Southern Delight

Of course one of the only reasons I travel is to try out new and wonderful foods that excite every sense I have. Atlanta did not disappoint. I tried the go-to southern foods, that which I will not list here because I want you to continue reading. Although I STILL haven’t had a deep-fried mars bar/twinkie/anything else crazy even though they’re now available everywhere, I do plan to… eventually. Without further ado, Judy’s Southern Cuisine Adventure!!

Mama Ninfa’s 231 Peachtree Center Avenue

Now,  I know I promised southern but this was the first meal we had in Atlanta (actually my first meal was a bag of jalapeno chips and a fruit punch; others’ was some McDonald’s at 5 Points station, which we completely did not know was super sketchy). Our food adventure did not get off to a good start. This was the worst tex-mex food I’d ever had the disgust of trying. I could have made this meal way better using packaged Ol Del Paso mix, at least the ground beef would have been food grade instead of this gravel mixture that they tried to pass off as food. The beans were uninspired, felt old and the rice was bland with old veggies. The corn tortillas were hard and chewy and tasteless.

I only even mention this restaurant as a warning to not be sucked in by their $10 pitchers of beers as we were. The fact that the place was empty on a Friday afternoon during happy hour should have been a clue. Don’t eat here.

Atlanta Grill 181 Peachtree Street Northeast

Later that night, we were on the hunt for a restaurant around 9PM but were very surprised to see that almost everything was closing/already closed so early on a Friday night. We found the Atlanta Grill which is on the second floor of the Ritz-Carlton and although it was a bit pricey, the food was fantastic. The atmosphere was a nod to old southern culture with beautiful booths, wooden details, and large rustic paintings. We were served some lovely cornbread mini-muffins with pats of butter on the side. These little things were so deliciously moist and just the perfect amount of sweet. Dinner, as opposed to lunch, was getting off to a distinctly delicious start.

Because we were both not too hungry, boyfriend and I shared two appetizers (of my choosing of course!), so on the left we had the Shrimp & Grits, which I just had to try, and on the right was a She-Crab Soup with a drizzle of lemon oil on top. I don’t know what they do with the He-Crabs but apparently, they are not good enough for this soup.

The shrimp and grits were everything I could ask for. The shrimps were big, plump, and juicy. They were perfectly cooked and each bite was meaty and satisfying. Served on top of grits (which are like corn-y mashed potatoes) which are smothered in a light seafood-y gravy. This dish was surprisingly filling. And this is the point of the blog where I start salivating for all this food again.

The crab soup was nice and thick with chunks of crab in it. Lovely and peppery without being overpowering. The lemon oil was light and gave it a nice citrus-y touch. This dish also filled us up quite nicely without being too heavy. ACK. The quality of all this food was just outstanding.

So for dessert, we split a sweet caramel bread pudding of sorts with a rum and raspberry sorbet on the side. On the right was my banana pudding. Everyone knows I loooooooove banana pudding. It had real chunks of banana, surrounded by a banana cream, with little sugar cookies (that maintained their crunch!), a stick of chocolate, and get this, toasted marshmallows. TOASTED MARSHMALLOWS. In case you missed it the first time. Divine. Absolutely wonderful.

Corner Bakery Cafe 270 Peachtree St NW #100

I’ve been after a whoopee pie since I first saw them about two years ago on Bobby Flay’s showdown that I happened to be watching one day. So what I now know is: A whoopee pie is a sandwich where two small cakes are the breads and a sweet cream is the filling. I had a whoopee pies two days in a row. The one on the left being a vanilla filling and the right a peanut butter based filling. Both very sweet and I probably shouldn’t have had them for breakfast but so worth it.

The other foods we had at this place were great! I had a veggie sandwich filled with all sorts of warm soft veggies between some lovely nutty multigrain bread that was crispy to a fault! Everyone else’s sandwiches looked tasty as well. They were a little pricey but it is some high end bistro food that comes out of their kitchen.

Pitty Pat’s Porch 25 Andrew Young International Boulevard Northeast

This is where we had dinner on Saturday night. The atmosphere was really cute, walking into the restaurant was just like walking into someone’s living room, with a couch and paintings and photographs on the wall. The dining area is down a set of stairs where famous people stare at you on the way down (their faces line the walls). There is a live piano player and the wait staff was really nice, helpful, and friendly. The waiter even laughed very hard (and convincingly) at my lame jokes.

They have a really great fully stocked salad bar. Macaroni salad, chicken salad, cucumber & tomato salad, all of them super yummy.

Of course I couldn’t leave Georgia without having some o dem fried chickens. These things were huge! What do y’all feed your chickens in America?? I got chicken and ribs with a side of buttered veggies and mashed potatoes, and could barely finish it all! I actually didn’t. I had the ribs and a small piece of chicken. That huge honkin’ thing got doggy-bagged. And now I’m going to admit to you that I also stocked up salad bar stuff to take home. I ain’t embarrassed.

Boyfriend needed a chunk of meat so he had a steak which came with some amazingly cheesy creamy gouda mac and cheese. GOUDA mac and cheese. It had a nice gratiné on top, and lordy do I love that crispy cheese. The pasta was of the large ring variety which house all of that gooey sauce. Too delicious. The sideboard provided for the table was black eyed peas and collard greens which boyfriend destroyed. With his mouth.

Waffle House 96 Lower Alabama Street

Just Around The Corner 76 Spring Street Northwest

I went to the Waffle House by myself one day because everyone else had gone the day before when I was dealing with some airport stuff. I just had to try a waffle house waffle to see what the hype was all about. I went to the location just outside of 5 Points MARTA centre which, like I said above, was very ghetto. There were a lot of beggars around, but I persevered. I walked in and didn’t quite know what to do with myself. Do I just seat myself? Am I allowed to sit in a booth or was that rude because I was by myself? And I know for damn sure that I stook out like a sore thumb because I’m a little asian girl lookin’ around the place like she’s lost and the only person who wasn’t black. That was fun. But I ended up sitting at the counter in front of the kitchen area, which I think is where people sit for a quick breakfast by themselves. Step one, done!

I picked up a menu and clearly looked like I’ve never seen a menu anymore debating over every little thing. However, the food experience was nice. Everything was super cheap. I ordered one waffle, a plate of bacon, and of course, biscuits and gravy. The waffle was really big, and was like a shallow eggo. It really wasn’t all that great, and I’m on the waffle side of the waffle vs pancakes argument. The bacon was paper thin, too crispy (probably because of its width), and fell apart with a gust of wind. However, the biscuits and gravy was amazing! The sausage gravy was completely savoury, with bits of, I guess, sausage, though it had the consistency of ground beef. If I were to go back, I’d probably go to a different location (I didn’t feel safe by myself), and I would definitely get the biscuits and gravy.

On the right hand side is a sandwich from Just Around The Corner. We passed this place on the cab ride back to the hotel from the CNN Centre. None of us were really paying attention to the roads so when we went back to find it, the only the only thing we could as was “Uhh… it said best burgers in the city, had a red tarp, and maybe advertised Coca Cola.” Ya, it’s Atlanta, everyone advertises Coca Cola. We even stopped some nice cops to ask but we had no idea what we were talking about. We did find one of the Atlanta tourism people who hang out on the corners and luckily he knew exactly what we were talking about.

The place itself is a hole in the wall that reminds me of Decarie Hotdog or La Belle Province in Montreal. The burgers were great, and I had a Philly Cheesesteak (my weakness!). They have a place outside on the sidewalk to eat and watch the streets. Yummy yummy!

Ray’s In The City 240 Peachtree Street Northwest

For our last night, we ate at Ray’s which is a high-end seafood restaurant right smack in the middle of downtown. It was very expensive but you have to live every once in a while and the food was so goddang good. In the lower part of the photo you’ll see some crab cakes. But they aren’t JUST crab cakes, they are the best crab cakes in the whole world. THE WHOLE WORLD. Flakey, and pure crab and crack. Fresh crab and crack. That’s all is needed to make this, I’m sure. And the shrimp, oh lawdy the shrimp. Ray’s BBQ shrimp. Big and juicy, pleasantly spicy. The sauce was so good that we ended up just dunking our bread in it when all the shrimp was gone. This seafood platter also came with calamari (yum!) and some rockefeller oysters (which I wasn’t a big fan of) for $55. I seriously cannot get over how good the shrimp and crack cakes were. Sorry, crab cakes. My bad.

For my entree, I had parmasen-crusted scallops on top of a bed of lobster risotto, with seafood gumbo on the side. I’d had a side of gumbo at Pitty Pat’s as well, and have just come to accept that I don’t particularly like gumbo. Both times they were really salty, and the flavour wasn’t to my liking. Maybe I’ll have to barge into a southerner’s house to try it in order to like it. Both my scallops and my other cousin’s scallops weren’t that great as well. Both just very bland and the parmasen crust was burnt and tasted burnt as well. However, the lobster risotto was amazing. A distinct lobster taste, soft without being mushy, a nice cheesy taste, and thankfully very filling as well because I couldn’t bear the eat more than one scallop.

With all these beautiful meals, I do believe that our trip down south was a success. My trip to eat was fully satisfactory and I do believe another trip down there is definitely in my future! Enjoy the food, and remember that the photos do get bigger, but no matter how much you magnify, it probably won’t magically appear on your keyboard. Sorry!

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Oh. Hey. Hi. PHOTODUMP. :)

Delicious, delicious photodump.

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1. Hello. Bacon, onion, and spinach quiche. I know, so fancy. I made these because my eggs were going to expire and these quiches were supposed to last me a few days. However, after they came out of the oven, they smelled too good. So I ate one. And then another.

And then I ate all of them.

No regrets.

2. My vegetarian friend made too much spaghetti sauce so she gave me a bag of frozen sauce and I finally got a chance to use it. It was so hearty with some things that I’ve never put in pasta sauce before, like zucchini. Hahah. I had gotten home from one of my ridiculous days and was just starving. All I needed to do was boil pasta, brown some ground beef, and then dump in some sauce. Thanks Zizi!

3. I had some leftover pulled pork that I had made from the day before and a nice organic brie loaf and some cheese. What else to make but an inside out grilled cheese filled with pulled pork? I made one sandwich and left the ingredients on the counter because I knew I was going to make another one. And then I did.

And then every once in a while my mom comes over and cooks me food. Which is amazing. I mean, some of this Vietnamese fare, you just can’t get at a restaurant.

4. Bun thit nuong. She made me all the things and I just assembled it. The grilled beef though, I think I used this recipe off the internet. It turned out really nice, especially with a bit of lemon tang. Other than that, we’ve got nem nuong, carrots (no daikon -sadface-), cucumbers, and green stuff and vermicelli noodles.

5. Bun reu cua. She taught me how to make this and this pleases me. :D It’s an egg, tomato, and shrimp-based soup with vermicelli noodles and served with mixed greens with chili pepper and salt on the side.

Not going to lie, it’s been rough. Working too much, not sleeping enough, and not enough time to eat! That being said, it’s rare that I’ll fully get to go out and eat at delicious restaurants, and I can barely afford to either. The first three photos are from Utopia Cafe on College, west of Bathurst.

6. Utopia Nachos With tons of awesome melted cheese, chicken, beef and other nacho staples. They also serve with a side of salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. But, as always, there’s never enough salsa or guacamole, and they do charge if you ask for more (which we found out on the bill). Though the middle of the nachos are great, the edges were sadly neglected crispy chips. The nachos are piled on top of this crispy baked pita which was really nice as well. $15

7. Steak & Cheddar Burrito The burrito was a bit on the smaller size (this coming from eating Burrito Boyz burritos, those things are MASSIVE), and was served with a side of spinach salad (even though I’m pretty sure I ordered coleslaw.. but didn’t realize this till right now), and black bean rice. The burrito, though, was really good. The mayo was excellent and tangy, the meat juicy. The burrito just seemed a bit sparse and empty, like there wasn’t a lot of filling inside. The salad was great and featured a nice balsamic dressing on top. I was sharing the plate and did not try the rice. Overall, this was an okay dish, I probably wouldn’t order it again, but I hear the burgers are amazing.  $12.50

8. Flourless Chocolate Cake The waitress had told us that they were newly just trying out desserts at Utopia but they got this cake bang-on. Definitely couldn’t have eaten this by myself (oh who am I kidding, yes I could have.) Flourless means gluten-free, which is great for the new gluten-free diet trend* and for those who are sensitive to gluten or have gluten allergies. However, being flourless means they replace the flour with… more sugar. So diabetics, hyperglycemics, and people with generally high blood sugar should beware. Other than that, it was really good, it was a flourless batter thing on the bottom (I’m guessing made out of butter and sugar primarily), nice and crumbly, topped with thick chocolate fudge. Served with a side of whipped cream and berries. Very delicious. $5

9. This is the Riverside burger from BQM Burgershoppe. They have 3 different locations in Toronto, and the one I’ve been to several times is the one on Queen, east of Spadina, right near my school. The burgers are great, nice and juicy patties that aren’t too small. I was craving burgers and onion rings so decided to kill two birds with one stone. It was great, with lettuce, tomato, bacon, cheese, and garlic aioli, but while being great at the time, it did create some painful carnage on the roof of my mouth. BQM onion rings are really really crispy, which are great if you’re biting into them individually. Overall though, always a great experience here. Tiny seating areas though! Riverside Chuck Burger $9

*

Deliciously G-Free by Elisabeth Hasselback. ISBN 9780345529381

I’ve been seeing a lot of gluten-free diet books coming out at the bookstore lately, the most popular one being Deliciously G-Free by Elisabeth Hasselback, who everyone has been telling me was on that Survivor show that I never watched.

Okay, so what is gluten? It’s a protein found in a lot of wheat, rye, barley and other things. So, obviously, people with Celiac’s disease can’t actually eat gluten products because it causes their intestines to go all kinds of painful crazy. But what people don’t know, is that there’s a lot of people who are also gluten-sensitive. Humans ourselves can’t actually process gluten and wheat that well. It has less nutritional value and is a pro-inflammatory. So basically, giving up gluten is a really healthy choice and great for people who don’t have Celiac’s disease or a gluten allergy. It’s just one of those trends that I’ve been seeing popping up lately.

**

In other news, I saw this new beautiful book on display yesterday:

Meat Free Monday Cookbook ISBN: 978-1906868697

It’s this huge campaign going on in the UK started by Paul McCartney and his family, showing us that just by eliminating meat from our diet once a week has great environmental and personal benefits and effects. I’m a meat person, I really am, but this cookbook is actually amazing. And really beautiful.

What they do is they create a whole meal-plan for you, for each Monday in a year. If I recall correctly, they provide Breakfast, 2 snacks, a lunch, and dinner recipe for each day, which makes it incredibly easy to switch over to a meatless day. I mean, I know one of the major excuses for not participating is, “I wouldn’t know how to cook meatless” and now you do.

They also sort the recipes by season much like one of my other favourite cookbooks, Martha Stewart’s everyday Food Light, which makes it great when you’re shopping for your ingredients because all of them are in season, which means they’re cheaper and they taste better too!

Everyday Food: Light ISBN: 978-0307718099

Other than that, my favourite food blogger is coming out with a new cookbook on March 13, called Food From My Frontier, which is chock full of simple recipes, and knowing Ree (not personally), everything is going to be delicious!!!! :)

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Simple, Scrumptious, Satisfying ISBN: 9780061997181

Cheerio and happy eating! :)

A Lazy Sunday at Bobby’s Hideaway

Sunday is me and Dandelion’s designated ‘fancy breakfast’ day. Now, it’s not like we get along particularly well, but we do share the same interest in not starving to death, so we’re cool on that front. Having since moved to Mississauga, we haven’t had much room to explore the area, so the only place I’ve been to is called “Bobby’s Hideaway.” (Thank you, Urbanspoon!) I’ve been there once with Adri and Claire when they came down to visit, and this past Sunday was my second time there with the brother, for a total of three visits.

Bobby’s Hideaway is on Queen St, just west of Britannia, in Mississauga. I think it’s within Streetsville borders. When we arrive, there’s a line up to get in, the place is rather popular. Inside, it’s filled to the brim with people, and the smells are delicious, like any other breakfast place. The walls are lined with portraits upon portraits of people named Bobby, or any variation thereupon. Barker, Marley, and Hope, among dozens of others. It’s a fun concept, I think perhaps the owner’s name is Bob, but I could be wrong.

The brother always orders the same thing when we go out to eat. The biggest normal breakfast he can find. This one’s called the “Weekender” and comes with eggs, potatoes, two sausages, two eggs, two pancakes, two pieces of toast, and a slice of ham. I’m not a big fan of pancakes, but he insists that these ones weren’t that great. They apparently tasted undercooked, and the maple syrup was not even enough to save them. The potatoes are lightly seasoned with a small unsatisfying crunch on the exterior. I’m not a big fan of potatoes though, so however you like your taters, these would satiate a normal person quite nicely.

This was actually rather good to eat. I don’t remember what it’s called, but it’s basically a hamburger steak topped with baked beans and sauteed onions, with a side of potatoes and a fried egg (overeasy, please).  I think it came with some buttered toast as well. Now, I like meat, I like beans, and I love onions. This meal was fantastic. The meat wasn’t too dry, and adding these things on top blew it out of this world. It’s just a combination that I’d never even thought before.

I first tried just the beans with the meat, a nice savoury flavour that with its pasty texture, when combined with the burger meat, makes for a pleasant gastronomic experience. Then I tried eating it with the onions, and onions and beef are always a good pair in my book. If I had to make a complaint though, I’d say it’s a touch too salty. When you mix everything together though, it just takes on a new face, a breakfast item I’d never seen anywhere else before.

Whenever I eat breakfast and there’s an egg involved. I eat it in one of two ways.

1. Dip toast into yolk.

  • Eat remaining egg with ketchup.
  • Eat remaining toast with jam.

2.  Make an egg sandwich.

Now, it may seem obvious to y’all out there, but this thought didn’t occur to me till about a year or two ago. This is the reason they give you lettuce and a couple of slices of tomatoes. (Bobby’s only gives you one slice.) It’s damn ingenious. I mean, if you go with method one, there’s always leftovers and they aren’t as satisfying. There is just something about the union between bread and egg that’s just too good to ignore.

In the same vein, this past weekend, I tried their “Eggs Florentine,” which is a poached egg, accompanied by some spinach and ham, atop a buttered english muffin, and smothered in hollandaise sauce. So, I say I’m a huge fan of a lot of foods. Some argue that I’m a fan of all food, but let’s just say my “top foods” list is a little larger than others. Eggs Florentine kind of encompasses some of my favourites into one. I am in love with hollandaise sauce. Seriously, give me some of that on anything. Me and runny egg yolk + bread have had a long standing affair for quite a while now. And spinach, good old spinach. I don’t quite know what all the fuss is about, people hating spinach and that. This monster greenie is delicious. Ham is ham, and this one had a nice crisp edge. It’s like how I like my bacon, both crispy and chewy at the same time, offering me the best of both worlds. So, yes, I quite enjoyed this dish, even though it didn’t fill me up as much as some other things would have, it was a nice light brunch.

Look at that yolk run. Heaven!