Eating my Weight in Sugar & Spice in NYC: Part 2 – Wicked Hot Chocolate

In the same fifteen minutes I bought my chocolate chip walnut cookie at Levain Bakery, I also bought a hot chocolate from Jacques Torres Chocolate shop in the same neighborhood.

I’m a bit of a masochist when it comes to food, haven’t you noticed?

Anything with the name Jacques Torres is bound to be good.

Google him.

Now, this wasn’t just any hot chocolate, this was the shop’s “Wicked Hot Chocolate” made with real chocolate (not cocoa powder) and spiced with ground ancho chili peppers, cinnamon, allspice and ground chipotle chili peppers.

This drink was rich, thick, and not overly sweet. The only thing I would have liked to have tasted more of was spice! To me, it tasted like regular hot chocolate, but if I’m asking for “Wicked” hot chocolate, I want to feel that burn!

Pardon me, my masochism is showing again.

Normally my refined taste buds are accustomed to the sickening sweet, but oh so good hot chocolate at Quick Trip (yes, the convenience store) and drinking the Wicked Hot Chocolate was a much-needed reminder that sometimes the best things in life are a little she she, a little bougie and cost more than $.99

I cannot appropriately describe the way this hot chocolate made me feel.

I almost forgot who I was when drinking this.

That’s what good hot chocolate and New York City will do to yah!

Google

Google

Jacques Torres Chocolate

285 Amsterdam Ave. between 73rd and 74th Streets

 New York City

212- 787-3256

Eating my Weight in Sugar & Spice in New York City: Part 1

I am not ashamed to admit I just spent $4.00 on a single chocolate chip cookie.

I am also not ashamed to admit that I nearly ate that one cookie by myself in nearly a single sitting.

Allow me to explain.

This cookie was about the size of my fist in diameter, and practically the same thickness as well.

I introduce to you the Chocolate Chip Walnut cookie from Levain Bakery on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Excuse me while I curl up in the fetal position and rock myself back and forth from the fullness I am currently experiencing.

But oh my goodness, was it worth every. single. bite.

Crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside.

For all my Food Network fans ( I swear I watch that channel just as much as I watch Bravo), this cookie beat chef Bobby’s Flay chocolate chip cookie on his show Throwdown.

I will never look at another cookie the same way.

Levain Bakery

167 West 74th St.

New York, NY 10023

212-874-6080

Athens Review: The Local Jam in Five Points

Who doesn’t love biscuits?

And I don’t mean the canned kind that pop out.

They scare the bejesus out of me and give me mild heart palpitations every time I try to open one.

No, I’m not talking about big, fluffy, flaky, biscuits with a touch of salt that  make you leave a trail of buttery-fingerprints behind.

Those my friends, can be found at The Local Jam.

I often find biscuits to be too dry, or too pasty-looking (i.e. not enough butter) for me to eat.  The biscuits at The Local Jam  were big and buttery. While I’m still partial to the biscuits at Chick-fil-A , these biscuits came in at a close second. Their homemade cherry-strawberry jam was just the right topping for it too.

The Local Jam is a restaurant in the Five Points neighborhood that took over the spot where Five Points Deli used to reside. They offer breakfast, lunch and brunch, and their specialties (besides biscuits and homemade jam) include  The Jamrrito ( a burrito filled with black bean chili, scrambled eggs, cheese, grits and topped with  jalapeno jam) and The Nat Mac (mac and cheese made with mozzarella, pesto, feta, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes).

Well, obviously I had to try The Nat Mac.

It was good, but I would have loved for it to be cheesier, although I give it points for using pesto.

My friend’s french toast (do you see a pattern?) was amazing.  The french bread used, is made  by local business, Alfredo’s Bread and provided the french toast with a perfect texture and taste. It easily makes my top 5 best french toast list.

I’m afraid I will be 500 pounds when I graduate.

Somebody save me.

The Local Jam

706-850-7232
1650 South Lumpkin St Athens, GA 30605

 

Fit for the Southern Belle I am Not: Chicken & Waffles at South City Kitchen

Remember the first time your parents came to visit during  freshman year of college?

Remember seeing their smiling faces, and you praising God that they came on a Sunday so that they could take you out to  dinner because the dining halls were closed and you hadn’t eaten since noon?

They had it coming.

Although my freshman days have passed, I still get giddy whenever I go home or whenever my parent’s visit, because that means I am back on my parent’s meal plan, if only for one day.

AMEN.

Which brings me to this past Sunday when my dad came to Atlanta for the weekend.

He told me to pick any restaurant.

That’s a dangerous question to ask a person like me.

I would have been fine with Cracker Barrel, but I decided to try something new and check out  South City Kitchen in Midtown. I had recently read a review of it in a local  magazine and thought it would be the perfect place to take my dad (err…for him to take me). The cuisine is upscale Southern and the magazine raved about their chicken and waffles.

They had me at waffle.

The restaurant’s decor and layout reminded me of travels to Savannah, with a big screened-in porch on the outside and large dining areas inside.

After being seated, we were greeted with a big basket of cornbread muffins and biscuits with sides of whipped butter and apple butter. The apple butter was so good I caught myself eating it with a spoon. For my entrée, I had to try the chicken and waffles. I’m not a big fan of fried chicken, but I threw caution to the wind and decided to order it.

I like to live dangerously.

The chicken was amazing and went perfectly with the malted waffle on the side.

But you know what the best part was?

The pure maple syrup on the side!

Angels eat this syrup.

Straight face.

Yesterday, I received a phone call from my dad asking if I would call South City Kitchen and have them ship a bottle of  syrup to his house.

I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

South City Kitchen

1144 Crescent Ave, Atlanta, Ga 30309 telephone – 404.873.7358

 

Gumbo with Andouille Sausage and Chicken

Egg and Bacon Pasta: Penne a la Carbonara

Since spring semester of school has begun, I have faithfully done two things when I get back home from class:

1) Eat a snack (some things never change)

2) Turn on Food Network.

My two shows of choice are The Barefoot Contessa and Giada at Home.

Oh, how I do love these two lovely ladies.

Sometime in November, I bought Giada’s first cookbook, Everyday Italian,and I cannot put it down. It has every Italian recipe you could think of, including a scrumptious Penne Carbonara.

What is that you may ask?

A rich, heart-clogging, stuff-your-face pasta dish made with bacon, eggs, cream and Parmesan cheese.

I almost had a stroke writing that.

So one cold evening I decided to try it, because winter gives me free excuse to eat this way.

Salad? What salad?

Penne a la Carbonara

From “Everyday Italian” by Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 4

1 pound pancetta, diced into 1-inch cubes (substitute bacon, if you cannot find pancetta)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature

1 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (You can use pre-grated Parmesan)

1 pound dried penne

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves (Dried herbs and garlic powder work fine as well. Be liberal)

Heat a large saute pan, until hot. Add pancetta and saute until golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Season with black pepper and remove pan from heat.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in Parmesan, reserving 2 tablespoons for garnish.

In a large pot, boil 6 quarts of salted boiling water. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander. Do not rinse with water; you want to retain the pasta’s natural starches so that the sauce will stick. While the pasta is still hot, return it back to the pot. Add the browned pancetta and mix well. Add the cream mixture and coat the pasta completely. It’s important to work quickly while the pasta is still warm so that the cream mixture will cook, but not curdle. Add remaining Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Athens: Ted’s Most Best Pizza

A horrible, horrible thing occurred this past week.

So horrible I can’t even fathom how I survived.

I shudder to think.

Chills.

I lost my appetite.

I know, worst. thing. ever.

But seriously, it was kind of depressing. Food didn’t taste as good as it once did, even my boxed macaroni and cheese tasted, well…tasteless. I survived on  toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and my tortilla soup I had made (review to come).  But there was no joy in eating, no comfort.

Thankfully by Friday night, my taste buds awoke from the dead and overjoyed me with their presence.

For my friend’s birthday, we went to a new pizza place in downtown Athens called Ted’s Most Best. It’s across the street from Clocked (great burgers!) and was converted from an old auto garage. Trés cool.

The menu consists mostly of  pizza, paninis and salads, and is reminiscent of Transmet –  if only Transmet had the Perrella pie with mozzarella, goat cheese. prosciutto, herbs and garlic.

I’ll just go ahead and say it – that pizza  was delicious! The goat cheese added a surprising tang to the tomato sauce, and the prosciutto was not too salty, and was a nice balance with the cheeses and herbs.

All the pizzas come in individual sizes, but in my opinion  are large enough for two people to share depending on how hungry one is. They have a couple of speciality pies, such as the Perrella, but patrons are free to make their own pie with ingredients such as artichoke hearts, sopresseta and roasted eggplant.

The snob in me came out a little bit after eating this meal.

I don’t do Dominoes…well, starting AFTER college.

My roommate had the…wait for it…

Baked goat cheese salad.  Yes, you read right, baked goat cheese.

Two hunks of goat cheese are breaded and baked, and served with a mixed green salad and a couple of slices of Luna baguette bread. It was divine. Thank you Paige for the taste!

Although the prices are a little more expensive than what I would normally pay for a pizza, you definitely get what you pay for in terms of quality ingredients.

I shall be back!

Ted’s Most Best

254 W. Washington St.

Athens, GA 30601

(706) 543-1523

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

“It’s the same thing,” he said.

– A.A Milne,
Winnie-the-Pooh

I think we can all learn a thing or two from Pooh and the gang.

Sun in My Belly: Monday Brunch

Who says you can’t have brunch at 11:30 a.m. on a Monday morning?

Did the weekend end all ready? Must have missed that memo.

Just one of the perks of being an unemployed student on winter break.

Maybe I should re-think this brunch thing.

Naaah…

My friend suggested this place  for a recent get-together in the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta.  At first, the name kind of bugged me out – ‘Sun in My Belly?’ I had visions of hipster pregnant women, barefoot, eating vegan and gluten-free pancakes.

What? That wasn’t your same perception?

Moving on.

Sun in My Belly is actually part catering company, part cafe. Once I saw the menu full of breakfast and lunch delights, I knew I was in for a treat. They have a variety of lunch staples, such as sandwiches, soups and salads – Truffled Chicken Salad with roasted garlic aioli on pumpernickel anyone? But my eyes went straight for the sweet stuff, and knowing me I immediately zeroed in on the french toast.

 I needed some inspiration for my next french toast recipe. I’ve had  amazing french toast at The National and The Grit in Athens,  but this one may have topped them all.

I had the Challah French Toast stuffed with honeyed ricotta and served with bananas foster and maple syrup.

Everything about the french toast was amazing. The bread was thick and fried crisp, the ricotta oozed out and tasted faintly of honey, and the bananas were sweet and syrupy.

My friend had the MLT sandwich (mozzarella, lettuce and tomato) with Buffalo mozzarella, mixed greens, tomatoes and basil pesto served on country bread. She also had  a side of  roasted beet couscous with goat cheese in an orange and cumin vinaigrette (good flavor combination) and a cup of mushroom soup.

Everything about Sun in My Belly is adorable, from the inside decor, its outside charm, and most of all its food. It almost reminds me of the Athens restaurant, Marti’s at Midday.

If only more restaurants could up the adorbs factor…

Vegan pregnant women aside.

 

Overnight Baked French Toast

When I was a kid on Christmas morning, I can remember waking up, going straight to the gifts and then settling down in the kitchen for the Pillsbury cinnamon rolls that were always waiting for me.

I haven’t seen those cinnamon rolls in a minute, however I decided to keep a Christmas morning tradition alive this year and make something new from scratch.

Overnight baked french toast.

If that word doesn’t hit the spot, then I don’t know what will.

Sadly, when the dish came out of the oven drizzled with syrup and into my mouth, the results were somewhat disappointing.

A misadventure indeed.

The main issue was that it was too eggy and a bit soggy. In fact, instead of the bread soaking up all of the egg custard, the eggs cooked in a layer of their own. For every layer of bread, there was a layer of cooked eggs accompanying it.

I’m guessing the author wanted to give us more bang for our buck.

College student I may be, but I can afford the extra egg if I wanted to make scrambled eggs.

If I were going to try this recipe again, I would have baked it for twice as long.

Side Note: Did you know that brown sugar doesn’t melt in the oven? That if you crumble it over bread and dot the top with butter, the end result will look like bits of crumbled beef (or so my brother says) than the gooey syrup I had envisioned in my head.

Don’t be like me.

But those top slices of bread were the best slices of cinnamon-sugar toast  I have ever tasted.

To make up for this debacle, here is a recipe that I know is fool-proof from the great Ina Garten from the show, “The Barefoot Contessa.”

Enjoy.

French Toast Bread Pudding

(From “The Barefoot Contessa, How Easy is That?” )

Serves 8

1 challah loaf (you can also use Italian or French bread), sliced 3/4 thick

8 extra-large eggs

5 cups half-and-half or milk

3 tablespoons of honey

1 tablespoon of grated orange zest

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the bread in two layers in a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish, cutting the bread to fit the dish. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, honey, orange zest, vanilla and salt. Pour the mixture over the bread and press the bread down. Allow it to soak for 10 minutes.

Place the baking dish in a larger roasting pan and add enough very hot water to the roasting pan to come an inch up the side of the baking dish. Cover the roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil, tenting it so the foil doesn’t touch the pudding. Make two slashes in the foil to allow steam to escape. Bake for 45 minutes, remove the foil, and bake for another 45-50 minutes, until the pudding puffs up and the custard is set. Remove from oven and cool slightly.

Serve with powdered sugar or maple syrup.

I Consider Myself a “Classy” Foodie: Cracker Barrel and All

As soon as I tell people I have a food blog, they either ask me one of two things:

1) Can you cook? (See title of blog)

OR

2) What are your favorite restaurants?

This one is a little bit trickier and after a couple of milliseconds batting my eyes and having a glazed look come over them, I manage to stutter out The National in Athens.  I like The National and I would kill to go back there and have their banana bread french toast just one more time (let’s not go there), but is it my absolute favorite restaurant?

No.

My favorite restaurant is actually a pizza place called Monicles Pizza in Peoria, Illinois; the town I grew up in. To non-Peorians, Monicles would be nothing special. Pepsi, not Coke (we’re north of the Mason-Dixon line ya’ll) is served in pitchers, the salad consists of shredded iceberg, American cheese, and bits of tomato chunks which you drown in their  French Dressing which God himself must make, and then you have the pizza, which is as thin as cardboard.

But oh my goodness is it all so, so good.

My point is, when you claim yourself a “foodie” people expect you to name a five-star restaurant manned by a  James Beard award- winning chef as your favorite place, not restaurants that have had a health-code violation within the past year (and I’m not talking about Monicles or Cracker Barrel here).

So yes, I still claim myself a foodie because I love food. I will try anything once, and so far my most adventurous eats have been octopus, curried goat, escargot, and my mother’s casseroles. Make no mistake, I am no Anthony Bourdain.  I think restaurants that serve Pan-Asian-Dutch-Brazilian-Samoan fusion cusine can be wonderful, but so far, none have rocked my boat…yet.

I’m still trying to figure out my own likes and dislikes when it comes to food. What I do know, is that right now my palette is craving Hot Cheetos.

Fancy food at its finest.

P.S. I go to Cracker Barrel for three things and three things only: Pancakes, biscuits and corn muffins.

Sue me.

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