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Archive for December, 2012

Restaurant inspections, Monterrey Mexican Restaurant

Customers enjoying an “all-you-can-eat” Mexican buffet at a Loganville restaurant were not too happy when a health inspector had all the food thrown away.

Monterrey Mexican Restaurant, 910 Athens Highway, had no sneeze guard to protect buffet items from contamination.

The restaurant was given a failing score of 61/U on the routine inspection, and told to shut down the self-service buffet until a sneeze guard is installed.

Instead, the restaurant will discontinue the Sunday “all-you-can-eat” special, a manager said.

Monterrey’s buffet was set up on several tables that were pushed together. Chafing dishes were put out for hot foods, and containers of cold foods were placed on beds of ice. Since the food wasn’t protected from germs, it was tossed out and the buffet dismantled.

That action didn’t go unnoticed by the lunch crowd on that Sunday afternoon, and some complained about the inconvenience. Monterrey had been previously instructed to provide adequate shielding for the food, …

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Restaurant inspections, El Mirador Ranchero

The food safety manager at El Mirador Ranchero in Canton picked the wrong time for a visit home to Mexico.

It left the restaurant at 370 Marietta Street without anyone in charge to communicate food service health practices during a routine inspection.

“The person left in charge can cook but did not observe any organized procedures for taking care of food that was being prepared,” said the Cherokee County health inspector, who was informed of the previous manager’s departure.

There was a general lack of knowledge in the restaurant’s operation, and no one washed their hands while working in the kitchen, according to the inspection report.

The restaurant was given a failing score of 65/U.

During the inspection, the person in charge switched back and forth from preparing food to washing dishes without washing hands. Also, the manager used bare hands to touch prepared food, and only put on gloves when customers came in.

The staff showed no understanding of controlling food …

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Georgia’s microdistilleries growing in number

Shawn Hall of Georgia Distilling Co.

Shawn Hall of Georgia Distilling Co.

“It won’t be too long until there’s a coffee roaster, brew pub, distillery and maybe a cacao artisan in every town,” said Bill Owens, president of the American Distilling Institute.

That prediction is about to come true for metro Atlanta. The region has Batdorf & Bronson roasting coffee, several microbreweries and Cacao Atlanta making bean-to-bar chocolate. Soon, it will have two microdistilleries.

Craft distilleries, much like craft breweries, are on the rise. According to the ADI, there are about 240 small distilleries in the U.S. and Canada. By 2015, estimates say the number will likely jump to 400 to 450.

In Georgia, the number has more than doubled in a year. There are currently five operating craft producers with three more in the works, two of them inside the Perimeter.

Like cheese makers or bread bakers, craft spirit makers are artisan producers. Kent Cost, the president of 13th Colony Distillery in Americus, calls it …

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New food trends for 2013?

Ahhh…the new year is almost upon us. When it comes to food that usually means that in a few days most of us will renew our work-out and diet vows to shed the layer of blubber we have built up over the last month of feasting.

And in the world of food writing, that means 2 things – round ups of “best of” lists of the year in food, and predictions of what is to come in 2013. Fortunately for us, in a two-birds-with-one-stone move, the Food Network mashed these two types of lists into 6 predictions of 2013 food trends that have already been going on for a few years.

Ok, I get that the Food Network isn’t exactly bleeding edge of the culinary industry, so they get a bit of a free pass, and I do think that parts of their predictions are safe bets. But some elicited a snobby eye-roll from me, like the “Asian Infusion” prediction. Unless it has been a trend so long that it is coming back with a retro sense of irony, Asian Fusion pre-dates food trucks.

I particularly …

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Restaurant inspections, Phoenix & Dragon

Food safety violations and storage problems in a walk-in cooler led to a failing health score for a Chinese restaurant in Buckhead.

A Fulton County inspector gave Phoenix & Dragon, 164 W. Wieuca Road, Atlanta, a score of 58/U on a recent routine inspection, and said employees were unable to demonstrate knowledge of food safety.

Employees were not wearing hair restraints while cooking or preparing food. They were eating in the food prep area. They were wiping their hands on their aprons instead of washing them. The kitchen hand-sink didn’t work. The cook prepared a sandwich with bare hands.

In addition, cooked rice and chicken were cooling on top of a newspaper. Gravy and raw fish were left on a counter without temperature controls.

There were numerous storage violations in the walk-in cooler. The inspector observed a box containing both raw chicken and fried chicken. Some food items were being stored in open aluminum cans. Containers of carrots, broccoli and fried chicken …

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3 new Buckhead restaurants to consider

One night in early 2004, my friends and I staggered away from a filling dinner at Blais — the short-lived Richard Blais restaurant that was in the heart of Buckhead when Buckhead had a heart. As we digested our frankincense-scented parsnip cake, we ventured down an alleyway lined with cheesy bars and clubs and found ourselves in front of the rowdy nightspot Mako’s. There we saw a woman in hot pants on a swing in a window doing that thing women in hot pants on swings in windows used to do in Buckhead: swinging.

AJC Chief Dining Critic John Kessler writes about all cuisines.

AJC Chief Dining Critic John Kessler writes about all cuisines.

Back in 2004 Buckhead didn’t just have any old heart: it had a proper four-chambered one. There was one chamber for the trashy drunkenness of Mako’s and its ilk; one chamber for the big-city glamour of Joël and the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton; one chamber for staid spots like Pano’s & Paul’s and Anis that appealed to the wealthy mansion-dwelling neighbors, and that last chamber for the true …

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Hammocks Trading Company restaurant review, Sandy Springs



In our Internet-driven age of information saturation, being a critic can be tricky.

To remain completely devoid of preconceptions after reading first-responder blog posts or crowd-sourced reviews often requires conscious effort, which is why I always try to avoid over researching potentially reviewable restaurants. Now more than ever, objectivity is a skill. Walking in the door with inflated expectations is often unfair to the chef, while believing every online nitpicker can make a mediocre meal pleasantly surprising.

When I decided to try Hammocks Trading Company in Sandy Springs, I had no expectations to overcome, knowing nothing about the restaurant or the chef. I knew it was seafood, but that’s it.

I had no idea that executive chef and partner William Sigley spent seven years in Las Vegas working under the likes of Todd English and Wolfgang Puck before moving to Atlanta to lead the kitchens of Aquanox, Aja, and Bone’s. Nor was I

AJC Dining Team member Jon Watson writes about popular eats.

AJC Dining Team member Jon Watson …

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Top Chef Seattle recap, Episode 8: This tree right here?

Credit: Bravo

Credit: Bravo

First off, tip o’ the cap to Bravo for not making the chefs dress up in Christmas elf outfits or do the entire Quickfire from the back of a motorized Santa’s sleigh careening around the streets of Seattle. We all know this was filmed 6 months ago, and faking their way through Thanksgiving was one holiday too many.

Instead, the Quickfire was apparently designed to make me insanely jealous.

The chefs pack up and head off to Taylor Shellfish Farm, where the chefs have to harvest their own oysters for the challenge. I’ve never had the chance to harvest a fresh oyster and shuck and eat it on the spot, and I’ve always wanted to. Now….cue some physical comedy as both Josie and Micah get stuck in the mud and bust it right onto the flats.

And what better judge for this challenge than Emeril, being all N’awlins and whatnot. The chefs have to impress Bam Bam Lagasse with their best oyster dish, but half of them must cook a hot prep and the other half a cold …

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Another new restaurant for Ford Fry

coutesy of Melissa Libby & Associates

Chef Ford Fry, courtesy of Melissa Libby & Associates

Chef Ford Fry is at it again. While King + Duke, his new Colonial American restaurant in the former Nava space, is still in the works, he’s also inked a deal to begin another project in Buckhead.

Fry’s newest venture will take over the Bluepointe space in the Pinnacle Building at the corner of Peachtree and Lenox Roads. In a press release, Fry said, “This will be far different than any of our other restaurants and will offer a completely unique dining experience in Buckhead.”

The food will be inspired by the European flavors of Italy, Spain and possibly France. A name for the concept will be released early in the new year and the restaurant is slated to open late Fall 2013.

The space is being designed by Meyer Davis of New York. Fry commented, “What I am most excited about is an oversized classic European bar with clear sight-lines into a wood burning hearth and even a dramatic crudo bar mounted with just …

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Gingerbread on parade


submitted by Amber Hancy

We’d like to thank those of you that shared photos of your gingerbread creations with us. Feast your eyes on our local gingerbread talent!

The photo above was submitted by Amber Hancy. What started as a house turned into a village, complete with a nativity scene and stained glass candy windows. She made a plan and took three weeks of evening work to complete the project. Everything is edible, including the snow.

Amber wrote,”This is what makes the holiday so special to me, and I hope that everyone will enjoy a little sweetness in their lives this holiday season.”


The next house was made by Christine Chandler and her two six-year-old boys.

submitted by Christine Chandler

submitted by Christine Chandler

This edible treat comes from Scotty Lawson. He said it was “Madison’s first try.” Could have fooled me!

submitted by Scotty Lawson

submitted by Scotty Lawson

A Cook and Her Books sent this photo our way. She said her sister-in-law brings a gingerbread house each Thanksgiving. They add more candy to the …

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