Highlights from Taste of Atlanta

Atlanta’s diverse food scene was on full display this weekend at Taste of Atlanta. With everything from farm to table restaurants to eateries that featured international cuisine, along with cooking demonstrations, a farmers market and plenty of wine and beer, the two-day festival showcased why Atlanta is a great place to call home.

Here are some of the highlights from this year’s Taste of Atlanta:

A Variety of Restaurants on Display . . .

Dale DeSena founded Taste of Atlanta nine years ago as a way to taste a variety of restaurants all in one place, to better know where to dine out for the rest of the year. For one to three taste coupons, festivalgoers could experience an assortment of restaurants and cuisines. From barbecue to burgers, Thai to tacos and pretty much everything in between, the varied food scene was well represented. With more than 80 restaurants offering up dishes, people were certain to find a new place to visit.

. . . Including Ethiopian Cuisine

If you haven’t tasted Ethiopian food before, get yourself to one of the Atlanta area’s ten plus Ethiopian restaurants right away! Outside of New York City and Washington, DC, Atlanta is one of the best cities for trying this cuisine. At Taste of Atlanta Desta Ethiopian Kitchen served a variety of festival-friendly versions of traditional Ethiopian dishes that hopefully brought the delicious cuisine to a new group of diners.

I Scream for Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream

With a long line all weekend, Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream was one of the most popular spots at the festival. And I can attest that it was worth waiting in line for a scoop! Morelli’s ice cream is made locally from fresh and natural ingredients. Owners Donald Sargent and his wife, Clarissa Morelli are constantly creating new flavors based on unusual flavor pairings and suggestions from customers. I was hooked from my first taste of roasted banana, and couldn’t get enough of ginger lavender and the simultaneously creamy and spicy coconut jalapeño. Even as the weather gets cooler I’ll be visiting the shop in East Atlanta Village to see what new flavors they create.

A Celebration of Local Produce and Products

Georgia’s bounty was on full display at the Farm to Festival Village, which showcased Atlanta’s local sustainable movement. Festivalgoers could buy fresh fruits and vegetables from organic farms, taste and purchase locally produced jams and cheese, and even order farm fresh chicken and eggs. Local chefs including Jay Swift of 4th and Swift and Keira Moritz of Pacci Ristorante got guests’ mouths watering with cooking demonstrations that incorporated locally grown and produced ingredients.

Well-Run and Entertaining Food Seminars

At “Inside the Food Studio” guests learned cooking techniques from top rated chefs in an intimate setting, with dishes ranging from an Asian-influenced bouillabaisse to Holeman & Finch’s famous burger. Led by the charismatic Tom Sullivan and well-run thanks to the staff and volunteers, the seminars were enjoyable and enhanced the overall festival experience.

For VIP Ticket Holders, a Variety of Wines & Beers

If you’ve ever been to Hop City, you know how tough it is to select just one beer from the store’s enormous selection. At Taste of Atlanta there was only the problem of deciding which beer to try first! Inside the VIP tasting tent beer fans could sample dozens of beers from Hop City, as well as the two excellent ales from the new Decatur-based brewing company, Wild Heaven Craft Beers.

Wine fans were able to drink around the world with whites and reds from California, France, Italy, Australia, Chile and Argentina. Finding out where to purchase the wines wasn’t a problem — the tasting sheet doubled as an order form for Murphy’s Wine Shop, which made it simple to place an order at the festival.

The best part of the VIP experience was attending the wine seminars, which offered an in depth look at wine styles and growing regions with food pairings from local restaurants. From a taste of Greece or Paso Robles to dessert wines, the seminars were a fun and informal way to expand your wine knowledge.

Now that I’ve had a taste, I can’t wait to enjoy a meal at the many restaurants that make Atlanta a great dining city.

A Sneak Peek at Taste of Atlanta 2010

This weekend The Amateur Gastronomer will bring you the best scoop from Taste of Atlanta.  Now in its 9th year, the two-day outdoor food and wine festival showcases the diversity of Atlanta’s food scene.

Guests will enjoy food from more than 70 of Atlanta’s favorite restaurants, national and local celebrity chefs on the main cooking stage, a Farm to Festival Village showcasing the local sustainable movement, a Family Food Zone with interactive cooking demonstrations and hands on activities, music and entertainment from local and regional artists and for VIP ticket holders, the Wine + Beer + Cocktail Experience featuring a tasting tents and educational seminars.

Taste of Atlanta will be held October 23rd & 24th at Tech Square in Midtown Atlanta and encompasses Spring Street and 5th Street.  Visit tasteofatlanta.com for information on purchasing tickets in advance or at the festival.

Here is a schedule of the chefs and cooking personalities appearing on the cooking stages:

Saturday, October 23

Main Stage:

11:00 am – 11:30 am — Meadowcreek High School
Dish: Bay Scallops & Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Creamy Parmesan Foam Sauce

11:45 am – 12:30 pm — Cooking Light’s Casting Call
Healthy Cook of the Year Competition Semi-Finals

1:15 pm – 2:15 pm — Cooking Light’s Casting Call
Final Round and Naming of Healthy Cook of the Year

2:45 pm – 3:30 pm — Kevin Gillespie, Woodfire Grill

4:00 pm – 4:45 pm — Archna Becker, Bhojanic
Dish: Chicken Curry

5:00 pm – 5:45 pm — Lou Osteen

Farm-To-Festival Stage:

12:00 pm — Dave Larkworthy, 5 Seasons Westside

1:00 pm — Christina Curry, Atlanta Botanical Garden
Dish: Organic Maple Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Sweet Potato, Apple & Onion Hash

2:00 pm — Richard Wilt, INC. Street Food/Salt Factory

3:00 pm — Jay Swift, 4th & Swift
Dish: North Georgia Apple & Crispy Brussels Sprout Salad

4:00 pm — Ryan Smith, Empire State South

Family Food Zone Stage:

12:00 pm — Anthony Feracho
Dish: Flaky Apple Pie Pockets

1:00 pm — The Bakers from Dixie Crystals
Dish: Dixie Crystal’s Specialties

2:00 pm — Meal Makeover Moms
Dish: Quick Apple Sausage Quesadillas

3:00 pm — 10-year old Lizzie Marie
Dish: Pompeii Pasta Salad

4:00 pm — Mud Pie Cooking School Demonstration

All New! Inside the Food Studio:
12:30pm – 1:30 pm — Master French Chef Nico Romo
French Cooking from the Low Country

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm — Marie Nygren & Hugh Acheson
Southern Food Traditions: A New Take on the Old South

3:30 pm – 4:30 pm — Taria Camerino
Chocolate Academy

Sunday, October 24

Main Stage:

11:00 am – 11:30 am — Alpharetta High School
Dish: Mascarpone Polenta

11:45 am – 12:30 pm — David DiCorpo, Cook’s Warehouse
SousVide Supreme

1:00 pm – 1:45 pm — Toni Braxton and Family
Dish: Lamb Chops, Blackberry Dumplings

2:15 pm – 3:00 pm — Ford Fry
Lobster Carolina Gold Rice

3:30 pm – 4:30 pm — Pink Power Demo & Silent Auction
With Katie Birmingham of Noon Midtown and Keira Moritz of Pacci

5:00 pm – 5:45 pm — Daryl Shular
Dish: Prosciutto-Wrapped Braised Ox-Tail and Foie Gras with Golden Beets

Farm-To-Festival Stage:

12:00 pm — Kenji Terawaki, Le Cordon Blue College of Cullinary Arts
Dish: Fresh Corn Pie

1:00 pm — Keira Mortiz, Pacci Ristorante
Dish: Lavender Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Belly Over Creamy Polenta

2:00 pm — Joey Riley, Kaleidoscope Bistro & Pub
Dish: Homemade Pimento Cheese, Cole Slaw and Pickles

3:00 pm — Jahan Ostad, Sheik Burritos n Kabobs
Dish: Tofu Kabobs

Family Food Zone Stage:

12:00 pm — Mud Pie Cooking School Demonstration

1:00 pm — Chicken Feed

2:00 pm — 10-year old Lizzie Marie

3:00 pm — 9-year old Johnny Di Palma

All New! Inside the Food Studio:

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm — Joe Truex
Joe Truex’s Louisiana Kitchen

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm — Jose Yose
Israel: The Oldest Newest Wine Region of the World

3:30 pm – 4:30 pm — Jason Paolini, Holeman & Finch
The Secret Behind America’s Best Burger

Favorite Fall Pumpkin Recipes

It’s the time of year when pumpkin makes anything taste great!  Here are my family’s recipes for pumpkin bread and pumpkin soup.  They are a big hit each fall with family and friends.

Pumpkin Bread


3 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
just under ½ cup canola oil
2 cups sugar
3 whole eggs + 2 egg whites
2 cups canned pumpkin
2/3 cup water
1 cup chopped walnuts


Sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.

Using an electric mixer, cream oil and sugar.  Add eggs and mix well.  Add pumpkin and water and briefly blend to incorporate.  Gradually add dry ingredients to mixture.  Fold in nuts.

Bake in greased and floured loaf pans at 350 degrees for 70 minutes.  Test with a toothpick or cake tester to determine doneness.

This recipe makes two loaves.

Pumpkin Soup


2 tbsp. butter or cooking oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 carrot, sliced
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup pureed pumpkin (canned)
3 cups chicken broth
1/8 tsp. white pepper
pinch of sugar


Melt butter in soup pot and sauté onions until golden brown.  Add celery and carrots and cook for one minute.  Remove from flame and blend in flour well.

Add pumpkin, broth and seasonings, stirring well to combine.   Return to flame and bring to a boil, uncovered.   Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Cool and puree in a blender.  Reheat on stove or in microwave to serve.

Serves six.

New York City Wine & Food Festival: Meatpacking Uncorked

Food and wine fans flocked to New York City’s Meatpacking District over the Columbus Day holiday weekend for the 2010 New York City Wine & Food Festival presented by Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure magazines.

Kicking off three days of tastings, seminars and parties was Cooking Channel’s Meatpacking Uncorked.  More than 40 restaurants, boutiques and food trucks offered an assortment of wine and food.  While sipping and shopping in the hip neighborhood, guests got to meet and mingle with Cooking Channel personalities including actress Debi Mazar whose show Extra Virgin is set to premiere in January 2011.

Highlights from the food stops included steak tartare from 10 Downing, meatballs from Gaslight Pizzeria, three cheese riceballs from Papa Perrone’s food truck and a trio of Apple Hills Creamery ice creams from Basis.  Also quite tasty were the parmesan truffle fries from STK, though it was a bit disappointing the restaurant wasn’t serving any of its namesake meat.

Here are snapshots from Meatpacking Uncorked.  click to enlarge photos

Provence’s Best (and Best Hidden) Ruins

The Amateur Gastronomer spent the month of August in Provence.  This is one of a series of articles on the region.

One of the greatest things about Provence is that there are ruins everywhere. From the well preserved Roman sites in Arles to the remnants of a 10th century château in Les Baux de Provence, the past is still very much present. And unlike in many French gift shops, there are no signs stating “touch with your eyes.” Climbing on and around the ruins is part of the fun.

I vividly remember climbing all over the château ruins in Les Baux de Provence during a trip with my family when I was six years old. The two weeks that we spent in Provence preceded by two weeks in Paris set in motion my lifelong passion for all things French.

Though I have since traveled to France more than a dozen times, it wasn’t until this past August that I returned to Les Baux.

Twenty one years later it was just as I remembered — a stunning sight on top of a hill with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore — though with more protective railing to prevent people from getting too close to the steep drop offs. There was that tall and narrow staircase leading to the top of the fortress, with deep grooves in the steps from hundreds of years of use. It was a bit tough to ascend as a full grown adult; I can’t imagine how I was able to climb up when I was younger. And I’m pretty sure that metal handrail wasn’t there when I visited in 1989.

While it was fun to revisit the sites from my first visit to Provence, it was the ruins in Oppède-le-Vieux that became a highlight of our trip.

Meaning Old Oppède, this tiny village is nestled into the Petit Luberon mountains and a short drive uphill from the more populous town of Oppède.

My husband and I happened upon Oppède-le-Vieux by chance, taking a scenic detour on a drive back from Cavaillon. We stopped to take photos of the old stone buildings and small square, and returned to explore the village and the ruins on foot a few days later.

We found it strange that none of our guidebooks had more than a sentence or two on Oppède-le-Vieux. The ruins there are one of Provence’s best kept secrets, with their open access and breathtaking views.

To get to the ruins, you walk through the arch underneath the bell tower and start heading uphill. The walk is a bit steep, over well-worn stones. Footing gets a bit precarious once you enter the château ruins and there are some steep drop-offs. I’d definitely recommend wearing a good pair of sneakers.

The first building you come upon as you make your way up the hill is a Romanesque church. Dating back to the 13th century and rebuilt in the 16th century, Notre-Dame-d’Alydon is currently undergoing a renovation. Inside faded frescoes add splashes of color.

The château ruins are a mix of walls, windows  and arches, with passageways that test one’s fear of heights. On one side you have a view of the tree-covered mountains, on the other the valley and surrounding villages. There are no railings so you’ll want to be careful near the edges and keep a close eye on any younger visitors.

After you finish exploring the ruins, the cafe beside the bell tower is a nice place for a leisurely lunch or coffee.

You’ll be hard pressed to find it in most guidebooks, but with its charm and off-the-beaten-path location, Oppède-le-Vieux is a great place to discover.

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A Guide to Gordes

Photographs are only able to capture a portion of Gordes’ beauty. There really isn’t anything quite like the first time you drive up the narrow winding road and then — through a break in the trees — get your first glimpse of the perched village.

It’s no surprise that Gordes is classified as one of The Most Beautiful Villages of France. Walking around you want to take a picture of every street, every building and every view.

A great day to visit Gordes is on market day — Tuesday. Like with any market in Provence, especially during the summer, it’s best to arrive early (between 8:30 and 9am). After 9:30am the market quickly gets crowded and parking gets difficult. A parking lot at the base of the village offers easy access to the market as well as a downhill walk back to the car when your arms are full.

Gordes’ market is located in the heart of the town by château. There you can buy anything you need to make a great meal — locally grown fruit and vegetables, saucisson, cheese, bread, spices and more. You’ll also find wine, olive oil, clothing, flowers, soap, Panama hats, tablecloths and other gift items.

Once you’ve finished at the market, follow the French example and have a picnic. A wonderful place for a picnic is just a few minutes’ drive outside of Gordes. Driving north through the town, head in the direction of Murs. You’ll come to a clearing with a spot to park your car and a breathtaking view of the valley to your right. When driving around Provence you’ll always want to keep a blanket in the car for when the urge to enjoy a picnic strikes.

Of course, any great picnic is complemented by drinking a local wine. For around 5 Euros you can buy a great bottle of white, red or rosé at one of the many nearby vineyards. You’ll see signs for caves and domaines if you drive towards Les Imberts, though you can’t drive too far in Provence without passing a winery. If it’s quantity you’re looking for, continue into Coustellet where you’ll find large wine shops that sell local wines by the liter, directly from the tank. A five liter box costs around 5 Euros.

After a day of sightseeing, Gordes is a great spot to watch the sunset. In addition to the gorgeous views of valley turning from day to night, the setting sun bathes the buildings in light, giving them a pink glow.

If you’re in the mood for something fancy, head to hotel La Bastide. Right on the main road as you’re entering Gordes from the west, it’s one of the best places in the village for an upscale meal with a view. One flight down from the hotel lobby, the outdoor tree-shaded patio is the perfect spot for enjoying a cocktail as the sun goes down.

Le Cercle RepublicainFor something more casual head to Le Cercle Republicain, a small bar in the corner of the town square facing the western wall of the château. Order a “pression” (draft beer), then walk towards the back and you’ll find a small patio with a great view looking west over the valley.

Wandering around Gordes’ streets you’ll find plenty of places to eat. You L'Estaminetdon’t have to go too far to find L’Estaminet.  Given its location right in the heart of the town, L’Estaminet is a great spot for a casual meal or for sipping an aperitif while people watching. The menu is a mix of French and Italian bistro fare with a modern twist. Prices are fair (for both food and wine), and portions are pretty big. You’ll want to make a reservation for dinner on weekends during the summer, especially if you want to sit outside.

If you’re celebrating a special occasion or are looking for an extraordinary meal, make a reservation at the gastronomic restaurant at Hôtel Les Bories, located a short drive from the center of Gordes. The food is excellent and is complemented with a voluminous wine list, and the service is impeccable.

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