Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hotlanta: The Final Installment

OK, I am anxious to tell you about Italy so I'm going to to try and quickly sum up the rest of the Atlanta trip. Tuesday evening we decided to go see Les Miserables at the historic Fox Theater. This theater is amazing, it's like being in Arabian Nights and the ceiling is painted like the night sky. The show was cool too. It brought me back to being 12 when I was really into musical theater and knew the Les Mis soundtrack by heart. But before that, we had the great fortune of eating dinner at Dogwood, just down the street from the theater. We got a bunch of appetizers because we had a late lunch. First off, we shared a flight of soups. I love tomato soup but this one had fried balls of goat cheese as a garnish that totally won me over. There was also a root vegetable soup with lingonberry preserves and a zucchini-watercress offering. For dinner, I ordered and appetizer of fried quail on a biscuit with a goat cheese-pepper gravy and red onion preserves on a biscuit. It tasted like a very upscale version of chicken-fried steak and I loved it. The quail had a fantastically crisp and perfectly seasoned exterior and was dense and juicy inside. The biscuit melted, the gravy was smooth and kicky and the red onion marmalade fused it all together. I also had an appetizer of sweet potato gnocchi with parmesean brown butter and toasted pecans. i thought it could have been a bit too rich but somehow, it wasn't. Kristin had a selection from their grits bar with ham and pimento cheese, which might sound kinda nasty but I assure you, it was delicious and reminded me why people go so crazy about grits. She also got a caesar salad with a green-tomato and bacon that was SPLENDID. I need to recreate that at home. It reminded me of a smoked tomato aioli at a restaurant in New Orleans that was legendary.

The next day, we got up and went to a spot near some university for breakfast, great biscuits. Maybe it was called Kenley's? Then we walked through the Sweet Auburn district, had sweet potato cheesecake (amazing, unlike most cheesecake, almost a pound cake for crust), went to see MLK's church and other historic sites. Then we went to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and I got all nostalgic about the first time I visited, about 8 years ago with Amy. We were like kids, fascinated by this incredible oasis of whimsy and beauty nestled in the heart of the city. If you go to Atlanta, do not miss this!

Finally, I wanted to hit the Flying Biscuit for lunch before taking off. I'm pretty sure we ate there last time I was in Atlanta, it's quirky and delicious. I got the love cakes, which are black bean cakes served with a tomatillo sauce and sour cream over a lush salad. While it was very good, I think it would have benefited from some avocado slices. However, the main reason to love this place is their lovely, lovely biscuits that come with everything. They are airy and light, although I like the craggy, rustic ones too, and they were served with a rhubarb-strawberry compote that had hints of ginger perhaps? It was so good we didn't even need the peach cobbler we eyed on the way in! And that's saying something!

Whew, finally! Done! So I can get to the Italy trip sometime this week before I take off for New Orleans on Thursday!

Friday, October 17, 2008


I'm not a terribly political person, mostly because I find it resembles a cult with all its pomp and circumstance, nor do I believe that politicians as a general lot are trustworthy custodians of policies and procedures that guide us. However, I know who I'm voting for, I'm not a sheep, I've figured it out for myself a long time ago who I think is the best candidate. Anyway, if I weren't voting for Obama, the following might give me serious pause.

What if things were switched around? Would the country's collective point of view be different?

What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, following the debate, including a three month-old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?

What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his college graduating class?

What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?

What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?

What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?

What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five? (The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)

What if Obama couldn't read from a teleprompter?

What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included discipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?

What if Obama was the one who was known to publicly display a serious anger management problem?

What if Michelle Obama's family had made their money from beer distribution?

You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected a reality, if the tables were turned, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?

This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative characteristics in another when there is a color difference.

And, think of this - the candidates' educational backgrounds:

Barack Obama:
Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in
International Relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Joseph Biden:
University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)

John McCain:
United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899

Sarah Palin:
Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism

Education isn't everything, but this is about the two highest
offices in the land as well as our standing in the world.

You make the call.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Please Excuse the Interruption in the Blog Already in Place

I'll get to Hotlanta: The Final Adventure soon enough but I HAVE to first tell you about the torta di fichi or fig cake but it sounds a lot nicer in Italian, doesn't it? So, while in Italy I had THE MEAL TO END ALL MEALS, which I'll tell you about later but the end of it included this torta di fichi that I cannot get over. It appeared to be a very simple, rustic cake with figs baked on top but in reality it was the most meltingly, buttery, shortbread-like cake with luscious caramelized figs capping it off. Additionally, we ordered another Tuscan classic for dessert, biscotti with vin santo. I loved the vin santo and I loved the biscotti but I did not like them dipped in the wine, as is tradition. Instead, I dipped my biscotti in coffee and drank the vin santo with the fig cake. WOW. A new love was born. I got home late Tuesday evening from my European adventure but you better believe that on Wednesday I went out to buy figs and a bottle of vin santo. I tried my interpretation out yesterday and brought it to Tasty Tuesday for the girls to sample. They swooned, it was love for them too! Anyway, Maria said I MUST post the recipe immediately so here 'tis ladies!

Torta di Fichi (In Italian "chi" is a hard sound so this is pronounced fee-kee, not fee-chee)

1 pint figs
1/3 c. sugar
vin santo
lemon juice

Wash the figs thoroughly and remove stems. Coarsely chop, add sugar, water, lemon juice or vin santo and bring to a boil. Turn down immediately and simmer for 30 minutes or so. You can add more or less sugar, eliminate lemon juice or vin santo, it doesn't matter. This is really just cooking down the figs with some sugar to make a jam-like spread, it's hard to mess up unless you burn it. Don't make it too thick though, some of the moisture will bake out in the oven. Runny is a good consistency for this.

1 stick butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 t. salt
zest of one lemon

Cream the butter and sugar. Add egg, salt, zest and flour. Don't overbeat. Press into a 8 inch round cake pan.

I baked the crust for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees, then I took it out, spread the fig mixture on top and baked another 25 minutes. Next time, I'll add more liquid to the figs and then wait until the shell has cooked about 15 minutes before I add the figs to the cake. It came out a bit drier than I would have liked, although still really good.

Please drink this with a moderate glass of vin santo, it's amazing. Take a sip after each bite. DON'T pour a really big glass, it's strong and sweet. Enjoy!

Update: Just had the last piece (yeah, we kinda demolished it last night) with plain old coffee and it was tenderly, achingly delicious.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hotlanta Part Two

If you've ever traveled with me before, you know that I will likely produce my sheath of papers with various addresses and maps and morsels scribbled all over so when it comes to discussing where we are going eat, I've got you covered. I enjoy researching the city, regional cuisine, famed chefs and so on so I always have about 43424273423 options for my co-diners to choose from.

One of the places I was really interested in trying in Atlanta is called Watershed and it's owned by one half of the duo known as the Indigo Girls. Chef Scott Peacock is supposed to be fantastic, turning out regional classics made from locally sourced ingredients. We hopped on MARTA for an easy 20 minute ride to Decatur, which by the way is a super-cute little town, and walked to the restaurant. It was really lovely inside, all airy and cobalt and breezy-blue. We were immediately won over by the cocktail menu, blood orange cosmos and fig martinis and whatnot. I settled on the Cool Heat becasue it had jalapeno, mint and lime but I was kind of underwhelmed by it. Not so by the appetizer!!!!! We ordered a very simple-sounding saute of wild mushrooms with country ham on toast. It was magnificent, the texture of the mushooms were superb, the thin sliced ham marrying saltily with the mushroom juice and soaking into the bread. For entrees, Kristin got a pork chop with macaroni and cheese unlike any mac and cheese I've ever had. Let me preface this by saying I could probably blog til the end of eternity on variations in mac and cheese, different methods and preferences so I won't go there. Suffice it to say this had a rich, oozy, slightly custardy texture and was topped with an ungodly amount of cheese. My gall bladder lurched when I tasted it but it was damned delicious. I had a duck breast that was perfectly cooked, served with a garlic mayonaise and succotash, which I usually don't like but this was fresh and tasty. I do have to gripe about presentation though. Such a pretty restaurant, such nice food and crappy, heavy white plates that bore ugly, gray marks from innumerable run-ins with forks and knives from previous diners. And no pretty garnishes, which I can live with if the plates don't look like they were stolen from the cafeteria at the county jail. Finally for dessert, we ordered what they called "Very Good Chocolate Cake." I've probably stated here before that cake isn't my favorite, usually because it's too dry but this was definitely very good cake. You can tell just by looking that it's full of dense, chocolate-y goodness.

Plus, we had a caramel glazed fresh apple cake that was equally wonderful. The caramel glaze on top really made it superb. But, like the chocolate, it was dense and moist and suffered from none of the dreaded dry-crumbly cake factor.

Good Lord, I am sorry, I thought I'd be able to finish the Atlanta trip, I've got so much more to tell you, there were these TOMATOES and this CHEESECAKE and oh, I'm so hungry again. Looks like I'll have to do Part Three!

Friday, October 10, 2008


I had the pleasure of being sent to Atlanta a few weeks ago for work, with my marvelous co-worker and friend Kristin. I love traveling for work, probably because I don't do it very often, mostly because I get to stay in hotels I'd never pay for myself and I like those per diem checks!
The conference was meh but our hotel was hot, we had some great meals and the weather was beautiful! I got in early Sunday morning and the fabulous soon-to-be Dr. Miller met me for brunch. She made reservations at the restaurant at the top of my hotel (tallest in the Western Hemisphere or something) called the Sun Dial. I thought perhaps the food would take second place after the view, which was killer by the way. But no, the food was on point too! I had a pan-fried Georgia trout with fried green tomatoes, corn pudding and watermelon relish, pictured above. The fish was perfect, the tomatoes were ok, the corn was sweetly delicious and the watermelon was a great contrast to the fried food.

Kim ordered the crab cake benedict and it was awesome! Do you see what those eggs and ham are resting upon? CRAB CAKES!!! No English muffin here! And they were actually made from CRAB not breadcrumbs!

And yes MA'AM, we sure did end with some divine peach cobbler. Kim said it was the end of peach season and I say "when in Georgia, eat peaches" so cobbler it was!

Now I'm hungry and it's lunchtime so I'll get back to you with installment two of the Atlanta trip.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


OK, I am recovering from serious jetlag and an 18-hour workday upon arrival so I am still getting myself together, ie. doing laundry and reconciling my now-miserable finances. Anyway, I PROMISE to update you on my Atlanta trip and of course, ITALIA!!!!! Needless to say, it was estupendo! I feasted on my favorite four food groups, coffee, gelato, pizza and pasta, to no end. But while I am getting myself back in sync, please be patient. I tried to upload a couple pictures here for you but as usual, I have no luck with this online forum and photos. Sorry to all of you I haven't gotten in touch with lately, what can I say, I'm a real gad-about and I never check messages!