Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Out-of-shape and delicious

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 3:30 PM

I visited Rhodes Bakery for the first time in 10 years or longer just before Christmas. My friend Chuck O'Boyle, the super-foodie who wrote our "Cheap Eats" column briefly, recently mentioned that he was including some of the bakery's gingerbread men on the buffet table at a party.

I love gingerbread and stopped to buy a couple a few days ago. Despite their rather pathetic physique, I did indeed find them delicious. Oh, they're a little sweet, and nobody's gingerbread cookies are ever zingy enough for me. But these are indeed good.

(The cookie did not come with the broken skull. That was my fault. And, now that I think about it, maybe the form is to suggest the cookie is gender-free.)

How much iceberg lettuce is too much? (i.e., What should the phrase "mixed greens" mean?)

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 1:45 PM

Mixed greens? Really?

I had a bad day Monday, food-wise. Kinda on a workout-diet thing, so been eating a lot of salads.

Now, when you eat a lot of salads, the lettuce in said dish becomes very important. It's hard enough to live without my nightly sghetti-n-meatballs+bottle-of-red dinner. I don't need shitty lettuce compounding my dining misery. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. Twice.

Several times for lunch, I've enjoyed the chop-chop salad at Tin Drum by the office here at Atlantic Station. It's not fine dining, but it's fine. At least it was, because when I've had it before, the salad had, as promised, Bibb lettuce. I love Bibb lettuce, no matter what you call it — Bibb, Boston, limestone, butterhead (giggle), doesn't matter. Give me a head of Bibb, some salt, pepper, olive oil, and good balsamic, and I'm set for the evening. What I got, though, was a huge bowl of chopped iceberg lettuce. I was ... less than pleased.

Then I went to dinner at Fresh To Order. I like that joint because I can get something healthy and a glass of wine for about 15 bucks. I ordered a greek salad, with mixed greens. The result was what you see above. I let the company know that a plate of mostly iceberg with a hint of romaine and two leaves of red oak did not, to me, constitute "mixed greens."

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The Majestic: Remembering and tasting

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 11:56 AM

Alone at the Majestic
Last week, Wayne and I finally got around to seeing Dangerously Loud and Incredibly Close, the movie about 9/11 that features a good story that turns into suffocatingly sappy-sweet hyperglycemia of the eyeballs. We saw it at the Plaza and decided to walk over to the Majestic Diner for a quick dinner.

That’s the 24-hour place whose big neon sign promises “food that pleases since 1929.” Not. At least not in a long time.

I’ve written before about my frequent visits to the Majestic back in the first cycle of my impoverishment as a writer in the ‘80s. I lived behind the Plaza Drugs in a duplex whose upstairs porch provided a clear view into the windows of a whorehouse favored by Georgia Tech boys. The view of sin was redeemed every Sunday by the pitiless blasting of the Salvation Army Band that played in front of the Plaza Drugs. Sundays always also meant dinner at the Majestic because the Greek owners, believe it or not, prepared the best lamb in town that day.

The Majestic was sold and its overheated, dingy rear room — perfect for hangover eating — was remodeled into its present glass-walled, overlit box. The ultra-cheap food got a bit more expensive over time and the quality dropped dramatically.

Long gone, too, are the city’s wackiest servers — women with Church of God hairdos whose motherly language contrasted with a gaze turned slightly jaded by the hourly-changing view of good Christians, prostitutes, bikers and residents of public housing for the slightly deranged. It was a Southern Gothic dreamscape.

The servers the night of our visit were all pleasant young women — students, I’d guess — and the place was empty when we arrived. Wayne was subjected to my same nostalgic rumination while I marveled at the sight of a laptop.

Here’s my advice: stick to breakfast. I cannot imagine scrambled eggs being anywhere near as dreadful as my “double lamb burger with melted feta and side of tzaziki.” At $10.69, about the usual price around town, it was barely edible. The greasy patties could have been set in a pasture as salt licks for cows. And they were tough enough for cud-chewing. The half-melted feta underscored the saltiness. But the fries were fine and the tzaziki made a decent dip.

Wayne fared barely better. He ordered a blue plate, a grilled chicken breast. Discounting the dryness, it tasted okay, especially if you crave the flavor of rosemary in overwhelming quantity. His sides were nicely-thawed fried orka hunks and some cole slaw.

Next time — and nostalgia will always make me return — I’m having eggs and a baklava sundae. Yeah, a baklava sundae.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Learn how to make poop pie (Oscar™ not included)

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Ill pass.
I emerged from a viewing of "The Help" with several questions. All of them were poop related. For instance:
— Did Minny REALLY put poop in the pie?
— Did that bitchy redhead get cold sores from eating Minny's poop?
— Can eating poop give you herpes?
— Did Minny have herpes?
— Is that, maybe, why the bitchy redhead didn't want to share a toilet with her? (NO, we get it. SHE WAS RACIST.)

I know, you're like, gross this is a food blog. WELL, EXACTLY. This weekend, the Viking Cooking School in Buckhead is hosting a cooking class entitled "Southern Specialties from the hit movie 'The Help,'" during which students will learn how to make Southern Fried Chicken, Homemade Mac n' Cheese, Slow-Cooked Southern Greens, and, a bonus recipe, MINNY'S CHOCOLATE PIE.

Will the instructor adhere to the film's recipe??? The class is sold out so neither you nor I will ever know. But g'head and avoid the chocolate pie at Buckhead dinners and luncheons for a while.

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Way over yonder in Cumming

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 2:50 PM

Swinging at the Ridge
Newt Gingrich went to Cumming last weekend and so did I. St. Newt the Polyamorous went to the First Reedemer Church to assert his alliance with people of faith. I went to the Ridge, a restaurant where Newt might have initiated a new peccadillo.

One of my regular Friday night dining pals, Bobby, planned our visit to the restaurant, 40 miles north of Atlanta. A friend had told him the steaks and seafood were excellent. I thought driving that far to dine in Forsyth County was kooky but the adventure appealed to me.

The restaurant is huge — “huge” is a keyword for this place — and we had to loiter in the car a while before we got a parking spot. We’d made an 8 p.m. reservation and, despite the huge crowd, we were seated right away at a table near the huge fireplace at the front of the restaurant.

We started with a huge order of sweet, crunchy onion rings, slightly less greasy than the Varsity’s. Then we ate salads with almonds, eggs and bacon, served with a sweet and surprisingly well-made croissant. Not bad for the $1.25 cost when added to an entrée.

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Food Media Roundup, 2/28/12: iTunesU's culinary downloads, Virginia Willis' new gig, L.A.'s Jonathan Gold makes a move, Angelina needs a burger

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 2:19 PM

  • @FifthGrouper on Twitter

AJC food writer Jenny Turknett explores downloadable culinary classes, guest food lecturers, and other audio goodies like the 92nd Street Y's "Food Talks" at iTunesU. Check out her post on the Food and More blog.

"It feels like patio weather!" Or at least it did the day Sprig Restaurant in Decatur shared this little snapshot on Twitter. Alfresco dining just barely tucked away from the parking lot and a dollar store - ah, springtime in Atlanta.

Atlanta cookbook author and bourbon devotee @virginiawillis just announced via Twitter that she'll be a contributing editor for Southern Living mag. Congrats and cheers, Miss Willis!

L.A. foodies and journos were reminiscing online after last week's announcement that Pulitzer-Prize winning food critic Jonathan Gold was leaving L.A. Weekly to return to the Los Angeles Times. The news sent us tripping down SoCal memory lane, too, back to the late 1980s (pre-Atlanta move) when we ended an exhausting day at Disneyland with an hour-long drive around the flatlands of Anaheim, searching for a Thai restaurant written up in his "Counter Intelligence" column. (And,yes, it was worth it.) For one of his grief-stricken colleagues, though, the news of his departure was positively Elisabeth Kübler-Ross-esque.

And speaking of L.A., one final Oscars note. Before Angelina leg-bombed Academy Awards viewers Sunday night, Atlanta's food Twitterati were freaked over her beyond slender silhouette. @FifthGrouper suggested Miss Jolie needed a fix of South City Kitchen's pimento cheeseburger. A little restaurant pimping, a little pimento. Well-played, resto marketing man.

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Do away with star ratings?

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 12:04 PM

Over the weekend, the Huffington Post published a story containing the opinion that star ratings are an outdated way to rate restaurants. The gist was basically that stars used to denote fanciness, and now restaurants are more casual we have no idea what they mean any more. Oh noes!

Instead, author Andrew Friedman suggests a system a friend of his used to employ, which was a score out of 100. Each restaurant, regardless of level of fanciness, started with a perfect score of 100, and points were deducted from there.

I'm not sure how this is much different from the star system, except that almost all critics I know reserve their highest star rating (for CL and the AJC, 5 stars) for upscale restaurants. I will happily give 4 stars to an ethnic spot or a pizza joint, although many of my critic compatriots think that's crazy. But the fifth star, to me, should be reserved for fine dining, if only because people often look to five star restaurants for extremely special occasions, and because service and wine should be pretty much perfect, which is unlikely at anything but an upscale restaurant. Not impossible. But unlikely.

I have two issues with the idea that star ratings are confusing. 1. No they aren't. They say exactly what they mean - as in, 1 star, fair, 2 stars, good, etc. 2. If you're still confused you could always, you know, read the review.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

The art of reading a table

Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Even these guys are teaching waiters to read tables
  • Courtesy of Stevan Sheets
  • Even these guys are teaching waiters to read tables

The Wall Street Journal posted a story commenting on a new phenomenon in the food industry: training waiters to actually interact with customers instead of spouting off scripted monologues.

Obviously, this isn't a new idea. The best restaurants have been teaching employees to respond to customer cues all along. But now, higher-end commercial restaurants, like Cheesecake Factory, are adopting such tactics. Hell, even super-cheap, greasy chains like Denny's and T.G.I Friday's are hopping on board. So what, exactly, are they teaching waiters to do?

Called "having eyes" for a table, or "feeling" or "reading" the table by restaurant workers, it's how the best waiters know what type of service you prefer before you tell them. From fine dining to inexpensive chains, restaurants are working to make service more individualized as the standard script ('I'm so-and-so and I will be your server tonight") is sounding dated.

Hallelujah! We were convinced that we were going to have to hear that insufferable question ("have you dined with us before?") followed by some prepackaged speech every time we set foot inside a less-than-phenomenal restaurant. Now, it seems like the dining industry may be taking on a more unscripted attitude.

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Atlanta Food Events, Feb. 27-March 1: Leap year parties, prohibition dinner, and more

Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 10:18 AM

Atkins Park is celebrating its birthday with a prohibition dinner.
  • Atkins Park is celebrating its birthday with a prohibition dinner.

Double Zero Napoletana Mon., Feb. 27, 6 or 8 p.m. Pizza Making Class. An opportunity to learn the art of making Neapolitan pizza in the restaurant’s hand-crafted Stefano Ferrara ovens. The class is limited to 15 guests, and the cost is $25 per person. Participants will learn about the unique and nuanced process of making dough. This interactive event also includes a glass of wine and a personal pizza creation. Details

The Melting Pot Wed., Feb. 29, 4 p.m. Celebrate Leap Year at The Melting Pot. Try The Melting Pot in Kennesaw's four-course, chocolate-infused menu. Priced to reflect the holiday occurring every four years, enjoy these four courses for only $44.44 per person. There will be an addition of a chocolate-inspired wine pairing for each course, selectively chosen by the sommelier to complement each distinctive fondue. Details

Carolyn's Gourmet Cafe and Catering Wed., Feb. 29, 5 p.m. Leap into March at Carolyn's. Celebrate your extra day by receiving a $4 discount on any Carolyn’s dinner order exceeding $20 on Wednesday. Details

Tap Wed., Feb. 29, 6:30 p.m. Leap Day Beer Dinner. Mix, mingle and eat featured small plate courses, offered buffet style and paired with a brew, for only $25 per person. Details

Edgewood Corner Tavern Wed., Feb. 29, 7 p.m. Meet the Brewer: Bobby Thomas. Head over to the Edgewood Corner Tavern on Wednesday to meet Bobby Thomas from the Red Hare Brewing Company. There will be $2 Red Hare Beer Specials and $3 Tapas paired with Red Hare Brews starting at 7 p.m. Details

Atkins Park Wed., Feb. 29, 7 p.m. Prohibition Dinner. Atkins Park Tavern in Virginia-Highland is turning 90 years old, and in honor of its anniversary, the restaurant will host a special Prohibition Dinner. The dinner will feature four cocktails paired with four plates for $40 per person. Details

Farm Burger Buckhead Wed., Feb. 29, 8 p.m. Supper No. 6: A Prelude to Spring at fB Buckhead. For the 6th "Taking the Burger out of Farm Burger” feast, the restaurant will put grassfed burgers back in the walk-in for a night. The dinner will feature early season crops and benefit the farmers at Peachtree Road Farmers Market. Four courses and more costs $39 per person. Details

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A visit to the Spotted Trotter

Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 9:36 AM

As I noted last week, many times on weekends I long for a place to go, sip good wine, and eat charcuterie. But because that place doesn't exist close to my house, I decided to try to create the experience for myself in my yard. But first I had to find the charcuterie.

Luckily, the Spotted Trotter has set up shop quite close to me, in Kirkwood. The Trotter's owner Kevin Outz has been a familiar sight at the Peachtree Road Farmer's Market for the past couple of years, and his retail location opened in November. Our former freelancer Jennifer Zyman was one of the first to discover Outz at the farmer's market, and she wrote a Food Finds column about the Spotted Trotter back in 2010.

So we went to the Spotted Trotter and composed our own meat and cheese plate: Toscano salami, pate campagne, chicken liver pate, and two huge chunks of cheese. We grabbed an H&F baguette, as well as six pork belly and rabbit crepinettes for dinner later in the week.

I have to say, the charcuterie is some of the best I've had, particularly the salami. The Toscano is made with a coarser grind on the meats, and as a result there are pretty big hunks of fat in there, but they melt away into the chewy, tangy jumble of the thing, leaving a pleasant coating on the tongue. I also loved both pates, particularly the campagne, which tasted hearty and foresty. The cheeses were both great as well - I'm now officially obsessed with the Ellington from Looking Glass Creamery in Asheville, a goat cheese with an ash rind that has a dense, smooth interior with a flavor that lasts and lasts on the palate.

Spotted Trotter's meats are not cheap - the picnic pictured cost about $60. But we did have enough left over to have pre-dinner cheese one night, as well as a couple of breakfasts of chicken liver pate on toast (possibly my favorite breakfast of all time), plus salami to snack on throughout the week.

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