Thursday, March 30, 2006

Peanut Butter Is A Many Splendored Thing

Family Update: The last few Weaver weeks haven’t been too busy - I've watched lots of basketball, Jeff has studied, I've beat Jeff in tennis (sorry..had to say it), and we hit the studio with the band to lay down tracks for our 2nd song. It's still got some tweaking to do, but we're pretty excited about it. I'll try to post a clip when one of the 2 is nailed down. No news of upcoming gigs as of now.

Tonight, I tended to a sick husband. To join his spirit’s solemnity in remembrance of his father’s death 12 years ago today, Jeff’s body took a day of rest. It started as a 103 degree fever and has declined in severity to a bad throat-ache and lots of soup and saltines. Two years into this marriage thing and only a few sicknesses later, I’m still learning whether I’m to coddle him like a mommy or just get the heck out of the way. I think a certain amount of coddling is called for (held in good balance with getting the heck out of the way).

Ode to Peanut Butter.
I started this post with a restaurant review, but I scrapped it because I got distracted trying to get peanut-butter from the roof of my mouth. Nothing says midnight like some toast smothered with peanut butter topped with raisins or dried cranberries. Mmm.

Peanut Butter is a national past time. It’s like baseball…without the steroids. Throughout the world there are wine connoisseurs, coffee snobs and cigar aficionados. I wouldn’t necessarily use any of the above adjectives to describe my relationship with peanut butter. However, based on our sheer consumption, both Jeff and I could use the less admired descriptor, peanut butter addict.

Tonight I indulged in Jif – straight-forward creamy style. While I like the notion of chunky, its just hard to spread and you end up eating lots more I think. For the value I find Jif creamy to be good, spreadable, and much nuttier tasting that generic versions of the same ilk. Hydrogenated oils and other odd additives aside, Jif Creamy is good eating.

The ultimate in my opinion is, Smuckers’ All Natural Creamy. You know the stuff with the big oil pool at the top when you open it. True, I have to work at a new jar with a knife for a good 5 minutes. Its a careful mixing process - combine the oil and peanuts while not spilling the fragrant peanut oil on myself and suddenly smelling like a Chic Fil A cook. I keep a jar of this golden splendor at work, which is probably feeds the habit to have it so handy..oh well. I must note that I have also tried generic brands of Natural Peanut Butter, Publix, Target, Kroger…none compare to Smuckers. The others get dry and crumbly at the bottom of the jar and don’t have the salty, yet nutty sweetness of the Smuckers. It is so rich in flavor in fact, that I probably use less of it than I would of conventional creamy PB.

I missed my Smuckers while in France last fall…but we were not totally deprived of our favorite food/condiment (?). Mississippi Belle Peanut Butter was one brand we discovered in France - the ONLY brand we found in France actually. Who knows how long it sat on the shelves of that Nantes supermarket before we stumbled upon it. After all, the notion of making a spread of cacahuetes is rather revolting to the French. Intestine sausages: A-okay. Peanut spread: Degoutant! Found snuggled in between locally grown honey and Nutella, Mississippi Belle was our comfort food. Great on left-over baguette for breakfast, as a dip for digestives (a favorite cookie of ours that we smuggled from the UK) or just plain by-the-spoonful eating.

Mississippi Belle peanut butter is imported to Europe – chalk up one for US food product exports! Chipping away at our whopping trade deficit one American in Paris at a time. I heard that to object US foreign policy decisions, the French were smearing the streets with Peanut Butter. Mmmm….foreign policy protests.. ;-)

And speaking of protests – check out CNN or the BBC coverage of the massive protests you may or may not have heard about in France. Unrest is alive in well in many French cities, including Nantes,where within the last few days around 40,000 students, teachers and workers have taken to the very streets we walked a few months ago. This is a very critical time for France.

In Closing...
Odd things that Peanut-butter addicts like us combine with peanut butter…
  • Jeff – Cottage cheese, honey, peanut butter.
  • Jeff ‘s family – Pizza, applesauce and PB
  • Katie & Jeff – carrots dipped in PB, bananas n PB, apples n PB, celery w/ PB & raisins...
  • Katie – Oatmeal with cream, strawberries, and PB

You may have some favorite brands, other nut spreads or odd combinations with Peanut Butter. Feel free to share.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Restaurant Review and Other Surprises

Once again, you may or may not have been wondering what I've been up to lately. Besides not blogging. Well, truth may not have seen me on the Barbara Walter's special, but I have had a little side project going on.

Somehow between my Thunderbolt Kicks, Jeff and I managed to celebrate our 2 year anniversarry on March 6. It's been 2 amazing years of adventure, love, misunderstandings laughs and lots of Indian food.

Speaking of celebrate our two years as Weavers, Jeff took me to a restaurant that I had heard good things about, but never tried. It turned out to be quite possibly the best meal I've ever had in Atlanta not cooked by my mom.

Rathbuns - American cuisine tucked away in a converted steel mill which lies in the heart of Atlanta's Urban renewal explosion. While countless mills and factories in the area have given way to lofts and condoes, so for the neighborhood's most valuable addition is the brainchild, and namesake of renowned Atlanta chef Kevin Rathbun. He has taken his Buckhead restaurant experience at spots like BluePointe and Nava, and added his own nouveau southern accent to create an outstanding melange of fresh, culinary interplay.

The offerings, both "small plates" and larger entrees are a creative blend of Asian, French, fresh, and tres fatty. But make no mistake, this is a restaurant in the heart of the new south. Sides like country ham grits, creamed corn with gouda and smoked mashed potatoes pay homage to Mr. Rathbun's roots. As did Jeff's entree - Seared Cod and sauteed shrimp over smoked mashed potatoes with slivered almonds and cranberries.

Now, you won't find many a gourmande making cod fancy, but this was an outstanding preparation of no-knife-needed fish, and some of the freshest tasting shrimp I've had in a while. My small plate sampling included Rathbun's signature dish, and his mama's recipe, of Eggplant fries dusted with powdered sugar, served with a brilliantly yin/yang side of tabasco and powdered sugar for dipping. While delighful and different, this was probably my least favorite of the plates. My lamb scaloppini was out of this world, its apricot sauce had fresh mint, bacon and little teaser cubes of goat gouda. Okay, combining the sharpness of chevre with the creamy comfort of gouda..I couldve eaten a block of JUST the cheese.

Perhaps the most surprisingly good small plate were the salmon tostadas. How can a smoked salmon taste THAT fresh - not overly salty, but perfectly smokey with a sunset pink hue that melted in my mouth. Each little chunk was served on a crispy cracker with a habanero creme fresh. An exciting kick on the back end of each bite. I should also note, that the pre-meal bread was the best I've ever had at a restaurant for pure freshness, unique herb flavors and salted-crust taste.

Dessert, briefly, because it was tiny, but just what our stuffed tummies needed - a banana peanut-butter creme pie. Seriously, had one of us happened to get a head-wound or have a digit cut off during dinner...we would have stayed for the pie... It's Jeff's favorite combination of flavors and I'm just a general sucker for sweet things. It was fabulous, and just the right size (they do "small plate" desserts too).

Final libation note: on our waiter's recommendation, we tested a Pinot Noir (2003 Porta, Bio Bio Valley) from surprising Chile and it was outstanding in value and taste. A classic burgundian bite that accompanied our diverse meal selections wonderfully.

Ambience: Very hip, but not pretentious. We saw all types there - business casual folks, hipster friends and elderly couples. High ceilings and textured brick walls make it less intimate than some other options, but we were successfully able to enjoy each other company and conversation... then the food came, all chatter ceased and for the next 30 minutes we gazed lovingly at the food before us and our empty forks... Visit Rathbun's.

Review over. Maybe more to come, if we can think of more anniversarry's to celebrate. Next big event - Jeff's graduation (finally!) from MBA academy. May 2.