"Any time that I'm traveling, I always try to glean as much perspective as I can from other chefs and what they're doing," says Christopher Brugman, chef de cuisine at Hearth '61 at the new Mountain Shadows resort in Paradise Valley.
Visiting his sister in Atlanta last fall, the chef mixed business with pleasure. "[Atlanta has] a really eclectic food scene. There are three [restaurants] that really set it off for me as far as excitement, and thoughtfulness, and playfulness, and uniqueness of represntation of how they dine and how their hospitality is different."
First, the obvious: "Awesome name." Second, chef/owner Kevin Gillespie's "Brazilian churrascaria/dim sum style of eating... was unlike anything I've ever seen before." Each chef in the open kitchen creates one dish, which is paraded around the dining room for guests to select or reject. "I had a dish and it was this venison tartare and it was kind of nestled and covered with this foliage, so it looked like fall leaves, which were actually all edible - different variations of sweet potato and different kinds of chips. It was just magical." gunshowatl.com
Chef/owner Ford Fry's upscale seafood spot was where Brugman found "one of the best octopus dishes I've had in a very long time, next to Gio Osso's." He was also wowed by the attention to detail in the bread service. "Each loaf was wrapped in parchment and tied with butcher's twine." The rustic/industrial decor struck a chord: "They take these old structures and transform them into beautiful restaurants. Open kitchen, brick-lined subway panels, wood-burning fires." theoptimistrestaurant.com
It's not often that this Angeleno is impressed by a taco, but it happened - in Atlanta, of all places. "I'm a taco guy," he says, praising the "off-the-menu tacos that they didn't publicize. I'm always a fan of restaurants that do that. And the margaritas were amazing." bartaco.com
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