Monday, March 31, 2014

I Would Never Judge Someone Who Ate a Tim Tam for Breakfast

A friend brought some Tim Tams back from a trip to Singapore. I had heard about them from listening to Walking the Room, a podcast for which the Tim Tam is the patron cookie. Tim Tams are Australian cookies; chocolate biscuits with chocolate in between them and all around them. They are amazing.

Heaven in a sleeve.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Breakfast Tacos Are Life

One of my greatest disappointments in living in Atlanta is the lack of breakfast tacos. Most folks from around here have never even heard of one; they know the breakfast burrito, and if they are lucky they've at least had some sort of tostada shell or pile of tortillas served near eggs and a meat, but the breakfast taco is still an unknown quantity.

Being from Texas, breakfast tacos are life itself. Rather than continue to complain about the lack of them, I learned to make them, refining my favorite combinations over time. The ingredients change slightly to reflect what might be in the fridge on any given Sunday, but the gist is the same:

1. Corn tortillas (homemade corn tortillas. This is not negotiable)
2. Chorizo
3. Eggs cooked in saturated fat
4. Jalapenos

 Notice there is no cheese or salsa here. Both can be quite fine on a breakfast taco, but I find neither necessary. Cheese can sometimes distract from the flavor of the chorizo (which really is the key to the whole taco), and salsa of less-than-perfect consistency can make a watery mess. I go with pickled jalapeno slices, which bring a little heat and a little crunch, without interfering with taste or texture.

The greatest vindication of my taco-style has been the reaction of my boyfriend, who is from Atlanta and had never had a breakfast taco before we met three years ago. He questioned the idea at first, but took to it like a duck to water. He eats them with great gusto (at our home and in restaurants from here to Austin) and doesn't miss cheese, potatoes or salsa, all standards of the restaurant version.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

10 Things I Learned from "The Man with the Iron Fists"

1. It's good to be the RZA

Who else is going to get Quentin Tarrantino, Eli Roth, Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu and about a dozen amazing MMA and martial arts masters to sign on to your movie concept? Who else has the audacity to make a film that is both a serious homage to old kung fu films and a tongue in check send up of it's excesses? Who else in Hollywood writes a film about an ex-slave blacksmith in 19th century China who loses his hands, loses his girl, and bands together with a vengeful son and an opium addicted sex fiend British officer to forge a pair of iron fists and take down a clan of Lion-like warriors?

If you're the RZA, you get that shit done.

2. Fat Russell Crowe is by far the best Russell Crowe.

Thanks to the online gossip machine, I can Google "Russell Crowe weight gain" and find out that he did it for a film called Body of Lies. He is gloriously, wonderfully fat in this film and it works perfectly. His character, Jack Knife, is a ridiculous pig, starting fights just to be able to chop up his opponents with his gun-knife combo (Yes.), binging on booze, opium and multiple whores. One scene has him popping up out of a bathtub full of prostitute, where he seems to have been simultaneously giving head and pulling out a string of anal beads with his teeth.  The fact that he is fat, wet and wearing a see-through white shirt just works for this kind of play, and bless him, Crowe seems to have understood the fun elements to this film and bitten in as hard as possible. His performance is funny, an he's clearly the best actor around for miles. I think it's telling that someone who can demand a high paycheck was willing to jump into a film like Fists. And speaking of higher paychecks...

3. Lucy Liu is a beter actress than you think.

At least she's better than I remember. Liu makes so few films that I almost forget about her and her wonderful ability to deliver even the silliest lines with great relish. She plays Madame Blossom, aka, Black Widow, in Fists. She's a Madam with a heart of gold, she's gorgeous, she's hilarious, and she commands an army of killer prostitutes with the click of wooden sticks. Like Crowe, she seems to be having an enormous amount of fun and sells a weak script.

4. We should all applaud Eli Roth's enthusiasm.

I'm not a fan. Not of the director and really not of the actor. I think the Bear Jew is the weakest part of Inglorious Basterds. But I have to give it up for Roth, who work on the screenplay with RZA. He seems to be unendingly willing to lend his much more famous and marketable name to his friends who might need a boost. I'm a huge fan of the horror director Ty West, and his small, non-gory films are getting distributed because they are "presented by Eli Roth." I would imagine this movie made it to a Regal Cinema near me primarily because Roth and QT had their fingers in it, and for that we should thank them.

5. As far as weapons go, I'll take a crossbow.

It's fast, it's silent, it makes Darrell the coolest character on The Walking Dead. If I had to pick when the zombies come, that's where I'm going. It seems to be pretty damn useful against kung fu too.

6. Silly names ARE cool.

There's Gold Lion, Silver Lion and Bronze Lion. The Gemini Killers. Black Widow and the Bronze Body. Jack Knife. Oh my RZA, here comes the Hyena Clan. This was a great call back to the earliest entries in the genre.

Silver Lion is the big bad in this film, and he's played my an actor/martial artist I don't know at all, names Byron Mann. Mann is an absolute treasure in this film. As hammy as Russell Crowe is, Man is a suckling pig. As far as I can tell, he showed up on the set the first day, and asked for direction. He was clearly told, "Did you ever see that episode of Chapelle's Show where he played Prince? Just do that."

Seriously. His hair and eye make up just get bigger as the movie progresses. I kept waiting for him to start saying, "Uh-uh."

7. Get a guy with a Brass Body. Just do it.

 Dave Bautista is a professional wrestler. He's gorgeous. In Fists he's an evil scion of the Tiger Clan (they aren't around anymore...because he killed them ALL) who's body ripples with brass. You can see the awesome special effects in the trailer above. It's just one example of the truly awesome special effects in this film. And he makes Colossus look like a pussy.

8. "Shame on a Nigga" should be the credits for every movie ever made.

9. Buddhist magic is the best magic.

According to this film, learning to control your Chi the Buddhist way will allow you to have your arms chopped off, cauterize the wounds, and attach iron fists which you can then control. With your Chi. Take that science and God!

10. If you get on a boat in Virginia and theirs a storm, you'll wash up on shore in China. Don't question Wu-Logic.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Quan Ba 9

The Friday after Thanksgiving was grey, rainy and cold. Roommate Lynn and I had already planned to get pedicures, but decided to add on a trip to get Pho as well. The weather practically insisted on it for us.

Our regular nail place couldn't take us, and that solidified our plan to hit Buford Highway for Vietnamese nails and eats. It was harder then we thought to find a nail salon-every place we stopped was either closed, had no nail people or was a "spa". The kind of spa that has blacked out windows and specializes in massage.

We were lucky to find Nail and Spa, on Chamblee Tucker in the same shopping center as the Wal-Mart. Big and clean, with a wonderful staff and awesome Vietnamese/French versions of 1980s pop songs. The guy who did my toes sang along to a female, French version of "Last Christmas" and mentioned what a handsome man George Michael is. A pedicure was only $18.50 and worth every penny.

I had never been to Quan Ba 9, but Roommate Lynn had, and reported that it had the best pork noodles with egg roll that she has ever had (her favorite).

Then for Pho! We have a tradition of going for pho when it is cold and rainy. We try to rotate the spots. I am a particular fan of Pho Dai Loi. I do draw a line between pho joints and Vietnamese restaurants. For a more extensive menu, we both prefer the awesome Chateau Saigon.

I wanted to order spring rolls, but the waiter pointed out that they were wrapped in pork skin. I was all ready to jam them down the old salted pork hole, but RL (who has never eaten cracklin'!), demurred. Instead the waiter offered to make us non-shrimp summer rolls (she don't eat shrimp neither!). Next time I'll make her get her own egg rolls and I'll nosh on some Babe flesh.

But, oh, the pho! I got Pho Tom (shrimp), and RL stuck with the basic beef (round, flank). The broth was some of the best I've ever tasted! Rich and meaty, I could have eaten it with no additions. In fact, I ate half of it before adding in a little Sirancha and hoison, which I just do because I like the taste of both. The greens, sprouts, and herbs for adding were all fresh, and I was especially pleased that I got a large portion of shrimp; some places do skimp. (On shrimp. It rhymes so it's true).

When we went to Quan Ba 9, I was both getting over a cold and a little hungover from the eating and drinking of Thanksgiving Day. Their pho was exactly what the doctor ordered. It cleared my head and my nose. My only complaint was with the service. After being quite attentive at first, our waiter disappeared and never refilled my water! That's a requirement for me when it comes to spicy, delicious pho.

For a review with photos, check out Creative Loafing's.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wine, Women and Song!

Roommate Lynn and I recently returned from a vacation to California wine country. This was our first wine buying trip. We are talking seriously about doing multiple domestic trips over the next few years, then branching out internationally. First stop: South America. That way I can either drink myself to death with Malbecs and Carmeneres, or just shut the fuck up about them.

I was a terrible tourist for wine country. I barely took and photographs (the survivors did make it onto Facebook) and took no notes on the vineyards we visited. I bought three bottles of wine (to Roommate Lynn's seven), but two of them got drunk before we even left town.

I do want to make note of a few great surprises/misses.

Hotel: The Flamingo in Santa Rosa, CA. I loved the pink and turquoise, but dislike the chintzy amenities. But an excellent location for the routes we took, and located in town near a handful of good restaurants, coffee shops, a Safeway and a CVS. Clean and cheap. I wold stay there again, but would remember to bring a lot extra, including a cooler and some kind of plastic bottle, for taking wine out into the patio/pool/hot tub area.

Food on the Way: We stopped for the most glorious of all Northern California cuisines, Indian pizza. I had been introduced to Golden Gate Pizza previously, and it was enough on our way from the airport to hotel that we stopped for a Vegetarian: Special Spinach Curry Sauce, ginger, tomatoes, red onions, garlic, cauliflower and eggplant bhartha with mozzarella on a traditional pizza crust. God's own recipe.

Day 1: We decided to do Pinot Noirs and used a combination of an online PN tour and recommendations from locals. The star of that day was Hook & Ladder. Their Pinot is actually on the by the glass list at Bone's in Atlanta, so I was already prepared to love all of their wine. The basic tasting was free (awesome), and the reserve tasting was only $10. Since we bought three bottles based on the reserve tasting, we did get a little discount. The wines have an unbelievably rich taste across the board. Very reasonably priced.

After a day of rough tasting, we drove out to the ocean for a look at the Pacific, which I realized I had never seen before. We then drove back past the Applewood Inn, for my first meal in a restaurant with a Michelin star. It's a gorgeous place, and I would love to stay there one day. The food was excellent, but the service was poor. We went without a reservation, and instead of the staff telling us they did not take walk ins, they seated us and treated us like dirt. It was extremely disappointing.

Day 2: Massive hangover due to not enough sleep, not enough water, too much Pinot, and boiling alive in the world's hottest hot tub (while drinking, natch). We ate breakfast at a dim sum place in Santa Rosa, Hang Ah. God Bless those wonderful people. I threw up in the bathroom before the dim sum, from the one leftover piece of Indian pizza I insisted on eating as soon as I got up. The dim sum was excellent and is truly great hangover food.

We tried to stick to whites on Day 2, and did until my head and our stomachs went back to normal. We drove into downtown Sonoma, which is pretty lame if you aren't a serious tourist or rich. We did find one really great tasting room, the name of which I cannot remember, where they fed us homemade Cheddar and spinach ravioli. The pourer also directed us to Imagery, which was the stand out of the day. We both bought bottles there; I got a bottle of "Code Blue", which has a high percentage of blueberries, and I'm planning to drink with a lot of goat cheese. It will be the perfect pairing.

We took it easy in the afternoon, just eating goat cheese and sourdough in the hotel room, then went out for sushi in Santa Rosa. There was no way I could leave the West Coast without some fresh fish.

Day 3: I had to get Roommate Lynn to the airport fairly early for a flight back to Washington, so I ended up with a day to kill on my own in San Francisco. I went to the Zoo and the SFMOMA, just grabbing Trader Joe's for lunch, then headed across the bridge to Oakland for dinner with Berkeley archivists at Pizzaiolo, which is definitely some of the best pizza and pasta I've ever eaten. Excellent cocktails too.

The trip ended for me with a red eye back to Atlanta. For once, I slept on a plane! It was a rough trip home to a grey, rainy city, after a long weekend in 72 degree wine country sun. I ate some Ramen and slept for hours, which is the best recovery for practically anything. It was a good trip, and I learned some important lessons about hydration, regular snacks/meals, and not eating 2-day-old Indian pizza for breakfast when you are hungover.

Next trip for me: a long weekend in Chicago. It will definitely include a breakfast trip to Hot Doug's.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


560 Dutch Valley Road Northeast
Atlanta, GA 30324

I'm in love with Amuse! Until a voucher came across my email on My Daily Thread, I had never heard of this Midtown bistro. It fits all of my requirements for an entry into my regular restaurant rotation, save being walking distance from my house. Since I will never be able to afford to live in Midtown, I'll have to be satisfied with just driving there.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Village Pizza

186 Carroll Street
Atlanta, GA 30312

Village Pizza is near my house in Cabbagetown, and it's a part of the Diem restaurant group that includes Apres Diem, Carpe Diem and Amuse. It's our go-to place for great pizza near the house. I've never had anything there that wasn't delicious. The ingredients are always fresh and the price is absolutely right for enormous portions. Take a look at my slice of the Village Deluxe, topped with Pepperoni, Italian sausage, ground beef, ham, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives, and extra cheese. For only $4.50, it's a great bargain.

The menu includes specialty pizzas, like the Deluxe, as well as build-your-own pizza, pastas and sandwiches. The salads are also a personal favorite: they are enormous and full of fresh vegetables. I give them extra points for using raw mushrooms in the house salad, as well as just a touch of shredded mozzarella. It's enough that you get a good taste, but not so much that it turns a good green salad into a fatty mess.

For right around $10, you can get a slice and a big salad. That's a deal that's hard to beat. Roommate Lynn likes to build her own slice, especially with ham and pineapple. Notice how big a half eaten slice is in relation to her hands.

Village also has a gelato counter, with 4-8 homemade flavors available in 3 sizes. We like to grab gelato to go and pretend that walking and eating balances out the sugar. My favorites are Black Cherry and Tahitian Vanilla. Delicious!