Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Random Field Trips: Atlanta Culinary Tour of Sweet Auburn Curb Market

I had lunch a few weeks ago with a friend at LottaFruitta on Auburn Avenue. "Is this anywhere near the Sweet Auburn Curb Market?" she asked. I'd heard of the place, but, like many in-towners, I had no idea where to actually find it. So when Hubby and I were invited to tag along with the Atlanta Culinary Tour of the curb market, I was excited to finally go and see what it was all about. There, we found that the people and food are down-to-earth with some surprises.

First, the location: just west of the downtown connector at the corner of Edgewood Avenue and Jesse Hill Jr. Drive. Auburn Avenue is a block north of Edgewood, and the district is designated as "Sweet Auburn" because it was a prosperous business area for the city's African-American population in the mid-twentieth century. The "curb market" is so named because segregation at the time meant that the blacks shopped outside, while the whites did so inside out of the elements. In relation to downtown, it's approximately here:

Now everyone can shop there, and Hubby and I did some produce hunting before the tour started. We went to Natural Produce, which, in addition to locally grown fruits and veggies, carries pre-washed , shredded, cut up, diced, chopped, and otherwise deconstructed produce. However, as we found out, eat or cook the washed and cut up veggies quickly or re-pack them in produce bags with paper towels to absorb the moisture because otherwise, they won't last past a few days, even in the fridge.

As I mentioned, the food is "down-to-earth." Atlanta Culinary Tour leader David Jones (not the pirate or Monkee) had us sample some "white dirt," which is sold in some of the produce shops. It pretty much tastes like, well, dirt.

Our first real food stop was Ciao Boca. Owner Debora Kudelka treated us to samples of a meatball sandwich and one with arugula and pancetta, both of which were really yummy. She made sure to let us know that she has vegetarian-friendly soups and grilled cheese paninis for our non meat-eating friends.

After a stop to talk about the proper way to cook pig's ears at Country Meats, we stopped at Metro Deli Soul Food. Each of us got a little plate with something different. I had a rib, black-eyed peas, and collards. Hubby had meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and collards. Oh, and cornbread! They also gave us samples of either peach or sweet potato cobbler for dessert. The next time I want soul food, I know where I'm going, although I don't think I'm brave enough to try pig's ears yet.

We'd also talked about oxtail, as the curb market was known for its variety of meat shops, and the lower level was once an abattoir, where animals were slaughtered for sale. We got to sample some at Afrodish, and even non-adventurous meat eaters would be hard-pressed to resist the seasoning.

Our other non-dessert stop included Tilapia Express, where owner Farrah's daughter peered over the counter as he served us a deep-fried trio of catfish, tilapia, and whiting. Then it was on to the sweet stuff!

Sweet Auburn Bakery has the following case of temptation:

I didn't think it was possible, but I found room for a little sweet potato cheesecake there:

Then we got to meet Miss D and sample her New Orleans Pralines, which did, as promised, melt in my mouth.

Finally, we ended up at Café Campesino, where we had coffee to combat the food comas that threatened to set in at any moment. Oh, and the scones were good, too. Hubby and I knew them from the Saturday Decatur Farmer's Market, but it's nice to know where to find them during the week.

My only complaint about the tour is something that liability and legal reasons would prevent, which would be beer or wine to go with all the great food. Hubby and I made up for that afterward. We also had dinner reservations at Sound Table, which we ended up moving to 10:00 because we knew we wouldn't be hungry until then. Overall, it was a fun afternoon, and we enjoyed getting to know some of Atlanta's food, history, and the intrepid restaurant and shop owners that are making up our local food scene.


Dave said...

Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for joining us.

Joe said...

'Twas delish. Eager to go back and get a full plate of Afrodish. And Tilapia Express.

Well, a full dish of everything. Nice to see y'all!

Anissa said...

Thanks for taking the time to discover one of Atlanta's hidden gems!