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Carly Cooper

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Upcoming food and wine events

Nikolai’s Roof wine dinner
Nikolai’s Roof is hosting a wine dinner Friday with pairings from the Beaux Freres Vineyard in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The $180 cost includes a champagne reception followed by a four-course dinner. To attend, call 404.221.6362.

The Shed at Glenwood wine class
Saturday the Shed at Glenwood will host a wine class called All You Ever Wanted to Know About Pinot Noir But Were Afraid to Ask, led by Todd Martin. Attendees will sample eight pinot noirs paired with food prepared by chef Todd Richards. Tickets cost $50. To reserve a seat, email toddmartin@theshedatglenwood.com.

Brandon Baltzley book signing dinner
On May 23, chef Brandon Baltzley will collaborate with Empire State South’s Ryan Smith on a six-course dinner celebrating Baltzley’s new book, Nine Lives. Held at Empire State South, the meal costs $130 and includes a copy of the book. To RSVP, call 404.541.1105.

From Post-it notes to Edison bulbs

4th & Swift. Bocado. Flip Burger Boutique. Local Three. Holeman & Finch Public House. Miller Union. Gunshow. These restaurants may all look different, have different menus, and serve different facets of the community, but they have one thing in common: They were designed by ai3. The design and architecture firm uses a unique, collaborative process to take restaurants from an idea in someone’s head to an aesthetically unique and functional space. How exactly does restaurant design go from concept to completion? Ai3 partner Lucy Aiken-Johnson walks us through the process.

You start with a Vision Session guided by questions on Post-it notes. What kind of questions do you ask?
We always start with the players. Everyone introduces himself and shares a bit about how they met and got to this point. From there, we start with hard questions: How will you measure your success? How will you measure our success? We want to be able to meet expectations. Then we discuss concepts, vision, mission, philosophy, and what that represents. What’s the inspiration behind the restaurant’s name? Why this restaurant and why now?

Do people usually have answers for all these questions?
Some people have been working on the restaurant for 10 years and have a business plan and a three-ring binder with five years’ worth of images from magazines or online. Some just have the opportunity presented to them; it was right place and right time and they’re looking for a good fit for the neighborhood. Our role is as listeners. Some people love to talk and will be here for four hours; with others, we have a succinct, 1½ hour conversation.

Where does it go from there?
We hit on innovation. Is there something you believe will differentiate you: maybe the menu, drink program, etc.? What will be the most memorable thing for diners? What do you want people tweeting when they walk out of the restaurant? It gives us a challenge to find that “differentiator” if the restaurateurs don’t know right off the bat. We obviously don’t want everything to look alike or tell the same story. It puts the challenge on us. Some people are more articulate than others.

We create eight-foot tall, four-foot wide image boards with pictures all over them. Sometimes we can interpret things in a way the client wasn’t able to see. Sometimes we’ve read about a trend and hear them talk about it without realizing it. It can be a challenge to steer them away from what’s already been done. Everybody has reclaimed wood. Sometimes it’s just saying that nicely and reminding them that this is their opportunity to make it all theirs.

What if what they want is what everyone else already has?
We have them describe what they like about that look or feel and then we find something different that fits it. After all, what you think is modern might not be what I think is modern. The images give us visual tools to understand peoples’ preferences.

What comes after the innovation discussion?
After innovation, we do Post-its about the experience, and we profile who the guest is—where are they coming from? Is it a neighborhood place or a destination? What kind of crowd do they expect—couples or family?

Then we talk the experience. What will the online presence be like? Social media? Website? Is there valet? What happens at the front door? Is there a waiting lounge or do people hang out at the bar? How do you want to handle menus? What does the staff wear: Jeans? Are there white tablecloths? We talk about plating, table settings, flowers, and candles. Often they know in their heads what they want and we try to get it out.

Wow, that’s a lot. So do you split up each conversation (innovation, experience) into different sessions?
Nope, they’re all in the same session. We also ask about color, and we talk about benchmarks—competitors or people they admire. We ask why they like them and ask them to share any lessons they’ve learned from previous restaurants. We want to know what went wrong if you built out a space before so we can avoid that issue and/or pay special attention to it.

How do you store all of this information?
We collect it all in the vision book with handwritten notes and visuals. Then we use that to establish the goals and we keep referencing it. Sometimes clients use it as a fundraising tool.

What happens next?
Schematic level design. We take down the program components—the number of seats needed, dining room versus bar—for a planning exercise. Our team builds a 3-D model to see where the opportunities for memorable pieces are, where the server station and high chairs will go. We create renderings and then have a big design presentation. We try to bring samples of the chairs or bar stools so the client can sit in them and get a feel for the look, as well as make sure they are comfortable.

For some projects, we do pricing packages. We give the details to the contractor. They get permits from the city. The construction starts. We’re usually out there one or two times a month to protect the design intent. We help purchase the furniture, and get it stored and then installed. The restaurant usually has a Friends and Family night with our team. We all toast to the completion.

First Look: Joe Schafer gives us a glimpse into King + Duke’s menu

Ford Fry’s highly anticipated open-hearth cooking restaurant, King and Duke, opens Monday in the space formerly home to Nava in Buckhead. With a 65-seat patio facing Peachtree Street, customized Elijah Craig bourbon labels, and a private dining room hidden by a belted door (see more of that below), this restaurant is drawing attention from all over. Executive chef Joe Schafer spared a few minutes between completing mock dinner service and preparing for today’s Friends and Family lunch to give us a glimpse into King Duke’s menu and more.

What’s on the menu?
A little game, a little steaks, chops. There’s a quartet of rabbit—pancetta-wrapped loin, confit leg, rabbit liver toast, and rabbit banger sausage, served with a chilled grain salad made of red rice and farro. We have a couple of items for two: There’s a whole grilled chicken with chicory salad with giant croutons, and a 36-ounce ribeye called the King. It comes with a sweet romaine lettuce salad and two big smoked marrow bones. For appetizers, there’s wood-grilled octopus with chorizo vinaigrette, roasted olives, and lemon aioli; and a braised wood-grilled lamb belly with marinated cucumbers, Bulgarian feta, a sherry glaze, and naan bread made by the pastry chef.

So is it big menu?
For dinner, we have about five items in the bites section—$3 to $5 items like crudité with homemade ricotta. Then we have about ten appetizers, ten or eleven entrees and seven sides that stand on their own, meaning they’re different than the ones that come with the meals. For example, creamy polenta with roasted mushrooms, creamy white beans with Parmesan, and artichokes cooked in the coals with anchovy aioli and lemon.

For lunch, we have four sandwiches, four salads, a couple appetizers and five desserts. The Duke is our burger—a 9 ounce house-ground patty made of Certified Angus Beef chuck and dry aged cuts. We’ll be dry aging our own beef in about a week. The burger is really simple, served with whole roasted onions and a homemade pickle on a buttermilk bun with caraway seeds and sea salt made in house. It’s served with fries. The filet of fish (haddock smoked and flaked and formed into a patty with flour, egg, and bread crumbs) comes with tartar sauce on a lighter, fluffier hamburger bun, and is served with vinegar coleslaw. The grilled cheese vegetable sandwich is Fontina and Swiss in a cast iron pan with chopped, grilled rapini in a salsa verde on semolina bread.

What (if anything) have you changed as you’ve been preparing these last couple of weeks?
This kitchen is all powered by coal and wood. I’m comfortable cooking that way but have never done it on this scale. It’s easy to do a one-plate tasting for Ford and make it delicious in Adam Evans’ kitchen at the Optimist. It’s easy to simulate the flavor, but once you get in the actual [King and Duke space], you have to scale back on certain things. We’ve done two mock services and already changed three or four ways of picking things up. One of my grill cooks—a steak guy—was messing around with ways to cook the charred tomato that comes with the 16-ounce New York strip. Everything has to be perfect for it because there’s very few things on the plate, but it’s very difficult to sear a wet tomato. The grill was giving him grill marks but not the right char. Our grill is on pulleys so we can put the coals in and take them out to adjust the level of heat of the fire. So he raised it up, threw on a cast iron pan and put a tomato in there, and it worked.

How does the decor fit with your food?
It’s a nice contrast to the way we are cooking, which is so primitive and harsh. The space is a lot warmer than the rest of Ford’s restaurants. There are some dark woods but some lighter accents and really cool, sort of modern lighting. There are lots of American literary books on bookshelves, a lot of random artwork, two pictures of storm troopers, and George Orwell books. It’s not like your typical Buckhead steakhouse; it’s entertaining and charismatic.

Ford does a lot of things just because they’re cool. The door to the private room is lined with leather belts, and the belts are on the wall, too, so you can’t really tell where the door is when it’s closed.

You’re about to open one of the most highly anticipated restaurants of the year. How do you feel?
I’ve never been in a position like this with so much attention being paid to the restaurant I’ve been working on. I’ve never been part of an opening as an executive chef. It’s a little bit of pressure, but I try not to overthink it or read too much into it. I just focus on what I do and constantly evolve my food and my cooks’ techniques and make them better because ultimately, they’re the ones cooking. I’m really excited. I’m not necessarily nervous; I am anxious and ready to get out there.

Campagnolo founder to open Henry’s Midtown Tavern in late May

Maureen Kalmanson, founder of Campagnolo and the recently closed Peasant Bistro, is set to open another restaurant this month in what some might consider a doomed location late: the freestanding building on 10th Street between Peachtree and Juniper streets that previously housed the short-lived Mint3 Thai & Sushi Bar, and Tenth Thai Cuisine & Lounge before it. Kalmanson named her forthcoming venture, Henry’s Midtown Tavern, after her dog.

“It’s a perfect location,” Kalmanson says. “No one has ever really done anything to make the most of it before.”

Campagnolo, which opened last year, has been successful in yet another seemingly cursed space near 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue—previously home to Nonna Mia, Sweet Devil Moon, Big Red Tomato, and others.

“I don’t believe in doomed locations. Campagnolo and Henry’s are both in the heart of Midtown,” she explains. “If you give people in the neighborhood what they are looking for, then you will succeed. You have to put together good food and friendly staff.”

She declined to talk about Peasant Bistro’s closure, instead mentioning that she’s “moving forward, pursuing other options.”

“I’ve been thinking of concepts for a long time, and when I find a particular location where I think a concept will fit, I put them together,” she says. “In this case, the location and what fits the neighborhood is what has inspired me, and I have drawn on my experience with Mick’s and other locations to develop Henry’s.”

Henry’s will be a casual place with “a chef-driven menu of appetizers, pastas, sandwiches, entrée salads and desserts,” according to the press release. Kalmanson won’t discuss details about the food at the moment, except to say that Campagnolo’s Daniel Chance will be designing and overseeing the menu. She also notes that Henry’s will serve twelve beers on draft and fifty by the bottle, in addition to wine.

The interior of the restaurant features dark brown booths and lighter brown walls, two bars and textured columns made from reclaimed wood. Upon opening, Henry’s will feature a sixty-seat patio, but Kalmanson has plans to add a 150-seat side deck under the canopy of the trees on 10th Street this summer.

Henry’s will be open for lunch, dinner and late night seven days a week, as well as brunch on the weekends.

New look, new menu for P’cheen

Sunday at 8 p.m. Inman Park restaurant P’cheen quietly closed its doors and will reopen tomorrow. During this brief closure, Jeff Myers of Top Flr and the Sound Table is working with P’cheen owner and executive chef Alex Friedman to reinvent P’cheen’s menu, focusing on sharable plates inspired by Octopus Bar. Proof and Provision’s Nate Shuman is consulting on a revamped moonshine cocktail list.

“P’cheen is turning eight years old in November. It was time for a reboot,” Friedman says. “New restaurants are opening; we want to move forward along with them.”

Friedman explains the reason Myers jumped in is to “offer a fresh set of eyes,” but adds that he’ll stay on as acting manager for at least a few months.

P’cheen’s new menu, priced from $4 to $12, includes barbecue octopus with lemons, cured olive, and feta; pork belly nigiri with seaweed salad and wasabi; pan-fried frog legs with Granny Smith apples, calvados, and tarragon; and turtle soup with lemon and Madeira. Others options include a meatloaf burger with portabella and hoisin, and lamb belly ravioli. Smaller versions of old P’cheen staples like coconut curry mussels and sweet and spicy Thai wings will also be available.

“Food is more of a collaborative thing these days—people share,” Friedman says. “Now we have a much larger, more diverse menu with nine or 10 different animal proteins. It gives me a chance to play with my culinary skills.”

In addition to the menu changes, P’cheen is updating its look with a new bar top, new color scheme (slate gray, black, and copper, in addition to the existing orange) and a relocated lounge in the back of the restaurant.

“We’re redirecting the flow of the restaurant,” Myers says, mentioning that designing a restaurant on a shoestring budget is one of his favorite activities.

The kitchen will be open until midnight Tuesday through Thursday, 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 10 p.m. on Sundays. Every Wednesday P’cheen will offer an off-menu full-sized Springer Mountain Fried Chicken entree for $10. Existing P’cheen specials—like the Sidewalk Sunday event featuring $10 bottomless mimosas until 5 p.m., $3 shots, Bloody Marys and moonshine cocktails—will continue as normal.

Where to eat this weekend: May 3-5

Saltyard preview at Huff Harrington
Saltyard is offering Atlantans the chance to try its food before the restaurant officially opens in a few weeks. The dinner will be held at Huff Harrington Fine Art tomorrow at 7 p.m. The menu will include ahi tuna carpaccio, raw Thai vegetable salad, lemon and ale-braised chicken thighs, and more, served with wine. Reservations are required. $75 per person. Call 404.382.8088.

Bazaar Bizarro fundraiser for Slow Food Atlanta
A country fair with food from Farm Burger, Community Q BBQ, King of Pops, and more, Bazaar Bizarro is Saturday at 10 a.m. at Love is Love Farm at Gaia Garden in Decatur. Local crafters and circus performers will be showcasing their talents, and attendees can participate in a “veggie Tug-of-War,” radish races, Maypole dancing, and cupcake walks, among other activities. Tickets cost $20 for adults and $12.50 for children (plus service fees), and proceeds benefit Slow Food Atlanta.

El Burro Pollo is back
Hector Santiago (formerly of Pura Vida) is bringing back his burrito stand, El Burro Pollo, this weekend for a pop-up in East Atlanta Village. According to Santiago’s Facebook page, the stand will be open Saturday from 6:30 p.m. “’til the food is gone” at banh mi shop We Suki Suki.

Cinco de Ri Ra
Though Cinco de Mayo celebrations are usually kept to Mexican restaurants, Ri Ra Irish Pub is offering its own take on the holiday Sunday with a “Cinco de Ri Ra” celebration. The party, which starts at 9 p.m. and goes until midnight, features a DJ, Dos Equis, margaritas, and Mexi-Irish creations such as corned beef and cabbage burritos and shepherd’s pie enchiladas.

A preview of Gunshow

Plenty has already been written about the controversial name of Kevin Gillespie’s forthcoming restaurant, Gunshow. Despite some objections, he decided to keep the name as a tribute to his father, who worked seven days a week to feed his family, yet would make time to occasionally visit a gun show on Sundays with his son. Gillespie dreamed up the Gunshow concept after hearing from his mother that his pop never quite felt comfortable dining at Woodfire Grill (where Gillespie worked for nine years).

“Gunshow is founded on the values that I hold truest—humility, the desire to create a healthful dining experience,” he says. “Success is driven by sacrifice. It was really hard to leave Woodfire, but my heart was just not in it anymore. That makes every piece of this a little harder because of the tremendous personal connection I have to it.”

Keeping it personal for diners as well, Gunshow is designed to make people feel like they’re at home—not in the sense that the restaurant looks like a house (it doesn’t), but instead focusing on a convivial transparency to the experience.

“You can sit anywhere in the restaurant and see everyone else. It has this feeling of ‘We’re all in this together,’” he says. “The walk-in cooler’s in the dining room—you can see the fridge at home, so why not? There are no mysteries or secrets; it’s just dinner.”

Gunshow will have three circulating carts from which diners can select food. Despite rumors that stated otherwise, Gunshow will have menus, which will change weekly. They describe almost all of the food served that week with the exception of the snacks and desserts, to allow for more flexibility in the kitchen. Snacks might be Swedish meatballs made with lamb and pork, salmon chicharrones, to short rib tamales, and headcheese nuggets (similar to pork fritters). Desserts may include bonbons, candy and cookies.

The rest of the menu is as varied as the inspiration for the way the food is served—a cross between Brazilian churrascarias and Chinese dim sum. Items may include spring vegetables in Georgia pollen, pork skin risotto, braised short rib with lemon spaetzle and “stroganoff sauce,” and tunnbrodsrulle—described as hot dog, potato, shrimp, dill, and “another Swedish thing.” They’ll be prepared by Gillespie and his team, whom diners can watch in the completely open kitchen. Gillespie himself will likely be pushing one of the food carts! And when Gillespie has to go out of town—say, for a book tour—his good friend Marco Shaw, formerly executive chef at Piedmont in Durham, N.C., will fill in.

For such a personal restaurant, it may come as no surprise that everything from the food to the decor is sourced locally. Gillespie’s grandfather built the butcher blocks. The napkins (gray Americana bandanas) come from the last independent bandana manufacturer in the country. A guy in Cartersville made the burned wood tables that so perfectly reflect the color of the barns where tobacco was hung when Gillespie was a child.

Gillespie’s parents—who inspired the very foundation of Gunshow—have not seen the restaurant yet. They have plans to come in for the Friends and Family night, which is scheduled for next Tuesday but will likely be delayed due to inspections and permitting. “We’ll find a way,” Gillespie says.

Gunshow is scheduled to open May 8. For reservations, call 404.380.1886.

Decatur’s Mar Coastal Mexican aims for mid-May opening

Mar, the Coastal Mexican restaurant initially scheduled to open in October 2012, is aiming to finally open in mid-May. (The Friends and Family night is tentatively scheduled for May 14 or May 15, with the public opening the day after.)

Replacing Feast, Mar was created by Humberto Bermudez, a chef who owns one restaurant in Barcelona and two in Mexico. However, although Bermudez designed the initial menu for Mar, he will not be in the kitchen. Joey Zelinka, most recently of the Sound Table, will be the executive chef and has been working furiously since he signed on late last week to finalize the menu.

“Mar is coastal Mexican first and Latin second,” says Zelinka, who hails from Miami.

Thus far, he’s determined that there will be a lot of wood-roasted proteins with a heavy emphasis on seafood. Zelinka said the proteins will be served a la carte with simple sauces and allow for pairings with sides like corn and beans and rice. He’s planning to serve rib eye, filet, pompano, lobster, pork chops, and scallops, as well as a cold bar with ceviches and oysters. Zelinka will make all tortillas in house including rock shrimp carnitas with a smoked blue corn tortilla and lobster tacos with hard shells dyed black with squid ink. There will also be pork tenderloin tacos and tuna tacos with red chile, plus foie gras empanadas with dough infused with duck fat and smoked swordfish tostadas.

A large bar will focus on tequila and mezcal but also serve beer, wine, and cocktails. Wines will come from Spain and Mexico, while the beer selection is mostly Mexican, general manager Felix Castro says. Cocktails include the Summer Fling—a mixture of lemonade, mint and ginger juice with a choice of tequila or vodka, and a yet unnamed concoction of watermelon juice, mint and tequila or gin garnished with goat cheese.

Castro describes the atmosphere as “refreshing and inviting.” The building is white with blue accents and rustic touches like exposed brick and an antique wooden wheel. There are three large mirrors at the entrance to the dining room, and the bar is stainless steel. Behind the restaurant a patio features six or seven tables, and a few tables are situated in front of the restaurant as well.

Castro says he plans to get Mar on OpenTable.com soon. Visit MarCoastal.com for updates.

A fundraiser picnic by Anne Quatrano

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Anne Quatrano, the chef and restaurateur behind Bacchanalia, Floataway Café, Star Provisions, and Abattoir, will be creating traditional Southern picnic dishes for a Nickel Bottom Community Garden fundraiser on May 19. The event, called BUDS, will take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. behind Floataway Café and include bocce, cornhole, live music, a raffle, a wildlife release, and of course, food prepared by Quatrano and Floataway executive chef Todd Immel.

The menu includes:
Early hothouse tomato gazpacho
Local, organic fried chicken
Roasted asparagus, leek and cucumber vinaigrette
Daniel’s German fingerling potato salad
Biscuits with sweet butter and tupelo honey
Macerated Summerland Farm strawberries
Classic chocolate brownies

Tickets to the event cost $99 per person and can be purchased online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/374754. For more information, visit http://www.floatawaycommunity.com/.

Giovanni Di Palma’s gelateria to open in late May

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Antico Pizza Napoletana and Gio’s Chicken Amalfitano founder Giovanni Di Palma has confirmed that a gelateria will be the next business to open in his planned Piazza San Gennaro, a two-block area near Hemphill Avenue in West Midtown. He says the gelato shop, on which he is working with the folks at Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream, will open in the next 40 days. Di Palma’s limoncello bar will open about a month later.

About the gelateria:
“Morelli was trained in Italy. His wife is half Italian. All of their machines are gelato machines,” Di Palma explains.

Di Palma says the gelateria will serve classic Italian flavors, like chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, hazelnut, and stracciatella. It will also serve caramel sea salt gelato and perhaps some specialty flavors like blood orange or fig, depending on what’s in season. There will only be one size available, and all flavors will be served as a “concoction” like one would see in a display case, such as topped with a homemade cookie, a piece or chocolate and/or a dollop of whipped cream.

Conan O’Brien actually got to sample the first batch of the gelato—and serve it to about 100 people who happened to be eating at Antico when he was in town in early April. Di Palma swears he raved about it.

As for the design of the gelateria, Di Palma says it will be set up like an Italian sweet shop with counter service. It’ll serve gelato and pastries (cannoli, zeppole, biscotti, baba au rhum cake, and more), as well as cappuccinos. It will be located in an old house and focus on a “warm and cozy” yet “sporty” feel with rustic beams in the ceilings, communal bar tables, and outdoor seating. Di Palma says in Italy, people come to gelaterias to watch football [i.e., soccer], so his gelateria will be sure to have TVs.

About the bar:
A month or so after the gelateria launches, Di Palma’s limoncello bar will open. Formerly publicized as Bar Antico, the limoncello bar will simply be referred to as the Piazza San Gennaro bar. It will be outside and as such, open seasonally. This open-air bar with an “Italian seaside feel” will serve four or five flavors of limoncello, which Di Palma describes as “an infusion of the largest, most fragrant lemons in the world (from the Amalfi Coast) with simple syrup, enjoyed ice cold.” Di Palma says he will import the lemons directly from Italy at harvest, twice a year. He will then spend the next 30 days making limoncello in flavors like orange, fig, walnut, and basil. These cocktails will be served alongside Peroni, bellinis and prosecco, as well as antipasti such as bruschetta, prosciutto-wrapped melon, caprese salad, and charcuterie.

The bar will offer table service outside and on the terrace. Di Palma says to expect colorful Italian umbrellas, potted palms, and perhaps some olive trees. He estimates the bar will be open until midnight on weekends.

A word on the parking:
With rapid expansion often comes concern about parking, especially in Midtown. Di Palma doesn’t hesitate to point out that his property now offers 100 parking spaces, plus neighborhood street-side spots. In addition, he’s working to secure two additional parking lots near 14th Street, which will offer 120 more spots.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day—what’s the rush?” Di Palma says, adding that he’s planning some “really fun stuff” with Antico that he can’t quite divulge yet.

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