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Archive for April, 2013

The Latest on Staplehouse and The Giving Kitchen

sh_logoEarlier this week, the team behind Staplehouse and The Giving Kitchen unveiled plans for the new restaurant and foundation, which will be housed in a building on Edgewood Ave. in the Old Fourth Ward.

Staplehouse started out as an underground supper club run by Ryan and Jen Hidinger as a first step toward opening their dream restaurant one day. But after Ryan was diagnosed with Stage IV gallbladder cancer, those plans were put on hold, while friends, family and the community created Team Hidi to help with Ryan’s treatment.

The combination of the diagnosis and all that Team Hidi love and support caused Ryan and Jen to radically change their perspective and create a new focus for Staplehouse.

Calling it casual fine dining experience with a purpose, the restaurant, with Ryan Hidinger and Ryan Smith in the kitchen, will dedicate all after tax proceeds to The Giving Kitchen Initiative, a 501c3 organization dedicated to providing financial assistance to those in the hospitality …

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PimentoGate – A new tradition at Augusta?

IMG_0908-236x300This past weekend saw one of the most tradition-laden sporting events – heck, events of any kind really – with the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National, and it seems that something was awry.

I’ve written about The Masters and my love for the food there before, and unfortunately for me, I was not able to secure a badge and get my hands on a few dozen of those pimento cheese or egg salad sandwiches. But it seems I may have picked a good year to miss.

In what he is dubbing “PimentoGate”, Wright Thompson over at ESPN broke the story that there has been a change to the world-famous pimento cheese sandwich recipe, and things just ain’t what the used to be.

It appears that since parting ways with Ted Godfrey, owner of the fried chicken chain Wife Saver and most recent man behind the pimento, Augusta National has not been able to get that magic recipe quite right. Patrons are complaining that this year’s sandwiches were too heavy and too spicy, and that the texture just wasn’t …

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Vidalia onion season opens with a recipe from Kevin Gillespie

Kevin Gillespie's Savory Fig Tart with Vidalia Onions (credit: Angie Mosier)

Kevin Gillespie's Savory Fig Tart with Vidalia Onions (credit: Angie Mosier)

Yesterday marked the official start of Vidalia onion season.

According to the Vidalia Onion Committee, this year’s sweet onion crop looks like it will be a good one. Last year, higher-than-normal temperatures and downy mildew kept yields down to about one-third of the normal amount.

More than 12,000 acres of Vidalia onions will be harvested this season in a 20-county area.

To mark the start of the onion bounty, chef Kevin Gillespie, a member of the Chefs Advisory Board for the Vidalia Onion Committee, has offered up a recipe from his new cookbook “Fire in My Belly.”

Savory Fig Tart with Vidalia Onions

(from Kevin Gillespie’s “Fire in My Belly”)

Enough for 6 appetizers or 20 hors d’oeuvres


  • 1 Vidalia onion (softball-size)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt
  • 1 puff pastry sheet, thawed but still cold
  • 12 Brown Turkey figs, a little more than a pint
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon fresh rosemary, …

Continue reading Vidalia onion season opens with a recipe from Kevin Gillespie »

Learning to Love Rum

rumI’d call myself an omnivore when it comes to both food and drink. But there are some things that have never really excited or interested me.

Rum certainly was one those things, until very recently.

Last month, I interviewed Erik Vonk, who owns and operates Richland Distilling Company, and has a farm in southwest Georgia near Richland, where he grows some of the sugarcane he uses to produce his high-quality, small-batch Richland Rum, which is aged in oak casks.

Vonk is so passionate in preaching the gospel of good rum and his rum is so surprisingly good that it completely changed my notion of what rum could or should be.

What I expected was something like moonshine, or worse. Richland Rum is more like scotch or bourbon — smooth, easy to sip neat, and fun to mix.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Greg Best of Holeman & Finch had to say, when I interviewed him for the story:

“One thing I’m amazed by is how bright and floral it is,” Best says. “There’s vanilla and caramel …

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Restaurant inspections, two Decatur restaurants

Two DeKalb County restaurants lost an evening of business last week when they were temporarily closed after failing a second consecutive routine health inspection.

However, both made a quick turn-around. They each passed a follow-up inspection and re-opened the following afternoon.

Gokul Sweets, 763 DeKalb Industrial Way, Decatur, initially scored a 58/U because employees were careless when handling food.

The inspector said employees were not cleaning their hands immediately before prepping food, and they were touching ready to eat foods with bare hands. One employee was drinking a soda from an open container while cooking at the wok station.

In addition, food was not protected from contamination. A bulk container of cooked peanuts had been placed outside behind the facility to cool.

The restaurant passed its follow-up inspection with a 91/A.

A Decatur pizzeria was also given permission to re-open after scoring an 83/B on a second inspection.

Rocco’s New York Pizza, 2064 N. …

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Richard Blais On Not Leaving Atlanta and More

Richard Blais is undoubtedly one of Atlanta’s best and most recognizable chefs.


His recent resume includes: winning Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars; owning/operating Trail Blais culinary company, with Atlanta restaurants, Flip Burger Boutique, HD1, and The Spence; becoming a seemingly ubiquitous television presence; and authoring his first cookbook, “Try This At Home.”

Blais is currently on the inaugural Top Chef Cruise, sailing the high seas with the likes of Fabio, Spike, and what is very likely way too many Top Chef fans.

On Sunday evening, you can see him competing again on the Food Network’s Chopped: All-Stars. And on April 22, he’ll be at Flip in Buckhead for a book tour event billed as “An Evening with Richard Blais.”

I caught up with Blais earlier this week before he embarked on the cruise, which he admitted, he was a little worried about.

“I’ve never been on a cruise before,” he said. “It’s not something I ever really thought I would  do.”

Here’s some more of what Blais …

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Wrecking Bar Brewpub restaurant review

Credit: Becky Stein

Credit: Becky Stein

Whenever a new restaurant opens, we are supposed to give them at least a few months to work out any kinks before giving them a starred review. It is the only fair way to do it. But, sometimes, a restaurant needs more than just a few months to get everything figured out, and that is precisely what I found when I re-visited Wrecking Bar Brewpub in Little Five Points. It had been over a year since my last visit, and a lot has changed.

You can read about those changes in my review of Wrecking Bar Brewpub here.

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Chef Bruce Logue Previews BoccaLupo

Bruce Logue in the La Pietra kitchen/ AJC

Bruce Logue in the La Pietra kitchen/ AJC

At Atlanta’s La Pietra Cucina, chef Bruce Logue focused on what he calls the “handmade aspects” of Italian cuisine, building a reputation for some of the best Italian cooking in the city —  a surprising achievement for an Atlanta native of Scots-Irish descent.

Logue’s background includes stints at several well-regarded contemporary Italian and modern French restaurants in Boston, and a recent turn at STG in Atlanta. But his experiences in the kitchen at Mario Batali’s Babbo in New York City still define his style.

On Monday, Logue is set to open his much-anticipated new Italian-American neighborhood restaurant, BoccaLupo, in the former Sauced space in Inman Park. Here’s what he had to say about that today.

Q. So what’s BoccaLupo about?

A. Originally, I wanted to open a no-frills pasta bar, a lot like a noodle bar or ramen shop, where it was just about the noodles and the sauce. I wanted an open kitchen with the bar right in front of …

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Restaurant inspections, Tasty Curry

A take-out Indian restaurant in south Atlanta saw a dramatic drop in its health score after an inspector found rat droppings on dry storage shelving.

Tasty Curry, 1550 Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, received a failing score of 46/U.

The facility was marked down for other signs of uncleanliness, too. The inspector noted food debris on the floor underneath cooking equipment, and a buildup of food debris on non-food contact surfaces.

And food prep counters, equipment and utensils were not sanitized, the Fulton County Health inspector noted.

Points were also deducted from the overall health score because the facility had no thermometer to measure food temperatures. When the inspector took temperature readings some of the cold foods were not within the proper range for food safety.

Among other code violations, some food containers were uncovered in the reach-in cooler, prepared foods were not marked with a disposal date and the inspector said raw meats were stored over …

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Food photos and Seven Lamps restaurant review, Buckhead

Picture 11I once wrote about food photography magic and the tale of two pizzas that were crafted very differently for me as an unknown diner and for our photographer. As we prepared to print this review for Seven Lamps, we ran into a similar situation. Behold the gorgeous cannelloni prepared for Becky Stein, our photographer, and my hazy, hastily snapped iPhone shot. Even though my photography could use a little magic, the dish has been tweaked, no longer bearing the apricot-hued purée that I describe in the review.

You can read about that purée in the Seven Lamps restaurant review.


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