Friday, August 31, 2007

World's premier beer writer and critic dies

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2007 at 7:02 PM

I could have titled this blog post "Michael Jackson dies." But that would have been cheap, although it's true the world's most prominent and respected beer writer and critic, who shared a name with the crotch-grabbing king of pop (whose crotch? we'll never know), has passed away. If Michael Jackson the beer writer had not enjoyed the joke of his name as much as the rest of us (he sometimes wore a single glove as a wink at the hilarity), I'd think it was sad that even at the end of his life, the name is what grabs our attention. But he would have expected as much and laughed at the thought. Jackson's great sense of humor is part of what made him such an accessible writer.

Jackson's 1977 book, The New World Guide to Beer, is still considered one of the most comprehensive books on the subject. Since then he has published a series of books on beer and whiskey, and has given the beer world much of its vocabulary and framework for discussing beer.

For the last 10 years he had been living with Parkinson's disease. You can read his last article, which discusses his disease, titled "Did I Cheat Mort Subite?" at

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East Asian restaurant opens in Midtown

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2007 at 8:29 AM


There's a new East Asian restaurant in town. It's Buddha in the 100 Midtown Building (100 10th St., 404-874-5158). It's the project of Gloi and Steven Hoang, two brothers who grew up in the restaurant business. The menu will feature contemporary and classic dishes from Malaysian, Thai and Chinese traditions.

There will be special emphasis on vegetarian cuisine, especially "meat" dishes made of soy and wheat protein. In fact, the kitchen includes a separate area for vegetarian cooking.

The new restaurant seats 130 inside and out. All entrees at lunch and dinner are under $15.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ow, my wallet!

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2007 at 9:19 PM


I had a late lunch Wednesday at Star Provisions (1198 Howell Mill Road, 404-365-0410). I'd heard a rumor that they were serving fried chicken, so I had to check it out. I found it in the refrigerated case near the cash register and figured I would be eating it cold, which would have been fine by me. I used to get up in the middle of the night and eat my mother's leftover (flawless) chicken, standing in front of the refrigerator. It was always in a blue bowl lined with paper towels.

Star Provisions has some mysterious way of heating the chicken without ruining the crispy, flour-coated skin. The stuff was state-of-the-Southern-art, but not cheap. You pay by the pound.

Prices at this shop in front of Bacchanalia can sometimes take me by surprise. This bottle of Fentiman's Ginger Beer (above), from the U.K., was over $4, for example, and it wasn't nearly as good as Stewart's version. (Then again, I can't find Stewart's Ginger Beer anywhere in town these days. If you have a lead, let me know.)

I bought this key lime tart (left), which looks like a culinary mandala, for dessert. When I took it to the cash register to pay, I was charged $10. I was shocked and made a sarcastic remark, since I thought it was half that much. As it turned out, I was right, they refunded me $5, and I ate the whole thing in a flash without any resentment about its price.

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The Epicurean's sad fate

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2007 at 1:29 PM

Just received this e-mail from the Epicurean:

We regret to announce that as of Tuesday August 28th, The Epicurean Restaurant was closed for business.

On behalf of The Epicurean Restaurant staff, we appreciate your support over the last 19 months, and hope you enjoyed your dining experiences with us as much as we enjoyed serving you.


The Epicurean Restaurant

I had only just recently discovered this restaurant and am sad to see it go. To read my May review of the restaurant, click here.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Chubby chimps learn self control

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2007 at 8:22 PM


Trouble staying on your diet?

Take a tip from chimpanzees. This is from

Chimps struggling to accumulate a large quantity of food deliberately keep themselves busy to avoid the temptation to gorge themselves straight away, a new study by primatologists from Georgia State University in Atlanta has revealed.

The experiment allowed the chimps to learn that the longer they were abstinent, the more candy would be vended to them from a hollow tube. The scientists gave the chimps toys and they picked them up to distract themselves:

"We chose a set of items they are known to have an interest in. They enjoy brushing their teeth, for example; we gave them magazines so they could look at the pictures; and they enjoy different types of fasteners, zips and clips that they can take apart," said study co-author Theodore Evans.

Evans and his colleague Michael Beran found that the chimps resisted going for the accumulating candies for longer when given access to the toys, showing that play did indeed take their minds off food.

So get yourself a toy toothbrush, an Enquirer and a zipper and watch those pounds melt away.

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Rodell rocks again

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2007 at 7:43 PM


Our very own Besha Rodell took third-place honors in both the Best Newspaper Restaurant Criticism and Best Newspaper Food Feature categories at this weekend’s Association of Food Journalists (AFJ) awards competition and conference held in Minneapolis.

In the food feature category, Besha went up against fellow alt-weekly writer Zach Dundas of Willamette Week and Rebekah Denn of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in the 150,000-below circulation division (for her 2006 Food Issue). In the restaurant criticism category she competed against Gail Shepherd of New Times Broward/Palm Beach and Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post — in a competition that for the first time ever had no circulation limit. In other words, she went up against everyone.

Rodell also received a nod earlier this year for her work from the prestigious James Beard Foundation.

So if she struts around this week claiming to be one of the three best food critics in the nation, don’t argue. She can back it up.

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Rathbun to compete on 'Iron Chef'

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2007 at 7:23 PM

This press release just in from the Rathbun's folks:

On September 6th, Chef Kevin Rathbun along with his brother, Chef Kent Rathbun will travel to New York and battle against the "Unknown" in the Food Network's Iron Chef competition. The two chef siblings will be paired together to battle against two "Secret Chefs" that have yet to be announced. In the televised competition (no known televised date yet), the chefs will have one hour to prepare five different dishes with the "secret ingredient" that the Food Network will present to the chefs. Kevin Rathbun says, "My brother and I will be ready for any curve ball that will be thrown at us and we will be ready to see who will reign the Iron Chef."

Rathbun is not the first Atlanta chef to do battle in Kitchen Stadium. Both Richard Blais of Element and Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene have appeared on "Iron Chef" in recent years.

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More common than swee'tea

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2007 at 6:50 PM


Probably the only thing more common than a gigantic glass of ice-cold, syrupy "swee'tea" this time of year are the articles about the beverage. I know that sounds cranky, but let's have something new. My teeth hurt just reading the zillion articles published every summer about the sugary brew.

How about sassafras tea? When I was a kid, we'd dig the roots out of a creek bank and boil them. According to Wikipedia, sassafras is the main ingredient in root beer. In ground form, it's the filé powder used in Cajun cooking. And safrole, the main component of sassafras essential oil, is used to make MDA and MDMA (Ecstasy). It was sometimes added to moonshine, another popular Southern beverage.

Let's move on from swee'tea to home-brewed hallucinogens!

Anyway, Slate recently published an essay about sweet tea. My crankiness aside, it's a good read and includes input from Scott Peacock of Watershed, now officially the king of Southern cooking, thanks to his James Beard Foundation award. Writes author Jeffrey Klineman:

One chef I spoke with — Scott Peacock, who spent eight years bunking and writing with the Grand Dame of Southern cooking, the late Edna Lewis — suggested that Dixie's taste for sweet may have evolved from the use of sugar as a preservative. Peacock's dad grew up in a small Alabama town where they didn't have much refined sugar. In towns like that, he said, they grew cane, milled it, and put it in jars. People anticipated the crystallization of the cane sugar with great excitement, eager to stir it into their tea.

Check out the essay here.

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It pays to whine

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2007 at 5:00 PM


I'm pretty well known for avoiding brunch. It's a meal that seems to pile on needless calories, lasts too long and often turns up absurd concoctions. Well, that's what I always say on the way to brunch, but once I'm there, I often enjoy it.

Such was the case Sunday when I joined two friends at La Tavola (992 Virginia Ave., 404-873-5430). The restaurant had a 15-minute wait for inside tables and we weren't about to roast on the back patio. We landed three seats at the bar and decided to eat there. Lucky for us. The generous and funny bartender, Alli (above), attempted to placate Gregg by giving him his own wine tasting when he complained that they were no longer selling the particular wine he likes. Alli also gave him a sample of chicken sausage when he carped that sausage should be made from pork.

The meal was great, especially my starter — a beet salad (left) with goat cheese, shaved fennel and luscious slices of nectarine, whose natural sweetness worked well with the beets' own acidic sweetness. The nectarine substituted for the usual Granny Smith apples. Gregg ordered a Caesar salad and Adam ordered bruschetta.

For an entree, I had French toast made with challa (below). It was topped with blueberries and blackberries, along with some honeyed mascarpone. True comfort food. Adam ordered the day's frittata and Gregg had two tennis-ball-sized veal-mushroom meatballs atop spaghettini with a tomato sauce.

We were too stuffed to order dessert but enjoyed watching a marathon runner at the end of the bar devour enough food, including what seemed to be two desserts, to feed an army of Fire Island brunchers.

By the way, there is valet parking in the bank lot across the street from La Tavola. If you don't use it, you'll be circling the block for quite a while.

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'Us and them'

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2007 at 3:44 PM

I recently wrote a column about our relationship with animals, inspired by the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal. Given my extreme affection for animals, I received a few e-mails asking how I can eat meat.

I do not have a good answer, although it seems clear to me that raising animals for food is different from raising them to destroy one another to placate humans' appetite for violence. Whether the life circumstances of the typical animal raised for food are more agreeable than a dog's life in Vick's kennel is something others can debate.

The pictures in the following link are amazing for their depiction of our relationship with animals. Only a couple specifically relate to animals for food. Be sure to proceed to the second page. Fair warning: The site is pretty raunchy generally, so if indelicate language makes you lightheaded, you might not want to check this out: "Us and Them".

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