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Atlanta Restaurant Round-up By Suzanne WrightNEW YORK CORNER: CHIN CHIN by John Mariani
SPIRITS LOCKER: SMALL BATCH BOURBONS by John Mariani
Linton Hopkins’ Holeman & Finch
Public House is just across
the driveway from his acclaimed Restaurant Eugene. Named for
Hopkins' grandpa Holeman and partner Greg Best’s grandpa Finch, it’s an
egalitarian gastro pub already beloved by those in the restaurant
trade. Walk in and you can see the kitchen staff bustling behind
a pane of glass; the Indie tunes are selected by the waitstaff.
Call the décor post-industrial: it’s unfussy, with dark
woods and a communal table in the dining room; a cascade of
charcuterie bisects the bar. We had great fun with our server,
Evan, who enthused (with good reasons) about the fried bologna ($5),
housemade with Painted Hills fresh pork and served with course mustard.
Tangy pimiento cheese ($5) comes with housemade Saltines. There’s
explosion of flavors in a salad of mixed greens, crispy shallots and
candied bacon with fried May River oysters ($12), but the crawfish
beignets ($8) seemed a bit leaden, with a too-sweet glaze. The
stand-out was the roasted veal sweetbreads ($12), velvety and yielding,
served atop sautéed greens and hog jowl with brown butter.
Warm chocolate brownies with savory black pepper ice cream ($6) were
tasty, but the cocoa-cola float with Fernet Branca ice cream and
candied lime ($4) has pucker power.
Celebrity restaurants abound in
Usher owns a piece of The Grape, Gladys Knight owns a chicken and
waffle chain, Sean “Puffy Combos owns Justin’s. So all eyes are
on Chris “Ludacris” Bridges’ Straits.
The Midtown location has been
problematic for others; the “South meets Singapore” concept, an outpost
of Chef Chris Yeo’s California fusion chain is audacious. The
walls are blood red--or is that eggplant? (the lighting is low),
the woods dark, the soundtrack heavy on Prince and other R&B
performers, though kept to a relatively mellow audio level.
is the setting for family-run C&S Seafood & Oyster Bar. Framed
black-and-white family pictures
crowd the walls of this self-proclaimed “neighborhood saloon” with
brass doors, mosaic floors, a tin ceiling and a 35-foot mahogany bar.
Classic cocktails include a sidecar, Pimm’s Cup and a gin rickey, my
favorite of the libations. Of the raw oysters (about $3 each),
the summersides from Prince Edward Island, quilcenes from Washington
and giant Katama Bays from Massachusetts were all standouts, briny and
clean-tasting, served with housemade cocktail sauce and prosecco
mignonette. The chopped salad ($10) was an excellent version of the
classic with hearts of palms, egg, peppers, shallot dressing, Roquefort
and bacon, though the truffle vinaigrette overpowered the seared raw
tuna with artichoke carpaccio ($14). Of the entrees, the roasted
scallops with mint pea puree and warm bacon vinaigrette ($27) and the
lush dry-aged New York strip ($48) were best; the roasted codfish
(market price) was slightly overcooked. Spinach with olive oil
and garlic ($6) was a well-executed side. The profiteroles and apple
Tatin were fine, just beside the point.
The Colony Square Hotel has been transformed
into the W and its restaurant is Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s branch of Spice Market. Chef Ian
of Bluepointe, Shout and Posh) has been recruited to helm the
Wright is a writer living in Atlanta and founder of
NEW YORK CORNER
are reasons that you don't read very much these days about Chinese
restaurants in New York, and Chin Chin's owner, Jimmy Chin will be
happy to tell you why: "They don't want to change. They keep the same
menu and the real specials are all written only in Chinese. They also
don't want to change the old-fashioned decor. They say, `We're doing
all right, so why change?'"
Chin Chin is open for
lunch Mon.-Fri. and dinner daily. Appetizers range from $6.50-$19.50,
noodles $15.50-$21.20, and main courses $19.50-$38.50. A Peking
Duck Dinner, in four courses, is $38.50 per person.
NOTES FROM THE SPIRITS LOCKER
SMALL BATCH BOURBON BRINGS
by John Mariani
Aging bourbon at Buffalo Trace
native spirit—has a long, if not always illustrious history. A
designated product of Kentucky, it has survived the Civil War,
Prohibition, and a post-war decline in sales as Americans switched to
“white” spirits like gin, vodka, and light rum.
George T. Stagg ($150 and up): Named after a 19th century bourbon pioneer (left), this massive whiskey is straight from the barrel and neither cut nor filtered, so the alcohol actually varies by bottle. It matures quickly and is so limited than it's tough to find outside of Kentucky.
Buffalo Trace ($21-$26): At 90 proof, it is a big bourbon with an admirable balance of oakiness, vanilla and spice, along with a layer of complexity from the use of rye with the corn grain.
Blanton's Single Barrel ($42-$55): 93 proof and showing it, this is indeed an unblended single-barrel bourbon, very concentrated, with as nice peppery bite. A beautiful bottle whose little metal stoppers depict different race horses.
Elmer T. Lee ($25-$27): Named after the 89-year old master blender, this 90-proof bourbon is robustly structured, with slight sweetness in the nose and some leathery notes.
Woodford Reserve ($30-$35): Very well priced for a sophisticated small-batch bourbon of both power and velvety smoothness. The distillery also offers a Reserve Master's series, hand-numbered, made in smaller quantities.
Knob Creek Small Batch Aged 9 Years ($40): Named after Abraham Lincoln's childhood home, this 100-proof bourbon is aged nine years, lending it a vanilla oakiness and a light caramel sweetness.
Booker's ($47): Originally made by Jim Beam's legendary blender Booker Noe, it's a whopping 124.9 proof, making this truly a sipping whiskey -- in small sips -- and can take a little dash of water to bring out all of its wonderful tobacco aromas. Uncut, unfiltered.
In Volterra, Italy, the Fortezza Medicea, a maximum security prison, offers tourists a chance to dine inside at a white tablecloth dining room in a 14th century castle, with inmates dressed as waiters, as part of a program to train them for jobs upon release. The dinner costs $55.
AND MEATY AND.... AARGH!
"The strangest thing I ate . . . was at Jinnam, one of several restaurants on the market’s second floor. I knew the name of my lunch: sannakji. Commonly referred to as live octopus, sannakji isn’t really alive, but the raw tentacles writhing on the platter might lead you to think otherwise. Rather, it’s just some lingering electrochemical reaction that causes those thin strands to curl, stretch and attach their suction cups to your lips and gums as you try to ingest them. Rumor has it that people occasionally choke to death on sannakji, but a quick dip in sesame oil keeps the suckers from adhering too tightly. The most surprising thing about sannakji? It tasted good — clean and meaty — and once I’d gotten over the discombobulation that comes from eating something that most definitely does not want to be eaten, I was chopsticking tentacles into my mouth as if they were octo-popcorn."--Matt Gross, "The Weird, Wild and, Ultimately, Sublime," NY Times (July 20).
* On Aug 10 Marco
kicks off Boston Restaurant Week with a $33.08 prix fixe menu every day
until Aug. 24. Visit www.www.marcoboston.com or call 617-742-1276.
* On Aug. 14, 21, and 28 Chef Marc Orfaly hosts a dinner series of Boston chefs at 29 Fair Bistro in Nantucket, $95 (incl. wine) pp. Call 508-228-7800.
* On Aug. 19 in Summerville, SC, Woodlands Resort & Inn will host
“Wines of the World” wine tasting and dinner “For the Pinot
Lovers.” $88 pp. Call 843-308-2115.
• On Aug. 22 in Schaumburg, IL, Shaw’s Crab House is hosting its 6th Annual Clambake Dinner on the restaurant’s outdoor patio at $49.95; Call 847-517-2722; www.shawscrabhouse.com
* On Aug. 24, in Lockport, IL, Tallgrass
Restaurant will host the "Haute Brillat-Savarin Dinner: A
Gastronomic Blast into the Past." The six-course dinner prepared by
Chef Robert Burcenski, paired with four wines by Maitre’d Thomas Alves,
will be composed of Jean –Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's favorite food
items and done in the style of his time (early 19th century). $150 pp.
Call 815-838-5566; www.tallgrassrestaurant.com
* On Aug. 24 Robert
and Kara Brooks host a "Farm to Fork Dinner" at Still River Café
in Eastford, CT. The twilight experience will begin with a tour
of their vegetable gardens and a discussion of organic gardening
techniques, followed by a kitchen tour by Kara and cooking demo,
topped off by a 7-course tasting menu. $125 pp. with 25% of proceeds to
The Nature Conservancy’s Rain Forest Project. Call
On Sept. 9, San Francisco’s Campton
Place will hold a wine dinner with Keith Rutz from Rutz Cellars,
at $165 pp. Call 415-955-5574.
* From Oct. 5-12 food & wine writer David Rosengarten, will lead a trip through Alsace at harvest time, incl. visits to a dairy farm making Muenster, a small jam and preserves factory in Niedermorschwir, a sauerkraut producer during Alsace's annual celebration of "the new sauerkraut," the bakery in Strasbourg recently chosen as France's best, restaurant visits, from hearty winstubs (Alsatian bistros) to restaurants with Michelin stars, incl. Auberge de l'Ill, and visits to the region's top wine producers. Call Kelly DeMarco or Brian Hunter at 212-307-1990; Toll-Free: 877-814-6502; visit www.davidrosengartentravel.com* The Metropolitan London’s new Afternoon De-Light tea incl. the traditional British Tea selection (scones, cupcakes, and sandwiches), all made with healthier ingredients such as low fat crème fraîche, no-bread for the sandwiches, fresh fruit purées instead of unrefined sugars, flour substitutes, and olive oil instead of butter, available in the Met Bar and Lobby Lounge from 3-6 pm, Thursday-Saturday for £24 and includes a choice of seven teas. Call +44 (0) 20 7447 4757. Visit www.metropolitan.como.bz/london.
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." To go to his blog click on the logo below: THIS WEEK: A report on China; El Bonita Motel; Daly;s Home, Ireland; Least Visited U.S. Parks.
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contrinbutor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991). THIS WEEK: A Report on The Four Seasons Jackson Hole. Click on the logo below to go to the site.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, Naomi Kooker, Suzanne Wright, John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
Any of John Mariani's books below
may be ordered from amazon.com by clicking on the cover image.