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Wyatt Williams

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Shane Devereux leaves the Lawrence, heads to Greyfield Inn

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Earlier this year, we announced that Shane Devereux was leaving his position as executive chef of TOP FLR of Sound Table but remaining partner at the Lawrence. Devereux now says that he’s no longer involved in day to day operations at The Lawrence, the much-hyped new Midtown restaurant that opened earlier this year. Starting November 9, Devereux will head to Cumberland Island to do a month-long stint at the Greyfield Inn

As for Devereux’s future in Atlanta, he says he’s unsure about his next step. A quick call to Peasant Bistro confirmed that he’s still serving as executive chef. It’s unclear what this means for the future of the Lawrence, which recently hosted a pop-up lunch from the King of Pop’s quesadilla side-project. I ate at the chef’s counter with Devereux at the pass not long ago. It was excellent. Today, he was nominated alongside four others for Eater’s Atlanta Chef of the Year

Photo of Devereux (left) via The Lawrence

Natalie Dupree’s Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking release party tonight

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Southern food legend and former Atlantan Natalie Dupree returns to Atlanta tonight at the Cook’s Warehouse in Ansley Mall for the release of Mastering the Art of the Southern Cooking. The cookbook, which Dupree wrote with Cynthia Graubart, is a massive, encyclopedic volume with more than 750 recipes. The book is being touted as the “first comprehensive book on the beloved foods of the South since the groundbreaking Southern Cooking, by Mrs. H.R. Dull in 1928.”

As a side note, food editor and restaurant critic Bill Addison spoke with Dupree while working on his essay, “Look Homeward, Atlanta,” for this month’s Southern issue. Take a look, it’s worth your time.

The release party and cooking demo runs from 6 to 8 pm. Perhaps it’s the perfect thing to do before dropping in at the new Bantam & Biddy, which opened this week right next door. 

How to Dress Like a Southern Gentleman

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Who is this mythical Southern Gentleman we’ve heard so much about? If the archetype is to be believed, he always has a glass of sweet iced tea ready for the parched, never talks politics at the supper table, can turn a barren field into a cash crop with the touch of his shovel, charms ladies with a single smile, and wears fine clothes that subtly communicate his intellectual and cultural sophistication. While we’ve never met that guy, we’d sure love to dress like him. As it turns out, two of the South’s most distinctive haberdashers operate within a few hundred feet of each other in Westside. Sid Mashburn came here by way of J.Crew and Ralph Lauren; Billy Reid’s past clients include Neiman Marcus. Both are darlings of GQ. Atlanta magazine sent me—a Louisiana native who usually writes about food—to each with a simple request: Dress me for a cocktail party. Behold, the Southern male, interpreted.

Billy Reid (left)
The aged leather chairs, heirloom mirrors, and antique marble tables in Billy Reid’s Atlanta location are
the first indications that you’ve arrived in the lap of Southern hospitality. The eighth location of Reid’s Florence, Alabama–based namesake operates at the laid-back, measured pace of an afternoon on the porch. Store director Brent Homesley, a North Carolinian who left his career as a teacher to work with Reid, offers his sharp eye for patterns and combinations. Whereas Mashburn’s look is crisp and preppy, Reid’s tends
to be softer and busier. When I mentioned that few men my age know how to tie a bow tie, staffer Kendall Stowell replied, “I’ll teach them.” 1170 Howell Mill Road, 404-994-3144, billyreid.com

Fashion Notes:
The bow tie, which never fell out of fashion in the South, is enjoying a renaissance. Don’t be afraid of wearing pattern on pattern, but look for complementary colors. Reid carries silk ties—from busy stripes to subtle dots—that are appropriate year-round. But if you really feel compelled to wear that pink madras patchwork bow tie from your college girlfriend, please wait until after Memorial Day.

A lightweight gingham shirt is suitable for nearly any occasion or season, says Homesley. “It’s like a Southern picnic table—just as classic.”

The patient artisan was venerated in the South long before handcrafted everything became the current Brooklyn vogue. Fine details, like the buffalo-horn buttons on this coat, are the recognizable signs of careful craftsmanship.

Let’s face it, the South is simply too damn hot for socks in the summer. Once you get accustomed to the comfort of a bare foot in a fine leather shoe, you’ll want it all winter too. It’s a point where both Mashburn and Reid agree.

Clothing Shown Here:
All private label: Heirloom Campbell patch navy suit, $1,395; John T blue and white shirt, $185; Classic orange and gray bow tie, $95; Bowery camel coat, $1,195; Gulch loafers in Stone, $395

Sid Mashburn (right)
Stepping into the boutique Mashburn opened in 2007 is like finding out you’re a member of a fashionable country club you didn’t even know existed. Before I could say “pocket square,” a dapper guy in tortoiseshell glasses was handing me a cold beer and flipping the Mighty Hannibal LP on the turntable. Tailors worked sewing machines in the back as I browsed Laguiole pocket knives, Allyn Scura eyeglasses, and the double monk strap shoes bench-made in England exclusively for the store. Soon Mashburn himself showed up, leaning on the Ping-Pong table and talking vintage cars and English film. Sporting the high-hemmed pants and bare ankles that have become his trademark, it was soon apparent he had the sharpest eye in the clubhouse. 1198 Howell Mill Road, 404-350-7135, sidmashburn.com

Fashion Notes:
“I like rules,” Mashburn explains, suggesting that a white shirt should be worn at a formal cocktail party after dark. Southern etiquette dictates respect for tradition. On the other hand, bending those rules is as customary as sneaking bourbon into Sanford Stadium. “Like speed limits,” he explains, “they don’t mean an experienced driver can’t speed.” Still, a younger guy with long hair, like myself, would do better to play it straight, he advises.

With a conservative outfit, the details can be disheveled: a wrinkled pocket square, an askew tie, and so forth. Casual elegance is what makes it Southern, Mashburn says. “We’ll be comfortable in anything we put on.”

The alligator that gave its life for this belt isn’t the only native connection. “There is a Southern desire to pass on heritage,” Mashburn says. “An alligator belt should certainly make it to the next generation, almost like a watch. It’s exotic, expensive, and not just something to keep your pants up. It’s an heirloom.”

Mashburn says high pant hems were popularized by the Duke of Windsor, who abdicated the British throne in 1936 to marry the stylish American divorcee Wallis Simpson. The jet-setting royal introduced a number of innovations: “One was wearing suede shoes in town, another was unbuttoning the bottom button of a suit vest, and he didn’t have a break in his trousers. That tends to make you look a little taller.” The clean look of an unbroken pant leg, as well as double monk strap shoes with no socks, is both rakish and refined. It’s what Rhett Butler would wear now.

Clothing Shown Here:
All private label: Navy blazer, $895; white oxford pop over, $145; red, navy, and ivory wool flannel stripe tie, $125; black alligator Conroy belt, $325; gray wool Donegal trousers, $295; black cap-toe double monk strap shoes, $595

Photographs by Alex Martinez. This article originally appeared in our November 2012 issue.

The Appeal of Country Ham

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Chef Ryan Smith cures meat in the basement beneath Empire State South. Three flights below the reclaimed wood and dim lights that dominate the Midtown restaurant’s farmhouse-chic interior is a climate-controlled menagerie of sorghum sausages, fat mortadellas, and other charcuterie hanging from delicate lengths of string. Most striking are the country hams, whose aged skins have developed the rich patina of antique wood furniture. Some hams have just begun curing this month, stuffed in a cooler and encrusted with salt. A few others will continue to age for as long as two years. It isn’t often that a chef focuses so much care and attention on an item that won’t appear on the menu until 2014.

Country ham, the humble staple of the prerefrigeration South, has emerged as the next darling of pork-obsessed chefs. Last decade, artisanal bacon was such a craze that it jumped the shark right into a bottle of flavored vodka. Then pork belly (the fatty, uncured source of bacon) showed up stuffed in buns and wrapped in lettuce leaves. Six years ago, David Chang of New York’s Momofuku restaurants began devoting a section of his Ssäm Bar’s menu to tasting plates of country ham: uncooked, paper-thin ribbons arranged with the same reverence typically lavished on Spanish Jamón Ibérico or Italian prosciutto. Similarly unadulterated presentations—showcasing country ham’s balance of salt and fat, its silky texture, and its rich tang—are now in vogue across Atlanta. Holeman and Finch Public House and Empire State South serve plates of country ham cured in-house for as long as two years. Southern Art’s ham bar offers a selection of porcine beauties as carefully curated as a fine-dining wine list. Charcuterie plates are pervasive, and country ham arrives on them as a distinctly Southern signature.

But don’t expect the taste of these prized slices to show up in gimmicky mass-production vodkas. Cooks can sizzle pork fat to order, and bacon can be cured in as quick as a week’s time. The rich, raw complexities of country ham, though, require a simple but slow process that isn’t suited to the whims of fashion. For many Southerners, the words country ham conjure up the salt slabs of industrial pork that land on diner plates with a side of redeye gravy. That product, beloved though it may be, is the result of U.S. farming industrialization after World War II. Pigs were confined, treated with antibiotics, and bred to grow exponentially faster. Country ham makers folded by the hundreds while mechanized plants developed a new product that traded subtleties for a one-note, uniform ham. They taste much like a saltier, more pungent version of the ubiquitous baked spiral ham.

Cured ham is a global tradition whose two steps—salt curing followed by dry aging—date back to the Romans in 160 BC, and probably earlier. A country ham is often cured with salt and sugar for about thirty days, smoked, and then aged. A fattier ham can be aged longer without drying out, amplifying the flavors as more time passes. Country ham makers like Tennessee’s Allan Benton, who resist efforts to accelerate or cut corners on that tradition, have become the food’s celebrated saints.

What makes country ham truly country is the animal that gives its hind leg for it. Thus the search for superior country ham has become the search for the superior country hog. In Spain, where Jamón Ibérico has reached that echelon of foods whose reputations alone can inspire pilgrimages, tourists flock to the western part of the country where Ibérico hogs are raised, like a Napa Valley of pork. The distinct marbling of Ibéricos, which you can sample at restaurants like the Iberian Pig in Decatur, means a single ham can fetch hundreds of dollars. During the nineteenth century, as Virginia’s cured hams were developing into what would be known as Smithfield ham, the breeds were most likely Berkshire and Hampshire hogs who foraged and fed largely on a fat- and protein-rich diet of peanuts grown on nearby farms.

Perhaps no breed of pig has become as mythologized and coveted among country ham aficionados as the Ossabaw Island hog, a genetically pure breed of Ibérico pigs that has been isolated on an island off the coast of Georgia for nearly 500 years, brought over with the earliest Spanish explorers. Bev Eggleston, who both raises pigs and cures hams for EcoFriendly Foods in Virginia, has been breeding relocated Ossabaws since 2002. The pigs have desirable fat reserves, but years of inbreeding have left them dwarfish and ornery. Eggleston has bred the Ossabaw with Red Wattle and Farmer’s Cross breeds, creating hybrids that have more commercial promise. They could be the beginning of a country ham program as sophisticated and focused as the Spanish one, but the process is slow. Including time for curing and aging, it could take three years for one of Eggleston’s hogs to travel from the field to a plate.

The long lead time makes country ham a gamble for chefs, who are all too aware of fads and the fickleness of diners. One of Empire State South’s hams can be gone in as quick as a week once it hits the menu. Smith says that they’ve yet to achieve a rotation of curing and aging that can keep up with demand. That’s still a far cry from the heights of popularity that have defined Jamón Ibérico, though. Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene says, “Whether it will get to the level of Spain, I don’t know. But I think Southern chefs are starting to understand that you don’t have to spend a thousand dollars on a Spanish product to get great ham.”

Photograph by Jennifer Davick. This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue.

Reservations Required: Atlanta Food Events, Oct. 29-Nov. 4,

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Stephen King’s Food of Terror at Cibo e Beve, Oct. 31
Chef Linda Harrell interprets Stephen King’s novels into a meal of terrifying homage on Halloween night. 

Mrs. Arnold’s Monthly Luncheon at The Shed at Glenwood, Nov. 2
Chef Todd Richards pays tribute to his childhood caretaker with a homestyle lunch.

Sewing Retreat with Natalie Chanin at Restaurant Eugene, Nov. 2
A day-long handcrafting retreat with Natalie Chanin of the housewares company, Alabama Chanin. The retreat includes a three course lunch. 

Afternoon in the Country at Serenbe, Nov. 4 
The 12th annual Afternoon in the Country hosted by Les Dames d’Escoffier returns to Serenbe, including food from 60 Atlanta chefs, a bluegrass band, hayrides, and more.  


Table Talk: Revisiting Parish, CL’s food fetishes, and more

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AJC revisits Parish, awards one star
Jenny Turknett reviews the latest revamp of Parish in Inman Park. She isn’t impressed. 

Creative Loafing staff reveals their food fetishes
CL released its annual food issue, focusing this year on “food fetishes.”  Take a peek at the obsessional and occasionally questionable devotions of Austin Louis Ray, Greg Best, Max Blau, Gwynedd Stewart, and others.

Where can you find a comfortable chair in this town?
Perpetual grouch Cliff Bostock finds something new to complain about: uncomfortable chairs in restaurants. 

New rules for home cooks
Deborah Geering gets the backstory on Georgia’s new Cottage Food Program, which allows entrepreneurs to prepare certain types of foods in their home kitchens to sell directly to the public. 

Rumored new Concentrics restaurant to open in 2013
Eater and What Now Atlanta are running with a rumor that Concentrics has a new restaurant slated to open in 2013.

 

Martha Stewart loves Bacchanalia

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The iconic entrepreneur and media personality Martha Stewart dropped in for dinner at Bacchanalia last week with some business associates from Home Depot and the American Cancer Society. What did she think? Stewart took to her blog this morning to talk about the “really fabulous” meal and share a slideshow of pictures from the tasting menu. Looks like she enjoyed a few of the restaurant’s favorite dishes, including the Gulf crab cake and plate of roasted squab. Head over to see what she has to say and judge her skills as a cell phone photographer. 

Livingston to host All-Blood Dinner in November

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A few months ago, I mentioned a Twitter conversation that began with chef Zeb Stevenson posing a quick question: “Was told that ATL is not ready for blood sausages etc. on menus. Care to weigh in?” That evolved into a larger conversation about innovation and boundaries in Atlanta’s dining scene and a few chefs salivating about an imaginary all-blood dinner.

Well, that dinner is imaginary no longer. On November 15, Livingston Restaurant is hosting an All-Blood Dinner with dishes from  Shane Devereux from The Lawrence, Tyler Williams from Abattoir, Ryan Smith of Empire State South, Josh Hopkins of STG Trattoria, and, of course, Stevenson from The Livingston. The five course meal will begin with a cocktail reception at 7:30. The $85 cost per person includes wine pairings, plus tax and gratuity. You can get give the restaurant a ring if you want to reserve your seat for the bloody feast.

Photo of salt-curing pork blood via Zeb Stevenson

King of Pops Field Day returns this Sunday

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The second annual King of Pops Field Day returns to the Masquerade Music Park this Sunday, October 21. The beloved local popsicle maker is again throwing a carnivalesque free party with games, popsicle eating contests, a few bands, and food trucks (in case you decide that you can’t live on pops alone). Proceeds from the day will benefit Wholesome Wave Georgia.

In a press release, owner Steven Carse says, “The Atlanta community has really made us feel like we are a part of a family, so King of Pops Field Day is just our way to try to show a bit of gratitude for all of the support.” As you might remember, the popsicle headquarters were recently robbed. Good to know that a bit of bad news hasn’t ruined their opinion of the city.

The Field Day begins at noon and runs until 8 pm on Sunday. This is also a great time to check out a brand new video from Room Eleven Media about their posicle operation.

King of Pops from Room Eleven Media on Vimeo.

Kevin Gillespie discusses Fire in My Belly

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Kevin Gillespie‘s first cookbook, Fire in My Belly, came out earlier this week. Back when we announced that Gillespie would be leaving Woodfire Grill, I mentioned that the cookbook was a part of a plan for Gillespie to reinvent his career: leaving the restaurant that he made his name with and opening up a new one, Gunshow, that intends to be radically different from the table-linen fine dining experience at Woodfire.

That big restaurant news shouldn’t overshadow the accomplishments of this cookbook, though. As Gillespie explained to me, the two years of work that went into testing and developing recipes for the massive, 356 page book were painstakingly thorough and biographically driven. Gillespie speaks about the book with the kind of youthful passion that reminds you just how much he’s accomplish despite being barely 30 years old.

Gillespie is currently on the road doing a nationwide book tour for Fire in My Belly. If you can’t catch him at one of those dates, the interview below should give you some insight into his work.

When did you start working on the book? Let’s see, I gotta’ timeline backwards here. It was due December of last year so I started working on it basically the December before that.

December 2010? Exactly. It took almost exactly one year to write the book properly. Properly write the book. We knew from the very beginning that we wanted the book to be able to embody an entire year so that we could truly express seasonality. And so we slated that full amount of time for recipe development.

Where did you do the testing? We did almost all of it at Woodfire Grill. We would get up super early, and I mean like 4:30 in the morning, and come to work and be there at about 5 a.m, and start doing the recipes and then we would work to about 10 on the book and then clean up and start the regular day on the restaurant work. It was a really long year, to say the least.

Did you have like your sous working with you on it? I did. I had my chef de cuisine E.J., who’s been working with me for years. He was there almost every recipe session. I’d give him a few off, periodically I’d just lie to him so he wouldn’t come in but for the most part he was there. And then Gena Berry was our recipe tester, and she was there every day. Because the way that we did it — rather than — I never knew what I was making on any day that we came in.

What E.J. and I would do is that we would order products from our farmers, just like we do for the restaurant. And we would come in super early, and we would just take stuff out of the cooler — whatever was truly in season at that moment, whatever looked best — and we just sort of set it upstairs. And then Gena would come in and she usually had an assistant, and I would just come up with the dishes there. I’d sorta draft out an idea and we would start cooking. Every time I’d cut up an onion, she’d take it and put it on the scale and say, “Ok, it weights this much” or “1 cup.” I wasn’t focused on how much of this and how much of that. I was focused on creating the dish the way that I would cook it based on — I wanted to express that once you reach a point, cookery is not about knowing a cup of this or an ounce of that. It’s about being able to be instinctive enough to know that that’s enough or that’s not enough. And so the only way to capture that was for me just to do it naturally and her document the quantity.

Once that was done and I made that dish, then she would take the recipe that she had just written and she would reproduce the dish. If her’s and mine’s matched, then it was given the thumbs up to go to home recipe testers to try it. If their’s matched ours, then we said “Ok, the recipe works.” If there was a breakdown anywhere in that chain, we went back to the start, to me, and said, “Ok, what happened to their dish. Ok, this happened. All right. Well, then somewhere in here we didn’t acknowledge something that I did.” And then we would go back and redo it or scrap it entirely.

That’s incredibly thorough. It was because I remember when I was young, and I wanted to learn how to cook and I had the books from all the famous chefs at the time, all the people on television. And some worked and some didn’t. And it was a really frustrating moment for you because I didn’t know whether I was the variable or whether the recipe was variable. I can say confidently at this point that it was a little of both. But I can also say that I’ve seen many recipes in really great books that missed something, and they just don’t work. And that was frustrating. I didn’t want anyone to ever take my book, sit down with it, and try to make something and be able to say, “Well the book just doesn’t explain what I need to know to be able to make this happen.”

Right. You shot pretty wide with your recipes, too. It’s a pretty broad book.  It is because, you know, once again I just didn’t want to pigeon hole this book into being something — the reality is that as a cook, I’ve been thrust into a movement that I care a lot about. But that does not encompass everything that I believe in as far as being a cook. I have a tendency to cook professionally a style of food that fits into the modern southern movement, but as a cook in the world, I appreciate food from all over everywhere, and I wanted a book that really hit on that subject matter. I was tired of reading chefs books that made it seem like we were so much better at what we do than regular people are.

I think that the difference between a home cook and a professional has more to do with hours logged in the kitchen than anything else. I don’t think that we’ve been bestowed some amazing gift that you can’t get for yourself if you’re willing to do it sixteen hours a day for a decade. You know? I mean, there’s no mystery as to why I’m better at this. I do it all-day, every day.

I wanted to write a book from a professional that showed my professional life, that showed my personal life, and one that just said, “You know what. I’m just not going to bullshit anybody here. Let’s just say what we wanna’ say about things.” If I don’t like something, I’m just going to say “I don’t like it.” Or, you know, I think there’s something to be able to admit that I’m a professional that has a restaurant that serves very fine food, but I like ramen noodles and hot wings, too. It’s food. You know, I love food. As a cook, I love food, and that’s not — I didn’t say I love only the finest cuisine. No, I just love food in general. And so why not write a book that expressed that? It seemed more real.

Like those dueling ramen recipes that you have from you and E.J. — you have that sense of what actually is going on in the kitchen there. It’s common now in cookbooks to have the intro essay or the intro to the beginning of the chapter, but almost every recipe is some sort of like tieback to your family or an experience in your life. Well, for me, every dish that I cook has to be put in context for it to be relevant. I’m not much for simply doing something for the sake of doing it. Every dish that I cook at the restaurant and in my life has a story. The story might be real simple. It might be that my wife loves so-and-so so that’s why I make it. Or it might be so much more than that. And for me, any time someone has tried to explain something to me in life — to learn to do this or learn to do that —, if it could be accompanied by an explanation of why, that always seemed to give it more of an ability to solidify in my mind. So, before you ever see the steps to how to make this dish, I mean I want to tell you the story of where it came from or I wanna’ go ahead and say, you know, just point out that the direction this is going is here so if you can get your head wrapped around that. I think that people know where it came from before they ever read it helps explains a lot of things.

Then there was a secondary reason behind it, which was that I didn’t want this just to be a cookbook, I didn’t want this to be a collection of recipes. I knew that this was my opportunity, finally, to say what I wanted to say and to try to give people a better insight into who I am. The reality is that I was on a television show that was wildly popular and people have begun to know me, but they know a very specific set of things that they’ve seen. They know edited footage. And it’s not to say that’s inaccurate but it is to say that it’s very shortsighted. There’s so much more to me than that. And the reality is that there’s not a day that passes now that people that I don’t know come up to me and introduce themselves to me and they feel like they know me, and I am constantly in these moments where I’m engaging with people on a very personal level, and I wanted an opportunity to give even more for people. When they take this book home, I think that when they read it, they will actually know me quite a bit better than they did from just watching me on Top Chef.

One of the things that stood out to me is this chapter of foods you thought that you hated. And there’s like a number of anecdotes that—please correct me if I’m wrong—but makes you sound like a bit of finicky eater as a kid. Absolutely. I think I was like most kids, and I was like just most Americans or people in general. I think there is mythology surrounding chefs that we somehow or another were born into this world with an advanced palate, and we came out of the womb only appreciating the things of — the progress of Joel Robuchon or the attempts of Paul Bocuse. And it’s just not true. I came out as a little kid who didn’t like things that were green and squirmed at the things that seemed slightly abnormal. It took me trying to — it took me wanting to grow out of that to grow out of it. You know, I had motivation. I chose to do this for a living. So, it was either keep disliking these things and limit what you can cook and what — how you’ll be as a chef or learn to at least wrap your head around them and hopefully grow up.

I just think that’s something people can sympathize — emphasize maybe is a better term. Not a day passes without someone telling me about what they don’t like at the restaurant, and it doesn’t bother me when they say “I don’t like this” or “I don’t like that.” If anything, it challenges to try to find something for them that will change that. I think it’s an extremely empowering moment when you try something you previously thought you hated and you get to let go of that. I hated Brussels sprouts my whole life, and now I can say that I hated all the ones I had up until now, but I know that I don’t hate Brussels sprouts. I just don’t like what I had before. That’s huge. I want to provide that for people because I clearly remember all of those moments. They obviously meant something to me that I’ve been able to remember them and catalog them over my lifespan — the day I stopped liking this or that.

That timeline is very specific. It was huge for me. It means a lot, and I wanted to start with that chapter because I think it does a couple things. The first thing is that I think it sets the tone for this book being different. I don’t know that anybody else that has started a book out with a bunch of recipes that are going to be controversial. The most controversial recipes of the book start at page one. And two it gives it a sense a humanity. And I don’t mean this as a slight against The French Laundry or Eleven Madison Park but it’s not a tome of precise restaurant cookery. It’s never meant to be that. I cook professionally. It’s what I do for a loving, but I’m a person who cares and loves food and I think there are a lot of us out there that do that, and I was talking to them more than I was talking to anyone else.

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