The Shed at Glenwood

IMG_5998People are pretty good at associating words with images. Most associate the color yellow with the sun, or think of candy when the word chocolate is mentioned. Words can construe positive or negative connotations in our psyche. Often we use words to identify ourselves, and in so doing, create expectations from which people can judge us.

I’m a chef. This is the start of my professional identity. It should lead you to believe that I’m knowledgeable about food, I can cook, and I wear a white jacket with checkered pants.  When you hear the word “shed”, you think of a small building in the backyard used for tool storage or as a work space.IMG_6002

Imagine my surprise when I decided to have dinner at The Shed at Glenwood in East Atlanta. The building is unassuming in décor, part of one of the developments of apartments and stores so common in urban neighborhoods. The red brick façade had no large sign; I had to literally walk right up to the door to make sure I was in the right place. Inside, the décor was contemporary with stainless steel, recessed lights, and an open floor plan. The space was just the right size for a neighborhood restaurant: small enough to be intimate, large enough not to be claustrophobic.

IMG_6001I got there at 6 p.m., which is the usual start for dinner service, and was surprised to find people eating at several tables. The host was on the phone confirming a reservation; once finished, he greeted me cordially, asking if I had a reservation. I told him that I was in the neighborhood and decided to stop for dinner, and he explained that they were solidly booked for the night. He offered seating at the bar, which in my opinion can be better than sitting at a table. Service is much quicker at the bar, especially in busy restaurants. As I sat and looked at the menu, I realized that I would never cook or serve food of this caliber in a shed. The name “The Shed” is a misnomer: there’s nothing rustic, utilitarian, or simple about the food served here. Simple is left at the door, where it stayed for the next few hours while I pleasurably ate and drank my way through a series of small plates and main courses. IMG_6005

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To start, I ordered the Smoked Trout Risotto Balls with Lemon Aioli, Lamb Short Rib with Fennel Slaw, Date Chutney and Yogurt, and Chicken Liver Pate with Sweet Potato Butter and Brioche.  Each plate, no more than three to four bites, demonstrated the chef’s attention to detail and his use of color and garnish to entice the eye. The risotto balls were tasty smeared in the lemon aioli, but the flavor of the smoked trout was barely discernible – enjoyable but not memorable. The lamb short ribs were tender and flavorful, and the fennel slaw and yogurt offset the fatty richness of the short rib. I thoroughly enjoyed this.  I enjoyed the chicken pate as well, and had to request another plate of brioche to make sure I could smear on every last bit of it. If you’ve never had chicken liver pate before, The Shed is a good venue for an initiation.

IMG_6006The entrees ordered were Grilled New York Strip (medium), with glazed pearl onions, potato croquette, and blue cheese with the House 1A Sauce. Also Potato Crusted Flounder with salt cod potato, artichoke chips and Meyer lemon aioli. Once again, it was evident that the chef has a fine dining background: each plate was beautiful to look at. The flounder was ok, safe. There were no surprises in this dish, and I’m sure it is a safe bet for the finicky eater.  The New York strip was served in medallions, neatly stacked. It was tender, coupled with the potato croquette that was nice and crispy on the outside with creamy smooth center. The glazed onions were sweet and tangy. Definitely the standout dish of the two. To drink, I had a local draught called Red Hare Long Day Lager, similar in taste to Stella Artois but with a slightly stronger note of bitterness from the hops.IMG_6012IMG_6009IMG_6000

By the end, too full for dessert, I opted to leave that for another visit. The Shed at Glenwood connotes many images, but the best is that of good food, affordably priced, in a casual setting.

Recipes to feed the Wolf – French Onion Soup

french onion soup“Hurry, the wolves at the door, they gather round the table. “ Jomo Morris

A Cherokee Legend

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

The purpose of every cook is to feed the hungry; and more importantly, the wolf we become, because of that hunger.  It’s raining outside and from the look of things today is a good day to spend indoors. Rainy days are best spent in an old t-shirt, fuzzy socks and comfortable pajamas. A rainy day is best for curling up on the sofa. There’s a book you’ve wanted to read for some time. The pitter patter of raindrops falling on the roof is soothing in its constant repetition. It also hungers for something special, a treat for you and yours, something warm, slow simmered and deeply satisfying. The wolf in you demands it and you should consent by spending time in the kitchen making French Onion soup. It’s a classic preparation that requires time and a bit of patience especially in the early stages. French Onion soup has four main components – deeply caramelized Spanish onions, a rich broth, toasted croutons and a thick covering of graitinéed gruyere and parmesan cheese.  A well-made French Onion soup is delicious because you took the time to be patient. It is an experience best enjoyed in the warmth of your home, safely ensconced from the cold and wet. Enjoy your French Onion soup and the wolf within will be happier for it.

French Onion Soup

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Smitten Kitchen

3 thinly sliced yellow onions

3 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp.  Olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. granulated sugar

3 tsp. minced garlic

4 cups beef stock

Sprig of thyme

½ cup sherry

Freshly ground black pepper

To finish: [Gratinée]

1 cup grated Gruyere with a ¼ cup parmesan or a mixture of Swiss and Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon butter, melted

12 ea.  1-inch thick rounds French bread, toasted until hard

  1. Melt the butter and oil together in the bottom of a Dutch oven over low heat. Add the onions, toss to coat them in oil and cover the pot. Let them slowly steep for 15 minutes.
  2. After 15 minutes, uncover the pot, raise the heat slightly and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook onions, stirring frequently, for 30 to 40 minutes until they have turned an even, deep golden brown. Don’t skimp on this step, as it will build the complex and intense flavor base that will carry the rest of the soup.
  3. After the onions are fully caramelized, add the minced garlic and let cook for three minutes. Add the sherry in full, and then add the beef stock, a little at a time, stirring between additions. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the thyme sprig and bring to a simmer and simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 more minutes, skimming if needed. Correct seasonings if needed and remove the thyme sprig but go easy on the salt as the cheese will add a bit more saltiness.
  4. Set oven to broil. Arrange 4 ovenproof soup bowls or crocks on a baking sheet. To each bowl, add a tablespoon of grated cheese. Stir to combine. Dab your croutons with a tiny bit of butter and float a few on top of your soup bowls, attempting to cover it. Mound ¼ cup grated cheese on top of it. Finish for a minute or two under the broiler to brown the top lightly. Serve immediately.