December 2, 2013 at 8:24 am , by Serina Patrick
It’s hard to believe this post was written over three years ago, and even harder to believe that I’m reposting it in memory of chef and owner Ria Pell. She was a self-taught culinary talent and a genuinely awesome person. She will be missed.
Ah yes, brunch with the ex. We used to go to brunch most every Sunday when we were together so when SS suggested it I agreed it would be nice, for old time’s sake.
And what better place to go than Ria’s? Back in our punk rock days, she was the big lesbian that would kick any guy’s ass (and I’m sure she still could). Now she is a successful restaurateur….we’re all so proud!
Ria’s Bluebird is in a small building on Memorial Drive, across from Oakland Cemetery. Breakfast and lunch are served daily but it’s her brunch that has everyone lining up on the weekends, from old folks with walkers to tattooed young parents.
The bluebird motif is found throughout the restaurant. A bright blue painted ceiling and matching wood chairs paired with well-worn wood tables give the space a homey, kitschy vibe, perfect for this progressive ‘hood. A covered patio on the side provides a pretty yet eclectic seating alternative.
Anything but average, Ria’s menu is a combination of Southern and Southwestern flavors with numerous vegetarian options like the country fried tempeh with house gravy, grilled tomato and sauteed spinach atop a grilled buttermilk biscuit. But SS and I are unrepentant carnivores so we opted for hearty meat and egg dishes.
I chose one of the specials, chipotle chicken gravy benedict. It is almost impossible for me to resist benedict, although my preference is the traditional hollandaise sauce. The promise of spiciness from the chipotle plus the sweet potato cake for my side sounded scrumptious. I didn’t realize it was served on a split biscuit when I ordered it, and I’m not a big biscuit fan. The gravy wasn’t nearly spicy enough so I had to request Texas Pete’s, but I loved the sweet potato cake flavored with cinnamon. A dab of the homemade applesauce on the table was yummy with it.
SS wanted something that would stick to his ribs so he ordered the biscuits and gravy. Ria’s gravy is called pepper milk gravy, a vegetarian version of red-eye gravy. He also got a side of two fried eggs and a side of bacon. Ria’s is generally quite affordable but despite being on a budget, with all his sides SS’s breakfast added up to $12, the same as my special. Math was not his best subject.
Other than eggs and bacon a la carte, Ria’s offers an array of unusual sides like spicy tofu cubes, sliced avocado, and a cup o’ beans, allowing guests to be creative. And, according to The NY Times, they serve the “world’s best pancakes”. I saw another diner’s pancakes and they were fluffier than my bed pillow!
The atmosphere alone is worth a visit and if you love biscuits and pancakes, ya just gotta go!
November 29, 2013 at 8:02 pm , by Serina Patrick
More than climbing to the top of Haleakala, more than flying over the green cliffs of Molokai in a helicopter, even more than driving the road to Hana, I was looking forward to dining at Mama’s Fish House. On the advice of an acquaintance that had eaten there on her honeymoon, I made the reservation for lunch rather than dinner so we could enjoy the gorgeous view.
Located on the north shore of Maui in the tiny town of Paia, Mama’s is fine dining in a casual beach setting. After taking numerous photos out front, LC and I checked in and were seated near the open windows with a view of the ocean. Decorated with bamboo lampshades and blues that matched the sky, the nautical theme didn’t come across as kitschy but rather reminded me of a vintage tiki bar.
We started with cocktails, champagne for me and a tropical cocktail for LC. Our server introduced himself, then delivered fresh bread and a tantalizing taste of spicy mahi mahi and lemongrass soup from the chef. The menu focuses on fresh, locally caught seafood. In fact, the description for each seafood dish says where it was caught and by whom.
Every dish sounded amazing, from the Tahitian ceviche appetizer to entrees like opakapaka and mahi mahi sauteed in panang curry. But our mutual love of lobster and guacamole made the lobster guacamole a must. Served with housemade chips, the large martini glass was full of chunky guacamole (almost as good as mine!) gently tossed with chunks of steamed, chilled lobster. It was decadent yet light, and a lovely pairing with my champagne.
We also ordered the grilled Maui he’e (octopus) caught by Cliff Chow free-diving near Kuau Cove. Usually somewhat chewy, this octopus was the most tender I have ever had, simply served grilled with sliced avocado.
Seafood entrees range from $38 to $52 (except the $75 Tristan Island lobster tail, from the most remote inhabited island in the world), while the prime tenderloin steak with bordelaise comes in at $58. Don’t forget…this is their lunch menu.
As usual, we decided to split an entree, the mahi mahi caught by Mike Holley along the north shore, stuffed with lobster and crab, baked in a macadamia nut crust. Naturally, it was the most expensive choice, yet seemingly quite popular noting our neighboring tables each ordered one. Or two.
It is hard to impress me with baked fish. But this…this was more than baked fish. Bread crumbs combined with crushed macadamia nuts to form a crunchy crust. Chunks of crab were hidden beneath the filet and a fat piece of lobster garnished the top. A few spears of asparagus made a lovely presentation. The texture and flavor of the fish was simply unparalleled.
Impeccable service, an idyllic setting, and flawless cuisine made our meal at Mama’s Fish House among the most memorable of all time. With an inn located on the property, Mama’s plays host to weddings and honeymooners. Would it be an ideal place to propose? Probably, especially along the secluded stretch of beach in front. It’s the perfect choice for any special occasion!
799 Poho Place 808-579-9248
November 23, 2013 at 12:57 pm , by Serina Patrick
When the owners of the much-loved Victory Sandwich Bar in Inman Park were informed that their building was slated for eminent demolition, their second location in the heart of Decatur was already serving the same quirky little sandwiches. But there’s more…
A tiny speakeasy of a restaurant is tucked away in the basement. It’s called Paper Plane. With chefs Melissa Allen and Josh Sample in the kitchen and mixologist Paul Calvert tending bar, it was opened without much fanfare, showcasing an abbreviated yet ambitious menu.
I visited the restaurant with BB of There Brookhaven and his bar manager D, on one of their regular culinary outings. A black door with a white paper plane stencil read “Members and Non-Members Only”. We were at the right place. Seated at a corner booth, the glare of the zinc tabletop made us feel as though we were under a spotlight in this otherwise dark space. Painted brick, wood paneling, and padded black leather barstools and booths reminded us of the 70′s. (note: due to lack of lighting, the interior photo is courtesy of restaurant’s website)
We began with cocktails from Calvert’s vintage-inspired list, like Dirty Boulevard for BB, a riff on Lou Reed’s favored bourbon concoction. When in doubt, I order something sparkling, so I started with a glass of the Chameroy Brut.
The feeding frenzy began with the fall salad, country pork pate’ and octopus terrine from the “cold” selections. An order of lamb belly from the “hot” section with a side of Brussels sprouts was added for good measure. A laundry list of autumn fruits and vegetables like apples, turnips, and baby beets were tossed together to create the fall salad, which paired well with the chunky, unctuous pork pate’.
BB and I swooned over the brilliance of the octopus terrine, sliced paper thin and made even more amazing by its accompaniments of seckel pear, basil, pecan, yogurt, and arugula. The lamb belly with sweet potato, plum, almond, and amaretti hit all the savory and sweet notes like a well-rehearsed song, while the Brussels sprouts provided their expected bitter flavor, tempered by the addition of roasted grapes and granny smith vinegar.
Our server magically appeared at our table whenever we needed a drink. After BB gave her careful instructions for his next bourbon drink, I vaguely mentioned that I may enjoy a tequila cocktail. Moments later she brought his drink, made precisely to his specifications, and for me, Six-Zero-Bravo, a concoction of orange bitters, maraschino, yellow chartreuse, lime juice, and blanco tequila. Strong and citrusy.
Then there was more food…cider braised short rib, littleneck clams, and two orders of the smoked chicken (D insisted on having his own plate). He also ordered the gratin and broccoli on the side. I wanted the gratin too, but since the short rib came with it, I thought it would be redundant. (Wrong!)
Sometimes, the ingredients seemed incompatible. Smoked chicken was served with rapini, carmen pepper, mango, radish, and salsa verde. Huh? Others made perfect sense like the short rib with the root vegetable gratin, kale, butternut squash, and cider jus. Turns out they both worked marvelously.
We were ready for dessert…and another drink. Trusting our server’s intuitive abilities, I asked her to surprise me with another tequila cocktail. This time it was Calvert’s El Diablo, a spicy mix of lime, ginger beer, creme de mures, and reposado tequila. Oh my! Loved it.
For dessert, we ordered the brioche pain perdu, chocolate marquise, and caramel poached pear, all imagined and executed by pastry chef Cora Cotrim. Pain perdu is French for French toast, and a culinary cousin to my favorite dessert, bread pudding. However, I’m not a fan of citrus desserts, so for me, the orange foam overpowered the other flavors making it my least favorite of the three. The guys loved it.
Chocolate desserts often bore me, but I found the dense and creamy marquise paired with espresso creme fraiche and salted caramel to be an exception. My vote for the best dessert, however, went to the indescribably delicious caramel poached pear, presented in a dish with almond cream and pomegranate.
Each dish of our meal contained at least one ingredient or technique that wowed us. For me, it was the delicate octopus terrine, the root vegetable gratin, and the pairing of roasted plum with the lamb belly. In fact, next time I’ll get my own plate of each.
340 Church Street 404-377-9308
November 21, 2013 at 8:54 pm , by Serina Patrick
Tauted as the most authentic (and intimate) luau in Hawaii, LC and I reserved two seats for the Old Lahaina Luau for our second evening in Maui. I expected a hundred people or so, but we counted nearly 500! Intimate? I think not. Apparently, it sells out every night, seven nights a week, run like a well-oiled hula machine. Weak, sugary mai-tais at the door, complimentary leis made with real orchids, tattooed natives performing various hula dances, barbecued pig buffet, Hawaiian music, yadda yadda yadda.
Guests are assigned a table, ours with three other couples. It was fun getting to know visitors from all over the U.S. I switched to pina coladas, even more sugary than the mai tai, as we walked among the few vendors located near the beach, buying a totem that was inscribed with our names while we waited. Meanwhile, spectators were beginning to gather around the “imu”, the Hawaiian underground oven where the pig was roasting.
Once the pig is cut up, it’s divided between the two buffet stations. Guests are called by table to visit the buffet where an array of traditional Hawaiian dishes are available, like poi, made with steamed, mashed taro root, and the ubiquitous ahi poke, raw diced ahi tuna. My favorite was the bundles of pork wrapped in taro leaves called laulau.
Aside from the roasted pig, entree dishes included grilled steak, island style chicken, Maui style fish, and salmon, complimented by a variety of salads and sides like purple roasted sweet potatoes and fried rice. LC and I each piled our plates high. I especially enjoyed the fish.
As the hula dancers performed, our server delivered a tray of sweets for the table, including little squares of coconut flan. I only had room for one square (OK, maybe two). As the evening was drawing to a close, LC expressed disappointment that there were no fire dancers. We were both tiring of the hula and our sugar-laden cocktails, replacing the latter with unsweetened iced tea.
Although we weren’t blown away by the food or the performance, I was most impressed by how efficiently the event was run. Luau…officially crossed off my bucket list.
1251 Front Street, Lahaina Town 800-248-5828
November 20, 2013 at 10:07 am , by Serina Patrick
News from Hannah at Concentrics:
New Chef, Mixologist, Concept and More To Come
Parish Foods and Goods is getting a facelift in the New Year. News broke today that Chef Zeb Stevenson has been spotted at Parish. To clarify, Chef Stevenson is currently training for the 2014 re-launch. Chef Stevenson, a previous winner of The Food Network’s “Chopped”, hails from Atlanta’s Livingston and Proof & Provision and is planning a menu overhaul that is sure to wow.
(I asked Zeb if he could provide me with any tasty morsels regarding his revamped menu, but it seems that’s a bit premature at this date. He did say “this is about evolution; not jumping in and shaking things up impetuously. It all has to be well-conceived and well thought out.”)
Re-launch details, including Chef Zeb Stevenson’s menu, a new uber-talented mixologist and more to come in January 2014.
240 N. Highland Avenue NE 404-681-4434
November 18, 2013 at 10:44 am , by Serina Patrick
On a recent chilly night, Urbanspoon sponsored a blogger party at Chai Pani in Decatur. With their original location in Asheville, NC, chef/owners Meherwan Irani and his wife Molly decided to open a second location here, introducing Atlantans to their “mindblasting” Indian street food, with flavors as vibrant as the brightly painted decor.
The Iranis had thoughtfully prepared a sampling menu for us, starting with a cocktail called Kashmiri Sour, made with whiskey, fresh lime, chili powder, simple syrup, and egg white. Frothy and a bit spicy, it was the perfect match for our first taste, sev potato dahi puri, a big name for a little crispy puffed pocket stuffed with potatoes, onions, cilantro, and crunchy chickpea noodles, drizzled with housemade sauces and chutneys. In theory, I should love this dish and similar Indian chaat, however, there is something disconcerting about the combination of savory, sweet, and salty when it is served cold.
The next snack was kale pakoras, fritters made with kale in a curried chickpea batter. A blogger seated nearby commented that she couldn’t taste the kale. True, but I can imagine popping these little fried curry flavored snacks like popcorn.
Our main course began with a gin cocktail, and although I like gin, I opted to have another Kashmiri Sour. Chai Pani’s signature dish, the butter chicken pav was served on a griddled bun with okra fries. I might prefer the chicken sans bun, and I was really looking forward to the okra fries, but found them so thinly sliced that many of the slivers were charred.
Many diners at Chai Pani were enjoying street food dishes, served tapas style, but the restaurant also offers traditional thalis, plates comprised of a variety of individual dishes including basmati rice, daal, raita, and roti, with or without meat.
After our meal we were served chai, the famous spiced tea of India, fragrant with ginger and cardamom. For dessert we had sooji halwa , described as a buttery semolina flour pudding with saffron, raisins, and pistachios. Its grainy texture was strangely pleasing, and I would have loved it had my little scoop contained any raisins or pistachios.
Service was great and I especially liked the festive decor. I’ll certainly be back to try a traditional thali…maybe tandoori chicken or spicy shrimp vindaloo?
406 W. Ponce de Leon Avenue 404-378-4030
November 15, 2013 at 7:48 pm , by Serina Patrick
We arrived in Maui right after lunch, rented a car at the airport, and made our way south to Ka’anapali Beach where we checked into our luxurious suite at Honua Kai Resort. After five days in Honolulu, I was pretty excited about having a washer and dryer in our room, as well as a full kitchen.
Once we were settled in and figured out the overly complicated digital washer, we headed down to their beachside restaurant, Duke’s, for a drink and snack. It was happy hour so I ordered a mai tai and LC tried a signature cocktail.
We enjoyed a couple of light bites, a fish taco and a beef slider with bacon, as we watched the sun set and made plans for the evening. LC reserved two seats at the Old Lahaina Luau for the following night, then we headed into Lahaina Town to explore.
The next morning we found ourselves at Duke’s for breakfast, its tranquil setting a far cry from the city noise of Honolulu. Intending to wear a bikini later that day, I ordered the beach bunny omelette, made with egg whites, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, and colby jack cheese, with a side of chewy bacon. There was no comparison to the greasy diner breakfasts we endured in Honolulu.
Turns out, the owners of Duke’s also own numerous highly regarded restaurants throughout the islands and in California, including Kimo’s in Lahaina Town where we ended up after a day of excursions, and Hula Grill, where we dined prior to our flight back to the mainland. More on them later…
As our stay in Maui was winding to an end, we realized we should have stayed there most of our trip. Before our last couple of hours poolside, we had breakfast at Duke’s once more. Already ten pounds heavier, I threw caution to the wind and ordered my favorite artery clogging treat, eggs benedict.
Perfectly poached eggs and the traditional benedict preparation was a great start to our last day in Maui. Paired with the mugs of rich, aromatic coffee grown on the nearby mountainside and fresh-squeezed POG juice (passion, orange, and guava), it was truly breakfast in paradise.
130 Kai Malina Pkwy 808-662-2900
November 13, 2013 at 6:10 pm , by Serina Patrick
Longtime friend SP and I were excited by our lunch invitation from mutual friend SR. We planned to meet at Chick-a-Biddy , the poultry counterpart to Shaun Doty’s organic burger place, and my fave, Yeah! Burger. Like his popular burger restaurants, the walls are painted with playful vintage-inspired images…here, orange and yellow chickens.
Despite its location in the much-maligned Atlantic Station, the restaurant was easy to find. An enclosed patio nearly doubles the space’s capacity, and was full of guests enjoying brunch. While waiting for SR to arrive, SP and I discussed our secret desire to be among the “ladies who lunch”…the sort of lunching that lasts all day and includes multiple cocktails and an unlimited expense account for shopping afterwards. With that in mind, we briefly considered ordering bellinis until our server stopped by and pointed out their $10 bottomless mimosas. Sold!
On the menu…chicken. There’s grilled chicken, fried chicken, chicken sandwiches, all natural, pasture-raised, happy chickens. SR arrived as SP and I finished our first mimosas. Feeling the after effects of a late late night, SP’s hair of the dog was complimented by a traditional hangover cure…a fatty breakfast in the form of a massive homemade biscuit with a fried chicken breast, egg, and pimento cheese. SR decided on the tacos with fried chicken pieces, broccoli jalapeno slaw, and a side of creamy mac ‘n’ cheese. (I pressured everyone into getting chicken…the right thing to do at a chicken restaurant)
I considered the wood grilled piri piri chicken with roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potato fries on the side, or a Club Med salad with fried chicken, but didn’t order either one. Instead, and completely out of character, I chose the fried chicken and waffles, requesting the waffle extra crispy. I was expecting a piece of actual fried chicken, perhaps a thigh and drumstick, but instead received a Belgian waffle with five chicken tenders scattered on top.
On my third mimosa, you might think the unimpressive presentation would be easily forgiven. However, no amount of bubbly, or maple syrup for that matter, could disguise the fact that I was served a big doughy waffle with chicken tenders for $12. A taste of SR’s taco was pleasant, although I’m not a fan of broccoli, but her mac ‘n’ cheese was quite tasty. I’ll give Chick-a-Biddy another chance and try the grilled chicken.
Time was running out on the bottomless mimosa special, so I guzzled my fourth before we headed to H & M…not exactly Neiman Marcus. Seems I’ve misplaced my black Amex. I’m afraid this is as close as we’re gonna get to being ladies who lunch.
264 19th Street NW 404-588-1888
November 9, 2013 at 5:01 pm , by Serina Patrick
Among the many restaurant recommendations we received prior to our trip to Hawaii, Roy’s was consistently on the list. Even LC’s sophisticated great uncle AB suggested Roy’s, saying that the blackened ahi tuna appetizer was his favorite. Although it’s a chain with 28 locations (gasp!) nationwide, Roy’s is a Hawaiian chain, so I agreed to try Yamaguchi’s reinvented island classics, utilizing exotic local produce and fresh fish from nearby shores.
There was a Roy’s within walking distance of the Hilton Hawaiian Village, so we dressed up, then put on our flip flops and headed into town. We chose a romantic table on the patio and started off with a couple of cocktails. LC ordered the basil cucumber collins, which I refused to try due to my disdain for cucumbers. I tend to order cocktails made with champagne. Here, the Hummingbird fit the bill, made with St. Germain elderflower, sparkling, and club soda.
Our dinner was comprised of a hodge podge of small plates. We felt obligated to try the blackened ahi appetizer, and were pleased we did, enjoying the tuna’s velvety texture…the best ahi on the island so far.
Although I was hesitant to order a sushi roll containing tempura shrimp and cream cheese, LC wanted to try the ebi roll. Unfortunately, not just the shrimp was fried, but the entire roll was crusted with coconut flakes then deep fried, only particially redeemed by the heavy drizzling of habanero aioli. Fried sushi just doesn’t seem right me.
Our server warned it was a small portion, but we were still lured into ordering an appetizer special called lobster escargot. Exactly what you think it is, chunks of lobster meat were baked with garlic butter in a traditional escargot dish. Clever, but not a good value. More little pieces of lobster were found in the creamy side of lobster mac.
For our non-seafood dish, we chose the pork belly dim sum with the super-complicated description of “miso-maple, shishito-cilantro gel, candied stem (stem?), black sesame seeds”. Don’t try to understand it, just enjoy each sweet, savory, crispy bite.
LC claims we had dessert…perhaps the warm caramel macadamia-almond tart? I don’t remember it and there’s no photographic evidence, so as far as I know, it never happened.
I think Roy’s accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, serve food that appeals to the masses, yet satisfies the gourmand. Twenty-five years of Hawaiian fusion in the aloha spirit!
226 Lewers Street 808-923-7697
November 4, 2013 at 7:22 pm , by Serina Patrick
Initially he suggested we meet at California Pizza Kitchen, but was met with a less than enthusiastic response. Sorry, I just couldn’t eat at a chain restaurant with so many other options available. So he came up with a different plan…he and his wife picked us up at our hotel for an authentic Korean lunch the next day.
Located only about ten minutes away, but seemingly hours removed from the crowds of tourists, Choi Garden is practically hidden on a side street in a residential neighborhood. Nothing fancy, the restaurant offers tabletop grilling as well as traditional rice dishes and soups.
During my recent Buford Highway adventure for Where Magazine’s 2014 Guidebook, I didn’t make it to any Korean restaurants, so I was embarrassingly unfamiliar with many of the choices at Choi Garden. Thankfully there were (somewhat misleading) photos. My cousin and his wife are regulars and ordered a stone bowl rice dish with fish. LC and I played it safe and ordered a scallion pancake with seafood to share and I decided to try a spicy beef soup. Our server brought out the customary assortment of banchan, mostly pickled vegetables, including kimchee.
The scallion pancake was enormous and rather greasy, full of squid, chopped shrimp, and long green scallions. Our server cut it into slices like a pizza. My big bowl of soup consisted mostly of beef broth and bones. I fished the bones out of the broth and gnawed on them to get the bits of meat attached.
Despite the disappointing soup, we enjoyed checking out a restaurant that wasn’t a tourist trap, and the rare cousin sighting.
1303 Rycroft Street 808-596-7555