Friday, January 29, 2010

What's Not to Like About Gastropubs?

Since moving back to Atlanta from New York City, I have been on a quest to find food that is both affordable and amazing. Two years in, and I have not been let down; Atlanta's restaurant scene has improved exponentially since I left. The Porter Beer Bar is one of my favorite haunts. Run by former Seeger chefs, Nick Rutherford and Molly Gunn, the Porter is an amazing jewel shining in the rough. The beer list (though I don't drink beer, I can appreciate the artisanal efforts which go into the making) is hundreds long, and my favorite, they offer several ciders, especially Samuel Smith's Organic Cider, which is dry and appley.
The best thing about Porter is the amazing food at amazing prices. I love their black bean burger, piled high with feta, homemade pickled onions, and a delicious red pepper mustard. The arugula salad is a great combination of spicy, sweet and tangy, due to additions of sweet golden beets and creamy goat cheese.
But my favorite things about the Porter are the seasonal menu specials. A few times back, I had a chicken liver mousse terrine. The liver mousse was thick and creamy, and the bitterness offset by drizzled honey, to be spread on perfectly toasted crostini. Fantastic! I don't even really like liver that much, but this was a success. I really admire chefs who are returning to a holistic food approach: the whole animal is put to use, the ingredients are seasonal, condiments and sides are freshly made, etc, and chefs Nick and Molly go to extra lengths to offer that kind of food on their menu.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My New Found Love of Reubens

After a long week at work, there is nothing I find more delightful than taking the time in the kitchen to try out one of the many Food & Wine recipes I have ripped from their magazines. This past weekend, I decided to make my version of their Foccacia Reubens.
Reubens are new to me, as corned beef was not a very common sandwich meat in the South where I grew up, but recently, one of my favorite restaurants, Parish, opened my eyes to the spicy, flavorful joys of a well-made Reuben.

Here's my take on this delicious sandwich:

Foccacia Reubens

1/2 lb. Thinly Sliced Green Cabbage
2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Loaf Foccacia
Sliced Smoked Gouda Cheese
1/2 lb. Corned Beef
2 Tablespoons UnSalted Butter
Tori's Remoulade (see recipe below)

In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with the vinegar, sugar and salt. Let stand at room temperature, tossing occasionally, until softened, about 30 minutes. Heat a panini press or griddle. Slice Foccacia to desired sandwich size, spread the remoulade on both sides, layer one side with a layer of Gouda, followed by a layer of Corned Beef, followed by a mound of the cabbage, and topped once more with a layer of Gouda. Put the lid on the sandwich, and smear some softened butter on top and bottom. Place the sandwich in your hot pan and cook until the cheese is soft and gooey (about 6 minutes.) Enjoy!

Tori's Remoulade

1/4 cup Mayonaise
1/4 cup of Horseradish Mustard
1 Teaspoon Your favorite hot sauce (Mine happens to be from my favorite BBQ restaurant, Wallace's)
1/2 Teaspoon Paprika
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Zest and Juice of 1/2 Lemon

Whisk all ingredients together briskly! Should keep in your fridge for a week!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Iron Chef in My House Every Week

Today was our day for our weekly delivery of local, organic produce by Vegetable Husband. My husband and I have been looking for an organic local co-op to join for a long while, but the problem we had with most co-ops is that you have to pick up your food at a certain place and time each week. This is just not an option for our schedules. We work late, or have plans and almost always are running around like maniacs on the weekends trying to squeeze everything we couldn't do in the week into two short days.
Then, one magical day, last October, a colleague told my husband that she had found a local, organic co-op which delivers directly to your door! We joined almost immediately, and have found that we are not spending any more on produce than we were previously. Even though we joined in the winter months, we have been enamored with the variety of vegetables that have come our way. This week we have: sweet potatoes, sunchokes, carrots, roma tomatoes, collards, green peppers, kale, and thyme. And though the roma tomatoes and green peppers came from Florida, due to the hard frost we had this past week, everything else is from Georgia! It's an incredible feeling knowing that a large portion of your food is going directly to someone in your backyard.
So, this is sounding a bit like an ad for Vegetable Husband, but what I really want it to be is an ad for local farmers. Every week we are presented with this amazing basket of surprises from our home state, and it is a new and exciting challenge to figure out what to make for dinner. I never knew that broccoli greens were edible and delicious! They taste just like broccoli heads, but look similar to collards. I removed the stems and made one of the best broccoli casseroles I've ever had.
I'm very excited this week to have sunchokes; they are an amazing vegetable that you rarely see in your supermarket. They taste like an artichoke mixed with a potato. Slice them and saute them in butter and you will have an amazing treat. However, in fairness, I do get the occaisonal thing that I am not excited about, i.e. collards. Luckily, I can leave them all to my husband!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Burgers and Blais

When my brother was in town this holiday, we decided to stop by Flip Burger. I have been a fan of Richard Blais, creator of Flip Burger, since my uncle regaled me of his Tang concoctions, once tried at Blais' first Atlanta restaurant, the aptly named: Blais. My uncle also took me to One Midtown Kitchen for a Blais tasting menu, and mostly, I only remember that the experience was wonderful. I mean, who could go wrong with lamb lollipops?
It was a true joy to watch Blais' rise to the top on Top Chef; my husband and I were just devastated by his loss at the end, but couldn't wait to have him back in Atlanta. When we went to Home Restaurant, Blais' first restaurant venture post-Top Chef, we were both disappointed. The portions were huge and clunky, but also the food lacked the innovative Blais hallmarks, so we were just thrilled when he departed from Home and Flip was announced.

I should add a disclaimer here: I don't like hamburgers. In principal, I find it odd to grind something, only to smash it back together. 9 times out of 10, the results are flavorless and fatty. However, there are always exceptions to my rules. Star Provisions' fois gras burgers, for example, are completely amazing.
For our first Flip Burger experience, my aunt, Jeni, and her boyfriend, Justin, took my husband and I there for my husband's birthday. We couldn't have enjoyed ourselves more. Jeni and I both had a 5 Alive cocktail; a delicious, fruity gin mixture, which was a good pairing for my lamburger and fried okra. I finished the meal with the Krispy Kreme and Spicy Chocolate Mole milkshakes (split 2 ways.) The burger was fantastic. A moist, rich burger countered by tart yogurt sauce. The highlight of the meal for me was the Krispy Kreme milkshake. Imagine a delicious Krispy Kreme with a delectable thick, cream finish. Heaven.
I just couldn't wait to share the experience with my brother, who has grown up in fine foodie tradition, and appreciates all manner of food! I posted pictures of what we ordered below.

My brother, who is a pescatarian, had the crab burger and the homemade bread and butter fried pickles. The pickles were so scrummy (scrumptious and yummy!) Golden and crispy, sour and sweet all together!

I went for something non-traditional this visit, the tuna tartare burger with a sous-vide egg on top! The creaminess of the egg and avocado were a wonderful accompaniment to the briny tuna. It was a bit messy in burger form, but fun, nevertheless.

Our dessert treats: the pistachio-white truffle milkshake and the nutella and burnt marshmallow milkshake. My husband is a huge nutella fan and enjoyed this shake immensely. The pistachio was also amazing; it was definitely more pistachio than white truffle, if you're wondering, but the flavors were great together.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

This is a version of the soup which I made, but instead of finishing with parmesan, I topped it with some fried proscuitto and a creamy truffle foam. It was one of my favorite renditions.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Creamy Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

This first post is for my brother, Jake, and my friend Johnathan. They have both requested the recipe for the soup I cooked for our Christmas dinner this year.

1 Acorn Squash
6 Small Sweet Potatoes
2 Small Carrots (these are optional, but they add an extra sweetness)
4 Garlic Cloves
1 Onion
1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
1 Cup of Half and Half
1 Cup of Milk
2 Tablespoons of Butter
2 Tablespoons of Grated Parmesan
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1 Quart of Water or Broth of Your Choice

Chop the onion and garlic cloves into small bits, saute in the olive oil. When onions are translucent, add the peeled squash and sweet potatoes (and carrots, if used,) which have been chopped into one inch cubes, into the pot. Pour in the broth or water. (I like to use organic free-range chicken broth if I have it; it adds a nice flavor note.) Bring the pot to a boil, reduce, and simmer until the vegetables are so soft that a fork slides neatly into them. Take off the stove, and use a stick blender to puree until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add the cream and milk and butter (the butter adds a particular smoothness and richness to the soup,) and puree again. Check the seasoning once more before serving. Finish with a bit of the grated parmesan.

Serves about 6.

This is a great recipe that can be translated to many vegetables. My creamy tomato and carrot soup is another option which employs the same methodology. I hope you have fun experimenting. Please let me know how your recipes turn out!