Friday, March 30, 2007

Joe's Stone Crabs

While I would love to opine on my week ass performance as it relates to blogging, I must confess I have been too busy. It really isn't a good excuse, but it also jives with the fact that C and I have been nowhere to eat lately other than Chili's. One day I will give a picture of what taking the girls to Chili's is like, but I imagine that anyone with children can understand.

That being said I have only two places to update about, both of which span the past three months, Buckhead Diner and Joe's Stone Crabs in Miami. As long as the silver enclosed doublewide has been in business and the fact that I have lived in Atlanta pretty much 28 years, I found it surprising myself that I have never been to Buckhead Diner. Not that I really eat out that much but it seems like it has been there for years. Either way, C and I went there a couple of months back.

It was alright. We had what I imagine is typical fare there, a wedge salad, bleu cheese fries, and something I can't really remember for entree. That is kind of the point I guess. I can't really remember. Not that it wasn't good, it just wasn't very exciting. All the dishes seemed to sort of suggest, "we have had this ordered 10,000 times and it is good." The fries seemed very greasy and the salad was good but not outstanding. And if I haven't already said it, I can't remember what I had for an entree.

After one tourist attraction, I took part in another last weekend in Miami. While taking part in a bachelor party weekend, one of the planned activities was dinner at Joe's Stone Crabs. While they supposedly don't take reservations, my well connected hosts some how scored an 11 man reservation. Dinner was fantastic. Aside from the fact that dinner with a group the size of 11 (all male keep in mind) is always entertaining, the entire affair was splendid.

We arrived a good 10 minutes late and they held our table. Other people were waiting 2 hours. hehehe. When we arrived at our table, the waiter immediately filled drinks and took appetizer orders. We enjoyed an enormous tower of shellfish from mussels and oysters, to lobster tail and cocktail shrimp. The nice thing I learned was when a table orders oysters, only a couple of people will eat them. I hardly need to tell you the benefits of that situation.

For dinner our gracious host suggested the aforementioned stone crabs along with creamed spinach, hash brown potatoes and fried tomatoes. I have a feeling again that I am eating the tourist meal. But the difference from Buckhead Diner, is that Joe's did it so well. The stone crabs which are basically just one claw of each crab, is absolutely fantastic. They provide a honey mustard kind of dipping sauce, but there really wasn't a need. The rest of the sides were fine (nothing real fancy) but overall an excellent performance. Our waiter was fantastic and provided the kind of service one wished they could receive everywhere.

Anywho, I am done ranting for now. I will try and update more frequently, but please feel free to post as you please.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pacific Kitchen

Christine and I had the pleasure of an evening out on the town last Saturday night as her aunt wanted to watch the li'l ones. It really worked out nicely as we were able to go to a wedding early afternoon, watch the Irish crush Air Force late afternoon, enjoy dinner and finish off at the wedding reception that evening. While I won't bore you with my thoughts on the wedding or the game, I will discuss our mostly positive experience at Pacific Kitchen. This restaurant is located off of North Highland in the Inman Park area. It actually abuts Freedom Parkway, which by the way is my favorite road in Atlanta. It used to be Dekalb Avenue, but they have ruined that now too with too many unnecessary stoplights. It was a cold rainy evening so we were unable to sit outside which would have been pretty nice as it looked like about half their seating is outside. The menu is supposed to inspired by California kitchens and it shows in the amount of seafood on the menu. Don't fret however, if you don't like seafood as there was plenty for the meat eater as well.

Once inside, we were escorted immediately into a decent size room which was about 2/3 full at 8pm. Since it was not real busy on a Saturday night, you would have thought the service would be fantastic. Unfortunately, it was merely average at best. We sat a good 10 minutes before our water guy (who turned out to be the waiter) finally inquired about cocktails. Since I had already had a few while watching the game, this was quite annoying and I was starting to get the shakes. He mentioned no specials and didn't really seem to be all that enthused about working. That being said, he didn't mess up any orders and he did bring everything in a fairly timely fashion. As such I will give the service a solid C. (note I grade on the old style of grading which says average was a C. I believe in today's realm of grade inflation that would translate to a B)

Anyway, once I got my beer and Christine her wine (a tratorino or whatever it is that Myra is really into right now) we ordered up several items. I ordered some oysters and a cioppino and C ordered a Brie dressed salad with a side of risotto. Christine thoroughly enjoyed her wine and I must admit I was a little disappointed in the beer list. It only had about 6 choices and 5 of them were of the Bud/Miller/Michelob variety. I ultimately decided on Sweetwater 420. I like Bud, but why does a "fancy" restaurant even offer Bud?

When the oysters arrived at the same time as Christine's salad and risotto, we were a bit perplexed. This was great because it meant C could eat her food and then have plenty of time to watch me eat my entree. But again, that is what helps bring down the service grade. The oysters were pretty good. They were slightly grilled and had bacon and butter on three and three others had some sort of a jalapeno-champagne sauce. Christine was not a big fan, but then again she doesn't enjoy oysters. The bacon flavor was quite good and added a nice contrast to the fishiness of the oysters. The only problem is that with bacon flavor in my mouth I really couldn't taste the other three so good. They just all ended up tasting bacony. Now, don't get me wrong. There is nothing on this earth finer than bacon. However, I don't think that was what they were going for. All in all they were good but not fantastic. I probably would order something else to start next time.

C's baby arugula salad continues her recent fascination with arugula. This salad was fantastic. Oven dried cherry (?) tomatoes with bacon and carmelized onions and topped with melted Brie and little splashes of a tomato vinaigrette. All in all what other salads aspire to be. It was not overwhelming and yet mixed the flavors of the dried tomatoes, peppery-ness of the arugula and the creaminess of the Brie. I really enjoyed the tomatoes. I am something of a tomato freak. I generally find that they are either outstanding (crisp and juicy) or repulsive (mushy and mealy). It usually has to do with the freshness of the tomato. These were on the outstanding side.

Her risotto was also quite nice. It was fairly simple, just garlic, and maybe some mushrooms. However it was cooked the way it should be and mixed quite well with her salad. I thought it was a tad oily (not greasy, but oily), however, C thought it was just right.

The hit of the meal arrived next, a San Francisco cioppino. I believe this is one of those old recipes like brunswick stew where you take a bunch of leftovers and put in a big pot and let it cook. I had never actually had cioppino before (so I have little to compare to), but I must be the first to say it was fantastic. PK's version included mussels, shrimp, scallops and monkfish served in an excellent chardonnay lobster broth. Everything was cooked perfectly. The fish was flaky and moist, the scallops would have been perfect served by themself and you could have served the broth as a soup with crackers. The mussels were a bit small, but that is the only thing I could possibly complain about. Christine agreed it was definitely the highlight of the evening.

We finished the evening with a pumpkin cheesecake with blueberries and a red sauce on top. It was good, but not too exciting. The pumpkin cheesecake had a good nutmeggy flavor but the blueberries were totally unnecessary. Not sure the red sauce was really needed either. I think this would have been better just as a cheesecake with a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top.

That is about it. All in all, I would probably give the place a "high-fiver". Not quite a chest-bumping collision, but better than the slightly condescending ass pat. We would definitely go back, but probably wait until the summer time or spring so we could sit outside and enjoy the fresh fish on the menu. While the service was adequate, the food was well prepared and overall quite good. I think two hits and three adequate's make for a pretty good meal.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Glutton's Challenge

I was recently telling my buddy Andy about this awesome blog that I was pretty sure he would be interested in reading. After I tried to convince him I had over a million readers, I was finally brought down to admitting there are only about three. And I don't think any of them are "regulars". Mostly just creepy old men, possibly Congressman, trolling for young kids.

Needless to say, I explained the concept of my blog, and after commending me on my foresight, he mentioned that he has about 10 meals around Atlanta that he could enjoy on any given night. I naturally thought to myself, I too have several items around town that while I don't necessarily enjoy frequently, I would go out of my way for. Seeing as my loyal contributors and readers probably do as well, I thought I would issue a challenge.

I challenge everyone out there to list there five favorite culinary delights overall, as well as the five items you enjoy the most in Atlanta. This can be as fancy as the stuffed filet with bernaise sauce and funky ass mushrooms, or as simple as the kettle corn I got at the St. Patrick's Day parade last year. Just whatever you enjoy.

My favorites are as follows (not necessarily in order):

1. Fresh lobster rolls in Maine - The fact that lobster is sold out of small huts comparable to t-shirts during a falcons game, is just fantastic.
2. Hot and sour chicken rice from Big Bowl - Although this is no longer on their menu and Big Bowl is effectively an Asian version of Chili's (Same owner too!), it is still my favorite dish at a restaurant which holds such nice memories for me and C.
3. Barbecue Rolls/Wylie's Brisket - The barbecue rolls were something I had in Memphis on a trip down to Mardi Gras my senior year in college. Basically an egg roll stuffed with pulled pork, they were the best dish I had the whole trip and that includes $5 big ass beers. I consider this a tie with Wylie's brisket because they are both of the barbecue variety. As many of you know, I consider Wylie's brisket to be the finest on earth.
4. Skyline Chili 5-Way and 2 Coneys - Never have understood why Cincinnatiians can order anything less than a five way. Just doesn't seem right.
5. Cuban Mix sandwich from Key West - Another delicacy that can only be summed up with the words, "10 cuban mix, oh".

Atlanta Favorites

1. Philly Cheese Steak from Woody's - While I have never been to Philadelphia, I have a hard time believing their sandwiches can beat all the things I enjoy about Woody's. The uncomfortable tables, long-ass lines and cokes with the crunchy wet ice. Nothing is sweeter than watching two large men sharing 12 square feet of space with no air conditioning, slaving over a hot grill.
2. George's burgers - Ground chuck, salt and pepper on a bun.
3. Cuban sandwich at Havana. A regular lunch spot for me. The sandwiches are not quite the same as the ones mentioned above, but the rice and beans on the side make for a nice diversion from the fries and chips of my lunches.
4. Coke from McDonalds - I don't know if it is urban legend or the truth, that McDonald's adds more syrup to the mix, but I do know that nothing tastes better than a large coke from McDonald's.
5. Prime filet from Buckhead Beef - While not actually a restaurant, I have never purchased a steak from a grocery store which can compete with their offerings.

So that is about it. I imagine that each of you will have your own favorites, and I encourage you to post them.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


We celebrated our anniversary at Kyma (pronounced Key-ma) on Piedmont Road. The service was excellent. Our waiter named Χρηστόφορος, which means the Bearer of Christ, was very knowledgeable but was hard to understand with his thick accent and also did not smell very good. The menu is mainly seafood with whole fish being one of the featured items. After Χρηστόφορος suggested a nice Greek wine Protopapas, we decided on a shrimp saganaki appetizer baked with ouzo, tomatoes, and crumbled feta cheese. The shrimp were perfectly cooked, great start to an even greater meal. Eric ordered the whole fish, Tsipoura, which was smaller than we thought but very tasty, no bones, topped with fennel. He also had a side of Greek fries which were little potato disks which were fried and delightful. Myra ordered the chef's special halibut with creamed leeks and a tomato puree - probably one of the best entrees ever created! We had a second glass of wine, Besbeas Estates Cabernet, a little fuller bodied wine but equally excellent. Dessert was a chocolate lava cake with cinnamon ice cream, chosen by Χρηστόφορος for our anniversary. Sounds like a much better Greek dining experience than Michael's. And no spinning rides afterwards. We'd definitely go back.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Guacamole and Fancy Mexican

On Wednesday I had the luck of having lunch with Ashley, Leslie and Blazer at the Mexican place at Atlantic Station. I am still not sure how I feel about Atlantic Station. They have a nice movie theatre, but it kind of reminds me of Underground Atlanta in its day. I just don't see people hanging out down there like they do at the other malls. Maybe I am wrong, but why would you go there when Lenox is five miles away and has a gazillion stores? Right now I think people still go down because it is new, but in a few years, I sort of expect it to lose tenants and become another Shannon mall (sorry southsiders) . In addition, while finding parking is quite easy, I have had horrible luck with trying to get out. Everytime either the machines aren't working, or I am behind someone who can't grasp the concept of put the ticket in and pull it back out.

However, back to my meal. C and I had eaten there before and while the place is quite nice in appearance, I do not recall thinking the food was all that. As such, I felt like lunch might be okay but I was not expecting anything other than the joy of hanging out with former KPMG'ers.

To my surprise, I had a quite pleasant meal. As would be expected we began with a batch of the guacamole. Last time I had it, they added way too much salt and while it was still quite fresh and tasty, it was a bit much. This time it was fantastic. Not a whole lot to guac, but still remarkably easy for Mexican restaurants to mess up. The chips were fine, although they would be much better if they brought them out of a heated fryer than from a row of baskets on a cart. But I may be a little overly critical. Last time I tried some sort of chicken dish which I remember thinking would give me heartburn and was not very tasty. Way to high on the orangy sauce they put on burritos. This time I had a quesidilla with steak that was quite good. It sort of reminded me of the ones they serve at the Mediterranean restaurant near our house which they call something fancy, but is basically pita bread pressed panini style with thin pieces of strip steak in it. I must admit, I would have liked some salsa to eat with it other than the green stuff that everyone seems to put on food now. I am not sure why, as I personally find it always real sour without being all that hot. I find this quite puzzling. Sort of like why Moe's can't have a decent salsa. I mean how hard is it? Give me some cursed tomatoes.

Nonetheless, while I still find the place way too expensive for Mexican food and while the concept is kind of clever, I still think I prefer El Azteca overall. So much cheaper, much worse for you and no attempts to get fancy. However, if you go, I would recommend this quesidilla. Just don't ask for our server who may very well have been present physically, I am not sure he had any real functioning going on in his head. He may have been training, but for the love, show a little spirit. And by the way, on our way out, some lady was trying to figure out the parking machine while listening to someone over the "help" speaker, explain how to put the ticket in, and pull it back out. I do not lie.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Lord & Taylor

It seems that Lord & Taylor has been replaced at Phipps. I just found this out. There is now a Nordstrom. I don't know the difference except that Nordstrom has a little restaurant inside it. Needless to say I tried it out on Sunday with the three little ladies for lunch. It was quite pleasant and involved ordering before you sit down but then someone brings you your food. Don't really know why other than that I assume they don't trust their servers. Either way, it was very quick and pleasant. I thought the food was a little bit overwrought. A little too strong of an attempt to make fancy food that they could somehow justify charging $9 for a sandwich. I was not unusually hungry for what they served, so I just had a crab bisque and a caesar salad. I was underwhelmed. The soup was very cheesy??? and did not have a very good crab flavor. They also put in some sort of pepper ragu which would have been good in some things but I didn't really think matched the rest of the soup. The salad was somewhat flavorless and didn't have near enough anchovies or parmesan in the dressing. This makes for a bland dressing.

C had a steak sandwich which I thought was pretty good. The steak was sliced very think, almost roast beef like with some carmelized onions and various other toppings. Again a bit too fancy but the meat was quite tasty. C agreed but said she has had a club sandwich there before which was much better.

The best part of the meal (aside from not being too busy on a Sunday brunch hour) were the french fries. They are the thin kind and cooked quite nicely. Christine's had some cilantro on them which I could have done without but N's were cooked normally and tasted great.

All in all, I would try this place again. I have a feeling that the salad and soup were just off that day. The location is sort of a nice break from the food court or the high-end other restaurants in Phipps. It is still quite pricey for what I considered to be lunch time food. Also, they need to lay off the fancy and just cook. Sometimes, all you want is a turkey sandwich. Not one with cranberry dressing, truffles, dillweed with a mango sauce.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A slight case of nausea

The girls and I just returned from the 2006 version of the Greek Festival. Fortunately for us, Christine has a new friend at ballet that lives directly across the street and let us park in front of her house. Very nice, but not as sweet as when the swat team of police swarmed out onto Clairmont to stop 4 lanes of traffic from mowing us down. Needless to say C was pretty jazzed.

After arriving, we held EC down and convinced her we needed to eat prior to riding the rides. This may not have been the best idea. We started with a couple of gyros, some Greek pizza, a basket of Greek fries, and a beer.

The gyro was severely lacking in both flavor and quality. The cucumber sauce had little to no taste and the meat could have been a whole lot crispier. Sort of like they cut the meat off the skewer, but didn't get just the outside. Mostly the inside of the meat. Okay, but kind of smooshie.

The pizza was typical. I am not a huge fan of Greek pizza, but the lil' ones seemed to enjoy it. The potatoes, however were excellent. They were not too salty and quite crispy for potato wedges. I can recall that last year's batch was quite soft and way to covered in seasonings. This was a pleasant experience. I didn't need ketchup this year, but it would have been nice for the gyro.

After dinner we watched some highly entertaining dancing by Nat-Nat. She was competing with the actual dance troupe on stage, and I assure you she was much better. Not that they weren't good, just kind of boring. Oh yeah, and they brought Ken Cook up on stage and he said a few words. I have promised not to rant but I am still not convinced weathermen qualify as celebrities. Willard Scott, Al Roker, maybe, but not Ken Cook. Anyway that was a definite highlight.

Anyway, after our meal I took N to get some baklava ice cream. This is outstanding. No more needs to be said. Then we started on the spinning rides. EC convinced me to join her on a "tea-cup" style spinning ride. This was fine and dandy until it lasted for somewhere around 20 minutes and by the time I was done, my dinner was screaming out Opa. (not to be convinced with the Schmidt's grandfather, O-Pa) I don't normally get motion sickness, but my belly is not feeling so hot. One more spinning ride for me and I was done. I am still not doing so well, and will most likely lay down soon.

That is about it. To summarize, gyro and pizza, not so good; potatoes and baklava, good; 2 spinning rides 15 minutes after eating, not so good.