Friday, October 31, 2008

OMG! Barack Obama eats corndogs! Without arugula!

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2008 at 11:11 PM

See photos of Obama and McCain eating while campaigning here.

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Greener candy for the kiddies

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2008 at 3:45 PM

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even have tips for greening up your sex life!

I think green Halloween candy is kind of depressing; it puts a peaceful damper on the one night a year (other than New Years Eve) when we all can just be really, really bad diet-wise, modesty-wise, and planet-wise.

Here are their suggestions. Be prepared to make children very unhappy and healthy.

(Picture by Scott Fillmore)

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Atlanta is too paparrazi heaven

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2008 at 4:45 AM

Guess who ate at One Midtown Kitchen and was, like, such a prima donna he wouldn't sit where people could, like, walk by him and stuff. Really, you'll never guess.

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Does a man deserve to be arrested for sharing his buffet plate?

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2008 at 4:31 AM

You've probably heard that a Texas man was arrested here last week after sharing his $7 buffet plate with his girlfriend.

The Iron Skillet, a truck-stop cafe, presented him a bill for two plates and he refused to pay the extra charge. Police charged him with theft of services and threw him in the Fulton County jail, from which he was released two days later, after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

YumSugar hosts a discussion about the absurd event here.

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A visit to Fritti, news about Beleza and Cuerno

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2008 at 4:04 AM

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I've been craving pizza all week, so we visited Fritti Thursday night. While I got my favorite Napoli -- made with bufala, wild oregano, capers and anchovies -- Wayne ordered the calzone, which arrived at the table looking like a gigantic crab, larger than the plate on which it was served.

Wayne admitted that it put the first calzone he ever tasted -- when he was 10, in Columbia, S.C. -- to shame. Light, crispy and creamy, it was filled with ricotta, mozzarella, salame and cotto ham. He accepted the offer of a dish of marinara on the side. It didn't need it, but he never says no to extra food.

We also ordered my favorite starter, the fried mushrooms.

As we finished our meal, restaurant owner Riccardo Ullio arrived on his motorcycle. (Yes, we know one another.) Riccardo also owns Beleza, the groovy Brazilian cocktail lounge. He said that he is in the process of changing the menu there to all raw food. It won't be just vegetarian food. Ceviche, carpaccio, tuna crudo and such will be on the menu, along with vegetarian dishes like the grains the spot is already serving.

Meanwhile, Cuerno, next door to Beleza, is featuring live flamenco at 7 p.m. Sundays. The show features guitar, dance and singing. If you've never seen authentic flamenco, you need to go. As far as I know, Cuerno remains the only Spanish restaurant in our city and the paellas estan fantasticas.

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Howdy! Wanna pet my llama?

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2008 at 3:33 AM

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This is the door greeter at Machu Picchu (3375 Buford Hwy., 404-320-3226). He stares out the window with his llama.

I had lunch in this Peruvian restaurant a few days ago. It's been around awhile, with a reputation for inconsistency, but I dined very well on beef stewed in a cilantro sauce, served with rice and red beans. The sauce, full of peas, was mild but I spiked it with a shot of fiery aji, made from hot chilies. Generally, I love Peruvian sauces for their creamy texture.

Although my dish was not among them, Machu Picchu serves generously sized lunch specials for about $8.

(Photo by Cliff Bostock)

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Reasons to go on living

Posted By on Thu, Oct 30, 2008 at 4:12 PM

Yay! I've solved my micro-foam problem. I reported recently that I wasn't any longer able to make good foam for my morning latte with Lactaid, a lactose-free brand of milk I've bought at Publix for years. I followed commenter Amy's advice and tried Kroger's own brand and it works great.

Sort of Yay! The wireless Internet service at the Ansley Starbucks now works 95 percent of the time. Actually, it's the free AT&T service that works. Tmobile, for which I pay $30 a month, still goes down regularly. Hey, it's as if Baghdad residents got an extra hour of electrical service after five years of only three hours a day. Can't complain about that extra hour!

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Of taste, synesthesia and Ferran Adria

Posted By on Thu, Oct 30, 2008 at 3:52 PM

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I've been thinking a lot about the psychology of taste in recent weeks. In my other occupation, the psychology one, I conduct workshops related to the imagination and creativity.

I've been developing one specifically about the interplay of taste and the imagination. About five years ago, I came across a study -- I've lost the citation, unfortunately -- that concluded that people who develop an adventurous palate also tend to develop a more adventurous, open-minded approach to life generally. The study, which followed students, advocated gastronomical education in the schools.

This seems sensible to me, but I'm also interested in the specific effects of different flavors. We've appropriated those to describe mental states. She's sweet. He feels bitter. John McCain has a salty disposition. I've soured on Sarah Palin.

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There is a fairly common but little discussed condition, synesthesia, in which the senses overlap naturally (as they do sometimes in the psychedelic experience). Synesthetes, about one in 2000 of the general population, most often hear color or see colors when they hear music, but taste is often involved too. I've been interested in the phenomenon since I interviewed R. E. Cytowic, author of The Man Who Tasted Shapes, in 1993 for Creative Loafing.

Recent research has concluded that the synesthetic experience seems to be within everyone's capacity in childhood. In fact, people who don't "outgrow" it report that their experience has been consistent ever since they can remember -- meaning that if a particular word produced a particular taste in childhood, it continues to do so in adulthood. In short, it's a virtual language of taste.

Neuroscience hasn't concluded yet whether the synesthetic experience can be developed or intentionally recovered, although, as I said, psychedelic drugs often produce the effect, meaning that the overlap of the senses is not neurologically inhibited in all scenarios.

I have posited that part of the appeal of Ferran Adria's so-called molecular gastronomy may have to do with synesthesia. By breaking down the elements of a dish into its purest flavors and then playfully rearranging them, does molecular gastronomy affect our perceptual and psychological experience? I don't mean to suggest that it literally causes a synesthetic experience but that it does disorient our usual experience of flavor and, in that moment of disorientation, may awaken an imaginal capacity that's not so present in day-to-day experience.

Adria has gotten a lot of publicity in the last month because of the publication of his newest book, A Day at elBulli: An insight into the ideas, methods and creativity of Ferran Adria. Find NPR's recent essay here.

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I was interested to read in a BBC essay that Adria's style has been re-dubbed "techno-emotional cuisine," a term that hints at its psychological effect. Adria himself says his work is most analogous to Jacques Derrida's deconstruction. In that controversial discourse, Derrida argues that our sense of the unified whole -- the meta-narrative -- is basically a delusion, whose elements, broken down, turn out to be full of contradictions.

I won't bore you with an entire discussion of deconstruction (and someone would invariably argue that I misunderstand it, anyway), but I can tell you that, at a psychological level, it's a stimulating challenge to the usual sense of identity. By challenging identity, it invites us to try on different behaviors.

The point, gastronomically, is that by, for example, foregrounding the technological aspect of cooking, Adria sabotages our usual assumptions about dining. (Indeed, he's come under intense attack for this by another famous Spanish chef, Santi Santamaria, in a kind of culinary debate between the essentialist and the relativist). Adria's (and Richard Blais') separation and intense distillation of flavors into their separate parts, often allowing the diner to play with taste, induces reverie in my experience and, whenever the imagination is intensely stimulated, there is an opportunity to increase awareness.

This of course also happens with traditional cooking, but, in my experience, the psychological effect is typically nostalgia or a sense of the beauty that architectural symmetry induces. When I eat this kind of food, I see Greek temples. When I eat Adria's kind of cooking, I see fractals and Rorshach inkblots. One invites reverie on the solid and immobile; the other evokes a sense of the new and the changing.

By paying attention, mindfully eating, there is a kind of synesthetic response at the level of sensation and thought. I'm speaking metaphorically, although the experience is often literal. It's worth cultivating in any case.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Beer pick of the week: Gamma Ray

Posted By on Wed, Oct 29, 2008 at 4:51 PM

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Gamma Ray

Terrapin Beer Company

Athens,  GA

11% ABV

Terrapin’s latest Side Project is an ambitious one. A wheat wine is similar to a barleywine, but with a large addition of wheat for a lighter body and a spicier flavor. Terrapin’s version also adds a large portion of honey, giving it a mead-like strength and a boost of floral esters. The aroma of the Gamma Ray is as intoxicating as the liquid in the glass: a perfume-like mélange of lavender, white pepper, bananas, bready yeast, and orchard fruits. The taste is honey-sweet on the tongue, with a grainy, wheat taste emerging in the middle. Booze-soaked tropical fruits mix with lemon and spice for a breezy but potent cocktail of pineapple, kiwi, ripe apple, cherry, honeysuckle nectar, banana, clove, white pepper, ginger, and bubblegum. Super smooth and creamy, with a slick, almost oily feel upfront, it becomes tongue-tickling and fruity as the carbonation releases on the swallow. Remarkable drinkability for its body and strength. Gamma Ray would pair perfectly with pungent cheeses, nuts, and bright fruits, perhaps together in a salad of bitter greens. One of the best beers yet from Terrapin.

(photo by Jeff Holland)

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jean-Georges' second Atlanta restaurant to open in November

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2008 at 5:57 PM

This just in from the PR folks:

ATLANTA (October 28, 2008) – Culinary Concepts by Jean-Georges will open the globally celebrated chef’s second Atlanta restaurant, Market, in the new W Buckhead in November. “With Atlanta’s expanding gastronomic scene,” says Vongerichten, “I am excited to open a restaurant in Buckhead’s vibrant and energetic neighborhood.”

...Emphasizing comfort and creativity, the menu will reinvent classic dishes with eclectic flair, allowing guests to try new flavor combinations and explore spices from other regions, all while remaining close to home. Traditional dishes crafted with seasonal market ingredients, from truffle fontina pizza to glazed beef short ribs, carrot puree and honshimeji mushrooms will enliven the senses and satisfy any craving.

Ian Winslade joins Market as Chef de Cuisine. Prior to his current work at Spice Market, Winslade was at the helm of Atlanta restaurants including BluePointe and Shout.

...Upon entering the restaurant, guests are greeted by a vibrant chandelier of mirrored Murano glass, which reflects teardrops of light on bamboo backdrops. Intimate nooks are throughout, and hidden lights cast a calming glow through ornate wall cut outs. The ovular-shaped foyer offers a glimpse into the cosmopolitan dining room, reflecting the charm of Buckhead’s vibrant personality. The outdoor patio will be an ode to al fresco luxury, with its skyline views and tranquil décor.

...The multicultural menu features French, Asian and Italian inspirations coupled with alluringly familiar cuisine.  From Maine lobster with crispy potatoes and spicy aioli, to bacon wrapped shrimp with avocado and passion fruit mustard, every appetizer and entree on the menu is an old-fashioned favorite with a modern twist.

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