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Entries Tagged as 'Southern Cuisine'

White Oak Kitchen + Cocktails

WOKC (Downtown)

WOKC (Downtown)

I have been a huge fan of Chef Josh Hopkins ever since he showcased his talent at the Leap Year Dinner at One Eared Stag last year. Soon after that, he took the helm at STG Trattoria where he continued to amaze people with dishes such as pork chops with sweet potato puree, fried quail, homemade pastas, and braised octopus, to name a few. In January, he announced his departure at STG which saddened me but was relieved to find out he was just moving downtown and in to WOKC.

WOKC (Downtown)

WOKC is in downtown. That means you have to park at the many street parking lots or pay a hefty price at nearby hotel parking decks. Or, you can use their complimentary valet parking. I love valet. It’s convenient and quick, not to mention safe — I don’t have to walk in dim alleys and fear for my life to get to where my car is. Let me also mention that the place is really nice. It’s so modern and with amazing views of downtown. I don’t really care much about ambiance and decor, and if you notice from this blog, I eat mostly cheap (but good) food from hole-in-a-wall places. Fancy eating from this country girl doesn’t happen too often.

WOKC (Downtown)
homemade sweet muffins with soft butter and apple syrup (aka wow)

I’m not gonna lie — I came in with high expectations. After all, this is Josh Hopkins we’re talking about. STG is one of my favorite places to eat because of him. So, armed with my one month’s paycheck, my sister and a very good old friend took a page from my eating playbook and ordered (almost) the entire menu. Let me just tell you it’s one of the best meals ever. Food was super fantastic.

WOKC (Downtown)

We started with five appetizers. Naturally, we had to have the pork belly. It had crispy skin, tender, juicy, and tasty meat, and came with these small squares of sage stuffing. There’s a lot of good pork belly in our city but this one tops them all. Maybe because the pork was made to stand out. It didn’t have any distractions like some apple or fruit stuff or sweet accompaniment to it.

WOKC (Downtown)

The fried oysters were another winner. I don’t like huge oysters that take two bites to eat. These were bite-sized Apalachicola ones that were lightly dusted with corn meal then fried golden. But what’s interesting is the savory bread pudding and corn milk the oysters were sitting on. It’s like getting a bite of soft bread dipped in sweetish sauce. It’s so good it would make a great main dish if they super-sized it.

WOKC (Downtown)

The deviled eggs were not the boring ones you see everywhere else. The yolks were whipped creamy with bacon and then there’s this crispy tomato skin on top and minced pork rind. You get this flavor and texture explosion in your mouth.

WOKC (Downtown)

Ever had savory grits? Flavorful grits plus mushrooms, lentils, and porcinis. So good.

WOKC (Downtown)

WOKC (Downtown)

One thing you shouldn’t miss is the charcuterie plate. It’s a huge serving and if you consider everything on this plate, it’s really a steal at $15. Everything was fantastic on this plate: there’s homemade sausages, paté, different kinds of mustard, cured meats, grilled housemade brioche bread, a rillette of chicken innards, and the best part: bacon marmalade. Bacon marmalade! Don’t miss this one.

WOKC (Downtown)

I love pimento cheese. Growing up, my mom made hers from scratch, dicing fresh red pimentos and grating sharp cheddar and American cheeses. She’d make pimento cheese sandwiches and feed them to us as an after-school snack. It’s comfort food and I have to get it whenever it’s on any menu. Here, the pimento cheese is sandwiched between a stack of fried green tomatoes making it a real southern fare. The cheese is creamy and smooth just like I want it. There’s also this homemade strawberry jam that balanced the saltiness of the cheese. It’s a real good appetizer.

WOKC (Downtown)

We ordered four main entrees and stayed away from other ubiquitous items such as the steak and the fried chicken. Like I said, everything I ate here was fantastic. But the one that stood out the most was the duck. This, by far, is the best roasted duck in the city. There are so many elements that make a good dish: taste, texture, ingredients, execution, and smell. Sometimes, it’s just impossible to make ingredients and textures combine well with each other, even if it was executed correctly. Most times, chefs fail to realize that some ingredients don’t play well with each other. I usually consider a dish as very good if 4 out of 5 of those elements are present. It becomes awesome when a dish hits all 5. Well, this one hit it out of the park. The duck was juicy and tender and the skin had a light crisp and a tinge of sweetness. It came with this mashed sweet potato wrapped in bacon! Seriously, get this!

WOKC (Downtown)

WOKC (Downtown)

WOKC (Downtown)

The other entrees were equally amazing. I’m running out of adjectives and superlatives. I mean, how many more times can I use amazing, awesome, delicious, fantastic. So, you get the idea. I liked the braised short rib because it was peppery and savory. There’s also horseradish that gave the dish a slight spicy kick. The lamb t-bone was not gamey at all. And the grouper? Light and refreshing. You can taste the sweetness (as in freshness) of the fish. I love that the dishes here don’t have heavy sauces. The proteins are already considerable in serving sizes so I’m glad that accompanying ingredients and sauces were chosen to be light and not overpowering.

WOKC (Downtown)

WOKC (Downtown)

WOKC (Downtown)

You all know by now that I’m not a dessert fan. But my sister is. She got this Bread Pudding and Three Jars. I don’t remember what was in the three jars but she said everything was good.

Anyway, we had a fantastic meal — the food was unbelievable and the service was impeccable. This is my new favorite restaurant. Go now! That is all.

White Oak Kitchen + Cocktails
270 Peachtree St. NE
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 524-7200

White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails on Urbanspoon


Far away eats: Murray’s Southern Diner

Murray's (Carrollton)

I normally don’t post any out of town restaurants on here. But I felt you guys needed to know about Murray’s. I drove to Anniston, AL a few days ago and stopped for a quick lunch in Carrolton. My friend Docksocks owns The Carrolton Menu, a blog about the city and that’s where I found out about Murray’s. It’s a meat-and-two cafeteria where everything on the menu is prepared fresh each day using only the best ingredients.

Murray's (Carrollton)

Located in the middle of downtown, this dimly-lit joint was bustling with a good-sized lunch crowd when we came in. The grandma/chef is as sweet as any southern grandma can be. And she makes everything from scratch. Using fresh ingredients. Not canned! And while almost all meat-and-two places showcase only the meat part, this place have the best tasting sides ever.

Murray's (Carrollton)

Murray's (Carrollton)

All I can say is that this is the best southern food I’ve ever had. They have juicy, tender, flavorful meats. And forget bland, mushy sides. Here, they are outstanding — so tasty — that this is the only place that could turn me into a vegetarian. Seriously, I never knew greens could taste so good and so different. They also have this chicken dressing that was to-die-for.

Carrollton is less than an hour west of Atlanta almost to the border of Alabama. Stop by if you can. Or make a trip out of it. It’s that good. Oh and since you’re already gonna be in the area, check out the Barber Motorsports Museum in Leeds, AL. The motorcycle museum will blow you away.

Murray’s Southern Diner
301 Bradley St.
Carrollton, GA 30117
(770) 832-1310

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Southern Art

Southern Art (Chef Art Smith)

Sounds like a gallery, no? It’s actually Intercon’s new restaurant chef-headed by Oprah-famous Art Smith — a very warm, passionate person, who happened to be walking around and whom we were able to meet and have a quick conversation with.

Southern Art (Chef Art Smith)

Pickles, butter, and biscuits. Those tiny silver dollar sized biscuits are good. I could eat dozens of them. They’re crusty but the inside is soft and yeasty. The pickle jar had cauliflower, okra, radish, an unidentified veggie, onions, and carrots. The butter had a tiny bit of honey. Great appetizers and on the house, too.

Southern Art (Chef Art Smith)

But it said, “Chicken and Dumplings”!!! It was actually chicken soup with sheets of pasta. A generous portion, it was hearty but didn’t really blow me away. It was okay, but it lacked that oomph, for some reason.

Southern Art (Chef Art Smith)

Did anybody say fried chicken? It is a (glorified) southern joint after all. So what do we do? Get three orders. The Fried Chicken was good– it was tender, juicy and had flavor all the way through. I would have loved to have a crisp skin instead of a crispy crust that came off the entire chicken. It’s also quite pricey at $14. You get a smallish piece of breast with 3 tablespoons of unmashed potatoes and 3 leaves from a Brussels sprouts that doubled as gravy holders. But… you’re eating in a fancy hotel and the price reflects that.

Southern Art (Chef Art Smith)

Our server talked us into getting a side to share. The $5 Three Cheese Mac’ and Cheese came in a tiny container that was even smaller than a portion for one person. The presentation was good, it came in a cast iron ramekin. It had a good bread crumb topping that was toasted. It was quite flavorless, though, that I couldn’t taste any cheese, only cream. By the way, it came during the last couple of bites of our mains and when we asked our server about it, this is what she said, “Did you order it? If you did, then it’s coming.” Really? You talked us into getting it!!!

Southern Art (Chef Art Smith)

Southern Art (Chef Art Smith)

There’s this dessert table that greets you on your way in. Always a good trick. Feeling still hungry, we ordered the 12 Layer Red Velvet Cake to share. There are so many brilliant pastry chefs in Atlanta and whoever they got is a genius. It had thin layers of cake slathered with thin, uniformed layers of cream cheese frosting. It was moist and not too sweet. The frosting was creamy. It was really, really good. But don’t let the 12 Layer bit fool you. It literally consists of 9 regular-sized bites.

Southern Art (Chef Art Smith)

When we talked to Chef Art Smith, he asked us if we had ordered dessert. After we told him what we got, he said, “Oh, you must try the Banana Pudding… I’ll send one out.” Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you this is the BEST banana cream pie you will ever have in your entire life. No grandma can compare. None. This Banana Pudding had a thin caramelized crust, not graham and not made with flour. It’s more of ground nuts (I tasted almond) mixed with butter. The homemade pudding was divine, not too sweet, creamy and smooth. There were a generous amount of fresh bananas that were just of the perfect ripeness. Oh and it was topped with fresh Chantilly cream. OMG is an understatement. Like I said, the pastry chef is a genius.

The place has only been open a week so be prepared for weird service — not so much spotty — but really weird. On one instance, the server (with the straightest face) asks the three of us while holding three identical plates of fried chicken, “Fried chicken?” Hm. Kinda hard to figure out who got the fried chicken, huh? And then she clears the half-eaten mac n cheese which I was planning to play with, yet leaves the empty entree plates behind. It will improve, I know. If anything else, sit at the bar or the Au Pied de Cochon’s communal table which they decided to keep, and have a slice of their fantastic banana cream pie. The validated parking will be so worth the trip.

Props to my very good friend Thom Volarath for taking photos.

Southern Art and Bourbon Bar
3315 Peachtree Road NE Map
Atlanta, GA 30305
(404) 946-9070

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Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (Dahlonega)

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (Dahlonega)
I finished all these :)

If you didn’t know me or this blog any better, you’d think it’s a title for a recipe, no? NO. It is, however, the new place of Chef Steven Hartman. The one chef who made 20 adults (18 guys, mind you) swoon at the same time, in unison, with his custard. Yes, I was there. I saw it. I swooned, myself. You’ll remember him from Monteluce where he whipped up 5-star dishes. I still dream about all my meals there. His new project is still up in the mountains. Dahlonega. It’s a good hour and a half drive from Atlanta. But the drive is so nice. There are plenty of twisty roads and you’ll pass by a creek plus a small waterfalls that are all breathtaking. I noticed some of the trees were already turning its leaves despite still being late August.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (Dahlonega)

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (Dahlonega)

Buttermilk is a very unassuming place. It’s a fried chicken joint. But with class. Don’t let the location fool you. Yes, it’s in a gasoline station. In a unit right next door to the convenience store. But the inside is cozy and modern. And quirky. They have this clothes line up by the ceiling running from the cash register that allows written orders to slide through to the kitchen. Genius! A partnership between Chef Steven and former Monteluce manager, Brad Egnor, the joint and the food are labors of love.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (Dahlonega)

Fried chicken. First, you have to understand this isn’t your momma’s fried chicken. Nor your grandma’s. It’s not the southern style of hard, thick-crusted, browned pieces either. If you ordered fried chicken at the Ritz, this would be it. Made with Springer Mountain chicken and locally-sourced buttermilk, the chicken pieces are oh so tender. It takes, literally, rocket science to produce these. Brined in a sweet tea brine for two days (not 12 hours) then prepped in an immersion circulator, they are so moist and flavorful. What will make your jaw drop is the skin. After a long buttermilk bath in the immersion circulator, the chicken pieces are dipped in an egg wash and then in a concoction of dried ingredients. I was sworn to secrecy so I can’t divulge exactly what’s in it. In any case, the pieces are then fried quickly in super high temperature. The result is a crispy, thin-crusted skin that attaches to the meat and stays put up to the last bite. I have one word for you: delicious.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (Dahlonega)

The deliciousness doesn’t stop there. The sides, made with locally-grown vegetables, are unbelievable. On my visit, Chef Hartman had freshly-harvested crowder peas that he simply simmered in a comforting broth. The fried okra had a similar batter as the fried chicken and allowed the vegetable to retain it’s taste and texture. The buttermilk biscuits have a crumbly crust, dense, yet soft inside. You can taste homemade in them. Sides change daily depending on what’s in season and what’s available. Everything is made from scratch.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (Dahlonega)

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (Dahlonega)

For dessert, I had a BLT. (I was hungry!) This is one of the best BLTs I’ve ever had. The lightly griddled bread is soft and buttery and filled with smoky Benton bacon, heirloom tomatoes, crisp lettuce, and Duke’s mayo. I asked for a side of pimiento cheese and slathered it on the sandwich. The pimiento cheese is unreal. It’s not the goopy, creamy, sloppy kind you’re so used to seeing. This has nothing but shredded sharp cheddar, pimientos and the slightest bit of mayo. It’s spicy and cheesy. Yummy.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (Dahlonega)

Oh, before I forget… and speaking of swooning. Get ready to do it again: Coca-Cola Cupcakes. O.M.G. No, really, OMG!!! This sweet, super moist, dense cupcake topped with melted marshmallow is better than… any cupcake in the world. I don’t eat desserts but I will food commute two hours to Dahlonega daily just to get these.

This is definitely destination-worthy. Make a day out of it — visit one of the many vineyards around and spend time in downtown Dahlonega. You won’t be sorry.

Driving tip… because the GPS was wrong:
After you exit 400 N and take a left at Ga-136, immediately make a right on Auraria Rd which will dead-end onto Ga-52. My GPS wanted me to continue on to Auraria and made it look like Auraria becomes GA-52. It doesn’t. Auraria ends at Ga-52. There is nowhere else to go but to either make a right or left at this junction. Make a left on Ga-52 then an immediate right onto Clay Creek Falls Rd. This is where there are more twisty roads and expansive fields. Take in the sights. You’ll also pass by a creek and a small/short waterfalls. Clay Creek Falls dead ends on Oak Grove Rd. Take a right on Oak Grove Rd and the gasoline station is just right there.

Twitter: @ButtermilkChick
More photos here.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
2261 Oak Grove Rd.
Dahlonega, GA 30533
(706) 867-4963
Hours:
Mon-Thurs:6:30 am – 2:00 pm
Fri: 6:30 am – 6:30 pm
Sat: 10:30 am – 6:30 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm

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Best thing I ate last week: Empire State South

Empire State South

I was cajoled by my sister to have a very late lunch here. It was 15 minutes til closing when we came in but we made sure (called ahead) and asked again upon arrival if it was still okay to come in. I’ll leave the pedigree details to all the other reviewers here, here, and here. Great pictures from Ironman Jimmy are here. Let me just tell you about the food.

Empire State South

Empire State South

We started with the Pork Rilette. It was creamy yet still had shreds of meat to render enough texture. It was topped with sweet wheatberries and cucumbers. It was so good I could have eaten it straight from the jar.

Empire State South

My sister’s Pan Roasted Carolina Trout was so fresh and clean tasting and the side of collard greens really rocked.

Empire State South

My Grilled Pork Chop was so fantastic I’m still dreaming of it up to now. It was succulent and so perfectly seasoned. It was topped with a small piece of cider-glazed apple to provide a slight sweetness but not too much to take away from the pure flavor of the pork.  As a friend would say, “It’s crazy good.”  The slightly stir-fried radishes in brown butter vinaigrette was an interesting concept on paper but was amazing in the mouth.  Crisp, buttery, earthy.  It works.  The rice-a-roniesque rice (both in taste and texture) with field peas was the only thing that was weak.

Empire State South

My sister also had the chocolate pudding topped with Chantilly cream. She liked it.

Despite having arrived so late, we were never rushed. Lunch (and table service) is until 3PM, we left past 4. Service was so hospitable and the place was so cozy we wanted to stay and hang out the entire afternoon. Actually, they would have let us. Can’t wait to go back.

Empire State South
999 Peachtree Street
Atlanta, GA 30309
(404) 541-1105

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