Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Where does your passion for food come from?

Today I was eating with my father at a large Chinese buffet (Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet).  While the food is OK, its the fact that my dad and I have this place that's in our rotation that makes it special to me.  My earliest memories of food are with my mother and father.

My mothers contribution to my culinary life is small but very important.  I got my amazing appetite from her, and I don't mean an appetite I mean a real appetite.  When my wife first met my mother and saw how much she ate she would say, "its disgusting to see a woman eat so much".  It made me feel proud (I think its a boy thing).  My mother is not a large woman either which makes it all that much more fun.  Needless to say my father would have to make 2-3 chicken breast a night for my mother and I (just to give you a little perspective).  She made a ramen dish with the noodles made like fried rice (peas, carrots, onions, little soy sauce) with sliced browned smoked sausage (beef kielbasi).  My kids and I call it Hot Dog Fried Noodles.  It's a special happy food memory that I'm getting to share with my kids.

My father was a little more hands on with my culinary training.  He was in the Coast Guard and went to cook school (I don't know if that a proper term but that's how he refers to it).  He also worked with a pastry chef at a large hotel, owned a restaurant, and sold food supplies to restaurants all over the country.  So his credentials are legit and he started teaching me at a very young age.  Some of the time I didn't see what he was making but there was a lot of thought that went into what we were going having.  Sometimes Dad would decide on a Saturday that we were going to Dekalb Farmers Market because he wanted to make egg rolls. He would also cook like he was still in the military.  We would have a serious amount of leftovers but as I explained about our appetites earlier none of it went to waste.  There are so many memories like this that I can't tell you all in an entire blog.  One meal above all stands out to me, mainly because most of the people I know will not touch it, and that's liver and onions.  He would fry it like country fried steak, make a gravy with a healthy amount of onions, and serve it with mash potatoes.  I seriously love that meal, and I love it even more that people refuse to eat liver.  I do have to give my father lots of credit because I ate food that no other kids would eat because he made them better than they might ever try.

Just the other night I had a batch of plantains that were a little under ripe for my liking and wanted to make sure that I was making them how my father does, so I called him.  First as I'm calling him I remember him making plantains when I was a kid and could see how he would fix this problem.  As he answered and listened to me then responded by telling me that I was doing what he would do and he started laughing because he was doing the same thing at the same time (now that's a little creepy).

Going forward I want my passion and my kids passion to be an endless bowl of creativity.  My Dad started me on that mission and its my sincere hope to continue the tradition.


Monday, September 23, 2013

The Review

Today me and a friend visited Nam Phuong (I think #3) located on Buford Hwy.  From the outside this place was promising with a nice mix of different cultures and a clean parking lot.  As I went to sit down, two tables over was Chef Kevin Gillespie, a Top Chef contest and the former co-owner of Wood Fire Grill.  He has a new Atlanta restaurant named Gunshow that is a different take on the traditional restaurant experience.  Well, needless to say I thought our choice of Vietnamese must be pretty good if a famous Chef would eat there with his personal friends.  Watching there order arrive made me wish I was eating with them, not only for the company but most the quantity of amazing looking food.

My friend Tony had never eaten Vietnamese, which has become a weekly staple for me.  I was glad to show him the ropes.  Since it was his first time I felt that we must order Beef Pho.  When they brought the plate of condiments/herbs/veggies I could see his interests being peeked and my stomach started to rumble in anticipation of spicy broth and noodles.

Once the soup bowl arrived we added our plate full of goodies and then a healthy dose of Sriracha.  In my humble opinion if you aren't sweating you aren't doing it right but for those who don't like it hot just don't add it.  When my broth looks more red than brown, I know its just about perfect.

Tony loved it.  I could see that this would become a regular place for him and maybe even open up some of his co-workers to a cuisine that they've never had or at the very least we will eat there again.

I would say this is one my favorite Vietnamese locations in Atlanta.  I will return soon and order a wide selection, so I can give recommendation on what to and not to order.  As of now the Beef Pho (fatty flank, flank, brisket) might be my only selection but it was enough.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Football Food

This list is not about the finest quality or precision knife work, its about quick food that tastes delicious.  No calorie counters are invited.  While this food is intended for Football it will easily cover for any occasion (even a Walking Dead episode get together).

Nachos.  There is an art to making them correctly but almost any way they are done can be amazing.
Buy quality tortilla chips, spread them out on a cookie sheet no more than 10-12 chips.  Cover each chip with cheese (I like a combo of Monterrey and Colby but cheddar is hard to beat), and place under your broiler until the cheese is melted with slightly browned edges.  Once removed, plate and cover each chip with a dab of sour cream, dab of salsa, two slices of pickled jalapeno, and a leaf or two of cilantro (omit any ingredients that you don't like and add any that you do).

Pigs and a Blanket.  This ones pretty simple.  Buy a package of Lil' Smokies and package of crescent rolls.  Split each perforated crescent roll into 5 equal parts and rap the smokies.  Cook on a baking sheet at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes.

Ruffled Potato Chips and French Onion Dip.  Buy Ruffled potato chips, sour cream and a Lipton's Onion Soup pack.  So simple but one of my favorite dip.  This maybe just the authors favorite because I always ate this at the beach in the summer.  Its hard not to think of this snack as anything but pleasurable.

Salmon Dill Dip and Crackers.  Lay 1-2 pounds of fresh salmon fillets or whole piece with skin down, to with 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped dill, 1 tablespoon of butter, and salt & pepper.  Bake at 350 degrees until fish is firm (a little over will not hurt in this recipe).  Remove, cool and break into small pieces removing the skin or any bones.  Combine with 1/4 cup of mayo, 2 tablespoons of capers, 1 tablespoon of melted butter, 1 tablespoon of chopped dill, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.  Serve with a nice cracker that you have purchased (always better if you make them yourself).

Baby Back Ribs.  Start with 3 racks of ribs that have had the bone side membrane peeled.  Cover with salt and pepper then place on a baking sheet.  Seal with aluminium foil and bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours and 15 minutes.  Remove foil, then cover with your favorite BBQ sauce on both sides.  Place back into a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Remove again and re-bast both sides again and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Let them cool for 10 minutes.  If your looking to make your own sauce, check out the sauce tab on the main page.

This is what I want when I watch Football (to be honest I'd like to eat like this more than I would like to admit).  You can make this list more homemade by making your own tortillas, salsa, sausages, dough, chips, dip, crackers, and sauce but for me sometimes, its time for junk food.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


Now most people use the microwave to reheat coffee or meals but the it can become a real tool in a gourmet kitchen.  Most foodies I know look at the microwave as a novelty but if I made them a few of the recipes that are listed below they would never believe it came from the microwave.  If you decide to make any of them don't let anyone know how you made it and see how great the response will be.

Not all things work in the microwave but there are a few that work best being nuked.

Nothing that I've found cooks rice as well as a microwave bowl that my wife purchased for me from Pampered Chef.  It's a standard 2 to 1 mix.  First you run it on high for 5 minutes and then at 50% for 15 minutes.  No spills, no issues and exactly the same every time.

Cakes should only be made in the microwave.  You will have to play around with what works best for you but these recipes are a great start.  When I made my first microwave cake my wife and I didn't know what to expect but then we ate one of the most moist cakes that we'd ever had.  It took 10 minutes from start to finish minus clean up (I don't work in that department).
Cake Recipes:
Sponge Cake- 1/4 Cup of Melted Butter, 1/4 Cup of Sugar, 1/2 Cup of Self Rising Flour, 1 Egg, and 2 Tablespoons of Milk.  Combine and place half in a ramekin with cooking spray.  Cover with plastic wrap and punch holes.  Nuke for 1 minute.  Done when knife comes out clean.
Chocolate Cake- 3 Tablespoons of melted butter, 1/4 Cup of White Sugar, 1 Egg, 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla, 1/4 Cup of Milk, 1/2 Cup of Self Rising flour, 2 Tablespoons of Cocoa Powder.  Combine all ingredients well and pour into a greased microwave safe bowl or glass dish.  Cook for 2 minutes and add 30 seconds as needed until the cake springs back when touched.
These are two basic recipes that are good foundations.  Feel free to add different extracts such as almond or butter or maybe chocolate chips and walnuts.  I like to top them with frosting, a glaze or just whipped cream and fruit.
Tomato Slices (chill the Tomatoes in the frig) and Havarti.  Its a great combo and can be made in 3 minutes including the prep time. Slice an heirloom tomato (the best tomato that you can find) and place three on a plate covered with slices of Havarti cheese.  Nuke for 1 minute or until cheese has melted. Serve as an appetizer or a side.

Steam frozen vegetables.  This needs no instructions as they are written on the back of most frozen vegetable labels.

Poached Pears.  Peel 4 pears and place in a microwave safe bowl.  Blend 1 cup of raspberries and 1 cup of strawberries.  Pour over the pears and cover.  Nuke for around 6 minutes or until a knife can run smoothly into the flesh.  Plate with whipped cream or with cashew cream for a finishing touch.

There are many more recipes to come in the future but start with these and you will see how amazing a microwave can be.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Last Supper

I have posed this question and been asked it several times, "What would you eat if you only had one meal left."  This is a tough question for me for many reasons but I will attempt to give the most complete answer possible.

First, and maybe most importantly is what did I have the days leading up to the last meal.  If at the previous meal I had a steak then another steak doesn't sound that special.  On the other hand if say my wife is on a Vegan kick and I haven't had meat in a week or two then a steak would be the perfect ending.  This type of thinking is what goes into making my weekly home menu all the way to what do I want to have for lunch today.

There are exceptions to the rule, as their always will be.  The first time I had an Italian beef combo in Chicago I couldn't get enough and would have eaten at Portillo's for every meal for the 3-4 days of my trip.  It wasn't possible to do but I tried to eat there once a day.  The best part is that when I return I do the same thing each time and never regret it.  So if I were in Chicago on that last day an Italian Beef Combo please (don't forget the hot giardiniera and extra juice on the side).  

If I were in Salt Lake City I would eat at one of my favorite Italian restaurants Cucina Tuscana.

 In Las Vegas I would eat at B&B Ristorante for lunch and order 3 Octopus salads at the bar. If it were breakfast or brunch then Bouchon's and order anything but the cornbeef & hash is my personal favorite.

If I were in Panama City, FL I would eat at the Captain's Table and as soon as I sat down I would order smoked tuna dip (ask for picked jalapenos it makes it better) and a dozen oysters.  Finish will a Grouper Imperial or some other variation of Grouper that is not fried.

There are many places like this for me, that when I visit the town my mouth starts to water with the taste of whatever I just can't forget about.  In every town there are tons of restaurants some more popular than others but what makes me go back is if when I leave that state, city or country I remember it by a certain culinary experience.  If I return I go each and every time.

My wife and I went to Jackson, WY to ski.  It was beautiful the moment we walked off the plane. While there we had a few nice meals but I can't remember what or where.  They were average and we tried quite a few.  They did have a small hotel that had amazing French Fries but it didn't make up for the terrible sandwich.  When I think of Jackson Hole, WY its all about the Tetons and bad coffee (bring your own coffee, the dirt they serve around town even at the 5 star resorts is horrible).  I will return but not for the food.  I hope the next visit I can find some restaurant to fall in love with.

Conversely when I think of visiting New York I instantly remember the pizza.  I remember saying to myself I finally get what they mean about the pizza being so much better up here.  While I have forgotten some of that trip and as time goes by I forget more, I don't think that pizza will ever leave my memory.,

So think about where you have been and if there's a place where a restaurant or a certain dish comes to mind instead of the man made or natural scenery.  If you have thought of some. then make a list and try to get back to them because you never know when its your last meal.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Secret Recipe

All Cheese Gnocchi 

10 oz of Ricotta Cheese
16 oz of Parmesan Cheese (Grated)
1/2 Cup of All Purpose Flour
Pinch of Salt

Combine the first two ingredients in a large bowl.  You are looking for a dry dough consistency.  It should be slightly wet to the touch.  Then add a tablespoon at a time of the flour and the pinch of salt.  You shouldn't need the full amount of flour.  Once you feel like you have formed a dough remove from the bowl and place on a floured board or table.  Cut a piece no larger than your palm off and roll it out to resemble a roll of dimes or nickels.  Cut 1" piece off of each roll.  Once you have made all of the dough into the one inch rolled pieces, its time to roll the Gnocchi over a fork.  Hold the fork in one hand place the piece on top of the fork, push and roll it until it falls off of the fork.  There are several youtube videos on this technique in case it is a new concept to you.

Once made, simply boil to cook in salted and oiled water for 3-5 minutes.  Toss with your favorite red sauce  (preferably homemade) and fresh chopped basil added off of the heat.  Its a perfect meal for two.  

Also a great sauce is roasted garlic, cherry tomatoes, and zucchini.  Mixed with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and butter, extra Parmesan, and finish with pepper.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Buford Hwy

The best thing about Buford Hwy is that there's no end to the ethnic treasures.  While the food can be amazing, the service usually can't live up to as high of a standard.  From Colombian to Chinese and everything in between, this highways treat to Atlanta is food.  I am a Georgia native and visit Buford Hwy frequently but still each time there seems to be a new place that I didn't notice before.  Below is a list of my favorites at the moment with comments and what I like to order. 

Havana (Cuban)- Order a Cuban Sandwich or #13 dinner (always the dinner)
3979 Buford Highway #108
Atlanta, Georgia 30345
While not as good as it once was, its still better than most in town.

Machu Picchu (Peruvian)- Ceviche, Ceviche with a side of Ceviche
3375 Buford Hwy NE #1130 
Atlanta, GA 30329
Nothing but goodness.

La Casona (Columbian)- Order the daily special with everything, extra relish (I don't know the name), and a fruit drink.

3820 Stewart Rd

AtlantaGA 30340
The atmosphere inside is better than it looks outside.  I particularly love there chicharron's and pineapple juice.  Most of there waitstaff speaks English or close enough to order. 

White Windmill Bakery (Korean Bakery)- All things bread
5881 Buford Hwy NE 
Atlanta, GA 30340
I wasn't pleased with there sandwiches but as you walk around and try all of the breads you will see why this place is special.

Canton House (Chinese Dim Sum)- Shrimp
4825 Buford Hwy NE  
Chamblee, GA 30341
While I've tried most of the selections, everything with shrimp is usually my favorite.

Lee's Bakery (Vietnamese)- Pork Banh Mi (any meat will do)
4005 Buford Hwy NE
Atlanta, GA 30345
They have pho and its OK but the sandwiches are the best around. This bakery makes the bread for almost all Vietnamese restaurants around Atlanta.  

For now these are my favorites but there are tons more Asian, and Latin American restaurants to try.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Country Fruit Cobbler:

1 Stick of Butter
1 Egg
1 Cup of Sugar
1 Cup of Milk
1 Cup of Self Rising Flour
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
1 Pinch of Salt
1 Can of Blackberries in Syrup (16 oz)

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees.  Then Place a 9" x 9" glass pan in the oven with the one stick of butter. While the butter is melting stir the next 6 ingredients together well with a whisk.  There may be small lumps. Once the butter is melted remove pan from oven and pour the batter in the center.  Then open the blackberry can and pour into the center.  Place back into the oven for 45-60.  Once a toothpick removes clean from the batter it is time to cool for 10 min.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.