Archive for the ‘Food & Drink’ Category

What is the deal with your weird cheese?

Ok Atlantans, you’ll have to help me out here. WHAT IS UP WITH PIMIENTO CHEESE?!

This appears to be a uniquely Southern phenomenon. At least, I’d never heard of it ’til I moved here. This bizarre concoction seems, to me, to be something either (a) thought up by a total stoner or (b) having its origins in the weird better-living-through-science recipes of the 1950s, something that should be relegated to faded recipe cards along with savory jello salads containing cream and green beans. Yet here it is, in what I counted as four separate locations throughout my local Kroger. There’s even a high-rent version of it available, made with goat cheese.

A little research showed my pegging it among the artful presentations of cocktail weiners, chilled celery logs and “fluffy mackerel puddings” of the 1950s was actually incorrect. Now the Cheese Of The People, pimiento cheese was once considered a delicacy, appearing in the early 20th century alongside other elite fashionable foods, served at tea parties on crustless finger sandwiches. The high cost of cheese and pimiento peppers–imported at that time from Spain–made it a costly status dish, served to special guests in parlors.  But with the advent of pasteurized processed cheese in 1915 and the cultivation of the peppers locally, pimiento cheese soon became ubiquitous in the Southern icebox–a staple grandma always had around. Its popularity was made even more democratic as textile mills and factories began providing it, along with other “cafeteria”-style foods to their workers.

Tonight at Yeah Burger in Virginia-Highlands, I tried my first pimiento cheese. Being a snobbish foodie from LA, I was ready to be horrified by such a lowly concoction, comprised of mayo, cream cheese, cheddar and, of course, pimientos, which I hadn’t eaten since accidentally ingesting them as a child, in purloined olives out of a jar. It arrived on my burger in a garish smear of artificial-looking carrot orange, grease separating from its creamier bits and running off the burger to pool in the paper wrapper. What appeared as an opaque, thick and creamy substance in containers at the grocery store, once slapped on a hot sandwich, melted into something that looked like it should be used to lube an auto engine. But it was…delicious.

Delicious.

Of course, it’s a furtive kind of pleasure I’m taking in it. This bastard love child of …what’s in it? I bought some at the store. The first ingredient is IMITATION American cheese. That’s right, the first ingredient is partially hydrogenated soybean oil. I’m not supposed to like this stuff! It’s not NATURAL! It’s origins are in a chemistry lab, not a dairy farm! But then I reflected on my obsessive love for Easter Peeps, and I realized–the housewives of the 50s, with their “Frankfurter Spectaculars” and their jellied salmon mousses, were right. Better living IS to be had through chemistry.

And the doyenne of Southern cooking herself, Ms. Paula Deen, offers up a pimiento cheese recipe that calls for actual cheese, not artificial cheese. So perhaps there’s some hope to be had. I, too, can court diabetes through the piquant zestiness of homemade pimiento cheese.

So fess up, Atlantans. Where do you find the best pimiento cheese in the South? And where is the worst?

 

 

 

Triumphant Return! And Food From a Farm

First order of business: Charlie and I are rejoining Tamra as metblogs contributors! In case you haven’t noticed, posting has been a little scant lately. We weren’t entirely sure of the site’s long-term stability following our, um, hiatus in February, but we are good to go now, in it to win it, and looking for new writers. If you are an Atlantan, live and love the city, can string together a sentence or two, and are willing to do it once or twice a week, leave a comment and we’ll track ya down!

Alright, homework’s done. Today I want to talk about food. I really like food. Georgia, that big red sea surrounding Atlanta, is just chock full of it. Farms galore. One in seven Georgians work in some sort of ag-related field. It’s what our state’s economy was built on, and yet …  well, our grocery stores don’t exactly reflect it. We have WONDERFUL options for food in the city, it’s just that the local produce, the stuff from all those farms I keep hearing about, doesn’t often show up at the Hipster Kroger or the Publix on Ponce. The DeKalb and Buford Hwy “Farmers Markets” have every kind of food you can imagine, most of it exceedingly cheap, but produce at YDFM seems to always come from Chile, California, or Mexico. 

So. We turn to the myriad of little farmer’s markets that pop up in every neighborhood once a week, where I end up with ramps and an onion and a jalapeno pepper, a $7 loaf of bread and a $6 pint of blueberries, from farms with names like Gaia Gardens and Love is Love. Granted, those will be the most perfect, plump, tart-sweet, incredibly delicious blueberries I will ever eat, but it’s not exactly grocery shopping for the week.

Third option: a CSA. Georgia Organics has a pretty exhaustive run-down of what CSAs are, and where they are available. I personally have subscribed to the yuppiest, laziest, pickiest option possible: this company. They allow me to request that they never, ever include beets; they deliver a box of food to my front porch; they let me swap out what I don’t feel like eating that week; and they have options for honey, yogurt, coffee, etc. I opt for local over organic produce, and, most convenient of all – you can put a hold on your order just a few days in advance.  This is helpful when you remember that you’ll be out of town next week. Or if you just have more dining-out plans than usual. Or if you are still eating green beans and squash from last week.

Of course, there are much more cost-effective options, if you’re into it. Where do you shop for groceries? Does anyone actually use a CSA? Do you do battle at the Dekalb Market on the weekends? Or do you get your lil debbies at Kroghetto, Krogay, Disco Kroger, Murder Kroger? Finally, while we’re at it, what’s the general consensus on the clever name for the Edgewood (Hipster, in my house) Kroger?

From Sunday sales laws come “shot houses”

A little noticed story was reported by WSBTV Channel 2 last night. Apparently, someone in a College Park neighborhood was selling booze out of their home on Sundays in what the story refers to as a “shot house.” According to police, “Customers could go to the home on Surrey Trail and order a drink, or buy a six pack on Sunday.” Hmmm. So the illegal activity in question is a direct result of the government’s decision to outlaw an activity one day out of the week that it fully supports and collects taxes on the other six days of the week. WEIRD.

After receiving reports from neighbors about a line of cars in front of the home on Sundays, police “conducted surveillance, made traffic stops as customers left, and sent in an officer with a hidden camera. They then returned with a warrant and the SWAT team.” Okay, I get it. Something illegal was going on. And it’s the police department’s job to stop it. I understand that the problem here isn’t just selling alcohol on Sundays. Someone was selling out of a home in a residential neighborhood, operating without a license and in a place with children and families. Obviously, the potential exists for some sort of misconduct or violence to spill over. This is all bad. I’m glad the police intervened. 

 BUT. But. The fact that all of this happened – the bar’s existence, the police raid, the arrests, the coming prosecutions – happened because our state allows for the sale of alcohol Mondays through Saturdays. But not Sundays – unless you drink at a bar. On Sunday, it’s illegal. From a policy standpoint, it seems like a problem to require law enforcement to commit precious time, manpower, and resources to shut down shot houses while potential robberies, rapes, and homicides are taking place elsewhere. Can we just allow the sale of alcohol on Sundays already? Is it really too much to ask?

This burger thing – am I missing something?

Earl burger

Every now and then, maybe once every three months, I think about having a burger.  But I don’t. After one disappointing encounter too many, I pretty well gave up.

Too dry or too greasy. Too much glop on it. Too big, too charred, too much bread. Some have the the heft of a brick and taste of absolutely nothing. With so many other things to eat, it didn’t seem worthwhile to keep searching for a passable version of one food. So, I probably haven’t had a hamburger in about five years.

I thought Atlanta’s two-year-old gourmet burger epidemic would have burned itself out by now, but I would have lost money on that bet. Maybe now, when the choices are about as good as they’re likely to get, is the time to give it another try. I live close enough to Grindhouse to walk (not today, lest I freeze my face or who-knows-what else off in the process). I can get to Wonderful World pretty easily (Hmm, their site is down. Anyone know what’s going on with them?) and it wouldn’t be too much trouble to MARTA my way over to Flip or Yeah! Burger. But, once there, would it be worth the time and, more importantly, the money?

Is anyone a new burger convert? Is there really something to all this or is everyone just going because everyone else is going?

Woody’s Revisit

Struck by an unusually specific desire for a cheesesteak this weekend, Mr. Abby and I headed to Atlanta’s cheesesteak … um, champion … Woody’s. This is the longstanding shack perched in the triangular spit of land by Piedmont Park, traditionally plagued with crappy parking and crappy hours but blessed with delicious cheesesteaks. Funny, Ben posted about a Woody’s visit about this time last year – wouldn’t have thought that we’d gravitate towards even more heavy, greasy food around the holidays. This time around I had completely forgotten about the old hours situation (I swear they used to be open Tues-Sat 11-3) and went in blind, but was rewarded with a new owner, a slightly updated menu that featured the addition of a turkey cheesesteak, a 2-time 100% health inspection streak, and what appears to be an entirely different approach to doing business.

The cheesesteak was the same: well-cooked meat, onions and gooey cheese on soft fluffy bread. All that it ought to be, fully devoid of health benefits and full of deliciousness. It came out in less than 10 minutes, and I got the chance to chat a bit with the supereager guy working the counter. When I mentioned that I hadn’t eaten at Woody’s for a few years, he ran through all the changes the new owners (which may or may not have included him?) were taking on. Things like scooter delivery within a 4-5 mile radius, and cheep and local beer (well, one cheap and one local). He’s working on an iPhone app, too, that would (hopefully) allow them to deliver to picnickers in the park using GPS. Oh, and they take credit cards now, too!

My verdict is that Woody’s is the place to get a cheesesteak and a milkshake. In the wake of some really outstanding Atlanta eateries closing, it’s nice to support our locals. Especially when it tastes so good.

CHOMP

Tomorrow Cabbagetown will host what is inarguably the city’s best festival of the year – that’s right kids, it’s Chomp and Stomp time! As the website says, what’s better than chili on a sunny November afternoon? Oh – chili and beer and music in the coolest, most welcoming neighborhood in the city, that’s what.

Things will get kicked off in the morning with a 5k (my participation in this will be sitting on my porch drinking coffee and blasting music for the runners), then chili starts being served exactly at noon. You’ve got about an hour to taste the individual entrants’ chili, a few more for the restaurants. Spoons are $5.

This year it’s bigger than ever before, which means more celebration, more chili, more vendors and volunteers and revelers, and more street closings. So if you’re headed our way, I’d say don’t bother driving. They’ll be running free fur buses between the MLK Marta station and the festival, and Atlanta Bicycle Coalition will have a bike valet. You might be able to park in Inman Park, but honestly, after all that chili you might want to go for a little walk or bike ride anyway.

One more change this year: thanks to Milltown Arms, we are finally able to stop using the Styrofoam chili cups and plastic spoons! They provided compostable alternatives, which is huge, but the organizers are asking for help because no one ever puts things in the correct bin. So I’m helping spread the word – CHILI SPOONS AND CHILI CUPS GO IN RED BINS. Red. Bins. Thanks.

Here’s a map with all the details, or you can check out the Chomp and Stomp website.

I will be pouring Sweetwaters in Esther Peachy Park (the little one at Powell and Wylie) at 3:00, so swing by and say hello!

Get out (of the house)!

Now is the time to get outside people! The weather is supposed to be excellent this weekend and there are several festivalish (yes, I speak my own language, Stephanese) events going on around town. So, go, leave the house, leave the computer, and see what this city has to offer. Here are just a few ideas:

Taste of Atlanta – Saturday and Sunday, October 23-24, at Technology Square (intersection of 5th and Spring)
In addition to the normal food fare, there will also be a village showcasing the local sustainable movement with a local farmers’ market as well. Tickets are a little steep ($25 in advance, $30 at the event) but that does get you 15 Taste coupons to use at any of the various restaurant tents.

Candler Park Fall Fest – Saturday and Sunday, October 23-24, at Candler Park
There is a 5K race Saturday morning at 11:00 am before the festival begins at noon. The ever popular Tour of Homes runs from noon-6 pm on Sunday. The festival is free but the Tour of Homes will cost you $12 in advance or $15 on Sunday. I highly recommend the Tour of Homes if you can spare the cash. I’ve never been disappointed.

Dunwoody Music Festival – Saturday and Sunday, October 23-24, at Brook Run Park
There is a chili cook-off from 11:00 am until 1:00 pm on Saturday. On Sunday, there will be a battle of the bands and a classic car show, both beginning at noon. There will also be fireworks Saturday night (so be prepared if you live in the area). Regular tickets range from $10-$15 (including both one and two day passes) with other special pricing deals for adults/children, etc.

I’m sure there is a lot more going on in the city this weekend so feel free to let us know what you’re going to be doing while the weather is warm (but not too warm).

Atlanta Streets Alive – Again

ASA fall posterIf you missed it (or had a great time at) the first one, there’s another chance to stroll the center city at Atlanta Streets Alive tomorrow, October 17.

The 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. time slot is the same as in May, but the street closures are a little less ambitious this time. Activities will be centered on Woodruff Park and Hurt Park, and along Edgewood Avenue between Peachtree and Raldolph Streets. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition-led bike loop is back too, this time at 4.4 miles.

Even if you’re not into biking, skating, jumping, hula hooping, drumming or dancing, ASA will be a chance to sample the wares from several Atlanta Street Food Coalition members’ food trucks, with plenty of ensembles providing music to eat by. And all on a day when the high is expected to be around 75, rather than 95. Can’t beat that.

Ale No

Way to blow it, Atlanta. A craft beer store in EAV? Nah, let’s send them to Decatur where they’re wanted.

There’s a few-months-old discussion on EAV Buzz that reading took me from elation to full-on pissiness in about 3 minutes. (Read as: sorry guys, stand by for a poorly crafted and rambling rant). A craft beer store, the over-adorably named Ale Yeah, had signed a lease on Flat Shoals, a few doors down from the EARL. I thrilled at the prospect of a place closer to home to buy my snooty beer (I’ve geeked out in Hop City a few times, but it’s a slow, heavy ride home from the Westside with a bag full of beers. I’ve since learned to drive when I go there.). Was a little giddy as I read through the thread on the buzz, which entailed, for the most part, happy tears and boner talk.

Turns out, however, that the location in the Village is too close to a “package store” (Buddy’s on Moreland and the East Atlanta Supermarket a few blocks down Glenwood) to open. Needs to be 1500 feet or more, according to a Buzz poster. “JBB” says it “also needs to be 600′ from residence, 600′ from library, 600′ from public park, 600′ from school… etc. the only way through is a complete exemption of EAV from all distance requirements.” Obviously a craft beer store would be an unfair competitor to Buddy’s. Or maybe it would just make the district too alcohol-saturated, what with opportunities to buy both bum wine and Allagash.

So we lost another cool thing (and tax revenue source) to Decatur due to some junk zoning issues. What now Atlanta’s got a few more details.

(more…)

Check, please! Bundle says Atlantans love their restaurants

Ever wonder how that just-okayish restaurant in your neighborhood stays in business, or why optimistic entrepreneurs keep setting up shop in the same location that’s already chewed up and spit out five other diners, cafes, bistros and lounges in five years?

According to Bundle, a site that collects and analyzes spending data across the country, Atlantans did 57 percent (click the circles to see stats and maps) of their food and drink spending at restaurants last year on average – more than any other major city. The average for the U.S. is 37 percent.

That might explain the longevity of some lackluster establishments and restaurateurs’ willingness to keep rolling the dice around here. We’re going to eat somewhere, and for some of us, it’s often not at home.

The statistical breakdown makes it a bit clearer what’s going on. The first three merchants on the top-10 “Where They Spend” list for Atlanta are Starbucks, Chic-Fil-A and McDonald’s. So, it appears to be a matter of a lot of people spending a little money fairly frequently, rather than going out to $50 dinners twice a week. The most expensive establishments in the top-10 list – Cheesecake Factory, Longhorn Steakhouse and Outback Steakhouse – came in at fifth, seventh and ninth place, respectively. Waffle House was number 10.

There are some significant limitations on just how informative the data are, though, as they’re generated only from credit card transactions. The list might look quite a bit different if cash sales were factored in.

By the way, the Number 4 on the “Where They Spend” list is Trop, Inc.

Never heard of it? It’s the corporate name of The Pink Pony.

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