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Wyatt Williams

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Follow Nick Melvin as he creates a new restaurant, Garden District

Chef Nick Melvin has launched a blog to chronicle the creation of his new restaurant, Garden District. Melvin’s run in Atlanta thus far has included stints a number of prominent joints. He was still the chef at Serenbe when the New York Times ran a glowing feature about the place in 2009. Just days later, he left to be the executive chef at Parish, making for one of the most inspired periods of that hit-or-miss Concentrics venture. Hugh Acheson managed to steal him away from Parish to run the kitchen at Empire State South when it opened, but that fizzled after just a month. Earlier this year, he left Rosebud, where he had been chef de cuisine, to open his own place.

It is probably safe to assume that the name Garden District is a nod to Melvin’s native New Orleans, where he worked at Susan Spicer’s Bayona. He told Eater that he hasn’t yet settled on a location but that he aims for “a neighborhood gathering place that is distinguished by the local community that surrounds it. The mission is to provide the neighborhood with an open and welcoming gathering place for good food, good drink, and good company that feels like it’s always been there.” 

Keep an eye on Melvin’s blog for more developments (and, hopefully, pictures of pickled things) as they come. If you get a hankering for his cooking, you can check out the first of his Smoke-house Pop-up dinners later this week at Slopes BBQ in Sandy Springs.

Sister Louisa’s Church vandalized, owner says the bar was targeted

In the early morning hours today, vandals attacked Sister Louisa’s Church, a bar at the corner of Edgewood and Boulevard in the Old Fourth Ward. Owner Grant Henry says that front windows and doors were broken, liquor bottles smashed, and beer taps were left running but that nothing was stolen, including cash and valuables left in open view. Damages are estimated at $3,000. “This doesn’t have anything to do with a break in,” Henry says. “It was definitely targeted.”

At 5:12 am on Saturday, Henry answered a call from his alarm company alerting him to motion on the bar’s first floor. By the time he arrived minutes later, police were already on the scene. The front door windows, which depicted crosses, were both smashed. Bricks had been thrown through a window with the word “Church.” Henry stood outside while police investigated.

“The investigative unit came in and did what they do. Then they came out and said that it is clearly a hate crime. Because they didn’t steal anything, they took nothing, they left things of value, and they only targeted the word church and they targeted the booze behind the bar, you know, on the altar.”

In the past two years, the bar has become known as a successful pillar of the growing nightlife and dining scene near the corner of Edgewood and Boulevard, attracting local crowds and national press from the likes of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and People. The attention helped: Henry recently bought the building that houses his bar and the neighboring Corner Tavern and Café Circa.

Not all the attention has been positive, though. Henry says some neighbors, especially from the nearby churches, have complained and said that the bar is sacrilegious and mocking religion. 11 Alive ran a segment about the tensions last year.

For the past seventeen years, Henry has made art under the name Sister Louisa, mostly by painting humorous captions on paint-by-numbers religious works. The bar is decorated floor-to-ceiling with the kitschy work. Henry, who attended the seminary years ago and is now openly gay, says, “I’m not a Christian, but I always wanted to build a church where everyone is accepted, that’s for the sinners.” Above the liquor, which Henry calls the altar, he displays a trinity of sorts: Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Elvis. He sells “Spiritual Sangria” and keeps kegs in a confessional booth.

Despite the attack, Henry says, “I don’t feel like a victim at all. It’s a sign I’m doing the right thing.” After posting about the incident on Facebook this morning, Henry says that friends and patrons have poured in with gifts and well wishes. By cocktail hour today, the windows were fixed, booze replaced, and drinks were being poured again. Henry expects it to be a busy night.

A request for comment about the incident from APD has been made. We’ll update if we hear more from them. 

Proof and Provision opens on Peachtree

The Georgian Terrace Hotel celebrated the opening of their new bar and restaurant Proof and Provision with a media preview earlier this week. Located beneath the wide-open white marble of the Livingston, the basement bar plays a distinct foil to the upstairs neighbor. The ceilings are low while the Livingston’s are high; the walls are raw brick while the Livingston’s are polished; the lights are dim while the Livingston’s are bright. You get the idea. The menu strikes a similar note – where the Livingston is suited for elegance, P&P aims at opening up the collar. As chef Zeb Stevenson put it at the party, the menu is meant to be “Real fun, not bullshit fun.”

For Stevenson, “real fun” translates to an inexpensive selection of reinvented bar bites: chicken liver mousse served in little tin cans, hardwood-smoked almonds, fontina grilled cheese sandwiches, house made beef hot dogs stuffed into potato dough. On Monday night, small tastes of these circulated while the invited members of the media quaffed selections from the cocktail menu as fast as the bar could make them. You couldn’t throw one of those hardwood-smoked almonds without hitting a food blogger. 

It’s hard to get a real impression of a place during one of these media previews – they’re something akin to experiencing a restaurant in a (very chatty) vacuum – but Proof and Provision showed off some intriguing notes. The cocktail list is, in fact, playfully fun and worth exploring. Like a number of places these days, they’re jumping on the barrel-aged trend with rye manhattans and negronis that sport a woodsy depth. I preferred the negroni and the Southern 75, a clever spin on the French 75 that uses bourbon and beer in place of gin and champagne. Then, there’s a vodka drink they’re calling “When I Was Eight,” which tastes like a boozed-up version of milk leftover from a bowl of Froot Loops. This may  delight or horrify you. I was something in between.

The menu has an interesting range. I could see someone dropping in for a can of beer and a snack or two without spending even $15. Just as easily, I could see how a couple people could work their way through the spreads and cocktail list and blow more through plenty of cash. It’s likely that this place could be a mob scene after events the Fox, but that’s assuming people can actually find the basement location. Otherwise, this could be a quiet little place to get a cocktail and a few bites of chicken liver mousee. That might be real fun.

Photo of Southern 75 courtesy Jeff Moore / Garnish Photography / Green Olive Media

Atlanta Underground Market founder Michaela Graham closes the Atlanta Nosh

Michaela Graham announced today via email that she is closing down the Atlanta Nosh. Graham earned her reputation in Atlanta’s food scene with the Atlanta Underground Market, a monthy pop-up gathering of foodies, cooks, and artisans that operated with clandestine, last-minute style. In 2011, Atlanta Magazine named her the best new food impresario. That venture eventually became the above-ground Atlanta Nosh in Atlantic Station. 

In an email to Atlanta Underground Market followers, reproduced here below, Graham explained the gamble of expanding the event that eventually led to the demise. 

“Hi, everyone,

I’m sad to announce that the Atlanta Nosh is closing down. And with that I’m discontinuing all food events in Atlanta, as I know that my reputation will be completely shot.

Those of you that had come to the Atlanta Underground Market from the beginning, saw the growth. It just got too big to keep it under wraps any longer. It was either : Close it down’ or ‘go big’ . I made the choice to go big, naively thinking that going public would mean an increase in numbers. It didn’t happen. In fact we had lower turnout than at previous AUMs.

Atlantic Station worked with us and we had hoped that we could build it back up, starting over with a smaller number of vendors, in a better location and not charging an entrance fee. The thought was that not charging a cover would increase the attendance. Also didn’t happen.

I very much apologize to the season pass holders. I really thought that we could make this work. The cost for following all the permit requirements were staggering, to say the least. I used the funds from the season passes to get everything established. Then when we saw that the initial set up didn’t work I used every extra penny to reimburse the season pass holders with food coupons, hoping again that that would bring more regular traffic. I know you will be all furious at me, but it was only used to set up The Nosh. I gambled and I lost.

Unfortunately, just when I thought that we might be on a better path, I came home yesterday to an email from someone, claiming that they’ve gotten sick and they were now looking for payment. Unfortunately, that was the piece of straw that broke the camel’s back.  I just don’t have the financial ability to deal with that. I can’t pay someone, nor can I afford to hire a lawyer. While the vendors were starting to make profit, I only had losses with the Nosh. I was trying to hang on for the vendors that did start their businesses and to make the season pass holders whole, but yesterday just did me in.

So, I just don’t see another choice, but to close down Atlanta Underground Market, LLC and everything it was involved in.

I hope that I had brought some fun to those of you that had come to some of the events and I’m proud to know that I was able to prove a stepping stone to some very talented food entrepreneurs.

Sincerely

Michaela”

Photo of Atlanta Underground Market by Dr. Princess.

Revolution Doughnuts opens on National Doughnut Day, Twitter celebrates

The big news on this past National Doughnut Day in Atlanta was the opening of Revolution Doughnuts in Decatur, right next to the popular craft beer market Ale Yeah!. The venture comes from the folks formerly behind Little Red Hen Bakeshop, the name under which proprietor Maria Riggs had been selling baked goods at area farmers markets and through Farm Burger. The shop boasts admirable ingredients (organic flour, local dairy, bacon crumbles from the Spotted Trotter, fresh fruit) as well as some vegan and gluten free options. Peach fritters, bacon and salted caramel, and blueberry were among the selection available when I dropped in on Friday. 

Aside from building a following through selling at farmers markets as Little Red Hen, the shop launched a successful Kickstarter campaign that let customers pledge in return for doughnut rewards. That community support probably helped contribute to the eager storm of Twitter activity that followed shortly after they opened their doors. Below, a few drool-worthy Instagram photos from their opening on National Doughnut Day. 


Peaches land early on Atlanta restaurant plates

Georgia peaches arrived early this year.

That realization came to me at a backyard party this past Memorial Day, while taking a bite from a perfectly ripe, sweet juicy peach. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been overtaken by the flavor of a Georgia peach, but it was the first time I’d had one that tasted rich and full with peak-season flavor a week before the end of May.

After asking around a bit, my suspicions were confirmed. Steven Satterfield of Miller Union told me, “We started getting peaches the first week of May this year, which is very odd.  Usually they come in June with blueberries, which are also early.”

Duke Lane, Jr. of Lane Southern Orchards told 13 WMAZ in Macon that this is one of “the earliest years that we have ever picked peaches,” and went onto explain that the unusually warm winter and spring produced the early crop. “It’s 20 degrees actually above normal. You talking about 70 degree nights and 90 degree days, peaches are really growing 24 hours.”

Perhaps that means we have global warming to thank for these peaches (or El Niño or whatever other phenomenon that explains the rather unpredictable weather patterns of recent years), but, in any case, they’re here and ready. With a dining scene increasingly centered on local, seasonal ingredients, restaurants have to roll with the changes, too.

That peach I had on Memorial Day happened to be from Pearson Farm, a Crawford, GA farm that supplies a number of local restaurants, including Satterfield’s Miller Union, Rathbun’s, and Bacchanalia, aside from their constant presence at local farmers markets.

I tracked down a few of the restaurants that Pearson has been supplying with peaches to see what they’ve been doing with the early crop. Over at Empire State South, chef Ryan Smith is already cooking up a peach gazpacho with pickled shrimp and fried bread for lunch and dinner (see above). At Farm Burger, chef Dan Latham told me that next week they’ll be adding their peach burger, which pairs a sweet, chili-flecked chutney of peaches with goat cheese and arugula. Satterfield’s Miller Union is working their peaches into specials and desserts, but will be adding them to the cocktail program and savory dishes (pickled peaches, peach juice glaze on quail, and so on) in the coming weeks.

Peach season traditionally runs through the end of summer, but Satterfield speculates that the season could end as early as it began, “Peach season typically runs from June to September but this year I imagine since it came in early, we will see them disappear sometime in August.” You might want to track down these dishes while you still can.

Top photo: Peach gazpacho at Empire State South, courtesy Jonathan Aherin.

Bottom photo: Peach burger at Farm Burger, courtesy Andrew Howard.

Watershed fried chicken still elusive after all these years

The new Watershed on Peachtree is, in many ways, an entirely new restaurant from the one that once anchored the dining scene in Decatur. With executive chef Joe Truex and chef de cuisine Julia LeRoy at the helm and wide-open dining rooms laden with bare wood and muted colors, the renovated garage and bright quilts that defined the previous space seem to be a faint memory. The legacy of Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis might not even cast a shadow were it not for fried chicken night.

If the presence of LeRoy – who helmed the short-lived LeRoy’s Fried Chicken – put the thought in your mind that they might be changing Peacock and Lewis’ recipe, you can relax. LeRoy recently told James Oxendine, “The fried chicken is going to be the same recipe as it’s always been. It’s a vertebra in the backbone of Watershed and I have no desire to change that.” The only tweak is merely organizational – they’re serving that legendary fried chicken on Wednesday rather than Tuesday.

Calling fried chicken “legendary” can seem a bit excessive in description, but Watershed is one of the few places whose fried chicken can legitimately lay claim to that sort of hyperbole. Nearly a decade ago, John T. Edge named it among his favorites in the country and The Washington Post put that “treasure” alongside fine-dining destinations Bacchanalia and Joel (RIP). That was before Kim Severson wrote this elegant piece on the restaurant, profiling Peacock and Lewis and waxing on about the fried chicken for paragraphs at a time.

I had all that in mind before dropping into the new Watershed for the first fried chicken night, but didn’t realize how close to the script they’re playing it. The fried chicken night was almost as famous for consistently running out by 7:30 p.m. as it was for any other part of the recipe. So, of course, as my date and I sat down a little after 8 p.m., one of the first things we heard from the waiter was that, “The only thing we’ve 86’d for the night is fried chicken.” Apparently, they’re sticking to that part of the recipe, too.

We had the pork belly wraps, almost like bo ssam in presentation, and an utterly non-traditional, deconstructed jambalaya. Both were great, but that’s for another discussion. The tradition that Watershed is apparently sticking to is running out of the fried chicken. If you want it, skip out of work early, forgo the gym, forget cocktail hour, and whatever else you have to do, just get there before 7:30.

The closest I got to the fried chicken was running into a friend at the bar who had the sense to show up early.

“Did you have the fried chicken?” I asked.

She had that knowing look in her eye, probably aware that we were too late and wouldn’t be having any. She just smiled and said, “So good, so good.”

Photo courtesy Watershed / Liz Lapidus PR (not the author, who clearly did not have any fried chicken on his plate)

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