OK. My mom is nuts (kidding … kinda … luvs you, Mommy!), but I think there’s something to her reaction. Whether by evolutionary necessity or sheer aesthetics, people are pretty married to getting a good look at what they eat before they start shoveling it into their faces. Of course, the visually impaired don’t have that option, but for the sighted, not seeing what you’re eating — or drinking or sitting on or sitting by — is a novelty, and kind of a disconcerting one.
The idea behind Dining in the Dark, a once-monthly event in the Dialogue in the Dark space at Atlantic Station, is that eliminating the ability to see heightens the remaining senses. Foods’ flavors become more intense, their aromas more tantalizing, their textures, especially the finger foods, more interesting. I don’t really know if that was the case, but I left full of delicious things and awfully glad I could see again.
I've had two more meals — lunch with four friends and dinner with Wayne — at the new Sufi's. I'll have more to say in this week's "Grazing column," but be advised that most of the dishes I've tried have been excellent.
One notation though: I've found some of the meat, including the lamb shank and the beef in one stew, a bit too gamy for my taste. It didn't seem to bother my friends or Wayne and, in fact, my palate rapidly adjusted.
I did mention this to the manager and he said I wasn't the first to make the observation, especially about the beef. He said that the herbs of the particular stew — ghormeh sabzi — seemed to produce the flavor. That would be a lot of parsley and cilantro.
"But," he said, "I'm a Southern boy and 'gamy' doesn't bother me."
"Oh," I said, "you're used to killing your own meat, right?"
"Exactly," he said...
I also returned for a second dinner at H. Harper Station, where I ran into our former dining critic Bill Addison, now at Atlanta magazine. Bill is in deep mourning about the closing of Dynamic Dish, as are most foodies. Bill, though, has a background in vegetarian cooking and knows more than the average diner how unique David Sweeney's cooking is.
Dynamic Dish closes this week after serving Thanksgiving dinner. You better hurry if you want a last taste.
H. Harper Station was doing a brisk business and, hey, they let us park ourselves (as did Sufi's, which also has valet service). Dinner was mainly good, except for an oyster shooter with vanilla flavoring — perhaps the most extraordinarily unpleasant thing I've tasted in years.
But I was thoroughly compensated by the Louisiana Bouillabaisse's fresh seafood and spicy notes. And a slice of vanilla-buttermilk pie from Sweet Auburn Bakery fully redeemed the flavor of vanilla.
I'll write more in two weeks....
Beside the point, but I've received a number of inquiries about why I'm not shooting pictures to accompany my posts these days. As I explained a couple of months ago, I lost my camera. Then I entered a period of confusion about whether to replace it with another point-and-shoot or to get a DSLR. In my hierarchy of personal expenses, a camera is low, but I decided to see what Black Friday and Cyber Monday turn up.
Eugene Author Dinner Series, Mon., Nov. 22: Chef Linton Hopkins will be launching his new dinner series at Restaurant Eugene. The series features an exploration of food and books. The James Beard Nominated Chef will be paired with a writer to produce an evening and menu inspired by the Author’s work. For this dinner, New York Times Best Selling Author, Mark Kurlansky will be featured. Event includes a four-course meal with pairings. Reservations are required. 6:30 p.m. $95. 2277 Peachtree Road.
Haven, Mon., Nov. 22: Family-style dinner gathering to give thanks for seven years of food, family and friends. A menu of Autumn Vegetable Salad, a choice of Painted Hills Meatloaf, Ashley Farms Fried Chicken or North Georgia Trout, with sides including Whipped Potatoes, Root Vegetable Gratin, and more. $25. 5:30 p.m. 1441 Dresden Drive. 404-969-0700. www.havenrestaurant.com.
Café Circa, Mon., Nov. 22: Dinner and the Blues event featuring live performance by Francine Reed and a two-course dinner. Meal consists of your choice of an appetizer or a dessert or entrée. $20. 7-10 p.m. 464 Edgewood Avenue. 404-477-0008.
I'm talking about the early '70s when Steve Nygren (pictured with wife Marie) and Dick Dailey opened the Pleasant Peasant in downtown Atlanta. The phenomenally successful restaurant spawned 34 restaurants in eight states. They covered about every kind of dining, including the diner Mick's and the fine-dining City Grill and Trio, as well as more in the original Peasant style.
The Peasant's service was controversial from the start. Nygren and Dailey hired personable waiters with strong personalities. Servers always introduced themselves: "My name is Brad and I'll be your server tonight." Then, rather than distributing printed menus, the servers brought a small chalkboard to the table and recited the brief menu of creative dishes.
Most people found this to be like theater but some resented servers insinuating themselves so personally into meals, provoking the kind of (silly) column Besha cited by Jason Kessler of Bon Apetit. It's hard to believe that 40 years later, people are still complaining about a server giving you his name.
Nygren left the Peasant group in 1994 and, with wife Marie, began developing Serenbe, a visionary community 32 miles south of Atlanta (replete with excellent restaurants).
I wrote Nygren to reminisce about this subject:
Cliff Bostock: On our food blog at Creative Loafing, there's a discussion about servers who are intrusive, by reciting menus, telling you their name, visiting the table too often, etc.
Of course, some of this was true of the original Peasant restaurants. Most people I knew considered it a kind of charming theater. I wonder if you could give me a statement about why you took that route when you opened.
Steven Nygren: Please remember in 1972, no one was really doing this. We opened with 5 items on the menu and we did not have money to print menus. The decision to use blackboards was our answer and verbal descriptions were our most effective way to communicate. This was fresh in the early 70's and we got great feedback and so it became a staple, even as the menus grew and the years ticked by.
We had charming servers, and each had their own style and the presentation became part of the experience or "theater" as you call it. Regulars would forgo the verbal presentation generally, but if they had guests they would request the presentation as they considered it part of the experience.
CB: My more specific question is why the waiters introduced themselves by name, which weirdly seems to annoy a lot of diners these days. [I sent him Jason Kessler's column.] I assume it would be especially appropriate if they are going to make a personal presentation of the menu, yes?
SN: Cliff, name tags were popular the '70s and we were making the experience more personal. The servers were instructed to assess the diners - did they want invisible service or the friendly best friend? - and some misread the the customers.
While some diners felt service was intrusive, the compliments and returns by guests with requests [for certain servers] far outweighed any complaint that we got about them being too in-your-face. As you know, it is hard to find something that works for all and times do change. Atlanta was a small town then.
Decatur’s Watershed will now offer afternoon tea. Southern Afternoon Tea Service begins on Thursday, December 2, and will be served weekly Thursday - Saturday from 3 p.m. - 5 p.m. The $15 afternoon service offers organic loose tea and a variety of savory and sweet snacks.
The latest venture from Richard Blais is said to be an upscale hot dog joint called Haute Doggery. The restaurant would take over the former San Francisco Coffee Company building in Poncey-Highland.
The Big Gay Supper Club is meeting for brunch Saturday, Nov. 20, at South City Kitchen. It will also meet for brunch on Saturday, Dec. 11, at Parish. Check out the website, linked above, to see menus and reserve a spot....
Goin' Coastal in Virginia-Highland is offering lobster dinners for only $15 each. You can add a second lobster for $10. The deal is offered Monday through Wednesday only....
Molly McFerran writes:
Acclaimed Atlanta restaurants Bacchanalia and Quinones at Bacchanalia are proud to be lauded with the Forbes four-star rating from the Forbes Travel Guide, formerly the Mobil Travel Guide. The Forbes Travel Guide, which provides one of the world’s most comprehensive evaluation systems of hotels, restaurants and spas, has defined the hospitality industry’s highest standard for excellence for more than 50 years.
Now you can take tea at Watershed. Here are the detes:
Decatur’s Watershed is launching a Southern Afternoon Tea on Thursday, Dec. 2, and it will continue weekly, every Thursday through Saturday, 3-5 p.m. Tea time includes organic loose tea and a variety of savory and sweet snacks, and costs $15.00 per person. Reservations are required and can be made by calling the restaurant at (404) 378-4900.
As guests are seated in the restaurant’s quaint dining room, their table will be adorned with a tiered stand, offering an assortment of southern favorites and bites crafted by Chef Joe Truex, including varied items such as toasted pecans, cheese straws, tea cakes, pound cake and selected sandwiches, such as curry shrimp, goat cheese and cress, and pimento cheese. The perfect time to meet with friends, relax after holiday shopping, or have a business meeting, Southern Afternoon Tea reminds Atlantans of Watershed’s neighborly focus and regional hospitality.
Check out the pictures of Grant Henry's new bar at the corner of Edgewood and Boulevard. The bar's name is Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium....
This is from Katharine Provost about the valet parking service at H. Harper Station. I questioned its necessity, but she makes a point:
Thanks for your posting on H. Harper Station. They are seeing how valet goes for their first few weeks of business. They only have 36 parking spots available and on Sunday they did 212 people. Additionally, since they are located on Memorial Drive, there isn’t street parking close by.
It's from Elisa Gambino of Via Elisa. God, I miss her pasta shop. But you can still buy her sauces around town and online. Check out her holiday newsletter for more information.
Googie Burger, Fri., Nov. 19-Sun., Jan. 30: Upgraded meal for ice skaters beginning this Friday at the 13th annual opening of Centennial Olympic Park’s ice skating rink. By showing an ice skating wrist band when you order, Googie Burger patrons can receive an upgraded meal of a double-stack burger and upgraded fries. 190 Marietta St. 404-223-4664. www.googieburger.com.
Cobb Energy Centre, Sat., Nov. 20: Anthony Bourdain, chef, author and host of theTravel Channel’s “No Reservations,” holds a question and answer session as he reflects on his travels and culinary experiences. $33-$126. 8 p.m. 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway. 770-916-2800. www.cobbenergycentre.com.
In case you missed the avalanche of tweets, Richard Blais is going hot doggy. What Now Atlanta has the story.
I know of no such ratings, but, as I told Franklin, I wrote a post in September about a Psychology Today article documenting that noise is often intentional.
Franklin asked that I canvas readers for some quiet restaurants. Off the top of my head, a few that come to mind are Livingston, Restaurant Eugene, Craft and Atmosphere. Those are all high-end restaurants and ain't it sad that you have to pay big bucks for quiet?
If readers have any recommendations, they would be most appreciated. No, they don't want to text one another while eating.
KILL IT!! Love you guys!
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