Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mockingjay and Top Flr

Just picked up my long-awaited copy of Mockingjay, the third and final book in the YA Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins! Along with a keychain so's I can properly advertise my dorkiness (since Scholastic has, for some reason, decided not to cash in on the pins they're making but rather to offer them only as prizes and student incentives).*

Please note that I'm being responsible and doing the writing/editing I've promised to finish tonight and tomorrow, and that I'll bloody well put an arrow through the pig of anyone who spoils me before I get a chance to read this thing. ^____^

In quick food updates, I had dinner at Top Flr last night -- they do a $15 3-course prix fix on Mondays, and you should really go the next time you've got a Monday evening free.

Last night, the first course was a salad of peppery-green arugula with sweet slivers of dried fig, heat from slices of pepperocini, bright cherry tomato halves, creamy-sharp parmaggiano flakes, and a bare, tart lemony dressing to bind the lot together.

The second course was an option of a crumbled chorizo, jalapeño, onion, and arugula flatbread or a seared scallop with a warm, Asian-inspired salad of kale, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, celery, onion, and octopus. The flatbread was tasty in a distinctly late-night-college-snack sort of way, but the scallop dish was really delightful -- the sugared soy & sesame dressing playing against the bitter of the vegetables and the sweetness of the tomatoes and seafood, and both the scallop and octopus cooked to tender-chewy excellence.

The third course was an option of a chocolate ganache tart, which I didn't try, or a coconut bread pudding with a spiced sauce and carmelized sliced bananas. Though I didn't detect much coconut in the bread pudding, the dessert was warming and lovely, not too sweet and slightly strange for the Indian-inspired heat of the sauce. Fans of chilies + chocolate should be on the lookout for this one.

For $15 it was a light dinner (dessert doesn't count as filling. Hungry diners might want to order a pre-prix fix snack), but an excellent value for the experience of such playful flavors. Service was polite and attentive, but the kitchen didn't seem to be in a rush to get the courses out -- I would reserve Top Flr for a night that you don't have a schedule to keep. And I feel obligated to mention feeling a little foppish when the price of my dinner nearly doubled upon ordering a cocktail -- which was terrific, something they're calling A Sordid Affair: smoky Scorpion Blanco mezcal tequila, bittersweet Cynar artichoke liquor, spicy black peppercorn simple syrup, bright blackberries, and a squeeze of balancing citrus, served over ice with a straw for sipping and a pretty circle of lime set against the interior of the glass. But yeah, I'm just sayin' -- even with the prix fix in hand, Top Flr isn't tight-budget friendly. Which is okay sometimes! I'll definitely be back to try the regular menu and more of the cocktails. Let me know what's best there if you've been before.

* Scholastic, won't you please let me give you cash monies for a Mockingjay pin? I approve of ALSO using them as prizes and student incentives, and I'll make one myself out of the aforementioned keychain, but you're making fandom difficult, here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

an art commission for a grammarmonkey

Take a gander at my shiny new okay not new anymore but I keep forgetting to post about it, so old-but-still-newsworthy graphical representation of my grammarmonkey self:

an angry grammarmonkey

It was drawn for me on commission by one Mr. Eric Clausen for just 30 bucks, careful shipping included, as part of his Drawings for 30 Bucks fundraiser for the surgery he needed after a bike accident earlier this year. Eric's all surgeried up now but still accepting commissions because, undaunted by mere physical injury and suffering, he's planning on biking and drawing his way across America and would like to be able to eat while he's doing it. And since commissioning a drawing is as simple as posting a request to his Facebook wall, I recommend doing that. (I was super unspecific about what he should draw for me and I heart what his imagination came up with, so I especially recommend just sorta setting him loose on a prompt.)

And if you've got any gandering left in you, take one at Eric's page on Kickstarter -- he's already met his goal (yay!) but could probably stand to have a few extra dollars sitting around, and his incentives include hand-drawn postcards from the road(side) and personal hangouts during which he'll draw your portrait and eat your food. So if you're looking to toss less or more than 30 bucks at him and still get something nifty in return, that is a highly possible thing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Spanish pigs and Georgian burgers

I'm finally getting out to The Iberian Pig for dinner tonight, and hopefully I'll have the wherewithal post-dinner but pre–food coma to jot down some notes to share with y'all. For a person who's insisted on vegetarian meals all week, I'm fairly ridiculously excited about trying as many different preparations of pork as possible in one sitting.

Part of my recent vegetarianism has been penitence due to my visit to Farm Burger last week. It wasn't any one thing that pushed the meal into a hedonistic experience, but rather the combination of a few bites each of the fried chickpeas (non-breaded, prepared in their papery shells with a dusting of salt like significantly heavier edamame -- interesting but too raw-crunchy for my liking), fried chicken livers (the size and shape of the richest-ever chicken nuggets with a sweet, thin mustard sauce for dipping -- highly recommended), beer-battered onion rings (the ultimate kind, with an even ratio of crisp breading clinging to thick cuts of sweet onion), sweet potato fries (a bit bland and soft compared with the other sides), French-fried potatoes (also on the soft side, but that's a good thing with such lovely hand-cut potatoes 'cause it allows the potatoes' earthy flavor to emanate), the smoked paprika mayo for dipping (a bit too creamy but with excellent smokey flavor), a glass of Terrapin Hop Karma IPA (a peppery and rich brown ale/IPA collision), and my No. 3 burger with à la Grecque mushrooms and onions, gruyere, and arugula. The burger was cooked a perfect, pink medium with an excellent outer char, the bun was soft and squishy but boasted a similarly delightful caramelized char on the inside, and though the mushrooms and onions were a bit too vinegary for my tastes, they sure did provide a needed cut to all the fatty flavors.

I'll be sure to go back to try their veggie quinoa burger, their floats (hibiscus + cinnamon? vanilla porter? yes pls), and more of their toppings (I'm plotting a Ludicrously Expensive Burger: their beef patty topped with roasted bone marrow, aged smoked gouda, arugula, and thick-sliced heirloom tomato). If you beat me to it, tell me how everything was!

Pro-tip: I went on a Thursday and the place was slammed at first but cleared out after 8:30 or so, leaving lots of elbow room and a friendly-if-slightly-punchy staff. So aim to arrive around then if you dislike crowds.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Concentrics' swank Summer Swag

Just a quick clue-in for any Atlanta eaters on a budget who haven't heard: For the rest of the month of August, you can get 50% off at any of the Concentrics restaurants (up to a $25 discount everywhere but Bakeshop, which offers a discount up to $10) simply by going to their site and either printing this Summer Swag flyer or downloading it to your phone.

The Concentrics group encompasses One Midtown Kitchen, Two Urban Licks, Murphy's, Parish, Bakeshop, TAP, Room at Twelve, and Lobby Bar & Bistro. If, like me, you're on something of an unofficial mission to eat at every restaurant and pub in the city, this is a good opportunity/excuse/Jedi mind trick to try a few out at a relatively low dollar-risk.

Of the Concentrics lot, I've only ever been to One Midtown Kitchen and Two Urban Licks (and the now-defunct Trois), which have offered experiences that were intriguing if not always precisely solid. I've found that all three provided better cocktails and small plates overall than entrees -- if you're into the craft cocktail scene and sharing dishes with your dining mates, I'd hazard to say that you'll be pleased with any of Concentrics' offerings.

Of One and Two, I personally recommend One Midtown Kitchen for being a bit more laid back and pared down. The space and staff have this particular calm & collected kind of eccentric-artist vibe to them that compliments the poshly understated menu. If you go, ask the knowledgeable, friendly waitstaff for opinions and recommendations on the ever-changing offerings -- but definitely try the house-made charcuterie. The bizarre-sounding but delectably spiced chocolate-jalapeño pork sausage is one of my favorite cured meats in town. And their seasonal cocktails are blissful -- boozy, balanced, and none too sweet.

Two Urban Licks is a more hyperactive sort of posh: all bright lights, bold colors, big noises, flashy food, and glitzy people. I feel like it's designed to be sensory overload -- the exhausting sort of [dinner] party. Try their house-infused cocktails -- they've always got some strange, sassy thing brewing.

And if you get out to any of the other Concentrics places, let me know how they are! With such an awesome deal going, I can nearly guarantee that by the end of the month, I'll be able to compare notes.