Tag Archives: mac and cheese

Atlanta Day 2

We sleep in a bit today. No furry alarm clock. Breakfasting this morning at Ria’s Bluebird, across the street from Atlanta’s famed Oakland Cemetery, where we will be spending a good part of the early day before the heat becomes to oppressive. I think Southerners must pride themselves on their heat tolerance like a Canadian prides themselves on wearing flip flops at least until the first snow. I like the heat but I am melting.

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Bluebird is a short drive from the W. No reservations. The small parking lot is full and there is a significant lineup out front. The wait is 45 minutes we are told, but it’s more like 25. They move people through well but don’t rush you. Soon we are ushered in and brought fresh squeezed lemonade on ice. Icy cold, lemony sweet-tart. Perfect.

Bluebird&DaddyDzB 004We have had a minute to peruse the short menu in the hipster meets summer cottage surroundings. I note here that they have several veggie options and they are creative and not second thoughts. Tattooed service is friendly and efficient.  The vibe, noisy and fun. Lots of young families, couples and friends meeting up.

Bluebird&DaddyDz 001Rob and I decide on the brisket breakfast but then he is swayed by today’s special when the server returns and reads it off to him. Eggs Benny with pickled shrimp, melted lardons, fennel, onion and chile peppers on toasted French bread with a side of very good, peppery grits. Very Scandinavian. ‘Cept for the grits.

Bluebird&DaddyDz 004We also choose a short stack to share because the NY Times declares these pancakes to be the best in the world (not fact checked other than for us eatin’ them).

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Breakfast arrives and we tuck in. My brisket breakfast is melt-in-your mouth beef soaking in a dish of beefy, salty, rich sauce with two poached eggs and toasted baguette on the side. The short stack does indeed have world class aspirations. I am not a fan of sweet breakfasts for the most part, but these were delicious….especially when you dipped a forkful in maple syrup and then into the beefy sauce. It reminded me of a dish Alton Brown created on a road trip (big inspiration to us getting going). He went to the kitchen where the old cook was making rib tips for dinner service and he told her he wanted the rib tips on pancakes. She fussed a bit but finally gave him what he wanted. Then his whole crew wanted it. Then it ended up on their menu. Rob makes it from time to time. But I digress.

Bluebird&DaddyDzB 005Breakfast was wonderful and the portions were not crazy. Just satisfying. It is hard not to waste food in the south, but Bluebird has it just right. As we head off into the sweltering sun, our server offers us icy lemonade to go. Free refills he says. They go down good.

We hop into the white behemoth hereafter to be referred to as Moby, and head over to Oakland, Atlanta’s historic cemetery founded in 1850 and our entertainment for the day — cruising leisurely through an old graveyard. It is a great place to take pictures, beautiful, serene and tells the story of a place. Some people like city halls and other attractions. We like cemeteries. The architecture, the history, the ghosts. It says so much about an older city. This cemetery is unique because it’s also an open city park that has art shows, concerts, culinary events and other fundraisers. It’s a gathering place in the city, which is a beautiful thing for a cemetery to be.

It is the final resting place of notables such as Bobby Jones and Margaret Mitchell. Oakland is also home to many ancient oaks and magnolia trees, art and sculpture. When the cemetery was first established, it was designed in the “new” rural garden tradition that was a forerunner of the public park. It still operates today as a park. People in the early 19th century picnicked and communed there. Sunday was a day where families gathered to tend their dead. More acreage was added to accommodate fallen confederate soldiers as the civil war raged through Atlanta. At this time, Jews were buried apart from Christians and African Americans apart from them. The last sites were sold in 1884, but we saw a grave as recent as 2012 in a family plot. The cemetery fell into serious disrepair some time in the 20th century as people moved away and lost touch with their ancestors. In the seventies it was declared a historic landmark and government and public funding has restored a large part of it to it’s former glory. The cemetery has a 10 stage refurbishing plan, dependent on funding. As we walked through today, we could not help but notice that the African American section is in serious decline.

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Oakland 005The sun is now pretty much directly over head and molten. Still we persevere and decide beers are in order and maybe a little BBQ. This is silly because there is no such thing as a little BBQ. In any event, we spied a place on the way over this morning, Daddy D’z.

Bluebird&DaddyDz 006Daddy’s is hard to miss. It is total homemade shack. Gaily painted with African American culture and a hammered together smoker out back it screams “Good BBQ Inside!”

Bluebird&DaddyDz 010We order a couple of beers and some small plates. 4 ribs and two sides. I ask for just one side of mac and cheese as it is seriously almost too hot to eat.

Bluebird&DaddyDzB 008I get six ribs and a double order of mac and cheese plus a huge chunk of really good cornbread…sigh I really hate to waste food especially when an animal died to provide it, but I just can’t eat these quantities. Rob orders the small plate as well, with really good collards and yams as sides. It comes piled high and he can’t finish it either.

Bluebird&DaddyDz 012Ooh yeah. The ribs. Excellent, beauty pink smoke ring, perfect bark. Comes with either spicy or sweet sauce. We chose sweet. It was everything you could want in a sweet sauce, thick and tangy.

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Bluebird&DaddyDzB 009Back to the hotel to escape the heat and regroup and maybe a siesta. For our final evening in Atlanta, we choose a Triple D joint, Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in. Food is cheap and homemade. Rob whispered earlier that I could eat in the car! This is one of my dirty secrets. I hate going into fast food places to eat. I love to eat it in my car. Rob hates to eat in the car.

Varsity 001Varsity is not too busy this Sunday evening as we pull into a parking spot. Immediately a young carhop, #47 comes by shouting “What’ll ya have?”

Varsity 004Rob’s having the chili slaw dog and I’m having the hamburger. We both try the homemade, hand dipped onion rings, a fried peach pie and a small frosted orange.

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Food arrives window side quickly. I only order onion rings if they are fresh not frozen. These don’t disappoint. Classic. My burger is a simple house made patty with mustard, ketchup and dill pickles. Nothing fancy. Exactly what I was looking for. The burgers are on the small side, but at $1.89, if you are still hungry you could order a second and be able to finish it.

Varsity 008Rob’s chili slaw dog was terrific. Good dog, good chili and creamy slaw, yet not messy and easy to eat. The frosted orange was amazing. A dreamsicle in a cup. Icy cold. The fried peach pie was not terribly memorable. The peaches we good quality in a sugary syrup, but the crust was quite thin and didn’t hold together very well for eating by hand.

Varsity 009I long for the old days of McDonald’s fried fruit pies. (Editors note: Ignore that last sentence — she’s a loon.)  #47 pops by to pick up trash. Tomorrow we head for Savannah.

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NYC: Bubby’s & The Standard Grill

Spent the morning at 59th and Lex, also known as Bloomingdale’s. After a productive spree, I headed back to the Meat Packing District to meet up with Rob and grab lunch at Bubby’s, a short walk from our hotel, The Standard.Bubbie's 003

Bubby’s, a scratch kitchen, immediately comfy with wood tables and chairs, exposed brick,  a well stocked bar and lots of natural light, also houses an old school soda fountain. This is our chance to try an honest to goodness egg cream. They serve chocolate and vanilla. We opt for chocolate to share. An egg cream consists of chocolate syrup. soda water and milk. The drink, much lighter in texture than a milk shake and less sweet, is quite nice and refreshing. You can really taste the soda water.

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For lunch we both ordered the Portland fried chicken and biscuit sandwich, two Ommegang Witte wheat beers and sides of coleslaw, mac and cheese and baked beans. The chicken, crispy and not greasy, I find a tad salty. This sandwich is served with honey mustard and chopped mustard greens. The greens are a revelation, great texture, mildly bitter, they really complement the chicken. The biscuit is decent but a little tough on the bottom. We got a choice of two sides and opted for a third. The sides are not overly large but perfect for two to share. Coleslaw is creamy and unremarkable, baked beans are sweet, smoky and have a nice heat, mac and cheese is excellent, cheesy but not gloppy.

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Tonight, our final night in New York, we are having dinner at the highly recommended Standard Grill which is attached to our hotel. The Grill exudes old world ambiance with some art deco features. The flooring is a lovely, warm copper penny tile.

We get settled into a red leather, tufted booth and peruse the updated classic menu. Radishes and chunks of Parmesan cheese are delivered to the table.  Salty and sharp, they compliment pretty much any cocktail. Bread and butter arrive, the bread in a paper sack. They take bread seriously here and the three small baguettes are salted and perfectly chewy.

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We decide on a dozen oysters from the raw bar. I order a Jackie 60 — mezcal, Grand Marnier, agave, lime and smoked sea salt rim. Rob orders a Continental Drift — reposado tequilla, lime, agave, curried mango and smoked sea salt.  Our oysters arrive, perfectly shucked and  accompanied by a well made red wine vinegar mignonette. I swallow one sweet, briney oyster and wash it down with the mezcal cocktail. What an amazing combination!  The smokey lime cocktail is the best thing I have ever paired an oyster with. Wow. Must duplicate these flavors at home.

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For starters we are splitting the iceberg wedge salad. It arrives on two plates and I explain to the waiter that we ordered only one to share. He assures me this is one order that they shared on two plates. This would be a massive serving for one. The lettuce is chilled and perfectly crisp. It is generously but not over sauced in a buttermilk dressing and topped with crispy bacon, fried shallots, mild blue cheese and dried cherries. A truly delectable salad.

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As we sip a nice Napa cab our mains arrive, medium rare strip steaks with chimmichuri sauce. Sides are separate. We chose the creamy spinach, crisp potatoes and the One Good Pickle that Rob insisted on. Our steaks are grilled a perfect medium rare. The chimmichuri sauce is excellent but spare. I would have preferred some on the side. Rob disagrees and thinks the amount is perfect and allows the steak to shine. He is wrong as usual.

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The crisp potatoes are just that. The pickle is young. crisp, tasty and not too salty. The creamy spinach is delicious. The green taste is slightly garlicky and nicely creamy.

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Dessert is offered and the menu is interesting. I am interested in the Wake and Bake, warm chocolate cookies with milk or the rhubarb crostata. They also offer a slice of birthday cake. Very nice. Unfortunately we are too full to be tempted and finish our meal with very excellent cappuccinos served with a square of very good dark chocolate.

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The Standard Grill offers superb fare with attentive table service. The washrooms are notable. The men’s and ladies’ are separated by a see through chain curtain and may as well be together. It is easy to miss the male and female silhouettes on the floor directing you to your gender side. You come out and wash up in a trough together. There is a a single male attendant who seems to spend all his time on the ladies’ side. This is disconcerting as the stalls are open below and their is a one inch gap between the door and the side of the stall. Just weird. An experiment, I guess but it’s just wrong.

 

 

Lunch at Butcher

it’s a cloudy, muggy day in the Big Easy. The forecast threatened rain at any time, but has held off for the most part. We decide to go a little further afield and change it up a little from the New Orleans cuisine we’ve been exploring up until now.

We head to Butcher. It’s an annex of sort to Cochon, a very popular snout-to-tail place that’s getting terrific reviews and is showing up on lists of top new places to try in NOLA. Butcher is around the corner and is its more casual cousin. It’s open from 10AM to 10PM, but it being Friday, we want to get there before the workday lunch crowd and arrive in time to score a parking space right in front and a prime window table.

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Inside, it really is a butcher shop, selling home-made sausages, prepared foods and sauces as well as artfully butchered cuts of pork and beef. At the back of the shop there is a set of 3 blackboard panels with today’s menus — small plates, sandwiches and beverages (it has a full bar). The decor is industrial chic with simple surfaces and raised tables and stools.

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We order a number of items to split — from the small plates menu, some spicy brisket sliders, potato salad, boudin sausage with pickles and grainy mustard and a mac and cheese with pancetta. From the sandwich menu we order a Cubano to split — a pressed Cuban sandwich. We’re given a table marker (Dr. Morgus from the 1962 sci-fi classic, “The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus“, and in two blinks our food arrives.  Here’s a run down of each dish:

The Brisket Sliders – Sweet with a BBQ sauce but rich and meaty. Perfect brisket and complimented by sweet pickles and a soft bakery slider bun. These are outstanding.

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The Potato Salad – Nice, creamy with celery, chives and a little heat from hot sauce.

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The Boudin Sausage – It was white boudin, made with rice, pork, liver and spices. Perfect with the pickle and mustard. Maureen’s not a huge fan of liver, so I had this all to myself, as if it wasn’t planned that way. It was rich, mildly spiced and the strong grainy mustard and pickle worked well with it. Butcher knows about pickles and how to use them. I counted three different kinds among our dishes.

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The Mac and Cheese — Creamy and tangy. Maureen and I though it was possible that pimento cheese was used in the recipe because it had that colour and tang.

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The Cubano – Although the bread wasn’t classic Cubano fare, it had a less chewy texture, but it was flat and crisp from the pressing and was great anyway. The roasted pork and ham on the sandwich were very flavourful and carried the day.

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We picked up some of the jarred delicacies that Butcher sells to bring home and headed out for a day of exploring. Maureen was going to walk around and take some photos of the gardens, alleys and oddities of the French Quarter and I was bound for a little guitar shopping.