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food porn: atlanta food trucks

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Food trucks evoke memories of the state fair for me. Comfortably chilly weather, the loud hum of generator-powered everything, the smell of something savory in the air. On a lovely cool day this past fall, I took leave from my little office and went to sample some Atlanta food truck eats at 12th and Peachtree.

 


wow food truck menu

wow food truck menu

pulled pork arepa - wow food truck

pulled pork arepa - wow food truck

 

WOW food truck atlanta

WOW food truck atlanta

 

wonderlicious on wheels

wonderlicious on wheels

 

tamale queen food truck

tamale queen food truck

 

jus' loaf'n food truck

jus' loaf'n food truck

 

sweet auburn bbq food truck

sweet auburn bbq food truck

 

the mobile marlay

the mobile marlay

 

mobile marlay menu

mobile marlay menu

 

fish and chips from the mobile marlay

fish and chips from the mobile marlay

 

fish and chips - the mobile marlay

fish and chips - the mobile marlay

 

slider u  food truck

slider u food truck

 

buen provecho food truck

buen provecho food truck

 

just good food now

just good food now

 

ibiza bites

ibiza bites

 

Life is Food. Taste Life. Ibiza Bites

Life is Food. Taste Life. Ibiza Bites

 

ibiza bites menu

ibiza bites menu

 

signature bite - ibiza bites

signature bite - ibiza bites

 

cake pops - ibiza bites

cake pops - ibiza bites

 

honeysuckle food truck

honeysuckle food truck

 

yumbii truck

yumbii truck

 

cheers,

k

food porn: weekend in amsterdam

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This year’s trip to London included a weekend jaunt to Amsterdam. 2 days in Amsterdam isn’t nearly enough time to see all that the city has to offer. But… I did my best.

Here’s a recap of the weekend in Amsterdam, as told by my belly.

welcome spread

welcome spread

The trip to Amsterdam had been a long one. By the time I reach my room, I’m exhausted and a bit frazzled. The bottle of wine and tasty crackers my host has laid out looks like mannah from heaven to me.

 

fruit of the room

fruit in my guest room

 

romeo fries plantains

romeo cooks plantains

Shortly after I hit the streets of Amsterdam, I’ve already made a new friend. Frankie, a Surinamese Dutch guy. Frankie introduces me to Romeo – the cook in a Surinamese bar/restaurant in central Amsterdam.

 

tastes of suriname

tastes of suriname

And Romeo introduces me to Surinamese food. I can’t identify half of the items on the plate, but I enjoy every bit of it. There’s some pickled veggies going on here, along with a spicy sauce and plantains.

 

taste of suriname

I would have asked Romeo more about the food, but I know better than to try to get a guy’s attention when football is on. The bar is packed with older gents watching (and loudly yelling at) the evening’s soccer match. Frankie, Romeo, and everyone else in the room is enthralled. I am invisible. Which is great. ‘Cause nobody needs to witness my assault on this food.

 

romeo's catch

romeo's catch

 

late night snack

late night coffee break

 

After dinner, Frankie plays tour guide for the next few hours. He walks me around most of central Amsterdam, pointing out street names and points of interest that I need to remember when I’m on my own tomorrow. I pretend like every street name he makes me repeat doesn’t sound exactly like the last one.  I sometimes have difficulty understanding Frankie’s English because of his accent, but after a while, I tire of asking  him to repeat himself. A little past midnight, my head is spinning from it all. I suggest we stop for coffee. Frankie takes me to a little Middle Eastern eatery with really, really good coffee. I take sips of coffee and stare appreciatively in silence at rotating, shiny meat.

 

my friend frankie

my friend frankie

Frankie moves like a hummingbird. I feel lucky I convinced him to stand still long enough for me to get this pic. My friend Regina had previously asked me to take a pic of the Amsterdam Hard Rock Cafe. Two birds.

 

amsterdam fruit market - morning

sleepwalking in amsterdam

The next morning, I’m up early to make the most of the day. I was out with Frankie ’til almost 2 am. When I spy this fruit market on my morning walk, the colors are so bright against the overcast Amsterdam sky, I think I must be sleepwalking.

 

amsterdam fruit market - berries

 

 

lovechild berries

lovechild berries

The clerk at the fruit market describes these berries as ‘the lovechild of a raspberry and a strawberry’. I cop some. He’s right.

amsterdam fruit market

 

vlaamse frites

vlaamse frites and a scary dude

By this time, I’d been sightseeing by foot and by boat. Time for a snack.

belgian fries w/mayo

belgian fries w/mayo

Lovely people, the Dutch. Can’t for the life of me figure out why they (or anyone) would want to do this to their fries. Ech.

 

belgian fries w/curry ketchup

belgian fries w/curry ketchup

That’s more like it. Perfectly prepared by a man in a lab coat. I secretly dub him, Professor Fry Guy.

 

abraxas latte

abraxas latte

 

tabletop image

pancakes! amsterdam

My view of the table top at Pancakes! Amsterdam.

 

pancake fixin's

pancake fixin's

 

utensil clock

time to eat

 

goat cheese pancake

my neighbor's goat cheese pancake

I’d intended to come to Pancakes! Amsterdam for breakfast, but by the time I make it there, it’s well after lunch. I decide to skip the more breakfast-y American pancakes and go for a Dutch pancake. It’s more of a crepe-style pancake with a choice of sweet or savory toppings. The English version of the Pancakes! Amsterdam website claims that they also have “Glutton free” pancakes available. I wasn’t interested.

veggie pancake w/bacon

veggie pancake w/bacon

 

 

spring roll

spring roll

For my last meal of the weekend, I thought I’d try a rijsttafel – a sort of smorgasbord of Indonesian dishes served with rice.  Not the best plate of food ever. But a decidedly flavorful end to the trip.

rijsttafel

rijsttafel at Bojos

proost,

k

3 simple soup recipes your grandma would be proud of

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soup-recipes

“As the days grow short, some faces grow long. But not mine. Every autumn, when the wind turns cold and darkness comes early, I am suddenly happy. It’s time to start making soup again.” ~Leslie Newman

As a kid, the return of cold weather meant one thing: the return of my grandma’s soup. My grandmother’s soup was slightly different each time depending on what leftovers remained from that week’s cooking. Sometimes there was beef, other times chicken, and occasionally, only vegetables – but it was always the gut-and-soul warming concoction I needed to make me feel that all was right with the world. A big bowl of grandma’s soup along with a perfectly grilled cheese sandwich equaled toe-curling goodness.

As much I used to enjoy soup eating, soup making wasn’t something I ventured into until fairly recently. I think somewhere along the way I convinced myself that only grandmas could make good tasting soups, and that I should steer clear of such foreign territory. In reality, though, soups are fairly easy for even novice cooks. And they’re an excellent way to make a meal that’s quick, budget-friendly and full of feel-good flavor. Plus, soups are universal. Every culture has at least one signature recipe for slow cooked veggies and meats in savory broth that’s a beloved dish at almost any dinner table.

The basic formula for most soups is the same. Step 1: Saute or roast aromatics and seasonings. Step 2: Add other ingredients. Step 3: cover with liquid. Step 4: Bring to a boil, or simmer until everything reaches desired texture and flavor.

As Ina says, “How easy is that?”

Here are 3 of my favorite soup recipes that any grandma would be proud of.

 

Lentil Soup with Root Vegetables

Lentil Soup recipeIngredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 stalks of celery
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
ground spice mixture (1 Tbsp cumin, about 1 tsp each of: cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, paprika)
2 cups of green lentils
root vegetables: your choice of carrots, parsnips, and/or potatoes
6 cups vegetable broth or stock
salt and black pepper to taste
Optional (but highly recommended): 2-3 leaves of fresh culantro (not cilantro)

Chop or thinly slice all of the vegetables and the garlic (chopped veggies give a more homestyle feel; sliced veggies, a more refined one). Heat olive oil on medium high in a large pot, and add celery, onion, and garlic. Saute until onions begin to turn translucent. Add ground spices and saute for a minute, stirring constantly so you don’t burn the spices. Add remaining vegetables and lentils and stir to combine all ingredients. Add enough vegetable broth to cover everything. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low. If using culantro, add to the soup. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender and lentils are cooked through (about 40 minutes to an hour), adding more broth as needed. Stir occasionally during cooking. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Why you’ll love this soup: It’s very low effort. It’s 100% vegan so you can feel good about eating it. The blend of spices gives an earthy Middle Eastern flavor that’s exotic without being weird.

 

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:curried-butternut-squash-soup-recipe

olive oil
salt and black pepper
2 medium onions, chopped
1 not-so-sweet red apple, peeled cored, and chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 carrots, peeled and chopped
3-4 butternut squash (about 3 lbs)
1 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 Tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp garlic powder
approx. 5 cups chicken broth or stock
special tools: blender, immersion blender, or food processor
for garnish (use any or all): chopped green onions, chopped cilantro, dried cranberries, coconut flakes, chopped cashews

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut each squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds/pulp with a spoon. Drizzle chopped veggies, apple, and squash halves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place chopped veggies and apple on 1 baking sheet and squash on a separate baking sheet, skin side up. Place in oven and cook until very tender (about 20 minutes for apple/onion and 45 minutes to 1 hour for squash). Allow roasted ingredients to cool. Scoop out squash flesh and add to blender or food processor with roasted ingredients, and about 1 cup of chicken broth. Depending on the size of your blender or food processor, you may have to do this in batches. Blend mixture until you have a puree. In a large pot, heat olive oil on medium high and add curry powder and ginger. Saute for 1 minute, then add squash puree and enough chicken broth to reach desired consistency. Heat on medium until warm. If you’re using an immersion blender, add all of the roasted ingredients to the sauteed curry powder / ginger mixture in the pot. Cover with chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and blend in the pot until you reach the desired consistency. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve with garnishes on the side.

Why you’ll love this soup: The color is beautiful. If you’re used to sweet butternut squash soups, you’ll enjoy this savory alternative. You can customize the flavor and texture to your heart’s content with the garnishes.

 

Easy Vietnamese Pho Ga (Chicken Pho)

pho ga recipeIngredients:

olive oil
2 medium onions
3 slices of fresh ginger
6-8 cups of chicken broth
1 tsp of fish sauce
16 oz rice noodles (or angel hair pasta)
1-2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (preferably dark meat)
for garnish: thai basil leaves or chopped cilantro, sliced jalapeno, chopped green onion, lime wedges, chili sauce (sriracha), bean sprouts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel onions and cut into quarters. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Place onion and ginger on baking sheet in oven. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook rice noodles (or angel hair) according to package directions. Place cooked noodles into 4 separate bowls. In a separate pot, add chicken broth and fish sauce and heat on medium-low. When onion and ginger are roasted, add to chicken broth. Heat on medium-low for 15 minutes. Add a small amount of chicken and each garnish to each bowl on top of cooked noodles. Ladle hot broth into each bowl (leaving onion and ginger in the pot) and serve with extra garnishes on the side.

Why you’ll love this soup: It has everything you expect from traditional chicken noodle soup with a decidedly non-traditional flavor. It tastes almost as good with or without the chicken in the soup. It’s even easier to make than the other two soups above.

cheers,

k

photo: Vegetable soup by Lottery Monkey, on Flickr

photo: Lentil Soup by Back to the Cutting Board, on Flickr

photo: pho ga by jslander, on Flickr

amuse bouche: hosting a dinner party

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Placecards

“As W.S. Gilbert said, ‘When planning a dinner party, what’s more important than what’s on the table, is what’s on the chairs.’ ”
~ from, “Giving a Dinner Party (I)” in Life Is Meals: A Food Lover’s Book of Days

 

I sometimes imagine the afterlife as a decadent feast that never ends. Only in heaven, you’re surrounded by all the wonderful people you love, and in hell, you’re surrounded by all the awful people you hate. The finest meal can be a misery if the wrong people are at the table. And last night’s leftovers becomes a royal banquet when shared with pleasurable company. The best dinner parties are those where each person brings their own special something to the table, yet everyone shares a common trait: the ability to just let go and savor the moment.

cheers,

k

food porn: buford highway bingefest

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You know, you really have to be careful about the kind of people you hang with. The wrong crowd can get you caught up in all kinds of foolishness, and truly cause you to lose all sense of yourself.

Such was the case this past spring when a food-loving friend invited me to join some other food-loving friends for a little dim sum at Gu’s Bistro. What started as a simple weekend lunch gathering turned into a multi-hour, multi-stop foodie bender along Buford Highway.

The limits of decency (and my waistline) were definitely stretched.


gu's bistro

 

chengdu cold noodles - gu's

chengdu cold noodles @ gu's bistro

zhong dumplings

zhong dumplings @ gu's bistro

sticky rice w/pork filling

glutinous rice and ground peanuts

glutinous rice w/ ground peanuts @ gu's bistro

As we were departing Gu’s, I overhead some talk of going to a nearby ethnic market to check out the food court. I was game. Those with prior engagements and / or a semblance of sanity peeled off from the group. The rest of us pressed on to Assi Plaza, just up the road a piece on Buford Highway.

 

russian easter cake

russian easter cakes - lana's express

russian easter cake @ lana's express

 

Beautiful Russian Easter cakes from Lana’s Express. We placed an order for a smattering of items from the menu, and wandered around the market for a bit while waiting for the food. That’s right. Just before Easter, and instead of fasting, we’re gorging ourselves. Wanton heathens, the lot of us.

mexican desserts - panaderia @ assi plaza

mexican desserts - panaderia @ assi plaza

 

panaderia - assi plaza

 

ron's pair

My friend Ron shows me his bowls. Not sure if he notices that one is bigger than the other. He looks so happy, I can’t bring myself to tell him.

 

russian delights

Tastings from Lana’s Express include: pelmeni (meat-stuffed dumplings), roast chicken with rice and a ketchup-based sauce, and two pickled salads – one with cabbage and carrot, the other with cucumber, tomato, and dill.

 

pickled salads - lana's express

 

 

hot dog toppings

hot dog toppings @ america's top dog

 

Oh, what? You thought it was over? After we finish our second lunch, someone in this group of people I am now beginning to realize is a bunch of crazies, starts talking about a hot dog place nearby that has a ridiculous amount of toppings on tap, and at least 5 different types of hot dogs to choose from. When I hear my own voice answering yes to the question, “Wanna go?” I know I am one of them.

 

hot dog menu - america's top dog

 

Turns out there’s actually 7 different varieties of dog on the menu at America’s Top Dog in Chamblee.

 

ode to the hot dog

 

regional hot dog dress

regional hot dog dress

 

hot dog - naked

hot dog (naked) @ america's top dog

 

hot dog - dressed

hot dog (dressed) @ america's top dog

 

After all of this, we head to a Lebanese bakery in  the same plaza as America’s Top Dog. We don’t eat again, but a few of us take home some Middle Eastern treats for later. Ya know, just in case. No pics of the Lebanese bakery, ’cause I’m too full to lift a camera. All I can do is sit and giggle like a giddy schoolgirl.

 

We finally leave Buford Highway and retire to one of the crazies’ backyard deck, where we lounge about like stuffed ticks and listen to our host read excerpts aloud from his favorite Szechuan cookbook. Later on, he shows us this hilarious video he recently saw on YouTube. A little video about an animal known as… the honey badger.

 

 

After the day’s gluttony, I totally identify with this creature.

cheers,

k

a bon vivant is as a bon vivant does

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I don’t know where I first heard the term bon vivant, but I do remember thinking to myself, “Now that sounds like something I could get used to being called.”

Or something to that effect.

I do, however, clearly recall a pass-the-time bar game I played a few years back which involved me and a friend sharing our intergalactic spy credentials (don’t ask). During the round where we revealed our alter-ego occupations, I boldly proclaimed that mine was: ‘bon vivant’. To which my friend replied (actually, scoffed) “That’s not an occupation.”

I was and still am indignant about the matter. Being a bon vivant is an occupation. In truth, a bon vivant is only ever occupied by one thing. Everything else is a diversion, or an experiment that helps the bon vivant excel in her chosen profession, which is a simple one: that of living life to the fullest. The bon vivant’s trade is one that should not be taken lightly, but often is. A rare few truly commit to and excel at the task, yet the masses generally treat the pursuit of a well-lived life as much more trivial than the pursuit of money or fame, vice or romance, power or success.

And so the bon vivant that we see in literature and film is often portrayed as the wayward dilettante, or the lascivious boozer, or even the hopelessly conniving dandy. Many of those who assume the moniker in real life also assume that it affords them the right to lift their noses a bit higher in the air. In my opinion, both are miscontrued notions of the term and the persona.

In searching the interwebs for a more accurate description of the bon vivant, I came across one delightfully simple but perfectly illustrative definition.

 

“If you love good food, good company, good times and something really, really good to drink, then you’re probably a bon vivant. In fact, if you love two out of the four, then you are most likely a bon vivant.”

The above quote is from “Are You a Bon Vivant?”  on the blog, Miss Lola Says…. Miss Lola goes on to explain what bon vivants bring to the… er, table:

 

“We all know at least one bon vivant. And this is how they make our worlds better:

  • They bring the lightness of life with joy, laughter and gaiety.
  • They introduce us to experiences and foods that we would not otherwise have an interest in.
  • They help us keep the goodness of life in perspective. And we all need goodness, right?”

Miss Lola Says… features well-written articles on etiquette and common sense manners that are suitable for intergalactic spies and bon vivants alike. As bon vivants are known for their refinement, the blog should serve as a handy resource should you need to remind yourself or a less-refined associate of the appropriate behavior in any situation.

I invite you to peruse some of my favorite posts from Miss Lola:

An Excerpt from “The Correct Thing to Do, to Say, to Wear” [1941]

 

Putting on Airs

 

HINTS TO KITCHEN MAIDS by Rufus Estes

 

Tips for Riding the Elevator with Me.

 

In the meantime, I’m working on a series of posts that will delve deeper into what it means to pursue the profession of a bon vivant – including some life examples of famous bon vivants, both real and fictional. Stay tuned.

 

cheers,

 

k

photo:A Chair-i-table Event 2011 by rwentechaney, on Flickr

giving thanks: mealtime prayers for every occasion

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saying grace

 

Even though I haven’t been to Mass in years, I still recite the Catholic blessing I learned in elementary school before every meal.

“Bless us, O Lord and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

It occurs to me that we humans are probably more disconnected from our food than we’ve ever been in our short history on Earth. We are more likely to consume our daily bread on the run, in a hurry, at a desk, or in a car than we are to slowly digest a slowly-prepared meal surrounded by family and friends. Often times we have no idea where the food we are eating came from, nor the name nor face of the person who prepared it. We may only give thought to the ingredients in the dish placed before us if there is either risk (e.g., allergy or religious taboo) or cachet associated with its presence.

No wonder then, that our giving of thanks before a meal is often overlooked or reserved for only the most special of occasions like, say… Thanksgiving.

I’ve attended my fair share of Thanksgiving dinners – with both my own family and with the extended family that I call my friends. Though the dishes on the table have varied according to the customs, traditions, and culinary skills of those present, there’s been one common trait among each of those Thanksgiving meals. The prayer before the meal.

At the assigned moment, heads bow, hands reach out to the persons beside you, a moment of silence ensues before someone – usually one of the eldest, but sometimes simply the bossiest – will appoint the prayer-giver for the meal. The newly knighted – depending on their experience with such matters – will either stumble for a few moments or leap to the charge. Soon, the prayer begins.

The rest of us listen, reverently. But we only half-hear the words. We are thinking of the sumptuousness of the food spread out in front of us, we are conscious of the feel of our neighbors’ hands in ours, we may briefly remember the faces of those who aren’t present but we wish were there, we may feel a subtle welling of emotion at the gravity of the moment. And then, it is done. We release our neighbors’ hands, and start our strategic jockeying for position in the buffet line.

At its most basic, the act of eating a meal is a purely physical experience. But a brief moment of reverence before consuming the first bite, can transform the act of eating into a kind of sensory meditation.

 

“Food is divine, a gift from God. With deep respect you eat, and while eating you forget everything else, because eating is prayer. It is existential prayer.” ~ Osho

 

At Thanksgiving, the before-meal prayer is a symbolic act that says, ‘this moment is special’. It reaffirms our connectedness to others, and makes us pause to think about what we are about to put into our bodies. And though most pre-Thanksgiving prayers are offered to a divine source (a fact that even my most atheist friends will let slide for Thanksgiving), mealtime prayers need not be religious, nor do they need to be reserved only for ‘special occasions’.

Here is a collection prayers, sayings, and meditations that can be said before meals:

 

Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.

 

May this food restore our strength, giving new energy to tired limbs, new thoughts to weary minds. May this drink restore our souls, giving new vision to dry spirits, new warmth to cold hearts. And once refreshed, may we give new pleasure to You, who gives us all.

“The Quaker tradition of “silent grace” before meals also works well for a dinner party with people of diverse religions and beliefs. All present join hands in a circle around the table, and are silent for half a minute or so as they collect their thoughts, meditate or pray. Then one person gently squeezes the hands of the people seated adjacent; this signal is quickly passed around the table and people then begin to eat….” from secularseasons.org

God is great, God is good.
Let us thank him for our food.
By his hands we all are fed,
Give us, Lord, our daily bread.
Amen.

 

For the meal we are about to eat,
for those that made it possible,
and for those with whom we are about to share it,
we are thankful.

We celebrate this occasion
with food from the earth.
May it fill us with fellowship
and add to our mirth.

 

What before-meal words of thanks do you give? Do you save mealtime prayers for special occasions or are they an everyday ritual?

cheers,

k

photo: A serious moment by angelina_koh, on Flickr