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? 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Heads up: Progressive dinner party on the Beltline

Confession: I’ve never been to a progressive dinner party before. But I’ve always wanted to go to one, which is why I’m extra excited for this year’s Rock, Wine and Stroll event put on by Two Urban Licks and Parish restaurants.

Curated by Todd Rushing of Concentrics Restaurants, the two-eatery bash will feature wine from six different wineries, whole lamb and pig barbecues and live music.

Two Urban Licks will be serving whole roasted hog tacos with hand-made tortillas and all the accoutrements. I’m talking salsa verde, mole negro, pico de gallo, queso fresco and and queso fundido, as well as homemade guacamole. This restaurant will also have oysters on the half shell with pickled habanero mignonette.
Two Urban Licks interior 

Parish, on the othe rhand, will have spit-roasted whole lamb with homemade pita, pickles and other traditional condiments. Other sides include marinated sweet peppers, sweet and sour eggplant, hummus, fava bean and carrot salad, as well as grilled mushroom and bulgur salad.

OMG, I’m already drooling!

All this takes place Thursday, March 23, starting at 6:30 p.m. You can call either restaurant for the reservation. It’s $40/person to attend either one of the restaurants, or $75 to attend both.

I’m planning on going to both restaurants. See you there?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

New Taste Tuesday: The Tavern at Atlas

I left my heart in the Tavern at Atlas… that’s how the saying goes, right? Am I using it correctly?

Seriously, though, the newest addition to Atlas, the restaurant inside the St. Regis hotel in Buckhead, is easy to fall in love with. The Tavern has a gorgeous patio -- think stone fireplaces and greenery throughout -- as well as a phenomenal new food & drink menu.
How stunning is this patio?!? 

WHY GO: Because everything about this restaurant is beautiful and gorgeous and wonderful, from the food to the decor to the art.
The main Atlas dining room (c) Tomas Espinoza

THE VIBE: Elevated, yet somehow relaxing. You feel very much at home here, despite the fancy cocktails and the real Picasso, Monet and Chagall paintings hanging on the wall.
Just one corner of the amazing outdoor patio

DRINK THIS: I highly recommend the Rhone Sour. It’s made with Bulleit Rye (my current obsession), lemon and egg white foam, and topped with a wine float.
The Rhone Sour cocktail is in the right back (c) Heidi Geldhauser 

EAT THIS: In addition to creative cocktails, the Tavern has an impressive food menu: The rosemary roasted ruby beet tartare, petit lobster pot pie and caramelized veal sweetbreads will wow the biggest of foodies. But the menu also has items like parmesan thyme fries, beef sliders and cheese twists, which certainly contribute to the relaxing overall atmosphere. Add a little live music, and you’re never going to want to leave.
The beet tartare, sliders and parmesan fries (c) Heidi Geldhauser

Caramelized veal sweetbreads and the Rhone Sour cocktail
You have a couple of options for food: You can order a number of small plates at the bar/lounge (or the absolutely stunning library) for sharing, or head to the main dining room for a coursed meal. Or -- my personal favorite -- a combination of the two, where you grab some appetizers and cocktails from the Tavern menu and enjoy the rest of your meal in the main dining room.
First course: Spring pea soup 

Second course: Roasted beet salad
Main entree: Pan-seared trout with mushrooms, brussel leaves and satsuma slices 
Whichever experience you choose, it will be filled with locally-sourced ingredients, artful presentation and unparalleled service. Do save some room for dessert -- it is beyond impressive! Talk about amazing presentation!
Still dreaming of this chocolate mousse

LOGISTICS: The Tavern at Atlas is located inside the St. Regis hotel in Buckhead. Once you valet, head inside the hotel and go up the stairs on the left. Go down the hallway until you see the entrance to Atlas at the end, on your right.

The Tavern menu is available in the newly designed lounge, bar, library and outdoor patio, starting at 4 p.m. daily.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Happy National Oreo Cookie Day!

What is your favorite way to eat an Oreo cookie? Do you dunk it in a glass of milk before taking a bite? Do you split it in half and lick the filling? Today we celebrate all the different ways to eat Oreos, because today is National Oreo Cookie Day!

My favorite way to eat an Oreo is fried (calories from Oreos don’t count on National Oreo Cookie Day, right??). It’s the perfect treat, whether you’re at a local fair or or need to bring a dessert to a potluck dinner. And it is easier to make at home than you might think!

The fried Oreo experts at the Atlanta Fair shared the super-simple recipe with me -- check it out:

-Cover an Oreo cookie in funnel cake batter
-Fry for 2 minutes
-Flip the cookie and fry for another 2 minutes
-Drain grease
-Place cookie(s) in a bowl or on a plate and cover with powder sugar

Who knew it was this easy to make these tasty bites?

To make them a little more personal, I like to play around with toppings. In addition to powdered sugar, you can drizzle the cookies with caramel, raspberry syrup or chocolate sauce. You can also switch up the batter and make red velvet fried Oreos -- yum!

If you prefer to leave the Oreo frying to the professionals, you can always visit the Atlanta Fair to satisfy your craving. Going on now through April 2, Atlanta’s favorite fair is located in the Grey Lot of Turner Field and has all the traditional festival treats, including candy apples, elephant ears and cotton candy.

Of course, it also has some awesome rides -- like the Towering Ferris Wheel, 45-foot Ring of Fire, and the Inversion -- so it’s a great way to spend time with family and friends, whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or are toting around little ones.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

New Taste Tuesday: Storico Fresco

Many restaurants claim to have authentic Italian food in Atlanta, but few live up to the hype. One new eatery actually delivers on its promise: Storico Fresco serves traditional Italian meals that are impressively close to what you would eat in Italy.
Imported oils and vinegars are just one part of the Storico Fresco market

This hidden Buckhead gem is great for a quick lunch or a casual dinner. Or both: Sit down to lunch and leave with your dinner. In addition to the restaurant, Storico Fresco also has a market of drool-worthy Italian goods, such as house-made pastas and sauces, cured meats and cheeses, imported olive oils, and full prepared meals like lasagna.
Ready to heat meals for when you're on the go

Plus, you’ll feel super European walking down the street with a fresh loaf of bread and some meat and cheese (even if it’s just to your car).

WHY GO: Because authentic Italian fare is hard to find, and this place comes pretty darn close to the real thing.

THE VIBE: Clean, minimalist, elegant. Plenty of natural light, with wooden tables and chairs in the middle and market goods around the perimeter.
The main dining room of Storico Fresco, surrounded by market goods

DRINK THIS: The Italian 75! Prosecco and limoncello, it’s Storico Fresco’s answer to the traditional mimosa. If you like bourbon and ginger, the Fox & Hound cocktail is also very tasty.
Everything on the cocktail menu looks great

EAT THIS: Anything that has mozzarella on it. Here’s why: Any time this particular cheese is mentioned on the menu, it’s buffalo mozzarella, which is so much better than any other kind.
The prosciutto and mozzarella plate, with bread and olive oil 

You can’t go wrong if you start with the prosciutto and mozzarella plate. Of the antipasti plates, the meatballs are a pretty solid choice. And if you’re trying to eat more greens, get the mista salad.
Mista salad with cipollini onions and mozzarella-covered meatballs 

For the pastas, you have two choices: Filled or unfilled. The menu starts with the latter, such as spaghetti, tagliatelle and rigatoni. The second half of the pasta menu is filled, including the pi fasaac and bertu options. All pastas are made in-house and are displayed in a counter, in case you prefer to see what you’re ordering.
House-made pasta you can get to go 
LOGISTICS: The only caveat here is that Storico Fresco is a little hard to find if you’ve never been here before. It’s located on Grandview Avenue, just off Peachtree Street. The parking for it is in the same lot as Kale Me Krazy, right off Peachtree, but you have to walk down Grandview a little to see it on your left.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

New Taste Tuesday: O-Ku Sushi Atlanta

Creative sushi rolls. Impressively fresh ingredients. Fantastic views of Atlanta from the rooftop bar. Need more reasons to visit O-Ku Sushi? Keep reading about the new Japanese restaurant on Atlanta’s west side.

WHY GO: Because you’re craving better-than-average sushi, on a rooftop, with a kickass view.
(c) Facebook/O-Ku Atlanta

THE VIBE: Cool and dimly lit, O-Ku is the place to see and be seen on a Friday or Saturday night.

DRINK THIS: Try a new bottle of sake. Ask your server for a recommendation: The staff is very knowledgeable and knows how to match your taste buds to the flavors of your upcoming meal.

EAT THIS: Start with the scallop tiradito as your appetizer. This is potentially the best starter I’ve ever had at a sushi restaurant: Raw scallop that’s perfectly torched and served with truffle shavings, caviar and truffle soy. This dish is a must, I tell you!
Scallop tiradito (top) and hamachi carpaccio (bottom) 

I also had the hamachi carpaccio, twist pepper roll, barracuda nigiri, and a chef’s tasting of moriawase (mixed sashimi or nigiri platter).
Twist pepper sushi roll

O-Ku is the only sushi restaurant in Atlanta (that I’ve been to) that does nigiri properly: A generous portion of raw fish over a small ball of rice, instead of the other way around. The selection of seafood is also better than at most restaurants: Where else can you find barracuda and jelly fish and bonito all in one night?
Moriawase (chef's tasting of nigiri)

As you may have figured out by now, I’m a big fan of raw seafood, so all of my recommendations above include raw ingredients. If you’re not a fan, O-Ku does have cooked options you can choose from, like shrimp and crab nigiri/sashimi, as well as hot entrees, some of which aren’t seafood based.

After dinner, be sure to grab dessert or a drink at the rooftop bar.

LOGISTICS: Located inside Westside Ironworks (next to Barcelona and Tom + Chee, and across from West Egg Cafe), O-Ku Sushi offers complimentary valet parking. It's also within walking distance to great after-dinner places, like Little Trouble and Ormsby's. Oh, and every Monday and Wednesday, all sushi rolls are half price 5-7 p.m.!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Fave Five: Underrated brunch restaurants in Atlanta

Brunch is an institution in Atlanta. It is truly a Sunday tradition in our city. Certainly a must-do for tourists and visitors.

But precisely because it is so popular, it can be frustrating. Call me crazy, but I can’t bring myself to go wait for food for an hour first thing Sunday morning. I’m not going to name names, but dare I say restaurants like West Egg Cafe or Canoe have become overrated (IMHO)?

Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve never been to some of the most popular brunch restaurants in Atlanta, you have to go at least once! Just be prepared to wait. For more than an hour. Likely hungover...

If you’ve already done that and just want a place where you can gather with friends for delicious food and drink without getting irritated before taking your first sip of mimosa, I give you my favorite underrated  brunch spots in Atlanta.

1. The Lawrence (Midtown):
The Lawrence patio (c) Facebook/thelawrenceatlanta

If you’re looking for a no-fuss brunch with bottomless mimosas, this place is perfect. Beat the rush by getting here at noon instead of 12:30 and grab a seat on the adorable patio. The carafes of bottomless mimosas ($15/person) will be flowing before you know it, and the menu has all your favorite comfort foods but throws in a couple of tasty twists in case you’re up for something different. Yes, you could have a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, or you could try a croque madame. Both are available.

2. Hampton & Hudson (Inman Park):
Nitro coffee at Hampton & Hudson

Two words: Hangover fries. Get them when you come here. Other reasons to visit Hampton & Hudson: THE BEST nitro coffee I’ve ever had, Bloody Marys that come with a sidecar of Guinness, brunch sliders (hot chicken or ham & gravy), excellent atmosphere, lack of a long wait time, great service. I could go on and on, but what it boils down to is the restaurant’s owners, Jenn & Billy Streck, are geniuses. Go check it out for yourself!

3. General Muir (Emory Village):
Avenue A at the General Muir

You’ve likely seen this restaurant on multiple best-brunch-in-Atlanta lists, and there’s a good reason for it: The food is outstanding! Literally every item on the brunch menu is excellent, but my two favorites are the smoked hash and Avenue A, a bagel with nova, schmear, avocado, grapefruit, cucumber, onion and dill. I also highly recommend the Bloody Caesar for your morning beverage: It’s similar to a Bloody Mary but with house-made clamato juice blend. You will likely have to wait for a table, but the aforementioned Bloody Caesar or a tasty coffee will help the time fly by (and the wait is usually well under an hour).
4. Homegrown (Cabbagetown):
The comfy biscuit at Homegrown (c) Yelp/Homegrown

That comfy biscuit though… If you’ve never had it, get you one ASAP: A generous fried chicken biscuit served open-faced and “blanketed in sausage gravy” (verbatim from the Homegrown menu). In case you’re really hungry, add one pancake. It’s the size of a dinner plate, so plenty to share with the table, too, if you feel so inclined. Two recommendations here: Plan some physical activity before and/or after your meal at this retro diner (you’re going to want to work off that authentic Southern fare). And get here earrrrrrrly (like, 7 a.m.) if you don’t want to wait for a table.

5. Bantam & Biddy (Midtown, Buckhead, Avalon):
Breakfast scramble at Bantam & Biddy

This Shaun Doty restaurant never disappoints, and brunch is no exception. My favorite brunch item here is chicken and waffles. Confession: I don’t usually care for this dish, but Bantam & Biddy’s version comes on a cheddar waffle and isn’t super sweet or greasy. It is delicious! They also have great omelettes and sides. It’s an excellent place for a casual tasty fuel-up before you officially start your Sunday Funday. The Lenox location has an espresso bar, in case you want a cappuccino to go.