Articles, Atlanta, featured, restaurants, writing

Brewed to perfection

New Atlanta gastropub delivers a myriad of beers hailing from Atlanta to Belgium

By Kirsten Ott Palladino

ormsbys-atlanta

Tucked away in the bottom of the White Provision building (a former meat-packing plant in the early 20th century) on the Westside of Atlanta is Ormsby’s, a self-proclaimed good place to be. Co-owner Michael Goot won’t exactly confess to it being either a pub, speakeasy or a tavern, but the low lighting, dark milled walnut floors, oak booths, copper-topped bar with mahogany leanings, slightly secretive location with just a metal-worked O hanging by the front door and casual atmosphere of good times speak for themselves. The newly minted restaurant opened in December 2009, and has been packed most every night. The camaraderie found at Ormsby’s is scholarly in a grad student/professor way, but the fun to be had is for all drinking ages and personalities: A flight of stairs below the restaurant is a host of games, ranging from bocce ball, darts, pool, shuffleboard, ’80s videogames (think Donkey Kong, Pac-Man) and even Skee Ball is in the works for April. Ormsby’s is a collaboration between Michael Goot, a man whose work history is steeped in beer, and Warren Bruno, who opened his first bar in Atlanta in 1974. This is Bruno’s 12th bar, and he says it’s his final. He had a bocce ball court at his first one, and to bring it full circle, he wanted to have the precision game available at his last venture. Bruno also owns Atkins Park Tavern, Atlanta’s longest-standing bar and restaurant, which has two locations. The pair looked to Executive Chef Andrew Smith to design their easygoing but respectable menu, which features American-style pub dishes such as house-made sausage, hand-dipped corn dogs, New England clam chowder, bratwurst, fried cod, veal and mushroom meatballs, as well as more than 10 hearty sandwiches. But the real shining star of Ormsby’s is the beer. With more than 20 offerings on draft and 45 to 50 bottle brands available on any given day, it’s no wonder beerophiles flock to this hidden gem. Choices abound, from complex Belgian beers like Dupont Fore, which has the “Belgian funk,” according to Goot, because of its orientation in a Belgian farmhouse where the windows stay open to allow the yeast to blow in from the farm (also known as spontaneous fermentation) to simple craft beers like Avery Ellie’s Brown Ales from Boulder, Colo., which shines with vitality. Local Atlanta beer is a top seller, especially SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale, with hoppy characteristics and a crisp finish. Trappist beers like St. Bernardus Abt12, a dark ivory-colored beer with a high fermentation, is on draft, while St. Bernardus Prior 8, a fruity malt with a purple-ruby hue, is available by the bottle. While no favorites ever leave the beer menu, Goot continues to tweak the list to continue to intrigue and satiate Atlanta’s thirsty palate.

st-bernardus-649x3901

THE PERFECT PAIR

Savor the weekly special pot roast braised in red wine and served with root vegetables and buttered noodles with the notes of fig, raisin and dark stone fruit in Dogfish Head Paulo Santo.

Loop your fingers through local pale ale-battered onion rings, and wash it down with Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, a light, citrus IPA.

Southern hospitality takes center stage with shrimp and grits, roasted peppers, caramelized onions and cream sherry. The spice in Dupont Foret Organic keeps up nicely.

The spicy orange blossom, caramel malt and crisp hop at the end of the Ommegang Rare Vos Amber Ale balances out the spicy lamb merguez (sausage) with Tzatziki sauce, cucumber and pickled red onion served gyro-style in a grilled pita.

This article was published in Draft Magazine.

Blog, featured, healing, loss, pain, the vivid life

I believe in angels

barn-owl

My dad may have left this earth five years ago, but I am positive he is still here with me now. I’ve often thought I felt his presence, but it’s easy to dismiss that and tell myself that I’m just feeling my love for him and wishing him near me. But this year, the year I’ve dubbed “The Loss of George,” my dad has been cradling me and he’s made sure I’ve known it.

When he passed away suddenly on October 3, 2008, we were all shocked. He was 61, a strapping handsome man who took care of himself with just the occasional sneak of a cookie package from his work vending machine. He had just started running again, he fished, he worked in the yard, took long walks with his dogs in the woods, he rode his horse, he loved his wife and family. He did a lot of living. And the face smack of his dropping dead for no apparent reason was life altering for me. The rosy world I knew became an awful shade of gray, and life’s meaning withered. As I was crumbling in my father’s and stepmother’s home the week after his passing, I happened to ask my stepmom about a small barn owl in the kitchen. She said in her sweetest voice that my dad had placed this owl in this very spot because he felt like it was his mom looking over him throughout his life. She passed it to me and said you should have it now so that you can feel your dad watching over you. I took the little taupe owl, no taller than 2 inches, detailed with feathers and a rounded head as a small slice of solace, offering a weepy thanks in return. My dad’s owl found a new perch on our mantel, and I often kissed it as a way of passing my physical affection on to my father, wherever he might be. “Hi dad,” I whisper almost daily, giving the little owl’s beak a tiny peck.

The end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 has by far been the most challenging time of my life as I spent nearly 15 weeks by my brother’s hospital bedside as he lay dying from severe acute pancreatitis at 36 years old. It was an emotional roller coaster that I couldn’t help but be on, and it was alarming when that ride crashed to a deathly end, dumping me out on the side of the rusty cart with little faith left in anything. As I walked out into the foggy gray February morning shrouded in George’s death, I was almost broken. And I’ve remained that way this year. Though my wife and sons bring me so much joy, anytime I got a rare moment alone, I’ve just broken down sobbing, wondering where my dear men are. My heart aches harder than I ever knew possible. It never helped that I felt like a complete orphan, having been also deserted by my biological mother. She’s a distant memory now, but the raw pain of losing my father, brother and mother all in one swoop of five years has been quite the cross to bear.

Soon after George passed away, I announced to my wife, Maria, that it was time for Operation Fold-in. I didn’t want to see anyone who didn’t have a huge place in my heart and who I felt didn’t hold me in theirs. And it was very telling after George passed who cared the most. These precious people are on my team in life, and I feel very much finished with doing any people-pleasing for the ones who just don’t matter as much. In this short lifetime, we only have a certain amount of time every day to spend our precious hours doing things that matter, and to me, that means spending time with the precious few loved ones I have left and making a difference in this world. I am now realizing that those two actions are intertwined; I only have to look to my two shortcakes to see how I can make an impact on this earth. During Operation Fold-in, I haven’t spent hours on the couch in a gray, depressed cloud. But rather I’ve chosen to make the most of every day with my children, wife, family and friends. This has meant declining social invitations where I knew I’d be in an empty fog listening to random people prattle on and on about small things. Small talk has no place in Operation Fold-in. As I said no to more invites, they dissipated on their own. As usual, after a certain amount of time has passed after a traumatic event, the music starts back up and people get on with their lives. It’s up to you to decide if you’re going to jump back into the party or dwell in solitude, nursing your wounds.

So when my friend and PR maven Jamie invited me to a soiree at her home in August, I said to myself, “It’s time to join the party.” Jamie also has lost a brother, so it seemed like a safe, nurturing place to begin my journey back into the social fold.

Jamie’s party showcased several small business owners she was introducing to the media, including a medium named Jennifer. She was doing private readings throughout the evening, and though I had not initially planned on having a reading, I was swayed by all the praise people were singing for her. Not just from the readings that night but from long-term relationships elite members of the media had with Jennifer, who had been dead-on with her predictions and connections with spirits. So I made an appointment to have my 20-minute session.

Jennifer was sitting quietly in Jamie’s bedroom waiting for me. One of her first sentences after welcoming me was that if I wanted to know about anyone living or dead that I just needed to tell her their first name. And so after a short time of getting her predictions of my own future, I asked her about George and Bruce. She told me first that they had both “crossed over” and they were together. Jennifer told me that George had died from something with his stomach, but that he’d contracted a virus in the woods that was undetectable by the time he’d gotten to the hospital. This made complete sense to me, and it left me feeling peaceful. George’s girlfriend had been told almost the very same thing a week ago from her psychic reading, and this was all without prompting from either of us. I had agonized about why George had pancreatitis, knowing most of the typical causes didn’t apply to my brother. Jennifer said that George was watching out for his two children and that he was at peace with his death. By this time, tears were running down my cheeks.

We moved onto Bruce (my father, but I didn’t mention this). Jennifer said some really lovely things about him as well, and it made me incredibly happy to hear that she felt like he was doing well in the afterlife. As we were wrapping up, I asked Jennifer if she believed that spirits visit us as butterflies, as I’d often heard. She said that sometimes that’s true, but that spirits will find a way to communicate with us in a way we’ll most recognize as a sign from them, something special and shared. For example, smelling a strong pot of coffee, when none is brewing, or feeling a warm sensation of heat enshroud your body as a spiritual embrace. I left the meeting feeling at peace. As I talked to myself in my head, I said even if that was fake, it felt good, and really, isn’t that all that matters?

As soon as I walked into Jamie’s hallway and several media friends looked into my tear-filled eyes, Jamie swooped in, looped her arm in mine and took me out to her deck to talk. She wanted to check on me about my grieving and be there for me in an empathetic way that’s just not possible from someone who’s never lost a sibling. As we were talking in the early dusky evening, something caught my eye over Jamie’s shoulder. It was a barn owl, perched on Jamie’s detached garage about 15 feet away from us, and he was staring directly at me. I said, “That is a gorgeous owl. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real owl outside of a zoo!” Jamie swiveled her neck, her red tresses swinging with her. And we both silently stared at the woodland creature so clearly out of his element on a busy city street. As I looked into its eyes, I felt more comfort than I ever have since my father was catapulted out of his physical life. Jamie and I both sat still, savoring the moment, which lasted at least 3 minutes. Maybe 10. Time wasn’t a factor in this generous visit. A friend of ours stepped out on the deck, caught a glimpse of the owl and went to grab Jamie’s camera for us. As she motioned for it, the owl dipped down off his roost, expanding his wings in full glory and soared away. Motionless, I sat. Once I gathered my feelings as much as I could, I told Jamie about my dad’s owl at home. It was such a gift to both of us to share in this moment together, and one I hold very dear to my heart.

 

 

 

 

featured, healing, recovery

Thanksgiving through the years: an attempt at gratitude after a loss

thanksgiving

Every year, Thanksgiving gets a little sadder for me. All holidays do. I was born into a small family—a mother who is an only child, a father whose only sibling lives in another state, and one brother. Growing up in Athens, Ga., was a lesson in Spartan familial ties and my brother—older by 18 months—and I were fiercely close (sometimes we fought like angry rams but there was nothing we wouldn’t do for each other).

20131128-121708.jpg George and I became even closer after our parents divorced when I was 8, but there was so much we didn’t know how to talk to each other about: my mother’s increased nightly consumption of glass jugs of Carlo Rossi merlot and incessant sucking on menthol cigarettes; her live-in boyfriend freshly sprung from the county jail who filled our apartment with billowing clouds of marijuana smoke; the Playboy my dad awkwardly bought for my 10-year-old brother at the airport on our first Christmas trip without all four of us together (OK, maybe that was just awkward for me); the sexual assault I endured from a family friend; the chronic gang rapes I survived in high school (which started on Thanksgiving night, Nov. 28, in 1992 and ended in December 1993); and the strain of going back and forth between two parents’ houses, knowing somewhere deep down that we were loved, but the parental watchtower we desperately needed was sorely absent.

During this tumultuous period, George and I clung more to our friends than we did to each other, growing further apart after high school when I came out as a lesbian (he had married a devout Billy Graham follower and his slight societal discomfort with homosexuality leapt into a new dimension of hate when fueled by his then-pregnant wife’s disdain for me bringing my girlfriend around their expected child).

But we reunited, George and me. I wrote him a letter after a year of not speaking telling him that I missed him terribly. And so he called me. And that was it. We’ve been thick as thieves ever since. It really helped that he finally got a divorce. He called me a week before Thanksgiving in 2004 to tell me he and his wife were splitting up—their two children would stay with her and he had to move out over the holiday.

I trucked on down to Florida where he was living, and we spent Thanksgiving moving what little he was allowed to take from their condo into his new apartment. Then we went to Denny’s, one of the few eating establishments open to a couple of college-aged kids in soccer shorts and T-shirts, and had our Thanksgiving dinner—a cheese-and-veggie omelet for me, and Moons Over My Hammy for him.

George’s life was maddeningly heartbreaking after the split. His wife moved the children to Georgia, and he drove the 6-hour trip every other weekend to be with them. But he was a dedicated father and didn’t miss a legally afforded opportunity to see his son and daughter. We spent most of our Thanksgivings together when he was in town, especially with the children. Our grandmother gathered us up at a French restaurant outside of Atlanta to spend the day together, but in the blurry midst of laughter and turkey, there was always a layer of regret and pain, whether it was because we were choosing to be with my mom’s side of the family and not my dad’s, or because my mom couldn’t go too long without saying something wildly inappropriate, or because we knew George was going to have to return his children in just a few short hours. There was always something unsavory under the surface that no one quite knew how to handle, but we stuck together because what other choice is there than to cling to the family you have, no matter how wacky?

We were going about this turn-style life with pleasantries mixed with oddness when out of the blue, my father suffered a massive heart attack on Oct. 3, 2008. He was 61. My father was my biggest cheerleader, never had a harsh word to say about anyone, was loved by so many, took fairly good care of himself and poof, he was gone. George called me to tell me. My chest caved in where my heart once was whole. Broken and in disbelief, my fiancé Maria, drove me to my hometown, to my father and stepmother’s home. All I remember about that day after we arrived is crumbling into my brother’s arms when he stepped out of his cherry red SUV from his longer road trip. He held me so strongly against his chest, and I still feel his arms around me. It is my mental safe place.

The following month, Maria and I decided to put on Thanksgiving for several of our family members, including my brother and my stepmother, who has since become my true mother, a jewel of a human being. Despite having lost our dad almost two months prior, we came together from a place of love and the onset of peace at this Thanksgiving. As hard as it was for me to get through even one sentence without crying, I still found an immense sense of strength from our togetherness.

The following March, my mother withdrew further into her incomprehensible cycle of sheer meanness, and announced that she wasn’t coming to my wedding in June 2009. Lest you think it had anything to do with my sexuality, you’re wrong. That’s probably the thing she likes most about me: I’m different, which gives her more fodder for church gossip. And I’m pretty sure she had a crush on Maria. Anyway, that Thanksgiving, Maria and I were welcomed with open arms by her family, chowing down on a Southern feast, but my heart ached knowing that my mom didn’t want anything to do with me and the only one who might be able to make me feel better about it—to remind me that I was a wanted child—was my father, who I could only hope was somewhere better than this earth.

By the time Thanksgiving 2010 rolled around, I was a massive woman, waddling like a mother duck because I was carrying twin boys. My grandmother insisted Maria and I come to Thanksgiving at the French restaurant and see my mother. “Only if my stepmom can come too,” I responded. I positioned her between us at the table, and we made it through with only the occasional odd remark from my bio mom whom I hadn’t conversed with in more than a year and a half. My brother had gone to his new girlfriend’s family Thanksgiving, and I wished hard that he could be there to slice the palpable tension with some of his gut-busting humor.

By Thanksgiving 2011, my mother and I were working harder toward mending our relationship, and we again met at the French restaurant, where my stepfather, grandmother, Maria, George, his children, his girlfriend, Maria and our children all gathered at a large table and focused all our energy on the children while George and I whispered little jokes under our breath about our nutty family when we walked to the bountiful carving stations of duck and turkey (not to be confused with turducken). George and I could crack each other up with just a look, and his jokes lessened the burden on almost all that was wrong with my family.

He was so perfectly uncle-like with Maria’s and my sons. This was their first Thanksgiving, and they, especially baby B, had melted in George’s arms like butter on a hot sweet potato. Baby B looks just like George did as a toddler, and their bond was apparent not just to me, but to the entire family. I’ve always known that I wanted to marry a woman and have children with a woman, and I’ve known all along that our children would thrive with two moms and no father. But I believe very strongly in having a dependable and loving male figure in my children’s lives. Watching George with our boys on Thanksgiving Day reassured me that even though we didn’t have my dad around, we had George. And I remember the distinct feeling of comfort that George would be around as my sons became men, demonstrating how to be a successful and generous man, just as he was. A man we all loved to be around, a man that didn’t seem to have one enemy—even his ex-girlfriends all seem to flutter at the mere mention of his name.
But the universe had other plans for George.

Last Thanksgiving, my brother stayed home alone with what he thought was a horrible stomach flu. He sent me a cheerful text, not wanting me to worry. The morning after, he called an ambulance because he knew something was terribly wrong. A day later, he was put into a 9-week medicinally induced coma. He never came out of the hospital, and 14 weeks later after all those ups and downs, surgery after surgery, tears shed and a few rare smiles, my brave, sweet brother passed peacefully in the night.

It is heartbreakingly difficult this Thanksgiving, a holiday we always tried to spend together. But I am working hard on feeling gratitude in the midst of my grief 9 months after George’s passing.

So on this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for two beautiful, tender and silly boys I’m blessed to call mine, a crazy-smart wife who caters to almost all my crazy whims, a stepmother who has gracefully and lovingly stepped into the role of motherhood for me when mine has fully abandoned me after threatening to kill me the day George died, a few precious rock star friends who keep me sane and make me feel special, a loving aunt and uncle who have taken me under their wing, and my own life for I am truly thankful to just be alive. It’s a heavy-hearted way of expressing my gratitude, I know. But some years just aren’t lighthearted, glistening with candy-puffed rainbows. But I hope and pray that 2014 is that way–for all of us still lucky to be here. Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

cocktails, travel

Cocktail Class: Preserved Pimm’s Punch – VIDEO

preserved-pimms-punch-cocktail-how-to-videoThis Preserved Pimm’s Punch video made by Graham Case, mixologist of Blackberry Farm, caught my attention when researching the locale of Kelly Clarkson’s recent wedding. The Tennessee farm is at the top of my list of places in the South that I have yet to travel to, but plan on making my way there soonest.

The punch cocktail looks delicious, and the addition of Champagne at the end punches up the celebratory factor. I love that Case also explains the preservation process to get a summer favorite transitioned into fall.

Want to do more with your Pimm’s?

Try these Pimm’s recipes from ViewLondon.UK

Traditional Pimm’s No.1
Take one slice of orange, lemon, apple, cucumber per person and one sprig of mint and add to two parts lemonade to one part Pimm’s.

Turbo Pimm’s No.1
As above but five parts lemonade, two parts Pimm’s, one part gin.

English Passion Pimm’s No. 6
Take a shaker 2/3 full of ice and add 50 ml of Pimm’s No.6, 25 ml of Zubrowka vodka, flesh and juice of a passion fruit and a dash of sugar syrup. Shake well and strain into a tumbler full of ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint and two short straws.

Maximum Voltage Pimm’s No.6
Take a shaker 2/3 full of ice, 50 ml of Pimms No.6, 25 ml of  Zubrowka vodka (it offers an herbal taste) and 25 ml of Cointreau. Shake well and strain into a highball full of ice. Fill with soda water and garnish with mint. If mixing your own Pimm’s sounds too much like hard work, head to one of the many pubs and bars in London which serve up Pimm’s with a healthy dose of fruit, ice and garnished with a sprig of mint.

WATCH MIXOLOGIST GRAHAM CASE TEACH US HOW TO MAKE A PROPER PRESERVED PIMM’S PUNCH


Equally Wed, Portfolio, writing

Real Wedding: Brooke and Joana

Love-filled seaside nuptials punctuate an aquatic-colored DIY wedding

brooke-joana-real-lesbian-beach-wedding-florida-recessional

Joana Rodriguez was waiting for the perfect opportunity to propose to her girlfriend Brooke Rollins. She already had the engagement ring, which featured a square peridot gemstone to match Brooke’s sparkling eyes, and, conveniently, her birthstone.

“It was a Sunday morning and we were in the middle of mountains of homework as always,” recalls Joana, “and the movie ‘Up’ by Pixar was playing in the background. The movie is about a man who loses his soul mate after years and years of marriage, but lives out her dream of adventures. They meet as children and are together for a very long time. The husband is a quiet kinda person, as I am, and the wife is talkative and full of life, as is Brooke. At one point in the movie when they are still children Lilly, the wife, looks at the husband and says that she wants to spend forever with him having adventures, it was then that I pulled out the ring from my pajama pocket and asked Brooke if she would spend forever having adventures with me. As I expected, she was overjoyed and full of excitement and began to cry, so I giggled and asked, ‘So I guess this means yes?’ She then answered with a ‘yes.’”

When planning their beach wedding, Decatur, Ga., residents Brooke Rollins and Joana Rodriguez searched everywhere for an LGBT-friendly venue. The lesbians found it at the Atlanta Pride Festival: The Embassy Suites in Miramar Beach, Fla.

“I am not going lie,” says Joana, whose confident presence was what attracted Brooke to her. “I was afraid that it was going to be difficult to find a place that we could be ourselves and celebrate and relax all at the same time. It was at Pride that we found the Embassy Suits; it was there that I realized that discrimination can be set aside and your love can be celebrated. Go where you are welcome, and you will have the time of your life.”

To honor their commitment, Brooke, who legally took Joana’s last name after the nuptials, devoted a considerable amount of effort to bringing to life their theme of an eclectic mix of modern vintage with personal touches added to reflect their individual personalities, such as Brooke’s handcrafted vintage brooch bouquet and a superhero-themed cake for Joana.

The bride and broom (a term for masculine brides coined by Equally Wed Magazine Publisher and Cofounder Maria Palladino and used by readers, including Joana) wed on May 5, 2012, at a sunset beach ceremony which included gathering words, guest declaration of support and the exchanging of vows and rings. “The focus of our ceremony was the tying of the lover’s knot, which symbolized the intertwining our lives and our families,” says Brooke. “With one strand of natural fiber manila line—a nod to Joana’s service in the Coast Guard—each of us did our part to create the fisherman’s knot, also known as the lover’s knot.”

The bride wore a sweetheart gown with a beaded bodice and layered organza skirt, which was given a funky update with a turquoise crinoline skirt made by Ann Swank at Swank Underpinnings. The look was complete with her turquoise-and-green ballet flats. Brooke carried a bouquet of her own making: She wired 30 vibrantly colored antique and new brooches and assembled them together to make “a small, but surprisingly hefty nosegay,” she says. “The brooches were given to me by my mother, my wife-to-be and my friends, and each brooch held personal meaning. My bouquet took seven months of assembly, four packages of floral wire and two rolls of tape, a box of band-aids and one scare—or maybe two. It was worth every ounce of effort and all of the love that went into it.”

A jovial reception accentuated by turquoise and green included a photo booth complete with props for wacky photos, tables outfitted with handmade centerpieces comprised of silver charges, turquoise French flower pots filled with dried hydrangea and greenery accented by one antique tea cup and saucer from Brooke’s grandmothers collection and three LED pillar candles; the dinner buffet which featured Joana’s mothers Mexican feast for a Cinco de Mayo-themed celebration and a homage to Joana’s heritage; a bar, a candy and cupcake buffet, a cake table and a reception table. Brooke surprised Joana, a devout superhero fan, with a four-layer cake featuring Captain America, Superman, Spiderman and Batman, accompanied with a handmade background of a cityscape equipped with city lights.

Brooke and Joana danced together for the first time as wife and wife to Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” sung live by Jamie Heart and accompanied by acoustic guitarist Kato Estill. Heart and Estill, both friends of the couple, sang songs of their own and covers at various points in the evening.

After the wedding reception, the Rodriguezes and their 38 guests oohed and aahed over a display of fireworks on the beach and then let the ocean air carry away biodegradable paper lanterns into the sky, which Brooke says symbolized “our wishes for our healthy, happy future.”

The Rodriguezes, who honeymooned in Sandestin, Fla., welcomed a healthy baby girl on May 14, 2013.

A version of this article was published in Atlanta Gay Weddings, 2012/13.

VENDORS
Photographers: Alisha Sams of Imaginarium Studios, Kory Garner of Faux Toe Images
Venue and Caterer: The Embassy Suites, Miramar Beach, FL
Cake: Melissa Donovan
Cupcakes: Over the Top Cupcakes, Stuart, FL
Vocalists, guitarist: Jamie Heart, Kato Estill
Attire: David’s Bridal (Brooke), Macy’s (Joana)
Hair: Barbie at Avant Garde Salon, Destin (Brooke)
Officiant: Ray Ward
Jewelers: Hon Ngai Jewelry, Etsy.com (Brooke’s engagement ring), Worthmore Jewelers (Joana’s band), The Mobley Company, Villa Rica, GA (Brooke’s band)
Flowers: A Perfect Day, Destin, FL

Bios, Portfolio

Chef Chrysta Poulos, King + Duke

chrysta-poulos

CHRYSTA POULOS: PASTRY CHEF – KING + DUKE

HIGHLIGHTS:
The energetic and friendly Chrysta Poulos has been honing her pastry skills for 10 years in Atlanta. A graduate of the Art Institute of Atlanta’s culinary program, she has worked in some of the city’s top pastry kitchens. Before joining the team of the newly minted King + Duke, Poulos earned her pedigreed chops at luminary restaurants including Woodfire Grill, 4th & Swift, Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch and Holeman & Finch Bread Company. Along the way, she’s amassed accolades and awards, including being named a Rising Stars Pastry Chef, and her signature sticky toffee pudding as the “People’s Choice.”

FULL BIO:
The energetic and friendly Chrysta Poulos has been honing her pastry skills for 10 years in Atlanta. A graduate of the Art Institute of Atlanta’s culinary program, she has worked in some of the city’s top pastry kitchens. Before joining the team of the newly minted King + Duke, she earned her pedigreed chops at luminary restaurants including Woodfire Grill, 4th & Swift, Restaurant Eugene, Holeman & Finch and Holeman & Finch Bread Company.

Poulos, who rocks a vibrant mane of shocking pink, is lauded for striking the delicate balance of taste, textures and temperatures to create an impressionable dessert experience. “Dessert is the last impression a restaurant can make on a diner,” she says. “I want to provide a great memory for people—and I want them to come back for more.” Farm fresh fruits and produce provide constant inspiration for her seasonal menus.

Poulos has an enthusiastic but controlled approach to pastries. Now that she’s at the helm of King + Duke’s pastry kitchen, which employs a Colonial American approach to cooking—all on an open fire—she’s seamlessly translating this style to her desserts. “I use the hearth and the smoker with my desserts,” she says. “For example, I smoke the cherries that top our Black Forest chocolate cake,” which is paired with house-made black pepper ice cream. She utilizes Americana traditions in most of her dishes, including roasting the strawberries, which crown the vanilla cheesecake.

Poulos’ career is a varied one. Before her 10-year reign in Atlanta as one of the top pastry chefs, the Atlanta native served in the U.S. Air Force, working on B1B bombers. After retiring from the military, Poulos started picking up shifts as a server and felt drawn to the kitchen. Poulos found she enjoyed the lifestyle, and enrolled at the Art Institute of Atlanta.

Poulos was named Atlanta Rising Star Pastry Chef in 2012 during her tenure at Woodfire Grill, but perhaps what she’s best known for is her signature sticky toffee pudding, which won Adoption Discovery’s “People’s Choice” Award in 2011. She has carried that beloved recipe from 4th & Swift to Woodfire and now is introducing it to King + Duke’s guests as Dates + Ale. But here she takes a twist, cultivating something new: The crème anglaise is crafted from Sweetwater Lowrider IPA. “I wanted to give a nod to our local brewery, and it really cuts the sweetness with a warm finish.”

A sugar aficionado, Poulos is perhaps most passionate about cacao. “I love working with chocolate,” she raves. “It has so many flavor profiles with wine.” She says she plans to work with King + Duke’s bartender to create a series of canapés to be offered with dessert wines, again looking to the sweet, happy ending for her diners.

When she’s not preparing seasonal product-driven delicacies, the pink-haired Poulos spends time traveling and taking abstract photographs of her discoveries along the way. She buzzes with fun energy and creative spark in all that she invests her time.

 

 

Atlanta, Bios, Portfolio

Chef Andrew Isabella, No. 246

No. 246

No. 246 Photo by Access Atlanta

 

CHEF DE CUISINE ANDREW ISABELLA  NO. 246

Andrew IsabellaQUICK HIGHLIGHTS:

Italian tradition courses through No. 246’s Chef de Cuisine Andrew Isabella’s veins. Growing up in an Italian family who emphasized helping people, he knew at an early age that he was destined to serve others through community outreach and drawing upon his culinary talents. In November 2012, the Floridian native arrived at Atlanta’s luminary restaurateurs and chefs Ford Fry and Drew Belline’s Italian-inspired No. 246 restaurant, which is deservedly praised for its affection for farm-fresh ingredients. Isabella’s career includes the role of sous chef at Luma on Park, in Winter Park, Fla., from 2010 to 2012, as well as the lead line cook and sous chef under Bravo’s Top Chef contestant Tracey Bloom at Table 1280 on the High Museum of Art’s campus from 2009 to 2010. Isabella, who has been wowing dining guests and employers alike with his flair for creative dishes, earned his associate of science in culinary arts from Keiser University in Tallahassee, Fla.

He now is settled happily in the heart of Buckhead with his wife Kaylen. Together, the sweethearts enjoy antiquing and traveling, though she might be in fierce competition for time with Chef Belline, who’s just introduced Chef Isabella to the exciting world of foraging. The Belline/Isabella duo makes for an impressive combo of leadership and style at No. 246, which places importance on the seasonality of locally sourced ingredients to build fresh, everyday dishes utilizing Italian cooking techniques in the heart of Decatur. “I like working with seasonal and locally inspired ingredients,” says Isabella. “I believe good food brings people together, so my passion for food also corresponds with my calling to serve others.”

FULL BIOGRAPHY:

Italian tradition courses through No. 246’s Chef de Cuisine Andrew Isabella’s veins. Growing up in an Italian family who emphasized helping people, he knew at an early age that he was destined to serve others through community outreach and drawing upon his culinary talents. “During my senior year, there was a family who had a tragedy,” recalls Isabella. “Instead of bringing them food, I asked my mom if I could go over there and cook. The feedback I got and the happiness I brought, and just being there with them during a difficult time helped me to know this is what I wanted to do with my life.”

Since his teen years, this Marianna, Florida, native has dedicated himself to the culinary craft—from paying his dues at a small family restaurant in his hometown to gaining familiarity with kitchen practices and managing a staff at a country club. The lure of kitchen life drew Isabella to enroll at Keiser University in Tallahassee, Florida, where he graduated with an associate’s degree in culinary arts.

During his education, Isabella interned at Wolfgang Puck’s Catering at the Georgia Aquarium, where he assisted in cooking for parties from 10 to 10,000. After culinary school, Isabella’s career path led him to Table 1280 on the High Museum of Art’s campus from 2009 to 2010. Under Bravo’s Top Chef contestant Tracey Bloom’s tutelage, Isabella gained a greater understanding for refined American cuisine. When she went on hiatus to film Top Chef, he was tapped for the position of sous chef, and wowed his employers and guests with his creativity and food knowledge.

Isabella returned to his home state in 2010, accepting the position of sous chef at Luma on Park, a Concentrics concept owned by NASCAR CEO and Chairman of the Board Brian France, and remained until the fall of 2012. “We worked with a lot of local farms, changing our menu every day,” says Isabella. “I learned a lot about fish butchering during my time there.” Luma’s modern American style served Isabella well, enabling him to master sous vide like nobody’s business. After his promotion from sous chef to management, Isabella began to yearn for Atlanta. Luckily, Luma’s executive chef Brandon McGlamery is close friends with Drew Belline, co-owner of No. 246, and he happily connected the two. “I fell in love with No. 246,” says Isabella, “and Drew took me right in.”

In November 2012, the Florida native became the chef de cuisine at Atlanta’s luminary restaurateurs and chefs Ford Fry and Drew Belline’s Italian-inspired No. 246 restaurant, which is deservedly praised for its affection for farm-fresh ingredients. Isabella is now is settled happily in the heart of Buckhead with his new wife Kaylen (the newlyweds tied the knot in November 2011). Together, the sweethearts enjoy antiquing and traveling, though she might be in fierce competition for time with Chef Belline, who’s just introduced Chef Isabella to the exciting world of foraging.

The Belline/Isabella duo makes for an impressive combo of leadership and style at No. 246, which places importance on the seasonality of locally sourced ingredients to build fresh, everyday dishes utilizing Italian cooking techniques in the heart of Decatur. “I like working with seasonal and locally inspired ingredients,” says Isabella. “I believe good food brings people together, so my passion for food also corresponds with my calling to serve others.”

During his time at No. 246, Isabella’s feeling most appreciative of the simplicity in approach. “It’s great letting the ingredients speak for themselves,” he says. “Coming from Luma, where there was so much put into every dish, it was very complex. At No. 246, we let the produce talk.”

No. 246 is hailed for its veneration for local produce and meaningful relationships developed with local farmers. “It’s amazing,” says Isabella of the fresh produce. “The farmers cut it and bring it in dripping wet, still covered in dirt. It means a lot. It’s a good way to see it.”

An integral figure in the design and development of the oft-changed menu, Isabella’s philosophy is represented in every dish. It’s refined farm-to-table food rooted in Italian techniques—served at lunchtime and evening to ravenous Decaturites and Atlantans alike.

 

 

Atlanta, Bios, Portfolio, writing

Chef E.J. Hodgkinson, JCT. Kitchen and Bar

Chef-EJ-Hodgkinson-Atlanta-food

E.J. HODGKINSON: EXECUTIVE CHEF – JCT. KITCHEN AND BAR

QUICK HIGHLIGHTS:

Before becoming the Executive Chef at JCT. Kitchen and Bar in January 2013, E.J. Hodgkinson crisscrossed the country, polishing his culinary chops at luxury resorts, cafés and the Texas Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu. Hodgkinson’s comfort in the kitchen came easy, as he watched his grandmother tend to her garden, turning fresh, local ingredients into fulfilling and nourishing meals at the family dinner table. The 29-year-old California native is in an unabashed love affair with the South now, and aims to rocket JCT. Kitchen to the national acclaim it deserves.

FULL BIOGRAPHY:

Executive Chef E.J. Hodgkinson has been immersed in a vibrant culinary culture for half of his life. The Placerville, California, native began cooking professionally at the ripe age of 14 in a neighborhood coffee shop. It was during this chef-driven childhood that Hodgkinson developed his insatiable appreciation for locally sourced ingredients, observing his grandmother canning the tomatoes grown in her lush California garden. “My grandmother taught me the art of preservation and the concept of farm-to-table long before it was cool or a cliché,” says the family-oriented chef who could cook an egg at the tender age of 6. “I fell into cooking comfortably.”

Once he finished high school, the adventurous spirit headed to Idaho, polishing his gourmet chef skills at the posh Sun Valley Resort, a luxury travel destination teeming with celebrities seeking refuge and anonymity. Chef Hodgkinson continued with his training in Ashland, Oregon, where he kept beat to a high-paced rhythm at a cozy restaurant which caters to the Shakespeare festival that attracts 1.8 million people annually.

At only 21-years-old, Hodgkinson was named executive chef at Tomei’s, a hip restaurant in his historic hometown, which is famous from the Gold Rush days. He says that “to take the next step I had to take a step back.” So he enrolled in Texas Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, Texas. Graduation landed him the sous chef position at for 34th St. Café, where fresh, locally sourced food was the focus.

Chef Hodgkinson’s love affair with the South blossomed when he moved to Atlanta with his girlfriend, who wanted to be closer to her family. He sought out chef positions with premium restaurants, and caught the attention of Bravo’s Top Chef luminary Kevin Gillespie, who was at the helm of Woodfire Grill’s kitchen at the time.

Hodgkinson earned multiple promotions from line cook to sous chef to chef de cuisine in his 4-and-a-half years at Woodfire Grill. “Kevin played an integral role in my falling in love with Southern cuisine,” says Hodgkinson, who confesses he used to think grits played second fiddle to polenta. “I quickly learned it was the other way around,” he says, adding that “Southern cuisine is the richest and most fulfilling in America because of the history and heritage behind it.” Perhaps what has made the deepest imprint on the chef’s heart is how the Southern family values its meals around the table, which reminds him of his own family back in California. “Sitting down with your family every night and eating dinner together is how I grew up, but it’s not the norm in California. It seems to be the norm in the South, and it’s why I fell in love with it.”

The chef’s expansive knowledge of sourcing the freshest ingredients and layering their flavors into perfection led to a call from Chef Ford Fry in the fall of 2012, inviting him to become part of the JCT. Kitchen family. As executive chef of the lauded dining destination known for its down-home gourmet style, Hodgkinson revels in employing the proper, fundamental techniques to bring out the best of each ingredient and letting each component speak for itself. “Something gets lost in translation when you do too much to it,” he says.

Chef Hodgkinson easily became a proud ambassador for Chef Fry’s West Midtown restaurant. “What I love about JCT is the friendly, comfortable experience offered from start to finish. I like people to feel like they’ve come into my home and had an amazing meal, accompanied by great, not-too-intrusive service and incredible drinks.”

The ambitious chef has set his sights on countrywide acclaim for JCT. Kitchen. His goal is elevating the level of cuisine without becoming pretentious, continuing to make it a fun place at which to dine and experience food. “My aim is to execute a very high level of food in a format which people can enjoy and still keep it approachable,” he says, noting that the Southern focus situated in comfortable yet refined environs is what’s kept it such high regard with Atlanta’s foodie community. “There’s a reason it’s been here for seven years. I aim to just make it make it better. I would like to take JCT to the national realm of recognition. Ford knows I’ve always had my foot on the gas.”

 

Want a professional biography like this one? Contact Kirsten Ott at ko@kirstenott.co.