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Highland Bakery (Atlanta, GA) – A True Southern Breakfast

July 9, 2010

To start off, just an FYI: You know how Atlanta is nicknamed “Hotlanta”? Well, there’s a reason for that – It’s effing hot in Atlanta. We’re talking 90 degrees and humid hot. HOT.

…That said, I walked 1.3 miles from my downtown Atlanta hotel to Highland Bakery and another 1.3 miles back in the above described HOT Atlanta weather. (It was totally worth it.)

———-

When I first got wind that work was shipping me off to Atlanta for training this year, I was ecstatic for multiple reasons:

  1. I wasn’t going to Orlando. (Thank god I wasn’t going to Orlando!)
  2. I’ve never been to Atlanta before.
  3. Southern food!

I was so pumped to eat a real Southern breakfast. I had visions of ham and biscuits and gravy and eggs over easy and GRITS. (We’re talking a lot of grits. Like, I wanted to swim in a pool of grits.) When I first arrived in Atlanta, I had that Southern breakfast, complete with eggs and biscuits and grits and it was…just okay. Almost slightly disappointing.

The next morning, I almost skipped breakfast because the idea of walking 1.3 miles in Atlanta’s hot-as-hell heat to another mediocre breakfast destination was not something I considered “fun”. However, seeing that my coworker/friends weren’t scheduled to arrive until dinnertime, I decided to trek there to kill some time. (As you can tell by the start of this post, I am so thankful I did.)

I arrived at Highland Bakery around 1PM, with the Father’s Day brunch crowd just starting to die down. After waiting about 15-30 minutes (I was so hot and sweaty, I couldn’t focus on how much time had passed), I snagged a seat by their back counter. I ordered a glass of sweet tea and an order of their cilantro corn pancakes, cursed the fact that I left my copy of “Garlic and Sapphires” at the hotel room (I always forget a book when I dine alone!) and instead chatted up the nice man sitting next to me. (Note: This conversation would later become very useful…) As we talked, the wait-staff walked by with a plate of their french toast – it was larger than my head and looked amazing. (Large, delicious looking food always bodes well for the future.)

Then they brought out my pancakes…

(These pancakes are larger than they look.)

These cilantro corn pancakes might have to go on my list of favorite brunch food. The naturally sweet corn and cilantro pancakes were light and fluffy, the eggs were runny, the salsa was tasty and the black beans were surprisingly necessary to bring everything together.

Now why I was thankful I forgot my book in my room: During my conversation with my new-found dining companion, he offhandedly mentioned my special word for this trip: GRITS. Highland Bakery is known for their stone-ground grits, produced in-house.

The difference between the grits above and the ones I had the day before were like night and day, similar to the difference between instant oatmeal and steel-cut oats. Whereas the ones I tasted the day before were bland and runny, Highland Bakery’s were hearty and had tons of texture. (Yes! Southern breakfast redemption!)

…And with those grits, I was happy. Highland Bakery may not serve the traditional Southern breakfast I had in mind but, in the end, it was exactly what I was looking for.

Highland Bakery
655 Highland Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30312
(404) 586-0772
Website: http://www.highlandbakery.com/
Twitter: @HighlandBakery1

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Echo Park (Los Angeles, CA) – LA’s Not NYC…But It’s Close

July 6, 2010

I’ve been missing Manhattan like you wouldn’t believe but seeing that it’s currently 100 degrees with over 50% humidity over there, I *think* I can deal with Los Angeles for a little while longer. Plus, ever since I found out that all my NYC firsts are also easily accessible in LA (specifically Echo Park), I’ve been trying to convince myself that I can satisfy my New York urges in LA. (It’s not a very convincing argument, but that’s another story…)

For example, the novelty of hand shaved shaved ice originally experienced at People’s Pops in Chelsea Market?

(Check it out – Shaved ice, shaved by hand!)

It may not be made from fresh, natural fruit flavors but this cup of sugary goodness may be just as good. The shaved ice man called it vanilla flavored, which basically means it tastes like liquid flan. He even topped the whole thing with condensed milk!

As for my love of Cafe Habana‘s Mexican corn?

(Picture taken by Jin N.)

Not quite as sweet as my first, but it hit the spot. Plus, that monstrous corn on a stick was only $2! (I bought it from a woman grilling corn out of a shopping cart…Oh LA, so resourceful, you are…)

Now if I can just find an LA substitute for the 53rd and 6th Halal Cart

Cooking with Fel – Orange Yogurt Cake

June 27, 2010

For those who don’t know, the mom is a health freak. Thanks to her, every time I look at a recipe for some kind of baked good, all I can focus on are the number of sticks of butter listed under “Ingredients”. (2 sticks? 3 sticks? Who does this recipe think I am – Paula Deen?!) If it calls for too many sticks of butter, I don’t bake.

Wait, what? Baking without butter?
Yeah, I know. (As you can guess, I bake very, very rarely.)

I had basically resigned myself to a life sans baking until recently, when someone tipped me off to baking with yogurt. I was already familiar with swapping apple sauce for oil in some recipes but to do the same with yogurt and butter? You’ve basically opened up the world for me!

This knowledge came in really handy when I recently had one of my sporadic urges to bake. I knew I had a tub of greek yogurt in the fridge and a quickly went to the web to dig up a good recipe. Wouldn’t you know, my favorite food recipe blog of all time – Smitten Kitchen – had a quick and easy recipe for a yogurt cake. I had no limes so I swapped it for an orange and didn’t bother with the sauce seeing that I had no other fruits in the fridge. (Considering how much food we buy every week, my fridge is always surprisingly bare.)

When I took the final product out of the oven, I was happy to find that the cake itself was actually very fragrant, especially since I zested the entire orange. (I used fresh squeezed juice from that same orange for the recipe too.) Not only that, even though I overbaked it just a tad, it was also quite moist and not too dense. I think, if I make an orange cake the next time around, I’m going to make a cranberry glaze for it…like, oranges and cranberries for the holidays? Who knows. All I know is, be prepared for more baking recipes with yogurt in them!

Orange Yogurt Cake
Modified From: Lime Yogurt Cake with Blackberry Sauce by Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

* 1 cup plain unsweetened whole milk yogurt
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil
* 1 cup sugar
* zest of one orange
* 1/4 cup orange juice
* 2 eggs
* 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

* 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the sides of a 9-inch round cake pan or springform pan with oil and line the bottom with parchment paper if the pan is not springform. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, sugar, orange zest and juice. Add the eggs one by one, whisking well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together, right over your yogurt batter. Stir with a spoon until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let stand for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the pan to loosen. If you’re using the springform pan, unclasp the sides. Otherwise, flip the cake onto a plate and flip it back on the rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

No Reservations: An Evening w/ Anthony Bourdain – *SWOON!*

June 26, 2010

Sometimes I refer to Anthony Bourdain as “King of my Heart” but jokes aside and speaking honestly now: Bourdain is king of my heart.

Maybe it’s his iconic Kitchen Confidential bad boy persona. Maybe there’s something in the fluidity of his speech or in his distinct choice in words. Maybe it’s that he just doesn’t give a shit about what other people say. Honestly, I don’t know…all I know is that man is so charismatic I can’t help but swoon.

When I heard that Bourdain was going to be plugging his new book, “Medium Raw”, by speaking at Royce Hall at my alma mater, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be going. My heart wanted to get the $175 meet and greet tickets but decided to be cheap and admire him from afar instead. (Hey, I was looking out for his well-being! What if I suddenly transformed into the Bourdain equivalent of a Beliber?! I might have bum-rushed the stage!)

(I wasn’t kidding with the “admiring from afar” – I was siting so far away, I couldn’t get a picture of king of my heart on stage! I photoshopped him in instead.)

Sitting in Royce, listening to Anthony Bourdain made me feel like a girl on her first date with that cute boy she’s been eyeing in class – I sat there, enthralled at everything that came out of the man’s mouth. I laughed excessively at his jokes, made mental notes about his favorite things and ran the night over and over in my head. (A disclaimer: For those that haven’t figured it out, I’m exaggerating for literary effect. I love the man but don’t worry, I’m not really stalking him…and if I were, I wouldn’t be telling you…)

———-

Anyway, a recap of that glorious night:

– The night began with a loving bash on Food Network personalities. The winners? Ina Garten and Giada De Laurentiis made it through the battle, unmarred (although I was ecstatic to hear he also thinks that Giada has an unusually large head). The losers? Rachel Ray (of course), Sandra Lee (meeting her has the honor of being his most terrifying moment in life) and Guy Fieri. Bobby Flay made it through, but just barely.

– Onto TV shows: He likes Iron Chef but not Iron Chef America. He likes Top Chef but not Hell’s Kitchen. He has respect for Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods because Zimmern eats the weird and disgusting, but doesn’t drink (whereas Bourdain drinks the horrors away). He thinks that his network is trying to kill the man in Man v. Food.

– He has a 3-year old daughter and is terrified of her falling into the fast food trap. His solution? “Ronald McDonald has COOTIES.” “Ronald SMELLS BAD.” “Did you hear about little Timmy? He went missing…” “…Was it Ronald again?” (Note: I laughed SO HARD at this one. I’m totally raising my kids this way.)

– Words of advice when traveling and eating: 1) Make the most of it. 2) Don’t worry about dirt; eat where the locals eat. 3) Follow local traditions. Be polite.

– Taping in Russia is dangerous. When he’s there, he drinks 3 shots of vodka for breakfast, 7 for lunch and 17 for dinner.

– Best kid story ever: He took his daughter to a restaurant, ordered the seafood tower. She looked at the top of the tower and saw a crab and screamed, “Sebastian!” (i.e. from The Little Mermaid)…then proceeded to tear “Sebastian” down and eat him.

And a couple good ones from the Q&A session:

– “Nigella or Giada in a knife fight?” (His response.)
– His last meal? The sea urchin and lardo from Marea.

———-

Oh Anthony, I’ll be counting down the months, weeks, days, minutes until I have the chance to see you again…

Petrossian (Los Angeles, CA) – Pictures Are Easy When Food Looks This Good

June 20, 2010

(For my first two Petrossian reviews, refer here and here.)

I feel a little guilty writing this review because this is my third review of Petrossian. I have 30+ reviews still sitting in my backlogs (including two New York trips and now an Atlanta trip too!), waiting to be written. Is it fair to write yet another Petrossian review while so many other restaurants have been sitting for months in queue, waiting to be typed onto screen?

No, it’s not really fair, but it’s just so easy to write Petrossian reviews. The food inspires me to write and the aesthetics behind Chef Ben’s food translate from plate to picture so effortlessly.

(Picture taken by Liz of Food, She Thought.)

Unlike my previous visits to Petrossian, which were basically planned to satisfy my hunger for fine dining, this visit was for a special occasion – this meal was the one that would later be featured on ABC7’s “Food Paparazzi” segment for both local and national broadcast. (I was very excited.) Given the occasion, Linden the Gastronomnom requested a small tasting menu and, as usual, Chef Ben did not disappoint.

Course 1: Caviar Surprise with King Crab and Apple Cider Jelly

We began our meal with a glass of hibiscus champagne, with its distinct vibrant rose color, and a hearty portion of “caviar surprise”. I was happy to finally taste the surprise, which I had seen on many a food blog, and enjoyed the sweetness of the crab and apple cider jelly against the saltiness of the caviar.

Course 2: Salmon Tartare, Caviar, Quail Egg

The salmon tartare was also delicious, as tartare and caviar have been known to do. (Another example: the steak tartare and caviar referenced in my first review.) As the course was perfectly seasoned, I found myself directly putting fork into mouth, completely ignoring the toast points provided on the side.

Course 3: Crispy Egg, Cipollini Onion Soubise, Pressed Caviar

My favorite component of this dish was surprisingly not the crispy egg but instead the onion soubise. Although a soubise is defined as a bechamel based sauce, I found the consistency to be more similar to a puree or a very thick soup. The runny yolk of the egg spilled into the soubise, making it even richer than originally plated.

Course 4: Skate, Brown Butter Foam, Crushed Potatoes, Sherry Vinegar Gelatin, Capers, Croutons

My first ever taste of skate will not be my last as I’ve never had anything similar in texture; it seemed to flake away in distinct layers. (To borrow an apt description by Ruth Reichl, it has a cordoroy-like texture.) The sherry vinegar gelatin was like a punch of flavor in the face (I mean that in a good way) and, surprisingly, did not distract from the rest of the dish. A complete bite of fish and accoutrements was salty and tart and buttery all at the same time – simply delightful.

Course 5: Sweetbreads, Baby Spinach, Maitake Mushroom

Our last course is typically not found on the menu, although I wish it was. As a lover of sweetbreads, I appreciated the simplicity of the dish because the natural taste of the sweetbreads was allowed to shine.

As mentioned previously, this meal was for a special occasion and Chef Ben outdid himself with this menu. Looking back now – the caviar in excess, the flutes of champagne, the TV crew – it feels a little surreal. This is, in no way, “normal” in my life…but I could get used to it. I just have to find a camera crew to follow me around and I’ll be set!

(Note: Since I’ve had people ask: ABC7 did NOT cover any part of this meal. I don’t think they would have let us splurge on caviar and champagne if they had…)

Petrossian Paris Boutique & Cafe
321 N Robertson Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90048
(310) 271-6300
Website: http://www.petrossian.com/
Twitter: @petrossianweho

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