(shhhh…)

Ok, I might get in trouble for doing this, but a genius woman named Colleen is redesigning my site and this is her work in progress:

WORK IN PROGRESS

Don’t you love it?

Feedback would be much appreciated,

AG

Horny Melon

Today I was in Whole Foods, perusing the produce aisles when I encountered a spiky lemon-like fruit that looked like something out of a Tim Burton movie.

“What the hell is that thing?” I asked.

“Language!” shouted a school teacher.

“Sorry.”

I read the sign above the spiky lemonfruit. It said: HORNY MELON.

“Horny melon?” I asked.

“If I have to warn you again, you’re going to the principal,” said the teacher.

“Sorry.”

Now, I’m not one to purchase foreign fruits for the sheer novelty of saying “I purchased a horny melon.” Yet, as the fearless founder of a site such as this, with millions of devoted readers around the world hanging on my every word, I said to myself: “Self: you buy that horny melon and you eat it!”

So I took it home and named it Petey.

“Petey,” I said, “I’m going to put you on a cutting board.”

I put Petey on the cutting board and he looked like this:

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“Now Petey,” I said, “this might hurt a little. I’m going to cut you in half.”

Petey stayed quiet, which I thought was awful nice of him.

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“Your insides look funny, Petey.”

Not a word.

“Well, I guess I better eat them.”

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As I brought the spoon to my mouth, I recalled the words beneath the name HORNY MELON in the Whole Foods. “Tastes like a cucumber.”

Having tasted it now, I would amend that description and say: “tastes like a bland, acidic cucumber.”

In other words, Petey was a waste of $3.89. The best thing about him was his funky exterior. The insides tasted like mushy cucumber and battery acid.

What’s the lesson here? Sometimes it’s what’s on the outside that counts.

Fried Chicken at Watershed (Atlanta)

Tuesday night is fried chicken night at Watershed.

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Watershed is a Decatur-based establishment dedicated to Southern cooking and owned by (depending on who you ask) either one or both of the Indigo Girls. The executive chef is Scott Peacock, whose “Southern Cooking” is a recent cookbook bestseller, available at your local cookbook dealer.

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Yes, Tuesday night is fried chicken night–as long as you arrive by 7:30.

For those of us who have a Negotiations class from 6 to 8, this poses a problem.

“What time are you coming in?” asks the reservationist.

“8:30,” I reply, gingerly.

“Oh,” she says with concern in her voice. “There probably won’t be any fried chicken left.”

“Can’t you save us some?” I ask much like Oliver Twist asking for more.

“I’m sorry sir,” she says. “That’s impossible.”

So Chris and I arrive at 8:26, prepared for disappointment.

I ask the hostess with the same reserve the parent of a dying child questions a doctor as to their offspring’s life expectency: “Any chicken left?”

She smiles. “As a matter of fact.” Dramatic pause. “Yes.”

Woohoo!

We are shown to our table in a room that looks a little too industrial to be serving Southern food. Yet, the room has a pleasant quality to it also: a sourceless radiance that makes the temperature outside a distant memory. Our waiter approaches us with aplomb.

“What’s that?” we ask.

“A plomb,” he answers.

We wait for this awkward moment in the narrative to pass and order drinks.

“Sweet tea!” I say.

“Me too!” says Chris.

“Ah ah,” says the waiter. “No sweet tea. Just unsweet tea.”

What kind of Southern dining establishment is this?

“Two unsweet teas, then,” we reply.

He returns with our drinks and we order our fried chicken.

“Okey doke,” says the waiter, and scurries off to the kitchen.

Since this review concerns Southern dining, I will make this mid-section Faulkneresque.

My mother is a fish.

Twenty minutes later (or maybe even sooner), the waiter returns with two piping hot plates that he sets down before us. Their contents are as follows: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, garlic green beans and two biscuits. He brings us a side of butter and honey and we are set.

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The chicken is wonderful. The outside is not greasy at all, just perfectly battered and seasoned and fried. The inside is moist and flavorful; probably from soaking in buttermilk, as the Southern Cooking book suggests. The star of the side dishes are the green beans: crisp, succulent, and garlicky–their greeness counteracts the richness and whiteness of the other foods. The biscuits are yummy (though not as good or buttery or light as the Silver Skillet’s). The mashed potatoes are fairly forgettable.

Overall, we are sated, but I insist on dessert.

“What do you recommend?” we ask the waiter.

“The chocolate cake,” he says, as if letting us in on a secret. “It’s the best.”

We take his advice and he returns bearing chocolate cake.

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The cake is good. We eat it.

The check arrives. We pay it.

We rise to leave, and do what any self-respecting Southerner does when leaving a fried chicken dinner: shop for shampoo.

“Excuse me?” your thought bubble declares.

“Yes,” my fingers answer. Watershed’s lobby, rather incongruously, sells bath products to departing guests.

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I smell several varities and decide that my current shampoo–Aveda’s Blue Malva (why does Malva sound sexual?) (oh, I think I know)–works fine.

We exit into the cold and declare our Watershed fried chicken experience to be as soul-warming as light in August. Absolutely, absolutely. As I sit here typing, my dinner memories fill me with sound and fury.

My mother is a fish.

Comment Prompt #3: The Best Cook You Know

Who is the best cook you know?

I nominate my dear friend and occassional pseudonymous contributor to TAG, Katy S. To be honest, I have only eaten a few things made at Katy’s hand but each one is among the best I’ve had in that category. For example: her apple pie. She makes great apple pie! Her pastry dough is perfect. She even puts lemon zest in it to perk things up. I may do a featured segment where she teaches me how to make her pastry dough. Otherwise, her pizza is really good too. And her husband makes great waffles.

Celebrity Eater Interview: Andrew Sullivan

Tonight I had the inspired idea of e-mailing Andrew Sullivan—editor at the New Republic and perpetual blogger at www.andrewsullivan.com—a few food-related questions. Imagine my surprise when he quickly (and rather generously) replied. Here are his responses below. Thanks again Mr. Sullivan!

What are your favorite foods?

Yorkshire pudding; apple pie; Mcdonald’s fries.

What foods do you despise?

Anything pretentious.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

An amazing risotto once at restaurant Nora in Washington, DC.

The worst?

Anything at a church event.

What’s your favorite meal to cook?

I never cook.

Who’s the best cook you know?

One of my best friends when he was a drug addict.

Who’s better in the kitchen: Democrats or Republicans?

Independents.

New York Prime (Boca Raton, Florida)

“Don’t write anything bad about New York Prime,” my mother warns. “I’m serious, Adam. Don’t.”

New York Prime is my parents haunt; it is their Cheers, their Casablanca. We go there every time I come home and we are treated like royalty.

“Mrs. Roberts!”

“Dr. Roberts!”

The entire room shifts with excitement. New York Prime is a scene, and my parents are a vital part of the scenery.

Tonight, though, began in our house. Grandma and grandpa came over for drinks and to hear me play the piano.

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After a rousing rendition of “I, Don Quixote” from “Man of La Mancha” we piled into the car and journeyed to that eternal beacon of my parents’ gastronomical gratification: New York Prime.

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A young bombshell opened the door for us and eager hosts and hostesses led us to our table.

“Right this way, Mrs. Roberts.”

We stopped to chat with the regulars: a judge, a publisher, a supermarket baron.

Here is a look at the scene:

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Finally, we sat, and were treated with one of the many perks of being a regular: a plate of olives and orange slices.

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Mo–my parents’ regular waiter–came with their usual drinks. After several minutes of menu perusal, he returned to take our order.

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Several interesting things happened while we waited.

A lobster was wheeled around the restaurant in a wagon:

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A lounge singer sang a Neil Diamond medley:

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Grandma and I traded glasses:

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Soon, the appetizers arrived. I had baked shrimp with garlic, parmesan and breadcrumbs:

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Then, the entrees came. I had a petit filet:

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Grandpa had the sea bass:

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Dad had a stone crab claw:

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We all had sides of mashed sweet potatoes, creamed spinach and onion rings:

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After consuming enough calories for the next several years of my life, I made my way to the bathroom. I thought this sign on the inside door was worth taking a picture of:

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[For those who can’t read it, it says: “If you have any problems with our restaurant, ask for our customer service representative: Luca Brasi.”] [For those who don’t get it, that’s Godfather humor.]

Finally, for dessert, the table was treated to a surprise celebration for my grandparents’ anniversary. A gigantic chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and berries. Here’s Moe lighting the candles:

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And here’s the cake itself:

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And that’s it. Three gigantic meals consumed in 36 hours. Tomorrow morning I’ll be on a plane back to Atlanta, where normal calorie intake will resume. The weekend of gluttony is officially over.

Carpaccio (South Florida)

Today the Roberts Family decided to get fit, choosing sensible foods and exercise in lieu of heavy and rich concoctions.

We drove down to Bal Harbor in Miami—a scenic trip that provided the following views:

The back of my mom’s head:

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Pretty water:

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Once we got there it was exercise, exercise, exercise! We immediately stepped into Gucci for heavy pocketbook lifting:

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After working up a heavy sweat, we made our way over to Carpaccio for a light lunch.

Here’s the awning:

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Here’s the scene:

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The service at Carpaccio was outstanding. It reminded me of that SNL skit where Kirstie Alley goes to that Italian restaurant with her husband, and the waiters are so attentive they start making out with her. Well, it didn’t go quite that far, but it was nice to be doted on.

We told our waiter we were on a Roberts Family health kick and the waiter nodded enthusiastically.

“Yes, yes!” he said. “A light lunch for you all!’

The first course, a light and airy Insalade Inglese with mozarella, smoked salmon, tomatoes and olive oil:

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Then on to our reasonable, and incredibly healthy main courses.

My dad had a lobster pasta:

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Mom had a pasta vongole (with clams and shrimp):

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And I had Harry’s Bar pasta, which was noodles with sundried tomatoes, arugala, and olive oil:

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The noodles were actually a little undercooked but a fit person isn’t a complainer, so I ate what was on my plate.

Here’s the three of us at the table:

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Finally, like any good dieters, we accepted our waiter’s offer of dessert. How else can you lose those calories?

Here’s our Atkins’ friendly, carb-free Tiramasu:

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Boy, it really does feel great to make a positive change in your life. I suggest you all try the Roberts Family diet and lose a few pounds. As a reward, tonight we’re going out for steak. Photos and commentary to follow!