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Archive for February, 2011

Spaghetti Squash

photo 1Many years ago one of my sisters and I were joking around, got giggly and started pretending we were little kids having temper tantrums and demanding spaghetti squash. We flailed about on the floor, pummeled the carpet with our fists and, through racking sobs, demanded “Pisgetti squash.” Then we’d collapse in peals of laughter.

It probably wasn’t that funny when we were kids, and it certainly isn’t funny now that we’re middle-aged adults. Alas, that doesn’t stop us from occasionally reprising the spaghetti squash schtick whenever we get together, much to the dismay of our spouses and children.

The fact is, I’ve never met anyone who likes spaghetti squash as well as my sister. As a starving medical student, she ate it with green-canister Parmesan cheese and ketchup. But her cooking became more sophisticated with time, while her love of spaghetti squash never abated.

She has since stirred tomato sauce into it and melted cheese over the top (Spaghetti Squash Italiano!), added …

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Pacci Ristorante to close

Chef Keira Moritz with a friend in front of Pacci (credit: Frank Lazaro)

Chef Keira Moritz with a friend in front of Pacci (credit: Frank Lazaro)

A change in ownership for the Hotel Palomar Atlanta has signaled the end for its prominent street-level restaurant.

Pacci Ristorante will close sometime next month.  All staffers were called into a meeting on Thursday and informed that they would need to look for new jobs. The Thayer Lodging Group, which recently acquired the luxury Midtown property, has ousted the hotel’s management firm, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. Kimpton not only owns the Palomar brand, it also staffs and runs the restaurant.

Word spread quickly through the restaurant community after chef Keira Moritz sent a note out to a few high-profile local chefs, looking for job placement for her staff. Pacci publicist Melissa Libby confirmed that the restaurant will remain open until “late March.” There is no word yet on what — if any — dining concept will replace Pacci.

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Enter a cooking contest

file photo

file photo

Ever entered a cooking contest? Ready to try one?

Back in November, I spoke with Lisa Hanson, Atlanta resident and owner of the former Cabbagetown Market. She had just competed in the Aetna Healthy Food Fight, making it all the way to the finals. Lisa encourages others to participate in these contests and suggested that we publish a list of upcoming contests.

Here are a few contests and casting calls for competitive cooking shows to get you started. Be sure to check contest websites for additional details, regulations and entry forms. Let us know if you enter one and how you do! And if you know of other contests, let us know about those, too.

RITZ Recipe Challenge

  • Details: Develop an original game-day recipe using RITZ crackers.
  • Grand Prize: $20,000 and Guy Fieri autographed jacket
  • Entry Deadline: Feb. 2013

National Cornbread Cook-off

  • Details: Submit your own main-dish cornbread recipe (using Martha White mix) for a chance to compete as one of ten …

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Behind the Review: Sinbad’s Feast

sinbad3Sometimes it can be difficult to find a restaurant for a lead review. I actually considered four different restaurants for this week’s review based on recommendation from friends, readers and other media. I didn’t really fall hard for any of them, but the deadline was looming, and I had to make a choice.

I eventually decided to go with Sinbad’s Feast when I realized what a godsend it was to people who observe Muslim dietary laws. The food is fine, if not on par with my favorite Persian restaurants around town. But all of the meats (pictured above) are halal. When I returned for a second visit, I saw a huge party of (I think) Somalis, dressed to the nines and having a great time.

I really try to think about where readers live, what they’re interested in, and what matters most to them. Sometimes those considerations go beyond simple criteria.

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Lucky’s Burger and Brew



Nothing against the cat lovers out there, but I’m a dog guy. And I’m especially a sucker for golden retrievers. They’re friendly, laid-back and fun-loving, and we humans could learn a thing or two from them.

So it’s no surprise that I love the fact that Roswell’s newest tavern takes its name from a member of my favorite breed, after owner Ernie Geyer’s golden, Lucky.

Review by Jon Watson

Review by Jon Watson

Though many groan at the mention of another burger place in Atlanta, Lucky’s Burger and Brew doesn’t feel like an attempt to get in on a fad. Instead, we find a welcoming local watering hole serving quality burgers, sandwiches and cheap beer.

It seems that Geyer’s canine also inspired the atmosphere at Lucky’s. The modern diner setting, with a retro maroon and yellow color scheme, sports multiple portraits of his friendly pup. The patio is also dog friendly, and diners are encouraged to bring them along.

Burgers reign supreme on Lucky’s menu. You can build your own …

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Sinbad’s Feast dining review, Johns Creek



Read most any review of an Indian, Middle Eastern or Persian restaurant, and you will surely find a passage where the reviewer heaves up from his seat to consider the buffet. Nose in the air and plate in hand, he’ll walk past the chafing dishes, calling this “tired” and that “sad.” “Bedraggled” if he’s nasty.

Review by John Kessler

Review by John Kessler

“Take my advice,” this critic will write. “Skip the buffet and order off the menu.”

Let me break with tradition. If you go to Sinbad’s Feast, enjoy the buffet and skip the menu. The “feast” you should be most interested in at this new Johns Creek Persian restaurant is the one that stretches across the back of the room. The food is fresh, oft replenished and feeds you well for a modest price.

Owner P.J. Vafadari opened Sinbad’s Feast four months ago in the space that was once Sia’s, a swank fine-dining destination. Vafadari stripped down the dining room, replacing the twinkly trappings of yore with loud tile, …

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Top Chef All-Stars recap, Episode 11: Betrayal, a dish best served deep-fried

Credit: Bravo TV

Credit: Bravo TV

Spoiler al….ah, screw it. You know the drill.

In what has become typical fashion for this season, we open with the chefs in the stew room going through their normal “oh my gosh, I can’t believe that so and so went home. He/She was such a great chef. Man, none of us are safe” routine. In this case, that he/she was Angelo.

Because the sun is coming up, the chefs miss their regular decompression at the bar, and hit the hay. The next day, Mike and Richard are pouring over Blais’ notebooks. “Preparation is everything. I’ve filled up two notebooks already this season with plans, and they are detailed, with pictures.” Pictures of liquid nitrogen.


The chefs enter the Top Chef kitchen and IT’S PAULA YAAALLLL!!! HEEEEYYYYYY!!!

Carla and Tiffany, being from the south, are both uber-pumped, while Antonia knows that she is probably in for a “fry me something, roll it in butter, and dip it in some mayonnaise kind of a challenge.” For those …

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In the news: Eugene, Quinones rank as top 101 restaurants in America. Raku ramen opens.


Website The Daily Meal has produced a list of the 101 top restaurants in America. Coming in at #66 is Restaurant Eugene. The post states:

“Eugene pays homage to those who grow the local produce they use right on the menu. The list typically includes around two dozen farms, dairies, and even elementary school gardens, and pays tribute to the ingredients by altering them as little as possible while making everything in the kitchen from scratch.”

But that’s not all. Quinones at Bacchanalia also made the list at #87. The restaurant was named after the manager James Quinones who was tragically killed in a road accident in 2004.  The Daily Meal distinction states:

“..The menu, which changes daily, boasts a collection of dishes that mixes modern and classic Southern cuisine, with the results skillfully prepared.”

Congratulations to both restaurants!

In other news:

Tonkotsu ramen - Raku

Tonkotsu ramen – Raku (credit: Chloe Morris,

New ramen restaurant comes to Duluth

Chloe Morris of

Continue reading In the news: Eugene, Quinones rank as top 101 restaurants in America. Raku ramen opens. »

Mardi Gras events around Atlanta

Credit: AP Photo/Judi Bottoni

Credit: AP Photo/Judi Bottoni

I’ve got Mardi Gras on the brain.

Maybe it is because I’m heading to New Orleans this weekend, or maybe it is because dressing up like a moron, eating delicious Cajun food, and day-drinking are a few of my favorite things. Whatever the reason, Mardi Gras is nearly upon us, and I thought I would share some of the Fat Tuesday inspired events happening around Atlanta, for those of you who won’t be able to head to Louisiana for the real thing.

These are just a few of the Mardi Gras parties coming up, so if you know of any other good ones, let me know!

I’m attending at least one of these events, though I can’t show favoritism and say which one. Just look for the guy dressed like an idiot with a hurricane stain on his shirt.

Parish Food and Goods – Inman Park

3rd Annual Mardi Gras Celebration

Enjoy live music by Charlie Wooten and Zydefunk as well as authentic New Orleans staples from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ticket cost is $40 and includes all …

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Bo Bo China – First impressions

Bo Bo China dining room

Bo Bo China dining room

If you’re like me you’re probably a little weary of hearing or reading about Sichuanese cuisine here in Atlanta – so here’s another one!

My friend Cathy Ding of the semi-retired Live to Nibble blog recently reached out to tell me to go check out Bo Bo China – a Chinese restaurant located in Lawrenceville. Along with American-Chinese food, the restaurant also has an alternative menu offering an extensive selection of Sichuanese dishes.

Cathy who is Sichuanese, stated that this is the first metro Atlanta Chinese restaurant that she has been to that is ran by actual Sichuanese. Incidentally, Bo Bo China is not related to Bo Bo Garden – the popular Cantonese restaurant located on Buford Highway.

bobo2When you first sit down at Bo Bo China, you’ll be given a couple of snack bowls filled with diced pickled vegetables and cool seasoned peanuts in blackish-purple skin. These were palate-enticing and a foreshadow of good things to come.

A lot of familiar dishes are …

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