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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Archive for May, 2010

Nick Melvin hired as chef de cuisine at Empire State South

Credit: Concentrics Hospitality

Credit: Concentrics Hospitality

This fine fellow striking the classic “Iron Chef” bring it pose is Nick Melvin, who will be leaving his post at Parish Foods & Goods in the Old Fourth Ward to join Athens chef Hugh Acheson in his first Atlanta venture, Empire State South.

A native of New Orleans, Melvin has worked at Bayonna in the Crescent City, and at Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Alabama — good training for a chef who will run the city’s most anticipated new Southern restaurant.

According to Acheson’s press release, his new Midtown eatery will be “
a
 modern
 meat 
n’
 three
 that
 takes
  a fresh and vibrant approach
 to 
Southern 
classics. 
Acheson’s
 vision
 is
 an
 “every
person”
 restaurant,
 where 
simple
 foods
 are 
cooked
 flawlessly.
 Empire
 State
 will 
be
 open 
for 
breakfast,
 lunch 
and
 dinner
 with
 courtyard
 bocce
 ball 
available
 all
 day 
and
 an 
extensive
 coffee
 bar.”

That sounds like awesomeness.

Acheson, who came to national prominence …

Continue reading Nick Melvin hired as chef de cuisine at Empire State South »

Chick-fil-A hot wrap, anyone?

Hot wrap with sweet potato fries

Hot wrap with sweet potato fries

After sampling the new Spicy Chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A headquarters yesterday, the company’s vice president of brand development, Woody Faulk, escorted me and a colleague from the newspaper to a conference room, where he presented a dozen new products currently in research and development. Some are further along than others, so the chances of seeing these products — even in a test-market situation — are variable.

For instance, the company currently serves three varieties of “cool wrap” made with cold chicken strips and garnishes. But one day we may see this hot wrap filled with fresh chicken strips, lettuce, tomato and cheese. On the side: some very tasty shoestring sweet potato fries. Yet this product isn’t as far along in the testing and development as some others, so we’ll have to wait.

photo 4But here are some items that customers may see sooner than later:

  • Flavored iced teas and lemonade: On the right is a snapshot of peach tea: a mixture …

Continue reading Chick-fil-A hot wrap, anyone? »

First Look: Chick-fil-A Spicy Chicken Sandwich

photoYesterday I spent the afternoon inside the Chick-fil-A sanctum sanctorum — i.e., the company headquarters — with AJC business reporter Jeremiah McWilliams. A large group from the product development, marketing and public relations teams met us in the test kitchen, where one wall was covered with a red tarp to shield it from our view. I assume it was shelving filled with proprietary seasonings and spices, though I suppose it could have been a voodoo altar with pins sticking from a Double Down.

After a thorough presentation of the company’s research and development methodology, we learned how the Spicy Chicken Sandwich came to be. This new product — which officially hits Chick-fil-A’s 1400-plus stores on June 7 — has been on the boards since 2004, and in active development since 2008.

Chick-fil-A is milking the huge anticipation for this product — long requested by customers — for everything it can get. As you’ve probably heard, customers who signed up online were able to …

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Lunch at Paces 88 in the St. Regis Hotel

88roomAtlanta of late is awash in a whole lot of hotel restaurants that don’t want to be thought of as hotel restaurants. They want to be restaurant restaurants.

Brand name concepts (BLT Steak, Craft) and separate street entrances with distinctive architecture  (Pacci, Market) try to indicate that these restaurants exist for Atlantans as well as hotel guests.

The St. Regis in Buckhead draws a good happy hour crowd to its bar — particularly on warm days when the crowd can spill onto the patio. But its grand dining room, Paces 88, hasn’t struck too resonant a chord yet. Recently the restaurant unveiled a more casual menu, with more plates to share, sandwiches and other friendly, accessible items.

I stopped by for lunch with a couple of friends the other day to check it out. We were the only people in the restaurant. The service staff actually outnumbered us, but they didn’t hover at all. In fact, the service was really excellent.

Here’s what we got:

88musselsMy friend ordered these mussels in …

Continue reading Lunch at Paces 88 in the St. Regis Hotel »

Iberian Pig: the litmus test restaurant?

Pork Tenderloin with cherry-Rioja reduction, spiced walnuts, piquillo peppers and crispy shallots (AJC Staff)

Pork Tenderloin with cherry-Rioja reduction, spiced walnuts, piquillo peppers and crispy shallots (AJC Staff)

Have you been to the Iberian Pig in Decatur? Do you love it? Or is it not for you? I’m beginning to think the answer to this question says a lot about what you look for in a dining experience.

Three times this week people have told me how much they love this restaurant. When I ask them what they enjoy about it, they tend to respond globally. “The vibe is great,” or “It’s such a nice surprise.”

Do they love the food? Absolutely, even though one fan failed to recall a single dish from the place. Another loved the meatballs stuffed with dates and peppers. A third mentioned the pork tenderloin (above) in cherry sauce.

Then these people ask me if I’ve been to the Iberian Pig. Yes, I respond noncommittally. But only once, so I don’t know it well at all.

In fact, my wife and I live around the corner from the Iberian Pig. We walked over once for some wine and a few small …

Continue reading Iberian Pig: the litmus test restaurant? »

Lupe Taqueria closes; Beleza will not reopen

hotplate0611Riccardo Ullio (above) just called  to tell me that he closed Lupe Taqueria — his Midtown Mexican restaurant — over the weekend. Beleza, his snacky cocktail bar next door that has been closed for the past three months, will not reopen as previously announced.

“Even though we were breaking even at Lupe, we could not get the bank to work something out on the loan,” Ullio said. Both properties will go into foreclosure.

Ullio also owns Sotto Sotto and Fritti in Inman Park.

While I never made it to Lupe, I always enjoyed the tropical cocktails and the healthy snackums at Beleza.

Will you miss these restaurants?

Continue reading Lupe Taqueria closes; Beleza will not reopen »

Worst radio guest ever

IMG_1640Donna Rodriguez was kind enough to invite me to talk live on her weekly radio program, the Dishing with Donna Show, which airs every Saturday at 2 p.m., on WGKA 920 AM.

How did I repay this kindness? By showing up 20 minutes late, that’s how. Between closed highway lanes and a highly regrettable “if only I had first looked at a map moment,” I left this poor woman alone to stall until I burst into the studio. Me, I would have been reciting poems I had memorized in junior high school (”Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me…”), or just mumbling. Donna instead was coolly talking about the building blocks of effective food writing.

Anyhow, you can read about Rodriguez’s experience of keeping it together here, on her blog.

I also recommend the show that, as far as I know, is the only hour of broadcast in Atlanta devoted solely to food and restaurants. Rodriguez does a lot of prep before each show, so the conversation moves briskly and with purpose.

Do you …

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Frozen Yogurt Season

Mango, raspberry-lime and honey-goat's milk frozen yogurt (AJC Staff)

Mango, raspberry-lime and honey-goat's milk frozen yogurt (AJC Staff)

A few folks have been asking about the frozen yogurt I mentioned in a post the other day. As our friends all know, my family and I eat lots and lots of yogurt during the spring and summer months. Here’s a 2008 story I wrote for the newspaper, with recipes.

A CULTURED TREAT

My first batch of homemade frozen yogurt resulted, I recall, from a creative cleaning out of the fridge, which explains the unusual flavor combination: honey-lime-vanilla-goat.

It was also a bribe for my chore-averse children. If they would not only clear the dinner table but fill the dishwasher and put the leftovers away without bickering or stalling, then I would provide dessert. That seemed fair.

Working quickly, I flavored a half carton of goat’s-milk yogurt (bought on a whim, never finished) with the aforementioned ingredients and poured them into an ice cream maker. I had no idea what I was doing but figured something cold and sweet …

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A visit to E. 48th Street Market

Red sauce galore: Eggplant casserole

Red sauce galore: Eggplant casserole

Where is E. 48th Street in Dunwoody? You know — east side. Right above 47th Street.

I have to admit that I heard about the E. 48th Street Market from colleagues soon after moving to Atlanta, and for the first few years I lived here I, um, assumed the streets were numbered in Dunwoody. I may even have, um, once gone looking for it and stopped and asked in a gas station where 48th Street was.

It has only taken me 13 years to make it to this delightful, straight-from-the-Northeast Italian deli and market on Jett Ferry Road, and I’m so glad I did.

Named for the address of a New York store run by owner Charlie Augello’s uncle, E. 48th St. Market is the kind of cramped, friendly, mildly chaotic food emporium that will remind you of the way markets used to be. A huge assortment of fresh baked breads and pastries, deli meats, prepared foods, dry goods, frozen ingredients and wine manage to pack into a space where you will, happily, bump into other …

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Besha Rodell on anonymity and restaurant criticism

Creative Loafing’s food editor and restaurant critic Besha Rodell has a thoughtful story about the role of anonymity in restaurant criticism in this week’s issue. This has been an active topic in the food world since the New York Times appointed its former food editor, the easily recognizable Sam Sifton, as reviewer. Be sure to check it out. And if you’re a restaurateur eager to find out what Besha looks like, here’s your opportunity. She speaks with the vocal timbre of Lurch from the “Addams Family” and dresses like the Black Smoke from “Lost.” If you see this coming into restaurant, sear those scallops to perfection!

Continue reading Besha Rodell on anonymity and restaurant criticism »