Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cibo e Beve

101 Concepts, the group behind behind Food 101 and Meehan's Public House, opened their newest venture, Cibo e Beve (pronounced Chee-boh e Bevay---Italian for Food and Drink) one year ago. To celebrate the anniversary, they invited a bunch of us blogger and media folk to a special 5-course dinner featuring some of Chef Linda Harrell's signature dishes and her newest creations.

The menu, much like any good Trattoria, is not terribly formal or stuffy. Cibo e Beve polishes familiar Italian cuisine by using local, seasonal ingredients as well as many specialty foods imported from Italy.

There is an intense attention to detail in the food and drink offered at Cibo e Beve. The bar uses only pristine block ice for drinks. No cloudy ice cubes here. Just one perfect piece of ice in every cocktail. Less melting; less diluting.

Mixologist Justin preparing his signature cocktail: gin, bitters, home made lemonade, orange zest....simple and delicious
The food is equally special, carefully executed, simply and beautifully plated and happily devoid of all unnecessary garnish (which makes me crazy...if I can't eat it, don't put it on the plate!).

Our first course was a delicate goat cheese panna cotta, set on a perfect, crispy slice of fried green tomato. Pancetta syrup (amazing!), Marcona almonds and lovely, lightly bitter, micro greens finished the plate. Now, I've got to say, I always admire a Chef who can pull off a successful panna cotta. It's not an easy task. I know that from several of my own disasters. But Chef is a panna cotta rock star. This was a beautiful dish; silky smooth goat cheese custard, perfect fried tomato, a sweet drizzle and smoky almonds. I'd eat that again, and again, and again.....

Goat Cheese Panna Cotta

Caramelized black figs with Burrata mozzarella and artisan prosciutto. A simple dish? Yes. Not too unusual? Yes. I've had this before? Yes, several times. But under Chef Harrell's hand this combination turns into something magical. Why? I can't answer. This was just sweet-savory perfection on a plate. Try to get a little of everything on your fork as you eat this and you will understand what I'm trying (and failing) to communicate. I'd also eat this one again, and again....

Caramelized figs, burrata, prosciutto
Lobster spaghetti. Who calls perfectly cooked al dente pasta sporting huge chunks of sweet lobster dressed with a lovely briny broth spaghetti? This dish was too lovely to be tagged just spaghetti. Couldn't we call it perciatelli con brodo di aragoste e pesce? I'd guess no. That would be too pretentious and this is not a pretentious place. This was wonderful. The server offered freshly grated cheese. I'm glad I said no. The flavors were so well balanced; the cheese would have ruined it. Another star.

Spaghetti with lobster...look at all that lobster!
Gulf Coast Pan Seared Black Grouper with Cauliflower Puree, Sea Beans, Citrus Olive Oil.

This was not my favorite but before I go any further I need to qualify my remarks: everyone else loved it. My fish was too long in the pan. It lacked seasoning. The sea beans were delicious, all salty and sea-weedy. The cauliflower puree was satiny smooth and rich with cauliflower flavor. But, nothing seemed to go together. For me anyway. Maybe next time just the beans or just the puree?

Grouper, sea beans, cauliflower puree
Our last course was a rich, chocolaty, liqueur soaked tiramisu. And, as I was beginning to discover, this dish is classic Cibo e Beve. Nothing unusual until Chef Harrell gets involved. The tiramisu was so light and so airy, almost like chocolate mousse. But it had all the wonderful tiramisu flavors---coffee, chocolate, mascarpone, liqueur, lady fingers. Our server offered espresso with this. It was the perfect match and perfect ending to a delicious meal.

Chef Harrell's Tiramisu

Cibo e Beve will begin serving brunch on August 5th. Based on our dinner, I expect the food will be amazing
Brunch Menu

The interior of the restaurant is comfortable and unpretentious and the wait staff is beyond professional. Be prepared to find them anticipating what you want before you know it. Well done staff! The kitchen is open and there's a counter in front of it where you can dine and watch your food being prepared.


Cibo e Beve on Urbanspoon
Cibo e Beve on Foodio54

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pizza, Pizza

A big fat slice of New York style pizza is the stuff of my dreams. I just can't find it here in Atlanta, even with Antico and Double Zero.

I just crave those giant slices of crispy crust pizza dripping with oil and topped with gobs of melting, mouth burning cheese. The kind you fold in half that over hangs the plate it comes on. The kind that comes from those tiny 100-year-old joints where you can step up to a window that opens to the street. Am I homesick for that kind of pie? You bet!

I tried to reproduce it in my own kitchen. Didn't come close. My oven isn't hot enough. I couldn't make the pie big enough. The dough didn't have NY City water. I didn't have cheap paper plates.

However. I did turn out a pretty decent home-made pizza. (I added anchovies to one and there was no one there to make a face at me for eating those salty little fish).

How to Make Pretty Decent Pizza at Home
(makes 4 personal size pizzas)
Ingredients for the dough:
Unbleached flour makes a lovely crispy light crust
3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast---1 pkg
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/4 cup of tepid water
1 cup room temp water
3 tablespoons of good olive oil

The ingredients
  • Add the yeast and the sugar to the 1/4 cup of water, stir gently and set aside, uncovered, until the mix is foamy and double in volume
  • Lightly (olive) oil a large mixing bowl and set it aside
  • Add the flour and the salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse 3-4 times.
  • When the yeast has doubled, add it to the 1 cup of water along with the olive oil.
  • With the processor running, slowly pour in all of the liquids.
  • Continue processing until the dough comes together into a ball. Process one minute more.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 1 minute. If the dough is too sticky add a little more flour (1 tablespoon at a time); if it's too dry sprinkle on a little tepid water (1 teaspoon at a time). Knead for 1 minute after adding extra flour or water.
  • Put the dough into the oiled bowl, turning it so all the dough is slicked with oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in a draft free place to rise. The inside of your oven is perfect (heat off!).
  • When the dough has doubled in volume (1 to 2 hours) turn it out onto an unfloured board, punch it down and cut into four equal parts. 
  • The dough can now be used, wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen.
  • Bring the dough to room temp before using.
Baking your pie:
  •  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Lightly sprinkle a cookie sheet or pizza pan with corn meal. If you're lucky enough to own a pizza stone, set it in the oven while it's pre-heating and toss some corn meal onto the stone right before adding the pizza.
  • Stretch or roll out the dough to form a rough 10-12" round. Don't worry if it's not exactly round. Sprinkle lightly with olive oil, S&P to taste and add your toppings. Do not over load the pie. Less is better.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden. Eat!
The pie...I used fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and topped it all with lots of grated parmesan and a light sprinkle of Maldon salt

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Gone Fishing

Visiting Long Island means at least one visit to the ocean and a meal of sweet fresh fish literally right off the boat. That's the beauty of living near the sea. Nothing frozen, nothing that's traveled more than a few miles before it hits your plate.

Son and I made that ocean visit a while ago looking for something delicious to put on the grill.

Freeport's Nautical Mile---locally known as the mile---is a stretch of restaurants, fish markets, ice cream and novelty shops anchored at the end by Randall Park and one of the dozens of small inlets and bays dotting the South Shore of Long Island. 

It is also the home to one of the best fish markets I've ever seen (and I have seen quite a few)...Two Cousins Fish Market. Aside from a spectacular array of beautiful sweet smelling seafood the market is manned by nice helpful people who know their fish and take pride in their store.

Daddy used to fill old baskets like these with clams and lobsters...I loved going with him  to gather stuff for clam bakes. 

 Fishing docks are directly behind the market...can't get much fresher than that.

We spent quite a bit of time wandering the store admiring a huge array of lovely briny seafood. We also had a hard time deciding on what we wanted. I could have easily walked off with enough to feed an army it all looked so good.

                                   Huge crab or two and you have a meal.

                                  These guys were still squirming....easily 3# each.

Final decision for dinner that night: a big bag of soft shell steamers and lots of delicate filet of sole
The clams....into a heat proof pan, drizzled with a little wine and fresh lemon, covered with foil and onto the grill 'til they opened. Melted butter and clam broth for dipping and bread to sop it all up. Yum. 

    After the feast..soooooo good.

Filet of Sole on the Grill
1# fresh filets of sole
1 lemon
S&P to taste
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

Lay the filets in a single layer in a shallow sided heat proof pan. Drizzle with juice of 1/2 the lemon, season to taste with S&P, dot with the butter and dust lightly with paprika.

Cover the fish loosely with foil and place on a medium hot grill for  5-7 minutes or until the fish just begins to flake. Careful not over cook this fish or it will become chewy.

Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with it's accumulated juices and wedges of lemon.


Crazy hot...

I don't have to remind anyone how brutal the heat has been the last week or so. My A/C is struggling to keep up and friend Stan tells me it can only cool down 20 degrees from the outside temp. That means I'm living with +80 degree temps in my house. It's just too hot. My energy and my appetite have tanked.

So what did we do for the Fourth of July with little motivation and less interest in food?

Find the nearest watering hole, bring an assortment of adult bevs....

                          And..........a basket load of sweet fresh fruit.

Happy Birthday USA!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dunwoody Restaurant Week June 23 - June 30

Dunwoody celebrates its diverse line up of local and national chain restaurants with $10 prix-fixe menus. One week only, June 23 - June 30. Click on the link below for participating restaurants.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Seasons 52, at the perimeter, Dunwoody GA

Seasons 52 got its name from the original concept of changing the menu weekly to reflect what foods were at their absolute seasonal best. After burning out several chefs and facing complaints from loyal guests, the changes were scaled back to a few times a year. I am glad that's what they're now doing because you have time to go eat the food we enjoyed the other night.

The occasion was to launch their summer menu and owner/Chef Fred Schrock and owner/Manager Jay Clark pulled out all the stops.

First up were two flat bread pizzas; one with BBQ chicken and richly decadent balsamic onions and the other topped with creamy, soft goat cheese and artichokes. They were crisp, delicious, perfect bites while we waited for dinner to start. We sipped a sparkling fresh Vinho Verde (Portugal) and voted on the flat bread winner. I liked the BBQ, my table mates chose the artichoke and goat cheese.

Crisp flat bread deliciousness...BBQ left and goat cheese/artichoke right
Dinner followed with four courses, each better than the next and I was surprised to find out that nothing served at that restaurant is over 475 calories. All the food is screaming fresh, light, wonderful and (for this season) summery.

Chilled lobster and shrimp spring rolls wrapped in rice paper were loaded with nice chunks of lobster and shrimp and came with 3 sauces for dipping: salsa verde, lovely creamy lemongrass (my fav) and sweet-hot chilli. I could have stopped eating there and gone home sated but more---lots more---was to come.
Lovely spring rolls

A refreshing arugula salad followed sporting the same wonderful goat cheese that topped the flat bread along with watermelon, perfectly grilled wedges of sweet golden beets and toasted pistachios. However, the dish that landed on the table next was a standout.

Dubbed the Summer Vegetarian Tasting, it was unlike any vegetarian plate I'd ever experienced. It's rare to find a Chef treating vegetables and healthy grains with as much importance as red meat or expensive seafood. Creative, deliciously executed, beautiful to look out and the taste? each mouthful better than the next but the best mouthful was probably the simplest: a thick slice of summer fresh tomato tasting like a tomato should (and rarely does) drizzled with lovely balsamic. Thank you to a confident Chef who can step back and let one of nature's wonders shine on its own. The soft taco, chili relleno and exotically delicious mango chutney sparkled with layers of heavenly flavors.  I'd order that plate again, eat up every morsel and walk away smiling and content.

Summer vegetarian tasting: grains of life (cranberry studded farro & quinoa), soft taco, chilli relleno, tofu, mango chutney, grilled asparagus

Wild Alaskan Copper River Salmon was succulent, lightly charred, perfectly grilled. Probably the best piece of salmon I've ever had and I understand the beautiful color on the fish comes from their wild diet of Pacific shrimp. Ringing the salmon was another standout, a velvety dense corn sauce that left me wanting to lick the plate (I didn't). Sadly, the corn risotto that accompanied was a pale, unnecessary, unneeded addition to a plate of stars. Pass on that.

Salmon with a nice touch, grilled lemon
It amuses me sometimes how Chefs are always looking for the new or unusual or riffs on something old rendering many traditional foods and techniques outdated, old fashioned. And all for little apparent reason other than to perhaps distinguish themselves from an increasingly crowded pack. There are also times when I wonder what were they thinking when the new sounds so awful, horrible, unappetizing. Scavenging thistles and dandelion greens and only eat what's found in the wild?  I'm sorry. Not for me. I like a wider range of choices.

So, when I heard that for this dinner we would be eating a 'new' type of beef I kind of dismissed it and wondered why when we already had so much good grass fed, beer swigging, massaged cattle to choose from.

Right then a slab of beef from that new breed of bovine---Piedmontese---landed in front of me with (I must say) an impressive piece of cutlery. Fingerling potatoes, asparagus (for the 3rd time!) and a rich wine sauce came with. The bone in NY strip was nicely cooked, tender and had a mild almost bison-like flavor and texture. It was good if you like that kind of filet like meat but I do not. I like a traditional beefy NY strip or even a bone in ribeye, well marbled, charred and rare. Shoot me; I'm a fundamentalist when it comes to steaks. (Peter Luger's still has the best steaks). There was good dense flavor in the mushroom studded sauce but the potatoes were a bit soggy---too much time under the heat lamp?---and they needed salt. On the other hand  the wine we drank, Markham Cellar1879, was an unoaked---thank you!---red blend with a smooth almost jammy sweetness and notes of smoke and chocolate. I loved this wine.

Markham blend...not too expensive at $23
The Steak

Now, you'd think at this point we'd eaten enough and I would agree. But a little sweet never hurt and that need for just a bite and just a taste to end a full meal is cleverly met with a presentation of tiny glasses filled with all kinds of indulgent desserts. I've seen this idea before but Season's kitchen has refined and expanded the idea with sophisticated flavors and creative combinations. I landed on the blueberry cheesecake and as full as I was I went on to gobble up the cannoli filling punctured with a crisp cannoli shell.

Sweet endings...blueberry cheesecake far right and cannoli third (in back) from the left

We had, needless to say, a wonderful dinner and a terrific time. Chef and Jay were attentive and engaging and I just loved being there. The restaurant is large, inviting and clubby looking. There's a terrific open firepit in the front adjacent to two cozy seating areas with comfortable leather couches and chairs. Service is skilled and professional and noise level is moderate. We were there on a Tuesday and the place was full so I'd encourage reservations. Our group ate in the private Napa room. It looks to accommodate about 30 guests with flexible seating arrangements and a good array of technology for meetings. There's a nice wine wall and I wish I'd taken a look at the wine list. Next time.

Thank you Seasons 52! It was great!

Main Dining Room

Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Feeding the soul

I visited the 9/11 Memorial. It was an emotional experience, more affecting than I expected; like seeing a deeply holy place. No more writing now....just photos and some captions.

Canvas signs line the streets making it easy to find 
A heavy police presence
Security lines and screening like the airport...several checkpoints follow
The visitor's pass...keep it out, it will be checked again and again
First view...a beautiful, serene place
Reflecting absence...the bottom of the center pool is always out of view

The names of victims from the airliners are placed along the parapet where the planes hit the buildings

Each pool covers an acre, the sound of the water dampens city noise        

Aerial view looking West

Cobbles and tiles for the walks are cut from the Trade Center's granite

Incomplete Memorial can see the original Trade Center Tridents and a subway staircase through the windows                             


Monday, May 14, 2012

Mentioned my name

I am so tickled...Charm City Cakes (Pastry Chef Duff Goldman) mentioned my blog in their blog. I know it's silly but they're famous and I'm not. Thank you! Charm City Cakes.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Eating the Weekend

There was a lot of visiting this weekend. For Saturday, Son and family joined a neighborhood wide tag sale and a pot luck back yard dinner followed. For Mother's Day we visited my Daughter-in-law's family where another food laden table waited.

The neighborhood outdid themselves.....
I love these kinds of get togethers where everyone brings a favorite dish and the table ends up groaning under the weight of it all. I love that I get to taste good old fashioned home cooking and can graze the table trying lots of different things.

Chicken kabobs hot off the grill, juicy with just the perfect char

Fruit salad with lots of watermelon, grapes, canteloupe & crisp green apples

No ordinary lasagna...light as air pasta, sausagey and cheesy, it arrived with extra sauce
There were some standouts among all that food and one something I'd never tried before. A neighbor's Dad grilled up some perfectly seasoned chicken burgers and topped them with a spicy tomato-corn salsa. Amazing! I wanted to take a picture of one but they disappeared before they could even hit the platter.

Artichokes to die for...I sat right next to this pan...lightly steamed, stuffed, then baked

Eat on Long Island. Thank you for two most delicious days.