(Editor's note: a photo has been removed from this post at the request of the subject.)
I had lunch today at the bar at Murphy's in Virginia-Highland. The bartender gave me the award for asking "the weirdest question anyone has ever asked me in my life." It seemed simple enough to me. Noticing her intense makeup, I asked her how long she had been wearing pink eye shadow. She got very agitated, and my friend had to explain to her that I wasn't insulting her.
Anyway, lunch was good. I had a burger with smoked bacon and Swiss cheese, and a side of too-salty avocado soup. My friend had a grilled salmon sandwich. We resisted the perfect strawberry shortcake.
Murphy's is especially pleasant on a mild day like today. I saw the owners of two popular restaurants dining on the patio together. If a Portuguese barbecue restaurant opens, don't say I didn't tip you off first. You'll have to figure out who they are yourself.
Air America Radio (on channel 167 on XM Satellite Radio and streaming online at AirAmericaRadio.com) has become the first network to schedule a regular vegan animal rights program, "Go Vegan with Bob Linden" (at right). It will air weekends at varying times. For more information, including program archives and podcasts, check out the Go Vegan website.
This year's recipient of the National Restaurant Association's Cornerstone Humanitarian award is Pano Karatassos, owner of Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, which includes local favorites such as Buckhead Diner, Kyma and Veni Vidi Vici.
Karatassos has worked with Share Our Strength, an organization working to end hunger, as well as March of Dimes, and helped with the development of a freshly prepared food program for hunger relief. He has also served on the board of Atlantaâs Table and the Culinary Institute of America.
The Cornerstone Humanitarian award includes a $5,000 prize that Karatassos plans to donate to Share Our Strength.
New Mexican green chiles are in season and Taqueria del Sol is stuffing them with cheese and frying them to make the best chile relleno around town. That's the good news. The bad news is that the restaurant isn't likely to have any after Wednesday.
The reason? The immigration brouhaha has created a labor shortage and there's nobody to pick the chiles, which are rotting in the fields, according to folks at the restaurant. The folks at Taqueria have placed another order, so it's not certain they won't get more, but you better go now. They are only available at dinner.
Note: The chiles are not actually on the menu. I had stuffed myself with three of David Waller's mustard-style barbecue tacos at the Cheshire Bridge location before I noticed one of the chiles going to a nearby diner. They are posted on a board above the bar.
The Colonnade on Cheshire Bridge Road is celebrating its 80th anniversary. The longtime favorite Southern spot has redesigned its menu in recent months and some of the classic dishes, like the lamb shank shown above, have been reworked.
The new shank is beautiful â coated with caramelized onions and served over mashed root veggies and mashed potatoes. But mine was quite gamy and fatty. "That's what happens when they let the sheep out to play," my dining companion said, but I'm doubting this is from a free-range animal, although the restaurant is using a free-range bird for its new chicken Marsala.
I'm sticking with the classics here â the fried chicken and fried oysters and shrimp. I'm hoping the gamy lamb was a fluke.
What could be better than a thin-crust cheese pizza heaped with arugula lightly tossed in lemony vinaigrette? This pie, called the "Jackie-O," may be found at Fuel (2012 Hosea L. Williams Drive, 404-373-2778) in Kirkwood.
The restaurant occupies a former Sinclair service station and specializes in thin-crust pizzas with every topping imaginable, including some rather gourmet ones.
The owner, Lisa, cooks, cleans, waits tables and performs an ongoing comedy routine. This is a completely eccentric restaurant worth a trip to Kirkwood.
Slate.com's Sarah Dickerman takes a look at how to assess good service in her article about the new book Service Included by former Per Se waitress Phoebe Damrosch. Because of the myriad ways in which service can go right or wrong, Dickerman hardly addresses all the issues that arise, but it is an interesting look at some of the major service issues.
You can read my article about the top things restaurants and servers do wrong here.
Yet more words on cupcakes appeared recently in the New York Times. It seems that the Cupcake Renaissance is also the Cupcake Problem:
As we know, cupcakes have had a whopping resurgence: they are retro-food chic, the thing to eat for people in the know.
But cupcakes have also recently been marched to the front lines of the fat wars, banned from a growing number of classroom birthday parties because of their sugar, fat and âempty calories,â a poster food of the child obesity crisis. This was clear when children returned to school this month to a tightening of regulations, federal and state, on what can be served up between the bells.
And it has led some to wonder whether emotional value, on occasion, might legitimately outweigh nutritional value.
Schools trying to bring parents to the table in efforts to root out fat and sugar have faced what Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University who strongly supports limiting sweets in schools, calls âthe cupcake problem.â
When included on lists of treats that parents are discouraged or forbidden to send to school â and when those policies are, say, put to a vote at the P.T.A. â âcupcakes are deal breakers,â Professor Nestle said. âIt sounds like a joke, but itâs a very serious problem on a number of levels. You have to control it.â
Read the whole story here.
USA Today also printed a (less alarmist) piece on cupcakes recently. Check it out here.
(Photo of Mr. Met with cupcakes from "What about the plastic animals?")
This weekend is the James Beard Foundation's Taste America, a nationwide food event celebrating American cuisine created this year in honor of the foundation's 20th anniversary. Twenty cities, including Atlanta, host events and educational activities spotlighting different chefs, cookbook authors and other culinary stars.
Here in Atlanta, the Floataway Cafe holds a benefit dinner on Friday. The dinner features top local chefs, including JBF award winners Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison (Bacchanalia, Quinones, Star Provisions), Kevin Rathbun (Rathbun's, Krog Bar), JBF award winner Joel Antunes (Joel), Arnaud Berthelier (Ritz-Carlton Buckhead), Jeremy Lieb (Trois), and Kathryn King (Aria).
Tickets are $175 per person and the dinner begins at 6:30 p.m and a portion of the proceeds made will go to the Atlanta Community Food Bank. To make reservations or for more info call 404-888-9348.
On Saturday, Williams-Sonoma at Lenox hosts a free day of events from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., with cooking demonstrations featuring chefs Joe Ahn (SoHo) and Patrick Daly (Seasons 52). For the kiddies ages 6-10, an interactive activity teaches where foods come from and how they grow. Samples of regional products from artisanal producer Via Elisa will be available as well.
For more information about the James Beard Foundation and Taste America, click here.
Mary Mac's, the Atlanta institution famous for its Southern atmosphere and Southern food, has undergone a face-lift. The restaurant has added an expanded bar and redecorated the lobby and all five of its dining rooms, repainting in historic colors and adding carpet from the 1940s.
Look out for more changes this fall when Mary Mac's starts to serve brunch on the weekends.
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