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Mary Mac's Tea Room: 65 Years of Recipes from Atlanta's Favorite Dining Room

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  • Posted November 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Homage to an Atlanta Institution

    This book by John Ferrell, the current owner of Mary Mac's Tea Room, is an homage to an Atlanta institution. The restaurant has been existence since 1945; Ferrell purchased it in 1994 after being hand-picked by long-time owner Margaret Lupo. The book is chock-full of 125 recipes, employee biographies, old menus, postcards, and artwork from the restaurant's history. Serving as many as 1,000 customers a day many of those are, and have been politicians, sports figures and well-known celebrities from Cher to Richard Gere and the Dalai Lama. Sprinkled throughout are photographs of the many local, regular patrons as well as those of Hillary Clinton, President Carter and First Lady Rosalyn Carter, the Dalai Lama, and Richard Gere. Of the recipes I tried there were more than a few stand outs including 'Daddy's Oyster Stew,' 'Fried Chicken,' 'Black-Eyed Peas,' and 'Blackberry Jam Cake.' I chose the fried chicken recipe because I thought fried chicken would be a true test of the restaurant's talents with Southern cooking. It passed the test, perfectly cooked, with a crunchy buttermilk crust. A recipe I'd make again. Shellfish and the south go hand in hand to me, and oysters cooked in milk has always been a favorite dish so 'Daddy's Oyster Stew' was another choice. Here's the fun part about this recipe that goes back to my earlier conversation about ingredients. It calls for "1 pint of fresh raw oysters, juices reserved." I read that and thought but there's very little juice in fresh, raw oysters? At the fish counter while shopping I stood before the fresh, raw oysters in their shells unsure until I noticed a shelf of seafood products in jars and cans: a 10 oz. jar of 'fresh oysters' in their juices! A very simple yet comforting dish, warm oysters in milk with garlic and onion. Black-Eyed Peas, salt pork, fatback, onion and the peas - 'nuff said. The most popular dish I tried was the Blackberry Jam Cake with Caramel Frosting. It consists of cocoa powder, blackberry jam, and apple sauce making it one of the moistest cakes I've ever eaten. The addition of the caramel frosting made it a full-on sugar coma inducing experience. There are only two of us in the house so a big ole wedge went to a neighbor. She liked it so much she asked for the recipe. One other aspect of Mary Mac's Tea Room I liked was how Ferrell incorporated the restaurant's long-time employees into it. There are photographs, histories and personal stories throughout the book. There's even a whole section devoted to "Our Staff." Many have been with Mary Mac's for over thirty-five years. That's remarkable in a restaurant these days. It speaks to the type of place it is. A place some might consider a second home, a welcoming down-to-earth establishment very comfortable in its own skin. In other words, a true Southern restaurant. This book evokes all that and more. It may be a book of restaurant recipes but it easily becomes a book of recipes one can cook and

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    RECIPES FOR SOUTHERN COOKING AT ITS BEST

    Just a glance at the cover of MARY MAC'S TEA ROOM makes mouths water, while the 125 recipes culled from the records of this Atlanta landmark restaurant will have you racing to the grocery store then heading for the kitchen. Forget haute cuisine and think down home comfort food, whether it be macaroni and cheese or fried chicken (yes, the secret to this succulent fried chicken is buttermilk).

    Many of the recipes are almost identical to those served 65 years ago when Mary Mac's opened in 1945. Today it is the last of 16 tea rooms that served Atlanta in the 1940s - long may she offer new guests "a complimentary cup of pot likker and a piece of cornbread"!

    After a warm, affectionate Foreword by Marie Lupo Nugren, daughter of Mary Mac's owner for 30 years, Margaret Lupo, the seven chapters offer Appetizers; Beef, Pork & Poultry; Bread & Beverages; Seafood; Pickles & Canning; Sides; and Desserts (including an irresistible Peach Cobbler topped with a flaky pastry crust and served with vanilla ice cream).

    To choose a favorite recipe from among all of these would be an impossibility. The Mr. at our house would be happy if I just began at the beginning of the book, cooked my way through, and then started all over again! However, if pressed he'd have to admit to leaning toward the Country Fried Steak and Gravy with Peanut Butter Pie with Chocolate Crust for dessert.

    Today Mary Mac's is owned and operated by John Ferrell who promises to keep the tea room's traditions of friendliness, hospitality, and home cooking alive. He's aided by a faithful staff, many of whom have been with Mary Mac's for some 35 years (Shirley Mitchell baked their yeast rolls, corn bread, peach cobbler and cinnamon rolls for over three decades and is still busy in the kitchen). A loyal, happy staff and legions of delighted customers say more than words ever could about Mary Mac's Tea Room.

    Enjoy!

    - Gail Cooke

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2010

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