June 27, 2012
Culinary Compendium 2012
What to eat and drink in Atlanta right NOW
By Nancy Staab
- Select photos via StarChefs.com
Want to know where to eat right now and what’s coming next, the latest drink dens and future cheap eats; plus, a survey of StarChefs.com 2012 Atlanta Rising Star Chefs and the hottest underground eating scenes exposed?…Then read on!
THE NEW EATS BEATS
Twitterverse is a-Blais with buzz about Top Chef Richard Blais’ new Midtown eatery The Spence with design by The Johnson Studio. We almost bought in to the pre-opening press about a traditional family supper den named after an English word for larder. Sure, there’s Salisbury rack of lamb on the menu (a Blais riff on Salisbury steak involving meat glue!), the occasional roasted suckling pig served whole on a platter, and shared family suppers, but this temple of creative cookery takes you on a wild ride through a world of flavors with global culinary mash-ups that only Blais could devise.
Think: oysters with magic pearls (liquefied spheres of Horseradish and crème fraiche) a la Blais’ time at The French Laundry and El Bulli; uni spaghettini with lobster; the raved about bone marrow with Hamachi tartare and fried quail eggs (a Fergus Henderson-meets-David Chang mash-up perhaps); and then there’s general Tso’s sweetbreads, the crisp pork belly with bbq chick peas and grilled octopus served in a dramatic smoked glass dome, and for dessert pineapple upside down cake and foie caramel or a yuzu semifreddo with apricot gelado and chili oil that looks like a modernist painting but composed by young pastry whiz Andrea Litvin. This is a chef making up his own vocabulary, and most importantly, with plates as delicious as they are artistic and innovative.
And did we mention the serious cocktails? The Sazerac comes smoked with a grapefruit-infused rye, Peychaud’s biters, and an ice cube fashioned of absinthe! Extra points for the daily menu’s rotating “things that inspire us” list—from Irish butter, umami paste and Japanese green peaches –to Brooklyn aprons, Paris on Ponce and Samuel L. Jackson. We absolutely adore Flip and HD1, but for those who were wishing Blais would test his culinary chops more: this is the spot in spades--one that will have the national press paying house calls in Atlanta. www.thespenceatl.com/?landing
Photos by StarChefs.com. See a gorgeous slideshow of The Spence dishes at: www.starchefs.com/cook/photos/chef-richard-blais-and-pastry-chef-andrea-litvin-spence-atlanta-ga
How can your restaurant be anything less than an instant success with such a sunny, and positive name? Yes, we get that The Optimist is also the name for a small dinghy, but in this case both meanings are fitting. Restaurateur Ford Fry figured that if he built an oyster bar and retro fish camp in Westside they would come, and come they did. With a tried-and-true décor of laidback, South Hamptons beach-chic by Smith Hanes (reclaimed wood, double-height ceilings and windows, industrial light fixtures, sailor’s knot bar coasters) and a down-home menu that skirts the boundary between casual and semi-ambitious, the Optimist comes across as polished but relaxed and inviting eatery-- a vacation in the city. Who wouldn’t want to belly up to the commodious bar, unobtrusive hipster tunes playing in the backdrop, and sip a cinnamon-laced rum/Kahlua, lime drink developed by Lara Creasy, with delicious crushed ice and a perky paper parasol? Or order a round of bivalves or peel-and-eat shrimp at the specifically designated oyster bar? (all seafood is sustainably sourced).
Better yet, peel into a table or charming curved booth for a full meal. The starters and sides alone are worth snacking on even if you skip an entrée: garlicky clams and pork belly with homemade croutons; crispy tempura long beans with sea salt and buttermilk-dill dipping sauce that are addictively snackable; a colorful local tomato salad or roasted beets with smoked horseradish. But our favorite dish was the bargain, dinner-only $6 bowl of potato gnocchi with lobster butter and summer corn—silk, luscious, who cares if it’s more than slightly reminiscent of the corn- studded agnolotti sometimes on the seasonal menu at Fry’s other resto No. 246. For lunch we recommend the summery lobster roll on buttered bun, but the more interesting sides and entrees are offered dinner only.
Chef Adam Evans (formerly of Craft Atlanta and JCT. Kitchen) serves as executive chef. HIs halibut entree is particularly divine with an earthy, sultry accompaniment of hen of the wood mushrooms and red wine bordelaise. No one was missing the red meat with several hearty fish entrees like sea scallops with oxtail marmalade or duck fat poached swordfish. (Of course if you insist on meat there’s a skirt steak, a fine roasted chicken, pork, and lamb belly on the menu). We will have to go back to try the desserts but the corn milk hushpuppies sufficed in the meantime—way more sweet than savory and served “beignet style” in a paper cone with cane-sugar butter and loads of powdered sugar on top. We think we are going to like this place: cheaper and easier to get to than a drive to Alys Beach—and deliciously fun. Maybe they’ll even allow flip-flops. www.theoptimistrestaurant.com
What happens when the mad-creatives behind Dinner Party & Top Flr, Patrick LaBouff and Darren Carr, and Executive Chef and Rising Chef 2012 winner Shane Devereaux, dream up a joint of their own in Midtown? The result, in Carr’s words, is an “urban-elegant place with a neighborhood vibe and an immaculate cuisine, beverage and service program.”
Indeed, The Lawrence exudes a certain hipster-glam, Rat Pack vibe: it’s classy without being stuffy, cool but convivial, sophisticated but not pretentious (to wit: they’ve got fried pig ears as a very Southern bar bite!)…and the crowds and culinary critics have been packing the place since its opening date. Even Sunday and Monday nights are bustling.
As for Devereaux’s gently envelope-pushing cuisine, think: “New American with classical French and Asian influences, but approachable.” Sample Bar Bites and Small Plates: crispy pig ears with fennel salt; a plate of country ham with grained mustard and toast; frilly cremini mushrooms and artichokes with Parmesan in a wonderful herb-lemon vinaigrette; golden rice porridge with marjoram and feta; and more challenging dishes like roasted bass head with lemongrass, scallion and chili broth. Around-the-world entrées include: potato gnocchi with spring onion, fennel frond pistou and pork rind; savory duck tongue carnitas; GA rabbit schnitzel; wild striped bass with cauliflower puree and curried raisins; and a decadent foie-butter stuffed chicken that was only out-matched by an even more divine heritage pork cheeks with parpadelle. Leave room for the playful, homey desserts: fallen chocolate rum soufflé with butterscotch ice cream and pretzel dust or a golden raisin butter cake with salted caramel and parsnip milk, served warm in a jar.
Lastly, with local libation legend Eric Simpkins (The Drinkshop, Trois) manning the potables, The Lawrence also boasts a thriving bar culture. Cocktails are hand-crafted, with an impressive gin selection (they are onJuniper Street after all), and their own 12-year-old house bourbon—blended with the help of the Elijah Craig folks. Wines come by the glass or half carafe with an ample selection of sparklers for good measure.
As for the name of the joint…it’s not a tribute to an epicurean family member or rabid food patron, but rather an allusion to the patron saint of restaurants and chefs, St. Lawrence. Legend has it that Lawrence quipped, while being burned at the stake by heathens, “turn me over… I think I am done on this side.” The black-humor name was hatched over an Irish whiskey-fueled brainstorming session between LaBouff, Carr and Devereaux. The team thought the name exuded a certain “elegance, masculinity and permanence,” and they’re sticking to it. So far, the Lawrence delivers handily on those first two qualities and we’re betting this newbie resto will easily achieve the third goal as well. www.thelawrenceatlanta.com
WHERE TO EAT NEXT
After years of being in semi dining doldrums, Buckhead is picking up as a hot-again dining destination. To wit: STG Trattoria, the recent brainchild of Bocado owner Brian Lewis, with former Abattoir chef Joshua Hopkins in the kitchen. The place is reeling in foodies and yuppies alike to its cooly minimalist and modern den by ai3 with open floor plan, open kitchen, iPad wine lists and entrance tunnel of wine. The Acunto oven pizzas are large, wet, and lush, while the homemade pastas tend towards the ethereal and seasonal. www.stgtrattoria.com
Perhaps the most buzzed about Buckhead project is the impending arrival, late summer, of Kevin Rathbun’s first Buckhead venture KR SteakBar, located in the somewhat dining-deprived nabe of Peachtree Hills and ADAC. Described as steak house-meets-Italian-small plates, the joint will offer up quality sourced meats (from Allen Brothers in Chicago) in smaller healthier portions, plus pasta dishes focusing primarily on the Emillia-Romagna region, and tasty small pates for sharing with extensive Italian wine list and cocktails to match. A décor by The Johnson Studio with a capacious bar and areas for large groups, should add to the draw, while a terrace with an outdoor fire pit for warmth and occasional cooking should be a magnet in the fall. www.kevinrathbun.com/restaurants.html
Proposed Ford Fry Project for Nava Space
Another trendy terrace, that of Nava, may soon be transformed. Rumor has it that Ford Fry is taking over the space for a modern dining concept with a New York City design firm on board to execute the décor. No word on the menu, but the modern slant seems to rule out an earlier Tex-Mex concept that Fry had toyed with for a potential Midtown space. Fry recently told BlackBook: “Buckhead is a key area. They haven’t had anything new in so long. We thought to come in and give it something fresh…Maybe the Spanish influence will come in here, but then again, I want it to be locally-source, American tavern type of thing.”
Beloved classic Pano’s is making a return to Buckhead…but not as originally planned, at the St. Regis. Instead, the swanky restaurant and lounge will be re-instituted in the upper level of the103 West event space in the fall of 2012. Bill Johnson has signed on as architect with Pano Karatassos, junior, the extremely accomplished chef of Kyma, at the helm. No surprise, the projected menu will be Mediterranean and fish-friendly, though we are sure there will be a few chops to sink your teech into as well. And, as Pano teased in a Twitter message, he’s toying with luxurious ingredients like foie gras, truffle and caviar. www.buckheadrestaurants.com
F&B from the FAB Team
And speaking of comebacks, sushi palace Tomo won’t be lonely for long in its glittering new The Ritz-Carlton Residences space. The owners of former Buckhead spot Brasserie Le Coze and now-shuttered downtown brasserie F.A.B.will be moving in this spring as neighbors. Their new eatery F&B sounds like a much toned-down remake of F.A.B with a less cavernous space. Expect an accessible French/Mediterranean menu with farm-to-table overtones.
Creative Loafing reported that former One. Midtown Kitchen chef Drew Van Leuvan will open a new craft bar and resto called Seven Lamps slated to open at Shops Around Lenox in Buckhead in August. Van Leuvan told Midtown Patch that the place will be similar in inspiration to Holeman and Finch with homemade, easily understood fare and craft cocktails. Stay tuned for more details.
Decatur institution Watershed recently reopened in the Brookwood condominiums in South Buckhead. Also on board to aid executive chef Joe Truex, is former Seegers/Bookhouse Pub alum Julia LeRoy as chef de cuisine (last of LeRoy’s Fried Chicken). So whose fried chicken takes center stage at the new Watershed? The classic Watershed recipe of course, first cultivated by former chef Scott Peacock and now a classic. You can sink your teeth into it every Wednesday night, but arrive early, as the prized birds usually run out well before 7PM. Pair it with one of their Wednesday-only specially priced Champagnes. The very good chocolate cake, now served in a jar, also remains on the menu and Truex’s nod to his native New Orleans, the fried crawfish pie. New adds include: pork belly wraps with slaw and cane syrup; a fried pimento sandwich, jumbo sea scallop schnitzel, blue crab and gulf shrimp ragout with house-made fettuccine and creole tomato fondue, and ribeye with black truffle gravy. Waiting at the bar? Try the fun Glady’s popcorn balls with cane syrup and Benton’s bacon (sounds like a signature LeRoy creation to us) www.watershedrestaurant.com
Chic Concept by David Marvin for Former Trois Space
Midtown has a little dining mojo of its own. We recently announced developer David Marvin’s planned concept for the former Trois space. (http://www.luxecrush.com/grazing/article/this-just-in-the-former-trois-space-gets-a-chic-new-concept).Scheduled to open around August 15, the first level will house a neighborhood restaurant with "seasonal, farm-to table-fare with some New England additions." The second or plaza level of the restaurant will open onto the gardens for lunch-only, with "spectacular brunches on the lawn on the weekends." The third level of the yet-to-be-named restaurant will be used exclusively for private functions.
This casual seafood spot, set to open July 17 on Crescent Ave. by the Fifth Group (South City Kitchen, Ecco), will feature “coastal cuisines from all over the world,” oysters and other raw bar staples, “seafood charcuterie” and entrees such as sautéed Pompano with Silver Queen corn and curry; mussels steamed with wheat beer, curry and crème fraiche or grilled whole Georgia trout with pickled ramp butter cooked in a charcoal-burning oven. The beverage program by Vajra Stratigos is equally inventive: house-bottled cocktails, shareable punch bowls for small and large groups like the Pre-Siesta with house-made horchata and premium tequila and shochu based cocktails with, get this, "jagged ice chips." Bill Peace and ai3 are in charge of Lure’s décor, which will naturally draw inspiration from the ocean and elements of the design will evoke billowing sailcloths. The expansive patio should be a huge lure, pun intended, this summer. www.fifthgroup.com
No word yet on where late La Pietra chef Bruce Logue will locate his new pasta spot but, as first reported on LuxeCrush, this Babbo alum has big plans for an intimate, casual, Italian-style pasta/noodle bar along the lines of David Chang’s immensely popular Momofuku in NYC. The menu at BoccaLupo (literal translation “Mouth of the Wolf” but figuratively an Italian good luck phrase) will include antipasti and appetizers as well as panini, plus a few simple entrees that will rotate with the season and local availability. Beverages will include a small and affordable by-the-glass wine list as well as bottled beer, wine and a few creative cocktails. Logue also cites NYC's buzzy Torrisi Italian Specialties and Parm as an inspiration for his upcoming pasta bar. No word yet if Logue’s signature La Pietra dish, black spaghetti with calabrese sausage and rock shrimp and tagliatelle with chanterelles and thyme, will make the new menu but fingers crossed.
The Madrid Spain-based, but Italian-inspired, restaurant La Tagliatella is slated to go in the former Silk restaurant space in the Metropolis building in Midtown in late 2012, according to real estate investment firm Jamestown (the same group behind White Provision complex and the upcoming Ponce City Market). La Taliatella may be a chain, technically, with over 100 locations in Spain and France, but its modern Italian concept is relatively high end. Think: sophisticated antipasti, two dozen wood oven pizzas and about 20 pastas, from farfalle to cuore di zucca with 20 mix-and-match sauces—from a decadent black truffle, duck Maigret and cream sauce to a Sicilian Tomato, eggplant, onion and black olive sauce-- on the encyclopedic menu. Lasagnas, beef, veal and pork round out this business account menu. latagliatella.es/eng/index.php
FUTURE CHEAP EATS
Real Chow Baby owner Mike Blum, in collaboration with vuanted Miso Izakaya chef Guy Wong, will open quick-serve dim sum resto Yum Bunz in Westside this October. On the menu: fluffy Chinese buns stuffed with barbecued roast pork and other fillings. www.facebook.com/YumBunz
Community Q and Bone Lick BBQ, Westside
Westside will soon get two bastions of barbecue: Decatur’s cult fave Community Q is opening a second location on Marietta Street this summer and the new cue concept from the P’cheen team, Bone Lick BBQ, is slated to open in West Midtown in July with a 1950’s vibe, juke box, vintage fridges, barbecue galore, local brews, moonshine, small-batch whiskies and bourbons. www.communityqbbq.com/
Victory Sandwich Bar, Decatur
While Decatur gem Community Q is coming to Westside, Inman Park’s pocket eatery and hipster haven, Victory Sandwich Bar is opening a second outpost in Decatur. Their mini craft sandwiches like Victory at Sea (a glorified tuna sandwich), the Hambo, and Beast on Yeast (pot roast with horseradish crème), not to mention their Coke and bourbon slushies, should soon be Decatur legends. www.vicsandwich.com
Bantam & Biddy
The former owner/chef Shaun Doty of Yeah! Burger will soon open a fast-casual chicken joint, adorably named Bantam & Biddy (after two prize poultry breeds) at Ansley Mall. And this just in: super talented chef Lance Gummere (formely of The Shed) will join him in daily culinary operations. The resto is not so much a fried chicken shack as a place for pastured, free-range rotisserie birds and seasonal sides (mashed potatoes, turnip greens, asparagus), and we hear he’s planning to bring back the duck fat fries made famous at his former Shaun’s resto. And in this case, the egg comes before the chicken with an egg-centric breakfast menu, in addition to full lunch and dinner service. The space will be designed by The Johnson Studio and is slated to open September 2012. Bantamandbiddy.com
DRINKING DENS AND LIBATION STATIONS
The Pinewood Tippling Room
Mythic mixologist T. Fable Jeon (formerly of Sound Table and recently named one of “10 Mixologists to Watch” by Beverage Media Network) just opened a charming tippling room with clever snacks (dreamed up with the help of consulting chef Julia LeRoy) in Decatur. The concept according to the press release: “inventive, Southern-inflected victuals and potables in a comfortable, warm atmosphere. Part cocktail bar, part Deep South diner.” On the menu at this unpretentious craft bar that Jeon declines to even label a “gastropub”: A small-plate menu of reinterpreted Southern classics like fried green tomatoes; “chicken tickers” aka deep fried chicken hearts; collard green eggrolls, white corn and bacon succotash, pork chops, and a re-imagined fried bologna sandwich (the bologna sourced from local Pine Street Market). And for dessert LeRoy has reprised the funnel cakes made famous from her stint at Bookhouse Pub. Meanwhile, the ambitious cocktails, under Jeon's mastery, are all concocted with freshly squeezed juices and house-made syrups, tinctures, infusions and sodas, such as the summery Pinewood Cup consisting of White Dog moonshine, ginger and kumquat, strawberry, blueberries, castor sugar, rhubarb bitters and bitter lemon soda. The Georgia-inflected Day That I Die cocktail features rye, ginger syrup, Meyer lemon juice, roasted Georgia pecan tincture and buckwheat honey syrup. And the ice? It’s cut by chain saw out back: authentic, indeed. www.pinewoodtr.com/
We are excited about the addition of a serious Indian restaurant, the poetically named Cardamon Hill at 1700 Northside Drive. Chef/owner Asha Gomez specializes in light, fragrant Indian cuisine from Kerala, the Southwest corner of India. Situated along the spice route, Kerala borrows from many spices and cultures and is lush with staples like coconut and seafood. Highlights of the menu include: Gomez’s famed Kerala-style, aka “crack fried chicken;” masala-rubbed kingfish in roasted banana leaf with cardamom-scented plantains; pork vindaloo; sweet potato verka with mustard seeds and curry leaves; and battered goat chops with mint, cilantro and green chile. And every lunch or dinner should conclude with her aromatic house Chai tea.
But you would be remiss if you didn’t also sample the exotic cocktails of master mixologist Brian Stanger (formerly the barkeep at Abattoir). He’s the blue-eyed wizard with the none-to-easy task of concocting evocative cocktails that stand up to Gomez’s flavorful cooking. Naturally, Brian looked to Kerala’s spices and fruits for inspiration for his craft cocktail menu, which includes exotic ingredients such as the creamy pulp of the spiky green soursop fruit, saffron bitters, tamarind , and Indian ginger coffee. Both Gomez’ cuisine and Stanger’s drinks have lightened up for the summer month. Gomez is featuring vegetable-heavy thalis for lunch with your choice of meat, fried chicken or vegetarian main. Meanwhile, the chai tea come iced or enjoy fresh, house-made fruit juices like Lychee Thyme and Mango Ginger. Still gunning for a cocktail? Stanger has you covered with several fruit laden coolers: Cucumber Basil, Pineapple Chili or a Kerala Cosmo.
As you sip a Raja Ravi (gin, lillet blonde, apricot brandy, soursop, tiki btters and lemon juice) you’ll be transported to India’s balmy southwest coast. www.cardamonhill.net
We admit it, from the moment we crossed the reclaimed wood plank threshold of Barcelona, the newish tapas spot in Inman Park, we were smitten. Sure, the Hot Dahlia with jalapeno-infused blanco tequila and zesty tapas plates such as patatas bravas and chorizo with sweet and sour figs may have contributed to our “te amo” experience, as did an ambitious wine list (sips from Hungary, Portugal, Uruguay !), but it was the décor by the Atlanta firm Square Feet Studio that had us at “hola!” The combination of rustic earthiness (the wood was salvaged from a mill, the sherry listings are depicted on a chalkboard menu next to a pig diagram); with the louche sophistication of the art work (black-and-white, fashion photos of a sultry Sophia Loren, John Lennon goofing with model Twiggy, etc); and a modern glass wall of wine storage, creates a compelling atmosphere of contrast. The vibe is Old World charm with a gloss of European glamour. It’s just the same earthy/sexy come-hither appeal of Sophia Loren herself. Bottoms up! www.barcelonawinebar.com
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding a proposed full-service bar and restaurant by the Brick Store Pub team (Brian Rackley and Matt Christison) in partnership with star mixologist Miles McQuarrie of Leon’s Full Service and Jesse Smith of JCT. Kitchen (He’s also a band member in Gentleman Jesse). The joint is named after a landmark grant hotel circa 1870, that was sadly destroyed in 1959 to add another parking deck to the Atlanta landscape. Likewise, the team says it is inspired by the way in which bespoke hotel bars of the past treated their work like craft. A press release says that Kimball Mill will serve food and drinks that “reflect the seasons, farms, and personalities of the people preparing them.” No word on opening date or location but we are all ears for more details! kimballmillbar.tumblr.com/
UNDERGROUND EATING EXPOSED!
Baton Supper Club
What do you get when you combine a hole-in-the-wall diner, a rock star Deerhunter band member as host, the country’s hottest emerging chefs cooking extemporaneously for a late night sitting, occasional live music, and shoulder-to-shoulder dining with local food journos, bloggers, foodies (wearing “Who’s Your Butcher?” t-shirts)? The super secret (until recently), underground supper club Baton. It was a pork-palooza last winter when hotshot, San Francisco guest chef Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food commandeered the teeny-tiny kitchen at Atlanta’s coolest new underground food scene Baton Supper Club (baton-limited.com).
A little background: Both Bon Appetit and GQ magazine recently named Mission Chinese one of its Best New Restaurants in America 2011 AND Bowien racked up a Star Chef finalist nomination for 2012 from James Beard Foundation. Here he was in Atlanta, cooking up his spicy Sichuan-inspired, pork-centric, Momofuku-esque dishes in a pop-up restaurant with a tiny, single galley kitchen. There was barely room to flip a skillet, though there is a charming altar of cat tchotchkes (a nod to the pop-up resto space Gato Bizco,which functions as a breakfast diner, by day).
Other Baton chefs have include Tien Ho from David Chang’s Má Peche andchef Hugue Dufour of M. Wells (the much raved about, late Quebec-American-inspired diner in New York). On the latter’s menu: Blue Pointe oysters with coffee sabayon; beef tongue pot pie with puff pastry top; foie gras bread pudding; Georgia/Quebec stew with oxtail, country ham and fresh corn; and pudding chomeur (translation “poor man’s pudding”) with maple syrup cream.
Just how in the heck Baton co-founders Moses Archuleta (who daylights in indie rock bank Deerhunter) and Bryson Tedford bribe, cajole and convince these nationally-hyped emerging chefs to come to Atlanta to cook in a doll-size kitchen for about 50 food junkies for this chef-exchange program is beyond me… but we’ll take it. http://baton-limited.com/index2.html
Here’s a link to LuxeCrush coverage of the Mission Chinese Food Dinner at Baton: www.luxecrush.com/grazing/article/death-by-bacon
With a resumé that includes Le Cirque and Miller Union, you wouldn’t expect Executive Chef Angus Brown to be toiling late night in an obscure East Atlanta restaurant without a sign out front. Or would you? In fact, Brown has created one of the coolest, most eclectic, underground culinary scenes in town with his late-night-only, restaurant-within-a-restaurant called Octopus Bar (named after the Octopus mural above the bar of Octopus’ Vietnamese host restaurant So Ba). Or to be exact, Octopus occupies the graffiti mural, walled patio of So Ba. This nocturnal eating concept obviously caters to the service industry of barkeeps, cooks and waitresses, who want good eats and drinks when their shift is over, and party people looking for late night nosh after heavy clubbing, but discerning critics and foodies have also made their way to this spot and come back with raves. Octopus serves up Asian-inflected dishes (a nod to Asian chef/co-owner Nhan Le) and daring global fusions from 10 PM to 3AM that assault the senses and wake up any sleepy diners with the bold flavor combos packed into these small plate servings. Think: rabbit and shrimp wonton soup with turnip greens, uni carbonara, daily grilled fish with grated daikon and chili ponzu, Korean barbecue, curried beef and pig trotter pot pie, or the Japanese-Hawaiian dish mususbi composed of pho braised pork belly, nori, sushi rice, shredded Japanese omelet. See all the cool kids and cool, off-duty chefs as you chow down on the already legendary Maine lobster roll. Oh, and as the menu boasts, “Kids eat free after 2AM.” Our kind of place. www.facebook.com/pages/Octopus-Bar/224854110908863
You read about this duo first on LuxeCrush last summer: the married, 30-something culinary couple Zach and Christina Meloy, who launched a secret supper club or, as they term it “Southern speakeasy” at the Goat Farm. Well the secret’s out now, they’ve been filmed by two TV crews, lauded by StarChefs.com, covered in the press and they’ve changed locations from Goat Farm to a new kitchen. However, they still create their spontaneous supper parties for 16 lucky guests every week in an atmosphere that still feels like an underground discovery. Their dinners represent an ever-changing, seasonal menu of Southern treats--many inflected with vibrant and exciting Latin American flavors (Christina is from Costa Rica and the couple have traveled throughout Central and South America). They are also stars at turning out layered vegetarian dishes. Among past dishes: sweet potato dumpling with green pumpkin seed sauce, charred shallot, smoked chile cornbread, aged jack cheese; rabbit confit with buckwheat crepe, wild mushroom ragout, roasted garlic ricotta fennel conserve; pork shoulder confit, pimento cheese pupusa, lemon Serrano slaw, roasted tomato molasses, chicharron croquant; and roasted persimmon tartlet with Haitian rum semifreddo vanilla honey, golden raisin puree and smoked chile praline. What’s up next for this creative couple: possibly a bricks-and- mortar restaurant space in the future! Sign up for PushStart Kitchen’s mailing list to receive their weekly menus and RSVP for your spot at the table: http://pushstartkitchen.blogspot.com
For more info: www.luxecrush.com/grazing/article/inside-pushstart-kitchen
Rumor has it that chocolate-whisperer Taria Camarino is closing up her off-the-beaten-path shop and, true to her business name, taking her chocolate business back and “going underground” and “on the streets again” per her facebook page message. We are not sure what this means but hope we can figure out how to get our mitts on her hand-crafted, organic, fair-trade, and insanely creative chocolates in the future. The world is just a better place with her Thai Curry bonbons sprinkled with coconut and cilantro; chipotle caramels with a kick, tobacco dusted chocolates with red wine gelee, the 4 Roses Bourbon confection of bourbon-laced white chocolate enrobed in dark chocolate and topped with a chamomile stamen; or the milk chocolate ganache infused with Jasmine tea and topped with sugared Jasmine! In the meantime you can enjoy Taria’s dessert creations at The Optimist. www.sugarcoatedradical.org/
THE NEW CHEF WATCH
“Four Courseman” Chef Edward Russell Rides Into Parish
After several chef shuffles, the Inman Park nabe fave Parish may have scored its signature chef. Not only is Edward Russell a James Beard nominee, but he gained culinary fame as founder of the Athens-based supper club Four Courseman. A team of four 20 and 30-something foodies created impromptu five-course menus based on local Athens Farm produce and meats, paired with perfect wines by the precocious female sommelier, and served in a rented shotgun house. The dinners were such a sensation that they were covered in lavish features in Food & Wine and Garden & Gun magazine, as well as being the subject of a documentary on the Cooking Channel.
Before supper clubs were even trendy, Russell and his cohorts put the focus on local sourcing, sustainability, seasonality and slow-food with their homegrown feasts for supper club faithfuls, who endured mile-long wait lists for admittance. A Chef Hugh Acheson acolyte (he cut his teeth as pastry chef at Five & Ten), Russell practices whole animal cooking, focuses on local produce and is a self-taught butcher. Enjoy his culinary expertise with several Russell-stamped new menu entries: tea brined pork loin with crispy belly, white bean puree, aspargus, Vidalia onion & tea butter; local squash salad; white Georgia shrimp with tomato sauce, aoli and crostini; and in the market section pick up Russell’s raw kale salad and perfect picnic sandwich of coppa, apricot mustard and gruyere on a fresh baguette. Athens’ loss is Atlanta’s gain. www.parishatl.com/home.php
Cakes & Ale Scores Brooklyn Baker Eric Wolitzky
Cakes & Ale acquired Dynamic Dish’s David Sweeny for their lunch service and have now bolstered their bakery staff with the addition of head pastry chef Eric Wolitzky from the trendy Red Hook, Brooklyn, spot Baked. Wolitzky has been featured in several foodie mags like Bon Appetit and Food & Wine and appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef Desserts season 1. He specializes in updated versions of classic American desserts and, to wit, has already added his famous chocolate chip cookies and Mississippi Mud Pie with stout whipped cream to the menus of the bakery and restaurant, respectively. Other new sweets on recent menus: a triple ice cream cake, an adorable lemon meringue icebox confection and a pineapple upside-down cake with salted caramel and cherry ice cream. cakesandalerestaurant.com/bakery/index_bakery.html
A New French Chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead
Le Ritz-Carlton Buckhead just got a bit ritzier with a Bordeaux-born, French toque as their new executive chef. Don’t let the Germanic name of Chef Franc Steigerwald fool you. This toque is as Gallic as they come with stints at several Michelin-starred Paris dining palaces and St. Regis New York adding the final polish. His warm lobster salad is to-die-for and his handling of fish like the superbly crisped seared bass impeccable. When chef Franc’s sophisticated French cuisine marries with The Ritz-Carlton’s new ballroom décor this fall: the results will be magnifique. http://ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Buckhead/Default.htm
Read LuxeCrush’s full coverage of a Chef Franc dinner here: www.luxecrush.com/grazing/article/first-bite-the-ritz-carlton-buckhead-lands-a-french-chef-with-finesse
BOOKS THAT COOK
Richard Blais Cookbook
Don’t break out the liquid nitrogen just yet. Blais may have his first cookbook in the pipeline, but his modernist recipes have been carefully modified for at-home cooks. Blais told Examiner.com, “People may expect a how-to on sous-vide or working with liquid nitrogen, but they will be surprised. It will be about home cooking—dishes like roast chicken and feeding families and how to get dinner on the table in 30 and 45 minutes.” But do expect Blasian creativity when the book comes out Nov. 2012 by publisher Clarkson Potter. Also: look for Blais back on TV soon. Top Chef is currently filming a documentary about his life post-win, including the setting up of The Spence.
Kevin Gillespie Cookbook
Top Chef finalist and Woodfire Grill toque Kevin Gillespie launches his first cookbook, Fire in My Belly: Real Cooking, on October 16. According to the book publishers, “Kevin’s Southern charm, passion and funny stories guide readers through one-of-a-kind chapters like “Food You Thought You Hated,” “My Version of Southern Food,” “Some Like it Hot,” and “Junk Food—The Best Worse Food You’ve ever Had.” Despite a junk food chapter, Gillespie’s book focuses primarily on the fresh farmer’s market recipes featured at Woodfire Grill and recipes easily reproduced at home, including fried green tomatoes with whipped chevre, charred corn, red onions and sweet oregano-red wine vinaigrette; sage-battered mushrooms with cheddar fonduta and candied garlic syrup; and wood grilled Berkshire pork loin with black bean ragout, roasted mustard greens and local green beans.
A SALUTE TO RISING STAR CHEFS, ATLANTA, 2012
All photos of chefs and dishes via StarChefs.com website
The fabulous food resource and website www.StarChefs.com chose Atlanta as one of its five culinary hot spots for 2012, hosting a local chef awards program here this spring. Here’s the lowdown in StarChef.com’s own words, on the several talented young Atlanta toques who were awarded the Rising Stars award. Rising Stars are defined as “up-and-coming chefs and culinary professionals who represent the vanguard of the contemporary American dining scene." Rising Stars Award nominees "should have less than 10 years of experience as an Executive Chef and should be under 40.” Cheers to this year’s chef crop, we couldn’t agree more with their discerning picks, many already buzzed about on LuxeCrush.com. For the complete list of 2012 Atlanta Rising Star honorees visit: www.starchefs.com/cook/events/rising-stars/2012/atlanta
David A. Carson of Bacchanalia
“In a town where casual is king, David Carson helped usher in farm-to-table (before it was de rigueur for responsible chefs)…Carson isn’t stuck on simple farm fresh cuisine. Instead he is constantly researching new techniques…then bringing them back to his kitchen to adapt onto the menu (like his recent phytoplankton foam)…The combination—a whole lamb, presented in six different preparations using modernist technique—is Carson at his best” -- as quoted from StarChefs.com
Dishes that Clinched It:
Jamison Farm Lamb, Summerland Farm Onion and Natural Jus
Glazed Hawaii Blue Prawn, Spring Vegetables, House-cured Trout Roe, and Georgia Olive Oil Foam
Shane Devereux of The Lawrence
“Behind the kitchen of late-night favorites Sound Table and Top Flr, Devereux combines his Sian heritage with pitch-perfect technique (thanks to years spent working at Lacroix.) But it’s at his newly opened The Lawrence that the chef really shines, with an adventurous menu roomy enough for both down-home comfort food and more elegant, serious fare.” --as quoted from StarChefs.com
Dishes that Clinched It:
Duck Tongue Carnitas, Cotija Cheese, Tomatillo, and Cilantro
Potato Gnocchi, Pearl Oninon, Chicarrones, and Fennel Frond Pistou
Adam Evans of The Optimist
“Adam Evans may have come to Atlanta form New York to help open Tom Colicchio’s Craft, but he’s a Southern boy through and through…After leading [Ford] Fry’s flagship JCT. Kitchen for the last nine months, highlighting oft underutilized ingredients and his talents with fish cookery, Evan is gearing up for Fry’s latest project, The Optimist, where he will focus on wood-grilled fish preparations with the hand of a true artist and the cooking skills necessary for fish perfection.” ---as quoted from StarChefs.com
Dishes that Clinched It:
Wood-fired Virginia Clams, Crispy Glazed Pork Belly Chunks, and Torn Croutons
Crispy Gulf-Speckled Trout, Fava Bean Puree, Toasted Ricotta Cavatelli, Spring Onion Soubise, Braised Favas, and Pickled and Candied Horseradish
Robert Phalen of One Eared Stag
“Robert Phalen worked his way through Atlanta’s former great kitchens, training in Guenter Seeger’s Mumbo Jumbo, Alon Balshon’s Alon’s and Shaun Doty’s MidCity Cuisine…If you’re looking for late-night grub, [Phalen’s] east side Holy Taco hangout is the place to be, complete with thoroughly addictive crispy buffalo-style pig tail tacos and Day of the Dead graffiti décor. On the opposite, end his newer One Eared Stag is the quiet, lovely backdrop to his more refined cuisine—unusual applications of ingredients like tuna collar, house-cured local produce, and fresh, crisp flavors shine through in dishes we still can’t get out of our heads.”—as quoted from StarChefs.com
Dishes that Clinched It:
Moonbeam Farm Radishes, Whipped Lardo, and Radish Top Gremolata
Oyster Crudo, Watermelon, Basil, Smoked Trout Roe, and Preserved Lemon
Ryan Smith of Empire State South
“Atlanta may be lacking in fine-dining restaurants (the only two true white-tablecloth spots left in the city are Restaurant Eugene and Bacchanalia), but it has the market on upscale casual covered. Reigning current king is Empire State South…Behind its helm is Ryan Smith, one of the…most talented chefs we’ve met…Smith combines Southern ingredients and historical techniques (nods to his Restaurant Eugene training) with artful Michael-Brase-esque plating. His clever dishes are packed with the bright, fresh flavors you expect from the South, but it’s the elevated grace Smith brings to the plate that will keep him in our spotlight.”—as quoted from StarChefs.com
Dishes that Clinched It:
Duck and Chestnut Terrine, Burnt Bourbon Mustard, and Pickles
Riverview Farms Pork, Yates Apples, ESS Bacon, Brussels Sprouts, and Parsley Root
Tyler Williams of Abattoir
“ To say that Tyler Williams is a fun chef is putting it lightly; his menu at Abattoir, Anne Quatrano’s meat-centric spot, includes menu items meant for late-night chef feasts and is playfully Asian inspired….Dehydrated hominy “corn” nuts top off a “corned” beef belly, proving Williams isn’t afraid to let his fare be a bit whimsical, a trick he learned from Chicago Rising Star Chefs Homaro Canu and Graham Elliot during his time spent in the windy city. And that whimsy is part of what makes him a star, applying flavors in a place and a space where you don’t quite expect them.” –as quoted from StarChefs.com
Dishes that Clinched It
Octo Dog, Teriyaki, and Pickled Ginger
Wagyu Beef Belly, Sarsaprilla, and Kohlrabi
Guy Wong of Miso Izakaya
“Guy Wong describes Miso Izakaya as his interpretation of Japanese street food….But what Miso really is to the Atlanta community is a chef hangout…with the kind of real comfort cooking you’ll find in any Japanese home. And while Wong could have gone the way of trite décor and bastardized recipes, he’s opened a graceful space complete with modern plates. The son of two chefs, Wong’s dream is to cook on the line until he physically can’t do it anymore, and it’s that unbridled determination and passion that really makes Miso Izakaya such a success.” –as quoted from StarChefs.com
Dishes that Clinched It:
Pork Kimchi Rice
Crispy Garlic Shrimp with Congee
Pastry Chef Chrysta Poulos of Woodfire Grill
“Woodfire Grill may be known for its impeccable sustainability standards—and Top Cheftestant Kevin Gillespie—but the real hidden jewel of the kitchen is sweet talent Chrysta Poulus. With the quite intensity and artistic intuition of a painter, she creates playful, whimsical preparations to complement Gillespie’s fresh fare. Poulus looks to nostalgia for immediate inspiration, but pushes her boundaries into the modern arena through texture, technique and artisty.” –as quoted from StarChefs.com
Dishes that Clinched It:
Valrhona Invoire-Vanilla Noodles, Oranges, Hazelnut Croquant, Big Bison Ale Ice Cream, and Candied Micro Cilantro
Vahrhona Manjari Budino, Marshmallow Fluff, Graham Cracker Ice Cream, Bananas, and Dehydrated Chocolate Mousse
Pastry Chef Aaron Russell of Rest. Eugene
“Aaron Russell is one of those pastry chefs who doesn’t like sweet sweets, something we just don’t get. But what we do get is Russell’s adventurous approach to patisserie, because that lack of a sweet tooth means he isn’t afraid to interject a healthy dose of savory into his modern compositions…Russell is making a name for [Restaurant Eugene’s] dessert menu with his innovative flavors (vegetables often mix in with chocolate, grains, teas, herbs, and liquors in unfamiliar combinations) and method (salt-roasting is no longer reserved for the savory side of things.)…Sweet tooth or no, we think he hits the mark every time.” –as quoted from StarChefs.com
Dishes that Clinched It:
Coffee-roasted Beets, Caramelized White Chocolate, Georgia Olive Oil, and Buttermilk
English Pea Sorbet, Mint, Green Tea, Lemon and Champagne
Who knew that Bookhouse Pub Chef Will Silbernagel was dabbling in macaron-baking on the side? Perhaps it’s no surprise, given that he counts Bakeshop’s Johnathan St. Hilaire as one of his mentors. But the crafty Silbernagel is no mere traditionalist, often melding the time-honored French sweet with bold, modern flavors. His always rotating flavors have included banana-cinnamon with dark chocolate caramelized banana ganache; lemon verbena with dark chocolate passion fruit ganache; fennel vanilla with rhubarb red-bean jam, or Earl Grey macarons with beet and sweet potato white chocolate ganache. You can nab these French beauties by the bag at Aurora Coffee or Octane, but go early as they sell out fast. Follow Bookie’s twitter feed for your best chances to procure these Parisian treats: twitter.com/BookieMacarons
Adorable couple meet-cute at Brown University, travels the world together, spends time in Parisian bakeries, ends up in Atlanta hawking their locally sourced baked goods at various farmer’s markets (they even list their farmers on their website), and eventually open The Little Tart bakery at The Jane building in Grant Park. This is the story behind the baked-with-love goodies at Little Tart: the fabulous gougeres (cheese puffs), homemade tarts with Spotted Trotter bacon and African squash, the very Parisian buttery croissants-- not to mention brown butter almond cake, pastry cream tarts with local seasonal berries; double chocolate cookies with sea salt, and ginger apricot scones. At lunch sink your teeth into a farm egg salad sandwich or a rosemary hand and cheese on focaccia. The fact that Little Tart is adjacent to Octane espresso bar: pure culinary karma. www.littletartatl.com
Dtox Juice Bar
Blend a designer juice bar with a design collective and you get the wonderfully hybrid, new dTox/dShop in Midtown. Owned by a husband-and-wife team--Tim Sliger is the architect and design part of the equation and Shannon Sliger is the yoga-loving wellness part of the equation—this double concept shop attempts to “bridge the gap between work and wellness.” Stop by the sleek modern space with Knoll furnishings, concrete floors, and vintage-inspired tiles in citrus colors, for nourishing and locally sourced organic juices and elixirs. Or take out a 16 oz. dTox box like the Red Juice (beet, carrot, cucumber spinach, apple, parsley and lemon) for consumption in your own home. Worker bees and creative types will want to settle into one of the rentable tables for informal meetings or private study. Walk-ins can cozy up to the juice bar as they sip their juices, fair trade coffees and teas, and sample “healthy junk food” like organic chocolate chip cookies or raw pumpkin tarts. Printers and monitors ensure that some actual work does get done in this designer den. Consider this a chic little slice of L.A. in Midtown! www.dtoxjuice.com/
Our Favorite Six-Pack at H& F Bottle Shop
Be sure to check out H&F Bottle Shop’s take on the classic six-pack. In this case it’s a mix of 6 hand-selected reds, whites and sparkling wines curated by the expert H&F team and sold at a bargain $60 a pop. For larger orders please reserve in advance. Sample six packs, which change monthly, might include a refreshing Cava, a bright Sauvignon Blanc from Gascony and rich white from Napa. The reds might include a smooth Barbera and Sangiovese from Italy and delicious Monastrell from Spain. Hfbottleshop.com
DAMN THE VEGETARIANS : THE MEAT ELITE
Despite the recent emphasis on local, farm fresh produce, this does not mean that meat has taken a back seat on most Atlanta menus. Two of the newest temples of meat are Table & Main and Little Alley Steak, both located in Roswell. Table & Main is helmed by Chef Ted Lahey (Five and Ten, Pricci, and Michael White’s Fiamma Osteria in NYC) and boasts a decidedly straight forward American menu: a “preservation platter” of cured meats; biscuit-breaded veal medallions with sawmill gravy; and Brasstown steak with roasted onion compound butter. tableandmain.com/
Little Alley Steak is described as a “ late 1800’s butcher-inspired neighborhood steakhouse” with beef sourced from Chicago-based Meats by Linz. Menu items include roasted bone marrow, Pine Street Market cured meats, and all manner of butcher-cut steaks served with table-side-prepared sauces of your choice like a yuzu béarnaise or mushroom, shallot & brandy. There’s even a flight or “progression” of NY Strip: 4 ounces each of wet-aged Angus beef, prime beef, and dry-aged Angus beef cooked sous vide style. Chef Robert McDonough boasts C&S Oyster Bar and Maxim’s(Paris) on his resume, so don’t discount this new entry in the Roswell restaurant wars. www.littlealleysteak.com
Dallas-based Del Frisco’s Grille comes to the former Craft Atlanta space at the Mandarin Oriental Atlanta this fall with fun bar food, playful cocktails, flatbreads, “two-fisted” sandwiches, and an emphasis on premium steaks No menu yet for Atlanta, but on the Dallas menu you can find everything from cheese steak eggroll appetizers to “Knife & Fork” entrees like prime New York strip, veal meatloaf with bordelaise sauce, or filet mignon. And the joint is even open for brunch with specials like red velvet Belgian waffles with whipped vanilla bean-spiked cream cheese and… (more meat) hickory smoked bacon. delfriscosgrille.com/
Glossy STK (togrp.com/)made a huge splash when it entered the Midtown meat market (in more ways than one) this year. Besides being a beacon for nearly every celeb who comes to Atlanta to film a movie, and a few, alas, Real Housewives, we’ll stand by their petite, medium and over-sized slabs of beef with decadent toppings (foie gras butter, “Oscar,” lobster or black truffles”) and a selection of sauces to gild the lily.
Not to be outdone, BLT Steak (www.e2hospitality.com/blt-steak/), down the road at W Atlanta Downtown, elevated its special boucherie dinners to regular monthly occurrences through October 2012. The boucherie dinners (boucherie is French for butcher) put the emphasis on whole-animal cookery and most of the four and five-course meals focus on some form of beef. July 16-22 takes beef as inspiration while venison will be the protein of choice September 10-16. The series concludes with a porkpalooza Oct. 15-21. $65 per person with wine pairings for an additional $25: 404.577.7601.
Want a more hipster, hole-in-the wall steak out? Head to cult fave The Albert in Inman Park for their new steak and scotch pairings, weekly on Thursday nights at 6PM. With each 16 oz steak, guests can choose a single glass of bourbon or scotch or a shorty sampling of all three. $25 per person, 404.872.4990. www.thealbertatlanta.com
Steaks aren’t the only thing in the spotlight, butchery and charcuterie, even southern hams are enjoying their season in the sun. Spotted Trotter, the charcuterie purveyor beloved by local chefs, now has a bricks-and-mortar shop in Kirkwood for those who don’t care to hunt him down at local farmer’s markets. Stock up on gruyere, wild mushroom and pork crepinettes; brand rabbit boudin; sweet hot fennel sausage and toasted black pepper and sorghum syrup salumi at this boutique charcuterie created by Kevin Ouzts (a French Laundry graduate). And starting soon Ouzts will offer courses in both whole animal butchery and charcuterie making. Thespottedtrotter.com.
Lastly, Chef Linton Hopkins, inspired by the Spain’s famed Jamon Iberico, launched a Fellowship of Country Ham Slicers society earlier this year to celebrate artisanal southern hams and the techniques of slicing it paper-thin into rosy curls to be eaten raw. Linton hosted a regional tasting of country hams at this year’s Atlanta Food and Wine Festival, with the award going to Charleston chef Sean Brock’s hybrid ham (derived from the cross of a Berkshire boar and Red Wattle Ossabaw sow!) Here’s hoping country ham connoisseurship becomes one of next year’s dining trends beyond just a breakfast plate. www.facebook.com/pages/Fellowship-of-Country-Ham-Slicers/290300747674117
FAB FOODIE FETE
Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival, Sunday July 22
JCT Kitchen is hosting the 4th annual Attack of the Killer Tomato Fest at 1PM. 37 of the South’s best chefs and 12 mixologists, paired with local farmers, will vie for the best tomato dish and drink. $70 per person, benefits Georgia Organics: https://www.xorbia.com/e/gao/killert