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Atlanta Restaurant Updates: new places & faces


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  • 2 weeks later...

GREAT IN 2008: A DEBATE

This is the question; will Atlanta’s dining scene be great in 2008? Based upon some emerging trends, a couple of new projects and some national exposure, I am going to argue the affirmative.

My major premise is that Atlanta’s dining scene is on the cutting edge of national trends.Several national dining trends that are forecast for 2008 including niche restaurants such as cerviche bars; gastro bartenders featuring enhanced cocktails; over the top burgers and Spanish/Latin cuisine already are / or will soon be in place here in spots such as BELEZA; HOLMAN and FINCH PUBLIC HOUSE; and, CUERNO.

My minor premise is that in addition to the bold face names coming into the market, the local operators are going to have some great projects as well.

The local trend setting operators will be opening some new and exciting venues: Concentrics Restaurants’ PARISH will bring an authentic taste of N’Awlins foods and goods to the ATL and Buckhead Life Restaurant Group’s new flagship promises to bring a grand café experience to our shores.

According to Marsha Middleton, PR Director for the Four Seasons Atlanta hotel,”hotel dining will be sexy this year”. With New York star chefs Tom Colicchio’s CRAFT in the Mansion on Peachtree and Jean –Georges Vongerichten’s SPICE MARKET in the W Midtown Atlanta hotel coming on line this year, I take her point.

And no less of an authority than Gourmet magazine features our fair city, and two of our best new chefs, Linton Hopkins and Scott Peacock, in their January 2008 issue, a special collector’s edition.

So while there will be some notable closures and defections in the ranks of star chefs, at the end of the day 2008 will be a banner year for Atlanta’s dining scene, not only because of the out of town bold face name operators coming to town but because of the local operators as well.

NEWS and NOTES (From my keyboard to your screen).

Buckhead. MF BUCKHEAD received the coveted 5 star rating from the AJC’s dining critic. Meridith Ford raved about the quality of the product and the skill of the preparation in her highly informative piece.

CANYON BURGER COMPANY, a local entrepreneurial group, is planning to open up their first restaurant featuring upscale burgers and more in Buckhead at the end of January.

Chamblee. FRANK MA, the popular Shanghai cuisine restaurant, will re open soon in its former location in Chinatown Square.

Decatur. CAKES and ALE, featuring an eclectic seasonal menu focused on the freshest organic ingredients and highest quality meats, will open soon in the former VIET CHATEAU space in downtown Decatur.

Downtown (DT). GOLD BAR and RESTAURANT, an upscale Cajun soul food restaurant, will open soon on Upper Alabama Street in Underground Atlanta.

EINSTEIN BAGELS has opened a restaurant at 95 Piedmont Avenue in the new Georgia State University student housing development.

East Atlanta. KASEN RED-the color of one of the owners VW bug- is opening soon at 517 Flat Shoals Avenue and will serve organic locavore fare.

Question of the Week: What noted local chef and owner couple is planning to open 2 new restaurants in 2008 including one outside of the ATL?

Thank you all of you keyboard cowboys and girls for your support, let’s make 2008 even better: Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better person.

100% right 50% of the time.

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After the closing of two Pies -- Piebar and American Pie -- I feel validated in my feeling that both were quite overrated, even after just one visit to each. Piebar, with its forced-valet-in-an-empty-parking-lot, disgusting bathrooms and clueless staff turned us off quickly. As for American Pie, we sat there for 20 minutes waiting to get served on a Saturday college football afternoon before we left.

Of course, the valet fascination is Atlanta-wide, but it was specifically frustrating in such an empty parking lot (it was 5:30 on a weekday, after work, as we tried to avoid rain-soaked traffic).

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What happened with Derek Lawford pubs? I heard something about tax evasion and both Hand in Hand and Prince of Wales is closed.

Also does anyone know where either Richard Blais is or Drew Van Leuven...? Also what is Paul Abrecht's new concept going into Vinings?

Thanks

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I am a creative consultant at Elevation. The food as mentioned in the article is very straight forward at the moment to combat the current food environment in the area.

We do tastings periodically, and upon request.

I can be contacted here .

I am only at the restaurant a few hours a week.

Hope everyone is having a great start to the New Year !

rB

Richard Blais

www.blaiscuisine.com

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CUERNO ES MUY CALIENTE!

Up and coming restaurant impresario Riccardo Ullio’s long awaited Midtown Spanish cuisine restaurant and tapas bar, CUERNO, opened this past Sunday, January 13th.

At an electric “sneak peek” event on Friday, arranged by the uber PR folks, The Reynolds Group (a big shout out to Kelly and Amanda), my tablemates , a Latino couple, both architects, who had recently traveled to Barcelona and a local foodie who had spent time in Spain as well, and I marveled at the intimate spots’ cuisine and architecture. I was also impressed by the cava (champagne) flutes and how their design and use brings a brand new flavor to Atlanta’s bar/cocktail scene. At first glance, CUERNO’s style, cuisine and location all look as if they are going to raise the temperature of Atlanta’s dining soon for years to come.

DOWNTOWN: MORE RESTAURANTS, ROOFTOPS AND RETAIL.

I was invited to a dinner at STATS recently that highlighted their chef’s menu in depth and detail and while I really enjoyed Certified Master Chef James Corwell’s unique take on sports bar fare (you must have the buttermilk ice cream), the real treat was having the opportunity to quiz Bob Amick about where he saw the suddenly dynamic DT dining scene going in 2008 and why?

Long story short, he is excited about DT’s potential based upon the initial success of his DT restaurant concepts and the prospect of some of the new spots in the adjoining hotels and residential towers such as the proposed Hard Rock Hotel. However, he cautions that there needs to be more residential development, in addition to conventions and major sporting events, in downtown in order for its restaurants to really flourish. He also mentioned that more retail will attract tourists, conventioneers and locals alike to stroll leisurely along DT’s streets.

But DT’s 2008 is going to get off to a great start and Concentrics and their partners will play a major role: the NHL’s All-Star game, an event that will bring thousands of fans and national media attention, will be held this February at Phillips arena and STATS is an official host for the event.

NEWS and NOTES: (From my keyboard to your screen)

Avondale Estates. THUMBS UP, the popular local breakfast chain, has closed their restaurant in this quaint Dekalb County hamlet.

Decatur. TASTINGS: A WINE EXPERIENCE, a Florida based wine bar operator, is opening their first Georgia franchise in the former TROPICAL SMOOTHIE spot at 335 W. Ponce de Leon Avenue this spring.

Downtown (DT). JOCKS and JILLS in Phillips Arena is closing but it is rumored to be replaced by a HUDSON’S GRILL.

THE ATLANTA GRILL at The Ritz Carlton Atlanta is hosting the second annual Tour de Champagne, Saturday, January 19th featuring over 20 brands of the bubbly and foods from the Champagne region of France prepared by chef’s from restaurants such as ENO, JOEL and REPAST. For details: www.tourdechampagne.com .

Lawrenceville. LOUISE’S, the former midtown soul food fave, has resurfaced in Dekalb County.

Midtown. PRINCE OF WALES, the Piedmont Park pub, has closed after 15 years.

CYPRESS STREET PINT and PLATE, nee TOAST, is open and fast becoming a neighborhood hot spot.

Ian Winslade (POSH, SHOUT) will become the sous chef for the soon to be open SPICE MARKET Atlanta in the W Midtown Atlanta Hotel.

Old Fourth Ward. Scott Serpas has left TWO URBAN LICKS to open his own restaurant.

West Midtown. BACCHANALA was named one of the top 11 American restaurants by Zagut based on them scoring a total of 29 out of 30 possible points on a scale covering food, décor, cost and service.

Question of the Week: What eponymous restaurant that burst upon the scene with a loud exclamation point, but poor reviews, is rumored to be in trouble?

Thanks for stopping by and remember that no thoroughly occupied person was ever miserable.

PS. Last week’s QOTW was: What noted chef and owner couple was planning to open 2 restaurants in 2008, one of which was outside of Atlanta? The answer: The Niyomkuls(NAN,TAMARIND).

100% right 50% of the time.

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A PROFUSION OF ASIAN FUSION.

An 18th century French gastronome once wrote: Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are”. Well that same principle can be applied to Atlanta and, if it is true, then our dining scene is becoming a hot spot for Asian fusion cuisine.

The most recent example of this trend is rapper/ actor Chris “Ludicris” Bridges’ and San Francisco Chef Chris Yeo’s STRAITS ATLANTA project slated to open this spring in the former SPICE location. The restaurant, featuring Singaporean cuisine(a mélange of Chinese, Thai, Malaysian and other influences), is the latest in a lengthening list of bold face name, big city chefs/ restaurants bringing new approaches and flavors to the ATL’s Asian fusion cuisine. And, according to one print story, Chris and Chris are also planning two additional restaurants in Atlanta.

STRAITS ; New York’s SPICE MARKET; LA’s CRUSTACEAN;and, Chicago’s JAPONAIS are all set to join LA import GEISHA HOUSE , along with recent Dallas arrival STEEL, in a market that already features local powerhouses such as MF BUCKHEAD,NAM and FRANK MA’S, among others. And there are rumors of NOBU and new Asian restaurants from Here to Serve (LOLA, SHOUT) and the Niyumkuls (NAN).

Asian cuisine, with its noodles, tofu, spicy sauces and exotic fish dishes has been described as cosmopolitan and chic; if Atlanta continues to expand its dining scene with these and other projects, it could be described in those same terms as well.

NEWS and NOTES: (From my keyboard to your screen)

Buckhead. Bixente Perry, the opening chef at the Intercontinental Hotel Buckhead’s AU PIED DE COCHON and most recently, the Food and Beverage Director, has departed and joined the Four Seasons Costa Rica as Food and Beverage Director.

College Park. Florida based Food Systems Unlimited,Inc., a leading airport and mall food services operator, is opening 2 of its ASIAN CHAO restaurants in Hartstfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport this spring.

Decatur.MOXIE JAVA BISTRO is opening this spring at 910 College Avenue.

Downtown. FAT LOUIE”S on Marietta Street has shuttered.

Midtown. A JOLI KOBE BAKERY and CAFÉ, featuring Asian and French pastry and cuisine, will open at 1555 Peachtree Street this summer.

The JOCK'S and JILLS at 10th Street and Peach has closed.

Julio Castillo, formerly of NOCHE, is now executive chef of SHOUT. His new menu will offer a lobster taco, BBQ chicken pizza and beer-braised lamb shank.

Old Fourth Ward. Recently departed TWO URBAN LICKS chef, Scott Serpas, won’t have far to go for his next project, his own restaurant. He has reportedly signed a lease for space inside the Pavilion at Studioplex for his yet to be named project.

Virginia Highland. DISH will re-open under the direction of former sous chef, Stephen McGriff in February.

Question of the Week: What recently opened Midtown restaurant is already rumored to be for sale?

Thanks for stopping by and remember that contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want but the realization of how much you already have.

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW, what eponymous restaurant was rumored to not be doing well, is: EMERIL’S.

100% right 50% of the time.

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SOL FOOD: WHAT ATLANTA LIKES.

A popular and prevailing trend among Atlanta’s leading chefs and restaurants that is finding favor among local foodanistas-how is that for a new term Mr. Kessler- is the use of seasonal, organic and local product or SOL food.

From the high end hotel gastro –palaces to the bistronomic spots springing up in gentrifying neighborhoods like truffles, there is a growing emphasis on the skillful use of provender that is produced utilizing sustainable practices and by producers from within the state if not the region. And the results are often spectacular

Case in point is the newly renovated FLOATAWAY CAFÉ. Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison’s ode to their San Francisco experience has been reborn under Chef Drew Belline’s deft touch.

The expanded space retains its California contemporary décor that attracts a well heeled crowd to its out of the way location but what keeps folks coming back is the haute level cuisine that is served in the casual atmosphere.

On a recent visit, I had a superb meal, highlighted by fork tender short ribs from organic beef from a Georgia producer set on top of a bed of mashed potatoes from a local farmer. My lovely dining companion had a side of seasonal greens that complimented both of our entrees as well.

Another SOL food champion is The Fifth Group’s FOOD STUDIO, where warehouse chic meets a culinary approach that features fresh and organic product.

These and other restaurants are bringing a formative and vital principle to our dining scene; a principle that says what is good for us and our environment can taste good as well.

NEWS and NOTES ( From my keyboard to your screen):

A recent front page story in the New York Times warned of high concentrations of mercury in sushi made with tuna and stated that the problem could extend beyond just New York, so be careful folks.

Richard Blais and Nimma Osman are the 2 Atlanta representatives on this season’s Top Chef series. Good luck guys.

Alpharetta. PISCES SEAFOOD and JAZZ has opened at 4120 Old Milton Parkway in the former COQUTTE’S spot.

Buckhead. Eric Chopin ,formerly of the DINING ROOM the Ritz Carlton Buckhead, will be the executive chef at the Mansion on the Peachtree.

Castleberry Hill. THE VORTEX, the popular bar and hamburger restaurant group, and THE ATLANTA BREWING COMPANY have withdrawn their respective restaurant projects from the under construction Castleberry Point condos because of concerns about restrictions on operating hours. The APRES DIEM project is still a go.

Cabbagetown. VILLAGE PIZZA has closed but the owners of RIA’s BLUEBIRD CAFÉ have reportedly taken the space for a future restaurant location.

East Atlanta. HAAS, on Glenwood Avenue, is now HOLY TACO.

Midtown. Jerome Grilhot (AU PIED De COCHEN) is the new top toque at ENO, which is celebrating its eighth anniversary.

Old Fourth Ward. Jay Swift (RAINWATER, ENO) will open FOURTH & SWIFT, an upscale tavern, at 621 North Avenue in the Southern Dairy building this spring.

Question of the Week: What highly successful West midtown based restaurant group is rumored to be locating one of their concepts downtown?

Thank you for stopping by and remember that a forgiving state of mind is a magnetic power for attracting good.

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW- What recently opened Midtown restaurant is already rumored to be for sale?- is: ALLEGRO.

100% right 50% of the time.

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THE STARS FALL OVER GEORGIA.

The 2008 Mobile awards have been announced and Atlanta and Georgia did quite well in the dining awards compared to the rest of the country. Atlanta received one of the seventeen 5 star dining awards (one was also awarded to Sea Island’s THE GEORGIAN ROOM) and had three 4 star restaurants as well. (See below for deets.) Congratulations to one and all.

IT’S THE STUPID ECONOMY.

Lately there has been a rash of restaurants closing for” renovations” that have later shown up on the state’s list of businesses who have failed to pay their payroll taxes. With the national economy in a state of flux, could this be a sign of the immediate future of Atlanta’s dining scene?

The Industry Bigfoot recently opined that he hoped that the economy doesn’t affect some of the resurgence of the DT dining market and sour investors just as there appears to be some momentum being generated there. I concur, in part, but because the global economy’s tourism index is rising, Atlanta’s DT can and should benefit from that trend. The key of course is timing because of factors such as the possible expansion of Delta’s international routes; and the continued investment in infrastructure.

In the meantime, operators both large and small must contend with higher costs, more competition and of course, taxes. 2008 ,economically speaking, looks as if it will provide some very interesting times for Atlanta’s dining scene.

NEWS and NOTES: (From my keyboard to your screen)

For all you design freaks out there the nomination period for the James Beard Foundation’s 2008 Restaurant and Graphic Design awards has been extended to Thursday, February 7th. For further details: www.jamesbeard.org

Buckhead. THE DINING ROOM at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead has retained both their Mobile 5 star award and the AAA 5 Diamond award status.

Castleberry Hill. TILT, a coffee shop named for its building’s structural feature, has opened at 274 Walker Street and is drawing crowds with its eclectic brews, art, as well as their yoga and Pilates classes.

Decatur. WATERSHED’s James Beard award winning chef, Scott Peacock, recently cooked a Southern meal at the SOL food temple CHEZ PANISSE that had one local food critic raving and ready to..”head south.”

Midtown. PARK 75 at the Four Seasons Atlanta retained their Mobile 4 star status.

Sandy Springs. CHICAGO STEAK and SUSHI, located at 5920 Roswell Road, will become BLUEPLATE DINER at the end of the month.

West Midtown. BACCHANALIA retained their Mobile 4 star status and its little brother, QUINONES at BACCHANALIA, received its first Mobile rating, 4 stars.

JCT KITCHEN and BAR celebrated its first anniversary last month. Many happy returns!

Question of the Week: What local wine bar group is rumored to be having problems with its franchisees’ closings?

Thanks for stopping by and remember that life is tragic for the person who has plenty to live on but nothing to live for.

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW- What highly successful West midtown based restaurant group is rumored to be locating one of their concepts downtown-is: Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison.

100% right 50% of the time.

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THE STARS FALL OVER GEORGIA.

The 2008 Mobile awards have been announced and Atlanta and Georgia did quite well in the dining awards compared to the rest of the country. Atlanta received one of the seventeen 5 star dining awards (one was also awarded to Sea Island’s THE GEORGIAN ROOM) and had three 4 star restaurants as well. (See below for deets.) Congratulations to one and all.

IT’S THE STUPID ECONOMY.

Lately there has been a rash of restaurants closing for” renovations” that have later shown up on the state’s list of businesses who have failed to pay their payroll taxes. With the national economy in a state of flux, could this be a sign of the immediate future of Atlanta’s dining scene?

The Industry Bigfoot recently opined that he hoped that the economy doesn’t affect some of the resurgence of the DT dining market and sour investors just as there appears to be some momentum being generated there. I concur, in part, but because the global economy’s tourism index is rising, Atlanta’s DT can and should benefit from that trend. The key of course is timing because of factors such as the possible expansion of Delta’s international routes; and the continued investment in infrastructure.

In the meantime, operators both large and small must contend with higher costs, more competition and of course, taxes. 2008 ,economically speaking, looks as if it will provide some very interesting times for Atlanta’s dining scene.

NEWS and NOTES: (From my keyboard to your screen)

For all you design freaks out there the nomination period for the James Beard Foundation’s 2008 Restaurant and Graphic Design awards has been extended to Thursday, February 7th. For further details: www.jamesbeard.org

Buckhead. THE DINING ROOM at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead has retained both their Mobile 5 star award and the AAA 5 Diamond award status.

Castleberry Hill. TILT, a coffee shop named for its building’s structural feature, has opened at 274 Walker Street and is drawing crowds with its eclectic brews, art, as well as their yoga and Pilates classes.

Decatur. WATERSHED’s James Beard award winning chef, Scott Peacock, recently cooked a Southern meal at the SOL food temple CHEZ PANISSE that had one local food critic raving and ready to..”head south.”

Midtown. PARK 75 at the Four Seasons Atlanta retained their Mobile 4 star status.

Sandy Springs. CHICAGO STEAK and SUSHI, located at 5920 Roswell Road, will become BLUEPLATE DINER at the end of the month.

West Midtown. BACCHANALIA retained their Mobile 4 star status and its little brother, QUINONES at BACCHANALIA, received its first Mobile rating, 4 stars.

JCT KITCHEN and BAR celebrated its first anniversary last month. Many happy returns!

Question of the Week: What local wine bar group is rumored to be having problems with its franchisees’ closings?

Thanks for stopping by and remember that life is tragic for the person who has plenty to live on but nothing to live for.

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW- What highly successful West midtown based restaurant group is rumored to be locating one of their concepts downtown-is: Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison.

Quatrano and Harrison coming downtown would be nothing short of epic. They moved out of Buckhead, what, 8 years ago and look how they neighborhood around them has developed and the one they left has diminished. Please come downtown!

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DEVELOPERS DO DINING.

Real estate development is practicality the sine qua non of Atlanta and real estate developers, especially the locals, drive the local economy, so when they start a trend, it’s noteworthy.

With the addition of CUERNO, Cousins Properties’ 905 Juniper condominium project has an eclectic restaurant collection of some the hottest spots in town-BELEZA and CHOCOLATE PINKCAFE- that not only add flavor to the ‘hood but appear to be an asset to the projects value as well.

And their Terminus project’s restaurants have lit up Buckhead with an excitement that resembles an Oscar Party (note topical and timely reference here). The crowds at the valet station for LOLA, MF BUCKHEAD, and AQUAKNOX are full of the beautiful people waiting on their beautiful automobiles and the project is still not completed-there are more office towers, residences and retail to come over the next 5 years. And these projects seemingly are having no trouble filling up in spite of the current economic climate.

It appears that developers all over town are banking on the attraction of a artful mix of high energy, big name and high gloss restaurants to compete with the other projects springing up around our fair shores and this could be the time for some of the local operators such as the U Restaurants of the world to take a chance and step up their game. Cousins’ success at 905; Terminus and downtown Decatur argue well for this approach.

If the restaurateurs and developers are willing, in spite of the economy, there are a myriad of mega projects still coming out of the ground with tons of retail/restaurant space to fill. And right now restaurants are the “it” factor for the successful projects. Atlanta’s dining scene could and should prosper from this trend.

ALREADY WITH THE JOKES.

The construction on the proposed STRAITS Atlanta, the partnership between local rapper/ actor Chris “Ludicris” Brides and San Francisco chef Chris Yeo, has barely begun and already the blogosphere is lighting up with some comments that I thought were interesting. Here are a few:

“I’ll have the Notorious BLT please”

“Singapore? I ain’t poor no more”

“All of the foods to be cooked exclusively in Ludicrisco:

NEWS and NOTES: (From my keyboard to your screen)

Alpharetta. JUICY GREEN, the latest of the local operators to join the frozen yogurt wars is now opened at 3719 Old Alabama Road with locations in Norcross, Buckhead and DT to follow soon.

Buckhead. CHIMA (pronounced She-ma), the Brazilian steakhouse is scheduled to open February 25th at 3215 Peachtree Road.

Decatur. ZOCALO, the trendy Mexican restaurant, has closed its location on the Square.

East Atlanta. Nightcap Food and Spirits, the restaurant group behind intown hotspots like VICKERY’S, FONTAINE’S and HIGHLAND TAP, opened THE DEPOT at 904 Memorial Drive this past weekend. The former Atlanta and West Point railroad depot is now a restaurant serving upscale but affordable comfort food.

Glenwood Park. THE SHED at GLENWOOD, offering a menu of innovative American cuisine, is scheduled to open later this year.

Marietta. The GRAPE LEAF GRILL at 2755 Canton Road is now a Vietnamese spot called SAIGON PEARL.

Sweet Auburn. DYNAMIC DISH, the quasi-vegetarian, organic café, has expanded its opening hours to include evenings from 5-9 pm, Thursday thru Saturday.

Question of the Week: What local restaurateurs are rumored to be heavily courted to join the exclusive roster of restaurants in the Streets of Buckhead?

Thank you for stopping by, hope you all have a great Valentines day. I HEART YOU too!

PS The answer to last week’s QOTW- what local wine bar group has some franchisee’s with tax problems-is: THE GRAPE.

100% right 50% of the time.

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AND THE NOMINEES ARE:

The nominations for the 2008 James Beard Foundation awards are out and Atlanta’s nominees are:

THE DINING ROOM at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead for Outstanding Restaurant of the Year;THE CHOCOLATE BAR’s Aaron Russell for Pastry Chef of the Year;

Anne Quatrano (BACCHANALIA) for Outstanding Chef of the Year;

Arnaud Berthelier (DINING ROOM), Linton Hopkins (RESTAURANT EUGENE), and Hector Santiago (PURA VIDA) for Best Chef Southeast; and

Bob Amick (Concentrics Restaurants) for Restaurateur of the Year.

Congratulations and good luck to all of you.

HERE THEY GROW AGAIN.

Speaking of Bob Amick, his ever expanding empire has taken on another top toque. Timothy Magee(SOUTH CITY KITCHEN) has left the Fifth Group and joined Concentrics Restaurants. This addition to an already stellar group bodes well for the culinary offerings of their future projects.

SOUTHERN CHIC FROM BON APPETIT.

The March issue of Bon Appetit features the following restos as examples of the ATL’s southern chic dining scene: OUINNONES;RARE;RESTAURANT EUGENE; WISTERIA; WATERSHED;JCT KITCHEN;RATHBUN STEAK; SHAUN’S; and CABBAGETOWN MARKET.

NEWS and NOTES: (From my keyboard to your screen)

Atlantic Station. AU BON PAIN has closed.

Buckhead. The rumored name for the new project from Concentrics Restaurants in the former PIEBAR location is EGG.

Cabbagetown. The Food Network shot a feature last week at THE CABBAGETOWN MARKET and LITTLE”S GRILL for an upcoming episode of “Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives”.

Downtown. (DT) The WINE LOFT, a restaurant/ winery/ after hours spot featuring 70 wines by the glass and 250 by the bottle, is rumored to be opening this spring at 300 Marietta Street.

Marietta. Atlanta’s second FATBURGER has opened at 2580 Windy Hill Road.

Midtown. Paul Wooten (VINOCITY) is the new top toque at SWEET LOWDOWN.

West Midtown. THE SOCIAL CLUB, a breakfast and brunch spot from the owners of RARE and HARLEM BAR, is opening soon in the former PHILLY BOYS site at Howell Mill Road and Chattahoochee Avenue.

Question of the week: What intown star chef is rumored to have pulled out of the restaurant mix at Town Brookhaven?

Thank you for stopping by and remember that gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW- What local restaurateurs are rumored to be heavily courted to join the exclusive roster of restaurants in the Streets of Buckhead- is Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison.

100% right 50% of the time.

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THE ABSENCE OF EMERIL.

The recent announcement concerning Martha Stewart’s acquisition of the majority of the assets of Emeril’s culinary empire for a cool $50 million reminded me of the rumors of the Atlanta location’s closing and what it means for our dining scene.

The latest rumor has a local high profile dining group being very interested in the Buckhead spot that features operatic décor but with off key offerings. Although the eponymous restaurant had turn away crowds in the early years, it never razzed the berries of the local dining critics. Now it appears that the storied run is nearing an end and the question in my mind is whether or not more appearances by the man himself would have made a difference?

I believe that when people see your name on the front door there is an expectation that you will be on site, at least some of the time. I trust that all of the developers/brokers pushing for all of these bold faced name restaurants (read glitzy chains) coming to our fair shores are taking note. It may not matter if Chef X is the hottest thing in New York or wherever if they are not on site on a regular and the food and service are not up to the price points. In Atlanta’s increasingly competitive market, the star’s presence or absence, all other things being equal, may be the deciding factor between success or failure.

AND THE NEW IRON CHEF CHAMPION IS:

Kevin Rathbun(RATHBUN’S,KROG BAR and KEVIN RATHBUN STEAK) and his brother Kent; they defeated Bobby Flay last evening in the highly anticipated challenge match. Congratulations!

NEWS and NOTES: (From my keyboard to your screen)

Buckhead. VITA, Italian for life, is opening next week in the former MICK’S location at the corner of Peachtree Road and Bennet Street this spring and is owned by one of the former partners in FRATELLI Di NAPOLI,which is just around the corner.

POSH’s new chef, Mel Toledo, formerly of La Jolla’s renowned TAPANADE, toured Europe’s top tables, including one of Alain Ducasse’s restos, to develop its new menu.

Decatur. CATINA EL TESORDA, serving “la comida de Mexico”, will open next month at 129 Church Street.

Downtown (DT). SOCIAL, a restaurant and wine bar, is opening next month at 12 West Peachtree Place.

Kirkwood. LE PETIT MARKET, a specialty grocery store serving freshly baked breads, locally produced product and food and drinks, will open in Kirkwood Station next month.

Midtown. SWEET LOWDOWN has closed. (Guess the new chef didn’t help).

AMORE MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT and LOUNGE has opened at 950 West Peachtree Street.

West Midtown. You can get authentic Kobe beef from Japan at STAR PROVSIONS for only $128 a pound! And they also feature Jamon Iberico, the Spanish ham only recently allowed to be imported into America, at a mere $109 a pound.

Question of the Week: What new Midtown sushi shop is rumored to have not gotten off of the mark in a manner satisfactory to their parent company?

Thank you for stopping by and remember that hearing happens in the mind, listening happens in the heart.

PS. The answer to last weeks QOTW- What intown star chef is rumored to have pulled out of the restaurant mix at Town Brookhaven- is Kevin Rathbun.

100% right 50% of the time.

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NEWS FLASH!

The New York Post is reporting that Joel Antunes has been hired as the top toque at The Plaza Hotel's famed OAK ROOM. Antunes, according to the article, will move to New York.

We now return you to the regularly scheduled program.

100% right 50% of the time.

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COMPARING PEACHES TO APPLES.

There were a number of reactions in Atlanta to the news of Chef Joel Antunes’ announced departure to helm THE OAK ROOM at New York’s Plaza Hotel last week with the majority bordering on apocalyptic.

They ranged from John Kessler’s “ wow,wow,wow” to the various moans and groans on local food blogs about the demise of fine dining in Atlanta. While the last few years have seen a veritable procession of ATL chefs to the Big Apple- and New York restos to Atlanta, it might be time to consider what it means for them as well as for Atlanta’s dining scene.

First, in the four dimensional space that comprises the restaurant universe, opportunity must intersect with time, talent and money. M. Antunes has brought joy and awards in abundance to our dining scene; now, at 45, he can take his talents and attain the mountain top of his professional career in a storied location, primed with new and ample money. Second, Atlanta, a/k/a the Big Peach, has a very good and growing dining scene but it is not New York by any stretch of the imagination.

For Atlanta’s dining scene Joel’s new gig means that there is a recognition of the type of talent that is here. And this move also creates opportunities for new and younger talent to move into the spotlight. JOEL, may not close and if it is to survive, Cyrille Holata, the “right hand man” for 18 years, must step up and seize this oppurtunity to demonstate his skills. Another example is Eric Chopin, formerly of the Mobil 5 star DINING ROOM at the Ritz Carlton, who now asumes the top toque at the soon to be completed NEO, the Italian in house restaurant at The Mansion on Peachtree.Fine dining in Atlanta is not dead, it is merely consigned, at present ,to 5 star hotels.

So why don’t we all relax and give a tip of the hat to M. Atunes and wish him well. And be assured that Atlanta cares enough to send her very best.

NEWS and NOTES :( From my keyboard to your screen)

Buckhead. CRESENT MOON is rumored to opening its 4th location in the under construction Lindberg Vista apartment complex on Piedmont Road this summer.

HOLEMAN & FINCH PUBLIC HOUSE, Linton Hopkins, et al’s gastro pub, is scheduled to open Wednesday, March 12th.

YOGURBERRY, a Korean based company featuring several exotic flavors and toppings of frozen yogurt, will open their first Georgia location in Terminus this spring.

Downtown (DT). FLEURS DE LIS CAFÉ is now FLEURS DE LIS CREOLE EATERY. Chef/owner Lenny Robinson is now serving dishes like seafood gumbo and shrimp etouffee , all under $10 at his quaint spot.

SKY BAR and RESTAURANT, the rooftop restaurant located next to the helipad at the soon to be completed Hilton Garden Inn, is scheduled to open at the end of March.

East Atlanta. That some industry veterans are planning a new concept called MIDWAY PUB, across the street from the ECHO LOUNGE.

West Midtown. CHILOE LATIN BISTRO, named after an Island off of Chile, has opened in the former MISTRO location at 1950 Howell Mill Road.

Question of the Week: What other Atlanta rapper/actor is rumored to be looking at opening a restaurant here in the ATL?

Thank you again for stopping by and remember that a mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm can often go further than a great idea that inspires no one.

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW- What new Midtown sushi shop is rumored to have not gotten off of the mark in a manner satisfactory to their parent company?- is STEEL.

100% right 50% of the time.

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AND THE NOMINEES ARE:

The nominations for the 2008 James Beard Foundation awards are out and Atlanta’s nominees are:

THE DINING ROOM at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead for Outstanding Restaurant of the Year;THE CHOCOLATE BAR’s Aaron Russell for Pastry Chef of the Year;

Anne Quatrano (BACCHANALIA) for Outstanding Chef of the Year;

Arnaud Berthelier (DINING ROOM), Linton Hopkins (RESTAURANT EUGENE), and Hector Santiago (PURA VIDA) for Best Chef Southeast; and

Bob Amick (Concentrics Restaurants) for Restaurateur of the Year.

Congratulations and good luck to all of you.

Some goofball from Greenville SC is on that list as well! What is this world coming to?

John Malik

Chef/Owner

33 Liberty Restaurant

Greenville, SC

www.33liberty.com

Customer at the carving station: "Pardon me but is that roast beef rare?"

Apprentice Cook Malik: "No sir! There's plenty more in the kitchen!"

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AND THE NOMINEES ARE:

The nominations for the 2008 James Beard Foundation awards are out and Atlanta’s nominees are:

THE DINING ROOM at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead for Outstanding Restaurant of the Year;THE CHOCOLATE BAR’s Aaron Russell for Pastry Chef of the Year;

Anne Quatrano (BACCHANALIA) for Outstanding Chef of the Year;

Arnaud Berthelier (DINING ROOM), Linton Hopkins (RESTAURANT EUGENE), and Hector Santiago (PURA VIDA) for Best Chef Southeast; and

Bob Amick (Concentrics Restaurants) for Restaurateur of the Year.

Congratulations and good luck to all of you.

Some goofball from Greenville SC is on that list as well!  What is this world coming to?

congratulations John. We need to head over there and see you soon.

Thomas & Holly

in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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A TRADITION RETURNS.

Recently, a writer described Atlanta’s dining scene as “its best and highest form of pop culture with equal dashes of art, craft and history”. But it was not always that way; at one time Atlanta’s dining scene consisted primarily of small, intimate neighborhood spaces that fed the spirit as well as the palate. And now that tradition has returned in a downtown spot run by some veterans of the era that started Atlanta’s dining scene’s ascent into national prominence.

THE PEASANT BISTRO, the brainchild of Maureen Kalmanson and her partner, owners of the last remaining MICK’S and the PLEASANT PEASANT, is a traditional bistro whose cuisine , service and décor create a warm and intimate experience that harkens back to the halcyon days of the Peasant Group’s restaurant empire.

Chef Shane Devereux’s country French cuisine is artfully executed. The well crafted menu is a solid template for his skills and he seems to have the chops to grow and expand as the seasons as well as the cliental dictates. The service is gracious and attentive-although they knew my host, a famed critic- and the interior design creatively implies intimacy in the surprisingly large bi-level space. A space that includes a patio deck that is sure to be heavily requested when warmer weather settles in.

The minute I walked into the place, I liked it because it reminded me of how I used to go to a restaurant just to enjoy the food and the company and neither the designer; the location nor the social status of the patrons was important. Back in the day, it was all about good food and good times and, now, this is what THE PEASANT BISTRO is about.

NEWS and NOTES: (From my keyboard to your screen)

Buckhead. JIMMY JOHN’S, featuring gourmet sandwiches, has opened its second Atlanta location across from Piedmont Hospital.

SPONDIVIT’S on Pharr Road has closed.

Downtown (DT). Daniel Zoby, formerly of CITY GRILL, will be the opening chef for the Jeffery Chodorow’s MAXIM PRIME steakhouse, the first of a projected 15 unit national roll out.

DANTANNA’S, the Buckhead upscale sports restaurant and bar, is planning to open a second location, 40% larger than its initial project, in the CNN Center.

Emory. JAGGER’S PIZZA is opening in the Sage Hill shopping center at the end of the month, initially with pick up and delivery only but there plans for a full service operation by the end of the year.

Old Fourth Ward. FOURTH and SWIFT will open at the end of the month featuring a stunning design by local architects, ai3 (GLOBE), and a dessert menu designed by dessert diva, Kathryn King (ARIA).

Vinings. Paul Albrecht, along with his son Paul, will open VININGS SOCIAL, a 6,500 square foot white table cloth bistro, in the Vinings Main retail center this summer.

Question of the Week: What other E-Brands restaurant is rumored to be going in to the new Terminus tower opening next spring?

Thank you for stopping by and remember that a pessimist is someone who makes difficulties out of their opportunities but an optimist is someone who makes opportunities out of their difficulties.

PS the answer to last week’s QOTW- What other Atlanta rapper/actor is rumored to be looking at opening a restaurant here in the ATL-is Andre Benjamin.

100% right 50% of the time.

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IRON CHEF RATHBUN.

Flushed with but humbled by his success in the recent Iron Chef America competition, Chef Kevin Rathbun is working harder than ever to stay on top of his culinary empire. And in spite of offers from an array of business entities to open in a number of locations, he is planning to stay close to his neighborhood and his craft.

Kevin is looking into several possibilities for the future: a Mexican place; a place with a lower price point than RATHBUN’S and even a joint venture with his brother, Dallas star chef, Kent. He is also considering a book but he is clear on one point; that whatever project he pursues, he will not be leaving the ATL.

So it appears that while the bright light thrown off by the Iron Chef competition win may have shone brightly on both our city and Chef Rathbun, it has not blinded him to the opportunities ahead in the Atlanta dining scene.

URBAN CHIC, WITH A CARIBBEAN TWIST.

This is how I felt about CIRCA CAFÉ after lunch recently with The Media Maven. I entered into what appeared to be a small neighborhood café only to be surprised by the chic setting and sophisticated ambiance inside. The Tony Akly(REPAST,TAURUS) designed space pivots nicely between café and Jazz and Blues lounge. The owners have artfully created a café atmosphere with some uptown Caribbean fare that is both borderline addictive-the guava jerked chicken- and supported by attentive and knowledgeable service. And the sound track was spot on as well.

Look for Blues diva, Francine Reed on Monday’s and, soon, a jazz brunch on Sunday’s. Check it out; I think you will love it.

NEWS and NOTES: (From my keyboard to your screen)

Alpharetta. ROAM, an innovative meeting and dining place, has opened at 5815 Windward Parkway and is managed by Jason Dauble, formerly of TABLE 1280.

Buckhead. ANTICO POSTA will be one of the first ATL restaurants to serve the coveted wines of New York restaurateur and winemaker Joe Bastianich(BABO,SPOTTED PIG).

Buford Highway. EL POLLO LOCO, the popular California chicken chain, will open their second Georgia location at Buford Highway and Clairmont Road this spring.

Downtown(DT). THE AUBURN BISTRO will open this spring at 171 Auburn Avenue.

MORTON’S plans to remodel its downtown location this summer, expanding the site by almost 50 percent and updating the bar. In addition,it recently extended the downtown lease for another 15 years.

Duluth. HONEY POT, a Korean barbeque spot, has opened at 3473 Old Norcross Road.

Midtown. Nimma Osman, a Top Chef 4 contestant, will be a part of the front of the house staff at SPICE MARKET in the W Midtown Atlanta Hotel.

Virginia Highland. VINE is now under new ownership: Chefs Stephen and David McGuffin have taken over and will re-open on March 20th. Chris Reid has agreed to stay on and continue to run the wine program.

West Midtown. Speaking of Top Chef 4 contestants, Richard Blais is slated to be the opening chef at FLIP, an upscale burger restaurant featuring ground meats” of all sorts”; “the beast veggie burger in the word “; house made sodas; and , RB’s famous foie gras milkshakes.

Question of the Week: Who are the latest New York design firms to bring their craft to Atlanta’s market and spice it up?

Thank you for stopping by and remember the best way to predict the future is to create it.

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW- What other E-Brands restaurant is rumored to be going in to the new Terminus tower opening next spring? – is TAQUERIA CANONITA, a gourmet Mexican restaurant.

100% right 50% of the time.

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SECOND TO NONE.

I was feeling some angst lately about the dramatic/ traumatic changes in Atlanta’s dining scene: the departure of the local bold face name chefs; and the perception by some national operators that Atlanta is basically a “meat and potatoes town”,etc, etc. But that feeling pleasantly faded away because of a sublime experience that reminded me of just how good our dining scene is at the top.

The occasion was the (REDACTED) anniversary of my birth and the celebratory feast was at QUINONES, Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison’s haute, home grown 5 star place of repose and reflection.

This was the first visit for my date and me and we were excited; actually I was very excited-I had been to BACCHANALIA and FLOATAWAY but never to the storied QUINONES. But as we settled in to an environment that reminded her of a Parisian restaurant she had eaten in last year, we were treated to a pitch perfect blend of southern hospitality balanced in equal measure with impeccable service and superb execution of an innovative tasting menu.

The evening’s crowd of old money; new money and no money (me) spent the next three plus hours in as a cosmopolitan atmosphere as could be found either here or abroad. Robert Payne, the Maitre D’Hotel , conducted the evening with a wit , charm and sophistication that went above the commonplace. The evening’s fare, prepared by Chef David Carson, under new executive chef Daniel Porubiansky ,and Pastry chef Carla Tomasco, was well paced and in a word-sumptuous .

New York may have the swift and swank restaurants; LA, the sexy and showy spots; and San Francisco, the sustainable and sophisticated cuisine but QUINONES is the Atlanta restaurant that puts all of those elements together such that the whole exceeds the sum of its parts. Anne and Cliff have established an impressive stable of nationally acclaimed restaurants but in my opinion, QUINONES is second to none.

NEWS FLASH: Sean Brock, executive chef at McCRADY’S in Charleston, will cook up a 10-course tasting menu at Quinones Room with Chef David A. Carson on March 28.

Brock cooks mainly from his own 2.5 acre farm outside of Charleston that is staffed by the McCRADY’S culinary team and supplies vegetables for the restaurant.

Quinones’ chef Carson and Chef Brock will be serving southern cuisine for this intimate dinner, with only 42 seats available for $125 per person plus optional $70 wine pairing, tax and gratuity. The reception will begin at 6 p.m. with dinner seating at 7 p.m.

NEWS and NOTES: (From my keyboard to your screen)

Buckhead. Tony Seichrist, formerly of THE FARMHOUSE AT SERENBE, fresh off of a culinary sabbatical to Italy will be the chef at Linton Hopkins’s long awaited gastro pub, HOLEMAN & FINCH.

STOUT IRISH PUB will open this spring in the former McDUFF’S location at 56 E. Andrews Drive.

Buford Highway. SUSHI HOUSE will open next month at 5797 Buford highway.

Downtown. DUA, a Vietnamese restaurant, has opened recently at 53 Broad Street in the Fairlie-Poplar district.

Dunwoody. GARRISON TAP & BROILER, Metrotainment Café’s Perimeter Mall steakhouse location, will be converted to the group’s HUDSON GRILL concept at the end of this month.

Serenbe. Nicolas Bour, executive chef at THE FARMHOUSE AT SERENBE, has begun a series of monthly tasting dinners with local chefs. The first was held March 19th and featured Shaun Doty (SHAUN’S).

Virginia Highland. The name for the new project replacing the popular DISH, is DIESEL.

Question of the week: What raving brands concept is being prepped for a possible national roll out?

Thank you for stopping by and remember that words of comfort, skillfully administered, are the oldest therapy known to man.

PS The answer to last week’s QOTW- Who are the latest New York design firms to bring their craft to Atlanta’s market and spice it up- is Bentel and Bentel (CRAFT) and AvroKO (SPICE MARKET).

100% right 50% of the time.

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