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!

Joey Eaton Centre

There is another Joey restaurant in the GTA a bit further north from me in the Don Mills area that opened up in 2009, but the Joey Eaton Centre location opened up just this summer on the south west side of the Yonge and Dundas intersection. I remember watching it being built every time I walked past the area last year, and finally, in July it opened up, and boy was it slick. A black exterior with their name plastered out front in glossy black metal, their huge front windows open up on warmer days so it’s like an interior patio.

Inside, you can choose the quiet dining area or the bar/lounge area with high chairs and tables. It’s a posh kind of bar-lounge that looks like it’s perpetually happy hour for the next new media gurus of the downtown area. The ceilings are incredibly high, making the space seem huge, and although there are a lot of people and it gets pretty noisy, dinner here always feels relatively intimate.

The waitresses are cookie-cutter beautifully formulaic women, but they’re so friendly. The first waitress we had gave us the above drink samplers for free, which really brightened up the evening. I’m sure it was just a little tactic to get us to buy drinks, but I’m going to pretend that she was just really nice.

Either way, it worked, and we both ended up ordering the “Stiff Lemonade,” which is a lemon slush with blue caracao (one of my favourite alcohols) and probably some vodka as well. They’re really big though, so I couldn’t finish mine.

The red drink was another sort of slushy drink, except this time with a peach slush. Yum! If I recall correctly, the red was rum with grenadine.

Pictured here is another Stiff Lemonade as well as the drink of the day, made with vodka, cherry cola, and a splash of lemon slush. I also tried a kind of beer that they serve as a special on Mondays called “Gringo” but it was a bit too limey for me, and after a few too many nights of a few too many Coronas, I couldn’t quite get it down.

Their caesar salad had funny little parmesan shavings, but I’m not complaining since they’re actually parmesan shavings and not the dusty things that some restaurants try to serve you. Other than that, it tasted like any other caesar salad, but it was a little light on the dressing.

I’d never had fish tacos before, so in a bit of an adventurous bout, I went to try these ones. I don’t know what other fish tacos taste like (oh ha ha. Yes, laugh.) but these tasted wonderful. The battered fish was crunchy and crispy with a not too overpowering fishy taste. The cilantro and lemon were great, the hot sauce wasn’t too spicy but it had a sweetness that complemented the salty fish quite well.

Also, they had guacamole on there. I loooove guacamole.

Their mushroom and cheddar burger. The patty was thick and so incredibly juicy. Juicy, juicy flavour. They even ask you how you like your burger done (medium rare) which always gets huge huge thumbs up from me. The mushrooms were spilling over, laying thickly on top of the cheese, on top of all the other toppings. The bun was not overly bready (such a killer for me), and not too hard that you scrape the roof of your mouth. The boyfriend, who is not at all a big fan of burgers, craves this one all the time, so that’s saying something. I’m not going to lie, this might be on par with burgers from Grover’s Bar and Grill.

Not pictured was a side that we got called crispy mashed potatoes. I was expecting a pile of wonderful mashed potatoes put in the oven to crisp up the top, but what we received was unexpected but just as good, and it gained points for being so darn creative. The crispy mashed potatoes are mashed potatoes rolled up in crispy spring roll paper and then deep fried so that when you bite into the flaky spring roll, you get this lovely contrast of the softness of the potatoes. Never seen or heard of anything like that before, and the flavours of the spring roll paper and the mashed potatoes complimented each other surprisingly well.

We also ordered a roll of sushi. This one was the Rainbow Roll. At first, it seemed to taste like a regular rainbow roll, nothing too extraordinary, but then I realised that the inside of the roll was made with a kind of tuna salad. Strange indeed, and you would expect it to be an unpleasant mix, but it was actually quite nice.

Deep-fried calamari with “vegetable tempura.” The vegetable tempura was just asparagus and onions, so not what we were expecting, but not terrible. The calamari was a little small but nice and crisp, and they provide a nice honey dijon dipping sauce which is a pleasant change from the usual marinara.

Mmm, doesn’t that look great? It’s one of their flatbread selections. Tiny white shrimps paired with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, some sort of sweet and spicy sauce (spicy mayo?), and wonderful wonderful pesto. I’m a HUGE pesto fan. The bread was crispy, sinfully delicious. I wasn’t a big fan of the shrimps, they tasted undercooked, but even that was masked by the wonderful flavours of everything else. I was about to eat about 60% of the flatbread before deciding that it started to taste a little too salty, so I took it in a doggy-bag to bring home. I’m told they tasted wonderful the next day.

For dessert we had the strawberry shortcake (sorry, no picture) but oh my golly, this dessert was so well-presented. It was like strawberry shortcake mixed with creme fraîche mixed with crème brûlée mixed with whipped cream mixed with custard. Now, not all of those were in there, but that’s the feeling I got when I ate the cake. It had this sugar wafer thing on top of the bread that tasted just like the top of crème brûlée. Then there’s the cream and the moistness of the cake. To die for. I was so glad that it wasn’t overly sweet, as most restaurant desserts are, and it was big enough for two to share!

Overall, we had a wonderful meal with great food, and the prices are not even too high. Each plate ranged from $10-$25 depending on which one you got, but the prices are so fair for the quality of food. The fact that it’s so close to where I live (a mere 3-4 blocks) means it’s very dangerous for my wallet.

:)

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You can follow me on Foursquare to see some of the restaurants and places I go to about my day-to-day life. I check into all restaurants I go to, so if you’re looking for somewhere to eat, you can look into there as well. :) I’m just sad I didn’t start doing this a long time ago, all those lost stats, it’s really unfortunate.

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EDIT:

So, we went back to Joey Eaton Centre recently and had the most fantastic meal. However, my phone was out of commission at the time, so no pictures.

For our appetizer, we had the Killer Ahi Tuna Tacos. These were SO much better than the fish tacos I had up there. The Ahi Tuna Tacos are an appetizer whereas the fish tacos were an entrée. Mmm. One of the most interesting and delicious things I had ever tasted. They had a super rare, seared piece of tuna on top of a mountain of garlic coleslaw (you know how I loove my coleslaw) in a nice crispy taco shell. On the side, there was a wasabi aioli with toasted sesame seeds in it that you’re meant to dribble on top. The aioli wasn’t at all spicy, which is nice, because I don’t particularly like the burning sensation, but instead it was sweet with a hint of the smokey sesame seeds.

These tacos were AMAZING. Y’all don’t even know. I thought that was the highlight of the dinner already, but, moving on.

The boyfriend had the restaurant’s version of the surf and turf, which is the same rainbow roll we had above as well as a 7 oz. steak. Since we’ve already discussed the rainbow roll, let’s talk about the steak.

Basically, don’t order the steak at Joey Eaton Centre. I don’t know if the cook was having a bad night, or maybe the steaks are just like that all the time. We asked for the steak to be medium rare, and at least it came out right. Except the sear wasn’t much of a sear as it was a char, and the meat was downright chewy. I couldn’t enjoy the flavours because all I could taste was burn. :(

I am at least glad that wasn’t my meal, but the boyfriend had the rainbow roll to comfort him so it wasn’t too bad, but it was a lesson learned.

Now, my meal. One of the greatest things I’ve ever eaten. I ordered the lobster ravioli, just so, well, I can say that I’ve eaten lobster ravioli. It was soo decadent, soft pillows enveloping the lobster mixture within. A layer of nicely grated aged parmesan covered the top and roasted cherry tomatoes highlighted the edge of the bowl. The whole thing was covered in a lovely lemon-dill sauce.

One bite was all it took. I ate it all. It was so lovely, the flavours melding together, the softness of the dough, the tenderness of the lobster. The cheese wasn’t at all overpowering, but instead just accented the lemon-dill sauce. Mmm. And I love lightly roasted tiny tomatoes. They just pop in your mouth and they’re warm, but still taste freshly picked. Mmm! Best meal. :)