The Art of A Good Wine List

Posted by Foodie Buddha on August 18, 2011

red wine, red hearts

Answers to the Age-Old Question: What Makes a "Good" Wine List?
by certified Sommelier Elizabeth Schneider

As wine becomes more popular, it seems like every restaurant touts its unique, boutique wine list.
I’ve got to be honest — I have no idea what that means.

What I do know is that more often than not, nothing is exclusive about these lists. Except for the very top echelon, I find that restaurants frequently get good deals from distributors and buy things from them based on price. Wine buyers often would rather peddle big brands than take a risk on adding some cool stuff that their servers may need to know about and "hand sell" you on (which is what we want because it expands our repertoire of wine). This is hardly "boutique" or "unique."

And although wine is a subjective topic  — what you like and what I like are totally based on our individual taste preferences and palates — I’d argue that there are certain guidelines for what constitutes a "good" wine list for most everyone.

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Two Urban Licks: A Gluten Free View – Inman Park, Atlanta, GA [Guest Blogger] 7

Posted by Foodie Buddha on February 04, 2010

Gluten FreedomRecently I had the opportunity to try out Two Urban Licks, a restaurant owned by the same folks that run One Midtown Kitchen and Trois.  Self described as ‘fiery American food,’ Two Urban Licks offers a diverse menu that changes daily, and offers hearty seasonal dishes with options that even fill up gluten-free bellies.

I went with a group of friends on a Friday night to Two Urban Licks and it was quite a happening place.  With high ceilings, live music, full tables, and the kitchen located in the center of the restaurant, surrounded by glass, there’s action everywhere.  Being that it was a weekend night, it was particularly loud and I was glad that our table was far away from the band.  (Does that make me old and lame?)

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Bone’s Steakhouse Restaurant Review – Buckhead, Atlanta, GA [Guest Blogger]

Posted by Foodie Buddha on November 03, 2009

wcwd

I love people who are kind enough to help me out with my blog.  It usually results in the ideal combination of less work for me + great content.  What’s not to love?  When fellow foodie and blogger Michael Fenster (Doc) offered to chime in with a review of the lauded Bone’s Steakhouse, I was all over that like white on rice.  What follows is Doc’s recap of a recent trip.  Doc didn’t have a camera, so that juicy steak appears courtesy of the Bone’s website

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Heaven Found At Soto In The West Village, New York [Guest Blogger] 1

Posted by Foodie Buddha on August 05, 2009

If you read this blog with any regularity, then you are well aware of my absolute idolization of former Atlanta resident and world-renowned super chef Sotohiro Kosugi.  Kosugi crushed us all when he took his game to the big apple.  As it turns out, some people who read my review decided to stop in on Soto on a recent trip to NYC.  What follows is a recap of their trip to his namesake sushi bar.  While they are most definitely fond of food, I think it’s nice to get some perspective on here from people who aren’t “foodies.”

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Another Take On BLT Steak – Downtown, Atlanta, GA [Guest Blogger] 1

Posted by adam.harrell on August 04, 2009

Last night was date night. Since it was restaurant week (3 courses for $25 at participating restaurants), we decided to hop on MARTA and head over to BLT Steak for dinner. After a quick 2 stop jaunt on the train and a 1 block walk to the W Downtown, we arrived at our final destination. We were briskly seated at our table and presented with two menus. The regular menu and the abbreviated restaurant week menu (entrée options included hangar steak, roast chicken or wild salmon).

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Earthlings: An Animal Rights Documentary That Preaches To The Choir, But Fails To Advance The Cause [Guest Blogger] 27

Posted by adam.harrell on July 13, 2009

When I first heard about the documentary Earthlings, I have to admit, I immediately assumed the worse. The fact that Joaquin Phoenix is on the cover and Moby provided the musical score brought to mind images of Pamela Anderson screaming meat is murder. I expected a greatest hits film of animal suffering with little subtlety and a complete lack of nuance. Unfortunately, that’s mostly what this film offers.

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A Sneak Peek At WaterHaven Restaurant In Midtown [Guest Blogger] 4

Posted by adam.harrell on May 13, 2009

Interior & Location: They’ve completely overhauled the interior space. It’s opened up nicely, flows well and is designed to create a calming atmosphere. It’s a much more pleasant interior than the former restaurant (the globe) that occupied the space. 

Food:
As expected on a soft opening, the kitchen is still working out it’s kinks. The fried green tomato appetizer was good. It featured goat cheese, roasted red peppers and a sunflower seed pesto. Subtle flavors, but good. The tomato soup was rich and had a good kick of spice. The soup was probably the most pronounced flavor we tasted all night. The trout entrée was a bit disappointing. It was a beautiful fillet of Georgia trout with a bacon topper, but didn’t live up to it’s appearance. Amazingly it needed more seasoning, particularly more salt, as the bacon was very mild. Some sort of acid, lemon perhaps, would’ve helped as well.

The side of mushroom lasagna was very rich. Overall the dish had potential, but it could’ve used a contrast in texture to go with the mushroom lasagna and stronger flavors for the trout (in my humble opinion). The side of macaroni and cheese had great texture, but was once again a bit bland. It used the same bacon as the trout, so I think the kitchen was afraid to add additional salt to any of the dishes containing this amazingly mild bacon. The halibut was well executed. It was perfectly cooked and featured subtle flavors. It was served with cannellini beans in a mild broth with capers and roasted peppers.

The first dessert was a medley of fresh berries with liquor and whipped cream. Deliciously simple. The other dessert was a classic crème brûlée. The custard was a bit runny and the flavors a bit off.

Service: Overall the service was top notch. The kitchen was a bit slow, but that was to be expected on a soft opening. The server was really knowledgeable and truly excited about the restaurant concept (farm to table with dash of environmental friendliness).

Overall: The menu plays it pretty safe. It’s features contemporary takes on classic and trendy dishes. The combinations aren’t new (beet salad with goat cheese for example), but the ingredients are fresh and the execution mostly on par. For a soft opening they handled themselves incredibly well and all the dishes showed potential for improvement as they have a chance to refine. This restaurant should do well. It reminds me of JCT or Dogwood in terms of type and quality of food. It’s a welcome addition to Technology Square and should turn into a good option for midtown diners.

WaterHaven Restaurant Address & Information

75 Fifth Street, Suite 170, Atlanta, GA 30308 // P: 404.214.6740 // WaterHaven Website // WaterHaven Menus
WaterHaven on Urbanspoon

About The Author

This guest post was written by Adam Harrell, a local foodie and interactive marketer. You can find him at www.neboweb.com/blog/

Varasano’s Pizzeria: The Man, The Myth, The Pizza [Guest Blogger] 7

Posted by adam.harrell on April 15, 2009

Food is like a religion in many respects. Foodies worship at the table of various high priests, inspired by their personalities as much as the cuisine which they promote. The examples are numerous— the locavore inclinations of an Alice Waters, the authentic Italian flavors of a Mario Batali, or the balanced French & Japanese fusion of a Soto Soto. These people are not just chefs. They’re prophets who espouse a viewpoint that colors the way you view the world. You’re either with them, or against them. The hype they generate rarely lives up to the food they serve.

The high priest of Varasano’s Pizzeria is a man by the name of Jeff Varasano. He is the leader of a movement expounding a scientific approach to pizza. Equal parts Alton Brown & Cooks Illustrated—Jeff Varasano believes that perfection of a seemingly simple dish such as pizza is not only possible, but just around the corner. In his eyes—the perfect pizza is easily recognizable. Crisp yet fluffy. Thin yet substantial. It’s a pizza that brings forth child hood memories, but is sophisticated enough that it inspires the respect of the culinary elite. 

His wants everyone to understand that his pizza is the process of years of experimentation. The fruit of numerous travels to the best pizza restaurants in the world. It’s the product of a single minded determination towards improvement of a single item. Anyone that reaches the top in any field (even a Rubik’s Cube competition) possesses the ability to focus intently on their craft. It is this dedication that is most apparent when you first meet him.

Once he realizes where you’re from, conversations will revolve around pizza joints in your home town. The next topic will be the pizza resting on your plate. The bubbles in the crust and black markings signify that the oven is at the proper temperature. Thank god he says. They were having trouble with maintaining a proper temperature just last week. The basil leaves are from a new supplier, but he’s still not happy with the quality. He’s contacted a new farmer to grow his herbs. An important items like basil can’t be left to chance. The conversations are a bit forced and awkward. Almost like he’s trying to prove his expertise to a skeptical audience.

The stresses of opening a restaurant for the first time are clearly visible in his eyes. And the insecurity that comes from being presented with direct criticism is noticeable. In what occupation other than the restaurant world is the judgment so sudden and so harsh. The hype this little pizza place has generated may be great for business, but it also means that expectations are set so high; disappointment will often be the result.

Asked about the response he’s gotten from some of the local community, he seems baffled by the vitriol that he’s inspired. Why would someone be angry that they couldn’t place a to go order by phone—after all, that’s what the Tavern at Phipps does? What right does someone have to judge me after just a single meal? These question arise from the part of the mind that helps rationalize failure. They help to plaster over the doubt that starts to seep in the mind of one who is criticized suddenly, and harshly for something that everyone else has praised him for throughout his life.

But, enough about the man. Even though this restaurant currently seems to be more about Jeff and his story, than the food he serves. The focus will eventually shift—and the food will have to stand on it’s own. Luckily for Jeff, it does. The reality is that Varasano’s Pizza serves a damn good pizza. Whether or not he deserves the hype associated with him shouldn’t be the question of the day. The question should be, does he serve food that is worthy of being noticed, discussed and enjoyed. And on this question, the most important question, the answer is clearly yes. And for that—he deserves our respect.

While Jeff may think he needs the confirmation he currently craves, his insecurity will soon pass. Before long he will gather enough true believers in his approach that his beliefs will be validated. The life of a prophet is never easy. Some people will always view you as a heretic. Even if all you’re preaching is a different approach to pizza.

Varasano’s Pizzeria Restaurant Address & Information:
2171 Peachtree Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30309 // P: 404.352.8215 // Varasano’s Pizzeria Website // Varasano’s Menu

About The Author

This guest post was written by Adam Harrell, a local foodie and interactive marketer. You can find him at www.neboweb.com/blog/

More On Knife Sharpening

Posted by adam.harrell on March 16, 2009

Follow up to How to Sharpen A Knife: A Good Demonstration

To be honest the home cook rarely needs to sharpen (once to twice a year for even the most active home cooks) — if they properly care for their knives. I would also recommend leaving the knife sharpening to the professionals (Alton Brown is with me on this one). It’s relatively cheap and it’s rarely needed.

However, honing regularly is a necessity and every cook should master the honing technique. The other thing to realize that a department store is no place to buy your knives, and they should never come in a block. It’s a recipe for disappointing knife-ware.

For those that want great, but affordable knives I highly recommend: Victorinox Forschner — they’re consistently rated top end for lower cost knives by Cooks Illustrated. I love my Global knives, but the reality is that they’re a big ole waste of moola. Although they do feel great in your hands and give the best blisters with heavy use (sarcasm on the blisters).

Couple of key knife keeping tips:

-Never wash your knives in the dishwasher.
-Always thoroughly dry your knife after use. Never let it sit wet. Wet leads to dull.
-Never use a glass, granite or hard surface cutting board. Will ruin your edge quicker than a dishwasher

Recipe: Roasted Chicken & Potatoes

Posted by adam.harrell on December 21, 2008

My Favorite Roast Chicken Recipe 
(derived from America’s Test Kitchen’s High Temperature Roast Chicken)

Everyone has their opinion on the best roasted chicken recipe; whether it’s multi-day involvement of the Zuni recipe, the classic simplicity of Thomas Keller’s take, or this quick version from ATK – they all have one thing in common: small roaster chickens & high temperatures. The ATK version below is my personal favorite. The potatoes cooked in the rendered chicken fat are delicious. It’s also perfect with a side of roasted brussel sprouts; just put a sheet pan of oiled & seasoned brussel sprouts into the oven halfway through the cooking time.

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