Category: Restaurant Review

Travel Edition… Annabelle’s in San Francisco

In June I traveled to San Francisco for a conference. Not only was it colder than I expected, but I was far busier than I anticipated. I thought I’d have time to go out for dinner at night. But working a conference and attending one are far different experiences. Anyway, I ate hotel food for about three days before I decided to go AWOL  for dinner. A teammate of mine had disappeared every night for a drink at the spot across the street. He said the food was good, but I wasn’t convinced. Annabelle’s looks like that same bar that’s across the street from every hotel with dry burgers, frozen chicken fingers and bland quesadillas. Boy was I wrong.

When some of other girls my age who were working the conference invited me to dinner, I accepted. The only thing visible from the hotel lobby was the bar area at Annabelle’s. So when we walked in and saw into the dining area and kitchen I was more impressed.

Most of the men at the conference were at least my father’s age and hilariously unafraid to flirt with a twenty-something (which, PS is totally unflattering– hence the abrupt dismissals). While waiting for a table we encountered a man waiting to dine alone. During our brief conversation, we shared that we were celebrating a birthday and learned that he had daughters our age. He wished the birthday girl the best. When we reached our table he’d sent over champagne, but he disappeared before we could thank him. Super sweet and exactly what we needed to wake up our palates before our appetizers.

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La Fourchette… Tunisian influenced Mediterranean

Father’s Day 2011, I met mine in Buckhead for an early dinner. I can always count on him to be open minded about food. Things that would make my mother cringe, make him giddy. Eating ostrich, horse or grasshopper makes him feel like Andrew Zimmern (his favorite TV personality).

Usually the restaurants with the most exotic cuisines are either sketchy hole-in-the-walls or astronomically priced. I scoured my Scoutmob app for a coupon and write up that I thought would appeal to him. To be honest any new restaurant appeals to him, but as it was father’s day I really took his food preferences into account. He is all about the seafood. La Fourchette sounded pretty cool and the reviews on UrbanSpoon were good. So I used my Open Table app to make the reservation.

My dad and I always start with the calamari at any restaurant that offers it. (PS- I still think Eclipse Di Luna has the best calamari in Atlanta). But La Fourchette doesn’t offer calamari. They did, however, have Slow Cooked Octopus on the menu. UH DUH! “We’ll start with the octopus!” [HIGH FIVE!]

It was a great way to begin a great dining experience. I asked the server where his accent was from, he told me Tunisia. He also shared that the recipe for the octopus was the Tunisian owner’s mother’s recipe. It was crazy good. The picture probably looks a mess, but that was the picture I took after we ate most of it.

To be honest this was a few months ago. I don’t remember the details the server used to describe each dish, but I do remember that we killed it. I had the Jumbo Lump Crab Pasta with Zucchini Confit. My dad had the Grilled Loup de Mer. I had never had Loup before, but I’ll keep my eyes open for it from now on. I don’t think my dad loved the sauce, but he didn’t complain: it was something new and he was happy to try it.

I recently got an email that jogged my memory about Father’s Day. The verdict: I do recommend La Fourchette— especially now that they offer Sunday Brunch. As you may or may not know, brunch is my favorite meal of the day. Lunch often turns into a second breakfast for me. And La Fourchette offers my favorite part of brunch: Bottomless Mimosas for $12. [HIGH FIVE!]

La Fourchette on Urbanspoon

Travel Edition… Voodoo Lounge in Las Vegas

I went to Las Vegas in January to celebrate boyfriend’s birthday. It was a different sort of Vegas for me since it was a family trip. There wasn’t a whole lot of partying. But there was a LOT of gambling (Texas Hold Em), a good amount of drinking (bloody mary’s while gambling), and an overdose on Las Vegas buffets. We were there for quite a while, but one night afforded us dinner alone. And I could NOT take another buffet.  So we took the shuttle to Rio and a hidden elevator to Voodoo Lounge.

All i can say is DEELISH! If you get tired of buffets and wanna blow the cash you won in Texas Hold Em- make your way to Rio. Voodoo is totally worth the trip.

Voodoo Steak & Lounge (Rio) on Urbanspoon

$20 Dinner with Chef Ryan Smith… plus two recipes

(As written by Wyatt Williams for Creative Loafing  5/2/11)

Behind the pecky cypress-paneled dining room of Empire State South, executive chef Ryan Smith is standing in the kitchen. A hog’s head brines in a pot to his side. A nearby white board is covered with notes like “SIX HAMS OFF CURE MAY 10.” He’s arranged a spread of groceries from the Sweet Auburn Curb Market on the counter in front of him, assessing how best to use the vegetables and legumes — okra, corn, butter beans, pink-eyed peas — that he casually purchased without much of a plan earlier this morning. At the center of the spread, though, are a few cuts that make Smith’s meal a truly under-twenty-dollar affair: two pig ears, a couple of smoked ham hocks, and a big, flat piece of tripe. Hugh Acheson, the pretty “Top Chef Masters” star and part owner of Empire State South, saunters over in pristine chef whites behind Smith and cracks, “Pig ears? Tripe? Yeah, like anyone is going to make that.”

To read more click HERE.

(C) James Camp

Muss & Turners… Too Good To Be So Far

Here again, I went to Muss & Turners so long ago that really can’t describe the experience properly. First, I will say that I enjoyed my food thoroughly. And I loved how the recommended wines really complimented my entrée. Second, I recall it being far from my home and hard to find. So remember, Muss & Turners is easy to pass. It’s tucked in a shopping plaza with only a small, nondescript logo to identify the entrance (similar to H&F). And the small dining area (and even smaller bar) makes reservations a must. I’d love to go there for lunch one day and try something lighter.

I wanna say it was a skirt steak with caper relish and fingerling potatoes. I didn’t kill it because I wanted to savor EVERY bite.

 

I think that was roasted chicken with braised cabbage.

Like I said, I took the left overs home and it made an EXCELLENT lunch the next day.

For some reason I was very fascinated with the stamp on the table… So i took a pic.

PS- Shout out to AM Sous Chef Ryan Hidinger

Muss & Turners on Urbanspoon

 

Houston’s… Best Spinach Dip in Atlanta

I honestly can’t remember a time when Houston’s wasn’t around. It seems like my family always went there, specifically the location across from Benihana in Buckhead. Always a large party for us, we’re usually split into side-by-side circular booths—as parties larger than 6 are a challenge at every location.

Generally we start with the Chicago-Style Spinach and Artichoke Dip. In my opinion: the Best in Atlanta. For me it’s the standard by which I measure every other version of spinach dip anywhere. It comes with additional dishes of sour cream and salsa. As a kid I would stir all three together and dip my tortilla chips into the greenish-pink concoction it made on my plate.

My mother always gets the Traditional Salad with Hot Bacon dressing. Simply made with eggs, bacon and croutons– it was the first restaurant salad that I ever loved. Even now, my mother has no choice but to share a small portion of it- as it is entrée size.

I sometimes start with a bowl of soup, but usually the dip and salad are enough. And by the time the entrees arrive I can eat half and take the other half home with me. You do not want to leave food that good behind.

So what entrées do I recommend? My first choice is the Hawaiian Ribeye. This sweet and savory steak that almost tastes like teriyaki is probably my favorite steak at any restaurant. My second choice is the Gulf Coast Fish Sandwich. I can’t even describe how surprised I was when first tried this sandwich. This is my favorite fish sandwich as well. And my third choice is usually whatever the Chef’s Special is that day. It’s usually a safe bet.

While I highly endorse certain dishes, the truth is that I’ve never had a bad meal at Houston’s. Its usually a case of like versus love. Everything is well seasoned and well presented. Plus the ala cart portions don’t leave anything to be desired. So enjoy. I recommend a family visit. Share the love!

Houston's on Urbanspoon

Babes, Ballers and Bottles… A Night in Buckhead

I arrived a little late for dinner thanks to the hideous traffic on 75/85 headed north. I’d visited the Bottle Bar before, but was turned away because a friend was “dressed inappropriately”. That night we managed to steal our own vehicle from the valet due to crowd confusion, which turned me off completely. So this time I opted to self-park for $5 across the street.

They were running “fifteen minutes behind on reservations” which gave me the opportunity to watch the Hawks beat the Celtics from the bar. I also had the opportunity to take in the décor and details. I found it lovely. The patrons were well-dressed and clearly “sauced”. After waiting 40 minutes for our 10pm reservation to be honored, we were seated along the back wall between a large party of rambunctious hipster-fashionistas and an aging couple enjoying their date night (aka full-on making out at the table).

We started with a “good” bottle of wine. To be clear: the menu highlights wine specials at decided price points, like “good” ($15), “better” ($24) and “best” ($30). A tasty new world Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley did the trick to loosen us up.

After examining the menu and asking a few questions we realized that the appetizers were tiny and not enough to even whet the palate. Not to mention the small plates were not available. So we went for entrees.  I ordered the lamb burger and BFF had the salmon.

At that point, the music seemed to get louder and louder while the lights got dimmer and dimmer—making it more like club than a restaurant. The TVs that had showed the game before, were now showing music videos that corresponded with the DJ’s mix of house and hip-hop. More and more people gathered in the middle to dance, providing lots of entertainment while we waited for our food.

I ordered the lamb burger with tomatoes and goat cheese. But it was more like the goat cheese came with a side of lamb. I ended up scraping some of the creamy cheese off and eating the patty open-faced. The grilled salmon w/ garganelli pasta and clam sauce was more like a bland clam broth over pasta with bite of bland salmon. It just didn’t really work for us. I was pleased with the lamb burger after trying the pasta.

After eating, the two parties around us left and were replaced by celebrity entourages. Big Poppa (best known as the elusive married lover of a “Real Housewives of Atlanta”) and Zaza Pachulia (BBB owner and Atlanta Hawks Center) were gawked at by fans and groupies. That was our cue to leave.

All in all, I enjoyed the bar scene before the 11pm switch to club mode. And the lively crowd makes it a great place to gather with friends. But I’m not sure about the food. I’d be curious to try the small plate menu one day.

Buckhead Bottle Bar on Urbanspoon

Farm Burger… Locally Grown Goodness

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courtesy of @So_Bran_Nunu

Grabbed a No.1 (no bacon, no fries). Burger was perfectly grilled (still juicy), the onions were sweet and delicious, no Farm Burger Sauce needed. The sauce is like a spicy mayonnaise- avoid if you’re not a mayo person. Slowly I’m becoming a flavored mayo lover. Can’t wait to go back for more.

Farm Burger on Urbanspoon

Miller Union… Farm to Table Goodness

I had a solo lunch at this West Midtown eatery so long ago that I can’t really recall what I ordered. I came across these when organizing photos. Just know that I do recall enjoying that cocktail thoroughly! I remember it having the distinct flavor of thyme.

I had just seen Jamie Oliver make the pate-ish dish on tv, so I was excited to try it. I appreciated what it was, but I didn’t love it. I think that was more about my palate than the actual flavor.

Finally, I kept it simple with a fish sandwich at the recommendation of the server. Delish…

I think I should give Miller Union another try so that I can give you a proper recommendation.

I probably could have submitted these images to a popular food app, but I often forget that i have it. Anyway, I hope you found this somewhat useful.

Miller Union on Urbanspoon

It’s What the Cool Kids are Doing… Underground Supper Clubs

A few weeks ago, while watching the Food2, I realized that it wasn’t just a spinoff of the Food Network as I had long assumed. I realized that this channel spoke to me! At least the content during that random time of day seemed to, anyway. I watched Jamie Oliver smoke a salmon filet using a random cookie tin, fishing wire, thin slices of wood chips and a gas stove. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen done on a food program, because it was almost guerilla-style cooking—like if McGuyver where a chef!

The next program was about unusual food, but not in a roasted grasshopper kind of way. It was more of the McGuyver style food preparation being done across the country. And I was hooked! Finally at the end of the episode, there was a segment about “Underground Supper Clubs”; the kind of experience that seems completely rational, but so rare that it sounds unfathomable. Chefs invite people (generally strangers) into their home (or a secret location) for an innovative and elaborate meal. I immediately wanted to know more, but with the next intriguing show I completely forgot to do any research.

A week later a dear friend from high school and I reconnected and he invited me to dinner, but he wasn’t clear on the details because it was at someone’s home. You can imagine my excitement. “Like an underground supper club,” I asked with the enthusiasm of a kid trying to decipher clues about their birthday present. “Uh, I guess” may as well have been the response I got. It was Sunday night, somewhere in Grant Park at a friend of a friend of a friend’s.

When Sunday came around, I met my friend at his place. He plugged the address into his phone’s gps and we were off. The neighborhood was sketchy, but I kept my fingers crossed that the food wouldn’t be. We parked and walked up the street to a cute craftsman style home on a narrow street. The hostess greeted us warmly, introductions were made and drink orders were taken. I went for the beer (don’t ask me to recall which one).

As more people showed up, it was clear that everyone had a connection to the hostess and her chef husband through someone else who wasn’t in attendance. Everyone admired the simplicity of the quirky décor, the art work, the drinks, etc. The conversation in general was pleasant. I met a judge, a lawyer, a publicist and even the owner of a “popsicle” company! Finally it was dinner time.

The dining table was set for 6 and the breakfast bar that looked into the kitchen sat 4. Of course we wanted to see our food being prepared so we grabbed the bar seats. More introductions and the first course was served: a roasted beet salad with orange marmalade vinaigrette, baby arugala, gorgonzola and walnuts.  Delish! In conversation my friend noted how beets were the food du jour. Every chef in America is trying new things with beets. Kind of like Brie in the 1990s.

The second course, a surprise addition, was a homemade cream of onion soup served in a mug for sipping. It was fantastic. I actually wished that it came in a can that I could buy at the store because it was perfect. The third course and main entrée was served family style: tagliatelle, with roasted amish chicken, brussel sprouts leaves, French horn mushrooms and bacon. I had never heard of tagliatelle, nor had I ever eaten amish chicken. But this dish went so fast that I didn’t even get a picture of it.

After that, the final course was the perfect dessert: chocolate pots de crème served with soft whipped mint cream topped with cookie crumbs. I’m not a big chocolate eater, but I have to say that it was well received by all and absolutely loved by me. The smoothness and mildness of it almost made forget what it was.

I am so happy I got the chance to experience underground dining. And I’m looking forward to the opening of the couple’s restaurant, StapleHouse. I wish them much success. And if the food at the restaurant is as great as what was served that Sunday- I know they’ll have success and more!

Thanks again to the Harvey and the Hidingers. (sounds like a band)

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