There are 16 cities with chapters participating in this years Meat Week, an eight-day celebration of BBQ (and only BBQ). Originating in Tampa, Fla., the organization uses a naval ranking system, which seems to sort members by their time and relative importance in the organization. The original admirals have now moved to L.A. where they earn their keep by creating sitcoms, or so a rather scattered and bulleted press release (of sorts) claims. Their current professions help explain why the event is so quirky.
This years 8th annual Meat Week starts the last Sunday of January and ends Super Bowl Sunday. Each night participants will gather at barbecue restaurants around the city. The flagship BBQ joynt, will be, as it always has been, Daddy Dz where the week will both begin and end. The week before is hype week during which the website meatweekisreal.com will attempt to rouse excitement among the participants (sailors?) and warn others that, Meat Week cometh.
Regardless of whether or not someone needs help getting excited for the event, it is worth a visit to the site for the newcomers guide alone. There is a full schedule of events, photos and a countdown. Surprisingly, the photos indicate participants do not dress up like a ships crew.
This years co-captains ask any interested participants to please RSVP on their online forum.
(Photo courtesy meatweekisreal.com)
You can judge a chef on how well his team performs when hes not in the kitchen.
Thats something I heard a long time ago. I dont remember who said it, but for some reason I think it may have been Alain Ducasse, or certainly someone of his stature a great chef who has multiple concepts in far-reaching cities. And as Im now officially operating more than one restaurant in different cities, I understand the sentiment a bit more personally.
First, let me squash the idea that I think Ive become some international jet-setting culinary rock star god. Far from it. My virgin dive into this world of multiple operations doesnt have me flying first class in a Concord from New York to London to Shangai. Not yet.
It has me riding bitch in Aisle 38 from Baltimore yesterday, kissing my kid goodnight in Atlanta and waking up to my newfound pastime: cruising I-20. En route to spend a day and a half in Birmingham. And then its off to New York to deliver a graduation speech at the Culinary Institute of America, which entails a few small plane flights and a rental car.
I heard Ferran Adria came onto that campus, with entourage in tow, on a helicopter. Ill be pushing my Ford Fusion rental into the Poughkeepsie Marriott, solo.
From the Atlanta Business Chronicle:
AquaKnox in Buckhead has closed, a source close to the restaurant confirmed.
The dinner-only, 13,000-square-foot restaurant, which served seafood and steaks, closed Sunday.
It opened in November 2007 as one of several restaurants in Atlanta-based Cousins Properties Inc.'s (NYSE: CUZ) Terminus building, a mixed-use project at Peachtree and Piedmont roads.
AquaKnox is a restaurant brand owned by E-Brands Restaurants LLC in Orlando, Fla. It also owns AquaKnox restaurants in Las Vegas and Tampa, Fla.
(H/T Thomas Wheatley)
From Fox 5:
Andy Alibaksh and Arnaud Michel have been feeding Atlanta at several of the city's favorite restaurants for years and now they have teamed up for Amuse . Their combined family of eateries is holding a Haitian relief event on Tuesday. 20 percent of each guest's bill will go to Doctors Without Borders -- an international medical humanitarian organization which provides aid in 60 countries and is in Haiti now.
We dined last night with our friend Rose D'Agostino, who said she was in the mood for comfort food. So we headed to the Colonnade, which we'd not visited during the last year. The restaurant, infamous for its clientele of gay men and blue-haired ladies, was not crowded, at least not the way it has been in years past.
We used to be regulars here. (My hair is not blue.) I went primarily for the inexpensive lamb shank and the fried chicken. The menu is quite abbreviated now and no longer includes the lamb shank. The Colonnade was among the first in the city to offer this dish, which I grew up eating at home. Lamb shanks became quite trendy five or more years ago and prices seemed to rapidly double.
Sunday night, I had (the gigantic serving of) fried chicken livers, Wayne had a chef's salad and Rose ordered very mediocre pork loin with dressing. I started with the famous wedge of iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing, another iconic Colonnade dish that's become ubiquitous. Now, the restaurant has added blue cheese crumbles to the plate, along with beets, purple onion and a lonely cherry tomato.
Back to So Ba
We returned to So Ba in East Atlanta Village again Friday night. We'd had consistently good meals there and then encountered appetizers mediocre enough for me to pause and reconsider my earlier assessment.
I'm glad to say that the dishes were both back to standard.
The restaurant was also very busy, which was great to see. We can argue about its authenticity but I'm happy to be able to get a huge bowl of pho a few miles from home.
Quick visit to Olive Bistro
is still my favorite for Middle Eastern cooking. Owner Steve Masri cuts no corners in preparing his menu of traditional dishes.
If I have any complaint, it's the heavy use of garlic in just about every dish -- a habit that makes him close kin to David Sweeney of Dynamic Dish.
During my quick visit last week, before seeing clients who don't want to deal with garlic breath, I ordered a Caesar salad with rosemary-roasted chicken and real parmesan.
The restaurant's baklava is also among the city's best. I won't eat it because one of those tiny servings is never enough.
(Photos by Cliff Bostock)
Guess who's running for mayor next go-round?
None other than Paul Luna. The brilliant chef, who has returned to Atlanta after a long absence, has opened Lunacy Black Market on Mitchell Street in a rather seedy district of downtown Atlanta. When I asked in an e-mail what brought him back to Atlanta, he replied this way:
I want to be mayor. This time it's not a joke. I want to make this the best livable city for residents and businesses. And I want to surround myself with people who also share that vision for being an innovative center of culture, food and business. Of course, I'll need help. I'm hoping that some of my customers will lend their support and help me with my campaign. And, hey, if it's not Mayor this time around, I will definitely run for City Council, District 2.
Luna, always provocative and controversial, opened the new restaurant after bicycling across country to promote his bilingual children's book, Luna Needs a Miracle/ Luna Necesita un Milagro.
I lunched at Lunacy Black Market last Friday with two friends and fell instantly in culinary love with Luna's food again. The sandwiches -- actually a take on sliders -- were all under $2 and a small plate, shrimp with EVOO and garlic, topped out the menu at $3.75!
Besides the shrimp, we tried a special of chick pea soup with crispy pork. And we ate sliders made with pork and mint; braised beef; and Asian-style pork.
Evening prices for small plates of many of the same items offered as lunchtime sliders rise to a whopping $2.85 on average. I haven't tried dinner yet -- the restaurant was closed when I showed up Saturday night -- but I'll report soon.
The restaurant dining room looks somewhat like the original Eclipse di Sol, with sofas and homey cabinetry. There's some very engaging art on the walls. The principal drawback is the lousy parking on Mitchell Street. There are meters along the street but don't think about not paying. Luna writes:
The city may end up scaring many of my customers away because of its new and aggressive parking policy that it outsourced to a private company. Every day, I get a customer who shares with me that they received a parking ticket when they were last in my restaurant for lunch. (One of my guests received two parking tickets at the same time!) We have tried to talk to the city about measures that are more reasonable, transparent and fair to taxpayers, but they continue to respond that they need to stay within the confines of their $5-million contract with ParkAtlanta.
What isn't entirely clear about this is why the city keeps telling constituents/taxpayers to take their complaints to ParkAtlanta, when the issue regards public streets. Indeed, one of their goals is to extend parking enforcement to 24 hours. Its ludicrous for a city that doesn't share the density that the other cities they cited in their research do.
I'm not saying we do away with metered parking, but there are ways and there are ways for raising funds. Angering customers and businesses is not one of those ways.
Again, we're dealing with a city that extends a myopic vision for big picture problems. I do hope that Kassim Reed will inject some fresh air into the fusty ways of the current administration.
Don't let this deter you. Go now!
(Photos by Cliff Bostock)
On a small plate, a pot of creamy feta cheese sits surrounded by three kinds of crunch. The first is tiny breakfast radishes, cut in quarters. The second is demure baby carrots, so adorable they look lifted from your childhood Peter Rabbit dinnerware. The third is watermelon radishes, sliced crosswise into chips, revealing the vegetable's vermillion burst of color in its prettiest possible aspect. The plate is attractive enough to discourage disturbance, but gobble you must, because the play on the classic use of radishes as a pre-dinner bite (usually served with butter and salt) is addictive. Here, the feta serves as salt and butter; one creamy foil to the radish's vegetal snap. This is barely a dish on Miller Union's menu, it is in fact referred to as a "snack." Nonetheless, it might be the perfect ambassador for the restaurant, representative in its humor, beauty, and simplicity of what the place is all about.
3 out of 5 stars. 999 Brady Ave. 678-733-8550. www.millerunion.com. Dinner: Mon.-Thurs., 5-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 5-11 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking.
In many ways, Miller Union is a perfect storm of a restaurant. Longtime Watershed sous chef Steven Satterfield and Sotto Sotto manager Neal McCarthy have come together to deliver a personal-feeling, truly regional restaurant. Miller Union serves Southern food without shtick or embellishment, making it unlikely that the restaurant would exist anywhere outside the American South. Its industrial setting, among the warehouses and train tracks of the Westside, make it more specific still. This is an Atlanta restaurant, from its cocktails to its menu items to its talent and location.
Rather than opt for the wide-open dramatic space popular these days, Miller Union comprises a warren of rooms. These small, high-ceilinged spaces flow into each other in a line behind the bar that fronts the restaurant. They have a cozy atrium feel, particularly the middle room with its dark wood shelving and library theme. Almost everything about Miller Union walks a high-end/low-key line, at once endearing and reserved.
(Photo by James Camp)
We set out Saturday night to eat at Paul Luna's new restaurant, Lunacy Black Market, and were disappointed to find it closed for the evening. Having tuned ourself up for one remarkable chef's quirky restaurant, we headed to another, David Sweeney's Dynamic Dish, which we hadn't visited in a month or longer.
It was pizza night at the restaurant, as it is every Saturday night, but the best dishes we sampled were these vegetarian ones. I ordered Roman cauliflower (top photo), which looks a bit like an exotic cactus from Mars. Sweeney served it with EVOO and a perfect foil of finely chopped almonds and a bit of nutmeg.
We also ordered this plate of kohlrabi. The crisp, slightly sweet kohlrabi was layered with creamy chevre and bits of toasted walnuts -- another composition of complimentary textures and tastes.
My pizza was a rare meat one, featuring local bacon, along with onions and fennel. I have to say the pizza really did not measure up to the vegetable dishes. The bacon was diced so small that its flavor was all but lost.
Sweeney reports that he's not expecting to be able to expand into the adjoining space before the end of the year. That's a bummer, because the restaurant is frequently full. One often ends up, as we did, dining at a table with strangers. This is usually a good experience. Saturday night, Wayne (pro) and I (con) gave a woman advice about her plan to visit Turkey. I quite obviously lost the argument.
(Photos by Cliff Bostock)
WARNING: If you object to stories about politics and food, you will want to skip this post.
Welcome to the American Apocalypse. It's occurring under bridges all over America, like this one on Bell Street, around the corner from Grady Memorial Hospital.
I pass the bridge daily on my way home to Grant Park, where I live. This is the third time I've seen the homeless and hungry thronging about a table where they are fed, apparently by a charitable organization.
In the past, the homeless have lived under the bridge but the police routinely swept them and their possessions away. They always came back a few weeks later and the police were never far behind. Bell Street itself was closed some months ago, because of construction of another mixed-use housing development on the former site of Grady Homes, a public housing project. As far as I know, the new housing is not for the poor.
Until recently, the average American considered the fate of these people something quite apart from his own. But corporations, given unbridled political power last week by the Supreme Court, continue to lay off thousands of employees to preserve their profits. Between the employment crisis and the mortgage crisis, the middle class is shrinking dramatically. Huge numbers of the middle class are now on food stamps and depending on food banks.
Don't think for a minute that the apocalypse excludes people you know. As I sloshed around in the rain to take these pictures, I heard my name called twice. This man (above, right, foreground) approached me to ask, "Aren't you Cliff Bostock?" Surprised, I confirmed my identity, and he poured compliments on me for my former column, "Headcase."
Iliterally did not know how to respond other than to thank him. I wanted to ask him how he recognized me, how he ended up under the Bell Street bridge, what he does for food when this isn't available. But I found myself feeling emotional, almost in a panic. So I made a hasty departure.
As I've told numerous friends, I'm feeling in some ways like I'm reliving my late teens and early 20s, when I was, as my parents continually called me, "a bleeding heart liberal," who worked in anti-poverty programs as a volunteer.
Like most Americans, though, I've long lived by the notion that societies evolve for the better. But that's a fantasy. Cultures have risen and fallen throughout history and it appears we are falling fast. A scene like this one is heartbreaking. It's bad enough that millions don't have access to health care and lose their jobs while the plutocrats of Wall Street enjoy their million-dollar bonuses. But to not have enough to eat in this country is an utter obscenity.
Please support organizations that are feeding and otherwise helping the hungry, the homeless, the poor but employed and the unemployed. There's the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Cafe 458 and Samaritan House just for starters. Check out The Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless' video to learn who the homeless are and how you can help..
I know it's a cliche to say "there but for the grace of God go you or I," but it's also demonstrably true. Talk to the homeless instead of waving them away with a dollar bill. You will likely be quite surprised.
(Photos by Cliff Bostock)
30 Tables serves a four-course dinner Feb. 12-14. $55 per person. 110 Marietta St. 404.469.0700. 30tables.com
Amuse! offers a four-course prix-fixe menu for $48 per person. 560 Dutch Valley Road. 404.888.1890. www.amuseatlanta.com
Anis Café and Bistro serves a four-course prix fixe menu for $60 per person. Includes one complimentary glass of Champagne and a rose. 2974 Grandview Ave. 404-233-9889. www.anisbistro.com
Aqua blue serves a three-course prix-fixe menu for $50, in addition to their a la carte and sushi menus, Feb. 12-14. Champagne toast and rose available for an additional $15. Kristin Tinsley will be performing live music on Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. 1564 Holcomb Bridge Road. 770-643-8886. www.aquablueatl.com.
Aria is offering a four-course menu for $85 per person on Valentines Day with wine pairings available at an additional cost. 490 E. Paces Ferry Road. 404-233-7673. www.aria-atl.com
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