Please stop putting trans fats in the dressing that comes with your pre-packaged chicken Caesar salad. You might also want to provide a fork that isn't so flimsy that lettuce breaks its prongs.
That is all.
Vietnamese cuisine is my favorite. I could eat it every day and I've been in perpetual mourning since the closing of Bien Thuy, although I like Com very much too.
But Chateau de Saigon (4300 Buford Hwy., 404-929-0034), open only a week, sets a new standard for our city. I've eaten there twice already and I've barely dented its enormous menu. The chef here grew up with Chinese and Vietnamese parents, speaks both languages and cooks both cuisines. The staff here, including the owner, seems to mainly be American-born Vietnamese, so you'll get a much more thorough explanation of the dishes here than you do at the usual Vietnamese cafe.
At one dinner, we started with two appetizers unique to this restaurant (top photo). One was strips of spicy pork and a pencil-thin, crispy roll wrapped in rice paper with mint, cucumber and lettuce. The other (foreground of the picture) was ground shrimp fried in a tofu wrapper.
One entree (above, right) was lemongrass beef wrapped in wild betal leaves. (The owner, Jimmy, told us repeatedly that this differed from Com's dish in that the leaf is "wild, from the vine, rather than from a tree.") We wrapped the stuffed leaves in rice paper along with vermicelli, herbs and -- most wonderful --star fruit and plantains.
We also tried one of the Chinese dishes -- flat rice noodles with shrimp, scallops and squid (above, left). The noodles, new to me, were even better than the seafood, although all of it was fresh and flavorful too. There are several pages of noodle dishes, including 17 bun dishes.
If you are going to only one restaurant this week, let this be it. The restaurant is located about a half-mile north of Buford Highway's intersection with Dresden Drive. It's in a new strip mall, with several other new Vietnamese cafes and a Latino night club.
I'll have more to say in "Grazing" soon.
You've undoubtedly heard that Starbucks has closed hundreds of locations and is scrapping its expansion plans.
Meanwhile, Dunkin' Donuts is going gangbusters, with a massive expansion westward. The company is pushing its coffee, which accounts for 60 percent of its sales, as an inexpensive alternative to Starbucks' increasingly rococo menu of beverages. Prices overall are 20- to 30-percent cheaper than Starbucks'.
Sunday's NPR Morning Edition aired a story about the donut chain's plans. Check it out here.
Meanwhile, next week's Sunday Morning Edition will feature more donuts:
Have you ever been caught in a sticky situation with a doughnut? Weekend Edition invites listeners to ask questions and share their stories about doughnuts. Paul Mullins, author of the book, "Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut," will be answering these questions next week, live, on the Weekend Edition Sunday blog. Paul Mullins is an associate professor at Indiana University.
Listeners have already started posting their donut stories here.
Finally, Sunday morning's show also featured a story on the restaurant Fruition in Denver. It's expecting Democratic bigwigs attending the national convention to dine there. A restaurant representative gave NPR his menu recommendations for such as Bill and Hillary. Listen here.
*The image was removed from this post.
We were walking toward Noni's Italian Deli and Bar (357 Edgewood Ave., 404-915-8679), across from the Executive Car Wash where the staff was spit-shining cars and pumping loud music.
A woman, perhaps 45, dressed in soiled white hot pants and a blond wig askew on her head staggered by us, mumbling.
Wayne turned and said, "Aww, that was sweet. Did you hear her?"
I told him I had.
"It's not every day a stranger says, 'How you doin', darlin','" he said.
"Wayne," I corrected him, "she was drunk and she said, 'How about a dollar?'"
Which goes to show that if you carry the right attitude and hearing, you won't mind the rather picturesque folks wandering about this stretch of Edgewood Avenue, four or five blocks west of Boulevard. In any case, owner Matt Rupert has hired a black-clad security man who can protect you from panhandlers in hot pants. Honestly, I find the surroundings entertaining and, in any case, there's parking behind the new restaurant. Look for the driveway on the west side of the building.
Fair disclosure requires that I report that I've known Matt for some years. In fact, he was our server at Cava when we had a knock-down-drag-out battle about remodeling Unabomber Acres, our mountain casita. Matt's the co-founder of the Big Gay Supper Club and he recently completed a master's degree in French. He's a very talented, funny and smart young guy. My recollection is that he also plays piano. Maybe he can perform as Noni's lounge lizard as well as its owner and chef.
Read the rest of this article here.
(Photo by James Camp)
Friday was a good day for eating. I met my friends Brad and Todd for lunch at JCT (1198 Howell Mill Rd., 404-355-2252). It's in the same development that hosts Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, Figo and Taqueria del Sol.
All of the restaurants seemed to be packed, so that finding a parking space was an ordeal. Actually, getting there was an ordeal too. I took 17th Street, which runs from Peachtree through Atlantic Station, to Howell Mill.
As usual, the intersection of 17th and Howell Mill was a damn nightmare, with traffic backed-up all the way to Northside Drive. There's no stop sign on Howell Mill there, so it can take a good 10 minutes or longer to get through the intersection. It's another example of terrible planning by the city. The 14th Street bridge over the connector is gone, so a lot of westbound traffic is diverted to 17th Street. You'd think they would have thought to install a light or a stop sign.
Lunch at JCT was good. I had sauteed shrimp over creamy grits (above). Brad had iceberg lettuce with shrimp and Todd ordered a roasted-pork sandwich. Portions were on the small side, so Todd and I ordered dessert -- chocolate fried pies for him and gingerbread pudding with lemon curd for me.
We had a great server, a young woman from Latvia.
Friday night, Wayne and I went to Dynamic Dish, where we shared our table with a cluster of pineapples. We've been eating here at least once a week and Friday's meal was as exceptional as usual. An asparagus soup made with celeriac broth and a bit of creme fraiche was tangy and fragrant. We both ordered the day's sandwich -- a Reuben made with tempeh, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. On the side, we had a bowl of local black-eyed peas with butter. They were yet another lesson in the value of simplicity when ingredients are first-rate.
Honestly, I consider Dynamic Dish the best restaurant to have opened in our city in the last year. Owner/Chef David Sweeney's cooking has no equal here.
Not long after the 5 Seasons brewhouse opened at the Prado in 2001, one of the customers came up with the perfect review: This is fine dining, in denim.
The pub not only features the celebrated beers of brew master Glen Sprouse, it has a menu unlike any other bar in Atlanta, with its emphasis on local produce and natural-fed meats.
But 5 Seasons owner Dennis Lange says he has lost more than $600,000 since the Sembler Company purchased the Prado two years ago and began a big-box redevelopment of the property that will bring in a Home Depot, Target and other retail businesses.
The issue? Parking and public access. "A representative from Sembler assured us they would take care of us," Lange says. "They started gobbling up spaces during construction. And, suddenly, there was no parking."
It's true, getting to 5 Seasons can be an adventure. There are normally three entrances to the Prado. With the construction, there is one. And it leads through a construction zone. For a while, according to Lange, Sembler offered a valet service that was so slow, customers got into arguments over who was first in line. Today, customers are supposed to park in a new parking deck several hundred feet away from the brew pub and walk across a pedestrian bridge.
Read the rest of this article here.
(Photo by James Camp)
Last week in my review of Vine, I made a comment about the restaurant's wine list regarding origin and diversity:
The menu, room and list all look to California for inspiration, but all three would do well to take a big step beyond the West Coast. With 400 wines on the list, I'd like to see more variation in origin rather than a few nods toward the Old World in a sea of California wines.
It appears my generalization was incorrect. I got an email from Chris Reid, Vine's sommelier, which corrected me. He took the time to break down the wine list and found this:
Total counts by percentage are... California 37%, non-California domestic 12%, imported wine is 55%! The majority is IMPORT.
Obviously, I should have paid more attention. My methodology was horribly flawed, and revealed one of my shortcomings: I tend to pay more attention to one part of a wine list than others: full-bodied whites. That's no justification for the misinformation printed in the review, and to Reid and Vine I apologize. There's no excuse for generalizations like this that misinform the public - I am fully aware of the impact a review can have, and I take the responsibility seriously.
With that said, it was difficult for me to find a white wine at Vine that I really wanted to drink. That's partly because of my own tastes, something I usually try to keep under wraps in a review. But it's one of my restaurant peeves when the list is so heavy on Californian chardonnays and has nothing French, or the few French chardonnays on the list are prohibitively expensive (as is the case at Vine). I'd like to see restaurants that specialize in wine give as much space to French and Italian whites (beyond pinot grigios) as they do to California whites.
It's true that Vine has some serious geographic variety, offering wines from India, South Africa, Argentina and beyond. I never had the pleasure of speaking with Reid during my visits, and if I had, perhaps he could have directed me to a wine I could get excited about. As it is, I am very sorry for the error.
Midtown Restaurant Week kicks off this Saturday, Aug. 23, and runs through the following Saturday. It's your chance to eat three courses at some of the city's notable restaurants for only $25.
To see the list of those participating and to make a reservation -- and you should make a reservation -- click here.
Join Terrapin Beer Company at their new brewery in Athens Sat., Aug. 23 from 5-9 p.m. as they kick off the new school year with a sneak preview of their latest year-round offering: SunRay Wheat, brewed with honey from Savannah Bee Company. They may have the latest Side Project on tap, too, the Gamma Ray Wheat Wine. There will be music outside from Blue Flashing Light, Picture Me Free, and Bain Maddox & Shot from Guns; inside, Wesley Cook and Spencer Frye will perform acoustically. Terrapin President John Cochran's father, Jimmy, will provide the barbeque. The $10 cover benefits Tumornators Children's Tumor Foundation. For more information, contact the brewery at (706) 549-3377.
I've always wondered about Wine Spectator's awards - they seem to show up at restaurants with all kinds of wine lists. As long as the list is long-ish and has a few really expensive bottles, the overall quality doesn't seem to matter that much. Now some guy has received the award for a restaurant that doesn't exist. Read the story here.
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