Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Cocktail: La Louisiane

First published in Stanley Arthur's 1937 classic Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix 'Em, the Cocktail á la Louisiane is more obscure than other New Orleans classics, though no less delicious. Think of it as a cross between a Manhattan, a Sazerac, and a Vieux Carré. Perfect for Mardi Gras. 


Cocktail á la Louisiane

- 1 oz. Rittenhouse Rye*
- 1 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth*
- 1 oz. Benedictine*
- 3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
- 3-4 dashes Herbsaint (or Absinthe)

Fill a mixing glass with ice and add the rye, vermouth, Benedictine, Peychaud's and Herbsaint.  Stir 30 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with Luxardo Maraschino cherry.

*The original recipe calls for .75 oz. each of the Rye, Vermouth, and Benedictine, but that makes a very small cocktail.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Whiskey Wednesday: Berkshire Mountain Distillers Terrapin Cask Finished Bourbon

Following up on Monday's post about craft whiskey, today's review is of the Berkshire Mountain Distillers Cask Finished Bourbon. BMD partnered with craft breweries around the country to create unique versions of their bourbon aged in recently emptied beer barrels. This particular 600 bottle Georgia-only release is a collaboration with Athens, Georgia brewery Terrapin Beer Co. The bourbon was finished in barrels that previously held Terrapin's Barrel-Aged Monk's Revenge, a hopped Belgian triple aged in Cabernet barrels. So to recap, this is bourbon that was finished in a beer barrel that used to hold wine.

Read my review after the jump.

Monday, February 24, 2014

On Craft Whiskey

In the food and drink world, we tend to assume that small artisanal producers create superior products to the large corporations. And while this assumption is often true for things like beer and cheese, it has not proven true for whiskey. At least not in my experience.

Upstart craft whiskey distilleries have no aged stock to sell. To keep the doors open, many craft distilleries sell unaged white whiskey (gross) or sourced whiskey from the larger producers (not all are upfront about this). Others try to speed up the aging process with technology or by aging their whiskey in small barrels. The results of these time-cheating methods have been less than stellar.  

Here's the problem. The craft distilleries cannot compete with the established distillers by offering traditional bourbon and rye. Most of the craft labels sell for around $50 and contain no age statement. I can buy two bottles of Elijah Craig 12 year old (Heaven Hill) for that price. Established whiskey distilleries have a long head start and are operating under far different economies of scale. It's not a fair fight. 

I do believe, however, that there is a place for craft producers that are upfront about what they are selling and that try new and interesting things with their whiskey. High West is a great example. David Perkins has taken sourced whiskey -- primarily from MGPI (formerly LDI) in Indiana -- and created different and interesting blends that have been amazingly well received.  

Similarly, craft operation Berkshire Mountain Distillers recently partnered with 10 craft breweries across the country to create regional releases of its bourbon finished in beer barrels. The Georgia release is a collaboration with the excellent Terrapin Brewing Co from Athens. This caught my attention, and I will be reviewing this bourbon later in the week. Is it any good? We'll see. But it was unique enough to get me to pay $45 for a bottle, which is more than I can say for most of the craft whiskies on the market.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Stopping by a Restaurant on a Snowy Evening: The King + Duke

While everyone was hoarding bread and milk last Tuesday in preparation for Icepocalypse 2, I stopped in to be one of the last people in Atlanta to check out King + Duke. As of late, it feels like Ford Fry opens a restaurant every few weeks, so this is no longer his newest place (that is currently St. Cecelia, though not for long). This one is in the old Nava space and has a really cool modern rustic library thing going on. Oh, and a big ass wood burning hearth.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Sandwich Files: Star Provisions Muffuletta

The muffuletta has few peers. After a night of overindulgence in New Orleans, there is nothing more restorative than ordering one of these rich and salty beauties from the Central Grocery and eating it on the banks of the Mississippi. All of the muffuletta's elements -- the Bread, Salami, Mortadella, Ham, Provolone, and Olive Salad -- play crucial roles. If one of them is off, it ruins the whole sandwich. Most muffulettas I've eaten in Atlanta have been awful. Maybe that is why I'd never tried the Star Provisions version until today. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Holeman & Finch at Home

On a regular night, trying to score a table at Holeman & Finch can be a challenge.  Trying to fight the crowds at H&F on Valentine's Day is downright suicidal.  Rather than cram into the bar with all of the OTP'ers in town for V-day last night, we decided to recreate the H&F experience at home, and I have to say we did a pretty damn good job.  My brother and I did all of the cooking and cocktail making; the girls were our cheering section.

H&F's reputation is based first and foremost on cocktails, so we could not skimp in that department.  My bar is pretty well stocked with most of the cocktail essentials, so we were able to enjoy some classics as well as a few new ones out of The PDT Cocktail Book.  We stuck to bourbon and rye based drinks because, well, I have bunker full of the stuff and they are fantastic winter cocktails.  Notable cocktails throughout the night were:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Oyster Bar at the Optimist

Sunday afternoon drinks and appetizers at The Optimist Oyster Bar. 

Seared Rare Scallop with Persimmon, Jalapeno and Pine Nuts

The barely seared scallop is perfect.  I wish there had been more heat from the pickled jalapeno to offset the sweetness from the persimmon.

Grouper Cheeks with Carrot, Shallot and Chimichurri

Good sauce and fish, but what's with the bizarre carrot shapes?

The Lobster Roll

Best lobster roll in Atlanta. An obscene amount of lobster.


Free coozie!
Fish House Punch:
Black rum, brandy, black tea, lemon,
peach whiskey

Oyster Bar at the Optimist
914 Howell Mill Road
Atlanta, GA 30318

Monday, February 3, 2014

Why I will never buy bacon again

There are certain things best left to the professionals.  Brewing beer at home, for example, yields very nice results, but few people can create a homebrew that rivals your favorite six pack. Curing and smoking your own bacon, however, yields a finished product that is FAR superior to anything your local supermarket carries. And, unlike becoming an expert brewmaster, you can achieve this quality on your very first attempt.  

I started making my own bacon about a year ago, after reading this recipe on Michael Ruhlman's excellent blog. 
Home-Cured Bacon (adapted from Charcuterie)
Order five pounds of fresh pork belly from your grocery store, the pork guy at your farmers market, or from a local butcher shop.
—Buy a box of 2-gallon zip-top bags if you don’t have a container big enough to hold the belly.
—Mix the following together in a small bowl:2 ounces (1/4 cup Morton or Diamond Crystal coarse kosher) salt
2 teaspoons pink curing salt #1 (I use this DQ Cure from Butcher-Packer, $2)
4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
4 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup brown sugar or honey or maple syrup
5 cloves of garlic, smashed with the flat side of a chef’s knife
2 tablespoons juniper berries, lightly crushed (optional)
5 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)

—Put your belly in the zip-top bag or on a sheet tray or in a plastic container.  Rub the salt and spice mixture all over the belly.  Close the bag or cover it with plastic wrap, and stick it in the refrigerator for seven days (get your hands in there and give the spices another good rubbing around midway through).—After seven days, take it out of the fridge, rinse off all the seasonings under cold water and pat it dry.—Put it on a sheet tray and put it in the oven (put it on a rack on a sheet tray if you have one) and turn the oven on to 200 degrees F. (if you want to preheat the oven, that’s fine, too). Leave it in the oven for 90 minutes (or, if you want to measure the internal temperature, until it reaches 150 degrees F.).—Let it cool and refrigerate it until you’re ready to cook it.  But I know.  You won’t be able to wait.  So cut off a piece and cook it.  Taste it, savor it.  Congratulations!  It’s bacon!Notes:  If you don’t have five pounds of belly, either guesstimate salt based on the above or, if you have a scale, multiply the weight of the belly in ounces or grams by .025 and that’s how many ounces or grams of salt you should use.
This is basically bacon made with a savory pancetta cure. In fact, if you rolled the belly up after curing and hung it (under the right conditions) for two weeks, you'd have pancetta. If you like a sweeter bacon, Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's meat bible Charcuterie has a fantastic recipe for Maple-Cured Smoked Bacon. You can riff off of the basic cure recipe and add whatever additional flavoring you like. I'm particularly fond of a healthy dose of Sriracha. 

While you can make perfectly serviceable bacon in the oven, there is no substitute for smoking it. Before throwing the belly in the smoker, you need to rinse it and let it sit uncovered in the fridge for a day or two. This allows for a pellicle to form. I don't claim to understand the science, but the pellicle is basically a thin coating of protein that forms on the surface of the meat that allows smoke to adhere. Once you've allowed sufficient pellicle-forming time, throw the belly on your smoker (skin side down) with your favorite hardwood and let it smoke at 225 degrees until the bacon reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. I use the Big Green Egg loaded with either apple or hickory wood.

For packaging, I highly recommend investing in a vacuum sealer. I'm fond of this one, which is cheap. You will also drive yourself crazy trying to slice the bacon with a regular chef's knife. A meat slicer works best here, but a slicing knife such as this one also performs nicely.

One final note:  though it can be hard to find pork belly at your local supermarket, you can generally find it at Your Dekalb Farmer's market (go early before they cut it into smaller pieces), Whole Foods, Buford Highway Farmer's Market, and pretty much any Asian market. I've recently come across a small butcher in South Georgia that raises his own hogs, which has produced some incredible bacon.

So, that's it. For a small monetary and time commitment, you can produce a superior version of one of the greatest foods on earth! Good luck.


Saturday, February 1, 2014


Hello there, internet.  

This blog was created with the most modest of ambitions.  In fact, I may well be the only person that ever reads it, which is fine.  In any event, to anyone that happens to stumble across it, I plan to use this forum as a place to post food- and drink-related items that interest me.  A digital scrapbook of sorts.  

As the title of the blog implies, I live and work in Atlanta, so I will highlight meals I eat in many of Atlanta's fantastic restaurants.  I am also an avid cook, so I will post particularly noteworthy meals I make.  I also have an unhealthy obsession with whiskey -- bourbon, rye, scotch, and Irish -- which will feature regularly among these pages.

So, thanks for visiting.  Please comment if you feel so inclined.