Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Maple Oat Scones with Maple, Coffee & Cardamom Glaze


My friend Samantha gave me a new baking cookbook for my birthday last month. It was the perfect one for me. So sweet when someone knows exactly what will put a smile on your face. 
Not that I need another cookbook. But when it comes to cookbooks....it isn't about need, right? I'm a collector. I read them on lazy Sundays and in bed at night. Having a surplus is not a problem. It's a joy.


I already have Little Flower: Recipes from the Cafe, which is awesome. Samantha gave me Little Flower Baking and it is gorgeous. The book is from Christine Moore, owner of the Little Flower Cafe and Bakery in Pasadena, CA. It's co-written by her pastry chef Cecilia Leung. The lovely photos are done by Staci Valentine. Basically it's a feast for my eyes and imagination and I couldn't wait to make something from my new book.


When I feel like baking something quick, scones are one of my 
go-to bakes. I love scones. They can be humble and simple or made into a fancy tea-time treat with little nuggets of chocolate, fruit, or nuts. I'm particularly fond of plain scones served with apricot or fig jam. The Maple Oat scones in the Little Flower Baking book caught my eye. I'm already so ready for fall to get here....these flavors conjure up the cooler days, fall leaves, warm cider, chunky sweaters, pumpkins, and heartwarming foods that I love.


I stayed pretty true to the recipe. Changed up the glaze a bit by adding in some instant coffee ground and my favorite spice, cardamom. Yum.
Sometimes scones turn out very buttery-tasting and flaky, which for me is ideal. These were a little more cakey in texture....a bit like a muffin. I like the flavor of the oats and maple and the glaze was GOOD! Don't leave that part out, K?


Are you as excited about fall baking as me? Tarts, apples, pumpkins, caramel, fruit, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom.....so much to love. What are you looking forward to making?

Need more scone love? Here's two more scone recipes to check out from Happily Edible After:

Orange Poppyseed Scones
Pumpkin Scones with Medjool dates, Pecans, and Brown Butter Glaze 

Maple Oat Scones with Maple, Coffee & Cardamom Glaze
Makes about 8


Adapted from Little Flower Baking

Scone:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, chilled
2 eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup maple syrup

Glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 Tablespoon water
Instant coffee granules, fine, to taste {I used about 1/2 teaspoon Starbucks}
Ground cardamom, to taste {I used about 1/2 teaspoon}

Preheat oven to 375F.
Prepare a half sheet pan with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine the flours, oats, baking powder, cardamom, sugar, and salt on low speed. Gradually add the butter on low speed and mix until pea-sized lumps form. {I reached in and rubbed butter in a bit with my hands}

Add the eggs, buttermilk, and maple syrup. Mix on low just until you have a shaggy mass of dough.
Transfer dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a 1-inch circle. Cut out scones with a 3-inch round cutter. 

Place scones about 1-inch apart on the sheet pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Make glaze while scones bake. Place confectioners' sugar, maple syrup, and water into a bowl and whisk together till smooth. Add coffee and cardamom and mix in. The texture of the glaze should be like a thick glue.
Spoon glaze over scones while they are still slightly warm. Enjoy with a cup of hot tea or coffee!


 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Savoring Vino Venue


If you don't know about Vino Venue, I have a question for you....where have you been my friend?
This unique spot in the Dunwoody neighborhood is truly an impressive destination for food and wine lovers. Vino Venue is a wine bar/retail store, restaurant, and event venue. They are the home of the Atlanta Wine School and offer everything from wine fundamental classes, to wine/food pairing, to wine certifications.
I have been to Vino Venue a few times in the past, but only  experienced a small taste of what they have to offer. My lovely and talented friend Melissa Pelkey Hass put together quite the gathering for our blogger group recently at Vino Venue. We were invited for a tasting of the new restaurant menu from Executive Chef Patric Good and Sous Chef Will Hunt.



Vino Venue has traditionally served small plates, but with the recent remodel of their restaurant kitchen, they have created a varied and expansive menu including heartier dishes. Lucky us, for sure!
At our tasting, Chefs Patric and Will gave us a personal "tour" of the delicious, new menu - while Manager/Partner Rob Van Leer poured some specially-selected wines. We started with a refreshing glass of bubbly to enjoy with Cajun spiced pork rinds and these perfectly crispy Beer Battered Green Beans with Roasted Garlic Aioli. Did you know that a sparkling wine/champagne pair well with salty, fried foods?


Ok, next up, some amazing appetizers. I don't know about you, but a few appetizers or tapas can make a very happy meal for me. Really enjoyed these three, including the Ducktrap River Smoked Salmon Rillettes {cue the cute 'lil canning jar} with Sourdough; Wild Mushroom Flat Bread with Truffle Creme Fraiche and Pea Shoots; and Stuffed Roasted Piquillo Peppers with Adobo Chicken, Cotija, and Cilantro Cream. Please don't ask me to choose a favorite small plate. Way too hard to decide. And then this glorious mess showed up.....


Faux Poutine. Yep. I'm not sure why they call it "faux"....because this is the realest real, crazy-good, bowl of sexy poutine with steak fries, pulled beef short rib, demi-glace, and Irish cheddar.
Hands-down, this is indulgent. But if you share it with a couple of other hungry friends, maybe you can still fit into your work out gear.
This is something I would never make at home, so what a treat to try it at Vino Venue. No guilt.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Sweet Spot for Tea at Steep Tea House


It's elusive. A Saturday off. When it happens it feels special. 
Time to be savored. Adventures waiting.
Recently, I had one of those special Saturdays. Jay and I decided to explore our next-store neighborhood farmers market in downtown Canton. We discovered a perfect spot to start our morning at Steep Tea House, a few steps from the market.


I love the feel of Steep. Bright and airy with lots of big windows, plants, cozy couches, modern lighting, and some fun, folky woven wall art. It feels like a huge space. Definitely a different look and vibe from any tea house I've visited.
Steep opened in April...just a few months ago. Owners Lyn and Ruffin Moye also own Moye Tea Company - an on-line retail tea company. 
How about these adorable yellow table and chairs and yellow flowers out front? They make my heart happy. Yellow is my cheery color and having a day to play is a good for the soul.


Before heading over to the farmers market, we enjoyed some down time at Steep. It wasn't crowded and we were happy to get seated right by the window. We started with my favorite, a big pot of chai tea served with milk.
Happy to see eggs on the breakfast menu, I opted for the everything bagel with egg and bacon. Jay ordered the french toast on cranberry pecan bread. We shared halves {our standard practice}. Both tasty. For me, the bagel sandwich could use the addition of something a bit creamy....perhaps some cream cheese, pimento cheese, or avocado. Jay's french toast was quite nice - loved the flavor of that bread. Yum.


I would definitely like to go back for lunch or bring some friends in the evening. Steep is unique {and smart, I think} in that they offer beer, wine, tea-infused cocktails, appetizers, and live music on the weekends. 
Very cool! 

Here's a glance at a few more delicious-sounding items offered on the menu:

Breakfast:
  • Avocado Toast with sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, olive oil, balsamic, feta or white cheddar cheese
Lunch:

  • Chicken Salad Sandwich with herb roasted chicken, yogurt, figs, rosemary, and lemon zest
  • Ploughman's Platter - Crusty Bread. Choice of 2 cheeses, slices of ham or turkey, olives, chutney, sweet pickles and mixed nuts
Cocktails:
  • Hemmingway's Iced Tea - Hibiscus Tea, Prosecco, Grapefruit, Basil, Lemon



Steep Tea House

198 North Street
Historic Downtown Square of Canton, GA 30114


770-213-8890 
Tuesday - Saturday 
9am - 4pm
CLOSED: Sunday & Monday


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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Joyful Japanese Dining at Nakato Atlanta



Last week I had the opportunity to attend a food blogger dinner at Nakato Japanese restaurant in Atlanta. While I had been to Nakato a few years ago, this was the first time I had the pleasure of dining in a "tatami" room {traditional tea room}. What a sweet and special experience. The food and service was stellar.
Our host was general manager Sachiyo "Sachi" Nakato Takahara, who runs the restaurant that was founded in 1972 by her grandmother, Tetsuko Nakato. If you can believe this, Tetsuko took on this grand adventure in the restaurant business at the age of 65! That's pretty amazing for someone who had only recently come to America. What a role model!

Sachi with a portrait of her grandmother, Tetsuko


While many diners are familiar with the main dining room of Nakato and the sushi bar, the tatami rooms are a traditional Japanese dining experience known mostly to Japanese businessmen. Upon our arrival, we were asked to remove our shoes before entering our tatami room and make ourselves comfortable by sitting on floor pillows. I truly felt like I was shedding the weary layers of the world here. Ushered into this peaceful sanctuary, I could quickly let go of the busyness of my day.
Sachi started our evening by giving us a little history of the restaurant and the Executive Chef Yoshifusa Kinjo, who is from Okinawa. Nakato has been family-owned and operated for almost half a century and takes pride in preserving the cultural traditions of Japanese cuisine. They even offer tea ceremony classes and flower arranging classes.

Photo credit: Sachi Nakato Takahara
 

Our Japanese "immersion" dinner started off with a bang, with this Shiso Shochu aperitif. I have tasted Shiso before in sushi rolls and I really enjoy the flavor of this Asian plant. Part of the mint family, it is juiced here and blended with bayberry and potato vodka for a really refreshing start.
Oh, and yes that's gold leaf. A touch of beauty.

Shiso Shochu

We also enjoyed a sample of traditional Sapporo beer and found out that in Japanese culture it's bad luck to pour alcoholic beverages for yourself {I guess unless you are drinking alone....LOL}.
Sachi did us the honor and poured for us in lovely blue glasses. Sapporo is the oldest brand beer in Japan.


Our dinner was a multi-course delight and I found myself getting excited every time a new course was presented. I tried a few things that I've never had before and was happy to be in the capable hands of Chef Kinjo for this amazing tasting menu.
Chef Kinjo crafts dishes that are as beautiful to look at as they are to eat. How about this one? Our starter was a King Crab Salad with Apple Vinegar. Simple and so refreshing with bursts of citrus.

King Crab Salad with Apple Vinegar

Next up, was a unique "5 point" appetizer plate, with Miso Grilled Black Cod, Salmon Terrine, Slow Cooked "Tsubugai" Sea Whelk, Fried "Kawaebi" River Shrimp; and "Sora Mame" Broad Bean. Have you ever eaten a sea whelk? Nope, not me. You give it a little twist to coax it out of the shell. It tastes of the sea to me. Slightly chewy and mild. Really not a pretty little guy, but tasty!
It's good to try new things people, I promise!

Black Cod, Salmon Terrine, and Sea Whelk
Fried River Shrimp, Broad Bean

Moving on, the freshest fish literally jumped off the plate and into my mouth. Our sashimi plate consisted of "Madai" Japanese Snapper, "Toro" Marbled Tuna, and "Isaki" Grunt fish.
What a treat served in a beautiful presentation over ice! If Nakato has one thing down, it is the feeling you get that Chef Kinjo has spent time thoughtfully thinking about his diners and these dishes. 
I know I felt the his care and detailed attention with each course. 
Every consumer wants to feel this way.

Sashimi Plate

So, when I saw the next course listed on our menu, I had to smile to myself. I have had the traditional savory custard "Chawanmushi" a few times before. It is savory, pure comfort food, and umami in a bowl. This was probably my favorite highlight of the night. I love the silky texture and all the flavors and textures that whirl together here. Heaven.

Chawanmushi

Our family-style shared plates included assorted Tempura, Miso Glazed Eggplant, and "Yakitori" Chicken Skewers with Sea Salt and Teriyaki Glaze. All delicious and that eggplant was on point. If you aren't a huge eggplant fan {like my husband}, this dish might just change your opinion. The creamy eggplant and the miso together are a perfect marriage and so succulent.
P. S. - I don't know if you've noticed the lovely serving pieces, bowls, and plates here, but they only add to the charm of Nakato. Sachi travels to Japan yearly to bring back these treasures, designed to reflect the seasons.

Tempura with green tea salt

Miso-Glazed Eggplant
Yakitori Skewers
What is a joyful Japanese dinner without some delicious sushi? Nakato did not let us down and continued to impress with some gorgeous and super fresh plattters of sushi rolls, along with a Short Neck Clam Miso Soup. Here's a fun fact....Sachi told us that sushi originated as a "gambling food", with the rice rolls wrapped in seaweed so your hands wouldn't get sticky.
If you head over for sushi, I would suggest the "Omakase" Sashimi platter, where you get the chef's choice of the day's freshest ingredients.


You know I love a good creamy dessert and our Green Tea Panna Cotta totally hit the spot at the end of our evening {does it have to end??? cue serious whining}. It was light and I loved the addition of the red bean paste. Although Sachi mentioned that not a lot of Americans have an affinity for the red bean, I beg to differ. One of my favs. Oh and that brown sugar syrup? The perfect touch.

Green Tea Panna Cotta with Red Bean and Brown Sugar Syrup
Ok, now you want to know how to get your own dining experience at Nakato, right? Here's the scoop. First off, if you live OTP {outside the perimeter in Atlanta} - GO INSIDE! You won't be sorry you made the trip and honestly you just won't find this type of place anywhere else. If you live ITP {inside the perimeter}....you are just a lucky dog and I'm jealous.
At Nakato, there are four unique dining options:

  • Washoku/Main Dining Room: European-style dining with customary Japanese cuisine.
  • Sushi Bar: You can watch the sushi chefs working their magic on fish flown straight in from Japan's Tsukiji Fish Market. "Omakase" is available here, where you leave it to the chef to surprise you. 

Photo credit: Heidi Gelhauser
  • Teppanyaki/Hibachi: Private chef cooks on the iron griddle for small groups. Come be entertained!
Photo credit: Heidi Gelhauser

  • Tatami Rooms: A rare find in the United States....enjoy an intimate, multi-course dinner or order from the Sushi or Washoku menus. $15 per person for seating {be sure to call ahead to reserve your private room}. Come bring your family, a group of friends or co-workers and let Chef Kinjo spoil you for the evening.

   
A big thank you to Sachiyo "Sachi" Nakato Takahara and Chef Yoshifusa Kinjo for hosting our hungry group and giving us an experience of a lifetime. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu!
Wow, what a memorable night at Nakato! 
I will be thinking about the ambiance and those incredible flavors for some time. And I can't wait to bring my husband back...he loves Japanese food too.
Thank you to Debbie Rosen of The Rosen Group Atlanta and Melissa Pelkey Hass of The Front Porch Gourmet for coordinating such a fun evening.

Nakato Japanese Restaurant
1776 Cheshire Bridge Road, N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30324
p 404.873.6582 | f 404.874.7897


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Mon - Thurs, 5:30 - 10:00
Fri - Sat, 5:30 - 11:00
Sun, 5:00 - 10:00


Photo credit: Sachi Nakato Takahara



Saturday, June 3, 2017

Summer in Atlanta - Find a Food Truck!

Happy Belly Truck

It's summertime and the living is easy. Summer makes me think about warm, lazy days and hanging out at food truck parks in my neighborhood. Nibbling and noshing with friends.
Why are food trucks so darn cool?
  • They are like a portable restaurants on wheels.....a movable feast of sorts. They travel to all sorts of places and local events and serve up hot, deliciousness in minutes. No waiting for a table!
  • Food truckers are culinary innovators...creating novel, hand-held street foods that are way better than typical fast food. You can get your favorites or try new ethnic dishes. Hit up a food truck park and choose between a juicy, pimento cheese-slathered burger; fusion fish tacos; handmade gelato; flatbread pizza; Maine lobster rolls; ceviche; curry; or fancy grilled cheese! Pretend it's tapas night and share a bunch of items with friends. These days you can even find healthy options and paleo, vegetarian, and gluten-free choices. Food trucks make trying new things deliciously fun, easy, and inexpensive.
  •  These folks are passionate food-preneurs and put their heart and soul into what they do. I can only imagine how much love and energy goes into preparing the dishes, driving and getting to the venue, setting up, and serving up lines of hungry folks.   I like supporting the little guy....or lady.
 
So, have you been to a food truck night or food truck park lately? Many parts of Atlanta, inside and outside of the perimeter have specific nights where the food trucks congregate and serve up their specialties. Many of these outdoor settings are prime for bringing your own lawn chair and enjoying local musicians perform while you eat. Super family friendly and some great people-watching.

Alpharetta's Food Truck Alley

 

So, because I like making lists and helping out my fellow food adventure seekers.....I've put together two lists for your food truck pleasures this summer. First is a list of many local food truck nights, including neighborhood, day/time, address, and links to their Facebook pages where you can get the latest news. 
Second is a list of a local food trucks to explore! This list certainly doesn't include every food truck in the city, but it's a good start to explore the variety of cool trucks out there. Click on the links to find out more about the truck and their specific menus/specialties. You can also track down their schedules and go find them. Yeah, go chase them down, meet the chef, and get to know their story.




Sesame fries from Yumbii



Food Trucks Days in and around Atlanta




Hood:              Dunwoody

Day:                Thursdays

Time:              5P – til?

Address:         4770 N. Peachtree Rd. (Brook Run Park)

Deets:             April through October




Hood:              Downtown Atlanta

Day:                Fridays

Time:              11A - 2P

Address:         12 Broad St. NW (Broad St. Plaza at Five Points Marta Station)

Deets:             Live entertainment too!




Hood:              Midtown

Day:                Thursdays

Time:              11A - 2P

Address:         12th St. and Peachtree St.

Deets:             Year round – typically features 10-14 vendors




Hood:              Suwanee       

Day:                Fridays

Time:              5:30 - 9P

Address:         350 Town Center Ave., Ste. 101

Deets:             Typically features 10 vendors and live music




Hood:              Duluth

Day:                Fridays

Time:              6P – til?

Address:         3142 Hill Street NW - downtown

Deets:             May through September – live music  https://www.facebook.com/Duluth-Food-Truck-Fridays-626389244060176/

 

Hood:             Lilburn          

Day:               Tuesdays

Time:              6 - 9P

Address:         76 Main St.


 

Hood:              Atlanta/Woodruff Arts Center

Day:                Fridays

Time:              11A - 2P

Address:         1280 Peachtree St. NE

Deets:             Go see some art and grab lunch!




Hood:              Midtown/Colony Square

Day:                Fridays          

Time:              11:30A -1:30P

Address:         1197 Peachtree St. NE

Deets:             May through October



Hood:             Brookhaven  

Day:               Wednesdays

Time:              5 - 8P

Address:         3493 Ashford Dunwoody Rd. NE

Deets:             Blackburn Park, April through October



Hood:              Alpharetta     

Day:                Thursdays

Time:              5 - 9P

Address:         37 Old Roswell St.

Deets:             Live music, bring your chairs and stay a while!



Hood:              Cumming                  

Day:                Mondays                               

Time:              5:30 - 8:30P

Address:         7745 Majors Rd.

Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center

Deets:             Live music, bouncy houses, picnic tables – April  through June



Hood:              Smyrna

Day:                Tuesdays

Time:              5 – 8:30P

Address:         3180 Atlanta Rd. (Taylor-Brawner Park)

Deets:             July through October




Hood:              Kennesaw

Day:                Mondays       

Time:              5 - 8P

Address:         2828 Cherokee St. (Depot Park – across from the    Southern Museum)

Deets:             “Dinner at the Depot” – May through October    



*Don’t miss the food trucks daily at Truck & Tap in Woodstock

Hood:             Woodstock                

Day:               Truck changes daily

Time:              Monday-Thursday: 11A -10P
       Friday:     11AM - 12AM
       Saturday: 11AM - 12AM
       Sunday:   11A - 10P

Address:         8640 Main St.

Deets:             Food trucks and local craft beers



*Don’t miss the Atlanta Food Truck Park and Market

Hood:              Atlanta                       

Day:                See below

Time:             Tuesday & Wednesday: 11A – 3P, 
                       Thursday, Friday & Saturday: 11A – 9P 
                       Sundays from 12P – 7P.  Closed Mondays

Address:         1850 Howell Mill Rd.

Deets:             Atlanta’s only food truck park! Free parking & pet-friendly   





Explore some awesome food trucks that call Atlanta home!