Friday, November 26, 2010
While everyone still has Thanksgiving on the brain... I am still recalling fond memories of a breakfast I enjoyed a scant few days ago, before turkey and stuffing dominated my taste buds. And while I felt a pang of regret for not paying a visit to my favorite breakfast spot in the ATL (oh, Flying Biscuit, how I still love thee), I was psyched for my first experience at the Original Pancake House...
I learned, actually, that the original Original is in Portland, Oregon, born in 1953 at the loving hands of Les Highet and Erma Hueneke. They now have over one hundred franchises from coast to coast, which have won local and national acclaim. The recipes demand only the very finest of ingredients, such as 93 score butter, pure 36% whipping cream, fresh grade AA eggs, hard wheat unbleached flour, and their own recipe sourdough starter. Their batters and sauces are made fresh in each restaurant’s kitchen. All of this TLC shines through, from the waitresses to the retro decor. This is a diner upon which all diner's should be measured...
I ordered big and broad, wanting to sample as much of their menu as possible. The signature of the OPH is their Dutch Baby, described by its originators as "an air filled delight oven baked to golden perfection and served with lemon, whipped butter and powdered sugar to create a mouthwatering blend." What an incredible combo! So light (a cross between a crepe and a pancake), so bright (loved the fresh-squeezed lemon juice), and just the right amount of decadent (butter, powdered sugar). It went faster than expected...but luckily, I still had room for more -- namely, my bacon pancakes. Need is say more? The balance of savory and sweet is right in my stomach's wheelhouse. If you've ever been pleasantly surprised by the happy accident that occurs on your plate when your maple syrup encroaches on your eggs and bacon... you know the joys of this dish. I'm honestly stunned that more breakfast joints don't offer this on their menus as a stand alone item...
And speaking of menus... the OPH's is extensive, if not overwhelmingly tempting. No fewer than 18 pancake offerings, plus waffles, and omelet variations, too, each one deserving of a taste.
The potato pancakes warrant special mention, as well. They're made flat, and although I prefer the crispy kind, derivative of hash browns, these were plenty satisfying.
Kudos to the Original Pancake House for keepin' it real, sticking with what works (and has for over 50 years), and earning a place in my heart... along with another bookmark as a place I will continue to visit on my many returns to the ATL...
Thursday, November 25, 2010
I'm settling in with my extended family, in the mountains surrounding picturesque Lake Hartwell, Georgia, for our Thanksgiving feast. I have mixed feelings, to be honest, because this is one of the first times in my married life I will not be hosting the festivities. What I'm quickly realizing, however, is that it's not the location that matters most, it's the people you are with...and the food. Always, the food...
To that end, I have (forcefully) volunteered my services in helping prepare the meal. Specifically, my annual Thanksgiving Stuffing recipe, which I culled from the Vinoy Hotel over a decade ago. I feel like this year is a bit of a rite of passage for me and my stuffing, as this marks the first year I will be preparing it from memory -- no recipe on paper in sight (keep this in mind when scanning the directions below!). And it is also a fitting recipe for the company I'm keeping, seeing as how this dish has a distinctly Southern sensibility to it. If it's not too late for you to enjoy this today, rest assured it is easy and quick to create. If you find this and the moment has passed...I hope this becomes a tradition for your family next year, and for years to come...
Roasted Pecan Southern Comfort Corn Bread Stuffing
- Prepare 2 boxes Jiffy Corn Mix, as directed on the box.
- Saute an onion and 2 celery stalks in butter in the bottom of a stock pot, until softened.
- Crumbled prepared corn bread into stock pot, and add approx. 2c chicken broth, until mixture is moistened completely.
- Chop 1c pecans, season with a pinch (or two) of cayenne pepper, and toast (usually just a few minutes).
- Add chopped pecans to mixture until combined.
- Season with marjoram, salt & pepper.
- In a small sauce pan, add 1c Southern Comfort. Light the alcohol to flame off in the pan.
- Add SoCo to the stuffing until combined.
The spiciness of the peppered pecans mixes really nicely with the sweetness of the Southern Comfort, and it's all brought together in harmony in the corn bread base. Great balance of bigger flavors that stand out on what is typically a crowded Thanksgiving plate.
Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!
Friday, November 19, 2010
My wife and I just returned from An Evening With Anthony Bourdain, put on by the Vinoy Hotel. A "No Reservations" 3-course meal at their flagship resto, Marchand's, followed by a short jitney down the street to see the man himself throw down in front of a packed house.
The meal was good; classic French, presumable as a nod to his days at Les Halles in NYC.
The wife and I went went in divergent directions. She: French Onion Soup, Coq Au Vin & Pommes Puree, Chocolate Mousse. Moi: Frisee Aux Lardons (salad w/cubes of smoked bacon, Roquefort crouton, poached egg), Hanger Steak & Pomme Frites, Fresh Apple Tart w/ Vanilla Ice Cream. All the better for sharing! LOVED my salad (like refined breakfast with greens thrown in for good measure) as much as anything served. The steak was tender and the shallot sauce was deep and rich. While Jill didn't care as much for her soup, I benefited (as usual) from her smaller appetite, and really enjoyed the classic components (gooey cheese, tinge of sherry). Both desserts were prepared and presented beautifully.
It was with full bellies zoomed to our engagement with a man who I believe has the singular most interesting and honest voice in the TV Food universe. Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" manifesto is 10 years old, but it's good to see that in the ensuing 10 years, the man himself may have mellowed, but this tiger certainly still has his stripes. He at one point admitted to "throwing away the leather jacket; the earring; the thumb ring... there are no cool dads!"... but he still has a fire in his belly and a fearless flair for sharing his pointed opinions. Perhaps that's why his new book title is so aptly, if not ironically, named. He's still raw; just more on the medium side now that he's staring down 50, and with a 3 1/2 year old daughter at home.
His routine was rehearsed (can't blame him for that), but it still came off as sincere and quintessentially Tony. He looked the part, in suede cowboy boots, dark jeans, blue shirt and blazer, and his profanity at times was never over the top, just seemingly in balance with a more laid-back disposition. He came out of the gates firing, immediately crushing Sandra Lee (give the people what they want), took shots at even his own network ("Why do we all really watch 'Man vs. Food'?... Because we want to see the guy kill himself!"), and later opined on how Americans would benefit from following his simple, yet apparently overlooked, travel laws: Be Gracious. Be Adventurous. Don't Eat Where Tourists Eat. I particularly appreciated his take on how to keep his child out of the clutches of "The King, the Clown, & The Colonel." Indeed, Mr. Bourdain is decidedly not a fan of fast food nation, especially as it pertains to the youth of America.
It's amazing to hear him recount how shockingly different his life is now versus a scant decade ago. Then, he was 44, cooking for a living, and had never seen beyond the myopic focus of whatever kitchen he was in, and the people who inhabited said kitchen. Now, he's been all over the world many times over, eating and drinking his way through fascinating journeys, recording it all for prosperity with a camera crew in tow.
The best job in the world? He readily admits he believes it is. And from listening to him tonight, I'm hard pressed to disagree...