Thursday, July 2, 2009

Baby Scarlett's tips for Hot-lanta

This is yours truly with Scarlett, the aforementioned niece. She says that Atlanta is full of good food, history and southern charm. Her advice for your next trip to her stomping grounds, although she can't actually stomp yet:

Places to visit:
Carter Center
Martin Luther King Memorial and Historic Site
High Museum
Carlos Museum at Emory
CNN Center

Her dining recommendations:

Swan Coach House:
This joint is dripping with gentility, and a lovely place for a ladies' lunch. I mean, it's been featured in Southern Lady magazine, for heaven's sake. Order the famous chicken salad and have a mint julep for Scarlett because she's underage.

Scarlett can't say enough good things about this place, even though she did not get to enjoy it herself. Her mother and Aunt Nicole went there all alone (well, them and the crutches...they left the wheelchair at home) to live it up on their night out. Mom had just gotten a new, slightly smaller and considerably lighter weight cast on her calf and foot and they desperately needed to celebrate.

The menu at Rathbun's is extensive and enticing, and everything is quite reasonably priced. There's an accent on Southern foods with locally-obtained fresh products but with a much wider frame of interesting ingredients under consideration. I had to satisfy a craving for shrimp and grits, and these were probably the best I've had anywhere, rich and flavorful enough to moan about but not crossing the line into heaviness. Texture was perfect. Desserts were human-sized portions and all priced at $3.95; we had a scrumptious white chocolate banana bread pudding, along with a glass of sauternes and a glass of Quady Elysium, which is like liquid heaven (guess that's why it's called Elysium).

Which brings me to the wine list: the offerings at Rathbun's are exceedingly thoughtfully chosen and well-priced. The list itself was wonderfully varied (I hate places that have a zillion chards, a pinot grigio from Italy and a sauvignon blanc, poof, that's it). There were many of my favorite regions and varietals from Oregon pinot gris and pinot blanc to multiple viognier, gewurtztraminer, and white burgundy selections like a true chablis, to interesting chards and sauvignon blancs. On the red side things were just as wide-ranging, with both classic and adventurous selections from the old and new worlds. Prices were arranged at $24, $34, $44, $54 and $64, with glasses starting at a friendly $6.50. And lest you fear that you won't consume a whole bottle and will be stuck with limited by-the-glass options, good news: there are at least thirty wines available by the glass. We drank a bottle of rich and aromatic 2007 Miner viognier from CA, which I would compare favorably to a fine Condrieu in pure sipping pleasure, and it was enjoyable alone as well as with my entrée.

Nothing can ruin a delicious meal like bad wait staff; no matter how memorable the dishes may be, they are blotted out by inferior service. Had you going, didn't I? To top off our fully fabulous experience at Rathbun's, all the service was top-notch. From beginning to end, top to bottom, stem to stern, it was a wonderful dinner.

My only complaint would be that in the converted warehouse that now serves as Rathbun HQ, the surfaces are hard--brick, cement, etc--and thus conversations at the closely-spaced tables in a room with no sound absorption yield a medium-level background rumble and roar. But it's not enough to keep me from going back as soon as humanly possible.

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