March 6, 2014 at 10:12 am , by Serina Patrick
I surprised myself with the choice of Watershed, a restaurant that didn’t impress me in its original location in Decatur, but has become a different beast now that it’s in Buckhead and Joe Truex is in the kitchen. I hear he is keeping the fried chicken tradition alive, but my craving was for a bird of a different sort…the duck.
Unlike the bright and sunny decor of the former location in Decatur, the Buckhead space is a series of intimate rooms dressed in shades of deep blue, with unfinished wood floors and dim lighting…too dim for decent photos with my outdated camera. It would be a great spot for a romantic dinner, if you’re lucky enough to be dating someone that comprehends romance.
To hell with romance, we invited friends TH and D, a couple we hang out with at the Kentucky Derby, to join us. Late as always, we arrived as they were sipping wine and nibbling on a cheese plate at the bar. Once seated, I ordered a glass of the same spicy red zin that TH was having, the 2012 Prisoner “Saldo”.
An order of deviled eggs and shrimp wrapped with country ham were ordered to share. Both dishes we tried on our first visit here, I was particularly fond of the shrimp served with fiery little calabrese peppers.
For entrees, our friends shared a bowl of Joe’s jambalaya, a nod to the chef’s Louisiana roots, while LC tried the seared sea scallops and a side of hot pepper slaw. But who cares…I had the duck! Moulard duck breast, roasted medium-rare, was paired with grilled radicchio, peperonata, and compressed Georgia apples. This is one of those dishes I fantasize about, the sweet apples and bitter radicchio perfectly matched with the rich meat. Although it was more than enough in quantity and calories, I also felt compelled to order a side of mac ‘n’ cheese since someone else at our table ate mine on our last visit. The substantial portion was baked in its own ramekin, loaded with melted cheddar. A second glass of zin washed it all down.
What would a birthday dinner be without dessert? The list at Watershed is extensive, yet strangely unappealing…keep in mind I dislike cake. And pie. And anything lemon. TH and D ordered the chocolate terrine with pistachio and sea salt while LC and I reluctantly decided on the pecan tart with bourbon pecan ice cream. It was a mini pie, so needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled, although the ice cream redeemed it to an extent.
In between scrumptious bites, we laughed until we cried. It was a memorable meal despite the lack of birthday candles…and romance.
1820 Peachtree Road NW 404-809-3561
March 4, 2014 at 10:45 am , by Serina Patrick
Use promo code HOTDISH for $15 off Taste & Brews tickets!
The Atlanta Food Truck Park & Market announced that it will hold its 2nd Annual Taste and Brews beer tasting & food festival on Saturday, March 8. This unique event includes five food samples from a choice of ten Atlanta food trucks paired with unlimited tastings from more than one hundred domestic, imported and craft beers.
Event goers will have the unique opportunity to sample a wide array of foods from Sweet Auburn Barbecue, Masala Fresh, W.O.W., Mighty Meatballs, Genki, Pho Sho, Spiedie Zone, Liska, Yum Yum Cupcakes & Crepe Suzette. The entertainment lineup will feature Jacob & the Good People and DJ Suspense. A portion of the event proceeds will benefit Atlanta Fundraising Foundation.
Date: Saturday, March 8th, 2014
Where: Atlanta Food Truck Park & Market: 1850 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta, GA 30318
Time: 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., VIP – 1:00 p.m.
Tickets are available now for $45 for General Admission and $75 for VIP at www.tasteandbrews.com. Admission includes a souvenir commemorative cup and program. VIP admission includes free parking, a reserved VIP Area and early admission starting at 1:00 p.m.
March 2, 2014 at 6:07 pm , by Serina Patrick
Since my birthday dinner at Watershed had to be postponed, LC and I opted for a casual meal at our neighborhood favorite, Goin’ Coastal, on my actual birthday which luckily fell on a Monday. If you’ve never visited Goin’ Coastal in the Virginia Highlands on a Monday night, make plans to do so for their $20 lobster special!
We had reserved a couple of seats at the bar where we like to chat with the staff. I ordered a glass of grenache and LC tried a Moscow Mule, a refreshing cocktail made with vodka, lime juice, and ginger ale, served in a frosty copper mug.
A few oysters Rockefeller, baked with spinach, bacon and parmesan, whetted our appetites for the shellfish to come. Fresh, vibrant greens garnished with cherry tomatoes, carrots, and onions were served family style, dressed with housemade citrus vinaigrette…a light start to a decadent dinner.
At Goin’ Coastal, they steam the whole beast and serve it simply with drawn butter. We both ordered a side of corn on the cob. LC unceremoniously ripped my lobster apart and removed the greenish gunk. Then it was ready to be devoured! A nut cracker is provided to get the sweet meat out of the claws. It’s a messy job, but well worth it.
Lobster…delicious at any age.
1021 Virginia Avenue 404-941-9117
February 27, 2014 at 9:41 am , by Serina Patrick
Since LC and I got to spend Friday night at the emergency room at Piedmont Hospital instead of enjoying my birthday dinner at Watershed, I decided that Sunday brunch would be a tasty alternative. Highland Bakery has been on my wish list for years, so we drove down the street to the original Old Fourth Ward location prepared to wait for a coveted table at the popular brunch spot.
After a quick drive around the block, we snagged a spot directly across the street, then proceeded to the door where crowds of hungry brunchers waited, coffee in hand. So we put our name on the wait list and followed suit, purchasing two cappuccinos and an irresistable s’mores bar in the bakery shop waiting area.
My cappuccino was foamy and fantastic and our wait was only twenty minutes or so. Our hostess seated us at a hightop in the sunny hall between the shop and main dining room. Exposed brick, brightly painted walls, and well-worn furnishings make guests feel at home.
Naturally, I had printed the menu the day before, marking my potential selections with a star. Classic eggs benedict is my favorite brunch dish, but I was having a hard time saying no to the breakfast BLT, and the sweet potato pancakes, and especially the cilantro corn pancakes which finally won out.
LC was leaning towards the breakfast BLT. Great! I could try a bite…or three. But like a moron I pointed out he could build his own omelette, so he did that instead. He added turkey sausage, cheddar, corn, and avocado.
My cilantro corn pancakes were served over black beans, then topped with two eggs fried medium, sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, cilantro, and avocado on the side, suggested by our server. I should have realized all those ingredients added up to a sloppy mess, but I was blinded by the word cilantro. Worse yet, I neglected to order a side of bacon. Meat is mandatory with eggs.
Nevertheless, I dug into the massive thing on my plate, causing even a bigger mess of oozing egg yolks. Then my bacon arrived…greasy, chewy goodness. I thought the pancakes would be soggy from the black beans and salsa, but they were surprisingly intact, and full of sweet corn kernels. The Southwestern flavors in the dish were marvelous, however, if I were to order it again, I would order the corn pancakes on a separate plate, with the salsa and sour cream on the side. And the eggs on the side with the side of bacon. This dish should be served on three plates.
LC enjoyed his enormous omelette, although it could have been made with half as many eggs and been plenty. His bowl of grits on the side were unusually creamy and flavorful. Pancake dishes aren’t served with toast, so I stole a piece of his, enjoying its toothsome quality. We were happily stuffed. I was hoping for a chocolate croissant to take home, but they were sold out.
Now if they only served mimosas…
655 Highland Avenue No. 10 404-586-0772
February 24, 2014 at 12:11 pm , by Serina Patrick
Originally posted in 2011, I am reminded on my birthday just how much I hate cake. So, grab a paper plate and a plastic fork and dig in!
It’s no secret that I hate cake. Yesterday I was shopping at Kroger when I walked by the bakery department and was subjected to this garish display….yellow cake and cupcakes decorated with day-glo frosting.
What is the flavor of yellow cake? Yellow is not a flavor. The flavor of red velvet cake is red, I suppose. At least brown cake is chocolate. Why would anyone want to eat a flavorless sponge covered with bright green goopy frosting?
Cake is so low-brow. Whenever I eat something that’s gonna add to my girth, it better be worth it. Like Babette’s dried cherry tart, for instance. Or authentic gelato in Europe.
However, cake is the perfect dessert after a nice fat Knuckle Sandwich!
February 23, 2014 at 10:20 am , by Serina Patrick
Update: originally posted in August while I did research on my Buford Highway project for Where’s 2014 Guestbook. Since then, I’ve purchased numerous bahn mi to go…I’m officially addicted!
Vietnamese food was greatly influenced by the French. Following the country’s invasion by Napoleon and his troups in 1859, a colony called Cochin China was formed along the Mekong delta, later renamed Indochina. This occupation lasted through 1885, during which time many French cooking techniques and ingredients were introduced to the Vietnamese, including pate’ and croissants.
In fact, French breads like the traditional baguette have become a mainstay in Vietnamese cuisine. The bahn mi is a perfect example. Headcheese, grilled pork, and other meats are stuffed into a freshly baked baguette with pickled carrots, cucumbers, mayo, cilantro, and a drizzle of fish sauce, creating a sandwich that is crunchy inside and out.
One can always find freshly baked baguettes at Lee’s Bakery, along with bahn mi for only $2.99 each, to go. Or, like me, enjoy your bahn mi in their nondescript dining room lined with coolers and shelves of drinks, sweets, and specialty items. On the way out, I picked up a little cake filled with mung bean paste. Although I like the flavor of sweetened mung beans, I found the cake itself too sweet. I guess it’s an acquired taste I haven’t acquired yet.
However, my bahn mi with grilled pork was exceptional! I discovered a razor thin slice of jalapeno tucked inside my sandwich, as I removed the cucumber spear. A handful of cilantro, stems included, along with fatty strips of pork, was stuffed into the crisp baguette, prepared with a generous slathering of homemade mayo. Although the sandwich is rather large, it somehow comes off as light. I easily ate the whole thing…and loved it.
4005C Buford Highway 404-728-1008
February 18, 2014 at 9:38 am , by Serina Patrick
Rather than deal with the Valentine’s Day amateurs with their prix fix dinners and champagne toasts, LC and I celebrated at home, then made a reservation for a casual dinner the following evening at Agave.
Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea. The restaurant was offering their Valentine’s specials for a second evening. Luckily, they were also serving their regular menu.
Agave has been an Atlanta favorite for years. I noticed several framed “best of” awards, some dating from 2002. It’s the restaurant my friend AD wants to visit whenever she’s in town, and a solid date spot for intowners. Although we would have preferred to dine at the bar, it was packed, so we followed the host to a cozy corner table in the second dining room, and ordered two jalapeno margaritas on the rocks.
Every time I eat at Agave, I leave feeling miserably full, so this time I wanted to remedy that. But guacamole and chips are mandatory, right? LC thought we should share two more appetizers and ordered the shrimp eggrolls and tuna tacos, ironically both Asian inspired dishes.
AD always orders the shrimp eggrolls, so I was familiar with their greasy goodness, but I had never tried their tuna tacos. Two tiny tacos were served in fried wonton shells but unfortunately, an abundance of slaw and a generous soy lime drizzle made the tacos somewhat sloppy. They were tasty but can’t compete with the pristine version at Park Tavern made with sushi grade tuna topped with fresh sliced jalapeno and cilantro. Nothing at Agave is really spicy, but we sadly forgot to request jalapenos. We ordered another round of margaritas plus shots on the side.
For our entree, we decided to share the smoked chicken enchiladas and two sides, grilled corn and collard greens. Rolled in blue corn tortillas, the enchiladas were stuffed with plenty of chicken, but surprisingly, nothing else. The enchiladas were topped with a red sauce and a little melted cheddar, and served with pinto beans, sour cream and corn relish. Although tender, we were disappointed that the chicken didn’t have a smoky flavor.
Even more disappointing than the enchiladas was the fact that the drinks seemed to contain little alcohol. At this point in the evening, we each had three shots of tequila, supposedly, but no buzz whatsoever. Another reason why we prefer to sit at the bar.
The best part of our meal was the sides. Grilled corn was charred and flavorful, and the collards, prepared with honey, cider, and smoked bacon, were amazing. We ate everything and still had room for dessert…a first for me at Agave. Like suckers, we chose the Valentine’s chocolate trio, a slice of dark chocolate torte, milk chocolate mousse, and a chocolate covered strawberry…sorta like the ones UPS failed to deliver the day before. A sweet, although potentially mass-produced, ending to our Valentine’s dinner.
Agave’s food and drinks are usually more impressive, so I’m gonna blame Valentine’s Day for our mediocre meal and watered down margaritas.
242 Boulevard SE 404-588-0006
February 14, 2014 at 3:18 pm , by Serina Patrick
Hidden beneath Victory Sandwich Bar in Decatur, this place is part speakeasy, part restaurant, a black door with a white stenciled paper plane your only clue, with a witty caption reading “members and non-members only”.
LC and I were discussing whether or not our dining companions RB and his wife SB would be able to find Paper Plane as we opened the door and found them already inside.
The tiny space holds only five curved black leather banquettes against the exposed brick walls, and ten swanky high-back barstools at the bar. Arrive early, as we did prior to Tuesday’s winter storm, and you will see Paul Calvert, mixologist and bar manager, prepping his staff for the evening.
My first order of business was to get an El Diablo, Calvert’s concoction of reposado tequila, lime, ginger beer, and creme de mures, plus a dash of something spicy. LC followed suit, and our guests tried a couple of specialty cocktails as we chatted about the impending snow and ice.
Unlike my first visit here, the menu was very brief. There were four starters, six entrees (three of which were steaks), and four sides to mix and match. Luckily, two of the five dishes I was craving were available, the smoked chicken and root vegetable gratin. With no octopus terrine or lamb belly with plum, I would try the winter salad to start.
LC ordered the kabocha squash soup, followed by the black grouper with romesco, Brussels, and meyer lemon. SB and RB ordered those dishes as well, but to share, along with a few sides. The soup, decorated with whimsical dots of cranberry and soy, was smooth and hearty, perfect for a cold winter’s evening. My salad, on the other hand, arrived undressed, a tangle of butter lettuce, frissee, mushrooms, carrots, pecans, and flavorless shaved raw root vegetables. I couldn’t detect any pear and I’m not sure where brown butter came into play. I requested another El Diablo and dressing for the salad and was brought a very lemony one. I seriously dislike lemon.
LC and our companions raved about their fish. Although it was prepared with the skin on, I enjoyed the bites I stole from LC’s plate, sauced with romesco. A side of Brussels sprouts was braised and tossed with sliced sweet peppers and grapes. But nothing could beat the potato and root vegetable au gratin, a little dish of thinly sliced root vegetables layered and baked with bechamel.
It was time for dessert. I was sad to see the roasted pear had been replaced by grapefruit pie, but we decided to try it and the pecan financier to share. The pie was no pie at all, but rather a compilation of the ingredients in a pie. Although I usually steer clear of citrus desserts, the fanciful presentation required a few sublime spoonfuls of graham cracker, fresh grapefruit, and a sauce made with compari tempered by little dollops of yogurt. It was by far the dish that exhibited the most finesse, thanks to pastry chef Cora Cotrim.
The financier, however, was far more popular among our guests. Ice cream with a hint of banana was sandwiched between two gingerbread cookies, then drizzled with caramel.
Dinner was great but I was less impressed than on my first visit, probably due to the sheer quantity of dishes I sampled then, and the relative degree of flair I encountered in each of them. Nevertheless, we are proud to be “members” at this exclusive culinary club.
340 Church Street 404-377-9308
February 10, 2014 at 8:55 pm , by Serina Patrick
Ever since LC and I enjoyed one of our most memorable meals ever at PushStart Kitchen about a year ago, I’ve been waiting for Zach and Cristina Meloy to open their brick and mortar restaurant. It finally happened in December 2013 with Better Half, but with the holidays and heart attack, we didn’t make it in…until now.
Still waiting for their liquor license, the restaurant suggests diners bring their own, so we brought a bottle of 2011 Tuella Douro, a spicy Portugese blend that I thought would match Meloy’s Latin American flavors nicely. Our reservation was later than we normally dine, so we were happy to be seated right away at a table against the wall with Meloy’s cartoonish yet industrial mural in shades of blue and gray. It’s very cool, illuminated by the warm glow emanating from the kitchen. Tables made of thick slabs of repurposed wood are topped with colorful wooden birds from Costa Rica, like the ones that sat upon their communal table at the Goat Farm.
We received water and wine glasses right away, then waited for our server. And waited. LC was hungry and I was getting nervous that they might run out of the dish I had my eye on, the seared duck breast with duck skin croquant and butternut squash. Finally, LC flagged down the water girl who found Cristina who apologized profusely. It was a misunderstanding, and she graciously offered our starters on the house. We shared the ricotta dumplings and sopa negra.
But the damage was done…the duck was indeed sold out. I went with my second choice, the pork loin with parsnip mustard, roasted turnip, and pickled apple. LC debated between the skirt steak and the flounder, finally deciding on the steak with pureed and pickled cauliflower, blistered tomatillo and white cheddar.
There were the flourishes of brilliance I was expecting…the presentation of the sopa negra for example. A large bowl arrived containing charred onion relish, crumbles of cotija cheese, a few crisped nuggets made of masa, and a soft egg (sous vide, I believe), to which our server added the sopa negra, a.k.a. black bean soup. Lovely, texturally pleasing, and delicious.
Ricotta dumplings looked like Asian potstickers, but contained a dense cheese filling rather than the usual cabbage and meat. They were garnished with crispy slivers of Spanish chorizo and pea shoots for a pop of color.
Meloy’s menus are the type that list the ingredients but when the dish arrives, many of them are unrecognizable. Generally, I find this method exciting. It challenges diners to discover how the chef has reinvented an ingredient, like the white cheddar in LC’s steak dish. Meloy had turned it into crisps, then used them to puncuate the plate. Likewise, the blistered tomatillo was made into a vibrant green puree which dotted the dish. Thin skirt steak was rolled up, then sliced into thick chunks. I believe the meat was cooked sous vide, then seared, but I’m no chef so don’t quote me on that! It all rested in a thin puree of cauliflower. We both loved the contrast of the pickled cauliflower with the rest of the flavors, but wished the steak had been cooked a bit longer.
(Note: the evening LC and I attended Pushstart Kitchen was the same day chef Meloy purchased his sous vide machine…he was super excited about it! And it appears he uses it quite often.)
Ingredients in my pork loin dish were more straight forward. Sliced baby turnips were wonderfully roasted, slivers of apple were pickled, both providing a flavorful accompaniment to the tender, delicate pork, which was somewhat overpowered by the parsnip mustard. I found myself longing for the duck breast that I would likely never have the opportunity to try.
We chose two desserts, the roasted pear crepe and the goat cheese chiboust. A neighboring table ordered the latter, which looked like a stick of butter cut into cubes. Luckily, the cubes turned out to be more like flan, with the addition of gelatin, and a hint of goat cheese. Honey ice cream, blood orange syrup, and pecan praline provided sweetness and textural interest. I was less pleased with the other selection. The roasted pears were hard to find and the pickled pears and thyme proved to be too savory for dessert.
I wanted to love this place, and in many ways I did. The cozy space embodies the intimate spirit of PushStart Kitchen. Better Half is still in its infancy so I can forgive the missteps, and look forward to another visit…hopefully at the chef’s table.
349 14th Street, bldg. C 404-695-4547
February 8, 2014 at 9:09 am , by Serina Patrick
Travelling with kittens is quite a treat. LC and I had two seal lynx birmans that we had picked up in Texas, and were heading back east when we had to stop for dinner. It was getting so late that most restaurants in the small towns that dotted the interstate were closing, and the kitties were napping after several hours of frolicking in the car. We finally took our chances at an exit in Crowley, Louisiana. Although there was only one car in the parking lot, festive lights were still on at a Mexican restaurant called El Dorado’s.
Tortillas, cheese, anything fried…it was all there, posing quite a challenge for LC who was trying to avoid fatty foods. The chips were the institutional bagged variety, so they weren’t very tempting dipped into the watered-down salsa. Even more offensive was the buffet, with a selection of indistinguishable fried items. We hoped the rest of the menu would be a bit more authentic, especially considering that the entire staff spoke almost no English.
LC inquired, did they have skinny margaritas? No (accompanied by blank expression). How about habanero infused tequila? Of course not, silly. So we settled for Corona Lights. I noticed a section of the menu with specialty tacos, so I ordered one carne asada on a corn tortilla, and we decided to share an order of chicken fajitas.
Not surprisingly, the taco was prepared gringo style, with shredded cheese, lettuce, and diced tomatoes. Sauteed beef was piled high on a doubled corn tortilla, easily enough for us to make two fat carne asada tacos. We requested corn tortillas with our fajitas as well. A skillet of sizzling chicken and loads of onions and peppers was nicely seasoned and served with all the fixin’s, including guacamole, which I suspect was not made in house.
Nevertheless, we left happy and stuffed, for under $30 including tip. So if you find yourself driving along Interstate 10 in Louisiana and get a hankering for cheap Mexican, this is your place!
2307 N. Parkerson Avenue 337-785-0339