Ireland Meets Atlanta at The Elder Tree Public House

The Elder Tree Public House has everything you look for in a neighborhood pub: a warm and inviting atmosphere, friendly servers, good comfort food and large TVs for watching the game. It’s also a place where you can get a proper pint – an imperial pint, just like you get across the pond.

Executive chef Sean Culpepper (formerly of Fado) has created a menu of Irish favorites with a local touch. He’s committed to sourcing locally, both meat and produce. The pork chop, one weekend’s special, came from White Oak Pastures in South Georgia.

At this East Atlanta Village pub you’ll find your favorite beers on tap or in bottles. Attentive servers make sure your glass is never empty. Whisky fans will find plenty of choices, and there is Irish coffee for when you want an extra kick-start to your evening.

Skip the diet for one night and order the Irish cheddar dip. Rich and creamy, the dip is served with a toasted baguette. Lamb is one of the highlights on the menu. Try the sliders or the lamb haystack, a hearty sandwich made with shredded lamb. Of course, you can’t go wrong with fish and chips. If you want to end with something sweet order the bread pudding, which is even better when served a la mode.

The Elder Tree offers food and drink specials throughout the week. On Mondays fish and chips are $7. On Wednesdays there are $1.50 PBRs and Miller High Lifes and $5 burgers. On Friday nights and Saturdays during brunch there are drink specials and live music. There are also half price appetizers on Friday and Saturday nights from 10pm to midnight.

The Elder Tree Public House, 469 Flat Shoals Avenue, East Atlanta Village
(404) 658-6108

image from The Elder Tree’s website

Summer in Bloom at Ecco

Summer has arrived at Ecco. The European-influenced restaurant in Midtown has added new dishes that feature fresh, seasonal ingredients, some grown in the rooftop garden.

In planters that line the edge of the roof grow basil, cow peas, squash blossoms, tomatoes and peppers. Additional produce and herbs used in the restaurant’s dishes are sourced locally.

The tastes of the season have found their way into Ecco’s cocktails. The drink menu reads like a whimsical stroll through a garden, with a story in addition to the ingredients. Try the refreshing Long Live the Queen, which is Bombay Sapphire gin with hints of elderflower, lemon, peach and mint served up.

Ecco is a favorite restaurant among Atlantans and it’s easy to see why. Executive chef Craig Richards excels at consistently producing flavorful dishes that make you feel happy, not heavy.

To start, try the Stuffed Squash Blossoms. They are filled with rich and creamy mozzarella, anchovy and chili flakes, and placed on top of a basil emulsion. Another tasty addition is the Piri Piri Squid. Gently cooked to preserve a delicate texture, the squid is served with Castelvetrano olive puree and a sunny side egg.

For the main course try the Sea Trout a la Plancha. It is topped with green tomatoes, cucumbers and mint, with a Romesco sauce made with Fresno peppers and cherry tomatoes. The delicate and flaky fish, when combined with the fresh tomatoes and cucumber, really captures the essence of what makes a perfect summer dish.

Of course, you can’t leave out the pasta. Spaghetti, often an afterthought on menus or a bland option for children, gets the proper treatment at Ecco. Homemade thick strands of pasta are cooked al dente and served with fresh tomatoes, basil, shaved pecorino and a touch of olive oil and garlic.

The dessert menu is inspired by the fresh fruit of the summer. The Blueberry Clafoutis is reminiscent of a sweet blueberry muffin just out of the oven. If you’re in the mood for ice cream try the peach ice cream, which tastes like it was just picked from the tree.

Ecco, 40 7th Street NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30308. (404) 347-9555

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Dine Out with Dinner & A Cause Cards

This summer you can dine at a number of favorite restaurants around Atlanta while supporting a great cause.

Children of Conservation has partnered with more than 85 restaurants for its second annual Dinner & A Cause card fundraiser. The local non-profit organization provides an otherwise unavailable education to children of wildlife sanctuary workers in Africa.

People can purchase Dinner & A Cause cards for $25, then present them at participating restaurants for a 20% discount off their bill (excluding alcohol) all month long. There is no limit on how many times the cards may be used during the month.

Click here to see a list of participating restaurants.

The July card is valid from July 1 through July 31, and the August card is valid from August 1 through August 31. Both cards may be purchased at the same time for a discounted rate of $45.

All proceeds from the sale of cards go to Children of Conservation. In addition to the scholarship program, the charity provides support for the sanctuaries’ endangered animals and community conservation projects.

For more information about Dinner & A Cause and to purchase cards click here. To learn more about Children of Conservation visit childrenofconservation.org.

Where to Watch Euro 2012 in Atlanta

Europe’s top soccer players have converged in Poland and Ukraine for UEFA Euro 2012. Here are the best places in Atlanta to catch all the action:

Brewhouse Cafe
This Little Five Points restaurant is known for soccer — GQ magazine rated it as one of the top places to watch the World Cup in the US. Brewhouse Cafe is showing every game live on the 20 plus HDTVs.
Brewhouse Cafe, 401 Moreland Ave NE, Little Five Points (404) 525-7799

Fado Irish Pub
The Buckhead Irish pub is showing all the games live on multiple HDTVs. During each game there is a special Match Day Menu, with food and beer deals.
Fado Irish Pub, 273 Buckhead Ave, Buckhead (404) 841-0066

The Midway Pub
Soccer fans who watch games at this East Atlanta pub will have the chance to win a flat screen TV, Sony PlayStation 3 and more. The pub will also have special Euro glassware and t-shirts.
The Midway Pub, 552 Flat Shoals Ave SE, East Atlanta (404) 584-0335

P’cheen International Bistro & Pub
The Old Fourth Ward hotspot’s international menu is perfect for cheering on your favorite country. P’cheen is showing every game live, and opening the bar early for the games on June 21, 22, 27 and 28.
P’cheen, 701-5 Highland Ave NE, Old Fourth Ward (404) 529-8800

Click here to visit the official website of UEFA Euro 2012.

Caren West PR Announces First Restaurant Week

Caren West PR, your go-to source for all things food, fashion and fun, has announced its inaugural CWPR Restaurant Week.

From Saturday, June 23rd through Saturday, June 30th, restaurants represented by CWPR will feature lunch and dinner specials. The three-course prix fixe menus range from $15 to $35 at the 15 restaurants located throughout Atlanta. The evening isn’t over when the check arrives — one of the city’s hottest nightclubs will offer VIP entry and bottle service specials.

For more information and the full list of participating restaurants and their menus visit www.carenwestpr.com or the official CWPR Restaurant Week Facebook Page. CWPR Restaurant Week is sponsored by 99X.

Participating restaurants include:

The Albert – Inman Park, $15 lunch

Café Circa – Old Fourth Ward, $25 dinner

Cucina Asellina – Midtown, $15 lunch and $25 dinner

Cypress Street Pint & Plate – Midtown, $15 lunch and $25 dinner

D.B.A. Barbecue – Virginia-Highland, $15 lunch and $25 dinner

Diesel Filling Station – Virginia Highland, $25 lunch and dinner

Genki Noodles and Sushi – Buckhead, Virginia Highland, The Prado in Sandy Springs, $25 dinner

Park Tavern –  Midtown, $35 dinner

P’cheen International Bistro & Pub – Old Fourth Ward, $25 dinner

The Real Chow Baby Ponce – Poncey-Highland, $15 lunch and dinner

Sun in my Belly – Kirkwood, $20 lunch and $35 dinner

STK – Midtown, $35 dinner

Tongue and Groove – Buckhead, providing special bottle service and VIP entrance (inquire at venue for details)

A First Taste of The Optimist

You can’t help but feel optimistic about Chef Ford Fry’s new restaurant, The Optimist. From the name to the talented Fry and executive chef Adam Evans, the restaurant has been highly anticipated since it was announced last fall.

The Optimist takes its name from a small sailing dinghy as well as the upbeat attitude felt towards catching the next big fish. The menu focuses on sustainable seafood dishes that are prepared in a wood burning grill and oven. Landlubbers needn’t fear; there are several mouthwatering turf options.

Chef Fry excels at cooking superb fish without complicated preparations (the salmon sandwich at JCT Kitchen is my top pick for lunch in Atlanta), so I was looking forward to my first taste of The Optimist.

You enter The Optimist though the oyster bar, which has the look and feel of one in New England – so much so that you almost expect to see water outside instead of Howell Mill Road. The adjoining restaurant is a large open space with a bar at one end and the kitchen at the other. The décor is a warm mix of wood, off-white and nautical blue. The high ceiling with its wood paneling has the (intentional?) look of a hull of a ship.

Cleverly named cocktails help you get in the seaside spirit. The Beach Shanty is a refreshing mix of Allagash white ale, spiced rum, lemon and ginger liqueur. Also quite tasty is the Cutty Shark, made with Cutty Sark scotch, honey, lemon and lavender bitters, with whipped egg whites giving it a thick head of foam.

If you’re seated at the oyster bar, be sure to try the delicious (and strong) punch – either the house punch or the punch of the day. The house punch is made with Gosling’s black rum, Hennessy VS cognac, black tea, sugar, lemon and Leopold Brothers’ Georgia peach whiskey.

My husband and I started our meal with two shellfish appetizers: fried oysters and mussels. The “Angels on Horseback” was The Optimist’s take on bacon-wrapped oysters — fried oysters served on top of pork belly with a scattering of picked mushrooms. The salty and savory flavors of the oysters and pork were a great combination. The mussels were served in a green curry broth that had a spicy kick. We were glad there was a large piece of bread to soak it up.

For our main course we shared halibut and tuna. The Alaskan halibut was served with wood grilled hen of the wood mushrooms and a red wine bordelaise sauce. We enjoyed the sauce and the texture of the halibut, though the fish was a touch over salted.

The tuna was served with harissa, charred octopus and potato salad. At first glance we thought the hot chili sauce would overpower the delicate fish, yet Chef Evans was able to pull it off. The tuna was cooked perfectly, with a lovely rare center. I just wished that we had more than the one piece of octopus.

As most entrees keep the focus on the fish, you’ll want to order a couple of side dishes. There are plenty of tempting offerings, from beignet-style corn milk hushpuppies to potato gnocchi with lobster butter. We enjoyed the sautéed mushrooms and the wood roasted beets that were drizzled with a smoky vinaigrette.

Though quite full, we were persuaded by our server to taste the grapefruit tart. The tart was topped with candied honeysuckle, curls of Venezuelan white chocolate and a mimosa reduction. Pastry chef Taria Camerino created the dessert with the restaurant’s theme in mind; grapefruit and mimosa are said to have happiness-inducing properties.

Throughout the evening we had great service. Our server was friendly and attentive, and our food came out promptly.

The future looks very bright for The Optimist.

The Optimist and The Oyster Bar at The Optimist, 914 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. (404) 477-6260

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Tickets On Sale for Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival

Get ready for the attack — the JCT. Kitchen Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival!

Now in its fourth year, the festival brings together local tomato fans, chefs, farmers and mixologists for an afternoon that benefits Georgia Organics.

On Sunday, July 22nd, top Atlanta chefs and mixologists will create tomato dishes or cocktails using produce grown by regional farmers. Festival goers will get to snack and sip all the creations and then vote for their favorite.

There will also be live performances by The Spazmatics and local chef band Five Bone Rack.

This year’s Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival will include 37 chefs, 12 mixologists and more than 30 farmers. Scroll down for a list of participating chefs and mixologists.

Tickets are now on sale and cost $60 per person ($50 for Georgia Organic members). Ticket prices go up to $70 on June 15th. Approximately 1,400 tickets will be available for the festival and may be purchased online by clicking here.

Last year’s event raised nearly $40,000 for Georgia Organics.

The 4th annual JCT. Kitchen Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival will be held on Sunday, July 22, 2012 from 1pm to 5pm at JCT. Kitchen and Bar, 1198 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta 30318.

Participating Chefs:
Jay Swift of 4th & Swift
David Larkworthy of 5 Seasons Brewing Company
Tyler Williams of Abattoir
Gerry Klaskala of Aria
Andy Carson and Carla Tomasko of Bacchanalia — Won “Best Tasting Dish” in 2011
Shaun Doty of Bantam & Biddy
Todd Ginsberg of Bocado
Carvel Grant Gould of Canoe
Tandy Wilson of City House (in Nashville, TN)
Ryan Smith of Empire State South
Whitney Otawka of Farm 255
Terry Koval of Farm Burger
Harper McClure of The Federalist (in Washington D.C.)
Cooper Miller of The Feed Store
Christopher Schmidt of Floataway Café
Ford Fry of JCT. Kitchen & Bar
Brent Banda of La Tavola Trattoria
Eric Ottensmeyer of Leon’s Full Service
Zeb Stevenson of Livingston Restaurant + Bar
Chris Hall of Local Three
Steven Satterfield of Miller Union
Donald Sargent of Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream — Won “Special Mention” in 2011
Drew Belline of No. 246
Adam Evans of The Optimist and Oyster Bar at The Optimist
Andrew Smith of Ormsby’s
Nick Rutherford and Molly Gunn of The Porter
Hector Santiago of Pura Vida *Won “Best Presentation” in 2011
Kevin Rathbun of Rathbun’s, Kevin Rathbun Steak and Krog Bar
Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene and Holeman & Finch Public House — Won “Best Booth” in 2011
Ron Eyester of Rosebud and The Family Dog
Scott Serpas of Serpas True Food
Drew Van Leuvan of Seven Lamps
Jessica Hanners of Souper Jenny
Christopher Neff of Sprig
Eddie Hernandez of Taqueria del Sol — Won “People’s Choice for Best Tasting Dish” in 2011
Chris Marconi of West Egg Café
E.J. Hodgkinson of Woodfire Grill

Participating Mixologists:
Kevin Bragg of 4th& Swift
Ryan McLaughlin of Abattoir
Clay Webb of Bacchanalia
Kellie Thorn of Empire State South
Jarina Naone of Floataway Café
Jerry Slater and Callie Schlosser of H. Harper Station
Andy Minchow of Holeman & Finch Public House
Lara Creasy of JCT. Kitchen & Bar, No. 246 and The Optimist
Miles Macquarrie of Leon’s Full Service — Won “Best Tasting Cocktail” in 2011
Stuart White of Miller Union
Paul Calvert of Pura Vida — Won “People’s Choice for Best Tasting Cocktail” in 2011
Brian Stanger of Woodfire Grill

AG Pick: Newton The Puzzle 2008

Newton Vineyard’s The Puzzle 2008 is a red wine in which all the pieces fit perfectly together — both the blend of grapes and the balance of tannins, alcohol and acidity.

This Bordeaux-style blend has an elegance that is reminiscent of its French counterparts. It is rich yet soft, with layers of flavor that gently unfold in each sip.

Newton Vineyard is located on Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley. The winery was one of the early pioneers of Spring Mountain, and one of the first Napa Valley wineries to make unfiltered and naturally fermented wines.

The Puzzle 2008 is a blend of 42% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec, skillfully assembled like pieces of a puzzle by winemaker Chris Millard. The grapes came from Newton Vineyard’s 112 vineyard blocks, each with varying microclimates and rugged terrain. The wine spent 20 months aging in new French oak.

The Puzzle draws you in with aromas of ripe dark fruit, rose and vanilla. The expressive palate has concentrated flavors of blackberry, black cherry and plum woven in with cedar, cinnamon, white pepper and espresso.

Well-integrated tannins add a firm structure and give the wine a silky mouthfeel. The finish is long and satisfying with lingering mocha and black fruit.

This is a wine to add to your cellar now, to enjoy now and over the next ten years.

A bottle of Newton Vineyard The Puzzle 2008 costs approximately $80.

14.5% alcohol by volume

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