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Chris Davisson

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Whatever happened to Soylent?

Not into food but still need the nutrients? Rob Rhinehart has got you covered.

One year ago, the computer-scientist-and-engineer-turned-mad-scientist released Soylent, a powdered food alternative that would provide nearly optimal servings of recommended vitamins and nutrients. “Food is a hassle, especially when trying to eat well,” he wrote on his website.

So, Rhinehart set out to create, basically, the ultimate protein shake, raising millions in funding in the process. In the early phases, test subjects noted a “chalky flavor” and “suspect appearance.” Well, as of last week, you can now order the new and improved Soylent v1.0. Starter kits include a pitcher and specialized measuring cup. The chalkiness has supposedly been replaced with a smooth consistency resembling a malted milkshake. More information on “freeing your body” can be found on Soylent’s blog, and if an eternal diet of malted nutrition shakes sounds pleasant, orders can be made here.

For those who don’t remember, journalist and unknowing lab rat Shane Snow put his body to the test last year for a culinary journey through two weeks of nothing but Soylent. Once he got over initial irritations from his history of acid reflux and general separation anxiety from actual food, Snow cited an increased attention span and productivity throughout the day. He also provided data showing healthy weight loss, lower cholesterol, and higher energy levels.

Bon appetit!

Hop City to open second Atlanta store in Krog Street Market

As if there weren’t enough reasons to be excited for Krog Street Market, Hop City has announced it will be the market’s beer and wine retailer. Growler service will be available on roughly 60 taps, and the wine selection will be similar to its flagship location in Westside.

Hop City’s soon-to-be-announced in-house sommelier will set the store’s selection, and guests will be able to purchase bottles of wine found at any market restaurant at Krog Street. The market will include a 750-square-foot bar where guests can enjoy beer, wine, and cocktails.

Six months of support from Inman Park Neighborhood Association and Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall made the move possible, according to the press release. Expect to see Hop City when Krog Street Market opens this summer.

Villains goes coastal, pop-up to offer mussels and lobster rolls

Villains Wicked Heroes has partnered with the Fry Guy food truck and mixologists from Miller Union for the latest entry in its pop-up series: Moules Frites. Focusing on mussels and fries, the menu will change each week. Miller Union mixologist Zach Capito will helm the first evening, and Stuart White will lead the last two. The special menu will be available Monday night from 5 to 10 p.m. April 7th, 14th, and 21st.

Villains launched the pop-up series back in February when its executive chef Jared Lee joined forces with Puerto Rican native Carlos Collazo to serve food inspired by “lechoneras,” or South American restaurant shacks centered around roasted pig.

Click the thumbnail below to see the full dinner and drink menu

   

 

Where gamers go to dine

If memories of He-Man on Saturday mornings, Marvel’s absurd comic storylines, or Starcraft matches on dial-up internet strike a chord with you, listen up. Armed with console games, nerd-trivia, board games, and arcade machines, these five restaurants are perfect for embracing your inner (or outer) nerd. 

Diesel Filling Station
870 N. Highland Ave

Enter this VaHi neighborhood bar for drinks and nerd culture galore. Start the week with a screening of the Walking Dead on Sunday nights, where cast and crew sometimes visit in secret. Nerd-core trivia takes place on Tuesday nights with a focus on anything from science and math to comics and games. If trivia isn’t your scene, try out vintage consoles such as the NES or Sega Genesis. Wednesday is D20 night, with strategic board and card games such as Settlers of Catan and Munchkin. You can also play Xbox on a one-hundred-inch projector screen. Bigger events include themed bar crawls (think Star Wars) and costume contests throughout the year. Leave the kids at home because Diesel is 21+ only. dieselatlanta.com

Joystick Gamebar
427 Edgewood Ave

Smash your piggy bank and rummage through the sofa because Joystick has quarter arcade machines. Popular titles such as Mortal Kombat and Donkey Kong surround the bar, and each game costs 25 cents. Stop by the old school Atari or pinball machines for another throwback. Beer and house cocktails will help wash away the nostalgia shellshock, but if you’re looking for food, Illegal Foods is now a permanent pop-up inside. Bring an ID but leave the cigarettes, Joystick is smoke-free and 21+ after 8 p.m. Minors must be accompanied by an adult before 8 p.m. joystickgamebar.com

Battle and Brew
279 Powers Ferry Rd

Located in Marietta, this gamer’s haven is all about console systems: Playstation 4, Xbox One, and even the original NES, all connected to four fortytwo-inch TVs around the room. Twelve PC setups are fixed around a pillar in the middle of the room with televisions that showcase the frequently heated and competitive matches in games such as League of Legends or Team Fortress 2. The cost to play titles such as the original Final Fantasy, Megaman and Left 4 Dead is between $6 to $7. Draft brews and six different bottled beer sections rotate weekly. The restaurant serves food, but stick to the brews and the games. battleandbrew.com

Honorable Mentions

Although they don’t have console systems or arcade machines, Villains Wicked Heroes and Savage Pizza deserve props for their themes. Villains reference pop culture such as ThunderCats, Scarface, and Batman in the names of every specialty sandwich. Silhouettes of evil characters adorn the tables, and a chalkboard wall hosts diabolical equations and master plans. Meanwhile, Savage Pizza is a superhero-themed pie shop in Little Five Points where large portraits of heroes like Superman and the Silver Surfer line the walls along with an impressive collection of action figures located in cases and hanging from the ceiling.  Make sure to stop by the restroom where the walls are covered with a wide variety of comic book covers. villains-atl.com; savagepizza.com

Cigars and cocktails at five Atlanta speakeasies

Ever wanted to return to the days of old when alcohol was illegal and accessible only behind shady fronts? While Atlanta’s speakeasy scene isn’t as historical as New York City, we do have our fair share of bars that utilize secret passwords, hidden passages, and special memberships to recreate history. Below are five local establishments. Dress up and stack your wallet—oh, but do be quiet about it.

The Club at Chops Lobster Bar
Inside of Chops Lobster Bar in Buckhead lies a lounge known as “the Club.” Behind a secret door, mosaic tile and leather chairs complement a dark bar lined with liquor. Special wine options are available, and the food comes from the regular Chops menu. Cigars are chosen from the house humidor room and smoked in a separate room with its own ventilation. Rumor has it that sports stars, actors, and other prominent VIP visit the establishment, and privacy is king. Access is granted to members only, with a waiting list for the waiting list. No temporary passes are available, and you must be nominated by another member to make the waiting list. But maybe if you’re lucky enough to have friends in high places, you can just tag along as their plus one. http://www.buckheadrestaurants.com/chops-lobster-bar/

Prohibition
Located deep within Buckhead’s Andrews Entertainment District, the front door to Prohibition is a red, London telephone booth that requires a special code to open (hint: get a drink at the Czar Ice Bar upstairs). Once inside, you better have dressed well or they will show you the exit. Collared shirts for the gentlemen, dresses for the ladies. Hardwood floors, dark leather couches, and a warmly-lit bar collaborate with dark brown walls. Prohibition also doubles as a cigar club. Annual membership includes a humidified cigar locker, an engraved nameplate, priority valet, and more. An extensive and classic cocktail list rounds out the experience. http://prohibitionatl.com/

Pizzeria Vesuvius in Edgewood
Not all speakeasies are smoke and mirrors. At Pizzeria Vesuvius in Edgewood, head towards the bathroom in the back and look through the bookshelf on your left for a copy of Deliver Us From Evil. Pull the book-lever and the shelf opens up to the building’s hidden bar. Small but cozy, the speakeasy’s dim lighting reflects off a dark, wooden bar to magnify the warm feeling that comes from the cocktails crafted by Nate Shuman of Proof and Provision. Smoking is allowed, but no cigars are available in-house. DJs play live music every night from Tuesday through Saturday, and live jazz fills the house on Sundays. Black and white gangster films are frequently screened on the exposed brick walls for another layer of retro. http://pizzeriavesuvius.com/

The Fred at the Taco Mac at the Prado in Sandy Springs
If all this cigar and cocktail business sounds too fancy, head to the Taco Mac at the Prado in Sandy Springs. Look for an unmarked black door underneath the patio and push the doorbell. Access is granted to those who have racked up thirteen different beers on the free “Brewniversity” membership card. The Fred features stone walls and a vaulted ceiling accompanied by red leather chairs and several leather booths as tall as the average man. The drink menu, delivered on iPads, focuses on high quality beers with some wine and cocktail options. A special “Fred’s Secret Stash” section hosts the rarest brews. http://thefredbar.com/

Eleanor’s at Muss & Turner’s
At this family-friendly restaurant, look for a large freezer door in the back to find Eleanor’s, the restaurant’s semi-secret bar. Boilermakers—craft beers mixed with shots of booze—are the house-special. The look: black walls, leather barstools, and a wooden bar. From one-way mirrors you can gaze into the main restaurant for some serious people watching. By the end of the night, the ever-friendly owner Eleanor will probably have stopped by for a chat. http://www.mussandturners.com/indexmain.html

Hunger Games: Girl Scout Edition

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From cool Thin Mints to buttery Trefoils, Girl Scout cookies are a seasonal obsession, and every year, thousands of girls arrange rows of brightly-colored cookie boxes outside of grocery stores and local businesses. But underneath the sweet façade of smiling girls and delicious treats lies a fierce spirit of competition as girls command their own companies. Each sets her own goal, and those who sell the most are recognized or, in some cases, adorned. At one thousand boxes, she is officially a “top seller.”

I recently spoke to three veteran cookie-mongers to see what it takes to sell. Here’s what they had to say.

Lindsey Heyman, Girl Scout Senior from Troop 23240

Each girl must order her own inventory, says Heyman. After, she takes orders from regulars, adds boxes for booth days, and, on occasion, gives in to buying cookies for herself. Heyman says that business cards are critical for creating a regular customer base. She’ll then spend ten hours a day at a booth handing out those cards and pulling people in to buy cookies. As for interacting with people, Heyman is careful not to be over-the-top aggressive or energetic. “The cookies sell themselves,” she says.

Amelia Poole, Girl Scout Senior from Troop 523

Poole says success takes patience and determination. She remembers the year she aimed to sell 2,000 boxes, and the day when a heavy thunderstorm blotted out the sky. Given that she had reserved a spot for her booth in advance, bracing the weather was the obvious choice to make.

“I went out with my girls, and we were all wearing raincoats and boots underneath big pink tents outside of a Walmart. We stayed all day and ended up selling 200 boxes despite the weather,” she says.

Meghan Devine, Girl Scout Ambassador from Troop 25310

Devine has been selling cookies for twelve years and estimates that she has sold more than 16,000 boxes throughout her entire career. In a single month, she once sold 3,000 boxes. Her success has led to ambassadorial trips to different countries and funds for her Gold Award service project.

Devine says that up-selling is an important part of her record. “One time I was selling outside of Walmart and a man pulled up in a really nice car talking business on a phone,” she recounted. “We made eye contact for a second and he asked how much the cookies cost. I could have told him $3.50 a box, but given the attire he was wearing and the businessman look, I told him it was $42 for a case. He bought a case.”

As for attracting those walking by, Devine says it’s important to arrange boxes neatly so that customers can see all of the varieties. Smiling is imperative, she says, regardless of whether or not it’s cold, windy, or the drive to sell just isn’t there that day.

Besides, you never know when the hard work will pay off. Devine remembers standing outside of a coffee shop at 6:30 a.m. in the sixth grade. After a woman walked outside with coffee, she bought a box of cookies and talked with Devine, then just twelve years old and wearing a cookie costume. Apparently impressed, the woman handed Devine her business card.

“Call me in ten years when you graduate college,” she said. “I have a job for you.”

Vintage Frozen Custard to open March 1

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After starting Atlanta’s first frozen custard food truck in 2012, Vintage Frozen Custard is opening a brick and mortar location on Howell Mill Road. Co-owner Kelly Wilder says they hope to open Saturday, March 1.

The origins of frozen custard date back to Coney Island in 1919 when ice cream vendors Archie and Elton Kohr added egg yolks to their ice cream. The result was a cold, smooth dessert.

We recently talked to Wilder for details on the new shop.

What sparked the decision to open a brick and mortar shop?

The only reason why we started the truck was because the economy has been shaky for the past couple of years, and we figured the best way to start was to take our product to customers rather than have them come to us. We took advantage of the food truck boom in Atlanta to test the market to see how people would respond to our product since frozen custard is not common in the South.

We’ve had a great response with our truck, and people who really know frozen custard (transplants from the North or Midwest) say that we have the real deal.

What will the restaurant look like?

It’s a walk-up, so there won’t technically be an “inside.” You can look inside and see the kitchen, which is white and stainless steel and open.

What flavors will be offered in the shop? Toppings?

The menu will have a “new-vintage” feel because there are a lot of new flavors now like coffee caramel. Coffee was certainly an older flavor, but we’ve combined it with caramel, which is a more modern flavor. We’ve tried to bring in new flavors like salted caramel, but we also want to keep older flavors that people will remember from the past.

We will be making some ingredients on our own such as caramel and the caramelized banana sauce. We import premium chocolates such as Callebaut and Cacao Barry. I don’t believe in anything that is just a sugar product, so we don’t have sugar sprinkles, for instance. We have very limited exceptions such as marshmallow fluff because it is so popular.

We will have simple toppings such as strawberries and more exotic items such as coffee chips. There will be plenty of nuts such as cashews, cookies and cream, chocolate flakes, fruit compote, and more.

Is there a focus on natural or organic ingredients?

We focus more on natural ingredients since being organic is so difficult. To call ingredients all organic is tricky, and ingredients such as organic berries are hard to find off-season. It has become too challenging to produce that certified quality year-round.

How will Vintage stand out amongst the competition on Howell Mill? (Froyo, Jeni’s)

All of these shops are unique in their production. Jeni’s is traditional ice cream, and Froyo is yogurt. I believe that as a frozen custard shop, Westside’s foodie community can help us stand out because we are different. Frozen custard represents old-fashioned ice cream. It has a different texture that is rich and creamy. It’s the classic taste of yesterday. Also, custard is held at 18 degrees rather than 5 or below, which will freeze your palate. Custard does not, so you can truly taste it.

What price point should we expect?

Single scoops will be $2.75 with tax, and we will offer double scoops, triple scoops, and pints. We will serve single scoops for $1 each on our grand opening, March 1st.

2014 James Beard Award semifinalists announced

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The 2014 James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists have been announced, and ten of them are from the Atlanta area (eleven counting Athens). This award goes to outstanding chefs and restaurants across the country annually, and is one of the highest recognitions in the food industry. Winners will be selected at the 2014 James Beard Awards in New York City on May 2nd and 5th.

In 2012, Hugh Acheson (Five &  Ten) and Linton Hopkins (Restaurant Eugene) tied for Best Chef in the Southeast, and Atlanta had two nominations overall in 2013.

Outstanding Bar Program
Kimball House
The Porter Beer Bar

Outstanding Chef
Anne Quatrano, Bacchanalia

Outstanding Restaurateur
Ford Fry, Ford Fry Restaurant Company, Atlanta (The Optimist, JCT Kitchen, No. 246, and others)

Mike Klank and Eddie Hernandez, Taqueria del Sol

Outstanding Service
Bacchanalia

One Flew South

Best Chef: Southeast
Billy Allin, Cakes & Ale

Todd Ginsberg, The General Muir

Steven Satterfield, Miller Union

Outstanding Wine Program
5 & 10, Athens

Villains Wicked Heroes begins pop-up series

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Normally closed on Monday nights, Villains Wicked Heroes now features a pop-up restaurant of the month. For February, executive chef Jared Lee will be working with guest chef and Puerto Rican native Carlos Collazo to host PR 184. Inspired by the Puerto Rican “pork highway,” PR 184 focuses on cuisine from “lechoneras,” or South American restaurant shacks centered around roasted pig. PR 184 will run until March 3. Look for a paleo-concept starting March 10.

We got in touch with Lee and Collazo to get the details on the pop-up and its future.

What is the concept behind the pop-up?

Jared Lee: In 2008 I went to Puerto Rico on vacation and was immediately inspired by the food culture. We traveled across the island eating everything we could and finally made our way to the ‘pork highway’ (PR 184). It was the best pig I have ever eaten and to this day is the best. I wanted to bring that experience to Atlanta.

Carlos Collazo: I grew up eating this food, and I love it. What I want is to give a different dining experience, to bring the flavors and the culture that they used at the lechoneras to the city of Atlanta.

Carlos, can you tell me more about PR 184 in Puerto Rico and how it and your background have inspired this project?

CC: PR 184 is the main highway and only access point to the famous lechoneras. I was born in Puerto Rico and lived there for twenty years. Being there and learning a lot about the flavors and food culture inspired me to do this project here in Atlanta because there is not a place in the city where you can sit down, relax, have fun, and eat good Puerto Rican food.

How did you two get together for this? If I recall correctly, Villains started as a pop-up at Cruzado.

JL: Carlos starting working with me at FLIP Burger way back when. He is a great chef and just needed the right outlet to cook the food he grew up with. Enter PR 184. And yes, Villains did a pop-up in Cruzado, where at the time I was working as a consultant chef. I mainly took that job to gain experience with that type of food. I brought Carlos on later to run the kitchen.

CC: Yes, Villains did a pop-up in Cruzado. Like Jared said I met him and started working with him at FLIP Burger. Later he brought me to Cruzado to run the kitchen where we worked together for a couple months.

What will the menu be like?

JL: It will feature marinated pork roasted to perfection and braised pork belly that is fried crispy on the outside yet juicy on the inside. The sides will be our take on Puerto Rican classics like moros (black beans and rice), mamposteao (red beans, rice, and homemade bacon sofrito), tostones, and whole fried ripe plantains. Either simply cooked properly or tweaked a little.

Food only or will there be inspired drink specials as well?

JL: Yeah, we have some drink ideas like the ‘184 Mimosa’ made of Puerto Rican rum, Kola Champagne, and orange slices to Pina Colada Jello shots and the authentic Puerto Rican drink “Coquito.”

What is the future of pop-up night at Villains?

JL: We are doing our own “Pop-Up Series,” starting with PR 184. Down the pipe we have everything from a paleo pop-up to a Japanese Izakaya.

Are there any future plans for PR 184?

JL: Yes. This is just a glimpse into the concept. The goal is to have its own location where we are cooking whole pigs just like what you would find on the “pork highway” PR 184 in Puerto Rico.

Click the thumbnail to enlarge

Atlanta Harvest hopes to create farms inside the perimeter

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Created by Georgia Tech alumnus Corbin Klett and Emory University alumnus Bethaney Herrington, Atlanta Harvest is an organization focused on increasing consumer access to local, organic produce in the metro Atlanta area. To support local agriculture and economy, they are raising money to build farms in impoverished neighborhoods inside the perimeter.

Atlanta Harvest is holding a crowd-sourced fundraiser and as of this writing is short $5,000 of its goal. We spoke with Herrington to learn more about Atlanta Harvest, the farms, and her vision for Atlanta’s agricultural industry.

Where did the inspiration to build farms inside the perimeter come from? When Grace Midtown [Church] moved to English Avenue, Corbin and I both got involved in the neighborhood in a variety of ways. Eventually he stumbled upon an old fish farm in the community and got excited at the prospect of growing fish and employing residents to maintain that farm. In pursuing this aquaponics project, he was connected to a man who has done fish farming and economic development work all over the world for 30 years. This man then connected Corbin to the horticultural expert who created our high tunnel hoop house growing method.

While Corbin was learning about aquaponics and economic development, I was practicing community building work through my job. And with a background in farming with my family, urban agriculture has always been an interest of mine.

For years, Corbin and I both have been interested in finding sustainable solutions to problems facing families and individuals from low-income communities. We both believe strongly in the value of family and dignifying work. We also believe in bringing farms back and in seeing the local food economy boosted and supported. Georgia farmers can and should be resourced to sell their food close to home and make a living wage. This requires infrastructure and innovation, which is something that Atlanta Harvest is bringing to the table. So, we have huge goals.

How will the farms work? They will be high-tunnel hoop houses, which are similar to greenhouses except that they are passively heated and cooled as opposed to having a heater or being constructed to contain heat. The produce will be grown in raised beds with imported soil so it’s not in the ground. In the city, people have lots of concerns about growing on concrete or contaminated soil, but we don’t have to deal with that because our soil is imported in raised beds. We will primarily grow greens such as lettuces, kale, arugula, mustards, and collards. They’re easier, faster, and that’s what the market demands.

Who will maintain and operate the farm? Initially, I will be the first farm manager. It will be Corbin, our sales person, and me for a while because each farm only requires three people to work it. We are hoping to partner with local organizations that are working with individuals transitioning out of homelessness, substance abuse, and the sex industry, and finding those individuals who are passionate about this field.

This isn’t community gardening. It’s farming. So, a person with no experience can come and train for a few weeks. If they’re diligent, they can pick up everything needed to run the farm.

In your promotional video, you describe food hubs that connect the producer and the consumer. What are these food hubs?
A food hub is primarily responsible for aggregation, distribution, and marketing. For the most part, farms and farmers don’t have time to adequately sell their produce, and the infrastructure doesn’t exist for medium to large-sized farms to transport food within the city. We will be responsible for collecting the food and then washing, packaging, processing, and selling it. This is what makes the process truly local. Lettuce grown in Midtown and consumed in Midtown is way different than lettuce from Athens, South Carolina, South Florida, and beyond. Our goal is to have local produce consumed ten minutes away from where it’s grown.

Where will the first farm be located? We’re looking at lots of different neighborhoods throughout northwest, southwest, and now southeast Atlanta. We’ve been looking at historic south Atlanta, English Avenue, Adair Park, but we haven’t settled into one yet. They’re all relatively distressed, low-income neighborhoods.

Will these farms be completely organic? Yes, everything is organic. There will be no synthetic or chemical inputs, and we have to go through a process with the USDA to have our farm certified as organic, which normally takes two to three months. Initially, things will likely be naturally grown, but we are looking to start our organic certification process as soon as possible.

Where will the produce be sold? We hope to sell to high-end restaurants and premium groceries primarily, but we are doing research to break into secondary markets like house centers, hospitals, and universities.

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