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Friday, July 26, 2013

Yum Bunz: Dim Sum-ish on Atlanta's Westside

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and those who think Chinese Food was invented by General Tso
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Being half Cantonese, one of my favorite dining experiences includes Dim Sum as I wrote about earlier this year.  So Yum Bunz was a much anticipated opening.

Last year when I found out Mike Blum and Guy Wong were going to be an opening a modern "Dim Sum" for the Westside, I was ALL IN.  I joined the Facebook site last year in eager anticipation and waited and waited and waited.  But the opening was definitely worth the wait!

Overall Yum Bunz is delicious and different.  They have a unique array of original steamed Bao's.  The yeast dough is fluffy and has a great traditional Cantonese taste without being overly filling.

It's not quite walking down Mott Street and grabbing a street Bao at a Chinese Bakery, but it's the best we are going to do all points south of Washington DC's Chinatown.  If you are looking for a traditional Dim Sum experience, this isn't it. But if you want to ease yourself into the Dim Sum experience, this is a great starting point.
Next time in NYC, do yourself a favor and go have Dim Sum.  If you need help, DM me at the Dry Rub
Their bao's are all less than 180 calories a piece.  But they were so tasty, I may require some type of verification next time.

The Yellow Curry Chicken.  Curry, garlic and cumin?  Yes please.  It's like a delicious Indian dish in Chinese clothing.

The Mongolian BBQ was probably my favorite. Beef with hoisin sauce and chili soybean paste?  Awesome.  But fair warning, it does pack a kick!  In fact today, I doubled up on this one!

Szechuan Chicken.  Spicy with a great taste.  The vinegar and Szechuan wine make this a unique offering.

Char Siu BBQ Pork.  This is the closest to the traditional Bao.  The five spice powder is a great addition.  I would rate this my 2nd overall favorite.

Chicken Teriyaki tasted like, um Chicken Teriyaki.  Which is a good thing!

Even the Veggie Bao tastes great!

Full disclosure, this was my second trip.  The first trip was after a night at Monday Night Brewing, so my taste buds were a bit "compromised."  I loved it, but at that point I felt a return trip was needed.  By the way, check out Monday Night Brewings tasting nights.  It's a great time and a great deal.

Today, Matt G tried the rice bowl that he said was great.  Jeff under ordered and regretted it as soon as he was done.  I ordered the six bun combo and a Mongolian Beef salad. I wouldn't recommend anymore than that.  Also, the price points are very reasonable as well.

My biggest complaint is that the name of the restaurant reminds me of those horrid pseudo 80's Westerns "Young Guns."  Which in turn gets this song stuck in my head.

I am convinced that Global Warming was accelerated by the Hair Band Movement in the 80's.  Which makes it more understandable why Tipper Gore would protest Rock Music outside of Tower Records during the 80's (Do you remember record stores?).  She was obviously helping Al save the environment.  Of course Al just did his environmental duty by recycling Tipper for a younger model.

"I am fighting Heavy Metal for the well being of our children, the environment and of course to pave the way so my husband can soon invent the internet."  
The irony of course being that when Al Gore did invent the internet, the porn industry exploded (pun intended).  Wait, he DIDN'T invent the internet?

Today's Footnote #1 is an age old debate.  Who is the greatest Hair Band of All Time?

The contestants:

Motley Crue:  These guys lived the gimmick more than anyone else.  Nikki Sixx shot f*cking Jack Daniels into his arm!  Point. Set. Match.  I believe these guys somehow still tour and unfortunately make some really bad home movies.

Bon Jovi:  They started out as the joke of hair bands.  But look who is still selling out arena's 30 years later?  He who laughs last, wins.  Though this picture is downright embarrassing

Poison:  Nobody looked the part better than these clowns.  And they penned the consummate hair band song of all time has to be "Every Rose has it's Thorn."  This song may have done as much bad as good for Hair Metal.  The fact that Miley Cyrus covered this songs just solidifies the fact that these guys defined "The Decline of the Western Civilization."  I have no idea what these guys are doing today, nor do I care.

Guns n' Roses:  The Supernova of Hair Metal.  They were by far the most talented and volatile group.  But when they burned brightest, they were by far the best.  I can't believe there are still many people still waiting for them to reunite.  Those people are forgetting one thing, Axl Rose is completely f*cking INSANE.  And there is a 75% chance those people still live in their mothers basement.

The first CD I ever bought was "Appetite for Destruction."  Without question it still holds up today.  I would also argue the great songwriting by G n' R helped expose the genre and paved the way for Nirvana's "Nevermind" and Pearl Jam's "10" and lots of unfortunate flannel.  Plus, leather pants leads to just too much chaffing.

Footnote #2:  Dennis Farina passed this week.  He was in MANY of my favorite movies and TV Shows over the years.  The most criminally underrated being "Crime Story" on NBC.  A story about a Chicago crime boss that is chased down by Farina's flawed law enforcement character.  Then the story moves to Vegas and unfortunately cancelled soon there after.  The writing was very much in the same vein as today's successful shows honoring the "anti-hero."

His arc on "Miami Vice" was also one of my favorite Farina highlights (okay anything from Miami Vice is a highlight in my book).  And of course he was in "Saving Private Ryan" and "Get Shorty."  He recently had a great opportunity to act alongside Dustin Hoffman in "Luck" on HBO, which was a great show until the PETA folks shut it down due to the deaths of some of the horses.  I'm sure some of those people also used glue to attach their petitions as well.  RIP Dennis

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Bocca Lupo- Inman Park, Atlanta

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and those who don't like corn

Inman Park has long been the home to some great restaurants.  Bocca Lupo sits close to the Rathbun dynasty by Krog, but enough off the beaten path in a sleepy neighborhood which fits the reclusive nature of it's purveyor Bruce Logue.  We did not meet him, but from afar, he reminded me of Freddy Roach, the iconic boxing trainer.  Just like Freddy, Bruce seems to be a pretty enigmatic character.  Leslie thought otherwise......
These hands are not only fast, they can crank out some pasta
They do differentiate themselves from Inman Parks more infamous Sotto Sotto.  Bocca Lupo is a bit more traditional and a bit more easy on the wallet.  But I will always love Sotto Sotto, it is where we went right after I proposed to my wife.

Great looking bar.  Not crazy about the stools though
I will say the restaurant was hot both inside and (of course outside), and I do realize it was mid-July in Atlanta.  But anytime we get The Dry Rub 4 gets together, it's a great thing.
It was so hot, I got a personalized sweat towel.  Leslie even pretended to be extra happy to be in my company
The service was outstanding and they created a great tasting menu for us.  Jeff Miller did a great job setting this up for us.  And we had our usual array of delicious Falcor Wines.

So here are the highlights:

We started it out with a few good appetizers (Antipasti)

Iowa prosciutto, piadina, ricotta with pineapple mostarda
This prosciutto was the best thing to come out of Iowa since "Field of Dreams."  The Pineapple Mostarda was original and delicious.  It stood on it's own.  By the way, it's not hard to be the 2nd best thing out of Iowa.  I just looked up the state on google and it sounds just god awful.  Like I would move to Detroit from Iowa bad.  I think I just ruined any chance of franchising "The Dry Rub" in the Hawkeye State.

The Octopus & mortadella spiedino, shell beans, spinach and marsala

The eight legged creature was cooked to perfection. It wasn't tough, nor overcooked as you can see above. The beans underneath I thought were a bit tart.

Hand rolled garganelli, white ragu, celery root and field peas
This was a small, but very tasty dish.  The thin white sauce worked well with the garganelli.

Carolina crab & middlin risotto, dill and cool tomato broth
This is the best risotto I've had outside of Kevin Gillespie's "Gunshow" in the last year.  Of course adding crab to a dish never hurts your cause.

Wide pappardelle, bolognese gravy with American Parm
Probably the most traditional dish we had.  It was exactly what you thought it would be.  Hearty with a classic bolognese taste.

Black spaghetti, calabrese sausage, red shrimp and scallions
This was probably my favorite dish of the night.  Love the squid inked pasta, it just has a great taste to it and you really do not get it at too many places.  The sausage and shrimp combination is never a bad pairing.

Big scallops (no shit) , field pea salad, bronze fennel with a dragoncello emulsion
This was delicious. Of course I'm a sucker for a well seared large scallop. But at this point the pea, corn ingredients were getting a little too common.  But we also got the tasting menu, so you may get what's in season.  Or at least that's what Jeff screamed at Leslie and I that night.

Todays Footnote:
The Dry Rub now has a Facebook page!  Okay, we should have done this at least 6 months and 10,000 hits ago.  But it has happened.  "Like it" and you should be able to keep up with the whimsical musings a little easier than before.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The French Laundry in Yountville, CA

Warning:  The following may not be appropriate for children under the age of 13 and those who avoid "tasting menus"

The French Laundry seems to have received every culinary award there is including Restaurant Magazine's "Best Restaurant in the World 2003 and 2004."  Anthony Bourdain calls it "The Best Restaurant in the World.  Period."  It's won "The Daily Meals" Best Restaurant in the Country 2 out of the last 3 years.  In 2012, Keller and The French Laundry received a coveted AAA Five Diamond Award.  Since 2006, it has been awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide to San Francisco.

Naturally, they say that it takes AT LEAST two months to get reservations since they only have 16 tables. Jenny Turknett from the Atlanta Journal & Constitution said she lined up the staff and did 2,600 calls in two days with four phones and couldn't get in.  So the week before, I thought I would give it a shot.  And I got a reservation at the FRENCH F*#KING LAUNDRY (to be referred to as FFL from here on out) the first time.  Game.set. match, I felt like Kenny Powers closing out games in the Mexican League.  UNTOUCHABLE.
This is the Dry Rub Vato, no imitators allowed
They obviously were familiar with The Dry Rub or, um, they had a last minute cancellation.  The smart money is on the latter.

Let's just say this bill may have my children starting in a community college

This was my favorite dining experience ever.  The attention to detail from the service to the decor was unparalleled.  Then visiting the immaculate kitchen after dinner, you truly learn what a the fuss is about (you could lick the kitchen floor).  Oh yea, the food was not to shabby either.  Side note the vast majority of their vegetables are grown RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET.  Very cool.  Only at the FFL.

But let me give you this advice, if you can do it.  DO NOT make this your first meal in Napa.  Every meal afterwards may be delicious (and they were), but they will pale in comparison.  I mean look how Billy Joel has done since Christie Brinkley left him.
The term "outkicking your coverage" may have been invented at this exact moment
Their extensive wine list was delivered via IPad, which was really neat.  WARNING #2:  If you bring your own bottle, the corkage fee is $75.

They set up the menu as a tasting menu. Any changes can cost you $75-100 for one course.  So you are locked into what they are making.  And you'll love it.  On this day of July 10th, the FFL started off with their signature "Oysters and Pearls."
Oysters and Pearls
Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar.  One of my top dishes of all time and the meal just started.  There is a reason caviar is the food of Kings and Czars.  Did you know the biggest caviar producing country is Iran?  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  Hope you enjoyed my Cliff Clavin moment for the blog.
"There's no rule against postal workers not dating women. It just works out that way."

Garden Cucumber Salad
The 2nd dish was their Garden Cucumber Salad.  There is one food I'm not crazy about and it's cucumbers. But not surprisingly, this worked for me.  It was served with Cherry Belle Radishes, Brokaw Avocado Puree,  Petite Lettuces and Kendall Farms Creme Fraiche (to.die.for).
Sauteed Fillet of Mediterranean Lubina
Despite the presentation, this dish was not sponsored by Nike.  It's made with Marinated Cherry Tomatoes, Pattypan Squash, Toasted Pine Nuts, Petite Basil and Black Olive Puree.  Lubina is a sea bass, which combined with this olive puree was delicious.
Alaskan King Crab "Boudin"
Celery Branch Salad, Chanterelle Mushrooms and Potato Confit with Sweet Corn-Maine Lobster "Chowder."  Basically a crab cake, minus any bread and the lobster in this corn chowder may have been my favorite dish.  That's right, through the first four courses, I have two of my top 5 courses of all time.  This was basically, the All Star Game of my culinary experiences.  Welcome to the FFL.
Liberty Farm Pekin Duck "Rillette"
Jacobsen Orchard's Peach Relish, Young Fennel and Sicilian Pistachio Jus.  When done right duck is sumptuous.  This was the best duck I have ever had.
Applewood Smoked Bacon-Wrapped Elysian Fields Farm Lamb
San Marzano Tomato Marmalade, Arrow Leaf Spinach and "Cassoulet" of Garden Pole Beans.  Bacon and Lamb is almost too easy of a layup for Thomas Keller.  This was delicious, but getting me to like cucumbers was a much higher feat.
Andante Dairy "Legato"
Black Mission Fig Jam, Caramelized Cipollini Onion, English Walnuts and Toasted Oats.  The name Legato got this song stuck in my head. Dammit.

Santa Rosa Plum Sorbet
Jacobsen Orchard's Geen Gage Plums and Candied oats.  A near perfect combination.
"Dark Treacle"
Not to be confused with the former NASCAR Driver "Dick Trickle" (the double entendre made famous by ESPN's Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann of "The Big Show")  RIP Dick.  It's made with Devil's Food, Valrhona Chocolate "Marquise," Lyle's Golden Syrup and Marshall Farms Burnt Honey Ice Cream.  There's a lot going on here, but it works.  Trust me.
Speaking of "out kicking your coverage"
Visiting the FFL kitchen was almost as cool as when I got on the field at Memorial Stadium at 12 years old or playing the Durham Athletic Park in college, the day after Laettner hit "the shot."  At least that day we beat Puke, er I mean Duke.

I cannot speak enough about how great this experience was.  It was like seeing Led Zeppelin at MSG in 1973, Michael Jordan in the 1996 playoffs and Springsteen in the Meadowlands in 1985 all rolled into one, but with better food.
"Spent my days with a woman unkind, smoked my stuff and drank all my wine"
The restaurant is situated in what I had found to be one of the finest culinary towns in the country.  A sleepy little town called Yountville, CA.  Just north of Napa and south of St Helena, this town is home to some wonderful establishments. The FFL is without question the anchor to this town.
Don't drive too fast, you may miss it
I know this establishment is not for everyone, but if you can make it happen then MAKE IT HAPPEN.  Most people in Napa do not get the opportunity to get here.  So follow my advice and if that's not good enough, listen to Bourdain.  Do it.  It's the best damn restaurant in the country.  Period.  The End.

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Holeman & Finch: Atlanta's Best Burger Champions

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and those looking for an upset

The Holeman & Finch Burger has become a national phenomenon and has won The Dry Rubs "Best Burger in Atlanta Contest."  When you come to Atlanta, one of the "to do" musts is their 10p burger. We went last MONDAY and it was packed with both european and asian tourists.

I didn't want this to be the Master of the Obvious tournament, but it's hard to supplant H&F in this town.  There is so much hype about the burger and somehow it always seems to exceed expectations.  It's what I call the "Mardi Gras" rule, you can't explain what Mardi Gras is like, you just have to go.  It's what you thought it was, but 5x better.  The day before Fat Tuesday, I vaguely remember tapping a keg in front of a church talking to a nun who was helping with our crawfish broil.  The H&F Burger is the same principal.  Nothing I have or can say will do it justice.  And don't give me the "I'm having it at Turner Field" deal either.  Go straight to the source.

Here are the arguments I had against them and the subsequent rebuttals:

1.  It's getting overhyped/ Nope, it's really that good
2.  They have "sold out" and are now at Turner Field/  As an Advertising Exec, the second I can sell integrated ad's on my site I am doing it (DM me if you are interested)
3.  The burger isn't truly a burger because it's 50% Brisket/ It's 100% delicious
4.  It's a double patty, so all burgers are cooked the same and not to order/ This is my only legitimate gripe, but it's always been cooked just right
5.  The 10p wait is now a gimmick/ It's part of the lore, but prepare for a healthy bar bill (if that's your thing)
Since you get there early, the burger looks like this after 3 or 6 scotches
Here's the professional view
The tie breaker?  I went to ask the guys at Fox Bros, whom won our best sandwich tournament, and they weighed in with H&F.  The scales were officially tipped.

So hands down we have a true Champion.  If you haven't been to H&F, go at 8p, reserve your burger and enjoy the wait.

The other thing that made this tough was their opponent, Miller Union's "daily grind" Burger.  I've described it in previous rounds and it's delicious. Brian McIntosh says, "It's like eating a juicy steak without needing utensils and condiments.  You barely have to chew it."

So by default, I guess it is the BEST "traditional" burger in Atlanta.  So go try it and order it medium rare.  The meat is that good.

Here are the FINAL brackets:

Todays Footnote:
Who are the "Greatest All Time Champions?"  In terms of my generation.
For guys my age this guys is the period and end of the argument:

Also, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady and Pete Sampras come to mind but I always go back to "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair.  The 16 Time World Champion wore the championship like a fifth limb.
"Space Mountain may be the oldest ride in the park, but it has the longest line."

The Dry Rub will be taking a brief hiatus, but it is for a good reason.  We'll be in Napa (and the worlds #1 Restaurant "French Laundry"), but will return with one or two Napa entries followed by Inman Parks new offering BoccaLupo.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Best of The Dry Rub at Year One

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and those who think the Cheesecake Factory is "fine dining"

The Dry Rub turns one on July 10th.  What does that mean?  Do we still soil ourselves and drink baby formula?  Hopefully we have gotten better in our focus and writing.

And we are celebrating on the 12th at what has been voted the Best Restaurant in the World.  French Laundry in Yountville, CA!  Can't wait.

Here are some highlights from the past year.

Favorite Overall Meal:  Gunshow- I can't wait to get back here.  This was my favorite meal of the year not only because of the food, but the experience as well.  Everything Kevin Gillespie did was original and delicious.  If you haven't been yet, WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?

The staff loves plaid, so much so it feels like a Pearl Jam show via 1993

Favorite Appetizer:  Cardamom Hill's "Egg Appam."  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.
Egg Appam is Indian for "order the damn dish"
Runner up?  Fox Bros Wings:  the best smoked wings I've ever had.
Great smoky flavor
Best Steak:  Rathbun Steak's NY Strip with the Black Truffle Butter
The word "handsome" comes to mind
Best Soup:  King + Duke's French Onion Soup made with Fat Tire Ale
Beer and Onion Soup with Melted Cheese and Bone Marrow?  Can I wear a loin cloth to dinner?

Best Dessert:  Gunshow's Old Fashioned Banana Pudding and it wasn't even close
This Banana Pudding was ridiculous
Scariest Moments:  Going to get the Ghetto Burger (no explanation needed) and the power going out a Shoya Izakaya (one of the DR4 may have been in the bathroom when this happened)

Favorite Pic:  My daughter at the Silver Skillet
One of the few places she enjoys, the Silver Skillet
Best Aesthetics:  Tie Between King + Duke and Villains.  I love what Villains Wicked Heroes is about.
I could see plotting the end of the world here
Favorite Veggie:  Valenza's Brussel Sprouts.  Their fried capers were delicious.

Best Sport:  Highland Tap.  They got to the Finals in the Best Sandwich Tournament and Final Four of the Best Hamburger tournament without winning.  Yet they keep serving me when I go there.  I love the Highland Tap.

Most Interactive Restaurant:  Fox Bros, hell they even chimed in the the Best Burger Tournament which they didn't even participate in.  Best BBQ in Atlanta and they just remodeled please go there.

Best Hangover Lunch:  Cardamom Hill, Marybeth thought we were at an Irish restaurant while we were there!  Then McIntosh starting wiping off the waiters apron, in the front. This made us all feel a bit awkward.  Oh, and the Fried Chicken was great, but I agree with Leslie, you should stick to the Indian food here.  When in Rome, or Bangladesh or wherever.

Worst Blog:  Festival Season in Atlanta.  WTF was I thinking?

Best Dry Rub Idea:  The Sandwich Tournament.  It's the reason we went viral (with no penicillin required).

Today's Footnote is a look back at why we started The Dry Rub:

It all started with two events.  My friend Asheton had a blog about Ranch Dressing and I did some recon work for her on a business trip to Birmingham and thought, "this could be fun."  I think she has stopped her blog unfortunately.  Then the second event shook my friends and I to the core.  Chopstix in Buckhead closing.  This was my favorite Chinese restaurant and I still don't have a replacement.  And trust me, we've looked.
It's still too soon to talk about this.  It was even hard to get my Iphone 5 next door
And the search for the next Chopstix goes on.  Suggestions welcome.

My favorite part of the blog has been "The Dry Rub 4."  Leslie, Beth, Jeff and I have tried ALOT of restaurants over the last year starting at The Colonnade. The Colonnade had some great fried chicken, but I don't have any plans to go back soon.  At the time I loved, it but it was probably more about the company than the place.
This man is serious about his food and wine.  Not so much about the ladies though.
My favorite Dry Rub 4 moment (that I can write about) was Leslie's birthday dinner at Enat.  Lot's of laughs and some really bad Ethiopian wine.
Possibly a little too much Hookah?
The Dry Rub 4 rides on to Bocca Luppa later this month and I can't wait to see what's in store for us during the next year!

Our first six months we managed 1,000 hits, which I thought was great.  In our second 6 months, we are approaching 10,000 hits.  Incredible.

I have to to thank a couple of folks as well.  Dan Martinez did the Tournament Brackets and has accompanied me on a lot of the "field trips."  Toni Dawkins, who created our logo and was our standout Mentee in our ABAC Mentorship Program this year.  And of course my wife, who has dealt with my nights of writing and of course going out to eat without her!  She is not a foodie, so her patience has been invaluable.  I am lucky to be celebrating our 10th anniversary in Napa next week with her.

Thanks for reading and we'll keep trying to entertain!