International Snacks at Fado

August 15, 2014 at 10:43 am , by Serina Patrick

This year our annual Atlanta Food Blogger Society meeting was held at the library in Buckhead, conveniently located next door to Fado, the celebrated Irish pub.

Although the main area downstairs is furnished with authentic vintage pieces brought over from Ireland, guests that ascend the stairs will find a cozy rooftop deck with hightops and modern sofas for lounging.

It was a pleasant spot to unwind and grab a snack with fellow food writers Erica of Eating with Erica, Jessica of Good Eats Mundial, and our fearless leader Denise, who is the mastermind behind We Like 2 Cook, and makes a mean jalapeno jam. Of course, Guinness is popular at any Irish pub, but I opted for a refreshing Stella Artois from Belgium.

Although Fado serves traditional Irish favorites like fish and chips, its menu also features a variety of American pub fare and ethnically inspired dishes. There is a section devoted to chips (fries) smothered in tasty toppings like the ones Jessica and I shared with chicken curry. Unfortunately, the fries were not crispy, and the saucy curry only served to make them more limp. Limp is never good.

Denise and Erica raved about their order of smoked salmon bites. Served with the traditional accompaniments of capers, diced onions, and a light horseradish sauce, it was the crisp potato “boxty” blinis beneath the salmon that made this dish a standout.

We also tried the mini Greek tacos filled with spiced lamb, tomato pico, greens, feta cheese, and tzatziki sauce. I devoured two of the three tacos and found them delicious, however, I concluded the lamb was spiced with about fifty cloves of garlic. I was left with a serious case of garlic breath that would have paralyzed any fool in my path.

The bread pudding Denise and I planned to share never materialized, but another Stella did as we chatted about…you guessed it…food!

273 Buckhead Avenue NE 404-841-0066

Smokebelly…Craft Barbecue in Buckhead

August 12, 2014 at 8:03 pm , by Serina Patrick

LC and I were recently invited to try Smokebelly, the new barbecue restaurant in Buckhead that features a selection of smoked and roasted meats paired with tempting sides and craft cocktails. Our friends TH and D joined us.

The fellas behind Smokebelly were all born and raised in the South and are involved with several successful restaurants and businesses in and around Atlanta including Tin Lizzy’s, The Big Ketch, Milton’s Cuisine, and The Furbus. Here, they combined rustic wood elements with colorful metal chairs for a casual country atmosphere. There’s a big front porch where guests can relax and enjoy an ice cold beer and entertainment on the weekends.

We began our visit with cocktails, a Paloma for me and a drink made with vodka and watermelon juice for LC called From the Vine. It was so delicious, we all ordered one later.

Our fantastic server, Tyler, came by to get us started on a complimentary round of appetizers. We decided on the fried pickled okra and pimento cheese. Although the spread comes with thick and crispy housemade crackers, I was craving it on their chiccarones, the way they served it at a recent charity event. The combination is heavenly. We also tried some mighty fine deviled eggs.

Unlike most traditional barbecue restaurants, Smokebelly offers a variety of healthier options called “skinny fixin’s” like lettuce wraps with vegetables or smoked turkey. I applaud this approach and look forward to trying these lighter dishes, but on this particular evening, I would be eating meat, and lots of it.

But not LC. He ordered the BBQ glazed salmon for his entree with bourbon sweet potato souffle and sweet corn and edamame succotash on the side. He was, and I quote “enthralled by the succulent taste of the fishy wow wow!”

The rest of us decided to share the Pit Masters’ Platter, an assortment of meats with two sides. Since D and I were craving pulled pork, we got two servings of it, along with smoked sausage and chopped brisket. We chose mac ‘n’ cheese and smoky braised kale for our sides and also dug into LC’s sides while he was distracted by his salmon.

The Pit Masters’ Platter was a gigantic metal tray piled high with our meaty selections. Pulled pork and smoked sausage were tasty, but the sauce on the chopped brisket stole the show. My favorite side was the smoky braised kale, but my friends loved the corn and edamame succotash.

For dessert, I was outvoted, so we tried the Coca-Cola cake. Since I dislike cake and Coke, I didn’t think it stood a chance. The result, however, was moist with a hint of spice.

We really enjoyed our visit to Smokebelly and look forward to coming back for some live music and more chef-crafted ‘cue!

128 E. Andrews Drive NW 404-848-9100

Lady and Sons…a Savannah Institution

August 9, 2014 at 4:03 pm , by Serina Patrick

Ya’ll know Southern food ain’t my thang, but when I was invited to have lunch at Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons in Savannah, I couldn’t say no.

The restaurant is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the heart of the city, surrounded by historic squares with live oaks draped in Spanish moss. A gift shop provides a clever gateway to the restaurant, where guests can wait several hours to be seated. But not us, no ma’am, we were whisked up the stairs and seated like royalty! (Turns out our host works for the lady.)

The decor is old-timey Southern charm in shades of vintage pink with white paper doilies for placemats. Our server delivered garlicky biscuits and greasy hoe cakes to our table as we ordered drinks. Meanwhile, guests enjoyed their sweet tea and took turns at the buffet. Now, you know I hate the very thought of a buffet. I considered ordering off the menu, perhaps a bowl of seafood gumbo? But all five of my tablemates, including LC, were already returning from the buffet carrying plates piled high with scattered, smothered, and fried Southern favorites.

Since we were short on time, I joined the crowd at the buffet. Although there was a baked option that LC tried, I felt like it just wasn’t right if I didn’t get fried chicken. I chose collard greens, candied yams, and macaroni and cheese for my sides. I skipped the black-eyed peas, cole slaw, baked beans, mashed potatoes, fried okra, and a few other indistinguishable items.

Beneath the chicken’s thick, crunchy crust, the meat was juicy and tender. My favorite side was the vinegary collards flavored with delicious chunks of ham hock, followed by the sugary yams, although I wish they both had been hotter. The lack of heat caused the macaroni and cheese to coagulate, making the texture clumpy rather than creamy. While others returned for second helpings, I finished my plate, pleased with my restraint.

Our server replenished our teas, then came by with a tray of desserts to choose from…banana pudding, peach cobbler, and Deen’s signature toffee gooey butter cake. LC and I took one of each to taste. I loathe banana pudding (I mean puddin’), and merely dislike cobblers and cakes, so I took a bite of the cobbler first and found it appropriately doughy. The simple slice of cake, thankfully without frosting, was the best of the three.

The Lady and Sons is exactly what a Southern buffet is supposed to be…fried with lard, drenched in butter, covered with gravy, and prepared with love, ya’ll.

102 W. Congress Street 912-233-2600

Parish Debuts New Look & Menu

August 6, 2014 at 10:23 am , by Serina Patrick

Exciting news from Hannah at Concentrics:

Inman Park Welcomes The Brasserie & Neighborhood Café at Parish

An exciting re-launch of menu, design, and concept under Chef Zeb Stevenson

Inman Park’s beloved, BeltLine go-to destination has evolved with a new presence, taste, and feel. Led by acclaimed Chef Zeb Stevenson (formerly of Livingston, Proof and Provision), he explains “my goal is simple…to provide inspired familiar food, inventive beverage and warm hospitality to both our immediate neighborhood and to all of Atlanta.”

The largest change lies in the restaurant…now known as The Brasserie at Parish. By definition, a brasserie is an unpretentious restaurant, tavern, or the like that serves drinks and simple, hearty food. With Snacks, Small Plates, a Raw Bar, Meat/Fish/Fowl and Sides, Chef Stevenson’s new menu will strive to support the local community and, most importantly, remain true to a classic “American” brasserie definition with dishes that exude comfort throughout.

Soon to be signatures include Goat Cheese and Beet Jam on Toast, Sourdough Gnocchi with porcini, crimini, kale pesto and candied lemon, Pistachio Sausage with dijon potato salad, vinegar onions, Pressed Pork Shoulder with butter-braised vegetables, peaches and mustard and a Porcini-Scented Bread Pudding. The restaurant’s design received a new look with marble white top tables, Bentwood chairs, luxe leather banquettes and brasserie accents.

The Neighborhood Café at Parish (formerly the Market) will continue to offer breakfast, lunch and lively wine events 7 days a week. Patrons of PARISH, both old and new, will revel in the new aesthetic and menu.

240 N. Highland Avenue 404-681-4434

Pacci at The Brice in Savannah

August 4, 2014 at 12:05 pm , by Serina Patrick

My recent whirlwind trip to Savannah began with a dinner meeting at the new boutique hotel, The Brice. Located just a block from River Street, the Kimpton property has been meticulously renovated in shades of gray and white, with modern furnishings and splashes of primary color.

The restaurant, Pacci, is casual gourmet Italian, with blond wood tables topped with plaid runners sitting on an intricately tiled floor. It proved itself as the place to be seen in Savannah as we ran into Jamie Deen, Paula’s son, before being seated.

After our drive from Atlanta, a glass of prosecco was in order. It was late and our cohorts had already been fed, but the four of us were ravenous. LC and his colleague KB and her boyfriend decided I should order appetizers for the table since I’m some sort of food expert, so I chose the porchetta crostini and Georgia flatbread to share.

Slow roasted herbed pork shoulder was served on toasted bread, then garnished with balsamic cipollini relish for a tasty start to our meal. Moments later, our server delivered the crispy flatbread, simply topped with vidalia onion, olive oil, and fresh ricotta. The flavor of the charred crust was the perfect compliment to the sublime cheese and sweet onions. Crazy good!

For entrees, LC ordered a half plate of the gemelli caserecce pasta with market vegetables, fresh parmesan, and Georgia shrimp because he knew I couldn’t resist the blueberry duck. Cooked medium-rare, the succulent breast was sliced and served with cauliflower puree, haricot vert, and a brandy blueberry reduction with a hint of sweetness. His pasta was delicious as well, with a generous portion of shrimp tossed in a light cream sauce.

Never ones to skip dessert, we ordered a traditional Italian tiramisu with forks for everyone. Then LC and I headed upstairs to our spacious room…I only wish we could have stayed longer!

The next morning we visited Pacci again for breakfast. We were in a hurry so we shared a panini stuffed with eggs, bacon, cheese and a flavorful roasted red pepper sauce and a bowl of berries and melon, intentionally eating light because in a few short hours we would be having lunch at The Lady and Sons, Paula Deen’s famous Southern buffet.

601 East Bay Street, Savannah 912-238-1200

Top Golf…Drivin’ ‘n’ Dining

August 2, 2014 at 3:00 pm , by Serina Patrick

Sporting venues are rarely known for gourmet cuisine. Top Golf aims to change that with an extensive menu of craveable appetizers, artisan sandwiches, and upscale bar food.

We recently visited Top Golf’s first southeast location in Alpharetta. It’s a sprawling three level facility, with a full bar and restaurant downstairs, a bar with patio seating upstairs, and full service at each of the 100 bays. LC’s family and a couple of colleagues met us there to test their golf skills and enjoy a fun dinner. The golfers in our group made use of their drivers, aiming for targets in the field, earning points for accuracy and distance with microchipped balls.

Meanwhile, the eaters among us were enjoying a variety of upscale pub fare. LC had visited before and recommended the gumbo, an original Louisiana recipe with loads of andouille sausage, house-smoked chicken, and plump shrimp ladeled over a generous serving of cilantro rice. We shared a bowl of it along with a char-grilled steak flatbread with roasted corn, grilled onion, and fiery red Fresno peppers, and washed it all down with a $13 pitcher of Miller Lite kept ice cold with an ingenious frozen wand. (We’ll get the $250 bottle of Dom next time.)

Little T and her cousin practiced their swings in between bites of flatbread with basil pesto, prosciutto, artichokes, and olives. They also gave a thumbs up to Top Golf’s signature dish called “mushi”, a hybrid Mexican sushi roll made with sticky rice, beans, spiced chicken, and cheddar cheese wrapped in a jalapeno tortilla, then baked and garnished with sour cream and avocado.

Top Golf is a great place for a casual date, family outing, or corporate party, offering fresh food, cocktails, and some friendly competition. Now all I need are some golf lessons.

10900 Westside Parkway 770-217-0513

Tacos and Tequilas (Two Things I Love)

July 31, 2014 at 9:24 pm , by Serina Patrick

Longtime friend SP and I decided to enjoy the beautiful summer weather while sipping margaritas, but where? There are numerous Mexican restaurants within a short drive, most with a patio. Then, she suggested Tacos and Tequilas, the newest tenant in the building across from Ponce City Market. For whatever reason, none of the previous tenants have been successful, so I was skeptical. However, SP confirmed the restaurant had a patio, so I was willing to give it a whirl.

The space was much larger than I had imagined, with upscale furnishings and a lively atmosphere, but we didn’t linger inside, instead heading straight to the spacious patio where we started with margaritas and the impossible-to-resist pairing of chips and guacamole.

With a name like Tacos and Tequilas, it wasn’t surprising to see a lengthy list of specialty margaritas, including what has become my regular choice, the skinny (or organic) margarita. Fresh lime juice and agave nectar replace the sugary sour mix that gives LC heartburn. Their guacamole was just fine, but like most gringo guac, it lacked jalapeno.

My margarita disappeared quickly. SP wanted to try the crispy calamari so we ordered it along with a second margarita for me, plus a shot of El Jimador blanco. More tequila! Calamari was presented with two dipping sauces, but unfortunately, the rings of squid were overcooked and chewy.

Now that I had tried the tequila, it was the taco’s turn. SP ordered a fried fish taco with slaw and I decided on a pork carnitas taco. I was impressed that our server asked our preference…flour or corn tortillas. We both chose corn, of course. When they arrived on flour tortillas, a manager was nearby to quickly rectify the error. My taco was served in authentic Mexican style, topped with diced onion and cilantro. I was pleased.

Tacos and Tequilas does a pretty good job with both. Add another Mexican patio to that list!

650 Ponce de Leon 678-705-5955

La Tagliatella…a European Chain Comes to America

July 25, 2014 at 4:04 pm , by Serina Patrick

When this European chain with multiple locations throughout Spain and France was introduced in the U.S. last year, I was curious if this was their equivalent to our Olive Garden. Initial reviews of the pizzas were positive and photos of the interior reminded me of posh bistros in Italy, with rich burgundy leather banquettes and ornate gold trimmings.

However, after just a few short months, La Tagliatella’s midtown location abruptly closed. It was a bad omen for the brand.

Soon, I would find out for myself at a dinner hosted by the Association of Food Bloggers at the chain’s Emory Point location. We were met by the manager who seated our group at a table on the patio so we could enjoy the beautiful weather.

The first dish we sampled was Buffalo mozzarella and tomato carpaccio. Not quite a caprese, the platter was composed of fresh sliced mozzarella on a bed of grated tomatoes with basil and anchovies. Grating the tomatoes left the dish a bit watery, but the intensity of the anchovies provided a lovely contrast to the sublime cheese.

The manager stopped by to introduce himself and give us each a generous pour of wine, either the Canyon Road cabernet from California or the Ca’Del Sarto, a pinot grigio from Italy. Servers brought out La Tagliatella’s signature pizza, a super-thin cracker-like crust topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and thinly sliced fried eggplant. Once out of the oven, the pizza was drizzled with a balsamic glaze and topped with freshly shaved parmigiano-reggiano, a wonderful combination of sweet and salty flavors.

The next three dishes were filled pastas, each paired with a unique sauce. Mozzarella, tomato, and basil stuffed tortellone were served in a rich quattro formaggi sauce. The basil pesto was wonderfully herbacious, but overpowered by the sharp gorgonzola and pear filling in the pasta triangles. Although everyone agrees pasta should be cooked al dente’, the consensus among my neighbors at the table was that these were somewhat undercooked. Heart shaped pockets called cuore filled with butternut squash puree and served in a light cream sauce with tomatoes, pine nuts, and grana padano cheese, turned out to be my favorite of the trio.

Although our selections happened to be vegetarian, La Tagliatella also offers traditional Bolognese, carbonara, and signature sauces made with shrimp, Italian sausage, and pancetta. In addition to a variety of stuffed pastas, favorites like penne, linguine, and of course, tagliatelle, are available for diners to create their own classic Italian combination.

Despite the carb overload, everyone was excited when dessert arrived, a lovely square of bocconcino custard with a light and fluffy layer of cheesecake beneath it. Our Limoncello cordial mirrored the hint of citrus in the dessert’s crunchy crust.

This place has too much finesse to serve endless bowls of fettucine alfredo like one might expect at Olive Garden, but in a city with several certified authentic Neopolitan pizza places and neighborhood gems like BoccoLupo serving exceptional housemade pastas, the competition here promises to be fierce.

1540 Avenue Place at Emory Point 678-608-4210

La Hacienda…New Mexican in Midtown

July 19, 2014 at 12:13 pm , by Serina Patrick

Midtown Atlanta’s dense population of restaurants includes many of the Tex-Mex variety. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to hear the old Silver Grill spot on Monroe would soon reopen as La Hacienda, the first intown location of this small OTP chain. (Details are sketchy, but it appears there is one in Fayetteville and Newnan.)

However, initial reviews of the food were unflattering to put it nicely. I purposely neglected to mention this to LC when I suggested we dine there. It was a hot summer afternoon and I wanted to check out their rooftop patio and get a taste for myself.

Parking was easy for Midtown as the restaurant has its own lot behind the building, who’s yellow stucco exterior reminded me of a lovely hotel in Cabo. Once inside, we were impressed with the architecture and decor. Not nearly as kitschy as most Mexican restaurants, La Hacienda achieves an authentic vibe with adobe tiles, arched doorways, rustic wood tables, intricate wrought iron pieces and a reproduction of one of Frida Kahlo’s famous self-portraits.

As we climbed the stairs to the roof the temperature rose, however, there were fans keeping guests cool once we reached the top. I was expecting awesome views of Piedmont Park and Midtown, but discovered the view to be completely obscured by a billboard. No worries, soon I’d be gazing at the salted rim of my margarita glass!

The extensive leather-bound menu was impressive, offering every possible combination of tortillas, meat, and cheese from enchiladas to tacos. There is also a section of traditional Mexican favorites like carne asada and chilaquiles. In an effort to avoid the items labeled unsavory by others, I suggested we share fajitas.

We ordered the combination steak and shrimp fajitas. The great thing about fajitas is the sizzling platter comes with all of the fixin’s to make your own gringo tacos: tortillas, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and sour cream. We requested corn tortillas and jalapenos on the side.

Our margaritas were refreshing, made with fresh squeezed lime juice and agave. We nibbled on chips and their nice and spicy salsa, but our wait was brief as our fajitas arrived in less than ten minutes. Although our server had to climb those stairs repeatedly, service was swift.

As we dug into the platter of thin strips of decent steak, nicely cooked shrimp, onions, and peppers, I informed LC of our friends’ unsatisfactory report of their dining experience here. Thankfully, everything we ordered was edible.

Few meals with LC end without something sweet, so we ordered the flan. Like everything else we tried, it wasn’t spectacular, but certainly on par with most Mexican restaurants in town. I was especially pleased with the massive quantity of whipped cream.

Despite the rooftop patio’s obscured view and the average food, I wouldn’t mind whiling away a summer afternoon at La Hacienda, sipping on margaritas and pretending I’m back in Cabo.

900 Monroe Drive NE 404-941-7890

Makan Brings Asian Street Food to Decatur

July 17, 2014 at 8:04 pm , by Serina Patrick

A tasty morsel from Amy at Melissa Libby & Associates:

MAKAN BRINGS ELEVATED ASIAN CUISINE TO DOWNTOWN DECATUR

Asian Street and Comfort Food Inspired Eatery to Open July 24

While downtown Decatur has become a destination for some of the best dining experiences in Atlanta, it has yet to harness an elevated experience in Asian cuisine. At least, that is, until now. Owners Michael Lo and George Yu along with assistant general manager Damiano Pak plan to change that with their restaurant, Makan, opening Thursday, July 24. Makan (pronounced “ma-kun”) is the Indonesian or Malay word for eat. The restaurant is their effort to share the food that they love, that they grew up eating, taking it to a next level with chef-driven ingredients, a craft cocktail program and top-notch service. The cuisine is inspired by Asian street food and traditional Asian comfort food that you might find in market stalls in cities like Hong Kong, Taiwan or Seoul.

Both Michael and George grew up in the restaurant industry as the first generation of Chinese immigrant parents who owned and managed Chinese-American restaurants. They both worked in their respective parents’ restaurants, where they learned how to run a business and found a love for Asian food. Eight years ago, Michael and George met through their wives who are lifelong friends and both Korean. Since then, the two families have spent time creating recipes and ideas for a restaurant that would reflect their views of Asian comfort food and their respect for keeping traditions.

“Growing up working in my parents’ Chinese-American restaurants gave me a great understanding of the cuisine and the business, but it also taught me how it can be done differently. I lived, worked and traveled throughout Asia for three years, which inspired me even more,” Michael explains. “With Makan, we are trying to change the stereotype that good Asian cuisine doesn’t have a great atmosphere or bar program or even service. We want to show people that this kind of food pairs well with craft cocktails, beer and wine while showcasing the unique and vibrant Asian drinking culture.”

The menu, created by George (who is also the executive chef), consists of many types of elevated Asian comfort foods, all made with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients including Korean seafood pancakes, Taiwanese five-spice fried chicken, shrimp and pork spicy wontons, pork belly buns, salt and pepper shrimp, pork raymun (a Korean version of ramen) and Taiwanese oxtail beef noodle soup. Makan also offers large format family meals that offer a communal dining experience while showcasing how Asian families typically eat.

“I want our guests to eat food that they would find if they were traveling through Asia and going to open air night markets, noodle stands and street stalls,” says George, “but with a service level, ingredient quality and bar program that they would only expect from any top notch restaurant. Lots of fresh, local produce. Not heavy on the sauces. And we’ll have a garden outside where we are sourcing some of the herbs and ingredients for cocktails, too.”

Designed by Square Feet Studio, whose recent clients include The Kimball House and General Muir, the space features an open kitchen, a chef’s counter and a full bar with a communal table made of reclaimed wood. Chef tables are stationed in front of the kitchen pass for the ultimate viewing-while-eating experience. The lively 1,500-square-foot patio will feature custom-made cypress and steel picnic tables that encourage sharing and socializing in front of the fire pit. The design is inspired by vintage Asian artwork and the romantic yet defining period of Chinese history of the 1920s and 1930s.

Makan will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week with plans to offer a late-night food and beverage service in the near future. Also, special events like whole-animal cookouts on the patio with night market style service and luau parties are in the works.

130 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 100 404-565-4510.

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