Or, to put it another way, Hugh Acheson STILL hates America. This is an old trick from this Canadian operative. Started in 09, kept at it that year, also openly undermined the 'Dawgs in 2010. Last year, he insinuated himself with real Americans thanks to a cookbook, but it's clear he was biding his time, waiting for an opening. And now, on day of the biggest game the Dawgs have played in some time, he goes and does this (see at right) This time, he nods in the direction of social responsibility by calling the cornish hen a "petite Gamecock," but how will the roasted beets and bavette steaks help Georgia fans FOCUS?
*An asterisk for that asterisk over there: You better hope your busboy has a smartphone, because that's how you will get "score updates," because The National has exactly one flatscreen TV for each Beard-winning chef in Columbia, SC.
The Cod does not have much to add to my immediate take on Farm 255. I'd eaten there back in the day, enjoyed it, but I gather in the intervening years Farm 255 had become a victim of the popularity of its own burger. You do that well, that's what people want, and it's hard to escape. But, Whitney Otawka, formerly of 5 &10, and a recent Top Chef participant, took over the kitchen in December, and has it going on. Richman is a fucking troll, and his takedown of Husk is bullshit, but I'd agree, in general, that reverently sourced ingredients might be necessary for a good meal, but they are not sufficient. Farm is serious about what comes in the back door, but they pay a lot of attention to what happens in the kitchen, too.
It's a big, energetic room -- the cinetrix was holding it down at Strange Beauty, so I was solo, sitting at the bar w/ a view of the open kitchen. Started with a winter salad that did the fried Brussels sprout thing better than anyone I'd experienced. I know Whitney from 5&10, and good goodguy treatment in the form of a shrimp roll (like a lobster roll, but tiny, and shrimp -- a blast of summer and New England on a rainy Feb night in Georgia). The main was braised pork shoulder w/ heirloom Santa Maria (?) beans. It's exactly the kind of dish where sometimes you see a restaurant spend more time writing the menu than cooking the food, but technique here made for a hearty but refined plate of pork and beans. Dessert (foisted on me) was a chocolate and banana thing that transcended its parts. There are other nice spots to eat in Athens, but there is always room for another spot that does it the right way, and does it well.
After decades in the USA, has Canadian chef Hugh Acheson softened his steely rejection of us and our cherished customs?
Signs point to yes. For one thing, some love from the Oprah Winfrey, #1 American for Acheson's pimento cheese.* The receipt is from Acheson's jawn A New Turn in the South, the which just fell into the Cod's grubby little fins. First thing out of the box was a roasted cauliflower soup that was ridiculous. More on the book soon here. Second, this week's prix fixe at Five and Ten involves spicy Buffalo sweetbreads. Sweetbreads fried crisp, tossed in hot sauce and served with blue cheese, carrot and celery slaw? Indubitably wrong, but wrong in a way that makes right seem overrated.
What with the pimento cheese and the Buffalo sweetbreads, Five and Ten is only a dozen or so flat screen TVs shy of becoming a reasonable facsimilie of what a BW3 in Valhalla would look like!
One might imagine that last night's debate between the next President of America and the lady and the health care nut would have us all suffused with new flushes of patriotism, and focused on the family, college football, and other key American values, but some people you just cannot reach. During one of the most critical early season contests for the second most powerful half of the most important football conference in the USA, the National is doing this. During the game! While young Gamecocks and Bulldogs play their hearts out for America, the National would have you nibbling on "braised rabbit orecchiete pasta," or "roasted Boston blue cod, with a GA shrimp remoulade." Disgusting.
In a followup investigation, we asked if televisions had been installed since last season, National proprietor admitted Peter Dale "No TVs but we can stream on the 13" MacBook."
A 13" Macbook. As if an Internet connection and a tiny screen could convey the genius of the one they call Don Esteban, AKA Stephen Garcia, the only Division One college football player with a Tiny Floating Matthew McConaughey guiding him? Sad.
If you find yourself in Athens this Saturday, you will be able to find lagers in aluminium bottles, multiple hi-def screens pumping ESPN, and chicken wings of many degrees of hotness. Everywhere except for The National, that is. Forewarned is forearmed, Bulldogs and Gamecocks.
*Technically, Hugh Acheson's partner Peter Dale runs the National, and handles the details of this Canadian conspiracy.
Hrr in the Dirty, CSA warrants some disambiguation, but in this case, it's a a Georgian who might be stewing about the Plains of Abraham instead of Appomatox. Cod fave Hugh Acheson walks you through his CSA box, which about what those of us in zone seven can expect nowadays. I encourage getting after the grilled romaine. Contrary to appearances, Duke's mayonaise is not part of the Woodland Gardens CSA distribution, which is too bad, because that would be awesome.
Stop me if you've heard this one: a much-loved chef muscles on out of his empire in a relatively bohemian neck of the woods to open up an high stakes kind of place in a big hotel in a fancier part of town.
It happens in the 404, as well as the 212. With Empire State South, Hugh Acheson heads on down the Atlanta highway from the relative comfort of his Athens troika of Five and Ten, The National, and Gosford Wines, and opens Empire State South, in a big office building in downtown Atlanta, hard by the Wyndham Hotel, and a restaurant called Mojito's.
I must begin at the end. If you do nothing else there, no matter what your business in Atlanta, at whatever time of day, the Resentin is a must. It's a shot of espresso with a shot of Marolo Moscato grappa back. You drink the espresso and swirl the grappa in the cup. Just go on in and ask for the Friulian Speedball, and you will be pleased with the result -- drinking this is like one of those nights when you are wandering around, minding your own business, when you pass by Lawrence Taylor and Asia Argento's karaoke wedding reception, and LT asks you to sing backup on "Ace of Spades," and Asia's kid sister winks at you, and the next thing you know the two of you are playing chicken with hydrofoils and she jabs you in the neck with an Epi-Pen and you wake up drifting in a dinghy off the coast of Sardinia, not regretting a moment. Seriously, any Atlanta undertaking, from a sales meeting, to chasing Matty Ice around the Georgiadome, to going ham at a Junior League tea, you will do better with a Friulian Speedball under your belt.
And the food is good, too. It was what is notionally "autumn" in Atlanta, so I went with a pork belly starter, and short ribs for the main. The cinetrix had the tuna crudo, and catfish. The mains, are for the most part, consistent with what Athenians have come to know and love at Five and Ten -- there is a conceit of ESS as a haute mean n three, so the sides are serious -- radishes w/ salsa verde were especially nice, though the collards were weirdly sweet, the only food misstep. The (comped) oysters were impeccable and included a remarkably meaty PEI variety I'd not seen before.
Since it's Acheson, there is a serious beverage program, both in the wine and cocktail department. I started with a riff (port) on a Manhattan of which I was suspicious, but revealed its impeccable logic with each sip. The bar area is cozy, but it is worth remembering that as a Canadian, Hugh Acheson hates America, which means there are zero televisions in the restaurant.
The service we got was friendly and attentive, without being too much of either, which transplanted Yankees appreciate. Considering the dystopian, Robocoppy vibe of the location (not far from where Phillipe Fernandez-Armesto was arrested for jaywalking), it's a remarkably warm room. There is a bocce court outside, and if you think I am mad at that, you don't know the Cod. Still, the location means it's a verry different crowd than Acheson's Athens spots -- more cosmetic dentistry and hair laquer, fewer folks who have a copy of Chronic Town on Hib-Tone somewhere. Some sense of this challenge was evident when a trio of ladies came in and sat near us, perused the menu, then informed the waiter that they "had a problem with the trout," and that they "didn't like gin" (3/6 of the specialty cocktails featured gin). Acheson is clearly ready for Atlanta, and the Cod hopes that Atlanta is ready for Acheson.
The Gurgling Cod's efforts to speak truth to power have availed not. Not even a foe as formidable as LSU can persuade The National to get with the program and abandon its pernicious turn-your-back-on-the-Bulldogs-eat-delicious-food initiative. Once again, Hugh Acheson's band of Bolsheviks will be offering a prix fixe special during the LSU game. It's a shame, esp. when one considers that the same effort applied to , say, leaving corn dogs in the middle of busy intersections could really reduce LSU's rooting presence.
You recall a few weeks ago The Gurgling Cod dared to reveal a shocking conspiracy -- Hugh Acheson, a proprietor of the National, in Athens, GA, encouraged the good citizens of Athens to do something during the game besides watch the Bulldogs. The Gurgling Cod had assumed that a timely admonition would have recalled the National to its priorities, and it would, by now, have joined with other Athens restaurants in bars in focusing on what is important, which is to say football -- basically, America, in other words. Thus, one could safely go to the National on Saturday, watch the game, sip on a red and black Fan Can, and get some wings, and watch the game on one of several plasma screens. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth: