Asian Comfort Food

Georgia Trend Magazine. March 2023 print.

Peachtree Corners is bustling with new restaurants, and Jinbei West is one of the newest additions. The Town Center’s two-acre green space and children’s play areas attract families to shop, entertain and dine without having to go far out of the neighborhood.

A large glass-window front opens to the casual and minimalist-modern Japanese-Korean restaurant, which has seating for more than 40 guests at its blue-tile-backed sushi bar and custom-made light-brown wooden chairs and tables. Blank white walls, bright lights and gray floors in the 2,000-square-foot industrial space are a far cry from the stuffy Japanese-style izakaya gastropub that typically has dim lights, dark wood paneling and tight spaces. The neutral ambiance and simple décor at Jinbei West is designed to offer comfort to families looking for a high-end sushi experience.

Though the ambiance is impersonal and industrial, the food and service are anything but. Friendly servers patiently explain the Japanese and Korean comfort dishes (which primarily include fried foods, ramen and sushi).

After the success of a sister restaurant Yakitori Jinbei in Smyrna, which shot to fame after being featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, business partners chef G. Garvin (founder of LowCountry Restaurants) and Jae Choi opened the new Peachtree Corners location to offer a more upscale dining experience outside Atlanta.

The extensive menu offers a good variety to those who enjoy pork, beef and seafood. For appetizers, start with agedashi tofu to warm up your palate. Delicately fried soft tofu cubes come in a light dashi and soy broth, topped with seaweed strips and chopped scallions. Build your way up to chunks of sweet and crisp tempura-fried lobster toban with luscious brown butter and a hint of lemon, presented on a toban (ceramic skillet) with crackling flame.

Jinbei’s KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) was one of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives host Guy Fieri’s favorites and you will see why. Eight large pieces of bone-in chicken are drenched in a proprietary-recipe coating of starches that steam the meat while retaining a thick, crisp coating when deep-fried. It is glazed with a sweet and spicy sauce of Korean gochujang (chili paste), ketchup and sesame seeds. Allow at least 20 minutes to prepare and keep some wet wipes handy!

If you haven’t tried traditional ramen before, order katsu curry ramen, a playful, uncommon marriage of panko-breaded-and-fried pork cutlet with traditional Japanese curry. The master broth is made by extracting flavors of pork and chicken bone and marrow, which is an arduous three- to five-day cooking process. Smoky onion, pungent anchovy and sweet curry come together for a robust umami dish that makes for a satisfying comfort meal.

In the sushi section of the menu, there is classic nigiri, sashimi and maki. Specialty fish is flown in from Japan frequently, so ask for sushi specials. The bluefin tartare appetizer offers an exciting combination of soft, chopped raw bluefin, topped with creamy quail egg and diced crisp sweet Asian pear – a play on the Korean dish yukhoe. The Jinbei West maki roll is filled with a soggy salad of lump crab, shrimp, crab stick and mayonnaise, topped with salmon, golden berry, sweet citrus yuzu ponzu and truffle salt. It presents the idea of Japanese sushi with sweet and creamy Korean flavors.

Dessert options are limited to ice creams and a homemade green-tea crème brûlée with a bitter matcha flavor and a runny consistency.

Whether you order a rice bowl, ramen, sushi or tapas, you won’t have any difficulty pairing a fitting drink. For a small restaurant, there’s a rather large selection of Korean and Japanese beers, sake, soju and whiskey, as well as wine. For an innovative cocktail, try a refreshing sweet and tart lychee martini or a strong and smoky Statesman with Japanese Hatozaki whiskey and maple syrup.

The clean and family-friendly atmosphere, along with authentic food and drinks, make Jinbei feel like a modern suburban izakaya. 

~ Written for and published by Georgia Trend Magazine. All rights reserved.

Head to Dahlonega for a Chocolate Crawl

Georgia Trend. Feb 2023.

If you are like me, you have by now forgotten your New Year’s healthy eating resolutions. If you want to throw caution to the wind, you can make an escape for the north Georgia mountains to satisfy your cravings while also getting some fresh air.

Dahlonega is especially fun to visit during its annual chocolate crawl festival, held March 6-12 this year. For a week, participating local candy makers, restaurants and cafes offer samples to everyone. Grown-ups and young ones are welcome, and many out-of-state visitors come to Dahlonega especially for the crawl.

One of the most iconic spots on the crawl is The Fudge Factory, which has been around since 1982 and pays homage to the town’s gold-rush history. Take a bite out of the Dahlonega Nugget — pecans covered in homemade caramel dipped in chocolate – or choose from 75 kinds of hand dipped chocolates. My personal favorite is the creamy milk-chocolate-covered crispy graham crackers – a smores-like biscuit that is perfect with a cup of tea.

If you enjoy watching the candy-making process, stop by Paul Thomas Chocolates, known for their custom souvenir gold bars with pecans and raisins that reminds you of a fruit and nut chocolate bar. The chocolate-covered Oreos are also a kid favorite.

At Crown and Bear, you may feel like you entered a traditional English confectionery. Here you can try Maltesers Malt Balls and Cadbury Crunch candy bar, as well as shop for British stationary, kitchenware, linens, umbrellas, teapots and biscuits, crisps, scones and sausages.

Continue your stroll to an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, Connie’s Ice Cream Parlor & SandwichShop for an indulgent banana split, then have a cup of “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” a dark iced hot chocolate and chocolate truffle black tea blend at My Vintage Gypsy Teas & Magickal Makings, paired with decadent cookies and cakes from The Picnic Café and Dessertery.

With so many treats all in one area, Dahlonega offers a perfect day trip for families to dine, shop, walk and be entertained. The 3rd annual Dahlonega Chocolate Crawl will take place from March 6-12, 2023. While it is fun to visit the shops in person, they also sell their candies online.

~ Written for and published by Georgia Trend Magazine. All rights reserved.

Edible Education in Chattahoochee Hills

Georgia Trend Magazine. Jan 2023.

Neat rows of Swiss chard and broccoli heads, towering bright yellow sunflowers and friendly chickens running around — that is not your typical school scene. But Chattahoochee Hills Charter School(CHCS), located in the city of Chattahoochee Hills in southern Fulton County, is an exception.

The K-8 charter school is on a mission to grow 70% of the food consumed on campus by 2025. CHCS has a unique focus on art appreciation, agriculture sustainability and environmental awareness. Students learn to grow, harvest, prepare, serve and eat healthy food as part of the daily routine. Every day, during school hours, they have hands-on experiences that connect their young minds to food, nature and each other. This is not only designed to nurture the body, but to systematically address the crises of climate change, public health and social inequality.

The farm-to-table school lunch idea was started by Alice Waters, one of America’s most celebrated chefs whose name is synonymous with the slow food movement, which uses fresh, organic and locally grown foods. A culinary activist and the owner of famous Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkley, California, Waters founded the Edible Schoolyard Project (ESP) in 1995 to use organic school gardens, kitchens and cafeterias to teach academic subjects and the values of nourishment, stewardship and community. ESP now supports a network of over 5,800 programs at schools worldwide, including the one at CHCS.

The community of Serenbe recently hosted a fundraising reception with Waters, featuring a six-course collaborative dinner created by some of Georgia’s stellar chefs (including Matthew and Tia Raiford of Strong Roots 9Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia and Star Provisions, Claudia Martinez ofMiller Union, and Nicolas Bour of The Farmhouse at Serenbe).Parents and community partners have been heavily involved in supporting CHCS’s programs since the school opened in 2014.

Patrick Muhammad, the principal at CHCS who is also fondly known as the “principal farmer,” had been studying ESP for about five years and developed the school’s first gardens and farm. When he was introduced to Waters via Raiford, a mutual friend, his dream came true.

At the school, you can see a greenhouse that holds thousands of seedlings, tower gardens used for lettuce bases, a two-acre farm for row crops, 50 laying hens, an apiary with three bee hives, muscadine vines and smaller gardens located throughout the campus. There are also plans for workshops on sustainable agriculture for parents, shared kitchens and partnership with chefs to supply and feed the community.

Interested in taking a tour of the school, volunteering at the farm, partnering or donating? Visit

~ Written for and published by Georgia Trend Magazine. All rights reserved.

Spanish – Latin Vibes

Georgia Trend Magazine. Jan 2023 print.

On a Friday night, downtown Alpharetta is bustling with families celebrating, groups of friends grabbing drinks and romantic couples having a date night by candlelight. In the past few months, this suburban enclave has become a hotspot with the opening of new, innovative restaurants, such as the Spanish-Latin restaurant Fogón and Lions by Chef Julio Delgado (formerly at New Realm Brewing and JP Atlanta).

A lively and large 30-seat-bar that opens to the interior of the restaurant on one side and an outdoor patio on the other is the focal point. Traditional Spanish-colonial design elements such as stone walls, tile floors and pops of yellow hint at the chef’s origins in Puerto Rico. A 14-foot-long wood-burning fogón (hearth) makes a dramatic backdrop for the open kitchen. Diners can see an orchestra of chefs grilling skirt steaks, roasting octopus and sautéing in paella pans.

A black-and-white picture of Delgado’s grandfather, who was a butcher in Ponce, Puerto Rico, hangs in the entryway and adorns the cover of the menus. The symbol of a crouching lion pays homage to Delgado’s hometown. Ponce is also called “La Ciudad de los Leones” (city of lions) and was named after the grandson of explorer Ponce de Leon.

The extensive menu draws inspiration from culinary traditions in Spain and its colonies in the Caribbean, Central and South America and The Philippines. The tapas section includes cured meats and cheeses, ceviche, tacos, roasted vegetables and traditional appetizers – so you can explore the world through your palate.

Start with cornmeal sorullos, a popular street food from Puerto Rico that is akin to a Southern-style fried-corn hush puppy, served with lusciously spiced buttermilk syrup. Creamy chicken croquetas are lightly breaded, deep-fried and simply melt in your mouth. Barbequed shrimp taquitos marry sweet barbeque sauce to the fiery poblano cream, on a bed of a refreshing mango salad. For a simple yet flavorful vegetarian dish, have the Catalan-style wood-roasted eggplant escalivada, drizzled with earthy olive oil, fresh rosemary and honey.

Entrées are generously portioned and sharable to round out a meal. One of the restaurant’s signature fire-treated dishes, such as the adobo wood-roasted chicken, is a must. Simmered in a brine of citrus, cumin and peppers, the bone-in chicken is moist and smoky. It is served with cilantro rice, black beans and a chimichurri of roasted-jalapeño cilantro-garlic olive oil on the side.

The chicken and seafood paella is made to order from scratch, so allow 45 minutes to prepare. This version of the classic Valencia dish uses both chicken and seafood (shrimp, mussels and clams), in a juicy bed of roasted onions, pepper and saffron sofrito, cooked and served in a large shallow paella pan.

Rum-glazed plantains have an odd combination of rum, sugar and garlic luster that somehow works. The sweetness makes them taste more like a dessert, but they are traditionally eaten with the mains.

For dessert, Basque burnt cheesecake is creamy in the center and extremely soft, so it crumbles with a fork. Sweet and pucker guava sauce on top transports you to the tropics. Staying true to the theme, the restaurant offers a traditional crema Catalana, the Spanish version of crème brûlée that incorporates cinnamon and orange zest for a delectable ending.

The beverage offerings are as elaborate as the former Spanish empire itself. These include a long list of Spanish and South American wines, imported and local beer, as well as “mis tres amores” (my three loves), some of Delgado’s favorite rum, tequila and whiskey. Cocktails are designed to replicate the happy hours in Latin America, where diners linger with their favorite spirits – choose a balloon glass filled with gin tonica (Spanish-style G&T) or something fruitier like a house-macerated sangria. Also, try the naturally sweetened bright-green signature avocado margarita with a rim of spicy tajin, or in Fogón grand fashion, Delgado’s take on an Old Fashioned made with Don Q rum.

Fogón and Lions offers a casual and relaxed interpretation of some of the Spanish culinary influences found around the world, with the common denominator being enjoyment with food and friends

~ Written for and published by Georgia Trend Magazine. All rights reserved.

Cooking with compassion

Georgia Trend. December 2022.

The first thing that you think about during the holidays? Food. Parties, family gathering and baking together are integral to the festive season. A new book shows us how to approach our food with kindness, respect and dignity. If you are inclined to eat well and give back not only this month, but throughout the year, incorporate these tips in your kitchen.

Published in October 2022, “The Humane Table – Cooking With Compassion” is a cookbook that acts as a guide to sourcing and cooking with high quality products that nourish our bodies as well as the planet. The book includes delicious recipes using dairy, meat, poultry, seafood and egg ingredients sourced from producers and chefs. A sampling includes delicate ricotta sweet potato beignets, beef satay with peanut butter dip, Fire Island blueberry duck with port wine, crisp zucchini corn fritters and refreshing key lime pie.

The author, Robin Ganzert, is the president and CEO of American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization founded in 1877. Its iconic programs include Humane Hollywood (you may recognize the “No Animals Were Harmed®” end credit on the movies you watch), Pups4Patriots™ (which trains dogs to be lifesaving service dogs for veterans with PTSD or brain injuries), American Humane Certification in agriculture, as well as global conservation for animals in zoos and aquariums.

Proceeds from Ganzert’s book benefit the nonprofit organization to further its work to protect animals around the world, including saving, sheltering and improving the lives of some 1 million animals in 2020-2021.

Georgia-based Springer Mountain Farms, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Baldwin, was the first major poultry producer in the country to become American Humane-certified. The family-run farm offers well-treated and better-tasting chickens that are guaranteed to elevate your Southern fried chicken. Just ask chef Robert Butts of Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Poursrestaurant in Atlanta – or better yet, try his recipe for fried chicken with Thai chili cilantro glaze, one of the humane recipes he developed for Springer Mountain that’s included in Ganzert’s cookbook. Butts builds relationships with local producers to deliver the highest quality farm-to-table ingredients on his menu and also hosted the book launch event. “The food tastes more clean and delicious. When cooking with beef, you can see the natural red color and marbling and the chicken doesn’t taste tough,” says Butts.

Or check out nearly 100-year-old Rose Acre Farms in Canon which uses an efficient and sustainable egg production model, The Good Egg Coop, to produce humane and high-quality eggs, perfect for a hearty country picnic potato salad.

Get humane for the holidays by consuming healthier, happier and drug-free animal products. And, if you are looking to set up a humane table year-round, get to know where your food comes from. Butts advises shopping for ingredients from farmers markets, local butchers (like Midtown Butcher Shoppe on Monroe Drive) and accessible organic grocery stores (Sprouts, Whole Foods). Avoid freezing meats as they lose nutrition and can get freezer burn.

Glossary of producers can be found in the back of the book.

~ Written for and published by Georgia Trend Magazine. All rights reserved.

Wine Tips For The Holidays

Georgia Trend. Nov 2022.

How many times have you wandered the wine aisle at the grocery store and been overwhelmed with the selection of countless bottles? When you are scrambling to make your Thanksgiving dinner or to buy Christmas presents, the last thing you want to do is read every label and figure out which wine your guests would prefer to drink.

Thankfully, educational stores like Vino Venue in Dunwoody make it easier. Co-founded by Lelia Bryan and her late husband, Michael (who started the Atlanta Wine School in early 2000s), Vino Venue is a wine shop, tasting room, restaurant and school – all in one place. The couple wanted to create a space for those who wanted to learn about wines and taste them before committing to buying. Over the past 10 years, they expanded to offering wine and cooking classes, a wine club, and wine-themed trips to places like Piedmont, Bordeaux and California.

What makes this neighborhood wine shop different from big-box sellers is the unique collection of wines and personalized recommendations. Each week, beverage director and partner Rob Van Leer tastes more than 100 types of wines from all over the world to carefully select what goes on the shelves and in the wine club. He gets to know customers’ profiles by asking them a series of questions. An informal wine-shopping interview can last between 10 seconds to a half hour, depending on the interest of the buyer.

For this holiday season, first think about what are you cooking, who you are hosting and what is your budget, Leer advises. He says you can get quality wines at every price point, and can follow certain pairing guidelines. For example, dry, tart or sweet lambrusco from Emilia Romagna goes well with a charcuterie board. Easy-drinking sauvignon blanc, gamay and delicate pinot noir are also good with hors d’oeuvres. Champagne, Beaujolais, Burgundy and many Tuscan and Oregon wines pair with practically everything and are good to keep on hand.

A German gewürztraminer, French gamay and merlot, or Oregon pinot noir will also fare well at a turkey dinner. If you are serving a brunch of, say, cornmeal-crusted oysters, frittata, fruit and biscuits, serve something that’s cold, sparkling and has low alcohol content, like a fruity pear cider from Normandy.

Wines can also star at your cocktail party. Add a sprig of rosemary and a sliver of fresh orange to Chandon Garden Spritz. Top vibrant and sweet cognac-like Pineau des Charentes with inexpensive apple cider and cinnamon stick. Serve red or white vermouth on the rocks, with a splash of OJ or soda water, or make a classic negroni.

As the meal progresses, you can go bolder and richer, pairing French pinot noir with lamb and steak, Spanish Rioja with salmon, and fruit-forward California wine with burgers. Get a dessert wine to round off the meal or serve a glass of grande cuvée to reset everyone’s taste buds. Plan for an average of a bottle per person for a dinner party, and remember you can always drink what’s left next day!

To taste before you buy, check out Vino Venue’s 32 wines “on tap,” or attend its high- end wine tasting class on Dec 4th.

~ Written for and published by Georgia Trend. All rights reserved.

The Hart & Crown Tavern: British-style Southern

Georgia Trend. Nov 2022 print.

Portraits of King Richard and a young David Bowie are featured on exposed brick walls. Original hardwood flooring and a wide wooden bar complement a dark interior with low ceilings. The ambiance reminds you of a traditional pub you might find in England. But this one is located at the historic square in the Southern town of Madison, in what was once Simmons Funeral Home.

Hart & Crown Tavern opened in early 2022 as the latest offering from MAD Hospitality. The company, headed by CEO Preston Snyder, is on a mission to restore Madison’s old buildings to create a series of new cafes, restaurants and shops in a part of downtown that’s lacked attention. Snyder won a Preservation Excellence Award for returning the L.M. Thompson Building to its 1902 Wagon Works appearance, which is now home to Hart & Crown Tavern and Mad Taco.

On a weekend evening, Hart & Crown Tavern is full of locals and tourists who have flocked to this cozy neighborhood bar and restaurant. Some snuggle on the comfortable antique leather couch by the wood-burning fireplace, with a gin and tonic in hand. Others are seated at one of the booths or in chairs shipped from a pub in England. They gaze at artwork depicting London parks. The background of cocktail shakers, chattering people and ringing telephone adds to the watering-hole sound bites.

The menu created by Atlanta-born Culinary Director and Executive Chef Ryan Caldwell (previously at Michelin-starred Picholine, New York City, and Malibu Beach Inn, Malibu), promises a fresh take on traditional Southern and English offerings in a casual pub-like setting.

For snacks, try the classic Scotch egg, halved soft-boiled eggs wrapped in spicy ground pork, coated with breadcrumbs and deep fried to a crisp. With pickled cucumber relish and tangy mustard, it is a hearty starter, especially with a glass of whiskey.

The plates section of the menu offers many English and Southern classics. Liberty Farms lamb-shoulder cuts simmer with turnips, carrots and parsley to make a brothy lamb stew. Beer-battered Atlantic cod, seasoned with onion, garlic and curry powder for color, is fried crispy golden-brown and served with homemade tartar sauce and mashed green peas, as fish and chips. Bangers and smash offer hearty Irish sausages, spiced with mace, nutmeg, onion and garlic, on a bed of caramelized fingerling potatoes topped with a delicate parsley sauce.

A straightforward Springer Mountain chicken pot pie with seasonal vegetables and puff pastry crust was a bit disappointing. The velouté is runny, lacking the rich thick texture that holds up the pie.

In the South, you can hardly go wrong with shrimp and grits and this one is perhaps the best dish on the menu. The Atlantic shrimp are buttery on top of white-cheddar cheese grits and tangy charred tomato-and-creole cream sauce.

If you plan to drink and nibble, order a bunch of the sides – each one is filling. The mac and cheese comes with orecchiette pasta scooping up smoky and creamy gouda cheese sauce with a hint of salt and garlic. Topped with cream and bread crumbs, the side is quite rich and makes for a meal in itself. The truffle English-style chips (no, they’re not the same as fries) offer hints of truffle oil and parmesan. Large pieces of triple-blanched and fried potatoes are more starchy than crisp. Farm vegetables of the day include lightly grilled and heavily seasoned, locally sourced summer squash and kale.

If you are not already full from the substantial plates, try the sticky toffee pudding for dessert. The decadent moist sponge cake has lots of rum, chopped dates, toffee caramel sauce and whipped cream. A lighter option is lemon posset – silky lemon custard with fresh blueberries (available seasonally).

The bar is a focal point at Hart & Crown Tavern, and there are plenty of cocktails and spirits to appeal to everyone. Ponder over the extensive whiskey collection, a dedicated Scotch list and a long list of gins, as well as beers on tap.

This country pub is not just a place to eat – it is a place to relax, mingle and experience British culture in Madison.

~ As seen in the Nov 2022 printed issue of Georgia Trend. All rights reserved.

All About Pumpkins

Georgia Trend. Oct 2022.

Changing foliage, dropping temperatures, the aroma of cinnamon, and all of a sudden, pumpkins are everywhere — at grocery stores, on porches and on restaurant menus. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 80% of the U.S. pumpkin crop is available in October. Whether you like to carve them into jack-o’-lanterns or bake them in a pie, here are a few helpful insights into America’s favorite fall fruit.

Wait, pumpkin is a fruit?

Well, technically – if you ask a botanist. But the rest of us generally lump them in with the veggies. Pumpkins belong to the squash family, and not all pumpkins are round and orange. There are lots of varieties, in red, yellow and green colors, as well as long and oblong shapes. Though all pumpkins are edible, the bigger carving varieties have lower sugar content, thin walls and are stringy, whereas the smaller ones are sweeter and have less moisture.

So which variety is best? 

It depends! From lattes to ice creams, curries to pastas, pumpkin is a versatile ingredient that can be incorporated into sweet and savory dishes. Steven Satterfield, award-winning chef, author and founder of the restaurant Miller Union in Atlanta, likes to experiment with a variety of pumpkins and squash. He uses blue Hubbard squash (a winter squash that tastes like pumpkin) for his pasta fillings and Seminole pumpkins for roasting. The cylindrical shaped, yellow-and-green striped delicata is also ideal for roasting once cut into bite-sized pieces. Satterfield advises scooping the seeds out and coating cubes or slices of the pulp in seaweed crunch and roasting them for a delightful side. Sugar pumpkins (also called pie or sweet pumpkins), which are small and round, can be grated and added raw to recipes for pancakes. Vegetable Revelations-Inspiration for Produce-Forward Cooking, Satterfield’s new cookbook coming in April 2023, will include his recipes.

In the meantime, you can enjoy his confit duck leg with roasted fall squash, plum, mushroom, pumpkin puree sauce and pumpkin-walnut granola at Miller Union. He also makes spaghetti squash with clams, chorizo and spicy paprika sauce, and pumpkin custard souffle with ginger.

Satterfield says that if you don’t want to spend all day cutting, seeding and cooking down a fresh pumpkin, it is perfectly acceptable to use canned puree. For home chefs, fresh pumpkins may cause unpredictable results in baking because of variable starch and water content.

What are some common pumpkin pitfalls?

According to Satterfield, the biggest mistake people make is when cutting a pumpkin. He advises laying it on its flattest side, using a large sharp knife, and slowly cutting into quarters and then peeling off each section.

Also, instead of throwing away the 500 edible and iron-rich seeds found inside each pumpkin, you can roast them to use as salad toppings, soup thickeners, in granola mixes and to make dukka (African spice blend). Pumpkin flowers can also be used like squash blossoms in salads, stuffed with cheese and deep fried, or baked into a frittata or quiche.

So step out and pick up different kinds of pumpkins (and squash!) this fall. Buy them from farmers markets, visit a pumpkin patch in Georgia and support local farmers.

~ Written for and published by Georgia Trend. All rights reserved.

Take a German Food Tour

Georgia Trend. Sept 2022.

Helen is located only an hour and a half northeast of Atlanta, but this alpine town transports you across the Atlantic without a passport or an airline ticket. It boasts one of the longest-running Oktoberfests lasting seven weeks, from September 8 to October 30, with plenty of German polkas, waltzes, parades, live music, food and drinks.

If you are not familiar with Helen’s dining scene, get acquainted by taking a food tour with Helen & Back. After vacationing in Helen for over 20 years, founder Heather Pisano, a native of Smyrna, was so enchanted that she decided to relocate there permanently. She taught herself everything about Helen’s history and its quirky ties to German culture before opening her food tour company.

The four-hour-long tour, offered year-round, starts at Bodensee Restaurant where the group (up to 10 people) gather and get to know each other over flights of beer and family-style shared plates. Run by Romanian-German owners, Master Chef Aurel Prodan and his wife, Doina, Bondensee offers a casual old-world pub-like atmosphere with generous portions of bratwurst, spaetzle, sauerkraut, smoked pork chops, red cabbage and German potato salad.

During summer, you can watch people tube down the Chattahoochee River from the deck of Café International, while gnawing thick juicy slices of corned beef – it’s home of the best Reuben sandwich (which was invented in the U.S., not in Germany).

Potato Pancakes Pic By Sucheta Rawal

At Hofbrauhaus, taste peach beer along with Kartoffelpuffer (pancakes made from shredded potatoes) topped with applesauce and sour cream. The bar and restaurant has an outdoor patio overlooking the water where you can drink, eat and watch live music performances.

King Ludwig Biergarten at White Horse Square is a popular gathering spot on Helen’s main road Georgia 75 for beer pints and soft salt pretzels with creamy beer cheese dip (a Kentucky creation). With a backdrop of colorful Bavarian architecture, the plaza feels straight out of a holiday movie. Czech-owned Muller’s Café is a cozy place to end the tour with apple strudel and Vienna coffee.

Note that restaurant locations on the tour are subject to change.

Besides providing plentiful tastings, Pisano shares extensive details about the history of the area. Helen was named after a lumber official’s daughter. In 1969, the fading town resurrected itself by creating a replica of a Bavarian town based entirely on sketches of Army veteran and artist John Kollock. Everyone pitched in the beautification program by hanging cascading flowers outside their new stores and beer gardens, importing antiques from Europe, learning the polka and dressing in traditional dirndl. Now, Helen is renowned for its leaf peeping, holiday decorations and Oktoberfest.

The food and frolic in Helen are definitely worth a visit – just remember to set your expectations to flavors of the Appalachians, not the Alps.

~ Written for and published by Georgia Trend Magazine. All rights reserved.

Inspired By Mothers

Georgia Trend Magazine. Sept 2022 print.

Driving through the formerly segregated Southwest Atlanta neighborhood of Cascade Heights evokes mixed emotions. While you see revitalized local businesses and a variety of architectural styles, you also consider this was the home of notables Congressman John Lewis and baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, both of whom endured racism and fought for racial equality. It’s meaningful that restauranter and chef Deborah VanTrece, lauded for her Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours restaurant on Huff Road, picked this historic Black neighborhood as the location for three new eateries, the first of which is Oreatha’s at the Point.

The 1,500-square-foot space feels like walking into someone’s home. With large windows drawing in natural light, blue-and-beige pastel interiors and low, sofa-like chairs in muted colors, the space is casual, modern and welcoming. There is a spacious patio overlooking a triangular section of Cascade Road. Hints of colors on the walls accentuate the female-centric artwork – paintings and photographs acquired by VanTrece and business partner Shea Embry during their world travels. Images of women of all ages and races hint at what’s to come: a representation of what mothers cook and serve across different cultures.

On the menu, you won’t find signature dishes from a certain part of the globe but rather a fusion of globally inspired flavors enhanced with a Southern twist. Oreatha’s Executive Chef Christian “Lucke” Bell draws inspiration from his own mother and grandmother to create bold new dishes.

The hummus plate with naan sounds like a safe place to start. However, it is presented as a muddle of garlicky eggplant and chickpea dips, topped with slices of undercooked eggplant. Tempura-battered artichokes are fascinatingly soft, though a bit on the greasy side. Accompanying it are sliced fried okra, shishito peppers and cauliflower served with a spicy garlic-chili harissa oil – a nice sharing plate for vegans. The duck Rangoon has an interesting twist on the classic Asian appetizer, with a hint of cream cheese, smoky barbecued duck meat and a sweet-and-sour peach dipping sauce.

Farm-fresh seasonal and locally sourced produce makes its way into many of the dishes. The panzanella salad combines elements of Italian burrata with Southern-style cornbread croutons and tender chopped collard greens, topped with a creamy and flavorful balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Whole fried cornmeal-crusted catfish is tender and moist, delicately balancing on a bed of creamy cauliflower grits and curry coleslaw. This Thai spin on the classic fish and grits, served with spicy tamarind hot sauce, is perhaps the most flavorful entrée at Oreatha’s.

The deconstructed duck pot pie is VanTrece’s mother’s recipe (after whom the restaurant is named) and a featured item on the menu. It is served unconventionally in a bowl of sweet coconut curry made with sweet potatoes and kale, barbecue-flavored smoked duck, and topped with flaky buttermilk biscuit.

The Moroccan Chicken Tagine is beautifully presented in a traditional earthen dome, though the saffron rice with pieces of olives and raisins is a bit too soggy, and the chicken dry and peppery.

Rotating desserts at Oreatha’s are prepared by pastry chefs Sade “Sam” McMullen and Briana Riddick. A warm chocolate bread pudding with chocolate chips and delicate dulce de leche caramel arrives freshly baked in a triangular cast iron pan. It offers a nice contrast of bitter, sweet and creamy flavors. If you prefer something more decadent, the rich chocolate mousse cake with a gluten-free, flourless chocolate cake and strawberry drizzle will not disappoint.

Once the restaurant’s liquor license is approved, Oreatha’s will offer a full bar with handcrafted cocktails curated by VanTrece’s daughter Kursten Berry (also beverage director at Twisted Soul). Until then, diners are offered up to two glasses of complementary house wine or beer.

As Orethea’s fine-tunes operations, it plans to change the menu seasonally and evolve its style to local diners’ preferences, perhaps something a loving mother would do at any inclusive home as she caters to her discerning family members.

~ This article appears in the September 2022 issue of Georgia Trend.