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Joy Cafe Atlanta

Posted by Liz and John Attaway, 12/20/20

We heard a rumor that Joy Café in Midtown serves up the best brunch in the city, but what we know for absolute certainty is that they have a delectable dinner menu and specialty cocktails! The second you walk in; you’re greeted with a larger-than-life Christmas tree in the center of the dinning room. With babbles and ornaments, tons of colorful lights, packages, and a train running around the bottom, what stands out is the word Joy. Not only is Joy Café have it in it’s name, it’s a testament to the love and you know we’re going to say it, joy, that goes into every dish and cocktail that they make. Like the tree, larger-than-life flavors and textures are in every bite, like the best southern fried chicken we’ve found in Atlanta, the healthy salmon, savory pork belly ribs, “southerned-up” ahi tuna ceviche, amazing cocktails, and unforgettable homemade hot sauce. Who’s ready to eat?

During the holidays, Joy Café turns their bar into a holiday pop-up with fresh, unique cocktails that meld simple, yet diverse flavors. The three from the holiday cocktail menu included Cuddly as a Cactus, Stocking Stuffer, and The Milk and Cookies Santa Really Wants. Our favorite of the three was the Grinch-inspired Cuddly as a Cactus (charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch). You ending up singing that last bit, didn’t you? From the black coupe to the green hue, it packs a ton of flavors like chartreuse, citrus, but very little smoke of the mezcal. It comes off very balanced between the bold chartreuse flavors and the citrus.  On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Stocking Stuffer that’s coated in candy cane flecks and sugar, this one starts off sweet and milky of the egg then comes around and hits you with bold peppermint. It’s a Christmas treat to say the least. We can’t agree more with The Milk and Cookies Santa Really Wants. Boozy kahlua shot inside a fresh homemade cookie glass you can eat after? Yes, please. Plus, the cookie is so good you may want to get TWO, just for the cookie! Now, that’s definitely what Santa would approve.

Starting off with a couple of appetizers, we opted for the Pork Belly Ribs and the Ahi Tuna Ceviche. One of the favorite bites of the night, had to be the ceviche with creamy guacamole, perfectly tender and marinated in bloody mary mix tuna then topped with fried onions. We think it is genius that they added a hint of southern with the fried onions. They’re delightfully and really gives this dish a uniqueness! It comes off with all the flavors, creamy, meaty, crunchy, and tart. As for the Pork Belly Ribs, you’re in for a hearty, rich treat with so many bold and dynamic flavors. From the tender and perfectly cooked belly to the chunky and rich grits to a phenomenal hot sauce, you end up with a meaty, earthy, creamy, and spicy bite all in one. Speaking of the homemade hot sauce, you must try it. It has peppers in it, perfectly seasoned, creamy, and very spicy and puts those boring one-note hot sauces to shame. It’s on the pork belly and comes with the fried chicken, but we bet you could put it on just about anything.

Speaking of the fried chicken, we cannot stop thinking about this dish. It’s perfect. The crunchy, crispy, and oh, so naughty skin peels back to reveal a tender and juicy bird. The skin is so good with rich buttermilk, the right amount of spices, and that unforgettable crunch. But don’t forget to eat with the meat because it’s so tender it just falls right off the bone. This dish comes with not-your-mommas mac and cheese that’s so rich and cheesy. On the other side, we also opted for a healthier option, the Salmon. Just because we said it was healthier, we didn’t mean a lack of flavor. The succulent salmon is topped with a light creamy, lemony sauce atop a bead of mixed lentils, chick peas, celery, carrots, and more. The accoutrements are a lot like a cassoulet but just on the light side without too much fuss.  It’s nicely seasoned and the crunch goes so well with the tenderness of the salmon and the lightness of the sauce.

Save room for dessert, because here comes the Milk and Cookies Pie that we’ve heard they’re famous for! It looks more like a cake, but definitely eats like a pie. Light and airy filling paired with cookie crust, you can imagine you’re eating literal milk and cookies. Now that you’ve had a few things on the menu, what do you want to try? For us, next time, meatloaf! We also must get out and try this brunch too. We have to confirm that rumor.

McCray’s Tavern East Cobb

Posted by Liz and John Attaway, 11/30/20

Just as the sun sets in the sky, the lights start to glow inside McCray’s Tavern East Cobb, while the hustle and bustle of the guests, bartenders, and staff picks up. The energy permeates the air and entices you to enjoy a light appetizer, try the latest chef’s special, and maybe a cocktail or two. We also have to admit, McCray’s Tavern is more eatery than the Tavern name suggests with dynamic and diverse dishes that Chef Mo continues to knock out of the park. Yes, McCray’s Tavern East Cobb may have traditional tavern fare like wings and burgers, but when you see the extensive menu and specials, all you know is you’re in for a treat. From feisty, spicy tuna tartare, delectable duck, divine butternut squash agnolotti, hearty pork chop, to the lemony East Meets West cocktail, McCray’s Tavern East Cobb turns tavern into culinary adventure. Who’s ready to eat?

While waiting for our food, we sipped on two frisky cocktails, the East Meets West and the Mayan Copa. East Meets West does a balancing act between the smooth gin, lemon, and tiki bitters. Light, lemony, and refreshing, this patio sipper, has so much flavor! This ended up being the favorite because it’s one of those drinks you could have a few of and really enjoy! The other cocktail was Mayan Copa. This margarita-like number takes it up a notch with a little bit of grapefruit and dark colored salt on the rim to give it some sass. It’s a beautiful cocktail with the dark salt contrasting the pink of the drink.

When the food arrived, we couldn’t wait to dive into our first course, which started with the spicy tuna tartare and ended with thai chili wings. This is not your regular tuna tartare, it’s a fun take on this dish with a perfect mixture of tender, spicy, tuna, plus ginger, lime, and garlic. Not too spicy and with a ton of flavor, it’s topped with a dreamy avocado mousse that gives it that right amount of creaminess. Don’t forget to eat it with the wonton chips, those give it that crunch. Our pro tip is to make sure to mix it all together well and eat with those chips. Flavor time! Something McCray’s does well are wings. From the crispiness of the skin, mighty meaty flats, and spicy, sweet thai chili glaze, we were definitely treated to a plate of goodness. No ranch or blue cheese required.

Something we didn’t expect was that amazing specials that McCray’s Tavern East Cobb offers daily! We sampled both the Tea-Brined Duck and the Pasta of the Day, Butternut Squash Agnolotti. Starting with the pasta, this to-die-for dish marries hearty, sweet pasta stuffed with creamy butternut squash with a phenomenal truffle vinegar and butter pecan glaze. With hints of lemon, butter, and the bite of hard cheese, it’s rich, cheesy, hearty, creamy, earthy, sweet, with the perfect amount of sauce. Are you hungry yet? We’re not done, either. Next, the Tea-Brined Duck started with a tender piece of meat with a little crisp on the skin. Paired with a delectable, slightly crunchy jasmine rice cake and a citrus-forward, orange miso glaze, this was a match made in heaven. The richness of the duck works so well with the orange of the glaze and the crunchiness of the rice and skin. We’re thinking just like pork and peaches is a winning combo, let’s add duck and orange to your dynamic duo list.

Finally, we couldn’t resist a crack at trying the Wood Grilled Pork Chop. Boy, we weren’t disappointed as the pork chop was just as tender and juicy as advertised. Simply seasoned and thick pork chop gives off a slightly charred flavor followed by a deep and rich pork flavor that is so basic, but is just one of the best flavors in the world. Must try. We got it with crunchy, earthy, and garlicy green beans that really brightened the dish! Yum.

Something we love about McCray’s Tavern East Cobb is the energy of the manager and how it permeates his team. His love for food, fine dining, seafood, and the customer experience really made this dinner special and not just for us, but for everyone that goes and eats there. Plus, we can’t wait to see what Chef Mo comes up with next, just watching their Instagram makes us hungry, and a little jealous. We’d love to try ALL of those amazing specials they show!

Woodward & Park Brunch

Posted by Liz and John Attaway, 11/19/20

Across from Oakland Cemetery in Grant Park, restaurants, bars, and housing are popping up like wildfire and adding to the appeal of the area.  Joining long standing staple Six Feet Under, Woodward & Park like newbies Full Commission and Firepit, have infiltrated and elevated Grant Park into a must-go destination in Atlanta for both food and site seeing. At Woodward & Park everything from the fabulous cocktails to the amazingly staple breakfast fare to the divine Croque Madame Burger to unique dishes like the Shakshuka and Grits, they have to have one of the best brunches in Atlanta right now. You’ll want to write this down and save it for later. Here we go.

Sipping on a few cocktails with brunch is one of the best ways to start your weekend and depending on what you like, you can either go classic Butterfly cocktail or brunchy Roc N Rec Shooter. Starting with the Butterfly, this one had a ton of sass with a melding of gin, tonic, elderflower, lime, and butterfly pea flower. She’s a floral based cocktail that balances between the sweet and tart of the ingredients. This one we’d argue is a great summer sipper for almost any occasion, not just brunch. On the other hand, the Roc N Rec Shooter is perfect for brunching because it reminds us of breakfast itself. You can just think of it as a PBJ milkshake or even reminiscent of the childhood sandwich with a glass of milk. One part peanut butter whiskey, one part blackberry, and a splash of cream, this drink is nutty, creamy, and sweet.  And since we love unique sips, this one is a must sample on our list.

Two of the brunch dishes we chose turned out to be so dynamic and delicious, we wanted to rave about them. The most unique had to be one that we’d never seen on another brunch menu, the Mediterranean inspired Shakshuka and grits. It has so many flavors and textures with the harissa spices, tender tomatoes, eggs, and grainy yet creamy grits. It’s a plethora of spicy, sweet, creamy, crunchy, and ends savory with the runny egg.  One simple, yet amazing bowl, but make sure to mix it up well and get all the ingredients in one bite. Perfect. Something even better than this is imaginable, but we found it, the Croque Madame Burger. Starting with tender and rich meat in the middle and expanding into crunchy and crusty toast and surrounded by tons of cheese and runny egg, this burger wasn’t much to look at really. One bite and you’re in love with the meatiness, richness of the bone marrow, creamy of the cheeses, and savory gooeyness of the egg. It begins with a crunch and ends with so much savor. Our tip is to get the egg all runny and let it sink in a little to the bread. Cannot stop thinking about it!

If you go with more traditional breakfast fare, say the English Muffin Sandwich, you have to get it with the fried chicken! The English muffin made in-house had the right amount of crunch on the outside and warm bread inside! Then, the fried chicken was tender and juicy, while the breading was crispy with a slight spice. You can get it plain or with cheese and eggs. Either way, you’re in for a treat. Why don’t we finishing this off a classic mimosa?

Remember when we said to write this down? If you could have anything at Woodward & Park, what would you have? Next time for us, brisket hash for brunch and at dinner, bone marrow!

Atlanta Fish Market

Posted by Liz and John Attaway, 11/11/20

In the heart of Buckhead, one place that has withstood the test of time is the classic seafood spot, Atlanta Fish Market. Greeted by a gigantic fish and a gaudy neon sign, they serve up seafood that’s so fresh that it’s flown in every day! Of the menu, this go-to spot has it all from captivating carpaccio, sassy sushi, killer cocktails, delicate sea bass and salmon, to even scrumptious dessert. It’s apparent Atlanta Fish Market corners the market on fresh fish. Drop an anchor and join us for a see-food extravaganza.

What’s a good meal without the cocktails that go with it? We sampled three that included The Bramble, Beachside, and Sidecar. Pinkish purple in hue, the Bramble is boozy, and sweet with the blackberry puree, make sure to mix it up because it balances between the two and you get a dynamic drink. The Beachside is an easy, breezy cocktail that reminds you of the “islands.” With hints of coconut rum and the slight tart of the grapefruit, you’ll go from sweet to tart throughout the entire sip. The one that ended up being our favorite was the Sidecar. It was mellow and balanced with the sweeter cognac and the booziness of the Gran Marnier. What we loved was that it was so clean with just a hint of lemon on the back. Which one would you want to try?

To get us started on food, they brought out the Yellowtail Carpaccio. The fish itself is marinated in olive oil and was so tender that it literally would melt-in-your mouth. Plus, it was perfectly seasoned then topped with shallots and onion that mixed together into a meaty and tart bite. Our pro tip is to add the fresh lemon squeeze for a little bit of brightness. All together we’d recommend skipping the bread and just eat it plain. It’s everything you’d imagine and more.

The addition of sushi at Atlanta Fish Market is a welcome sight because with the fresh fish would come the best sushi, right? Both rolls we tasted were simply dynamite! The first one was the Tiger Roll. Imagine the tender tuna, crunch of tempura, the creaminess of cream cheese, and a sweet and spicy of the sauce all rolled up in seaweed for everything sushi should taste like! Plus, we loved the addition of the asparagus because it brought a little extra crunch and earthiness, so it ended up being creamy, crunchy, earthy, and just plain GOOD. A must try. The second roll that knocked our socks off was the Volcano Roll. This spicy number was super colorful in both sight and taste! Starting with the crunchy cucumber intertwined with the mellow and spicy tuna and the creamy avocado, then the spicy comes in to punch your mouth. We mean that in a good way, too. The best bite is to choose the pieces with the avocado and fish together on the outside because you get more of the creamy flavor and it mellows some of the spice. This one has all the flavors and another must try.

Don’t get us started on how much we adored the Hong King Combo Chilean Sea Bass and Faroe Island Salmon Entree. This wonderful dish is a simple, fresh, and tender sea bass and salmon duo atop a moat of a fantastic sweet soy sauce and wilted spinach greens. We cannot express how perfectly fresh the fish turned out to be or how it literally fell apart in your mouth. Surrounded by sweet and rich soy forward sauce that’s perfectly balanced, not too salty, complimented the tenderness of the fish and the earthiness of the greens. Then, insert rice to soak up all the deliciousness of all the ingredients! Still dreaming of this plate.

The literal icing on the cake was the Mousse Cake. The light and airy chocolaty mousse combines well with the decadent and rich chocolate cake layers. We swear they must have some type of alcohol cooked into the layers it’s so rich and deep! Stop, do not remove the sugar crisp on the top, instead crunch it up and mix it in the cake and mousse because it elevates the cake with some crunch and bite. Every bite was calorie free, we’re sure! Worth it.

What we loved so much about Atlanta Fish Market is they have a little something for everyone; sushi for the sushi lover, entrees with the freshest fish, lobster and oysters for the shellfish lovers. What sounds the best to you?

IL Localino: A Little Spot Big On Flavor

Posted by Liz and John Attaway, 11/1/20

Stuffed with an array of Japanese lanterns intermingling with twinkle lights and a large wine wall, Il Localino in between the Highlands and Inman Park is a little place serving up larger than life flavors. From the earthy and mellow burrata salad, pitch perfect rigatoni Bolognese, the rich and savory Lamb Osso Bucco, signature cocktails, and right down to the meatballs, there’s nothing little about Il Localino, including two of the nicest, warmest owners around! Let’s take a walk around the menu, warning, this is going to make you hungry.

The pair of cocktails that were recommended, Espresso Martini and Purple rain, we’re both fantastic. The favorite of the bunch was the Espresso Martini with its stout coffee flavor that mixes with the booziness of the alcohol and a comes with dash of sugar on the rim for something sweet. We could sip on this all day and just relax! This has ended up being one of our favorite cocktails we’ve had all year. The other cocktail was the Purple Rain that muddles blueberries and lime with vodka. This beauty comes to life with a sassy and tart sweet one-two punch. If you’re looking for a patio sipper, this one is for you.

A simple, classic, Italian feast was presented to us starting with an impeccable burrata and arugula salad. With a mellow, and light burrata, the soft cheese is paired with the earthiness and spice of the arugula and lathered in a deep and rich balsamic drizzle. All the flavors together with the crunch of the lettuce is a solid salad that’s a precursor to a fantastic Italian feast. Save some room because, the rigatoni Bolognese reminds you that a good, staple pasta plate can be just as amazing as anything fancy. Starting with the fresh pasta that was cooked in that sweet spot between al dente and super soft, the rigatoni itself was hefty and memorable. Topping it with the meaty, savory, tangy, Bolognese sauce and you have a rich and perfect plate of deliciousness. This is one of the best pasta dishes we’ve had this year and is a MUST try.

Just when you think your dinner can’t get any better, enters the Lamb Osso Bucco! A beautiful lamb shank that literally will fall off the bone is a rich and meaty piece of perfection. Then, it’s cooked in a deep and savory sauce that intertwines lemon, rosemary, and slightly creamy into one magnificent bite. The rosemary and lemon really brighten up the dish and create a balance to juxtapose between the richness of the meat and the delicateness of the sauce. Plus, the best accoutrement you could put with this dish is the cheesy polenta and marinated mushrooms. Our tip is to mix up the polenta, meat, sauce, and mushrooms into one bite. Insert mind blown emoji here. The pasta and the lamb were both so good, we actually couldn’t decide what we enjoyed more. Both dishes are something you need to put on your to-do list!

What would you want to try when you go to Il Localino? Thinking we’ll try one of the long list of specials like the sea bass next time paired with a fresh white wine glass. Salut!

Pricci: Authentic Italian

Posted by Liz and John Attaway, 10/14/20

Good Italian isn’t hard to find in Atlanta, but the moment you walk into Pricci, you’re taken back to a time when waiters doted over their guests, warm greetings where you almost felt like family, and classic dishes were made so well, you didn’t want anything more.  The Buckhead Italian staple does everything well from the savory meatballs, fantastic focaccia bread, meaty carpaccio, hearty pappardelle special pasta, desserts, wine selection, and a premium veal chop that will leave your mouth watering. Authentic Italian, homecooked classics, are back in style at Pricci, so let’s get going on an Italian culinary journey.

Before we even got our appetizers, we received the BEST bread, focaccia made with garlic and onion with a goat cheese and marinara sauce on the side. As it melted in our mouths, we had to order more because it was some of the best bread. Of the stellar starters, we chose the meatballs (you know we would) and the carpaccio. These two dishes that are on any real Italian menu and both were just divine. Starting with the meatballs, they were rich and meaty with a good mix of meats to even out the flavor, and a generous amount of marinara. We loved that the marinara boat had a little bit of ricotta cheese melted into it and you could chop up the meatball some and get a bite of the ball, cheese, and marinara all at once. Pro tip: top the focaccia bread that comes with your meal to eat the chopped-up meatballs. WOW! Second, the carpaccio super tender and thinly sliced topped with a tangy and sweet vidalia onion aioli. With the tangy, richness, and sweet of those ingredients, it really paired well with the earthiness of the arugula and the creaminess of the cheese. The best part was wrapping it all up on your fork and getting a little bit of those crunchy capers. It was just the icing on the cake: crunchy, earthy, creamy, rich, meaty, tangy, and sweet.

The second that Marco, the GM told us that their special pasta of the day was a lamb ragu pappardelle pasta dish, Liz exclaimed, “did you know I was coming today?” Ragu pappardelle is my (Liz’s) favorite pasta dish on an Italian menu, so I was thrilled. Starting with the perfectly cooked and tender lamb in a hearty ragu, tomato-based sauce which was savory and rich. The addition of wonderfully cooked and tender pappardelle and paired with a hint of blue cheese, it was divine. What I love is to roll up the lamb, sauce, and cheese into the pasta and eat it almost like a little wrap. Delicioso!

If you try anything at Pricci, it’s the veal chop. They bring in their veal from Holland and its diet is totally milk based, so it turns out even more tender, rich, and less gamy than other veal dishes you can get elsewhere. They carve the meat in-house and only receive 4 or 5 level meats. This melt-in-your-mouth carved cut of meat is heavenly. Like we said above, it’s perfectly cooked, light, tender, then topped with a savory and rich sauce that is a balanced sweet and savory. It really brings out the lightness of the veal. Then, paired with potatoes that soaks up a good bit of the sauce and earthiness of power greens in olive oil and lemon and you have a complete gamut of goodness: earthy, savory, sweet, starchy, I could go on. Are you sold yet?

Whatever you do, stay for some dessert and amazing in-house brewed espresso. The coffee was so rich and creamy, you didn’t need to add any sugar or cream. It was perfect all by itself. The crème bruele was everything you’d want in your vanilla custard-based dessert, perfectly flambeed with a crunchy and buttery top. John adored the gelato that had FRESH whole maraschino cherry gelato with very rich and creamy chocolate.

With every course finished, the last sip of wine was gone, espresso was empty, and our time at Pricci ended with the best Nutella brownies we got to take home. Can we go back now?

Tiki Tango: Island Paradise

Posted by Liz and John Attaway, 10/8/20

Once you step into Tiki Tango, you’re whisked away to a tropical island with all the sights and sounds of the jungle. You can imagine the palm trees hanging low, nestled close to a beautiful sprawling beach and the sound of the rain hitting the hut roof. There’s a humidity in the air beckoning you to grab a cocktail, so why not go for the best Tiki cocktail in Atlanta, Tiki Tango, or the striking Cobra’s Fang and even a classic boozy Mai Tai? Plus, did you know they have some fun, seriously delicious sharable bites? Come, join us on an island adventure that you won’t forget.

Tiki Tango is known for their stellar cocktails and we can’t speak any more highly about the Tiki Tango signature cocktail. It’s truly a perfect tiki cocktail, the best we’ve had in Atlanta. While you sip it, you can feel the pineapple and warm rum wash over you. The sweetness mixes well with the tea bitters, which really make this drink unique. Rich. Sweet. Tart. Slightly fruity. Perfect. There’s something naughty about the Cobra’s Fang with a balanced combo of rum, bitters, passionfruit, then it hits you. It creeps up on you and bites right when you least expect it, Demerara 151. One part boozy, one part sweet, it’s a fun drink. We’d recommend you share! Finally, no tiki bar is truly a tiki bar without doing the Mai Tai well. This was truly a great Mai Tai. We’ve had a ton and most of the time they come off sweet or watered down, this one was strong, booze forward with light citrus, lime, and the slight nuttiness of the almond. Refreshing and cool, but strong and tart, this is a solid cocktail.

Again, who knew that Tiki Tango had a great sharable menu? From our favorite Tiki Tango Tuna, plus the pineapple forward and refreshing Mauna Loa Hummus, to the Sticky Huli Huli Wings with a great sauce, crispy and tasty turmeric fried okra, and of course crispy flamingo fries with a freakin fantastic cucumber wasabi aioli, you can’t sleep on these bites.  Starting with the fresh and bright Tiki Tango Tuna, we loved the tender tuna atop of earthy and slightly peppery greens that mixed well with the savory vinaigrette and wasabi. It was a culmination of rich fish, earthy and tart ginger, greens, and the slight spice of the wasabi to be a balanced bite.

You don’t see many fried okra appetizers on menus around Atlanta, but who doesn’t love a good fried okra? The Turmeric Fried Okra was no exception with a crispy, slightly spicy, and rich batter that went well with the crunchy okra. Okra is a finicky vegetable and sometimes gets stringy or gooey, this one wasn’t! It had the right amount of crunch and tenderness! We think we can all agree that wings are always a good idea for the table, and the Sticky Huli Huli Wings didn’t disappoint. The stand-out was the slightly spicy, but sweet chili lime sauce that was just the right amount with the meat of the wings. The sauce was definitely sticky, but was delicious, wet naps required. One thing that we didn’t anticipate was how much we’d enjoy the pineapple-forward and savory Mauna Loa Hummus. We are now in love with the hummus and pineapple combo, it’s something we didn’t know you could even pair. It has the perfect balance of savory chick peas and crunchy sweet of the pineapple. We all agreed this one was fantastic! The Flamingo Fries were cut like a plank, which made it easy to shovel the cucumber wasabi aioli into our mouths. Spicy, creamy, cool, sweet, savory, four stars on the sauce. Can we get this on EVERYTHING?

Out back on the patio, the cool night breeze picked up and remind us about those long summer nights at the beach. The last of our cocktails dwindled and the tiki lights began to grow louder. We reminisced about our favorites, so we’d love to know what you’d like to try at Tiki Tango. Next time we’re getting the drink they set on fire.

Kyma: An Ode to Greece

Posted by Liz and John Attaway, 9/20/20

There’s a light breeze over the patio that’s randomly dotted with mosaic tile in blue and white patterns. The smell of candles and the ocean can be felt throughout the place, reminiscent of a warm night in Santorini or after a long walk through the Parthenon. With Kyma in Buckhead, you don’t need to get on a plane and head to Greece, because you can visit right here in Atlanta. The décor is pitch perfect with a lighted night sky inside to the beautifully crafted fireplace outside. Beautiful. But the best thing? The Food! Authentic Greek traditional fare elevated by carefully curated spices, flavors, and textures that work in harmony to create unforgettable dishes like lamb pie, Tsipoura fish, Octopus Mini, tartare trio, lamb chops, and everything else on this elegant menu. Let’s take a tour of Greece.

Starting with the array of meze that Chef Pano generously sent our way, we tried the Calamari, tartare trio (special of the night), lamb pie, Octopus Mini, spinach pie, and cheese. Starting with our two favorites, the Octopus Mini and the lamb pie, both bites were spot on! The Octopus Mini was the stand-out favorite meze of the tasting with the truly perfect cooked octopus, charred, and was almost like eating a very tender pork loin with a slight char and pop of the skin. Simply presented and seasoned well, it was the best octopus dish we’ve ever tasted. Just imagine this wonderful meat paired with capers and red onion to give it a little bite and earthiness. This is a must try. Second, the lamb pie, was everything you’d think and more with the crunch of the pastry, the spicy and flavorful lamb inside, and mixed with the yogurt to cool it down. It’s no wonder this beautiful dish is so tender, it’s cooked for 12-hours! Still thinking about this dish!

Everything else was just stellar, like the Calamari was cut into noodle-like strips and mixed with a creamy yogurt and bright zucchini to round out the fun dish that you can mix together yourself. We’ve never seen anything plated and done this way. We really thought it was spectacular! The special of the night was the tartare trio with tuna topped with caviar (fave), sea bass with spices and lemon, and salmon mixed with yogurt. All of them were savory, sweet, and a great little bite! Eat it with a spoon or on the crisp bread, either way you’ll really like these! One of John’s favorites was the cheese meze. It’s a Kasseri cheese that’s been sautéed and comes off rich and almost meaty, then finished off with ouzo for a boozy bite, lemon for brightness, and olive oil for earthiness. One of the best little cheeses you can ever get. Nothing screams Greece than a traditional spinach pie, AMIRIGHT? One of the staples we love in Greek food is always the spinach pie, but these little bites were just dynamite with a crispy shell and the spinach and feta came together exactly right.  You can’t go wrong with anything or any of these bites.

In between the meze and the entrée we got a break to cool it down with a trio of three salads. The watermelon, beet, and the Greek were all something you’d expect to be on a Greek menu, but they all have something that really make them stand-out. Take the watermelon and feta with the minty freshness and topped with a watermelon sorbet that cools and it melts and mixes well with the fresh watermelon and salty, creamy feta cubes. Yes, SORBET! As for the beet salad, it too is topped with a beet sorbet and boasts an array of beets, nuts, and an amazingly paired with warm sheep’s milk cheese. Creamy, earthy, and warm.  Finally, The Greek is just a perfectly seasoned and hearty cucumber, tomato, olive oil and basil. Simple and perfect.

As the night progressed, the sun started to set, and Chef Pano wowed us with the Tsipouri reveal from under a bed of grape leaves to show a whole fish, cooked with salt and seasoned with spices and simple lemon. They took it away to take the bones out and to butterfly it, but it was so fun to watch those grape leaves come off! Once the fish got back to the table, it was just as we thought, flaky and light with the right amount of seasoning, lemon, and slightly buttered olive oil that Chef Pano makes in house. It came with an assortment of sides and lamb chops. The lamb chops were perfectly cooked and had an amazing seasoning that gave the hearty lamb a little spice and a little earthiness. Roll them around in the tzatziki sauce, you won’t be sorry! As for the sides, the eggplant was amazing, like a hearty stew, with tender eggplant, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Then, add in the bright and tender kale wilted and seasoned with a generous amount of lemon. The both went well with the full-flavor and flakiness of the fish.

These amazing bites were perfectly paired with the Morpheus and Thirsty Philosopher cocktail, as well as a stellar Greek wine that drinks like a pinot grigio, called Boutari, a Moscofilero from Mantinia, Greece. The Morpheus was the favorite with a velvety and earthy gin mixed with St. elder, simple syrup, and hibiscus. Sweet and lively with a hint of booze on the back, just like we like it! The Thirsty Philosopher is a simple cucumber vodka drink with hints of cucumber, dill, and earthiness of gin on the back end. One of those drinks you could sip on with any entrée! Greeks love their wine and we know why. The Boutari is a fantastically drinkable, crisp, and light wine that pairs well with a light, flaky fish! Reminiscent of pinot grigio, it is one that we’d love to have again.

As the night sky turned to shades of deep purple and black, the lights from the restaurant spilled onto the patio and the candles were lit in the fireplace. The candles danced and leapt throwing shadows on the ground and creating a symphony of odd shapes. It felt like we were on a cozy street in Greece on a warm summer night.  Maybe we’ll stay for just one more moment.

Bistro Niko: Taste of Paris

Posted by Liz and John Attaway, 9/11/20

When you walk into Bistro Niko, you’re transported out of Buckhead to a quaint café on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. You can just feel the Parisian air filled with soft music, the smell of baguettes and the clatter of patrons enjoying their wine. From French staples like fantastic escargot, charcuterie, tartes, cocktails, and French inspired Skate Wing, there’s a little bit of that French inspiration in every dish. Would you take a stroll down to the Arc de Triomphe with us?

Starting with the hors d’oeuvres, we sampled the escargot, Jambon de asparagus, a little bit of the country pate plate, as well as the best little salmon tarte.  The favorite of these was the fresh and bright smoked salmon tarte with it’s slow-smoked in house and tender salmon atop a crisp “French pizza” bread and drizzled with an amazing crème fraiche. With the salt and slight fishiness of the salmon, crisp of the bread, creaminess of the crème, and earthiness of the minced onion and capers, it was a balance and delicious bite. A lox bagel all grown up!

Plus, who knew we loved escargot this much? Something we don’t eat very often, this is going on the “we need to try more” list, because it’s so rich and decadent you need your own bowl. You won’t want to share. From the buttery-goodness of the sauce surrounding the salty snail to the crunch and heft of the puff pastry, to the slight cheesiness around it, it was a fantastic little mouth full. It had so much deepness that it was unforgettable. Eat the entire bite at once. YUM.

Moving on to the Jambon and Pate, the Jambon, which is known to us as prosciutto, was PERFECTLY cut and literally would melt in your mouth. One of the best prosciutto slices we’ve ever tasted, the flavor itself was phenomenal! Perfectly paired with crunchy and tender asparagus, crunchy lettuce, and a rich poached egg, it was an all-around great bite. Salty, rich, crunchy, tasty. The traditional country pate reminded us of a make-your-own sandwich. Accompanied by crunchy lettuce, bread, pickles, and mustard, you could add all of it in one bite or eat the pate plain. The best bite here was to put some of the pate, lettuce, mustard, and one pickle on top. It’s a crunchy, salty, and meaty bite. Now, that’s a sandwich!

Don’t leave Bistro Niko without trying the chef’s favorite dish, Skate Wing. Something you don’t see very often on menus, we had to jump at the chance to try it this once. Let us tell you, it’s super rich and delectable! Starting with the ray itself, it starts out with a crunch on the outside and ends with tender and meaty, lightly salty on the back. Perfectly cooked in a brown butter that is so rich and deep that it simply melts in your mouth. The Skate is paired with tender spinach and potatoes to add earthiness and balance out the buttery fish. It was one of the best fish dishes we’ve had this year with so many complex flavors, yet so simple. We’d highly recommend!

What would a French dinner be without wine and cocktails? Not very Parisian, right? So, with each course, we sampled a different cocktail. With the escargot and Jambon we sampled the Trois Martini. This beauty is the perfect mix of vodka infused with strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry. It drinks just as juicy and bright as the fruit in it but with the vodka booze on the back. It’s so refreshing and good. With our second course of the tarte and pate, we decided to go with a wine cocktail mix called the Specialite Le St. Germain. One of the best champagne cocktails you can find here in Atlanta, it’s a delicate balance of floral St. Germain, champagne, and club soda. The perfect Parisian patio sipper with fizzy bubbles followed by floral notes and ending cool and crisp. Last but not least, with the Skate we enjoyed our favorite sip of the day, the Nouvelle Vie. Made with one of our favorite gins, Highclere Castle Gin and shaken with elderflower, Chareau, and Cucumber, it’s a dynamic all-around crowd pleaser. Imagine the earthy and piney of the gin on the front and finishes with floral and cucumber on the back. So flavorful and bold, this one is a must try.

The late lunch in the French café seeped into the evening and the lights of the Eiffel Tower started to glow in the background. The delicious meal now fading into memory but will mark an unforgettable portion of our trip to Bistro Niko, that spot that reminds us of Paris.

Fin.

STK Atlanta

Posted by Liz and John Attaway, 9/3/20

The large glass doors open slowly to reveal a swanky, low-light opulent bar, and luxury greeting space dotted with flashes of lights and a smooth beat permeating the air with cool vibes. STK Atlanta is one cool cat with sleek design and top-notch service, but don’t let its vibe fool you, they’re also very serious about their food. Everything your traditional steak house offers like a myriad of perfect cuts of steak, sauces, decadent sides to fun happy hour dishes like the rich beef tartare, stellar seafood options like the sea bass to specialty cocktails that reminisce of a hip night club. Our chef’s tasting had all of this, plus a dash of pizzazz to culminate in one of the most epic of culinary journey’s the city has to offer. Are you ready to be amazed?

Starting with our first course, the beef tartar. Beautifully presented, this beauty is packed with flavors, like the richness of the tender beef juxtaposed to the creaminess and tartness of the horseradish and earthiness of the olives. Mix that all up and pile it on a large, crunchy banana chip and you got a complete array of textures. We can’t get over how crunchy and hearty this dish turned out to be in the end. What better way to start your meal with a little bit of beef, and a cool sweet drink to complete it? With this course we sipped on the Strawberry Cobbler. A sweet and sassy pink drink that’s one-part sweet and tart strawberry and one-part boozy vodka martini. Finish it off with a sweet and rich graham cracker crust rim and you have a dessert in a glass. Pinky up.

Something we can’t stop thinking about is the second course dish, the sea bass. A fantastic and flaky, melt-in-your-mouth piece of decadence simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and dusted with butter. Even thought it is simply done, it is perfection. Just image that perfectly done fish on top of a fava bean puree mixed with fava beans, snap peas, and butter. It was soft, light, buttery, earthy, and crunchy. It had the gamut of flavors and knocked our socks off. Mark our words, this is one of the best fish dishes in Atlanta. For best bite, mix all the dish ingredients together. With our sea bass, we opted for the Shake Your Honey Maker cocktail. Their take on the tiki cocktail with a blend of pineapple, rum, honey, and vanilla. This was my (Liz’s) favorite cocktail because it reminded me of a cool beach day, sitting under an umbrella, watching the ocean waves crash on the beach. It was the beach in a glass. Don’t forget to get some of the sugar rim for something a little sweeter!

Have you ever had an experience that went down as one of the best of your lives? Enter the Tomahawk Steak with truffle and butter. Brought to the table plain, the butter is slathered on top and then the truffle is sliced FRESH right in front of you and layered on top of the steak. Beyond the top-notch presentation, it comes with all-out decadent sides and so many sauces, you almost have an endless combination of flavors to choose! Starting with the steak itself, tender and medium temperature, it has everything you’d imagine in a perfect steak with that meaty burst up front and a slight char on the back. Topped with the butter and truffle, you get a ton of creaminess up front, but the truffle comes in and mellows it into an earthy, creamy, meaty bite. You really don’t need ANY sauce for this gorgeous piece of meat, but if you do you can mix and match to find your favorite combination. With the butter and the truffle, we found that you can brighten up the bite with the chimichurri sauce or turn up the richness with the au poivre. If some tartness is what you’re looking for to pair with the butter and earthiness of the truffle and butter, why not MIX both the STK sauce and the STK sauce with sriracha? No matter what you pick, you’re in for a real treat. Perfection on a plate.

You can’t go to a steak house and not get an array of fabulous sides that are beyond good. From the truffle mac n cheese to the jalapeno cheese grits and the newest side, egg-in-a-hole, you’re taste buds are in for a roller coaster! The best of the three was the truffle mac n cheese, which was so rich, deep, cheesy, creamy, and earthy, there’s no way to you’re NOT finish that whole thing. It’s one of those sides you can’t stop eating. They also offer bacon, lobster, and other flavors to top on there, but for just the base mac n cheese it’s one of the best we’ve ever had, EVER. The jalapeno cheese grits were the perfect blend of out-of-control cheesy to slightly spicy. Plus, the egg-in-a-hole was a fun, different side with a runny egg that created a sauce over the succulent mushrooms. Which side would you choose?  Put us down for some more mac n cheese, please.

To end our epic night of decadence, was the dessert board with a little bit of every dessert on the menu. We sampled the bag of donuts, cheesecake, chocolate cake, and the cookie sundae. Each were delicious in their own way, the cheesecake with hints of key lime and rich crust was tart and slightly sweet, while the donuts were flaky, puffy, and sweet with spicy or sweet dipping sauce. These are good for those who like their desserts on the lighter and sweeter side. Of all the desserts, the chocolate cake and the cookie sundae stood out. Being a decadent dessert lover, we both really enjoyed the chocolate cake. It was an explosion of rich, dark chocolate with tender cake. The cookie sundae was so rich, chocolate-forward, and delicious topped with ice cream and chocolate sauce. This was Liz’s favorite because it was warm, gooey, and so deep and rich that it was the perfect icing on the cake for this great meal.

Did we mention we wish we would have worn our elastic waist pants? With the evening winding down and the darkness coming over the buildings, we left happy and stuffed. This is one of those meals, you’d never forget! So, next time you’re in midtown, whether you want a light bite for happy hour, which they have daily with great deals, or in for a full meal, this is the spot to go. Next time, I want to try that $5 Lil’ Burger for happy hour. It’s so cute and looks amazing! What do you want to try?