Janelle Monáe Joins Grimes in Atlanta to Perform Their Pixie-Pop Banger ‘Venus Fly’

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Embedded in Grimes’ stunning pixie-pop LP Art Angels is “Venus Fly,” a thrashing late-night banger the 27-year-old singer invited Janelle Monáe to lend her hyper post-James Brown vocals onto. Armed with a enough energy to activate a small city, the unlikely collaboration features Monáe aggressively spitting the question, “Why you lookin’ at me?” over Grimes’ powerhouse production—a sinister effort evocative of the 2014 Blood Diamond release, “Go.”

During Grimes’ Atlanta show at the Buckhead Theatre earlier this week, “Venus Fly” came to life, blasting off as surprise guest Monáe stormed the stage to deliver, as one would expect, a standout performance. “Kitty, kitty, kitty cat, why you always talkin’ smack?” the dance android probes, flailing her limbs in a sea of technicolor strobe lights. Watch the two rev up Atlanta, below:

 

Greg Mike, Walk The Moon + Chicken and Waffles: Thursdays in Atlanta

Walk The Moon before their performance at Briza

A few Thursdays ago I found myself far away from the comfort of the grid, my desk (woo!), my New York apartment… I found myself in Atlanta, checking in at the Renaissance Hotel in Midtown, on the sweetly named Peachtree Street, waiting the shortest amount of time appropriate after setting my bags down to order room service chicken and waffles. (I totally judge a hotel based on how quickly I can wind up in a robe on the bed surrounded by room service, and the truly delightful staff at the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel really couldn’t have made it lovelier. Shout out to Lynn!)

I wasn’t there to luxuriate in Southern food and white sheets — although I did, for a bit — I was there to check out the best of what Atlanta has on offer, from the music scene, to the artists who work there, to the boutiques, food, drinks…

10455583_10152178870580334_232107436186600136_nOh look, it’s me, Instgramming away.

As the sun set over Atlanta, Renaissance Hotels’ celebration of Global Day of Discovery began as artist and designer Greg Mike made his mark on one of the terrace walls. Abstract work is rare for a pop artist, and it was really fun to watch him work and create a colorful mural for the hotel. So if you’re in Atlanta, definitely make your way to the terrace of the Renaissance Midtown to check it out.

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Later in the evening, indie pop rockers Walk The Moon took the stage at Briza, the Renaissance Hotel’s restaurant. Atlanta’s where they made their last record, and this was their first performance coming out of the studio, so they were particularly fun. A knit trompe l’oeil jean jacket? Adorable. Suitcase as percussion instrument? Super cute. I love a good, cozy concert.

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After the concert, Greg Mike was still at it back on the terrace, where Atlanta boutique Young Blood had set up temporary shop. Cheeky notecards, delicate jewelry, and other goods were laid out on their table, but to see it all, I’ll be making a point of stopping by their store the next time I’m in town.

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I’ll take checking out pop art and attending intimate concerts over my usual desk routine any day. Definitely a Thursday to brag about.

Want to attend a cool event like this? Check out the Renaissance Hotels events page for events near you!

Images copyright © 2007-2013 Ryan Purcell (Oh Snap Kid™)

Cold Waters Heat Up The Nation’s Oyster Bar Scene

Though the old saying, “Oysters should only be eaten in months that end in an ‘r’” was debunked by refrigeration and modern mariculture, the truth remains: oysters are the ideal fall food. “Oysters thrive in cold water,” says Adam Evans, the chef of Atlanta’s white–hot seafood restaurant The Optimist and the aptly named next–door oyster bar, The Oyster Bar at The Optimist. “So when the water starts to change, they get this rush of cold water, plump up, and get really nice.”

The Oyster Bar at The Optimist is just the latest of a slew of oyster bars opening across the country. In the trendy L.A. neighborhood of Silverlake, L&E Oyster Bar has been attracting crowds since it opened in January. They serve a menu of hot and cold seafood items, including a fantastic oyster po’boy and a grilled oyster platter alongside their always–changing raw oyster list, sourced from all over the country and Canada. “My partner and I love oysters,” explains co-owner Tyler Bell, “but we couldn’t find a great oyster bar like the kinds you find in New York, Boston, San Francisco, or Europe, so we opened our own.” The hankering for bivalves has been so strong, Bell recently doubled capacity by taking over the floor upstairs.

On the Eastern Seaboard, Serge Becker, owner of hipster havens La Esquina and Miss Lily’s, opened his Swiss spot Cafe Select in 2008, but it was just this summer that he converted the restaurant’s secluded back room (accessed through the kitchen) into Cervantes’ Oyster Shack and Bar. They serve schnitzel, Zurich veal, and Swiss bratwurst in the main dining room, but offer lobster salad, octopus salad, steamed mussels, ceviche, and raw oysters in the back. When deep winter hits, they’ll turn it into a fondue bar, but for now, it’s veal up front, oysters in the back.

In May, Evans and Atlanta chef–of–the–moment Ford Fry debuted The Optimist to crowds and rave reviews. The space features a large horseshoe bar, beachy decor, and a casual patio with a putt–putt course attached. A coastal region’s worth of oysters, lobster rolls, chowder, salads, and peel ’n’ eat shrimp fill the menu, and the cocktails, like the pink gin martini called The Truth As We Know It, are designed to pair well with oysters.

Though Baltimore is a seafood-centric town, first–time restaurateur Candace Beattie noticed there was a hole in the marketplace where raw bars were concerned. So after moving back home after a long stint in raw bar-heavy Boston, Beattie opened Thames Street Oyster House in the summer of 2011 in Baltimore’s Fell’s Point. She serves a mix of New England and Maryland standards.

But it isn’t just that oysters are conquering new territory. Even in the oyster heartland, new oyster shacks flourish. The talk of Boothbay Harbor, Maine this year is The World is Mine Oyster: a new restaurant with a rustic, camp-themed interior, a patio overlooking the bay, and a lengthy menu of Maine-raised oysters, served raw, steamed, baked, in shooters, and topped with everything from sour cream and caviar to serrano ham or blue cheese and bacon. In nearby Portland, three–month-old Eventide Oyster Co. offers 18 varieties of oysters from Maine and “from away” to its coterie of salty regulars.

Positive Thinker Ford Fry Opens The Optimist, Bringing Oysters to Atlanta

Ford Fry’s name isn’t the only thing cool about him. The Georgia-based chef and restaurateur has a goal of bringing different types of food and restaurants to his southern state. About a month ago, he opened the doors to The Optimist Fish Camp & Oyster Bar, his seafood-centric joint in Atlanta. As they slowly educate the public on the price of truly good fish, Fry is already thinking about his next culinary venture. In New York for a stint at last week’s the Lobster Roll Rumble and the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, I caught up with the happy chef at The Smith to discuss his laidback takeover of Georgia eats. 

After your first two restaurants, JCT and No. 246, you are on your third. What made you decided to open the Optimist and go the oyster bar route?
I was up here doing a Beard dinner four years ago and we went Mary’s Fish Camp, which made me realize Atlanta doesn’t have anything like that. Atlanta is all chains or the Oceanaire, but it didn’t have that place to go where I could get really good oysters. So, the oyster bar has oysters and all sorts of things on ice. Then we plopped a wooden oven in the center of the oyster bar and are doing roasts like whole shrimp and octopus. 

How are people reacting to the concept of an oyster bar?
People don’t understand the prices in Atlanta like they do in NYC. People see $2.50 for an oyster and they think it’s outrageous. You get a couple comments saying, “Just lower the prices and skip the fancy condiments.” We do make house-made crackers and have sauces, but the condiments aren’t that fancy or expensive. But for the most part, that has only been a couple of people and most are really excited. 

How does the Optimist differ from your other two eateries?
The JCT is more farm-to-table and what people are calling new southern cuisine. We are more southern with European techniques, like our chicken and dumplings, which we use a great chicken leg and thigh and confit it in duck fat to crisp it up. No. 246 in Decatur is almost a year old now, and it’s our second restaurant. That one is more Italian inspired, locally sourced with Neapolitan style pizza and handmade pastas.

They are both so different in concept and cuisine.
They are, but the whole theme around them is trying to source locally. They are all actually American, but they have little inspirations [from other countries]. We are also less conceptual and more chef driven. Like Drew [Belline] at No. 246, he came from Floataway Café and they have more pizzas, which is his style. At the Optimist, it’s chef Adam [Evans] and he comes Muscle Shoals, Alabama. He was at Craft here in New York and Craft (now closed) in Atlanta. 

Where are you getting your inspiration to open these restaurants?
For the most part it’s just stuff that I really want to go to and stuff Atlanta just doesn’t have. Like I love cooking in a wood-burning hearth and our next restaurant is going to have one. 

So you already have your next place planned? 
I’m thinking about it. Maybe the Spanish influence will come in here, but then again, I want it to be a locally-sourced, American tavern type of thing where most of the dishes come from the wood-burning hearth.

Where are you thinking of opening next?
Buckhead is a key area. They haven’t had anything new in so long. We thought to come in and give it something fresh.

Atlanta Rising: Redefining Southern Food

Though during last weekend’s Atlanta Food and Wine Festival last I saw plenty of fried chicken, barbecue, and pork-laden collards, what surprised me most was how much southern food wasn’t just the stereotypical fare many people imagine it to be. Chefs all over have altered the course by using heritage vegetables, hyper-local ingredients, and incorporating Asian flavors that have emerged as Atlanta’s Korean population grows.

For example, at South City Kitchen, chef Chip Ulbrich makes a spicy collard green kimchee that he pairs with smoked pork belly, and at the festival he combined this dish with spicy pan-fried chicken livers with sesame. At Empire State South chef Hugh Acheson serves his striped bass in a dashi broth, adds kimchee to the rice grits, braises octopus in a fennel broth, and gives the smoked duck a leek and blood orange marmalade.

Acheson not only uses Asian-inspired ingredients found on the famous Buford Highway, but he has also been reaching out to farms to get traditional vegetable and fruit varieties that are Georgian staples, including heirloom beans, different types of mushrooms, and olive oil made in the state. He told me in an interview that these crops are being revived as being important essentials southerners don’t want to let go—and, if they keep them in demand then farmers will keep growing them.

At Miller Union, which I wrote about last week, chef and owner Steven Satterfield has also been embracing the bygone foods of the South. “I am a huge fan of historical recipes and heritage ingredients because for me a lot of the food that was made in that time period, pre-industrialization, it was when food was real and people had to live off the land,” says Satterfield. “It was more real and more sustainable, not because it’s trendy, but because it had to be.” At his restaurant, the chef uses Anson Mills heirloom hominy, works with a farmer to get heritage summer squash, and cooks with plenty of native Vidalia onions.

As the other chefs have taken local food and Asian ingredients while keeping a southern spin to it, chef Ann Quatrano’s dishes speak more to the local organic movement that continues to blossom in the city. At her restaurant Bacchanalia she works foods mainly sourced from her own farm and serves dishes like Georgia rainbow trout with fresh garbanzo beans, wood-grilled steak with hakurei turnips and spring onions, and wild forged snails with leeks. Another chef making waves to bring southern food from it’s fat, lard laden reputations is Linton Hopkins, who tied with Acheson for the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast. What he is doing at Restaurant Eugene is sourcing local foods from dozens of farms, a list that gets printed on the menu. It’s not so much Portlandia as it might seem; rather, it’s a way take southern food to new levels in the culinary word and let the true nature of the cuisine shine.

“To be the properly defined as southern food it has to have a reverence for ingredients that are really, really there,” Acheson told me over coffee at his restaurant. “The food that doesn’t have that reverence is just crappie American food, it’s not southern food.”

And to that, can I get an amen?

Miller Union Kicks Off 2012 Atlanta Food and Wine Festival

It’s not so steamy in Hot-lanta right now, which makes eating and drinking at this year’s food and wine festival much easier. To kick of the weekend’s merriment, last night I went to the popular, sold-out dinner at Miller Union in Westside where three award-winning chefs tapped into their childhood memories and created a six-course feast of pure, heirloom deliciousness.

When we reached the packed space nestled into what used to be the Miller Union Stockyards, the mustached bartender handed us a happy cocktail made of fresh strawberries, gin, and sparkling wine. At this point, I had eaten only the tiny bags of pretzels Delta dished out on the plane and the bubbles in the drink electrified my head, no matter how many tiny, herb butter-laced radishes I kept popping into my mouth. After much shuffling around the tight bar and the admiring of toe-peeking shoes, we sat down at a large, farm-style table.

The owners of Miller Union, chef Steven Satterfield and Neal McCarthy, opened the restaurant as a way to serve food that nurtures solid partnerships between their chefs and farmers. While they run a weekly heritage dinner, tonight’s feast featured not only Satterfield, but also Sean Brock of Husk in Charleston, Frank Stitt of Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Alabama. Each dish the chefs constructed reached back to their heritage as Southern men—as well as Southern cooks.

First up, the tattooed Brock served pokeweed fritters with killed lettuce and onions. The concept behind this dish stems from Brock’s mother and her love of picking pokeweed on the side of the road, which she would then clean, chop up, and fry into fritters with cornmeal. The killed salad incorporates fresh greens that get delightfully wilted by hot bacon grease, a technique that makes me rethink the whole hot salad notion. They paired this with a lovely round Chateau des Annibals Rose Cinsault, a cool wine that complimented the bold green of the pokeweed and richness of the salad.

The next course of Carolina rice, fresh English peas, slivers of Benton’s ham, and clams came from Satterfield and played to his love of heirloom rice. The combination sang together well especially when chased with a glass of smooth Henry Natter Sauvignon Blanc Sancerre Loire. Plate number three was Brock again and this time, he took his mother’s tomato gravy and laid next to the best black-eyed peas I have ever had. He topped this mixture with a piece of delicately fried catfish, which, according to the chef, you catch by placing chicken liver in pantyhose and dropping it in the water. Um, yum?

That’s not all, next we had Miller Union’s Justin Burdett’s version of chicken and dumplings, which consisted of a meat terrine and tiny little bites of dough that came with a spicy Alain Gras Pinot Noir. Next, the 1995 Rocche dei Manzoni “S Stefano” Nebbiolo Barolo Piedmont that came with our last course stunned the table and paired lovingly with Frank Stitt’s spring lamb. This dish came beautifully executed with fresh mint, adding an herbal quality that cut the opulence of the meat. Finally, they let us eat cake, and a damn good, one too. Strawberries are in season so Miller Union’s pastry chef Pamela Moxley made a tantalizing strawberry layer cake that brightened with a dollop of lemon curd. I downed that with a glass of pink Moscato and waddled back to the 20th floor of my hotel, full and knowing that that’s just the beginning of the festival.

Bon Rappetite: The Greatest Concept Restaurant That Never Was

You could almost hear the sounds of would-be entrepreneurs across the internet whining, "But that was going to be myyyyyy great idea!" The website for a new Atlanta restaurant with a concept we’re actually surprised no one’s done yet: Bon Rappetite, a dining establishment where all the dishes are named after famous rappers for "a delicious menu that caters to the ballers."

Although there may not be real food, or a real restaurant, those who come across the site are treated to a king-sized banquet of puns (Big Puns). For an appetizer, one can make like Three Six Mafia and eat so many shrimp, you get iodine poisoning, or opt for a Ludacrispy Chicken Salad or Olive Tapen-Nas. Fans of soul food can delight in Pone-Thugs-&-Hominy (where pork tenderloin, herbs and bleu cheese meet at Tha Crossroads). For dessert, an ATL classic: Waka Flocka Flambé ("Our take on a Baked Alaskan = The Baked Atlantan!"). And, of course, the slogan is a salute to one of the South’s greatest, Master P: "Make ‘Em Say Yum." Oh, and of course, there are hot tub tables. 

Even sans restaurant though, they are selling merchandise.

The Bon Rappetite website appears to be the work of social media marketing and web designing ATLiens Baby Robot Industries, who are also responsible for the awesome but disturbing cash4teeth. The restaurant address is currently listed as 400 Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, which, according to Google Street View, is a pretty residential area. Although we’re pretty sure the address was somewhere else not too long ago. Perhaps this is the platform for some kind of viral marketing scavenger hunt thing? A new food truck, even? 

Perhaps with all the buzz, it will be a food truck or a pop-up establishment someday. As long as they’re not serving A$AP Rocky Mountain Oysters, I think we’ll be okay. Sorry. Had to. 

Friday Take-Off: Zombies, Beer, & Chelsea Handler

San Francisco: Pack some fake blood in your briefcase and get ready to join the first annual Zombie Crawl meeting at Civic Center Plaza early Saturday night, followed by a pub crawl through the city. October 22. ● Dallas: The legendary Texas State Fair has its grand finale for 2011 this weekend, so go and enjoy 277 square acres of fried foods, Ferris wheels, and festivities while you still can. Through October 23.

Boston: Fans of Chelsea Handler can get their fill at the “Comedians of Chelsea Handler” show at the Wilbur Theater on Tremont, featuring the lady herself as well as a big group of her favorite colleagues. October 22. ● Atlanta: For the 10th year, the city’s best restaurants gather together for “A Taste of Atlanta,” including chef demos, special sponsors tents, live music, bartenders’ competitions, and more. October 22-23. ● Albuquerque: Hopheads, rejoice — this is New Mexico’s largest craft beer event, with over 40 breweries participating and 9 bands entertaining. And better yet, the event benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation. October 22.

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Monday Wake-Up: Inside the Dreamliner, SkyTeam Goes Chinese

● CNBC’s video that goes inside Boeing’s new Dreamliner aircraft makes a persuasive case for the plane as the game-changer the aviation company claims. The spacious entry with its soothing ambient lighting, large windows, and roomy overhead bins seems poised to address customers’ main environmental complaints — we’ll see if the industry agrees. [CNBC] ● The TSA is testing out a new pilot program that will partner with the Trusted Traveler programs already in place through U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as with passengers on two airlines (Delta out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta and Detroit Metropolitan and American out of Miami and Dallas-Fort Worth) to allow some pre-screened passengers to board through an expedited lane. If all goes well, they hope to phase in multiple other airlines operating out of different locations. [TSA]

● The results of Business Travel News’ 2011 Corporate Travel 100 analysis looks at the largest consumers of corporate travel services by volume to anticipate trends and address their needs. Travel spending is up overall, and to address that, companies are looking to new technologies to manage costs after booking but before travel takes place, like pre-trip auditing, streamlined exception processes, and other automation to improve compliance. [BTN] ● The SkyTeam Alliance officially welcomed China Airlines as its 15th member on Friday, emphasizing the importance of expansion in Asia (the Taipei-based carrier will add three new destinations in the region, and provide additional service to 17 others) for the members of their frequent flyer program, particularly those with business interests in Taiwan. [IFW]