Highs and Lows down South


Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene has helped define Atlanta's culinary identity.

I went to Atlanta last week to celebrate our Southern Issue. While I was there I had one amazing meal after another. One lunch was local pheasant served with rutabaga puree, shredded kale and pickled peaches, a meal so delicious I was loath to leave the table.

Dinner that night, at Restaurant Eugene, began with oysters baked with puréed Jerusalem artichokes and scattered with dark shreds of truffle. They were so pungent, so black, so incredibly reminiscent of France that I teased Linton Hopkins, who is famous for his reliance on local products, about this foreign affectation.

“These are local!” he insisted, going into the kitchen and returning with a little plastic tub filled with damp paper towels and two large, deep black tubers. The minute he opened the top, the room filled with their scent. “They are Tennessee truffles, and they were in the ground yesterday,” he said. They were just one more proof that the South is an ever more exciting place to eat.

I made a stop in Greensboro on the way back, and I was thrilled to see, as I drove back to the airport, that there was a sign on the freeway for the local farmers market. I was less pleased to discover, when my plane was three hours late, that the choices in the airport there were particularly dreary. I’d like to tell you that I turned up my nose at the offerings, but I’d be lying. A few hours in an airport can do that to a person. From terrific local truffles to sticky cold pizza in 24 hours. That’s America.

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