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Archive for January, 2013

Restaurant inspections, Walter’s Soul Food Cafe

Walter’s Soul Food Café in south Atlanta saw its exemplary health score plummet to a 42/U after a routine inspection last week.

It was enough to make owner Christine Chambers want to cry.

“It was heartbreaking. I just wanted to cry with that rating,” said Chambers who manages the restaurant at 394 Cleveland Avenue. “I felt bad for my customers.”

Chambers said the inspector showed up at the worst possible time. The restaurant had just opened for lunch, customers were lined up at the front door, and there were two truck shipments of groceries to be unloaded at the back door.

Chambers said she thought some code violations were marked unfairly. For example, date markings on refrigerated items were overlooked by the inspector. A missing food thermometer was later found. An employee washed their hands in the wrong sink.

“I thought it was unfair,” Chambers said. “We’ve been in business for 22 years and never had any problems. I felt like she was strict on everything.”

Among other …

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Seven Lamps: A guy walks into a bar…or does he?

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Bartender Arianne Fielder in her boozy lair (photos by Becky Stein)

“Expletive! If that stupid expletiver can’t expletiving bother to pick up that expletiving order then, well, expletive him!”

AJC Chief Dining Critic John Kessler writes about all cuisines.

AJC Chief Dining Critic John Kessler writes about all cuisines.

So says a red-faced man to his friend as they sit across a narrow table from me — a piece of furniture on which he sometimes bangs his fist for emphasis.

Next to me, a woman receives a dish covered with melted, bubbly, robustly funky cheese — the kind of cheese that smells like a dark and dirty place. It’s something I might appreciate later in the meal but, good Lord, I need a drink first.

I’m at the “bar” at Seven Lamps, except it’s not really a bar in the common sense of a counter behind which shakers shake and in front of which tipplers tipple. It is, rather, this long, high table that fronts a showcase cocktail staging area where mixologist Arianne Fielder assembles her potent concoctions. It’s a tight space, and so we …

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West & Mill Bistro Bar restaurant review, Atlanta

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Restaurants occasionally shift their focus radically to reflect food trends or the cooking style of a new chef. They shake things up to see what sticks.

Over the years, Parish in Inman Park moved from Creole to pork-centric to American regional cuisine while keeping its decor and name intact. Other restaurants tinker with more than the menu, revamping the decor and rebranding with a new name or concept, as was the case with Relish Restaurant in Roswell, which became the now-closed Pico Auténtico.Jenny-Turknett-Review

Sometimes it sticks, sometimes not.

West & Mill on Atlanta’s westside pulled the old switcheroo last fall, transitioning from bakery-cafe to bistro-bar. It originally opened last March as Swit Bakery & Cafe, serving breads, cakes and pastries inspired by those owner Diana Stawnyczy made as a child helping with her Eastern European mom’s catering business.

But with its Marietta Street address, Swit was located in an area with a number of heavy hitters serving both lunch and …

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Top Chef Seattle recap, Episode 13: The final five

American has spoken. Credit: Bravo

American has spoken. Credit: Bravo

It is almost hard to believe that we are this close to wrapping up another season to Top Chef. Though I’ve obviously been following the show, I did a double take when I realized that we are already down to the final five chefs.

We all knew a field trip was in the stars for this group as we approach the final four, and this week is it. Padma enters the stew room to announce that they are packing their bags for an Alaskan cruise. Suddenly, flashbacks of the junk food ferry challenge from All Stars pop into my brain. But then I realize that this is a Celebrity cruise liner, and suddenly flashbacks of mediocre buffets and forced conversations with that creepy older couple and the overly talkative insurance salesman from Missouri assigned to my table pop into my brain.

The always hunky Curtis Stone, host of Top Chef Masters, joins Padma to introduce this week’s Quickfire: The chefs are hosting the Welcome Aboard party and have two hours to create …

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Stay home or go out for Valentine’s Day?

Piece of Cake (Becky Stein)

Piece of Cake (Becky Stein)

About this time last year, I posted a list of Atlanta restaurants offering special menus for Valentine’s Day and suggested that reservations should be made soon. I mentioned that I’d tried to make a reservation at one spot that no longer had availability.

One of the commenters (“Steven”) wrote, “Shocked that a food blogger would suggest going out on Valentine’s day. One of the best days of the year to stay home and cook.”

While I do love to cook, I also love any excuse to go out. I admit I also have a hang-up about celebrating holidays on their actual date. I’ll be going out again on Feb. 14 this year. But that’s me. Do you go out on Valentine’s Day?

I surveyed a few individuals working in various capacities in the food industry to see how they celebrate Valentine’s Day. Here are their responses:

I take my wife out either a few days before or a few days after Valentines Day, to avoid the masses. You get better tables, and servers aren’t so slammed …

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Atlanta restaurants with special Valentine’s Day menus

file photo

file photo

If you plan to commemorate Valentine’s Day with a special meal out, Atlanta restaurants stand ready to help you celebrate. Here are a few spots with special menus for the holiday.

Antebellum - Special menu of sweet corn soup, foie gras, filet mignon and dark chocolate truffles. 770-965-8100. $65 (add $20 for wine pairings).

Aria – Four-course menu by chef Gerry Klaskala offered on Valentine’s Day. 404-233-7673. $90.

Kyma – Five-course prix fixe menu with a wine pairing option. 404-262-0702. $72 (wine pairing adds $30).

Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails – Three-course menu with items like piquillo pepper crab bisque, pan-seared diver scallops and molten chocolate cake. 770-817-0161. $60.

No. 246 - Four course menu showcasing dishes including cauliflower custard, wood-roasted foie gras, and butter-poached Maine lobster. 678-399-8246. $55.

P’Cheen International Bistro & Pub - Three-course menu starting with an oyster aphrodisiac. Other courses include options like …

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Restaurant inspections, Bon Ga Korean

Gwinnett County suspended the health permit of a Korean restaurant on Buford Highway last week after it failed a second routine health inspection in the past three months.

Bon Ga Korean Restaurant, 7130 Buford Highway, Doraville, was given a health score of 43/U. Management was asked to close the facility and submit a plan to control risks of food-borne illness.

The restaurant has had repeated violations of improper cooling of cooked foods. Rapid cooling methods that ensure food safety are not being followed, according to the inspector.

For example, four containers of bone soup had been placed inside 5-gallon plastic containers to cool at room temperature. Three containers of the soup were discarded after not cooling to the required maximum of 70 degrees within 2 hours. One container was re-heated on the stove and held for customers.

Other hot foods had been placed in the walk-in cooler to lower the temperatures, but approved cooling standards were not met.

In other …

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Get Super Bowl menu tips from Marcus Samuelsson

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courtesy of The Macy's Culinary Council

Do you have your Super Bowl menu planned? If not, Chef Marcus Samuelsson will be in Atlanta on Saturday to lend a hand.

Samuelsson, whom you may remember as the Season 2 winner of “Top Chef Masters,” will lead a cooking demonstration this Saturday at the Lenox Macy’s. The demo will focus on preparing sweet and savory bites.

If you spend $35 in the home department at Macy’s before or after the demonstration, you’ll receive a $10 gift card and a copy of “The Macy’s Culinary Council Thanksgiving & Holiday Cookbook” signed by Sameulsson.

This event hosted by The Macy’s Culinary Council is free, but seating is limited so you must RSVP online or by calling 305-577-1818.

2:00 p.m. Feb 2., Macy’s at Lenox Square Mall, Home Department (Level 3) in the Culinary Kitchen.

–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog

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Chickpea state of mind

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Sometimes the food gods conspire to make you take notice of a certain ingredient.

On one recent night, some friends invited us over for dinner and made chana masala, an Indian chickpea stew layered with the flavors of onions, ginger, cumin, tomatoes, sweet spices and sour fruit – all of it butting up against that inimitable creamy-firm texture of the peas.

The next night I arrived in New York for a meeting and gathered with friends after dinner at a Spanish wine bar in Chelsea named El Quinto Pino. On the bar was a small cazuela dish filled with chef Alex Raij’s famous (and often imitated) creations: deep-fried chickpeas that had been liberally dusted with smoked Spanish paprika. As full as I was from dinner, I couldn’t keep myself from reaching into the dish for these peas. Their skins had opened in the fryer and hovered by the peas like the wings on the Golden Snitch of Harry Potter fame, giving a fleeting zip and crunch.

The next day’s meeting involved a lunch delivery …

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Your Food & More wishlist for 2013

AJC Dining Team member Jon Watson writes about popular eats.

AJC Dining Team member Jon Watson writes about popular eats.

It is still January, so I can get away with just one more “It’s the new year” post right? Don’t worry. This one is for the people.

For the last 30 days or so, every food writer in the country has waxed poetic about their top food moments of 2012, predicted upcoming trends for 2013 (Mobile food carts selling ring pops made of bacon-cheeseburger-cupcake!) and we’ve lamented the trends that we can’t wait to see fade into obscurity.

And there is nothing wrong with that, a new year is the obvious time to reflect and to look ahead. Last week I asked you for your favorite dishes, and the Food & More community didn’t disappoint, calling out quite a few serious contenders that deserved consideration, as well as a few that made it onto my “to-eat” list.

I’m already past the two year mark here at the AJC, and I still see many of the same familiar commenters (and IP addresses) from when I first started contributing here. So, …

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