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Archive for March, 2009

Restaurant Eugene’s New Flavor

It was great last week to head back to Restaurant Eugene to try chef-owner (and James Beard Award nominee) Linton Hopkins’ (left) new menu. If you’re a longtime favorite of the restaurant, don’t despair: plenty of your favorites, such as the vegetable plate with local, seasonal veggies and polenta-style grits and the excellent cheese offerings are still available, just in smaller form.

The menu is presented backwards, with a list of farms and purveyors used. Inside, things get more complicated — split between “fish,” “vegetables” and “meat and game,” the choices are a little overwhelming. Selections start at the top of the page with smaller plates and get larger as you make your way towards the bottom, with prices (from $4 to $44) following that suit.

The food is every bit as good as it has ever been on past visits — plump, seared scallops over creamy Cope’s corn and charred spring onions were a sweet harbinger of warmer weather, and a dim sum-inspired roasted pork belly …

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What Would Your Last Meal Be?

Hans Rueffert is a chef and cookbook author, and finalist for “The Next Food Network Star.” And he’s been struggling with cancer since 2005, undergoing multiple surgeries, chemo and radiation therapy after having half of his stomach and part of his esophagus removed.

His new cookbook, “Eat Like There’s No Tomorrow” (Luna7, 2009) is a beautifully photographed, well-realized look at cooking, gardens, thoughtfulness and life. Going with the adage his dad gave him of “you can’t make chicken salad with chicken poop,” Rueffert waxes sentimental about asparagus then gives a mean recipe for weiner schnitzel.

“All it takes is one bite of a homegrown tomato and you’ll find a way to grow some food,” he says about fresh ingredients, just before the book gets closeup with a few garden friends like spiders and turtles and a recipe for chocolate honey creme brulee.

If you’d like a copy, his website has details. I wish Hans well.

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Arnold Palmers: With Booze or Without

I find it hard to believe that I grew up in Atlanta and before a few years ago, had never heard of an Arnold Palmer. That may because it’s not actually a Southern drink, even though it is made of equal parts lemonade and iced tea shaken over ice. And it’s named after a golfer and golf is, well, big in the South — there is that little thing called the Master’s, after all. But people think it’s from the South — they want it to be from the South, so I’ll go with it. (It was purportedly invented at the Cherry Hills Country Club in Englewood, Colorado.)

But now to pose another timely question: Should it be served with booze — most often vodka, but sometimes bourbon — or without? And who makes the best one in Atlanta?

South City Kitchen’s Drunken Palmer, above, is my fave: a long, tall mix of lemonade, sweet tea, vodka and Southern Comfort that begs for a hot afternoon, a winding wraparound porch and outfits topped off by hats and sport coats (they need not be …

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Teen Chefs Win Big

I’m late getting this post off, but wanted to share some news that’s often overlooked in the world of star chefs and food networks: up-and-coming culinary talent, ie students. The young lady above, Sandra Clavijo (seen with chef Jim Gallivan), won a $15,000 scholarship in the Best Teen Chef Competition that was held at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Atlanta on March 14. Seniors from across The U.S. and Canada competed in local cook-offs at participating International Culinary Schools at Art Institute locations thoughout North America.

Sandra is a senior at Meadowcreek High School in Norcross. She will proceed to the finals held in Charlotte on May 9. Second place went to Virginia Woodard of Lyerly, Ga., and third to Jonathan Taylor of Stone Mountain.

I’ve judged many student competitions and sometimes winning for some kids can mean the difference between making it to culinary school or having to choose another career path — so my heart and hands are …

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Salt and Pepper Shakers: The Ultimate Yin Yang

It seems odd to me that a big pot of chicken and dumplings, fresh cole slaw and lemon curd with strawberries would get my family in a debate over salt and pepper shakers, but go figure.

My bro-in-law (originally from Illinois) claims that the pepper should be in the shaker with the most holes. My family heartily — albeit lovingly — disagrees. I think his line of thinking is based on how much he likes pepper. But maybe this is a regional thing? I looked at salt and pepper shakers online and wikipedia had this to say, though it doesn’t address pepper: “The number and size of holes on salt shakers has been observed to influence consumption of salt, within limits, and it has been suggested that proper selection of shakers delivering smaller amounts may be a means to improve diet by reducing sodium consumption.” I even looked at my old textbook from culinary school.

Do you think pepper shakers should have the most holes, or salt shakers? While you’re thinking it over, give kudos …

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Pizza, Pollan and Pollinating the Planet

I’m hoping this isn’t me come a week from now, as I build deeps (compartments) for my honey bees. I’m so excited that the little Italian sweethearts will be arriving just as the family garden is getting started. My hubby and I plan to build the deeps this weekend.

Our plans are on the heels of the Georgia Organics conference, where writer Michael Pollan wowed a crowd of about 1,100 Saturday night as the keynote speaker — and honey bee colony collapse disorder was among many of the topics he hit on. Read more about Pollan’s speech and the conference in my Hotplate column online this Wednesday.

We’ll probably also check out Jeff Verasano’s new pizza palace, Verasano’s Pizzeria, on Peachtree Street, since it’s opening tomorrow and I’ve been waiting to check it out. The dude is going to have to hit home runs to beat Fritti’s new pizzaiola, Enrico Liberato — you can check out my re-review of Fritti online at accessAtlanta …

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Atlanta’s Best Cheese Offerings

I’ve rescheduled an interview with Star Provision’s cheese monger, Tim Gaddis, about 145 times, but it looks as if I’ll be speaking with the high-end provender’s cheese buyer soon. In the meantime heads up: the cheese shop at Star Provisions is among the best in the Southeast. I’ve even gotten very-hard-to-find clochette here (the pretty little bell-shaped, mold-ripened goat cheese from France), among many other delights.

Can’t wait to hear what Gaddis has in store for the shop’s incredible cheese selection.

To satisfy my cheese needs in the interim, I’ve opened an advanced copy of a new book called “Goat Song” (Scribner 2009) by the novelist Brad Kessler. It chronicles his life after leaving his Manhattan lifetstyle to live on a 75-acre goat farm in Vermont. While a fascinating and compelling account of raising goats and making cheese, it’s really a lovely look at how someone fed up with all the trappings of modern life finds a way to make his more meaningful.

My only …

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Nougat And the Chocolate Bar Top My Candy List

I frequent Alon’s in Va/Hi Morningside, usually to peruse the cheese section, buy bread and get small bars of the bakery-cum-takeout shop’s selection of chocolate.

A couple of weeks ago, I found something I just can’t find enough of: nougat bars. I love nougat — ever since my days as a pastry student at Johnson & Wales University, where we made it by hand, I’ve been in love with its fluffy, divinity-like consistency. The brand is called Walter’s, and the nougat is handmade honey nougat. Alon’s had pecan and macadamia nut, but the website offers more. The real kick is that it’s made by a family company in South Africa. Who knew?

And speaking of candy — I hadn’t visited the Chocolate Bar in Decatur for several months, but met a dear friend there two Saturdays ago with my daughter, who enjoyed her very first chocolate martini (virgin style, of course). The staff seeemed more than happy to accommodate her. The verdict: silky, chocolate yum, even without the booze. Makes me all the …

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Is it Okay for Restaurants to Kick You Out — Part II

Whew! Nothing like a customer service issue to get everyone talking. Interesting comments. I’m surprised at how many of you completely disapprove of the customer’s behavior and side with the restaurant.

And just for the record — one more time let me say it — this blog is no place for racist remarks. Let’s keep the commenting on topic.

That said, Kim Jordy, the owner of Tea Leaves & Thyme, returned my phone call this morning. She said she definitely remembers the reader, and felt there was “no way to win with her.”

“This is the ugly part of taking reservations,” explained Jordy, who told me she also made sure that the table of three were offered the restaurant’s “we’re sorry bag” of loose leaf tea samples, fill-your-own tea bags and decorative sugars sold in the adjoining retail area.

“We sometimes comp things entirely, but this woman was so irate and blisterous that I didn’t feel she could be made happy,” Jordy said. The owner also mentioned that she didn’t always tell …

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Is It Okay for Restaurants to Kick You Out?

A reader emailed to relate a troublesome time she and friends encountered at one of her favorite spots in Woodstock, Ga., — Tea Leaves & Thyme.

She writes:

“We have eaten here for years and loved everything about it. Even Saturday everything was great – tea, fixings, waiter.  When we arrived on time (11:30), we were asked to wait in the gift shop and we were seated shortly. We were catching up on ladies’ gossip and weren’t in a hurry. Tea was slow coming because we had questions which were answered expertly.  The lunch crowd was passing and we were finished eating and chatting. The owner/manager came by with “are you done look” asking if we needed anything else and took a dirty plate. We got the hint and were almost ready, probably in the next 10-15 minutes. We were enjoying the tea and company. There were tables opening up and we didn’t notice a crowd lingering. Then the hostess came up within minutes, handed each of us a tea bag and asked us to leave (12:55). We were …

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