Monday, February 28, 2011

On blogs and bloggers, journalists and ethics

Posted By on Mon, Feb 28, 2011 at 2:09 PM

The conversation regarding the value of citizen journalism is a tough one for paid journalists to wade into - any criticism we have can be seen as fear of the encroaching influence of bloggers. I've always said, publicly and privately, that I appreciate the voice of bloggers in the community, that I think those voices add value to the conversation, and that I find the competition for news and gossip, reviews and commentary keeps us all on our toes and makes the dialogue richer. Gone are the days when two or three media outlets controlled what got out there and how, and readers benefit as a result. It makes my job more interesting. It makes me a better journalist.

In the past week, a few things have happened that highlight the problems with bloggers taking on the role of journalists. This isn't a sweeping indictment of all bloggers - there are plenty out there who have ethical standards as high or higher than some traditional journalists. For instance, the somewhat sleazy media dinner: Restaurants and PR agencies put on free dinners for media types, and glowing blog posts and reviews get written as a result. I don't attend media dinners, and I know quite a few bloggers who don't, either. I also know plenty of journalists who do attend. It's not exactly unethical behavior, but I appreciate that someone who has no journalism background would think enough about it to recognize the inherent conflict of interest.

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From Mexico to the New Age

Posted By on Mon, Feb 28, 2011 at 10:58 AM

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I dragged friends to two new restaurants for first visits last week. As I've written before, I always find this risky. Even if the food is good, there's usually something that doesn't please someone and I spend a day stewing in guilt. That's one reason why I like to dine alone.

The first was Abrigo, a restaurant specializing in "a fusion of Mexican, Southwest and Latin cuisine." It's located at 818 Juniper St. in the space vacated by Mitra. The latter's decor has been left mainly intact, at least as I remember it, and the staff is friendly although easily confused.

My friend Chuck O'Boyle, a major foodie, joined me. He wrote a food column for CL briefly and is hyper-picky. Honestly, the food was a disappointment in several ways, but you'll have to read "Grazing" later this week for a synopsis.

I also visited Jennifer Levison's new breakfast-and-lunch restaurant (above), Cafe Jonah and the Magical Attic, in Buckhead at 3188 Paces Ferry Place. That's Jennifer of Souper Jenny fame.

Cafe Jonah, named after Levison's son, is charming if nothing, located in a sunny cottage whose original layout seems to have been preserved. You won't find soup on the menu — mainly salads, a frittata, pastries and sandwiches. It's all very healthy for the most part, probably too healthy for two regular Friday lunch pals who joined me.

The most startling aspect of the restaurant is the Magical Attic. We tromped upstairs expecting to find another dining room. Instead, we felt like we'd arrived in a '80s-style New Age dimension. Two card readers were busy with clients. Scented candles lined a shelf, along with other knickknacks. The room hosts meditation classes and a psychic fair.

Check out Cafe Jonah's page on Facebook.

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Atlanta Food Events, Feb. 28-Mar. 6

Posted By on Mon, Feb 28, 2011 at 10:07 AM

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South City Kitchen Mon., Feb. 28 6:30-8 p.m.: New Orleans. Old-fashioned crawfish boil and New Orleans food and drinks. $25. Tickets are available online. Midtown; 1144 Crescent Ave. Vinings; 1675 Cumberland Pkwy. www.southcitykitchen.com.

Cook's Warehouse Brookhaven Tues., Mar. 1 6:30-9 p.m.: Big Green Egg 101. Cooking class with Bobby Cresap, detailing how to use the Egg. $55. 404-949-9945. 4062 Peachtree Rd. www.cookswarehouse.com

Cook's Warehouse Midtown Tues., Mar. 1 7-9 p.m.: Seafood Savvy with the Georgia Aquarium. The Cook’s Warehouse has partnered with the Seafood Savvy Program at Georgia Aquarium to help educate ourselves and the community around us to make wise selections of seafood. $55. 404-815-4993. 1544 Piedmont Rd. www.cookswarehouse.com

IHOP Tues., Mar. 1 7 a.m.-10 p.m.: National Pancake Day. IHOP will be offering a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes to each guest and, in return, diners will be asked to make a voluntary donation to support All Children’s Hospital. ihop.com

5 Seasons Prado Wed., Mar. 2 6:30 p.m.: Tasting Dinner. 5 Seasons will host a tasting dinner in te Cellar Bar to showcase Heaven Hill Distilleries’ bourbons as well as 5 seasons signature Scotch Ale. $35 per person, tax and gratuity not included. Reservations required. Limited seating. 404-255-5911. 5600 Roswell Rd. www.5seasonsbrewing.com

HOBNOB Neighborhood Tavern Wed., Mar. 2 6:30-9:30 p.m.: Wine Vs. Beer: Judge five beers and five wines paired with hors d’oeuvres. Register online. 1551 Piedmont Ave. NE. 404-968-2288

Goin’ Coastal Every Thurs. night in March Mardis Gras specials culminating in a party on Mardis Gras itself. 404-941-9117. 1021 Virginia Ave. www.goincoastalseafood.com

Bocado Thurs., Mar. 3, 7 p.m.: Domaines Alain Brumont four-course Wine Dinner with special guest winemaker Karl-Frederick Reuter. $119 including tax and gratuity. RSVP to Cellar 13 at 404-813-4071. 887 Howell Mill Rd. www.bocadoatlanta.com

BLT Steak Thurs., Mar. 3: Birthday celebration. In celebration of the original BLT Steak in Manhattan, prices will be dropped on many menu items to reflect the birth date, March 3, 2004. 404-577-7601. 45 Ivan Allen Junior Blvd NW # 45. www.bltsteak.com

Cook's Warehouse Midtown Sat., Mar. 5 11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Natural 'Curve' Appeal. Learn to incorporate superfoods in your diet to encourage curves. $45. 404-815-4993. 1544 Piedmont Rd. www.cookswarehouse.com

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Where prayers for good food are answered

Posted By on Sun, Feb 27, 2011 at 4:58 PM

Holy Taco's patio
  • www.holy-taco.com
  • Holy Taco's patio
Besha's been raving about Chef Robert Phalen at Holy Taco in East Atlanta Village for some time. Phalen has quite a resume and is taking over the Inman Park space recently vacated by Shaun Doty, one of his earlier employers.

Wayne and I decided to pay a visit to Holy Taco Saturday night, since we haven't visited in about a year. "Holy Taco!" indeed. While we recognized a few dishes since our last visit, the menu has morphed into something way different from its original Mexican form.

We ordered a variety of dishes, starting with merguez-like lamb sausages grilled and served on a skewer with romesco, a classic Catalonian sauce, here made with a twist. Almonds are blended into the traditional sauce but Phalen serves it with sliced whole almonds.

For my entree, I ordered pork milanesa, a dish found all over Latin America. Phalen doesn't — as so many here do — drench the pork in sauce. He sits the pork over a pool of mojo rojo, a Spanish sauce, that here features strong notes of cumin and garlic. Phalen adds the novel ingredient of peanuts tossed in a chipotle sauce. Fantastico.

Wayne dabbled with the menu, ordering two tacos — swordfish and skirt steak. He also ordered elote and a plate of roasted cauliflower enlivened with tart manzanilla olives and creamy, sweet dates. Everything Phalen puts together is like an irresistible composition in counterpoint.

The restaurant was packed with a 25-minute wait Saturday night. I know there have been complaints about service in the past, but our server, Jessica, was terrific. She had a comprehensive knowledge of the menu and if she couldn't answer a question, she'd run to the kitchen.

Really, if you haven't been here or it's been a while, make it a priority. Oh, and it's cheap.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekend Food Events, Feb. 25-27

Posted By on Sat, Feb 26, 2011 at 10:20 AM

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Pricci Sun., Feb. 27 6-10:30 p.m.:13th Annual Academy Awards night. Walk the red carpet and enjoy a four-course prix-fixe dinner alongside the Oscars. $59/person for the first seating, $69 for the second seating at 8:30 p.m. 404-237-2941. 500 Pharr Rd. www.buckheadrestaurants.com

Cook’s Warehouse Midtown Fri., Feb. 25, 7 - 9 p.m.: The Cake Mix Doctor® Bakes Gluten Free. Author Anne Byrn will demonstrate gluten-free cooking. This class is being taught in a commercial kitchen which is NOT gluten-free, however, desserts served will be provided from Sally’s Bakery, which is a gluten free kitchen. $45. 404-815-4993 / 800-499-0996.1544 Piedmont Rd. www.cookswarehouse.com

Steamhouse Lounge Sat., Feb. 26-27: 24th Annual Oysterfest. Oyster, Seafood and drink specials with live music. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. $20 2-day pass, $10 Sunday-Only. Buy tickets online.

Genki Sun., Feb. 27: Social Sunday. $1 sushi and $5 vodka cocktails. Live Music from Justin Borgman beginning at 600p.m. 404-844-8319 3186 Roswell Rd. www.genkiatl.com

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Gravy Train: Seed Kitchen and Bar, Ullio tries Midtown again

Posted By on Fri, Feb 25, 2011 at 12:04 PM

Café Jonah and the Magical Attic
  • Cafe Jonah and the Magical Attic
Doug Turbush, formerly of Bluepointe, will be opening his own restaurant, Seed Kitchen and Bar, in East Cobb’s Merchant’s Walk shopping center. “The cuisine is modern American. The menu will be very approachable, reflect local ingredients and inspirations from my life, my experience and travels in America, Asia, Europe, and Mexico,” Turbush said of his new venture. “I have lived in East Cobb for ten years, it has some of the best demographics for opening a business in metro Atlanta, [the area] is filled with great people.” Over the past year, the Merchant’s Walk center has undergone major renovations and added several new tenants including Marlow's Tavern, Gigi’s Cupcakes, Pinkberry, Mirko Pasta and Whole Foods (coming soon).

What Now Atlanta reported earlier this week that Riccardo Ullio is planning to open El Escorpion in the former Eno space in Midtown.

Midtown’s BAKESHOP recently began hosting BYOB dinners in partnership with local caterer The Hungry Peach. The set three-course menu, which changes weekly, is served at communal tables. Pony up $40 for your seat.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Your new one-stop pig-out place

Posted By on Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 5:04 PM

Here's some disconcerting news. Ansley Mall will soon be home to a Five Guys Burgers and Fries, a Panera Bread and a California Pizza Kitchen.

They will join Starbucks, Moe's, the Cheesesteak Place and the new Planet Living yogurt and juice bar.

In other words, the mall is turning into a gigantic food court. Oh well, it means more obesity for LA Fitness to combat.

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Surreal meal, bologna flashback, wet underwear

Posted By on Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 1:30 PM

Saigon Cafe: good food and performance art
  • Saigon Cafe: good food and performance art
This week's "Grazing" took me on a tour of some inexpensive intown alternatives. As usual, I reached my word limit before I could include everything. I intended to visit the new Decatur Diner but on my way there, I spied Saigon Cafe (2092 North Decatur Road, Decatur, 404-728-8882) and decided to stop.

This group of restaurants — one of which opened not too long ago on Peachtree — is operated by the same people who own Saigon Basil (1870 Piedmont Ave., 404-892-8688). I frequently pick up a noodle bowl there for lunch, as I've reported many times. Saigon Basil serves Thai dishes, which I've never sampled, as well as Vietnamese.

Saigon Cafe is the same and the manager told me the Thai menu is in fact being expanded in the next few weeks. We chatted a bit about the way Thai food is still more popular than Vietnamese.

The Vietnamese menu at Saigon Cafe is somewhat more complex than Saigon Basil's. I ate a rice dish topped with baked egg, shredded tofu and roasted chicken over rice. It was actually quite good, as were a pair of spring rolls and my drink of black tea and milk with tapioca.

However, ambiance and service at the restaurant were almost comically strange. Start with the fact that my dinner wasn't actually what I ordered. I told the server, he apologized, but I decided to keep it.

I dined alone about 9 p.m., an hour before closing, so the restaurant wasn't crowded. But the staff was basically having a party while they cleaned up, yelling at one another in the dining room, laughing hysterically and tossing a rag now and then.

At one point, a server came to my table, asked if my food was okay and burst into laughter before I could answer. She covered her mouth and hurried away. I wasn't offended but I couldn't help feeling a bit paranoid. Were they laughing at me? I'd already told them they'd sent the wrong food out. Maybe I just looked funny. Maybe there was rice stuck to my nose. I wiped my face. The laughter continued.

I looked around the dining room. Nobody else seemed distracted by the noise. I was eating in a Vietnamese "Twilight Zone." I couldn't wait to leave.....

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  • www.screened.com
It was bound to happen. As I reported earlier, the Ansley Starbucks, has remodeled and installed ridiculously small tables. The base of the tables is actually larger than the top. I foolishly tried to put my cup of coffee on the table with my laptop and, within a few minutes, spilled the entire cup on myself, soaking my pants right through to my underwear. I'm grateful I didn't spill the stuff on my laptop, but I didn't enjoy causing people to wriggle their noses and complain that they smelled coffee everywhere I went the rest of the day. Larger tabletops are on the way, the manager promises....

It's time for my weekly Slider Report. Lance Gummere, chef at The Shed, produced quite a few new $3 sliders last night, Wednesday, including fried trout with housemade tartar sauce, pork belly with sauerkraut, fried mushrooms with provolone, turkey and — surely not — bologna with American cheese.

But my favorite of all was back, chicharrones stewed in green sauce, and I was tempted to order two. But I wanted to try the pork belly with kraut — a terrific contrast with the sour flavor cutting right through the fatty meat. Morbid curiosity required that I also try the fried bologna. I handed it to Wayne after one bite. We all have nostalgic recollections of fried bologna but the adult experience does not live up to the memory, at least not for me.

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TV chefs turned into edible sweets

Posted By on Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 10:20 AM

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This sugar-paste miniature figure of Southern cook Nathalie Dupree is an amazing likeness. Equally amazing is the overall work of its source, Cindy Atmore, who has rendered just about every TV chef around in similar fashion as part of her Candy TV Chefs collection. The average height is about 3".

The chefs are not for sale. In a self-interview, she wonders what she's going to do with them:

Probably get hungry watching cooking shows and eat them! Or challenge the host of Man Vs. Food, Adam Richman, to eat them all in one sitting! Or maybe make Essence of Candy TV Chef Foam in the blender. I watch Top Chef, I know all about trendy gourmet things like foam. Okay, no, I really don't know how to make a foam. Foam is so last week anyway. Candy TV Chefs are the new foam! By next year every top restaurant will be serving a little Candy Gordon Ramsay on every plate or they'll lose all their #&@% Michelin stars!

She also has made several other collections, including Candy Mentalists. Candy Candidates and Candy Magicians. Although none are for sale, Atmore's site does sell associated products.

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"Top Chef" All-stars: Southern comfort

Posted By on Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 9:44 AM

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So. A Southern challenge. Don't you kind of hate that the the South is portrayed to the rest of the world by the scariest human on the face of the universe? Thank god for John Besh later in the episode, but I wonder if anyone noticed his intelligence and class alongside that face, those teeth.

"I HAIS DEEP FRIED LASAGNAS! I HAIS DEEP FRIED BALLS-O-BUTTER!!" Make it stop. Please. Make it stop.

ISABELLA!!! OOOooooo. Isabellaaaa. Apart from the downright shadiness of stealing a dish from another chef, the chicken oyster is just so Blaisian, like nothing Isabella would ever cook. What is Isabella's style anyway?

And here come the rejects, standing sadly with their piles of dead fish, hating every minute of it, looking murderously at the smug faces of those still in the game. It's a particularly cruel part of the contract, the Bravo-owns-you-for-two-years clause, that brings these folks back to wallow in shame and passive aggressive "help."

However, the Blais Fabio bromance is my favorite of all time. It's grand, sprawling, epic, heart-wrenching. "You remind me of my ex wife." Have you ever heard more beautiful words? Their spat as the judges approached was heartbreaking. I shed a tear.

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