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Author James Oxendine

  • James Oxendine

    Contributing Writer

    A longtime Atlanta resident, James Oxendine has been involved in public policy and economic development at the national, state, and local level while maintaining his passion for Atlanta’s dynamic food scene. He was a columnist for the Atlanta Daily World and Clique Atlanta, an online publication, before becoming a weekly contributor to Atlanta magazine's dining blog, Covered Dish, penning its weekly Food Chatter posts.

 

Food Chatter: Closing Time

NEWS AND NOTES: Read more...

Food Chatter: Catching up with T. Fable Jeon

T. Fable Jeon is a man on a mission. The former Sound Table/Lawrence barkeep, who was one of the Beverage Network’s 2011 Ten Mixologists to Watch, wanted to establish a Southern restaurant and craft bar experience for Atlanta’s expanding craft-cocktail/bar scene, and with that idea in mind, he, along with his business partner and consulting chef, Julia LeRoy, opened the Pinewood Tippling Room last week in downtown Decatur. The multi-talented mixologist labored for months on the highly anticipated project—designing and then handcrafting everything from the menu, the bar, the tables, and the lone ceiling fan—in order to create a sophisticated  environment that reflects his passion for Southern hospitality. Jeon and his team have transformed the former Cakes & Ale spot into a Southern-style gastro pub that “appreciates equally the high class and the homespun.” Pinewood’s bar menu features cocktails like the Day That I Die, made with rye whiskey, house-made ginger syrup, Meyer lemon juice, roasted Georgia pecan tincture, and buckwheat honey syrup, along with the Goodwood Julep, comprised of bourbon, brandy, Averna, Cynar, mint, tarragon, and castor sugar, which will be served in a cheater tin (a stainless steel cocktail shaker) over crushed ice. Leroy’s menu focuses on small plates with strong Southern roots, like a fried bologna sandwich with a slice of fried green tomato and spicy egg salad, made-to-order skillet cornbread with fresh jalapeno and bacon, and house-cut fries with cheese curd and sawmill gravy. Jeon took some time during the final days before the grand opening to briefly chat about his passion for authentic Southern hospitality, why he chose Decatur for the Pinewood’s location, and where the name Pinewood Tippling Room originated. What were you looking forward to the most about opening Pinewood? Frankly, we're thrilled to not be covered in sawdust anymore! In all seriousness, we are most excited about sharing our passion for food and drink with our neighbors here in Decatur and Atlanta, respectively. Where did the name Pinewood Tippling Room originate from? The Pinewood is a restaurant and craft cocktail bar informed first and foremost by Southern inspiration. Pine wood is the backbone of the South ... whether a pillar in an Antebellum mansion in Savannah, a piece of hand-crafted furniture, or dunnage for a shipping palette on a dock in New Orleans, the South could not have been built without the pine tree. It holds all of us up, and it shelters us. And almost everything in the space is wood, from the bookshelf-y bar and wicker stools to the unfinished tables and lone ceiling fan. As for "Tippling Room," in the textbook sense, it is a house in which liquors are sold in drams or small quantities, to be drunk on the premises. As it relates to the Pinewood, we simply aim to create a comfortable, yet refined social space for the neighborhood to enjoy. How will your focus as a Southern-themed neighborhood bar distinguish Pinewood in the Atlanta market? The Pinewood is not a facsimile or a caricature of the prototypical Southern-theme construct. We, as the two partners, are raised and deeply rooted in the South, aim to achieve an authenticity our grandparents would be proud of. Ours is an establishment that strives to deliver the most genuine and sincere expressions of true Southern hospitality. We will use ice blocks that were cut by a chain saw out back and some of the cocktails [are] laced with bonded corn whiskey and gomme syrup (a sugar syrup that has gum Arabic added that adds a smoother texture to a cocktail). Why did you select downtown Decatur as a Read more...

Food Chatter: A first glance at the Optimist

A spectacular Atlanta Food & Wine Festival event last week had those who were in attendance speaking in exclamation points about the Optimist, star chef Ford Fry’s latest resto. The sophisticated Southern-style seafood spot has the look, menu, and location to add a new star to Atlanta’s seafood dining profile. The Optimist, named after a small sailing craft, has a Southern seaside theme that sets the perfect tone for the dining experience. Designer Smith Hanes (JCT Kitchen, No. 246, and Watershed on Peachtree) has created a Hampton’s-meets-the-South look that deftly incorporates nautically themed artwork into a space that features soaring ceilings, subway tiled walls, forged metal fixtures, and re-purposed wood elements like the floor-to-ceiling windows separated by wood strips designed to look like lobster traps. Hanes’s take on the beach house bathroom—hand numbered keys—adds another classic touch to the Optimist’s décor. The star-studded pre-opening event, Oceans 6, presented a progressive selection of seafood delights from Southern chefs Norman Van Aken (Florida), Bryan Caswell (Texas), Mike Lata (South Carolina), Dean Max (Florida), and Brandon McGlamery (Florida), along with some artful pairings by Master Sommelier Kathy Morgan (D.C.). It also served as the debut of the Optimist’s top toque, Adam Evans, formerly of JCT Kitchen, whose contribution to the menu was equal to the occasion. The Optimist’s dining menu features a stunning array of sustainable fresh fish and shellfish like Georgia white shrimp, Florida grouper, North Georgia trout, and Virginia clams; all available either fried, grilled, or roasted in a wood burning oven. The adjoining Oyster Bar features a wrap around raw bar in a “fish camp” setting and an outdoor patio. The huge standalone bar’s menu features seafaring libations such as the Sea Shanty, Mother of Pearl, Old Salty Dog, and the Cutty Shark. In addition, there are four draft beers, fifteen by the bottle, and a nicely balanced wine list. The dramatic, 10,000-square-foot space is located at 914 Howell Mill Road, at the headwaters of the Westside’s expanding Howell Mill Road restaurant row, which, until now, has lacked a significant seafood presence. The Optimist is slated to set sail on Monday, May 21. NEWS AND NOTES: Atlanta’s first permanent food truck site, the Atlanta Food Truck Park and Market, has reopened after the permitting problems that forced its abrupt closing were resolved last week. According to various media reports, the closure was a result of the fact that individual trucks needed separate vendor permits in addition to those held by the park. Prompt action by City Councilmember Kwanza Hall and others assisted in the acquisition of the required permits. Brit bad boy chef, Gordon Ramsay’s "Hell’s Kitchen" television show is casting in Atlanta. Slated to release on October 16, star chef Kevin Gillespie’s cookbook, "Fire in My Belly: Real Cooking," is now available for pre-ordering. Read more...

Food Chatter: Julia LeRoy on Watershed and fried chicken

Last week the team behind the forthcoming Watershed on Peachtree revealed Julia LeRoy would become the kitchen’s chef de cuisine, working alongside executive chef Joe Truex. LeRoy, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, has pursued a diverse cooking career: She cut her teeth at the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead and Seeger’s and led the kitchen previously at the Bookhouse Pub and her short-lived LeRoy’s Fried Chicken. Just prior to her new post at Watershed, she worked as the consulting chef for the menu at Decatur’s Pinewood Tippling Room, which opens on May 15.   Q: What were the deciding factors in making the decision to join the Watershed team? JL: I think one of the main reasons I wanted to join the Watershed team is because I have enormous respect for Joe’s approach to food. I would dine at Repast any time I could talk someone into taking me and I think he’s done a great job transforming the new Watershed menu into his own. He and I are opposites in a lot of ways, but we get along really well and I think that shows in our collaborations.   Q: How did you meet Truex? JL: We were on a panel together at the 2011 Taste of Atlanta and started talking then. I was in the middle of shutting down my fried chicken restaurant and kind of stressed. We talked after the event and found out we had a food ideas in common. We worked together almost a year doing dinner parties before I decided to join the Watershed team. I signed the contract on my birthday, April 20th.   Q: What are some of the new items you will be introducing to Watershed’s menu? JL: I’m not ready to divulge the fruits of those collaborations yet, but I think you’ll be pleased. But Joe and I plan on expanding Watershed’s current menu with flavors from the Georgia Coast, the Louisiana Bayou and the diverse ethnic flavors found throughout the South.   Q: Will you be doing the fried chicken now? JL: The fried chicken is going to be the same recipe as it’s always been. It’s a vertebra in the backbone of Watershed and I have no desire to change that. I’m sure I will be making the fried chicken from time to time, but it will be the tried and true Watershed recipe I follow. Q: You have been serving as consulting chef to the Pinewood Tipping Room in Decatur, how is that project coming along? JL: I have wrapped up the menu [which includes dishes like fried bologna sandwiches gussied-up funnel cake], and it is similar to the food I prepared at Bookhouse.   NEWS AND NOTES: The biggest news of the week, of course, is that Hugh Acheson and Linton Hopkins tied for the title of Best Chef Southeast at this year’s James Beard awards announced on Monday. ( On Friday, at the ceremony for cookbooks, journalism and broadcast media, Acheson also received a Beard award in the American Cooking category for his cookbook, “A New Turn in the South.”   The founder of R. Thomas Deluxe Grill, Richard Thomas, was featured  in a Huffington Post piece about his personal journey from President of KFC to founding what the article calls “Atlanta’s healthiest restaurant”.   The Southern Food Writing Conference and the International Biscuit Festival will be held jointly in K Read more...

Food Chatter: Checking in with BLT Steak's Cyrille Holota

It has been almost a year since star chef Cyrille Holota decamped from the now-closed FAB and moved, literally, across the street to helm Atlanta’s outpost of BLT Steak at the W Downtown Atlanta. Since joining BLT, the classically trained Holota, who worked at several Michelin starred restaurants before joining Joel Antunes at Joel, has added a sense of elegance to the high-end steakhouse. Holota, a native of Montluçon, France, recently completed the first of a series of boucherie (French for “butcher”) dinners, which highlighted whole-animal cookery in five-course meals. Holota recently chatted about why he has remained in Atlanta and some of his future plans for BLT Steak. Q: With all of your international experience and reputation you could have had a top position anywhere in the world, what motivated you to stay in Atlanta after Joel closed? CH: Atlanta is a wonderful city that can be family friendly, and I have found some very nice dishes in the restaurants around Atlanta. As well, Atlanta is a town that is rapidly growing in terms of the food industry. We are lucky enough to have several local farmers who are doing a fantastic job in supply us with extremely fresh fruits and vegetables.   Q: What attracted you to BLT Steak and what inspired you to create the Boucherie series? CH: BLT Steak has a great reputation in the industry, as chef Laurent Tourondel brings his personal touch to each property. The Boucherie series, specifically, is a great way to showcase some of our local ingredients as well as our local artisan talent. We are currently working on the next series of dinners and playing around with a few new recipes, which will be announced soon.   Q: Many chefs have said that they enjoy music in their kitchens because it helps them to relax, do you listen to any music while you are cooking? CH: No, I do not like to listen to music while in the kitchen because I find it to be distracting while trying to communicate and coordinate with the rest of the kitchen staff.   Q: What are some of your favorite restaurants here in Atlanta? CH: Some of my favorites around Atlanta are Bacchanalia, Muss & Turner, and Douceur de France.   NEWS AND NOTES: StarChefs.com has announced its 2012 Atlanta Rising Stars, which include Andy Carson, chef de cuisine at Bacchanalia and Ryan Smith of Empire State South, and Robert Phalen of One Eared Stag. Check out the full list.   Harold’s Barbecue, an Atlanta institution, announced last week that it would close Thursday ,May 3, after 65 years. However, veteran journalist Jim Auchmutey reported to food editor Bill Addison yesterday that, at a mobbed lunch yesterday, a staffer told Auchmutey the restaurant would stay open for another month after a deluge of business. We’ll keep you posted on developments.   Buckhead. According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Del Frisco’s Grille has officially inked a deal for the former Craft space in front of the Mansion on Peachtree/soon-to-be Mandarin Oriental Atlanta.   Newbie STG Trattoria is now open for lunch, Tuesday to Fridays from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.   Fox Brothers Restaurant Group, owners of Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q and Big Tex Decatur, are opening Fox Bros. Rib Joint, a fast-casual concept, in the former Maddy’s space at 1479 Scott Boulevard this summer.   Read more...

Food Chatter: Bill Johnson talks Red at Philips Arena

Bill Johnson and his firm, the Johnson Studio, have designed high-profile restaurants around the country, but recently the company tackled one of its most challenging projects: Red, the 10,000-square-foot, 250-seat eaterie that replaced Headline Bar and Grill inside of Downtown’s Philips Arena. I recently caught up with Johnson to chat about Red, The Spence and some of his upcoming Atlanta projects.   Q: Red is somewhat different from many of your other Atlanta projects because of its location inside Philips Arena. What types of challenges did the location present and how are you planning to address them? BJ: Access, for one: No one really knew the restaurant existed before this. Now they will, as the restaurant will be visible from the bowl of the arena into the restaurant’s interior. Several rows of seating and structural concrete were removed to make this visibility possible. Another challenge was the destination: Previously it was not easy for the arena patrons to locate, and now with a new entrance it will be obvious. A stair inside the arena will be painted red, leading guests to the restaurant providing a “red carpet” type of entry effect. A third challenge was to create a line of visibility or “sightline” within the restaurant so that patrons dining or at the bar can see the activity of the game or event. Several individuals will be able to see the action, while others will see the energy of the reactions from the attendees and view the scoreboards while watching it all unfold on TV. Nearly every seat has a view of the floor now. Tiered seating and “stadium” booths were added to give guests a great view of the performance on the arena floor as well as the action at the bar and expo kitchen. Dramatic lighting effects and live action cooking will be a prominent feature and will help to counter the energy inside the bowl.   Q: Can you provide an update on the Spence, your project with Concentrics Restaurants and Richard Blais? BJ: It was very slow moving at first because Bob [Amick, President of Concentrics] was focused on Prato opening in Orlando, Winter Park. We are currently working on the look and feel of the interior decor. We will be featuring materials like natural heart pine, raw zinc and brick. It looks like the middle of May before it will be open.   Q: Over the last five years you have had some nationally lauded projects in cities like Dallas (Fearing’s) and Royce in The Langham Hotel (Pasadena, California). What have you learned from those projects that we might see in your future Atlanta projects? BJ: New York City, at Rockefeller Center, is getting the newest concept from the Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, called Del Frisco’s Grille, a grille that is also proposed for the Atlanta area. The positive reaction to the more casual comfortable atmosphere and varied menu with small plates appears to be a concept that will be well suited for Atlanta.   NEWS AND NOTES: The Cook’s Warehouse won About.com’s 2012 Reader’s Choice poll for Best Kitchenware Retailer, according a presser issued April,23rd.The contest, conducted online, included Cook’s as well as King Arthur Flour, Bed Bath and Beyond, Sur La Table and Chef’s Catalog. Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewery was ranked 24th among the Top 50 craft breweries, by sales volume, in 20011 by the Brewers Association.   The more than 1,0 Read more...

Food Chatter: Q&A with Floyd Cardoz of North End Grill

Last week, Atlanta's Share Our Strength celebrated the twenty-fourth anniversary of their Taste of the Nation event. Fifty local top chefs donated their time and talents to help raise funds to end childhood hunger. This year they were joined by superstar chef Floyd Cardoz, who flew in from New York to assist in making the evening a truly stellar affair. Cardoz is executive chef of North End Grill, the latest restaurant from Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. Cardoz is best known for his groundbreaking modern Indian cuisine restaurant, Tabla, however, he has an equally strong commitment to social responsibility. Read more...

Food Chatter: Q&A with Bruce Logue of BoccaLuppo

Last week I caught up with Bruce Logue, who recently left his executive chef position at La Pietra Cucina, to chat about plans for his highly anticipated new restaurant, BoccaLuppo. Logue said that the new resto will feature a casual Italian-American menu that  include some of the pasta dishes he made famous at the four-star La Pietra but at a lower price point. He is still locking down his location but it will be smaller and more centrally located with ample parking. And for all of his fans, BoccaLuppo should be up and running before the end of the year,if not sooner. Q: What will be the main differences between La Pietra and BoccaLupo in terms of menu and price point? BL: The only similarity to La Pietra will be the flavors and ingredients found in some of the food. Things like my Calabrese sausage and my Bolognese ragu will surely be at BoccaLupo. BoccaLupo will focus more on some of the Italian-American favorites that people already know and what makes those dishes great. My goal is to add to the vernacular of what is considered Italian-American cooking by using American made artisan products that would normally be imported from "the old country." Things like cured hams and salumi, Parmesan style cheese, and San Marzano tomatoes are now being produced at a very high level in the U.S. There are dairies in Georgia making mozzarella and burrata and other Italian cheeses as well as local farmers growing vibrant produce year round. Our country produces excellent wine and olive oil and our semolina is of the best in the world for making extruded pasta. These are some of the building blocks that we will use to achieve Italian-American flavor. I want people to connect deeply with the food whether it is on an intellectual level or just plain old "this tastes amazing" level. Another big difference will be the price point. We will be very creative in keeping our price point low. We want people to feel like they can drop in any time and enjoy a satisfying meal. Read more...

Food Chatter: Q&A with The Pecan's Tony Morrow

Chef Tony Morrow, owner of the award-winning upscale Southern resto, The Pecan, has a new project located just a couple of blocks south of his company’s flagship in downtown College Park. The spot will not only serve up some serious barbecue, but will add another neighborhood bistro to the Southside dining scene. Read more...
 
 

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