Taste of Atlanta Showcases the City’s Best Chefs & Restaurants


Hundreds of food fans came to Tech Square in Midtown for Taste of Atlanta last weekend. The festival showcased the best in the city’s thriving food, wine, beer and cocktail scene.

A highlight was getting to taste food from more than 80 local restaurants all in one area. From barbecue to burgers, tacos to Thai, Italian to Ethiopian, plus plenty of desserts to satisfy a sweet craving, Taste of Atlanta offered a bite of everything.

“It raises awareness of Atlanta and the amount of great restaurants that we have,” said Chef Kevin Rathbun. “I think with all the younger kids, people going to college and just the in-town vibe, it’s a great venue. And I think it brings awareness to great food and what’s in the city, what’s out there.”

“What I do is a labor of love, and I wish I could actually spend more time cooking,” said Chef Ron Eyester. “[I’m] really excited about where our food is going as a city.”

Chef Eyester of Rosebud and the Family Dog was one of the chefs who entertained guests with demonstrations. At the “Inside the Food Studio” stage Chef Eyester was joined by singer Francine Reed to mix up his famous Bloody Mary. Later he teamed up with Chef Nick Melvin to battle against Chefs Drew Belline and Ford Fry on the main stage.

For VIP ticket holders, Taste of Atlanta offered the chance to learn about wine, beer and spirits at educational seminars, then taste more inside the VIP tasting tent.

“I have found, and I still believe this, that wine drinkers in Georgia are some of the most fun to be with,” said Certified Wine Educator Gil Kulers who led the wine seminars. “What they have in common is that they’re all very interested in all aspects of wine.”

This year marked the 10th anniversary of Taste of Atlanta as the city’s premier food, wine beer and cocktail event.

Click here for more photos from Taste of Atlanta 2011

Surf & Turf Done Right at Aqua Blue

When restaurants try to do it all, the results can be unpredictable. Rather than focusing on a theme or cuisine, too many different ideas may spread a chef — or the customers — thin.

Aqua blue is one of those restaurants that wants to do it all. Luckily for local diners, the results are excellent. There’s sushi, seafood, steak and more, in a spot that’s both a casual neighborhood restaurant and a place to celebrate a special occasion. It’s an ambitious feat and Aqua blue gets it right.

The Roswell restaurant celebrated its 10th anniversary in August and is welcoming its 11th year with new items on the menu and cocktail list. Now is a great time to discover or rediscover Aqua blue.

Bring a big appetite. One look at the menu and you’ll want to taste it all. Owner and Executive Chef John Metz (who also owns Marlow’s Tavern, Sterling Spoon Catering and the new Market Street Café in Buckhead), and Chef de Cuisine Kien Sam have so many mouthwatering options you’ll need some time to make your decision.

Aqua blue offers a variety of sushi rolls and platters, all made with the freshest fish.

If you like crab cakes you should try Aqua blue’s version that, with large chunks of crab, is more crab than cake. It is served on a bed of avocado and mango.

For a seafood entrée, you can’t go wrong with the Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass. This dish has been a hit since it first appeared on the menu. Just a touch crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside, the fish is served with a light shitake mushroom broth and baby bok choy.

Another delicious option is the Shrimp & Scallop Grits. The scallops are cooked with a light hand to maintain a tender texture. The stone ground jalapeño corn grits are so good you’ll want to lick your plate.

For those craving something on the turf side, the Australian Lamb Chop is one of the highlights. It’s perfectly cooked and well seasoned; you’ll find yourself forgoing your fork and knife so you can get every piece of meat from the bone. It is served with a crispy potato cake that has the flavor and texture of mashed potatoes covered with crushed potato chips. The slight saltiness of the potato cake goes well with the savory lamb.

Whether its lamb or steak that you order, the meat comes out at just the right temperature.

If you have room for dessert, try the rich and creamy crème brulee. The recipe comes from John Metz’s mother.

To accompany the meal, Aqua blue has a nice selection of wines by the glass and bottle, as well as what it calls “soon to be classic” cocktails. Servers are great at helping you choose a drink, offering advice on food pairings or the sweetness-to-alcohol taste ratio of cocktails.

New drinks include the Ginger Sidecar (Germaine Robin Craft Method Brandy, ginger syrup, fresh lemon juice and candied ginger), Bees Knees (Leopold Brother’s Gin, thyme honey syrup and fresh lemon), and the Vesper (DH Krahn Gin, Kettle One Vodka, Cocchi Americano and peach bitters).

Additionally, Aqua blue’s large bar area provides an inviting spot for a drink or casual meal.

Aqua blue’s location just outside the perimeter and minutes from GA 400 makes it an easy drive from the center of Atlanta. Whether you’re going into or out of the city, or just want a great meal, you’ll find it all at Aqua blue.

Aqua blue, 1564 Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell, Georgia (770) 643-8886

Aqua blue is offering food and drink specials now through November 7th as part of its annual Chops event.

image of restaurant exterior from Aqua blue’s Facebook page

AG Pick: Filus Torrontes 2010

Taking a sniff of Torrontes can be like sticking your nose in a bouquet of flowers. The grape produces white wine that is fresh, floral and aromatic.

Just as Malbec is the red wine grape of Argentina, think of Torrontes as the white wine grape of the South American country.

If you need a touch of spring as it gets colder this fall, try the Filus Torrontes 2010. Its elegant mix of citrus and floral notes are sure to brighten any day.

The Filus Torrontes comes from Salta, Argentina, a region in the northwest part of the country. The vineyards are located at the edge of the foothills of the Andes at an altitude of 5,750 feet. The Torrontes grapes were hand harvested from 40 year old vines. The wine was fermented in stainless steel, preserving the fresh characteristics of the grape.

The Filus Torrontes is bright golden yellow in color with aromas of white flowers and citrus. The taste is a lovely mix of flowers and fruit. Jasmine, gardenia and rose mingle with lemon, white grapefruit, white peach, pineapple and just a hint of white pepper. Gentle acidity rounds out the wine, giving it a pleasant and light mouthfeel. The satisfying finish has lingering floral notes.

The Filus Torrontes can pair with seafood and shellfish, salads, cream or olive oil based pasta dishes, risotto and spicy cuisine.

A bottle of the Filus Torrontes 2010 costs $11.

13% alcohol by volume

More White Wines | Red Wines | More Under $20

Briza’s Janine Falvo to Compete on Bravo’s Top Chef

Make your reservations to dine at Briza now because soon everyone will be clamoring for a table at Chef Janine Falvo’s restaurant.

The executive chef will be competing on the upcoming season of Top Chef, premiering November 2nd on Bravo. The following evening Chef Falvo will serve the dish she creates on the season premiere during a special seven course dinner with wines from Gloria Ferrer (details below).

At the upscale southern-inspired restaurant inside the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel Chef Falvo focuses on carefully crafted and intensely flavored dishes using locally sourced ingredients. The menu includes a touch of whimsy, from a mozzarella “egg” to bacon powder.

It’s a cooking style Chef Falvo calls “molocular” rather than molecular, as it describes her farm-to-table cuisine with a modern twist.

One bite of any of Chef Falvo’s dishes is all it takes to become a huge fan. The halibut is wonderfully crisp on the outside and moist on the inside, and the lamb is cooked to a perfect medium rare. The veal sweetbread is a standout – rich, creamy and decadent, it’s reminiscent of foie gras. Every dish is so flavorful you can’t help but eat slowly to savor each bite.

Before Briza, Chef Falvo was the Chef de Cuisine at Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar at The Lodge at Sonoma. She brings her appreciation of California’s wine to Briza, whose wine list includes a nice selection of the state’s whites, reds and rosés.

As Atlantans prepare to root for Chef Falvo on Top Chef Season 9, one hope is that the show won’t outshine her talent. With outstanding food, Chef Falvo is worthy of recognition on her own.

Briza, located inside the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel at 866 West Peachtree Street NW in Midtown. (678) 412-2402

Gloria Ferrer Wine Diner
November 3, 7:30pm – 10:30pm
Chef Falvo will serve the dish that she prepares during the season premier of Top Chef as one of seven courses during the special wine dinner. Each course will be paired with a wine from Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards. The winery’s Executive Vice President Eva Bertran will share more about the wine. The seven course dinner is $75 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations can be made through Open Table or by calling (678) 412-2334.

photos from Briza’s Facebook page

Moonshine Dinner at DBA Barbecue

Want to know how to pair moonshine with some of your favorite barbecue dishes? Make a reservation for the Harvest Moonshine Dinner at D.B.A. Barbecue.

On Thursday, October 27th the Virginia Highland restaurant will feature a special three-course dinner with pairings from Junior Johnson Moonshine carefully selected by D.B.A. owner Matt Coggin.

The evening will begin with passed snacks from D.B.A. Barbecue’s new dinner menu including Cajun spiced fried shrimp, pork sliders and boiled peanuts.

The three-course dinner includes the mouthwatering smoked pork belly, smoked beef short rib and apple cobbler, each paired with a different Junior Johnson Moonshine. Click here to see the full menu

Accompanying the meal will be music from Neil Young’s classic album Harvest Moon.

The Harvest Moonshine Dinner costs $30 per person plus tax and gratuity, with one seating at 7pm. To make a reservation call (404) 249-5000.

Moonshine as a food pairing — it’s an evening that will make you see this notorious spirit in a new way.

Harvest Moonshine Dinner at D.B.A. Barbecue, October 27, 2011 at 7pm
1190 N. Highland Ave NE Suite B, Atlanta. (404) 249-5000

Dining Atlanta: Week of October 17, 2011

By Eric Harvison

Dining Atlanta spotlights what is opening and closing around the city. Check in at the beginning of each week to find out what is changing in your neighborhood.

Click here to read earlier columns


The folks at LA FOURCHETTE on Piedmont Road have opened TARTUFO in the space next door.  The new place serves pizzas, though probably not with tartufo (truffle) topping.

MOOD LOUNGE has been sold and is being converted into a cocktail bar with an upgraded food menu.

JOY CAFÉ has opened for breakfast and lunch at 316 Pharr Road.

HALF BAKED CASSEROLES opens tomorrow at 3185 Roswell Road, offering oven-ready casseroles.  There’s a ‘half baked’ joke in there somewhere, but I can’t quite put it in words.


UDIPI CAFÉ has closed their Decatur location.  Reportedly, they’ve sold the space but remain open in their Smyrna and Duluth locations.

HARBOR BAR & FISH HOUSE has opened in the former TESORO location at 129 Church Street.

Owner Hye Kim announced plans open SWIRLIN’ TWIRLIN’ yogurt parlor at 335 West Ponce next week.

East Point

New burger place will open on White Way, around the corner from the MARTA station – AMERICAN BURGER.


HANKOOK TAQUERIA’s new Midtown location, TAKOREA is now open in the former ABRIGO space at 818 Juniper.


PARK GROUNDS has received their liquor license.

Toco Hills

Mirko Di Giacomantoni and Archie Crenshaw have opened a new location of MIRKO PASTA in the former the former EDO JAPANESE STEAKHOUSE in the Toco Hills Shopping Center.


Chris Marconi has moved over from EMPIRE STATE SOUTH to become the new pastry chef at WEST EGG CAFÉ.


Eric Harvison’s Dining Notes began a few years ago as a sporadic e-mail exchange with a friend, sharing restaurant openings and trying to satisfy that vague urge to dine “somewhere new.” That friend started forwarding Eric’s messages to some of her friends, several of them food industry professionals. They in turn began passing along bits of restaurant news and gossip that they would come across. These exchanges became more frequent and took on a viral life of their own that has evolved into what you read today.

Aside from the occasional editorial comment, Eric won’t attempt to review these restaurants. There’s plenty of others better qualified, with much more refined palates — probably you. Rather, this is an attempt to help you keep up with the constantly changing Atlanta dining scene, for better or worse.

(Not So) Scary Wines for Halloween

Give your palate a scare this Halloween with some frightening wines.

There’s really nothing spooky about these wines — they just may not be as familiar to you as other reds and whites.

So go ahead, try something new. You may be scared how much you enjoy them!


Bull’s Blood

Bull’s Blood is the English translation of Egri Bikavér, a red wine from Hungary. This type of wine gets its name from a 16th century legend about a small group of Hungarian soldiers who withstood a siege of the fortress at Eger by 150,000 invading Turkish troops. The Hungarian soldiers were served red wine for motivation. Word spread among the Turkish troops that the wine was mixed with bull’s blood — the reason for the Hungarians’ inexplicable strength. The rumor demoralized the Turks, and the siege ended.

Ten different grapes are allowed to make up Egri Bikavér, though regulations state it must contain at least three. In general Egri Bikavér is a big and sometimes gamey red wine that has red and black fruit flavors. It pairs well with beef, game and hearty foods. Not all wine shops carry Hungarian wine so your best bet is to call ahead and ask.


Though Pinotage doesn’t have the most favorable reputation in the United States, you shouldn’t be scared to try this South African variety.  Pinotage was created in the 1920s by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault (known locally as Hermitage).

Selecting a bottle can be a trick or a treat. Done well, Pinotage can have flavors of chocolate, coffee, red fruit and smoke. Done poorly, Pinotage can taste gamey with notes of burnt rubber and rusted metal. The Amateur Gastronomer recommends the 2010 Dark Lady Pinotage, a lush and layered wine that shows just how good this grape can be.

Grüner Veltliner

There’s nothing scary about this white wine grape from Austria — except perhaps trying to pronounce it. This varietal produces food-friendly dry wines that have citrus and apple flavors with high acidity and minerality. Grüner Veltliner can pair with shellfish, seafood, poultry, spicy foods and Asian cuisine so it is perfect for whatever you’re serving at your Halloween party.

Grüner Veltliner is growing in popularity outside of Austria and is now grown in California, Oregon and the Finger Lakes region of New York.

Orange Wine

If you want to match the colors associated with Halloween, pick up a bottle of Orange Wine. This is white wine made in a similar way to red wine — skins from the white wine grapes are left in the juice, producing a darker color. The wine tends to be more intense in flavor than other white wines with notes of orange or tangerine and spicy ginger and sandalwood. Though rare and hard to find in most wine shops, Orange Wine is most commonly produced in Italy and (more recently) California.


It too may be scary to pronounce, but it is sweet to drink. Skip the Halloween candy and enjoy a glass of Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) instead. TBA is a German wine term that refers to the ripeness level of the grape. The riper the grape, the higher concentration of sugar; more sugar means a sweeter wine. TBA is the highest category in the German and Austrian classification system and the wines are intensely sweet. TBA wines are typically made from Riesling or Welschriesling. Look for it (or the less sweet Auslese) in the Germany, Austria or dessert wine sections of your local wine shop.

Happy Halloween and happy sipping!

The Amateur Gastronomer in Jura

Jura is a department in eastern France in the province of Franche-Comté. East of Burgundy and west of Switzerland, this region may be best known for its cheese (Comté and Morbier).

With a much smaller production than neighboring Burgundy, the wines of Jura are not as well known. Burgundian grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are grown in the Jura, along with local varieties Savagnin (white), Poulsard and Trousseau (red).

It is the taste that sets Jura wines apart from all other French wines. Highly acidic with volatile and oxidative characteristics, these are the kind of wines that excite wine fans. Their unique flavors lure you in sip after sip and demand further exploration.

Savagnin is the star of Jura, and is used in the highly prized Vin Jaune. This wine is aged for at least 6 years and 3 months in oak barrels and develops a host of remarkable flavors that may include lemon, ripe cheese, ginger and curry.

Articles and Videos:

An Introduction to the Jura
Though smaller and not as well known as France’s other wine regions, the Jura produces exceptional whites and reds that deserve to be recognized.

Harvest in the Jura
The month of September brings splashes of color to the vineyards in the Jura. In this video take a look at the beginning of the harvest.

Savagnin: Grape & Wine of the Jura
Exciting, extraordinary and unusual, these wines are some of the most remarkable whites in France — and the world.

Lifting the Veil on Vin Jaune
This dry white wine is made from Savagnin grapes and aged for at least six years and three months in oak barrels. Find out what else makes the wine from France’s Jura region unique.

Taste of Atlanta Returns This Weekend

Atlanta’s premiere food and drink festival returns to Midtown this weekend. Celebrating its 10th year, Taste of Atlanta will be held on Saturday, October 22nd and Sunday, October 23rd in Tech Square.

The festival showcases the best in Atlanta’s culinary scene and offers attendees the chance to taste it all. More than 80 restaurants will offer a taste of their menu, while chefs demonstrate their signature dishes or face off in friendly competition on two stages. Taste of Atlanta offers food fun for all ages with interactive cooking demonstrations and hands on activities at the Family Food Zone.

Click here to see highlights from Taste of Atlanta 2010

For wine and beer fans, the VIP experience offers the chance to sample a large selection of wine and more than 40 craft beers inside the VIP tasting tents. At educational seminars VIPs will get to learn about and sample special wines, beers and cocktails.

New this year is a kickoff party on Friday, October 21st. The Big Grill – A Midtown Block Party will have food, cold beer, live music and a birthday cake to celebrate Taste of Atlanta’s 10th anniversary. Featured chefs include Kevin Rathbun and the Food Network’s Aarón Sanchez. The party will benefit Georgia Organics.

Tickets to Taste of Atlanta are $25 per person and may be purchased online. Tickets at the event will cost $35 per person. Ten taste coupons are included with admission and are used to purchase food. Kids 13 and under receive free admission when accompanied by a paid adult. VIP tickets are $75 in advance and $85 at the event and include 15 taste coupons. Tickets to The Big Grill are two for $100, or two VIP tickets for $130.

Taste of Atlanta, October 22 & 23 at Spring Street & 5th Street in Midtown Atlanta, 11am – 6pm.


Savagnin: Grape & Wine of the Jura

To better know the wines of the Jura region in France, you must start with Savagnin (pronounced sav-an-yan). This is a white wine grape that can produce a range of wines. Exciting, extraordinary and unusual, these wines are some of the most remarkable whites in France — and the world.

Savagnin wines, in particular the long aging Vin Jaune, are not for everybody. Their taste is different than most white wines and may not appeal to the casual wine drinker. But whether you immediately fall in love or decide it’s not to your liking, you will never forget your first taste of Savagnin.

There are three main dry white wines produced from Savagnin, with examples of each pictured below: Naturé, Savagnin and Vin Jaune. All are made entirely from Savagnin grapes.

The key term to know when talking about Savagnin is “ouillé.” This is a French word that describes the process of topping up a barrel with wine to replace the liquid lost during evaporation. When the barrel is not topped up it allows the air to mix with the wine and affect its flavors — similar to how your glass of wine develops different flavors over time as you sip.

Wines from the Jura that have been topped up will say Ouillé on the label or Naturé in the case of wines from the AOC Arbois. When the wine just says Savagnin that indicates the wine is “non ouillé,” or not topped up. Vin Jaune is non ouillé.

Naturé and Ouillé wines show Savagnin in its purest form. They are light, elegant and refreshing, with floral and citrus notes. Think Sauvignon Blanc minus the grassy notes, or a non-oaked Chardonnay. You’ll taste flavors that may include white flowers, honeysuckle, orange, lemon zest, apricot, pear, white peach, white grapefruit and anise.

Ouillé wines are meant to be enjoyed while young and should be served chilled, between 50°F and 55°F. They can be served as an aperitif or with fish, chicken, fruits de mer, smoked salmon or foie gras.

It gets a little more interesting when you move on to Savagnin (the wine) and Vin Jaune.

As anyone who has ever tasted a day-old glass of wine knows, air changes the taste. Because oxygen has been allowed to mix with the wine in the barrel, the wine develops an unusual flavor. The longer the Savagnin spends mixing with air, the stronger these flavors will be.

In talking about Savagnin and Vin Jaune it is important to note that these wines are oxidative, not oxidated. This means the flavors are desirable and have been specially cultivated and controlled through aging in barrels. The wine has not “turned” or gone bad. You can tell this because even though you get some wild and gamey notes you still get fresh fruit flavors.

Savagnin wine spends around 2 to 3 years aging in oak barrels. During its time mixing with oxygen the wine develops slight oxidative flavors that are reminiscent of ripe soft cheese and dried fruits. Flavors you’ll find in Savagnin include apricots (and dried apricots), yellow or green apples (and dried apples), Meyer lemon, orange, guava and white pepper.

Savagnin can be served with fish, white meats, cream based dishes, mushroom dishes or Comté cheese, which is also produced in the Jura. Winemakers in the Jura suggest uncorking Savagnin at least 15 minutes before serving it.

Continue with Lifting the Veil on Vin Jaune

Return to the main page of The Amateur Gastronomer in Jura