Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Where have all the hipsters gone?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 12:18 AM

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Another classic Atlanta restaurant, Vickery's on Crescent Avenue in Midtown, is closing after 27 years. It will shut down January 1, according to a news release from the restaurant.

In all honesty, I haven't been to Vickery's in a few years, but I was certainly a regular back in the '80s and '90s. It was the first restaurant to open on Crescent Avenue. and it was hipster heaven back then. Late dining or drinking usually meant rubbing elbows with some great characters. The patio was everyone's favorite spot, but the deftly remodeled bungalow's interior always seemed to glow invitingly.

Says the news release from the restaurant:

Opened in 1983 by three guys and a dog (Sam, Chip, Jerry & Dave), Vickery’s Midtown was the first place on Crescent Ave to grab a drink or a bite to eat. Serving a simple menu and strong drinks, Vickery’s quickly became a favorite among Atlantans young and old, gay and straight, blue blooded and blue collared. Starving artists rubbed elbows with Atlanta’s powerful elite while the party set and theatergoers streamed in from nearby Weekends and Theatrical Outfit.

That's not an exaggeration of the clientele's diversity, which was definitely part of the restaurant's appeal.

My favorite dish there for years was the black bean cakes. They were the first I ever really enjoyed, because they did not have the mushy texture that characterized the dish everywhere else in town.

You can still go to the Vickery's in Glenwood Park. It's not closing. The owners also operate other local restaurants, including Highland Tap, Fontaine’s Oyster House and Steamhouse Lounge.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

A visit to the new Flip and a few news items

Posted By on Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 4:06 PM

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I decided to visit the new Flip Burger Boutique (3655 Roswell Rd., 404-352-3547) in Buckhead today. I haven't felt very motivated to visit because I'm frankly sick of the hamburger trend. But I do give Richard Blais credit for riffing on the trend with such wit and creativity. (Ditto for Lance Gummere's sliders at The Shed at Glenwood).

The new Flip's decor looks much like the original by ai3. That means it's pretty spectacular, with sculptural forms and crazy graphics. I could almost hear Grace Slick singing "White Rabbit" as I looked around the dining room. It really is a Wonderland for adults wanting to feed their inner brats.

The dining room was largely empty today, but I've heard repeated tales of long waits from friends. I've also heard rave reviews from them.

Today's meal, I'm sorry to say, was nothing to rave about. I ordered candycane beets with goat's cheese and licorice. The cheese and the licorice — a liquid-nitrogen product — were fine, but the beets were totally tasteless. That includes the candycane type and the usual red beets.

One of my favorite dishes on the planet is osso bucco, so I had to order the burger with that name. It turned out to be a thick veal patty with "marrow-naise," gremolata, fried onions and ketchup. It frankly tasted like meatloaf with way too much sharp-tasting ketchup on it.

I wish I'd ordered the foie gras nuggets, the sesame sweetbreads or the roasted bone marrow with braised oxtail as my side dish. And next time, I'll stick to the straightforward "local burger."

Lunch cost me about $20 with tip included. By the way, Blais is returning to a spin-off of Top Chef....

Speaking of The Shed's Lance Gummere, I reported two weeks ago that he made a slider featuring chicharrones stewed in tomatillo sauce. My favorite tacos are made with chicharrones, but many gringos won't even try them if they're told they are basically a hunk of pig fat.

Thus, the restaurant only sold five of the sliders, which means they'll likely not show up again. Come on, people, live a litttle....

I've been anxiously waiting for a new taqueria, Perla, to open on Piedmont Road, just north of Cheshire Bridge. It was scheduled to open today, in fact. When I made a drive-by, I learned that the restaurant was damaged in a fire two days ago. So plans to open are on hold. Bummer. The restaurant's sign says "We know tacos," so I'm expecting chicharrones suaves con salsa verde....

Construction on the new Grindhouse Killer Burgers on Piedmont near Perla appears to be proceeding steadily.

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Atlanta food events, Nov. 29-Dec. 6

Posted By on Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 11:29 AM

Enjoy an eight-course meal for ALS, check out Chanukah dishes and enjoy other food events this week.
  • The Art Institute
  • Enjoy an eight-course meal for ALS, check out Chanukah dishes and enjoy other food events this week.

Portofino, Mon., Nov. 29: Portofino will be celebrating their 10th anniversary by offering their regular dinner menu for $10 or less. Space is limited and reservations are highly recommended. 3199 Paces Ferry Place. 404-231-1136. www.portofinobistro.com.

Savage Pizza, Mon., Nov. 29: Support RRISA (Refugee Resettlement & Immigration Services of Atlanta) by dining at either Savage Pizza locations. 10% of your total purchases will benefit RRISA and new refugee families. 5-10 p.m. Little Five Points- 484 Moreland Ave. 404- 523-0500. Avondale Estates- 115 Laredo Drive. 404-299-5799. www.savagepizza.com.

Food 101, Wed., Dec. 1-Sat., Dec. 4: Traditional New York Jewish dishes will be offered to celebrate the first few days of Chanukah. The lunch menu consists of Reuben Sandwich, NY Hot Dog, Housemade Jelly Doughnuts, Potato Pancakes with Apple Sauce and more. The dinner menu has offerings such as Salami, Braised Beef Brisket, Housemade NY Cheesecake and more. 4969 Roswell Road. 404-497-9700. www.food101atlanta.com.

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Lady Gaga: so yesterday

Posted By on Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 10:01 AM

Lady Gaga created quite a stir with her raw meat bikini and dress. But she's far from the first to turn food into couture. She's not even the first to use raw meat. Here are a few examples from the website PoorlyDressed.com:

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Miss Ann wants your $450,000

Posted By on Fri, Nov 26, 2010 at 11:20 PM

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  • www.supersizedmeals.com
The New York Times featured a piece about Ann's Snack Bar on the first page of its website Friday. The tiny restaurant, famous for its "Ghetto Burger" (right), is for sale. Owner Ann Price, who has been in business 38 years, asked $1.5 million for it initially but has reduced the price to $450,000.

The Times piece is accompanied by an engaging video. Check it out and, if you haven't already, make a visit to the restaurant where The Wall Street Journal said you'll find America's best hamburger. Just be prepared to wait. And wait. And wait.

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Atlanta food news

Posted By on Fri, Nov 26, 2010 at 4:56 PM

Of 15 major American airports, which has the unhealthiest food? It's Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in D.C. And who has the next unhealthiest? Yep, our own Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Check out the findings on the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's website....

Yet another profile of Chick-Fil-A and its founder, Samuel Truett Cathy, has been posted on Minyanville, an investment site. It pays the usual homage to Cathy for "honoring God" by closing on Sundays, but it also notes that he's angered some pro-choice and gay people:

"I was not so committed to financial success that I was willing to abandon my principles and priorities. One of the most visible examples of this is our decision to close on Sunday. Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and of directing our attention to things that mattered more than our business.”

But Chick-fil-A has also angered a segment of the fast food nation, drawing criticism for giving financial support to Focus on the Family, a vehemently anti-gay rights and anti-choice organization. A Facebook protest group urges people to boycott the franchise for its alleged homophobic leanings....

Huh? Reuters reports that a 375-lb. Mexican-style wrestler, Christopher Long (known as "Solid"), was shot and killed at a local strip club where he worked as a bouncer. Reuters closes its story with a wrestling website quote: "When Solid is down he turns to food for comfort and is often seen enjoying his favorite snack, jelly doughnuts." Thanks for sharing....(The AJC reports that Long's accused killer has been arrested. The AJC neglects mentioning Long's diet.)

News flash from Us Magazine: Ryan Reynolds eating with Jason Bateman at Two Urban Licks in Atlanta! Remember: You read it here last!

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Stop eating mindlessly

Posted By on Fri, Nov 26, 2010 at 1:46 PM

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I posted a review of a relatively new book, Savor: Mindful Eating Mindful Life, on my personal website, Sacred Disorder, a few days ago. The book is part of an explosion of writing about mindful presence, borrowed from Buddhism, that has occurred in the last couple of years.

"Mindfulness" refers to the kind of full presence in the moment that is developed during meditation (although there are other less trying practices). As I say in my review:

The idea is that bringing mindfulness to eating — and any other behavior — enhances our presence in the moment. And that means we don’t eat out of control on auto-pilot. Generally, it means a considerable reduction in the rumination that takes us out of immediate experience. When we are fully present, we have much more power over our choices, rather than behaving by force of habit.

The experience has a demonstrable effect on the quantity and quality of food that one chooses to consume. It is also very effective in helping people develop broader tastes. I've used it with plenty of clients in my private practice as an example of how paying close attention can increase pleasure.

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Soon after I wrote my brief review of Savor, I received the latest issue of The Shambhala Sun. Not only is the issue devoted to the subject of mindfulness, it is also accompanied by a supplementary new publication, Mindful. And it includes — you guessed it — two articles about mindful eating.

Although I'm fully supportive of the notion of mindful eating, I'm also awful at it, since I usually read while I'm eating. In fact, I read while I do most everything, and this can distract me from full attention to what I'm doing at the moment. I'm not sure that conversation over dinner doesn't do the same thing, though.

Also, I find this therapeutic approach to mindfulness a bit excessive in its claims. The new Mindful, includes an advice column by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who has done more to publicize and teach the effectiveness of mindfulness in reducing anxiety and depression than anyone else in America. He makes this point:

Mindfulness is not about fixing anything, but about seeing things as they actually are and then being in wise relationship to them, even if it is difficult or painful. While "fixing" is not an option in such a situation, healing is....

And yet these books and the new magazine really do seem to advocate mindfulness as a way of fixing everything from overeating to lousy leadership skills. There's nothing wrong with demonstrating the technique of mindfulness in different situations, but the practice remains the same.

I do like, however, that Jan Chozen Bays, author of "Mouthfuls of Mindfulness" in the new magazine, does take up the subject of taste briefly. The article's not on the Mindful website (linked above) but probably will be soon.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Newsweek examines food and classism in America

Posted By on Wed, Nov 24, 2010 at 9:00 AM

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The current issue of Newsweek has an excellent essay on the way food has become another expression of the rapidly growing classism in America. The poor eat McDonald's to fill their bellies for little money, while monied foodies agonize over organic, local and sustainable dining options. Can the divide be broached?

Here are some of the disturbing statistics in Lisa Miller's story:

According to data released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 17 percent of Americans—more than 50 million people—live in households that are “food insecure,” a term that means a family sometimes runs out of money to buy food, or it sometimes runs out of food before it can get more money. Food insecurity is especially high in households headed by a single mother. It is most severe in the South, and in big cities. In New York City, 1.4 million people are food insecure, and 257,000 of them live near me, in Brooklyn. Food insecurity is linked, of course, to other economic measures like housing and employment, so it surprised no one that the biggest surge in food insecurity since the agency established the measure in 1995 occurred between 2007 and 2008, at the start of the economic downturn. (The 2009 numbers, released last week, showed little change.) The proportion of households that qualify as “hungry”—with what the USDA calls “very low food security”—is small, about 6 percent. Reflected against the obsessive concerns of the foodies in my circle, and the glare of attention given to the plight of the poor and hungry abroad, even a fraction of starving children in America seems too high.

Atlanta is definitely among American cities that are seeing an explosion of "food insecure" families. The Atlanta Community Food Bank reports a 33 percent increase in requests for food assistance this year, according to a report on WABE FM.

Please consider making a donation to the Food Bank or volunteering via its website. Also listen to Bill Bolling's story of how he came to create the Food Bank.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

FIG's Mike Lata on Iron Chef America

Posted By on Tue, Nov 23, 2010 at 11:26 AM

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If you've ever eaten at FIG in Charleston, you'll know how bittersweet it can be. Sweet because, uh, that restaurant rocks. Bitter because it always makes me mad that we don't have a restaurant like it in Atlanta.

Whether you have or haven't eaten there, there's a couple of opportunities in the upcoming weeks to get a peek at chef Mike Lata's food. On Sunday Dec. 5, Lata will be appearing on "Iron Chef America," competing against Jose Garces. The show appears on the Food Network at 10 p.m.

The following Thursday on Dec. 9, Lata will be the guest chef at JCT Kitchen for their "Farm to table and back" series which benefits Georgia Organics. He'll be cooking a four course meal with paired wines for $75. You can make reservations by calling JCT at 404-355-2252 and telling them you want a table for the farm to table dinner.

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No lethargic lobsters, please

Posted By on Tue, Nov 23, 2010 at 10:28 AM

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I'm alone most Monday and Tuesday evenings because my partner Wayne has become a compulsive square dancer. He takes lessons on those evenings. This is what happens when you finish a PhD in epidemiology after 10 years of immobility. You turn into Jed Clampett. Oh. Did I mention that he also contra-dances on Friday nights?

So, I've been without a regular dining companion many evenings lately. Honestly, I have never had a problem dining alone. In fact I enjoy it and, although I could corral friends to dine with me on these evenings, I like the freedom of not having to turn eating into a project. (This is what happens after 25-plus years of reviewing and finishing a PhD.)

So impulse rules my solitary dining. Last night I decided to spoil my hour at the gym by hitting Goin' Coastal in Virginia-Highland. The restaurant is taking advantage of historically low lobster prices and is offering diners a 1-lb. Maine lobster for $15 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights. It comes with a bowl of slaw and a pile of shoestring fried potatoes.

Monday was their first night to offer the special. I arrived around 9 p.m., an hour before closing, and got the 39th lobster they sold that evening. They'd bought 40.

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