Back in October, I listed all of the places I intended to eat at in Atlanta, and I’m happy to report back that I’ve visited 3 of ’em. Yet the great thing about loving fine food is that there’s always a new frontier – whether it’s someplace trendy and poppin’ and talked about or a hidden gem in your own backyard.
However, I’ve got some hang-ups. I’ve already talked about my struggles with Frugal February, which extends beyond the department stores: I’m also trying to spend less money on dining out. For me, that means avoiding restaurants entirely, as any simple trip out with intentions of ‘just getting a little something’ turns into salad, a cocktail course, and whatever iconic dish the restaurant is known for, no matter what the price tag. (Plus, now that I’m walking distance from the Nook, I’ve racked up pricey bill upon pricey bill stemming from the Bell’s Two-Hearted IPA on tap.)
When I talked about my struggles with Frugal February, I forgot to mention that it’s Fit February as well, so I’m trying to fend off my love and lust for butter and carbs by eating at home and hitting the pavement with my Asics. Again, I know that my best laid plans to order the ahi tuna salad and a glass of water quickly devolve into a “veggie plate” loaded with grits and mashed potatoes and maybe some sautéed vegetable and hey-is-getting-mac&cheese-too-much?
So below, I list out some of my newest wishes, most inspired by the travails of my favorite Atlanta food writers – as well as the inhibition that have thus far prevented me from making these dreams a reality.
1) Silk handkerchief pasta at Better Half: In Brad Kaplan’s recent first look at Better Half, he describes a meal at Better Half that transcends most new restaurant experiences. The chef made his dent in Atlanta through PushStart Kitchen, an underground supper club, and you can’t get much more street cred than that. No item on the menu gets repeated – except for the silk handkerchief pasta , the photo of which takes Kaplan’s piece from compelling to can-I-get-a-reservation-for-NOW?! Tomato marmalade sounds like my jam. (HA.)
What’s holding me back? The place just recently got on my radar, . Also, it sounds so now and trendy that it could intimidate me (remember, I’m a false foodie). Finally, BYOB raises red flags for me – it usually translates to Forget-YOB.
2) Finding the best Thai food around my new place: Since I’ve moved to Midtown, I haven’t picked up Thai takeout on my way home ONCE, and I blame the overwhelming array of options on my commute route and right near it. There are two Thai restaurants walking-distance from my place, Bangkok Thai and Top Spice, the latter which also features intriguing Malay cuisine. In the Highlands, there’s Mali as well as Harry & Sons. Yelp finds them all well-reviewed, so I need to explore these menus and try some tofu curries and basil stir-fries so I know where to go when in need of comfort food.
What’s holding me back? Getting inundated by options makes me dizzy; plus, I feel the need to try out something basic, like the pad thai or the pad see-u, at each one so that I know which one is the best before making it my go-to (an idea which would end-up expensive and high-calorie, for sure). I’m a loyal Leo and really want to find my Thai spot, so it’s got to happen – maybe in Make-it-Happen March?
3) Tonkatsu ramen at Umaido: I used to live right around the corner from this place, and I’m kicking myself for not heading out there. Brad Kaplan (who apparently is a man after my own heart) went through the trouble of seeking out the best ramen, and found it in this Suwanee establishment (the porky broth and the black garlic oil sound rich and intense.)
What’s holding me back? Just got to get back to Gwinnett with a couple dollars in my pocket and an unscheduled hour to myself.
4) The pasta tasting menu at BoccaLupo: I already raved about my experience there, and I want to go back for more – much more. I could even get a (Southern-style) ramen kick there, hopefully as interesting as John Kessler described it on the Food & More Blog. Yet Cliff Bostock’s experience trying the 4-course tasting menu is my fantasy come to life – the current menu features pan fried gnocchi with a poached egg, caviar, and chicory; handmade farfalle with chanterelles and soy mash; beef cheek francobolli, veggies, chicken livers, and truffle scraps (I CAN’T EVEN); and a “Lazy Chef’s cannoli”. It’s the ultimate in indulgence.
What’s holding me back? Two words: Fit and Frugal. I just went to BoccaLupo and would feel like I ought to be spending my precious time and money elsewhere, on another fine establishment. And, honestly, my schedule is just all booked up the next couple of weeks or else you KNOW I’d find myself there as if I’d apparated against my own will.
5) Eating alone: The solution to a lot of my problems would be to get better acquainted with the art of eating alone, which Bostock (one of my other favorite food writers) explores in his Valentine’s week reflection on food and affairs of the heart.
What’s holding me back? It’s something I’m cool with in theory but just don’t end up doing enough – being young and wild and free, I often feel that there’s got to be someone – someone – who wants to go to dinner with me, and have a bottled up fear of being seen at the bar by myself by an ex and pitied out of existence. Yet when you love food like I do, it’s easy to go to dinner by yourself, since you wind up spending it with plenty of companions: the flavors of a meal well-spent.