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Archive for September, 2010

Eataly Italian food emporium opens in New York

photo 2When I was in New York earlier this week I stopped in to have a gander at Eataly. This 50,000-square-foot Italian gourmet center opened at 200 Fifth Ave. in the Flatiron District a few weeks ago. It’s a market filled with stalls offering everything from fresh pastas and mozzarella made before your eyes to pedigreed Italian beef and gelato. But it also contains three distinct restaurants (one specializing in pizza and pasta, another in fish and vegetables, and a third in beef and other meats. If you want to grab a panini or a coffee, you can find free seating, as well. All throughout are placards with foodie aphorisms — “don’t overdress raw vegetables” — and places to stop and learn about Italian artisanal food products.

Eataly has been getting gobs of press — surely on account of the lavish press party that was thrown by its American partners, restaurateurs Mario Batali and Joe and Lidia Bastianich.

Some of the early reports made it sound like Eataly was Batali’s baby, which …

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Honeycrisp apples have arrived

photo-48Though it’s hard to say goodbye to local peaches and muscadines at the end of summer, the arrival of good apples is a happy time.

The other day at Whole Foods Market I espied a huge display of Honeycrisp apples, and even though I was about to meet a friend for dinner, I had to have one right then and there.

I love these apples, which have a such an easygoing crunch. This is not one of those apples that threatens to lock your teeth in its flesh mid-bite, but one that yields with a satisfying snap. It’s also sweet and tart enough to keep the flavor interesting straight to the core.

Over the past few years, as this hybrid cultivar has become more available, it’s become the apple I always look for in the market. I think that  Stayman and Winesap apples eaten close to the source have better flavor, but Honeycrisp is my new go to.

Any other varieties worth looking for?

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Column: One night in Houston

Credit: Wikimedia

Credit: Wikimedia

A very quick trip to Houston gets me looking for one meal with a sense of place.

My daughter and I planned to spend less than 15 hours in Houston. She would be focused on competing in a fencing tournament, and I would be cheering her on from the parents’ pit on the sidelines. Yet, somehow I felt this weird compunction to mark the visit with a Houston-appropriate meal.

I always need to immortalize any trip, no matter how insignificant, with some bite of food that tells me I am in a particular place at a particular moment. Once I had to make a connection at the Copenhagen airport on a flight home from Italy. The timing was so bad, the terminals so far apart, and the passport control so confusing that the flight attendant basically told us to run. It was a mad dash, and yet by the time we arrived at the gate and were swept onto the plane I was clutching an open-face sandwich.

Houston would be no easier. Though I had done a little research on the Galleria …

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Taking a day off

Hey, folks, I’m not posting today and won’t have access to this blog. See you tomorrow!

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Nick Melvin leaving Empire State South

chef_nick_melvin-231x300By John Kessler and Pete Corson

Nick Melvin (left), the chef who departed Parish Foods & Goods in May to join Hugh Acheson in his first Atlanta venture, Empire State South, will be leaving his post as chef de cuisine, according to Acheson.

Empire State South, which opened Aug. 30 at 999 Peachtree St., is one of the year’s most highly anticipated restaurants. The Midtown restaurant has been billed as an upscale Southern meat-and-three that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Acheson said his split with Melvin is amicable. He added that a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner is comparably more difficult to run.

Melvin’s replacement will be Ryan Smith, who has previously worked with chef Linton Hopkins at Buckhead’s Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch Public House.

Acheson’s announcement to open a restaurant in Atlanta was greeted with fanfare by those familiar with his earlier ventures in Athens, including Five and Ten and The National. Acheson has been a James Beard …

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Behind the Review: Goin’ Coastal

Credit: Becky Stein
Credit: Becky Stein

In this week’s review of Goin’ Coastal — the new Virginia-Highland satellite of a popular Canton seafood restaurant — I’ll tell you about my efforts at tracking down a recipe.

One of the items on Goin’ Coastal’s menu called Sullivan’s Island Shrimp purports to be a “Low Country favorite.” I didn’t particularly like or hate this thick, tomatoey saute seasoned with curry powder. It might have been better had the seasoning been more layered or if the shrimp were a little less springy in texture, but it was easy enough to eat.

Yet I was unaware of any curried seafood dishes in the Lowcountry repertoire, so I asked chef Zach Kell about it through his publicist, and he responded in an email that it was an “adaptation of a recipe that I came across in a 19th century Charleston League cookbook.”

I called or wrote to several cookbook authors and food writers to get to the bottom of this recipe. Many turned up a dish called “Sullivan’s Island Shrimp Bog” — so …

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Goin’ Coastal dining review, Atlanta

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Good seafood restaurants recount the story of a coastline, of the fish that live on one side of it and the people on the other. It is usually a simple story of food and culture told though an iconic dish: An oyster po’ boy, a grilled whole sea bream with lemon and olive oil, bouillabaisse, Lowcountry boil, sliced raw tuna, a bright red lobster served with a claw cracker and a silly plastic bib.

All photos by Becky Stein

All photos by Becky Stein

But the times are too complicated for simple stories. Fresh seafood is available in any town with an airport, tastes are as fluid as the seven seas, and the global seafood industry is working overtime to put a fish in every pot. The world has become a mess of crashing fish populations, of polluting aquafarms and of the very real specter of extinction of particularly delicious species.

We can thank Zach Kell and Seth Hendricks for opening their Virginia-Highland restaurant Goin’ Coastal with the right story for today.

The restaurant, which is a satellite …

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Pasta feast at Sotto Sotto

Pappardelle al Sugo d’ Anatra

Pappardelle al Sugo d’ Anatra

They say the proper way to eat pasta in an Italian restaurant is to order a small portion as a first course and then move on to an entree.

We did not do it the proper way. Not at all. When I had dinner with my daughter recently at Inman Park’s Sotto Sotto, we ordered pasta, pasta and more pasta.

It was carb-fest supreme, and I don’t regret it for an instant.

Sotto Sotto is, to my way of thinking, one of a handful of restaurants that delivers a consistently excellent product for a reasonable price.

We feasted on this wonderful tangle of sleek, slippery papperdelle noodles with duck ragu ($16 for a full order, this is a half). Then we moved on to another half order of ravioli nudi ($16 for a full plate) — round marbles of spinach and ricotta in a sheer skin of flour.

photo 5

Ravioli nudi

The name means “naked ravioli,” and there could be nothing more naked that this pure marriage of spinach and dairy. Add butter and parmesan cheese to the picture, and …

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Front Burner: Halal burgers in Norcross, Sprig Restaurant & Bar to open in Oak Grove, chef leaves Farmhouse 303

photo-47While driving around Norcross the other day, I noticed Gully’s Burger Delite under construction at 5265 Jimmy Carter Boulevard. Halal burgers, yo. It’s in the mall at the corner of Singleton Road. Let me know if you go.

In other news:

  • Sprig Restaurant & Bar is scheduled to open in October. Owner Daniel Morrison ran the bar at Watershed for 12 years, and chef Robert Elliott promises to cook simple, neighborhoody, well sourced regional food.
  • Also in October, look for H. Harper Station in the former Depot space on Memorial Drive. Owner Jerry Slater was the mixologist at One Flew South in Hartsfield-Jackson airport. Look for small plates, a “Soul Supper” on Sundays and over 40 signature cocktails. Factor in Home Grown GA, and we’re seeing a bit of a Renaissance in the neighborhood.
  • The Family Dog will open at 1402 N. Highland Ave. in Morningside sometime in January. It will be a “simple bar” from Ron Eyester and the crew at Rosebud. (By the way, if you don’t follow Eyester’s …

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Nighttime noshing

Nótt riding Hrímfaxi by Peter Nicolai Arbo (night personified in Norse mythology)

Nótt riding Hrímfaxi by Peter Nicolai Arbo (night personified in Norse mythology)

Ever since I’ve resumed my job as dining critic at the AJC, I’ve become careful about watching my diet during those times I’m not in restaurants.

I keep a loose mental accounting of calorie intake and avoid foods with excessive fat and sodium, stay away from office sweets (even my own birthday cake) and avoid alcohol on school nights. I am disciplined for most of the day.

But the witching hour gets me — usually around 9 or 10 p.m. after I’ve helped the kids with their homework and slowed down enough to finally feel relaxed. Suddenly I’m hungry and I’ll find myself slurping up some dinner leftovers above and beyond my measured portion. Worse, I’ll find my left mitt clutching a handful of cocoa puffs or a wee dram of Scotch.

Sometimes I can head diet disaster off at the pass with a tall soda water with lime or a fresh plum. A Popsicle isn’t ideal, but it’s usually no more than 90 calories.

Does …

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