It was a few minutes before 11 a.m. and Bill Adams had two things on his mind: Brunswick stew and cracklin cornbread.
To satisfy his craving for meat stew and fried pig skin, this lifelong Georgia boy made the hour-long drive Tuesday from his home in Griffin to Harold’s Barbecue in south Atlanta. When he and his friends learned this was to be Harold’s last week in business, they made plans for a final pilgrimage.
“Just wanted to stop by for one last meal,” the longtime patron said as he waited in the restaurant’s dusty parking lot for doors to open. He wasn't alone; there were about a dozen others, including a pair of Georgia State Troopers.
“It’s inevitable. Everything changes. Nothing lasts forever,” he said. “We don’t like it but we can’t stop it.”
When tragic crime struck two neighboring Atlanta businesses last week, leaving a shop owner dead and a community in shock, residents turned to food to raise spirits and help survivors.
The result was a crowd-sourced bake sale to benefit one of the affected businesses, Sugar Coated Radical, a self-described "libertine confection shop" that has earned national press for creating "honest" chocolate from organic, fairly traded and locally sourced raw materials.
The event, also known as a "cash mob," drew hundreds of well-wishers on Sunday who bought baked goods to help the business recoup money lost in a robbery. Other small businesses donated coffee for sale and a food truck from which to sell the surplus of baked goods prepared by Sugar Coated Radical. Volunteers staffed the cash register.
No one enjoys listening to crying children while they're dining out, and parents are no exception.
Mindful parents - and there are many of them - know the drill when it comes to eating out with children. They stick to family friendly restaurants, know the signs of an oncoming outburst and won’t hesitate to scoop up their children at first wail. That is if they decide to take the kids out in the first place.
Those parents wish restaurants didn’t need to publicly state policies for dealing with unruly children or even ban them outright. They shudder when the media shines a spotlight on establishments that go that route; the controversy gives parents a bad name.
Among friends, competitive eater Suzanne "Suzilla" French is known for extreme behavior. Whatever she does, she does big, be it eating or drinking, showing her love for country or pro-football.
She's the fourth-ranked competitive eater in the world - the kind of person who parties hard on Flag Day and decks her Facebook profile picture with the New Orleans Saints' logo. The last time I saw her, before she left Atlanta for her hometown of Houston, was in the back of a stretch limo that she'd rented for a mutual friend's birthday. I joined them after they'd spent the day at Medieval Times - a gorge-fest in its own right. Bottles of booze spilled forth as the car flew around town, making stops at bars where French knew everyone. I can't remember how it ended.
For its new extreme eating special, Discovery's Planet Green channel capitalized on her "girl-next-door consumes gargantuan portions of food" shtick. "Suzilla: The Mouth That Roars" follows the 28-year-old as she takes on men at least twice her size in eating competitions in some of the country's greasiest spoons and short-order eateries.
She took a few minutes out of her day job as a contract lawyer for an oilfield services company to talk about how she manages to not look like a competitive eater and the two kinds of food she refuses to eat.
To help keep the peace with her in-laws during holidays, Julia Smith adopted a rule several years ago about talking politics: Don't do it, and don't take the bait if anyone starts in.
Her relationship with her father-in-law in particular had always been fraught with tension, said Smith, who asked that her name be changed to preserve family relations. She was the "screaming liberal from New York" who'd corrupted his Texas-bred son into moving to "Taxachusetts" and voting Democrat. As far as she was concerned, he was a good ol' boy who didn't like to talk politics as much as preach his views.
Her resolve was put to the test three years ago at Thanksgiving dinner, right after Barack Obama was elected president. She was picking at her turkey when, she says, her father-in-law suggested an act of violence toward Obama.
She attempted to keep cool by gathering her children and leaving the table. But then he repeated it at dessert.
Most of the honey sold in chain stores across the country doesn't meet international quality standards for the sweet stuff, according to a Food Safety News analysis released this week.
One of the nation's leading melissopalynologists analyzed more than 60 jugs, jars and plastic bears of honey in 10 states and the District of Columbia for pollen content, Food Safety News said. He found that pollen was frequently filtered out of products labeled "honey."
Take one part pub crawl and one part contest mixed vigorously with 10 bartenders on a mini bus, and what do you get? One spirited competition to determine who makes the best drink using pisco, the South American brandy making a comeback in the United States.
Long a fixture in liquor cabinets and bars in Peru and Chile, pisco is popping up in the United States amid an obsession with craft cocktails. From January to July, export sales of the South American grape brandy grew to $2.3 million, up 139% over the same period in 2010, fueled by increased sales in the United States, Peruvian news agency Andina reports.
A Chinese delicacy may soon disappear from California restaurants if a bill to ban the sale of shark fins makes it through the state Senate.
A symbol of wealth and luxury, shark fin soup was once prized by Chinese emperors for its rarity. Today, it's typically served at weddings and banquets to demonstrate a host's good fortune.
But it comes at a high price, for one's wallet and the environment. Shark fins, which fetch up to $600 per pound, are sometimes acquired through the controversial practice of finning: a shark's fins are cut off and the rest of its body is tossed into the ocean.
California, home to 1.1 million Chinese-Americans, is one of the largest importers of shark fins outside Asia. The California Shark Protection Act would make it illegal to possess, sell or trade shark fins.
The state Senate is expected to take up the legislation next week.
Hosting a dinner party is not for the faint of heart. All the shopping, cleaning, cooking and schmoozing, followed by more cleaning, can suck the verve out of the most enthusiastic party planner.
Then there are people like Jen and Ryan Hidinger, who have 10 strangers over for dinner about twice a month. For them, it’s a labor of love with a specific goal: to create an experience that will make guests come back for more. That way, the Atlanta couple will have an instant following by the time they open a restaurant, if all goes planned, by the end of the year.