AG Pick: Paco & Lola Albarino 2009

There’s something about Albariño that always puts me in a good mood.  Maybe it’s because I drink Albariño with fun foods like raw oysters and sushi, or that it’s one of my go-to wines on a warm and sunny day.

Though the weather may not be cooperating, I’m ready for springtime — and enjoying a glass of Albariño can transport me someplace warm.

Albariño is a white wine grape from Spain.  It is grown in the Rías Baixas region in the northwest, just north of Portugal.  You’ll also find it in Portugal, where it is called Alvarinho.

Albariño produces dry and fragrant wines that are high in acidity with moderate alcohol.

Imagine yourself on a beach or at a picnic — the the 2009 Paco & Lola Albariño is the wine you’d want to enjoy there.

Everything about this wine says fun, starting with the polka dot label.

Pale straw yellow in color, the Albariño is crisp and aromatic with floral and tropical fruit aromas.  On the palate are fresh flavors of white peach, pineapple, apricot and honeysuckle, with a hint of white flowers.  It’s bone-dry with nice minerality and a silky, refreshing finish.

Pair the Paco & Lola Albariño with shellfish, seafood, sushi, light pasta dishes and salads.  Or enjoy a glass as an aperitif outdoors on a warm day.

A bottle of the 2009 Paco & Lola Albariño costs around $20.

12.5% alcohol by volume

Celebrating Valentine's Day in Atlanta

Whether you’re looking for a night out on the town or an intimate dinner with that special someone, there’s plenty going on in Atlanta this Valentine’s Day.

Here is a list of menus and activities, grouped together by neighborhood.

All are for Monday, February 14th unless otherwise noted.

Want to add something to the list?  Send an email to tips@amateurgastronomer.com.

Downtown

Atlanta Grill
Offering a special five-course menu for $79 per person.
Atlanta Grill at the Ritz-Carlton, 181 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, 30303
(404) 221-6550
$79 per person.

Georgia Aquarium
On Saturday, February 12th, attend a lecture about secret mating rituals of aquatic animals in the Oceans Ballroom. The event will include dinner by Wolfgang Puck Catering. Then stay the night with an Adult Sleepover. Click here for more information on the lecture and sleepover, plus the cost to attend.
Georgia Aquarium, 225 Baker Street NW, Atlanta, 30313
(404) 581-4000

Room at TWELVE
Enjoy a special three-course menu, available to enjoy as a prix fixe or a la carte, in addition to the regular menu items. The prix fixe menu is $45 per person.  Click here for menu details.
Room at TWELVE, 400 W Peachtree St NW, Atlanta, 30308
(404) 418-1250
$45 per person.

The SHED at Glenwood
Offering a three-course prix fixe menu for $45 per person which includes a glass of bubbly.
The SHED at Glenwood, 475 Bill Kennedy Way, Atlanta, 30316
(404) 835-4363
$45 per person.

Midtown

4th & Swift
Offering a special five-course menu for $75 per person, with the option of adding wine pairings for an additional $35 per person.
4th & Swift, 621 North Avenue NE, Atlanta, 30308
(678) 904-0160
$75 per person.

Atlanta Botanical Garden
On Saturday, February 12th, enjoy Valentines in the Garden, an evening of cocktails, dancing and desserts. It is also the only nighttime opportunity to experience Orchid Daze: Liquid Landscapes, the special exhibition featuring thousands of orchids set against the backdrop of flowing water features. Tickets include live music and dessert; there will be a cash bar. Click here for information on tickets.
Atlanta Botanical Garden
, 1345 Piedmont Ave NE, Atlanta, 30309
(404) 876-5859
7pm to 11pm, $30 per person, $25 for members.

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
On Friday, February 11th and Saturday, February 12th, enjoy a performance of All You Need is Love: The Music of Paul McCartney. The performance by Tony Kishman, one of the stars of Beatlemania, will include Silly Love Songs, Live and Let Die, Maybe I’m Amazed and Beatles hits.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, 1280 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, 30309
(404) 733-4900
8pm, tickets $22 – $59

Cowtippers
Offering a three-course menu for $29.95 per person. Receive a complimentary glass of Champagne with an entree purchase. Click here to see the menu.
Cowtippers, 1600 Piedmont Avenue NE, Atlanta, 30324
(404) 874-3469
$29.95 per person.

Ecco
The European-inspired restaurant will be offering a three-course menu for $50 per person, plus tax and gratuity. A variety of dishes are offered for each course. Click here for menu details.
Ecco, 40 7th Street NE, Atlanta,  30306
(404) 347-9555
$50 per person.

Einstein’s
Offering a four-course tasting menu for $39 per person that includes scallops, lamb, lobster manicotti and chocolate mousse. Each item may also be ordered a la carte. Click here to see the menu.
Einstein’s, 1077 Juniper Street NE, Atlanta, 30309
(404) 876-7925
$39 per person.

High Museum of Art
On Saturday, February 12th, enjoy Valentine’s Day at the High, a French cabaret themed evening in celebration of the “Toulouse-Lautrec & Friends” exhibition. Events include a cabaret singer and classical French guitarist, as well as cancan performances and lessons.
High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta 30309
(404) 733-4444
6pm – 10 pm, $25 per person or $44 per couple, free for members.

Hudson Grille
Offering a three-course dinner for $35 per couple. Click here to see the menu.
Hudson Grille, 942 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, 30309
(404) 892-0892
$35 per couple.

Livingston Restaurant & Bar
Chef Zeb Stevenson will be offering a three-course menu with a complimentary glass of champagne paired with each dessert selection for $55 per person. The regular dinner menu will also be available.
Livingston Restaurant & Bar, 659 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, 30308
(404) 897-5000
$55 per person.

Lobby Bar & Bistro
Offering a special three-course menu for $39 per person in addition to the regular dinner menu. Each couple will receive a complimentary rose and champagne toast. Click here for menu details.
Lobby Bar & Bistro, 361 17th Street NW, Atlanta, 30363
(404) 961-7370
$39 per person.

Park Tavern & The Rink
Get cozy by one of Park Tavern’s three fireplaces and enjoy the romantic Salt Block Experience. Diners cook sashimi-grade fish and wagyu beef on a red hot Himalayan salt block, then create their own sushi using a variety of Asian fixins. On Sunday, February 13th Park Tavern will offer complementary sake and the Rink will be open for adults only all day. The full menu will also be available all weekend. Thinking of popping the question? Click here for information on getting engaged on the ice.
Park Tavern and The Rink, 500 10th Street NE, Atlanta, 30309
(404) 249-0001
The Salt Block Experience is $29 per person.

Spice Market
On February 13th & 14th Spice Market will offer a choice of any appetizer, entree and dessert for $30. Steak or lobster cost an additional $8.
Spice Market at the W Atlanta Midtown, 188 14th Street, NE, Atlanta, 30361
(404) 724-2550
$30 per person.

South City Kitchen
The southern restaurant will be offering a three-course menu for $39.95 per person, plus tax and gratuity.  A variety of dishes are offered for each course.  Click here for menu details.
South City Kitchen, 1144 Crescent Avenue NE, Atlanta 30309
(404) 873-7358
$39.95 per person.

Tap
On the 13th and 14th join Tap for an Anti Valentine’s Day singles celebration with $5 “drink your heart out” cocktails, plus $2 Miller Lite and $3 Numbers Ale. Looking for a last minute Valentine’s date? TAP will be hosting speed dating on Sunday, February 13th, starting promptly at 7:30 p.m. Reserve your spot online. Ages 23 – 37 are welcome.  On Monday, February 14th, celebrate being single or in love with a special three-course prix fixe meal for $35 per person.  Click here for menu details. Limited availability; guaranteed only with reservation.
Tap, 1180 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta 30309
(404) 347-2220
$35 per person for Monday three-course menu.

Buckhead

10 Degrees South
The South African restaurant is offering a three-course prix fixe menu for $50 per person, not including tax and gratuity. Choice of three options for each course. Click here to see the menu.
10 Degrees South, 4183 Roswell Road NE, Atlanta, 30342
(404) 705-8870
$50 per person.

Davio’s
The northern Italian steakhouse will be offering a $48 prix fixe menu with optional wine pairings. The regular dinner menu will also be available.
Davio’s, 3500 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta, 30326
(404) 844-4810
$48 per person.

Divan Restaurant & Hookah Lounge
Offering a four-course prix fixed menu for $35 to $40 per person. Special champagne and hookah packages will also be available.
Divan Restaurant & Hookah Lounge, 3125 Piedmont Road, Atlanta, 30305
(404) 467-4297
$35 to $40 per person.

Local Three
Offering a three-course menu for $45 per person.
Local Three, 3290 Northside Parkway NW, Atlanta, 30327
(404) 968-2700
$45 per person.

MARKET at W Buckhead
Offering a special four-course prix fixe menu for $65 per person. Includes hamachi or parm risotto, salmon or lobster, filet or lamb, and chocolate cake or cheesecake. The regular dinner menu will also be available.
MARKET at W Buckhead, 3377 Peachtree Road, NE, Atlanta, 30326
(404) 523-3600
$65 per person.

Paces 88
Offering a five-course menu on February 13th & 14th inspired by “perfect pairs.” It features ideal wine pairings that enhance the flavor profile of each dish. The menu costs $95 per person and $125 per person with wine pairings. Click here for the menu. Reservations are encouraged.
Paces 88 at the St. Regis Atlanta, 88 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, 30305
(404) 563-7910
$95 per person or $125 with wine pairings.

Tantra Restaurant & Lounge
Offering a three-course prix fixe menu for $45 per person.
Tantra Restaurant & Lounge, 2285 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, 30309
(404) 228-7963
$45 per person.

Virginia Highland

La Tavola
The Italian trattoria will be offering a offering a three-course menu for $49 per person, plus tax and gratuity. A variety of dishes are offered for each course. Click here for menu details.
La Tavola, 992 Virginia Avenue, Atlanta, 30306
(404) 873-5430
$49 per person.

Murphy’s
Offering a separate specials menu along with their regular menu. Each couple will receive a complimentary surprise gift. Murphy’s will stay open until 11pm on Sunday, February 13th.
Murphy’s, 997 Virginia Avenue NE, Atlanta, 30306
(404) 872-0904

Pura Vida
Each couple will get to select six tapas, a dessert and a bottle of wine to share from a special Valentine’s Day Aphrodisiac Menu for $85 per couple.
Pura Vida, 656 N Highland Avenue NE, Atlanta 30306
(404) 870-9797
$85 per couple.

Rosebud
On February 13th & 14th, Rosebud will be offering a variety of romantic specials in addition to the regular dinner menu. Click here to see the Valentine’s Day special dishes. Reservations are recommended.
Rosebud, 1397 N Highland Avenue NE, Atlanta, 30306
(404) 347-9747

Old 4th Ward, Inman Park & Elsewhere

Café Circa
Offering a three-course prix fixe dinner created by Chef Hopeton Hibbert for $40 per person that includes a complimentary glass of champagne. First course choice of curried goat or salmon filet; second course choice of roasted scallops or jerked Cornish hen; third course choice of double chocolate rum pound cake or strawberry doughnuts with spiced chocolate sauce.
Café Circa, 464 Edgewood Avenue SE, Atlanta, 30312
(404) 477-0008
$40 per person.

Park’s Edge
From Friday, February 11th through Monday, February 14th, Park’s Edge will be offering a four-course prix fixe menu for $55 per person. Included is a complimentary Champagne toast for each guest.
Park’s Edge, 913 Bernina Avenue NE, Atlanta, 30307
(404) 584-7275
$55 per person.

PARISH: Foods & Goods
Starting Friday, February 11th, Chef Joe Schafer will be offering a handful of off the menu specials. Each table will also receive a complimentary sweet treat. On the 14th PARISH will be serving from 5pm to 11pm.
PARISH: Foods & Goods, 240 N Highland Avenue NE, Atlanta, 30307
(404) 681-4434

Sun in My Belly
Offering a Valentine’s Day Supperclub to be held on Saturday, February 12th and Sunday, February 13th at 7pm. Both evenings will feature a four course meal with complimentary specialty cocktails and hors d’oeuvres as well as live music with jazz singer Nicole Chillemi. Bring a favorite Champagne or wine to enjoy during the meal. To find out each night’s menu or to make a reservation, call (404) 370-0856 or email reservations@suninmybelly.com.
Sun in My Belly, 2161 College Ave NE, Atlanta, 30317
(404) 370-1088
$40 per person, $5 corkage fee

TWO Urban Licks
From 5pm to 11pm on Monday, February 14th, Chef Cameron Thompson will offer menu specials highlighting his fiery American cooking while a live band performs. Complimentary roses will be given to each couple.
TWO Urban Licks, 820 Ralph McGill Boulevard NE, Atlanta 30306
(404) 522-4622

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A Wine & Scotch Celebration for Cafe Circa’s Anniversary

Wednesday night I joined a dozen of wine, food and spirits enthusiasts at Café Circa for an intimate celebration of the Old 4th Ward restaurant’s third anniversary.

It was a true feast for the taste buds: five wines paired with five small plates, followed by five Scotches.

While seated behind the bar we got to talk with Executive Chef Hopeton Hibbert about each dish as he presented them to us.  Our wine and spirits guide was Mike Leo from Continental Beverage, who talked about each wine’s origins and flavors.

The first wine was the 2008 Glory Days Viognier from Lodi, California, which was paired with spicy crab and mango salad.  The aromatic white wine had floral and honeysuckle notes, which went well with the lightness of the dish.

Next we had a 2008 Wente Chardonnay from Monterrey, California.  It was paired with a strawberry and goat cheese cucumber stack with a sorrel drizzle.  The tropical flavors in the chardonnay worked well with the strawberry, while the goat cheese brought out the creamy characteristics of the wine.

We then moved to red wines with the 2008 Silver Stone Cabernet Sauvignon, also from California.  This was paired with a delicious Cuban spiced chicken and plantain spring roll.  I didn’t see the spring roll offered on Café Circa’s menu but I would definitely order it again.  The lighter bodied Cabernet let the spiced flavors of the spring roll come out.

Another Cabernet Sauvignon followed, the 2008 Fourteen Hands from Washington.  It was paired with seared steak with spiced chocolate sauce.  The smoky dark fruit notes in the wine complemented the steak nicely, their earthy and meaty flavors working well together.

We ended the wine part of the evening with the 2006 Mark Davidson North Bore Shiraz from Southeast Australia.  This was a pleasant surprise for the evening – while some Australian Shiraz can be loaded with jammy flavors, this wine had well-balanced bright fruit flavors and notes of smoke and leather.  It went nicely with the stewed goat with a habanero tomato sauce.

We sampled all five Scotches at the same time so we could better compare their flavors.  From left to right in the photo the Scotches were: Singleton 12 year, Macallan 12 year, Wemyss Smooth Gentleman 10 year, Wemyss Spice King 10 year, and Wemyss Peat Chimney 10 year.

I started by comparing the Singleton and the Macallan.  I preferred the Singleton, with its vanilla and almond notes, while my husband preferred the Macallan, which was a bit more aggressive in flavor and heat from the alcohol.

The three Scotches from Wemyss were really interesting.  They were like no Scotches I had tasted before (though I admit I haven’t tasted a lot of Scotch), and completely different from the first two.  All had an herbaceous quality about them, with flavors like sage, grass and licorice.

My husband and I were having such a good time at Café Circa that we decided to extend our evening.  We ordered the guava jerk wings and roasted lamb ribs to go with our remaining sips of Scotch.  Both were delicious, extremely flavorful with meat that slid off the bone.

The anniversary celebrations continue through Saturday at Café Circa:

On Thursday, January 20th the restaurant will be hosting a special happy hour from 5 to 7pm with music from DJ SugarCut, $5 Ciroc cocktails, $5 small plates and $10 entrees.

On Friday, January 21st and Saturday, January 22nd beginning at 5pm, Executive Chef Hibbert will be offering a special three-course menu for $25 that includes a glass of Champagne.

For more details visit www.cafecircaatl.com.

Café Circa is located at 464 Edgewood Avenue Southeast in Atlanta
Open Monday through Sunday beginning at 5pm
(404) 477-0008

AG Pick Under $15: 2007 Paso Creek Merlot

Paso Creek’s slogan is “bold character derived from stubborn patience.”  And boldness is what you’ll find in this big Merlot.

The 2007 Paso Creek Merlot comes from Paso Robles.  This region, inland from the Santa Lucia coastal mountains in central California, is known for its optimal growing conditions and deeply concentrated wines.  If you complain that Merlot can be a bit wimpy, you’ll want to give the Paso Creek Merlot a try.

The wine is 91% Merlot, with 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Syrah rounding it out.  It spends 18 months in oak, of which 30% is new American oak.

Deep garnet red in color, the wine has aromas of ripe red and black fruits, cedar and a hint of smoke.  On the palate are concentrated flavors of plum, boysenberry and cherry that are layered with notes of leather, cigar box, sweet oak and black pepper.  Firm with a nice mouthfeel, the wine is well balanced and satisfying through the lingering spicy berry finish.

The Paso Creek Merlot pairs nicely with hamburgers, venison, meat lasagna and lamb.

A bottle of the 2007 Paso Creek Merlot costs $14.

13.5% alcohol by volume

Farm Mobile: Atlanta's New Meat Truck

For the farm-to-table fan, there’s a new way to purchase locally raised organic meat.  Announcing Farm Mobile, an on-the-move market now parking at a location near you.

Think of Farm Mobile like one of the increasingly popular food trucks that post their location on Twitter.  Only instead of serving up lunch or snacks, Farm Mobile offers organic beef, pork and eggs, all fresh from the farm and ready for your kitchen.

The meat truck is run by Riverview Farms, a certified organic family farm located in northwest Georgia.  At 200 acres, it’s one of the largest (and oldest) certified organic farms in the state.  Riverview Farms cultivates vegetables, Berkshire pork and grass-fed beef, and supplies a handful of Atlanta restaurants.

To find out where Farm Mobile is headed, follow @grassfedcow on Twitter.  When you arrive at the location look for the white and yellow truck.  The farm’s label will be on the truck soon.  Inside the truck has the feel of a farm stand, with shelves on both sides for the produce and a large cooler for the meat.

Update: I made my first visit to Farm Mobile on January 24th when the truck was parked in Ansley Mall.  From a distance the truck is a bit unassuming; you step inside via the back door to see the selection of meat and produce.  But once inside it’s a great selection — many cuts of beef, chicken, pork, sausages, cheese, eggs and vegetables.  I bought ground beef and Holeman & Finch buns to make burgers, plus some of the best looking collard greens I’ve seen.

The selection of meat and produce will change based on what’s available from the farm as well as consumer demand.

Riverview Farms also offers a vegetable CSA and meat CSA.  For more information on the farm and its CSA programs visit www.grassfedcow.com.

It's Time for Wine: BYOB

Bring Our Own Wine?  Don’t Feed Us a Line

If You Live, Travel to, or Own a Restaurant in Florida, We Suggest This is One You Might Not Want to Miss

By Monty and Sara Preiser

For those of us who love wine, there are many reasons to take a special bottle to restaurants. It might be an older bottle we have been saving for a special occasion. It could be that the restaurant where we are dining offers good food but a poor wine list. Or perhaps it is simply because we have an expensive bottle we want to consume with well prepared food, but cannot afford to buy a like wine from a list with too often inflated wine prices. Whatever the reason, it is usually pretty legitimate, and (importantly for this article) the percentage of people who take their own wine to a restaurant is absolutely inconsequential compared to the numbers who dine out – so small a percentage in fact that it should, in our opinion, rarely be an issue for thinking people. But some restaurants make it so.

If you read this column regularly, the likelihood is that you are among those who indeed like to take some wine with you from time to time. We hope you are also among those who consider the needs of the restaurant and call before you arrive to be sure the establishment’s policy allows private wines. And we hope as well that if you do take a bottle, you always consider buying at least one off the wine list (even if relatively inexpensive). These actions are considered to be good form.

This past week in Florida we ran into a situation we have experienced a number of times throughout the United States over the years. We were meeting some friends for our first time at a well known restaurant with branches in major cities, and (as mentioned above) we called to check on the policy of the restaurant insofar as our bringing wines. Instead of informing us that the restaurant’s policy did not permit it, the manager emphatically told us that doing so was “against the law.”

As a rule, that would be that, as we usually will not dine where we can’t bring a bottle. Few restaurants in the world are so good that we cannot find another perfectly sufficient place to go (more on this later). But this night we were, as we said, meeting others, and so we put our own policy aside. While waiting for our seats, we identified the general manager and inquired about the so-called law, telling him, as we did his compatriot by phone, that we were unaware of any such Florida regulation prohibiting the bringing of private wine to a restaurant that sells wine itself. His answer was that the law was clear, he had been given the Florida statutes so saying by those his employer engaged to advise on such things, and that he would be happy to show it to us. While we did not reconnect that night, we spoke by phone the next day.

As you may have surmised by now, what he read to us had nothing to do with the issue at hand (though, to be fair, the GM no doubt thought it did, as that was at least his interpretation of what his people had told him). He was not, however, nor would one expect him to be, a lawyer or an expert on the subject of bringing private wines. He was merely transmitting what his superiors had passed on.

Note: This is probably an appropriate time to let you know, if you do not already, that Monty is a lawyer who has  read and analyzed statutes and laws for 35 years (much longer than he likes to admit except when longevity serves to buttress his credibility). Thus, while this column, as with all our writings, will offer his (and our) “opinions,” we are confident we are on solid ground supported by fact. We will further share the relevant raw information with you so you can decide for yourselves if we are correct.

It is imminently true that a restaurant can indeed adopt a policy against allowing private wines to be brought in by its clientele (poorly conceived though we believe that decision to be). Yet it is not true that there is an actual law preventing customers from bringing their own. Many restaurants, however unfortunately, blame what is really only their personal policy on some fantasy regulation because they don’t want their customers to be upset at the restaurant for not permitting private wine, and then choosing to dine elsewhere. So let’s discuss all of this below.

The LAW:
-The first thing we did was review the Florida statutes ourselves. We could find no prohibition against an individual bringing his or her wine to a restaurant that had a license to sell wine to the public.
-We then called the proper regulatory agency in Tallahassee, where the people we spoke to confirmed, without question, that there were no statutes prohibiting the questioned conduct, and thus there was, in fact, no legal prohibition against it. It is not really debatable.
-We then sought the statute numbers from various restaurants and their private advisers who adhered to the line (whether they believed it or not) that bringing wine was against the law, or had questions about the issue. As you will see when you read the four statutes that were cited (which we include in their entirety so that there can be no “out of context” contention), none of them are even closely on point. Here we go.

562.51: Retail alcoholic beverage establishments; rights as private enterprise.
A licensed retail alcoholic beverage establishment open to the public is a private enterprise and:
(1) May refuse service to any person who is objectionable or undesirable to the licensee, but  such refusal of service shall not be on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, sex, national origin, marital status, or physical handicap;

(2)(a) May not refuse service to any person solely because the person is not purchasing alcoholic beverages if that person is the designated driver for one or more persons who are purchasing alcoholic beverages at the establishment.
(2)(b) This subsection does not excuse a retail alcoholic beverage establishment from complying with any applicable municipal or county ordinance regulating the presence of persons under 21years of age on the premises of any such establishment.

[Preiser Comment: If you see anything above about not allowing people to bring their own wines, please let us know, as Monty says that if it is there, he’ll go back to school]

562.02: Possession of beverage not permitted to be sold under license.
It is unlawful for a licensee under the Beverage Law or his or her agent to have in his or her possession, or permit anyone else to have in his or her possession, at or in the place of business of such licensee, alcoholic beverages not authorized by law to be sold by such licensee.

[Preiser Comment: This is a bit more difficult to interpret, but the Florida Beverage Control staff in Tallahassee agreed with Monty that this only means customers cannot bring their own beverage if the restaurant does not already sell that particular beverage. For example, a place with only a beer and wine license could not allow someone to bring spirits. The same logic and law applies to wine]

562.14: Regulating the time for sale of alcoholic and intoxicating beverages; prohibiting use of licensed premises.
(1) Except as otherwise provided by county or municipal ordinance, no alcoholic beverages may be sold, consumed, served, or permitted to be served or consumed in any place holding a license under the division between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m. of the following day. This section shall not apply to railroads selling only to passengers for consumption on railroad cars.
(2) Except as otherwise provided by county or municipal ordinance, no vendor issued an alcoholic beverage license to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the vendor’s licensed premises and whose principal business is the sale of alcoholic beverages, shall allow the licensed premises, as defined in s. 561.01(11), to be rented, leased, or otherwise used during the hours in which the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited. However, this prohibition shall not apply to the rental, lease, or other use of the licensed premises on Sundays after 8 a.m. Further, neither this subsection, nor any local ordinance adopted pursuant to this subsection, shall be construed to apply to a theme park complex as defined in s. 565.02(6) or an entertainment/resort complex as defined in s. 561.01(18).
(3) The division shall not be responsible for the enforcement of the hours of sale established by county or municipal ordinance.
(4) Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree.

[Preiser Comment: You don’t have to be a lawyer to know that nothing here has anything to do with what we are talking about. We cannot imagine what those people who cited this statute in support of their position were thinking]

562.121: Operating bottle club without license prohibited.
It is unlawful for any person to operate a bottle club without the license required by sec. 561.14(6). Any person convicted of a violation of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree.

[Preiser Comment: A bottle club is a business that is NOT ALLOWED to sell alcohol, as its members keep their beverages there. It is also not allowed to offer full dinner service. Bottom line; It has nothing to do with our present discussion either]

The evidence seems as clear as a fined and filtered bottle of white wine that there is no law against taking your own wine, and if a restaurant says there is, you can challenge them with confidence. But remember, it is still a privilege the restaurants grants you, so we hope the privilege is not abused.  With that in mind, let’s take the discussion a step further.

The POLICY:
As mentioned, a restaurant is given the right by statute to institute its own policy holding that private wine cannot be brought in. But is that really a good idea?

Writing now as food and wine writers, we opine that from a public relations standpoint a restaurant should in fact go out of its way to find, rather than ban, people who bring their own wines. Those who care enough about their wines to want something special are usually food people who influence many others as to where to dine, and frequently order expensive meals, consume other bottles of wine, and begin their evening with $10 – $15 cocktails. It is economic silliness to bar these kinds of customers over a bottle of wine or two. And not only do these type of customers usually spend better than average money on food, spirits, and even a bottle from the establishment, a fair $25 – $30 corkage fee would net the restaurant more money than a $45 bottle of wine sold from its own list. Our own habit is that when we are charged a corkage fee we usually order another mid range wine from the restaurant, and if they don’t charge us a fee, we often order an expensive bottle. But whatever mood we are in, the restaurant would do better to allow us to bring a bottle – and this is mostly true because without such permission we will not go at all, nor will we send others.

In all efforts to be fair, let us mention that there was one issue brought up by the restaurants’ representatives as to why a policy banning private wine seems to make good sense. At first the position seems to have some legs, but, after a short examination, you will see that is does not.

The argument postulates that because a restaurant can be held responsible for injuries caused by its serving further alcohol to those who are (or become) intoxicated, this somehow translates into the possibility that people bringing their own wines create a greater risk of liability for the business. Hogwash. In fact, it is the opposite. There is no practical difference in a server, before opening wine for the table, evaluating the sobriety of a customer who has brought a wine, or purchased one. The same applies before opening a second bottle, a third, and so on. In reality, is it not more likely that a server will cut someone off (to protect the restaurant) if that customer has brought his or her own wine as opposed to having just tried to order a $200 bottle from the wine list? Human nature is human nature, and we all see things differently, even if it is on a subconscious level, when a $100 profit and/or a $40 tip is involved

Before we close we thought you might be interested to know that we called what we consider to be the top 10 restaurants in Boca Raton (the location of the restaurant that kindled our interest in all of this last week), and every one of them permits one to bring his or her own wine for a very reasonable corkage charge.

So there you have the Florida information. If you live elsewhere (and are still reading this article with us), we recommend that you call the state beverage authorities wherever you are if this has ever been an issue for you. Forearmed is always good policy. And if you find that there exists no law stopping you from taking a bottle, and it is simply the restaurant’s policy, why go at all? You will find a place just as good where you can enjoy your own wines with service staff who know how to treat those who love fine dining.

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It’s Time for Wine is a column published by wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser that is featured on the Amateur Gastronomer.

Monty and Sara Preiser reside full time in Palm Beach County, Florida, and spend their summers visiting wineries and studying wines on the west coast where they have a home in Napa. For many years they were the wine columnists for The Boca Raton News, have served as contributors to the South Florida Business Journal, and are now the principal wine writers for Sallys-Place.com.  Monty and Sara also publish The Preiser Key to Napa Valley, the most comprehensive guide to wineries and restaurants in the Napa Valley, published every March, July, and November.  Click here to read more columns by the Preisers.

AG Pick: 2008 Gaia Agiorgitiko

Kick of a new year by tasting a new grape!  Agiorgitiko is a red wine grape native to Greece that produces wines that range from medium-bodied to extremely tannic.  Agiorgitiko, along with Xynomavro make up Greece’s most notable red wines and are just two of the country’s two hundred or so indigenous varieties.

Don’t be intimidated by the hard to pronounce name.  Agiorgitiko, also called St. George, is an approachable grape that resembles Merlot in taste.

An excellent introduction to this Greek grape is the 2008 Gaia Agiorgitiko.  It has the structure and flavors reminiscent of an Old World Merlot with the layered complexity of a good Pinot Noir.

The Gaia winery is located in Nemea in the northeastern part of the Peloponnese, which is the southernmost part of mainland Greece.  Here the vineyards are exposed to chalky soils, cooler temperatures and an ideal amount of sunlight.

Deep purple red in color, the Gaia Agiorgitiko has intense aromas of ripe fruit and spicy oak.  On the palate are flavors of plum, raspberry, cedar, nutmeg and a hint of vanilla.  Gentle tannins give this medium bodied wine a nice mouthfeel.  The wine finishes soft and smooth.

Pair the Gaia Agiorgitiko with hamburgers, lamb and other richly flavored red meat dishes.

A bottle of the 2008 Gaia Agiorgitiko costs $24.

13% alcohol by volume

Where to Buy Injera to Eat at Home

Love injera but don’t dine out at Atlanta’s Ethiopian restaurants as often as you’d like?  Enjoy this spongy and tangy bread at home!

Freshly made injera is available to buy at Merkato Mart on Buford Highway.  It’s a small store that’s easy to miss, but once inside you’ll feel like you hit the jackpot with its selection of locally made injera.

Even if you’ve never had Ethiopian food, injera is well worth a taste.  Injera is a large, spongy flatbread that looks like a French crepe and tastes like sourdough.  It’s made from teff, a gluten-free grain that is high in calcium, iron and protein.

In Ethiopian cuisine the injera is both the plate and the utensils; dishes like doro wat and gomen besega are placed on top of the injera and picked up using a torn off piece of the bread.  One side of the injera is smooth while other is porous, ideal for soaking up sauces.

Though it may look simple, injera is difficult for most home cooks to make (trust me, I’ve tried and failed several times).  That’s why you’re better off leaving it to the experts who have family traditions of making the bread.

About half a dozen kinds of injera are available to buy at Merkato Mart, all made in the Atlanta and Decatur area.  The injeras vary in taste, color (grey to brown), and texture (small to large pores).  Each bag costs $4 and contains eight to ten large pancakes.  Buy two or more to figure out which style you like best.  The injera keeps for 3 to 4 days on the counter.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy injera at home.  It’s great for sandwiches as substitute for wraps and can accompany stews or soups.  One taste of the injera and you’ll want to serve it with everything.

If you’re feeling adventurous, Merkato Mart sells all the necessary spices to make Ethiopian food at home.  Though after my experiences making injera, I’ll keep enjoying these richly flavored dishes at Ethiopian restaurants.

Merkato Market is located at 3300 Buford Highway Northeast in Atlanta.
(404) 320-9777

Related: A Family Favorite – Ethiopian Food