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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.