Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Shoutout to a Favorite Blogger

Posted: June 16, 2016 in Food, Uncategorized
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I’ve been a fan of “Marie, Let’s Eat” for many years. The tiny rural restaurants (often but not exclusively BBQ joints) that he reviews are exactly the kind my bride and I enjoy. I’m sad to learn the family is moving from Georgia to Tennessee, because it will mean fewer new posts local to me. The bright spots are that he’s reviewed probably 250 places already, most of which I have yet to explore, and I like to visit Tennessee (where the blogging will, we’re told, continue).

He recently penned About “Georgia Barbecue”. This post (and, in truth, every post) does a couple of very important things: a) it reveals that BBQ in GA has unique regional styles, is worth exploring, and busts the myth that Memphis or the Carolinas have a lock on the genre, and 2) for those of us who travel the rural routes in GA it provides a valuable guide from a dedicated food blogger who is, despite his protests, an expert.

To my friends out of state, bookmark this guy if you ever travel through this way.

marieletseat

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Many Hues of Brews at Summits

Posted: February 29, 2012 in Food, Reviews
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It’s probably a good thing that my favorite pub is a 20 minute drive from home, or I might be tempted to trash my budget and visit far more often. I have a deep-seated blue-collar affection for dive bars (I use only the most complimentary context of the term). All the proper elements are present at Summits Wayside Tavern in Snellville: a large group of regulars, a friendly and informative staff, a massive draft beer selection, and excellent pub food with a menu that often travels into “gastro-pub” territory for pleasant surprises.

Summits’ Snellville location was once a Taco Mac; the concept is still the same but they do it better. Superficially there are very few things that set apart the two Atlanta chains – both have plenty of TV sets, the wall of beer taps, a “world beer tour” passport club, and trivia nights – so it must be the staff (front and back) that make it superior. Summits keeps luring me in for their frequent pint glassware giveaway specials, but if I’m honest with myself that’s just an excuse to go get the food.

Choosing a beverage to start can be overwhelming for the newbie, because the available draft selection alone is well over 100 beers long and is updated weekly. If you enjoy craft beer but don’t know much about the breweries or beer styles all of the servers are trained to help you select the one you’ll most enjoy. As for grub, always ask your server for the seasonal menu. They don’t always have one, but it’s always worth it when they do. Sausage month was particularly memorable, as was Regional Sandwiches month and Flatbread Pizza month. And I’ve never been to another pub with a noodle bowl section on the regular menu. (Probably not quite what you get on Buford Hwy, but tasty, with generous portions and chopsticks.)

The food prices are reasonable when compared to other restaurants, but I’ve seen people blanche at the cost of some of the brews. A decent craft beer here will cost as much as a six-pack of the yellow fizzy watered-down stuff at your local Kroger – and it’s actually worth it, because you can’t usually get these on draft anywhere else. (One last thing about beer pricing: like every other bar, they charge about 3 times as much as the liquor store does for a 12-oz bottle of the same thing, and half as much as the ballpark would. Big deal.) The dozen or so high-gravity beers will add another buck or two to your tab and are served in a 10-oz glass.

So if you’ve always driven by and were too put off by the sketchy-looking front entrance to check it out, you’ve got new reasons to put aside your doubts. There’s good beer and good food to be had! Watch for the occasional Groupon special, and check out the website for holiday specials and events.

“Winner-Winner” Chicken Dinner Cakes

Posted: December 8, 2011 in Food, Fun
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I invented this several months ago, but only just got around to testing it yesterday. (It was yummers. Going into regular rotation from now on.) It’s best described as an entire chicken dinner with stuffing, done up in a crab-cake style. Good as a sandwich or by itself, and the options listed below are all perfect for this entree. It’s so good that it’s probably very bad for you, and it’s definitely filling. Makes 8 cakes.

1 box (6 oz) stuffing mix
1 small cooked rotisserie chicken
½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
¼ cup Parmesan
2 eggs
2 cups vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup flour
¾ cup corn meal
1 tbsp No-Salt Herb Blend*
1 tsp ground black pepper

Prepare stuffing per package and let cool. Remove cooled chicken meat from bone and shred into 1-inch or smaller pieces; mix with stuffing in a large bowl. Add breadcrumbs, Parmesan and 2 lightly beaten eggs and blend well; form into eight patties ½-inch thick and refrigerate 30 minutes or until ready to cook.

Lightly beat 3 eggs in a large, shallow dish (a pie pan works good). Blend flour, corn meal, herbs and pepper in a second dish to make a dredge. Heat oil on stove top over medium to medium-high heat in a large cast iron skillet. When oil is ready, coat patty in eggs, fully dredge in flour mix, and slowly and carefully drop into skillet. Fry two at a time for three minutes; flip patties and fry another 3 minutes until dark golden brown. Shake off excess oil and keep warm while the other patties are cooked.

Options: chili dip (green chili pepper sauce mixed with chili sauce), turkey gravy, cheese slices, cranberry jelly, sesame seed hamburger buns. Serve with green beans or corn.

*We got the No-Salt Herb Blend from Prevention magazine. We keep it on hand for an easy, no-fuss, baked chicken seasoning.

Have you ever had the inspiration to invent a dish? Did it turn out the way you thought it would? Are you interested in trying this recipe? Let me hear from you in the comments section!

Cuban Newbies Try Yummy Yucca

Posted: September 2, 2011 in Food
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I’ve not often had occasion to enjoy Cuban cuisine. Years ago it did not impress me as a style that tempted further exploration. My first taste was in a Virginia Highland restaurant where I tried my first Cuban sandwich. The downsides for me were a) the dill pickle permeated the sandwich to the point it had no other discernible flavor and b) every single item on the menu included black beans and rice. (I’ve since overcome my aversion to black beans and rice.) The upside was that one of the people I dined with ordered the fish. That’s an upside? Absolutely! It was served with head and tail intact and propped up vertically on the plate, hot out of the oven. Surrounded by black beans and rice. It was certainly memorable, that fish staring at me while I picked and nibbled at my pickle sandwich.

But now my tastes have evolved a bit, and I no longer shy away from black beans (in fact, I have several favorite recipes in which they are an ingredient), and I’ve had Rey’s Cuban Café on my “reydar” for awhile. The wife and I chose to lunch there as a way of adding adventure to our day off together last week during my furlough.

Rey’s is a tiny drive-thru behind the BP station at Hwy 78 and Rosebud Road. You can eat in (there are three or four tables available, and plans for picnic tables out front) but it’s set up primarily for takeout – right down to the plastic picnicware. Reynaldo was excited to learn that it was our first visit and quickly recommended and explained the items on the menu. His enthusiasm was contagious, and probably influenced our delight in the food.

We ordered the Empanadas de Carne appetizers, which I very much enjoyed. Carol picked at some of the pastry, but avoided the filling as she doesn’t eat red meat. They were very tasty, and I’ll likely stop by in the future just for an empanadas snack.

Carol ordered – with trepidation – the Elena Ruz sandwich (turkey, cream cheese and strawberry jam? really?) and Yucca Fritas while I opted for the Picadillo sandwich with black beans and rice. We sampled each other’s plates to get a good overall idea of what we had and what we liked. Everything was as advertised – delicious and unusual. Even the fried yucca was good; we were warned that it was an unexciting side veggie similar to steak fries, and that was true but it was still tasty. At least it wasn’t yucky yucca. (It had to be said. Sorry.)

Rey explained that yucca (YOO-kuh) is a root, traditionally boiled, served with garlic and olive oil. He offered to cook some up anytime we like if we call at least 45 minutes ahead. Carol took him up on his offer the following day, and found it delicious prepared that way as well.

The Picadillo sandwich, for all of its wonderful flavor, was, toward the end, saltier than I like. I can’t decide if the olives had anything to do with that; probably so. I washed it down with half of Carol’s Materva Yerba Mate tea/soda and the Jarrito Mango soda I chose. I enjoy trying imported beverages – even those that don’t require fermentation.

Next visit, excepting a trip for an empanada snack, maybe I’ll try a classic Cuban sandwich. Rey claims it’s the most authentic in the Atlanta area. Or maybe I’ll opt for the Lechon Asado, if I’m flush with cash and it’s available that day – marinated Cuban style pork leg is a mouth-watering temptation.

There are two menus that can be found online, but the meals actually available at the restaurant seem to be a mix of the two. The newer website for Rey’s Cuban Café is still under construction, but the menu from the defunct Rey’s Cuban Grill (which was at a different Loganville location) is still available. They’re both on Facebook, too, as is Rey himself. He’ll likely be thrilled to chat with you whether you’re a Cuban-food newbie or a long-time aficionado.

Do you know of a Gwinnett County restaurant that has become a favorite of yours? One that’s funky, colorful, privately owned? Share it in the comments section, below!

Every once in awhile I’ll be doing something and I get a glimpse, almost a flash-forward perspective, of the way I expect to live fifteen, twenty, thirty years from now. Those little moments where I think, “Yeah, this is good. I would be happy having more of this in my everyday world more often.” Which gets me wondering what I’m doing to guide my life in that direction.

My recent post on golf is a good example. I am certain that I could be happy playing three rounds of golf every week if money was no object. I could easily imagine putting together a remote work agreement that allows me all the time I would need (if not the cash), and have taken a few, small steps in that direction. If it all works out, I’d be living part of my dream life.

Another example is cooking. In our home, cooking together with my wife is a romantic and intimate pastime. Food is life, and sharing a kitchen is play; these are fundamental, not abstract, human needs and concepts. So our plans – a large kitchen with high ceilings, huge granite countertops, a big gas stove, a flat-top grill, beautiful Tuscany tile and an amazing array of copper pots and cast-iron cookware – these plans are never far from our minds. That’s what we expect our future to look like.

Pipe dreams? Maybe. But I think pipe dreams get a bad rap. Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have always imagined.” It’s a better plan than just letting life happen to you.

Food is Life

As much as we enjoy cooking, we also share a special fondness for interesting restaurants. Our tastes in restaurants coincide very well; we’ve been married for eight years, and I can’t remember a single restaurant about which we disagreed. In order to be interesting, it cannot be a national chain, it has to be reasonably priced, it ought to be something none of our friends has heard of, and it must be something we can recommend to people and brag about our discovery. Extra points for quirky, cozy, funky, rustic or bohemian; more bonus points for having a patio, live music, a lending library, a history, friendly waitstaff, local art or an excellent craft beer list.

So we plan to make finding these places a part of our life and our future. Our intent is to dine our way across America, and maybe learn something about the countryside while we’re at it. This originally started out as our plan for spending our retirement years, but the more I consider it the more I realize that there is no reason to wait that long. It’s just a matter of becoming location independent.

Having these dreams, plans, goals – it’s important to keep them in mind so that you know what direction you wish to travel. But it’s equally important to monitor your actions, tasks and behavior to make sure they are propelling you in the same direction as your dreams. Henry Ford said, “Some people succeed because they are destined to, but most people succeed because they are determined to.”

One more point about the concept of “retirement”. We have no intention of letting retirement be a time of inactivity. We see it as a time we are finally able to “do” without limits. To accomplish and to experience. To live the big life. The word “retire” means to withdraw, to retreat; these are antonyms to what we have in mind.

At first I thought I needed to start using a different word. “Dis-retirement? Un-retired? Encounterment years? Big life?” Then I realized I had fallen into the trap of thinking that it was something in the future, distinguishable and separate from our life now. It’s not! I have no plans for myself at age 45 that I cannot see doing also at age 55, 65 or 75. There is no line of demarcation where we will transition from being not retired to being retired. Instead, we are going to keep on moving, building and doing the way we are now, with an eye towards the next new, fun thing. Living the big life and always setting sail towards bigger and bigger shores.

How about you? What are your big goals for a big life? Are you doing things consistent with those goals? Has your retirement planning been based on a specific date, or have you decided to take on some big life in small doses before that date comes? Leave your answers in the comments section, below.