don’t get saucy with me, bolognese

Atlanta’s Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival celebrates some of the South’s best chefs, farmers and mixologists. Created by Top Tomato Ford Fry, the one-day event now in its third year is held at Fry’s West Midtown restaurant JCT Kitchen & Bar, which readers might remember I took quite a shine to back in November. Benefiting Georgia Organics – a non-profit organization working to integrate sustainable and locally grown foods into daily diets – a roster of noted area chefs like Canoe’s Carvel Gould (whom I also featured back in November) and Top Chef-winner Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill will pair up with local farmers to create unique tomato dishes for festivalgoers to sample, while the featured mixologists will stir up signature tomato-based cocktails. A couple of highlights from last year included Pimiento cheese profiteroles with tomato jam by West Egg Café‘s Patric Bell and a Tomato Mai Tai from Stuart White of Miller Union. High profile judges from Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, and CNN sample it all then cherry-pick their favorites, bestowing awards for best tasting dish, most creative dish, best booth and best beverage. Attendees get to vote for their favorite dishes, too – then everyone waves goodbye as nearly 1,000 pounds of compostable matter gets shipped off to begin the cycle again (as worm food) courtesy of Greenco Environmental. The Attack is back July 17 – it’s as good a reason as any to ditch The Big Apple for a visit to The Hot Tomato.

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sunday supper

JCT Kitchen & Bar in trendy West Midtown’s Westside Urban Market gets its name from a nearby sign for the junction of railroad lines that once carried livestock into the city of Atlanta. Emphasizing traditional foods and European techniques, Chef Ford Fry’s restaurant couldn’t be more appropriately named.  As homey as it is upscale, this is Southern farmstead cooking in an elegantly casual atmosphere you wish grandma’s house had.

The light-filled restaurant feels like a Southerner’s answer to the French bistro, with a menu that’s reminiscent of family favorites tweaked by ingredients from regional fields and farms. “Farmstead is a culinary term currently used in artisan cheese making, where the dairy comes from the same farm where the cheese is made. I like the word because it indicates hand-crafted food and the use of local farms; it speaks of seasonal, fresh ingredients,” explains Chef Fry. “It describes a philosophy of food. We want to use local products and make all the goods ourselves.”

Signature Southern dishes include fried chicken, shrimp and grits, braised short ribs with “pot roast” vegetables, and chicken & dumplings that’s actually red wine-braised chicken with gnocchi sautéed in brown butter – just don’t call it coq au vin.  Sunday nights play host to an old-fashioned Sunday Supper, with a “meat and three” menu that is ridiculously priced at only $24.  It begins with warm biscuits and deviled eggs. Then choose from five meats like sweetwater catfish and hickory roasted pork loin and nine home-style vegetables for the table. Also included is JCT’s farm stand salad plus the luscious pie or cake of the moment.

Sorry,  I just can’t resist:  this is one junction where it all comes together.

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