Ouch. Sunday afternoon began with a trek to retrieve the car from its quite faraway DUI Avoidance Location. On the way back I picked up several liters of rehydration supplies and some BBQ from DBA. It all looks gorgeous, but as last week's Creative Loafing review warned, it was all terribly dry, and the 2 tbsp of sauce included in the box weren't enough to save it. Also? No crispy bits. I give it a 5.0/10.0. We didn't even finish our sandwiches until we got back to Marietta. Plus I really didn't dig the stew, and that's saying something.
What were good were the onion rings, spicy doughnuts of sweet Vidalia love that didn't even need any ketchup.
Nostalgia and drinking continues unabated. Saturday we spent the afternoon and, well, most of the evening at another old old fave in Little Five Points, the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, which began with huge deadly shots of tequila, followed by a petite but nicely varied selection of beers, and finished with some surprisingly way above-average BBQ. The pulled pork sandwich and Brunswick stew (sort of pictured below) were really the most satisfying I've had so far this trip (notice I'm not saying "best"), and on that scale I have to give it a 8.5/10.0, which includes a massive margin of error given the probable tequila skew.
Then, our judgement began (or continued) to fail, and we went to Metalsome Karaoke for the second night in a row. This was not a problem in itself: Metalsome is a live band karaoke situation that is not really like anything you've ever seen before. The judgement failure involved more tequila. Totally too much fun, and ouch are we paying for it today.
This is the thermometer outside, it's hung in the shade of an old stone fireplace in the backyard. I took three pictures of it just now, one after the other, and from the time I took the first one to the time I took the third one, the temperature went up one degree to 93°F. That's 34°C to you People Over There. And it's only noon. Yesterday it was a good bit hotter.
Below: we're staying at a friend's house, which is a stone's throw from where Mara and I lived 14 years ago when we lived downtown, so we're surrounded by many of the places we used to go back in those historic times of our first "dating" experiments.
This morning I went across the street to pick up some breakfast and coffee from Alon's, which used to "only" make the best croissants and pastries in town. They've now blossomed into a full-service gourmet grocery with multiple branches, but luckily they still make my old favorite, the poppyseed-raisin danish.
Yesterday was our first day down here, and we walked and walked and walked, and sweated and sweated and sweated.
As it got later in the day and passing motorists switched from air-conditioning to rolled-down windows, we were treated to a twilight Dopplerized medley of Michael Jackson's greatest hits: probably half the cars on the road were simultaneously listening to different extracts from the King of Pop's pre-HIStory catalog.
I recently posted about a bar where I spent most of my twenties. I forgot about the bar where I spent the other half of my twenties. This would be the Highland Tap. Primary attractions? Subterranean windowlessness; sleazy crimson gentlemen's club decor; frosty-cold Sierra Nevada; even-colder martinis with big gorgeous olives; excellent burgers. You really can't tell how big this blue cheese burger is from this photo b/c the onion rings are also humongous, there's no way to get a sense of scale. Trust me, it was big: Mara and I split this.
Tonight: chiles rellenos con camarones y queso affumicato. Or the same thing in accurate Spanish. Plus a salad with Homesick Texan's buttermilk dressing, otherwise known as "ranch dressing". Above, we see the peppers being blackened so their skins can be (hopefully) slid off.
Today I once again found myself hungry and directly in front of a BBQ place.
Coincidence? Not wholly. Since I
thought I was going to be tasting some purportedly-good BBQ in the next few days, I figured I would create a control by tasting the BBQ I've eaten the most of, Williamson Bros. The historical reason for this spectacular devotion is one-fold: Williamson Bros. is about 1 minute away from our old house.
In brief, let me say that, as with Sonny's, something has changed. Though in this case I fear it may be my palate (a lot can happen in 10 years). The best thing I can say about my BBQ pork platter is that it met the needs of my BBQ craving. Their sauce isn't bad, and though the pork itself was dry, it was real BBQ. My choice of sides (fried okra and cole slaw) warranted a couple of bites each and that was it. My official rating is a 6.5/10.0: worth the 1-minute drive, but any further and I could easily have been disappointed.
Time is flying, we're trying to manage some sort of balance between doing things and not doing things, and there's a pronounced lack of focus at the moment. For reference's sake, here are some relevant food things it probably makes sense to do:
We're going to be spending an evening next door to DBA Barbecue, so a visit seems inevitable, but based on popular opinion we should maybe hitFox Bros. for comparison...I don't forsee time for a Daddy D'z trip, but I've eaten there enough as it is...
Understandably, Saturday began with some Hammock Time. Followed by some White Sangria Time, some Sierra Nevada Time, and eventually some Paella Time. And then of course some Playing Until 5am Time. The cumulative effects of which completely negated the positive effects of the original Hammock Time.
Friday began innocently enough, with an admirably responsible number of beers at Charlie Mopps, which will always be known to us as Taco Mac, because back when it was called that, we were some of their most regular customers of all time, personalized mugs, brass nameplates on the bar, etc.
It's easy to see how it happened: for eight years Taco Mac was right down the road from our office, they had 300+ beers to choose from, and so understandably this is the bar where I spent most of my twenties, and where much personal drama occurred, but almost exclusively the good kind. Here's kind of what it used to look like:
Returning to The Present: For some reason, after successfully reaching the idyllic back porch, manly amounts of Scotch were consumed by some members of our party. By 9pm Steve's Panamanian wife Mary had whipped up something I'm pretty sure she can make in her sleep, pollo asada with black beans and rice (eaten with generous pours from a bottle of habanero sauce), and then we spent the next couple of hours trying to revive a miscalibrated Steve (bottom left), miraculously succeeding around 1am and then playing for several hours, until were all quite miscalibrated.
If this is supposed to be some kind of summer break, I'm failing miserably. Could we please bring on the quiet time?
I'm quite far behind on posting pictures, but please bear with me: I just got back from a Weekend With The Boys, and you probably know what those are like.
So, skip ahead to tonight: pictured above is a relatively imposing-looking posse that I am somehow related to. We have a Big Adventure planned for this coming weekend in which we are all going to get dressed up and wreak havoc upon yet another cousin who is the bar manager of a "hot" "club" downtown. I imagine that once all of us sizable dudes are all dolled up we will look like not much more than Mara's security team.
Tonight, however, we were all about cooking. Chris (above left) is an actual chef, and he made seared scallops with a beurre blanc and a pomegranate reduction, served with a pretty perfect salad: arugula, bacon, cherry tomatoes, and a truffle vinaigrette. Mara and I made Chinese pork ribs, red food coloring and all, from this Saveur recipe, our only modification being a halving of the hoisin sauce, but in retrospect I think the original recipe may have been a better idea.
The semi-mangled piece of BBQed chicken in this picture is not really the point. The point is the corn salad directly north. I could eat this all day. It's from a now-gone restaurant (or perhaps there was more than one?) called Stringer's Fish Camp, that used to specialize in fried fish and this awesome side dish. This recipe comes from here, below is my slight modification/Europeanization.
stringers corn salad.
1/4 cup mayonnaise 1/4 cup sour cream or crème fraîche 1 to 3 tbsp cider vinegar, depending on your vinegar and your corn 2 biggish (400gr?) cans of corn, drained 1/2 cup minced sweet onion 1 jalapeno or other hot green chile (Holland or Thai would be fine), seeded and minced salt and pepper to taste
Combine and chill for an hour before serving. Serves 4 I would imagine.
Finally had banh mi today, and, well...I've got some good news and some bad news. Actually they're both the same news: it's a nice sandwich, but I'll take a broodje pom hands down, any day of the week, etc. I really don't think it's that I had a bad one (or two)...I'm pretty sure I get how it works. It's just really no competition for Amsterdam's Indo-Surinamese sandwich trade. Sorry!
More detail to come, but for now: what we have here is a pretty OK Gator Taco, a not-so-great Cajun Egg Roll, and a perfectly delicious Abita Turbodog from AJ's (we just wanted a tiny bit of food, and these were the smallest things on the menu...turns out they were also the least impressive things we've eaten there).
Then a few hours later we made a series of small plates for the family dinner: some Monterey Jack and mole quesadillas (yes, mole from a jar); some shrimp satays with peanut sauce + some of those reliable quick Surinamese pickles (because there we are overwhelmed with cucumbers from the garden), plus a watermelon-feta-mint-balsamic salad that I've been wanting to make for a long time, very good.
Sorry for the oversaturated photos, I'm not using my computer, and the image-tweaking software I'm currently using has no patience for my normal shenanigans. It's also a Mac keyboard, and so my typing isn't what it should be. Typos abound.
So, we're in Atlanta, staying with Mara's parents in the house that used to be "ours" (and in fact still feels pretty much like "ours" because almost nothing has changed about it: same old billiards table, same old couches and beds, same old custom-osity of furniture, same old creative room-to-room paint jobs, ect ect ect).
A side effect of this is that, for better or worse, we are in our old stomping grounds: by car, there are only a couple of ways in and out of this neck of the woods, and each of them involves passing one or more nostalgic landmarks. Today's case in point: Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q.
If you're looking for guitar strings in East Cobb these days, your options are few and far between: I headed down to the Big Chicken, turned south on Highway 41 (yes, that Highway 41), and was looking for the now-defunct MARS Music (which I then remembered had already been gone the last time I looked for it) when I realized that A) I was hungry, and B) I was right in front of Sonny's.
Now, if you're a real BBQ person you'll cringe at this, but I used to eat at Sonny's all the damn time back in the 1990s. I knew that it wasn't the best BBQ in the world, but it was right on my way home from work, that's the only excuse I can offer.
After reading tons of negative reviews about Sonny's on the Google wire, I have some disturbing news: I think it used to be worse than it is now. In fact, I think I'm happy to report that either it has improved significantly or I have been so unbelievably BBQ-deprived for the last 7 or 8 years that I am under the illusion that it has improved significantly, either of which is fine by me. Today I had a pulled pork sandwich with their new hot sauce, which I thought was a solid improvement over what I remembered (if you click on the bottom picture you can check out the list of highly unnatural ingredients).
This sauce compels me to highlight the fact that Sonny's is a chain, and their BBQ sauces are very obviously not the result of some grizzled old pitmaster hunkering down over a hot stove, tweaking his decades-old recipe into perfection: these sauces are straight from the laboratory. Nonetheless, considering my recent lack of BBQ, this was a satisfying sandwich experience overall.
I'm planning a few more BBQ excursions while I 'm here: since Mara is ostensibly on a Pork Hiatus, I've got to get some pig somehows. So for the sake of comparison, I'll call this pulled pork sandwich a good, solid 6.0/10.0, with the strong caveat that this is my first BBQ sandwich in a long time: absence has almost definitely made my heart grow fonder.