Friday, May 20, 2011

Atlanta weekend food and drink events, May 19 - 22

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 11:47 AM

Atlanta Food & Wine Festival Thurs. - Sun., May 19 - 22. With a strong focus on the South, the festival offers everything from seminars on whole animal philosophy to sessions on the ever-important breakfast cocktail. Chefs demos, special dinners, off-site tours and tons of wine classes round out the schedule. $50-2500. Details

Creative Loafing Drink Week Thurs. - Wed., May 19 - 25. Drink specials start this weekend in locations around Atlanta. Details

East Atlanta Beer Festival Sat., May 21, 1 - 6 p.m. Guests can sample more than 170 beers, purchase food from local vendors and listen to live local bands. Proceeds will support the East Atlanta community. $35-40. Details

The Goat Farm Sat., May 21, 4 -11:30 p.m.: Southern Swap Meet. A fundraising event for the Atlanta Street Food Coalition, the Southern Swap Meet will feature over half a dozen street food vendors. Details

Street food, free (sexy) food

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 11:31 AM

Today is Food Truck Friday at Atlantic Station. You can pig out 11 a.m.-2 p.m. every Friday.

Yay, free food on Sundays....No need to watch more than the first minute to get a taste.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sliders and gossip at the Shed

Posted By on Thu, May 19, 2011 at 12:13 PM

Lance Gummere at work
  • Lance Gummere at work
We did our usual slider feast at the Shed at Glenwood last night. Owner Cindy Shera reported a wave of chef visits, including Stuart Baesel of Community Q, Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill and Robert Phalen of Holy Taco and the new One Eared Stag, which opened yesterday for lunch.

While we were dining, David Sweeney, our city's unparalleled vegetarian chef, stopped by too. Sweeney has worked for Restaurant Eugene since closing Dynamic Dish. I told him I thought it was time for him to open another restaurant and he looked momentarily dazed. "I'm still recovering from the first one," he said.

The only chef who was missing was Riccardo Ullio, whose new restaurant, Escorpion Tequila Bar and Cantina, is scheduled to open this evening.

Chef Lance Gummere was on his game last night, concocting $3 sliders of duck pot pie, barbacoa chicken, chilled beef heart, pork belly and lots more.

CORRECTION: It turns out that Escorpion is not opening tonight. The opening has been delayed until next week, Monday at the earliest.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A springtime return to Sprig

Posted By on Wed, May 18, 2011 at 9:31 AM

Sprigs new patio
  • Sprig's new patio
Last Friday — my usual Fat Friday — took me with two sets of friends to good meals. Lunch was at Anis and dinner was at Sprig.

I had not been to Sprig, which opened last fall, in a few months. Since the restaurant doesn't take reservations, I was afraid we wouldn't find a table for six. But there's now a patio to the side of the restaurant and we dined there.

I frequently have mixed feelings about patios when the interior is where most are dining. I like the theatrical bustle inside and being able to watch the staff in action while babies hurl their food and diners act out their neuroses.

But any worries about missing the theater of the restaurant were swiftly blown away by our server Harley. He knew the menu well, was swift on his feet and entertaining to the degree he should consider stand-up comedy as his next career, if he doesn't pursue the German linguistics he studied in school. One of our party said he was the most entertaining waiter he'd encountered since Mexico City Gourmet closed. As it turned out, Harley was that same server.

Our meal, prepared by Chef Robert Elliott, was the usual simple but intensely flavorful. I'm not going to describe every dish on the table, but I regard my own as the best (and most expensive) — a pair of huge, fried soft-shell crabs over risotto with sundried tomatoes, asparagus and parmesan cheese. As if to gild the fatty lily, Elliott served the North Carolina crabs, a special, with drawn butter.

I also liked an entree of grouper over intense zucchini and a flat iron steak, grilled and sliced, served with green beans and mashed potatoes. The only dish I disliked was the grilled meat loaf. I'm not a fan of the dish generally, but I found the super-ground texture of Sprig's almost mushy.

We also shared four small plates — sweet, crispy-fried Vidalia onion rings with smoked sea salt and thyme; pickled beets and eggs; mozzarella grit cakes; and a plate of olives. A strawberry and rhubarb cobbler was the hit dessert....

LUNCH: I've been lunching at Anis (and writing this same sentence) regularly since the bistro's opening 17 years ago. Most of those lunches have been with my friend Brad Lapin and a changing cast of characters who have joined us over the years. The food has remained Provencal, fairly inexpensive and reliably well prepared.

When four of us visited last Friday, a balmy day, we found the patio packed (and the interior dining room deserted). We managed to get a table. I ate lighter than usual, choosing the restaurant's popular croque monsieur. Others chose from the menu of daily specials.

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Coffee cures cancer! Sort of...

Posted By on Wed, May 18, 2011 at 8:24 AM

Coffee — the elixir of life, as far as I'm concerned — gets a lot of bad press.

But this morning I awoke to an interesting piece on NPR about the stuff. A recent study has provided overwhelming evidence that coffee consumption significantly reduces the risk of developing the most lethal form of prostate cancer. Coffee's long been suspected for such, NPR says...

But now we have results from a Harvard study that followed almost 50,000 male health professionals for more than two decades. A lot of them drank a lot of coffee, which seems to have helped.

More than 5,000 of them got prostate cancer — 642 of them the most lethal form. "For the men who drank the most coffee, their risk of getting this bad form of prostate cancer was about 60 percent lower compared to the men who drank almost no coffee at all," says Lorelei Mucci, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health and an author of the study.

Of course to get the maximum effect, you have to drink six cups a day — hey, that's nothing — but half that amount lowers the risk by 30 percent.

The study also reported that regular exercise reduced deaths from prostate cancer by 50 percent — "two or three brisk walks a week was enough."

I do wonder if this is one of those cases where a substance's negative effects can still outweigh documented positive ones. Anyone who works with people with alcohol problems will tell you that one of the most common rationales heard is the finding that two glasses of red wine daily contribute to heart health. People tend to forget the two-drink maximum.

In the case of coffee it doesn't matter if it's caffeinated or decaffeinated. But who the hell wants decaf?

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What's up at Table 1280

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2011 at 5:01 PM

Smoked salmon croque madame at Table 1280
In August of last year, word went out that chef Gary Mennie was leaving Livingston to become executive chef at Table 1280, the restaurant attached to the Woodruff Arts Center. A few months later, I visited with the intention of reviewing, but when my photographer attempted to contact the restaurant to schedule a photo shoot, I got a phone call from Mennie, who informed me that the restaurant would be undergoing significant changes, but that they had yet to take place. I agreed to hold off on a review for a while longer. This was partly because the food I had on my one visit didn't seem very Mennie-esque. It was boring, fancy food, and I took from our conversation that he hadn't had a chance to update the menu in a significant way since he'd taken over.

Recently, I decided to pay a visit for brunch. I'm not sure what changes Mennie has instituted at this point (I've called the restaurant a few times to see where they were in terms of the promised overhaul, spoke to Mennie for a minute one time - he promised to call me back and never did), but brunch was everything brunch at Table 1280 should be: sophisticated, upscale food; good enough to feel special, and shot though with enough fresh detail to rise beyond standard boring fancy food.

Shrimp and grits
  • Shrimp and grits
I tried three dishes - a soup, a special of shrimp and grits, and the smoked salmon croque madame. The soup - roasted parsnip and crab - was both rich and light. Coconut milk and sherry added unexpected interest. Shrimp and grits, served with a poached egg, had an intense lobster sauce that was brought back to balance by a generous scattering of micro herbs on top. Likewise, the croque madame, served egg-in-a-poke style, had enough baby tarragon and parsley as garnish to add a shot of welcome freshness to the dish.

I've always thought this restaurant ought to be one of the highlights of the Atlanta dining scene. I'm hoping that Mennie can return it to that status. For the time being, it's an awfully nice place to have brunch.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Grant Park Farmers Market opens

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2011 at 2:00 PM

The Grant Park Farmers Market opened Sunday for the first time. It will be held 10 a.m.-2 p.m. through Nov. 20 and if the turnout yesterday was any indication, it's going to be a huge success. By noon, many of the vendors had sold out or seriously depleted their inventory.

Lucky for us, the market is virtually across the street from our house. We walked over, bought a few things and then strolled down to Grant Park Coffeehouse to chill. It's like living in a real urban neighborhood!

Such markets have become phenomenally popular. I ran into the folks from Zocalo who were selling their trademark salsas and tamales at the market. They had sold out of everything, except for four containers of green salsa, in a few hours. They told me that they now go to 23 markets a week around town and even travel to several in Tampa.

"So you're making more money this way than with the restaurant?" I asked.

Continue reading »

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Paul Luna blasts new immigration law

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Paul Luna and friends
  • Paul Luna and friends
The following commentary is from Paul Luna, chef-owner of Lunacy Black Market. Luna also posted this on his own blog with the title: "HB 87: Gov. Deal Signs Bill Satisfying Good Ol' Boys, Alienating Hardworking Americans & Immigrants."

By Paul Luna

In my early 20s, I was praised as a rising star chef by Atlanta Magazine for my culinary talents. What most people don't know was that it was hard-earned praise. People always ask me how I learned my craft. It's simple, I worked for a French chef (for free), so I could learn how to cook and run my own business. That's when I learned that being a chef isn't just about cooking. It's about scrubbing pots and pans, mopping floors and doing everything that Gov. Deal and other lawmakers wouldn't be willing to do.

I am insulted that legislators and Gov. Deal would deny immigrants the opportunity to live out their "unalienable rights" to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are hard-earned and shouldn't be denied to those who work hard to create the thriving economic centers we would like to see in our State of Georgia—or anywhere else in the country.

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Atlanta food and drink events: May 16-21

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2011 at 10:00 AM


Cook’s Warehouse Decatur. Mon., May 16 6:30-9:30 p.m.: Put ‘Em Up! -- Preserving Techniques Hands On. Sherri Brooks Vinton, author of Put ‘Em Up!: A comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook will teach a class on preserving techniques. $75. 404-377-4005. 180 West Ponce de Leon Ave.

Cook’s Warehouse Brookehaven. Mon., May 16 7-9 p.m.: Cooking Full-On Farm to Table. Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene will prepare a three course meal based on the “surprise” ingredients of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box. Includes wine tasting. $55. 404-949-9945. 4062 Peachtree Rd.

Continue reading »

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Service issue #76858: 'Are you still working on that?'

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2011 at 12:56 AM

A reader writes for advice about servers who are in his opinion too enthusiastic in clearing tables:

I am struggling a bit, trying to determine how to handle a bothersome situation that I experience so often in Atlanta restaraunts.

Last night at Empire State South, about 20 minutes into a lovely dinner, a server- not the one we had seen up to that point- reaches over our table to remove the plate of the one person in four who had finished their meal. I requested that plates not be removed until everyone had finished eating. Waitron gave me a frumpy look and walked away. Five minutes later a third server approached our table to ask, "Are you still working on that?" pointing to the half a steak still on my plate. I told him I was not "working"; I was eating...;. and that I was still eating. Another angry look and he departed. Eventually we finished our meal without further incident.

Am I being unreasonable to expect that plates not be removed from table until everyone is done eating? If so, what should I do about it when a server attempts to clean the table in the midst of our meal? Generally, I just request them to wait until we are done eating. But I do not think I am getting their attention, because i have to say so at just about every meal. Last night I did something I never do: I tipped only 10% instead of my habitual 20%. The only result was a mad waitron who wouldn't come back to our table for water, etc. while we wrapped up desert.

I write to you because I honestly do not know if I am being unreasonable or not. Does anyone else feel as I do, or am I taking issue with no reasonable grounds to do so?

I am actually the opposite. I want my plate gone ASAP after I finish. However, there's little as annoying as being asked "Are you still working on that?" the moment you put down your fork. But it's not fair for me to want my plate instantly cleared and also object to being asked if I'm done eating. So I guess the classic etiquette — leaving plates on the table until everyone is done — is the most sensible. Others may feel differently.

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