Easy to swallow
The Big Gay Supper Club, Rue de Paris and Lawrence's Cafe
Why is life so intent on throwing our indiscreet moments back in our face?
A few months ago, while dining at Cavu for review, Wayne and I had the verbal equivalent of a fistfight over his remodeling project near Highlands, the terminally unfinished casita I call "Unabomber Acres." Our waiter discreetly delivered our dishes without losing an eye or limb during the fight and, in my review, I made him "Waitron and Martyr of the Week."
One hopes never to be reminded of such a thing again, but damned if I wasn't greeted by the server, Matt Ruppert, at Ansley LA Fitness and Disco while working out a few weeks ago. Matt, and his friend Rande Head, both 23, invited me to lunch to discuss their novel monthly dining program, The Big Gay Supper Club.
We met at Noodle (903 Peachtree St., 404-685-3010). The Pan-Asian noodle shop that I didn't enjoy much during my review visits last year is doing a bang-up business. If my bowl of rice noodles with Thai peanut sauce in an indication, the food has improved.
Matt and Rande have hosted three of the supper club's gourmet dinners for gay people at Spice and Cavu and have a fourth scheduled Tuesday, Feb. 11, at Cherry in Midtown. The two recent college graduates have worked in restaurants since high school, when they were friends. In fact, Rande's mother owns Cafe Sunflower, which can reasonably be called a breakthrough restaurant for vegetarians in our city.
Their supper club is an attempt to relieve a common complaint among gay men and lesbians — that there are inadequate social outlets for gay people in Atlanta outside the bar and club scene. "Rande and I have done the club scene and already burned out on it a good bit," Matt told me. "We were struck by how hard it is to meet another gay person in this city if you don't go to a club. So we came up with this idea of providing a gourmet meal at a low price that is also an opportunity to meet new people."
It's a measure of the need for such alternatives that the three earlier dinners have attracted up to 70 people, including some out-of-towners, with no advertising. The evening begins with cocktails at 7:30 p.m., which are not included in the $35 cost of the meal, which begins at 8 p.m. To the degree that it is organized, the emcee is Jason Jupiter, a popular drag entertainer.
Jason starts dinner by reading the Supper Club's mission statement, whose wording changes each month. Here is the first one, which I quote in its entirety because I think it is such a terrific toast to gay people's real erotic difference, to our capacity to laugh at ourselves and, above all, to the way dining brings people together — something I try to stress in this column:
"Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we swallow. We swallow food to digest the drama. We swallow wine to dilute the bitchiness. We swallow each other and all the fabulous things that bring us together. We spit out all the other milky, viscous things which keep us apart. Tonight a fresh change is occurring in our neighborhood. Our Atlanta skyline is littered with clubs, bars and other venues, which seem to promote an unhealthy, impersonal style of interaction. The Big Gay Supper Club is an idea conceived out of the need for a more civilized and elegant approach to socializing. What better way to come together as a family than over supper? Now swallow your food. Swallow your wine. Above all, swallow all things fierce and fabulous about our big gay family."
The menu for dinner at Cherry starts with family-style shared platters of sushi and tenderloin brochette. The second course offers a choice of a Caesar salad or Cherry's interesting house salad that contains beets, Granny Smith apples and goat-cheese raviolis. The entree choices are grilled tenderloin medallions with a Napoleon of lobster mashed potatoes, pepper-seared ahi tuna with Yukon mashed potatoes and bok choy or an herb-roasted chicken breast. Desserts are offered family style and are selected by the chef.
To make a reservation for the dinner, which is followed by further socializing at Halo, call 404-724-0105 or write email@example.com. Fabulous heterosexuals are allowed.
To France, to Lebanon
I hadn't been to Rue de Paris (642 N. Highland Ave., 404-881-8222) in months when Wayne and I visited last week. This charmingly decorated cafe has a sign out front announcing that the owner is also the cook — a claim that could rapidly kill a few restaurants I am too nice to name. You can well imagine the dilemma of a restaurant owner who needs to fire himself.
That's not the case here, but I can't give the restaurant the wholehearted endorsement I'd like to. It's a shame since it's so hospitable and good looking. (I exclude the patio's profusion of white lights sufficient to illuminate a carnival midway).
I started with a bowl of green pea soup ($5.95) to which I give high marks. It held a crunchy crouton and good bit of bacon. This was my favorite soup when I was a kid and Rue de Paris' version altogether pleased my nostalgic palate. Wayne's trio of pates ($9.50) was less to my liking. It included duck, rabbit and chicken liver. "You're eating all the cute animals!" I cried. "Well, just the liver of the chicken," he replied. Sorry, but the duck and rabbit pates were tough, and one was way too garlicky. I only liked the chicken liver, but even it was not very fresh. Some greens and cornichons were also on the plate.
I liked my leg of lamb ($16.50), which the menu excitedly says has been cooked seven hours. Indeed, it had the texture of pot roast. Clear notes of thyme seasoned the succulent lamb, which was served with mashed potatoes, carrots, haricots verts and broccoli.
Wayne's entree was much less satisfying. The duo of pork ($15.95) is a nice concept. It's "filet mignons" of pork with a little rack of ribs, all cooked in a cognac sauce with mushrooms. Make that a cognac sauce salty enough to float iron-filled rubber ducks in. Woo hoo! My lips were burning from one taste. The filets, discounting the salt, were acceptable but the ribs were plain silly in their anorectic presentation.
Service at the restaurant was friendly but not very prompt. It appeared only two people were working the entire dining room. This being the case, why oh why only bring three slices of a baguette, wrapped in a napkin, to the table, making diners feel like abandoned orphans begging, kind sir, for another crust of bread?
The restaurant does offer a relative bargain Thursday and Sunday nights when it offers a three-course "gourmet menu" for $25. You can have the pates or six snails, the lamb or seafood in a Thai sauce and a Grand Marnier souffle or chocolate mousse. There's also live music. I'd go, just for the lamb. I've had the souffle in the past and enjoyed it.
We also paid a recent visit to the Lebanese Lawrence's Cafe (2888 Buford Highway, 404-320-7756). Lawrence's has been open a good 20 years, I think, and may be the city's oldest Middle Eastern restaurant.
The dining room here definitely needs sprucing up, but the food remains mainly good. I miss the old "pizza" made with hummus spread on pita and topped with sauteed lamb. You can get the same thing now but without the pita ($9.95). Falafel and grape leaves are tasty. Wayne had very nice grilled shrimp ($14.95) but the portion was stingy.
Leave Cliff Bostock a voice mail at 404-688-5623, ext. 1504, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.