Search This Blog

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The National in Athens, GA

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age 13 and those who consider secondary education middle school

For the past five years, I have been an occasional guest of the Grady School at The University of Georgia in Athens  to speak to advertising students about the industry and what could be in store for them down the road.  Surprisingly, many of them listen to me!  Some even end up working for me, which may be even more frightening.
So of course I need to get to Athens early to "prep," but what I really want to do is have a meal the "The National."  Peter Dale has created a great "farm to table" restaurant that always delivers when I am in town.

This past week I had dinner there with some friends that know me well, so they understood everything we ordered was going to be "family style."

We started out with the boquerones (anchovies) with  pickled chilies, caperberries & tomato-garlic toasts.  My friend Dan was lukewarm to the idea, but once he tried one he was hooked.  The tomato garlic toast was soft and everything almost melted into the bread for a unique salty taste that would appeal to folks whom do not eat anchovies.

Then we had the scallops as an appetizer (daily special).  Seared to almost perfection, not quite Bacchanalia scallops but darn good and they were larger scallops as well.  The magic part of the scallop dish was something called "bacon slaw."  If you know me, I'm not a big coleslaw guy.  But this was different.  The slaw was moist, not the usual crunchy kind and basked in in bacon grease which I'm sure was fat free......

For our entree's we had two fish dishes and the steak.

The special fish was a North Carolina Trout in a red, mustard/ vinegar sauce that my friend MA ordered.  The sauce was really unique and a little tangy, but went perfect with the fish and the bed of rice it rested on.

I ordered the pan roasted Texas redfish olive oil-saffron with whipped yukon gold potatoes, wilted heirloom carrots with kale, and pomegranate salsa.  This was as good as it sounds.  They filleted the fish but kept the tail on.  I always appreciate those small touches.

Dan ordered the grilled beef hanger steak (Certified Angus Beef) with a potato-piperade hash, asparagus a la plancha, and foie gras butter.  It also came with this tomato red pepper relish on the side that was very tasty.  The steak was ordered medium rare, they did overcook it a tad, but it was still very tender and tasty.  The foie gras butter gave it a great subtle sweet and salty tast.

When I was there during the fall semester, I had an incredible lamb sandwich which is on the lunch menu (with all due respect to Big Al at Cafe Agora).  What separated this sandwich was a sour cherry sauce with coriander yogurt.  A  unique twist to one of my favorite sandwiches.

So if you find yourself in Athens and you only have time for one meal, hit The National.  It's a wonderful spot.

Coincidentally, The National also happens to be the name of one of my favorite bands!  If you've never listened to them please check out the link below.  You're welcome.

The National's High Violet is one of the Best Albums of the last 5 years


A few times a year I get the pleasure to go to Athens to talk to students about the Mentoring Program ABAC runs or take part in their Career Fair or, like I did this past week, run a seminar to help students prepare to get their first advertising job.

But if you ask my wife, this is what she thinks I'm doing:

Now in my mind, this is what I think I'm doing:

I would like to think it's somewhere in the middle, but it probably leans a little more towards Frank the Tank, okay maybe a lot more.  But I'm okay with that.  It's just tastes so good when it hits your lips........

Shameless Plug Alert:

In 2012, an organization I am involved with, ABAC, launched an Advertising Mentoring Program at UGA with AWM that I am very proud of and has been wildly successful.  If you are an Advertising Professional and feel you would make a good mentor to a college student, go to for more information and contact me with further questions.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Scotch, It's What's for Dinner

Warning:  The following is definitely inappropriate for children under the age 13 and those who don’t drink, or those who actually do drink for dinner

With a “nip” in the air, there is nothing better than a little scotch to warm you up.  A good scotch will beat a sweater to keep you warm on any cold day.

And if you drink enough Scotch and you feel like you can do anything….
Including being able to play the “Jazz Flute”

Scotch falls into two categories:  Single Malt and Blended Malt.  I have always been a single malt guy.

So a couple of weeks ago I did a Johnnie Walker Scotch tasting at The Buckhead Club.  It was great time, but it reminded me that I’m much more a single malt guy.  In fact Johnnie Walker Red is the basic equivalent of Whale piss. 

The one exception is Johnnie Walker Blue.  If there was ever a perfect drink, this is it. Period.
It’s a secret blend of grain whiskeys and single malts aged between 40-60 years.  Basically the approximate age of the 2013 Yankees.
This just in from Buster Olney:  The Yankees just signed Goose Gossage to set up for 42 year old Mo Rivera.

Now I’m not going to give you a list of the “Top Ten,” since unfortunately (or fortunately for my liver), I haven’t tried every scotch there is. 

I am very partial to the Glenmorangie Port Wood Finish.  It’s very smooth, has a tinge of sweetness to it with a touch of spice on the aftertaste.    It’s not to be confused with the Sherry Finish, which is a little too sweet for me.  Most importantly, the GPWF is surprisingly affordable as well.  (Just a side note:  My birthday is coming up…..)

The basics I always have on hand.  The Glenlevit 12 and the Glenfiddich 12 are always in the bar.  The Balvenie Double Wood 12 is a good one that is affordable as well that I currently have.  I still have a great Glendfiddich 18 I got at the airport for $45 a couple of years ago!  The Dalmore makes a fine scotch as does Oban, Macallan and Talisker.  You can't go wrong with any of these.

Quite a while ago we were invited to a Scottish wedding.  It was an absolutely beautiful wedding and there is nothing quite like the sound of bagpipes playing to capture a moment.  I didn’t know the couple too well, but I was looking forward to it assuming there would be some great scotch being served.  Much to my dismay they were only serving Cutty F*cking Shark!?!?!  So after about 5 Cutty F*cking Sharks I went up to the Father of the Bride and made a complete ass of myself and complained about the whiskey.  I asked him what self respecting Scotsman would serve Cutty F*cking Shark at their wedding and what a complete embarrassment it was.  Shockingly, we are no longer friends with the couple. But it had to be addressed, right?
I would like to think we all won here.

Today’s footnote:  A little known fact, I was named after the finest Scotsman of all time “Sir Sean Connery.”
His 10 best movies:
1.        Highlander
2.       The Untouchables
3.       The Hunt for Red October
4.       Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
5.       The Man Who Would Be King
6.       Goldfinger
7.       Finding Forrester
8.       Entrapment
9.       Dr. No
10.   From Russia With Love
And the worst
1.        League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (unwatcheable)
2.       The Rock (Nic Cage is the worst)
3.       Highlander 2 (Should have left a good thing along, the only thing it was missing was Nic Cage)
And he spawned some of my favorite SNL skits of all time:

Friday, February 8, 2013

Honey Baked Ham- The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Warning:  The following may not be appropriate for children under the age of 13 or people think jello molds are “quality gifts” (unless you are over the age of 85, even then it's borderline acceptable)

Food can be a great, heart warming gift.  Honey Baked Ham is about the perfect gift for the following:  The Holidays, having a baby (or other assorted hospital stay) and a sick family.  This past week, my wife and all three children came down with the flu.  And we have received some wonderful generosity from many good friends. But I do have to say, the ham is best.
The ham is like a great utility baseball player, it’s good for A LOT of things regardless of the time.  Breakfast, yep.  Throw it on the side with some eggs and toast.  Lunch, hells yes.  I picked up some fresh onion rolls, American cheese AND some  “sassy” Horseradish sauce. 
It’s just about the perfect sandwich.  Why?  Because it’s a highly “repeatable” sandwich.  For some reason I NEVER tire of this sandwich.  And for dinner, you can match the ham with about a dozen things and it’s perfect.  Me?  I’ll probably make the horseradish sandwich again.  For the holiday’s it’s an absolute no brainer, though I will admit that I’m not a big Turkey guy.

So thank you to the Parhams and Flemings for sending this ray of sunshine to our house.

The Sports Equivalent of Honey Baked Ham?  Lenny Sakata.  This guy played EVERY regular position on the field INCLUDING catcher.  And he could rock the Chemistry Teacher glasses while playing professional baseball.  He was also the starting Shortstop when Cal Ripken began his consecutive games streak (at third base). 
Did I mention he’s in the Hawaiian Sports Hall of Fame?   I looked at this list and I may know 5 of these names.  None which I knew were actually Hawaiian.  Sid Fernandez, really? 

The musical equivalent would have to be Dave Grohl.  This guy can do anything and excels at it.

Successful Movie Director?  Check

Front Man for One of the Worlds Biggest Rock Bands?  Check

Successful Drummer for Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures and some other Indi/ Alt Rock Band you may have heard of?  Check

A great all around actor that could do it all?  Robert Wagner?  I mean the guy killed his wife and got away with it for over 30 years.  Now that’s acting!  Plus he played the underrated #2 in Austin Powers!?!?!

So if you have a family member or friend who is in need and won’t have time to cook for a while?  Send them a Honey Baked Ham!  And then let me know where they live so I can crash the party!  I’ll bring the Horseradish.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Hankook Taqueria- Not Your Mom's El Paso Tacos

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under 13 and people who believe that Taco Bell serves “meat”

It’s for eaters.

Hankook is the best Korean/ Mexican collaboration since……yea……um, okay the strangest combination since Sonny and Cher.

This is a Taqueria with KOREAN Taco’s. If you are looking for a standard Taqueria go to Taqueria Del Sol, check it out here:

Now if you want something unique to Atlanta, come to Hankook, or let Hankook come to you with Yumbii, their affiliated food truck. 

At any Food Truck Park/ Festival, Yumbii is always the most popular one.  The menu is more limited, but still great.  You almost feel bad for the other trucks like you did for the other members of N’Sync. Justin had all the talent and the rest of them were just wastes of space.

The Jackson 5 was another example of this.  The only reason we know Tito was because of Eddie Murphy.  But the afros are AWESOME.  Which one is Tito?

Hankooks best meat is the bbq pork. The taco’s are delicious, but their “Daeji Gogi Sliders” come with cucumber kimchee and it is my favorite thing on the menu.  But be warned, the Pork packs a nice spicy punch.

The other tacos in my rotation are the “bul gogi” beef marinated in korean bbq sauce, “saeng seon” panko crusted tilapia with hoisin tartar sauce and the“crispy” shrimp with hoisin tartar sauce

But their Calamari “crispy” with jalapenos and sweet chili sauce is my #2 taco.  The sweet chili sauce is a perfect counter to the spicy pork.

They also do Sesame Fries, tossed in sesame oil and red pepper flakes.  When they are good, they are great with their own Korean take on ketchup.  The problem is they are often soggy and oily.  This is my only real issue with Hankook.  Well unless you talk about the décor, but you aren’t coming here to check out the furniture or aesthetics, trust me.  In fact the décor may scare the less adventurous off. 

So if you want an easy dinner or a great “to go” dinner, hit Hankook, it’s delicious and reasonable.  It may be the best thing to come out of Korea since M*A*S*H, which is still one of the greatest shows of all time.

Or maybe this picture.
Even if you are Slayer fan and live in your mothers basement you can still appreciate Hankook.  This could be ESPN's funniest trailer.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Cardamom Hill- WOW

Warning:  The following may not be suitable for children under 13 or those who have preconceived notions regarding Indian food.

Cardamom Hill was an absolute delight.  If you are looking for delicious food, knowledgeable wait staff and a unique experience go no further than Northside Drive and 75. 
So our dinner group, dubbed “The Dry Rub 4,” reunited last week for what turned out to be my favorite meal since we started our endeavor!  Thankfully, Leslie was the first one there and told them that a relatively famous local food blogger was coming!  How disappointed they must have been when I showed up, though we got amazing service. Paymon was an amazing server and Omar Powell, the Head Chef, gave us a literal geographic and culinary “tour” of our meal.

We learned that we were enjoying “regional” Kerala Indian Food.  Those looking for a simple play on Curry need not come.  So if you have a predisposition regarding Indian Food, do not worry, this is not what you think it is.  Much like when Stallone made “Copland.”

My favorite part of the meal came first.  Egg Appam is rice coconut crepe with a poached egg in the center with black pepper.  There is an "option" to add chili grilled shrimp.  IT IS NOT AN OPTION, GET THE DAMN SHRIMP.  

This is one of the most delicious dishes I have ever had.  Even better, it’s like nothing I’ve ever had before.  Thankfully, we didn’t blow our wad with the Egg Appam (with all due respect to the Hedge Hog who is battling for his life right now)

Our second course we ordered a Vegetable Plate with root veggie varraka (a stir-fry with yellow lentils), beet pachadi, sambar (south Indian Stew according to Omar) and a rice pilau.
We also ordered the spicy fish curry (talapia) with kodampulli, Malabar smoked tamarind (a regional specialty) served over rice with a veggie thoran (a coconut flecked stir fry).  Both were flavorful and masterfully prepared.

Our 3rd course we order Pork Vindaloo, which is pork shoulder slow cooked in a vinegar-tinged sauce served with a rice coconut crepe.  The vinegar sauce was to die for.
We also ordered the Spiced Oxtail.  It’s braised with star anise and cinnamon with a spiced yucca mash.  The Oxtail literally fell off the bone.

My #2 highlight of the meal was the Chicken Rice Biryanis.  Think paella with a serious attitude.  It’s a spiced rice with cashews, raisins and cilantro.   So Omar came out and explained that each meat is prepared with a different sauce.  The chicken came with a yogurt saffron curry. 

Omar told us the inland local favorite in West India is the goat.  So he goes back to the kitchen and comes out with the goat version “on the house.”  The goat was simmered in a mint with cilantro and green chili masala and was incredible.  This is my first (and hopefully not last), food blogger “I’m kind of a big deal” moment. 

Overall, I couldn't recommend a place more than Cardamom Hill.  I implore you to go and enjoy.  You're welcome.  Apparently they are also famous for their Fried Chicken, but to experience the true Indian cuisine, we abstained.  Plus, I'm afraid Leslie might punch me.

Updated April 19th, 2013:

Today I broke down and had the Fried Chicken and Waffles. And it was as good, if not better, as I've heard.  The spice was perfect, not too hot but flavorful.  The waffle sauce was delicious and packed quite a punch as well.  Things got a little awkward when BMac tried to wipe down the waiter, but that's a story for another time.  It's a great lunch dish, particularly hungover.  In fact, my friend MB was so hungover, she had a complete conversation with herself and made zero sense.  It reminded me of a homeless person, only without the odor.

The Colonel would be either proud, or more likely embarrassed.  I will guarantee this, you've never had a dish quite like it.  Please forgive me Leslie.

Today’s Footnotes:  My love for Indian food starts and ends with my man Ajay and his family.  I've made my wife suffer through many homemade Indian Meals thanks to his mother.  I can wait to see you guys soon.

Since we are close to Valentines Day I also wanted to share the following. I went to one of the first places I took my lovely wife 12 years ago, Marcello’s in Buckhead last week.  I went into the bathroom and found this gem hanging on the wall!  You can't make this up.

Let me ask, where are you going for Valentines Day?  My wife and I are going to The Palm.  Nothing beats a 3 pound Lobster!

Finally, I would also like to thank my readers for the over 1,000 pageviews we've had in January!  I’ve enjoyed writing  The Dry Rub and have really enjoyed the feedback received over the last 6 months.