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Thanks to the handy work of the husband and the fact that he was both home last night and not working on freelance projects… there are a couple new designs in the foodieporn closet. I am particularly fond of the “sprout” shirt and think it would be adorable as a onesie. Keifel is hard at work on the guy shirt but it may take a bit longer as the design is more intricate.

Our weekend excursion to the ATL was lovely. We caught up with old college chums (my how that makes me feel ancient). We arrived on Friday evening and made some dinner with/for our hosts. Nigella’s black rice with Keifel’s Thai chicken has won further converts.

Saturday was spent at the Corndog-a-rama, a little indie music fest in East Atlanta. Corndogs (turkey or veggie) were had by all. I forgot how good they are. Hell, everything tastes better on a stick. It was however, bloody hot and Keifel and I wilted rather quickly. We tripped off to Bound to Be Read Books and took advantage of their used corndog stick 50% off special. Keifel picked up a sex trivia book chock full of Victorian curiosities and stats and I found another in my quest for the Little Cookbook Series books: Sicilian. They are kind of twee, but I love the illustrations and you know how collectors get, the quest thing tends to surpass the reason thing.

We disappeared again to the Flatiron and had some apps of the bar food variety served by, I am fairly certain, the sexiest man in Atlanta, save my own dear husband. Gorgeous eyes, gorgeous dreads. We watched a little World Cup and waited for the others before heading off to 5 Seasons for dinner for real.

5 Seasons is a brilliant place. It looks suspiciously of upscale chain when you walk in. I’m sure you have experienced that almost too slick corporate look. But it is warm and inviting and if you get there a little before the dinner rush you can converse in a normal voice. E & G have been there a few times and recommended some things. I started with the calamari because it isn’t something I see on the menu very often in Nashville and with Keifel’s allergy it isn’t something I can do at home. It was divine. Perfectly cooked and just enough breading to give it a crunch without overwhelming the squid. I detest those rubber band ringlets that often pass for calamari in restaurants. Let’s just say they know their cuttlefish/squid type things and what to do with them. I had the duck both ways for my main and was incredibly reluctant to share the succulent and perfectly pink breast. The sauce, a spicy grape demi-glace, was good enough that I wanted to be all kinds of inappropriate and lick the plate. The garnish consisted of pickled shallots and a mound of light and peppery baby arugula. The leg, the other way, was juicy and sauced well but for me it was all about the breast.

In my effort to have a full meal when I write one of these, I ordered the creme brulee. Keifel said it would again end badly and spoil my perfect meal. 5 Seasons Brewery did not disappoint on the dessert. It had great crack and flavor though the creme was a little stiff. I do tend to prefer it a silky, barely congealed custard texture. That may just be me. The coffee was also good and I was offered a warm up, though that late in the day I would have been wired for sound. 5 Seasons was one of the best meals I have had in a long time. The Asian/German fusion brewery thing could have been a disaster, but they manage it with a deft hand and the beer isn’t bad either. If you’re in the vicinity, it is definitely worth a taste or two.

5 Seasons Brewery
600 Roswell Road (South of I-285 in The Prado Shopping Center)
Atlanta, GA 30342
404.255.5911 (Reservations)

Regular Schedule
Open 7 Days a Week
Monday-Thursday 11:00 am – 10:00 pm – bar open until 12:00 Midnight
Friday/Saturday 11:00am – 11:00pm – bar open until 2:00am
Sunday 12:00 noon – 10:00pm – bar open until 12:00 Midnight

Let me just start by saying that I don’t sport a single tattoo nor do I have any “interesting” piercings (defined by saying my mother has seen them all and they are all in my earlobes in “traditional” locations). I realize that this doesn’t have anything to do with food but I do think that people of a certain age tend to hang and/or work at the coffee house under discussion and I want to make it clear that I am not of that age anymore. Though… even when I was, I still didn’t have any tattoos or face tackle.

The reason I want to clear this up is to say that if you have passed that age when too-low low rise pants look good on you, Fido can still be an excellent place to hang. There are definite perks to the atmosphere, including the free Wi-Fi. It is also fabulous people watching. Nashville’s hip, both the genuine article and the would bes tend to frequent. Unlike the original rush of 1990s coffee houses it is smoke free, unless you want to sit on the teeny porch outside with the smokers. The music is always interesting and not in that it must be a terminally obscure band that only three people (including their mothers) know about. The staff is friendly if you are. Keifel seems to attract flirtation by male and female staff members alike. I admit he looks cooler than me (I’d like to think we are equal in all things) with his sexy dreads, tats and pierced tongue. The thing is they always flirt with him even when I am next to him, hell, even when Julian and I are both next to him. I deal. And I think it just goes to show that I do indeed love the place.

We popped in the other night after roaming about downtown to look at Keifel’s 15 minutes of fame on the building wrap at 411 Broadway for the CMA Music Festival. If you’re a Nashvillian you can go see my honey in all his farting cow glory. Julian and I had already had dinner so we ordered a drink and a sweetie. Keifel ordered the chipotle chicken with mash. It was beautifully messy on the plate and just enough spice to have that chipotle kick in the pants. Really their food is almost always good. It’s eclectic diner food without the Waffle House Shuffle and 27 years of dirt layered in the grout on the floor. The special is worth the investment most days.

As far as their coffee goes, it really is some of the best to be had in the Metro area. My latté always has that perfect thin layer of silky foam on the top and not a gob of dry nasty Styrofoam milk-type product. The coffee to milk flavor ratio is decidedly on the coffee side. On our most recent visit I opted for hot chocolate with whip. Yum. Not too syrupy and lots o’ whip. Julian ordered his standard, a cherry Italian soda. Julian says they are the best because they put in enough syrup to make it look like they put in enough syrup.

The Jules and I also had muffins. I have to come clean here and say that I am truly addicted to the almond shortbread muffins. They are like a little pocket of damp, almondy cake heaven and I have walked out without ordering when they have been out. Julian got the double chocolate which was just shy of bitter with chocolatey goodness.

The only downside here is that with people camped out with laptops it is occasionally difficult to get a table, especially on the weekends. I think they do try to discourage weekend camping with gentle signs and a no outside food or drink policy and camping is definitely a no-no during the lunch rush. But I love that I can go by myself and read awhile or take Julian for a treat or we can go as a fam and not worry about corrupting the child any further.

My final word of praise: I do love that some brilliant person taped a polite note to the counter where one orders that states that they will wait for you to finish your cell phone conversation before taking your order. Thank you! I wish we could tape one of those up at Ye Olde Pot & Pannery but I am certain that is against policy. I loathe and despise trying to ring someone up while they are chatting away merrily. I have questions and I deserve your undivided attention for the three minutes it takes me to scan your stuff. People used to do it when I was working in the Novel Cafe at the Bookstore and it drove me insane. How am I supposed to take a food order if the patron can’t extract his or her phone from his or her ear long enough to tell me how he or she would like his or her steak? I rant more than I thought…

Go, I say. Go to Fido. They have yummy food, good coffee and the natives don’t bite even if they do, on occasion, look they might not be able to clear a pre-flight metal detector.

1812 21st Ave. S.
Nashville, TN 37212
Phone: (615) 777-FIDO

Hours (from the web site. call ahead.):
Monday – Thursday 7am – 11pm
Friday 7am – 12 am
Saturday 8am – 12am
Sunday 8am – 11pm

When I feel the need for Irish beer and a some fish and chips we make the trek to Franklin to McCreary’s. They have the best pub grub I have had the pleasure of consuming in the Nashville environs. It is definitely worth fighting traffic on I-65 to partake.

I have never strayed off the fish & chips menu except for the “pretending to be virtuous” house salad before the deep fried feast. Keifel ordered the cheese and bacon slathered chips last time we were there and despite any pretending to be virtuous thoughts I may have been harboring, I dug in with relish (and skipped the chips that came with my fish basket).

The fish is cod filet with a shatteringly crisp batter about its being. It is better than the one run in I had with fish and chips in London. The chips, or fries for us Yanks, are thick cut and creamy on the inside crunchy on the outside. All the tables are set with ketchup and malt vinegar so you can be as gauchely American or as authentically British Isles as you prefer. However, aside from the decor and the beers, that’s as authentic as McCreary’s gets. There are wings and chicken pot pie to be had that I hear are tasty but haven’t been the purpose of my missions.

One of the very best things about McCreary’s is that we can make it a family affair when we go and it is smoke free, to boot. There are communal style tables lining each side of the very narrow shotgun space and a few seats at the bar in the back. Friday nights are music nights; I still haven’t figured out how they cram a band in there but they do it with regularity. Warm weather offers outdoor cafe tables looking out onto Franklin’s charming main shopping district.

All in all, for those of us who require our fried fixin’s to be more Continental than catfish, McCreary’s is definitely the place. Oh, and if you feel the need to top off your naughty night with some ice cream or caffeine, there is both a Starbucks and a Ben & Jerry’s within a block… not that I would do that or anything.

McCreary’s Irish Pub and Eatery
414 Main St
Franklin, TN 37064-2761
(615) 591-3197
Across the street from Franklin’s tiny cinema usually screening family fare

Sawaddii, Memphis, Tennessee

victoria —  January 23, 2006 — 7 Comments

Keifel and I recently had the pleasure of an overnight in Memphis for his green card interview. Keifel is now an official permanent resident (Huzzah!) and we got to spend some time together without the interference of work and school for a brief 24 hour span. As our presence was requested at the immigration office at 7:30 AM and we arrived in Memphis around 4:30PM the previous day we had some time to kill, which we spent at the Ye Olde Pot and Pannery outlet, the Davis-Kidd Booksellers Memphis store and finding some sustenance. SC recommended a Thai place downtown by the Peabody, so after some debate about driving versus staying close to the hotel, we headed further west.

The front door to Sawaddii opens onto a very small reception area and bar. The restaurant was practically deserted on a Wednesday night and we were seated immediately. Brightly painted portraits of musicians of every genre line the muted walls and contrast nicely with the dark wood tones of the bar and screen separating the bar back from the restaurant. The tables are comfortable if utilitarian and everything else has the clean lines that one has come to expect of Asian restaurants. The lighting was a little bright for dinner after dark and the music was mostly okay except for a travesty that might only offend me: a bad cover of Van Morrison.

Our overly chatty waiter took our drinks order and disappeared briefly. Keifel and I both zeroed in on the duck dishes of which there were two. We decided to each get one and start with tom ka soup. The soup arrived very quickly steaming with the scent of lemongrass, one of the main reasons that I adore it. It was a bit thinner than I had had before but still with a good body. Overall the flavor was balanced between the citrus notes of the lemongrass and lime leaves and the earthiness of the mushrooms in their coconut milk bath. There is one caveat. The chicken was cooked to death and cut into sizes three times what would be politely manageable on a spoon.

Our duck dishes arrived as quickly as the soup had, in fact, we had not had time to finish the soup. Yes, rushing me through the courses is one of my very biggest pet peeves. Keifel had ordered the roasted duck with curry, pineapple and spinach. It smelled divine. I ordered the Sam Rod duck. Mine smelled pretty good, too. Keifel’s duck had marvelously crispy skin, was cooked perfectly with pink still at the center of the breast, and the curry pulled it all together. I could have eaten a bowl of the pineapple and curry over rice and been utterly content. In fact I should have. The skin on my duck was crispy, but the flesh was overcooked and liver-y tasting. The overly salted sauce didn’t help matters along and the sweet and sour sauce clashed and fought rather than counterpointed. I ate more of Keifel’s than I did of my own.

The server did not comment on my quarter eaten entree. He also took Keifel’s plate before I had finished pushing mine around instead of taking both plates at the same time. Another pet peeve.

Once we had decided that I should write a review, I decided I had to give the dessert menu a go. My choices came down to key lime pie and creme brulee, two of my personal favorites. The key lime pie was not made in house so I decided to attempt the creme brulee. Keifel looked at me with a great deal of scepticism and pointed out that this could only end in tears. I should have listened.

Our waiter disappeared, for a good while. It was the longest span he had spent away from our table and I began to worry that the stress of dealing with us and two other tables may have overwhelmed him, or more likely that he had gone for a smoke. He did finally advent with my dessert and cautioned me the dish was hot because he had just taken the torch to it himself. Really, it should sit for a few minutes after the flaming, to harden, and it shouldn’t get hot as the custard… well, you’ll see.

It was really far too large a portion for one person, which he had not mentioned, and there was a liquid film over the carmelized and burnt sugar topping. The custard was close to room temperature and badly curdled. I was crestfallen. Generally when Keifel and I go out, he always gets the better entree and I try to save the meal with a nice dessert. Not to be.

I tried one more route to dining happiness and ordered coffee. This was their last chance to save the evening as I firmly believe a crappy cup of coffee can ruin a perfectly good meal while a good after dinner cuppa can cover, if not a multitude, at least a few sins.

Sawaddii has great coffee.

Sawaddii Thai Cuisine
121 Union Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee 38103

Mirror, 12th South, Nashville

victoria —  August 18, 2005 — 2 Comments

I’m unsure if I am getting jaded or if culinary school and the concomitant research and reading and cooking on my part is making it harder and harder for me to be impressed by what restaurants are dishing up or out. I really don’t mean that in a snooty way though I know it rings of the “food snob” in the worst possible way.

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Today is the first day of my summer session at NSCC. I’m taking Advanced Baking with Chef T, who is one of my two favorite instructors, and Hospitality as it is known in the program. It is actually a class on supervision in the hospitality industry, particularly managing a kitchen.

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A good cook can get by with a sharp knife, a sauté pan, a cutting board and a fork. There are things that definitely make it easier and there are certain things that cannot be produced without the right equipment. In the kitchen as in the workshop: the right tool for the right job.

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I know it seems a strange thing to have a loathing for, but I have always detested meringue in either form it has been presented to me in the past. The wet pile of foam on top of key lime pie always seemed a travesty to me and the ruin of one of my very favorite things. In it’s dry, crumbly form, meringue always seemed the victim of too much breeding and not enough education–all sweetness and light with no substance.

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Trini Food in D.C.

victoria —  March 31, 2005 — Leave a comment

The very first thing we did was head to the Islander on U Street for roti. They apparently don’t have roti on Sunday night. The boychick and I had stew chicken and Keifel and E.B. had oxtail and goat respectively. The pelau was quite good, but I have to confess that I think Keifel’s stew chicken is better.

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Foodieporn adventures

victoria —  February 28, 2005 — Leave a comment

Keifel and I got the flu for Valentine’s Day so there aren’t any sexy dinner plans to recount. It was nasty and I hope anyone else out there that’s gotten this thing is hydrated and resting and on the mend. Not something I would wish on my very worst enemy.

During our week of bed rest I did get a box of new cookbooks delivered and had lots of lovely new reading material. I also bought Once Upon a Tart which I have coveted since Heidi at 101cookbooks started posting recipes from it. My box of goodies contained The Bread Bible, John Ashe’s Cooking One on One, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, and James Peterson’s Sauces and Vegetables. James Peterson is brilliant and I want to cook my way right through the veg book and I think the sauces one will really help my cooking at school. The Bread Bible, like Rose Levy Beranbaum’s other bibles for cakes and pie and pastry, is brilliant. It’s also something I want to bake my way through. Though my Sunday bread making yesterday consisted of an old family stand by.

Last week, the week after being down with the flu, was a big cooking week for me. Last Monday, my boss at Ye Olde Pot and Pannery asked me to cook lunch for the regional and district managers for their first corporate visit of the year. I agreed and we decided on a menu of mixed baby green salad with champagne vinaigrette and bleu cheese, pan-grilled salmon with the peach salsa we carry, steamed asparagus with hollandaise, and a wild rice pilaf. One of the other associates made a coconut cake we were featuring in our spring catalog. They were almost an hour late due to fog in Atlanta, but everything turned out fabulous and my boss and the assistant manager gushed. The most interesting thing about it was that the regional manager got promoted to vice president of the company the next day. So in effect I cooked for the vice president of the company.

In further cooking adventures last week, my culinary II class had their first buffet for paying customers, who just happened to be the Board of Directors and the President of the college. They were late too but all went well and they were very gracious and thanked us for the lunch.

This week is midterm so I have three exams this week. I think my baking on may be the most difficult of the three. The nutrition one is open book, so I’m not too worried about that one. Still. They are a big percentage of my grade and I of course want to do well. So, I am off to study but I will leave you with the bread recipe from yesterday:

High-Protein Honey Bread

4 to 5 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 pkgs. dry yeast (scant 2 Tablespoons)
1 cup water
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup butter
8 oz. (1 cup) cottage cheese
2 eggs
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

Using 2 Tablespoons of butter or oil per pan, generously grease two 8×4″ or 9×5″ loaf pans or two 8 or 9″ round cake pans.

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of the bread flour, the salt and the yeast. Mix well and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine water, honey, butter and cottage cheese and heat until very warm, about 120 degrees F.

Add the warm liquid and the eggs to the flour/yeast mixture and beat about 3 minutes by hand. Begin stirring in the whole wheat flour, the oats, nuts and enough of the remaining bread flour to form a soft dough.

On a floured surface, knead the dough by hand for about 10 minutes until the dough is soft and bounces back quickly when poked with a finger.

Place in an oiled bowl and flip to coat, cover with a damp towel and place in a warm spot until doubled in size. I like to combine baking and laundry day and let the dough rise on a hot pad on the dryer. This usually takes about an hour, but you can tell when the first rise is finished if you finger leaves an impression in the dough that doesn’t bounce back when you poke it.

When the first rise has finished, punch down the dough and give it a couple kneads. Cut it half and round each half on the counter and let it rest for about 15 minutes covered with a damp towel.

To shape the loaves roll of stretch the dough into two rectangles and tri-fold like a business letter pinching the seam together. Place the seamed side in the bottom of the loaf pans and return the pans to the dryer or other warm spot until doubled in size (about an hour).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and make sure one of the racks is in the approximate center of the oven. At the end of the second rise, place the loaves in the oven and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes until the loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped. Remove from the pans immediately and cool on racks.

This bread makes the most amazing toast. If it takes you awhile to get through a loaf of bread, be sure to tightly wrap the second loaf in foil and place in a large freezer bag and freeze. When ready to use thaw at room temperature and refresh in a 375 degree oven for about ten minutes to bring the crust back.