How To Do a Cheese Themed Dinner Party

Have you hosted a wine and cheese party before? I have! Honestly, I thought of everything I could cook using cheese – lobster mac n cheese with cheddar, Gougeres (cheese puffs) with gruyere, baked brie en croute, arancini with parmesan, and much more. At the end of it, I felt heavy and couldn’t eat cheese for a while!

So when I got an invitation for a cheese-themed dinner from Tillamook Creamery, I got to check it out.

Tillamookis a farmer-owned cooperative dairy brand from Oregon and #1 natural cheese brand in the west. About 100 families are part of the Tillamook County Creamery Association, that have lived and worked on the farm for generations. They have been making award-winning cheddars since 1909 and their products are now available in grocery stores in Atlanta.

Two top chefs created a collaborative dinner at Better Half, a notable restaurant in downtown Atlanta. Surprisingly, the menu was not very cheesy at all!

We started with a housemaid rum punch and tasting of Tillamook Cheese – 9 months aged sharp white cheddar, mild and creamy pepper jack, complex special reserve extra sharp cheddar, robust vintage extra sharp white cheddar, and slightly sweet cape meares cheddar.

The 5-course Pacific Northwest Meets Southern Flavors themed dinner was created by Chef Doug Adams (Executive Chef/Owner of Portland based Bullard, Finalist on season 12 of Bbravo’s Top Chef), and Zachary Meloy (owner/ chef of Atlanta based Better Half).

Passed appetizers included crisp hush puppies and cheese filled taquitos. The first course was a tomato salad with colorful and sweet Georgia tomatoes served on a bed of dill buttermilk and vintage white cheddar. Paired with 2017 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Rose, the dish was refreshing and light.

Second was an innovative version of ravioli. A thin sheet filled will pepper jack, set on eggplant puree, and topped with shaved pickled fennel and tomato caramel, it was a great blend of sweet, salt and crunch in every bite. We enjoyed 2015 Poggiobello from Italy with this.

For the meat course, there was slow smoked beef rib melt (which Chef Adams flew with him from Portland), as an open face sandwich on toasted homemade bread with jalapeños and sweet onion jam, and of course extra sharp cheddar. Some of us opted for a vegetarian version, where grilled eggplant was replaced by the beef. With a full bodied Chilean 2015 Lapostolle, it was simply delicious.

Have you tried melted cheddar on apple pie? Playing a twist on this southern tradition, the chefs created a fresh fig and honey tart, and topped it with crumbled medium cheddar and pink pepper ice cream. The cheese and pepper were a bit too savory for me, but the tart was incredible. 2016 Boundary Breaks Riesling was a great alternative to sweeter ports often served with dessert.

Of course we couldn’t leave without Better Half’s signature truffles – coconut and condense milk balls; along with a spiced moonshine made with fresh young coconut. Tillamook generously gave us some coupons to get their cheese from a neighborhood grocery store so I can reinvent my own cheese themed dinner party 🙂

If you are visiting Oregon, head over to Tillamook Creamery, a 2-hour drive from Portland to see how Tillamook Cheese is made. There’s also a Food Hall serving tempura battered cheese curds, fried chicken and cheddar biscuits, and pimento cheeseburgers. The ice-cream menu offers tasty flavors like caramel toffee crunch, Oregon dark cherry, Udderly chocolate, and malted moo shakes.

You may find a deeper appreciation for life on the farm and thank the many farmers that labored to create the delicious cheese sitting in your refrigerator. There are more cattle than humans in Tillamook and a great place to explore the Oregon Coast.

Got any cheese based recipe ideas to share? Post a comment below so we can all enjoy…

Want Fresh, Fast, and Healthy? Purely is the Place to Be

Being Italian, I had high expectations for the gelato at Purely. Non-traditional soft serve gelato sounded iffy at first. But no lie the gelato was so good I shed a tear. Italy will just have to wait for now.

Dominic Leong, owner of Purely, informed me that he studied the art of making gelato n Rimini, Italy, help start and ran the restaurant chain Pino Gelato (one of their locations is at Hartsfield Jackson Airport) for 12 years, and even modified the soft serve gelato machine himself.

Leong is the ultimate renaissance man. He consults and designs restaurants, as he did with Purely (his baby), creates the innovative menu, cooks all the food, and engages customers with his bubbly personality.

The Midtown Atlanta space has tall glass windows looking out to busy Peachtree Street, bright lime green painted walls with eye catching photos of the food, and exquisite glass chandeliers.

The concept of Purely is like other ‘make-your-own restaurants’ where customers design their own meal in an assembly line style. All the meat and vegetables are prepared fresh daily, and customers have the option whether to create their own concoction or choose from already created specialties. Purely’s food is fast, fresh and healthy, which makes it a perfect lunch spot for business people and college students. What’s more, most meals are under $10.

Even the presentation of the food is stunning. Organic vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, kale and mixed greens are showcased in a glass container so customers are more attracted to eating fresh food.

Diners start by choosing their base in a bowl. They have options of white or brown rice, mixed greens and even gluten free pasta. For tacos and salads, customers choose their protein with options such as slow cooked Mexican style pork carnitas and or all natural Caribbean beef barbacoa. After, adding fresh veggies of your choice, top it off with sauces such as creamy chipotle and sweet chili.

Tacos are served in cooked to order warm Chinese steamed buns, but customers also have the option of a traditional corn tortilla. I tried the braised jerk chicken taco served with kale, and a customer favorite – Asian sesame sauce, topped with grape tomatoes and a sprinkle of shredded cheese. The taco was sweet considering the sauce, but I was expecting more of a kick since it was jerk chicken. I also felt the kale and the lack of sauce made the taco a little dry.

The spicy chicken teriyaki taco with Purely’s signature sauce (like spicy mayo), fresh red cabbage, well-seasoned chicken, the dish was very different though, hitting all the right notes of spice and texture.

Fun fact, Purely’s bowls are 70% decomposable.

Food bowls have become the new hipster food trend of 2018. Specifically, poke bowls, which are often served with raw fish, salad topping and Asian sauces. I created my own poke bowl and added tuna and salmon with spicy mayo, poke sauce, lime juice, mixed greens, cabbage and edamame. With several competitors out there trying to master the poke bowl trend, Purely’s bowl deserves a spot at the top. The bowl made for a light flavor packed lunch.

Bubble tea has never tickled my fancy, but I decided to give it another try by adding strawberry popping pearls (like tapioca but made of real fruit) to my matcha tea. With one sip, I was in heaven! Purely uses oolong tea as the base instead of water which gives it a more robust flavor. And did I mention the matcha powder is imported straight from Japan?

Purely’s biggest hit are the bubble waffles. Bubble waffles became popular in Hong Kong and are a fancier version of the traditional American ice cream waffle only with batter filled spheres, making it look more attractive. I filled mine with matcha gelato and triple berry sorbet, topped with mango and strawberry flavored popping pearls and fresh peaches.

Sorbet isn’t typically my first choice, but the soft serve gelato version of it made the consistency creamy rather than icy. Although bubble waffle tasted like a regular waffle, it was rather soft than crispy, which can be messy to eat.

What Purely is offering is not totally unique, but having the best gelato, teas, buddle waffles and poke bowls – all in a vibrant atmosphere at affordable prices – is notable. I would return to create new combinations using the fresh, healthy and organic ingredients Purely offers.

~ By Daniella Boik, Go Eat Give summer 2018 intern. Daniella is a journalism student at Georgia State University and has a passion for food, books and skateboards. When she’s not writing, she is drafting her ideas while running long distance. Follow her on Facebook 

Dining at The W

Hotel restaurants typically don’t have a good perception when it comes to offering superior quality food or unique cuisines. But the W Atlanta – Midtown is an exception.

Inspired by its Georgia location, TRACE restaurant incorporates southern cuisine in the menu, using seasonal locally sourced ingredients.

The Midtown Atlanta hotel can be described as urban chic at best. Glamorously dressed people can be found getting out of their uber expensive cars into the illuminated car port. The lobby feels like a trendy lounge with live DJ, as patrons cheer their martini glasses.

TRACE is located up a flight of stairs, on the second floor of the hotel. Walking past the bar feels like you have entered a massive den/ library/ man cave. The bar is beautiful, but the stack of cookbooks by local authors displayed on the shelves catches my attention. Krista Reese, Kevin Gillespie, to name a few…

The interior of TRACE is contemporary, yet comfy. Tall glass windows line one of the walls of the room, while the exposed ceiling creates a feeling of a warehouse. Then there are colored pots and pans covering an entire wall, dark wood floors, and giant blue gray screens hanging from the ceiling. I feel like I’m in a 21st century barn!

Cocktails are the main attraction at TRACE. In addition to regional brews and global wines, hand crafts cocktails with unique names are rotated off the menu often. My favorite was Anger Management (perfect after a tough week right?) with mango vodka, agave, pineapple and orange juice. The powdered habanero around the rim of the glass is sure to give you a burn with each sip. Gotta Wear Shades (I told you the names are creative) was also quite refreshing for a bourbon drink. It had fresh blackberry/ blueberry juice, peach bitters and Ridgemont Reserve 1792.

The menu is sectioned into shared plates, salads, entrees and sides. Southern favorites such as fried gulf oysters, deviled eggs, and thrice cooked wings are nostalgic starters. The oysters are fresh are corn flour battered, served with spicy rep pepper jelly aioli. The mushroom and goat cheese toast is hearty and delicious. Grilled salmon is seared crisp on the outside and tender in the center. It feels more of a personal entree than an app plate though. Everything comes with generous portions of healthy greens sourced from GA farms.

The crab and avocado salad was my favorite. Again, a good portion of greens is topped with fresh steamed jumbo lump crab meat is perfect for seafood lovers, and the grilled avocado adds a surprise element to each bite. Gulf catch  of the day, grouper in this case, was chewy, though well seasoned with with black pepper, and sat on some very spicy cooked kale. Another twist I enjoyed was the pimiento mac and cheese. Though the pimento made the dish a bit runny, the toasted bread crumbs added a crisp nice texture.

For dessert, I tried the chocolate mousse cake, a rather rich flourless version with dark creamy mousse. The raspberry and chocolate sauces were a bit runny for my taste, but good enough to lick the plate clean!

Global Businesses Thrive in Minneapolis

“Supporting new small businesses, creating jobs and stabilizing communities.” Sounds like a tag line that every city in the US aspires to achieve. But thanks to the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) in Minneapolis-St Paul, this has become a thriving reality.

I visited the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis during TBEX North American conference. At first glance, the 50,000 square foot indoor market seemed like a diverse food court selling Indian, Mexican, African and many other cuisines, scattered with a few global art and jewelry stores in between.

Then I discovered that this vacant Sears regional distribution center had been converted into an incubator for immigrant and small businesses. Located in a low-income community in South Minneapolis (over 32% of the population living below poverty line), the building is home to 40 independent small businesses selling food and gifts from all around the world. NDC provides these family-owned business loans, entrepreneur training, technical assistance, real estate incubators, and marketing materials so they can follow their passion, be self sustainable, and grow their businesses.

Visitors to Minneapolis come to the Midtown Global Market primarily to experience the culinary diversity. My tour starts with Turkish coffee at Mapps Tea & Coffee where owners Yildiz and Erdogan Akguc offer coffee and teas from East Africa, Turkey and other corners of the globe. Since I need a treat to go along with my coffee, I head over to Salty Tart Bakery to try one of their award-winning baked everyday from scratch coconut macaroons. Owner and chef Michelle Gayer-Nicholson has been nominated for the James Beard Award twice and been named “Best Pastry Chef” by the editors of Bon Appetite magazine.

Salty Tart Cafe

The corner where Holy Land Grocery, Butcher Shop & Deli stands breams with excited shoppers, as they pick up fresh olives, cheese and Middle Eastern breads. At the food counter, the Palestine owners serve falafel, shawarma, burgers, and rotisserie chicken.

At Safari Express, brothers Sade and Jamal Hashi sell many of the same classic East African dishes that have made his Eat Street location a smash hit, including their delectable sambusa, homemade chapatti bread wraps, and rich meat and vegetable stews.

For authentic Mexican tamales, head over to La Loma Tamales where owners, Enrique and Noelia Garcia, cook like they would back home in  Mexico. The family now has 6 locations around the Twin Cities area.

I had to check out what Hot Indian Foods was all about, specially after I saw that you can get a discount if you do a Bollywood dance move! The food truck and restaurant serve fusion Indian food, such as burritos, and tacos stuffed with Indian chana masala, chicken tikka or aloo gobi.

Hot Indian Foods

Even if you are already full, Manny’s Tortas is a must visit, not just for the Mexican sandwiches, but Manny (the chef/ owner) himself. He moved to MN to learn English, worked his way up in restaurants, and opened 2 locations serving authentic Mexico City style sandwiches that everyone loves. Try the Manny’s Special with Steak, Onion, Mushroom, Tomato, Jalapeño, grilled together then topped with Ham & Cheese.

Manny’s Tortas

Grand Italian Ice is a good place to end the tour, with homemade Italian ice and Swedish wish cookies. It is believed that you will have good luck if you can break the cookie into 3 pieces with a slight press with your finger.

Grand Italian Ice

If you want to take produce to-go, stop by at Grass Roots Gourmet, which sources meat, cheese, and condiments from producers within 100 mile radius. They offer grab and go lunches, and delicious shortbread cookies.

Midtown Global Market

Most of the restaurants have bar stools or few tables, but there is more seating in the center of the market. Diners can also enjoy free live performances on weekends at the market’s stage. One thing you will not miss at the Midtown Global Market is diversity of people, cultures, cuisines and music. It is a great place to learn about the world without having to leave the building!

 

Top 5 Meals of 2015

It has become an annual tradition. Each year, I write a blog about the 5 best meals I ate. This is very hard to do since my job involves eating and traveling “for a living.” This year, I traveled to 14 countries and 5 states in the US. Needless to say, I ate a lot of good food!

After considerable thought, these memorable meals made it to my top 5 picks of 2015:

Machneyuda Restaurant in Jerusalem – This concept restaurant is run by three genius chefs – Yosef “Pappy” Elad, Assaf Granite, and Uri Navon. They run the business like a party. The quirky website and non-descript menu that offer dishes like “Entrecôte Django Unchained Style,” and “Lamb with lot of tasty stuff,” with pairings like “yummy stuff, some sauce” offer some clues. The waiters are not just friendly, they are singing, dancing and even doing shots in the kitchen…at work! The food is served in unpretentious sharing plates and is absolutely to die for. Ingredients are sourced from the surrounding Machneyuda market.

The biggest surprise for me was the dessert. Our server cleared out our table (we were 5) and laid out aluminum foil to cover it. On it, was orchestrated a symphony of cake, chocolate sauce, caramel, candies, nougats, cookies, ice cream and whipped cream – spread around the entire table within matter of minutes. It looked very haphazard as it was happening, but then appeared to be a delicious pile of artful looking happiness. We dug in with our spoons feeling like kids, and started dancing to the Israeli pop tunes.

Catalina Rose Bay in Sydney – Located on the world-famous Sydney Harbour, this family run restaurant is known for serving the highest quality meat and poultry sourced from all over Australia. Sydney Seaplane Highlights Flight Fly/Dine experience, included lunch at Catalina overlooking the Rose Bay. We start by enjoying fresh oysters on the shell paired with an Australia white that is produced not too far from the bay. The warm Sydney sun refreshed us as we watched the Seaplanes go by. I had the Poached Western Australian Marron Tail (something I had not had before), and the small sushi plate with delicious fresh tuna, salmon, prawn, kingfish, tataki tuna and Catalina roll. Dessert was caramelized fig with bitter caramel mousse, brik pastry and sugared pistachio. It was a memorable dessert, though the others I took bites off were pretty good too.

best seafood in Sydney

Boulanger Patissier Le Fournil Notre Dame in Marseille, France – My husband and I got to this bakery in the South of France early Sunday morning when the aroma of fresh baked goodies were oozing out of this tiny neighborhood bakery. There were sleepy residents, some still wearing pajamas, lined up to get bread, croissants, pastries, macrons, and Tropezian cakes. We got a few assortments to share with our cappuccinos. Till this day, we still talk about how the croissants flaked into a thousand pieces and melted the moment it touched our tongues. It was so good, that we had to eat another. Though so simple, it was by far the best breakfast I had this year!
best croissants in France
Marea in New York City – My close friend know that I am a big snob when it comes to Italian food. I can just about dismiss majority of the Italian restaurants in the U.S., but when I find a good ones, my heart melts into clarified butter. This is what happened at Marea, 2 Michelin star restaurant located on Central Park South. My friend and I had to wait for a long time to a spot at the bar (reservations few days in advance are highly recommended), but it was great people watching too. Everything at this high end Italian eatery boasted freshness of ingredients, integrity of flavors, and perfection in cooking. Some of my favorites were the tender Noca Scotia lobster and burro found in Astice; al dante and earthy Funghi Risotto; flaky and dressed Branzino: as well as the fried doughnuts dipped in lemon ricotta and dark chocolate Bomboloni. The portions are not small and you may end up eating 10k calories, but now you can die and go to heaven on earth.
best Italian in New York
Yachiyo Ryokan at Himeshima Island in Japan – It’s hard to imagine that one of my top 5 meals was at a 1-lady run Bed and Breakfast in a sleepy island off the coast of Kunisaki. I stayed at this beautiful family run 8-room inn surrounded by gardens, where we were served a delicious seafood dinner with ingredients that were probably swimming just a few hours ago. I had eaten a lot of good sushi throughout my stay in countryside Japan, but this was an unbelievable spread. Every inch of the table was covered with a fresh piece of fish or vegetable that was delicately prepared and artful served. The Japanese chefs take great effort in presentation as you can see from this picture. Unfortunately, this place doesn’t have a website and the manager, Michuri-San, speaks limited English, so good luck finding it.
best sushi in Japan

Toco Hills opens its doors to Masti Indian Fusion

A little over two months ago, the Toco Hills Shopping Plaza in North Druid Hills opened its doors to an Indian restaurant with a twist. Meaning “fun” in Hindi, Masti draws a party when it comes to Indian street food. Kabob dogs, Butter Chicken Tacos and fish and chips are just a few of the unique mash-ups found on the menu.

Masti Flyer

By pairing international recipes together, Masti aims to bring familiarity into the mix and steer away any reasons why one might avoid eating Indian food. Its varied menu aspires to attract any and everyone from the most selective eater to food critics.

Masti’s décor is inviting, full of color and customer service goes above and beyond. Take note of the wall décor replicating designs you would see on traditional costumes worn by Indian women.

Masti offers A La Carte Specials, Daily Specials and a full menu for your choosing. To gather an idea of their endless options, the Go Eat Give team sampled items from the appetizers, main entrees and dessert menus. Complimentary rice chips were served as we tried a few traditional and fusion options.

rice chips

Mango Lassi

mango lassiSimilar to a smoothie, Lassi is a yogurt based drink blended with fruit (in this case mango), cream and water.

Deconstructed Aloo Tikki Chat

We dove right into Aloo Tikki Chat, a chickpea curry topped with paneer and lentil filled potato patties. This dish is usually enjoyed during teatime in India, the duration between lunch and dinner where heavy snacks such as chat, sandwiches and samosas are eaten. Aloo Tikki Chat was filled with a blast of flavor and holds a spice you can adjust to your liking. Definitely a must try!

Butter Chicken Tacos

butter chicken tacosMasti used a pancake made from rice batter typically seen in North India, to wrap rice and buttered chicken in the shape of a taco. The pancake was overbearing the buttered chicken and would have been more appreciated as separate items. Fun approach to the taco, but not highly favored at our table.

Amritsari Fish & Chips

fish and chipsHands down one of our favorite items on the menu. A popular street food found in North India, the Amritsari Fish & Chips is executed by frying tilapia in chickpea flour and difference spices. Masti did a fabulous job replicating a meal you could order from a food truck in India.

Kabob Dog & Paneer Dog

IMG_2981Masti’s twist on hot dogs offer options for vegetarians and meet lovers using either Paneer Bhurji, a cheese commonly used in Indian dishes or kabobs. Respectively, they are both placed in toasted hot dog bun topped with relished onions, bell peppers and Masti Sauce. Another unique approach to Indian-American fusion, but doesn’t really sell in flavor. Could be a favorite among children.

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Faloodi Kulfi

Fall in love with this rose and vanilla combination topped with sweet noodles, basil seeds and rose syrup. Faloodi Kulfi is a popular Indian dessert and is your answer to scorching weather!

Galub Jamun

IMG_2998A sweet tooth satisfaction, Galub Jamun is a warm doughnut ball swimming in honey and rose infused syrup. Pair it was a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’re in for a treat.

If you’re curious to try one of Masti’s not-so-traditional combinations head over to Toco Hills with a friend and share a few options family-style. The large portions will be sure to fill you up even when sharing. Don’t forget to grab a spoon full of one or two options at the Paan table. You can choose from an array of these natural mouth fresheners ranging from betel leaves to dried papayas.

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Masti Indian Restaurant
2945 North Druid Hills Rd, Suite C, Atlanta, GA 30329
www.mastiatlanta.com