Cabernet Restaurant Alpharetta

I’ve been to Cabernet Restaurant for lunch a few times in my 5 plus years working in Alpharetta and it’s usually been just OK. That atmosphere  and pricing has always been a little higher-end than I tend to favor. But it seemed like it should be worthwhile as a treat.

Today I suggested to the group I was with that we should try Cabernet to see how it’s doing these days.

I have to say I was somewhat disappointed.

The service was just slow. From arriving at the front and waiting for someone to show up to seat us to every interaction with the waiter it just all took too long.  I think the situation was, even though the dining room was not even half full, there were simply not enough wait staff to host even that small a lunch crowd.

I was going to order their Filet mignon but waiting for the waiter to show up to take our order made me rethink trusting them to cook a steak. I figure that a restaurant that cannot manage its dining room probably isn’t doing so well managing the kitchen either.

I ended up ordering a Turkey Wrap which was the best thing on my plate but still pretty bland. It came with “hand cut potato chips” that were among the most tasteless I’ve ever come across. If I had been able to find a server I’d have asked for ketchup to at least give them some semblance of vitality. Also included was coleslaw – I’m more a fan of vinegar rather than creamy coleslaw – this had the distinction of being neither one nor the other and still retaining its ability to be unappetizing.

For the occasions when my drink glass was not empty it was half the time filled with the wrong drink.

One of my party did comment that the waiter knew how to deliver the menu recitation and, when he had made his way to our table I must admit he was effective at making choice items on the menu sound appealing. But that, alas, had to be the only really good thing I can say.

I will not be returning.

“Hint of Lime” scoops

Who else is waiting for this perfection of a Tortilla Chip concept to come to fruition?

We have “Hint of Lime” chips,

We have “Scoops”

What’s the hold up?

While I’m making the case for cool tortilla chips, why can’t we get “Salsa and Sour Cream” flavored chips like they have (had?) in Canada a couple of years ago. A friend brought these to a party once and I’ve been looking for them here in the beautiful South ever since.

Call your congressperson! Doing something about Mexican Appetizers is likely the most useful thing they’re ever likely to accomplish.

Three Dollar Cafe Jr. Fries – Excellent Plus!

French FriesBeefeater fries are among the most difficult to do right. They’re either too cooked (burned) or limp and soul-less. But the Three Dollar Cafe Jr. (located on Old Milton Parkway about 1 1/2 miles East of Northpoint Parkway) always gets them right.

Notwithstanding the fact that their Wings (boneless wings for me thank you) are excellent too. But when I get a hankering for absolutely, consistently great fries. This is where I go.

Angelo’s Steak Pit

Cheers!Despite the somewhat corny advertising (“And that’s no bull!”) the food and service at Angelo’s Steak Pit are both excellent. It is *really* hard to get a steak cooked properly nowadays and I have to say that this Panama City Beach restaurant does it right.

There is a distinctively road-house look to this place, so this isn’t your typical fine-dining experience, but from the first person we met at the door through to the waitresses, everybody was warm and friendly. Service was timely and the food, from the salad (try their house dressing!) through to the buttered bread to the steak and potato were all excellently prepared.

Example of how not to take a flash pictureOur server, Amy, kept my drink filled and was at hand when we needed anything. Service like this is what makes people like me want to come back again and again.

I heartily recommend Angelo’s Steak Pit if you happen to be in Panama City Beach!

Perfect Popcorn

I like my popcorn. When Michelle is out for the evening I can quite happily make do with a supper of popcorn with cheesy seasoning.

11 Years ago I was in a Target and spotted the popcorn maker below. It was inexpensive ( under $15) and came with a simple recipe that I’ve tweaked a bit over the years so it’s exactly right for me. I’ve seen a lot of other inexpensive poppers in various stores, all that really matters is that you can stir the popcorn kernels while cooking and that steam can get out.

First the ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popping Corn – it doesn’t matter what type: his hot air popcorn, White Popcorn, whatever. This is simply the most reliable popping corn I’ve tried – and I’ve tried plenty. It’s not that pricey and we’re talking, what, $2 more for a container of something that will make you at least 10 batches of popcorn? You can’t even buy 1/3 of a small popcorn at a movie theater for that price.
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil – a quality canola oil works best. All brands are not created equal. One of the store branded ones I tried used to start smoking at a fairly low temperature and tainted the taste of the popcorn
  • 1/3 stick of butter – use real butter not margarine or oil. If you’re on a diet have some celery instead.

Cook the popcorn and heat the butterPut the popcorn popper on the stove, set the burner to just under medium-high (7.5 on my stove dial).
Add the cooking oil and 3 kernels and give a couple of spins with the popcorn paddle to spread things out evenly.

Turn on your oven, it really doesn’t matter the heat, and set the cooking timer to 2 minutes. This will heat it up and dry out the air in the oven.

Put the butter in a small pan on the stove. I like to have it on maximum power for about a minute or so to get things moving and then bring it down to medium-low.

When at least two kernels have popped this means the popper temperature is right, dump in the rest of the popcorn and spin the popcorn paddle a couple of times to spread everything out and get the hot oil all over the kernels.

It really does pop the top right of the popperYou can either spin the popcorn paddle continuously or wait until you hear the first kernel pop. But make sure you keep spinning it after that. Not fast, your goal is to both keep the popped corn from burning and to encourage the kernels to all pop at more or less the same time.

When the popping has slowed (less than one pop per second) pull the popper off the heat – better a few unpopped kernels than ANY burning happening in your popper. That smokey smell is instantly absorbed by the freshly popped corn and can ruin the batch.

Quickly empty the popcorn into a bowlPour out the popcorn into a large, oven-safe bowl. I use stainless steel myself. If a couple of kernels pop while you’re pouring suck it up you sissy! 🙂

Apply generous amounts of melted butter and seasoningShake the bowl to even out the popcorn and then take the butter from the stove, it should be fully melted by now and start spinning the bowl. Drizzle about one third of the butter over the popcorn, then either shake the bowl or use a spatula to mix it up. Do this a couple more times to get butter all through the popcorn.

Plain salt can work fine here. If you go to “Wendy’s” restaurants you can grab a fistful of their salt packets and use them instead, it’s very finely ground and will stick to the popcorn nicely.
I’ve been alternating between Reese Cheesy Popcorn Seasoning and their Buttery Flavored Salt. Be warned that the Buttery Flavored Salt is VERY salty so use it sparingly. I use at least two to three times more of the Cheesy Seasoning than I do the Salt. Be generous with whichever you choose – this is a treat so you should enjoy it. If you prefer not to enjoy your treats, have some dark chocolate instead…

Like with the butter, make sure you add some salt/seasoning, mix up the popcorn and then add some more. That way you don’t end up with a wonderful top and a bland bottom.

Take your popcorn and toss it in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes (prep your movie or check your email). What you want to do is to get rid of as much moisture as you can.

Put into pre-heated oven to help make the popcorn crisper.

Warning: if you are using the seasoning above, do NOT try to put the popcorn into the oven while the burners are still going – the cheese will burn very easily and ruin the popcorn.

You can use the preheated oven to salvage day old popcorn. It becomes kind of rubbery because it acts like a sponge absorbing moisture. I actually store my unfinished popcorn in the oven which is a very dry environment and usually get two nights of popcorn bliss this way. We have a rule in our household that the oven interior light must be on before turning on the oven – this prevents broiling the popcorn when preparing another meal…

If all you have is an air popper, the reason its texture is so crappy is because it seems to retain WAY more moisture than when you pop it on the stove (or maybe it absorbs the moisture faster, either way the result is the same). Tossing it into the oven for 1/2 hour (even better if you can shake it up a couple of times while it’s drying) is WELL worth the wait if you can stand it.

OK OK I sound a little obsessive here, but I’ve actually experimented a lot and mentally kept track of what worked and what didn’t. The whole thing is pretty automatic for me and, since I’ve already done the thinking, I don’t need to really think about it anymore. Hopefully you can benefit and enjoy your popcorn.

Jocks and Jills Fries – Superb

French FriesI frequent (OK not so much frequent as just get there when I can – it’s kind of out of the way for me these days) the Jocks & Jills restaurant at the Galleria on Cobb Parkway (near I-285).

My favorite meal is their “Boneless Buffalo Bites” which has exactly the right amount of chicken and exactly the right amount of their wonderful french fries. Never mind the fact that their Buffalo sauce is perfectly tangy and just a little spicy, their french fries are worth writing home about too!  These wonderful fries rate a 5 out of 5 for me. Slightly crunchy exterior, just the right texture on the inside. mmmm… that’s good eating!

Swiss Chalet Fries – Possibly the best in North America when done right

French FriesSwiss Chalet is a franchise available almost exclusively in Canada. There are a sorry few (3 as of this writing) stores in the United States, but generally you need to travel to the GWN to sample the Swiss Chalet cuisine.

As of late, the past 5-6 years, Swiss Chalet has become less and less dependable for good food or service. But when it’s good it’s *really* good. Their strip fries are slightly greasy with crispy portions on the outside and wonderfully greasy inside. They hold their own against ketchup or their wonderful Swiss Chalet sauce (both at the same time if you are adventurous) and rate a solid 5 out of 5 on Marc’s french fry scale.