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Archive for February, 2010

Paces 88 at St. Regis goes casual

paces-88-atlanta-restaurant-1109-lg-99967667

Paces 88 American Bistro — the luxuriously appointed dining room in the St. Regis Hotel — bucked the trend away from fine dining when it opened in April 2009 with a high-ticket gourmet menu. Dishes such as the $35 roasted Carolina Squab with hedgehog mushrooms and caramelized pear caught the attention of Esquire Magazine’s roving restaurant-goer John Mariani, who proclaimed it one of the 20 best new restaurants in America. He praised the melding of “French-American and southern culinary traditions into seamless cuisine that befits both the hotel’s deluxe trappings and Atlanta’s eminence as a southern city.”

Hold that pigeon.

On Monday the hotel’s general manager, Simon Rusconi, announced that the restaurant will take a turn for the casual beginning March 1. “We’re taking it in a lighter direction, with sandwiches and salads at lunch and dinner,” he said. “We’ll also have a big sharing section on the menu. People love to share these days.”

Executive chef Mark Alba, who will …

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Celebrate National Margarita Day…

AJC Staff all photos

AJC Staff all photos

…by, you know, getting ‘faced.

Let’s put that a better way.

Enjoy one of these tangy libations at your favorite Atlanta restaurant.

Here are a few for your consideration:

bigeasybreezypappaWat dat? The Big Easy Breezy from Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen (right) combines frozen Margarita and the New Orleanean Hurricane in one garishly piebald concoction.

a la bamba cowtippersGlug-a-rita: The La Bamba from Cowtippers (left) combines Milagro Anejo tequila with Cointreau, Grenadine, pineapple and fresh orange juice in one festive birdbath of booze. You’ll be looking for the nearest karaoke to sing the namesake song in no time flat.

pure-alpharettaThe De-prickler: Every last prickle will flow from your body after downing this prickly pear margarita from Pure Taqueria in Alpharetta (right).  It contains silver tequila, Cointreau, lime, prickly pear nectar, and the rim is sugared, not salted.

pozoleNothing less than…Perfect! With house-made sour mix, La Belle orange liqueur, Jose Cuervo and fresh lime, there is no improving …

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Which is a better dining city: Atlanta or Charleston?

Atlanta (credit: Wikimedia)

The Charleston Food + Wine Festival, which kicks off March 4, has not only become the preeminent gastronomic event in the Southeast, but it also shows off this coastal city’s vibrant restaurant scene to all the top names in the American food world.

People around the country think of Charleston as the Southern restaurant town. What about Atlanta? How do the two cities compare, and how have they marketed themselves differently? This was the subject of yesterday’s Sunday Column.

FESTIVAL INSPIRES A DINING DEBATE

Have you ever had the experience of telling someone you like a certain restaurant and they give you that “oh, -I-thought-you-knew-something-about-food” response?

That happened to me a couple of years ago when I was talking to a friend from Charleston soon after I had returned from a vacation there and made enthusiastic comments about a popular Italian restaurant in town. “We had a really nice meal at Al di La, ” I said, adding, “It’s always such a pleasure …

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Revisit: Tasty China

tcmenuTasty China had me at “hot and numbing rabbit cubes.”

Look! There! The fourth item on the menu.

I don’t know why these words warm my soul every time I visit this  Sichuan standby in Marietta. Maybe because they sounds like a line of syllabic verse. Something from Dylan Thomas:

Hot and numbing rabbit cubes
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed

I’ve never actually eaten this dish because it figures too highly in my imagination. Plus, there are too many other favorites I have to have every time I go.

The restaurant has definitely changed since the days in late 2006 (has it really been that long?) since I first tried the fiery cooking of former chef Peter Chang. This chef is long gone, as is bossy former manager Phuong Nguyen. But it is still one of my favorites, serving dragon-breath delectables in the familiar comfort of a tatty Chinese restaurant.

foodtcspicyfishI can never resist the hot and numbing beef rolls (left) — a julienne of beef made nearly …

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Polenta Lasagna: A recipe in progress

photo 3My family can be a tough crowd.

I prepared this polenta lasagna, pictured at left, for dinner on a recent night. It filled the kitchen with that appealing Italian restaurant smell. When it came out of the oven, none of us could resist its burbly, cheesy, tomatoey, come-hither appeal as it rested on the counter. We gathered around in anticipation.

I enjoyed my serving quite a lot. I thought the whole package came together — the gooey pockets of mozzarella, the buttery flavor of fresh spinach tucked inside, the bright marinara sauce, the warming familiarity of the flavors.

“I’m not sure what’s wrong with it,” said my wife. “Maybe the tomato sauce is off. The polenta itself is good.”

“The spinach is gross,” piped in my 12-year-old. “You didn’t cook it right, did you?”

“I really like it,” said my 14-year-old, taking a second bite and then cocking her head. “But it could use more cheese. Or maybe a different cheese. Would cheddar be good?”

The recipe came out of my head rather than …

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Who knows what this is?

foodFirst person to identify this dish correctly — where and what — gets a gift card to Tin Lizzy’s Cantina.

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James Beard Award Semifinalists Announced

james_beardThe James Beard Foundation has released its list of semifinalists for its restaurant and chef awards.

Nominated to the list of 20 chefs vying for best in the Southeast are perennial recent candidates Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene and Hugh Acheson of Five and Ten in Athens. Joining them for the first time is Billy Allin of Cakes & Ale in Decatur.

Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill got a nod as “rising star” chef, Miller Union likewise for best new restaurant, and Pano Karatassos, owner of the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, for best restaurateur. Scott Peacock of Watershed was nominated for best chef, nationally.

Judges will vote and narrow the list down to five in each category; the finalists will be announced March 22.

The full list of regional semifinalists is below. The full list is here.

BEST CHEF: SOUTHEAST

  • Hugh Acheson, Five and Ten, Athens, GA
  • Billy Allin, Cakes & Ale, Decatur, GA
  • Sean Brock, McCrady’s, Charleston, SC
  • Tyler Brown, The Capitol Grille at the …

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Romania debates tax on fast food

People walk by fast food restaurant in Bucharest, Romania, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010.  For post-communist Romanians a Big Mac and soda meant much more than a meal: It was a culinary signpost from the free and capitalist west  a sign they too, at last, had arrived.  But modernity requires something different today: the Balkan country is moving to join the health conscious 21st century by proposing taxes on burgers, french fries, soda and other fast foods with high fat and sugar content. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

People walk by fast food restaurant in Bucharest, Romania, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010. For post-communist Romanians a Big Mac and soda meant much more than a meal: It was a culinary signpost from the free and capitalist west a sign they too, at last, had arrived. But modernity requires something different today: the Balkan country is moving to join the health conscious 21st century by proposing taxes on burgers, french fries, soda and other fast foods with high fat and sugar content. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

The Associated Press is reporting a fascinating story about the Romanian Health Ministry’s attempt to tax fast food consumption in the Balkan country. Since the nation has emerged from its communist past, obesity has become a major public health problem, in marked contrast to the past. About half of its 22 million people are now overweight.

“We have to relearn how to eat,” said Health Ministry official Adrian Streinu Cercel.

You can read the story here.

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Italian TV chef suspended for cat casserole recipe

This story gives new meaning to “Tabby Treat.”

The Times of London is reporting on its Web site, Times Online, that a well-known television food personality in Italy has been indefinitely suspended from his job for recommending a recipe for cat casserole, which he claimed to be a specialty of his home region in Tuscany.

Beppe Bigazzi, the 77-year-old TV personality, says cat meat is better than pigeon (who knew?) but must first be soaked for three days in spring water.

Bigazzi explains how to prepare Puss ‘n Beets below:

Bigazzi has since recanted, claiming it was all a joke.

(Readers coming from the Food and More home page can see the video after the click through.)

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Whataburger coming to metro area

center_pieceWhataburger — the San Antonio-based burger chain — will soon open its first metro area location in Duluth at 3780 Old Norcross Road. (I have a query out to the home office for the official opening date.)

This is one of those fast-food chains that makes people weak at the knees with burger lust and abject nostalgia. Trolling around the Internet, I’ve found stories of displaced Texans loading up bags of Whataburgers on visits home. There are three branches of the chain in south Georgia.

So, can anyone tell me what a Whataburger is?

And what other burger chains do we need in Atlanta?

In-n-Out? Jack in the Box? White Castle?

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