Rants and raves

Baby gourmet to old-time faves

This week's column is a round-up of loose ends and feedback. Your remarks are always welcome. My phone and e-mail are printed below. The award for Voice Mail Message of the Millennium Thus Far goes to the anonymous colleague who left a two-minute tribute to me last week. He declared me an "asshole ... but a good kind of asshole ... The kind of asshole we need more of in publishing." I am so flattered!

Horror Story of the Week was told to me by a woman who dined recently at Bacchanalia with her husband. It seems that the couple, regulars at the restaurant, were happily dining at their favorite corner table when a family was seated at the table nearest them. Among the family of gourmets was an infant.

"Now, I had no problem when the woman started breast-feeding the baby at the table," my reader told me. "And, OK, I know babies cry and I know people pass them around and make a big fuss, and I adapted by just kind of getting fascinated by the drama. Then, however, the diapered baby — set directly on the table — began vomiting."

"I mean," the reader told me, "this baby was vomiting! It seemed to be going everywhere. At that point I became horrified."

When the waiter came by and asked how my reader and her husband were doing, she complained about the spectacle.

"Well," the waiter said, "I'm really trained not to respond to anything."

("Aren't we all?" Wayne Johnson interjected on being retold this story.)

The waiter, despite his training, did make some concerned sounds and my reader received further apologies in the restaurant foyer on leaving. She did not receive a different table or some reduction in her bill.

Honestly, I hear this kind of story frequently from readers who want to escape young children in pricey restaurants. And I just as often hear complaints about restaurants that forbid children on their premises. What's your opinion?

I recently re-visited Hae Woon Dae (5805 Buford Hwy., 770-451-7957) and was blown away again. This Korean barbecue restaurant deserves patronage as one of the best restaurants of any type in our city. Although my order of grilled octopus in fiery chili paste was too tough and chewy, grilled beef was perfection, as was a pancake filled with scallions and onions. Bi bim bap — the big bowl of noodles with meat, veggies and fat-fried egg — was good, too, but needed a huge shot of chili sauce.

A word of caution about visiting this place: Go with a group. If only one person orders barbecue — as was my experience — the restaurant will insist you move to a table without its own grill and the dish will be cooked in the back. Something is lost in the experience, even if not in the taste.

We recently asked Alan Pope at Watershed to select 12 bottles of mid-priced wine for a party for us and he did a spectacular job. When I asked him where he learned so much, he lifted an invisible glass and made a "glug-glug-glug" sound. Actually, he has quite a background in the business. By the way, if you haven't dined at Watershed recently, the menu is much expanded to include some serious entrées. Tuesday night's special of Scott Peacock's spectacular fried chicken (the best I've ever tasted) is packing them in.

We can't wait to try Tom Catherall's new restaurant Goldfish at Perimeter Mall. Catherall, famous for Tom Tom, Prime and Noche, is making seafood, including sushi, the specialty at Goldfish. We also are looking forward to a visit to Bliss at 1820 Peachtree. The restaurant's chef is Brandon Carter, formerly of Mumbo Jumbo and Terra Cotta. I'll be reporting on it shortly ... I'm hearing lots of raves about breakfast at the reincarnated Thumbs Up Diner at 573 Edgewood Ave.

Brasserie Le Coze at Lenox is featuring some lighter dishes for the warm weather. I'll take Chef John Schwenk's lobster and celery root salad with lobster vinaigrette, the seared salmon in a fresh tomato jus or the poached halibut with nage, baby bokchoy, scallions and enoki mushrooms. Sundown Café has also created some allegedly lighter fare, though it is hard to understand how pecan chicken with chipotle-black bean sauce or chicken flautas with avocado salsa qualify for the designation of summery.

I recently enjoyed watching an evening of tango dancing at Aprés Diem, the successor to the permanently closed Café Diem. But who knew there were tango wars raging in Atlanta? The folks hosting the dancing at Diem, that reprises Thursday, July 6 at 9 p.m., claim other dancers are "exhibitionistic" and "theatrical" and thus do not represent authentic Argentine tango. OK. Meanwhile, you can also see tango by the Patinos every Wednesday night at Tierra. They also have an evening planned at Callanwolde later this summer.

I have been dining constantly at Sotto Sotto. It's become the restaurant to which I most often take out-of-town visitors. Our guest Enrique Pardo, a Parisian who works frequently in Tuscany, gave the restaurant his approval last week, as did a group of friends from California a few weeks earlier.

I also continue to be impressed with Salumeria Taggiasca (404-524-0006), the Italian market in the Sweet Auburn Market on Edgewood. I overwhelmed the proprietors when I showed up with about 15 people for lunch last week but they prepared us fabulous antipasti. If you live in town and you haven't been by to taste Franco's cheeses, meats and salads, you've missed one of the city's big bargains. I bought all accompaniments for the wine mentioned above from the shop.

Contact Cliff Bostock at 404-688-5623, ext. 1503, or e-mail him at grazer@mind spring.com.??

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