It was a hallowed evening in midtown, Atlanta’s booming business and residential district that is fast becoming an epicenter for discerning diners. For ten years now, South City Kitchen has served some of the region’s most imaginative cuisine while staying true to its Southern roots. And, there could be no more appropriate way to honor this occasion than gathering chefs from three other cities to join the acclaimed kitchen staff at South City for a collaborative feast. With three out of town celebrity chefs teaming with South City’s legendary Chef Jay Swift, the expectations were electrifying.

Hors d’oeuvres ranged from Southern fried quail to shrimp and corn fritters and were served with generous pourings of Byron Pinot Blanc, a superb aperitif. The room was packed with familiar faces in the Atlanta dining scene and I enjoyed a pleasant chat with one of Atlanta’s genuine wine authorities, Michael Venezia. We quickly concurred that the evening was off to a championship start.

I had the best seat in the house alongside Melissa Libby, one of our town’s most respected public relations CEO’s and her gifted associate, Nicole Hunnicutt accompanied by her husband Robert, along with Stephanie Oswald, the editor of Atlanta-based TravelGirl magazine. We sat down with other notable guests just in time for the first course, a culinary masterpiece from the creative talent of Chef Tom Condron, whose reputation at Mimosa Grill in Charlotte continues to grow. His combination of fried green tomatoes and crispy oysters along with crawfish remoulade and organic watercress salad became even more memorable with the noble white wine, Arrowood Viognier.

A lesser assemblage would have been quite satisfied, but there was a discernable undercurrent of craving for more. Chef Robert Carter, who captains the kitchen at Charleston’s renowned Peninsula Grill, knows how to satisfy hungry and sophisticated diners. His seared jumbo sea scallops with cheddar grits, followed by fritter and truffled corn caulis was magnified by a fruity Robert Mondavi Chardonnay. The evening was now soaring and the crowd’s good-natured, concentrated chatter increased by decibels.

We were nudged into the next course as the Byron “Neilson Vineyard” Pinot Noir was poured. Almost simultaneously, roast pork accompanied by stir-fried beans, collard greens and homemade Chow Chow was served. This Deep South combination came from the master Birmingham chef, Chris Hastings of the highly regarded Hot and Hot Fish Club.

Then, it was our hometown hero’s turn to do some culinary magic. Chef Jay Swift, a genuine celebrity cook, brought out one of the evening’s best-received dishes, breast of duckling with duck bacon, butternut squash brioche pudding, with glazed seasonal vegetables and a cider gravy. Washing this down with the IO “Ryan Road,” a remarkable Rhone-style red, produced some rather audible pleasure-inspired moans.

Gary Scarborough, South City Kitchen’s accomplished pastry Chef, had the stage to himself as the evening’s zenith approached. His spectacular sweet potato napoleon with caramelized walnuts in a raisin sherry reduction begged for a sweet wine. The late harvest Robert Mondavi Boytrititis Sauvignon Blanc served as an example of just how wonderful these wine gems are and why they are increasing in popularity.

Each bite and every sip seemed to be a tribute to all that South City Kitchen has become. It is a midtown gourmet palace, the unofficial headquarters of our fast developing regional cuisine. So many offerings that evening reminded me of how important our food and wine culture is to not only denizens but also the country as a whole. What we prepare and consume tells the world about us. After all, it’s not very different from our acclaimed indigenous music and art.

The food had a distinct southern accent. The exceptional wines were from elsewhere. The coming together metaphorically said that we are comfortablyhappy as Southerners and Americans. We are important parts of the whole.

The evening mirrored Atlanta’s greatness, and displayed some of the admirable reasons why it is the region’s cultural center.


(Some of the images on this page are property of the South City Kitchen and/or its owners and are used with permission.)

• Distinguished Restaurant of North America (DiRoNA) - 2002-2003

• "Award of Excellence" - Wine Spectator Magazine, 1998-1999, 2001-2003

• "If this is the direction that new Southern cooking is taking, it's on the right track" - New York Times

• "South City Kitchen became a mecca for low country cooking the minute it opened in 1993" - Where Magazine

• Best Restaurant in Midtown- Atlanta Magazine 1999-2000





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