Tuesday, December 12, 2017

New Taste Tuesday: Allora

Italian restaurants are a dime a dozen in Atlanta. Of them, not many do Italian fine dining well. That’s why I’m so happy that a new eatery – Allora, located at the Twelve hotel in Atlantic Station – truly gets Italian food and now ranks among my Italian go-to places.

At Allora, the flavors are authentic and the food isn’t too Americanized. You won’t find spaghetti and meatballs on the menu, but can instead look forward to dishes such as caccio e pepe pasta, roasted fish, and fantastic antipasto choices.

WHY GO: Because you want to treat yoself, but don’t want to go too crazy.

THE VIBE: Cozy, inviting, comforting. Dim lighting throughout the restaurant, plenty of intimate booths, and a bustling bar.
These comfy booths are the main seating areas of Allora

DRINK THIS: During the colder months, I would recommend the Serendipity cocktail. It tastes just like apple pie! And while Allora’s cocktail menu changes with the seasons, their wine selection is consistently impressive, boasting a wonderful selection of Italian vinos.
The Serendipity cocktail: Apply brandy, apple cider and prosecco

EAT THIS: My first suggestion is to course your meal – it’s the Italian way of eating! Courses don’t have to be large or numerous, and the menu is perfectly designed for a coursed meal.
Allora's dinner menu

Start with the antipasti (anything that comes before the pasta course, aka appetizers). I loved the whole roasted artichokes with horseradish aioli, the charred octopus, and the burrata. The latter is served with spicy salami, pickled beets, smoked pistachios, apple butter and grilled bread. It was easily my favorite starter! In fact, I’d come back just for the burrata (and a glass of ripasso) any day!
Burrata: My favorite dish of the entire meal

Whole roasted artichokes with horseradish aioli and bread crumbs 
Charred octopus with white bean hummus, peperonata and castelvetrano olives 

For your pasta course, you really can’t go wrong with any of the choices, but I had to try the cacio e pepe. This pasta dish was one of the best meals I had in Italy, and not many Italian restaurants in Atlanta offer it, so I had to get my hands on it. The flavor was spot on!
Cacio e pepe: Fettuccine pasta, black pepper, pecorino romano cheese, poached egg 

For your main course (secondi), the server recommended the roasted branzino, saying it was her absolute favorite item on the menu – so much so, they often run out of it. Topped with broccoli, capers, castelvetrano olives, lemon and brown butter, I was sold!
Roasted branzino topped with beautiful, tasty greens 

The dish certainly lived up to the hype – it was delicious and just the right amount of food.

LOGISTICS: Allora is located on the lobby level of the Twelve hotel in Atlantic Station (361 17th Street NW, Atlanta, GA). The restaurant has complimentary valet and is open 6:30 am to 11 pm every day (11:30 pm on Friday and Saturdays). 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

New Taste Tuesday: Mediterranea

Mediterranea boasts a fully gluten-free menu with a variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. What really stands out about Mediterranea’s menu is its inventive, drool-worthy recipes.

Scallops Provençal, roasted beet risotto, layered eggplant tart – it all sounds amazing! All you focus on is the creativity and flavor of each dish, not the fact that it’s also very healthy. And that’s the beauty of this Grant Park restaurant: You feel like you’re indulging in the most decadent food, but dining at Mediterranea won’t break your healthy eating habits. In fact, it may enhance them.

WHY GO: Because gluten-free has never tasted this good!

THE VIBE: Comfortably minimalistic, both inside and out. Mediterranea has a lovely rooftop patio that’s ideal for fall brunches or after work drinks.
(c) Facebook/Mediterranea 

DRINK THIS: Golda kombucha. This oak-aged, locally brewed concoction does wonders for your gut and actually tastes great! You can’t go wrong with flavors like peach ginger, elderberry thyme, or lavender lemonade, and the light carbonation adds a refreshing touch.

On Wednesday nights, definitely peruse the wine selection, seeing as all bottles are half off every hump day.

EAT THIS: Order one of everything, bring a big group, and share! But seriously, this is a tough one for me… so difficult to pick just one or two favorites, because everything at Mediterranea is delicious.
The flatbread pizza (nom nom nom) 

For lunch, our table shared the flatbread pizza, and then I nommed on the turkey souvlaki sandwich. The latter is wrapped in what is essentially a potato crepe, and it is so tasty! As for the flatbread pizza, it is topped with fresh mozzarella, ricotta and seasonal veggies, and you cannot tell the dough is gluten-free!
The turkey souvlaki wrap, served with a side salad

The Nicoise salad: Sushi-grade tuna, green beans, potatoes, olives, hard boiled egg
For dinner, you absolutely have to start with the quartet of spreads. If you’re a carnivore, try one of the seafood dishes as your entrée, like the pan-roasted scallops or the pan-roasted branzino. And there are lots of options for the non-meat-eaters, but the involtini looks especially enticing: Thinly sliced zucchini rolled around pan-fried haloumi cheese, served on top of a rice blend, pine nuts, yellow pepper coulis and tomato sauce. Yum!
Quartet of spreads: Calabrese chickpea, white bean, beet, eggplant (c) Yelp/Mediterranea

Pan-seared scallops Provencal with tomatoes, roasted peppers, fennel, garlic & herbs (c) Yelp/Mediterranea
And as any proper Atlanta eatery, Mediterranea offers brunch on the weekends. I’m looking forward to trying this menu, filled with green shakshuka, smoked trout buckwheat crepe and blackberry cream cheese French toast.
The green shakshuka: Soft-baked eggs in braised greens with garlic yogurt and paprika (c) Yelp/Mediterranea
LOGISTICS: Mediterranea is located in Grant Park and is within walking distance of the zoo. It’s open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, and a brunch menu is available on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The perfect fall cocktail: Fireside from Atlas

The perfect fall temperatures are finally here, which officially calls for craft cocktail sipping on lovely patios. Good thing the Tavern at Atlas has both the impressive list of cocktails and the ideal patio for enjoying the flavors of fall.

One cocktail in particular stands out from their new fall menu: The Fireside. Doesn’t it just sound like the best possible beverage to indulge in this autumn? Created by lead bartender Carl Gilbert, the Fireside combines apple cider, ginger, caramel and tequila (stay with me here), and it is best enjoyed next to a picturesque fire.

I, too, was surprised to learn this drink is made with tequila. I generally think of tequila as more of a spring and summer liquor (hello, margaritas!), but it complements the rest of the flavors in the Fireside cocktail very well, and the entire concoction tastes very much like fall (scroll down for the recipe!).
(c) Mia Yakel

In addition to seasonal cocktails, the Tavern at Atlas has also recently debuted their new fall food menu, which includes items like citrus-cured kampachi, oysters on the half shell (served with lemon granita), and Yukon gold potato gnocchi. That last dish is divine! It’s served with shiitake mushrooms and rabbit sausage, which is all perfectly seasoned with garlic, herbs, and Parmesan cheese. It is easily my favorite fall menu item!
The Yukon gold potato gnocchi with rabbit sausage, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, herbs, and Parmesan
The citrus-cured kampachi (yellowtail) with lime vinaigrette, jalapeno and crispy ginger
Island Creek oysters on the half shell, served with cucumber green coriander tea, lemon granita and cilantro

And if you’re looking for a place to host your holiday dinner, do consider Atlas’ gorgeous private dining room. Executive Chef Christopher Grossman (who came to Atlas from The French Laundry in Napa Valley, just a three-Michelin-starred restaurant, #nbd), can fully customize the experience for your group, whether it’s a family gathering or an outing with colleagues.
The private dining room at Atlas (c) Tomas Espinoza

(c) Tomas Espinoza
(c) Tomas Espinoza
The Fireside cocktail from Atlas: 
1.5 oz Don Julio tequila
.25 oz ginger syrup
.75 oz Mercier apple cider reduction
1.0 oz lemon juice
2 dashes of barrel-aged bitters
Build all ingredients in a shaker, add ice, and shake. Double strain and garnish with a red caramel tuile.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

New Taste Tuesday: Muchacho

Muchacho is officially open in Atlanta! The new restaurant took over the former H. Harper Station space on Memorial Drive and offers breakfast and lunch daily.

I got a chance to grab lunch at Muchacho the other day, and I loved every bit of my experience! I can’t wait to come back for breakfast, especially after a morning Beltline stroll. Check out my recommendations for what to eat and drink at Muchacho below. 

WHY GO: Because you’re up for some tasty eats and drinks in a laid-back environment, especially on a beautiful patio.
The outdoor patio at Muchacho

THE VIBE: Bright, festive, vibrant. Outside, there are colorful red and white umbrellas, neon tables and chairs, and plenty of sunshine. Inside, the decor is reminiscent of '70s-era Venice Beach, with velvet couches and orange-yellow hues. 
Interior at Muchacho (c) Blue Hominy

DRINK THIS: Try the agua fresca of the day. During the day, it makes for a refreshing beverage. At night, it makes for a great pre-dinner cocktail when spiked with your choice of liquor.

EAT THIS: For breakfast, try one of the toasts. Avocado is always an excellent choice, but if you’re looking for something different, try the stone fruit and ricotta toast. Served with honey and fresh jalapenos, it’s the perfect way to kick off your morning.
The stone fruit and ricotta toast

If you’re at Muchacho later in the day, go for the tacos or one of the bowls. The tacos are superb – I thoroughly enjoyed the short rib one. As for the bowls, the poke bowl was my favorite! Not too much rice, plenty of protein and tasty accoutrements, all mixed together in the most delicious way.
Tacos on tacos on tacos (c) Blue Hominy
The short rib taco
Salmon poke bowl (look at that avocado!)
The savory grain bowl

: Muchacho is located at 904 Memorial Drive, right on the new section of the Beltline and near Glenwood Park. There’s parking next to the building, but if you live in the area, I’d highly recommend walking or biking. The restaurant is open 7 am to 4 pm every day. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Fave Five: Atlanta’s best southern restaurants

Dubbed the “capital of the South,” you would expect Atlanta to have excellent southern food. And you would be absolutely right. Atlanta’s selection of southern restaurants is so impressive, in fact, that it was difficult to pare it down to just the top five. But I tried my best, and my list of favorites is below.

Keep these options in mind next time you’re craving fried chicken or need to impress a first-time Atlanta visitor. Restaurants number 2 & 4 on the list will come especially handy if you want to have a themed dinner before seeing a show – like “The Color Purple” – at the Fox Theatre, since they’re located the closest to it.

(c) Matthew Murphy

“The Color Purple” tells the story of a young African-American woman living in the South at the turn of the 20th century. Grab a proper southern dinner before the show and enjoy the Tony Award-winning musical October 24-29 at the fabulous Fox Theatre.
(c) Matthew Murphy

And if you’re going to a Sunday afternoon show, be sure to check out restaurant #3 on the list below for a pre-show brunch option (tickets are still available).

The original Ford Fry restaurant has the best fried chicken in Atlanta, at least in my humble opinion. Cooked just right and served with collard greens and buttermilk biscuits, it would be the perfect start to an evening of southern food and art.

Located just half a mile from the Fox Theatre, this restaurant is as authentic as southern food gets in Atlanta. No matter what you order as your entrée (think classic dishes like chicken and dumplings, roast pork and rainbow trout), get the mac & cheese as your side. It’s some of the best in Atlanta.

When you want down ‘n dirty southern breakfast food, you come to this place and you order the comfy chicken biscuit: A giant plate of fried chicken, sausage gravy, and an orange slice. There is most definitely a wait on the weekends, so come early (like, 7 am) if you want to be seated right away.

This is a classic Atlanta restaurant where you take someone you want to impress. Chef Zeb Stevenson knows what he’s doing when it comes to southern food. Everything on the menu is mouthwatering, so don’t feel bad if you fill up on the starters, like deviled eggs, pimento cheese and heirloom tomato pie.

If you’re up for some delicious soul food, come to this west Midtown restaurant. Chef Deborah VanTrece puts her own spin on authentic creole dishes with creations like chitterling sausage, low country boil loaded baked potato, and stuffed turkey wings with Cajun cornbread. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Heads Up: Taste of Atlanta moves to Old Fourth Ward Park!

Taste of Atlanta is moving to a new location this year: The beloved Atlanta foodie fest will take place in Historic Old Fourth Ward Park this weekend, October 20, 21 & 22.

The festival will be conveniently located right off the Beltline and across the street from Ponce City Market, and more than 100 restaurants will feature their signature dishes throughout the weekend.

Taste of Atlanta is a great way to check out some of the newest Atlanta restaurants, since so many have opened their doors to the public in the last couple of months. Some of the newer eateries I’m looking forward to trying are Bulla Gastrobar, CO Restaurant, Muchacho, Poke Burri, Tea House Formosa, and Todd English Tavern, just to name a few.
(c) Taste of Atlanta

General admission tickets cost $25 in advance, which includes your entry, an RFID wristband, and 10 taste points that you can redeem for food. Each food item “costs” between 1-3 taste points, and you can reload your wristband with additional taste points at designated booths any time throughout the festival.

The cool thing about the RFID wristband is that it keeps track of all the restaurants you visit during the festival. So if you love this one dish but can’t remember where you got it from, no need to worry: You’ll get a download of all the places you visited and the dishes you consumed in your inbox the week after the festival. The email will also include incentives to visit the restaurants in person (aka, $ off your next meal!).
(c) Taste of Atlanta

In addition to the myriad of restaurants, Taste of Atlanta also features a Chef’s Table with interactive cooking demonstrations, a cocktail mixing competition, and live music throughout the event. The whole weekends kicks off with a “Sweet 16” celebration Friday night, in honor of Taste of Atlanta’s 16th year.

So, get your tickets, peruse the participating restaurants, gather your friends, and plan to not drive to Taste of Atlanta. If you’re an in-town resident, you could ride your bike or walk to the festival this year. And if you have a slightly longer commute, consider taking Uber, Lyft or MARTA. For the latter, you can get off at either North Avenue or Inman Park stations and walk to the festival (an easy 30-minute walk in the beautiful fall weather), or get off at Civic Center station and jump on the free shuttle directly to the festival.

See you this weekend! 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

STK has a new happy hour just in time for fall!

So many wonderful things happen in the fall: The new season ushers in crisp, cool air, and with it, renewed energy, inspiration, and new menu items at our favorite restaurants.

STK is no exception. Now that fall is officially here, this Atlanta hotspot is truly embracing the art of happy houring with its 5-6-7 offerings: $5 craft beer, $6 wine, and $7 cocktails every Monday through Friday from 5-7 p.m.

You can only get this deal at the bar at STK, which is kind of perfect if you think about it. You can grab a couple of drinks at the bar, then move on to the main dining room for dinner. And if you’re happy houring at STK on a Thursday, you could take advantage of the restaurant’s raw bar offerings in addition to cocktails, including $1.50 oysters, $3 shrimp, $4 ceviche (which is insane), and $4 snow crab claws.
(c) Lauren Klopfenstein

(c) Caitlin Kreidler 
(c) Lauren Klopfenstein
But back to the cocktails. STK is sharing the recipe for one of their signature concoctions (which is available during the fall happy hour) to wet your mouth a little. Check it out below and make sure to stop in to STK this fall to actually get your hands on one. 

STK Atlanta's Not Your Daddy's Manhattan
(c) Sharronda Williams

3 Dashes Angostura Bitters
2 Dashes Peychaud Bitters
1 Luxardo Cherry

Rinse a martini glass with Fernet Branca. Add bourbon and vermouth into mixing glass, add ice, then stir and strain into the martini glass. Garnish with a luxardo cherry.

PS: Credit for the first photo in this blog post goes out to Sharronda Williams of Pay or Wait. Thanks, Sharronda!