Quiet dining rooms are pretty much out of vogue. For years now, architects have been building more and more industrial-style restaurants with hard surfaces that, when mixed with human voices, become cacophonous sound chambers. How many times have you crossed the threshold of a restaurant only to be assaulted by a racket resembling that of a colony of monkeys at the zoo? Design, though, is only partly to blame. Restaurants are not inherently loud. People are loud. Especially Americans, who tend to squawk as if everyone around them is hard of hearing. I could pack 85 Frenchies into Kevin Gillespie’s Gunshow, an almost cafeteria-like steel-tabled dining room with the acoustics of a prison ward, and their conspiratorial tones would keep the noise to a dull murmur. I don’t expect you to learn sign language, but if everyone simply used his or her indoor voice, there would be no need for restaurant owners to blow their budgets padding the ceilings. (And my own dining experience would feel much more civilized.)
Get it Poppin’
Chefs around town are popping grains and seeds at high temperatures with spectacular results.
Richard Neal, the chef de cuisine at Five and Ten in Athens, scatters puffed wheat berries onto grilled escarole. Mixed with lonzino (dry-cured pork loin) and fennel, it brings another level of texture—crunch!—to the dish.
David Sweeney, who now cooks at the Tiger Mountain Winery in the North Georgia mountains, first came across amaranth in Germany. “I loved the flavor, the texture, and the fact that it had so much plant-based protein,” he says. Now he pops amaranth in a heavy-lidded saucepan and uses it as a salad topping.
Meanwhile, the always-experimental Ryan Smith of Staplehouse pops Anson Mills blue barley, coats it in malted milk powder, and uses it to finish desserts like his rhubarb and pumpernickel cake. He’s even fermenting the grain using koji, a sweet, fragrant mold, for a peach and walnut dessert.
I could go on, but I think you get the puffed point.
This article originally appeared in our September 2017 issue.