Friday, February 27, 2009

Taste of the Carolina Low Country

While it would betray any journalistic integrity for me to review any of the dishes at my own restaurant, I can certainly promote whatever special happenings I feel like. So as of last Wednesday, South City Kitchen Midtown (and Vinings as well) is celebrating a Taste of the Low Country, featuring both traditional and interpretive dishes from the South Carolina low country. So pick up a Pat Conroy novel and prepare yourselves for some of Gullah's finest.


Available a la carte or $29 prix fixe (plus tax and gratuity)

The Lowcountry waters abound with life: crabs and shrimp and oysters, oh my!
This limited-time-only menu celebrates the comforting flavors and cooking styles found exclusively in the jewel of the Southeast coast. Go ahead—relax, eat, drink, enjoy.

Buttermilk Fried Oyster pickled sweet onion and corn salad, lemon-Tabasco aioli 10.75
Shrimp Purloo Carolina Gold rice, okra, smoked country ham, rosemary oil $9.75
Chilled Lump Crab & Cucumber Salad jumbo lump crab, baby arugula, shaved cucumbers, apple cider-molasses vinaigrette, green tomato fries $10.75
Bacon-Pimento Cheese Fritters spicy tomato cream $7

Country Captain curry-seared chicken thighs; roasted tomatoes, garlic and sweet onions; Carolina Gold rice with raisins and toasted almonds $16.95
Grilled Marinated Quail sweet potato fries, watercress salad, toasted peanuts, spiced cane syrup $17.95
Low Country Stew coastal shellfish, baby potatoes, smoked sausage, fresh corn, spicy tomato broth $18.95

Orange Buttermilk Pie tart citrus custard, cream cheese crust, rhubarb preserves $6.75
Carolina Plantation Rice Pudding macerated strawberries, cinnamon and vanilla whipped cream $6.75

To make reservations, call 770.435.0700 or click here

Saturday, February 7, 2009

BurgerQuest, Vol. 2: Ann's Snack Bar

Attention all burger enthusiasts:

We've all seen the local and national press lauding Ann's Snack Bar as the best burger in Atlanta, perhaps the nation. However, I'm sure that very few of us have summoned the intestinal fortitude (or sheer space for that matter) to venture into Sketchville--1615 Memorial Drive to be exact--for one of Miss Ann's burgers.

For the uninitiated, Ann's has rules, and you'd best abide by them. First and perhaps most importantly, Ann's is a lunch counter that only has eight stools. If you are not occupying one of those stools once all eight are filled, you are to wait on the porch until she summons you in. She seats the counter in waves, then cooks everyone's order at once. You are not to lean on any surfaces in the restaurant. Do not put a child on the counter. Do not speak to her unless she addresses you first. Cash only. Do not come up with special orders for her--one couple who wanted half iced tea and half lemonade were denied because Miss Ann said that it would have messed up her costing. Do not talk on your cell phone while indoors. And for your own sanity, bring a book or something, because you could be waiting for quite a while. Any violation of the above rules will transform you from an eager diner into hapless entertainment for the rest of the patrons. And finally, you will likely be hit up for money by someone wanting $2.32 to buy some crack, I mean, a kid's meal from the neighboring Checkers. Contribute at your own desire.

Now, the food at Ann's can be separated into two categories: burgers and hot dogs. Any of these can be served plain or with any combination of cheese, bacon, chili, and slaw. But the cornerstones of Ann's Snack Bar are the Hood Burger, and most famously, the Ghetto Burger. The Hood Burger is a double cheeseburger with bacon, chili, cheese, slaw, onions, mayo, mustard, and ketchup. The Ghetto Burger is also a double cheeseburger with chili, onions, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo, mustard, and ketchup. They cost $8.50 and $8.00, respectively; with combos (fries and drink) costing an additional $1.25.

When I arrived, there were only two people seated. I meekly took an empty stool, hoping I wouldn't be banished to the porch by the stoic Miss Ann. She immediately took my order--one Hood Burger combo and one Ghetto Burger--and went to work on it. In one of the greatest displays of excess I've seen in recent memory, Miss Ann procured a large pot full of loose meat and pressed four softball-sized mounds (for 2 burgers!!!) onto her tiny flattop griddle, manipulating half of its space. The meat had a pale pink hue, and was more than likely just ground beef--it certainly couldn't have been anything leaner than ground chuck. As she pressed the patties out, she liberally sprinkled them with her special seasoning "shake." And as with any proud fried chicken cook or BBQ cook, she will likely not be giving you her recipe. Asking her would probably violate one of the aforementioned rules. It seemed like something of a pumped-up seasoning salt (think cayenne and paprika, etc.) and tasted great on the fries as well. The first portion of my order to be ready and placed in front of me was the fries. They came from a frozen bag, but I really didn't care because they were just the opening act before the headlining burgers took the stage. As I was scarfing down my fries, I think I giggled a few times watching her assemble the burgers in all their ridiculous splendor. The men that had sat down next to me asked if I had planned on eating both of them in one sitting (I was sharing with others). Ann's doesn't even have a heated porch--I doubt that cardiac fibrillation would have been an option.

The two burgers themselves were simply scrumtralescent; however, in my opinion, I would give the nod of superiority to the Hood Burger. I think that the slaw provides that extra richness that carries all of the other flavors. But let's not kid ourselves here, the star of the show is the meat. There had to be a NET weight of at least 12 to 16 ounces of meat per burger. It was well seasoned, but ultimately tasted as it should--like meat! Each of the condiments were in a perfect proportion to the meat: much like the Commodores to Lionel Richie. The fact that she can make all of this magic happen on equipment and food that could easily be found in a supermarket is simply amazing.

So go to Ann's. Go soon. That is all.

DIY: Pasta Puttanesca

I was cooking dinner at home last night, and I just wanted something quick, easy, and flavorful. Instantly, spaghetti con sugo alla puttanesca entered my mind. Literally translated as spaghetti with "whore's sauce," puttanesca was created in the region of Italy from Naples to Calabria. As the legend has it, it was designed as something that the "ladies of the night" could create and eat while between "clients." While I firmly believe that some of the best foods in the world were inspired by poverty, I would dare suppose that there is another class of fabulous food designed by people just trying to get laid. Here is my recipe for pasta puttanesca.

1 lb dried spaghetti or linguine (long pasta really works best for this)
2 T olive oil (twice around the pan)
4 large garlic cloves, minced
8 anchovies
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 jar pitted kalamata olives, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 jar capers, drained
Salt and black pepper to taste
Chopped Italian parsley and torn basil
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano

In a large pot and at least one gallon of heavily salted water, cook the pasta until just al dente--about 6 minutes. Drain and hold.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute garlic, anchovies, and crushed red pepper in olive oil until the anchovies dissolve or the garlic is a light golden brown. Add tomatoes, olives, capers, salt, and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Cook for roughly 15 minutes. Toss with the hot pasta and finish with herbs and cheese. There should be just enough sauce to coat the pasta, but not so much that the pasta is swimming in sauce. Serve with hot crusty bread.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Trip Postponed: Icy Roads

So I was planning on going up to visit the Benton's smokehouse today to get an up-close look at the curing process of Allan Benton's bacon and country hams, but the roads were just too icy. So instead, in honor of my friend Rachael (who basically instructed me to start this blog), here is some pure goodness. Audio is NSFW.