It was on the late side, after seeing a play at the Alliance. Our friends were in the mood for coffee maybe, maybe dessert, something light. It took me all of five seconds to suggest heading to Empire State South. It all went downhill from there. Or uphill, depending on your perspective.
First, it was coffee, decaf. Then, a few cocktails. Then, oh maybe we should order a few things. We took the party outside to the bocce court, post-cocktail glass of wine in hand, and it all gets just a little hazy somewhere around walking back to the table with dust-covered hands. One thing stands out clearly in my memory, though. The farm egg.
Calling this dish the "farm egg" is both entirely accurate and woefully inadequate. Yes, there is one single egg. Sourced from Riverview Farms, more specifically from Gregg's Eggs, the purview of a young entrepreneur (named Gregg) who raises free-range chickens in the altogether-too-appropriately-named Ranger, GA. Per Empire State South chef Ryan Smith, Gregg "is going to be graduating high school this year. Pretty badass!" Agreed.
Yes, so one lovely, lovingly raised farm egg. The eggs are soft coddled, cooked in the shell in a water bath with one of those fancy immersion circulators for 45 minutes at 63 degrees Celsius (then held through dinner service at a lower temperature so everyone who orders doesn't actually have to wait 45 minutes). It's just about perfect.
Except that it gets better. It's what the egg is served on that really makes this "farm egg" dish stand out. The next key ingredient, the real foundation for the dish, is crispy Carolina Gold rice from Anson Mills. The inspiration for the crispy rice actually came to Smith while dining at Las Vegas' highly regarded northern Thai restaurant, Lotus of Siam (yes, it is awesome, and worth the detour from the strip to a shoddy strip mall if you are ever in Vegas).
The dish at Lotus of Siam is called Nam Kao Tod, and crispy rice is the main component. Smith said he spent weeks trying to duplicate it, notably the way that each individual grain was "crispy and delicious." Smith's approach was to wash the rice first, then boil it, then wash off any remaining starch, then pat it dry, then coat it in tapioca starch, then fry it. Totally easy and intuitive, right???
Anyhow, the result is a pile of magnificently crunchy grains of rice that retain their full Carolina Gold flavor, and serve as a fine platform for that one farm egg. Smith and team change up the dish with the seasons - the version we had by the bocce courts featured sunchoke puree, beech mushrooms, and house-made bologna - but the reception for the farm egg and crispy rice dish in any form has been so strong that it stays on the menu basically year-round. Smith says his favorite version comes in summertime, with hot dog, corn pudding, chanterelles, and squash blossoms. Now I'm dreaming of summer. And late-night bocce games fueled by farm eggs and crispy rice. That sounds even better than a trip to Vegas.
Get in Ma Mouth is a look at delicious things around Atlanta. It all started with a fig and mascarpone donut "slider," but knows no bounds other than that of eager hunger - sweet or savory, solid or liquid, homemade or store-bought. Click here for an archive of "Get in Ma Mouth" temptations.
on a saturday? probably not.
I guess he doesn't have to go to work
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