Healthy dinner on the table

It's 6:30 p.m. You've just walked in the door after an hour stuck in traffic and a long day at the office. The last thing you want to do is whip up a family meal, but those darn kids keep saying they're hungry.

Offering an alternative to yet another night of take-out, two new dinner-to-go franchises have opened doors in the Gwinnett area.

Husband-and-wife team Jeff and Lisa Shumas recently opened the first Georgia Lets Eat! location in John's Creek. At this dinner-assembly store, customers can put together meals of grilled meats, vegetables and other light fare.

The store is designed to resemble a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen. Upon entering, guests are treated to food samples and complimentary wine. During a typical two-hour session, customers prepare a month's worth of meals, with all ingredients, utensils and accessories provided to assemble the menus, which rotate each month. Better yet, no clean-up.

Planned menu items include a Farmers Market quiche, Caribbean pork tenderloin and sesame-crusted tuna steaks.

Lets Eat! is located at 11705 Jones Bridge Road in Johns Creek. Visit www.letseatdinner.com.

Fresh 'n Fit, a healthy meal delivery service, has set up shop in Lawrenceville. Meals are designed and prepared by executive chef Brent McIntire and his culinary team, then packaged and delivered directly to distributors throughout the metro area. Customers can then have meals personally delivered or pick them up from the location nearest to them.

There's no need to count calories with the Fresh 'n Fit meals. The nutritional analysis is customized for each diner depending on their health needs, whether they're on weight loss diets or heart-healthy plans.

The Lawrenceville store is located at 989 Lawrenceville Highway. Call 770-962-1616, ext. 24. There are several other Gwinnett locations, including Duluth, Suwanee and Lilburn. Visit www.freshnfitcuisine.com.

Nationwide festival to celebrate food

Atlanta will join 20 other cities across the country to host the first national food festival. The James Beard Foundation's Taste America will be held Sept. 28-29.

Taste America will feature multiple culinary events headlined by some of the country's most influential regional and national restaurateurs, including several of Atlanta's James Beard award-winning and nominated chefs. Needless to say, there will be good food aplenty.

To kick off the two-day celebration, a fundraising dinner will be hosted Sept. 28 at Floataway Cafe by owners Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison. The five-course dinner with wine pairings will be followed by a live auction, and all proceeds will benefit The James Beard Foundation and the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Tickets are $175 per person and can be purchased by calling 404-888-9348.

The festival will continue on Sept. 29 with an interactive and educational day of learning at Williams-Sonoma in Lenox mall in Atlanta. The free event will feature children's activities, and tastes and talks from vendors, farmers and cooking schools in the metro area.

For more information, call 404-888-9348 or visit www.jamesbeard.org.