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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Empire State South- An Atlanta State of Mind

Warning: The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and those whom view are adverse to eating out of jars

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Empire State South is a great combination of Modern, Eclectic and Original Food Composition. This is another restaurant I wish I had visited earlier.

We started out with their signature "In Jars" snacks for the table, which includes deviled ham, trout mousse, pickles, pimento cheese & bacon marmalade, boiled peanut hummus. The later two were my favorites.  The boiled peanut hummus was heaven in a jar.

Then we entered the second portion of the meal. With our Falcor Wine of course! (Speaking of Heaven in a jar, er bottle)

The Chilled Corn Soup shoyu gel, fermented spring onion, sourdough, lemon, thyme, nasturtium was really tasty, though I have an inclination against cold soups.

Our Farm Egg ESS made with hot dog, maiitake, crisp carolina gold rice, corn puree, scallion was recommended by our wonderful waiter Vas. We were skeptical, but the crisp carolina rice made this a delicious offering.

The above was Braised Tripe kielbasa tortellini, tomato, lemon thyme. I was the only one that seemed to like this offering.  Tripe is a bit of an acquired taste.

The Catfish Belly tasso with pickled ramps, buttermilk, radish, which I believe as Leslie's favorite. As you may know, I am not a big fried seafood person, though this was a light batter.

Thank you sir may I have another!
The Charred Octopus came with pickled tomato, squid ink vinaigrette, chinese long bean, baby potato. This is one of my favorite appetizers in town and the best dish we had. It was so nice we ordered it twice (eat your heart out Emily Dickinson, there's a new poet in town). Really, when it was time to order entree's we had Vas bring another Octopus to us. I have never had Octopus melt in my mouth until this dish.

It could truly give Cardamom Hill's "Egg Appam" appetizer a run for best app in Atlanta.

Speaking of Octopus, Hollywood really needs to redo Jules Verne's"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." And I am purposely forgetting the remake from the 90's with Patrick Dempsey and  Michael Caine, we will just call it the Rocky V of Science Fiction.  I mean they are doing friggin' Batman again for the 50th time.  More on that in the footnotes.

So for the end we were strongly encouraged to go with the Duck. The Darby Farms Roasted Duck with honey-bourbon vinegar: peaches, okra, baby tomato,cornbread was great.  The duck was cooked to perfection and the breast portion was delicious.

We also had the Ricotta and Fig Ravioli fig butter with arugula, purslane, squash, shoyu and chive blossoms. It was good, but not one of the highlights.  Though Beth Would disagree.

Overall, this was a very strong meal.  One of the better Dry Rub 4 Dinners over the last year.  They do Farm to Table as well as anyone and make the menu creative, original and fresh.  On the Octopus alone, I would come back.

Today's Footnote:

Why would Ben Affleck do Batman?  The man whose career has went from childhood prodigy to barely being able to carry Matt Damon's jock, to Gigli comes back and becomes somebody I have the utmost respect for.  State of Play, Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo is an unbelievable, John Cazale like streak. But you know what?  I think he'll pull it off.  The guy is like Jordan against the Trailblazers right now, he just cannot miss.

It's kind of like he's on acting PED's.  Only his head isn't twice the size or has horrible back acne.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Timone's Pizza Joint- A First Look

Warning:  The following may not be appropriate for children under the age of 13 and those whom do not appreciate the show "Curb Your Enthusiasm"

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Last week Timone's was #1 on the Eater Heat Map, so naturally I had to check it out.  I love the Highlands, I love pizza, so what the hell.  So last week, I went and met a couple of friends down there for lunch and then...........well, it was closed.  The first question is WHY THE %$#&@ IS A PIZZA JOINT CLOSED FOR LUNCH.  Thankfully, we were in the Highlands and hungover, so The Highland Tap's French Dip was in play.  It's the #2 sandwich in Atlanta as Donna at the Tap, Atlanta's favorite bartender ALWAYS reminds me.

So today we did a makegood and Beth from the Dry Rub 4 was there!  We got there a few minutes before opening, so we got to walk around the joint.  The Decor was great, loved the exposed brick and it had a bit of an obnoxious New York theme.  Here's my issue, good pizza is good pizza, you don't have to say New York to qualify for a quality pie.  Case in point, Antico Pizza is just the best pizza in Atlanta PERIOD.  The line is around the corner at every meal to prove it.  There are no gimmicks.

Great Decor
The staff was wonderful and extremely accomodating.  Having three children with me, that isn't something I take for granted.  We started out with the Garlic Knots.  Some Garlic Knots tend to be too greasy, these were not.  They were so good marinara was not necessary.

"Dad, this was my best restaurant experience ever, I'm down for the Clam pizza next time!"  Full Disclosure, the bar is set pretty low for Charlie's best restaurant experience.
Then we ordered two things, the Baked Ziti, which I had heard was great and eh, it was alright.  It didn't have nearly enough cheese.  But my boy Charlie LOVED it.  And in the end, that's good enough.
I mean, Baked Ziti is supposed to have melted cheese, correct?  Why the hell bake it then?
Then I ordered the Pizza with Riverview Farms Meatball, Garden Basil, Chile Oil, Pickled Banana Pepper and Red Sauce.  The pizza was pretty damn good.  The crust was really good.  They have a filtration system that supposedly recreates the NY water to make the dough, but it stands on its own.

I will follow up with an addendum when I go back and try some of the more eclectic pie's on their menu.  Overall, I think this is a great addition to the Virginia Highlands, which needed a pizza joint.  Let's get ahold of ourselves and realize it's not Antico, but what is?   I will definitely be back for seconds.

Today's Footnote:  We are considering doing a list of the best food moments in Television and Cinema History.  Please let us know your suggestions.  Here is a great one from the sick mind of Larry David for starters.

And if you haven't seen Clear History on HBO, do it if you love Curb.  The premise may have more holes than a Texas border fence, but there are some hysterical moments.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hammocks Trading Company Sandy Springs, GA

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and those who heed the warning:  Consumption of Raw Seafood is Done at Your Own Risk

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This week we are attempting to do a lunch series.  We are starting out at Hammocks Trading Company in Sandy Springs, GA.  I joined my friend Matt C and his lovely family and my friend Trish as well.  And ironically, everyone was from Maryland.  So of course we ended at a seafood joint.

They are straddling the sweet spot for a seafood restaurant after the "Dive Bar" look.  Personally, when I eat seafood it illogically makes sense for me to feel like I'm at a beach bar.  And just like the Steamhouse, Hammocks recreates that vibe.

Let's face it, every seafood restaurant and bar should strive to create Magnum PI's "King Kamehameha Club."  When I was a child I didn't want to be a Policeman or Fireman, I wanted to be Magnum PI.

Let's drink and drive then hop in our Ferrari's and Helicopters.  It's the 80's so it's cool!
Did anyone live a better TV life than Magnum PI?  When you consider the Ferrari, free rent at a Hawaiian mansion, chest hair and the mustache, I'm not sure what else in life you need.  The man as the most acceptable mustache outside of porn over the last 30 years.

I get why he turned down Indiana Jones for this.  I would have too.

"Your life sucks, mine is better.  Oh wait, I DID turn down Indiana Jones?  Dammit"
For apps we had pulled pork on short bread.  A little strange for a seafood joint, but it was really good.

We had this tomato thing that Trish loved.  I liked it, but wasn't going nuts over it.

No those aren't my crayons in the background
The benchmark of any good seafood restaurant is oysters.  And on Monday they are 1/2 off.  You are welcome, just please watch out for the 5-0 on Roswell Road.  5-0 are cops for the suburbanites.  They were fresh and delicious.  Raw Oysters are one of my top 10 foods so if you can pull it off, I'm a customer. And there aren't many affordable places to get them in Atlanta.

My go to sandwiches at seafood places are lobster rolls and blackened grouper sandwiches.  They had 1 out of 2.  It was really good.  Cooked just right and the spices gave it a nice kick.  Not as big as the Steamhouse's, but they do better in the spice category.  Oh and the fries come with Old Bay.  Game. Set. Match.

So if you are in Sandy Springs and need a good meal at an independent restaurant that obviously cares and are very conscientious about their product, check out Hammocks.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Figo Pasta- Comfort Italian

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate to children under the age of 13 and those who consider The Olive Garden as "fine dining"

Figo does simple Italian right.  They give you multiple choices of Pasta, both short and long as well as a great array of ravioli's as well.

When we first moved the "Westside" of Atlanta almost 9 years ago, Figo was the pioneer of the recent onslaught of westside restaurants.
Okay, so this wasn't exactly us in 2004, but the Westside has grown!
Figo gives the diner close to 20 sauces to choose from as well.  They have increased their choices in the last few years.  They have also unveiled some appetizers (anti-pasta's) as well.  Those were introduced recently as well.
My wifes favorite, Rigatoni with Amatriciana Sauce
My fear is that they are expanding the menu a little much and could fall victim to "Cheesecake Factoring" their menu by trying to be more than they need to be.

I do like their anti pasta offerings, but have not ventured too far off of their traditional menu.  So admittedly I haven't tried their sandwiches.  The new meatball menu is a nice, natural addition to the menu.
My stand by favorite, Linguine with Funghi
Also, I have always LOVED the majority of their specials. Tonight I had the Salmon Risotto and it was delicious.  My suggestion would be to keep the menu simple and experiment with their specials.
Salmon Risotto
The core of their being is they are comfort neighborhood Italian Food.  You can stop on your way home from work and grab it, bring the whole family in or make it a date night if you don't want to break the bank.  Now by comfort I'm not talking about Anthony Weiner on Social Media comfortable.
If anything, he's consistent.  If he's not Mayor of NYC, we'll deem him the King of Social Media
Figo has moderately increased their footprint around the Metro Atlanta area, and that's a great thing.  If you have one near you congrats, it's about the most solid Italian around that you can feed your family reasonably and know that they care about what they are doing.