I’m writing to you now from Emory Village, a flash from the past, as I prepare to speak to Emory Students at 2 PM, sign books at the Emory Book Store at 4 PM and then hustle over to Empire State South where I’m hosting a dinner at 6:15. There are still seats available, so, Atlantans, please come! Call 404-541-1105.
Now before all of this happens, I want to tell you about two incredible meals I’ve had so far since arriving in Atlanta on Friday. Let’s start with the brunch I had yesterday with Atlanta Magazine food critic Bill Addison at the One-Eared Stag near Imman Park.
It’s not every day that you have a friend go into the food business, which is why I was so excited and exhilarated when my friend Hunter Hanger, the most charming Southerner that I know (when I just called him he answered: “As I live and breathe, if it isn’t Adam Roberts”), was opening up a food joint with his friends Betsy and John. But not just any food joint; a food joint dedicated to CASSEROLES. The inspiration came when Betsy’s mother was having surgery and “a dear friend from Macon” (to use Hunter’s phrasing) brought her a casserole from a casserole shop there. The gesture was so loving and kind that it really stuck with Betsy and when Betsy mentioned it to Hunter, they both realized that “nothing like that exists in Atlanta.”
In 2004, Atlanta Journal-Constitution food critic John Kessler wrote an article about me and my blog called “Welcome to Adam’s.” (You can read it here.)
At the time, food blogging was very, very new and Kessler was baffled and amused by my antics: “Why does this recent Emory law school grad record every meal he eats out — whether a lackluster slice at Johnny’s Pizza or an extravagant tasting menu at Per Se, the new Manhattan sibling to California’s French Laundry? Why does he post photos of everything?”
In wine, as in coffee, we can talk about the soil and growing conditions of the grapes or beans and how that affects the end product. But with biscuits, there are so many variables–the butter, the flour, the baking powder and the buttermilk–you can’t explicitly tie the biscuits to a place. For all you know that baking powder came from Newark, New Jersey.
Anyone who watched the season premiere of “Top Chef” yesterday will have taken notice of Richard who charged out of the gate with his deep dish peach pizza and finished the episode in the top four. What you may not know is that one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had in my life was a meal that he cooked at his now-closed eponymous Atlanta Restaurant, Blais. The entire meal–a 31 course tasting menu–is documented in my archives here and reading about it again, I’m still blown away. The fact that he’s on a reality show and having his food evaluated by Rocco “Bertolli” Dispirito is a little disturbing, but perhaps this show will earn him the national recognition he deserves. I’m glad I got to eat his food before he really makes it big.
You are the director of my show The FN Dish and you are a smart, capable, likable fellow with good sense and judgment. Except, when it comes to one subject, you are a big dumbass. That subject is Atlanta.
You may remember that a few weeks ago, there was a plan for us to go to Atlanta to shoot a segment with Guy Fieri and possibly Alton Brown. You told Rachael, who also works on our show, “To get us in and out as fast as possible, I hate Atlanta.” It’s entirely possible that when you said those hateful, hurtful words you’d forgotten that I’d spent 7 years of my life in Atlanta and that it still holds a very dear place in my heart.
“Matthew!” I said. “Are you nuts? Atlanta’s awesome–we should stay there as long as possible.”
“Yuck,” you replied. “No thank you, you can have it.”
Strangely, I felt like I understood your misguided vitriol. I, myself, once had a very limited view of Atlanta. Back in middle school, I’d visited Atlanta with my JCC Teen Tour (yes, I was a Jew nerd) and we stayed downtown, ate at the Hard Rock Cafe and took a tour of the Coca Cola museum. Atlanta, for me, was much like what New York must be to the tourist who stays in Times Square, visits the M&Ms store and sees “The Little Mermaid”: a giant, soulless, corporate entity with no life, no quirk, no spark. I’m pretty sure that’s your slant: you came to Atlanta for work, you stayed in an ugly chain hotel, and ate your meals in sterile silence.
Well, Mr. Matthew, consider this e-mail your gateway to a whole new Atlanta. I will show you, in the next thousand paragraphs, everything you missed and why you are indeed such a dumbass. In fact, I’ll write you a guide. Here’s how to enjoy Atlanta the right way, a proven way. How is it proven? Craig came along with me this weekend for his first Atlanta visit. He was wary at first–“Atlanta?” he asked from the couch when I suggested it, “I dunno”–but, by the end, he was in love. Seriously. He’s doing the dishes right now, let me ask him.
“Craig, what do you think of Atlanta now that you’ve been there?”
“It was funky and edgy and reminded me of Seattle.” Which is high praise because Seattle is where he’s from and he loves it.
So here we go: An Atlanta Lovers Guide to Atlanta.
First things first, please clear the cache of your web browser and reload the page and behold the fun and fantastic new creation from my fun and fantastic design team Erin, Leah and Justin. I smile just thinking about.
Second, it’s been almost FOUR YEARS since I left the birthplace of this blog, Atlanta, GA (here’s the post about my farewell dinner at The Flying Biscuit) and, even though I lived there for SEVEN YEARS, I never went back. All of that changes tomorrow when Craig and I fly into Atlanta (his first time) for the weekend. I’d love to see you, my Atlanta base, and I’m working on a meet-up for Saturday in the afternoon, let’s say 3 o’clock. Any suggestions for where? And are my Atlanta readers interested in coming? Let me know and look for a follow-up tomorrow with a specific time and location. See you in the ATL!