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El Trompo Mexican Taqueria – Johns Creek

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

Down in Roswell you’ll find a handful of authentic Mexican restaurants in rundown digs along highway 9. They offer some cheap yet delicious eats that are often overlooked by gringos accustomed to speedy gonzalez. And I’ll admit that the menu at these places can be somewhat intimidating. Lingua? Tripe? Yikes!

El Trompo signSo I was surprised to see one of these joints open shop in affluent Johns Creek. El Trompo quietly opened back in November, flying below many new restaurant radars (including mine). And like their Roswell brothern, don’t expect fancy digs. You’ll find these guys in a small stripmall space with nary a decoration or cheesy nicknack on the wall. About the only thing to look at is a television usually tuned to soccer, in Spanish.

The menu is simple – several different kinds of meat served either as a street tacos, tortas, quesadilla or burritos. Meats include carne asada steak, chicken, carnitas (fried pork), house-made chorizo and of course the spiced pork al pastor.

Start with the street tacos on your first visit. And be forewarned, these are small. You’ll get a corn tortilla about four inches in diameter topped with the meat of your choice, onions and cilantro. Four bites and it’s history so order several. At only $1.49 each you’re not going to break the bank. Mixing and matching is encouraged.

Don’t you dare set foot in El Trompo without trying al pastor in some form. The restaurant is named for the rotating spit traditionally used to cook the spiced pork. Unfortunately theirs is hidden in the kitchen and not on display for patrons to see. The dish and technique are distantly related to sharwarma, the middle eastern delicacy you’ve hopefully tried at Alpharetta’s Jerusalem Bakery.

El Trompo’s al pastor is fabulous. It’s exploding with flavor and spice that’s somewhat tempered with the sweetness of pineapple. Drizzle a bit of salsa verde atop the taco and you’re good to go.

Or try the al pastor tortas. These are manly, two-handed sandwiches that are a bit messy yet delicious. You’ll find the pork along with lettuce, tomato and avocado strips. The bread is slightly pressed but not to the point of resembling a Cuban. I liked my torta with a wee bit of Trompo’s habanero salsa. I’m talking drops of the stuff lest you cover up every bit of flavor.

The house-made chorizo is pretty good but not as spicy as I’m accustomed to. Carne Asada also isn’t bad but plays a distant second fiddle to the pork.

El Trompo Mexican Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Avoid the fajitas. Perhaps they’re on the menu to appease less adventurous gringos. They were uninspiring. The refried beans tasted bland, in desperate need of salt. I doused my fajitas in that habanero salsa which turned things around.

All in all, El Trompo is a winner, a hidden gem in the rough waiting to be discovered. Forget what you think about Mexican cuisine and try some of these street tacos and tortas.

Collet French Pastry Cafe – Alpharetta

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

Francois Collet has a deep resume. The second generation French-born chef trained across the pond in addition to tutelage at the Culinary Institute of America. Past gigs have included Epcot in Orlando and the Buckhead Bread Company.

Collet apple pieBut you’re not likely to meet this cafe’s namesake in Alpharetta. Much like Sweet Tentations on Holcomb Bridge Road, Collet French Pastry is a retail arm of Monsieur Collet’s wholesale business. Located on Peachtree Industrial, Collet crafts delicate French pastries for five star hotels and restaurants.

Instead you’ll meet Catherine Taylor. Herself French-born, Taylor recently relocated from Florida where she retired as a culinary school instructor. Even though most of her products are made elsewhere, she’s certainly got a grasp of technique used to craft these works of art. And I could listen to her pronounce the names of French pastries all day.

Make your first visit for breakfast and try the apple pie. While not graced with a French name, these pies are beautiful and equally delicious. Thinly sliced apples are carefully arranged over a rich custard and held together by a pastry shell. Dusted with powdered sugar, it’ll satisfy your sweet breakfast tooth.

Or you can’t go wrong with a simple croissant. Collet’s is large and golden brown on the outside. It’s flaky exterior yields to a buttery soft and delicate texture inside. A chocolate-filled variety is available for a bit more.

Lunch options include quiche, sandwiches and soups. It’s a small menu at this point but could compete with places like Mittie’s Tea Room for ladies seeking a dainty yet delicious meal.

Collet’s cooler is home to a dizzying array of pastries, from tarts to eclairs. A flourless chocolate cake, who’s French name unfortunately escapes me, was outstanding. Velvety smooth chocolate is hugged by several chocolate shells. It’s adorned with edible gold leaf on top.

And you can’t go wrong picking up some cookies to go. They didn’t last long when shared with my co-workers. Neither did the coconut macaroons. Slightly crispy on the outside yet moist in the middle, they exploded with coconut flavor. You’ll eat every crumb.

Collet French Pastry Cafe on Urbanspoon

Collet is a keeper. The location is a bit of a challenge to find, but is certainly worth seeking out. Au revoir!

Collet French Pastry Cafe is located at 2225 Old Milton Parkway in the Sabri Guven building.

AMC North Point Mall 12

Today we feature a post from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

AMC has given me a new reason to go back to the mall.  Well, not the mall itself, but the theater.  We’ll get to that later.

AMC logoAMC North Point Mall 12 is the new theater on the block in Alpharetta.  It blends a new theater experience with the classic movie shows of old.  There are plenty of new things to talk about.

Let’s start with the seats.  Huge, red, leather and electronically reclining.  How’s that?  Every theater has them except the IMAX which features a rocking style seat. The leg room is outstanding.  I couldn’t even reach the ones in front of me with my feet.

The larger seats do lead to another quality.  Each theater has a reduced capacity, normally around 65. Expect more sell outs. They make up for that by offering reserved seating.  This is new for us here in Alpharetta.  When you buy your seats online or at one of the six kiosks outside a map of the theater will appear and you can choose the seats you want.  The rows and seats are marked just like any other venue would be.  Pretty neat.  None of this “everyone scoot toward the center to make room for everyone else.”

The concession stand has been redesigned and turbo charged.  It is set up so you order at one counter and pick up your popcorn at another counter.  It’s supposed to reduce traffic and people crowding around waiting. But there is no real traffic flow.  You order and end up working your way back through all of the people waiting behind you.  There are two display cases with drinks that funnel moviegoers to the two center registers.  They trap people in there making it even more difficult to get out.  They also cause people to forget that there are other registers to go to.  Between the two counters are four of the fancy Coca Cola Freestyle machines.

New food options like Philly Cheese steak or chicken sliders are far from the normal popcorn.  Calorie counts are posted as well.  If the prices weren’t enough to keep you away, those certainly will.  For more adult patrons, a full bar is available.

The majority of the area outside is covered and there are several drop off lanes right in front to reduce car traffic.  Great ideas.

As awesome as it all is there, North Point Mall 12 isn’t without some flaws.  Some are pretty major.  The bathrooms are small.  The theaters are a long distance from the concessions.  The AMC Avenue Forsyth has all the theater entrances right off the lobby.  North Point has you walk down longer hallways like in older theaters.  You will miss a lot of the movie to refill your soda or get another beer.

The theater is located on the backside of the mall near the Von Maur.  Very low visibility.  You won’t see it from the road unless you know it’s there.  And there’s no mall entrance.  There’s an entrance near the box office but you have to go outside first.  It seems that the merchants in the mall would want people to come shop and eat and hang out before or after a flick.  They are missing out on a lot of business. It’s getting people to the theater and not necessarily the mall itself.

Ticket prices range from an average $12 to a staggering $18 for the IMAX 3D.

The nearly 25 year old AMC Mansell Crossing 14 theater down the street will remain open for now. However it may close once its lease is up.

I’m a sucker for all the new fangled stuff so AMC North Point Mall 12 just might become my go to theater.  I’ll see you at the movies.

Rosati’s Pizza and Sports Pub – Cumming

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today we feature a review from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

rosatis logoI love Chicago style food.  Pizza, hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, it’s all good. But I’m conflicted over Rosati’s Pizza Pub, the Chicago chain that recently opened their first Georgia pizza pub across from The Collection Forsyth. The food is fantastic, however my experiences there have been less than stellar.

The space inside is, well, cozy. Booths and tables are crammed in wherever there is or perhaps isn’t room.  It’s an odd shaped place, with a dining area in the front, a bar area in the middle and restrooms miles away in the way back.  Adapting to a previous restaurant may not have given them a choice in a layout.  When it’s crowded it’s very difficult to navigate.

Speaking of crowded, it’s very loud during peak traffic times.  Besides all the conversations, there are a ton of TV’s providing sports and other entertainment.  One neat touch is a personal TV supplied in each booth.  In a world of distractions, they fit right in.

Enough about atmosphere, let’s talk turkey, er, pizza.  If you’re familiar with Chicago, you know about thin crust, deep dish and stuffed pizza.  Each location of Rosati’s has a slightly different menu.  The Cumming location doesn’t have the stuffed pizza which was made famous by Giordanos in Chicago.  I was pretty disappointed.

The thin crust is a type of paradox.  It’s a cracker crisp crust yet it’s able to support a good amount of tomato sauce and toppings.  It’s very tasty.

The deep dish just didn’t do it for me.  It was a mess of tomato sauce, just too much stuff and not enough to contain it. If you’re considering the deep dish, take my advice and call ahead.  It takes around 45 minutes to prepare.  If you time it right, the pizza will be ready when you sit down.

There’s a ton of pastas on the menu in a build your own format.  Choose a pasta, then a sauce, then additions.  My wife asked for a to go box as soon as the food hit the table, the portions were so huge.  The pasta was cooked very well and the sauces were flavorful without being too heavy or rich.

rosatis dough nuggets

Rosati’s dough nuggets

My all time favorite Chicago fare is the Italian beef sandwich.  My gold standard is Portillos in Chicago.  The Italian beef sandwich from Rosati’s is the closest to Portillos that I’ve ever had.  It was fantastic.  Huge, juicy and delicious.  The bread is toasted just enough to give a crust on the outside and slightly soggy on the inside as it absorbs all the juice from the meat.  I was in heaven.  It’s been hard for me to not order it every time we go.

Another shining star on the menu is an appetizer called Rosati’s dough nuggets.  It’s a huge tray of pizza dough bites covered in garlic butter sauce.  It comes with marinara sauce for dipping.  The best way I can describe them is pizza doughnuts.  Addictive.

I really want to like Rosati’s, but there are some details that have bothered me.  Some of the prices on the online menu are different on the in store menu.  For instance, the Italian beef sandwich online is $5.99 and $8.99 inside.  The difference I believe is the in store menu states the cost includes drink and fries.  I just wish they would say that online.  Slight let down.

And watch the bumpy and uneven pizza platforms. They have a tendency to slide the pies off the other side.  Pizza down!

The service has been extremely uneven, probably from new staff learning the ropes. I’m willing to overlook it for now. Be patient as the issues get ironed out over time.

Rosati's Pizza on Urbanspoon

But the food at Rosati’s is good enough to get me back into the door, or maybe the to-go window.  Not sure I want to come in and hang out.  Rosati’s is real deal Chicago cooking. If they get a few things polished, they will become a go to place for anyone who is craving Midwest favorites.

Cafe Caribe – South Forsyth

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

In suburban Tampa, where I grew up, there’s a family-run Cuban restaurant in just about every shopping center. It didn’t take long for my family, re-los from North Carolina, to get hooked on this cuisine. The food was always bursting with flavor, the prices low and the portions generous.

Caribe lechon asado 1

A $7 lunch portion of Lechon Asado.

Perhaps that’s why I like Cafe Caribe so much. This new restaurant opened about a month ago on Peachtree Parkway in south Forsyth. They’re a lot like the Cuban restaurants I remember from my childhood. The restaurant is simple, unpretentious and the food remains true to the traditions of Cuban cuisine found in south Florida.

Papas rellenas stand out on their appetizer menu. These mashed potato balls are filled with beef, breaded and fried. They are perfectly cooked to a golden brown color and offer a nice contrast in texture. A dipping sauce unfortunately was missing and would have complemented these well. You also can’t go wrong ordering their ham croquettes. Delicious.

Caribe’s picadillo stood out. It’s ground beef chunks braised with olives and raisins. The flavor is complex with some sweetness from the raisins.

If there’s one thing Cuban chefs can do it’s roast pork. Cafe Caribe’s take on Lechon Asado is spot on and will keep me coming back for more. They roast pork shoulder and serve it sliced, not pulled. Prior to serving the slices hit the griddle for a quick sear. On the plate it looks like a pork chop, but it’s so much better. The meat, delicately tender under the caramelized sear, easily yields to gentle pressure from a fork. Complemented with onions and a garlic mojo sauce, it is delectable. Pair it up with some robustly-flavored black beans with yellow rice and you’ve got a stick-to-your-ribs meal.

A few items can be a tad on the greasy side. Arroz con pollo, served with a large leg-thigh quarter, leaves a good bit of fat on the rice. My wife didn’t enjoy this entree. Ropa Vieja, braised flank steak served shredded, is also a tad greasy yet still flavorful.

Cuban sandwiches are made the traditional way and with their own roast pork. Also on the menu is media noche or midnight sandwich. This Cuban sandwich variety is popular in Miami and features a sweet bread. It’s certainly not something you’re likely to find elsewhere around here.

Lunch specials come with rice, black beans and maduros (plantains). Lachon Asado is available as a lunch special and the portion is enormous. Small appetites could make two meals out of it.  And priced at only $7, I felt like I was stealing this meal.

There’s enough left on Cafe Caribe’s menu to keep me exploring. The sandwich list is vast. I also see paella. Maybe I’ll give it a try if I can pull myself away from the roast pork.

Cafe Caribe on Urbanspoon

Cafe Caribe is a winner, a welcomed addition to Peachtree Parkway’s blossoming new restaurant scene. Their kitchen is cranking out some seriously good Cuban eats. Just show the front of the house some patience as they work out the new restaurant kinks.

The Corner Burger Shop – Midway Park

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today we feature a review from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

Corner Burger ShopOk, ok.  Yes, it’s another burger joint in the already saturated Alpharetta/South Forsyth burger scene.  And yes, it’s a little far out there for normal Alpharettians to journey.  But take it from me, this little locally owned place is worth a chance.  Good food, friendly service and a welcoming atmosphere have lead me back there many times.

The Corner Burger Shop occupies the former Construct-a-Burger location at Midway Park.

Owners Larry and Cindy Pendleton have a long history in the restaurant biz.  Larry has nearly 40 years working for others including Big Daddy himself at Dreamland BBQ. Larry spent the last 20 years or so as a general manager of the Roswell location and director of operations.  His wife Cindy also worked at Dreamland as catering manager.  Larry had always wanted to open his own restaurant, and now he has.

Larry developed the menu himself that includes burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, wings and salads.  The burgers are made from a blend of ground steak and brisket which lends to a unique texture and flavor. It’s also the same type of mixture used by an legendary Atlanta burger spot The Vortex. Unfortunately it could have used a little more seasoning for me.

The burgers come in several varieties from the basic single, double, triple and (eek) quadruple patty monster called the Home Run.  There are also a few specialty burgers like the popular BBQ burger.  My favorite is the Special burger which comes smothered in cheese sauce and homemade burger sauce.  It’s very flavorful and worthy of at least four napkins.  The burger sauce tastes like bean-less meat chili similar to what you’d find on chili dogs.  It’s an old family recipe with a super secret ingredient.  Don’t ask me, but man, it’s good.

The hot dogs are Hebrew National.  The only items that are not made in house are the fries and chicken tenders, both frozen.  I personally enjoyed the fries.  Sure, they aren’t fresh cut, but they are seasoned perfectly and are consistently crispy.  My son gets the chicken tenders every time and I never hear any complaints from him.  They are pretty good; yes I ate some of his.  I’m just being a thorough reviewer!

There’s also a hidden gem on the menu – the sausage.  It’s covered in the meat and cheese sauce, but unlike a normal chili dog, the snap and the juice of the sausage is heavenly.  Another popular item are the onion rings.  These sweet Vidalia onions with the right amount of breading and a hint of cayenne were a huge hit with my wife.

The prices have increased recently on most items.  The burgers and such aren’t too pricey, but to add a drink and fries to make a combo is a slightly steep $3.50 up-charge.

The Corner Burger Shop on Urbanspoon

The decor will strike a familiar tone if you remember Construct-a-Burger.  The location is positioned to take full advantage of the hordes of kids playing sports at the park.  Future plans for the Corner Burger Shop include a catering service with home made food and possible expansion to new locations.  The Corner Burger Shop puts an emphasis on family and community, sponsoring the West Forsyth varsity football team.  They currently only have a Facebook page.  A website is in development.  Look for it to be live in a few weeks.

Is the Corner Burger Shop the best burger out there?  No.  Is it a solid burger place that’s worth a look?  I’ll see you there.

5 Seasons Brew Pub – Still afloat in a sea of beer

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today we feature a review from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

5NorthlogoSince I have been writing for this blog, I have become the de-facto beer guy.  I’ve chatted with nearly everyone in the north Fulton/Forsyth area.   I would be amiss to leave out the old guy on the block, 5 Seasons.  How has Alpharetta’s first brew pub weathered the storm of growler stores, breweries, and other brew pubs?  Have they been affected?  The short answer is yes.  And no.

5 Seasons was started by chef Dave Larkworthy back in 2001 as an avenue to offer fresh, local food paired with fresh, local beer.  At that time they were the only player in the game.  Dave’s friend Crawford Moran joined the show in 2004 as the brew master.  Crawford was exposed to beer early on, and he quickly developed a passion for brewing.  After a classic back packing through Europe trip, Crawford came back to his native Georgia with a mission; to brew the beer he fell in love with across the pond.

At that point in Atlanta, there wasn’t much of a choice beyond the mega beers, so Crawford took matters into his own hands and make what he wanted.  He started Dogwood Brewing Company in 1995 and closed it in 2004.  Crawford has a passion for brewing, and he is always excited to get hands on with some new styles, different hops and creative barleys.

The Alpharetta location opened about ten years ago on Old Milton Parkway, really all by itself.  The brewery sits right as you enter behind a large wall with windows.  The problem is, once you’re in the dining room, it’s easy to forget that there is a brewery there.  It’s just hard to see it.  It’s not so much 5 Seasons’ fault.  Per the law, a brew pub has to keep the actual brewery behind a barrier from the public.  For those wondering, Hop Alley skirts this a bit by having their bar declared a “barrier”.

The biggest change that has affected 5 Seasons is the 6% ABV law, where people can now brew and sell beers above 6% ABV.  That allowed Crawford to really open up the types of beer that he could make.

The thing that really sets 5 Seasons apart is the amount of change you’ll find in both the food and beer menu.  The lunch and dinner menu changes daily, and the beer menu changes nearly as often.  Locally sourced food from nearly a dozen farmers supplies the restaurant with the freshest meals available.

The million or so growler stores that have opened over the last couple of years have exposed a whole new population to craft beer, which is good for 5 Seasons.  Educating the public on new beers is a recurring theme in the Alpharetta beer scene.  The more people want beer, the more beer everyone will sell.  Sure, the growing number of options and outlets for beer is cutting into 5 Seasons’ business, but that’s offset by the quality food that’s available there.

One the biggest changes that would affect 5 Seasons hasn’t happened yet, and may never happen.  Crawford is helping work toward changing Georgia law to allow breweries and brew pubs to sell beer to go in growlers.  If that comes to fruition, then Crawford feels it would be a huge shot in the arm for business.  Also, look for more beer education, one-off styles and whatever else Crawford can get his hands on.

5 Seasons Brewing Company North on Urbanspoon

The guys at 5 Seasons are kind of out on their own without a lot of help or relationships with the other local Alpharetta beer folks.  They’ve been around the longest, but their location might have them left out of the discussion.  Don’t fret for 5 Seasons.  The ever changing menu and the passion for brewing will carry them far into the future.  You never know what you’re going to get, but you know it’s going to be good.

Jekyll Brewery Tour

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today we feature a review from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

I first reported on Jekyll Brewing, Alpharetta’s first brewery, back in February concerning their Kickstarter campaign.  They reached the goal (and then some) and got to work building out and brewing beer.

Jekyll TastingSince then Jekyll’s brews have spread throughout the community and can be found in several growler stores and restaurants.  The brewery has opened recently to the public for tours.  I strapped on my beer bib and headed down for my first taste of Jekyll goodness.

Like many of the Atlanta brewery tours, you pay a fee ($12 in this case) and get a glass along with several tickets that can be redeemed for tastes.  The type of glassware that you get will rotate.

I headed to the bar with my mason jar emblazoned with the Jekyll Brewing logo clutched in my hands.  One ticket gets you a small pour of whatever you want.  Two tickets gets you a large pour.  I used several tickets trying small amounts of different products and reserved two tickets for the one I liked the best.

Jekyll has come out of the gate with three offerings – Hop Dang Diggity, an American IPA, Big Creek Kolsch and Cooter Brown, an American brown ale.

I’m not an IPA drinker but I found the Hop Dang Diggity very pleasant with more fruit and less bitter.

My favorite was the kolsch, named for nearby Big Creek.  It was very light and refreshing, a perfect summer beer.

The Cooter Brown was my least favorite.  Darker with a huge overtone of chocolate, it just didn’t sit well with me.  Now, if you’re from the south and are of a certain age, the name Cooter conjures up images of the General Lee jumping police cars. But I was told that the name comes from the legend of Cooter Brown.  He was a man who didn’t want to fight in the Civil War, so he stayed drunk the whole war.  Not sure how many folks would get that reference.

Everyone hangs out in the front space until the tours happen.  They don’t have set tour times, they just happen when there’s enough folks that want to go on one.  The tours are brief as the brewery is small.  Stops along the tour include the offices, the keg storage area, the empty room that will soon become a laboratory of sorts, and the brewery itself.  A word of advice; do not dress warmly.  It is approximately 1,293 degrees back in the brewery thanks to the giant supernova open flame used to boil the batches.  It’s all very cool.

The space in the front is a little sparse at the moment, but Jekyll has plans to add sofas, video games and TV’s to go along with the free play pinball and life-size Jenga game.  They want folks to come by after work or on the weekends, have a beer and hang out.

The brewery, located off Windward on Marconi Drive, is open Tuesday through Friday from 5-9 PM and Saturdays 1-9 PM.  No visitors under 21 are allowed so leave the kids at home.  They’re also available for corporate or group functions like Christmas parties or birthdays.

I highly recommend checking out Jekyll Brewing, taking the tour, tasting some great local beer and saying hi to owner Mike and brew master Josh.  It’s really great to be able to visit and watch their dream develop right before your eyes.  Maybe it’s the beer talking, but we should all take a page from their book and make our own dreams happen.

Bistro at ADAiRE – South Forsyth

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

Just a turn off McFarland Parkway lives a quiet little lunch joint that flies below everyone’s radar. Unless you happen to work in this office park you’d probably never know this little gem was buried here, waiting to be discovered. Let’s change that.

ADAiRE is a professional chef and catering service run by husband and wife duo Matthew and Lynda Phillips. Matthew is a Le Cordon Bleu-educated chef with a résumé that includes gigs at Rays on the River and The Ritz Carlton.

Their Shiloh Road office park location houses the catering kitchen. In the front of the store is a beautiful demonstration kitchen and four cozy tables. The Phillips have transformed this demonstration area into their lunchtime business, Bistro at ADAiRE. They’re only open 11 to 2 during the week.

It’s tough to review a place like this. It would be easy to write about the jerk chicken I had this week. The jerk seasoning was generously applied yet its heat tempered with a terrific chipotle honey sauce. But their menu changes each week so unless you happen to go there today, you’re outta luck.

So what can you expect here? They’ll feature two entrees and two hot side dishes each week. Entrees are often things like braised boneless shortribs or chicken. One week I had coq au vin with a side of ratatouille. Amazing. Did I just eat French food near McFarland Parkway? Someone pinch me.

The entrees are simple but well executed. Roasted chicken may not sound exciting, but when paired with a white wine, lemon and artichoke pan sauce it’s outstanding. It’s the kind of simple yet delicious cooking that a trained chef can do in their sleep. But somehow food like this never seems to find its way into ordinary restaurants.

Expect to pay a tiny bit more than a meat and veggie joint. An entree with one hot side item will set you back a ten spot. Iced tea or lemonade is included. Add the second veggie for two bucks more.

The menu also includes sandwiches, soups, salads and often a quiche. A ham and cheddar sandwich might look boring on the menu – that is until Lynda wields a blowtorch to brown the cheese just before serving. A smoked beef sandwich makes menu often. It comes with pickled onions, horseradish cream and a Guinness jelly. My goodness.

Soups range from the ordinary, tomato basil or gumbo, to unusual. How about a Spanish-style posole? It’s on the menu this week.

Share your email address with them and you’ll get the menu delivered at the start of each week. They also post it on their Facebook page. If something looks interesting then add the Bistro to your week’s lunch rotation. But you’re not going to go wrong just showing up blind.

And you thought McFarland Parkway was a culinary wasteland. Tisk tisk. You might get lost trying to find The Bistro at ADAiRE but it’s worth it. And let’s keep this little secret lunch spot just between us, okay?

The Bistro at ADAiRE is located at 6535 Shiloh Road suite 700. From GA-400 go south on McFarland Pkwy. Turn left on Shiloh Road then take the second right into the office park. Suite 700 is near the back of the office park on the right.

Farmers markets surprise and disappoint

Today we feature a guest post from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

My favorite time of the week is Saturday morning.  Friday and Saturday nights were my thing when I was younger.  As the years roll by I find myself gravitating towards events that occur on Saturday mornings; flea markets, garage sales, car shows and most recently farmers markets. Local farmers markets have sprung up all over.  They are open usually April to October but it varies depending on the season.

Over the last month, I have traveled all over north Fulton and Forsyth county scouting out all the major farmers markets I could find.  I had visions of old farmers with bushels overflowing with fresh, local produce.  What I found was both interesting and surprising.

While the majority of farmers markets historically take place on Saturday mornings, there are a few exceptions.  The Brookwood Farmers Market and the Vickery Creek Farmers Markets, both in south Forsyth, are on Friday afternoons.  Brookwood was disappointing to me.  It seemed that it would be bigger from the information on the web site.  Maybe the constant threat of rain has kept many vendors away.  Another problem I had was the location and the time.  The Brookwood market is held at Caney Creek Park near 141.  The hours of operation are 4-9 PM on a Friday, hardly a time I want to be driving in that congested area.

Vickery Creek is the newest player in the area.  The market is held early Friday afternoon in a blocked off section of the parking lot.  It was here that I noticed something.  Out of the dozen or so booths and tents represented, only two sold actual produce.  The rest were peddling products, gifts, cheese, salsa or whatever.  It took all of five minutes to walk from one end to the other and head back empty handed to my truck.

This trend of not having produce at a farmers market extends to many of the other ones I visited including the Alpharetta and Roswell’s Riverside markets.  The majority of the booths have items or services to sell, not tomatoes.  Jerky, herbs, breads, jewelry and blade sharpening are just a few of the alternatives to veggies that I have seen.

The only ones I’ve been to that are nearly exclusively produce are a few miles north in Cumming.  The Cumming Farmers Market is held early Saturday morning in the parking lot across from the Cumming Fairgrounds. It is what I imagined it would be, old dudes in old trucks with calloused hands selling items that came out of their own fields.  Ask them if it’s organic, and you might get a funny look.

City Produce is another. They are in a medium sized stand closer to downtown Cumming on the corner of Atlanta Hwy and East Maple Street.  You’ll find tons of great looking food, all local to the Southeast.  The peaches were from South Carolina, but mostly from Georgia.  It’s all under cover and well presented.  There’s also jellies and things to buy, but those are near the register and most likely impulse items.

Another trend that emerged was that the farmers markets tended to take on the personality of the area that they were located in.  The Cumming markets were more country, the Alpharetta farmers market was more upscale with a lot of signs with websites and email address. The Roswell market had a larger selection of organic produce and was a more Earth-friendly.  Both the Alpharetta and Roswell markets have live music to entertain you while you shop.

The Alpharetta Farmers Market is the biggest and also the most nomadic.  Previously held on Old Roswell street where the Food Truck Alley is now, it seems they had found a permanent home in the City Hall parking lot.  But the new city center project has ousted the farmers market and now it is located on Old Canton St.  The half-dozen produce stands represented by many local Forsyth and Cherokee county growers have good selections and decent prices.  It’s a good idea to bring your own bags as many places do not supply them.

Several of the markets have web sites and Facebook pages that have tons of information.  If you want nothing but produce without all the extras, take the short trip to Cumming.  If you’re more into the social scene with some produce mixed in, stay in Alpharetta or Roswell.  I usually end up in Alpharetta, munching on a crepe from Crepe Cottage or a cinnamon roll from one of the few bread vendors.  Oh yeah, I guess I’ll pick up a tomato or two.

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