Friday, February 27, 2009

City Grill Birthday Lunch

From top left: Tangerine Bavarian with caramel sauce, Three Layer Coconut cake with Lemon Filling and Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Tupelo honey ice cream.

Yesterday my office lunched at City Grill (downtown in the Hurt Building) to celebrate our managing partner's birthday. In addition to wonderful ambiance, City Grill has a special nostalgia for my firm since our office was formerly in the Hurt Building. Our skilled waiter, Bobby, took great care of us including offering a free dessert for the birthday girl. When we arrived it was moderately busy, mostly with suited-up business types. By the time we left we were the only people in the place. I like the tree-motif mural that covers the walls and the bar has a cozy area good for happy hour.

The food was decent, not great. The special soup of the day: spiced, creamed carrot, which came perfectly seasoned, was a delicious standout. The beef tenderloin served with the tenderloin wedge salad came cooked to perfection and the accompanying blue cheese provided a welcome bite to go along with the meat. The lobster and shrimp chowder was disappointing, more chunky than flavorful. The duck lettuce wraps, an interesting combination of shredded duck, fresh pineapple and plums, tasted too sweet to be an entree and the fruit flavors overpowered the duck. I could have easily been eating chicken or some other protein. The french fries served with the cheeseburger came nicely browned and seasoned; the burger was fine but not anything special.

Dessert was a mixed bag as well. The chocolate lava cake proved to be the best of the bunch, tasty yet typical. The Tupelo honey ice cream had a nice creamy taste, but the honey flavor did not come through as much as I expected. Coconut cake with lemon filling was stored too cold, rendering the cake a bit dry, although the lemon filling was sweet and delicious. The tangerine bavarian, fluffy and not overly sweet, seemed to be doused in sugar syrup rather than the "rich caramel sauce" described on the menu. When tasted against the other two, it couldn't hold its own, despite its unique components. The accompanying biscotti was a nice addition.

Overall, this is a nice special occasion restaurant with tremendous service. I would like to try the dinner selections before I render a definitive opinion on the food.

Align Center

Bar area.

Classic, classy ambience - don't mind Jim on his phone!

Marcia, Ruth and Toni enjoy lunch.

Wonderful carrot soup, left, and lobster and shrimp chowder, right.

Duck lettuce wraps with wontons.

Bucatini pasta with shrimp and broccolini - could have used more shrimp & broccolini and less pasta!

Cheeseburger with french fries.

Grilled tenderloin wedge salad - very tasty meat.

Organic baby greens salad with Pecorino dolce.

City Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lunch Standby: Lee's Bakery

Lee's Bakery is one of my favorite places to pick up a quick lunch during the week. Usually I get a roasted pork banh mi sandwich, which consists of roasted pork, pickled vegetables, garlic mayo sauce, fresh jalepeno peppers, and cilantro on a fresh, French baguette. Lee's also has a full service restaurant space in addition to takeout, where soups and other Vietnamese specialties are available. I've been meaning to try their banh xeo (yellow pancake) as I've yet to find a decent version in Atlanta - yes, this is one food that I feel is better and offered at more places in Charlotte, NC, my hometown. They also sell bread at great prices and make wonderful croissants including one with chocolate inside!

Yesterday I opted for something different, the fresh spring rolls and a Chinese steamed bun. I love fresh spring rolls - these are with pork and shrimp, and at 3 for $3.00, it's a great deal. The steamed bun was not exactly what I expected and I would not get it again. I was expecting barbecued pork on the inside like the steamed buns at dim sum restaurants. Instead there was a small piece of sausage, 1/2 hardboiled egg and a small amount of ground pork. Mostly, it was just steamed bread. At $1.50, it could be a filling lunch all in itself if you weren't looking for a whole lot of taste! Next time I get a banh mi I will post a photo. The best place for banh mi, in my opinion, is Quoc Huong, which is a little too far out BH to justify going all the way there from my office. Luckily, Lee's version is very tasty and at $2.50 also makes for a very cheap yet filling lunch.

Steamed Chinese bun and fresh spring rolls from Lee's Bakery.

Lee's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesday Night "Mexican" - Salsa Con Sabor

Tuesday night Mexican has become a tradition for one of my favorite groups - the UUCA 20's/30's. This week we ventured to Salsa Con Sabor, a restaurant specializing in Peruvian, Puerto Rican and Cuban cuisine (I know, none of these are Mexican, so we aren't exactly stuck to only one cuisine and to me, that's a good thing!). Going with a large group gave me the opportunity to take lots of great photos, and while I did not taste everything nor do I remember what everything is called, I will do my best. As far as the atmosphere of this place, our group of about ten was just about the only party in the place. This could be because they did not have any heat - yes, many of us were glad we had coats with us and we donned them for the entire meal! The service was a little slow considering how empty the place was, but the waiter was helpful and indulged us as we asked questions about Spanish pronunciations, ingredients and the meaning of "Salsa Con Sabor". My favorite thing here is the ceviche, although the spicy, creamy seafood is a close second. This is a good place to come experience a variety of cuisines and with a HUGE menu, I don't think you'll have a problem finding something - that is, unless you are a vegetarian as the person in our group who didn't eat meat was forced to eat french fries!

Chicken fricasse with sweet plantains and rice.

Mofongo (mashed, fried plantain ball), top, and chicken and beef kabobs.

Puerto Rican spaghetti, at least I think this was Puerto Rican - if not, please remind me someone!

Ceviche de Pescado - they offer a mixed seafood version as well that I'd like to try next time.

Cuban sandwich with beans and rice.

Spicy, creamy seafood stew with rice and an egg!

Mofongo with roasted port, rice and sweet plantains.

Salsa Con Sabor on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wanta Lottafrutta!

One of my favorite little sandwich shops, LottaFrutta, specializes in fresh cut fruit cups, which are commonly found in Central and South America and in other areas of the US as well. For some reason these have not been widely sold here in Atlanta, so this is a perfect addition in an accessible ITP location (Old Fourth Ward). I've tried both the Limonatta (my favorite so far) and the Cremolatta (pictured below). Both were very fresh and satisfying. The Limonatta is topped with fresh lime juice and spicy chile guajillo. If you haven't tried your fruit spiced like this, you really should put this place on your list. The sandwiches, all made on "soft, sweet Latin bread", are pressed to perfection, with gooey cheese oozing out. The Just Veggin' sandwich is heavenly - I think even meat lovers would be satisfied! The seating is limited here, although there are a few small tables. You can call ahead for easy pickup or eat out front if the weather's nice.

Outside of the store.

Just veggin' sandwich: havarti, grilled to perfection, then stuffed with avocado, tomato, cucumber & sprouts. Yum!

Cremolatta fruit cup, made with coconut milk cream.

Mora (Andean blackberry) and Lulo (South American kiwi) fruit pops. These were both made with milk but some are made with juice.

Lottafrutta on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dinner at Ecco

On Friday we dined at Ecco in Midtown. Overall I liked the space and vibe: trendy without being overly so and music that allowed for conversation. Our waiter was very attentive and he recommended a good red wine to go with our dishes. We also tried a lemonade cocktail, which was quite sweet (I liked it). It had a candied lemon slice on top - a nice touch.

Based on others' reviews I knew that the fried goat cheese with honey and cracked pepper was something to try. I did enjoy this unique appetizer, especially the way the large peppercorns played against the sweetness of the honey and gooey goat cheese. The baguette with butter offered to every table was nice - crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. For our mains, we shared the chili-braised pork pasta and the duck confit pizza along with a side of brussels sprouts. The chili-braised pork was good, with tender, flavorful meat. I was a bit disappointed in the piquancy of the sauce, however, as it was not as spicy as I'd hoped and the noodles were not as fresh as I expected, sticking to each other like they had been sitting for awhile before going into this dish. The duck pizza was unique and tasty, but the squash puree as sauce was a bit too mild for my taste as well. The brussels sprouts were tasty, probably rendered extra tender and juicy by the duck fat they were cooked in. I ended up putting a generous amount of cracked pepper on everything, which helped, but I wish the kitchen could have put more spice in the dishes back in the kitchen.

Fried goat cheese with honey and pepper.

Chili-braised pork with garlic and homemade pappardelle.

Pizza with duck confit, roasted squash, sweet and sour onions, pecorino and brussels sprouts cooked in duck fat.

Ecco on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Office Standby: Roasters

Since our office is near the Roasters on Lenox Road, we often order take out when we feel like having some quick comfort food. Their chicken is flavorful and moist, served with a sweet red barbecue sauce. The corn muffins and rolls are also decent. For "fast-food", this is a good option and with four Atlanta area locations, you're bound to come across it at one time or another.

Rolls, corn muffins and rotisserie chicken.

Black beans & rice, Cheesy Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole, Cucumber Salad (my personal fave).

Roasters on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Love Still in the Air

Despite the fact that it's just past St. Valentine's Day, I decided to bake some heart shaped cookies for various events I'm attending in the next couple of weeks. I ended up freezing half of the dough, so hopefully it will be easy to work with once I defrost it next week. The recipe I used (Sour Cream Cut-Out Cookies) can be found here. The sour cream really gives these cookies a good moist flavor. I tried to underbake just a bit to retain chewiness. A couple of the thicker cookies broke easily - probably underbaked a little too much, but my are they tasty!

The dough, just before rolling.

Ready to go in the oven.

The finished product - yum!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Calvin Cooks!

For Valentine's Day my sweetie came over and cooked up a homemade dinner for me including pesto pasta, spinach salad and bread with balsamic vinegar/olive oil dipping sauce. It was a very sweet gesture and we had a nice evening at my place. I've never really liked the holiday, to be honest, so it was perfect to be at home rather than being out in the thick of things with everyone else trying to get a table. Thanks, Cal!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Chocolates Worth Ordering - John & Kira's

My mom came across these hand crafted chocolates made by John & Kira's, a small company run by food enthusiasts from Philadelphia who started their own chocolate company. They use ingredients from small farmers and growers who are committed to environmentalism and community support. In this "Every Flavor" collection, where each flavor is partially named after where the ganache flavor originates, you get to sample ten different chocolates, each with a Valrhona chocolate ganache center. My favorites are Drew Elementary Garden Mint, Just Us Bergamot and La Vigne Lemongrass. I was lucky enough to find this box waiting for me when I arrived home yesterday. Thanks, Mom!

Flowers and chocolates, what else is Valentine's Day for?

Close up of several flavors. Each flavor has its own unique marking so you can tell what you're getting. The flavors are so intense, though, that even if the chocolates were unmarked, you would know right away on that first bite!

My box as it stands now... a few already missing!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Random Stop - El Potro

Tonight we took the plunge and stopped at El Potro on Buford Highway without any research, rumor or recommendation. As one of the closer Mexican places to Atlanta, I wasn't too surprised to find a good mix of patrons. I was pleased to see it wasn't all gringos, however, but it was nice in a way to be able to read the whole menu (although I do enjoy some of the more authentic places where I'm never quite sure what I'm getting!) Overall it was a very good value (dinner for 2 with tip = $25) and the food was tasty. We tried the carnitas and shrimp fajitas and requested corn tortillas rather than flour. The carnitas were tasty, although there was a good amount of fat that had to be removed from the large chunks of pork. The shrimp fajitas were served steaming hot with lots of sauteed onions and peppers, which I like. I asked for hot sauce, thinking it would come in a little bottle (there were none on the tables) but the waiter brought out small pots: one with a red salsa different from what the chips are served with, a green salsa and an onion/cilantro mix. While these were all interesting and I enjoyed experimenting with them on the tacos that I made, I was looking for a bit more heat. The lime served with the carnitas was quite dry, so it was difficult to get enough juice out of it. Overall I would come back another time if I didn't feel like going further out & I would insist on some real hot sauce (or maybe bring my own) and see if they could slice up a fresh lime!


Shrimp fajitas - served with a side of beans, lettuce, sour cream & thin guacamole.

El Potro Mexican on Urbanspoon

We're Going to Pharr!

When others in my office decide on this place for lunch, I can never resist! By far my favorite office lunch standby is Cafe at Pharr, a cute cafe with multiple locations that serves some of the best chicken salad around. I always split the curry chicken salad and the walnut chicken salad with one of my co-workers and the combination is killer. I also adore the yogurt rolls served on the side of each salad. Jennifer Zyman, AKA The Blissful Glutton, recently reviewed this place in Creative Loafing - read about it here.

Cafe at Pharr
316 Pharr Rd NE

Atlanta, GA 30305
(404) 238-9288

Cafe at Pharr on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cool Photo - not food related!

Driving to meet a some friends for dinner tonight, the sky looked photo-worthy with clouds, sun, sky & trees all meshing to form this beautiful image.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Roasted Corn and Spinach Soup - with a kick!

I've had a bag of Trader Joe's fire roasted corn sitting in my freezer for awhile, so I decided to put it to use in a soup. It turned out really well, although the green color may be off-putting to some. I really only added the spinach to increase the nutrient factor and it would probably be just as tasty (albeit not as healthy) without it! I did not measure the spices so try a small amount and then add more. I ended up making it spicier than I realized with the cayenne pepper, but I love spicy food so it was all good. I also wanted to add a few cloves of garlic, but I didn't have any on hand. I will certainly add in the fresh garlic next time I make this.

Amy's Roasted Corn and Spinach Soup

olive oil to coat the bottom of a soup pot or dutch oven
1 medium white or yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 bag Trader Joe's fire roasted corn (frozen)
10 baby carrots
1 bag fresh spinach (mine was also Trader Joe's brand)
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
few shakes of garlic powder
2 tablespoons honey

Cook the onion in the olive oil until tender. Add the corn and stir until corn is no longer frozen. Add carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Add the milk and enough water to cover the vegetables. I did not measure the water but I used very little. You can always add more water so don't overdo it. You can use all milk or no milk if you'd like to make it vegan. Add the spinach and stir until it cooks down into the mixture. Add salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, honey and other spices to taste. Here I would have added whole garlic cloves, peeled and ends chopped off if I'd had any around. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Cool. If desired, put in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Enjoy!