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Entries in restaurants (20)


Sweet Tea, Barbecue, and Giant Cheese; or, Things I learned in Mississippi & Alabama

Note: To any MS/AL natives, proponents, defenders, or Mississippi/Alabama state tourism bureau officials who may read Hungry Sam -- this list of food-oriented lessons learned is not exhaustive, significant, or even planned out. Don't worry about it.

1) Lesson Number One: Sweet Tea is Sweet

Sweet tea, as it turns out, is very sweet. Very, very, very sweet. Wicked sweet. Extraordinarily sweet. And is served in quantities far greater than I could reasonably stomach.

I have somehow lived my life to date without ever trying true southern sweet tea. Now, that has been rectified. Let's move on, before I offend anyone.

2) Lesson Number Two: Birmingham has Pretty Damn Good Barbeque

I have a hard time comparing barbeque because of the endless varieties and styles and meats and all that good stuff. You might say I'm a barbecue relativist -- I appreciate (most) individual barbecue experiences for what they are.

That said, I managed to find some seriously legitimate barbecue in Birmingham, at a joint called Jim 'N Nick's BAR-B-Q. Below, revel in the glory of my combo pulled pork and spare ribs platter with a side of corn muffins, bacon collard greens, and baked beans. (I wasn't hungry for another 18 hours.)


3) Lesson Number Three: At Mississippi State University, You Can Obtain a Giant Ball of Cheese

I know this because I was given a four-pound ball of Edam cheese from Mississippi State University as a thank-you gift by the members of my org's Mississippi state affiliate. I kid you not. It's the size of a medium-sized canteloupe. Or a canonball, which was apparently the origin of the mold size.


Thank you, AAUW of Mississippi, for the cheese.


The Best Brunch in All of Atlanta

I have a favorite brunch place in several cities. Visiting Portland, ME? Bintliff's is the absolute bees knees (get the corned beef hash, made with huge chunks of house-made corned beef). Swinging by Rochester, NY? Hit up Simply Crepes (and order a crepe. Duh). In Washington, DC for the weekend? I do dearly love Busboys and Poets (pretty incredible crab benedict; they call it "The Neptune").

If you live in, are stopping by or just within a couple throusand miles of Atlanta, I'd like to recommend The Best Brunch in All of Atlanta: Murphy's.

Why Murphy's? There are the basics (great service; superb coffee and espresso drinks; shafts of brilliant sunlight which shine through the open french doors; the calm breeze which meanders through and around the restaurant). Oh, you want three really, AWESOME, food-related reasons? OK:


Oh my God. You might think you don't like grits. I betcha you'd like them if someone were to, say, cook them in cream and cheddar cheese, cover them in a piquant tomato and andouille sausage stew, toss on a handful of giant spice-rubbed grilled shrimp, and top it all off with a perfectly poached egg and scallions for good measure.

Seriously. I have dreams about this shrimp and grits. It's what brings me back to Murphy's every time I visit Atlanta (every two months to see Jen). They're so good, I'm salivating just writing about them.

Two more reasons and a Hungry Sam Housekeeping Note after the jump!

Click to read more ...


Mini-Post: Super Seafood Pizza

I'll keep it super quick. As part of the Triumphant Return of my boss, she elected to take us all out for a tasty lunch at our friendly neighborhood and strangely-punctuated upscale trendy restaurant, Bar-Cöde on L St. NW. (See why we celebrate her return?) 

I've eaten here three times, but my experience last Friday was by a significant margin the best of the three -- in large part due to this pizza stuffed chok-a-blok with seafood. 


The best part was that each shellfish element of this seafood smörgåsbord was well cooked in its own right: the giant mussels had garlicky tomato sauce; the shrimps were clearly pan seared in a little garlic, butter and wine; the calamari were fried spicy and tender (not at all rubbery); and the little octopi were peppery and delicious.

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Gratuitous Jokes about My Divorced Eggs

I'm not totally insane. I know that most of the foods and dishes I blog about wouldn't amuse a normal person as much as they amuse me.

However, the whole table at Mexican brunch (Don Jaime's in Mt. Pleasant) on Sunday found some humor in this dish:
It's called Huevos Divorciados. Yes, that's right, Spanglish speakers: I ate "divorced eggs" for breakfast.
Now, this might seem perplexing if you don't know the backstory to this sad yet delicious state of things. But I think I've pieced it together.


Warning: I'm about to take something moderately amusing way too far.

Click to read more ...


A Whole Fish, For the HALIBUT


Sorry I cursed. Now my sole is definitely going to eel.

I'll stop, I promise.

Once upon a time, I went for Ethiopian food at Dukem (one of the best in D.C.) with my friend Rebecca. Must have been a while ago; I seem to recall it being the first hot weekend day of the year. No matter.

For those who haven't had the pleasure, Ethiopian food, as it is served in America, tends to be various stew-like dishes of cheese and yogurt, lentils, other vegetables, and meats in little piles on top of the iconic, spongy Ethiopian Injera bread -- which also happens to be the main "utensil" for eating the stews. It looks a lot like this:

Anyways, Rebecca is not a huge meat eater, so we opted for the vegetarian platter. I do, though, like to make lots of a protein a dietary priority, so when we were asked, "Would you like fish on the side?" I enthusiastically said yes. I don't really know what I was expecting (maybe a cup of a fish stew? perhaps a tan of tuna in a bowl?), but I was not expecting this:

It's just a whole fish. Headless, obviously, and about 10 inches long.

It was DELICIOUS. The whole thing was fried but without any sort of breading or batter, with vertical cuts in the skin (presumably to prevent the fish from curling in one direction during cooking, as whole fish are wont to do). Great flavor (particularly with the included lemon wedge) though mild, much like trout, with a crispy texture and not too many wayward bones. I ended up attacking it with my hands as we didn't have silverware and the injera was too soft to make a good barrier between the fish and my fingers.

SO TASTY. Thank cod I said yes to fish.

Ok, I'll really stop.


Custom Brewcrafters: Beer, to Order

Just a few of Custom Brewcrafter's 30-odd beer choices. 
Once in a while, you come across a company with a truly brilliant business model, an enterprise that contributes a wonderful product in an innovative way. Custom Brewcrafters is one such, a brewery that taps into the creativity of its clients while drawing on age-old recipes and techniques to make its suds.

Clearly I'm a fan. But before I delve into my visit, let me explain what makes CB so special.

Micro- and craft-brewing has taken off in the last few decades. In fact, during the recession, sales of craft beers have remained strong and actually increased. My uneducated theory is that it's a testament to growing American interest in products that were grown, crafted, or brewed with some level of attention and care, even love. Sort of a "mass-produced=evil, small-batch=sustainable" attitude that may or may not be at all rational. Another reasonable explanation for the trend may simply be that making beer in small quantities is a better reflection of how beer's been made for the last 11,000 years -- we're returning to our roots, in a way.

Whatever it is, most people I know tend to prefer these craft brews, or at least certain varieties (such as my personal favorite beer, Allagash White). BUT.

Let's say you own a restaurant and you already have an excellent beer list, with German Pilseners, Trappist ales, double-dark coffee stouts, and Vermont-made organic beers. But let's say you want to provide your clientele something special. You want to serve you OWN brew, one that perfectly complements your menu. But you don't have the know-how or wherewithal (or the capacity to make it profitable).

So you call up CB. You talk to their master brewers and you go over your menu and your specialties. You talk about the sort of beer you want to drink and sell, and you know what they do?

CB's stills.
They Custom Brewcraft it.

So, my visit to CB: It's come up that I went to the the University of Rochester in New York, home of garbage plates and awesome wings. My mom actually grew up in Rochester, and her parents are still in town, so we swung up through town last weekend for the Fourth. I'd only been to CB once while in school, but a weekend back in Rochester seemed like an opportune moment to return.

My Dad, Granddad, and one of our family's oldest friends, Joel, visited on Saturday afternoon, excited for a walk through the brewing facilities and hoping for a full-fledged tasting. With a few minutes to kill before our walkthrough began, we explored a few of the non-beer samples available -- the Bhut Jolokia chile (or "Ghost" chile; over one million Scoville heat units) sauce on a meatball was...painful.

So. Spicy. You can even see the chile-induced sweat.
Afterwards, a very knowledgable fellow named Steve walked us through the whole facility.

We tasted the grist and some of the roasted barleys as well as the hops (bitter!), and he answered our questions about everything from the water CB uses (Monroe city water; some of the freshest in America) to the filtration process.

We must have spent an hour wandering through the brewing area before returning to the tasting bar. I'm not going to go into detail about every beer we tasted (I tried about 12 of the 30-odd brews CB makes, both under its own brand and for numerous area restaurants), but my favorite was the double dark cream porter, which overflowed with the rich, earthiness I'd expect from dark roasted barley and a hoppy but not overly bitter finish.

Some dude at the bar. There are more taps around either corner.
After three hours, I came away better educated about the beer making process, better enlightened as to more than a dozen qualities brews native to upstate New York, and, I'll freely admit, a little tipsy.

My Granddad mostly liked the beers; this may, however,
have been the one he declared "shit."
Custom Brewcrafters has a fantastic approach to brewing beer, and clearly hires men and women who know and love their ales and lagers. Despite their relatively small capacity, they create a broad range of interesting and unique beers, from IPAs to Pilsener styles to red ales. The tour was the best I've been on, and is a must-do for anyone in or visiting Rochester with an eye to learn something more about beer.


Frolicking in Southern Food: Georgia Brown's

This cornbread is shaped like corn! Will wonders never cease?
Every now and again, I'm asked "What should be on my D.C. bucket list? What are some must-see, must-dine experiences I need to have hereabouts?" I have a new addition to my series of suggestions: Georgia Brown's, a restaurant with a well-deserved status as a Washington landmark.

You see, growing up in Maine and going to school in Rochester, NY, I think I always perceived Washington, D.C. as some sort of food frontier, the North's last culinary fort before the expanse of the deep fried South. In my mind, Southern food is buttered and fried then buttered again, then chicken fried (whatever the hell THAT is). I've since learned of the savory wonder of cheese grits and andouille shrimp stew, and of the sweet crunch of perfect corn bread, and I've since learned that there is no one "south," just as it's fallacious to claim there's a single "north," with one single culture, attitude, and cuisine.

Enough of my previously-held personal predilections (woot alliterative adjectives); on to Georgia Brown's!

As a padawan health nut, I generally avoid fatty, carby offerings for lunch -- let's face it, 95 percent of the time the meal wasn't worth the aftereffects. Also, I will fall asleep. BUT with the boss taking us out (she engages in frequent awesome bouts of feeding us!) and with what I'd heard about Georgia Brown's (WORTH IT), I decided to embrace GB's rich, spectacular, southern offerings.

The menu presents what could be described as up-scaled and creative versions of solid comfort-food classics. Deviled eggs, fried green tomatoes (more on these), fried chicken, jambalaya, and shrimp & grits; pretty much what you'd expect, I suppose -- but better.

But the

Also, see the cornbread picture above. Shaped like corn! SO ENTERTAINED BY THIS.

I opted for the lunch prix fixe menu, as did most of my colleagues, which included an appetizer, entree, and dessert. On my boss' recommendation I decided to start with a fried green tomato (a dish my mom always resisted making because she wants all the tomatoes to ripen up for jarring our sauce). No simple FGT these, though:

First of all, it was crispy and lightly breaded to succulent perfection. Served atop a sort of green tomato relish, or chutney or somesuch, the appetizer was drizzled with a light green onion mayo. Then, just to drop-kick it into the culinary stratosphere, the tomato was STUFFED WITH GOAT CHEESE. Yeah, you heard me. AWESOME. This dish wowed me, and was perhaps my favorite part of the meal aside from the aforementioned cornbread.

Here it is again.
Next, I selected the chef's special, which on that day was a brisket, served in a thick, rich, peppercorn gravy with vegetables atop a mound of red mashed potatoes.

My picture does NOT do the food justice -- the brisket was perfectly tender and generally well-spiced; it flaked nicely with my fork alone and without any of the stringy, get-stuck-between-your-teeth character brisket can at times acquire. Though delicious, it was perhaps the least adventurous step of my journey into GB's offerings.

Finally, for dessert, the chef provided a simple caramel-drizzled chocolate sheet cake and a piece of sweet potato pie/tart, with a solid dollop of home-whipped cream.

I have to say, the cake was mundane and totally outshone by the tangy, rich, nutmeggy pie. I made all-gone, likeso:

Talk about a lunch. Yes, I felt like I'd gained 74 lbs., and yes, it took inordinate levels of afternoon caffeine to remain productive -- but worth it? Abso-wicked-lutely.

Georgia Brown's has earned it's title as: "One of Hungry Sam's Favorite Restaurants (when someone else is picking up the tab)." Excellent, excellent experience; I highly recommend it.