Just desserts 

Decatur's sweet tooth is satiated

"Decadent" is not a word for casual use. In a world that promotes narcissism as much as ours does, it takes some significant work to develop enough self-indulgence to earn the label.

Perhaps you have tried to no avail to become a bona-fide decadent. You've shaved your head like Britney and slammed your purse on the hoods of expensive cars. You've adopted Donald Trump's hairstyle. You've stopped wearing underwear like Paris Hilton. But nothing has worked.

I can help.

Head to the Chocolate Bar (201 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., 404-378-0630) in Decatur. Indeed, to double the decadence, first go to nearby Watershed on a Tuesday night and feast on Scott Peacock's fried chicken. Then waddle up the hill to this tiny bar for "culinary cocktails" and a dessert or two or three or more. Nobody will ever question your qualification as a divine decadent again.

Opened by Karen Britain, a former nurse, the Chocolate Bar features the work of two very gifted chefs, Nick Rutherford and Aaron Russell. Both worked for Guenter Seeger, long considered the city's best chef, who was forced to close his Buckhead restaurant, indisputably the home of our city's most creative cooking ever.

Rutherford was sous chef at Seeger's and also worked as chef de cuisine at Quinones at Bacchanalia, which has arguably succeeded Seeger's as the city's best restaurant. Russell was pastry chef for Seeger and also worked at the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. We're talking major talent, almost entirely devoted to the sweet side of the palate. Your makeover into a decadent will take only one visit.

The bar's decor naturally reflects its name. Wood walls with contrasting colors of dark and milk chocolate keep the room pretty dim. The brightest object is a glass case full of mainly chocolate nibbles. You can sit at the bar, as we did, or grab a table inside or on the sidewalk – if you can get one. The place is enjoying instant popularity. People in Decatur tend to be wholesome and have long needed some culinary sin.

Actually, the bar offers some savory items to contrast with the menu of sweets. There's curried popcorn and marinated artichokes along with cheese and charcuterie plates. At the bartender's suggestion – the staff is thoroughly enthusiastic here – we tried a goat cheese called Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog and, to satisfy my continual wish that I were in Spain, a sheep's-milk Manchego. They were served with three cooked fruit concoctions and some toasted bread. Among the charcuterie, we selected a mild sopressata and, again at the bartender's recommendation, finocchino, a Tuscan salami made with fennel.

The menu apparently changes from time to time here. The restaurant's website lists a watermelon soup but the evening we visited, the chefs were offering slices of Georgia peaches afloat in Guenter Seeger's geranium soup with a scoop of vanilla sorbet. The small quantity of aromatic, sweet soup was even served, à la Seeger, in a gigantic bowl. Peaches, mysteriously, are delicious this year, and their slightly acidic flavor worked well with the soup.

If, for some reason, you don't want a full-sized dessert, you can order a petits four tasting. We received six tastes; I especially liked the ginger-flavored chocolate, passion-fruit gelee and the nougat. Another itty bitty taste is a chocolate pot de crème. Actually, if it were three times its size, it would still be itty bitty.

Of the larger desserts we also tried a banana split flambé. The bartender told me it was going off the menu soon, despite its popularity, so I'd better order now. I expected the dish to be literally flambéed before my eyes. No such luck. But it featured bananas flambéed in rum, with a log of marshmallow "fluff," chocolate fondant and vanilla ice cream. It's not the banana split you used to eat at the Whirly Q.

A favorite of many here is the "Oreos and milk," which features white-chocolate ganache between layers of dark-chocolate souffle with milk sorbet. The man sitting next to me at the bar ordered it and, despite my asking how he liked it, he did not offer a taste.

Since I don't drink, I didn't sample the rococo cocktails available. Wayne ordered an Old Fashioned made with Angostura bitters, tequila infused with serrano, lemon and cocoa oil. There are also passion-fruit mojitos, watermelon spritzers and minted green tea with ginger and vodka. A menu of martinis includes one flavored to impersonate tiramisu.

I'm betting that if Paris Hilton chooses to go slumming in Atlanta anytime soon, she'll make a beeline for the Chocolate Bar.

Here and there

Sol Catering, a project of the Taqueria del Sol folks, will hold a grand opening party at its new facility at 1145 Zonolite Road, Suite 11, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, July 29. Chef David Waller will be offering tastes of new dishes, as well as old favorites from the taqueria menu. ...

I mentioned how good peaches are this summer. But I've got a question. How come the fruit I buy at Publix almost always tastes better than the fruit I buy at Whole Foods, where it usually costs considerably more? I bought expensive nectarines at Whole Foods last week that were basically inedible, they were so mealy and dry. Publix's were ripe and juicy.

But here's my main complaint. I am addicted to Fuji apples. I usually eat one a day, too often with a hunk of cheese. Fuji apples, at their best, are extremely crisp and sweet with an amazing bouquet when ripe. I have never bought a decent Fuji at Whole Foods, organic or conventional. They are beautifully displayed but are never as crisp as Publix's. Nor do they have good flavor. I've tried sitting them out for a day, and they only grow mealier.

Maybe they're buying them from China?


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