The Christiane Chronicles: Attack of the giant ice cubes, and popcorn perfection

Rants and raves from veteran dining authority Christiane Lauterbach
Christiane Chronicles
Illustration by Zohar Lazar

The Weakest Clink

Now that so many bartenders are using sophisticated machines to freeze water into all shapes and sizes, I’ve started to worry about what kind of ice might appear in my tumbler. I’m all for a crystal-clear, slow-melting cube that won’t immediately dilute my drink. What I did not sign up for are massive icebergs that hog most of the room in the glass, forcing me to suck the beverage through my teeth just to avoid irreparable dental damage. Flavored ice cubes, like the ones at Alma Cocina, or cubes made with smoke-infused water have their place, but I’m not looking for a brain freeze. If it’s the size of a polar ice cap, keep that foolishness away from my fine rye, plain Irish whiskey, or aged tequila.

Andy's Original Popcorn
Photograph by LuAnne DeMeo

Kernel Crush
The first time I ever tried popcorn, I was well into my adult years. I was at a movie theater, and the popcorn seemed an unreasonably noisy snack for such a quiet setting. And it tasted like salted Styrofoam sprinkled with rancid butter. Later I experimented with a stove-top popper and gourmet kernels, but I still wasn’t sold. Then, 30 years ago, I discovered Andy’s Original Popcorn, available only at Rainbow Natural Foods on North Decatur Road, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Packaged in cellophane bags and sold by weight ($2 for a third of a pound), the popcorn was created by one of the grocery’s former employees named, well, Andy. I’ve never met the guy, but I can tell you that no other popcorn in town has the same tender texture. I’ve tried for years to replicate the recipe but have never come close to nailing that perfect blend of salt and spices. The store clerks are no help, either. (They were all advised not to answer my questions.) I’ve met many other Andy’s Original Popcorn junkies. Some stash it for a rainy day or mail it to out-of-state relatives. Me? I love dumping a bag into a big glass bowl and hogging every kernel to myself.

Field notes

  • Two of the most striking art pieces in Atlanta restaurants: Chris Moulder’s undeniably phallic light fixture at Aria and Athos Menaboni’s figurative eggshell mosaic at Brick Store Pub.
  • Except for the hand-cut Iberico ham, Rezagarse Tapas in Decatur is about as Spanish as I am.
  • What’s the biggest food trend you’ve never heard of? Toast! Fly to San Francisco, where it’s all the rage, or go to Spiller Park Coffee in Ponce City Market, where toast smeared with avocado costs a whopping $7.

This article originally appeared in our January 2016 issue.