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St. Cecilia restaurant review, Buckhead

swordfish at St. Cecilia (credit: Becky Stein)

swordfish at St. Cecilia (credit: Becky Stein)

In tomorrow’s AJC I have a review of St. Cecilia, the newest in Ford Fry’s string of restaurants. I gave it a grade of 3 stars.

At St. Cecilia, the bright and breezy two-story space mimics the delicate flavors of the light, coastal European fare. Simple fish dishes like herb-scented swordfish and fresh pastas like the spring green nettles ravioli come from this kitchen. The fare is still a work in progress as the kitchen strives to identify its most successful dishes and keep up with the demands of an ambitious 160-seat dining room. But that doesn’t stop the Buckhead business lunchers and evening trendsetters from snagging every available perch. St. Cecilia is where you’ll find Atlanta.

The restaurant’s signature dish is fast becoming its hearth-roasted octopus, its meaty interior juxtaposed with crispy charred tentacles. The new spring menu brings another competitor for top spot: the spring ravioli. Green nettle-infused …

Continue reading St. Cecilia restaurant review, Buckhead »

Atlanta Chefs Show at Taste of Avalon

"Puffy" Tacos

"Puffy" Tacos

On Wednesday afternoon, “Taste of Avalon” gave VIP guests and a few journalists and bloggers a sneak preview of the culinary aspirations of the upscale $600 million mixed use Avalon development, now under construction on 86 acres at Ga. 400 and Old Milton Parkway in Alpharetta.

Guided hard hat walking tours revealed the concrete bones of chef-driven Atlanta-to-Avalon restaurant destinations, including Ford Fry’s new Tex-Mex concept, The El Felix, another outpost of Shaun Doty’s Bantam + Biddy pastured chicken eatery, and Giovanni Di Palma’s Antico pizza and Caffè Gio transplants.

Among the samples on offer, Fry and Kevin Maxey plated a crispy “puffy” chicken taco with guacamole and salsa. Executive chef/partner Jeremiah Bacon of Charleston-to-Avalon Oak Steakhouse served slices of dry-aged strip steak with bone marrow bread pudding. Bocado owner Brian Lewis, who will open a new concept called Bocado Burger Bar, went in a different direction with a …

Continue reading Atlanta Chefs Show at Taste of Avalon »

Waffle House Museum! Waffle House Truck!

The Waffle House truck (credit: Food Truck South)

The Waffle House truck (credit: Food Truck South)

If you find yourself around Avondale Estates on Saturday April, 26th and feel the all-too-human urge to get your scattering and smothering from a food truck, then you’re in luck. The Waffle House Museum will have its spring opening from noon to 3 p.m. After touring the 1955 diner replica on the site of the original Waffle House, you can enjoy hashbrowns from the truck parked in front. This event is free to the public.

The Waffle House Museum is located at 2719 E. College Ave, Decatur, GA 30030.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

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Restaurant Impossible is filming in Atlanta and Needs Help

Is Marie’s at Ummat Café a restaurant impossible? We find out, as Robert Irvine tears down the walls and turns the kitchen around next Tuesday and Wednesday. Food Network will be taping a “Restaurant Impossible” episode on April 29 and 30- and they are looking for construction help.

Here’s the details:

We are looking for individuals to help with the renovation of the restaurant within the two days. Volunteers will be painting, crafting, construction, remodeling, cleaning, decorating etc. (depending on your skill set). Always looking for skilled contractors, electricians, plumbers and painters to help out and donate their time. The volunteer schedule is as follows:

Shift #1 - Tuesday, April 29th: 1pm to 8pm

Shift #2 - Tuesday, April 29th: 8pm to 2am

Shift #3 - Wednesday, April 30th: 10am to 6pm

Any and all volunteers may be on camera. Please wear comfortable clothing & sneakers/boots with no logos.

Volunteers are not limited to one shift.

If interested, please …

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The Wild, Wonderful World of Mushrooms

Joe Reynolds grows shiitake mushrooms that he sells at area farmers markets.

Joe Reynolds grows shiitake mushrooms that he sells at area farmers markets.

In this week’s AJC Food section, I have a story on mushrooms with recipes from chef Drew Belline, who oversees the culinary operations at No. 246 in Decatur and St. Cecilia in Buckhead, and is a longtime devotee of foraging for wild mushrooms.

“When I think about wild mushrooms in Georgia, it always makes me hypersensitive to the seasons — particularly to the spring, summer and fall,” Belline says. “Three mushrooms come to mind that tend to be in abundance during those three seasons. In the spring, it’s morels, the summertime, chanterelles, and in the fall, maitakes — definitely my three favorites.”

I also paid a visit to Love Is Love Farm/Gaia Gardens at East Lake Commons,  where Joe Reynolds nurtures shiitake mushrooms that he sells in East Atlanta and at other area farmers markets. He also teaches classes on growing mushrooms at home. Fresh-cut hardwood logs are drilled with holes, …

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Recipe: Muddled Berry Wine Spritzer

Our wine week continues with a wine spritzer recipe. Refreshing, effervescent and light, this simple cocktail combines white wine, muddled berries and seltzer in an easy sipping spring drink. This practically screams patio season. I used a Pinot Grigio from Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi, and the notes of fresh peach and citrus complemented the juicy, muddled berries. Feel free to swap out berries or try a different white- a white zinfandel will add more floral aromas.

Muddled Berry Wine Spritzer (serves 4)

  • 1 bottle of Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Pinot Grigio (750 mL), chilled
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, halved
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • ½ cup ice per drink (so 2 cups total)
  • 1 cup sparkling beverage*

*for more sweetness use Sprite, less use a plain seltzer

  1. Place strawberries, blueberries and raspberries in a saucepan on the stove and simmer on low for 10 minutes, or until the berries release their juices. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  2. You …

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Snapshots from the Court of Masters Intro Level Wine Course

Yesterday I posted about my experience taking the Court of Master Sommeliers Introductory Level I Course.

Our four Master Sommeliers were not only entertaining and engaging (which kept us perked up during the two day course) but their backgrounds were interesting as well.

4_22_winecellarRon Edwards was not a stranger to studying. He graduated North Carolina State University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering before switching paths. Keith Goldston grew up in Napa Valley and the only way his parents would let him buy a motorcycle at 16 was if he paid for it- so he started as a bus boy at a small Italian restaurant and worked his way up. Laura DePasquale was a painter and now she is the Vice Chair of the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Vice President and General Manager of The Vinter Group/Stacole.

And then there were the students. Each one’s path was as different as the terroir of Napa Valley Chardonnay versus Chablis, but all wanted to progress to become a Certified …

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Varuni Napoli stealth report

Luca Varuni

Luca Varuni

Over the weekend I found myself at a “friends and family night” for a new restaurant.

Ever been to one?

It happens usually on the eve of a grand opening, when the owners invite a roomful of sympathetic souls to eat and drink so the kitchen and service staff can experience a packed house in the new space.

I didn’t realize that’s what was going on when friends called me and my wife on the spur of the moment and asked us to join them at Varuni Napoli. This new Neapolitan pizzeria in Morningside comes from Antico Pizza Napoletana alum Luca Varuni. Fans of that latter restaurant will surely recognize Varuni as the former star pizzaiolo. It was a merry free-for-all, with much wine and unbidden food arriving at the table, many toasts, and Varuni’s father walking through the dining room singing opera arias.

You may be asking, “Is the world ready for yet another Antico clone?”

To which I would respond: Duh.

But I would also aver that Varuni is no clone. The space is larger, …

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Want a $25 Dining Card?

Strawberry tart from Little Tart Bakery (credit: Becky Stein)

Strawberry tart from Little Tart Bakery (credit: Becky Stein)

You know what would taste good? A $25 gift certificate to King + Duke, that’s what.

Please post on Twitter or Instagram a photo of a favorite restaurant dish with the hashtag #AJCwheretoeat, and you will be entered to get these dining dollars. We’re giving away one gift certificate every day this week, so enter daily and enter often.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

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Diesel Filling Station Boycotts Sweetwater


It all started with a report in Creative Loafing earlier this month that beer from other Georgia craft breweries had been pushed out of Turner Field by an exclusive sponsorship deal between the Braves and Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing Co., which included a bigger presence around the park and the takeover of the former Coors kiosk in the Fan Plaza near the front gates.

Soon after, baseball loving beer geeks were crying foul, noting that beer from Red Brick and Terrapin were missing from the opening day lineup.

Over the weekend, Diesel Filling Station in Virginia-Highland posted a message on its outdoor sign declaring that the bar would boycott Sweetwater and no longer carry its beer.

“It was 420 weekend, so we thought we’d have some fun,” Diesel owner Justin Haynie said today, referring to 420 Fest, the big Sweetwater music and beer festival that was going on Friday-Sunday at Centennial Olympic Park.

“The decision was based on the Turner Field thing,” Haynie said. …

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