Now that www.foodieatlanta.com has finally launched, I would like to announce the driving force behind the website and those who will be contributing to our success in the future:


Brian has taken on the responsibility of managing relations with restaraunteurs, chefs, and fellow foodies. He’s planning events and handling all logistics surrounding the Foodie Atlanta site. You can email him at foodieatlanta@gmail.com.


Pedro is a writer and food enthusiast who doesn’t wait nearly long enough before hitting the ‘Publish’ button. He is  a big believer in blind tastings and has developed a problem with Shafer Hillside Select. He’s unmistakably Puerto Rican and loves bold flavors.

Karen (aka chelchotel)

Karen is a fellow contributor and foodie. She’s frequented the Atlanta dining scene, and she’s eaten in some of the best restaurants in South Beach, San Francisco, London, and New York City. She’s all about the foie gras, but she’ll also eat fried plantains at the Havana Sandwich Shop.

Two Urban Licks Review

We were running late. Very late. I called and asked to have our reservation moved from 8 to 8:30, and they said to get there as fast as we could. They were booked solid until 10p.m., but they’d fit us in. We arrived at 8:30. After valeting and wading through a sea of patrons, I gave my phone number to one of the three hosts. He said he’d call as soon as something became available for the four of us.

I’ve never been to Two Urban Licks when it was quiet or empty. Everyone scurries and pushes and crams and demands and appears too cool to really worry about eating. There is nothing intimate about a meal here, unless you consider having to pull out a lighter to see your menu a “close encounter.” Conversing is complicated, at best. Just look at each other and smile–deviously. Enter and be seen. Walk with purpose.

We squeezed into bar stools and ordered Jack and Coke, Crown and Coke, and two vodka sodas. Twice. My phone never rang.

Finally, my date made a trip to the restroom and inquired about our table. It was ready. Ten o’clock. A good sign? So busy that we’d nearly been forgotten? Maybe.

At a corner table, we ordered a “thief” (the wine is taken directly from the barrel, and it’s equivalent to about five glasses) of di arie barbera, salmon chips, and tuna tartare [sic]. A friend had recommended the salmon chips, and I’d had the tuna tartare before. Fifteen minutes later, we saw, swirled, sniffed, and sipped the Barbera, which was smooth and satisfying, a hint of licorice. We shouted across the table, commenting on the pork shoulder being absent from the menu.

The lamb enticed me; however, I’d had lamb three times the previous week. I just didn’t think I could do it again, even with the apple cider jus. I also considered the beef rib, really more for the NY mac & cheese that comes with it than anything else.

Half an hour after being seated, our server was ready for us to order (urgent!!!). I settled on prime rib, rare, smoked, with roasted red potatoes, shitake mushrooms, and red wine jus. I have declared repeatedly that it’s silly to order steak at a restaurant. At home, you’re in charge. You can have any cut you want, straight off the grill or out of the pan, seared to perfection, bloody and running and rare. You lose control when you’re out. There could be a good twenty minutes between the fire and your first bite. I’m not talking about rest time, which is necessary and vital for any amazing steak to come to fruition. I’m talking about ten minutes of taste—gone forever. I’m talking about the onset of a rubbery, Waffle House version of what should be a quality cut. Thank goodness my friend ordered the duck.

The salmon chips and tuna tartar arrived. The salmon chips were delectable in their own way, laden with chipotle cream cheese, capers, and red onion. This was no ordinary lox, but the cream cheese overpowered everything else. Nothing like salmon-flavored cream cheese. Not that I cared at that point. I was starving, and cream cheese is, well, cream cheese.

The tuna tartare, with green apples, red onions, and spicy sesame dressing on housemade potato chips, refreshed the palate. I savored the sweet crunch of the apples juxtaposed with the salty chips and the smoky tuna mingling and melting its way among it all.

Another half hour passed, and then, magically, an entourage of servers descended. An enormous, inch-and-a-half thick slab of juicy carnage appeared before me, garnished with tiny toadstools, tips reaching for the sky. Plopped nearby, huge chucks of red potatoes rocked and rolled in a thin, brown jus. Potential.

M.F.K. Fisher argued that “…most bereaved souls crave nourishment more tangible than prayers: they want a steak.” Arguably, however bereaved, smart souls would prefer prayers to my steak. I started to worry when I had to saw rather than slice through the prime rib. Yes, it was rare, but I was hoping for tender and delicate, not tenacious and tough. I chewed, and chewed, and chewed. At least, I thought, the potatoes would be kinder, gentler. Not so. They were undercooked to the point that I might as well have taken them straight out of the ground and chomped in. Apples and chips should be crunchy. New potatoes, not so much.

Luckily, the duck, pan roasted, with andouille sausage, white sweet potatoes, and apple-pumpkin seed salad, was edible. Tender and moist inside, seasoned and succulently seared outside. Much, much better. I didn’t try the sides, but the duck was delicious.

The bronzed scallops with gouda grits, pico de gallo, and smoked tomato broth also fared better than the prime rib. The sweet, creamy grits and fresh, zesty salsa complimented the mild, perfectly-cooked scallops. I’ve heard that a well-cooked scallop should have the texture of filet mignon. These scallops were almost that good.

We passed on dessert. We hadn’t really been able to speak to each other in nearly three hours. We’d have to socialize in the car on the way home, a few hundred dollars poorer and pooped.

I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to dine at Two Urban Licks. It’s fun and loud, and when it’s warm enough, there’s bocce ball out back. This is not haute cuisine. Don’t take your parents here or plan to pop the question. Sit back, people-watch, and skip the prime rib.

Fritti Now Open 7 Days a Week!

I love Fritti. I’m not part of the pizza elite, so I can’t comment on the pizza scene in Atlanta, but I always enjoy hanging out there and enjoying their pizza. Therefore, I was very happy to hear that they’re open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week now.

Fritti sign


Arancini: nothing but love, lightly fried.

Calzone alla Napoletana: Ricotta, Mozzarella, Cotto Ham, Salame

Bacchanalia Review

Bacchanalia has been around for a very long time. Before I even moved to Georgia, I was aware of Bacchanalia, notoriously mentioned in every list of elite restaurants in the city of Atlanta. So how do I go about covering a restaurant that has garnered every accolade, been featured in every major publication, and been pelted with award after award?

One way would be to act as the contrarian. Play the Toby Young / Simon Cowell card and try to garner street-cred by calling their finest days behind them; being oh so trendy and flocking to the newer, exciting spots and declaring Bacchanalia passé. Last night, I could have very well played that part. Bacchanalia’s food wouldn’t let me.

I was dining alone and on my first mission where the management was aware beforehand of my intentions to cover the restaurant. I almost felt like Anton Ego from Ratatouille. I walked into Bacchanalia with deliberate, careful strides. Still clad in my work garb, my shoes knocked loudly on the wood flooring and reverberated conspicuously throughout the empty Star Provisions . My gigantic camera weighed heavily in my hand and made it impossible for me to be on my best, demure behavior. The hostess had been expecting me. Game time.

Bacchanalia / Star Provisions Entrance

Star Provisions bakery, from the outside.

Westside Urban Market... After Dark

The foyer at Bacchanalia.

Thankfully, a familiar face was working that day. She is an acquaintance from my days when I was obsessed with Abattoir and she was expediting that evening. My server comes over and explains the menu, a 4-course prix fixe (with the occasional supplement for truffles and other goodies) where you select one from four categories: appetizer, entrée, cheese & contrast and dessert. I felt saucy tonight; I told the server to let the expediter decide my fate.

Now for reasons that I haven’t figured out yet, requesting a blind tasting, explaining that I trust them completely and that I’m in for whatever journey they are willing to take me on is hard. The restaurant wants you to be happy, so they proceed carefully: suggesting rather than surprising. I explained again: do whatever you want, I have no allergies and I trust you completely. I also decided on doing the suggested wine pairings, by the half glass.

My twitter station Alpha

Champagne. There's nothing wrong with that.

I sipped on the champagne that I ordered at the bar to summon my appetite and open the palate when the first gift from the kitchen arrived: a lilliputian gougere in a silver tray. Bacchanalia is a very dark restaurant by photographic standards. The lighting is soft and very flattering to your fellow diners, but it makes it almost impossible to photograph without artificial lighting. I am desperately trying to make my camera cooperate, but without using speedlights or a tripod. However, I was still there as a diner and not a photographer, and it began to sink in that this was going to be the most difficult photo assignment I’ve ever undertaken. I found a combination of exposure settings that made the chronicling of this meal plausible, if mediocre. I knew that it wouldn’t be pretty, and we wouldn’t be able to do any prints, but for the web and for this initial review, it would have to suffice. If anyone out there can let me take pictures of the food in the brightly-lit kitchen, please let me know.

Bacchanalia, inside.

The first gift from the kitchen arrived: a single shot of sweet potato soup with an apple salad. Absolutely delightful and instantly transported me to the heart of the Fall season.

Sweet potato soup, apple salad.

As I eagerly awaited what delights might come from the kitchen, it dawned on me how quiet it was. Sepulchral and intimidating, the atmosphere weighed heavily as the music was off for the night and the diners had apparently just egressed from finishing school and were on their more polite, soft-spoken behavior. Relax fellow diners, it’s just food. Sure, Bacchanalia is ostensibly a monument of fine dining, but a meal has to be more than a sum of its parts. A meal should be a joyous experience punctuated by enthusiastic dialog. I even made a comment to my involuntarily-deputized sherpa guide for the evening, and her take was that the lack of music was driving the silence.

The first course arrived: Glazed Veal Sweetbreads, Pearled Barley, Braised Escarole, Blood Orange Gastrique. I was served a magnificent beast, a colossal sweetbread that was done “General Tso’s style”. This is, without a doubt, the best sweetbreads dish I’ve ever had in my life. Phenomenal doesn’t begin to describe it. It was playful and whimsical with the General Tso’s theme and it hit the precise chord that paralleled true fine dining and comfort food. I was intoxicated with it, and I couldn’t stop eating.

Glazed Veal Sweetbreads, Pearled Barley, Braised Escarole, Blood Orange Gastrique.

But the kitchen wasn’t done with me quite yet: they threw in a second appetizer, the Gulf Crab Fitter with Citrus and Thai Pepper Essence. The fritter was delicious and the thai pepper essence provided a heat level that was assertive but not unpleasant. The oranges and the avocado were portioned perfectly and created a fantastic flavor profile. Great as it was, it was hard for me to get over the sweetbreads.

Gulf Crab Fritter, Citrus, Thai Pepper Essence

The Kitchen

I waited for my entrée and sipped carefully on my half glasses of paired wines. I couldn’t help but notice that several patrons were celebrating. A birthday, a couple of anniversaries. And still, eerie silence and robotic composure from the guests. Seriously folks, relax. The entrée made its appearance: American Kobe Shortribs, Young Vegetables, Hedgehog Mushrooms, Natural Consommé. The dish came out and was sauced with the consommé tableside.

The dish was beautiful and the shortrib was extremely generous in size. To describe the shortrib simply as fork-tender is an egregious understatement. However, the dish as a whole had an impressive mix of textures and techniques represented in the young vegetables. The hedgehog mushrooms were gorgeous, impish in scale and personality. Tiny fungi in their natural habitat amongst the young vegetables.

Kobe Shortribs, Young Vegetables, Hedgehog Mushrooms, Natural Consommé

It was cheese time. A dish of shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, Medjool Dates, Saba and Honey was placed before me, intricately plated with the cheese shavings standing up like shark fins. This dish was good, but a tad too sweet, betraying the section’s title and not providing enough contrast. Perhaps a bit more acid could have brightened up the offering. Maybe a bit more salad.

Shaved Parmegiano-Regiano, Medjool Dates

The server asked me, and I answered honestly, so a more exciting cheese and contrast option was brought out: Vermont Butter & Fresh Goat Cheese, Roasted Beets, Young Greens, Beet Sorbet. Although up to this point my pictures had been uniformly horrible, this was one dish whose pictures I can’t bring myself to post. I just did a very poor job. The dish was good though, though strangely proportioned. It had slices of raw beets, roasted beets, a beet sorbet quenelle and two dollops of the goat cheese. The flavors were fantastic, particularly the beet sorbet, but there was too much of the roasted beets. The dish itself was also a bit large and after the generous portions so far, I was getting very full.

Another gift from the kitchen, this time from the pastry chef, was brought: Hot Chocolate With Marshmallow, Gingerbread Cookie.

Hot Chocolate, Marshmallow, Gingerbread Cookie

Finally, dessert came: Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Tangerine Sorbet, Black Pepper Biscotti. Black Pepper Biscotti? With a tangerine sorbet? I have to admit, it worked. However, I thought the dessert took a voluntary back seat to the rest of the meal. It was well-executed and competent but didn’t inspire the awe that some of the other ones did.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Tangerine Sorbet, Black Pepper Biscotti

The meal drew to a close. There was a round of petit fours and later, a madeleine. I took my time to sip on my water and contemplate the meal I’d just had. Between the Proustian recollections of the sweetbreads and the quirkiness of the mushrooms, I had enjoyed a superb meal. Minor nit-picking aside, it’s impossible to not fall in love with Bacchanalia’s food. But like I said, a meal is always more than the sum of its parts, or in this case, the courses. The restaurant was far too empty on this Monday, and the exuberance of a crowd that’s really digging their meal was missing. I suppose that I’ll have to return for another tasting, on a busier night, with music.

I can only hope that the weekend crowd agrees with me: You shouldn’t go to Bacchanalia as part of a celebration; eating at Bacchanalia is the celebration.

It’s looking like before we unveil our big event for the spring, we’re going to do our second event at Bacchanalia. The cost will be $125/person, and it should be an incredible and unforgettable extravaganza. I’m capping this one at 20 people, to make it cozy. Please email me as soon as humanly possible at foodieatlanta@gmail.com if you’re interested.

Dinner Tonight: Salad?

I love three-ingredient salads. I was turned on to this type of salad when I had the duck confit, butternut squash and local greens bowl at Abattoir. So tonight I thought I’d do something similar: baby field greens, roasted sweet potato and hanger steak.

I wish there was more to write about it, but other than cooking the steak, which is a long dissertation in its own right, there’s nothing to it.

Hanger steak, baby field greens, roasted sweet potato

Social Vinings Review (Lunch)

Vinings is a special part of Atlanta. Straddling the perimeter and desperately trying to reap the benefits of city life with the copacetic, predictable nature of suburban life, it has attracted an affluent demographic. And with it has developed somewhat of a fine dining culture. Undoubtedly this dining scene is far better than the never-ending sea of Chili’s, Macaroni Grills and Olive Gardens in suburbia, but rarely does it surprise.

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I’m thrilled to say that the first official Foodie Atlanta dinner is full and taking place on February 2, 2010 at JCT Kitchen. But what makes a Foodie Atlanta dinner event any different from other “special” dinners being hosted around town?

Easy enough: we’re food groupies. The kitchen is our band, and we’re there to rock out. We want the new lyrics and the impromptu solos, the improvisations and we’re there to headbang.

We want to give the kitchen absolute carte blanche. We prefer our tasting menu to be blind, and whether the food is on-menu or off-menu, whether it’s even fits within the scope of the restaurant is completely irrelevant to us. Give us your best shot.

We’re looking for the ultimate meal.

To this end we are working on several upcoming tastings, hopefully escalating towards something subliminal. If you want to join the events mailing list, please email us at foodieatlanta@gmail.com

JCT Kitchen Review (Lunch)

Happily ensconced in the back side of the Westside Urban Market, flanked by the Bacchanalia / Star Provisions empire and the Taquería del Sol fortress, is JCT Kichen and Bar. Self-described as a classic Southern style bistro, and there being entirely too many mediocre places in Atlanta with the same label, I rued the day when I’d have to return to yet another haute Southern cuisine wannabe restaurant. Making homemade biscuits and fried chicken and plating it on square china does not make the restaurant a paragon of fine dining. Yes, you can say that I’m jaded with the segment. But since Abattoir closed for lunch and I needed to get out of Vinings, I decided to give JCT a try.

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Woodfire Grill Review

I should have visited the Woodfire Grill a few more times before posting a review, but after my live tweeting and the build-up leading to our outing to Kevin Gillespie’s baby, I reasoned I had to go ahead and give you my impressions so far.

Simply stated, my Woodfire Grill dinner experience was nothing short of spectacular. This was pleasantly surprising since I went into this soiree with three assumptions:

1. The rule is that if the chef is famous enough for one to know his name,  he’s not working the kitchen anymore. I thought that this would ring particularly true since Kevin had shot to superstardom after making the finals during Top Chef. I pictured Kevin too busy gallivanting throughout the world’s finest culinary venues, taking pictures with food groupies, appearing at events, and exchanging witty banter on TV to be working on a humble Tuesday night.

2. It’s extraordinarily difficult for a restaurant to maintain excellence when it becomes famous and slammed. Shortcuts are taken. Compromises are made. The best restaurant experiences generally occur at the more obscure destinations that have young, intense chefs with something to prove. The kind of places that are only talked about by the foodie elite in hushed tones.

3. The food never lives up to the hype. At the end of the day, it’s just a good restaurant in Atlanta with an incredibly talented chef. It’s not a private dinner for 12 at Versailles with Kevin himself carefully plating every dish.

Well, I was wrong. And, although I will never give four knives to a restaurant without multiple visits to ensure that pervasive excellence isn’t circumstantial, it’s on the short list of restaurants in Atlanta that have a shot of getting the full four knives.

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