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Brown Hornet

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  1. I'm assuming you're referring to the bridge construction on interstate 85. Assuming that, there are tons of great places on the downtown/midtown side -- frankly most of the best ATL places are on that side although there are not great options in the immediate vicinity (i.e. walking distance) of the convention itself. Here's a list by rough location: Westside/Midtown -- a short drive from GWCC heading north up Marietta St. to Howell Mill/Northside: Cooks & Soldiers -- Spanish/Basque. If you haven't had this before I'd loosely describe it as upscale tapas, lots of woodfire grilled options. One of my favorites for groups. The Optimist -- seafood. Probably best seafood in ATL but is inconsistent. Miller Union -- Upscale/refined southern, very very good. Better Half -- small & funky, modernist dishes, but in an extremely casual atmosphere Antico -- really great pizza. Best in town and some of the best I've had anywhere Marcel -- Steakhouse -- relatively new restaurant but inspired by old-school (as in prewar 20th century) steakhouses. Bring a fat wallet though East/Old 4th Ward/Inman Park -- from the GWCC head east on Edgewood again a short drive BoccaLupo -- fantastic pasta Staplehouse -- flat out probably the best restaurant in ATL, but books out well in advance. That said, they have first come first serve seating at a small bar every night. Very high end food, but casual environment. One-Eared Stag -- a bit hard to describe -- very quirky funky take on southern food. One of my top 3-5 restaurants in town -- but definitely for more adventurous eaters as many dishes feature game or odd animal parts. If you're still in town on Sunday they have a great brunch. Fox Bros. BBQ -- a decent southern style bbq joint. We southerners are pretty particular about bbq, and Fox Bros. isn't the best in any particular category but it is uniformly good and is a fine place to get your fix of southern style bbq. Rathbun's Steak -- honestly not my favorite steak among ATL steakhouses, but has the best sides/appetizers of steakhouses. FoodHalls -- There are also two fantastic food halls on this side of town: Krog Street Market and a little north of that Ponce City Market. Krog Street Market -- My favorites are Superica (tex mex), Fred's Meat and Bread (awesome sandwiches/burgers) and Ticonderoga Club (great cocktails). Also a killer beer shop/bar Hop City Pone City Market -- highlights are WH Stiles Fish Camp, El Super Pan, Biltong Bar, Hop's Chicken I could go on but that should give you more than enough options to consider. Enjoy your visit should be good weather this weekend
  2. I've been pretty impressed with the quality of the competition so far based on the last two episodes. Every dish in last night's episode looked fantastic -- I love the episodes where even the 'losing' dishes were still great but just not quite a great as the winners. Usually this early in the season they are still weeding out clearly inferior contestants but this season everyone has brought their A game.
  3. My random thoughts on first episode -- spoilers ahead I guess: . . . . . . . . . Still not sure I like the old vs. new format. One of the things I like about Top Chef is getting to know the new chefs. Bravo will never do this but I wouldn't mind if the show took an 18-24 month sabbatical to come back with a new crop of talent. Really happy that Jim, the southern trekkie won with basically fried chicken livers. That hits like about a dozen different sweet spots for me. Also impressed with Silvia -- 2 chicken dishes including a fresh pasta in an hour is impressive. Of the new chefs Emily looks like she is stepping up for the villain role -- I like that she seems to be pretty talented as it will probably make for some entertaining viewing. Not much to say about the returning chefs -- John Tesar really does seem to have mellowed since his last season. I was still rooting against him in the elimination quickfire but secretly I'm kind of hoping he sticks around. Re the shrimp and grits challenge -- 30 minutes seemed too short. It almost forces you to use quick grits instead of stone ground. Maybe it's just me, but decent stone ground grits always seem to take a good 40-45 minutes. Shirley's dish was the one I would love to try -- I really like how she both honored the original dish while taking it in a different direction.
  4. I guess it depends on how you define an All Star. Most of those former contestants made it to the final four of their respective seasons and I believe a couple of them were in the finals. I understand that they need to keep tweaking the formula but I'm not sure how I feel about the 50/50 split between old and new contestants. Hope they find a way to do justice to southern cooking this year.
  5. Very true -- oxtails are another example. They were a soul food/southern meat+3 staple for decades. Now I'm lucky if I can find them for $5/lb even at our local farmers markets.
  6. Cool! Glad the Southeast is finally getting some love. Having lived in the south 20+ years I've come to the opinion that southern cuisine is about as close as we have to an indigenous American food culture.
  7. I was pulling for Amar -- he should've won just for pulling off the notoriously lethal risotto dish. Still, Jeremy was a strong contender from the first episode so it's not too surprising he prevailed in the end. Marjorie, Isaac and Kwame were my sentimental favorites. Overall I throught it was a decent season. I liked a lot of the contestants and other than Phillip, there were very few abrasive personalities. I also liked the format of traveling to different locations throughout California instead of staying in one city. OTOH, for some reason the season seemed to be a bit dull -- 13 seasons in I'm probably starting to get a little bored of TC. What are your thoughts for Season 14? I'll repeat my annual request that they have a season in the Southeast, and no NOLA and Texas do not count. Following what they did this year, maybe they could split the season in a few different locations -- Atlanta for modern southern cuisine, a low country stop in Charleston/Savannah, somewhere on the Gulf, Nashville or Memphis, and maybe a stop in Oxford Mississippi. Just an idea.
  8. Spoilers from last night ahead . . . . . Overall this was my favorite kind of TC episode in that all four of the finalists brought their "A" game -- there wasn't a single dish that didn't look fantastic. Sorry to see Marjorie and Isaac go -- they were my favorites all season. The next time I'm in NOLA I'm definitely going to check out Toups' Meatery! That said, I was happy for Amar to make it to the finals from LCK, and Jeremy has been a strong and classy competitor all year. I liked that instead of eliminating the bottom competitor they rewarded the winner of each round with a spot in the final. I hope they keep that format in subsequent seasons.
  9. I don't really watch the ATK too much anymore but I did want to add that I have one of their old cookbooks for Soups and Stews and in general I think it's a fantastic reference. Unlike the show, which has obvious time constraints, the cookbook has detailed explanations about how they developed their recipes and their thought process in choosing to include or omit certain ingredients or techniques. I found that information very helpful in developing my own preferred recipes.
  10. Every season of Top Chef has had its finale in a different location than the rest of the season and the finale is typically shot well after the regular season is filmed. Cities that vie to host Top Chef know full well that it doesn't include the finale.
  11. I'm surprised folks feel that strongly between Mei and Gregory. I thought both were strong contenders and acquitted themselves well in the finale. I was slightly pulling for Gregory, but wasn't surprised that Mei won based on the judge's comments. A 4 course meal based on the best dishes tonight would be pretty awesome: Gregory's Octopus -- Mei's Congee -- Gregory's Short Rib Mole -- and Mei's dessert.
  12. Thanks for the link huiray -- nice interview. Sorry Doug didn't make it, still seems weird that he got dinged more for the Escamole dish vs. a fancy guac but that's Top Chef for you. Gregory and Mei were the two front runners most of the season, so I think it will be a great finale tonight. Overall, I think this has been a pretty enjoyable season largely because the final 6-7 chefs were all high quality competitors/chefs and rootable. No real flukes slipped through to the finals as in some years past. I'd rank this season well above the bottom seasons -- Texas/DC/NYC -- and just above the recent seasons in Seattle and NOLA. I frankly enjoyed the new streamlined judging format and hope they continue that in future seasons.
  13. Missed this post earlier. I don't have as much time to eat out as before but here are some updates on ATL's dining scene -- I'll start with Woodfire Grill since you asked about it specifically. It used to be helmed by Chef Tyler Williams and while he was there it was fantastic -- along with Bacchanalia among the top 2-3 restaurants in Atlanta bar none. Dishes were very forward thinking -- smart incorporation of both modernist techniques with the namesake "woodfire" grill. I have not been back since he left last year, but I have heard positive reviews for the new chef. I would, however, consider it a white tablecloth restaurant -- although it is not stuffy. My personal favorite the last several years has been One Eared Stag. Very creative and funky take on southern cuisine. It's hip without being pretentious, and has a relaxed vibe. Not white tablecloth! I'd like to think this is the kind of place David Chang would open if he was raised in the south. It doesn't get a ton of press -- and the website is an abomination -- but have no doubt this place is the real deal. Great, great brunch as well. A couple of years ago I posted that this restaurant was what modern southern cooking is all about, and I still stand by that. Just ate there for lunch a few days ago. I still haven't been to Gunshow (Top Chef contestant Kevin Gillespie's place) but have heard great things about it. It is a different style of restaurant -- kind of a cross between fine dining dishes with dim sum style service. It stays very well booked so they're doing something right. There's a great place in Decatur/Emory area Sobban which is traditional Korean food with a southern twist. The owners also have a fantastic BBQ joint, Heirloom BBQ, that is traditional southern BBQ with a Korean twist. Owned by two chefs who are (no surprise) a native southerner and a native Korean. Maybe counterintuitive but southern and Korean cuisines fit together hand in glove. If you're looking to go the gift card route, you may want to consider getting a card from one of the local restaurant groups. I would recommend Star Provisions -- which includes Bacchanalia, Abbatoir and Floataway Café. They have been doing "farm to table" for 20+ years -- long before that stupid phrase came into vogue. Still the premier restaurant group in ATL imo. A couple of others (not sure if they sell group gift cards or not) would be Kevin Rathbun's Restaurants (all solid) and the Ford Fry restaurant group (King+Duke, Optimist, No. 246, JCT, St. Cecilia) There are some other new exciting places that have just opened or are opening soon that I haven't had a chance to check out -- Krog Street Market, Cockentrice, Cooks & Soldiers -- that you may want to look at.
  14. We ended up with the final 4 I was pulling for all season and they didn't disappoint. It was good to see Doug make a strong comeback. It's tough when someone goes home for a strong dish, but episodes like this are Top Chef at its best. Between Doug/Mei/Gregory I couldn't begin to pick a favorite, I just hope the last two episodes are as strong as this one.
  15. I really liked Adam, but his whining about the 2-3 "molecular" ingredients was weak. I thought Blais picked pretty easy ingredients to work with -- shrimp, mussels, peppers, bacon, chorizo, fish -- that's almost a paella right there. I'm rooting for him to do well in LCK. I would've preferred for Melissa to be cut, at least Adam tried something outside the box although I have no idea what a flash marinated shrimp is supposed to be. Melissa's aim low strategy isn't going to cut it much longer at this stage of the competition. Gregory and Dougie seem like the clear front runners at this point, and I wouldn't mind seeing those two and Mei in a final.
  16. I've been a regular at a local neighborhood restaurant since the month it opened almost 10 years ago. With the exception of a handful of customer favorites, the menu is highly seasonal with most dishes rotating in and out on a weekly to monthly basis. Because they are constantly trying new dishes, a wonderful quality in what is basically a nice neighborhood joint, I don't see any need to offer my $.02 on a dish unless something just came out of the kitchen horribly wrong -- which I think has happened maybe 1 time in 10 years. I do, however, try to provide positive feedback on dishes that are particularly great or to occasionally request a past favorite be brought back at a seasonally appropriate time. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't of course, but I think this is a more useful way for regulars to provide useful feedback. For example, they tried a lamb tongue dish for a fairly limited time that was just insanely tasty, but was potentially a bit of a stretch for a suburban restaurant. After getting lots of strong feedback from mostly regulars, they brought the dish back for a more extended run on the menu. And just to with agree with Davy, the idea of someone wanting to be a regular at a restaurant as a means to get freebies or special treatment makes no sense to me. If anything I want to pay full price for everything at my regular spot because I want it to succeed financially.
  17. Not at all, I think Doug's clearly in the top 4-5. I didn't take Doug's comments as being overly bothered by Katsuji, more slightly annoyed bemusement I think. I can understand why Katsuji is annoying to some viewers, but his mostly lighthearted trash talk doesn't bother me. Again, the only chef he really got ugly with was Aaron and that probably said more about Aaron than Katsuji. At this point I'm just hoping for a Gregory, Mei, Doug, Adam/Melissa final.
  18. They've announced that LCK will start after episode 8. I'm surprised at the animus towards Katsuji. He just talks and jokes a lot -- sometimes it's funny sometimes not. I think it's telling that the only contestants that are really bothered by him are the bottom feeders like Aaron and Keriann. Hopefully Keriann will follow Aaron's exit, but I doubt we'll be so lucky. Aaron's exit interview was bizarre to me -- it was almost like he viewed himself as breaking down some barrier against chefs who were not "formally" trained at cooking school. Uh, Aaron have you heard of Thomas Keller? For that matter, I don't think Tom Colicchio went to cooking school either. I'm not looking forward to next week's cooking over an open fire challenge, but maybe it will surprise me.
  19. I suppose they could start LCK up mid-season, but it does seem like they are giving it a rest this year. I'm enjoying the season so far -- it feels like they've streamlined the show in a good way. I like the immediate feedback during tasting as well as having all the contestants present at the judge's table. Also, Hugh is absolutely killing it on his blog/recaps on the Top Chef website.
  20. That goofball's immediate elimination after mauling a primal cut was the only good thing about Season 9!
  21. Just wanted to add a voice in support of Hugh. I'm admittedly biased as I've been a longtime fan since he opened his first restaurant Five and Ten in Athens GA. I like his offbeat and slightly urbane manner and the fact that he's not all the way up Tom's backside.
  22. Unfortunately, given our itinerary we only had one open evening for dinner during our trip to SD -- so J&I was it. Hindsight 20/20 I would have foregone J&I and opted for one of SD's top seafood or Mexican restaurants, both of which are in short supply in Atlanta. No knock on J&I, but we probably have a couple dozen restaurants in Atlanta that are at least as good or better. Still, curiosity got the best of me and I just couldn't resist seeing what Blais was up to in San Diego. To his credit, I've never had less than a good meal at a Blais helmed restaurant, and at least from a diners' point of view his kitchens always seem to be well run and efficient. Just my layperson's opinion, but if J&I's bar was equal to its kitchen it could be a special place given its hip and fun vibe. It was borderline shocking to me how poorly conceived the drinks were. Next time I'm in SD I'll need to revisit this thread!
  23. I had dinner at Juniper and Ivy over the weekend so I thought I'd post my impressions. It was just my wife and I so we were only able to sample a small portion of the extensive menu. The menu had no fewer than 7 categories -- snacks, raw, toasts, pasta, small plates, large plates, desserts -- between all of them you're probably looking at 40 or so dishes. We ordered several of the snack/raw/small plates to share and they were uniformly fantastic. Particularly great was a corn dish that was essentially their version of corn on the cob, and a chicken liver terrine that punched well above its weight. Less successful were the entrees. My "Ensendada" sea bass was overcooked and didn't really hold up to the Mexican sauce and accompaniments. My wife's berkshire pork porterhouse was delicious, but frankly a bit pedestrian. Dessert, however, was stellar, and the "Yodel" was about as close to a perfect dessert as I've ever had. No surprise that it's J&I's most popular dish. The house signature cocktails were extremely disappointing. We ordered three of their signature cocktails and they were all overly sweet to the point of cloying. To be fair, I could have just ordered any ol' cocktail, but I always like to see what a bar is coming up with on its own. The head bartender is apparently someone of note in San Diego, but I wasn't feeling her style at all. For a fun/hip restaurant like J&I, I think the cocktail menu is one place where you can and should push boundaries a little more aggressively, but that was sadly not the case. Service was uniformly outstanding and for such a new restaurant, the dinner service was smooth and perfectly paced -- nothing rushed, nothing delayed. Blais was in the kitchen the night we were there, so maybe everyone was especially on their game with the boss in town. It was especially impressive given the large menu and large dinner crowd the night we were there. The overall atmosphere was fun, if a bit loud and boisterous, and J&I is clearly the hot spot in San Diego right now. I think J&I is ideally suited to a group of 4-6 where you can order a bunch of the smaller dishes to share. If I could go back, I'd definitely stick to the smaller plates and snacks and skip the large plates. We aren't local so I can't say how well Blais has captured San Diego/SoCal cuisine. Like a lot of California restaurants the menu struck me as overly eclectic -- a little Asian here, a little Mexican there, some Italian because why not -- but if everything tastes great who cares. Last, I'd be remiss not to add that I'm from Atlanta and have been dining at Blais helmed restaurants since well before his Top Chef celebrity. With that in mind, in my opinion J&I may be the most fully realized and successful fusion of his disparate influences to date. For anyone who gets turned off by celebrity chefs I can assure you that Blais has legit chops and knows how to run a quality fine-dining restaurant. Lastly, J&I is not a modernist-focused restaurant per se, although any number of modernist techniques are utilized in the dishes. If you're turned off by modernist stuff don't worry you won't notice it at J&I, but if you do appreciate modernist techniques you'll be able to spot them at work in the dishes. Bottom line, a strong recommendation if you're in San Diego, and make sure you order the Yodel for dessert.
  24. As always everything looks amazing. Scubadoo -- the chicken ballotine looks great. It's my favorite way to prepare whole chicken. Baselord -- welcome to the momofuku short ribs party! It's my favorite version of SV short ribs as well.
  25. I think enough judges and guest judges found Nick's dishes underseasoned throughout the season that we should not assume it was just Tom's particular preferences at play. Beyond the fact that seasoning levels are very subjective, I think for many dishes there is a fine line between perfectly seasoned and salty. Mashed potatoes are a classic example -- there just seems to be a narrow sweet spot between bland and overly salty. It gets even trickier when you're dealing with a cold dish (like a crudo) that generally requires more seasoning than a hot dish. In any event, I would love to try Nick's restaurant. It sounds fantastic and when he was on his game (as in the finale) his dishes looked amazing.
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