Thursday, April 3, 2014

Roswell Food Truck Park Returning

Food trucks are crazy popular y'all. TV shows, competitions, parks. They are all over the place. They are starting to migrate out from urban areas and into the suburbs, where they are finding a willing audience. Alpharetta has it's very successful Food Truck Alley on Thursday nights (starts April 17th this year) and last spring Roswell jumped in the mix with it's own Roswell River Food Truck Weekends at Don White Park. Spearheaded by The Food Movement, a company that owns multiple trucks in metro Atlanta, the Roswell Food truck park started off strong last year, before trailing off.

Recently, I had a chance to talk to Greg Gordon, the Executive Chef of The Food Movement about Roswell's food truck park via email. I found the conversation be enlightening about the park. According to Greg, trucks affiliated with The Food Movement have priority in scheduling. Other trucks are welcome to be scheduled, but only after their trucks are scheduled. The hope is that more trucks will be able to participate this year if the park grows in popularity. Sales are critical, as a truck needs to make at least $500 to break even.

The park usage impacts the trucks success. Greg told me that sales dropped off considerably for the trucks after Shoot the Hooch stopped renting tubes. They are hoping for more sales this year as Shoot the Hooch will be renting bikes at the park this year as well.

This year the park begins this weekend, April 5, and is planned to end around Labor Day. Hours are more limited this year, to 11am-2pm, to take advantage of lunchtime crowds.

As I've said before, I'm a fan of the food truck park. East Roswell doesn't have as many restaurants as the historic district and I like being able to walk to lunch. Don White park is a great venue for something like this and I'd like to see this venture succeed. Hopefully, they will be able to learn from last year and become a big, annual event.




Like my poorly lit iPhone pictures? I'm on Flickr now!  And you can like me on FacebookYou can read my articles about last year's food truck park here

Sunday, March 30, 2014

First Look: Foundation Social Eatery

A non-chain restaurant? On my side of 400? I may get the vapors.

Foundation is the first solo venture from Chef Mel Toledo, formerly of Bacchanalia and Century House Tavern. While it was originally planned for Inman Park, Toledo has made a smart move by choosing Holcomb Bridge Road for his restaurant. East Roswell is critically underserved by restaurants, especially upscale, non-chain eateries. Also, I learned at the Roswell NEXT restaurant panel last year that while many of the patrons in the Historic District do hail from Alpharetta and east Cobb, there's also a sizable contingent from Norcross and Suwannee driving in. So while Foundation is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Canton street, I think it'll prove to be a smart move in the long run, provided Toledo can maintain the excitement of the opening this week, covered by both the AJC and Eater Atlanta, as well as other news outlets.

Foundation takes over the space vacated by the late, unlamented Twisted Taco. It's been transformed from the dark, nasty faux taqueria into a bright, airy industrial inspired space. Think exposed wood, concrete and rebar used in creative ways. It's softened with artwork inspired by Mel Toledo's orchid tattoo created with more wood and repurposed building supplies. I like the visual pun between "Foundation" the restaurant and the building materials used in unusual ways.

So how about the food? Do east Roswellians have cause for rejoicing? Yes. Yes we do. It's pretty delicious. Let me take you on a tour.



This is a "station #4". It's a nicely balanced cocktail of absinthe, rye whiskey, and bitters. It was refreshing and not too heavy for the meal. 


This was our appetizer. Crispy pork ribs with pickled onions. The ribs were melt in your mouth soft, but crisp on the edges. The house made pickled onion was perfect. The vinegar cut the fattiness and made a very balanced dish. Perfect for sharing. 

This is the braised pork shoulder with apple arugala salad. It was my husband's dinner, so I only ate a bite or two. The pork was beautifully done and the salad pairing keeps it from being heavy. The extra bacon is a little much though. A few more vegetables would have helped the balance. 


I had the home made pasta with lamb bolagnaise. I don't eat much pasta anymore, so this was a really nice treat. The lamb was braised in the sauce and shredded.  Again, a little heavy on the meat, but still  a real nice execution of a classic italian dish. 


My dessert was the olive oil rosemary cake, which I swear tastes better then this picture looks. The cake was much lighter than expected and not too sweet. The sliced oranges and whipped creamed also contributed to the light feel of this dish. A perfect end to a meal. 


Our friends had the chocolate tart with banana brûlée. I love seeing something clever like a caramelized banana on a plate. I had a bite of the tart and it was a very dark chocolate, almost bitter, with a hint of espresso. I dislike coffee flavors intensely, so I didn't like it. But I understand I'm in the minority on this one. Go ahead world, enjoy the one chocolate dessert I don't like. 

Service was attentive without being intrusive. Our server was knowledgeable about many menu items and made recommendations when we looked a little lost. I felt like we were in good hands. 

So what's the verdict? Is this the restaurant east Roswell has been waiting for? I think so. It's a little pricey to go in my regular rotation, but I definitely plan to return. Hopefully my prediction that will attract diners to this side of 400 will pan out and this will stick around for years to come. 



Foundation Social Eatery on Urbanspoon

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Review: Le Bistro by Roswell Provisions

Seriously, this sandwich is huge. 
We were dismayed to hear last month that Party Chic would be closing. I'd been a fan for years of their affordable menu, geared towards the ladies who lunch crowd in Roswell. It took awhile to get my husband on board, but he eventually caved to the lure of fancy cupcakes and five dollar martini specials. So it was a sad thing to hear the owners were closing it in favor of a new concept, more closely tied with the Roswell Provisions store downstairs that they also own. Our friends at Provisions assured us that we'd love the new place, that the recipes were being updated and that everything we loved would still be there, just better. Their enthusiasm was well placed, because the new Le Bistro is everything good about Party Chic, but better.

Spinach salad
In France, a "bistro" is a small, casual, moderately priced restaurant. Le Bistro is precisely that. The menu is traditional french cooking, made well and not nearly as pricey as some of the other offerings in the Historic District. It's a welcome break from the trend towards destination dining on Canton street. Which shouldn't be taken as a knock on Le Bistro, Canton street needs a mix of styles and prices ranges to stay vibrant and growing. I like having a super fancy steak house on the same street as a boisterous Irish pub. Tucking a casual French bistro upstairs over a wine and cheese shop is precisely what's needed.

My natterings about the proper mix of restaurants aside, how is the food? Good? Great? Terrifying? It's pretty good. This isn't fine dining, but you could take a first date here and no be embarrassed or break the bank. The menu is standard French classics, such as the French Dip, savory crepes and various other sandwiches and salads. The aforementioned French Dip is an improvement on the previous version, featuring a big pile of tender, slow roasted beef, tangy horseradish and a savory au ju that I'm told starts with roasted bone marrow and red wine. The pan bagnat is a big, sloppy pile of tuna salad spiked with potatoes, green beans, olives and more and served on what seems like half a loaf of bread. Seriously, it's like two meals worth of sandwich.


Chicken & mushroom crepe.
The spinach salad entree comes with almost too much bacon, but the warm vinaigrette  comes in a cute container and is the perfect balance of fat and vinegar. Most entrees come with house made kettle chips, but you can add a side salad with dijion mustard vinaigrette.

The wine list is small, it's a couple of varietals served in either a large carafe suitable for sharing, or a small one that equals about a glass and a half. You can also purchase a bottle from the shop downstairs and drink it at dinner for a $20 corking fee. They also have a full bar, featuring the fancy cocktails that made Party Chic so attractive, as well as the menu of cupcakes and other desserts by Kelly's Kakes.

The space itself has been lightly remade to fit the retro chic look of the Provisions store. Think lots of burlap and destressed wood and things made out of old wine barrels. They found a video of Roswell during the 1940's and it plays on continuous loop on a back wall, giving everything a nostalgic air. The front porch overlooking Canton street is still the best seat in the city for people watching on a pleasant, early spring day and the back patio is still lively and cozy with live music on the weekends.

All in all, I say the move from Party Chic to Le Bistro was a worthwhile one. They've kept the charm and added better food and a more appealing aesthetic.


Le Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Easy Breakfast Sandwiches

I flip flop back and forth on eating weekend breakfasts at home or going out. Making it at home requires planning and effort. Going out requires me to wake up early enough that I don't have to wait for a table and putting on pants. I'm not always sure the trade off is worth it. 

Right now we're leaning in the direction of "not wearing pants" when it comes to weekend breakfasts. I've managed to streamline the process down to just one dirty pan and can get it done in the time it takes to brew a cup of loose leaf tea (my caffeine delivery vehicle of choice right now). I've even managed to sneak in a couple vegetables so I can pretend I'm a healthy adult. 

It starts off the day before with a quick trip to the store. I like to his Roswell Provisions in the Historic District to grab a couple fresh croissant and either ham or Canadian bacon from Patak's. The croissant will be a little stale by the next morning, but still delicious. But you can grab whatever bread and sandwich things you like. The point is that when you roll out of bed Saturday morning, starving, you can feed yourself without trying to remember where you left your shoes.

When it's time to fix breakfast, I start by heating up a glug of olive oil in a pan and sautéing either spinach or kale. Spinach cooks faster, but kale is less watery and I like it better with eggs.  You could do mushrooms, or peppers and onions instead. I'm not going to tell you how to live your life. While it cooks, slice open your croissants and scramble a couple eggs. For two people, I do three eggs. One egg per person isn't enough and two is too many. When your veggies are done, set them aside and put your pan back on the stove. Take a minute to heat up your breakfast meat now. It should only take a minute. When it's hot, layer it onto your sliced croissants. Pour your scrambled eggs into the hot pan and let them cook. Top your sandwiches with your cooked veggies, your eggs and close up your sandwich. 

I've timed myself doing this and it takes me about ten to fifteen minutes, which as long as you'd spend waiting for an egg mcmuffin at McDonalds and certainly less time than waiting for a table at Thumbs Up on Sunday morning. But it tastes way, way better and you can be in your jammies the whole time. I hear McDonalds frowns on that. 

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Saint Patrick's Day in Roswell & Alpharetta

No. No we aren't. 
So St. Patrick's Day is coming up on Monday. Or the day everyone pretends to be annoyingly Irish, whatever you want to call it. I'm not a big fan of noise and crowds and cultural appropriation, so I'll be staying in that night. But if you thrive on crowds, here are some nearby to celebrate. These places will probably have specials going all weekend too.



  • Mac McGee's in the historic district is a clean, friendly neighborhood bar with Old World trappings. The food is good and the drinks tasty. If I didn't already have my neighborhood watering hole picked out at The Roswell Tap, I'd be over here all the time. It's welcome addition to Canton street. As an Irish bar, it will definitely be doing up the big day in style.

  • Just around the corner, the aforementioned Roswell Tap is throwing their annual party. Expect live music and a special Irish themed menu on Friday. You can read my review here.

  • Over in Crabapple, the Olde Blind Dog Pub has drink specials as well. Sadly, I've never been there, so you'll have to tell me about it.

  • Harp Irish Pub over by the Publix on Old Alabama is also open for the party. I've only been once and that was years ago. I remember it being a little shabby. But there's always a line out the door for St. Patrick's day, so they must be doing something right.
Any other places I'm missing? Tell me in the comments. 



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Sunday, March 9, 2014

An Insider's Guide to Historic Roswell

Historic Roswell is amazing, especially Canton Street. There's so much to see and do and it just gets more exciting every year. When I first moved to Roswell and discovered Canton street, there were only a handful of shops and restaurants. Now it's becoming a destination dining scene with frequent activities like Alive After 5, First Friday Art Walks, and the upcoming Roswell Beer Festival. It's getting pretty crowded over there. Here's my picks for the best spots in Historic Roswell with a focus on avoiding the crowds.  Soon, you too, can be a smug, suburban hipster like me.

Parking

Even the back alleys of Historic Roswell look really cool. 
Parking can be a nightmare on Canton street. There are only a couple public lots and they fill up quickly, no matter the time of day. At night, they become valet only. I always park at the nearby City Hall. It's free, there are 400 spots available, and no one seems to know about it. Yes, it's a tiny walk and it's dark at night. Get over it. It's not that far, even if you are walking all the way to Woodstock road and you are in Roswell, not east Atlanta. It's aggravation free parking.

Drinks

I really like the bar at the Mill Kitchen & Bar. It's lots of lovely dark wood, excellent crafted cocktails, a large selection of bourbons and good service. I'm kinda meh on the rest of the restaurant, but the bar is a winner. If you are just looking to meet someone for a drink, go here.

The Mill Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon
Steak and Eggs Benedict at Little Alley. 

Brunch

I have a couple picks here. If you are in a rush, or just want something light, check out Roswell Provisions. They serve pastries, coffee, tea and hot chocolate all day. On weekend mornings they have a limited selection of hot items, like breakfast sandwiches. They have limited seating when they are busy, so you might find yourself on a park bench across the street.

For a longer brunch, go next door to Little Alley Steaks. They don't advertise it, but they do a great, not terribly expensive brunch menu on Sundays. It's not well known, so the restaurant isn't as crowded as it usually is and the service is excellent. I reviewed it more completely back in October.

Little Alley Steaks & Seafare on Urbanspoon

If you had too much fun the night before and you are getting up late, PURE taqueria on Alpharetta highway is practically empty at 11 am when it first opens and does a latin inspired brunch menu on Sundays. If you like their food, but hate their crowds, this is a good time to visit. Just note that since they aren't a traditional brunch place, they don't serve orange juice or coffee.

Pure Taqueria on Urbanspoon

  Dinner

Short rib burger at Artisan Foods
There are so many places to get dinner in Historic Roswell. But if you want something quiet and not busy, hit up Artisan Foods Cafe on Thursday, Friday or Saturday night for their weekly Burger & Beignet special. They do a short rib burger on a soft brioche bun that is amazing, along with ground lamb, turkey, shrimp and vegetarian options. At ten dollars, it's not a cheap burger and sides are extra, but it's very good quality. You'll have the restaurant almost to yourself and as they don't have a liquor license, they allow you to bring your own bottles. Depending on how much you drink with dinner, that might balance your equation a bit.

Artisan Foods on Urbanspoon



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Monday, February 17, 2014

Recipe Free Cooking: Easy Vegetarian Curry

This will all be food soon.

People ask me all the time where I get my recipes for the blog. I think some of them think I'm cooking my way through a book, similar to the Julie/Julia project everyone saw in that stupid movie. And while I do frequently consult recipe books and cooking blogs for inspiration, I'm just as likely to walk into the kitchen, quickly scan the fridge and then start making something. I learned how to cook pretty young, so I'm very comfortable in the kitchen. My mom taught me to cook dinner with her, and I saw her modifying and adapting recipes on the fly to suit our family's tastes and so I picked up the idea that a recipe is just a guideline. 

Recipe free cooking makes you so much more flexible and versatile in the kitchen. Once you are familiar with your ingredients and confident in your skills, you will be doing it all the time. Instead of just knowing a few recipes, you know a couple of methods for creating a meal. And that's what makes a good cook. You'll get there with practice. 

There's a couple things that really lend themselves to recipe free, improvisational cooking. Soups, curries, and stir fries are my go to meals when I have a hodge poge of ingredients and desperate need to eat dinner. They all incorporate large amounts of healthy vegetables and are easy to prepare. They are flexible enough to include anything you've got on hand, and rely on easy to store pantry staples, like chicken broth, canned beans and brown rice. 

Check out the picture. All the things in this picture will combine together to make a delicious vegetarian meal. It's easy. I heat up a little oil in my pan, brown some onion, garlic and ginger if I've got it. No worries if I don't. Then I add a generous spoonful of curry powder. I don't measure. Stir everything around to make a paste, then add the peeled, chopped carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms and kale. Add a big pinch of kosher salt. Stir some more and add a can of rinsed and drained chickpeas, and a can of tomatoes if you've got it. If you don't, no one will die. Add the coconut milk, turn the heat down and let the whole thing simmer on low until the vegetables are tender. Serve over brown rice and enjoy. 

What else can you add? Broccoli is good. So are potatoes or kohlrabi. Any kind of winter green works.  Green beans are probably okay. Just throw something in! If you need meat to be happy, throw some leftover roast chicken or pork in at the end.  Skip the chickpeas if you don't like them, or swap out another bean. Use chicken or vegetable broth instead of the coconut milk. Use tomato sauce instead of the canned tomatoes. Pour it over quinoa instead of rice. Really, I don't care. You won't hurt my feelings any. Make yourself  happy. Improvise. Experiment. Enjoy. 

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