Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New Taste Tuesday: Brezza Cucina

Brezza Cucina is easily one of my favorite restaurants inside Ponce City Market. It has delicious, good-quality food in a casual setting with fantastic service (just a few of my favorite things).

The brainchild of James Beard award-winning chef Jonathan Waxman, Brezza Cucina mixes new Italian flavors with local Southern ingredients to bring Atlanta one outstanding menu. It has something for everyone: Wood-fired pizzas, delicious salads, perfectly roasted meats, and the “oh, there’s room for that” desserts.

The family-style menu is meant to be shared, so bring your friends and family and linger for a meal the way Italians do, sharing good food with loved ones and enjoying being in the moment.

WHY GO: Because you’re craving some delicious Italian food.

THE VIBE: Bright, airy, open. Exposed brick walls, giant windows that let in lots of natural light, pretty string lights for extra charm.
(c) Brezza Cucina

DRINK THIS: Definitely, definitely, definitely try one of their cocktails! They’re all good, but my two favorites are the rosso reviver & the rosemary mule. They’re both light and delicious and very satisfying.

EAT THIS: If you truly want to eat like an Italian, course your meal for more authenticity. Plus, it will give you a chance to try more stuff on the menu, which is a good thing, because it is so hard to pick favorites! But I’ll try.

For the antipasti course, go for the JW potatoes, P.E.I. mussels, and the JW kale salad. Yes, I said kale salad. I know, kale is so 2016, right? Hear me out: This is the best kale salad – nay, the best salad I’ve ever had.
JW kale salad, with pecorino, bread crumbs and anchovy dressing

Brezza’s kale salad is a kind of take on the kale Caesar you may have seen at other restaurants, except a thousand times better. It has tasty pecorino cheese on it (very authentic Italian, btw), breadcrumbs, and anchovy dressing. It’s not slathered in creamy Caesar dressing, but has just enough of the savory stuff to make you addicted to this dish.
JW potatoes (still drooling over these)

P.E.I. mussels 
The JW potatoes are better than your favorite French fries – they’re also topped with pecorino cheese (hmm, did we just figure out the secret to making any food delicious?) and served with herb aioli for dipping. They’ll be the table favorite, hands down.

For your primi course, try one of the pizzas. If you’re like me and love prosciutto on your pizza, Brezza has two options for you: Bianca (with garlic, ricotta and arugula) and prosciutto cotto (béchamel, cheddar, breadcrumbs). The wild mushroom and soppressata pizzas are also a good choice for the table to share.
All pizzas are cooked inside a wood-fire oven, which you can see from the dining room

For your secondi course – the main course – I would highly recommend the JW chicken. It sounds simple, but therein lies its beauty. This chicken is roasted perfectly and served the most delicious green sauce, which is slightly reminiscent of chimichurri.
JW chicken: Chicken is not something I would normally order at a restaurant, but this is an exception

And if you still have room, I absolutely love Brezza’s budino for dessert. It is a bittersweet chocolate pudding topped with whipped cream and biscotti crumbles. You guys, it is insane. If you come here just for this dessert, I wouldn’t judge you.
Budino: Bittersweet chocolate pudding with whipped cream and brioche

LOGISTICS: Brezza Cucina is located inside Ponce City Market, next to Williams Sonoma and Spiller Park Coffee. There is plenty of parking in the PCM deck, which is paid. And you can walk off your dinner – like a true Italian – by walking around PCM and doing a little shopping. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Heads Up: Jeffrey Fashion Cares 2017 is almost here!

(c) Tomas Espinoza
It’s so close, I’m a little too giddy with excitement! Jeffrey Fashion Cares is on Monday, August 28, and I cannot wait to see the new styles and trends that will be showcased on the runway this year. Not only is Jeffrey Fashion Cares the most anticipated fashion show in Atlanta, it’s also one of the best philanthropic affairs in our city and the perfect kick-off to the fall social season.

This year, Jeffrey Fashion Cares celebrates its 25th anniversary! The runway show will feature pieces from some of the most coveted names in fashion: Think Givenchy, Celine, Valentino, Dior, and Saint Laurent Paris, just to name a few.

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at this year’s styles -- all curated by Jeffrey Kalinsky himself, owner of Jeffrey in Atlanta and Manhattan -- and I’m even happier to be able to share these previews with you.
(c) Tomas Espinoza

Check out the stunning fashions featured in this year’s show, and please consider either purchasing a ticket to this stylish event (which includes a pre-show reception with the best food and cocktails, a reserved seat for the fashion show, as well as an after party) or donating to support the beneficiaries of Jeffrey Fashion Cares: Atlanta AIDS Fund, Susan G. Komen Greater Atlanta, and the Medical University of South Carolina.
(c) Tomas Espinoza
(c) Tomas Espinoza 
(c) Tomas Espinoza
(c) Tomas Espinoza

Last year, the sold out show raised nearly $700,000 for fantastic causes -- let’s see if we can surpass that number this year!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

New Taste Tuesday: One Midtown Kitchen

One Midtown Kitchen has recently started offering a new culinary adventure every Thursday: An intimate dinner prepared by the executive chef himself, featuring five off-the-menu courses with wine pairings. Doesn’t this sound like a foodie dream come true?

The restaurant calls it the “5-6-7 dining experience:” 5 courses, 6 seats at the exclusive chef’s counter, at 7 p.m. every Thursday night. And it is truly an experience: You get to watch the chef make and serve you plate after plate of beautiful, awe-inspiring, exquisite food.

I consider myself a fairly well-seasoned diner, and I was blown away by how impeccable the entire dinner was. The service timing was on point, the wine pairings perfect, and the whole evening just seemed magical.

And if you think this kind of dinner comes with a hefty price tag, you’re in for a sweet surprise -- it’s way more affordable than I would have anticipated. Check out the logistics section below for the actual value.

WHY GO: Because your date night is due for an upgrade. This dining experience is sure to impress, whether you’ve been dating for a couple of weeks or a number of years.
The bar at One Midtown Kitchen (c) CWPR 

THE VIBE: One Midtown Kitchen has mastered the industrial yet warm-and-welcoming atmosphere. Think renovated warehouse with Edison-style vintage pendant lamps that give off just enough light to enjoy your meal.
The interior at One Midtown Kitchen (c) CWPR
DRINK THIS: I highly recommend getting the wine pairings for each course. This restaurant has a fantastic sommelier -- she is particularly knowledgeable about French and Italian wines and does a phenomenal job pairing them with Chef Matt Weinstein’s delectable dishes.
Chef Matt preparing the first course as I sip on a glass of bubbly, the wine pairing for the cherry tomato salad
EAT THIS: The 5-6-7 dinner includes 5 courses, and every single one was delicious. It’s difficult to pick a favorite, but if I had to, I’d say it was the second course: Black pepper shrimp with chanterelle mushrooms.
First course: Cherry tomato salad with compressed watermelon, black garlic aioli, sesame seeds, and feta cheese
Second course: Black pepper shrimp with chanterelles, roasted corn, peppadew peppers, and salsa verde 

Third course: Pork belly with  hummus, cilantro labneh, and crispy okra 
The first course was also hard to ignore: Cherry tomato and watermelon salad, with black garlic aioli (mmmmm), sesame seeds and feta cheese. 
Fourth course: Duck breast with Parisian gnocchi, artichoke barigoule, ricotta, spinach, and peas 

And the fourth course -- the duck breast -- was absolutely insane. The perfectly cooked duck sat atop some Parisian gnocchi (which, I learned, are not made from potatoes) and fresh summer greens, like peas and spinach.
Fifth course: Chocolate creme brulee with toasted marshmallow and graham cracker crunch 

LOGISTICS: Are you ready for the price? $55 a person! The wine pairings are an additional $20-25, which is a steal, considering you get 5 glasses of wine. For two people, I was expecting to pay hundreds (as in, multiple) of dollars for this type of meal, so I think this is a fantastic deal. Not too shabby for a sweet little Thursday night date.

You do have to make a reservation for this meal, which you can do by calling the restaurant and asking for the 5-6-7 chef's counter experience.

One Midtown Kitchen is located at the end of Dutch Valley Road in Midtown, Atlanta -- just off Monroe Drive and walking distance from Piedmont Park. Parking options include valet and street parking. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Currently Obsessed With: Team Building With Taste

The other day, I got to be part of a real-life “Top Chef” competition. Scratch that, I won “Top Chef!”

OK, so I wasn’t on the actual show, but I did get to participate in a timed culinary event, cook inside a commercial kitchen (v cool for this foodie), and create a dish alongside a professional chef (even cooler). It was all part of Team Building With Taste, a new way for any team to bond over food (I mean, is there a better way to bond?).
Each team working on their assigned recipe (c) Team Building With Taste

Here’s what happened: A group of Atlanta media and food bloggers arrived at the Atlanta facility of Team Building With Taste, and after a round or two of adult beverages, we were separated into four teams. Each team had to cook a pre-determined recipe, with choices like smoked salmon crostini, meatballs all’arrabbiata, and falafel pitas.

My team was making choripan sliders: Homemade chorizo patties on buttered slider buns with chimichurri sauce. The basic recipe was provided to us, as well as all the necessary ingredients, but each team was free to get creative. Just like in “Top  Chef” or “Chopped,” the Team Building With Taste kitchen had a stocked dry pantry and plenty of fresh ingredients we could add to our dishes.
Just a sample of the fresh ingredients we could pick from to add to our dishes (c) Team Building With Taste

My team improvised by stuffing the chorizo with apple wood-smoked bleu cheese and adding caramelized red onions to our dish. It sounds a little overpowering, but it turned out really well! Well enough to win the competition, at least :)

We only had 50 minutes to complete our dishes and make one plate for the judges. Each team had a professional chef (shout out to our chef Kerry Meier of the Lowcomotion food truck) work with us throughout the whole process, helping us chop, saute and grill. Once the timer ran out, the chefs finished plating the rest of our dishes, which ended up being our dinner (talk about yum!)
Chef Paul working with his team to get creative with their recipe (c) Team Building With Taste

Before we could eat, each team had to present their dish to the whole group, and a panel of judges graded us on the taste and look of each plate. The whole evening was a blast and all the food was delicious! Everyone had to work together in a fast-paced environment, coming up with creative solutions to issues that arose along the way, and reaping the rewards in the form of a tasty dinner.
The smoked salmon crostini (c) Team Building With Taste

The falafel pitas (c) Team Building With Taste

The choripan sliders (my team's creation) (c) Team Building With Taste

And you don’t have to be a food blogger to participate. All sorts of corporate teams have gone through this challenge, and their reviews are glowing. If your department at work is in need of a morale boost, I would highly recommend Team Building With Taste--it’s certainly the best team building activity I’ve ever been a part of.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New Taste Tuesday: Jefe's Tacos & Tequila

It's Taco Tuesday, folks, and I found some tasty new tacos for you to devour! They're at Jefe's Tacos & Tequila in Town Brookhaven, and they are delicious. But this new taqueria is about more than just tacos.

WHY GO: Because it's Taco Tuesday, duh!

THE VIBE: Festive! Think lantern lights, awesome patio, and plenty of cold beverages to suit your preferences.
(c) Jefe's Tacos & Tequila

DRINK THIS: The Paloma. It's kind of like a margarita, but with grapefruit juice and without the extra sugar. If you prefer to sip your tequila, try a mix-and-match tequila flight instead: Pick 3 different types from various price points to see which one you like best.

Oh, and, heads up: If you're in a beer mood, I hear Jefe's might start offering $2 Tecates soon.

EAT THIS: The shrimp ceviche tostada! OMG, you guys, it is so good! Sure, you can start your meal with queso or guac -- as you would at any other taco restaurant in town -- or you could try something new. This dish is full of shrimp and avocado and tomato and cilantro goodness. It is super tasty!
The shrimp ceviche tostada

If you're continuing the "try something new" streak, go for the sope ranchero for your main meal. The garden fresh burrito bowl is a great choice if you're trying to get more veggies in.
Sope Ranchero

And of course, this eatery is known for tacos, so do try a couple. I recommend the carnitas taco, the so cal and the bravocado: fried avocado with corn, black beans, pico and cotija cheese.

LOGISTICS: Jefe's Tacos & Tequila is located in Town Brookhaven (in the spot where Noche used to be), so there's plenty of free parking. And if you're looking for something to do after your meal, there's Cinebistro, as well as plenty of shops and bars within walking distance.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

New Taste Tuesday: 5Church

5Church is surely becoming a new Atlanta staple. The restaurant recently celebrated its one-year anniversary and just acquired a talented new chef, Scotley Innis, so it's about time this eatery made an appearance on Belly of the Feast. Without further ado... 

WHY GO: Because you're up for some ridiculously delicious, contemporary Southern food. Yep, that's right: Contemporary Southern food.
Fried green tomatoes stuffed with pimento cheese -- doesn't get much more Southern than that :) 

THE VIBE: Dare I say, contemporary? But it really is: A sleek and modern interior, with grey, white and black accents, and the entire text of "The Art of War" spelled out on the walls and ceiling.

DRINK THIS: The Viper. It's kind of like a better-for-you margarita: Tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, cucumber water (oooh), and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper.
The Viper cocktail is like the Goldie Locks of cocktails: Not too sweet, not too bland -- just right

EAT THIS: Hands down, the charred octopus. If you only get one dish here, please let it be the charred octopus.
Charred octopus over white cannellini beans, with roasted tomatoes and chorizo

I know, I know. Octopus is on every menu in town now, so what sets this one apart? The beautiful bed of cannellini beans the octopus rests on, that's what! They're perfectly seasoned, have a little bit of a kick to them (thanks to the smoked paprika vinaigrette), and have some chorizo mixed in. This dish is divine! And the octopus is perfectly cooked, of course.

I would also highly recommend the beet salad, Atlantic diver scallops and lamb lollipops.
The beet salad with arugula and salted almonds 

If you're not a fan of beets, this salad will change your mind. Three different types of beets are prepared several different ways and mixed together expertly. It is summer in a bowl.
The shiitake mushrooms and spring peas make this scallops dish

The lamb lollipops: Accompanied by roasted carrots and a chocolate demi-glace
And for dessert, do save some room for the s'mores floating island. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but this dessert is as cool as it is delicious: A deconstructed s'more made up of toasted chocolate meringue, vanilla crème anglaise and graham streusel. Yum!

The s'mores floating island is now one of my favorite desserts in Atlanta 

LOGISTICS: Located at the corner of Peachtree and 14th in midtown (at Colony Square), 5Church has complimentary valet parking. They also have pretty great happy specials and a beautiful patio that always draws a crowd.

P.S.: Credit for the very first photo in this post goes to Lauren Patrick of Pretty Southern, one of my good friends and fantastic Atlanta food bloggers. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Heads up: Havana Nights at the Regent Cocktail Club

(c) Chris Watkins
Mojitos, live Cuban music, rooftop patio. You don’t have to travel to Havana to get all this. Instead, head to the Regent Cocktail Club in Buckhead.
One of the Regent Club's mixologist hard at work (c) Chris Watkins

Every first Thursday of the month, Buckhead’s best rooftop bar hosts Havana Nights 7-10 p.m. The Regent’s expert mixologists can make you a perfect mojito (or caipirinha or rum punch) for $10, and a live band plays until well after the sun sets on the Atlanta skyline. Dancing is not required, but certainly encouraged.
The leather chairs and dark wood finishes of the Regent Club interior (c) Chris Watkins

The bar menu is, of course, available all night long. If you get hungry, order the soft pretzel—it is gigantic and tasty and its presentation is fantastic. The wagyu sliders are also highly recommended. And tonight, there will be boozy mojito popsicles, made with specialty Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva rum!
Your drink choices for Havana Nights: Caipirinha, rum punch, mojito (c) Chris Watkins

The Regent Cocktail Club is located right on Peachtree Street, in the Shops Buckhead Atlanta, on top of American Cut. See you tonight?