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Atlanta GA: The Perfect Kickoff (with Possum Talk)

Atlanta: the Kitchen ShotHead Count: 23

The Crowd: writers, photographers, New Orleans expats, musicians, chefs, front-of-house folks, bacon-obsessed bartenders, master printmakers, grooms-to-be, wine merchants, wandering scholars, visiting 7th Ward royalty and my boy Willie Nelson.

Bean Batches: 2 (both meaty)

The Stove: Blast-furnace hot Five-Star commercial range. Damn.

Quotes of the night (appropriately out of context):
“Every once in awhile, I get a dead possum in the kitchen.” — Angie Mosier

Johnny: “It was flat, like a Cuban sandwich.”
Angie: “Kind of a possum panini.”

To kick off the first official leg of the RBRS, I pointed the KitchenCar to Atlanta — which my friend Kevin once referred to as “Dallas, Georgia” — and straight into the sunshiny embrace of one Angie Mosier (food stylist, photographer, strawberry blonde force of nature).

After leaving New Orleans at ungodly o’clock on Monday morning (a time philosophers have referred to as “f*ck thirty”), I double checked my sausage supply and was magically eastbound and down.

Our hostess: Angie Mosier

Our hostess: Angie Mosier

The Old “Roll & Soak” Routine

Somewhere on the Mississippi coast — Diamondhead? Biloxi? –  I found a Piggly Wloaded by the side of the road and loaded up on  Camillia red beans and a couple of gallons of water. The GPS informed my newly-caffeinated brain that I’d land in late afternoon, and since the beans wasn’t doing anything anyway,  I loaded two batches worth in the pressure cooker, added water, and hoped for the best.

The cashier, still working on her first cup of the day, watched me fiddle with pots, add the water, and drive off. She did not, however, alert the local authorities.

Eight cruise-assisted hours later, I eased into  leafy Grant Park– a neighborhood near downtown — and the home of Angie and Johnny Mosier, my ambassadors to all things Atlanta.

Since we hatched this hare-brained scheme a few days earlier, Angie had called a mess of our mutual friends and — in true Monda night fashion — the guest list had blossomed beyond the confines of a single table. We counted the potential diners on two sets of fingers (including all the “maybes” and “gonna show up laters”), cracked open a couple of APB (afternoon preparation beers) and commenced to settin’ up.

“Oh, THIS old thing?”

I turned to the stove and started the Monday night motions — chopchopchop, sizzlesizzlesizzle, stirstirstir — as the lovely Angela busied herself with the dining setup (sturdy wood folding tables, canvas drop cloths, Café du Monde cans as improvised vases, fleur de lis cake stands, every chair in the house). Everything went out into the back yard, which magically became the most UNfussy Martha Stewart setup I’ve ever seen.

It was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen — she was headed out to the toolshed, and next thing you know, the first red beans night had… PRESENTATION.

(I’d like to state for the formal record that Monday Night Red Beans are, by definition, a no-frills even. In my own personal home, I’ve never so much as smoothed a tablecloth, or fluffed a sofa pillow. The whole point of the edible exercise is to NOT throw a dinner party. Low-impact foodstuffs on a no-pressure weeknight. With wine. And maybe ice cream if we’re lucky.)

Seriously, it looked like one of those produced-to-death magazine spreads about “entertaining possibilities” — but in REAL LIFE. And to be honest, it was kinda freaky at first. I mean FLOWERS?

For Angie — collector of depression glass and singer of a mean “Lady Marmalade” — this was her equivalent of house party autopilot. Throw the tarp on the picnic table, set up the cooler station for beers, and somehow it’s all the aesthetics of a micromanaged “dinner party” with NONE of the micromanagement.

After she finished the setup — executed with her two canine partners in crime — it was stunning. There was only one response: “HOLY SHIT.” Her response? (shrug) “What?”

Atlanta: The first night table

Atlanta: The first night table

First Night Good Fortune

The evening went on, as these often do, without a hitch. Linton and Gina Hopkins took the night off from Restaurant Eugene, Elizabeth and Jeff Moore came in from a trip to Nashville, Kate Medley brought in the Montana Gals and the charming Mr. McGirk. We started out in the kitchen, adjourned to the back yard on a clear night, and raised a rumpus as the evening wore on.

It was great to see a mix of friends meet each other for the first time. Old Austin roommate Robert Brown (now chair of the printmaking Dept. at Savannah College of Art and Design) showed up after his pre-nuptial dancing lesson — that weekend, he’d be heading to Charleston for his wedding. New Orleans writer friend and boarder-of-houses David Lee Simmons and his lovely journalist bride Faith Dawson arrived, escorting a very special guest — Faith’s mama Adonicia Dawson, sister of Leah Chase and  the soul of Creole poise and grace. (Seriously, I want her to be Secretary General of the UN one day.)

Johnny Mosier (host and all-around salt o’ the Earther) arrived post-gig with a flourish and a couple of band mates. A trio of no-count Louisville buddies — Todd Richards, Big Duane Nutter and Jerry “the Bourbon Boy” Slater — arrived fresh off a celebration of closing on a new barbecue joint (Rolling Bones in nearby XXXX) and with a mini-bar experiment in tow. (Rye whiskey infused with smokey Benton’s Bacon, sweet vermouth and bitters for several batches of Bacon Manhattans.) Winewoman and melon slayer Ashley Hall spoke French and did a full “Lord of the Flies” on a perfect Georgia watermelon with the help of the poised yet bloodthirsty Ms. Gina.

And the special guest, of course, was the only regulation-sized kid — William Nelson Moore, age 5 — who put up with the bigger kids and never batted an eye. Shy at first, he soon realized that being the shortest dude at a house party has distinct advantages — especially when you’re named “Willie Nelson.” He answered all our Star Wars questions without condescending. He also patiently demonstrated how to turn a yellow Camaro into a robot named Bumblebee without rolling his eyes even ONCE. A class act, that Willie Nelson.

Late Night Wind-down

Evening turned into night, then to wee-hour morningtime  — and the dayjob crew gradually peeled off to prepare for the next day’s snoozebar tango. The remaining ne’er-do-wells barely noticed the Monday/Tuesday transition until we loaded all the dirty plates into Angie’s improvised dishpit — a repurposed gigantic Tupperware container filled with hose water. (Soak at night, wash in the morning.) We’ll get the chairs tomorrow. That can wait. Don’t worry about it.

The stragglers congregated in the kitchen (as always), and Angie glanced at her watch, then let out a victorious holler.

“TWO AY-AM? On a Monday? That’s GREAT! We kept it going until two! I LOVE this!”

What a way to start the show.

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