Tag Archives: American cuisine

MAYA Steaks Seafood

MAYA: Superior Steak in Sandy Springs

When a new steak restaurant comes along you expect the focus to be on high quality, great tasting steaks. And that’s what MAYA Steaks & Seafood gets exactly right.

MAYA Steaks & SeafoodThe upscale spot in Sandy Springs is the latest restaurant from Mimmo Alboumeh, chef and owner of Red Pepper Taqueria in Buckhead and Decatur. MAYA, named for Chef Mimmo’s youngest daughter, is an American steakhouse with a Spanish flair. Chef Mimmo, who was born in Lebanon, grew up in Spain and spent time in Italy before coming to Georgia.

Chef Mimmo is passionate about finding the right beef to serve. As he was planning the menu, he tasted selections from a variety of meat purveyors. From all of them he selected Braveheart Black Angus Beef, not just for the superior taste but for the treatment and processing of the cattle. Chef Mimmo even traveled to one of their farms in Tennessee to witness this firsthand. Braveheart beef is unique to MAYA; no other Atlanta area restaurants carry it.

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New Drinks at Ted’s Montana Grill

There’s a new reason to dine at Ted’s Montana Grill this summer — five, actually. The restaurant inspired by the pioneer spirit of the American West has introduced three new handcrafted cocktails and two adult milkshakes.

Ted's Montana Grill drinks and nachosThe cocktails are infused with fresh ingredients and taste like summer in a glass.

The Ruby River is made with Hendrick’s gin, fresh-squeezed lime juice, strawberries and mint.

The Buffalo 41 is made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Grand Marnier, fresh-squeezed lemonade and wildberry puree, and garnished with blackberries.

The Grand Agave is made with Patron Tequila, Grand Marnier, fresh-squeezed lime juice and organic agave nectar.

The adult milkshakes are a first for Ted’s Montana Grill. Both are hand-dipped and made with Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

The Slide is Ted’s twist on the traditional Mudslide with vanilla ice cream, Kahlua, Absolut vodka, Baileys and Hershey’s chocolate syrup, and tastes just as good as you would imagine. The Boozy Berry is made with vanilla ice cream, Tito’s vodka, Grand Marnier and fresh-squeezed lemonade infused with wildberries.

Enjoy the drinks with a plate of bison nachos and one of Ted’s award-winning gourmet beef and bison burgers.

Try the new cocktails and adult milkshakes at a Ted’s Montana Grill near you, with locations in Cumberland, Downtown, Midtown, Mill Creek, The Avenue, Decatur, Kennesaw, Lawrenceville, Marietta, Peachtree Corners and Peachtree City.

For more information visit tedsmontanagrill.com.

New Menus at Article 14

Article 14 is the kind of restaurant that makes you wish you worked or lived in Midtown so you could walk there for a drink or a bite to eat.

Wherever you are, now is a great time to check out Article 14. The restaurant recently revamped its menus, adding unique cocktails and dishes inspired by executive chef Chris Blobaum’s style of coast-to-coast American cuisine.

Article 14The new cocktail menu was created by Head Mixologist Arianne Fielder, a familiar face to Atlantans who enjoy high quality, handcrafted drinks (Fielder worked previously at Seven Lamps and Southern Art and Bourbon Bar). The menu offers classic and signature cocktails, house barrel-aged drinks and ‘beertails,’ cocktails with beer as one of the ingredients.

Smoke and Mirrors, Field of Dreams cocktailsTry the Field of Dreams, a mix of Kentucky vintage small batch bourbon, Wild Heaven Ode to Mercy, rosemary-infused sorghum and ginger. The frothy top is garnished with a sprig of rosemary that makes each sip an aromatic experience.

Manhattan fans will want to try the Smoke and Mirrors, a barrel-aged cocktail with Four Roses Bourbon, Dolin Rouge, Cherry Heering and smoky Memphis BBQ bitters.

Article 14The menu offers starters, salads, sides, small plates and entrees. Try one of the seafood dishes and you won’t be disappointed. The Steamed Clams come in a savory broth made with SweetWater ale and chorizo (you may want to ask for extra bread for dipping). The Pan Roasted Sea Scallops are cooked perfectly and maintain their delicate taste and texture.

The Grilled Pork Chop has a wonderfully smoky flavor, and is nicely complimented by the bed of Anson Mills polenta and figs. A popular item on the new menu is the Grilled Cowboy Ribeye, which comes with potato puree and grilled Vidalia onion rings.

If you’re having a drink and want something to snack on, try the Duck Confit Sliders, Salumi or Tacos. Or try the Okra Chips, which will satisfy your craving for salty and crunchy.

In addition to lunch and dinner, Article 14 is open for weekend brunch. Click here to see the menus. Complimentary 2-hour valet parking is available in an adjacent garage.

Article 14 is part of Legacy Restaurant Partners, which includes Olmstead, Stats, Glenn’s Kitchen, Der Biergarten, Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria and Game-X.

Article 14, 1180 Peachtree Street Suite B (on 14th Street), Atlanta 30309. (404) 443-8432, article14.com

SMASH Kitchen & Bar Now Open

Satisfy your appetite no matter what you’re craving at SMASH Kitchen & Bar, now open in Town Brookhaven. The modern casual American restaurant is the newest concept from the Here to Serve Restaurants group, and features smash hits from owner Tom Catherall’s other Atlanta eateries.

Smash Kitchen & BarFlatbreads, steaks and burgers are the main attractions on SMASH’s menu. The flatbreads are cooked in a wood burning oven, and range from the Classic Margherita to the Diablo, a spicy mix of chorizo, coppa salume and hot chili peppers.

It may be hard to decide between the Steak Burger and the SKB Burger. Your decision will be even tougher when you scroll down the menu and see the “Smash it Down,” shaved prime rib served with BBQ sauce and horseradish slaw. For non meat eaters there’s the Veggie Burger, made in house with brown deviled eggs, bacon, pimento cheeserice, black beans, beets and quinoa.

In addition to a selection of steaks there are baby back ribs and pork chops. There’s also skillet fried chicken, jumbo lump crab cake, grilled salmon and a variety of salads and sides (we told you there was something to match any craving).

Click here to see SMASH Kitchen & Bar’s lunch, dinner and brunch menus

Brunch offers a menu that’s as fun to order as it is tasty. Try the Baked Frenchman (bread pudding french toast), the Mad Italian Skillet Scramble (coppa, mozzarella and chili flakes topped with basil, baby arugula and tomato), or the Gravedigger (chicken fried pork chop with fried egg, mushroom, sausage, gravy and a cheddar cheese biscuit). Of course you can’t go wrong with the SKB Chicken & Waffles, which comes with a decadent pecan bacon syrup.

flatbreadIf you’re in the mood for drinks or light bites, take a right past the host stand and you’ll find a great list of wines, beer and cocktails at SMASH’s bar.

The décor for the bar and restaurant is a mix of cozy and eclectic. Brick walls, red booths and SMASH burgera window into the kitchen give Smash a casual feel, while a unique mix of art, chandeliers and a larger than life ‘eat’ sign make it feel like an escape from the shopping center outside.

The Here to Serve Restaurants group includes Prime, Noche, Goldfish, Twist, Shout, Strip, Aja, Coast Seafood and Raw Bar and Cantina. Later this fall H2SR will open Shucks, an upscale oyster and wine bar, also in Town Brookhaven.

Looking for a unique holiday gift? Here to Serve Restaurants is partnering with Atlanta shops and destinations for the 5 Star Package. A $100 gift certificate to any Here to Serve restaurant will come with an additional $100 in coupons to Spa Sydell, Fab’rik clothing boutique, the Alliance Theater and the Cook’s Warehouse. 5 Star Package cards will be available for purchase at each partner location and online at www.h2sr.com and the 5 Star partners’ websites.

Smash Kitchen & Bar, 804 Town Boulevard, Suite 1010 in Town Brookhaven, Atlanta, 30319. (404) 841-4221

>> Connect: @SmashATL and @H2SRestaurants on Twitter
Facebook: www.facebook.com/smashATL

images below and of food above from Here to Serve Restaurants

Where to Celebrate July 4th in Atlanta

fireworksThe Fourth of July is all about fun, friends, fireworks — and food! Whether you’re looking to dine out on Independence Day or want to bring a feast home, here are the top holiday eats in Atlanta.


Southern Art

Outdoor Barbecue: The Southern-inspired restaurant will be hosting a gourmet barbecue outdoors on the patio featuring Memphis-style barbecue, brews and more from noon to 4pm. Be sure to stop by Bourbon Bar to enjoy an All-American tipple.
3315 Peachtree Rd NE, Atlanta 30326
(404) 946-9070, southernart.com



Game-XPlay, Drink and Dine: Finger foods like dead-heat hummus and wings of fortune are available throughout the day. Gamers can play Pac-Man Smash, NBA Hoops and plenty of other favorites. Once the sun sets, guests can watch the fireworks from the city’s new Ferris wheel, SkyWheel Atlanta, conveniently located near Game-X.
275 Baker St NW, Atlanta 30313
(404) 525-0728, gamexatl.com



Music and Fireworks: Ventanas is teaming up with Q100 for a night full of music, food and drinks. The $26 ticket includes hors d’oeuvres and a complimentary well drink. The indoor event will keep guests cool while they dance to music played by the night’s DJ. With fireworks at eye level, Ventanas is the premiere location to watch the Atlanta skyline light up. The party starts at 6pm and fireworks will begin as soon as the sun sets. Guests who purchase tickets will also receive a $5 play card to use at Game-X before the event. Call or visit their website to purchase tickets.
275 Baker Street, Atlanta 30313
(404) 766-3867, ventanas.com

Glenwood Park


BBQ to Go: Chef Kevin Gillespie’s Gunshow is offering barbecue-to-go packages for four, filled with Southern classics. Dishes include a quart of whole hog, pulled pork and Brunswick stew, a pint of coleslaw, eight buns, dill pickles, saltine crackers and cookies. The cost is $50 plus tax and diners can reserve by Saturday, June 29 to guarantee pickup between noon and 3pm on Thursday, July 4th. A few extra packages will also be available at the restaurant, but reservations are highly recommended.
924 Garrett Street SE, Suite C, Atlanta 30316
(404) 380-1886, gunshowatl.com

Inman Park

The Albert

Dine In and Takeout Rib Special: Guests are invited to enjoy The Albert’s $16 rib special, which includes a full rack with sides of savory creamed corn and baked beans. For those who prefer to celebrate at home, a takeout special will also be available for $30 and includes two full racks of ribs with sides of creamed corn and baked beans. All takeout orders must be placed by July 2nd.
918 Austin Avenue, Atlanta 30307
(404) 872-4990, www.thealbertatlanta.com


Cucina Asellina

Cucina AsellinaJuly 4th Edition of POP! Brunch on Sunday, July 7th: Throughout the day guests are invited to relax on Cucina’s scenic, dog-friendly patio while sipping on $4 Tito’s Bacon Bloody Marys and enjoying delicious POP! Brunch menu items like wood fire baked eggs, salmon tartare, housemade yogurt and more, with DJ Dillon spinning tunes.
1075 Peachtree Street, Atlanta 30309
(404) 793-0141, togrp.com/togrp-cucina-asellina-atlanta


Cypress Street Pint and Plate

Free Brunch for Peachtree Runners: Following the Peachtree Road Race at 9am, any participating runner or walker that brings in their race number will receive their meal free of charge.
817 West Peachtree, Suite E-125, Atlanta 30308
(404) 815-9243, www.cypressbar.com


Marlow’s Tavern

Red, White and Brew Menu: Now through Monday, July 29th, a selection of patriotic plates, hand-crafted cocktails and local brews are available to diners. The “Red, White and Brew” menu celebrates summer in the U.S.A. with dishes and beverages like the beach house bruschetta and the summertime watermelon margarita. The restaurant is also hosting the Fourth Annual Marlow’s Tavern Grilling Recipe Contest, where grill-masters can submit their best recipe for a chance to win a Big Green Egg and other prizes.
950 West Peachtree St NW #215, Atlanta 30309
(404) 815-0323, marlowstavern.com



Celebrate Early: Atlantans can rise and shine for a tasty day to celebrate America and the Peachtree Road Race. Bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys will be offered for $14, while an a la carte menu will be served starting at 7am.
1180 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta 30309
(404) 443-8431, olmstedatl.com


Rí Rá Irish Pub

The Great Guinness Road Race Giveaway: Starting at 9am, the Irish Pub will featuring 5-cent pints of Guinness for Peachtree Road Race competitors (first 90 pints, max two pints per runner), 20% off food for all and a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar.
1080 Peachtree St NE #1, Atlanta 30309
(404) 477-1700, www.rira.com/atlanta



Open Early for the Race: Woody’s will open at 7am on the 4th to serve those running and watching the Peachtree Road Race. Woody’s will be serving its All-American menu of Philly-style cheesesteaks and other submarine sandwiches, hot dogs and potato chips, with locally brewed SweetWater 420 and Red Hare beer on tap, premium ice cream for shakes or splits and frozen treats from the King of Pops. Starting on the 4th Woody’s will begin serving Frozen Pints.
981 Monroe Drive NE, Atlanta 30308
(404) 876-1939, woodys.com


Woodfire Grill

Annual BBQ & Beer Party: Executive Chef Tyler Williams of Woodfire Grill is preparing a star-studded barbecue feast on Wednesday, July 3 from 5:30 to 11pm. Guests can load up their plates with watermelon, skillet cornbread with butter, pork butt, chicken thigh and beef brisket served with Carolina mustard vinegar, pepper vinegar and sweet Memphis-style sauces. All-American sides include coleslaw, potato salad, deviled eggs and green beans with bacon. Pastry Chef Karie Brown is preparing peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream for dessert. SweetWater 420 drafts are available for $6 and proceeds from sales are being donated to “Save the Hooch,” a campaign started by Atlanta’s SweetWater Brewery in 2005 to advocate and secure the protection and stewardship of the Chattahoochee River, its tributaries and watershed. The cost is $38 per person (plus tax and gratuity). Reservations are required and seating is limited.
1782 Cheshire Bridge Rd, Atlanta 30324
(404) 347-9055, woodfiregrill.com

Virginia Highland

Atkins Park Restaurant & Bar

Sixth Annual Go Whole Hog or Go Home Fourth of July Party: For $15 guests can enjoy a meat-and-three meal for lunch or dinner. The Backyard Beer Olympics starts at 3pm and games include Ping-Pong, ladder toss, cornhole and darts. Registration for teams of two is free, and over $500 in prizes is up for grabs.
794 N Highland Ave NE  Atlanta 30306
(404) 876-7249, atkinspark.com


D.B.A Barbecue

Fourth of July Catering Packages: Looking for a way to enjoy an All-American backyard barbecue without the hassle of cooking? This 4th of July let D.B.A. Barbecue cater your cookout. Call or visit their website to place an order for a catering package that includes:

DBA barbecue• The Smoked Chicken Wings Platter: With Blue Cheese and Celery Plain, BBQ, Buffalo, or Lemon Pepper. 50 wings for $45; 75 wings for $60; 100 wings for $80; and 250 wings for $190.
The Big Game Platter: Two pounds of pulled pork, Boiled Peanuts, 50 wings, and one full rack of individually cut Spare Ribs. Feeds 4 for $75.
Smoke-n-fried Chicken: Smoked then battered and fried chicken. Twelve pieces with 4 muffins, any two sides and banana pudding. Feeds 4 for $45.
Tailgate Package: 4 pounds pulled pork, 4 racks spare ribs, 4 bone in chickens, 3 quarts baked beans, 3 quarts potato salad, 3 quarts coleslaw, 3 quarts banana pudding, with sternos and stands. Feeds 15 for $250.

SweetWater Tap Takeover: Beginning on July 4th at 11:30am, D.B.A. will host a SweetWater Tap Takeover through July 7th, featuring SweetWater 420, IPA, Blue, LowRYEder, Georgia Brown, Waterkeeper Hefeweizen, and Road Trip. On July 5th, 10% of all dine-in sales will benefit SweetWater’s Chattahoochee Riverkeeper efforts.
1190 N. Highland Avenue NE Suite B Atlanta 30306
(404) 249-5000, www.dbabarbecue.com

West Midtown

Bone Lick BBQ

Red, White + ‘Cue: Bone Lick BBQ is excited to invite friends and fellow barbecue aficionados to the inaugural edition of their Fourth of July Rooftop BBQ Bonanza. The special event, featuring live music, a whole hog roast, kiddie pools and more, will kick off atop the Apex building at 12pm. As guests sip on ice-cold brews, Chef Mike LaSage will serve up his award winning ‘cue, complete with all of the fixings. Red White + ‘Cue attendees will also have the opportunity to participate in a Twinkie eating competition for the chance to win a variety of prizes courtesy of PBR and Bone Lick BBQ. When the sun sets, guests will experience 360-degree views of some of Atlanta’s best fireworks displays. Ample parking is available on the street and in a large parking deck accessible by an entrance located between Slice and Bone Lick BBQ.
1133 Huff Road NW, Atlanta 30318
(404) 343-6574, www.bonelickbarbecue.com


No. 246

Table Tennis & Tipples: Guests are invited to celebrate the Fourth of July with a day of Ping-Pong and drink specials. The lunch menu will be served from 11am to 7pm and includes pizza, salads and sandwiches
129 E Ponce De Leon Ave, Decatur 30030
(678) 399-8246, no246.com

Something Offal is Going On

Something offal is going on in Atlanta.  When I visited the city a couple of months ago, many of the highly recommended restaurants had some sort of out of the ordinary animal offering.

Vegetarians, consider yourself warned.  You may not want to read beyond this point.

Offal is defined as the various non-skeletal muscle parts of a butchered animal that may be eaten.  These include the liver, kidneys, thymus (on menus as sweetbread), heart, brain and tongue.

I’ve always been a pretty adventurous eater.  I remember asking my parents if I could order escargot at a French restaurant when I was about 10 years old (and I’ve loved eating them ever since).  I tried tongue once but couldn’t get beyond the texture, and have had mixed experiences with sweetbreads.  But foie gras is one of my guilty pleasures.

Holman & FinchThough I never ruled out eating other organs, I didn’t really think I’d have the opportunity to try them.  When I saw a variety on the menu at Atlanta’s Holman & Finch Public House I felt oddly compelled to order some.

I could have never guessed I would ever rave about — or crave — heart.  But I have not been able to stop talking about Holman & Finch’s dish ever since I dined there.

The decor of the Buckhead restaurant can best be described as “butcher chic.”  Shades of silver and stainless steel make up the color scheme for the dimly lit bar and small dining area that look like they could be sprayed down for cleaning at the end of the night.  From the pig parts and sausages hanging near the entrance to the large sliding barn doors for the bathrooms, everything about the restaurant says vegetarians unwelcome.

I started off slowly, ordering the steak tartare and pan-roasted rabbit livers.  The tartare was delicious, chopped into small bits with whole grain mustard and onions that gave it a great flavor.  I wasn’t as impressed by the rabbit livers which were overly fried, masking the liver’s taste and spongy texture.

marrow at Holman & FinchI decided to kick it up a notch and ordered the gratin of marrow served with parsley salad and country bread.  I’d had marrow before and remembered it being rich and creamy.  Holman & Finch’s version definitely fit this description.  Served in the bone, the marrow tasted like warm, melting butter.  The bread (great in its own right), made an excellent sponge for soaking it up.  Before I knew it, the bone was empty.  I had to restrain myself from picking it up to lick any remaining bits — a thought that seemed strangely normal and appealing in that setting.

With a few rounds of animal parts under my belt, I felt daring enough to order the ultimate offal — peppercorn crusted veal heart.  The dish arrived unassumingly enough; thinly-sliced rectangular pieces of meat served over parsnip puree in a blood orange sauce.  Had I not seen the menu I might have thought it was filet mignon.

veal heart at Holman & FinchTaking a deep breath, I took my first bite.  My reaction was instantaneous.

Quite simply put, the veal heart was out of this world.

The taste was incredible.  The meat was richly flavored without any hint of gaminess, nicely balanced out by the sweet citrus of the sauce.   And I couldn’t get over the texture.  The meat was all muscle and no fat, without any toughness at all.  It was like biting into a lean piece of filet mignon, only better.  The parsnip puree rounded out the meat and potatoes feel, adding a wonderfully creamy element to the dish.  A forkful of the heart, puree and sauce together is one of the best flavor combinations I’ve eaten in quite some time.

I’m not sure if I was channeling the energy of the calf or if it was the 2 glasses of wine, but something in me seemed to turn primal.  I had an insatiable appetite for heart and I wanted more!

Unfortunately in all my excitement, I hadn’t realized how full I had become.  So it was just as well that the restaurant was out of veal brains.  At least I’ll have an excuse for a return visit.

Holman & Finch Public House is located at 2277 Peachtree Road Northeast in Atlanta Georgia.  They are open for dinner Monday through Saturday and for lunch on Sunday.  Reservations are not accepted.  For the faint of heart, there are vegetarian side dishes and less adventurous fare on the menu.

Attention Atlanta residents and visitors: beginning in March the Amateur Gastronomer is expanding to Atlanta!  If you have a story, wine or event to suggest email editor@amateurgastronomer.com.

An Interview with Chef Eric Ripert

Chef Eric Ripert needs no introduction. A French native and world-renowned chef, Ripert is truly a master in the kitchen.  Just one visit to Manhattan’s Le Bernardin where Ripert is executive chef will turn you into a passionate and devoted fan. You may not need an entire meal — I was hooked after a few bites of my first course.

Chef Ripert has won many awards, published several books and made numerous television appearances, including his show Avec Eric on PBS. This February he’ll be participating in the Tribute Dinner honoring Daniel Boulud at the 2010 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

I had the opportunity to interview Chef Ripert and found out he’s just as passionate about enjoying good food as he is about creating it.

The Amateur Gastronomer: I have been a huge fan of yours since dining at Le Bernardin years ago and have really enjoyed watching Avec Eric. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions!

Chef Eric Ripert: Thank you!

AG: What is the food experience or dish that inspired you to become a chef?

ER: Since a very young age I spent time in the kitchen with my mother and grandmothers. I always loved eating and thought about becoming a chef since I was a child.

AG: Do you have a favorite dish to cook for yourself and your family?

ER: Since I eat fish during the week at Le Bernardin, I love to cook steak for the family on the weekends.

AG: What are your favorite and/or must-have ingredients?

ER: A good set of sharp knives, fine sea salt and black truffles.

AG: What is your most expensive yet best value ingredient in your kitchen, either at home or in your restaurant?

ER: I would say Kobe beef. While it is a very expensive product, a small amount goes a long way and can be the foundation of a great meal.

AG: What seasonal ingredients do you most look forward to using over the next few months?

ER: I always enjoy the black truffle season. It’s probably my favorite seasonal ingredient, favorite ingredient, period.

AG: Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to food?

ER: I have no guilt! I eat everything in moderation. I love dark chocolate.

AG: What food could you eat forever and never get sick of? Is there any food that you detest?

ER: Black truffle — I could eat it forever. And I must admit, tofu I tend to detest.

AG: Great food deserves great wine. Do you have a favorite bottle, varietal or pairing?

ER: I drink only Bordeaux!

AG: I know you’re a fan of tequila. Do you have a favorite style or brand?

ER: Lately I’m really enjoying Casa Dragones, really wonderful for sipping.

AG: How has your business been affected by the economy?

No question, the economic slump has been rough on restaurants but back in January 2009 when things were quite bleak, my partner and I decided to announce that we would donate $1 to City Harvest (a local food rescue organization) for every guest who dined with us throughout the year. We wanted to combat all the negative news we kept hearing about and try to do something positive. We ended up very close to our goal of raising $100,000 during 2009.

AG: What do you see as being the new dining trends?

ER: I think interest in Asian food is continuing to grow and in particular Korean cuisine.

AG: How do you feel about the movement to eat more locally grown and produced foods?

ER: I think it is critical that we continue to move in this direction.

AG: Is American cooking and are American diners getting more sophisticated?

ER: Absolutely, I think the interest in food in our country is continuing to grow and I love that American diners are really willing to try many things and aren’t tied to one culinary tradition.

AG: What are the differences between American and French diners?

ER: I’d say French diners may be slightly more traditional than Americans. Americans are very adventurous and there is so much diversity in food here.

AG: How has your profession changed with the popularity of the Food Network and shows like Top Chef?

ER: TV coverage of food is great, it gets people talking about food and ingredients and I think can only be a good thing for our industry.

AG: What has it been like to go from chef to celebrity?

ER: I always say, it doesn’t help in the kitchen!

AG: What other chefs do you most respect? Whose restaurants would you always want to dine in?

ER: A tough question. The list is endless — I’m constantly inspired by what other chefs do and create.

AG: At the South Beach Wine & Food Festival you will be participating in the Tribute Dinner honoring Daniel Boulud. Why did you want to get involved?

ER: Daniel is an amazing chef and a dear friend. When I got the invitation to be a part of the celebration there was no question I’d be there!

AG: Do you have any favorite restaurants in Miami or South Florida?

ER: I love Casa Tua in South Beach for its great food and beautiful ambiance.

AG: Do you think you will consider opening a restaurant in South Florida?

You never know, but right now I’m really focusing my energies on Le Bernardin and the three restaurants we operate with the Ritz-Carlton (Westend Bistro in Washington, D.C., 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge in Philadelphia and Blue in the Grand Cayman Islands).

AG: What advice do you have for home cooks and aspiring chefs?

ER: For home cooks, I always suggest investing in good knives (a chef’s knife and a pairing knife as a basis), and good quality cookware. And try to work with the best quality ingredients you can. If you start with good product, you are more likely to end up with something good.

For aspiring chefs, I recommend spending some time in a professional kitchen and thinking very carefully about whether it’s a life you want to lead. It’s very demanding physically and mentally and you have to be ready for it.

AG: I cook often at home but want to make a special meal for my husband’s upcoming birthday. Do you have any advice on ingredients or dishes?

ER: There is a recipe in my latest cookbook, On the Line, which is I think is quite simple but very luxurious and delicious. We call it for shorthand “pasta caviar” — kind of like a carbonara pasta topped with caviar, perfect for a celebration.

AG: Avec Eric is a great show for anyone who enjoys traveling or good food. Are you planning another season?

ER: We are locking in details for season two now and we hope to travel to Japan, Louisiana and the Grand Cayman Islands.

AG: How do your travels affect your cooking?

ER: Travel is one of the ways I find inspiration. It is a very important part of my life and influences my cooking heavily.

AG: Where in the world would you like to travel to, where you haven’t already been?

ER: I would love to spend more time in Asia, maybe Vietnam, Thailand, Bhutan and Japan.

AG: What projects are you working on next?

ER: Continuing to evolve the menu at Le Bernardin and season two of Avec Eric.

AG: When you’re not working or cooking what do you enjoy to do?

ER: Smoke cigars!

Visit Chef Eric Ripert’s official site at aveceric.com.

For details on the 2010 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival visit sobefest.com.

Miami's Best Brunches

You can’t beat brunch.  A great brunch is the most sumptuous meal of the week and it’s the best excuse to have all of your favorite foods at one time.

If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, just think how important brunch must be!

Looking to plan your Sunday brunch?  Here are my favorite spots in Miami:

Acqua at Four Seasons Miami
An elegant setting to enjoy brunch favorites with a Mediterranean flair.  With extensive cheese, carving, Asian food stations and more, there’s truly something for any taste.  If you’re not in the mood for a Mimosa or Bloody Mary get a mojito — all are unlimited.  Request a table by the window for nice views of Brickell and the bay.
$70 per person.  Located in the Four Seasons Miami, 1435 Brickell Avenue, Brickell. (305) 381-3190

Area 31
Chef John Critchley’s brunch is a gourmet buffet featuring caviar, paté, cold cuts and cooked dishes like roast chicken breast and steak frites.  While sipping on unlimited Mimosas or Bellinis you can enjoy live music.
$50 per person.  Located in the EPIC Hotel, 270 Biscayne Boulevard Way, Downtown Miami.  (305) 424-5234

Whether it’s breakfast or lunch, Balans has it all.  You can’t go wrong with one of the four kinds of eggs benedict or the enormous breakfast burrito, though you may be tempted by the lobster club wrap or the chili beef salad.  The à la carte menu ranges from around $8 to $15.  To get your day started there’s a full menu of cocktails for $11 each.  Just be sure to arrive early otherwise you could have a long wait (especially at the Miami Beach location).
Both Saturday & Sunday.  Two locations: 901 South Miami Avenue, Brickell and 1022 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach.  (305) 534-9191

Biltmore Hotel
It doesn’t get any more lavish than Sunday Champagne brunch at the Biltmore Hotel.  The array of selections include carving, omelet, sushi and tapas stations, plus a wall of desserts.
$75 per person.  Located in Fontana Restaurant at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables.  (305) 913-3202

Bizcaya at the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove
The Ritz-Carlton always gets brunch right.  Here you’ll enjoy all the traditional favorites plus made-to-order sushi and sashimi and grilled-to-order fresh fish — all in a gorgeous setting that includes a cascading waterfall.  And of course, you’ll be able to take in the view with free-flowing Champagne.
$52 per person, $25 for kids 4 to 12 years old.  Located in the Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove, 3300 Southwest 27th Avenue, Coconut Grove.  (305) 644-4680

Cioppino at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne
A buffet so big you’ll be full just looking at it.  Go easy on the pasta, salads and grilled meats so you can save room for caviar (three different types), raw oysters and sushi.  Of course there are unlimited Bloody Marys and Champagne cocktails (Mimosas, Bellinis and a few more), and an entire room just for dessert.
$72 for adults, $36 for children under 12.  Located in the Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne, 455 Grand Bay Drive, Key Biscayne.  (305) 365-4286

The à la carte menu features a variety of frittatas and egg dishes that start at $12.  Or try the buttermilk pancakes that are topped with caramelized apples and spiced candied walnuts.  Plus you get to enjoy complimentary Mimosas or Bloody Marys with your meal.  Bonus: brunch gets you free entrance to Club 50’s Sunday Refresher party where you can groove to a live DJ and enjoy light bites until 5pm (it’s normally $30).
Located in the Viceroy Hotel, 485 Brickell Avenue, Brickell. (305) 503-0373

Rusty Pelican
Go for the great view of downtown and Brickell, stay for the enormous fresh seafood spread.  If you’re not in the mood for peel and eat shrimp, raw oysters or steamed crab, there’s always the assortment of cold salads and ham or beef at the carving station.  Enjoy the view with unlimited Champagne, Mimosas or orange juice.
$33.95 per person, $13.95 for kids 5 to 10 years old, under 5 free.  3201 Rickenbacker Causeway, Key Biscayne.  (305) 361-3818

The Setai
Craving Asian cuisine?  Check out Sunday brunch at the Setai.  In addition to eggs, pancakes and traditional brunch breads, there’s a wide assortment of Indian, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian dishes.
$67 per person, $34 for kids 5 to 12 years old.  2001 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach.  (305) 520-6400

Escape the craziness of South Beach at this cozy brunch.  The buffet is set up on the restaurant’s garden patio and features a carving station, pasta, fresh local fish, breakfast favorites like waffles and pancakes and an elaborate display of homemade desserts.
$29 per person which includes juice and coffee.  210 23rd Street, Miami Beach.  (305) 672-0778

Tre Italian Bistro
A great value and a convenient spot for people who live in downtown.  A la carte items are $12 and come with a complimentary Mimosa, Bloody Mary, sangria, orange juice or cappuccino (each additional drink is $3).
270 East Flagler Street, Downtown Miami.  (305) 373-3303

Tropical Chinese Restaurant
It’s a bit of a drive from downtown and Miami Beach but it’s the best dim sum in the area.  A word of advice: don’t get too much off of the baked and fried items cart so you can load up on delicious steamed dumplings.  Dishes range between $3 and $7 so your bill can be as small or as big as your appetite.
Both Saturday & Sunday.  7991 Southwest 40th Street, Miami.  (305) 262-7576

8 oz Burger Bar
I could eat 8 oz’s juicy burgers any time of the day (my favorite is the Niman Ranch lamb), but they’re even better with Bloody Marys that you can customize at the Bloody Mary bar.  Unlimited Bloody Marys cost $20.
1080 Alton Road, Miami Beach.  (305) 397-8246

Have a favorite brunch spot that’s not on the list?  Send an email to tips@amateurgastronomer.com.

Take a Bite Out of Bulldog Barbecue

This Memorial Day weekend leave the barbecuing to the pros.  It’s the perfect time to check out Bulldog Barbecue, the North Carolina-style ‘cue restaurant of Top Chef season 3 contestant Howie Kleinberg.

Howie KleinbergIf you’re looking for a greasy and gritty barbecue joint, this isn’t it.  You won’t smell like smoke when you leave and you won’t be in pain hours after you’ve eaten.  Bulldog Barbecue is more like barbecue for city folk — which in my city folk opinion, is not necessarily a bad thing.

The restaurant has the feel of a down-home barbecue spot with some modern elements thrown in.  From your table that’s covered in butcher paper you can look into the open kitchen, or sit at the stainless steel bar for a closer look.  Drinks are served in mason jars.  The food arrives on paper that resembles newsprint.  There’s a wall caddy with a roll of paper towels at each table so you don’t have to ask for extra napkins, and two different sauces to add extra flavor.

Bulldog Barbecue is one of those restaurants where your eyes become much bigger than your stomach when you look at the menu.  You can’t help but order more than you can actually eat.

wingsTo start, try the white chili made with turkey and white beans.  If you like chicken wings be sure to order the smokehouse wings, served with a buttermilk-blue cheese dressing.  They’re much more moist and fresh-tasting than the wings I’ve had at other restaurants.

The tough choice comes when you’re trying to choose your main dish.  With baby back ribs, BBQ chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket, skirt steak and more, dine with friends so you can share.

bbq platterKleinberg’s brisket is a mix between Texas brisket and Jewish brisket.  It’s so tender you can cut it with a spoon.  Order the brisket on its own or as a slider, which you assemble yourself on a potato roll.

On Top Chef Kleinberg was notorious for cooking pork, which did not always get positive reviews from the judges.  Whether you were a fan or wanted Kleinberg to pack his knives and go, you won’t be surprised to see pulled pork on the menu at Bulldog Barbecue — and you’ll be glad to know it’s really tasty.  The pork is lightly smoked and served in a tangy vinegar-based sauce.

If you’re in the mood for seafood, try the shrimp and oyster po’ boy.  The shrimp and oysters are coated in cornmeal and gently fried so you can actually taste their flavor.

For side dishes, the burnt end beans are truly a guilty pleasure — sweet with pieces of brisket and crispy fried onion strings on top.  I also enjoyed the mac and cheese which is thick and creamy.  The coleslaw and cornbread were a little dry for my taste.

If you’re not into barbecue there are several salads to choose from (but what’s the fun in that?).

To wash down everything get the homemade lemonade.  It’s just the right mix of sour and sweet.  The waitstaff are generous with refills, offering you one before your glass is empty.

s'more pieIf for some reason you still have room for dessert, try the s’more pie.  It’s a giant serving of rich chocolate cake on a graham cracker crust, with a giant dollop of marshmallow on top that’s toasted with a blow torch.  Just a few bites and you’ll feel like you ate enough chocolate for a week!

Prices are on the expensive side for a barbecue place (entrees range from $14 for pulled pork to $22 for skirt steak).  If you don’t want to pay that much for barbecue, go to Bulldog’s new happy hour.  From 5pm to 8pm, Monday through Friday, you can order sliders for $1 each (a choice of pulled pork, brisket or chicken) and get beer and wine at half price.

If you want to have a barbecue at home without firing up the grill, order the “Bulldog in a Box.”  It’s a complete take-out meal for four that includes a choice of meat and a side dish, as well as fresh roasted corn on the cob, coleslaw and corn bread for $50.

Be sure to bring a big appetite to Bulldog Barbecue — you’ll need it.  But if you can’t finish all your food at least you can take it home in a doggie bag.

Bulldog Barbecue is located at 15400 Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami.  It’s open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, from noon to 10pm.  For more information visit bulldog-bbq.com.

Photos of Kleinberg and BBQ platter by Michael Katz.

Surprising Cuisine in a College Setting

When it comes to dining out, South Floridians love to find the next big thing.  A unique experience in North Miami is always one step ahead, serving fare from up-and-coming talents in the food and hospitality business.

The place: the dining room at Florida International University’s School of Hospitality.

Twice a week the dining room is transformed into a restaurant that is open to the public and run entirely by students.  It’s part of a course taught by professor and chef Michael Moran designed to give students on-the-job training.  From food preparation to the front of the house, students are in charge.

The students prepare a three-course lunch that includes freshly baked bread, an appetizer, a choice of entree and dessert.  At $15 per person (which includes a glass of wine and coffee or tea), it’s one of the best deals in Miami.

The class of 30 students is divided into groups that rotate through the different restaurant positions each week.  Chef Moran designs a basic menu and it’s up to the students to add their creativity and flair.

The menu changes every week.  When I went for lunch the meal was inspired by New Orleans – jalapeño corn bread, crab cakes and grits, a choice of roasted pork tenderloin or shrimp etouffee, and for dessert, beignets served with chocolate sauce and caramel.  The crab cakes were crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside, with large chunks of crab.  The etouffee was nicely spiced with a slight kick at the end.  The beignets were a little heavy but still very tasty.  The portions were generous and I found myself quite full before dessert was served.

Past menus have included such mouth-watering dishes as duck confit with dirty rice and orange gastrique, macadamia nut crusted halibut, braised lamb shank, pistachio panna cotta, and blackberry cobbler.

The School of Hospitality’s dining room gives many students their first experience of working in a restaurant — but it’s hard to tell.  The students pay great attention to detail, from decorating the tables to artfully plating each dish.  The servers are friendly and attentive, and willing to offer substitutions to items on the menu.  The pacing was just right; I never felt rushed and each course arrived without any delay.

While enjoying the meal in such an intimate setting I felt like I had discovered a secret dining club.  What made the experience even more impressive was realizing that these students are working towards a degree in the hospitality industry, and are not chefs in training.

After finishing dessert we had the opportunity to meet the students and thank them for a memorable dining experience.  It was truly a diverse group, with students from many countries including the United States, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Russia, India and China.

For these students, this experience gives them hands-on training without the stress of working in an actual restaurant and it better prepares them for a job in the hospitality industry.  We diners get a lot out of it too — a special meal, a chance to take a break during a busy day, and the opportunity to support and encourage students who are about to begin their careers.

The dining room reopens on May 18th.  I’ll definitely be back to see what the next class of students can cook up.

The dining room at FIU’s School of Hospitality is open for lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays when class is in session.  Service begins promptly at noon.  Reservations are a must – call Paula Wright at 305-919-4500.  You can pay by mailing a check or by cash when you arrive.

FIU’s School of Hospitality is located on the Biscayne Bay Campus in North Miami.  Metered parking is available on campus for $1 per hour.