Friday, June 29, 2007

The Tattler resurfaces

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2007 at 4:55 PM

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We dined at the Standard last night and I ran into, of all people, Tom Houck (right), the former columnist, talk radio host and chauffeur for Martin Luther King Jr. Tom and I go back 30 years, as he kept reminding me, just so I don't forget my age. At the time, I was editor of the Atlanta Gazette, and he was writing the city's first real gossip column, The Tattler, for us.

I ate my favorite arugula salad with steak added last night, and Wayne had a burger. Tom left for dinner with a friend at Nan. He said he'd been enjoying Kevin Rathbun's new steakhouse.

Hmmm, I think I'll make this a food Tattler ...

This is from the Food Studio's PR peeps:

We are transforming into a more casual, approachable dining spot. The restaurant is reaching out to a broader audience with more relaxed menus, a modified wine and cocktail program and newly refined design touches.

Continue reading »

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Life is an aquarium, old chum; come to the Luckie Food Lounge

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2007 at 3:41 PM

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We visited the new Luckie Food Lounge (375 Luckie St., 404-525-5825) this week. My full first-impression review will be in next week's paper.

The gigantic restaurant next to the Georgia Aquarium was developed by Mike Boles, who created the high-tech nightclub Compound, which he sold last year. This new venture also is a high-tech showcase. Basically, it creates the atmosphere of an aquarium. It's dark with seven miles of lighting, most of it eerily blue. There are plasma screens everywhere featuring images of moving water.

The restaurant is divided into a sushi bar, a cocktail bar and dining areas. Above is the cocktail bar.

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Here's a shot of the sushi bar with its especially impressive, strangely lit aquarium.

The restaurant's menu features straightforward American fare that tourists will find attractive.

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Presentation of food is in urgent need of improvement. This is literally the way a $24 plate of ahi tuna arrived at the table with a side of beefsteak tomatoes.

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We did enjoy desserts of three varieties of creme brulee and bread pudding.

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Most charming man alive found working at airport Popeyes

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2007 at 3:29 PM

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If you read Grazing, my regular dining column, you know I took regular potshots at the Popeyes on Boulevard at Ponce de Leon Avenue for more than a year. It wasn't the food but the outrageously bad service that drove me nuts.

I should say that service there has improved enormously in the last few months. Not only do they get the orders right, but they serve you quickly and rarely say they're out of something. Several of the employees, mostly women, are quite funny.

It's only fair that I report that, but I'm also happy to print this letter from Hardy Wallace about the B terminal Popeyes at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport:

As a fellow Popeyes fan, some days nothing hits the spot like some Spicy Strips with a side of red beans and rice. I don't frequent your beloved Ponce location. Perhaps it's in part due to a fear of getting stabbed in the neck or gut. And you just never know when the nearby Taco Bell may spontaneously burst into flames, But, time permitting, I always try and go out of my way at the airport to eat at the B terminal Popeyes. Judging by receipts for expense reports, I seem to eat there three or four times a month.

At the B terminal Popeyes, there is a middle-aged, bald employee who is the antithesis of the [former] Ponce location's employees--or of almost any Atlanta fast food joint's staff. He might be the manager, owner or just someone who loves working at Popeyes. This person is contagiously friendly, engages everyone in line and always has a smile or a laugh for his customers, many of whom may never connect through B terminal again.

If you get one of the high bar-type seats that face the Popeyes line, you can watch him work the crowd sushi-bar style. The guy is so good that watching him leads my mind to wander and wonder if perhaps he studied under the great service masters of the independent Chinese-owned office building food-court chicken joints. If he did learn an ancient technique of fast food service, he brought it back home. With down-South charm and respect, he applied it to a place that you'd never expect to find any sort of service--the airport.

I wish I had one particular story of what makes this guy great--like maybe he saved a baby from choking on a jalapeno or that he high-fives everyone in line while saying, "Hot-dang!" Just the next time you are at the airport, build in a couple of extra minutes to check out this particular Popeyes. He seems to be there most weekdays during the day. He is one of those people who make Atlanta home.

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Shrink your fat self, avoid therapy, save money, look good!

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2007 at 2:24 PM

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Oh. My. God. Who knew? People don't overeat because they really need a dozen doughnuts. They overeat because of emotional needs!

This is the message being shared by Roger Gould, a psychiatrist and author of the new book Shrink Yourself. The book is featured in the August issue of Psychology Today:

For most of us, food equals comfort -- and the association can go back as far as breast-feeding. "Food is more than nutrition," Gould says. "Kids get treats when they're good. Or they scrape their knee and they're given a piece of cake. It's an expression of nurturance." So if you're the kind of person who reaches for a doughnut when you feel bored or angry or tense, Gould says, "Ask yourself the question: What am I really hungry for? Because it's not food."

It's not that Gould's message isn't valid. What's stunning in part is that it's being treated like news. The "world renowned psychiatrist," as his website calls him, has popped up everywhere on TV explaining his thesis and simplistic solutions to perfectly shaped interviewers, as in the video below (replete with split-screen scenes of people maniacally shoving food in their faces).

But here's the galling part: When asked if therapy might not be useful for a chronic overeater, Gould emphatically replies that people should skip therapy and instead read his book. After all, his website notes, "Shrink Yourself gives you the equivalent of eight expensive sessions with the best weight-loss therapist in the world for the price of a single book."

This of course is nonsense. Gould correctly describes the way dieting usually fails to address the underlying compulsion to overeat -- and then exploits the American compulsion for quick fixes. But wait! There's more! Besides buying his book, you are encouraged to enroll in his online 12-week program for $120.

Are you getting the drift here? Overeating is an emotional problem. Rather than engage with a therapist or a real-life support group like Overeaters Anonymous, so you can actually experiment with those problematic feelings, Dr. Gould promises that you can fix your fat self in private, without too much messy real-life engagement or expense before making your debut as the new, broccoli-craving you.

Honestly, I'm a severe critic myself of the way psychology turns every problem in American life into a disease requiring professional, expensive intervention. But it's obvious to everyone that obesity is rampant in America, despite universal understanding that it is a serious health problem with an emotional basis. If you need help with overeating or any other eating disorder, visit the Eating Disorders Information Network website, a terrific resource for education and therapy in this field. Meanwhile, watch Dr. Gould promote his book:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Lhlou6accDs" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Eat with Spider-Man, smell like patchouli

Posted By on Mon, Jun 25, 2007 at 4:25 PM

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We visited Little Five Points the other night, dining at Savage Pizza (484 Moreland Ave., 404-523-0500). It's too bad you can't see the superheroes suspended from the ceiling in the above pic. (There are better pics and a coupon on their website.) A comic book motif presides throughout the restaurant, which has been a favorite with many pizza fans since its opening in 1990.

What's the gimmick, besides dining with Spider-Man? The terrific sauces, including a Cajun one and a garlicky

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white one, along with more usual types. My favorite pizza here, the Thai chicken, was not available the night of our visit, so we had the barbecued chicken one. Warning, a medium will barely fill two people — that's true of two professional eaters, anyway.

After dinner we crossed the street to Sevananda (467 Moreland Ave., 404-681-2831), a natural foods co-op. Wayne was in search of his homemade, hippie-dippy patchouli soap. What's the deal with natural foods and scents? Take a look at the store's incense counter!

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I like Sevananda's vegetarian cuisine. I stop by now and then for a takeout lunch from the hot bar. I also like the picturesque co-op members working there, like this exotically dressed and very pleasant woman. She does not look like your typical Kroger clerk.

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Man tastes five exotic flavors, then selects vanilla

Posted By on Mon, Jun 25, 2007 at 4:21 PM

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We paid a visit to Jake's Ice Creams and Sorbets (660 Irwin St., 404-586-0920) in Inman Park after recently dining at Across the Street (where no desserts are on the menu yet). Like its Decatur location, Jake's produces some of the best ice cream in the city, and also makes sandwiches in a funky environment.

My favorite flavors are the ginger and the honey fig — neither of which were available during our visit, but I happily settled for bourbon-raisin.

Wayne required the very patient guys behind the counter to let him taste five exotic flavors. He settled on ... vanilla. Doh!

I noticed recently that Jake's ice cream is also available at Planet Smoothie at Ansley Mall. I'm glad for the unhealthy and much-better-tasting alternative.

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New Mexican spot on Highland Avenue

Posted By on Mon, Jun 25, 2007 at 4:18 PM

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Across the Street (668 Highland Ave., 404-781-0931) is a new Mexican restaurant in the former Roman Lily location. We dined there a few nights ago, on its second or third day open. For now, the restaurant is serving an abbreviated menu. Although we encountered the usual opening glitches, the service was great. I'll be writing more about the food in next week's paper, although we'll wait for the full menu before doing a serious review.

Vegetarians will be happy to learn that several meatless entrees are on the menu, including fajitas and enchiladas. A staff member told us the complete menu will include even more vegetarian choices.

At right is Wayne carefully deseeding the fiery chile that was in his margarita. It burned his poor pitiful mouth.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Update: When's the best time to shop Cabbagetown Market?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2007 at 8:14 PM

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I received this informative e-mail from Lisa Hanson, co-owner with Maria Locke, of Cabbagetown Market and Little's Grill. I blogged about the super-cool gourmet shop last week.

"Thanks for the shout-out in the CL blog. We definitely a spike in Hungarian salami sandwiches this week (for those intrepid souls who managed to navigate Carroll Street)!

"As an fyi: I go to pick up produce and eggs on Thursday mornings and again on Saturdays, so that is when when we have the biggest selection of fruits and vegetables. I post what we have on the Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown message boards and will start doing the same on our web page (www.cabbagetownmarket.com). We also have a stand at the East Atlanta Farmer's Market on Thursdays, 4-8 p.m., selling mainly our tapenades, pestos, hummus, etc. It is shaping up into quite a nice, lively market.

"We also take orders for specialty items including organic chickens, pork and lamb as well as burrata and bufala mozzarella. We're hoping we can get to the point where we can carry those items on a full-time basis, perhaps when we get our beer and wine license."

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Lunch at Toast

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2007 at 8:12 PM

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I lunched today at Toast (817 W. Peachtree St., 404-815-9243), my first visit in some time. This restaurant, behind the old Biltmore hotel, made quite a splash when it opened with the very talented Drew Van Leuvan as chef. He long ago moved on — to Spice, then to SAGA, both of which have closed.

Now running Toast are Cary and Nancy Smith, well known for the cafe, Delectables, they operated at the downtown Atlanta Public Library from the mid-'80s to the late '90s.

Although service during lunch with two friends was poor, the food was mainly good. I liked my grilled salmon on onion focaccia with smoked gouda and remoulade. Jeff's burger, on a toasted English muffin with caramelized onions (hold the usual blue cheese), pleased him. But, by the time the waiter fetched the ketchup he wanted, he'd eaten half the sandwich.

The loser was Gregg's beef tenderloin on a baguette with brie. Both of the sandwich's fillings were cold, giving the cheese an especially unpleasant texture.

Sides of gazpacho and cottage fries were OK.

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Blackberry patch?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2007 at 7:11 PM

Does anyone know where I can go to pick blackberries?

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This is the time of year when I become obsessed with pie. Specifically, blackberry pie. While I usually reserve my food obsessions for things that other people have cooked, I have yet to find a blackberry pie as good as the one I make. The ritual of getting sunburned and eaten by mosquitoes and scratched by thorns, as well as the sweaty domesticity of baking pies in the heat of my sweltering kitchen, are precious and sacred yearly tasks.

The problem is, I don't know where to find the blackberries in this town. When I lived in North Carolina, I knew every generous blackberry bush within five miles of my house, the best of which being an entire grove down an old dirt road overgrown with blackberries, enough for two pies a day for weeks at a time. When I lived in New York city, I would take the train out to Westchester and hunt down blackberries in the land preserves once owned by the Rockerfellers.

But in Atlanta I don't know where to look. I have a few sad berries growing in my yard, but not enough for a pie. If anyone has a patch they'd be willing to share, or a spot on public land they could direct me to, I'd be more than grateful. You can post it here, or if you'd rather avoid having the whole town descend on your one sweet spot, you can e-mail me at besha.rodell@creativeloafing.com.

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