Blue

Blue Ridge Kitchen combines fine dining with comfort

As the server poured silky gazpacho over a chunk of lobster in the bowl before me, I suddenly realized how much I’ve been missing fine dining. After so many months of take-out meals or eating on casual patios, it was so nice to enjoy the upscale service offered at the new Blue Ridge Kitchen at the Barlow in Sebastopol.

After my first spoonful of the refreshing soup, I knew chef Matt D’Ambrosi is putting a lot of thought into his Cal-Creole-Cajun recipes. The chilled gazpacho is marvelous on its own, in a sweet-tart, peach-colored puree of melon and tomato dotted with radish, a round of chopped avocado and shiny drops of basil oil ($9). With the generous chunk of seafood (add $7) and the elegant tableside presentation, it’s luxurious.

All the details line up so well at this classy spot, which took over the former Zazu Farm + Restaurant space that was vacated in 2018. For now, we eat on the patio, a pretty area set with wood tables and European-style bistro chairs, all shaded by sailcloth and flanked by trees, herb gardens and flowers. I’m looking forward to when we can eat inside, too, and admire the centerpiece cocktail bar and the open kitchen.

D’Ambrosi was known for his creative cooking at Healdsburg’s Spoonbar, Harmon Guest House and Pizzando. Here, he comes up with inventive dishes like carrot cake pancakes. The brunch specialty makes a delicious statement; it’s a sweet but not sugary hybrid of carrot and apple soufflé cakes on a pond of cream cheese-poppy seed glaze and topped with golden raisins, candied pecans and smoked maple syrup ($18).

Overall, though, there’s nothing weird on this expansive, all-day menu. You can get something as simple as a perfect smash burger with secret sauce ($9.50) or as indulgent as

BARBARA’S BLUE KITCHEN at Aurora Theatre’s Our Stage Onscreen Digital Series

An Experimental Production of Barbara’s Blue Kitchen Kicks Off The Our Stage Onscreen Digital Series at Aurora Theatre

BWW Review: BARBARA'S BLUE KITCHEN at Aurora Theatre's Our Stage Onscreen Digital Series
Chloe Kay
Photo by Casey Gardner

News flash: We’re in the middle of a pandemic. That means there are no benches and chairs to sit on in your local Barnes & Noble. Baseball patrons are made of cardboard. And the theaters are closed. This last one stings the most, but the best Atlanta theaters are adapting to fill the void left by the absence of live theater. We’ve got drive-in cabarets. We’ve got outdoor opera. And we’ve got a variety of online stream-from-home offerings, including the new Our Stage Onscreen Digital Series at Aurora Theatre, a series that brings performing arts to homebound season supporters and new audiences while providing a safe workspace for Atlanta theatre artists. The inaugural offering, streaming now through October 4 for a hefty $30 rental fee, is Barbara’s Blue Kitchen, a fun – if slightly underbaked – musical with a book, music, and lyrics by Lori Fisher. The small-cast musical works hard to conjure up a slice of homespun Southern life through portraits of workers and customers in a small Southern diner. A brave Chloe Kay, the actor who plays all of the characters in the beautifully rendered diner, works hard to deliver an engaging evening of for-the-screen theater, but this first outing is hindered by technical challenges and, regrettably, by the fact that producing theater specifically for the screen is a tricky tricky business.

The musical tells the story of Barbara Jean, the owner of the small-town diner that serving up more than just their famous Mudslide pie. It’s also serving up all of the gossip in the small town of Watertown, Tennessee. We learn that Barbara Jean’s on-again-off-again hairstylist boyfriend, Lombardo, beloved if only

Aurora streams musical ‘Barbara’s Blue Kitchen’

Musical director Ann-Carol Pence’s band features Skyler Brown on guitar, Maurice Figgins on acoustic bass and Hayden Rowe on violin. Brown also plays second fiddle, as it were, with a couple of bit parts (as the diner’s cook and as a radio DJ). Neither he nor Kay is a member of Actor’s Equity, but both of them are Aurora apprentice-company alums.

Kay is fine delineating her many roles, which also include a mousy new waitress, a lonely old widow and a sensible nurse, as well as Barbara’s volatile sister, her precocious little nephew, and even the amorous Italian hairdresser who is her boyfriend. Fischer specifically intended the script to be performed by one actress (she herself did it off-Broadway), not unlike those “Greater Tuna” comedies in which two actors play all the bumpkin stereotypes of a Texas town.

For Aurora’s purposes, the on-camera format makes the character transitions fairly seamless, while also eliminating the on-stage shtick of a lot of quick entrances and exits and costume changes. But it also prompts more than a few awkward moments, where Anderson alternates between close-ups of two people having a conversation and then cuts to a wider angle of one or the other simply talking into thin air. (One scene contains a nifty visual effect, where we actually seem to glimpse two of Kay’s characters interacting in the same shot.)

Running just 80 minutes, “Barbara’s Blue Kitchen” is harmless enough, if not very intellectually stimulating. Dealing in such hokey Southern idiosyncrasies isn’t for all tastes. For example, one invisible customer orders a pulled pork platter and then wants to “hold the pulled pork.”. Surely, there must be countless one-set, two-actor shows that are much better formulated on the whole.

Even so, there’s no mistaking the pleasure of streaming a performance that’s the closest