Unless you're on your way to Tallahassee, you probably have to go out of your way to get to Thomasville. It's a little town just north of Georgia's border with Florida, about 40 miles due west of Valdosta and I-75. And even though it was a bit out of my way when I was driving home from Florida with my family in early January, I knew I wanted to make my way to Thomasville for one reason: Sweet Grass Dairy.
You've probably heard of Sweet Grass Dairy's cheeses, but there's a good chance you didn't know that they operate a cute little cheese shop/wine shop/cafe in the historic heart of Thomasville. I had heard about the shop, but didn't know what to expect as we drove into town. The road from Valdosta is an immediate jump from the interstate into agriculture country, ringed by fields and farms, then mills and farm supply shops as you get closer to Thomasville. There's a brief stretch that makes clear that the area has seen better days, but then you hit Broad Street and the quaintness factor kicks in.
While the city's culinary community lamented the loss of these great chefs and restaurants, the ones who remained continued to adapt and evolve. Soon, a new, more casual fine-dining model emerged as restaurants like Empire State South, Octopus Bar, and the Lawrence bridged the gap from old to new. With a focus on well-sourced chef food (offal, housemade charcuterie, craft cocktails) these innovative hybrids - often driven by the talented cooks who trained under those master chefs of yesteryear - are what dominate conversation today.
Drew Van Leuvan is one of those chefs who, by Atlanta standards, came up in the old school. He worked under some of the city's most respected chefs: Seeger (Seeger's) and Antunes (Joël), Michael Tuohy (Woodfire Grill) and Tom Catherall (Here to Serve Restaurants). In the mid-2000s he helmed the kitchens at Toast, Spice, and SAGA, and even ran his own handmade pasta company before joining Concentrics Restaurants Group. He eventually landed at One Midtown Kitchen. In early 2012, the journeyman chef left One to focus on his solo venture, Seven Lamps, which opened in mid-December.
In case you missed it, former executive chef Josh Hopkins recently left STG to helm the kitchen at White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails. STG's new executive chef Sean Telo took over last Sunday, rolling out a few new dishes - mostly salads and pastas - on the menu this week. Prior to STG, Telo worked as the executive sous chef at STK.
Additionally, owner Brian Lewis has hired pastry chef Sarah Dodge to oversee the dessert programs at both STG and sister restaurant Bocado. The self-taught Dodge has spent the last several years honing her skills at H&F Bakery and Little Tart Bake Shop. (She is also in charge of desserts at Octopus Bar.) At STG and Bocado, Dodge hopes to develop desserts that reflect the unique personalities of each restaurant. "Cakes work well at Bocado," Dodge says, where her new dessert menu includes a chocolate layer cake, a vanilla crumb cake with maple drip icing and Ga. pecans, and a salted caramel bread pudding made with brioche. "At STG, Sean [Telo] and I talked about doing one Italian-related and one more locally-inspired dessert," Dodge says. So far, she's settled on a ricotta cake with citrus honey and a chocolate hazelnut pot du crème with espresso whipped cream.
Changes at STG extend beyond new personnel. The restaurant will start serving lunch on Feb. 19. Lewis also plans to add a 12-seat bar to STG's dining room.
The General Muir is currently open for table service: Breakfast: Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-11 a.m. Lunch: Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Dinner: Sun.-Thurs., 5:30-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 5:30-10 p.m. Brunch: Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
For quick, grab-and-go options, The Deli at the General Muir is open daily till 7 p.m. and serves bagels and sandwiches, salads by the pound, and pastries.
CL Culture Editor Wyatt Williams included the General Muir in his list of Five restaurants to watch in 2013:
Richard Thomas opened the restaurant after moving here from California, where he had a lot of success in several ventures. He festooned the dining room with objects reminiscent of the psychedelic era. He planted a garden around the periphery of the building and installed cages occupied by exotic birds.
Next, Thomas joined the raw food movement and the menu was overtaken by "healthy" food. I'm no fan of this method of food preparation. It always turns into a gut bomb for me. Many raw-food chefs also overuse spices in an effort, I guess, to add flavor to otherwise bland goop.
The restaurant has returned to more conventional dishes, most of them made with sourced ingredients. There's no red meat on the menu, so there are no burgers.
What does remain intact is the hippie garden, the aviarium, and mural art. There's nothing like the place in our city...and never has been.
Hugh Acheson lists his favorite Atlanta eateries over at Food & Wine: Gu's Bistro, One Eared Stag, Antico, and more.
Early eaters lose more weight than late lunchers, study says.
In hot pursuit of a social
media life, online restaurant reservation giant OpenTable acquires Foodspotting for $10 million.
1. Lunch is, no surprise, a less expensive and more casual meal than dinner at Watershed. The veggie plate is a great way to go - $14.50 for five vegetables with five different preparations: fried, grilled, roasted, etc. (It's $18 at dinnertime.)
2. I'm normally averse to the presence of white truffle oil, but the white truffle chicken salad sandwich at lunch actually makes it work well, thanks to playing it off the sweetness of golden raisins.
3. The bar is stocked with some very interesting artisan spirits, and the cocktails show nice creativity - my favorite is the Southern Manhattan Martini that mixes bourbon, Cynar, maple syrup, lemon juice and barbecue bitters into a surprisingly well-balanced and nuanced affair.
4. The wine list offers a number of interesting and eclectic wines by the glass - most around $10 - and Watershed is usually happy to let you taste something first if you're curious about a wine.
5. Corkage is $20 if you want to bring your own wine, which is not such a bad route for the winos among you, given that the markups on many of Watershed's wines by the bottle approach the range of three times retail.
In the 2000s, Watershed flourished thanks to chef Scott Peacock's sophisticated, contemporary take on Southern classics. It was the jewel of Decatur's casual but increasingly ambitious dining scene.
But now, Watershed has literally moved on up, to a high-rise condo building on Peachtree Road. The Buckhead transformation encompasses almost every aspect of the dining experience. In place of the chaotic little Decatur parking lot, there's a sleek corporate valet. Instead of a homey feel, there are vast street-facing windows, expansive dining spaces, and stark elegance. It's now Brooks Brothers instead of Birkenstocks, Westminster rather than Paideia, and, well, Peachtree instead of Ponce.
Since October, breakfast delivery service Jam-a-Lam has been serving sleep-deprived and hungry Atlantans in droves. Unfortunately, Jam-a-Lam founders Kandis Owens and Nicole Macey say they cannot keep up with demand and have decided to close the operation until further notice.
"During our time off, we will be working with a fellow colleague in hopes to revamp our business model and re-emerge with...well, with a JAM!" the duo said in an e-mail.
Owens and Macey hope to expand their current delivery area and will be meeting with prospective franchisers around the Metro Atlanta area during their time off to improve and develop their concept.
Storico Fresco Pasta has opened up shop at 3210 Roswell Road (apparently around the back of the building) in Buckhead. The store is open Mon., noon-6 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Sat., 2-5 p.m.
Brewed to Serve Restaurant Group has named Josh Hopkins (STG Trattoria, Abattoir) as the new executive chef of White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails. The restaurant is located downtown, on the ground floor of 270 Peachtree St.
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