Monday, March 06, 2006

Georgia on My Mind... The Atlanta Trip Report

The Clientele understands. You all know what's going on, so I'm not going to go into the personal details. But allow me to quote from Strange Geometry, which perfectly captures how I'm feeling about the whole sitch:

There's a hole inside my skull
with warm air blowing in
standing on the sidewalk
where do I begin?

Well, I began in Atlanta. After a night of mild partying, I woke up Saturday morning at 5 am to catch a flight to go see Kev, my chef friend. Since our time together was limited, we figured we had to do something really touristy. I'm so glad we didn't; it would have ended up feeling contrived and rushed. Well, that, and we couldn't get tickets to the new Aquarium, which is about the only thing one can do (besides drugs) in Atlanta.

Instead,we visited a rock and took a veritable tour of the restaurant scene in Atlanta. Kev is a chef at the 5 Seasons Brewery and has connections just about everywhere in town. We started out at a Chinese restaurant, the name of which I can't recall. I had the Sichuan crispy tofu, which was supposed to be spicy, but ended up being just too salty. The steamed veggies had a delectable crunch, but there was nothing to offset the crunch- the tofu was not crispy at all, just mushy. It could have used some cashews and a lot more spice. Kev's entree was actually burnt and he couldn't enjoy it. Was not my pick of the day.

Luckily, we ran into Wes, a friend of Kev's who was dropping in there for lunch. He told us to stop by his wine bar and he would hook us up with something a little more memorable. We went over to his wine bar, where he sample is on a whole palette of delicious red wines: from dry, peppery, deep Europeans to plummy, robust Aussies to buttery, velvety Californians.

OH! All you Aussies and Aussie lovers never told me that there is a huge wine valley in Oz called Clare Valley. That means Oz is now on the official register of Poofygoo coolest places ever. As soon as I figure out the HTML involved in creating links, I'll put that registry up. And the links to all the blogs of the peeps who are reading this!

Unfortunately, Atlanta will not be on that registry. Despite the fact that the cool factor of the city is raised considerably simply by it being the home of Kev, I'm just not a fan of the city. You hop on an interstate to get anywhere; it's all sprawly and doesn't look pretty at all. Driving around in Atlanta is like being hungover on a really pretty Sunday; you feel sprawled out and useless, as though you should be doing something a lot better than lying on your couch, watching Law and Order reruns.

Even the skyline is tacky; its crowning glory, so to speak, is two buildings shaped like queen and king chess pieces. I imagine in architecture, just as in writing, there is a fine line between witty and gaudy. Apparently, Atlanta's architects chose the wrong side.

Atlanta does have two things going for it, though: an astonishing and competitive restaurant scene, and my friend, Kev. Seeing my need to go bask on some rocks in the sunshine on a beautiful day, he took a break from our schedule of eating and took me to Stone Mountain. It's a big granite monolith, which normally would make me weep with delight. As we drove towards it, my heart started beating faster: would there be cool rocky trails to scramble around on, new kinds of flora and fauna to experience? I was really looking forward to clearing the mental detritus of the past two days by breathing in some crisp mountain air.

Stone Mountain's beauty is meretricious at best, however. You have to hand it to Atlanta: instead of keeping it a lovely nature area, they've capitalized on their unique treasure by making it a shameless tourist area. Southerners come to see this monument to the Confederacy carved into the stone a la Mount Rushmore. They even managed to lure hefty Atlantans to the top by promising two snack bars at the top of the rock. Upon our ascent, however, the snack bar was closed. Without even a hint of irony, a beefy and mustachioed man turned away from the closed snack bar with a look of disgust on his face and proclaimed the two mile hike up the mountain a total waste.

Driving out, we got lost through the maze of Confederophile streets; our conversation sounded like a Who's Who of the Confederacy:

"Are going towards Robert E. Lee Highway?"
"According to this map, we're either on Stonewall Jackson Memorial Drive or Jefferson Davis Way."
I half expected to get onto "Frederick Douglass was a Sonofabitch Parkway" or "Lincoln Fucked It Up for All of Us Boulevard".

We rewarded our efforts by going to a German Bakery in the town of Stone Mountain, where oddly enough, we got cannoli. It was delicious, despite its inauthenticity.

After a morning and afternoon of eating, it was time to go back to Kev's place and get ready for an evening of eating. We went to Beyond the Bayou, a cajun restaurant Kev's friend Brady opened on Valentine's Day. Considering the neophyte status of the restaurant in the competitive Atlanta dining scene, I was surprised and impressed to see several tables filled. While the menu boasts lots of alligator meat, crawfish, and frog legs, there's a vegetarian section on the menu that read just like this:

Just tell the chef what you like, and he'll make you something tasty!

My restaurant dream come true. He made me an amazing baby arugula salad with cajun spiced pecans, braised onions, goat cheese, peppers and the most amazing dressing I've ever tasted- tangy, spicy, sweet and full. The salad was a perfect mixture of complementary components- no one taste stood out over another, but they blended together like a good SATB chorale. After dinner, we dipped perfectly crispy and doughy beignets into a whipped sugar cane sauce- molasses's lighter and tastier cousin.

After eating, Kev and I had a mission to complete, which could only be accomplished by going back to his restaurant and drinking beers. I tasted the GFY (named for the restaurant's motto, "Go Fuck Yourself" brew, a lighter hoppy brew, as well as their barley wine, which may have been the most delicious thing I'd tasted in the last twenty minutes.

I'm home again, and back to work and life, mostly listening to a lot of music and talking to all you friends.... I really appreciate the calls and emails.


Anonymous drakhen said...

Wow probably the longest article on your blog to date, one has got to like that, I am not sure what the hole in the skull bit all means but the rest of the stuff I can comment on.
As far as the Aquarium goes, yeah in my experience it is tough to get in there as well unless you plan ahead like weeks.
However there is loads and loads of stuff one can do in Atlanta area.
Six Flags Over Georgia

The zoo is also another thing.
Cival War Battlegrounds

And so on , I understand time was short but really there is alot to do in the town of Atlanta alone, You should reconsider going back down there to hang out with your friend and spend some more time.
5 seasons brewery , I have been in there many of times and have to say the food is excellent and the beer is just as good I would recomend that as well, I wonder if your friend has been there when I have.
The city itself is true you need to be mobile in order to get around it is basically a big concrete jungle.

1:04 PM  

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