April 2010

It’s survived a lot of hard times, this Red Lobster, and is still going strong when other restaurants nearby have died (Bennys, Houstons, Roadhouse Grill). My family and I came for dinner on a weekday, and I couldn’t find a parking space next to the eatery. I ended up parking in the abandoned Houston’s. The last time I came to this one was when my father visited for a couple hours. It was the closest safe good place we could think of at the time.

Red Lobster has always been pretty nice. In my less chronic years, I tended to load up on their biscuits and various carby appetizers, before going for a saucy flatfish or an exotic grilled entree. We really didn’t order an appetizer this time and went straight to entrees. I had grilled rainbow trout (half serving), my wife had their grilled half salmon, and my daughter had a special, tilapia cooked in a sauce that included soy.

I’m still getting used to the idea of telling my waiter I’m diabetic and then asking what might be good, but I did it here, and when salads arrived, my family had croutons on their salads and mine did not. Yes, small touches like that get noticed. Staff here is good, and it’s clear by the number of cars outside that people are willing to pay for it.

It’s a good restaurant. Food is very good, service is reliable and very good, the salads seemed a little small these days, as did the vegetable sides. My asparagus was a little overcooked to my tastes. I spent a fair amount of time rescuing my daughter’s leftover salad and picking the vegetables off other plates of food. But I suspect for most people it’s a safe choice, and is indeed much quieter than Bonefish.

Verdict: Good safe reliable chain. Recommended.

Red Lobster
4001 Hwy 78 W
Snellville, GA 30039
(770) 985-9336

Red Lobster on Urbanspoon

My weight loss software, Weight Tracker ODS, says I’m actually losing weight faster in April than I was in March. It’s not as evident because it all didn’t come in one fell swoop. Instead it was gradual, two steps forward, one step back changes. But I’m in the next smaller size of pants (a little snug, but wearable) and my whole wardrobe will need to be replaced shortly if I continue at the same pace (1.9-2.1 pounds a week, or so the spreadsheet says).

I spent a little time in the Snellville Red Lobster, so a review of that restaurant is upcoming.  I’d also like to talk about varieties of canned salmon sometime in the near future, with a focus on good tasting fish to use for lunch.  But for now I need to do some research on the topic ;). Suggestions for resources are welcome.

Mambo’s Cafe is a popular Cuban-Peruvian eatery, well liked by its patrons. I came here for lunch recently, liked it, and came back with my family the next day. Lunchtime is crowded. It took 5 minutes until the rush grew slow enough that staff even made eye contact with me, much less offer a word or a table. Once two tables cleared, a waitress then smiled, pointed, and I was seated.

This eatery is located on Haynes Bridge Road, just before the intersection with Old Minton Road. It’s on the left as you’re heading north, in a shopping center whose supermarket has abandoned the complex. There is no sign visible from the street and the eatery itself is almost impossible to see until you’re in the parking lot. I guessed, based on the map Urban Spoon provided and a feeling I was at the right intersection.

Once inside, there aren’t very many seats, over a dozen but not by much. There is a small bar in the back and a screen covers the opening into the kitchen. Once seated, staff will supply a basket of a very good garlic bread, and what Chow Down Atlanta has called an aji sauce. First time I was served this, I made enough room in my diet for a chunk of the bread and some sauce. Very much worth it.

For lunch I had the pan con bistec. It’s a sandwich with grilled palomilla steak, onions, greens, potato sticks and mayonnaise. I scraped off the sticks – there were plenty of those – and ate about half the bread. Serving sizes in this restaurant are large, and for their size, lunch sandwiches are pretty cheap. Rather than fries, Mambo’s let me substitute salad greens. That was certainly welcome.

picante de camarones

Yellow rice, and plantains.

At dinner I knew my family was going to go for the paella, and I wanted one of the Peruvian dishes that Mambo’s offered. I ended up choosing the picante de camarones, and since the paella takes at least 30 minutes, we started with ceviche mixto.

ceviche mixto

The ceviche was quite good, a mix of seafoods and fish in a good citrus base. I spent my time digging out bits of red onion and lettuce and soaking them in the sauce. My daughter rummaged through the dish looking for bits of octopus; she especially liked the short bits of tentacle. The picante de camarones was also good. The shrimp are cooked in a yellow pepper sauce. There may have been a hint of sweet in the sauce, but not enough to make a difference.

paella. The pan is about 13-14" across, and pretty deep.

The paella was the star of the meal, coming out in a large metal pan, the serving size so large that both my wife and my daughter were eating from it and they left about half of it to be doggie bagged. It’s a huge serving, given the price. That’s typical of Mambo’s, to provide a lot of value for the dollar.

The sides were good. My wife spent a good deal of time looking for the toastier plantains and eating them. She doggie bagged the ones less cooked. Service, once you catch staff’s eye, is pleasant, thoughtful, and good. My wife described our waitress as “very sweet”.

Verdict: Good to excellent food, exceptional value. Very Highly Recommended.

Mambo’s Cafe
11770 Haynes Bridge Road, Suite 601
Alpharetta GA, 30009

Mambo's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Fazoli’s in Snellville, near Target, has closed. The sign is down and a FOR SALE sign is in the window. For a long time Fazoli’s was my go to place for something quick to eat before a movie.

My plants were pretty happy about the weekend rain. No, no more peppers seem to be coming back to life and I’m thinking I’ve got to raise a couple more boonies from seed. Just the way it goes.

I went to a Cuban-Peruvian restaurant twice over the past three days, Mambo’s Cafe. A review will be coming early this week. It’s good value, fairly priced for the amount of food you can get.

The maximum recommended dosage of omega-3 fatty acids is 3 grams a day (in the form of EPA/DHA; I believe it’s not as critical for ALA consumption). If you read the reasons usually listed, they seem confusing, so I’ll make it simple. Omega-3s are blood thinners. Take too much, and you thin the blood too much. I’ve seen it happen, when I was taking a blood sample for a glucose measurement after having had both a healthy dose of salmon in the evening and 3 fish tabs in the morning.

Olivia Judson is a scientist and writer, whose columns in the New York Times leave me reading her quite often. Recently she posted about fat, the 40s, and long term brain degeneration.  No, not the most fun read, as my family is always thin until 30 and then we gain weight rapidly. It’s as if a thinness gene gets turned off.

Fat: the root of all nutritional evil?

But that isn’t what fascinated me deeply. One of her readers, one Mel Presley, of Roskilde Denmark, had this to say in response.

I want to suggest two possible roadblocks that obstruct the path to better understanding of the connections between obesity and cognitive decline.

First, what public health dogma advocates as a “healthy” lifestyle – a diet low in saturated fat (some would still say all fats) and plenty of prolonged, moderate-intensity exercise – is hardly natural for the human species. We’re omnivores, but without nutritional knowledge first available at mid-20th century, our energy, protein, and micronutrient requirements can only be met reliably by a mostly carnivorous diet that’s relatively high in animal fat. Prior to the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago, we didn’t have grains as a significant food source, and we certainly didn’t know that they had to be eaten with legumes to provide adequate protein quality. The natural human diet our ancestors followed the past 2 million years of our evolution was high in meat and animal fat, and usually low in carbohydrate unless a lucky find of fruit occasionally changed the picture.

The interesting thing is, if we disregard the modern paradigm of “healthy” eating and revert to our roots, we discover how nature designed hunger and starvation work. With a low carbohydrate intake and an ample supply of fatty meat, hunger abates and remains at bay even if we don’t eat for a few days. We live off our stored fat, depleting the fat depots that would otherwise accumulate and lead to obesity. If fruit begins to dominate the menu, the compelling, gut-wrenching sensation modern humans know as hunger takes over, and we’re driven to eat our fill of high-carbohydrate foods every few hours. In a primitive world, this makes sense, as it forces the body to accumulate the fat stores that saw our ancestors through times of famine. With a supermarket just around the corner, and Western fare full of grain products and sugar, the fat-storing “thrifty gene” has become our nemesis.

Primitive agrarian cultures modify the natural order by cultivating grain, beans, and starchy tubers, introducing high-carbohydrate energy sources, but growing these as crops without power equipment entails long hours of mostly low-intensity labor. Our 30-minute jog four times a week is a poor substitute for 12-hour days in the fields.

The second source of obfuscation in understanding how obesity and cognitive decline are related is the failure to understand that type 2 diabetes is not a condition one suddenly acquires by meeting arbitrary diagnostic criteria, rather, it is, in most cases, a latter stage of a degenerative process that begins with excess fat accumulation and other early signs of metabolic syndrome. Research that classifies subjects as non-diabetic and diabetic misses the emergence of a whole array of anomalies that can act independently and in concert to set the processes of degeneration in motion.

Increasingly as we age, an assured supply of inappropriate foods and, for most of us, a lack of compulsion to be physically active for long periods, make it easy for us to accumulate body fat while sparing us from having to endure the bouts of starvation needed to naturally deplete our fat stores. We develop insulin resistance as our fat stores make it more difficult for insulin’s action to pack in even more fat, so blood levels of glucose and insulin rise and stay abnormally elevated. LDL cholesterol particles become glycated, making them difficult for the liver to remove from the circulation, and we develop one form of dyslipidemia. If we persist in consuming a large carbohydrate intake, we develop elevated triglycerides and a shift toward small, dense LDL, other forms of dyslipidemia. The high insulin levels may provoke a type of cellular-level bloating in smooth muscle cells, making them hypersensitive to nerve impulses and leading to blood vessel constriction and hypertension. Elevated glucose can directly damage the kidneys, nerves, and the retina.

These processes can take hold long before conventional medicine formally classifies a patient as type 2 diabetic, and they don’t portend well for our vascular systems or the vital organs such as brain and heart dependent upon them.

Mainstream medicine can “cure” anyone of metabolic syndrome: you just go on an unpalatable, low-fat, super-hypocaloric diet and spend the rest of your life feeling constantly hungry, chilled, weak, irritable, and depressed. Needless to say, there are not many takers.

Periodic, short-term starvation in some form of intermittent fasting or near-fasting shows promise, but research never integrates it into a high-fat diet because the latter, which academic medicine still dismisses with shrieks of “Atkins!”, remains taboo. Unfortunately, a politically-correct “healthy” diet makes IF hard to tolerate, killing its appeal.

All of which must make the food, pharmaceutical, and medical industries very happy. You don’t want to solve something as big as the obesity epidemic and upset their gravy train.

Now within this comment are a pants load of assumptions, one of which I’m not sure is necessary. Isn’t what Mel is describing, about prehistoric eating, true regardless how our ancestors ate? That binge-starvation cycles are independent of what you binge on, whether it be meat, or fruit, or fields of tubers (wild onions, perhaps)? The point he’s trying to make is that hunger is set off-kilter by abundance, that plentiful food was not around (except for the rich) until the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

That’s something, that by virtue of my diet, I’ve come to believe. Hunger fails you when you’re in my condition. It’s not an accurate measure of when to eat or how much. So in order to live, I eat what I need to, not what I feel like eating. Also, the idea that metabolic instabilities are something that predate the label “type 2 diabetic” is also quite appealing. Again, Mel didn’t give references, and this is just a nicely pieced together story at this point. Mel could be a nutritional scientist or an angry type 2. But I will say this kind of thinking does resonate within the diabetic community, who tend to think the ADA has failed them, that medicine has failed them, that the system does not give a care, and that it is very poorly equipped for early diagnosis and intervention.


My wife’s reaction to finding out that Shoya Izakaya was not packed on weekday nights was to insist I take her there. We had tried before. Lines out the door kept us out. So back we went and she was very pleased with what she had and the food we ate. I tried a couple new dishes. Their house salad is a nice plate of greens, I enjoyed the spicy miso dressing and their grilled miso cod was quite good. The nabeyaki udon is a big bowl of food (my daughter got it) and my wife very much approved of the pork yakisoba she ate.

I didn’t take any pictures, but I have a left over picture from the previous engagement:

Spicy mushrooms, which ended up not very spicy.

To note, Books Japan, both stores, is closing. The last day will be Friday next week. Yes, there is 15% off everything in the store. We’ve been going to Books Japan for what seems like a decade now, and it’s sad to lose this institution. They’ve been losing Japanese business, and as they told me, they don’t expect Japanese business to be coming back. After all, the financial giant that dug Japan out of a decade long recession is its neighbor, China.

Some time ago Eat Buford Highway announced a get together and I very rapidly said I would attend and posted my intentions on my blog. And since I was the only one to post on BuHi’s announcement, I worried afterwards that somehow I had jinxed the whole affair. As far as I can tell, I’m the only diabetic actively blogging restaurants. Other diabetics simply don’t engage in the kind of behavior I do. If they’re foodies, they talk about cooking. If they’re not foodies, they eat at home, or if they go out, they don’t talk about it. I’m not quite sure how much being a diabetic upsets others. It’s taken months to get as comfortable with it as I am now, and I’m still not 100% comfortable with it myself. What about others?

I took time off early from work to prep for all this, and arrived early to the site. I was going to head into Books Japan, browse, and then show around 7:30 but the man of the hour got out of his car and headed into Shoya Izakaya. I wasn’t interested in being fashionably late if I didn’t need to be and headed in as well. And rather amazingly, a couple minutes later, Kate of A Life Fulfilled showed up and joined us. There was a big sigh of relief as suddenly it was a group of 3.

I believe Beth Robinette showed next. And pretty soon Antonio (I didn’t get the last name) showed, apparently a well known Tweeter. BuHi was surprised when Antonio ended up being Asian. Two others showed, a man I recall from the previous meeting, and a young lady, a self described “lurker” on BuHi’s page. It was, all told, an affable group and a lot of fun.

There was a lot of gossip and some self explanation, and jokes that writers would get. Mostly though, conversations revolved around food.

Kushiyaki assortment

Salmon sashimi. One piece gone in this photo.

Chicken skin kushiyaki

It was so convivial I was forgetting to take pictures.

And yes, if I worked hard enough I could recall all of what I ate, but for now, my food journal reads “Shoya Izakaya” and in the exchanges/calories section of the log, I put a ‘?’.

A lot of food was being shared. I was given a bite of ankimo, and it wasn’t as good as I recalled previously. I was also offered a bit of a chicken skin kushiyaki. I think Antonio got almost everyone to try this. That wasn’t bad. A bit like fried pork skin, it was a bit chewier than the Southern treat. But mostly what was being served here today was good will and conversation. And yes, for someone in my particular condition, very very reassuring to have gone through this.

To note, Shoya is very diabetic friendly. Lots of meats, easy to find vegetables, plenty of fats. Since fats in particular hold a kind of reverence in the diabetic diet reserved normally for sweets in a normal diet, the abundance of things like pork belly and sausage make this a place where a type 1 or type 2 can safely indulge. I felt good afterwards too, as if I had eaten more than a regular meal, yet really hadn’t broken my diet.

I’m sure that this crew will be looking forward to BuHi’s third. If the pattern holds, it will be in about six more months.

This is called the Signature Ham sandwich or the Ham Classic sandwich, from Honey Baked Ham.

I had one a couple days ago. Thick chunks of ham, marble rye and a thin tasty slice of cheese help round out this lunch day classic. It helps that this store is near work and very accessible. I needed to eat and fast. Staff here are, I think, exceptionally friendly and on a day when I needed to wolf something down and head back to work, this place was a total success.

Verdict: Noted for their quality meats, this store also delivers a very good sandwich, and fast.

Honey Baked Ham
1165 Perimeter Center West, Suite 360
Atlanta, GA 30338
(770) 671-1353

Honeybaked Ham on Urbanspoon

Pollo Real may appear on the surface to be more Taco Bell than taqueria, but the product they deliver to your plate is the real deal. Tacos have 2 soft, fresh, steamed corn tortillas. Tacos not only come in the basics, you also can get lengua tacos. I ordered a set of three lengua tacos recently.

The tacos came with a red and green salsa. I made my waitress smile when I said I wanted lots of both of them. They were good and they were cheap. It’s about 2 dollars per when they serve 3 for 5.99, and yes, you can go around the corner and get tacos for 99 cents at Taqueria 2 de Oros, but Real’s location in the Assi Plaza makes it easy to eat and shop.

Verdict: Looks like generic mall Mex, tastes much better than it looks. Highly Recommended.

Pollo Real
1630 Pleasant Hill Road, Suite A-2
Duluth, GA 30096
(678) 514-2196

Pollo Real on Urbanspoon

Hot N Cold Chinese Buffet is a brand new restaurant on the corner of Highway 78 and Scenic Highway, next to Big Lots and in the same mall as Provinos and Sri Thai. It’s found in the same place that Snellville Diner used to occupy, and in a flyer in the paper announced its grand opening recently. My wife, who is usually not prone to suggesting places to eat out, was intrigued. She suggested we should go there.

Chinese Buffets have been an integral part of the Atlanta culinary landscape since I came to the city in the middle 1990s. Once just nice, the buffets became more and more ornate over time, adding snow crab legs in an effort to compete for the buffet business. Jut my opinion, but snow crab legs doomed a lot of buffets. People would come who would heap their plates high with snow crab and nothing else. Prices would rise, or quality would fall and the buffet would disappear. Some buffets solved the problem by dropping snow crab legs altogether.

Hot N Cold takes an intermediary position on this issue. You can have crab legs, but you pay extra if you do. It seems smart to me. If people abuse the privilege, then the “tax” on snow crab legs will simply increase.

There is a fairly broad selection of meats and seafoods at this restaurant. Shrimp, crawfish, salmon, raw oysters, sliced circles of squid, mussels of various kinds, clams, and scallops are all available. There are beef, chicken and pork dishes. There is a place you can get wonton soup, and at their hibachi station, they cook what my wife called a “stir fry”.

Vegetables are available as well. The steamed vegetable of the day appeared to be bok choy. It was a little oily, but otherwise quite good. They also had green beans (good) and a collection of daikon and carrot pickles (tasty). There was lettuce and stuff to toss onto the lettuce. I didn’t see carrots or tomatoes to add this day.

There are quite a few desserts and also a frozen yogurt station. My daughter’s opinion of the chocolate was that it was very chocolate-y.

There were some downsides to the buffet. My wife didn’t like the fried plantains she ate, and the sushi was often unappealing, and in general too heavy in sauces for me to even try. But overall it was decent. I’ve eaten better, I’ve eaten far worse. There were misses but there were plenty more hits than misses. As long as this place can keep the majority of their items in top shape, I’m sure they’ll draw business. They’re in a prime Snellville location, and if they can keep up their quality in this highly competitive genre, they’ll be okay.

Verdict: Decent food, prime location and good hours. Recommended.

Hot N Cold Chinese Buffet
2302 Highway 78 East
Snellville, GA 30078
(678) 344-5200

Hot N Cold Chinese Buffet on Urbanspoon

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