Thursday, June 27, 2019


Quick post, #MeatetarianEats fans —

Earlier this year, I re-launched my visionary website and writing platform at Under the "stories" heading, you can read up on so many things related to business, leadership and entrepreneurship ... including everything I've been eating in 2019! To just stay tuned to the Meatetarian Eats posts, which get a new one each Thursday, click here.

Thanks for being followers of the OG site! It's staying online as an archive of some of my favorite places, and I still link to it regularly. I look forward to y'all reading on the new platform!


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Beefing Up Eats in Oglethorpe County

If you ask a resident of Crawford, Georgia, how many red lights his city has, he'll tell you, "Just one."

If you ask a resident of Oglethorpe County in Georgia how many red lights her county has, her answer will be the same. Hint: It's the same light.

For the longest time, that red light had an old car dealership on one side. I drove past it every time I went from Athens to Evans and vice versa when I was in college. It had some antique cars in the showroom and new wheels outside. The dealership closed a couple years back and the beautiful white building sat vacant. Crawford is a rural area — all of Oglethorpe County is, honestly; there's a reason why it only has one stoplight and that's because there's a lot more farmland than anything else — so part of me wasn't overly surprised to see a big, shiny place like that close shop in a tiny city. But I did wonder what would go there next.

I'm never a fan of progress for progress' sake. Small-town Georgia shouldn't be overrun with commercial businesses and fast food franchises [y'all don't even get me started on That One Giant Clothing Store That Opened In Downtown Athens ...], in my humble opinion. But at the same time, that was a gorgeous, historic building. It had potential. And I'm not talking about the "big developer from big city wants to tear it down and build high-rise apartments" potential. I'm talking this place could be anything and draw people to Crawford, people who may learn to appreciate the charms of this little place as more than just the only place in Oglethorpe County with a stoplight.

A former Ford dealership gets new life as Crawford,
Georgia's latest restaurant.
One day a few months back, I scrolled through Facebook and stopped at a picture of a familiar building. That old dealership was getting a makeover as a barbecue place! And even better, it was going to be owned by some of my favorite beef friends in the state, the Gretsch family. Yes, it's the same family that owns the guitar company.

The first day I saw the "coming soon" sign up on the building, I was so excited that I accidentally forgot that I was at a stoplight and I drove right through it. Sorry Oglethorpe PD; that's my bad.

G Brand BBQ (the name coming from the "G" brand the Gretsch family uses to market its Angus beef cattle, under the moniker Gretsch Brothers Angus) opened to the public last week, and y'all know I was there opening day!

I rolled up after work and was a little concerned I wouldn't be able to find a parking spot. Let me tell you, the place used to be a car dealership, but it barely had space for the amount of BBQ fans coming out to eat and to support this new venture for the Gretsches! The building itself is spacious, with plenty of seating on the right-hand side and a large waiting room area and to-go counter on the left. There's nothing fancy. It's Southern, it's homey, there's some pig decorations; it's exactly what I want a barbecue place to be like.

The menu is straightforward: you choose your meat(s) and your side(s). Plates come with two sides, or you can snag favorites a la carte. Meat choices include chicken, St. Louis ribs, babyback ribs, pulled pork and brisket. Sides are stew, beans, coleslaw and applesauce. I got JE a half-pound of pulled pork, which comes with bread in case you want to make a sandwich, and for myself ... I couldn't help but get the brisket sandwich plate.

Pause for reflection ... I met the Gretsch family in about 2012 or '13, not long after I started working as the communications director for Georgia Cattlemen's Association. Now, when you work for Georgia Cattlemen's Association, or you're a GCA member, or you know a GCA member or maybe you just show up for a random membership meeting, you don't eat fish. You sure as heck don't eat chicken. You can maybe get away with pork. But you are 99.999 percent more likely to be eating a hamburger, a steak or brisket for whatever meal is provided. We ate A LOT of beef brisket. So it seemed completely appropriate to indulge in some nostalgia on opening day of G Brand BBQ.

Brisket is the cut of meat that comes from the chest area of a beef animal. Think of it as the beef version of the chicken breast. Because that's a pretty heavily muscled cut of meat, it's best done rubbed down or marinated, then slow-cooked or smoked to get it nice and tender. Then you can chip it or slice it. My sandwich was chipped brisket (a little messy; don't be me and wear a white shirt, as you will regret that life choice) and I could've eaten two, I was so hungry. The meat had that iron-rich flavor of beef and was a little dry, but it had such good taste that was fine by me.

The stew was a tad sweet, thanks to the corn inclusion. I loved its consistency — very even, not overly chunky, but not runny, either. (Wow, that was a lot of commas in that sentence.) It got eaten straight with a spoon, but I bet if there was an option to serve it over rice that would be incredible. Since I'm into spicy food lately a touch of heat wouldn't have been a bad addition.

And the slaw! There are only two places I will now willingly eat slaw, and this made the list. It's crunchy, a little sweet and tastes good on top of a brisket sandwich or mixed with the stew or by itself. I love that it had mayonnaise as the binder, but it wasn't watered down and gross like a lot of Southern slaws tend to be in my mind.

A brisket sandwich, stew and slaw from G Brand BBQ.
Now, I didn't get dessert ... but G Brand also has dessert options, including banana pudding, peach cobbler, cakes and brownies. Some are provided by a local bakeshop called The Crafty Spirit, and I believe the 'nanner puddin' and cobbler are in-house. By the time I got there, it looked like there were only a couple slices of cake left, so that's going to be a return trip treat for sure! And maybe I'll grab some peach cobbler while I'm at it (y'all know how I feel about bananas ...) for, you know, taste-test purposes.

I'm going to be hard-pressed not to stop in on every single dad-burned trip to and from Evans. It's hard for me to say "no" to BBQ, especially when there's so much more on the menu left to try! Like, I am pretty sure the ribs were gone within hours, so they were long-gone by the time I was able to slip out that far down 78. In fact, they were sold out of everything on opening day before 8 p.m!

Between the food and the family who owns it, I think G Brand will be a destination joint for Athens townies, Georgia fans on their way into town and residents of Oglethorpe and Oconee. You should find time to stop in, too. I'm a firm believer in supporting our farmers and entrepreneurs. Patronizing these locally owned, family-run, one-of-a-kind businesses is what keeps them around. And as much as I love me some McDonald's French fries ... there's a whole lot more charm to your meal when you can take a left just after a county's only stoplight and know your brisket sandwich purchase helps keep a family farm afloat to feed the rest of your country.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

This Mouth is On Fire

Woo, lawdy — it's not just my mouth, but my tongue and of all things, my ears burn after eating Kelly's. Trust me on this, y'all. That burn that makes you feel like Dracarys just breathed fire straight into your face is so worth the food.

Kelly's Authentic Jamaican Foods, also affectionately called Kelly's Jerk or simply Kelly's, is a true Five Points Athens gem. The last time I ate here was approximately 2010, and at the time I rarely ate anything spicier than mild salsa at Mexican restaurants. I couldn't tell you what I ate, but I distinctly remember sitting in the restaurant area with my coworkers, my eyes watering from the peppery, sweet and hot meat and sides. I couldn't stop eating even though my 21-year-old self could barely handle the heat. Everything was just so flavorful and delicious.

Eight years later, and with a slightly better food vocabulary than "flavorful and delicious," I'm happy to report that Kelly's is still serving up intensely seasoned dry-rubbed meats and complementary sides. Over the intervening time period, I was introduced to and learned to appreciate a variety of different styles of spicy flavors (Sriracha, spicy Latinx and Hispanic foods, sweet-spicy Thai, savory and sweet Indian ...), so my palate welcomed jerk with open tastebuds.

Two jerk pork plates from Kelly's Authentic Jamaican
Foods in Athens, Georgia. Side selections were spicy
squash, rice & beans, mac 'n' cheese and green beans. 
My boyfriend and I ordered a couple of to-go jerk pork plates, which each come with two sides. Though I did not get a chance to ask Mr. Kelly about his recipe secrets, jerk seasoning is typically a spice blend of herbs and ingredients like cumin, allspice, cinnamon (the top three I detect the most prominently in the pork and spicy squash), hot peppers, black pepper and salt. Not that I am anywhere near expert at Jamaican foods, but I feel like jerk seasoning is one of those things that gets guarded as a restaurant or family secret not unlike the recipe for Coca-Cola syrup: there will often be imitators, but there will never be duplicators. Everyone's seasoning has the same basic ingredients, then you swap a few out to suit your tastebuds, then you play with proportions to get the sweet vs. spicy vs. savory ratio that's ideal for your dishes.

When I walked into Kelly's this weekend, I will be completely honest in that I must've looked like a complete idiot — I stared at the beer and soda cooler behind the order counter looking for a menu board until the sweet woman working the register took pity on me and pointed to my left, where a white board spelled out the day's options. I already had my heart set on the jerk pork my boyfriend mentioned (if you've followed Meatetarian Eats for any amount of time, you know I have a special place in my heart for pork dishes). For our four sides, two per plate, I was feeling the spicy squash, mac 'n' cheese, green beans and rice and beans.

Each of these was served in generous portion in Styrofoam to-go containers, with a little extra pork gravy poured over the rice. And you can't leave Kelly's without cornbread. Few know this, but doing so is committing the eighth deadly sin. That's because Kelly's cornbread is more like a sweet honey cake with the consistency of cornbread than it is a Southern-style dry and buttery cornbread. I highly advise you to get a big square of it, put it on your plate and let it sop up the grease and gravy from your meat.

Holy smokes. I don't know if you've ever eaten spicy honey before, but that is what this tastes like. It's tantalizingly sweet and then slowly at first, but then faster, the heat comes on and you're left trying to figure out what peppers got put in your cake. Or well, maybe you're not, but I am.

As for the sides, the spicy squash had more of a sweet heat to it, and the rice and beans had more prominent peppery notes (granted, that may have been from the additional gravy poured over it). The mac 'n' cheese was gooey and savory, and tasted as though perhaps some cumin was added to it. I don't know how y'all feel about mac 'n' cheese, but my absolute pet peeve on this side is when it's served up as noodles doused in cheese so melted that it's more like eating cheesy noodle soup. This had more consistency of a baked mac, and I greatly appreciated that! Another weird Meatetarian quirk is how I am about green beans. I abhor the fancy long beans, wax beans, Italian green beans, etc. Basically, I like my green beans out of a can. I don't think Kelly's green beans came from a can (if they did, I am totes OK with it), but they had the perfect size, moistness and brininess as canned green beans. The flavor was subdued compared to the other sides, but with so much spice on your plate, I think it was a good idea to get something a little more mellow to round the meal out.

I don't think it's entirely far-fetched to wonder if there's some addictive additive inside Kelly's jerk seasoning. Considering how on fire my entire body is at this point (sunburned arm included), it's the only logical explanation for me wanting to drive back over for more.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

IDK About Your Pie, But My Pie is Peach & Prosciutto

Pizzas are a lot like sandwiches.

They both start with a carbohydrate base (in sandwiches' case, bread; for pizzas, dough). Then you add cheese, meat, fruit and vegetables to your heart's delight. You can eat them hot or cold. If you're me and you like about six vegetables, you can get away with multipurposing them for homemade pizza and fresh sandwich toppings, thus saving some moolah on that grocery bill.

I eat rather a lot of pizza. It's easy; I can say I'm "cooking" even though all I am doing is turning on the oven and throwing a frozen pie into it for a specified amount of time, then taking it out and devouring it. And like sandwiches, the sky is the limit when it comes to what you can find or put on top of them, so you never feel like you're eating the same thing day after day after day.
Disclaimer: No, Mom, I promise I am not actually eating pizza more than three days in a row, and that is because one pizza equals three meals minimum, no matter how I slice it.

The peach and prosciutto pizza from Your Pie
Recently I had a pizza though that I would not at all be opposed to eating multiple days in a row, though I will advise you to eat it fresh (it didn't keep well for two days in the fridge). It's the peach and prosciutto pizza from Your Pie.

Your Pie is an Athens, Georgia-based franchise that — not to continue my sandwich-pizza comparison — can best be described in set-up as the Subway of pizza restaurants. There are several pre-designed options you can pick from, or you can build your own from a plethora of sauce and toppings. The peach and prosciutto pizza looks like it's a seasonal choice, so if this post makes you hungry, you should probably act on that craving before it's too late.

Once the dough is rolled out and put on your individual pizza paddle, it's dabbed with olive oil and topped with generous amounts of ricotta cheese. As someone whose favorite generic pizza is white pizza, this made my eyes glaze over in ecstasy. Then comes shredded mozzarella, the melting properties of which are simply incomparable. Handfuls of thinly sliced, slightly sweet and tart peaches go on next, followed by paper-thin pieces of salty cured prosciutto (a type of cured ham, and the easiest way to fumble your way around its pronunciation is pro-shoot-oh, but preferably with more of an Italian accent). A drizzle of balsamic glaze over the whole thing, and some fresh chopped basil, and buon appetito.

Sweet and savory is one of my favorite flavor combinations, and this pizza hits the sweet spot. Especially since the peaches are a little tart as well, you get more of a depth of flavor that you would if you were eating bacon and peach French toast, or even peaches and pork chops (the only other peach + pork pairings I'm familiar with). Plus, the ricotta is so mild that your toppings aren't overtaken by a sauce.

Your Pie's white crust is also really good, although again, it doesn't keep well if you have a habit of taking home leftovers. It doesn't bubble up too much so I didn't feel as though I was eating mostly bread, and it had a great butteryness to the flavor without tasting salty.

If you go to the Eastside Athens location (which I did!), make sure to say hi to Collin and Andrew — and shameless plug, please order an Akademia beer if they've got one on tap. If you like what you eat so much that you want to start your own franchise ... I happen to know who you can talk to at the corporate office about that, and you can repay me with free pizza for life once you hit the big time. ;)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

This S*** is Tostones, T-O-S-T-O-N-E-S

The Meatetarian is no stranger to weird food. In fact, I rather pride myself on my ability to get the weirdest-sounding thing on the menu, especially if it is meat-related: I've eaten Rocky Mountain oysters (spoiler alert; they're not oysters). When it comes to non-meat though, I am significantly less adventurous and more inherently grossed out. I tried tofu (that didn't sit so well with my GI tract). I've stomached boiled and steamed vegetables. I ate brussels sprouts once. I even went so far as to make my own greens a few times.

But there is one food item that I cannot put anywhere near my tastebuds. Bananas.

I couldn't tell you exactly what horrid childhood trauma scarred me so much that I gag on the mere thought of these things, but for as long as I can remember, I would rather starve than eat a banana. Yes, y'all, I know they have potassium. I'm sure your grandmama makes a mean 'nana puddin' with Nilla wafers. I am well-aware that they can cream up a smoothie. I have heard multiple times that the Akademia Brewing Company head brewer/co-founder makes a solid Belgian tripel, which is on-point for its banana notes. But if there is the tiniest hint of banana anywhere near my breakfast, lunch, dinner, second supper, beer or midnight snack, I ain't eatin' it. My daddy is this way with onions. Maybe it's hereditary?


After 29 years of just saying "no" to Chiquitas the same way I approached hard drugs, imagine my surprise when I found a banana-like product that I actively crave. They're called tostones, and the only place I've ever had them has been at Cali-N-Titos in Athens, Georgia.

Tostones are fried green plantains, and after doing some super-nerdy research into why I am drawn to them more than bananas (blech), here's what I learned.

Plantains have more starch than bananas do, although they're from the same family. That means they're much better to eat cooked than raw. Think about it — potatoes, also super-starchy, are significantly better cooked than raw. Similarly to potatoes, plantains can be sliced, mashed and deep-fried to make tostones. I reckon that makes them like the tropical equivalent of French fries. And though I have a hankering for tostones, there's also another variety of fried plantain that is on the Cali-N-Tito's menu. Maduros are fried sweet plantains. I have not tried these, though allegedly they don't taste like bananas.

The sandwich el criollo and tostones at Cali-
N-Tito's Eastside
The Cali-N-Tito's folks have managed a perfect way of slicing and mashing tostones so that they have this gorgeous scalloped edge when they're deep-fried. They've got a fine crispy outside and not-quite-fry soft innards. They go well with whatever amazingness is in the pink sauce you're served to dip them in.

I've been to Cali-N-Tito's a couple times before and gotten tacos (shocker), but this latest venture I was feeling something more out-of-the-hardshell. So I got the traditional Peruvian el sandwich criollo. I must say, this was a fabulous decision.

The pork was marinated, tangy and juicy with a nice hint of brine, topped with red onions, tomatoes, cilantro (y'all, cilantro does not taste like soap) and some sweet-yet-zesty mayonnaise, all served hot on grilled bread. I highly recommend adding pickled jalapeƱos as well.

Oh. And did I mention this sandwich's crowning glory? Sweet potato chips. On. The. Sandwich. Full disclosure, my favorite guilty summer sandwich pleasure is throwing potato chips on my sandwiches, and now I want to try it with sweet potato chips.

El sandwich criollo y los tostones were a solid combination. You do have to order them separately, but it's worth the couple extra bucks. The tostones are plain enough in terms of seasoning to complement all of the flavors in the sandwich perfectly, and also act as a little bit of a palate cleanser between bites.

Cali-N-Tito's has two Athens locations. The outdoorsy one on Lumpkin Street has more limited parking, no liquor license and also no menu online, but you can BYOB assuming you are 21 and up. I usually go to the Eastside location off of Cedar Shoals, which serves alcohol and oddly enough has an ice cream shop inside. It's also occasionally referred to as "La Puerta del Sol," but everyone I know just calls it "Eastside Cali-N-Tito's." Either way, you're sure to find something to please your palate on the menu.

And if you don't, just bring me your leftovers and I'll make sure they find a good home.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Morning Roll Call

It is no great secret that, despite my mad skills with cooking meat, I am miserable at baking.

The only thing I've ever successfully baked is Ghirardelli brownies. That come from a box. And even then, if you mess with my baking system (like, I'm baking them in someone else's oven or for the first time at my new apartment), the brownies get messed up.

My best friend Amanda and I still joke about that one time in seventh grade we tried to make Nun's Puffs, and we didn't have most of the ingredients so we unsuccessfully substituted, and wound up with barely edible but-we-ate-them-anyway-because-we-worked-hard-gosh-darn-it breakfast pastries.  I effed up some boxed chocolate chip cookies once — I swear I followed the instructions for "chewy," so I don't know why they were like eating cookie chips — and I found out the hard way that if you leave the cardboard underneath a frozen pizza while it bakes, you wind up with pretty much raw dough topped with melted cheese, pepperoni and vegetables.

I am, however, quite good at eating baked goods.

Case in point, sad PMS-ing Dallas has been known to eat entire boxes of Girl Scout cookies alone, in one sitting, on her couch while drinking whiskey. Also case in point, yesterday morning's venture to a new (to me) bakery in my new(ish) home of Athens, Georgia.**

I originally attempted to go to the Milledge Avenue Jittery Joe's, which is a local coffee roastery. Highly recommend their spiced iced dirty chai lattes. But I was running late, there was a line ... and though I desperately craved coffee, my immediate thought was "I ain't got time fo' that today."

That's when I remembered this quaint little bakeshop around the corner from Jittery Joe's — Independent Baking Co.! I parked my car possibly illegally and darted over.

"This is perfect! Especially since I discovered that I left my yogurt out overnight at JE's house and now I don't have breakfast," super-adult me said to myself.

Y'all. This little bakery is precious. And I don't mean that in the stereotypical Southern ol' biddy way that is only one step above being told "bless your heart." I mean that in a genuine fashion. It's tee-tiny, clearly made as a place to bake really good bread and pastries, and they tossed out a couple stools for people to sit at.

I would also like to commend Independent Baking Co. on their incredibly minimalist and modern logo design. Obsessed.

But what everyone else obsesses over isn't what's on the outside of this place. It's what's on the inside, and boy, let me tell you — if you're on one of those low-carb or keto diet things ... please get off of it for a day and come here. Fresh-baked anything smells amazing, but fresh-baked bread has this rustic earthiness to its smell that is so warm and inviting. Behind the counter you're greeted with shelves stuffed with loaves and loaves of fresh-baked bread that's emanating that homey smell. I could tell just from looking at them that they were perfectly crusty.

Since I was on the way to work, and eating a loaf of bread by myself is generally not socially acceptable, I glanced down at the front counter, which offered up several different grab-and-go pastries. The danish with spinach and chevre (!!!!) began to call my name, but the woman behind me in line saw me looking and directed my attention elsewhere: to The Morning Roll.

Please pardon the less-than-stellar Insta
story photo quality here.
I have never been so pleased to wake up and learn that my yogurt got left out the previous night. Morning rolls are officially my new favorite pastry ever and like, who needs a Cronut when that costs about $17 plus a plane ticket ... when this divine gift from the heavens is only a couple miles from my apartment?! Here are the most important points.

First: The size. These babies are about the size of my hand, and a solid two inches tall.

Second: Not your average cinnamon roll. Morning rolls are made with delicate, flaky croissant dough, dipped in cinnamon sugar, baked and then dosed with a second hearty helping of cinnamon sugar.

Third: I walked out of here, tip included, with this sugary delight and a latte made with Counter Culture coffee, for only a buck more than I spend at Jittery Joe's for my regular breakfast drink.

It was very hard to eat my morning roll at work and resist the temptation to get back in my car, drive to the other side of town and just eat the rest of them. The original dusting of cinnamon sugar caramelized while baking, so there was this crisp candy-like layer in areas around the croissant dough. I adore croissants (if it's offered as bread for a sandwich, that's what I'm getting), and this was top-notch. The thin outer layer was crisp; hidden underneath was this exquisite cushion of pastry perfection, lightly sweetened.

I'm taking names of anyone who wants to split one of their loaves with me on my next visit.

** TLDR I moved back to Athens full-time last fall; started a new job; hence why it was hard for me to settle in time to write fun stuff that probably only my mom reads. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Bar Rescue(d)

I joked earlier this week that clearly I know there are no states above the Dakotas because, you know, I did make it through kindergarten and also wound up with two college degrees a few years later. That being said, outside of the 50 United States of America, my sense of geography is very poor. It is my second-worst category on "Jeopardy." My first-worst is bodies of water.

I'm also pretty poor shakes at directions. And distances. Hand me a map and I have to orient the map to exactly the direction my feet are pointing so I know whether to go right, left or straight. Basically, I'm good when you hand me a GPS and very specific instructions on how to get to my destination. I will also probably show up late. Punctuality has never been one of my strong suits.

The Georgia Voice staff at our Best of Atlanta 2017 party
This is how, at 9 p.m. last Tuesday, I was scrambling around West Midtown in Atlanta like a chicken with its head cut off. You see, the paper I write for had a deadline, and my editor and I sweet-talked our printer into holding the entire paper from production until 9 p.m. so that I could attend a mayoral forum, write the story and have it in the next day's print edition. Things were going great until about 8:45, when I was almost finished with the story and then suddenly, the lights in the theater went out. And the key sounded in the lock. And my laptop was near death. And I hadn't uploaded photos yet.

Great! I thought. It is very dark in here. I am going to be spending the night in an empty theater. This is not creepy at all.

Thankfully, about five seconds into my panic, someone came in and looked entirely surprised that I was still sitting in a chair with my laptop, camera, recorder and phone piled in my lap like a homeless IT nerd. "Oh! I came to make sure we didn't lock anyone in!"

For the record, I was informed I could stay as late as I needed. Um, about that.

I asked the theater key holder if there was a coffee shop nearby. He responded in the affirmative and told me to take a left, and it would come into view.

In my heels and fancy dress with all my journo gear I hauled ass out of the theater, frantic to get all the things done so our printer wouldn't fine us for a late turn-in. And here's where my fabulous sense of direction came in. What had been failed to pass on was the fact that this theater is located at an intersection where five, not four, streets collide — meaning there were two potential lefts that could be taken.

Guess who picked the left where there wasn't a coffee shop.

Now even more frantic, I glanced up and happened to hear strains of music coming from up ahead. I didn't know where I was going, but I darted in and found myself in Eight Sushi Lounge. After a panicked exchange with the hostess, who I think might have thought I was about to have a heart attack because she spent the next 30 minutes offering me water and pillows, I was able to have a seat and finish my story. And then, because I'm a nice person and I hate people who show up in restaurants or bars and use the space without supporting the business, I ordered a beer and some of the coolest sushi I've ever had.

Crispy rice, a shiso leaf, spicy tuna and a fried quail egg
make for bite-size eggs Benedict
This wasn't your run-of-the-mill sushi roll place. I ordered eggs Benedict and canolis [sic]. You read that right.

The eggs Benedict were to die for. I heart egg appetizers to begin with (I'm the grandchild who will eat the entire plate of 24 deviled eggs at every family function; don't judge me) and I've never had anything close to this. Three bite-size squares of sushi rice were topped with a shiso leaf — which, according to a Google search, is a plant that tastes of basil and mint — spicy rare tuna and these perfect little fried sunny side-up quail eggs.

One bite and I had to work hard to not eat the other two in quick succession. The flavors were peppery and salty (I didn't get the hint of mint or basil from the shiso). The rice offered a slight crunch. That rare tuna just melted in my mouth and I was halfway tempted to close my eyes as it rolled over my tongue. And those eggs! Who knew that such a tiny little yolk could offer such a buttery, viscose undertone? It mellowed out the spice from the tuna and associated sauce, which I may have scooped up on my fork and eaten by itself after I finished the Benedicts.

I thought that would be all I would order. A sushi bar is not the most budget-friendly place I could have stumbled into. But then the server came by and tempted me with those cannoli.

If food could cosplay, that's what these little babies did. I was presented with two pastries. One, a crispy, light cone, was full of a rich, whipped mousse. The other, more of the traditional Italian cannoli shape, had bit-size chunks filling its insides. They were drizzled with some sort of deep reddish brown sauce that hinted of balsamic.

At first glance, they looked like those tasty little desserts proffered at eateries that are more likely to serve spaghetti than sashimi. But look closer, and you'll see that these cannoli are exactly what the menu declares: avant garde. It's not cream and chocolate sauce.
Meaty king and whipped hamachi crab
meat stuffed inside savory cannoli

It's crab. And it's good, very good. Tremendous, bigly good, some might even say.

The whipped crab was a sensory delight. I wanted it to be sweet because of the way it was prepared, but it was unmistakably savory. Yes, crab is a little sweeter than some of its fellow ocean-dwelling creatures, but it's a far cry from the traditional cannoli filling. The chunkier partner was king crab, which melted in my mouth like the tuna did.

As stressed as I was when I first crossed the doorway into Eight, I left with a full stomach and relieved brain. I'm still not entirely sure how I got there in the first place, but I am glad I did.

Boozy Bonus: Sorry Umami IPA

First foray into Japanese beer, and I am here for this. Umami, if you have somehow stowed away under a culinary rock for the last 10 years and still think your tongue only tastes sweet, sour, salty and bitter, is the term given to the savory, meaty flavor you taste when you eat things like meat or fish. Think of it as the protein taste. Proteins are made up of amino acids, like glutamic acid. Steal a proton from the chemical compound and you're left with an anion (negatively charged compound) called glutamate. The taste receptors on your tongue that respond to umami are responding to the glutamate.

Lemme tell ya, my glutamate receptors were very receptive to this savory-tinged IPA. I've had a few rauchbiers, which are beers with meaty and smoky notes, and I love them. This was a muted version. No smoke, no "meaty" flavor, but definitely savory. It was light and crisp and a welcome respite from some of the hoppier, fruit-forward brews I've been favoring lately.