Feedbag - Up a Treehouse

Peachtree Hills hideaway offers a respite from the summer heat

It's too damn hot to eat outside. It might seem like a good idea, but five minutes of suffocating humidity and you're finished. Milder weather will return in a month or so, but for now, dining alfresco is pretty much off my list.

I've got to hand it to the folks at the Treehouse, though. They've come up with a clever way to beat the heat. A system of hoses sprays the deck with a constant, fine mist, turning it into a cool rainforest even on the hottest summer afternoon. Potted plants droop from the railings, and big umbrellas create a canopy of shade. They've even got bug repellent if you need it.

It's obvious from the crowd that the Treehouse is a neighborhood hangout. Peachtree Hills is like Buckhead's slightly hipper little sister. It's still a money crowd — it's hard to miss the battalion of Beamers and Mercedes that line both sides of the street. No joke, there was a Lotus Esprit in the parking lot last time I ate here. But it's a laid-back money crowd. Think Prada handbags and $5 flip-flops. It's also a surprisingly gay crowd. I guess when they're ready to settle down, the Midtown stand-and-model boys head for Peachtree Hills. Keith and David from "Six Feet Under" would totally fit in here.

The Treehouse's menu is a rambling mishmash of Tex-Mex, salads and no-fuss pub grub. A few head-scratchers pop up (Chicken marsala? Really?) but the menu is mostly down to earth. A caramelized bulb of roasted garlic shows no trace of acrid intensity. Smeared on a slice of baguette, it's sweet and mellow, drizzled in syrupy balsamic vinegar. A giant platter of beer-battered mushrooms, piping-hot and compellingly crispy, disappears quickly.

Oozing melted cheese, guacamole and pickled jalapeños, half of my California burger tries to jump ship before it makes it to my mouth. No matter. When it comes to burgers, the messier the better. A side of potato salad is prepared just like I like it — sans the heavy, goopy mayo. Tender red potato chunks are tossed with bits of onion and celery in a light, garlicky dressing.

The Treehouse doesn't seem like the kind of place you'd order an elaborate entree, but those I tried were ably executed. A slab of salmon, roasted to a perfect medium and slathered in honey-chipotle barbecue sauce, is better than many other versions I've tried. Barbecue sauce is a tricky thing, and most non-barbecue joints just can't seem to get it right. But here it's appealingly tangy, with a hint of sweetness and spice. A sprightly mix of steamed carrots, squash, sugar snaps and green beans on the side is proof that a vegetable medley doesn't have to be detestable.

The seven-layer Mexican torte is just a hot version of the perennial potluck favorite. If you're feeling brave and you haven't eaten in two days, give it a go.

In fact, I can't think of a single reason not to drop what you're doing, grab your sunglasses and head to the Treehouse immediately.

Sala Goes Coastal

Sala in Virginia-Highland will be offering a special "State of Veracruz" menu Thurs.-Mon., Sept. 1-5. Look for lump blue crab tostadas, pork picadillo empanadas, heart of palm salad, spicy seafood stew, chicken breast cooked in a sauce of roasted peanuts and ancho chiles, and mango mousse. The three-course menu is available a la carte along with the regular menu. 1186 N. Highland Ave. 404-872-7203. www.fifthgroup.com.

Bring On the BBQ

Woodfire Grill chef Michael Tuohy will prepare dinner alongside the "BBQ Queens" at 7 p.m. on Tues., Sept. 6. The all-inclusive meal (four courses with wine pairings) is $65. Karen Adler and Judith M. Fertig's most recent cookbook, The BBQ Queens' Big Book of Barbecue, takes a fresh, relaxed approach to cooking outdoors. Call 404-347-9055 for reservations. 1782 Cheshire Bridge Road. www.woodfiregrill.com.

Fall Comes Early

In anticipation of the second annual Harvest Midtown festival Oct. 8, Eno owner Doug Strickland invites revelers for a pre-festival bash featuring art, food, fashion and wine Sun., Sept. 11. The afternoon will feature an informal fashion and trunk show hosted by Midtown-based LUI-B, live jazz by Squat, a broad selection of Mediterranean wines, and art by galerie MC and TEW Galleries. Tickets are $25 per person, and proceeds benefit the Piedmont Park Conservancy. 800 Peachtree St. 404-685-3191. www.eno-atlanta.com.

Steak Your Claim

Morton's downtown is running a juicy special between now and the end of September. Two prix-fixe meals are offered: one for steak fans, the other for lobster aficionados. $69 per person gets you either a Morton's filet mignon with sauce Béarnaise, one 7- to 8-Ounce Australian lobster tail, salad and steamed asparagus; or two lobster tails with drawn butter, salad and steamed asparagus. Decisions, decisions. 303 Peachtree Center Ave. 404-577-4366. www.mortons.com.

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