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Archive for October, 2012

New Wind from the East

Chef Johnny Monis at Litte Serow in Washington, D.C.

Chef Johnny Monis at Litte Serow in Washington, D.C.

Have you heard the one about the five restaurant critics who walk into a bar?

That was the scene last month, when I traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the Association of Food Journalists conference. My colleagues descended on the city’s restaurants like gourmet locusts, gathering in swarms to sample all of the latest, hottest spots in town.

I found myself without my game stomach on — more interested in catching up with old friends rather than passing around beautiful plates of foie gras and squab, trying to detect the hints of licorice root and bee pollen. I wasn’t going to jump through any hoops to get into the must-visit restaurant.

Except one.

Little Serow is a dim, brick-walled basement space that barely seats 20 people. In an earlier age, it might have been a jazz club. Instead, it is a Thai restaurant that serves a weekly-changing seven-course menu for $45. It takes no reservations, so customers begin lining up at …

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Restaurants celebrating Halloween around town

Halloween is coming up soon, and some Atlanta restaurants are getting into the spirit of the season. Here are a few of the Halloween themed events going on around town.

Meehan’s – Sandy Springs

Meehan’s Public House in Sandy Springs has the ultimate Halloween Bash planned for Saturday, October 27. 80’s power-rock cover band Iron Mullet will play, and there will also be a cash prize give away to the patron that shows up with the best costume. Stay hydrated with drink specials including hunch punch and Jell-O shots. If you want to get a head start on burning off that Halloween candy, join us during the day for a walk/run marathon hosted by the American Lung Association. The marathon ends at Meehan’s. Runners will be offered a specialty food menu and drink specials. 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m., Saturday October 27th. 227 Sandy Springs Plaza, 404-843-8058. www.101concepts.com/meehanssandysprings/. $6 admission

Atlanta Food Truck Park & Market – Howell Mill

The Atlanta Food Truck Park & …

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Restaurant inspections, Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins

A Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins in Lilburn was forced to close briefly last week after receiving its second failing inspection score since late July.

The coffee and ice cream shop at 3935 Highway 29 was marked down Oct. 4 for repeat violations of health codes, including not having a certified food safety manager on staff.

Employees were still not washing their hands as frequently as they should to prevent bacteria contamination, and the employee hand sink had no soap or paper towels. The inspector observed one employee handling money, then putting on gloves to slice a bagel without first washing their hands.

The prep cooler was still not working correctly and some cheese, chicken and butter had to be thrown away because the temperatures were too high.

The ice machine still had mold-like substance throughout. The coffee bean grinders and some of the other equipment were not clean either, according to the inspection report.

And in a new violation, the inspector found a motor …

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Graft restaurant review, Grayson

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Some of my close family members now live in the far reaches of Gwinnett County and just over the line in Walton County. When I visit, I bring my knives and do the cooking. Restaurant choices include national chains A, B and C.

Not anymore. A new restaurant opened in the charming 100-year-old Grayson home that once housed the Jenny-Turknett-ReviewGrayson House restaurant and later Stillwater, a barbecue joint. It was under renovation for the better part of a year as family members watched in anticipation. Over the summer, Graft, a unique-for-the-area farm-to-table restaurant, opened, satisfying our curiosity.

The renovation preserved the character of the former home, with layers peeled back to reveal original wood and a free-standing fireplace that forms a quaint niche in the dining room. The interior, once sectioned into the tiny rooms of an old country home, now boasts an open floor plan with a rustic-looking bar made from reclaimed wood.

If the romantic character of the building and …

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Moondog Growlers to open Sandy Springs location Friday

moondoggrowlersResidents of Sandy Springs will soon have a shorter drive to pick up a jug of their favorite craft beers.

Moondog Growlers is set to open their third location in the metro area in less than a year. Starting with the opening of the Marietta location in February, this quickly expanding local chain of growler shops is spreading the jug-o-beer gospel around the Perimeter. The range of beers runs wide, and changes often, but Moondog makes sure to focus on some of the great Georgia breweries like Sandy Spring’s own O’Dempseys, as well as Sweetwater, Red Hare, Terrapin, Monday Night, Jail House, Strawn, Red Brick and Wild Heaven.

Unlike some of the other shops in town where you can pick up these 32 and 64 ox jugs of your favorite, and sometimes hard to find, craft beers, Moondog Growlers makes growlers their main business. Empty refillable growlers are $4.99/ea for either the 2-pint (32oz) or 4-pint (64oz) sizes, and the average beer fill ranges from $10-$20/ea. They will also fill …

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Oli & Ve opens second location and more news

161998_186974304739358_866004871_nOli & Ve, an olive oil and vinegar tasting room, recently opened a second location in Buckhead. The original location on Canton Street in historic Roswell, quickly won the hearts and dollars of locals. Owners Owners Suzanne Davidson and Deborah Hardee work with a respected supplier who imports extra virgin olive oil from around the world and balsamic vinegars from Modena, Italy.

All oils are tested both chemically and by professional tasters to ensure quality and claims of origin. The shop’s oils range in intensity from mild to robust and each are available for tasting. Davidson and Hardee train customers on proper tasting methods, much like wine. Slurping is okay here!

Oli & Ve’s products are seasonal and it is currently stocking new southern hemisphere single varietal extra virgin olive oils. You’ll also find a number of flavored oils and vinegars like the blood orange oil and fig balsamic. Check out the shop’s website for recipes incorporating flavored oils, like the blood …

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Restaurant inspections, Famous Joes

It’s not often that a restaurant will post a failing score on a follow-up inspection, but that’s what happened at Famous Joes, 3290 Hamilton Mill Road, Buford.

After posting a 54/U on a routine inspection Sept. 24, the restaurant received a 68/U on its follow-up visit Oct. 2. Famous Joes was asked to close and a formal hearing was held at the Gwinnett County Environmental Health office to discuss what improvements were needed.

“We had a few equipment issues that we had to sort out, and they [health inspectors] were more than kind enough to work with us on this,” said Erik Easley, the restaurant’s certified food safety manager.

Easley said Famous Joes was re-inspected the next day and scored a 99/A.

In addition to equipment problems, the restaurant was also marked down for the improper cooling of food.

Cooked green beans, rice and hamburger meat prepared for sloppy Joes were discarded because they were not cooled by an approved method and within the correct time period to …

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New cookbook from “Amateur Gourmet” Adam Roberts

imagesAdam Roberts, author of the always entertaining Amateur Gourmet blog, keeps up a vigorous roster of activities. He visits restaurants, reviews cookbooks, focuses a video camera on his Persian cat and occasionally sends his readers off on food treasure hunts. But many of his best blog posts are about cooking. Specifically, he seems to like inviting friends over and preparing plates of food that either remind him of dishes at his favorite restaurants or recipes from chefs’ cookbooks.

So his new cookbook “Secrets of the Best Chefs: Recipes, Techniques and Tricks from America’s Greatest Cooks” (Artisan, $27.95) is a perfect fit. Roberts and photographer Elizabeth Leitzell hopscotched around the country to cook with well-known chefs, including several from Atlanta. He took notes, asked zillions of questions and left with skeins of recipes to recreate at home.

Roberts is in town this weekend to appear and sign books at the Taste of Atlanta food festival, which wraps today.10/7 If …

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The Optimist named “Restaurant of the Year” by Esquire Magazine

esquire-logoEach year, Esquire magazine food writer John Mariani calls out a score of eateries on his annual list of the “Best New Restaurants in America.” This year the biggest award went to The OptimistFord Fry’s West Midtown seafood restaurant, which opened to good reviews and brisk business this summer.

Citing it as the “Restaurant of the Year,” Mariani writes:

“A soaring, convivial spot, the Optimist has a hip oyster bar shaped like a surfboard, a first-rate cocktail program, and seafood cooked with old-school expertise over a wood fire. Though everyone knew chef Ford Fry’s new place would be a big deal, the Optimist is far more than a resounding local success; it is an overnight totem of all that is wonderful about American food today.”

The Optimist’s chef is Adam Evans.

In his discussion of the year’s big trends, Mariani writes “the South is having a moment,” and he includes The Macintosh and Carter’s Kitchen in Charleston as well as The Southern Steak & Oyster in Nashville …

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Life After Top Chef, or not?

Credit: Trae Patton/Bravo

Credit: Trae Patton/Bravo

There are two kinds of people in this world. There are those that spent the evening on Wednesday night glued to the first Presidential debate, and then there are those – like myself – that occupied most of that time slot watching the newest spinoff of our favorite cooking competition: Life After Top Chef.

It is no secret that I’m a Top Chef fan, and between you, me, and the wall, the recaps of Top Chef are some of the most fun posts that I have the pleasure of writing for this blog. But what Bravo has dropped on us now is a different beast entirely. We are seeing Dorothy after returning from Oz and discovering that she can never look at her uncle without picturing him with straw poking out of his sleeves.

The biggest draw for Atlanta viewers is, of course, the prospect of seeing the real life of Richard Blais whilst knee deep in the building of his newest restaurant, The Spence. But, this is not the Top Chef that we have come to know and love. It is …

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