May 29, 2014

Fry Hot On Design

By: James Oxendine

Not content to rest on the laurels garnered from the uber success of his restaurants, Star Chef / restaurateur Ford Fry has hired design director Elizabeth Ingram to develop new concepts that maintain the unique look and feel that his growing portfolio of Atlanta restaurants like no. 246, The Optimist and St. Cecelia have become known for. Fry recently chatted with me about what role the new design director will play in his future projects, why design is a critical part of his very successful business model and offered a sneak peak at some of his upcoming projects.

Q: What specific role will Ms. Ingram play in the design of your future projects?

FF: Elizabeth’s role as our in-house interior design started with the purchasing and custom fabrication of most of the furniture, fixtures and equipment for our Krog and Avalon project. Parts & Labor had already been engaged as design / architecture. She also assisted in polishing up existing restaurant design holes. As far as her first project: she is designing our Houston restaurant with architecture assistance from Square Feet Studio. She is also in the early stages of designing our sister restaurant to The Optimist in Inman Park. Not to mention helping me design my new house! So, her role will be all interior design in partnership with a local architect.

Q: How does design add value to your very successful business model?

FF: One of the reasons we made the decision to go in-house with design is to have more control over the design goal and budget. I truly feel that design should be timeless and not “restaurant of the month” design. Only time will tell if we have achieved that or not. I think design is one component to the first impression. To quote Smith Hanes back in 2007 regarding JCT: “I’m not sure how the food will be, but I can tell you that it will feel good once inside.” That speaks a lot to a dining experience. It has to be comfortable and work as a neighborhood spot as well as a special night out.

Q: When did you first begin to appreciate the value add of good design and invest accordingly?

FF : Interesting you ask. We do have a formula as to how much we can spend based upon expected annual sales. Beginning with No. 246, I wanted to allow Smith to work pretty freely after we defined the feel. He did that without much “art direction” from me. Just simple moments of validation like, “thoughts on this light design,” or “this floor,” etc. I was, and am still, very happy with the outcome and I believe it will be timeless.

Q: Can you share some of the design concepts of some of your future projects, i.e. the Inman Park oyster bar.

FF: Our sister restaurant to The Optimist in food is a small plate version of The Optimist and The Oyster Bar at The Optimist. With that, it needs to feel good yet feel slightly more casual than The Optimist. The inspiration is Hamptons-esque meets a surf lodge. I do like encouraging elements of humor and anticipate some of that in the restaurant. Our restaurant in Houston is inspired by Texas history and the evolution of Texas food and my childhood growing up a few blocks away from our location. The feel will be a bit vintage with a bit of German influence and a bit of humor.

May 28, 2014

Remember Every Sip… and Sip it Again!

We can’t remedy every headache, but this year Drync will be at the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival to help you avoid at least two – remembering that fantastic wine you tried…. and being able to buy it again!

Drync is a free mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android that lets you take a picture of a wine label and obtain details on the wine, save your notes and personal ratings, share them with friends and purchase the wine instantly. Be sure to download it before you get to the event!

In addition to offering instant image recognition of wines at the festival, Drync will feature a sampling of wines from the event in the app in its Atlanta food and Wine List, and Southern BBQ-friendly Wine List, which includes all southern wines in honor of the event.

Over the course of the weekend, attendees who come to the Grand Tasting with the Drync app downloaded on their mobile device will receive a complimentary glass of Campo Viejo Cava Brut from Drync, and all guests will receive free shipping through June 30th with promo code: AFW14.

Throughout the event, wines tasted by attendees will be posted on a live activity feed in the app, and guests will be encouraged to share their favorite wines on social media. The first 50 people to tweet 5 wines through the Drync app will win a “Get a Wine Life” tee shirt. In addition, anyone who tweets wines through the Drync app to #AFWF14 during the festival will be entered to win a $50 gift certificate to Drync. One winner will be chosen at random daily.

Drync’s instant image recognition of over 2 million wine labels works doesn’t only work on wine bottles – you can also scan wine labels from print advertisements or digital screens and if you can’t reach the bottle, you can always text search for the wine name. Just do it before you leave the table, so you don’t forget what it was!

May 27, 2014

Big Green Egg Festival Plans

Big Green Egg is extremely excited to sponsor the Big Green Egg® Grilling Terrace at the Loews Hotel. It’s very special to us to sponsor this in our home city and we hope that you’ll take some time to stop by and see what the EGG is all about. And if you already know what the EGG is about, then we don’t have tell you twice to come by to hang out!

At the Tasting Tents Big Green Egg will be hosting three talented chefs throughout the festival. Doug Goolsby, Chef D, Big Green Egg will be there Friday and is one of our incredibly talented Big Green Egg Cooking Academy chefs and is always a pleasure to watch live because of his humor and ability to interact with the crowd. Robert Gerstenecker, Executive Chef, Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta will be there Saturday and if you think a meal at the Four Seasons is a treat, then you won’t want to miss Robert at AFWF. Linkie Marais, Lifestyle Expert and Celebrity Chef will be finishing up the weekend with even more amazing food. Linkie was a finalist on the eighth season of Food Network Star and often talks about the versatility of the Big Green Egg.

We’re looking forward to meeting you at the festival, so stop by and enjoy some quality time with the EGG!

May 22, 2014

Linton Hopkins’ Latest

By James Oxendine

James Beard award winning chef-restaurateur, Linton Hopkins, recently announced his plans to open his latest concept, H&F Burger, at the highly anticipated Ponce City Market in spring 2015. Hopkins chatted with me about the project, how the project came together, and what his fans can expect from him in the near future?

Q: With all of the restaurants and the bakery going full blast, what made you decide to open a project in Ponce City Market?

I love the area and the timing was right to grow one of our brands. I think Ponce City Market is a tremendous asset to the city and it is important to be there

Q: Why H& F Burger – it is a tasty burger – and not one of your other businesses such as H& f Bakery?

It was time to share the burger with more people. The public house is not built to be a burger joint so the next best thing was to build one. Ponce is the perfect place.

Q: Who do you have in mind to helm the project and when is it slated to open?

Jason Paolini is our culinary director and oversees all projects from a culinary perspective. We have yet to hire the GM for the place. Anyone interested?
We look to be open in the first Q 2015.

Q: Do you have any other Atlanta projects slated for the near future?

Some ideas in the works, have to keep it under wraps for now.


Join Chef Hopkins and Delta Airlines for the Ark of Taste Dinner: A Global Journey of Southern Food, May 31, 7 p.m., at Restaurant Eugene.

 Ark of Taste

May 20, 2014

SIBA Cookbook Awards

By: Jennifer Nobel Kelly

Lionel Vatinet, Matt & Ted Lee, and John Currence have something in common beyond their contribution to food in the South: they are this year’s finalists for the SIBA Cookbook Award.

And a mighty fine award it is: The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance nominates booksellers’ favorite “handsell” books of the year.

A Passion for Bread: Lessons from a Master Baker by Lionel Vatinet (Little, Brown and Company), The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen by Matt & Ted Lee (Clarkson Potter) and Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey by John Currence (Andrews McMeel) will be judged by a juried panel of SIBA booksellers, and winners will be announced on July 4, “Independents Day.”

We’re proud to call each of them our own at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival!

Get your tickets now to meet SIBA’s 2014 finalists:

Friday, May 30; 1:30: New Southern Secrets with Matt & Ted Lee
Saturday, May 31; 1:00: Nourishing Community with John Currence
Sunday, June 1; 11:00: Techniques Lab: Rise & Shine with Lionel Vatinet

And follow them here:
The Lee Bros. ; @TheLeeBros
City Grocery; @BigBadChef
La Farm Bakery; @LaFarmCary 

May 14, 2014

One Flew South to New York

By: James Oxendine

Chef Duane Nutter and the One Flew South team from the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport prepared dinner at the world renowned James Beard House on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nutter presented a menu that exuded the flavor of his award wining restaurant, One Flew South. The One Flew South James Beard Dinner Menu included hors d’oeuvres such as Georgia Smoked Trout & Corn Croquettes with bourbon tartar sauce, and main course items such as Chicken & Sesame Rice, featuring Georgia’s Springer Mountain Farms chicken, with asparagus, avocado, crispy corn and okra caviar. Tiffanie Barriere, head of One Flew South’s award-winning bar program, was responsible for wine and cocktail pairings including Shiso Southern (bell pepper, shiso, gin, grapefruit) and Eleven Sixteen (fig, ginger, repasado, lime). When I asked Chef Duane how the event went, he said, “it was bitter sweet. I always hoped when I went (to the James Beard House) Chef Evans (recently deceased Atlanta chef, Darryl Evans) would be there with me. But he was there with me and Todd (in spirit).”

April 30, 2014


by David Guas
AF&WF Advisory Council Member
Chef-Owner: Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery, Arlington, VA
Host and Co-Judge: “American Grilled”, Travel Channel

Once a month, I engage in one of my favorite professional rituals: from my place in Arlington, Virginia, I drive out along the George Washington Parkway to Mount Vernon Estate, and getting my supply of cornmeal and custom-ground grits for Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery. I believe I’m still the only professional chef to be tapping in to this amazing piece of history…and picking up the product, as they don’t deliver. But I love being a part of a growing movement across the South [where the lion's share of grits are consumed, after all] that’s embracing traditionally milled grains.

George Washington’s gristmill is mind blowing. The enormity of such a machine created in a time with such limited resources. It’s powered by a massive wooden water wheel under the high stone building, and all the mechanisms are [naturally] natural materials. Stone wheels, wooden gears, iron hardware – even a leather strap-pull for fine-tuning the coarseness of the grind. In 1791, Washington replaced his existing mill works with a new patented system, which significantly improved the quality and quantity of the estate’s milled goods. Steve Bashore, Mount Vernon’s Master Miller, has schooled me over the years partnering with Mt. Vernon on this cutting-edge technology of its day and perhaps we should consider building more of these energy-saving contraptions today.

I met Steve when I was invited to Mount Vernon to compete in a “George Washington’s Hoe Cake” competition. I was completely bowled over by the notion of an operational historic mill, and I didn’t give Steve a moment’s rest until he’d agreed to grind grits for me, and cornmeal fine enough for my own particular specifications. Since then, I’ve been a steady purchaser, carting away up to 60 pounds of grits and 50 of cornmeal a month. The locally sourced Virginia corn is only half of the products’ success: the traditional craftsmanship with which the grits and cornbread are ground results in distinct texture. The interplay between a soft-like coarseness folded into the warm creaminess from the butter and milk is irresistible.

April 18, 2014

Painted Pin

by James Oxendine

Publications such as The New York Times, New York Times Style magazine and Skift, have reported recently on the trend of businesses trying to cater to the “grunge-meets-geek-meets-grad-school” aka the hipster crowd for future growth and profit.  Atlanta’s suave sommelier, Justin Amick, has created a bowling alley/ entertainment venue in Buckhead named Painted Pin that is certain to contain the bandwidth to attract not only the hipster crowd but food fans as well. Amick, a renaissance man who is the son of Concentrics Restaurants founder, Bob Amick, as well as a soon to be Master Sommelier, chats about how he created Painted Pin, and how it will be a truly unique Atlanta experience.

1) How will the Painted Pin differ from the model Concentrics’ restaurant in terms of style and design? First off, the entire layout will differ because The Painted Pin is not a restaurant.  It is an upscale boutique bowling and entertainment venue.  We have come up with a really unique and innovative design layout to break up our large amount of square footage.  Bowling alleys historically are overly large and cavernous without any natural light and usually lack a great energy and ambiance.  We have broken up the monotony of lane after lane by creating all the activity and energy in our space into the middle of our venue.  Everything is centered off an indoor courtyard gaming area that will house 2 indoor bocce courts, skee-ball, 10 foot regulation basketball pop a shots and shuffleboard.  The courtyard will lead into our beautiful rectangular walnut bar with two Neapolitan pizza ovens as the backdrop which will be the focus of our food offering along with tacos, sandwiches and small plates all food conducive to our gaming environment.  The decor and style will focus on British influenced classic accents, furniture and fabrics combined with modern finishes, fixtures and touches along the way.  A little bit of old and new.  Historic yet current.

2) Why did you choose a Buckhead location given the success Concentrics has enjoyed in Midtown here in Atlanta?  My partner William Stallworth and I are both residents of the Buckhead community.  We felt a void in the Buckhead marketplace for fun, unique and alternative forms of entertainment.  Also, we really love Miami Circle because its one of those rare streets in the city that has larger warehouse space surrounded by so many businesses and different neighborhoods as well as being located close to the interstate.  Buckhead was the original center of culture, dining and entertainment in the city of Atlanta for so many years before Midtown took off.  Buckhead is going through a huge resurgence and renaissance right now and we look forward to being part of that development.

3) Where did the concept for Painted Pin originate; was there a particular establishment that you heard about or visited that inspired you?  The Painted Pin totally came about organically.  There wasn’t any specific concept that influenced our origination.  I was in the midst of going off on my own from the family business and was working on a bbq concept that had a gaming component.  I was in the middle of lease negotiations when I received a phone call from a business acquaintance and my now business partner, William Stallworth.  He called to randomly ask me my thoughts on a bowling alley and it all started from there.  We had to of talked for hours just bouncing idea after idea off of each other.  I remember getting off the phone and telling my wife that I was going to see this through as I had always been a huge fan of bowling ever since I was a little kid and was already working on something gaming related.  We gradually started putting together our business plan and have been working on The Painted Pin for over 2 and a half years which will finally come to fruition in April of this year.  That phone call will forever change both of our lives.  William and I complement each other so well.  We have such similar yet still different interests and backgrounds yet our professional experience combines two very important skill sets for success in this industry which are his vast sales background with my operations and food and beverage experience.  I couldn’t of found a better person to go into business with.  We are lucky to have one another.

4) Can you describe some the unique features that Painted Pin will offer guests and how they are different from any other establishment in Atlanta?  The Painted Pin is different than any other bowling or entertainment venue that we have ever seen.  We have combined one of the world’s favorite pastimes with other classic and iconic games including bocce ball, ping pong, table shuffleboard, skee-ball, 10 foot basketball pop a shot and Northhamptonshire Hood Skittles.  I’m bringing my extensive background in hospitality operations in the food and beverage business to the bowling and entertainment sector.  We will offer historic entertainment with top notch service, décor, food and beverage all in a beautiful industrial warehouse space in the heart of Buckhead.

Justin Amick is a member of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival Advisory Council.

April 11, 2014

Chef Darryl Evans

by James Oxendine

Another culinary star entered the celestial kitchen on February 26, 2014, when Chef Darryl Evans, passed away at age 52, after a protracted illness. Although slight in stature, Darryl Evans cast a giant shadow over Atlanta’s culinary landscape over the last 30 years with both his individual accomplishments and his mentoring of others whose contributions, in Atlanta and beyond, continue to grow.

Darryl E. Evans was born November 24, 1961 in Columbus, Georgia. He studied business administration at Chattahoochee Valley Community College, 1981-83; was enrolled in the National Apprenticeship Program, American Culinary Foundation, 1983-86; and became Certified Working Chef, 1991.

Evans began his distinguished culinary career as a chef’s apprentice in 1983 with the American Culinary Federation at the Cherokee Town and Country Club, which has been named the very best private club in America since 1997. Seven years later, he was appointed Executive Chef, a position he has held at several restaurants, country clubs and four Star-rated establishments including the prestigious City Club of Buckhead.” I would recommend my job to anyone who has a passion for food. It’s a valuable and exciting career that I love and has taken me all over the world and now, I am honored to be at City Club of Buckhead,” said Evans. Evans was also a founding board member of The Edna Lewis Foundation, founded in 2012 after the famed chef, cookbook author, and teacher, it is dedicated to honoring, preserving and nurturing African Americans’ culinary heritage and culture.

Famed Savannah chef Joe Randall said that this quote from Evans’ appearance on his television show provides the best insight to the man:” I give a little bit of my personality ”“But I don’t have to cover it up or add things to disguise it and make it something that it is not”. Star chef Todd Richards fine-tuned his talents in the kitchen under the direction of Chef Darryl E. Evans of whom he studied under for seven years. From Evans, Richards learned the skill of transforming food into works of art, which he takes seriously with each plate that leaves the kitchen. “I look at each plate as a canvas to express myself to the guest.

Chef Duane Nutter , top toque at the award winning One Flew South, recalled Evens’ influence on his career: ..”I will never forget when he told Todd & I you two made me step my game up y’all was some bad mother’s in that kitchen.” I’ve never met many men like him,” said Certified Master Chef Tom Catherall founder of Here to Serve Restaurants, a friend who gave him his first serious kitchen job at The Cherokee Town and Country Club.” He was a gentle soul whose smile could light up a room. “He cared about everyone.”
Evans leaves behind to cherish his memory a lovely wife Deborah, and 2 sons: Brandon and Branford-Michael.

April 1, 2014

Charred to Perfection

by Festival Co-Founder, Dominique Love

A guiding principle of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival is that we want guests to leave our weekend saying “I heard it first …”, “I tasted it first …”, “I experienced it first … at Atlanta Food & Wine Festival.”  So, each year, we challenge our Advisory Council to develop off-the-beaten-path topics that have not yet been explored in a large format.  And, each year, our Advisory Council rises to the challenge, providing a few hundred ideas that are ultimately paired down to make our weekend’s 100+ classes.

This year, we’re seeing a number of really cool topics and one in particular has had me in awe:  charring.  In the past, we’ve seen chefs and mixologists experimenting with smoke to flavor dishes and cocktails but now we’re seeing them create flavor by charring their food and drinks.

Advisory Council member Gary Crunkleton, The Crunkleton in Chapel Hill, NC introduced me to charging when he developed a class concept to teach guests how to make burnt cocktails.  According to Crunkleton, “burning spirits not only creates a more flavorful cocktail but it also creates a reverse caloric intake.”

It took me a moment to get this but, basically, the flame burns the congeners in the alcohol, which represent a large portion of the calories found in distilled spirits.  Crunkleton explains that burning the spirits – the congeners – ultimately burns the calories. “Make it burn” suddenly has a new meaning and skinny margaritas and skinny martinis need to watch their backs!  Crunkleton will be adding an assortment of charred cocktails to his menu later this Spring.

Atlanta, Advisory Council member Chef Ford Fry, Rocketfarm Restaurants, and his team have spent the past several months exploring various burn processes to achieve the perfectly charred meat and seafood.  According to Fry, the biggest challenge is burning the exterior to create a thick, black, seasoned crust while making sure what is underneath the crust is still the perfect temperature.  Fry shared, “Right now, we’re really loving burnt meat with Aleppo chilli pepper, a fruity and mild spice that creates a crust with hints of vinegar and salt.” While Fry isn’t letting on to whether a char restaurant will be the next on his roster of new openings, he did say we should expect to see this emerging food trend on future menus.

Advisory Council member, Chef John Currence, City Grocery and Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford, MS, discovered the burn by accident.  It happened a little more than a year ago when Currence’s daughter was a newborn and, like most new parents, he was suffering from serious sleep deprivation. Currence explains, “I literally fell asleep while cooking breakfast and woke up when I smelled burning eggs.”  Too tired to remake his meal, Currence ate the burnt eggs and discovered a new tanginess he didn’t know eggs had.  Since falling asleep at the stove, Currence has jumped on the burning band wagon and guests should expect to see a charred egg cup appetizer with a dollop of Louisiana Ghost Pepper Caviar at City Grocery and a charred egg sandwich with pickled tomato relish and a side of spice-burnt bacon at Big Bad Breakfast. 

For Currence and many Southern chefs, ash has been an ingredient in food for years but he sees this move toward full-on charring as a new innovation, in part borrowed from the vision of cocktail chefs.  “While vegetable ash is benign and neutral in flavor, the bitterness of burned sugar and meat has the same appeal as Frenet and Amaro,” says Currence. 

Back to Atlanta, I sampled a dish from a soon-to-be-announced, char-style restaurant – Charred duck with a burnt sweet potato dumpling, red cabbage and dried cherry.  Definitely a meal for the books. 

To learn more about this year’s AF&WF classes, download our full schedule at