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Archive for June, 2010

Atlantan Tracey Bloom off “Top Chef”

Tracy_FullTable 1280 chef Tracey Bloom has packed her knives — and presumably the remnants of her disappointing Italian sausage sliders — and left the cast of “Top Chef: D.C.” She was the only Atlantan on the current season of the popular reality cooking show on Bravo TV.

In an unusually non-teary exit interview, Bloom frankly admitted the judges had made the right call in giving her the boot. “They were pretty harsh, but it’s fair,” she said, adding, “If I had better prepared myself emotionally, I’d still be competing.”

Bloom performed poorly in both challenges presented on her last show — the third episode of the season. After two attempts at cooking a blueberry almond pie, she managed to serve the judges a goopy mess that was singled out for being simultaneously burned and undercooked. Then, at an outdoor picnic served to Capitol Hill interns at Mount Vernon, she prepared raw-in-the-center sausage sliders that were choked with far too much fennel seed.

Head judge Tom Colicchio had …

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Chef Jose Rego surfaces at Southside taqueria

Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros

Our Neighborhood Nosh restaurant reviewer, Bob Townsend, made a great discovery this week. Jose Rego, the fine chef who previously ran the kitchens at Sotto Sotto (under owner Riccardo Ullio) and Allegro, has surfaced at a fantastic sounding taqueria near the State Farmers Market.

Read Bob’s review of Taco Rancho and try not to rush off right away. The restaurant is open only for breakfast and lunch.

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Iced coffee time

Iced coffee topped with milk foam (Credit: Wikipedia)

Iced coffee topped with milk foam (Credit: Wikipedia)

Many years ago I used to go to a little lunch spot in Denver where I didn’t really like the food but loved the iced coffee. It had such a rich, roasted flavor but very little in the way of acidity or bitterness. The trick, they told me, was to cold brew the coffee.

It’s very easy. You mix freshly ground coffee with about four times as much water (by volume), stir well and stick it in the fridge overnight. The next day you strain the coffee and dilute it to taste. Chill this mixture very well before adding any ice.

That’s it. I like to use spring water, which gives it a clean flavor.

This iced coffee is really a treat if you mix it with some milk and top it with a cap of milk foam. (We’ve got a handy-dandy frother called the “Aeroccino,” which is made by Nespresso.)

Are there other iced coffee fans out there? Do you make it at home, or go out for it?

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Can you really cook an egg in it?

I’ve written many times about soon dubu — the Korean tofu soup that arrives at the table bubbling furiously in a superheated crock made of volcanic stone. You then crack an egg into the soup and let it cook.

People who have never tried the soup — or even visualized it — have asked me if it really cooks the egg. Well, take a look at this soon dubu, soon after it arrived at my table at So Kong Dong, my favorite soon dubu house on Buford Highway. This video should leave no doubts.

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Revisit: Floataway Cafe

Summer melon with country ham and sheep's milk feta (Credit: Leslie Kelly)

Summer melon with country ham and sheep's milk feta (Credit: Leslie Kelly)

Restaurants around town are preparing for the summer doldrums after a year in which it seemed the doldrums never stopped. But come July 4th, business is sure to slow even more, as it always does. Too hot to dine, the reasoning goes. If people venture outside for food, it’s only to the back deck, where they can wear shorts and clutch something very, very cold in a koozie.

It’s a pity because this is the season in which the top restaurants do their best work. The variety of early summer local produce give chefs inspiration, and their cooking becomes nuanced, colorful and surprising in ways it never can be during the height of the pre-holiday dining rush.

Consider Floataway Cafe — one of the first Atlanta restaurants to promote the credo of a cuisine based on local provender. With its soothing setting (it reminds me of a day spa) it feels welcoming any time of year. I’ve visited many times in fall and …

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Sunday Column: Beets. Again.



Hey, if you read the beet post from last week, then please don’t read this suspiciously similar one. But I did flesh it out into an essay for my Sunday Arts & Books column on why some people hate beets and some love them.


A couple of weeks ago I found some good-looking beets at a local farmers market. They weren’t bulbous like typical beets but rather elongated, like miniature sweet potatoes. I had a feeling that they’d roast nicely, and they did — each individually wrapped in foil and cooked on a sheet pan in a 400-degree oven for about an hour. The skins peeled right off, and the tender beets sliced into pretty, uniform rounds.

Now came the hard part: trying to get my family to eat this suspect vegetable.

I have learned and observed that no other vegetable so divides a group of people like beets.

“I love red beets,” my mother always said when we made our weekly family visit to the Hot Shoppes cafeteria near our house. She always …

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Muss & Turner crew to take over Joël Brasserie space


Todd Mussman, left, and Ryan Turner (Credit: Muss & Turner)

Well, that didn’t take long.

Word went out on Friday that Joël Brasserie had closed suddenly. On Saturday Ryan Turner — half of Smyrna’s Muss & Turner’s team — sent out an email announcing that he and partners Todd Mussman and chef Chris Hall would take over the space and open a restaurant called Local Three.

“After 2.5 years of trying to find a home, it is with great excitement to announce that the opening of our new restaurant with Chef Chris Hall is near. Local Three will be located in the in the Piazza at Paces development on Northside Parkway in the former space of Joel Brasserie. We are embracing a unique opportunity to utilize one of the best kitchens in the country to introduce a new neighborhood gathering spot rooted in the same DNA and philosophy of Muss & Turner’s . We look forward to engaging the community with a come-as-you-are atmosphere and “foie gras in your flip flops” ambiance with the …

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2nd update: Buckhead’s Joël Brasserie closes

Joël Brasserie — an elegant restaurant that for nearly a decade has helped define the upper echelon of Atlanta dining — shut its doors abruptly on Friday.

In the morning, the restaurant contacted guests with reservations and told them the news. Later in the afternoon, manager Jennifer Groese sent out a brief note to past customers that read, in part: “As of June 25, 2010, upper management has made the necessary decision to unfortunately close Joël Brasserie. We apologize for the inconvenience that this may cause.”

“It had a great heritage and really led the charge for fine dining in the city,” said veteran restaurateur Bob Amick of Concentrics Hospitality.

“The first thing I thought was we should’ve eaten there more often,” said Anne Quatrano, owner of Bacchanalia.

Joël Brasserie opened with much excitement in 2001 as the showcase retail property at the Piazza at Paces development in Buckhead. Chef Joël Antunes was an internationally recognized chef coming off a stint at …

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Korean Adventures in Duluth and Suwanee


Dolls on display at Myung Ga Won (Great pictures, like this one, are by Becky Stein; lousy ones by me)

Check out our photo gallery of Korean restaurants in Duluth and Suwanee

Enter Dan Moo Ji, and you will feel like you’ve jumped into the pages of an Asian comic book. Bam! Pow! Cute! Happy, bug-eyed chalk-drawn baby dolls on the blackboard compel you to order the “girl’s set menu.” The walls are tiled with multicolored Post-it messages in Korean. A Black Eyed Peas video bounces along on a flat screen, and there are hearts, flowers and cute little things everywhere.

photo 2

Menu board, Dan Moo Ji

Your adorable waitress, dressed in a frilled blouse and bubble skirt, brings you modern-style kim bap — Korean sushi rolls — filled with tuna salad and spicy fried chicken. The teenagers here love it.

Their parents? They are likely next door at Harm Heung Cold Noodle — a restaurant evocatively decorated with Korean War memorabilia that looks like the setting for “M*A*S*H: The Musical.” Tables …

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“Top Chef” Recap, Episode 2: The Lunch Lady’s Revenge

topchefQuestion: Whatever happened to Glad? Where are you, freezer storage bags and snap-and-seal containers? This fine, fine family of food storage products appears to have migrated away from the culinary dust bowl, like the Joads.

Other than that, things are as they ever were in “Top Chef” world. Our latest installment begins with….

…I don’t know.

I’m sorry to admit this, but I missed the beginning. Yet I’ve watched enough “Top Chef” to be able to imagine the first few minutes.

A hazy orange sun rises behind the Capitol. Traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue goes zoom zoom. Cut to the Top Chef town home. We’re still early in the not-enough-beds part of the season, so we see our sleeping cheftestants spooning. Groggily they wake up and head to the kitchen. A caravan of black limousines pulls up to take them to the Hilton hotel.

“You know, this is where Reagan was shot,” one chef comments. An ominous chord of music swells. At that moment, Padma bursts through the door to “Top Chef” …

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