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Entries Tagged as 'American Cuisine'

White Oak Kitchen + Cocktails

WOKC (Downtown)

WOKC (Downtown)

I have been a huge fan of Chef Josh Hopkins ever since he showcased his talent at the Leap Year Dinner at One Eared Stag last year. Soon after that, he took the helm at STG Trattoria where he continued to amaze people with dishes such as pork chops with sweet potato puree, fried quail, homemade pastas, and braised octopus, to name a few. In January, he announced his departure at STG which saddened me but was relieved to find out he was just moving downtown and in to WOKC.

WOKC (Downtown)

WOKC is in downtown. That means you have to park at the many street parking lots or pay a hefty price at nearby hotel parking decks. Or, you can use their complimentary valet parking. I love valet. It’s convenient and quick, not to mention safe — I don’t have to walk in dim alleys and fear for my life to get to where my car is. Let me also mention that the place is really nice. It’s so modern and with amazing views of downtown. I don’t really care much about ambiance and decor, and if you notice from this blog, I eat mostly cheap (but good) food from hole-in-a-wall places. Fancy eating from this country girl doesn’t happen too often.

WOKC (Downtown)
homemade sweet muffins with soft butter and apple syrup (aka wow)

I’m not gonna lie — I came in with high expectations. After all, this is Josh Hopkins we’re talking about. STG is one of my favorite places to eat because of him. So, armed with my one month’s paycheck, my sister and a very good old friend took a page from my eating playbook and ordered (almost) the entire menu. Let me just tell you it’s one of the best meals ever. Food was super fantastic.

WOKC (Downtown)

We started with five appetizers. Naturally, we had to have the pork belly. It had crispy skin, tender, juicy, and tasty meat, and came with these small squares of sage stuffing. There’s a lot of good pork belly in our city but this one tops them all. Maybe because the pork was made to stand out. It didn’t have any distractions like some apple or fruit stuff or sweet accompaniment to it.

WOKC (Downtown)

The fried oysters were another winner. I don’t like huge oysters that take two bites to eat. These were bite-sized Apalachicola ones that were lightly dusted with corn meal then fried golden. But what’s interesting is the savory bread pudding and corn milk the oysters were sitting on. It’s like getting a bite of soft bread dipped in sweetish sauce. It’s so good it would make a great main dish if they super-sized it.

WOKC (Downtown)

The deviled eggs were not the boring ones you see everywhere else. The yolks were whipped creamy with bacon and then there’s this crispy tomato skin on top and minced pork rind. You get this flavor and texture explosion in your mouth.

WOKC (Downtown)

Ever had savory grits? Flavorful grits plus mushrooms, lentils, and porcinis. So good.

WOKC (Downtown)

WOKC (Downtown)

One thing you shouldn’t miss is the charcuterie plate. It’s a huge serving and if you consider everything on this plate, it’s really a steal at $15. Everything was fantastic on this plate: there’s homemade sausages, paté, different kinds of mustard, cured meats, grilled housemade brioche bread, a rillette of chicken innards, and the best part: bacon marmalade. Bacon marmalade! Don’t miss this one.

WOKC (Downtown)

I love pimento cheese. Growing up, my mom made hers from scratch, dicing fresh red pimentos and grating sharp cheddar and American cheeses. She’d make pimento cheese sandwiches and feed them to us as an after-school snack. It’s comfort food and I have to get it whenever it’s on any menu. Here, the pimento cheese is sandwiched between a stack of fried green tomatoes making it a real southern fare. The cheese is creamy and smooth just like I want it. There’s also this homemade strawberry jam that balanced the saltiness of the cheese. It’s a real good appetizer.

WOKC (Downtown)

We ordered four main entrees and stayed away from other ubiquitous items such as the steak and the fried chicken. Like I said, everything I ate here was fantastic. But the one that stood out the most was the duck. This, by far, is the best roasted duck in the city. There are so many elements that make a good dish: taste, texture, ingredients, execution, and smell. Sometimes, it’s just impossible to make ingredients and textures combine well with each other, even if it was executed correctly. Most times, chefs fail to realize that some ingredients don’t play well with each other. I usually consider a dish as very good if 4 out of 5 of those elements are present. It becomes awesome when a dish hits all 5. Well, this one hit it out of the park. The duck was juicy and tender and the skin had a light crisp and a tinge of sweetness. It came with this mashed sweet potato wrapped in bacon! Seriously, get this!

WOKC (Downtown)

WOKC (Downtown)

WOKC (Downtown)

The other entrees were equally amazing. I’m running out of adjectives and superlatives. I mean, how many more times can I use amazing, awesome, delicious, fantastic. So, you get the idea. I liked the braised short rib because it was peppery and savory. There’s also horseradish that gave the dish a slight spicy kick. The lamb t-bone was not gamey at all. And the grouper? Light and refreshing. You can taste the sweetness (as in freshness) of the fish. I love that the dishes here don’t have heavy sauces. The proteins are already considerable in serving sizes so I’m glad that accompanying ingredients and sauces were chosen to be light and not overpowering.

WOKC (Downtown)

WOKC (Downtown)

WOKC (Downtown)

You all know by now that I’m not a dessert fan. But my sister is. She got this Bread Pudding and Three Jars. I don’t remember what was in the three jars but she said everything was good.

Anyway, we had a fantastic meal — the food was unbelievable and the service was impeccable. This is my new favorite restaurant. Go now! That is all.

White Oak Kitchen + Cocktails
270 Peachtree St. NE
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 524-7200

White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails on Urbanspoon


The Spence

I’m going to start 2013 off with a post about one of the best meals I’ve had in a very long time. Yes, you read that right: one of the best meals. I have not read any reviews about The Spence prior to visiting and not even up to now. Most of the intel I have on the place was from hearsay. And most of those weren’t very favorable. But I’m here to tell you my experience and why I love this place.

The Spence

I came on a very busy Friday night with four friends. The place was packed. Being an impromptu dinner out, we didn’t have reservations. Big mistake. Luckily, we were quickly able to snag space at the communal table at the bar and didn’t have to wait over an hour for a regular table. Being in the communal table can be awkward, as my friends lamented. Servers constantly reach overhead for bottles of alcohol stocked on the hanging shelf above the table. But I’m ADHD so I didn’t even notice it. But what I did notice was that it was loud, the place has an awesome, fun vibe, and everyone from guests to servers to cooks looked cool.

The Spence

The Spence

While menus change daily, there are mainstays I wouldn’t mind eating again and again. I’ve been here twice and both times have been phenomenal meals. One of the things you shouldn’t miss here is the Bone Marrow. Bone marrow is quite difficult to pull off. Most versions elsewhere give you nothing but a big glop of tasteless fat. Here, the grilled marrow is topped with tuna tartare for added texture and flavor. Oh, and the best part? Get this… it comes with two fried quail eggs. Eggs! The result is a flavor explosion in every bite. A perfect topping for the grilled brioche.

The Spence

Salads and veggies are usually a waste of stomach space for me. But the Fried Brussel Sprouts were definitely worth a tiny bit of the space. They weren’t bitter. They were firm and crunchy. And the peanuty vinaigrette made them easier to eat.

The Spence

Fries are also usually ho-hum. But here, the Juicy Lucy fries are triple cooked (boiled, fried then fried again). They were crispy and crunchy and just plain good. I taste a hint of duck fat in them, too.

The Spence

Macaroni and Head Cheese. I would love a huge bowl of this. So delicious and creamy. Pulled head meat that was so incredibly flavorful topped the mac and cheese.

The Spence

I had the Beef Short Rib that was just divine. The meat melted in your mouth like butter. The reduction sauce, to die for. A different take on meat and potatoes, this dish had creamy, cheesy mashed potatoes that just went well with the meatiness of the short rib. Chinese cabbage, radishes, and mushrooms rounded up an exceptional dish. I can eat this over and over again.

The Spence

Chicken is chicken. But guess what? Not at The Spence. Richard Blais managed to elevate this normally dry dish into the most juiciest, tastiest roast chicken on the planet. A huge serving, better pace yourself.

The Spence

I love pork and the Pork Leg dish here did not disappoint. The crispy exterior enveloped a fall-of-the-bone, delicious meat interior. Slight sweetness was added to the dish by way of slices of dried apple. I get tired of pork dishes that are accompanied by apple sauce or something so sweet they take away from the real flavor of the pork. This was one inventive dish. Bravo!

The Cod was another amazing dish (sorry, no photo). It was so clean tasting. The red wine sauce was so subtle it still allowed the flavor of the fish to shine through. Turnips and potato wedges gave it a more interesting twist.

The Spence

The Spence

The Spence

I’m not a dessert person. I’m a breadgetarian. I would rather eat bread for dessert. But my sister has a huge sweet tooth and ordered three desserts. The Vanilla Panna Cotta was just absolutely exquisite. It was so soft and creamy unlike others that have too much gelatin in them. It had the consistency of firm yogurt. It tasted very much like vanilla. I could trade my bread for this. The Icebox Tiramisu was like a hard (but not frozen) cake that tasted, well, like tiramisu. The Milk Chocolate was more like a slice of firmer mousse and served with banana ice cream.

Everything about The Spence is good. The food, the service, the vibe. Even the diet Coke :) It’s my favorite restaurant. Run, don’t walk. GO NOW.

The Spence
75 Fifth Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30308
(404) 892-9111

The Spence on Urbanspoon

[tag]American, Midtown, Richard Blais[/tags]

First Look: The Optimist

The Optimist

There were several restaurant openings going on the other night and my sister and I were giddy to snag a last-minute, late, 9:30PM reservations to one of them: The Optimist. Located on the Westside on Howell Mill, let me just tell you it’s a beautiful space. The huge main dining room has a cool and hip vibe, it was expansive and airy, modern but comfortable. The adjacent bar, dubbed Oyster Bar at The Optimist, gigantic as it is, opens to a roomy patio. A pet project from Chef Ford Fry, The Optimist is helmed by Chef Adam Evans of JCT Kitchen.

The Optimist

Our dinner went without a hitch. Something usually unheard of among fancier restaurants on opening day. We had a celebrity sighting, too, (food critic) and even bumped into a fellow blogger (famous).

The Optimist

Our meal started with these yeasty, freshly-baked wheat rolls enveloped in butter and topped with sea salt. They were heavenly. I ate four.

The Optimist

We had a clam appetizer. Presentation was great– served in a small cast iron pan with two handles. Unfortunately, it was offensively salty that we couldn’t get past two clams. So unfortunate because the dish really looked good with lots of tender clams. The red wine fish bordelaise was just too reduced and the addition of pork belly pieces aggravated it more. Still, we had high hopes this wasn’t a preview of what’s more to come. On to the entrees.

The Optimist

I had the Crispy Day-Boat Flounder. It was delicious. It came with two filets of flounder that were lightly dusted in flour then fried lightly. I would have loved to see a crispier crust but it was negligible, nonetheless. I liked that the flavor of the fish was made to stand out. No heavy sauces, just a light touch of seasoning. A handful of small grape tomatoes and fresh rocket salad completed the dish.

The Optimist

My sister had the Alaskan Halibut that was grilled to perfection. Just like my flounder, it was seasoned perfectly. There was that offensively salty bordelaise that came with the dish but nothing that a good scraping off the plate can’t remedy. The grilled hen of the wood mushrooms were a good accompaniment as they gave a contrasting texture and an earthy flavor to the fish.

The Optimist

Remember that offensively salty red wine fish bordelaise with the clams and the halibut? That was seen again with the risotto. I really think the risotto didn’t need it at all, flavor-wise, except for presentation purposes. The risotto was passable: it was a bit too runny for me and although it looked like oatmeal, it tasted more like grits.

The Optimist

We loved the Corn Milk Hushpuppies. They tasted like cakey beignets complete with a dusting of powdered sugar. Although listed as a side item, dip them in the cane sugar butter and you’ve got a really good dessert.

I am looking forward to coming back and sampling more of the menu. There’s a pork loin dish that I’m really dying to try. Our dinner of one appetizer, two main entrees, two sides, a diet coke (mine), and a cocktail (sister’s) came to close to $100. Reasonable but definitely a place I can’t hit multiple times a week.

The Optimist
914 Howell Mill Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 477-6260

The Optimist on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Eugene: The JLA’s 1916 Society Luncheon

Restaurant Eugene

One of my favorite special occasions places is Restaurant Eugene. There’s just something about it’s cozy, elegant space, excellent service, and exemplary food that makes celebrating a special moment more memorable. This past Saturday was no exception. The Junior League of Atlanta honored 34 members of its 1916 Society with a special luncheon prepared by renowned chef Linton Hopkins.

Restaurant Eugene

Restaurant Eugene

The backdrop was picture perfect: single-stemmed pink tulips and orchids in simple glass vases, tables topped with white linen then flanked by dark leather chairs, and 34 of the most impressive, most empowering women in Atlanta. 34. All under one roof.

Restaurant Eugene

Restaurant Eugene

Restaurant Eugene

The celebration started out with glasses of crisp Prosecco and passed hors d’oeuvres. Contrasting textures seems to be the theme for these very tasty appetizers. The Pimiento Cheese Fritters were flavor bombs in the mouth — crispy on the outside and gooey, cheesy on the inside, with the red pepper jelly lending sweet heat. The Citrus-cured Trout Tartare was a very mild-tasting fish whose soft meat danced with the crunchy bene wafer.

Restaurant Eugene

While I was never a fan of creamy soups, I became a convert with the best one I have ever tasted: Purée of Cauliflower. This wasn’t the cloyingly thick soup that has always been a turn-off for me. Instead, it was light yet creamy, smooth, and delicious. But it didn’t stop there. Sunchokes chips, toasted pecans, and a tiny dollop of black truffle ghee elevated this already amazing soup to the stratosphere of flavors and textures. This soup is something you can definitely eat all year round.

Restaurant Eugene

A salad is a salad is a salad, right? Wrong. Not at Restaurant Eugene. A mundane lettuce salad is transformed by Chef Linton into a fine dining creation that included winter lettuces, shaved apples, radish, Idiazabal Spanish cheese, and roasted peanuts with a clod of creamy mustard vinaigrette.

Restaurant Eugene

For the main course, pretty slices of tender and juicy free-range Chicken Ballotine garnished with red turnips and greens were a delight in all the senses. The garlic puree and chicken au jus provided additional tastes to an already delicious entree. Light yet filling, with a balance of flavors reminiscent of Restaurant Eugene.

Restaurant Eugene

Orange and cardamom crème brûlée ended the meal. It was so good I could’ve eaten a few more bowls. And this, coming from a non-dessert person like me. I loved the consistency of the brûlée — it wasn’t firm, but it wasn’t super soft either. The very thin layer of caramelized crust was a good departure from the common thick, crunchy kind you see everywhere else. Remember, this was no ordinary crème brûlée. This was Restaurant Eugene crème brûlée.

Can I just say this meal was fantastic in all levels. Not only was the meal unbelievably good, I met the most amazing women who will be life-long friends.

Octopus Bar

Octopus Bar

Got a chance to finally try this new late-night spot in East Atlanta after cancelling three times with my best buddy who’s been cajoling me to go for the last week. Open only beginning around 10PM at the bar section of So Ba, the menu is a collaboration between So Ba’s chef Nhan Le and ex-Miller Union chef Angus Brown. I can describe the food in one word: EXCELLENT. This is mind-blowing food for the location, space, price point, and meal time.

Octopus Bar

I’ll leave the long version to Foodie Buddha. My short and sweet: amazing food. It’s like eating Restaurant Eugene food in Buford Highway. Chef Angus is a genius.

What I ate:
Maine Lobster Roll — lots of meat with just a hint of dressing (just the way it should be and just the way I like it)
Curry Beef & Pork Trotter Pot Pie — oh the buttery crust and the curry stew
Salt & Pepper Shrimp — (with shells) so crispy, perfect taste (you don’t need to go to BuHi)
Uni Carbonara — OMG
Braised Rabbit — OMG
Banh Beo — chewy Asian rice cake topped with minced shrimp
Pork Belly Musubi — aka pork (sushi) maki rolls
Hazelnut Panna Cotta — OMG it tasted like tootsie rolls

GO NOW. I mean it!!!

Octopus Bar
(at So Ba)
561 Gresham Ave.
Atlanta, GA 30316
(404) 627-9911
M-S: 10PM – 3AM
Closed on Sundays

Octopus Bar at So Ba on Urbanspoon

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