Top Eating

As a loyal Top Chef-a-holic, I was thrilled to be in Atlanta, home of Tasty Food and Adorable Chefs! When my family was out, we made it a mission to try and eat our way through the Top Chef Restaurants.

We failed.

We saved the Woodfire Grill, home of Kevin Gillespie (pictured at right), for last, only to find that they are closed on both Sunday AND Monday.

Shoot, we said. At least we can go to Eno Restaurant, where Eli works? Right?
(picture from Six Characters in Search of a Blogger 's
Rankin Bass Christmas adventure. It's a neat blog!)
Wrong. Not only were they ALSO closed Sunday and Monday, Eli doesn't even work there anymore. Sigh.
But! Fear Not! We were able to complete at least part of our delicious mission, and it's always nice to have goals. You shall be mine, King of Pig, you shall be mine.

First up was Pura Vida (warning: website plays obnoxious music), owned by Hector Santiago. He was the first of the Atlanta chefs to go, but man, can he cook delicious food.

Pura Vida is a lovely restaurant, it's comfortable, friendly, and warm. Good date spot. Even better date spot when you hit their Happy Hour with $3 tapas(!)

We did not hit their happy hour, but we ordered 5 plates between the four of us and two desserts and it was quite affordable and mega delicious. I liked the tofu ceviche, which had strong and interesting flavors, and I tried to subtly take a picture of it, like a good blogger, but we quite frankly ate it too fast. Other delicous thngs were the asado de tira - beef shortribs, the "bbq" beef, which had the most delicious beef fat I've ever eaten, and el burrito, a chicken barbacoa burrito which didn't sound like anything special, but tasted freaking delicious. We were smart enough to order two desserts: churros with chocolate dipping sauce, and a chili chocolate creme brulee. We licked the dipping sauce bowl clean. It was undignified, but delicious.

If you're in the neighborhood, definitely drop in. I am so going back to Pura Vida and eating the heck out of those happy hour tapas.

We also got to check out Richard Blais' Flip Burger Boutique, where you can get liquid nitrogen milkshakes and a $39 burger made from Kobe beef and shaved truffles and foie gras that was coddled and sung to as it was gently massaged between a bun made of sunshine and dreams. Fine Dining Between Two Buns indeed.

We did not get that. I got the butcher's cut burger with caramelized onions and red wine jelly, Mom got the turkey burger with avocado and pomegranate ketchup, and Monkeyhead got an "rBQ," a burger with barbecued brisket on top. It was all quite tasty. They had a lot of interesting looking burgers and burger type sandwiches (shrimp poboyger anyone?), so I'd go back. The liquid nitrogen milkshakes were pretty good. The spicy chocolate mole was actually very spicy and quite nummy, as were the pistachio-truffle (mostly pistachio, less truffle), and the nutella and burnt mashmallow. They're weren't particularly liquid nitrogen-y, you are cautioned to let them stop smoking before you drink, but ours weren't smoking at all. Still it was fun. It's definitely trying much harder to be hip than Pura Vida, with loud music and open tables, and deceptively lightweight aluminum chairs. The ladies' restroom sign had little metal boobs.

Mr. Blais is also a really enjoyable writer. He does a column for the local alt weekly called and his guest blogs on this season's Top Chef were really informative and interesting, like "Top Gun", which delved into the power structure of a kitchen, or "Hands Up, Utensils Down,...low" where he breaks down all the nifty gadgets the Top Chefs get to play with, and how back in his day, they didn't have immersion circulators.

For more behind the scenes neat stuff, check out Lee Anne Wong's blog. A former "cheftestant," Lee Anne works as the Culinary Producer on the show, and she provides interesting insights into how the challenges are set up and what actually goes into making this a fair competition. I'm a sucker for behind-the-scenes glimpses, and she's kinda the ultimate in that for this show. Unfortunately for lurkers like me, she will not be culinary producing the show next season in order to go back into cooking. Good for her, I hope she finds a home somewhere she can feed me.


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