Saturday, September 27, 2014

Curry Roasted Acorn Squash

Fall is finally here, which means I no longer have to feel guilty about turning on my oven. I love fall in north Georgia. It's the prettiest time of year and it has all of my favorite foods.

Big Trees Forrest Preserve in Sandy Springs

Look how pretty that is! And it's not hot and sticky outside anymore and all the mosquitoes are gone! This is my favorite time to be outside in nature. 

Thanks to Georgia's long growing season, the best foods are being harvested now. Crisp apples, savory winter squashes, fresh kale... The list goes on and on. 

And oh those winter squashes. Look, I've tried with summer squash. I've had them all, zucchini, yellow crookneck, patty pan. I've tried them grilled, fried, baked, sautéed and more. The only way I've been able to enjoy them is in zucchini bread. And if you have to chop it up really small and hide it inside a cake, you aren't really enjoying that vegetable, are you? 

But winter squash... savory, sweet. Blended into a soup or roasted in the oven. I was ridiculously excited to see the first acorn squash of the season in the Roswell farmer's market last Saturday. I was less excited when the farmer suggested I drench it in butter and brown sugar to eat it. I mean, yeah sure, butter and brown sugar make everything taste better. But there are just some things that just don't need it. 
My version of roasted acorn squash forgoes extra sugar and fats in favor of a hearty dusting of curry powder and drizzle of olive oil.  Curry powder goes amazingly with winter squash. Trust me. You'll like it better than sugar. It's simple enough to have any night of the week, but looks fancy enough to sneak onto the Thanksgiving table. And don't tell the carnivores, but it's actually vegan, so your hippy friends will love you. This is worth waiting for winter squash season. 
Curry Roasted Acorn Squash

2 acorn squash, sliced in half long ways and seeds removed
Extra virgin olive oil
Curry powder
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Slice your squash, carefully, because those suckers are tough and scoop out the seeds. Brush with olive oil, then sprinkle generously with curry powder and salt. Place on a cookie sheet and roast for about 20-30 minutes, or fork tender. To eat them, fluff up the insides like a baked potato and scoop it out with your fork. Makes a great side dish and fantastic leftovers. 

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Target Gives Discount for Bringing Own Bags Now

I am probably the last one to realize this, but I discovered last week that Target will take five cents off your bill for reusable bag you use at the check out line. I don't buy a whole lot of groceries there, but sometimes I will grab one or two things when we go to pick up prescriptions. I definitely plan on taking advantage of this in the future. Five cents isn't much, but considering how often I shop at Target, it'll add up for me. It's a great incentive to use the store more often.

Why is this a big deal? Aside from the environmental impact of not throwing away tons of new bags every year, bags cost stores money. When you bring your own, they save money. Which is fine, but I'm doing this for the baby sea otters, not for the grocery store's bottom line. So it's nice to see a company recognize that and pass that savings on to me.

Any other stores doing bag discounts? Let me know and I'll make a list of them on the blog.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sugar Shack in the Back (from the owners of the Fickle Pickle)

Bagel bombs and mini-quiche 
I want to be good. I want to eat only healthy, organic vegetables. I want to be a vegan until 6PM every day. I want to run marathons, do yoga and eat only locally farmed, sustainably raised eggs. I want to be good.

Then Andy Badgett has to go and open another goddamned restaurant.

Badgett's been kicking around historic Roswell, owning and operating several great restaurants including Asher, Relish and Pico Autentico. However, he's best known for Fickle Pickle Cafe, a Canton street mainstay as long as I've lived in Roswell. I don't go as often as I used to. There's more choices in the neighborhood than there used to be. But you still can't beat a basket of fried pickles fresh from the kitchen served up alongside the Oooey Gooey sandwich (grilled pimento cheese and pepper jelly, on whole grain sourdough.) Yum.

The Sugar Shack in the Back takes the barn behind the Fickle Pickle, which was previously their events facility, and transforms it into a cozy little bakery. We know from the dessert selection at the Pickle, that Badgett and his staff can put together a mean carrot cake cookie and red velvet cupcake. This bakery concept takes that and cranks it up to 11, adding breakfast pastries, made to order biscuit sandwiches and coffee. Vanilla glazed beignet share a case with jalapeño cheese bagel bombs and an assortment of flakey turnovers, both sweet and savory. You can watch the guy behind the counter rolling cookie dough in a bowl of M&Ms and laying it on a cookie sheet.
Frosted cinnamon rolls 

Tuesday was the "Friends & Family" preview. It was advertised on Facebook, so we decided to try them out for breakfast. (Disclosure: Since this was a special event, our meals were complimentary.) Years ago, Fickle Pickle experimented with a breakfast menu and my husband spied the return of his favorite and most lamented chicken biscuit ever at The Sugar Shack. I, of course, had to try the Ooey Gooey biscuit. The chicken biscuit was as good as remembered. It's a flakey, buttery biscuit, stuffed with a fried chicken breast, cheese and an egg cooked to order. My biscuit was filled with pimento cheese, bacon and sweet red pepper jelly. Both were very good, though my sandwich could have benefited from warming up the pimento cheese before serving. The cold wad of cheese was a little off-putting. I told my server when she asked for feedback and she promised to follow up.

The reason elastic waistbands were invented
The glass case wrapping around the room was only partly filled, but the ice cream freezer was fully stocked. An enthusiastic member of the staff explained that made to order ice cream sandwiches are part of the offerings. Choose a cookie and then your ice cream and someone will assemble it right in front of you. They'll even do it with one of their cupcakes, which sounds like a good enough reason to wear stretchy pants for the rest of my life.

They only serve coffee and lattes as drinks right now. Orange juice is reportedly on it's way. These are nothing fancy, just something to wash your pastry down with. I enjoyed my chai latte.

Time will tell if this bakery will stick around. The location, tucked away behind Fickle Pickle doesn't do it any favors. Parking is notoriously tricky there, but during the week, there is overflow at Founders Hall across the street. Or you can do what I'm likely to do and park at City Hall. It's only a half mile walk. It's not hard. But the food is well worth the trip and the owner has a great track record. If you are looking for a casual breakfast option, this is a great place.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Roswell Food Truck Park Struggling

The end of the school year is really walloping me hard, but I wanted to pass on this bit of news. The Roswell food truck park, at Don White park has gone on hiatus until Memorial Day weekend. Up until they announced the hiatus, their Facebook page seemed like an endless string of cancellations due to weather or the dreaded "mechanical difficulties." So it's nice that they are taking a bit of time to regroup and wait until the season really starts to heat up in Roswell. But it's also worrisome, as it seems like they are having a hard time building momentum this year.

For me, I'm pretty busy for the next couple weekends, so I couldn't visit the park even if I wanted to. But none of the trucks so far have impressed me and made me say "Yes, I HAVE to try that!", the way the trucks at the Alpharetta Food Truck Alley do. Here's hoping when the trucks return to Roswell, they bring some new tastes with them.

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

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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