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Archive for December, 2009

See you after the holidays

ikebanaThis is January 2010 ikebana arrangement from my desk calendar, and it is what I’ll be staring at when I next return to my desk.

I will not be back on this blog before the New Year unless I feel an overwhelming urge to share some tale of holiday dining or cooking.

So you will either find some really bad iPhone pictures of my attempts at making a bûche de Noël, or I’ll see you next year with news of my next dining-out project.

Thanks for reading this blog. I really, really appreciate all your comments, insights and good humor.

Continue reading See you after the holidays »

Getting ready for the holidays: Stocking the pantry

Pine Street Market bacon

Pine Street Market bacon

For me, one of the great pleasures of the holiday season is stocking the larder. My house is full of people, and I want to be ready for meals that range from elaborate to impromptu. When someone opens the refrigerator at 11 p.m. looking for a little snack’ums, I don’t want them to settle for a Kraft Single and an open can of flat ginger ale. I want them to find a bottle of champagne (”Sure, open it!”), English toffee, smoked salmon and fantastic salami.

Here is my shopping list for the holidays:

  1. A mixed case of wine: Half of it champagne, half of it better-than-everyday but not-good-enough-for-the-cellar reds.
  2. Offbeat snack items: People snack constantly because they all have five pounds of winter fat to gain. So be it. That’s why we have crackers. But cheese on those crackers can become such rut over the holidays. I’m all about the weird jars you find in gourmet stores and ethnic markets, such as prepared caponata, Balkan ajvar (pickled eggplant …

Continue reading Getting ready for the holidays: Stocking the pantry »

Win a gift card to Applebee’s

UpintheAirposter1You lucky people.

Today is the day you’ve been waiting for.

Be the first to post an answer to the trivia question below, and you will win a fabulous gift card for $10 to spend at any Applebee’s restaurant of your choice.

Are you ready?

Good.

Because here’s the question:

What Atlanta restaurant gets a shout out in the new movie “Up in the Air?”

(hint: It’s not Applebee’s.)

Continue reading Win a gift card to Applebee’s »

Lunch at Craftbar — an open letter to Tom Colicchio

Spicy fish stew

Spicy fish stew

Dear Tom,

After watching you for the past four months on “Top Chef” — as you doled out equal measures of mentoring advice and unflinching critical judgment — I felt that I should address my critique of a recent lunch at Craftbar Atlanta to you directly.

I mostly enjoyed a dinner at Craftbar several months ago and was excited to try it for lunch. As I’m sure you know, the lunch options in Atlanta aren’t great if you’re in the market for a full meal.

I really love the feel of the place — the sweet smell of the wood-burning oven, the gorgeously outfitted open kitchen, the dark wood, the midcentury modern furniture.  It’s really unique in this town.

The service seemed fine despite one major gaffe. From my table I had a perfect view of a waiter reaching his hand into a dish of grated cheese to garnish a plate of pasta. Please use spoons.

The food? More misses than hits, I’m afraid to say. Some problems were in execution and others in conception. Let’s go through …

Continue reading Lunch at Craftbar — an open letter to Tom Colicchio »

Christmas dinner: At home or in a restaurant?

Does this look like Christmas dinner?

Does this look like Christmas dinner?

Back when my wife and I were first married and we lived in Denver, we had a funny Christmas tradition. We would invite our best friends over to prepare an elaborate Christmas Eve dinner that lasted into the early hours. They then spent the night. The next day we exchanged presents, went for a long walk and then had an early dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant. We’d feast on roast duck, enormous steamed Pacific oysters in black bean sauce and salt-and-pepper pork chops. This practice lasted for several years — even after the birth of our first daughter, who always looked forward to her Christmas dumplings.

We were a pretty ethnically mixed group — Christian, Jewish and Japanese — so our dining choice make sense in context. We all had a nostalgia-tenderized spot for good Chinese food.

Do you like to go out for Christmas dinner? And, if so, do you ever go to Chinese restaurants?

If you are looking for a place to dine out, both Atlanta …

Continue reading Christmas dinner: At home or in a restaurant? »

Ormsby’s opens in White Provision

credit: White Provision

credit: White Provision

With no fanfare but ample word of mouth, Ormsby’s opened over the weekend in the White Provision complex in the city’s red-hot Westside dining district.

This comfy, wood-paneled pub is a joint project for Michael Goot of SweetWater Brewing Co. and Warren Bruno — the bar impresario who first came to Atlanta’s attention at late, lamented Aunt Charley’s in Buckhead several decades ago. He is also behind Atkins Park Tavern in Virginia Highland.

Situated under Room & Board, Ormsby’s is a bi-level space with a bar pouring a kazillion kinds of beer on the main level. The downstairs space has another bar as well as a bocce court, darts, shuffleboard and other fun games of skill and chance that semi-drunk people enjoy.

The menu is your basic updated pub grub bill of fare — comfortable enough that it doesn’t scream “gastropub” but filled with foodie catnip like hand-cut fries with dipping sauces, a White Oak Pastures burger and hand-dipped corn dogs with Sriracha …

Continue reading Ormsby’s opens in White Provision »

Sunday Column: Spoiler! Spoiler! Don’t read this post!

and+the+winner+is

Warning: the following column contains spoilers. If you read this column, you will find out the winner of the not-yet-filmed season of “Top Chef,” the fate of the “Lost” castaways, and the location of Mary Magdalene’s scapula.

Or … not.

Over the past four months, as I’ve blogged about the just-completed season of “Top Chef,” which featured three Atlantans among the contestants, I’ve learned quite a bit about the strange temporal reality of taped competitions on television.

Unlike live broadcasts of, say, football games or Oscar ceremonies, prerecorded contests dole out the thrills of victory and the agonies in a weird kind of time vacuum. Viewers know this, rely on this, take comfort in this. In this blasted 24 /7 news cycle, it’s their only break from real time.

I’ve done my best to play along the rules of this odd game, though now that “Top Chef” is over, I will come clean.

It was nearly a year ago when Magical Elves, the company that produces …

Continue reading Sunday Column: Spoiler! Spoiler! Don’t read this post! »

The weather outside is frightful, but these specials look delightful!

Yes, it’s a horrible night. So go out and support your local restaurants and get some warming food to fill your belly and soothe your soul. I sent out word to chefs around town to show me a picture of their kitchens prepping weekend specials. Consider:

noonAt Noon Midtown: Braised Painted Hills beef short ribs, Bel Paese and white cheddar cheeses and pickled onions on ciabatta for $8.50

shed2

At the Shed at Glenwood: Chef Lance Gummere shows off his sustainable wreckfish he is going to pan sear and serve with organic arugula and radishes for $24.

lapietra

At La Pietra Cucina: Sous Chefs Joe Rahme and Marvin Elauria processing a whole Yorkshire pig for Double cut Yorkshire pork Chop with ceci, napa cabbage & Calabrian fig mostarda for $25.

latavola2

At La Tavola Trattoria: Tomatoes and sugar for tomato conserva that goes with house burrata, $12; rehydrating porcinis with onions and carrots for mushroom ragu with house tagliolini, $14.50.

canoe1

At Canoe: Butcher Francisco preparing the Maryland Wild Striped …

Continue reading The weather outside is frightful, but these specials look delightful! »

OU For U: Israeli food hideaway

ou4umalawach

Malawach — flaky Yemenite flatbread

When I was growing up in Washington, D.C., my best friend in high school was an Israeli kid named Yudy who was living in the U.S. for a few years while his dad worked as an attaché at his country’s embassy.

Years later, when I was in Israel writing a story on fancy, upscale restaurants, I reconnected with Yudy, who took me around on a street-food tour.

I don’t remember much about the high-end restaurants, but I can recall every bite of amazing Israeli street food I tried. Immigrants from places as diverse as Yemen, Iraq and  Northern Africa contribute to an ethnic food scene like no other.

It was a treat to see many of the dishes I loved in Israel at OU for U — a dairy Kosher restaurant in a small shopping strip near Perimeter Mall. The food here is solid and good — better when tinged with nostalgia.

For instance, malawach is a disk of rich, layered pastry — somewhat akin to puff pastry but cooked slowly so that the layers stay tender in …

Continue reading OU For U: Israeli food hideaway »

No surprise — Kevin Gillespie voted fan favorite on “Top Chef”

ggdine.0327+01As expected, Atlanta’s Kevin Gillespie was voted “fan favorite” by the viewers of “Top Chef.”

The distinction was announced on Bravo TV’s reality-programming talk show, “Watch What Happens Live,” hosted by the soon-to-be-annoying Andy Cohen. It came with a $10,000 prize.

Cohen and guest Sarah Jessica Parker spoke to both Gillespie and runner-up Bryan Voltaggio via Skype when they made the announcement. Gillespie was at Woodfire Grill after finishing service on another sold-out evening.

“Somebody’s got to stand up for the pale-faced redheaded kids,” Gillespie joked after Parker opened the envelope revealing the winner.

Cohen asked Gillespie if his impending divorce in any way affected his performance during the finals. Ever the gentleman, Gillespie said that it made it a bit hard to concentrate but winner Michael Voltaggio had the better showing.

Gillespie’s total winnings on the show, despite not taking the title? A cool …

Continue reading No surprise — Kevin Gillespie voted fan favorite on “Top Chef” »