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Archive for December, 2011

Ditch the cookies, host a soup swap instead

Soup SwapI’ve never had a cookie swap, nor have I attended one. I thought I would finally cave this year and host a swap. And, I did. It just wasn’t a cookie swap.

To gauge interest, I posted on my Facebook page:

Me: Anyone ever done a cookie swap? Anyone want to?

E: I haven’t, but I’m sort of obsessed with the idea of doing a soup swap.

Me: Think we can organize one in the next two weeks?

E: Yes, yes, let’s do it! *runs off to look up soup recipes*

And that’s how it all started. Here’s how you can host one of your own:

The Rules

Excerpt from the invitation..

Here are the details:

  • Let us know if you’re planning to come.
  • If you already know your soup, let us know that, too. If not, no worries. If someone is making split pea soup already and that’s your specialty, go ahead and make it, too. That’s okay!

The way it works…

  • Once you indicate you’re coming, I’ll get you a “Soup Sack.” This will have the containers that you’ll need for your soup,Soup Sack labels and goodies like that. I’ll ask …

Continue reading Ditch the cookies, host a soup swap instead »

Restaurant Inspections, Mandarin Palace II

After dropping well below Georgia’s passing mark for food safety guidelines three times over the last year and a half, Mandarin Palace II in Atlanta is facing a follow-up review, according to inspection reports.

During that period, the restaurant at 129 North Ave. NE has violated regulations, such as improper date-marking processes, inadequate temperature controls and substandard cleaning procedures. These type of violations resulted most recently in a 60 (U) on Dec. 5. Other failing marks were a 43 (U), April 21; and a 30 (U), Aug. 6, 2010. The follow-up scores for those two failings were a 96 (A) both times.

In reference to the two failures this year, the inspector noted: “The owner chose not to close down and received a legal notice to correct all risk factor violations. Failure to comply with the legal notice will result in a court citation.” Mandarin’s manager declined to comment.

Mandarin was cited for three repeat violations, which leads to double-point deductions, …

Continue reading Restaurant Inspections, Mandarin Palace II »

Eat, Drink and Read

Southern food. Atlanta finds. Great cocktails. Smart home cooking. Butchering your own meat. Here are some new books I’d recommend if these topics interest you — or someone on your gift list:

  • “Food Lovers’ Guide to Atlanta” by Malika Harricharan (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95): This little book from the author of the Atlanta Restaurant Blog offers short, friendly reviews of restaurants and markets, arranged by geography and divided into two categories — “Foodie Faves” and “Landmarks.” Keep it in the glove compartment when you want something more detailed than a Zagat Survey but less helter-skelter than the musings of the hoi polloi on Yelp.
  • “Sweet Auburn Desserts” by Sonya Jones (Pelican Publishing Company, $24.95): Classic Southern desserts from the wonderful woman behind the Sweet Auburn bakery. There are a few innovations like Sazerac Tassies (flavored like the anise-scented cocktail), but you buy this book for recipes like brown sugar pound cake and that …

Continue reading Eat, Drink and Read »

New restaurant at Philips Arena and more news

courtesy Philips Arena

courtesy Philips Arena

Philips Arena, home to the Hawks, recently announced plans for a sit-down restaurant within the facility. The new spot, called RED, will be open before, during and after games and events in the arena beginning in February 2012.

The space is being designed by The Johnson Studio, which also worked with restaurants such as Aria, Bistro Niko, Ecco and Rathbun’s. RED’s key design element will be tiered seating positioned for optimal visibility of the court.

The menu was developed by Buckhead Life Restaurant Group’s President Pano Karatassos in conjunction with the Levy Restaurant Team and a Hawks and Philips Arena task force. RED will serve contemporary American fare from its show kitchen with items including a crab cake BLT, lollipop chicken wings, steaks and a signature burger.

In other news:

  • Blue Moon Pizza, which started in 2003, opens its fourth location in Sandy Springs this month. The restaurant offers a range of appetizers, salads, pizzas, calzones …

Continue reading New restaurant at Philips Arena and more news »

Calling all gingerbread houses

KidsGingerbreadIn case you missed it the other day…

We want to see your gingerbread houses! Help us create a parade of houses by adding your photos to our Facebook page by Tuesday, Dec. 13. Add a note to give us a little information about your house and design. If you’re submitting your child’s gingerbread house, let us know your child’s name and age.

Some fantastic houses have already been posted. Take a look at our photo gallery.

Our team will choose our favorites and share them on the Food and More blog on Friday, Dec. 16. Those who submit a photo will be entered into a drawing for a prize.

If you aren’t on Facebook but would still like to share a photo of your house, email your photo to Jenny.

If you need help building a house, here are a couple of books to get you started. And, if you need a little inspiration, check out the winners from The National Gingerbread House Competition.

Don’t miss our holiday guide with lots of recipes and info. to help you plan and celebrate your …

Continue reading Calling all gingerbread houses »

Farm Burger to offer Chef Whitney’s Last Chance Kitchen burger today


credit: Bravo

On this week’s Top Chef, Georgia’s last remaining contestant was told to pack her knives and go. And though Chef Whitney Otawka of Farm 255 in Athens’ was eliminated from the primary competition, all hope is not lost.

For those not following the show this season, Top Chef has introduced Last Chance Kitchen, where eliminated chefs get a final opportunity to compete for the title of Top Chef in a series of head-to-head battles. The winner lives to cook another week and the loser goes home for good.

This week, on Chef Whitney’s Last Chance round, she competed against Chef Chuy in a battle of the burgers, ultimately coming out on top with her elk and pork sausage burger. To honor Whitney’s victory, both Farm Burger Decatur and Farm Burger Buckhead will offer up their version of the burger that kept her in the competition.

Whitney passed on her recipe to chefs Terry Koval and Dan Latham, but with the caveat that they use their grass-fed beef instead of elk. So, …

Continue reading Farm Burger to offer Chef Whitney’s Last Chance Kitchen burger today »

Horseradish Grill restaurant review, Buckhead



Every restaurant has a story. But few have one as long and rich as Horseradish Grill.

Its story starts early in the 20th century when the property held little more than a country farm stand. Slowly over several decades, the stand transformed into a restaurant, which saw multiple incarnations over the second half of the century.

Review by Jenny Turknett

Review by Jenny Turknett

Our story focuses on the last two decades when the restaurant called the Red Barn Inn became what is now known as Horseradish Grill. In 1994, Steve Alterman, formerly of Rio Bravo and Ray’s Restaurants, purchased the restaurant, transforming it into the genteel yet rustic space that we enjoy today.

The restaurant boasts a rich culinary history. Gerry Klaskala of Aria consulted on Horseradish Grill’s concept development and famed Southern chef Scott Peacock opened the restaurant, bringing it early success. Other chefs including Tom McEachern, most recently at Ray’s on the River, and Dave Berry led the kitchen after Peacock …

Continue reading Horseradish Grill restaurant review, Buckhead »

Top Chef Texas recap, Episode 6: Feelin’ Saucy

Everything is bigger in Texas....except for the Judge's Table Credit: Bravo

Everything is bigger in Texas….except for the Judge's Table Credit: Bravo

I’m too busy yawning to warn you about the SPOILERS below…..

I never thought I’d say this, but I really wish this episode had some vapid uber-rich socialites in it. At least I could have entertained myself by making fun of them. Instead, I’m left feeling like Tom’s face looked during his steak dinner: Not mad, just disappointed.


This week’s episode of Toyotathon…ahem, Top Chef…sends the chefs into the kitchen of Le Cordon Blue in Dallas, Paul’s alma mater, where Padma and James Beard winning chef Dean Fearing are waiting for them. This Quickfire challenge tests the chef’s skills as a saucier, one of the most respected stations on any kitchen line. As legendary French chef Ferdinand Point aptly described it, “the saucier is a soloist in the orchestra of a great kitchen.”

The chefs each get one of the five “mother sauces” – béchamel, espangole, velouté, hollandaise, or tomate – to use as a base …

Continue reading Top Chef Texas recap, Episode 6: Feelin’ Saucy »

A visit to Thali Indian restaurant in Decatur

thaliNot too long ago, Kessler reported that Thali, an Indian (Gujarati) vegetarian restaurant, had opened in Decatur’s Patel Plaza. The restaurant’s format is a $14.99 fixed price meal (lunch and dinner) consisting of three courses* and any item replenished along the way.

I came here recently for lunch not knowing anything about the restaurant’s format. I was already busting at the seams from “researching” food stories all morning so I didn’t know what I was getting into.

After sitting down, a serving of crunchy fried rice crisps (papad, papadum) paired with tamarind and coriander chutney was served. The crisps were fresh and a promising start even though they basically seem equivalent to what salsa and chips are in Mexican restaurants.


Then a course arrived consisting mostly of vegetable gram flour fritters. I was feeling pretty heavy at this point and my server mentioned that I can ask for “more of anything I see here.” That was the last thing on my mind, especially since I …

Continue reading A visit to Thali Indian restaurant in Decatur »

Squash casserole: The new retro food darling?

IMG_4617You’re supposed to wait for three instances before you can declare a trend.

But what the hay…

I have noticed that squash casserole — that old-timey blend of onions, cheese and a member of the genus Cucurbita — seems to be making a comeback on Atlanta menus. This version on the left is currently one of the size dishes on the menu at Leon’s Full Service in Decatur, and it’s great. It’s made with zucchini in a puffy, cheesy custard.

At Empire State South the lunch menu features a new casserole made with thinly sliced winter squash and gobs of cheddar gratineed in a cast iron skillet. A green salad and grilled bread come on the side. I found it tasty for the first few bites, but the ample grease separating from the broiled cheese made me throw in my fork. Still, it’s a fun idea that could work well with some tweaks.

Any others out there? I’m kind of tempted to make some for dinner.

-by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

Continue reading Squash casserole: The new retro food darling? »