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Archive for August, 2010

Revisit: Salt Factory

photo 5Roswell’s Salt Factory is what people call a “gastropub” — an annoying bit of foodie jargon that gets to the heart of something important in today’s dining culture. More and more people want to go out to a place that feels as worn in and easygoing as a corner tavern, drink a nice pint of beer and eat something — anything — that goes beyond typical pub fare.

We recently cut a broad swath through the menu at Salt Factory, and here’s our verdict: great hamburger. Seriously: this “Roswell burger” was a big, juicy bacon cheeseburger in a soft, enveloping bun — perfectly straightforward with a little cup of sweet-tangy chow chow for pizzazz. Even the slice of tomato rocked. For a pub, there was a pretty slim selection of brews on draft (no more than a half dozen), I would never mind having a foamy Stella Artois and this burger for my dinner.

I also have nothing but good things to say about the vibe at Salt Factory — warm, spirited, fun. Just the kind of solid-looking spot you want …

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Riddle me this: What restaurant am I at?

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This is a fruit-bearing pomegranate tree growing next to the patio. What a delight! Does anyone know the story behind this tree?

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More on Alinea

alineajpegAbove is the current menu at Alinea, which my wife and I sampled last week in Chicago. While the restaurant has offered a choice of two menus in the past, now there’s just the one and, as I wrote in the previous post, it’s 185 smackeroos.

The menu actually holds more information than the terse descriptions would suggest. Those circles are coded. The darker they are, the more intense the flavors of that course. The bigger they are, the more substantial the portion. The further to the right on the page, the sweeter the food will be.

We decided not to go with the full roster of wine pairings on the advice of others who’ve eaten here. (Not only is it expensive, but we thought too much alcohol would get in the way.) Instead, the sommelier proposed a limited pairing — glasses and half glasses of wine as needed to carry us through. The wines were all Old World and esoteric varietals. They were also fairly priced. Our total bill with two $185 menus, wine, endless refills of Badoit …

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Miller Union earns accolades

mu_atlmagcoverMiller Union restaurant on the Westside has just earned two major plaudits:

  • Bon Appétit magazine calls it one of the 10 best new restaurants in the country.
  • Atlanta magazine has named it “Restaurant of the Year” in its “Best New Restaurants” issue. The magazine is currently on newsstands, but the feature is not yet up on its website.

Both magazines praise the uncomplicated, straightforward Southern cooking and the canny design sense of the space, which combines country cool with warehouse chic. The restaurant is owned in part by manager Neal McCarthy and chef Steven Satterfield. Congrats to both!

Have you been? Do you think it’s the best new restaurant in the city?

I’ve been three times and really enjoyed each of my solidly prepared meals, though I can’t say I’ve yet had a “wow” dining moment there. But I’ve loved the kitchen’s mission statement, the tenor of service, the wine list and the special warmth of the restaurant’s warren of dining …

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Profile: Kevin Ouzts of The Spotted Trotter

ouztsA few bricks. A little mortar. That should never stand between a chef and his audience.

Kevin Ouzts (”Oots”) finds himself at just that point in life when a chef starts thinking about having his own place. The 35-year-old Atlanta native has a flawless local resume. For starters, he grew up in a food-obsessed family. His mother staged elaborate dinner parties where she served French food from the canon of Julia Child. His father presided over a huge pit smoker in the back yard and taught young Kevin his first recipe: barbecue sauce.

Ouzts graduated from the University of Georgia, tried his hand at an advertising career and decided it wasn’t for him. He needed to cook. So, staying local, he attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Tucker. He got a job at Restaurant Eugene, rose to the level of sous chef and helped opened that restaurant’s wildly successful little brother, Holeman & Finch Public House.

He got to that point every chef gets to when he had to leave home …

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Dinner at Alinea: The vanilla bean quandary

photo-38Last week I was back in Chicago and finally got to try a restaurant that has long fascinated me –  Alinea, chef Grant Achatz’s world-famous venue for highly experimental cuisine.

We got in off a waiting list for a Wednesday 9 p.m. reservation for a meal that would last three hours. The restaurant serves one prix fixe menu of about 20 courses (some as small as one bite) for $185.

It was a huge splurge but also such a thrill that I put it in the mental accounting category of Springsteen tickets rather than restaurant dinners. Plus, the meal was so intriguing, joyful and soulful, and the staff worked so hard to surprise and delight its guests with a bravura performance that the price seemed justified. (That said, I haven’t dared open the Amex bill…)

Yet there was one detail that may have been a little excessive. I’m still thinking about it.

This spaceship landing pad thingy holds a fritter made from lobster, gruyère cheese and lychee that is impaled on an entire Madagascar …

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Who wants to be a restaurant critic?

critic

Courtesy squaremeal.co.uk

Hey, y’all — Looking for a little help…

The AJC is seeking a freelance food writer/photographer to contribute weekly posts to our Food & More blog and write occasional restaurant reviews for print. We’re looking for someone familiar with the restaurant scene in metro Atlanta who has discernible taste in food and a lively, original writing style. Home cooking skills, familiarity with restaurants outside the Perimeter and knowledge of AP style and blogging software recommended. Please send a resume and three writing samples by August 30 to Suzanne Van Atten at svanatten@ajc.com.

NOTE:  No phone calls, please, and no follow-up emails. We will contact qualified candidates directly.

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On the trail of Peter Chang

Peter Chang in the Tasty China kitchen in 2006

Peter Chang in the Tasty China kitchen in 2006

In yesterday’s print column I revisited the legend of Peter Chang — the Sichuan chef who moves from restaurant to restaurant throughout the Southeast, including Marietta’s Tasty China. According to Tasty China owner Dahe Yang, he is  planning to open a spot in Marietta.

On the trail of Peter Chang

The food at Tasty China was perhaps not as spectacular as spectacular can be, but was more on the level of supremely awesome. As each dish arrived at the table, we eagerly passed it around the table: tender wedges of potato and eggplant; a mound of crispy dry-fried black mushrooms; a bowl of slithery, vinegary tree ear mushrooms.

Then came a quintessential Tasty China dish — slips of tender beef coated with so many flecks of red chile and Sichuan peppercorn that it hits the palate with a shock. I knew it would wreak havoc on my gut, but it was so delicious I couldn’t stop eating. Another bite of beef, and another. I might be paying for …

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See you in a week

I’m on vacation this week, eating nothing but protein shakes and raw celery. Maybe a little bourbon. See you next Monday.

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Beat the heat with these cool treats

SunO Dessert shaved ice treats

SunO Dessert shaved ice treats

The other day when the air conditioning in my car went all wonky, I pulled off the road, peeled my shirt away from the car seat and, dripping sweat, walked into Whole Foods Market in search of something that would de-summer my soul. I ended up with a cranberry/pomegranate granita — in essence, a 7-Eleven Slurpee for the antioxidant set.

I remember from my days of hanging around the neighborhood 7-Eleven that you attack a Slurpee with a “spoon straw” or, lacking that fancy utensil, a spoon and a straw.

Aaaahh!! With the straw you get the sweeter, more syrupy amalgam from the bottom of the cup, while with the spoon you scoop up the crunchy, icy, brain-freezing refreshment from the pale top. Did I say “Aaaahh!!”?

Slushie. Slurpee. Icee. Granita. Snow cone. Sno-ball. This is what you want to slake your essence with on one of these asphalt-melting summer days. A fractious alliance of syrup and ice, of sweet and flavorless, of sticky and cleansing that …

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