Saturday, February 28, 2009

Six Feet Under Atlanta

When I was a kid, I was pretty morbid. I was fascinated with serial killers and criminal psychology. I would AskJeeves about them all the time. For all you youngins' this predates google by a few years. This gradually lead to me becoming interested in other things the way kids do, from Wicca, to ghosts and finally ended up with my current and favorite morbid obsession; Cemeteries.

Confederate Section of the Oakland Cemetery.

There really aren't many places in the world that make me feel more alone and yet totally at peace than cemeteries. Especially really old ones. In fact, newer cemeteries with big green rolling hills and flat, flesh with the grass headstones, don't really do it for me at all. My 2 favorite cemeteries of all time are located in the mountains of San Diego in Julian, Ca and right here in Atlanta.

View of downtown Atlanta from the Oakland Cemetery.

I used to live down the street from the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta and I used to walk there and visit often. This was how I originally found Six Feet Under. At first, the name was enough to catch my eye, but for a girl who has unspeakable horrid repercussions with eating seafood, a pub and fish house seemed like the last place I'd ever be caught dead in (pun so obviously intended).

Six Feet Under as seen from the Jewish section of the Oakland Cemetery.

It wasn't until one night that Michelle and I needed hamburgers so badly, that we decided to go, and the rest, as we say, was foodie history. Over our remaining year in the ATL, Michelle and I would come to visit Six Feet Under multiple times, enjoying not only the burgers, but the excellent selection in NON seafood faire.

When the great tornado of '08 swept through downtown Atlanta, busting out windows in cars and hotels, the city wasn't the only casualty. Oakland Cemetery was hit as well, uprooting trees and smashing headstones predating the turn of the 20th century to bits.

Tornado damage to a Confederate grave site.

It was closed and I never got to say goodbye, so to speak. When Brian and I were deciding on what spots to see on our trip, there was no question in my mind, and the only food I could think of to accompany our trip, was Six Feet Under.

Six Feet Under
437 Memorial Drive S.E.
Atlanta, Ga. 30312

In the past year, Six Feet Under has moved, just one block south to it's new location on Memorial Blvd, just south of Downtown Atlanta. At first I thought the economy had killed yet another amazing place, but as we sadly drove out of the old parking lot, I saw the new location.

Brian and I weren't very hungry and decided it best to order a smorgasbord of appetizers to hold us off until dinner. One thing I had ALWAYS looked at, and ALWAYS wanted to try, were the Alligator Bites they serve up here.

Brian and I chow down on Alligator and Home Style chips.

I've never eaten alligator, but Brian has had Crocodile in Kenya, and I had tried rattlesnake chili once, so we were both pretty prepared. That's a great thing about Brian, he might be afraid of vegetables, but weird meats are always something he's down for. We rounded off our alligator by ordering the Fried Green Tomatoes and the Home Style Chips.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Horseradish Dill sauce.

Six Feet Under has some of the best Fried Green Tomatoes in Atlanta, the only others that even come close are the ones at The Flying Biscuit Cafe (they have goat cheese and jalapeno pecan chutney!) The sauce they drizzle over these puppies is a sour cream based dill and horseradish sauce that I'm tempted to try to replicate at home.

Home Style Chips.

Their Home Style Chips are really fabulous and if you are a potato chip lover in Atlanta they should not be missed. Crispy, and lightly salted they also come with a side of the dill sauce.

Stuffing thy face.

The main course in our appetizer lunch were the Alligator Bites.

Alligator Bites.

If you've ever eaten anything cold blooded you already know what they taste like. Firm, slightly tough and chewy, they have the consistency of a well done steak and the taste of, I hate to say it but its true, chicken. They also come with the delicious dill sauce.

Cross section of Alligator, trying to look all like chicken.

My sisters boyfriend said that he's had them before and they remind him most of calamari. Nothing I'm running to book my next flight to Atlanta for or anything, but definitely worth a taste. After watching all those "I'll eat anything you put in front of me" type shows on the Travel Channel, turning your nose up to alligator seems rather silly.

Delicious Dip.

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Friday, February 27, 2009


When it comes to large expensive slabs of red meat, I am a purist. "Heat, meat, eat." That's kind of my motto. I don't believe in taking a beautiful steak and drowning it in some store bought marinade, and grilling the eff out of it until you can use it to file through prison bars. Steak should speak for itself as the main entree and just let the sides accompany your palette when the steak is gone.

For all these reasons, I have a very strict "Don't let anyone touch the steak but Berta" rule when I make my "famous" NY Strips. I call them famous because anyone who tries them this way, is certainly going to ask for the recipe and tell everyone they know that they had the best steaks ever at my house. This often leads people to believe I know more about cooking than I do. I attribute Food Network, My parents, and Top Chef for the majority of me knowing anything at all about making food taste better. It all comes down to listening, taking the information, and running with it. Learning the laws, and breaking the rules.

I digress, below you will find my step-by-step, picture-by-picture, dramatic reenactment of how to make said "famous" steaks.

Start by finding some GOOD meat. When I make these I usually use a NY Strip. Strip steaks are super tender because as wikipedia says (and don't we all listen to things we hear on the internet;) that "the strip steak consists of a muscle that does little work". All I know is, they are big enough to share, and are more than worth the extra dollars per pound. A steak like this, in a typical to moderate steakhouse will cost you upwards of $25. I found my strips for $11.99 lb. Instant savings!!

Strip steaks at Delkab Market. $11.99/lb

If you don't plan on eating these steaks tonight or tomorrow, hold off on buying them. I wouldn't even put these puppies anywhere NEAR a freezer. Have the butcher wrap them up for you and when you get home, if you plan on eating them tonight, leave them out, if you want them tomorrow, stick them in the fridge. If for some crazy reason you shop at 9am and don't plan on eating them for a good 8-10 hours, you can put them in the fridge, just make sure you take them out an hour or 2 (depending on how warm or cold it is in your house) before you cook them. Steaks should be around room temperature before you cook them to ensure that they cook evenly on the grill.

The "marinade" I use is very easy to make. While the steaks are coming to room temperature, take out some olive oil, FRESH garlic, salt and cracked black pepper. Mince or press your garlic. For the sake of this I usually press when I can because I'm flavoring the OIL and not so much worrying about the steaks. We didn't have a press on hand, so we smashed the garlic and finely minced it to ensure we released as much oil as possible.

Mincing smashed garlic for the marinade.

Into a small bowl or marinating dish, add garlic and cover with the olive oil. Add salt, and cracked black pepper. Set this aside in the fridge or on the counter for about an hour to infuse the oil. I like to place it in the fridge for about 30 mins and then let it rest and come to room temperature for another 30. I'm not sure if this helps it or not, but I think it helps thicken it and lets the oils meld.

The Garlic Oil Marinade.

Use this hour to get the rest of your meal ready and work on timing for the finish. We prepared the fixings for The Heart Salad during this time. Our steaks were pretty big, so we decided for easier handling and more portions, since the rest of our meal was going to be quite large, to cut the steaks in half. This step is TOTES OPTIONAL. I just can't eat 12 oz of beef in one sitting.

Big Fat 1lb strip steaks.

Once the steaks are softened and the marinade is done, go ahead and roll your sleeves up and get ready to massage you some raw meat.

Massaging raw beef with garlic oil marinade.

Using the marinade, take a steak and rub the oil into the meat. This is done simply by massaging the steaks with your hands and rubbing it all over the meat. This step helps tenderize and flavor the meat before cooking. You can do this step before the meat had fully come to room temperature, but it's easier if you wait.

Letting steaks rest before cooking.

Let the steaks rest a bit while you fire up your grill. The grill should be nice and hot before you even THINK about putting the steaks anywhere near it. Grill steaks according to the Finger Test if you're confused about cooking times. I like mine medium so I usually cook it about 5-7 minutes on each side.

Brian feeding his manly grilling insticts. (Brian not pictured)

This part is totally optional but it makes them look very pretty, and you might impress someone if you're cooking for them. To make those pretty "cross hatches" on steak, simply, turn 45* half way through the cooking time on each side. Let the grill marks sear the meat for roughly 3-4 minutes, turn and sear again. Repeat on each side and you should have pretty steakhouse style grill marks.

Cross hatched grill marks on our delicious steaks.

It's important after the steaks come off the grill to let them rest a few minutes before sticking your face in them and digging in. This helps the meat to cool and kind of locks in those yummy juices. Enjoy with a nice glass of red wine. I enjoy a Pinot Noir with my medium steaks.

Redwood Creek Pinot Noir

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Saska's in Mission Beach

Tonight was Mardi Gras and also my 28th birthday. We had plans to go to the Spaghetti Factory, but seeing as it is in the middle of the Gaslamp Quarter, where Mardi Gras was being held, and wanting to avoid as much as a crowd as possible, we decided to go somewhere else. After much deliberation and delegration at my sisters house, her boyfriend stepped up and suggested Saska's in Mission Beach.

Saskas is a seafood and steak house off of Mission Blvd down at the beach in San Diego. It's been around for 58 years, and for whatever reason, I've never ever eaten there, or even noticed it. While we were there, they were celebrating their 58th "birthday" and the restaurant was decorated in loads of streamers and banners. I just pretended they knew I was coming and got the place all ready for me.

We started off with bread, as we checked out the menu. Their garlic bread is a variation of Texas Toast, and it was very yummy, warm and the edges were nice and crunchy.

Most of Saskas menu includes various cuts of beef, with a few seafood, and non-beef options. I opted for a New York Strip seeing as it was my birthday and my daddy was paying.

I started with a bowl of chicken tortilla soup, and forgot to take a picture until a few bites into it.

My sister Katie had a salad with blue cheese dressing. She thinks I'm weird for taking pictures of my food.

The steak was deliciously decadent, served medium with rice pilaf and a side of mushrooms I pawned off on my mom. Those are 3 fried zucchini on top of my rice.

The meal ended with the first of many birthday desserts thoughout the week. Mudpie, a long standing favorite of my sister and myself.

It didn't last long.

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Monday, February 23, 2009


I love Plantains. Whenever I see them on a menu, I usually get them. I love the texture and the taste and how versatile they are in every form. I love getting Brazilian and Cuban food because I can almost always get them. While we were at The Dekalb Market, Brian suggested we try making them, so we grabbed a few and brought them home.

First we tried making Green Plantain Chips using Alton Browns recipe on Food Network's Website.

Green Plantains

Start with unripe GREEN plantains, peel them and then slice them on an angle crosswise, on the thicker side (you'll see why in a sec).

Slicing the plantains crosswise

Next carefully place them into a skillet with hot oil (heated to about 325* or about med-high)and cook them for about 1-2 minutes, or until yellow in color. Remove from oil and place on a hard surface (like a cookie sheet) lined with parchment paper. Using some sort of a hard utensil, press down and flatten the peices to half the size (the reason for the thickness).

Draining, smashing and soaking the plantains.

Once all the plantains are smashed, quickly put them into a bowl of warm water with smashed garlic and salt in it, to soak for about a minute. Remove, pat dry and return to the oil to fry one last time.

Frying the smashed plantains.

Fry again for an additional 2-4 minutes or until golden brown and sprinkle with salt. They taste sort of like a cross between french fries and potato chips. I ate them plain, Brian enjoyed them with ketchup.

The finished product.

The next night we tried another way to cook plantains with the yellow ripe ones we had as well. This is the more common way of cooking and serving plantains in restaurants. The recipe is also from Food Network, but I slightly modified it by adding some butter to the oil to help with browning.

Start off with some yellow plantains. They should look like very ripe bananas, complete with dark spots and a slight give with squeezing them lightly. Slice them crosswise, like the green ones, about 1/2 an inch to an inch thick.

Peeling, and slicing Ripe Plantains.

Heat a pan with oil covering the bottom and add 1 tbsp of butter, allow it to melt. Slowly and carefully add the plantain slices into the hot oil, browning them, about 2-4 minutes on each side.

Cooking sweet plantains in hot oil.

When they become yellow in color, you can flip them over. They should be very golden brown, almost a caramel color, with darker edges.

Browning delicious plantains.

When finished, transfer them onto paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt.

Draining and letting them cool.

Then eat the hell out of them. These guys lasted maybe 10 minutes.

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