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Archive for October, 2009

Quick Pic: Nanas pizzas at Varasano’s

Jeff wasn’t happy with the dough that night, but I thought they were pretty worthy of a face stuffing. Anyone been lately?

Posted via web from ajcfoodandmore’s posterous

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“Top Chef” Recap, Episode 10: Carnivore’s Dilemma

Bring me my parsnips and confited eggplant

Bring me my parsnips and confited eggplant


Padmé, Padma. Padma, Padmé.

The “Top Chef” crew get a visitor from a galaxy far, far away.

Padmé Amidala, as you may recall, is the queen/senator/cradle robber Natalie Portman portrayed in three “Star Wars” movies and, as Eli informs us, this role is the “only important thing she ever did.”

Graduating from Harvard? Not important. Oscar nomination for “Closer?” Not important. Slapping on some kabubi makeup and a gilt head vise to share screen time with Jar Jar Binks? Vital.

So Padmé brings her entourage to meet Padma and her entourage over dinner in a steakless steakhouse, where they nibble on various slivers of beet and puddles of pureed turnip, and they talk about, um, oral prickling sensations.

But before we get to that — and rest assured, we will get to that — we have a lot of handwringing and angst in the desolate McMansion that was once so full of life and kerchiefs.

Bryan methodically sharpens his knife in the kitchen, …

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“Top Chef” Recap, Episode 9: Revolt-ing

top-chef-season-6-warsSomewhere in the Nevada desert, Laurine sits by the edge of a pool, lolling her feet in the water, soaking in the sun’s unsparing rays and feeling happy that she’s “still here with the best chefs.”

Ha! Little does she know what cruel twists of fate await. A blindfold, a pot of boiling oil, whipped miso, a shoving match over a case of sparkling water, a roomful of exasperated diners and a withering summons from Padma to fetch salt.

“Padma wants salt!” Three words to strike terror in the heart of any chef.

Phew. I didn’t even get to Laurine’s little lamb. But before we find out whether it followed her to school or sent her packing, you must decide whether you can tolerate a SPOILER. I cannot decide this for you; it must come from your heart. And/or balls.

So the Brothers Volt go at it like scrappy puppies in the kitchen — the “eternal competition” as Kevin terms it. Poolside Laurine jokes around with bikini-clad Jen, who promises to perform the next Quickfire in her bathing suit …

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New Gujarati spot in Decatur


The  Indian restaurants that cluster around Lawrenceville Highway on the east end of Decatur serve, by and large, specialties from Southern India.

I’m no expert on Indian food (not like this guy), but I find that the vegetarian dishes at South Indian mainstays like Saravana Bhavan and Udipi Cafe put me in “guilty pleasure” mode. When I go to these places, I want all the stuff that’s really spicy, greasy and fried. I want the contact high of frybreads, dosai and crunchy piles of bhel puri, and I want my mouth to burn.

Gujarati vegetarian fare — at least the stuff served in local restaurants — tastes to me less like a really awesome snack and more like a balanced meal. That’s why I was happy to discover Kusum Foods, a new restaurant and carryout shop that serves the veggie cooking of Gujurat in Western India.

photo(2)This very basic spot (which I think has replaced a former hotdog shop in a sprawling stripmall) has a steamtable with the daily fixin’s, some plastic plates and a few …

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Video: Banh Mi Frenzy

As I was driving by the corner of Buford Highway and Clairmont Road, I got a sudden urge for one of the Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches from Lee’s Bakery. My timing wasn’t great: the staff was working at top speed preparing scores of sandwiches for several big orders.

“It’ll be at least 10 minutes,” said the lady behind the counter. My craving wouldn’t go away, so I waited by the counter for 20 minutes and watched this scene, mesmerized.

Worth it? Oh, yeah…


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“Top Chef” Recap, Episode 8: Charlie Palmer’s Porkorama

Credit: Broderick Smylie

Credit: Broderick Smylie

At left we have a picture of the snorting pig on Kevin’s forearm, courtesy of fine local photographer Broderick Smylie. This picture was taken just moments before Kevin plunged said arm into a meat grinder to make the luscious terrine that had Padma swooning on the lawn in a paroxysm of epicurean delight.

But before we get to that exciting development, this is the place where I must warn the TiVo set of imminent SPOILERS. Seriously, though, you know who will be eliminated. Look into your hearts, and you will see the answer. At this point in the game, the judges would have a tougher time shooting fish in a barrel.

Tonight’s episode is no nail biter, but it is nonetheless a tale of delicious onion-flavored snack items, Oedipal sublimation, fine French Burgundies, brothers vying for approbation from a father substitute, the transformative power of pork, and the sheer awesomeness of Atlantans in the kitchen.

As the morning dawns, we find Eli sitting on his …

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Restaurant Stories: Last Night at the Ritz-Carlton

Claude Guillaume, center. (Credit: AJC Staff)

Claude Guillaume, center. (Credit: AJC Staff)

For this week’s column, I visit the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead on its last night of operation. I know the AJC has covered this story well but, hey, I was there. It was a cool experience. And, considering how much it cost, my wife and I didn’t eat out anywhere else for a couple of weeks!

The meal began shortly past 7:30 p.m. with a small pickled melon ball floating in a shot glass filled with melon consomme. It ended four hours later with tiny butter cookies and nougats no larger than fingertips.

In between, as you might imagine, there was an orgy of things to eat and drink. Nine courses in all, with plenty of wine. It was the kind of meal where the appearance of a puffy chocolate souffle came as a funny surprise. “Another dessert?” we gasped.
Nobody wanted the meal to end, and so we lingered and lingered until we were the last table to leave the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead on its last night of service …

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“Top Chef” Episode 7: Come Together


Adventurous, crunchy Asian seeks blue, cheesy Middle Easterner for mutual mastication. Must be discreet. I’m into full-sleeve tattoos, sustainable seafood, hair gel, bacon and yuzu. You should be likewise. Not looking for long-term commitment. Just a Quickfire: 45 minutes, and it’s hands up. No romantic, tart Latins need apply. 

Oh, dear. What fresh silliness has the “Top Chef” crew concocted for us after last week’s hiatus. Plenty, you will see. Word salads, bags of Asian mysteries, blown electrical circuits and the chefs’ first dinner party at their suburban McMansion! But who will emerge from the ruins of this party as the hostess with the leastest? Read on, if you can stomach the salty, tough and underdone outcome. 

Once again, we start at breakfast as Eli scrambles eggs, Bryan shovels said eggs, Mike V. pines for his two daughters back home and Jen….oh, Jen’s not good. Hack. Wheeze. Sniffle. She’s sick! 

“I’ve worked many times being sick,” says Miss Puffy Eyes, …

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Sad news for local pasta lovers

Elisa Gambino (AJC Staff)

Elisa Gambino (AJC Staff)

Elisa Gambino just sent an email to let me know she will be discontinuing her Via Elisa  line of handmade pasta and will close her lovely little westside Italian food shop. She will continue selling her line of jarred pasta sauces through Whole Foods Markets and other outlets.

It’s been a great seven-year run for Gambino, a former CNN field producer who turned her passion for Italian cooking into one of the best (if not THE best) artisanal food business in Atlanta. My family and I are huge fans of her porcini ravioli, and we’re going to be sure to stock up before the market closes.

Sad, sad, sad. When will the fallout end?

Here’s Gambino’s announcement, which will go out in a newsletter later today:
Dear Fellow Pasta and Pasta Sauce Enthusiasts,

Via Elisa’s store – but not our sauces — will end what has been a glorious
seven-year run in Atlanta at the close of business on Saturday, October 17,
the latest victim of an unforgiving economy.

Though that …

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Restaurant Stories: Tomo Japanese Restaurant

Tuna tartare from Tomo (Credit: AJC Staff)

Tuna tartare from Tomo (Credit: AJC Staff)

For this week’s column, I revisited an old favorite — Tomo Japanese Restaurant in “Smynings” — to prepare for an appearance on WXIA’s “Atlanta & Company.” I will be talking about Tomo on the program’s “Metromix Meals” segment on November 4. (If you can’t tune in, check after that date for the segment online here.

One day, a friend said to me, “You know what I hate? When people come up to me at parties and tell me what they thought of a restaurant. What do I care what they think? I know whether it’s good or bad.”

Blessed autocracy! This lady, a food writer, subscribes to the now old-fashioned notion that a verdict should be based on one forcefully expressed opinion. Hers, namely.

Does that paradigm still hold sway? I’m not so sure. Today, opinion seems to take shape via a complex system of group think. A restaurant opens, and the Twitterers descend on it like seagulls to Tippi Hedren in “The Birds.” Some bloggers post (ahem) “reviews” …

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