Aug 17, 2014

CHAMPIONS!

The winning team and judges!
The 4th annual SafePath Cooking Competition took place this past Thursday night in front of estimated 1,000 people as the local public safety departments took place in a battle royal for the coveted Lodge cast iron pan trophy. Having tasted victory in this Chopped style competition before, I was eager to lead my team of victory back to the promised land. With three local, prestigious chefs (one cooks for the Georgia Governor, another, the owner/chef of the most respected Indian restaurant in Atlanta, Chai Pani, and the owner/chef behind Canoe, Aria and the new St. Regis Hotel restaurant, Atlas) judging our dishes, I was anxious to prove that we firefighters are culinary sages in our own right. With one dish being a soup, salad or appetizer and then an entree with the requirements both chicken, steak, a starch and vegetable be on the dish, we decided collectively to pursue a South Western theme. A soup was decided as the appetizer, Chicken Tortilla soup, and the main dish held three offerings: Tequila Lime Skirt Steak over Pepper Jack Grits topped with Chiptole Cream sauce, Blue Corn Pancakes topped with Spiced Black Beans, Avocado Crema and Quick Pickled Mexican Radish and Corn Esquites (street style). With five firefighters and 45 minutes to complete the dishes, I always go above and beyond and create a dessert, this year to follow with the theme, I made Buñuelos, a Columbian style donut, spice with a Cinnamon Espresso Sugar and a Brown Sugar Crema sauce. Quite a menu! 

But the hosts threw us a 4 secret ingredient curve ball: fresh garbonzo beans, lychees, pecan oil and a rutabaga. I worked the garbonzo beans into the soup (first blanching then deep frying them in a lite batter), added the lychees to the Brown Sugar Cream sauce (and placed into the carved out sheel of the lychee), baked the tortilla chips with the pecan oil and quick pickled the rutabaga with the Mexican radish. The judges seemed impressed with the way we worked the secret ingredients into the dishes as they exclaimed that the entire menu "exploded with flavor"! We were humbled and honored to reclaim our championship and look forward to defending it next year. Until then, stay low and stay safe, my friends!
R


Explaining our dishes to the judges.
Many lights and cameras... 
The crew is watching the menu be dissected.
Best Selfie Ever. 

Aug 14, 2014

Good Eatin' Great Cause Event Tonight!


Tonight, I'll be making my third appearance in the SafePath Good Eatin' Great Cause event representing my fire department in a Chopped style cooking competition. This fantastic event is a fundraiser for the SafePath Children's Advocacy Center, a foundation who's worthy aim is to support those exposed to child abuse. By my side are four other firefighters as we take battle in the festivity's highlight on stage under the lights and cameras. We have 45 minutes to develop our dishes whilst incorporating two secret ingredients before we offer them up to the judges. I've lead the team to one championship but lost out last year so redemption in on the menu! Wish us luck.


Jul 26, 2014

Tactical (Restaurant) Review: Eat

Cutting edge training as a first responder has the opportunity to take a firefighter all over our great nation. Whether to learn about explosive ordinance (New Mexico), chemical/biological weapons (Alabama), or my latest adventure, nuclear/radiological awareness, which had me jet setting to one of the world’s food meccas, Las Vegas. Oh, what’s a hungry firefighter to do with so much to choose from?

Las Vegas’s well-chronicled transformation from ‘sin city’ to a culinary destination has caught the attention of all.  Many a foodie, celebrity chef and TV personality has leant their take on Vegas, so when Anthony Bourdain paid a recent visit, I took notice of where he went. Often he’ll make a conscious choice to sample some of the local’s selection, outside the hustle and bustle of all the lights and high prices. One of his selections peaked my interests, a place called EAT.

South of the strip, where only the locals and lost gamblers stumble too is where the restaurant is located. Directly off the street, plenty of paid parking lines the sidewalk if you get there early enough. As I meet my parents in Vegas (they still live in Southern California), I was looking forward to treating them to some quality breakfast. This place seemed to fit the bill.



The atmosphere was appropriately en vogue with an open kitchen, computer bar, hanging light bulbs and black and white art, very much now but so not Vegas, a nice touch. The crowd was also not about the show, locals these people were and they were focused on the food and conversation. Service was generally good with an attentive wait staff that was both knowledgeable and good-natured.


As I was officially done with my training and the Air Force food from the air base I was sequestered at, I told the waitress that I’d need two, count them, TWO full plates. Something sweet and savory seemed in order so to get a baseline of their fare, I started with their Golden Brown Pancakes. Appropriately fluffy and with a hint of brown sugar, they were solid. (note that I used some of the strawberry compote from the cinnamon biscuits which helped to elevate these flap jacks)


I went to the waitress and asked her for favorite dish and she lite up and offered up the Truffled Egg Sandwich, which incidentally enough was the restaurants most demanded. These were perfectly scrambled eggs (not an easy skill) lightly touched with truffle oil over an open face buttered brioche baguette topped with thick bacon. Wow. The skillet potatoes on the side were there as well, but come on, the sandwich was where it was at. This was a 4-Alarm dish for me and well worth the drive alone.


Because the pancakes and sandwich may not have been enough, I ordered us some Cinnamon Biscuits. Why? Living in the south, I’m been keen to try regional biscuits to experience the nuisances. These were not layered like I prefer, but well seasoned and browned nicely. The strawberry compote (made daily) was the balanced sweet to the butter.


Shrimp and grits were the order for my Mom, seemingly to remind her of her southern upbringing. The power of food… Anyways, after the obligatory ‘there not as good as yours’, she admitted they were well seasoned with bursts of heat, silkiness from the poached egg and bite from the shrimp. The grits themselves were slightly overcooked (and hence congealed) but the taste was on point. Well done.

My dad had eggs and toast. He always has eggs and toast. Breakfast for my dad = eggs and toast. He said they were fine, but then he said the same thing after a root canal. Life is short; please learn to live a little.

Overall, the price was right for the food delivered. Nice atmosphere, solid service, good conversation and a food memory for life. These Vegas locals know their food, value their time and have found a home at EAT. I tip my hat to you Mr. Bourdain, nice recon for the masses, I ATE well. A solid recommend.

Date: May 2014

3.25 ALARMS

Eat on Urbanspoon

Jul 4, 2014


Happy 4th of July Y'all!

Stay full, my friends!

Jun 30, 2014

Busy, busy, busy

Still alive and eating, but work has caught with me so I've fallen behind on that which doesn't pay for the lights to stay on at home. All that being said, I've got a few restaurant reviews and a recipe or two primed to share. But in the meantime, support the US Mens National Soccer Team tomorrow in their bout against Belgium. GO US!

Stay hungry, my friends!

R.

May 25, 2014

Happy Memorial Day Everyone!


To all the US Armed Forces, current and retired, thank you for allowing us the freedom to enjoy life (and food) to it's fullest! 

Stay low, stay safe, and above all else, stay hungry!

The McKay Family.

May 10, 2014

Tactical (Restaurant) Review: Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream


What to do on a gorgeous spring day after a great lunch in Atlanta and in the hunt to avoid an oncoming hypoglycemic episode? Well, having just left Antico’s supremely stuffed and satisfied, my wife and were in such a conundrum and henceforth, on the prowl. But having heard that new ice cream parlor, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, had just settled down in it’s new residence in Westside, we pranced on over.


Truth be told, I’d never heard of Jeni’s nor her rapid following for her all natural ice cream (thank you #Twitter), but I was excited none the less.Nestled between such Atlanta heavy weights as Bacchanalia, Star Provisions and JCT, this is a prime location and a boon for Jeni and her Columbus based ice cream empire. Parking is a cinch, plenty of seating both inside and out, and the neighborhood is lively, always a good combo.


Nice atmosphere and smart service.
The atmosphere of the parlor was inventive and engaging. A large, green chalkboard dominates the place as scribed across it are the myriad of different flavored ice creams. White tiles, wood paneling, and string lights help to create the clean, fun atmosphere as one is ushered past the windows of crate lined frozen dairy.

Know ahead of time that I prefer gelato to ice cream, creamier with less ice, but I’ll still pack away a double scoop with the best of them. That being said, the selection her at Jeni’s truly is second to none. The word eclectic does a disservice to the extent to which she and her team have gone to provide off the wall flavor combinations. The most challenging issue is choosing a flavor.

Really, is this enough flavors for you?
Where to start? With combinations such as Brambleberry Crisp, Goat Cheese with Cherries, and Yuzoo Sue with Rosemary Bar Nuts as examples, you can see the level of creativity was off the charts. What struck my wife and I as we indulged our curiosity with many a taster of the various selections was the potency of the flavors. When it says rosemary, one is hit (SMACKED more less) in the mouth with ROSEMARY. There was no subtlety. These were bold and unique but I wonder if too artisan for the average patron/firefighter who seeks classic, clean flavored ice creams. This is adventurous at heart and you should be forewarned but not fearful, ice cream is FUN.


I settled on the #1 and #2 best sellers for Jeni’s, the Buckeye (a salute to her home state, salted peanut butter and dark chocolate, a strong entry) and Salted Caramel (a personal favorite flavor, very solid), and then a limited edition flavor of Birchwood and Marshmallow (a miss for me, the unexpected whole marshmallows were not appealing). My wife settled on the Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet (fun but with surprisingly subtle Riesling flavor) and Dark Chocolate (decadent). Again, all where strong flavored and left no illusions as to what you’re designed to experience and were mostly successful. My only issue as I prefaced above, was the ice content of the ice cream, just not creamy enough for my palette. I guess I’m just a sucker for creamy ice cream or gelato in general. (*Note that they also carry frozen yogurt, other sorbet, ice cream sandwiches and a spattering of toppings.)


A fun-filled trio of flavor.
Levels of creaminess and STRONG flavors are the only notes of very slight caution and both are matters of personal preference. Neither one should dissuade one from attempting the cornucopia of flavors nor FUN that Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream offers. The craft and care that they place into their product is obvious and should establish them as a dessert stalwart in Atlanta for years to come. Well done, a solid recommend.

Review Date: April 2014

3.25 ALARMS


Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams on Urbanspoon
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