Friday, August 26, 2011

Dear McDonald's, No. Thanks, Cliff

Posted By on Fri, Aug 26, 2011 at 4:42 PM

Email of the day:

Hi Cliff,

The season is slowly drifting away, but the McDonald’s Mango Pineapple Smoothie is here to ease any summer blues and to celebrate those hot days filled with fun from this summer.

With its exotic taste, this smoothie is the ultimate refresher — sweet mango and juicy pineapple mixed with creamy low fat yogurt and ice.

Greater Atlanta Area McDonald’s would like to partner with you on a giveaway for your sun-soaked readers by offering free Mango Pineapple Smoothie coupons. You can come up with your own set of rules for this giveaway and also decide who the winners will be.

Are you interested in receiving these coupons?

Actually, I hear the smoothie's not bad.

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Midtown Restaurant Week begins tomorrow

Posted By on Fri, Aug 26, 2011 at 12:23 PM

Midtown Restaurant Week begins tomorrow night, with virtually every restaurant in the area offering prix fixe dinner menus of $25 or $35. Most also offer a $15 lunch menu. The restaurants offer at least three courses at both meals.

Among the participants are 4th and Swift, Abbatoir, Atmosphere, Escorpion, Ecco, South City Kitchen and Livingston. You can find all of the participating restaurants and their menus on the event's website

Many of the restaurants offer reservations. Experience has taught me not to attempt to dine during the week without one. The event has been wildly popular in its five previous years.

One earnest plea: Tip servers at least 30 percent. They are working just as hard as they would to serve you a la carte.


Gravy Train: Chef-tastic ice cream from High Road, Sweeney to Cakes & Ale

Posted By on Fri, Aug 26, 2011 at 10:59 AM

Ron Eyester
  • Take home a pint of The Angry Chef's ice cream
High Road Craft is launching their first chef collaboration that’s available in stores - a Peanut Butter Pretzel creation from Ron Eyester (better known as The Angry Chef). The pints, along with other High Road flavors, are available at Whole Foods (Eyester's flavor debuts September 1). The local ice cream company also has flavors in the works from Shaun Doty and Matt Swickerath. Looks like Kevin Gillespie isn’t the only chef making his mark in frozen treats.

Cakes & Ale formally announced David Sweeney’s role at the new location, which will be to lead lunch at The Bakery portion of the restaurant. The Bakery is described as having its own identity and offering a casual, comfortable place for the pastry chefs to showcase their talents. The lunch menu will go beyond pastries, offering sandwiches, soups, and salads made with local ingredients.

Open Table released their Diner’s Choice list of top restaurants for late night dining, and a few Atlanta spots made the cut. Cafe Circa, HOBNOB, Loca Luna and Shout were all included in the nationwide list.

Continue reading »

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The Bourdain-Deen feud continues

Posted By on Fri, Aug 26, 2011 at 12:01 AM

Paula Deen is my least favorite celebrity chef. It's not her unhealthy cooking that bothers me most. It's her obviously calculated demeanor as a histrionic Southern woman that makes me grind my teeth. No, she really is not down-to-earth and just-plain folks. She's a cartoon laughing all the way to the bank.

In case you haven't heard:

Anthony Bourdain hates everything about her. Although his persona as a bad boy is just as calculated as Paula's, he tore her to pieces in a recent TV Guide interview. Inhale the hatred:

The worst, most dangerous person to America is clearly Paula Deen. She revels in unholy connections with evil corporations and she's proud of the fact that her food is f—-ing bad for you. If I were on at seven at night and loved by millions of people at every age, I would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it's OK to eat food that is killing us. Plus, her food sucks.

Ouch. Then Paula responded via an article in the New York Post. She also showed up on Fox for an interview:

Bourdain did end up tempering his comment about Deen by tweeting: "Resolved: Next time I'm asked (for the millionth time) who the worst cooks on Food Network are, I'll just shut up. Who cares?"

Now, Frank Bruni, former New York Times dining critic turned editorial columnist, has weighed in. He views the Bourdain-Deen bitch fight as indicative of the "culinary elitism" that runs rampant in America these days:

There’s some class-inflected hypocrisy in the food world, where the center seems to be ceding territory to two wings: the self-appointed sophisticates and the supposed rubes. And the latter — represented by Deen and other objects of Bourdain’s ire, including Rachael Ray and Sandra Lee — have come on strong over the last few years

Give the column a full read.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Meal of the day: Sun in My Belly's Supper Club

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Sun in My Belly, the popular Kirkwood cafe and caterer, began its Thursday Night Supper Club last week. The four-course meal costs $45 (plus tip and tax). This evening's menu, below, includes a "specialty cocktail and hors d’oeuvres. Bring your own wine ($5 corkage fee). To make a reservation for the 7:30 p.m. event, call 404-370-1088.

first course
fried green tomato with herbed goat cheese + pink eyed pea succotash

salad course
late summer salad with baby arugula + south carolina peaches + bing cherries, scallion + roasted walnuts + manchego cheese served with sweet basil vinaigrette

entree course
pepper rubbed hanger steak with sweet corn pudding + roasted shallot sauteed spinach

pink lemonade cheesecake with sea salt graham crust + tequila syrup

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Getting poisoned, getting over-charged, sampling too much, hunting figs

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2011 at 9:30 AM

Kay's party of four was poisoned at a well-known restaurant. She wonders what to do:

I've heard that you suffer from "foodborne illness" a couple of times a year due to frequent dining out. I'm curious how you handle notifications. I went out to dinner with three other folks on Saturday night and all four of us were ill for several days. Can't prove it was from the restaurant, and none of us saw a doctor, so no official reports. Just wondering if I should let the owner know or just let it go. I won't name the restaurant, but it is one that is owned by a well known restaurateur with a couple of other restaurants in town. What's your thought? BTW - I lost 6 pounds, so maybe I shouldn't complain?

You should definitely complain, despite the beautifying results of dehydration. But in my experience, owners and chefs at best say they'll look into the complaint and you never hear back. Or they instantly deny it, probably because they don't want to make themselves vulnerable to legal action.

You'd think they'd want to know if they made four people sick all at once, but they're pretty predictably not going to risk bad press, much less legal action, by apologizing and taking responsibility. Hopefully, they do privately look into the problem.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

'What are you doing at this table?'

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2011 at 10:10 AM

Table, please, please, please.
  • "Table, please, please, please."
Who knew being a tourist in New Hampshire and the rest of New England could make getting seated in a restaurant a surreal experience.

Check out Vicki Flier Hudson's blog entry on her experience. After waiting forever to be acknowledged by the hostess, this happens:

Then she asks if you have reservations. No, you answer. You are just passing through town. The Seating Master looks at a paper chart and says, “Well, I just don’t think I have anything. Oh, wait, I spoke to soon…” But before she can finish her sentence she spots someone she knows, someone local to that small town. Turning away from you she begins talking animatedly to this gentleman and seats him right away. By now your jaw has dropped to the floor in astonishment, but she doesn’t notice as she comes back and seats you at last.

You think it’s over? Not quite. Your server comes to the table and begins to fill your water glasses, looking at you with confusion as if to say “What are you doing at this table?”

She smiles, but still looks confused. “The hostess will be right with you, ” the server says. What?

It continues.

Vicki's work is helping companies build intercultural connections on global levels. As it turns out, regional differences in our own country pose plenty of challenges too.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Does Alice Waters eat in the nude?

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 12:13 PM

Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, the Berkeley restaurant that launched the sustainable dining movement, has a new book out, 40 Years of Chez Panisse: The Power of Gathering.

NPR's "Fresh Air" broadcasted host Terry Gross' recent interview with Waters yesterday. Be sure to listen to or read the transcript.

As it happens, I was on the way to eat alone when I heard the interview and was struck by this question:

Terry Gross: Do you ever eat alone? I mean you have a restaurant. You could eat with many, many people who'd be delighted to be sharing a table with you. But how often do you eat alone, including breakfast?

Ms. WATERS: I eat alone a lot now. I taste at the restaurant when I'm there. I eat lunch at the restaurant often. But I sit down and have breakfast every day. It's a little moment of meditation for me. And very often at the end of the day, I will make myself a pasta and a salad and it's a great sort of balance for me. I don't make it very fancy but I always make it delicious for myself.

For the first time in memory, I actually felt uncomfortable eating alone after hearing that — not because of Waters' reply. I kept wondering why Gross asked the question.

This also hit home because it is something that I think about a lot in my critic's role. Gross' appears nervous, almost incoherent, when she brings up the high cost of eating in restaurants that feature ingredients from sustainable farming:

GROSS: The price-fix menu at Chez Panisse in the week that were recording, in the week in August that were recording, weekdays it's around $80 for the price-fix downstairs and weekends $95, and that's for, it's for several courses. And, you know, for a fine restaurant that might not be very expensive but for, you know, a typical person wanting to have a meal out $80 or $95 a person, not counting the wine not counting tip, that's a lot of money.

Ms. WATERS: It is a lot of money. It is a lot of money. But I think that we have to understand that we want to pay the farmers the real price for the food that they produce. And it won't ever be cheap to buy real food. But it can be affordable. And it's really something that we need to understand. It's the kind of work that it takes to grow food. We don't understand that piece of it. And it's what we're trying to do with the Edible Schoolyard in the public schools.

Waters goes on to say that children, basically, need to be taught to grow their own produce.

Honestly, read the transcript or listen. There's a lot of fascinating stuff. I didn't know, for example, that Waters has not cooked at Chez Panisse in over 25 years.

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I ate this

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 11:32 AM

I paid a second visit to 5 Napkin Burger Monday night. Morbid curiosity required that I order the restaurant's $13.50 hot dog with a side of fries. The menu described it as an all-beef half-pounder. I have never really liked hot dogs — not even as a kid — but I figured this had to be something extra-special to cost $13.50. Maybe it was sausage, which I do like if it's decent quality.


Yeah, 5 Napkin's dog is big but it tastes Oscar Mayer-esque, at least as I recall those iconic gut bombs. I couldn't eat more than two-thirds of it — it was the taste, not the size — and maybe a third of my fries.

The total bill, including a soft drink and a $4 tip, was $21.01. Am I crazy to think that's absurd for a hot dog that doesn't taste as good as one you'd buy at Turner Field?

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Strange neighbors

Posted By on Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 1:37 PM

Misinformed, I tried to lunch at the new Five Napkin Burger a day before it actually opened. I didn't mind, because it gave me an excuse to visit Zocalo next door (photo above). It's been several months since I visited my favorite in-town Mexican restaurant.

I ordered "la gringa," a quesadilla to which I became addicted when Zocalo operated a (now closed) location near our house in Grant Park a few years back. It's two tortillas stuffed with al pastor meat, onions, cilantro and red or green sauce. It's juicy with a bit of pineapple, spicy but not fiery. And the restaurant is now offering a jumbo-sized portion.

I did make it to dinner at Five Napkin Burger a few days later. The place was absolutely packed around 7:30 p.m. with people happily paying $15 for a burger. I returned around 10 p.m. — the kitchen closes at 11 p.m. — and was seated right away.

My burger and fries were good quality. The burger was cooked medium-rare, just as I requested and very hard to find in our city lately. I'll have more to say in "Grazing" later this week.

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