The Incomparable La Chouffe

Sweet Grass Dairy Holly Springs, Pecan Chevre, & Hopeful Tomme

We’ve had a couple weeks of ownership shifts and relaxation. To start, my iPod was stolen from our car. Now, we have two other iPods, but mine was a 60-gig. I have a strong instinct to narrate nearly every instant of my life with the exact song at an exact time. There is, of course, a moment when only Dylan’s Frankie & Albert will do (and another when only Taj Mahal’s will). In my life, there are many of these moments necessary to my creative stimulation and overall mental health, and only a big-gig Pod will meet these musical demands. Right now, I’m having severe Felice Brothers withdrawal, “My baby told me, Darling, if you don’t get a pardon better get a parole.” And I truly want to believe that some little brat is going to get a serious slap on the hand for stealing my muse.

Second to that in my lost-and-found theme, a puppy. Down-and-out-dogs are kind of our thing, as you may have gathered. Needless to say, our parents held their collective breath, for our newly-found-on-the-street Adelle (hard A, A-dell, as in “Put your titty up, Adelle,” Brad Pitt in Kalifornia) was possibly the cutest puppy ever: a brindle American-bulldog/pit/boxer mix. Our Gracie loved her; Stella abhored her; Jed was indifferent; and Chris and I were semi-smitten. But our little bungalow is simply too small for four big-wilds. Thankfully, a good forever-home presented itself with a fun dad and a Chihuahua named Whitten. And we were able to send her onward.

We spent last week on a cobbled together staycation (a vacation for the financially-challenged): camping at a kayak-in site on a North Carolina lake; two nights in Decatur, Georgia at one of our favorite bars; and lots of laughing and partying with our friend Mike in the interim. Which brings me to food.

Our days in the forest with freeze-dried dinners and instant oatmeal were a bit surreal. Chris assured me that Mountain House meals were the best on the market (synonymous, it turns out, with the only edible on the market), but, amid a torrential downpour in a 15-year-old tent and bear-proofing, a girl wants something not just substantial but substantially comforting and tasty and fresh. Rest assured, I am now terribly taken with the idea of homemade, pack-in camp food: light, compact, but fortifiably domestic and delicious.

Following the woods, we hit Atlanta, a jarring not unlike our transition from Death Valley to Vegas in 2002. Our mecca was Decatur’s Brick Store Pub—no neon; beautiful punk and Kings of Leon-looking staff; and an all-Belgium bar atop. Plus toothsome, vinegar-drenched fish and chips with house-made remoulade. Plus Sweet Grass Dairy cheese boards and warm baguette. As if that’s not enough, at the Brick Store, each beer is served in its own brewery-issued glass. Perfection.

When we needed a (brief) break from the rich Belgiums, we ventured outward for dinner at Cakes & Ale. Chris ordered the Cakes & Ale Burger with Fries. He often goes burger in upscale joints and judged this brisket-and-pork-belly version to be “good,” though not so good as our own St. John's Meeting Place kobe burger. My meal, however, was excellent: Sliced Wagyu Roast Beef with New Crop Potato Salad, Tomatoes, Horseradish Sauce, & Greens. The beef, at a ¼” thickness, was pink, soft, and buttery. The potatoes and lettuce were tender as only the freshest, small-garden vegetables are, and the horseradish sauce melted airily but distinctly with each element. I loved the meal and would order it again this evening. And tomorrow evening as well.

Following that, we enjoyed three courses at The Chocolate Bar across the street: Goat Cheese Mousse with Raisin Toast and Grape Confit, Chocolate Banana Ganache with Olive Oil Crumble and Banana Sorbet, and Chocolate Pot de Crème. Though I was stuffed and hesitant to lemming-along with the course idea at first, I loved the progression—light to rich, savory to intensely sweet, a patchwork of complexities—and scratched at each serving dish with my little spoon for sticky remnants.

One last note, a found staycation souvenir and something I’ve been searching for: a purse-sized pepper grinder. Yep, I’m an extremist, but I simply can’t endure the stale, tasteless pepper offered in restaurants and bars. Now, I won’t have to. And if you’d like to avoid the same torture, you can find the three-inch GSI Outdoors lexan beauty here (http://www.gsioutdoors.com/detail.aspx?s=7&c2=3&p=73490&lu=%2flist.aspx%3fs%3d7%26c2%3d3&).

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