October 29, 2010
October 23, 2010
"I'm originally from Clearwater, Florida and ever since living in Atlanta I've been longing for a place to get a fresh grouper sandwich," he says. And so his new restaurant is an homage to the laid-back, beach shacks of his youth and, of course, features the sandwich he most craves.
The grouper is available blackened, grilled or fried. I asked for mine to be prepared the way most likely to become famous, which turned out to be blackened, topped with a slice of tomato and lettuce, and a thick layer of what's described as tartar sauce but tastes like mayo. Alongside I ordered the yogurt-citrus slaw.
The fish is flaky and the sandwich good if rather bland for my palate. But then I had an inspired idea: I scraped all the mayo/tartar sauce off the sandwich, tossed aside the tomato and lettuce and piled on some of the spicy slaw. Divine. That's a sandwich I'll be craving and exactly how I'll order it be prepared from now on.
The restaurant décor conveys that of upscale Southeastern beach venues with a relaxed vibe.
Bottom line: Value-priced quality seafood, expertly prepared and served in a casual, family-friendly setting.
October 22, 2010
October 21, 2010
Though not completely packed, the restaurant was filled with enthusiastic patrons and an energetic vibe. Der Biergarten draws an eclectic crowd of all ages, from families with young children to business associates, native Georgians to European transplants, locals to visiting out-of-towners. We bumped into friends from Newnan. And we made some new friends, German immigrants seated at an adjacent table who were eager to verify the authenticity of the dishes being served. Thus in metropolitan Atlanta the owners of this new restaurant have managed to pull off the seemingly impossible: Recreate the atmosphere of an authentic European biergarten or pub. How exactly I don't know, but they did it. What's more, they've created a family-friendly bar.
There are several beers to choose from and although the waitress—herself a German transplant—tried to steer me towards an amber, I opted for the darkest brew and never regretted my decision.
We started with a tasty selection of cured meats and cheeses ($10).
As an entree, Dean ordered jägerschnitzel ($12). Again, delicious:
I ordered the three sausage combo plate ($12) featuring bratwurst (pork and beef with caraway seed and garlic), knackwurst (pork and veal) and wiener würstchen (veal, pork, garlic). While all are excellent and locally made by Patak, my personal favorite is the bratwurst:
Spätzle ($10) is an addictive blend of house-made noodles, caramelized onions and Emmenthaler cheese:
When we ordered the apple strudel served warm with vanilla ice cream ($5), our waitress suggested that we "get two because they're small." We'd seen one delivered to another table and assured her that we could happily split it. It is delicious, but one serving was plenty for two to share.
Bottom line: Delicious, authentic German fare served in a convivial setting. Generous servings at value prices—from our dinner order we enjoyed three meals (dinner that evening plus lunch and dinner the next day!)
Pecan Pie Martini
1 oz. Captain Morgan spiced rum
3/4 oz. Castries peanut liqueur
1/2 oz. Amaretto liqueur
1/2 oz. Godiva Chocolate liqueur
1/2 oz. Godiva Caramel liqueur
1 oz. cream
Shake all ingredients with ice and pour through a fine strain into a chilled martini glass rimmed with sweet toasted spicy pecan crust.*
Garnish with a candied pecan.
* For the crust, crush spicy pecans mix with brown sugar syrup.
October 15, 2010
Tucked into a off-the-beaten-path nook in Midtown Atlanta, the place is a bit of a challenge to find. Street parking is available, though you'll have to use the new meters--why can't Atlanta standardize its meters so we don't have to learn a new system every time we park?
The beer list impressed with unique selections including some local brews.
I asked the server for a sandwich recommendation and was encouraged to order the Chicken Piccata Sandwich ($7.50), described on the menu as "crisp chicken, mozzarella, provolone, fresh basil, arugula, tomato, red onion and caper vinaigrette on toasted ciabatta." It was deep-fried and tasted mainly of onion. I can't recommend it.
Dean opted for a cheeseburger ($7.50) with a side of onion rings. It was neither offensive nor remarkable.
Bottom Line: Opt for the beer and sit outdoors (weather permitting).
NOTE: I recently visited a second time. READ THE NEW REVIEW.
The Big Oak is just one reason to visit Thomasville, Georgia.
4 parts Excellia Reposado tequila
2 parts tomato juice
1 part orange juice
1 part freshly squeezed lime juice
1 part pomegranate syrup
2 healthy dashes Tabasco sauce
One grind of black pepper
One grind of sea salt
Stir the ingredients with ice
Strain into an ice-filled tall glass.
Garnish with a lime wedge.
1¼ shots Excellia tequila
¾ shot creme de cassis liqueur
Fill with ginger ale
Pour the ingredients into an ice-filled Collins glass.
Stir briefly to mix.
Garnish with a lime wedge, squeezed and dropped in.
Flatliner½ shot sambuca
½ shot Excellia Blanco tequila
2 dashes Tabasco hot sauce
Pour the sambuca into the glass.
Using a barspoon, layer the Excellia Blanco on top
Dash the Tabasco: it will fall through the Excellia and come to form a thin layer – the “flat line” on top of the sambuca.
1 shot Excellia tequila
1 shot Cointreau or triple sec
1½ shots cranberry juice
½ shot freshly squeezed lime juice
Shake the ingredients with ice.
Double-strain into a frozen martini-cocktail glass / coupe (5oz) with a half-salt rim on the outside only..
Garnish with an orange zest, sprayed and rimmed.
-Recipes & Photos Courtesy Excellia Tequila
Made from 100% pure Blue Agave, Excellia Tequilas are separately aged in Grand Cru Sauternes Casks and Cognac barrels then carefully blended. Since most fine tequilas are aged in unused limousin oak or former bourbon barrels, this unique blend of French and Mexican spirit-production traditions gives Excellia Tequilas distinctive notes and character.
Last night I sampled all three styles:
|Courtesy of EWG Spirits & Wine|
Excellia's Facts: Rested only for a few weeks in Grand Cru Sauternes wine casks and Cognac barrels, Excellia Blanco has a sheer golden color and a bouquet that releases subtle notes of wood, spices and fruits. The smooth finish rounds off the palate.
My Opinion: Starts smooth and builds to a fiery finish with notes of crisp agave, citrus, pine and light oak. This Blanco achieves the rare heights of tasting good enough to sip on its own. It also mixes well into a margarita.
Approx. Retail Price = 750ml: $54.99/750 ml
Excellia's Facts: Aged 9 months in both Sauternes and Cognac barrels, imparting a golden straw color, Excellia Reposado slowly reveals a complex bouquet mixing sweet vine aromas with red berry and spicy notes. The floral and honey nectar expressions are drawn from Grand Cru Sauternes wine casks, whereas the Cognac barrels impart gingerbread and cocoa flavors.
My Opinion: Smoother and softer than the Blanco with a mild finish, this offers pleasant whiffs of butter and tastes of vanilla, agave and hay.
Approx. Retail Price = $64.99/750 ml
Excellia's Facts: Excellia Añejo is aged for 18 months. The perfect balance delivers deep, rancio flavors and a bouquet of dried fruits, cherry and cocoa flavors. The long finish is soft and silky. Excellia Añejo has an amber color with golden glints.
My Opinion: Soft and pleasant, this opens with strong vanilla flavors then builds notes of toasted agave, artichoke, caramel, vanilla, banana. It lingers on candied spice orange on the finish.
Approx. Retail Price = $74.99/750 ml
Thumbs up for all three.
Bottom Line: Impressive silky smooth mouthfeel and soft rounded flavors with a pleasant emphasis on agave. All are good, but the Blanco is most heartily recommended.
October 5, 2010
Benicia, CA, October 5, 2010 – Weather conditions contributed positively to the 2010 Portuguese and Spanish cork harvest, creating excellent growing conditions and providing for generous growth of the annual cork layer. A very rainy winter and spring, where precipitation levels in January and February were 30 percent higher than the average, made for a late, long harvest running through the end of August.
The cork harvest has come in at 300,000 metric tons, rising approximately 36 percent over 2009’s production, according to Jochen Michalski, president of Cork Supply, a leading global supplier of premium natural cork wine stoppers. “This news couldn’t be better as it has restored raw material levels to normal after the atypical 2009 harvest sent raw cork inventories in some factories to almost zero,” says Michalski. ”Despite increased supply, raw material prices increased approximately 10 percent due largely to the pent up demand by some factories.”
“In response to an increased demand for natural cork sales in South America, Europe and the United States, Cork Supply doubled the amount of raw materials sourced from the forest,” said Michalski. Cork Supply is prepared for the increase in production after investing significantly in 2008 in the Montijo facility, well equipped with a seasoning and stabilization yard and state-of-the-art boiling system designed to improve quality and reduce the risk of any off aromas.
According to Frederico Mayer, director of Cork Supply’s raw material department, “This year we increased our cork harvesting teams to reduce the amount of time it takes to get the freshly stripped cork wood from the forest to the seasoning yard. In most cases it only took 6 hours to get the freshly harvested, hand sorted cork wood from the forest to the seasoning yard.”
Cork forests provide sustainable habitat for wildlife biodiversity, reduce carbon from the atmosphere, act as a barrier against desertification, and sustain the livelihood and culture of indigenous communities. Recognized worldwide by environmental and governmental organizations as playing a vital social, economic and environmental role, cork forests are protected by the Portuguese government, and their expansion is supported by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) preservation programs.
“With its low carbon footprint and the only closure that is 100 percent natural, renewable, biodegradable and recyclable, more cork forest owners are undergoing Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification,” said Mayer. “In the last year, the number of FSC certified cork forests in Portugal have grown by 70 percent.”
With companies spanning the globe, Cork Supply Group specializes in the production and distribution of premium quality winemaking and wine packaging products. Among the forested products Cork Supply Group manufactures and/or distributes are: natural, technical and champagne corks, French and American oak barrels and alternatives, and award-winning designer wine labels. As one of the first companies to be awarded FSC certification for their global cork production facilities in Portugal and a founding member of the WWF-GFTN (Global Forest Trade Network) Iberia, Cork Supply is committed to sustainable forest stewardship and responsible purchasing of forest products.
A workman strips the bark from a cork tree in a forest in Portugal. Trees are harvested in this manner every nine to ten years. Nearly 99 percent of all the cork harvested is used in some manner, from wine corks to floor tiles.
Jochen Michalski, president of Cork Supply USA, (right) and Frederico Mayer, director of Cork Supply’s raw material department examine some freshly harvested cork from a cork forest in Portugal. Michalski reports that this year’s harvest was 300,000 tons, much larger than in 2009, and will help restore raw material levels to normal.
For more information, visit corksupply.com.
October 4, 2010
This version from Hunt Country Vineyards has strong minerality that accentuate the fact that is is very dry. Notes of green apple, lime and grapefruit are met with a hint of anise.
This wine retails for approx. $15.
Bottom Line: Friendly to the palate and to food.
October 3, 2010
The Porto house of Croft (founded in 1588) has introduced Croft Pink, a rosé Porto from traditional Porto grapes. Intended to be served on the rocks or chilled, Croft Pink is enjoyable sipped on its own after dinner, but it also mixes well into cocktails to enjoy before a meal. It's lighter than traditional port, but reminiscent of a ruby port with complex sweet flavors.
Croft Pink boasts strong strawberry and raspberry flavors and aromas with soft notes of honey, grapefruit and orange blossom jumping in on the finish.
Bottom Line: Tasty and innovative.
Chilled Croft Pink on the rocks with a splash of soda and a twist of lemon.
1.5 oz. Scotch
1.5 oz. Croft Pink Porto
2 oz. orange juice
Pour all ingredients into an ice-filled cocktail shaker; shake and strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice.
The First Blush
- created by Gary Regan and Mardee Haidin Regan, 2008
3 oz. chilled Croft Pink Porto
4 oz. chilled champagne
1/2 oz. Cointreau*
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 lemon twist, as garnish
Pour all ingredients into a chilled champagne flute. Stir briefly and add the garnish.
*Limoncello, elderflower liqueur or ginger liqueur can be substituted for the Cointreau.
12 oz. Croft Pink Porto
3 oz. Cognac
6 oz. Champagne
3 oz. fresh lemon juice
3 oz. simple syrup (1:1)
12 dashes Angostura bitters
24 seedless black grapes
Middle or mash grapes at the bottom of the punch bowl. Garnish with black grapes (cut in half) and lemon wheels. For an extra touch, skewer an individual grape and lemon wheel together. Make several and let float. Serves 6-8.
- adapted from a recipe by Neyah White, Napa, San Francisco, 2008
2 oz. Croft Pink Porto
1 oz. Tanqueray Rangpur Gin
2 dashes Regan's orange bitters
3 oz. ginger beer
1 mint sprig, for garnish
fresh fruit in season, as garnish
Pour all ingredients into an ice-filled highball glass, stir briefly, add the garnishes.
--Recipes courtesy of Croft Pink Porto
October 2, 2010
The organic white wine from Valdeorras, Spain was delicious with notes of grapefruit, pineapple, pear, melon and fresh herb. It was enjoyable on its own and also worked well alongside a range of foods. We enjoyed it so much that we're planning to buy several bottles from a local retailer.
This wine retails for approx. $15/bottle.
(Yes, restaurants typically charge 3x a wine's retail cost. They make more profit on alcohol than on food.)
Bottom Line: Refreshing, delicious and easy to drink.
Since the restaurant wasn't officially open when I visited, I tried just two menu items: wiener schnitzel and jägerschnitzel, both of which are described as lightly breaded pork served with spätzle. The difference is that wiener schnitzel is flavored with fresh lemon juice while the jägerschnitzel (pictured) is topped with a Hunter's Sauce of mushrooms, bacon and onions:
Both were tasty, the meat cooked to perfection and the coat adding a toothy crunch. The spätzle, flavored with onion and cheese, was delicious--a satisfying European substitute for Southern mac & cheese.
Touring Der Biergarten, I was impressed that it manages to pull off an authentic (albeit touristy) German look without being over-the-top cheesy. Much of its indoor and outdoor dining spaces are furnished with large tables that encourage mingling among guests. The place was empty during my tour, but I hope to go back and try it soon--to sample its mood, additional menu items and, of course, some beer.
Legacy Property Group, the company behind the restaurant, also runs Max's Coal Oven Pizzeria, Stats and several other successful restaurants, so it's no novice to the restaurant industry. Some fun plans are in the works for Der Biergarten: Stay tuned.
Bottom Line: New German beer garden and restaurant has a great menu and evokes an authentic European vibe. Try it.
The restaurant is housed in space that was previously the engine room to Southern Dairies. With exposed brick and concrete floors it has an industrial vibe that Dean and I found quite comfortable: We couldn't resist imagining how we'd set it up as living space for ourselves--but given how great the restaurant is, we don't expect it to be vacant anytime soon.
The menus at 4th & Swift are seasonally driven. During this transitional period between summer and fall that means two menus and many choices. We opted to sample a mix of both.
We started with cocktails: Bee Keeper is a mix of house-infused lavender vodka, white grape juice, lemon and honey water ($9). Agricole Shrub is a mix of St. James Agricole Rhum, white rum, blackberry shrub, lime, house ginger beer and house bitters ($9). Both drinks had layered, balanced flavors.
The Sunday Paper recently featured the recipe for Jay Swift's sweet corn soup with lump crab, so I had to try it. This soup proves that corn and crab is a match made in heaven. ($9/bowl).
The server recommended the Brussels sprouts and North Georgia apple salad ($9). The sprouts are flash-fried, retaining their firm bite. The salad is topped with toasted pistachios, a nut that I typically don't enjoy but they worked here.
A pleasant surprise: Wood-grilled Hawaiian swordfish with soft polenta, grilled asparagus, pearl onions and tomato curry jus ($27). The fish was cooked to perfection and the combination of flavors proved to be both creative and comfortable.
I hate to pass up pasta dishes, so I didn't. Summer Pea Ravioli with artichokes, marinated grape tomatoes, caciocavallo cheese and olives ($19). The menu description was vague yet I expected green peas; the earthy field or black-eyed peas surprised me, but I wasn't disappointed.
A tasty blend of European flavors: Strauss “Free Raised” veal schnitzel with rosemary spätzle, rainbow Swiss chard, egg, lingonberry jus ($23). It's hard to go wrong with spätzle, yet rosemary spätzle is inspired. I loved this dish, though remain unconvinced that the egg was necessary.
Perhaps the perfect dessert for anyone who craves both chocolate and salt: Valrhona Caraibe Flourless Cake with Arbequina olive oil gelato and house-made potato chips. This combination sounds odd but definitely works; this olive oil gelato is the best I've ever tasted. And who can deny this is one of the prettiest presentations ever?
Though I generally favor chocolate, this dessert proved to be even better: Sticky Toffee Pudding with sweetened sherry cream. If you love caramel, toffee, brown sugar and maple flavors, save room for this dessert. OK, so maybe it doesn't have those exact flavors per se, but it's in that genre and, most importantly, it's divine. Perhaps not as pretty, but as they say, looks aren't what's most important.
Bottom Line: Great restaurant that's a new personal favorite.
October 1, 2010
The restaurant is well-known and has a great reputation, so it's a surprise even to me that I only just recently visited it for the first time. But there are hundreds of restaurants in Atlanta!
I went to the Midtown location; parking in a garage across the street was $5. The restaurant is housed in a historic bungalow, so it has a homey feel. The server was attentive (almost annoyingly so.)
We tried three menu items:
Fried Green Tomatoes with goat cheese, sweet red pepper coulis and basil chiffonade ($6.95). Nicely fried with a hard crispy crunch, these are kicked up a few notches from what you'd get at a roadside diner thanks to the accompaniments.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken with sautéed green beans, buttermilk whipped potatoes and bourbon gravy ($16.75). The thick batter gives this fried chicken a definite crunch.
Roasted Mushroom Meatloaf with house-ground beef, roasted mushrooms, crisp potato wedges, sweet corn and baby arugula and smoked tomato gravy ($19). A tasty combination.
Bottom Line: Good regional food served in a cozy atmosphere.