On the most perfect April Saturday afternoon in Georgia, one
straight out of the Weather Channel’s Wish book, the hubs and I tasted our way
through Roswell, a small town due north of Atlanta blessed with historic charm,
a verdant setting and a vibrant foodie culture.
The afternoon was a fusion of ideas and influences ~
over three hours, we dined on everything from pristine Thai salads to
Mama's meatballs to N'awlins beignets, and then on to Cajun fried pickles and Caribbean clam
chowder and Bourbon pecan ice cream.
My friend Beth, whose Atlanta Culinary Tours are becoming
must-do weeknight and weekend dates (see my Sweet Auburn Curb Market visit), recently added the Roswell tour after being contacted by Erin, a Roswell massage therapist. Erin served as the tour guide, walking and talking us through a two-mile tasting course anchored on Canton Street in downtown Roswell. The tour included three restaurants, one bakery and an olive oil and
balsamic vinegar tasting.
We began with Rice,
where Chef Kris Boonruang
shared his philosophy and art, Thai heritage and cuisine. Chef Kris is a
fine artist, with a painting in the collection of Atlanta's High Museum
of Art, as well as other museums and private collections. He is also an
artist in the kitchen, treating my fellow culinary tourists and myself
to a lettuce wrap with larb (seasoned ground pork), cellophane noodle
salad with Thai shrimp, and sticky rice pudding with mango. As
interesting as the plates was Kris' discourse on gardening, art and
creativity, including his routine of walking barefoot outside his home
before sunrise or after sunset, each day.
Next stop on Canton Street was Table and Main,
with owner Ryan Pernice sharing his restaurant's "simple, Southern,
seasonal" style. We tasted Mom's meatloaf reinvented as a meatball,
replete with sticky sweet tomato sauce, but my favorite bite was a scoop
of Bourbon butter pecan ice cream, an ode to the South as true and
sublime as Sidney Lanier's "Song of the Chattahoochee." ("Out of the
hills of Habersham, down the valleys of Hall..." Roswell is near the
Chattachoochee recreational area, and I can't help recalling the famous
poem I memorized in middle school. "I hurry amain to reach the plain,
run the rapid and leap the fall.." Oh, don't get me started...). A meal
at Table and Main concludes with the check delivered in a Southern novel
~ lots of Flannery O'Connor to choose from, a bit of Zora Neale
Hurston, some Faulkner, Shaara, Flagg and McCullers.
After leaving Table and Main, we crossed Canton Street and walked around the corner to get to Artisan Bakery,
where Chef Hoyt Williams displayed a sugar-dusted pyramid of beignets
and described in delightful detail the various breads, sandwiches and
pastries produced at the bakery.
Mellow and full, we journeyed to Oli + Ve, a six-week old culinary shop,
where we listened to the women owners talk passionately about the
versatility of infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars. We traveled
from room to room, tasting and sampling the various vinegars and olive
oils. (I purchased the lemon olive oil and the strawberry balsamic for
homemade salad dressings, and just to open them, breathe in and
It's hard to say that we saved the best for last, because each of the
stops was so incredible and the food so extraordinary, but the Fickle Pickle
really stands out for the quantity and originality of its offerings.
While Chef Andy Badgett shared his tales of the restaurant biz and the
culinary history of Canton Street, I scarfed down
still-sizzling-from-the-Fry-o-lator Creole fried pickles dipped in
remoulade. Followed by Caribbean clam chowder and a fried green tomato
BLT and two kinds of cookies - soft ginger and carrot cake with cream
On the ride home, mellow and stuffed to the gills, the hubs and I
performed the post-mortem, discussing our favorite bits and bites of the
afternoon. As we talked through the walk, I remarked that as good as
the food was, the secondary pleasure was listening to men and women
who enjoyed their work and wanted to share their knowledge of food and
service with others...
...Like Chef Kris sharing his morning routine of walking barefoot around
his home, gardening before dawn and after dusk.
...Chef Andy telling the history of the Fickle Pickle restaurants, a
history marked not with years, but each of his six children’s birthdays. And throughout, a history of the Canton Street restaurant revitalization, as well.
...Ryan, a young man with a passion for the hospitality business, on
Bourbon and The Band and a commitment to local, seasonal food and first-class service.
...The women of Oli + Ve sharing their knowledge of infused
olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Chef Hoyt discussing the variety of baked goods produced by his store.
Fusion is what you make of it. It can cross
cultures, it can cross the street. It can be Cajun fried pickles with spicy
remoulade or the most divine pecan ice
cream with real Georgia pecans infused with a buttery Bourbon streak of caramel
Fusion is hot or it’s cold. It’s strawberry infused balsamic vinegar
paired with lemon-infused olive oil because a saleswoman recommended it.
It can be the irresistible idea of a pimento cheese fritter that Chef
Andy kept talking about as I dove again and again into the basket of
obscenely hot and addictively crunchy fried pickles. (Salty and fried. Do not judge me, we’ve all been there, girlfriends).
There are so many culinary roads to go down with this post, but I think I’ll journey
back to the first stop on Canton Street, Rice, and my version of Chef Kris
Boonruang’s sticky rice pudding with mango.
Coconut Rice Pudding with Mango
This is my adaptation of a traditional Thai home-style treat. I based the recipe on one found at Serious Eats that uses jasmine rice instead of the typical Thai glutinous rice. I like the richness of the full-fat coconut milk, but light coconut milk may be substituted.
1 cup raw jasmine rice
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups coconut milk
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ripe mangoes, peeled and sliced
1. In a medium saucepan, preferably nonstick, set over medium heat,
combine water and rice. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pot and
reduce the heat. Cook until the water is absorbed.
2. Add the coconut milk, sugar and salt; stir and bring to a boil. Cook for two minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Cover the pot and remove from the heat. Let the rice sit for 10 minutes, to completely absorb the liquid.
4. Serve pudding warm or at room temperature, garnished with mango slices.