Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A decade in reviews

Posted By on Tue, Dec 29, 2009 at 2:30 PM

CRITIC: Elliot Mackle
  • CRITIC: Elliot Mackle

For our Decade in Review Issue, we decided to look back at the decade in restaurant reviews. Here are some snippets from what we've had to say about Atlanta's dining scene over the decade.

At dusk, with the autumn sun setting over our own Emerald City, there may be no more agreeable outdoor dining spot than the patio of Fritti, in Inman Park. The baby sister and next-door neighbor to Sotto Sotto, Atlanta's bellissima darling, and presided over by owner Riccardo Ullio and manager Rob Jackson, Fritti is worth a visit even if you don't eat a bite.

From a Nov. 18, 2000, review of Fritti by Elliot Mackle

Ambience may not be everything in a glamour-puss restaurant. But at Bluepointe, the Karatassos chain's newest Buckhead be-seen scene, theatrical lighting is at least as important as chef Ian Winslade's contemporary fusion cooking.

From a June 6, 2001, review of Bluepointe by Mackle

When I pull into Woodfire's small, circular driveway, there's a line of vehicles waiting to be parked. Once inside, I'm told the wait time for a table (with no reservation) is 45 minutes. My backup plan – eating at the bar – is thwarted when I notice that not only are there no free seats, but the bar is encircled with thirsty folks flagging down bartenders for a glass of wine while they mill about, mingling and killing time.

I wait anyway. The food is worth it.

From a Nov. 20, 2002, review of Woodfire Grill by Bill Addison

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(Photo by Jim Stawniak)

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

John Mackey's role at Whole Foods changes

Posted By on Sat, Dec 26, 2009 at 5:30 PM

John Mackey, controversial founder and CEO of Whole Foods, is giving up his role as chairman of the grocery chain's board, according to the Huffington Post.

The change follows three years of petitions for it by a shareholder activist group. Thus it's not a direct result of the column Mackey penned for the Wall Street Journal last summer. In it, he opposed President Obama's health care plan, which precipitated a boycott of the store by progressives.

The principal reason for the change is Whole Food's tumbling stock, which has fallen 30 percent in the last five years. The brouhaha over Mackey's column seems to have tipped the scales against him, but he will continue as CEO.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Grazing: First Look: Bakeshop

Posted By on Fri, Dec 25, 2009 at 3:00 PM

BAKESHOP: A ham and cheese croissant from the new Concentrics cafe
  • BAKESHOP: A ham and cheese croissant from the new Concentrics cafe

I'll start with the best part: the scone. I had ordered it with a sandwich to go from Bakeshop (903 Peachtree St., 404-892-9322). The place, with only three community tables, was packed, and I decided it would be more tranquil to carry my sandwich to Starbucks.

I was handed the scone when I placed my order, and I promised myself I wouldn't nibble on it while I waited for my prosciutto sandwich. But my wait became so long that half the crowd cleared out. My stomach growled. I found a seat at the end of one of the tables.

I love scones. I'd call them my favorite pastry. This one was made with chopped pecans and dried apricots. It was the last one in the pastry case and its odd shape had caught my eye. It was not a plump oval. It was more triangular but not a fussy isosceles or equilateral triangle. This was a scalene triangle, nearly as big as my hand, and its odd angles created varying thickness and textures.

I pinched off a piece in the bag and took a bite. The flavors shocked me. There was the crisp, sugary texture and taste of the exterior, followed immediately by the rich, nutty flavor embedded in the softer interior. The slight crunch of pecans alternated with tart bits of dried apricot. I was back in Sonoma County 20 years ago, eating scones at a bakery in Healdsburg. I took the scone out of the bag and went to work.

Continue Reading "Grazing: First Look: Bakeshop"

(Photo by James Camp)

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Beer pick of the week: The Dark Side

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 3:40 PM

The Dark Side Belgian-style Imperial Stout from Terrapin
  • The Dark Side Belgian-style Imperial Stout from Terrapin

Terrapin Beer Company

Athens, GA

8.5% ABV

The ninth installment of Terrapin's Side Project Series, just may be its best effort yet. The Dark Side is a Belgian-style Imperial Stout, a style that is rarely found in Belgium, but is proving popular with American brewers looking to explore new styles. One would expect a melding of Belgian yeasty esters and fruity character with roasted malt flavors and warming alcohol.

The Dark Side pours completely black with some caramel brown around the very edges. The nose is full of fresh roasted coffee, malts, and sugar (molasses). The head is a bit anemic and there is not much lacing to speak of, which seems to be a problem with a number of Side Projects. A bit more of the luxurious carbonation of the best Belgians would have lifted this one even higher.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Knife's Edge: Family meal

Posted By on Tue, Dec 22, 2009 at 2:55 PM

blais_knifesedge

It’s here! A large bruised box with a Boston Harbor postmark that's cold to the touch. Stickers that exclaim, “Perishable.” Inside the box, a few layers of cold, aluminum-looking insulation cover an arm’s full of tangled seaweed and beneath that, two smallish lobsters. Its 85 degrees and sunny outside, and I am in Dunedin, Fla., for the holidays. Here, receiving lobster from family in New England is one of our traditions — along with a steady diet of rib-poking sarcasm, political debate, and an unorthodox lottery system to decide who buys who gifts.

But there’s one more understated annual occurrence. I’m in the kitchen.

If you’re a chef, you understand exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s one part obligation to your family. One part obligation to your craft. A dash of showing off, and let’s be honest, one sprinkle of trying to keep your various relatives from fucking up dinner.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Lunch at Bakeshop

Posted By on Mon, Dec 21, 2009 at 8:10 PM

bakeshop dining room

bakeshop turkey
We hit the new Bakeshop (903 Peachtree St., 404-892-9322) for lunch Sunday. This is the latest Concentrics eatery and features the work of chef/owner Jonathan St. Hilaire, among our city's best bakers.

The place is great-looking with a completely open kitchen, a pastry counter and communal tables.

The bakery serves breakfast and lunch. The latter's menu includes sandwiches, soups and salads. I ordered a panzanella salad with "pulled-chicken chili" and an almond croissant. That turned out to be a hell of a lot of bread. Wayne ordered a smoked turkey sandwich with tomato bisque and a pistachio-apricot tart (above, right)

We also bought a lot of other items for dinner later. Generally, we found the food good but not without some glitches. I'll have the full story in "Grazing" later this week.

(Photos by Cliff Bostock)

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Atlanta restaurant news, gossip, etc.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 21, 2009 at 5:32 PM

Blogger A. Scott Walton is reporting on Paul Luna's newest project, Lunacy Black Market.

Decatur Metro is reporting that Thai Me Up will reopen as Eat 2 on Jan. 1, although some folks claim the sign says "Eat @ 2" and others think it says "Eat @ Thai." Hmmmm, a mystery of epic proportions!

Mr. Kessler is reporting on the opening of beer bar and pub Ormsby's in the White Provisions building.

The folks at Across the Street on Highland Ave. are now offering $10 all-you-can-eat tacos on Wednesdays. They say the record so far is 7 tacos.

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Review: Lupe Taqueria

Posted By on Mon, Dec 21, 2009 at 3:00 PM

LUPE TAQUERIA: A selection of tacos at the new Midtown eatery
  • LUPE TAQUERIA: A selection of tacos at the new Midtown eatery

What is it, Atlanta? What is it about tacos? A restaurateur can put tacos into just about any space, anywhere in the city, and practically be guaranteed success. Why tacos? Why?

OK, I get it. Tacos are the perfect food. Portable. Cheap. Extremely compatible with tequila and/or beer. Available in a variety of flavors and textures. I love a good taco as much as the next gringa with a penchant for corn, meat and alcohol-laced lime juice. I personally prefer my tacos from a truck or dinky stand, firstly because they're generally cheaper, and secondly because – surprise! – Mexican food is most often made delicious by actual Mexican people. I'm not totally against putting the taco in a more refined setting, even if it smacks of making ethnic food safe and palatable for the non-adventurous among us. But as a city, we're getting close to taco saturation. With no lack of taco eateries, in the past year alone we've seen the openings of the Original El Taco and Pure on North Highland Avenue, and now Riccardo Ullio's Lupe in the old Cuerno location on Juniper Street.

And frankly, what's going down on Juniper Street is mildly depressing. When I think back a couple of years, to when Ullio first occupied the two spaces between Seventh and Eighth streets, I remember excitement, creativity and potential: Beleza, an upscale health food and tropical juice-fueled cocktail lounge, and Cuerno, our city's first serious attempt at Spanish cuisine. There were problems. Finicky Atlantans didn't like having to park a block away in a lot, they like valet, dammit. Despite its bold, creative, raw and organic menu, Beleza quickly turned into more of a Midtown party scene than a restaurant. Now, Beleza doesn't serve food at all, and the static cocktails have gone steeply downhill in quality. The place is a shadow of its former self. And Cuerno has become Lupe, as if to hammer home the point that Atlantans aren't as sophisticated as we like to claim. We won't eat regional Spanish food. But, boy, do we love tacos!

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(Photo by James Camp)

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Mystery at Lenox and Cheshire Bridge roads

Posted By on Mon, Dec 21, 2009 at 2:16 AM

Does anyone have the scoop on Moto Bistro and Bar? It's the latest name to go on the constantly changing building at Lenox Road's southern intersection with Cheshire Bridge Road.

The tiny building has been vacant (except for homeless squatters) for quite a while. It was -- 20 years ago -- home to one of the city's original Vietnamese spots. I used to go there regularly alone during my second stint as editor of Creative Loafing and devour the kitchen's clay-pot dishes, the best I have ever tasted.

I don't think any tenant since then has lasted more than a few years.  Renovations on the building began about six months ago.

(Hat tip to Patrick Saunders)

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Serpas rules

Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2009 at 10:57 PM

Woo hoo!  Alan Richman of GQ has named Serpas True Food one of America's top 10 new restaurants:

Serpas is a big, shiny, modern spot in the Old Fourth Ward, where old-fashioned manufacturing played out. It's so noisy our waitress had laryngitis from yelling at customers. And the cooking of chef Scott Serpas is just as raucous—a little messy and a touch out of control, but I love his passion and sense of place. He does mostly southern and New Orleans food—sweet, hot, and spicy, with a bonus of being endlessly inventive. The fried oysters come with rémoulade, classic enough, but he tops them with pickled chilies. His caramelized-onion-and-beef-short-rib soup with a single Brie-topped floating crouton—not so southern, come to think of it—is what French onion soup dreams of becoming. The desserts, entirely luscious, have unexpected finesse, especially the chocolate-peanut-butter parfait. And best of all, this is the South, not some show-off Yankee spot, so you won't have to worry about microgreens, sous vide, gels, or foams.

Check out the restaurant's website.

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Restaurant Review: Bread & Butterfly
Restaurant Review: Bread & Butterfly

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