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Archive for September, 2011

Chef Jacques Pépin launches new website

French chef Jacques Pépin, and host of public television’s Essential Pépin, has recently launched his KQED sponsored website where you can find episodes of his show and recipes categorized by ingredient.

I have been “Youtubing” the resourceful Mr. Pépin for a while now to get tips on how to master an omelet or debone a chicken, so I am excited to see an organized and direct portal now available online.

by Gene Lee, Food and More blog

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Prepaid tickets to replace restaurant reservations?

Will reservation sites like Open Table soon be selling tickets instead?

Will reservation sites like OpenTable soon be selling tickets instead?

Would you be willing to prepay for your meal in exchange for a reservation? Would you pay extra for that meal to score a reservation at a choice time?

Diners at Grant Achatz’s newest Chicago restaurant, Next, do just that. Achatz, an innovator in the field of molecular gastronomy, experienced overwhelming success with his restaurant Alinea, which opened in 2005. That success guaranteed instant interest in — and reservation requests for — his latest venture.

To secure a reservation at this highly anticipated spot, guests must purchase advance tickets for prix fixe meals and beverage pairings, pay an 18% tip and shell out a premium for peak times. And, like concert tickets, there are no refunds or cancellations. The restaurant reserves a single table each night for walk-ins.

Consider this from the restaurant’s perspective. Prepayment eliminates the problem of no-shows. Hiring a reservationist is no longer …

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Cookbooks vs the internet?

IMG_1566It is a lazy Sunday morning and, as is often the case, I decide that I want to have a few friends over and cook dinner. But I have no clue what I want to make. So, I look to the one place that never fails to get my creative juices and salivary glands moving: The internet.

It’s no secret that the online age is constantly changing the way that we consume information. And it’s no secret that this new vehicle for information has forced industries– everything from music, to shopping, and print journalism – to adapt or perish. Though some of these changes have not necessarily been for the better, I can’t really lament them too much as I sit here listening to illegally downloaded music and writing a blog post.

This is just as true for the food world as with anything else. Our adoption of the internet as the first place to look for ideas on where to eat and drink has made restaurant owners re-think their marketing plans. A Twitter account can now do more for a chef than most magazine …

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Restaurant Inspections, Willy’s Mexican Grill

An AJC reader inquired about a food permit posted at Willy’s Mexican Grill at 4377 Roswell Road in Atlanta.

“Why has Willy’s at Roswell & Wieuca been operating without a valid food service permit for the past several weeks?” – email.

In response, Kevin R. Jones, deputy director of Fulton County’s Environmental Health Services said by email that an inspector noticed an expired permit during the routine visit. The exam came after an invoice for a new permit was mailed out in June.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution followed up with the restaurant. Nestor Sanchez, one of the managers at Willy’s said after the permit was updated, a mix-up with the mail weeks ago resulted in the permit being delivered to another Willy’s location. Now, the permit is posted next to the inspection report as required, he said.

Jones wrote: “Fiscal Services received the payment (with late fees) and mailed them a new permit the first week of September 2011.” He said the inspector confirmed that the permit …

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Fall 2011 Dining Guide: Distinctive Culinary Voices

Lobster Carpaccio from Tomo Japanese Restaurant represents chef Tomohiro Naito's handiwork (credit: Becky Stein)

Lobster Carpaccio from Tomo Japanese Restaurant represents chef Tomohiro Naito's handiwork (credit: Becky Stein)

A little history: Last summer I began reviewing restaurants again for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after more than five years away from the job. And so I began to eat. And eat. And — Hey, you gonna eat that? Because I really need to try everything and I’d hate to see that go to waste.

After about four months of concerted face-stuffing, it began to occur to me that I was in a very different dining town than the last one I power-chowed my way through. I loved the profusion of casual, affordable restaurants that had opened, and the newfound focus on Southern farms and flavors.

But I found so much of this food safe and predictable — even boring. I missed the motley crew of mad geniuses and crackpots who used to set the tone here. I missed the variety of ambitious culinary styles on the table, and the raw audacity that used to mark the opening of new …

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Sushi Huku, Sandy Springs

Feature by Gene Lee

Feature by Gene Lee

Neighboring diners will go green with envy when your food arrives. A look on their faces will say: “What in the world is that beautiful dish?”

“Oshizushi!” relays Sushi Huku’s blithe band of sushi chefs to inquisitive diners.

Sushi Huku offers two versions of oshizushi, which literally translates to “pressed box” sushi, in reference to the preparation method. Chefs use an oshizushi-hako mold — rectangular wooden but nowadays plastic — for forming.

It is “one of the oldest forms of sushi,” Huku head chef Jerome Oh said. The process, which originated in Osaka, Japan, involves delicately layering ingredients in the hako mold and firmly pressing down on its lid, with a few 180-degree rotations in between to ensure an evenly formed rectangular sushi cake. The cake is then removed and sliced into smaller rectangular bites resembling finger sandwiches that you might nosh on during afternoon tea.

The Kondo box: a version of pressed sushi (all photos and video by Gene Lee)

The Kondo box: a version of pressed sushi (all photos by Gene …

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Profile of Chic Dillard, Big Shanty Smokehouse

Chic Dillard (credit: Michael Jacoby)

Chic Dillard (credit: Michael Jacoby)

Note: This profile of Chic Dillard of Big Shanty Smokehouse ran in the print edition of the Fall 2011 Dining Guide in last Friday’s Go Guide. We didn’t want our online readers to miss it.

In the winter of 2007, after helping to open more than two dozen restaurants during his career as a consultant, Chic Dillard decided that it was time to open his own.

He just didn’t know what kind of restaurant it would be. While driving through Kennesaw one day, Dillard spotted his inspiration in the form of a tiny roadside house.

“I had no idea I was going to open a barbecue restaurant,” said Dillard, whose years in the industry have included positions ranging from chef to director of operations. “I was actually looking at other buildings when I drove by here, saw the ‘For Rent’ sign out front, and thought, ‘Hmm, that would make a great barbecue place.’ ”

And how right he was. Within 60 days of finding the space, Big Shanty Smokehouse opened for …

Continue reading Profile of Chic Dillard, Big Shanty Smokehouse »

When life throws you a ham, improvise

Recently, I defrosted around four to five pounds of raw ham, which I procured from a hog butchering class, and did not have a plan on what to make with it. I just took it out of the freezer and transferred it over to my refrigerator and went about my day. Normally I don’t initiate a cooking project without a plan, especially one involving a large amount of protein, but I just wasn’t thinking that day.

I mean what can you make with a cut of ham (leg) that isn’t, well, ham? I don’t own a smoker/grill, nor did I amply prepare for or research the painstaking process (so I’ve been told) for curing. I simply had a large chunk of thawed-out fleshy pork, and the clock was ticking. It didn’t even look like one of those big bulbous ham chunks; it was more like a two inch thick slab of steak. I wasn’t about to go cure or smoke a ham steak. If I do decide to one day, I’m going to get the whole ham with a leg and foot attached and invite everyone I know.

I may have not had a plan that …

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5 Napkin Burger: not up for review

Lobster sliders and a mountain of pickles

Lobster sliders and a mountain of pickles

Are we a tough crowd in Atlanta?

Consider the case of 5 Napkin Burger, which has done well enough in its original location in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen that it took the show on the road — first to other New York locations then to Boston, Miami and the former Nickiemoto’s on the corner of 10th and Piedmont in our fair burger haven.

But the one here is, to say the least, a perplexing restaurant. After having a meal that left me gasping at the bill and scratching my head, I poked around online and found that my impressions were pretty well in keeping with those of Cliff Bostock at Creative Loafing and many commenters on Yelp.

It’s certainly a nice-looking place. Checkered black-and-white floor and deep booths reference a 1950’s soda shop. But the furnishings have a much higher level of finish, and the full bar in the back of the room puts things a little more in neighborhood bistro mode. A fine selection of bottled beers seem to be the …

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Suggest ‘Best of the Big A’ food topics


“My son’s birthday is next month. Tell me where can I get the best cupcakes.”

“My mother-in-law is coming for Thanksgiving. Where can I pick up some sides or casseroles? What about a turkey?”

“I have friends coming in town. Where’s the best landmark Atlanta restaurant to take them?”

“It’s our anniversary this weekend, where should we celebrate?”

These questions represent a sampling of those posed to our dining team on a regular basis. And they are precisely the types of questions answered by Best of the Big A.

Each week a new topic is presented and readers nominate their favorites in that category. The top nominees are then voted upon the following week. For food-related Best of the Big A topics, one of us from the dining team also submits our top picks. When the results post, you have access to both reader and critic picks, giving you an array of choices for each topic.

Shane Harrison, who brings us Best of the Big A, has asked for input on our next set of topics. What would …

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