katiei's Profile

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Fabulous Birmingham Italian-Bambinelli's

My husband and I had high expectations and couldn't wait to go check out Bambinelli's. We really wanted to believe the previous excellent review reporting authentic Italian and even likening it to Gianmarco's. Walking up, I found the ambiance charming and loved the patio. I also loved to see that the patio is dog-friendly and that Monday and Wednesday nights are the 1/2-price bottles of wine nights. I couldn't wait to try the food! It was just when I was getting really excited about it that my husband noticed that there was no music playing-- not on the patio and not inside the restaurant.... So that brought my attention immediately to a sort of stark emptiness.... cafeteria-esque.

It is quite a stretch, perhaps even a huge leap, to compare Bambinelli's to GianMarco's. The meal could be best described as "meh" and there were way too many cut corners to be considered even upscale casual dining-- examples are the rectangular packets of Land-O-Lakes butter served with a greasy breadstick and the styrofoam bowl of marinara sauce that accompanied the calamari. These details really set the scene... low-quality establishment, little thought to detail. Well, I thought, that's no big deal if the quality of the food makes up for it! Ok, so let me start with the calamari since I've already mentioned it... I normally skip the calamari because, unless something is unique about it, I typically find it bland and rather boring. But they were out of my first choice of a first course, the oyster artichoke soup. I would have loved to have tried that! But in its absence, I remembered the glowing review above about the calamari, so we ordered it. And nope, nothing special... ho hum calamari..... sigh. My husband's remark was that it was overbreaded, overcooked and just "not fresh". Agreed. We were also presented with a very small side-salad-- mixed field greens (yay) in a bowl that was clearly pre-assembled and pulled straight from the fridge (boo) with a small carry-out-style-container of vinaigrette (consistent with the butter packet and styrofoam bowl of sauce). To my surprise, the vinaigrette was indeed tasty.

To get a true feel for the food quality, we thought it would be best to order our entree from the Bambinelli's specialty section on the menu. Afterall, what would better represent their best dishes than their specialties, right? So, with that in mind, we shared a combination plate that included eggplant and chicken parmesan, ravioli and meatball. Not surprisingly, we were disappointed with this order.... It arrived indistinguishably drenched in marinara sauce and covered with a thick layer of cheese. While this meal would arguably be fantastic for a hangover, it lacked the flavors of eggplant, fresh pasta, or anything else fresh for that matter. Nowhere did the thought "Yum" cross our minds during the entire meal.

By the way, we were finishing our meal somewhere around 9pm when we noticed that some music had started to play... I'll give you a moment to guess.... soft music with an Italian flare???? no..... jazz? nope..... Frank Sinatra? great guess, but no..... classical? huh uh.... it was (are you sitting down for this?) the Beach Boys! While the Beach Boys certainly do have a time and a place, it wasn't working then and there. It may as well have been the Beastie Boys. A perfect time to pay our bill, slug our remaining sips of wine, and head out.

Bambinelli's? I say BambiNOlli's.

Of course, I may still be inclined to return to try the oyster artichoke soup. If that changes my mind about the place, I'll certainly let you know!

May 21, 2009
katiei in General South Archive

BBQ in Atlanta ?

For kicks, try Daddy D'z on Memorial (?? I'm pretty sure...). I saw it highlighted on the Food Network a couple months before I moved to Atlanta 8 years ago. It's a good one to add to your ATL BBQ "must try" list.

Jul 20, 2008
katiei in General South Archive

Best of B'ham??

Interesting sounding Cuban! I'll have to check that out AND the carnitas from Gordo's. And I've been meaning to ask about the best tamales... Just based on tamales alone, would you vote for Gordo's, Mercado, or elsewhere?

Kudos on your new karma! :o)

Jul 12, 2008
katiei in General South Archive

Atlanta visit in August

Will you guys have a car or will you have to take cabs or MARTA (public transit)? My girlfriends and I meet out a lot, so I will definitely have some suggestions, but I'll try to narrow it down to spots that are easily accessible, based on your primary mode of transport. Do you like hole-in-the-wall spots? Sushi? Shopping? Mani/pedis?

Jul 12, 2008
katiei in General South Archive

Wings in Atlanta

I second Moe's and Joe's!

Jul 12, 2008
katiei in General South Archive

Easy to eat foods for entertaining...

There have been situations where I haven't reached for the huge chip for that very reason.... I think the other folks' suggestions sound good and I also think that you can't go wrong with a cool dip (because of the patio, which might be hot in the summer). A cold creamy dip with crudites always seems to be well-received. And since it's an afternoon snack, rather than an app for dinner, I would be tempted to serve something sweet along the side, like cookies or something simple (that rosemary shortbread sounds perfect!!!).

I have served this easy dip with blanched asparagus and other veggies to rave reviews, even when substituting low-fat dairy products. For best results, make it several hours in advance for the flavors to meld: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

I have also had some very good luck with taking the spinach dip sold in the fresh deli section of the grocery store (Publix) and doctoring it up by adding some crushed fresh garlic. I served it with some veggies (endive is a good scooper) and the little melba toasts.

Oh yeah... and I always enjoy wine when mingling, but that's just me.... :o)

Jul 12, 2008
katiei in Home Cooking

Choice of three places in Atlanta- which one?

From all the buzz I've heard, Rathbun's is the best of the bunch. I LOVE Ecco, and have heard REALLY good things about Woodfire Grill.... but many reliable foodies claim Rathbun's to be the best of ATL.... If I were choosing among the 3, I would go to Rathbun's.

Jul 11, 2008
katiei in General South Archive

What's the BEST cooking site?

Although I'm sure there are plenty of other great sites, I usually go back and forth between two: CooksIllustrated.com and epicurious.com. Cook's Illustrated requires a paid subscription (approx. $20 a year), but I consider them to be the true experts since they test all of their tips and recipes multiple times and with a variety of twists before publishing them. As a research scientist, I find this to be important, but I could see where it may be less important to others.

I go to Epicurious if I don't find the recipe I'm looking for on Cooks Illustrated. This is the recipe-posting site for Gourmet and Bon Appetit among others. I have tried hundreds of recipes from there and have adopted many as staples, frequently with the addition of variations that were suggested by reviewers.

In the rare instance that neither of these provide the recipes I'm searching for, my default is good ole' Google.

Jul 11, 2008
katiei in Food Media & News

Japanese Food in Atlanta?

I second Nakato. I was pleasantly surprised to find their sushi to be phenomenal!

I noticed discussion of Hashiguchi above... I used to go to the one by Lenox mall all the time and frankly can't remember why I stopped going there. If it's the same as the one in Marietta, it is super easy to reach by MARTA.

Jul 11, 2008
katiei in General South Archive

Moving to Atlanta - Need to find the following

If she's coming from LA, it's possible that she might be looking for more than just Mexican... perhaps a fish taco joint. When I moved to ATL from the west, I searched for anything resembling Rubio's, but the only fish tacos that I could find that came close were from FROGS cantina on 10th and Monroe (near Piedmont Park). They have a nice patio for a sunny day. Trader Joe's is there, too... added bonus. :o) For TexMex on a rainy day.... Nuevo Laredo is great-- I love the sauteed scallions for an app. and either the carne asada tacos with extra cilantro and lime, as well as the chicken diablo taco with a dallop of sour cream.

Pizza-- I enjoy a lot of veggies (with perhaps a little bit of meat), so my choices might differ a bit from those who load on the meat. Felini's makes a good veggie slice-- it's loaded with veggies and I usually add sausage and spinach. It's REALLY good. I also like Nancy's deep-dish spinach pizza. They deliver, too, but expect it to take an hour.

Breakfast-- Atlanta has a ton of great weekend brunch spots. Faves include West Egg, Murphy's (go quite early to avoid the lengthy wait), Watershed, Atkin's Park, Park Tavern (on a sunny spring day), and I know I'm forgetting some.....

Deli-- Goldberg's

Sushi-- I never liked RuSan's until I discovered the lunch buffet-- the shear quantity of sushi makes up for a slightly lower quality (in my opinion :o) ). Starfish on Peachtree is good and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the sushi at Nakato on Cheshire Bridge was phenomenal!

My favorite burger is Vortex's buffalo and blue cheese burger. I remember that my brother always liked their pimento cheese burger. Vortex also has a fantastic beer selection and tater tots, making the restaurant a definite winner in my book. And I can't believe I nearly forgot this... definitely check out The Earl in East Atlanta-- really good burgers, but interestingly enough, the black bean burgers are great! They will also serve up a basket of fried okra (even extra crispy, if you request it). yum... For an added bonus, check out the grafitti in the ladies' restroom... if it's still there, it's certain to make even Amy Winehouse blush. good stuff :o)

Jul 11, 2008
katiei in General South Archive

Is Salt Healthy?

Salt doesn't cause chronic blood pressure increases in people with normal blood pressure... it's the ever-so-gradual hardening of the arteries that does. From my understanding, everyone has this (atherosclerosis) to SOME degree, but the idea is to control its progression by keeping your intake of dietary cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats at a reasonable level AND (importantly) by including some type of cardiovascular exercise as part of your daily routine. :o)

Jul 11, 2008
katiei in Not About Food

Birmingham - (reasonably) healthy eats?

The point I was trying to make seemed to get a bit lost. By being mindful of a few things, you can confidently go anywhere and eat just about anything, while at the same time, reducing your portion size substantially… then voila… you’ve had a much lighter meal without denying yourself too much.

That being said, I really enjoyed the tabouli at Makarios near 5PS. Inexpensive, loaded with veggies… you can’t go wrong! Pair it with a simple kabob (kebab/kabab??) and you have a very light and satisfying meal. :o)

Jul 11, 2008
katiei in General South Archive

Best of B'ham??

yum... caramel cake... I'm SO there! :o) GianMarco's, too!

Jul 10, 2008
katiei in General South Archive

Best of B'ham??

Dax, a local hounds dinner sounds like fun! Please keep me posted!

Jul 10, 2008
katiei in General South Archive

Birmingham - (reasonably) healthy eats?

I am new to Birmingham, so I don't have specific recommendations for restaurants, but as an educated and experienced professional in wellness/ fitness, I have quite a few tips to share about making good choices at restaurants and I've summarized some of them below. They work well for me and for many of the people I've counseled, but they are simply suggestions, so take 'em or leave 'em.....

#1 (and most important). Do not allow yourself to go to a meal when you are ravenously hungry! This is probably the most common mistake people make. Eat at least SOMETHING every couple hours with a glass (or bottle) of water. Take a few (well-chosen) snacks to work to eat between meals. Suggestions include: cereal bars (whole grain, low sugar), a handful of almonds, low-fat string cheese with a piece of fruit, one half of a PB&J, crunchy raw veggies

#2. Portion down. Remember that portions are usually bigger than what we need for one meal. To make up for this, either split an app and entrée with a companion or ask your server to box up half of it in the kitchen before it’s brought to the table.

#3. Veggie up. Add veggies to your plate… either as a side dish or by picking an entree that is vegetable-heavy. The more veggies you can cram in, the less of the bad stuff you will eat. And besides, the American diet falls WAY too short on the 5-10 servings a day—we need to boost our veggies. By the way, macaroni and cheese is NOT a veggie.

#4. Use fries minimally. I have learned to acknowledge the healthful qualities of food items, even if it is a bit of a stretch, as long as they’re eaten in moderation. For example, ice cream… high in sugar and fat, but also kind of redeemable for the milk content; chocolate chip cookies… well, the walnuts are a good source of heart-healthy omega3 fats… Fries??? I’ve got nothing. In fact, calories aside, fries are loaded with heart-disease promoting transfats and carcinogenic acrylamide. Chips? same thing.

I hope this is helpful to you and/or anyone else here. These are the big tips (or tricks of the trade) I can think of now, but I have a feeling I’m forgetting something. I may be adding more to this list shortly.

Jul 10, 2008
katiei in General South Archive

Is Salt Healthy?

I'm not a physician and I know nothing about your medical history. That being said, I am an exercise physiologist (PhD candidate) and have had some training on fluid and sodium balance. From my understanding, the only reason to worry about salt intake is if you have problems with blood pressure because sodium is involved in your regulation of fluid. The simple explanation is that high sodium leads to a rise in blood volume and if you have high blood pressure, this will mean a rise in blood pressure. If you have normal blood pressure, this will self-correct without a problem. If you have abnormal blood pressure or heart disease, you already know that your circulatory system does NOT correct itself normally, so this is why such a slight increase in blood volume would be cause for concern.

Interestingly, a new study was just published that links dietary salt consumption to exercise-induced asthma... but that's a different story...

So, to answer your question, if you have normal blood pressure and you are otherwise healthy, there is no reason to cut back on salt that I can think of. I'm SURE there's an upper safe limit, though, so use some common sense. And if you start wheezing when you workout, then you might consider cutting back (AND see your doc).

I hope that helps.

Jul 10, 2008
katiei in Not About Food

Dirt Cheap but good wines

Agree with njfoodies about Novella-- my husband and I tried and really liked that one. If you don't have Trader Joe's nearby, we found a Chard called Sebeka (~$7-$8) from our local grocery store (Publix) that we love, love, LOVE. For a really tasty, really cheap Cabernet, you can't beat Two Buck Chuck (Trader Joe's).

Jul 10, 2008
katiei in Wine

Best of B'ham??

Thanks for all the suggestions! We'll check them out.... starting tonight!
:o)

Jul 10, 2008
katiei in General South Archive

Atlanta eats

To save a few bucks on cab fare, you can take MARTA to Lindbergh and then take a cab to Home.

Jul 10, 2008
katiei in General South Archive

Best of B'ham??

Mdt1, thanks for the links-- very helpful! Ah, yes... perhaps I should be more specific when mentioning that we want to get out of the house and meet new people... Not sure if this is the best place to ask for recommendations for this, but if you are involved in, or otherwise know of any fun, down-to-earth, and welcoming groups that participate in anything from happy hours and wine tastings to supper clubs… sailing to ballroom dance… art appreciation to flag football… we would love to hear your suggestions!

We live near Crestline Village, but we are happy to venture out of the neighborhood. We still have a lot of exploring to do, but of the restaurants we've tried so far, our favorites in Birmingham are Betolla at Pepper Place and Bottega Cafe for lunch, Red Pearl at the Oriental Supermarket for Chinese, Jim Davenport’s for thin-crust pizza, and Makarios for Mediterranean. We are still seeking out the best burger, best BBQ, best Mexican, best sushi, best fried chicken, best Korean, best Thai, and any other places that are just really good at whatever their respective specialties are. If you have any suggestions for “must try” places, I would appreciate them! I will continue reading the bham posts, too, because I have seen that there are some really good suggestions out there already.

Jul 10, 2008
katiei in General South Archive

Best of B'ham??

My husband and I moved to Birmingham in the fall and are still trying to identify the best restaurants, both upscale, hole-in-the-wall, and all in between.... We love all ethnic varieties, but appreciate authenticity. If you have any recommendations, we'd be very grateful!

We also would like to get out of the house and meet new people, so we are hoping to locate social groups/ happy hours where 30-somethings/ 40-somethings with similar interests in food and culture get together. In other words, where do the cool people hang out? :o)

Jul 10, 2008
katiei in General South Archive