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Archive for December, 2010

Atlanta scores three spots in Southern Living’s ‘Best’ list

Credit: Chris M. Rogers, courtesy of Southern Living Magazine

Miller Union, Credit: Chris M. Rogers, courtesy of Southern Living Magazine

Three cheers for Atlanta, who claimed three honors on Southern Living Magazine’s ‘Best of the South Travel Awards.’ The award list, compiled by 15 editors visiting 18 states, examines a range of categories from boutique hotels and book shops to food trucks and late-night burgers.

Atlanta scored spots in the best new restaurant, late-night burger, and food truck categories. We offer our congratulations to these three honorees:

Best New Restaurant: Miller Union

Miller Union is one of 5 best new Southern restaurants named. Southern Living describes Miller Union as having “modern Southern cooking, stripped of pretension. Here, the luscious regional bounty simply shines.” They recommend that you not miss the farm egg baked in celery cream (I agree) and the seasonal vegetable plate.

11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 5-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 999 Brady Avenue, Atlanta. …

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Alpine Bakery dining review, Alpharetta



For the first time in my life, a 20-minute wait to be seated for dinner is entirely too short.

As the hostess calls my name, I sadly peel my face from the glass case holding Alpine Bakery’s mesmerizing selection of cakes, pies, and pastries and sulk to my table. I feel like a child being called in to supper from the playing in the yard. I’m hungry, I know that I need to eat, but I’m not done having fun yet.

Partners Bill Clementi and Steve Bishop started Alpine as a wholesale bakery over 15 years ago, eventually opening their first retail shop in 2004. With their recent move to a much larger location in Alpharetta, they have grown the once quaint bakery and take-out pizza joint into a full-service Italian restaurant.

Review by Jon Watson

Review by Jon Watson

Though most long-time fans of Alpine will hardly recognize the place, the pizza and stromboli have not changed a bit. The traditional stromboli ($10), a 2-pound torpedo of cheese, pepperoni and Italian sausage, served with house-made …

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Three dining options near the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

(All photos by Becky Stein unless otherwise noted)

Cinco Mexican Cantina (All photos by Becky Stein unless otherwise noted)

It all started with a letter from an Emory University music professor, who asked where — if anywhere — she could eat out before attending an arts event at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

Review by John Kessler

Review by John Kessler

Pshaw, I thought. You couldn’t throw a pair of opera glasses five feet in any direction without it landing in a bowl of hot cheese dip. The area is crawling with restaurants. There’s every chain restaurant known to man and a few known only to denizens of the Alpha Centauri system. The village of downtown Vinings with all its cute bistros can’t be too far away. Plus, there are some bang-up ethnic joints and barbecue places within a mile or two or, well, three. But close enough if you can figure out the convoluted system of surface streets by this massive highway interchange.

OK, well, this does get a little complicated. I’d feel strange recommending a big, obvious chain. Besides, nobody …

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Six homeless women taught to bake

Photo courtesy of PattyCakes

Bessie English, Lois Blackshear, Jeannette Gaskins, Ashley Neville, Debra McKenzie, and Serena Randall (Photo courtesy of PattyCakes)

“Cooking takes me to a happier time. It’s a point of safety.”

Debra McKenzie, age 53, fondly recalls time spent in the kitchen as a child. She is one of six homeless women in a shelter and transition program at Atlanta Mission who participated in cake classes at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. The series of classes, led by Chef Instructor, Gretchen George, taught the women to bake and decorate cakes. The culmination of the series was entry in the “down-home” category of the PattyCakes “Holiday Cake Affair” cake competition.

On the day before the competition, the women headed back to Le Cordon Bleu’s kitchens

Lois Blackshear

Lois Blackshear, credit: Jenny Turknett

to bake and decorate their final cakes before the competition. Working late into the evening, the ladies perfected their entries. Some came prepared with family recipes. Bessie English

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Jon Watson: Last minute New Year’s Eve ideas

Maybe it is just because I’ll pounce on any excuse to have a good time, but I always look forward to New Year’s Eve every year. Like a handful of other holidays, New Year’s is dedicated entirely to getting together with a large raucous group of your friends and getting your proverbial party on. I’m usually the guy leading the charge, renting out the bar, planning the house party, or buying the concert tickets.

That is, except for this year. I guess we are finally getting old, and that kind of sucks.

Though by most generation’s standards we are late to the game, my social circle has finally reached the point where more of us are married than single, and – lord forbid – some of my friends have even started reproducing. One of the many disappointing byproducts of this jump into actual adulthood, as opposed to “young adulthood”, is that forking over $150 to join 5,000 other people at a hotel party or throwing some Animal House style rager at a friend’s house loses a lot of its …

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Dominican Passion Fruit: Hola, Chinola

photo-65I’ve just returned from a family vacation in the Dominican Republic, and I have only one word of advice. If you return to Hartsfield-Jackson happy and sunburned and wearing light beach clothes in winter, there is a small chance it will be 22 degrees outside, and your car parked in the far reaches of the economy lot will have a dead battery, and your wife will suspect you left the lights on, and you will have to call for a jump, and you will see the truck circling halfway across the parking lot (because the driver was given the wrong coordinates), and you will have to run like a maniac waving your arms and looking like Zach Galifianakis screaming, “Over here!”

Just saying…

Anyhow, if this happens to you, do what I did and think back to all the amazing passion fruit you ate over your vacation.

We got our first taste of passion fruit at the resort where we were staying in the form of  juice served with breakfast. They prepared it by blending the orange pulp, passing it through a …

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Jon Watson: My Christmas dinner (almost) disaster

Credit: CNet

Credit: CNet

I’m hesitant to hit you guys with another “this is what I ate for Christmas dinner” recap, ESPECIALLY after Jenny’s impressive post about the ridiculous spread that she broke out for her family this year. In terms of diversity of cuisine and sheer volume, I don’t think that my meal will stack up to hers. But this story isn’t really about the food.

This is about adversity. This is about perseverance. And this is about good old-fashioned American boot-strap-pullin’-get-‘er-doneness.

During the holidays, my mom usually slaves in the kitchen, often prepping for a day or two in advance in order to get everything ready for us in time. As my family discovered my interest in food, my mother slowly handed off some of the responsibilities of cooking holiday dinners to me. This includes some of the more sacred dishes, such as the gravy, dressing, and the turkey itself. At Thanksgiving or Christmas, there are few dishes that you simply CAN’T screw up more than those. So, I’m …

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Gene Lee: My top ten dishes of 2010

Another year gone already?

Since it is the end of the year I thought I would share my top ten eats of 2010 in metro Atlanta. Keep this in mind, not all of these are related to my international dining beat. Some things were just too memorable to exclude.

Bandeja Paisa - Arepas de Julia, Lilburn

Bandeja Paisa – Las Arepas de Julia, Lilburn

10. Bandeja Paisa from Las Arepas de Julia – Lilburn
I randomly chose to dine here a while ago and had no idea what I was getting into nor what to expect. I decided to go with the restaurant’s all-encompassing dish fit for a 6’8” cowboy called the bandeja paisa – a big platter of steak, eggs, rice, chorizo, plantains, beans, avocado, a white corn arepa, and a generous band of crackling chicharrón (fried skin-on pork). It is gluttony on a platter and I loved every bit of it. And no, I did not finish it in case you are wondering.

9. Soy sauce chicken from Hong Kong BBQ – Chamblee Chinatown
At number nine is a dish I ate fairly often in a former life as a yankee. (And I mean as a …

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Christmas cooking: new favorites

Christmas Eve

credit: Jenny Turknett

Our Christmas Eve meal is eclectic.

You may have read my blog post last week about preparing my Christmas Eve meal, which we refer to as our “brunch.” We call it a brunch because it started out as a mid-morning meal when we first began hosting in 1998.

Since then, we have played around with both the time of the meal and the menu. Some favorites are kept on the menu no matter the time of day the meal is served. But each year is also an opportunity to audition new items. Last year, we even held a “mostly dessert party” on Christmas Eve where we identified our favorite desserts.

This year, we served our “brunch” at 2:30 and had a scattering of favorites. Our more traditional holiday meal is served on Christmas Day at my Mom’s house.

Here’s what we had at my “brunch” this year:

Returning menu items:

  • Sausage balls – my parents have made these every year since I can remember
  • Ambrosia – from my grandmother’s recipe – mostly fruit, no sour cream or …

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Sushi for Christmas

I’ve already highlighted that my family and I tend to celebrate the holiday meals a little differently. This past Christmas Eve, my wife and I were in Tennessee where we gorged on a huge Korean feast full of steamed rice, bossam (seasoned steamed pork trotter), dwaeji gogi (spicy pork stir fry) and oyster-flavored kimchi.

The next night we were back in Atlanta and were on our own so we treated ourselves to a last minute outing to Nakato. The dining room was impressively filled, mostly of the Japanese variety such as Hashiguchi-san of the Hashiguchi restaurants in Marietta and Buckhead.

You can take a look at what we ate from our slideshow above. I would say the highlights were the shirako tempura (cod milt – google it, I’m not going there), a wonderful medley of nigiri sushi and sashimi including sayori (halfbeak), abalone, and nasu dengaku (grilled eggplant with miso).


Nakato, 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 5 p.m.-10 p.m. …

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