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Archive for March, 2009

Buford Highway Tour (plus this week’s Restaurant Stories column)

Credit and thanks to: Jennifer Zyman

Credit and thanks to: Jennifer Zyman

Last week I went on my annual blurp-o-rama tour of Buford Highway with a group of people who bid for it in our school auction. Each year we meet in the morning and proceed to eat in as many restaurants as we can until someone cries uncle or suffers a Mr. Creosote moment, whichever comes first.

Not only did the most recent tour give me fodder for this week’s Restaurant Stories column, but it gave me an opportunity to check out some new places and look into old favorites. 

Here’s how our day went:

First stop: Bakery Cafe Maum — This Korean cafe and pastry shop has expanded in the past year, and now has a comfortable dining room with table seating along with a lounge filled with overstuffed armchairs, sofas and low coffee tables. The young server couldn’t have been nicer, heating some of our pastries and cutting others into bite-size pieces so that everyone got a taste. Major hits: flaky buns stuffed with sweet pumpkin mash, cream-filled …

Continue reading Buford Highway Tour (plus this week’s Restaurant Stories column) »

Eat free food! Go on the Food Network! All you have to do is chew…

JCT Kitchen & Bar is giving away dinner to the first souls who show up tomorrow at 5 p.m. to serve as masticating extras during the filming of the Food Network show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Details here (click to enlarge):

 

Continue reading Eat free food! Go on the Food Network! All you have to do is chew… »

Muscat love

Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum!

These are fresh, seedless muscat grapes that I bought this morning at Whole Foods Market. They are only $1.99 a pound and have an amazing flavor.

These grapes have that flowery, honeyed sweetness of scuppernongs, but without that brassy, in-your-face grapiness. They make me think much more of peaches and apricots, as does muscat wine. 

Oh, yeah. They’re from Chile. I promise to go back to being a locavore next week.

(Hand modeling provided by the AJC’s lovely art critic, Cathy Fox.)

Continue reading Muscat love »

@ Leon International Foods

Choco Prince Chocolate Cookies: “They are very Yummy!! Two biscuits filled with chocolate and covered with chocolate!!”

I am a fan of this Middle Eastern market, which is hidden in plain sight near Spaghetti Junction. You have to drive into an industrial park and look for the door that looks like it belongs to an office, not a shop. 

The market is a small outgrowth of Leon’s industrial pita bakery. It offers four aisles of dry goods (grains, spices, cookware), a dairy case filled with lebneh (thick, strained Lebanese yogurt), dough (fizzy, mint-flavored Persian yogurt soda) and great French feta. 

It also has a small but brimming takeout counter stocked with sweet and savory pastries, salads and great dips, such as hummus, baba ghanouj and muhamarra (sweet-and-spicy roasted pepper dip). If you’re in luck, they’ll be frying up crunchy but soft-centered falafel. 

And then there’s this candy counter. Note the chewing gum underneath the Choco Prince: the flavors are coffee or …

Continue reading @ Leon International Foods »

The best breakfast in Atlanta?

 

 

AJC Staff

AJC Staff

My recent column about Thumbs Up Diner got a number of people asking: Where do you go for breakfast in Atlanta? 

Personally, I do like Thumbs Up a lot — but not the one in Decatur as much as the older branch on Edgewood Ave. in the Old Fourth Ward. Why? Because the dishes I like come out just the way I like them. The tofu and veggies are big, sloppy and steamy enough to wilt their bed of raw spinach. The omelettes are fluffy and (usually) free of brown spots. The sunny side up eggs have that edge of crisp brown lace. The biscuits are whole-wheat rocks, but in a good way. 

Lots of people love Ria’s Bluebird on Memorial Drive for its pancakes and poached eggs served with slow-cooked brisket. (Ria’s, along with Thumbs Up, were both recently named as two of the “59 Best Breakfast Places in America” by Esquire Magazine.) Others swear by the Social House on Howell Mill Road for its ginormous platters of fish and grits and variations on Eggs Benedict. And then there’s …

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Restaurant Stories: A twofer

 

Wesley McConnell, Thumbs Up

Wesley McConnell, Thumbs Up

The intertwining stories of Thumbs Up Diner and Crescent Moon in Decatur take some untangling to fathom. But people are passionate about their neighborhood breakfast places. Wesley McConnell (left) explains

Also, I plumb forgot to draw any attention to last week’s column in which I examine the truths and overuses of the phrase “ladies who lunch” and recall being dragged by my mother to the department store tearoom.

Continue reading Restaurant Stories: A twofer »

Food News Atlanta: Elton’s pooch cake, the city goes pizza crazy, 30 Tables is official

 

Credit: Jamie Annarino

Credit: Jamie Annarino

I get the nose, I get the nose!!

Karen Portaleo, the brilliant cake artist at Highland Bakery, fabricated this frosted dog in drag for Elton John’s birthday, which is today. (Click the picture to enlarge it.) The cake is modeled after his cocker spaniel, Arthur.

I met Portaleo a couple of weeks ago when we were both judging the “Great American Baking Contest” — a fundraiser for the Georgia chapter of Share Our Strength. We were charged with the kids’ division, and gave first prize to 9-year-old Decaturite Carter Hanna for his peppermint velvet cupcakes. (Note to self: get recipe.) 

In other news — Varasano’s Pizzeria opens today in the Mezzo Atlanta building at 2171 Peachtree Road. This is the first professional effort by pizza obsessive Jeff Varasano, who perfected his recipes over years of underground pizza parties at his Buckhead townhome. Within a certain food-obsessed demimonde, Varasano has become a kind of Internet-era folk hero. His online …

Continue reading Food News Atlanta: Elton’s pooch cake, the city goes pizza crazy, 30 Tables is official »

James Beard Award finalists announced

AJC Staff

A pair of Atlantans were named among the finalists for the 2009 James Beard Foundation Awards — the country’s most recognized program honoring food and beverage professionals working as chefs, authors, journalists and designers.

Cookbook author and renowned food scientist Shirley O. Corriher (left) is a finalist for a Book Award in the “Baking” category for her new work, “Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking” (Scribner; $40). (I cooked from the book, and AJC writer Jim Auchmutey wrote a lovely profile of Corriher.)
In the all-important Restaurant Awards, Linton Hopkins, chef at Restaurant Eugene, is again up for Best Chef: Southeast. He faces off against Hugh Acheson at Five and Ten in Athens; Mike Lata of Fig Restaurant in Charleston, SC; Bob Waggoner of Charleston Grill in Charleston; and Bill Smith of Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, NC.

Other Southerners of note are up for these awards:

Continue reading James Beard Award finalists announced »

Now, this was a memorable meal…


A friend brought these items over for a barbecue. We pressure cooked the sheep hearts in a tomato sauce and sliced them; skewered the rabbit kidneys and livers on rosemary branches and grilled them; forgot about the octopus, which sat in the fridge for two weeks until I threw it out. Various children at the party vowed never to eat at the Kessler house again.

Continue reading Now, this was a memorable meal… »

2009 Beer Bracket

Check out beer columnist Bob Townsend’s 2009 Beer Bracket — a sweet sixteen competition of American-style India Pale Ales in honor of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. He pitted 8 from the West against 8 from the East in a blind tasting.

Townsend asked me to be one of the judges — not that I have any expertise, but I like to taste new things and says words like “grapefruity.”

I don’t think I’d have been a good judge for Belgian ales — many of which I find too sweet. (A waitress recently talked me into a Saison Dupont, which tasted like a mouthful of cloves — not my thing.)

But I’ve learned to love big American IPAs, with their citrus aromas and flavors and their full-tilt-boogie bitterness on the finish.

In fact, the beer pictured here — the Titan IPA from Great Divide Brewing in Denver — has become my go-to draft beer at the new Leon’s Full Service in Decatur. It makes for a fantastic after-work pint and is a great friend to food.

If you love IPAs, you can vote for your …

Continue reading 2009 Beer Bracket »