Atlanta Food Lovers Guide - Dining Articles - Atlanta Magazine

Atlanta Food Lovers Guide

Think of our A(TL) to Z index as your essential shopping list. We scoured the city’s best markets and shops to find fruits and vegetables at the peak of the season, fragrant olive oils, crusty breads, locally raised meats, tempting sweets, and much, much more. Plus, we sneak in a few restaurant recommendations. // Photographs by Greg Dupree; styling by Angie Mosier 

Out of all the vegetables that chefs and writers rave about tasting better straight from the garden, this is the one truly worth savoring only in its season. The first tender spears embody spring: pale green with tips like just-budding ferns and with a singularly earthy sweet-astringent flavor. To yield the few weeks of asparagus heaven (otherwise known as right now!), organic farmers tend their patches year-round, so expect to pay upwards of $5 for a small bunch. It’s worth the price. And arrive at farmers markets early: The delicacy sells out fast. We especially love the asparagus from Crystal Organic Farm at Morningside on Saturday mornings.

When it comes to the staff of life, Atlanta doesn’t measure up to cities like New York and San Francisco, which have surfeits of obsessed bakers mastering tangy rounds and perfectly crisp baguettes. But it is possible to find soul-satisfying bread locally. We pinpointed the one standout example at each of our best bakeries:  

(Clockwise starting with the far left baguette)

Star Provisions  
The city’s finest baguettes, hands down. We’re even fonder of the baguette variation called pain d’epi, shaped to resemble a wheat stalk with “leaves” that rip off in easy chunks.

H&F Bread Co.  
At the hidden retail store on Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard, we fell hardest for the pain au levain, a French predecessor to American sourdough with smoky complexity.

At both the Virginia-Highland and Dunwoody locations, we’re partial to the chewy, oblong ciabatta, ideal for sandwiches. Tip: Slice and toast leftovers to make crostini. 

Midtown’s hidden bakery down Amsterdam Walk manages to give whole-wheat bread sex appeal. The round feels hefty but reveals a light texture and an enticing nuttiness.

> Brazilian Flavors in Marietta
Devotees of Asian cuisines know that Buford Highway and Duluth serve them well. But travel west for a culinary adventure featuring flavors from another part of the globe; Cobb County is home to the metro area’s largest Brazilian population. Restaurants specializing in Brazilian food tend to come and go, but one exception is Marietta’s Brazilian Bakery Cafe, which has been around since 2006. Home in on bites like pastéis, airy pockets of fried pastry dough filled with chicken, hearts of palm, and a creamy béchamel sauce. Or try the BB Bauru, a popular Brazilian sandwich with ham, cheese, and tomato served on griddled bread. Cases of cakes and truffles tempt, but the refreshingly light passion fruit mousse is the true dessert gem.

> Banner Butter  
When Decaturites Andrew and Elizabeth McBath decided to build a business on flavored butters, they knew they had a concept that could, well, easily spread. Combinations include roasted garlic, basil, and parsley (sublime melted over grilled steak), and cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger (which will give your oatmeal a jolt of spice). The couple had been using locally made butter, but in February they purchased a churning machine to make their own. The McBaths sell through groceries such as the Mercantile in Candler Park as well as at Peachtree Road Farmers Market.

Cool Beans Coffee Roasters
Finding a superb cup of joe made by skilled baristas has never been easier in Atlanta. While shops like Octane (on the Westside and in Grant Park) and Dancing Goats (in Decatur and at Ponce City Market) tend to garner most of the attention, Cool Beans on Marietta Square deserves props for providing serious coffee culture to the northern suburbs since 2001. Owner Kevin Langill roasts more than forty varieties of beans—including single origins from farms around the world, blends, and eight versions of decaf produced without chemicals—right in the store, using a lipstick-rouge roaster built in France and aptly nicknamed “Big Red.” When its alarm goes off, the blare might startle you enough to slosh your java. But Langill’s attention to temperature and timing results in smooth, not-too-darkly roasted brews that highlight the coffees’ more subtle flavors.

> Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Co.  
Kristen Hard’s bean-to-bar creations are some of the city’s peerless indulgences. Last year Cacao unveiled a line of Epiphany bars that includes milk chocolate and even a white chocolate option, flavored with coffee and cookie crumbles. Dark chocolate diehards will gravitate to the Love Bar collection: Its latest edition, made with beans from Peru, is bright with notes of plum and raisin. Visit the posh Virginia-Highland store for individual truffles (like the orange marmalade, pictured right) and a killer chocolate milkshake.

Doux South
Louisiana native Nick Melvin helmed the kitchen at top local restaurants like Parish and Empire State South before starting his business dedicated to organic pickles. Melvin’s knowhow with spices distinguishes his honey-kissed turnips, green tomatoes with turmeric and mustard seed, and peach chutney gently punched up with sweet peppers and garlic. He sells his Doux South products at farmers markets and area stores, including Alon’s. Want to make your own pickles? Read about Hugh Acheson’s new book in "Pick a Pickle" under the letter P. 

There may not always be a difference in taste between generic grocery store eggs and the oval beauties bought at farmers markets, but the latter certainly look better, with sunrise-orange yolks that leave you with a warm sense of wellbeing. There’s also the bonus of buying from farmers who treat their chickens humanely. A dozen multicolored eggs from the online CSA (community-supported agriculture) market run by Moore Farms and Friends cost $5. You can also purchase seasonal produce and other goodies like cheese and shelled pecans. Retrieve it all at one of twenty metro pickup locations.

Freedom Farmers Market
Given its central location, easy parking, and abundance of shade, it’s surprising that the Carter Center has never before been tapped to host a farmers market. But on March 1, a group of farmers launched a new gathering on its grounds. The name reflects not only its location along Freedom Parkway, but also its governance. “We’re not answering to a board of directors, and it’s not operated by the community. It’s put on by the vendors,” says Laurie Moore of Moore Farms and Friends. The market is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. until December 20. Look for unexpected vendors (Star Provisions, Bramlett Trout Farms) alongside anchors like Riverview Farm (a favorite source for pork and beef) and vegetable stars like Winterville’s Woodland Gardens and Rise ’n’ Shine Organic Farm out of Calhoun. 

Most types of charcuterie—sausages, salumi, terrines, pâté—show well on their own: They need only bread and perhaps some grainy mustard to make an appetizer or light meal. But guanciale (or hog jowl), an increasingly popular ingredient among restaurant cooks, is primarily used as a seasoning in Italian dishes. Toscano and Sons, newly relocated from the Westside to Virginia-Highland, sells traditional cured guanciale, which is ideal for pasta carbonara or the classic bucatini all’Amatriciana, a smoky red sauce that calls for thick bucatini noodles, San Marzano tomatoes, and pecorino cheese. (Conveniently, the store stocks all these ingredients.) The Spotted Trotter in Kirkwood offers a more unusual smoked version of guanciale, which is sliced thin like prosciutto but boasts meatier, richer qualities and a satisfying gristle that dissolves like butter in a hot skillet.;

Look out this spring for the next hot frozen treat. HoneyPops are the creation of Mandy and Steve O’Shea at 3 Porch Farm in Comer, just outside of Athens. Imagine the push-up pops you devoured as a child, but with a grown-up intensity of flavor: The couple’s own strawberries, sweetened with local honey, are the only ingredient in the original. Versions made from blueberries, melons, and stone fruits grown by the O’Sheas will follow seasonally. Find HoneyPops at Freedom Farmers Market on Saturdays.

> Hot Dog Buns    
Charcuterie shops like the Spotted Trotter, Pine Street Market (check it out in this guide), and Heywood’s Provision Company in Marietta give hot dogs and sausages a gourmet makeover by using locally raised meats. Why not invest in hot dog buns with equal culinary cred? H&F Bread Co.’s rolls put squishy supermarket brands to shame. Using pain de mie (white bread with a delicate crumb) as the foundation, these oblong buns cross the lightness of a croissant with the substance of a yeast roll. Brushed with melted butter and toasted in an oven or skillet, they’re also ideal as a vehicle for fresh lobster meat. If the H&F Bread Co. stand at your nearby farmers market has run out, swing by the retail store off Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard.

Ibérico Ham 
Imagine the most memorable country ham you’ve ever tasted, but with the saltiness dialed back two notches and with a nutty depth that zigzags around your taste buds. That’s Jamón Ibérico, a Spanish delicacy that begins with free-roaming pigs who nosh on up to twenty pounds of acorns a day. It is indisputably the world’s finest ham. Star Provisions, the only place you’ll find Jamón Ibérico in town, sells it for the ungodly sum of $136 per pound. Just purchase an ounce, which the butcher shaves off in ruby wisps onto deli paper, and let the slivers dissolve on your tongue.

Leave a comment:

· Subscribe to comments
Be the first to comment.