. Everyone was attentive, friendly, and warm. Our waitress, Joanne, was sweet and always checked up on us with a big smile on her face. Additionally in our to-go boxes, she separated the rice and two remaining dumplings with each of our dishes to make a little lunch-box for the next day. I also really like the open atmosphere and visible kitchen here.

The Victor:

So who wins? Tasty China.

Tasty China's main courses were better (but not by much) than Man Chun Hong's and that was my draw to either of the restaurants. If this was just a dumpling battle or service battle I'd give the gold medal to MCH. That being said, this was only my first time going to Man Chun and if they can keep it consistently this good, I might tend to think they're better than Tasty China. I will also add that Man Chun Hong is slightly less expensive that Tasty China and that's a plus in my book as well. Either way, I will go and leave both establishments with the contagious smiles that the service transmits unto me with each visit. .

Man Chun Hong on Urbanspoon

Tasty China on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 16, 2009

Duck Tales - Donuts

Although I wasn't a fan of Shaun's duck-fat fries, these just seem entirely too good to be true. Had to share hoping someone else will make them and report back to me if they're any good.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'm yo' pusha' - Grindhouse Killer Burgers

When thinking of clever titles I could use for this entry, Grindin' by Clipse (featuring Pharrell) effortlessly popped into my mind. I went and looked up the lyrics and they were PERFECT!

"From ghetto to ghetto,
to backyard to yard
I sell it whip on whip,
it's off the hard
I'm the...neighborhood pusha"

Grindhouse kinda is in the ghet'. They took an item commonly found in the backyard and put it on the scene. And lastly, they're becoming a neighborhood favorite in the burger game.

I rather like Grindhouse's logo.

So here's the deal - They're located in the Sweet Auburn Market on Edgewood and Jesse Hill, right down the street from Rolling Bones. I'd never been to the market before and wasn't all that impressed. It has its history, but it just pales in comparison to Dekalb Farmers Markets selection and quality. I will say they have some impressive looking bacon here that I'm going to have to try one day soon. I believe the vendors rent their space, but it looks like most are regulars and have been there for a number of years. And then there's a food-court!? Grindhouse opened about a month ago and I tried it immediately.

Grindhouse is well... interesting. They are essentially set up like a bar but you order your food from a register and then pull up a stool. There is a white tile wall on which they project horror, kung fu, and grindhouse types of movies. This is pretty cool but there's no sound and it's pretty bright in the market. When they first opened they were empty but slow as molasses. It took at least ten minutes to get my order. I opted for the double patty burger cooked Cowboy style - thick cut bacon, crispy vidalia onions, cheddar cheese, and BBQ sauce. While the patties were pretty much well done, they still were very juicy and seasoned perfectly. The thick cut bacon was a nice touch as was the cheese. Both the onions and the BBQ sauce were pretty much undetectable. The buns here are tasty, soft potato buns. As you can tell from the picture, the burger was unnecessarily too greasy.

I also got an order of the vidalia onion rings. These were weak. First of all, the bag of rings looked like this:

Not even 1/3 of the way filled.
Secondly, they had no crunch or flavor to them. These weren't onion rings, they were onion strings and I did not appreciate getting charged $2.50 for them. At least fill the bag three fourths of the way up.

This past Saturday I went back for a follow-up evaluation. Again, the service was slow. I ordered in advance on the phone this time. When I got there my order took as long to get as the people who ordered in person. The lady at the counter assured me that the guys liked to make the burgers fresh. Look, if I order in advance, and I'm not there in five minutes, then the cold food is on me, not you. Additionally they had already made my shake, so it just sat there melting away while I waited another ten minutes. This makes NO sense.

That is not a cafeteria chicken patty. That is an onion ring nearly twice the size of the turkey patty.

I went for a turkey burger cooked cowboy style this go-round. I was a bit confused when I unwrapped my t-burger as it looked like a fried patty. Turns out it was an enormous onion ring covering the actual patty, which was so much better than the onion strings on the original Cowboy I got. Makes me wonder if they changed their side onion rings too? The turkey is moist and flavorful and a great beef alternative. Kins went for a single beef patty Grindhouse (real original name) style - lettuce, grilled onions, pickles, American cheese, and Grindhouse sauce-their take on Big-Mac sauce. Both of our burgers again, were too greasy.

Grindhouse Style

I ordered a peanut butter/chocolate shake. I didn't do my research (they make them with soft serve) and the shake was just horrid. Not only did they have that timing problem, where it melted for 10+ minutes, but I think there may have been Reeses Peanut Butter Cups in it which all clumped at the bottom and made it difficult to drink with a straw. There are still so few places that make shakes in Atlanta the right way (hard-scooped ice cream people!)

The location/parking are slightly inconvenient, but the burgers are darned tasty. I think it's a bit pricey for what you get, but then again, so is Five Guys. There have been an insane amount of burger joints opening in Atlanta and there's no way all of them will make it. Given all the choices, I don't think I'll often return to Grindhouse. If they can improve on the sides, time management, and grease factor, I'd be back in a decelerated, cholesterol-induced heartbeat.

Grindhouse Killer Burgers on Urbanspoon

Twitter - Follow Me!

Just (reluctantly but necessarily) joined Twitter. Follow me here!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Meh - El Tesoro

I met Kins for lunch here a few weeks ago and was pretty excited to finally be trying a new Mexican place. El Tesoro is located in an old house (not typical Mexican digs) on the southern side of the Decatur Square and somewhat off the beaten path. I rather liked the change in scenery, but my praises stop there.
The food was meh and the service was no bueno. They lose a point from me right off the bat as they charge for chips and salsa. The chips were pretty decent and perfectly salty but the salsa was lacking in the flavor department. They claim to have authentic Mexican street-style tacos. $3 each. On Buford Highway tacos can be cheaper than a dollar each. Imagine how much in Mexico... Price aside, authentic these were not.
I ordered three tacos - Chicken Tomatillo, Fish, and Pork Tomatillo. Props on giving the choice between corn or flour tortillas (neither house made) but that couldn't make up for the fillings. The fish was pretty tasty but the other two were just, bland. You know like Ann from Arrested Development bland.

"What is she, funny or something?"

For a $9 (or $11+ if you count the chips) meal I left full, but unsatisfied. Additionally the service was extremely slow and the restaurant was empty. They're going to need some serious help if they want to survive in not only this economy, but the exponentially growing Atlanta restaurant scene.

Also, what's up with this - they definitely had the chairs from Mama Fu's in here.


Cantina El Tesoro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Yessir! 500 hits!

Congrats to well... The Food Abides. We just hit 500 unique page views and 834 actual hits! Thanks and please keep visiting as we'll keep it fresh and updated often!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Power Q. Edgewood Revival - Rolling Bones

I remember when Rolling Bones first opened in 2003. I was so excited to have some unique BBQ in my hood, and with a drive-through mind you! After going there many, many times I can safely say it was one of the more inconsistent, and not-so-great Q places in town. I had some damn good meals here, but more often than not, some pretty disappointing ones.

Rolling Bones was previously an abandoned filling station.

Then I got word that Rolling Bones was under new ownership (Chef Todd Richards of One Flew South) and that on June 7th, 2009, they were administering an entirely new menu. I was there on the 8th and they still hadn't implemented the new menu but nothing could deter me. I've been back four times now and I have to say the meat is much better than the former incarnation, but the "gourmet" sides are lacking.

Roll that beautiful meat footage!

This past visit I went for a combo plate. This is the best deal on the menu and for $12 you can get at least two meals out of all the food. I went for the chopped pork, ribs, and paprika-butter corn. The meat is nice and smokey and sauce (spicy or mild) is usually just poured over it. The ribs were very tender and a little on the greasy side, but hardly fatty. The pulled pork is equally as tasty with some really nice smoke permeating throughout each bite. The corn... Well it appears all the butter and paprika had removed itself from the corn and were laying, melted in the bottom of the styrofoam container. I wouldn't really care all that much, but every time I've gone here since the reopening the sides were always disappointing. They claimed to have hand cut fries - they were frozen on my visit. The sweet potato was just plain nasty.

Aside from that, Rolling Bones is a solid choice for your BBQ cravings. Due to poor line management and lack of parking the other times I've visited, I recommend calling in your order and picking it up at the drive-through window.

Rolling Bones BBQ on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 5, 2009

Casa Vieja - Andale! Andale! Arepa! Arepa!

After watching Bobby Flay's Throwdown battle of Arepas (something I'd never heard of before), I experienced a strong urge to go try one of these Columbian/Venezuelan delicacies. What's an Arepa you ask? Well on Throwdown, it appeared to be a sandwich thats buns were made out of little corn-cakes. They were hand-pat or made in an arepa press, and then grilled and stuffed with savory fillings. Not so much the case at Casa Vieja. Here, they resemble maru mochi (those little Japanese rice cakes).

We started with an order of empanadas. They were pretty tasty. Kins pointed out how they were encased in a corn wrapper unlike the usual flour based dough we were used to. Definitely made for a crunchier and different taste.

I ordered the Bandeja Paisa. It's a ton of food including a flat piece of steak (similar to carne asada), a fried egg atop a mountain of rice, beans, fried plantains, avocado, a large pork rind, aaaaaaaaaaaand an arepa. Everything was kind of meh - the steak was too dry, the egg was undercooked for my liking, and the beans were flavorless. The rice was particularly good however and the arepa, while dry was tasty. The pork rind (I think the first I've ever had) was just how I imagined; like chewing on fried fat.

Kins got the fried pork cutlet which came with a simple salad, some avocado, the good rice and plantains. I actually enjoyed the pork, but it was a bit dry but Kins remedied it with a cilantro (feh) sauce that came with the empanadas.

Overall Casa Vieja wasn't particularly anything special. If anyone has any suggestions for the kind of arepas that are like sandwiches, I'm all ears!

Casa Vieja on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 2, 2009

Antico Pizza revisited... days later

We had to go back to Antico. It has been on my mind ever since I finished the last slice the other night and it's extremely convenient to our place. Tonight we opted for the San Gennaro and it was out of this world. This pie features salsiccia, sweet red pepper, bufala mozzarella, and cipolline onions. The crust was better (tasted a bit sour to me the first go-round) and the sauce was plenty flavorful this go round. Seems like they've got all the kinks worked out.
Also managed to get both a cannoli and sfogliatelle. The cannoli is good, for cannoli, but the sfogliatelle will blow you away. Lightly orange flavored, hardened ricotta filling surrounded by super thin, crispy layers of dough - unbeatable.

I'll let the pictures do the talking.

It's imperative to point out that these peppers are not your run-of-the-mill sweet, red peppers. They are small, conical and pack some of the most intense pickled flavor you will come across.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Za Za Gimmemore - Antico Pizza

In addition to the burger smackdown that's taking Atlanta by storm, we're now coming upon a full-steam pizza apocalypse. The traditional pizza with thin crust and top quality ingredients are popping up at places all over town. You've got Fritti, Versano's, Max's Coal Oven, Baraonda, and now Antico Pizza. And when I think traditional, I think margherita of the neapolitan variety - thin crust, plenty of char, san marzano tomatos, fresh mozzerella, usually olive oil, and some fresh basil.
After reading three 5-star reviews on Yelp and seeing Blissful Glutton's review of Antico Pizza, I couldn't help but go there immediately. Located in a pretty unassuming spot on Hemphill close to Georgia Tech, I practically drove past the small, yellowish building. Antico is only a carry-out establishment with a small counter to eat on if you just can't wait to get home (or eat the pizza in your car).

It was surprisingly clean - I thought it would be more divey, but this place is brand spankin' new. There is a glass encased pizza making table where sadly nobody was working, but still looked awesome. If this place was a church, that room was the altar-it was a holy place where they can showcase their labor of love.

Also behind glass is a dessert stand of handmade canoli (they fill it only after you order it) and sfogliatelle. They looked magnificent and while I ordered two sfogliatelle, the guy running the show forgot about them and I felt bad making other people wait as it was getting crowded.
Additionally, they even have pre-made pizza's for you to take home, though nobody even laid an eyeball on them. Customers kept their eye on the prize - a fresh baked pizza.

I was greeted by a kid who I have come to find out is the owner's son who was looking quite pamplonian (or like Mattin of Top Chef fame); he had on all white with a red bandanna around his neck. This is the uniform at Antico, and they can dress like clowns for all I care as long as they keep putting out quality product. You place your order up front and the guy calls it in to the back. By the way, this guy is also slicing pizzas, running charges and filling canoli. While waiting I literally watched this place's popularity growing- people continued to keep piling in during this soft opening.

The pizza was pretty close to perfection. The ingredients are simple, but are high-quality and compliment one another perfectly. The hint of garlic within the mix is mind-blowing although it will haunt you the rest of the night. Apparently they are using extremely hot ovens imported directly from Naples and this allows them to achieve much char and minute long cooking times. From the time I placed my order until the time I had pizza in my hand was only about five minutes.
I have 3 minor complaints.
1. The sauce - I've definitely had better sauce. This lacked flavor and was even a bit watery.
2. The flop - the crust was just too floppy toward the center. It was perfect from the mid point of the slice to the back end.
3. The cheese - While most people love cheese, on a margherita I like it to be a little more sparse. This allows for all the ingredients to show off their contribution to the pie.
Aside from these problems, the pizza is just perfect. They aren't cheap but the $15 margherita is enough to feed two and is really made from the best stuff on earth (sorry Snapple). If you go with one of their meatier varieties, it'll run you about twenty bones.

More to come on the Atlanta Za' scene when I have tried all of the places and can begin "Za Wars" 2009!

Antico Pizza Napoletana on Urbanspoon