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Archive for November, 2012

Atlanta chefs/restaurants receive recognition and more news

Chef Linton Hopkins wins Innovator award from GRA.

Chef Linton Hopkins wins Innovator award from GRA.

Several Atlanta chefs and restaurants have received local and national recognition lately. Congratulations to the following for their achievements:

  • Chef Linton Hopkins, owner of Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch Public House, recently received the 2012 Innovator Award from the Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA). According to the GRA’s award criteria, recipients must “demonstrate exemplary talent” and be “a visionary leader in foodservice.”
  • Chef Ria Pell, owner of Ria’s Bluebird and Sauced, competed on a recent episode of the Food Network show “Chopped.” After three courses of transforming unusual ingredients into dishes (like hot dog buns into shortbread cookies), Pell claimed the title of “Chopped Champion” and took home the $10,000 prize. She plans to use the cash to visit family in Denmark.
  • Dante Stephensen, owner of Dante’s Down the Hatch, was recently inducted into the Atlanta Hospitality …

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Thanksgiving experiment: Brussels sprouts on the Big Green Egg

IMG_5937This year my wife bought me those brussels sprouts on the stalk for our Thanksgiving dinner. I think she was hoping this might prevent me from actually cooking them, choosing instead to offer them up as a table decoration.

No such luck.

Instead of cutting the brussels sprouts from the stalk and making my usual Turkey Day sprouts and chestnuts, I instead got the idea to grill them.

Out came the Big Green Egg and a quick marinade of olive oil, fresh garlic and some leftover barbecue rub.

After about 40 minutes of turning them and brushing them with marinade over indirect heat, they started to look really appealing.

They smelled very cabbage-y — something my wife doesn’t abide well. But luckily we were serving the meal buffet style, so she could keep them out of olfactory range.

I put a pair of kitchen shears on the plate and let people cut them off. They were soft in the center, almost creamy, with well blistered, crisp leaves. I really liked them, but I like any brussels …

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Shopping break: Places to eat near Atlanta malls

Chasing parking spaces, wading through crowds and waiting in checkout lines can only be done with the proper nourishment. Take a break and grab a bite to eat to boost your shopping stamina. (Our Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog has updates on shopping throughout the holidays.)

If you find yourself at or near one of these malls, here are a places to recharge and refuel.

Cumberland Mall

  • Taverna Fiorentina: This neighborhood Tuscan kitchen with a lengthy wine-by-the-glass menu is now open for both lunch and dinner. 3324 Cobb Pkwy S.E., Atlanta. 770-272-9825.
  • Muss & Turner’s: This full-service restaurant/deli offers soups, salads, sandwiches and heartier fare with an impressive beer list. 1675 Cumberland Pkwy S.E., Smyrna. 770-434-1114.

Lenox Square/Phipps Plaza

  • Buckhead Diner: Not your average diner, at this swanky spot perfect for celebrity spotting, you’ll find Southern touches to menu items like the white-truffle deviled eggs. 3073 Piedmont Road N.E., Atlanta. …

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Where do you take out of towners? Try these

Mary Mac's, always busy (photos by Becky Stein unless otherwise noted)

Mary Mac's, always busy (photos by Becky Stein unless otherwise noted)

When our Italian friends Alessandro and Rita came to spend their vacation with us, we wanted to regale them with food. We cooked grand dinners, we went out to our favorite restaurants, we drove them to Charleston to feast on shrimp and oysters.

AJC Chief Dining Critic John Kessler writes about all cuisines.

AJC Chief Dining Critic John Kessler writes about all cuisines.

Then, on their last morning in town before a late afternoon flight back to Europe, they conferred quietly in Italian before coming to me with a request.

“John,” Alessandro asked, “Do you think we might take our breakfast at the, uh — What do you call it? — Waffle House?”

Forget the triggerfish crudo and heirloom tomato salad. They wanted their Southern food vacation scattered, smothered and chunked.

It is easy to forget that out-of-town visitors aren’t always looking for the best food, but rather the truest sense of place.

Many of us will face this quandary during the holidays. Our friends …

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Antebellum restaurant review, Flowery Branch



“Was the food hot? How was the service? What did you think of the fried green tomatoes?”

These are just a few in a string of questions posed by chef Nicholas St. Clair in our pre-print interview. As the owner of the five-month-old, farm-to-table restaurant Antebellum in Flowery Branch, this chef-turned-business-owner genuinely wants feedback on ways to improve customers’ experiences. It shows.Jenny-Turknett-Review

St. Clair relocated to Atlanta after beginning his career in West Coast restaurants. The move, designed to land St. Clair and his wife closer to her family, afforded St. Clair experience in the kitchens of popular Atlanta restaurants including Watershed and Woodfire Grill. He now had the confidence to open a restaurant of his own.

More of a small-town person, St. Clair scouted locations in less populated areas outside of Atlanta and in Alabama. He claimed the classically Southern 1890’s home in Flowery Branch, complete with a wraparound porch, which became …

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Top Chef Seattle recap, Episode 3: Thanksgiving in July

Credit: Bravo

Credit: Bravo

“If you fail during this challenge, you might as well go find another career.” – Josie

I wonder if Josie has ever watched this show before? If she had, as soon as those words left her lips she should have smacked herself in the face. That is just courting disaster.

Josie made that comment because Dana Cowin, editor of Food & Wine magazine and familiar face on Top Chef, is this week’s guest judge, which clearly sets all of the chefs on their toes.

For this week’s Quickfire, the chefs start with a mad dash to a map with 17 knives on it, each representing a different style of dumpling from the corners of the world. In this season’s first unabashed product placement, the chefs are given 5 minutes on an Amazon Kindle Fire to look up their style of dumpling if, for example, you were Micah and got stuck with manti, a dumpling native to Kazakhstan. Considering that he “didn’t know that Kazakhstan was real,” this internet access saved him.

And …

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There’s Twinkies in them thar hills!

Sorry to disappoint those procrastinating Thanksgiving planners, but I won’t be giving you a list of those few spots in town with last-minute Turkey reservations still open. Instead, I’m talking Twinkies.

By now, you have all heard about the Hostess liquidation, and that is making some folks go Twinkie crazy. Like Atlantan’s in the bread isle after a snow flurry, people are rushing out to stock up on what could be the last Twinkie the world will see. (Of course, Hostess is auctioning off their brands to competitors, so unless there will be some insane additional resale value in the “original” Twinkies, they are actually just being morons.)

And where is the best place to find predatory capitalists opportunists profiting off hype-frenzied “collectors’ items”? eBay of course!

A quick look through the completed auctions listings for Twinkies on eBay brings up some staggering, hopefully false and disheartening results. While the highest …

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New regulations allow some retail food products to be prepared in personal kitchens

Heike Sellers, The Flour Artisan, can now bake items like these lemon scones from her home.

Heike Sellers, The Flour Artisan, can now bake items like these lemon scones from her home kitchen.

Like many home bakers dreaming of parlaying their talents into a business, Alpharetta resident Heike Sellers was encouraged by friends and family to tie on an apron and get to work.

“For quite a few years friends have been asking me, ‘Where can I buy this?’ ” she said.

But after researching licensing requirements, Sellers arrived at the conclusion formed by many hopeful home bakers before her: “Georgia is not conducive to small business in that way.”

That was before she discovered Georgia’s new cottage food regulations, which took effect in September.

Cottage food regulations allow individuals to prepare non-potentially hazardous foods in domestic kitchens for sale directly to the consumer. This means home bakers and cooks can now prepare products from a specified list, which includes items not requiring refrigeration like breads, cakes, pastries, seasoning mixes, …

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Restaurant inspections, Sushi China Cafe

A few employee mistakes cost a Chinese restaurant in Henry County a passing inspection score.

Sushi China Café, 1481 Hudson Bridge Road, Stockbridge, was marked down because employees were not washing their hands as frequently as they should while preparing food.

An employee was observed entering the back door then going to work handling equipment without first washing up. Another employee didn’t put on gloves before prepping some green onions.

In addition, the staff hand sink was filled with equipment and drinks, and one employee was using it to wash a cloth.

Sushi China Café was given a failing score of 66/U on the routine inspection.

Among other code violations cited, some temperatures of both hot and cold foods were not in the proper range to protect against bacteria growth. Among these items were boneless chicken, bean sprouts and coconut milk, all being kept in a refrigerated cooler.

Sushi China Café had previous scores in the high 80s, and is expected to be …

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Five fabulous new ways to cook your Thanksgiving turkey

credit: William Berry/staff

credit: William Berry/staff

All those fancy cooks at the New York Times are proposing exciting  ways to cook your Thanksgiving turkey. Why shove your bird into the oven on a roasting pan, they ask, when you know that’s just a one-way ticket to the ho hums?

According to the New York Times, you should STEAM your turkey.

But if that’s too much work, then you should BRAISE the bird or — better yet — SPATCHCOCK the sucker.

We will not be outdone by those commonplace techniques here at the AJC. If you really want to impress guests far beyond any way they might be momentarily wowed by a New York Times turkey, may we propose one of these five exciting new preparation methods:

  1. Tie it to your exhaust manifold: Nothing could be simpler. Wrap the turkey in sage leaves and then chicken wire and then heavy-duty aluminum foil. Drive to Whole Foods (the one in Birmingham) to pick up your sides and desserts, and you will have one beautiful bird by the time you roll back into Atlanta.
  2. Go …

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