Tag Archives: beef

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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Twin Smokers BBQ

Twin Smokers Brings BBQ to Downtown Atlanta

With the arrival of Twin Smokers BBQ, there’s now a restaurant for any craving in Downtown Atlanta.

The barbecue and bourbon spot in the Luckie Marietta District is the latest restaurant from Legacy Restaurant Partners, owners of nearby Der Biergarten, Game-X, Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria and STATS.

Twin Smokers offers a casual setting that focuses on the food. You place your order at the counter. Tables offer street views or views of the twin smokers – named Elizabeth and Matthew after the owner’s children. While you’re waiting you can check out the “Wood Library,” the restaurant’s collection of Texas mesquite, hickory, white oak and post oak used in the smokers.

Twin Smokers

Daily the chicken, pork and sausages are smoked over hickory and white oak in Elizabeth, and the beef is smoked over Texas mesquite and post oak in Matthew. Using traditional smoking techniques with some modern technology (the smokers have electric thermostats to control the temperature), everything comes out just right.

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The Pig and The Pearl

The Pig and The Pearl

The south meets the sea at The Pig & The Pearl, a smokehouse and raw bar now open at Atlantic Station.

Sure, it’s a seemingly odd pairing. But as The Amateur Gastronomer found out, it’s one that lets you enjoy exactly what you’re craving, without having to compromise on quality.

Pig and PearlThe Pig & The Pearl comes from the team at The Shed at Glenwood. Owners Todd Martin and Cindy Shera sought to create a gathering place in Midtown, with an artfully prepared and fun menu from Chef Todd Richards.

The interior is a mix of weathered wood and whitewashed brick that offers a soothing respite from busy Atlantic Station.

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Smokebelly BBQ

Smokebelly BBQ Now Open

Celebrate Labor Day weekend at Smokebelly’s Q & Brew Lawn Party. On August 31st from 5pm onward there will be a whole hog roast, $5 craft cocktails, $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon and live music.

There was something about Smokebelly BBQ that made me like it from the moment I arrived. Maybe it was the vintage décor that called to mind my favorite barbecue spot in Houston. Or the Led Zeppelin playing over the speakers. And it certainly didn’t hurt that we happened to be seated near a TV showing the Yankees game. But after the first sip of my cocktail, the smoky and spicy Southern Pina, I was happy to welcome Smokebelly to Buckhead.

And that’s the thing about barbecue – it’s a food that makes you happy. Have you ever seen someone looking depressed while digging into a plate of pulled pork or brisket?

Smokebelly BBQ is a new joint venture between the team behind The Big Ketch Saltwater Grill, Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails and Tin Lizzy’s Cantina and Trey Humphreys (the Fur Bus, A Social Mess and The Pool Hall). Helmed by Executive Chef Darrell Rice, Smokebelly offers a menu of regional barbecue favorites complemented by craft beer and cocktails.

Smokebelly cocktailsThough beer is a natural pairing for barbecue, you won’t want to miss out on the cocktails. The Southern Pina, Smokebelly’s take on a margarita with an added kick, is made with house smoked Mezcal, pineapple, lime juice, jalapeno and agave syrup. Another top pick is the Blackberry Whiskey Smash, made with bourbon, blackberries, lime, mint and sugar. The berries are muddled and then strained, so you get pure juice and no seeds.

Dave, our server, was the ideal guide for our first time at Smokebelly. While giving us an overview of the menu, he made sure to recommend dishes that we would have overlooked.

One such recommendation was the Blistered Peppadew Peppers. They were served on top of goat cheese, smoked almonds, black pepper and honey, with house-made crackers. On paper it was perhaps unusual but together the gently spicy pepper, creamy goat cheese and sweet honey were a tasty combination. We also enjoyed the Fried Pickled Okra, served with a barbecue ranch dipping sauce, and the Cherry Cola Ribs, which were flash fried and tossed in the house made sauce.

For the main course my husband and I shared the Sliced Smoked Turkey Breast and the Sliced Beef Brisket. The brisket had great flavor and the turkey was cooked just right (our favorite of the two, if we had to pick one). Both were even better when paired with one of Smokebelly’s sauces.

Smokebelly saucesAbout those sauces — you will never have to worry about running out. There are large bottles on your table, and a full lineup at the sauce bar. There’s the mustard-based Carolina Gold; the vinegar-based Carolina Red; the creamy Alabama White; the Cherry Cola; and a Sweet, Spicy and Savory.

Trying a bite of brisket and turkey in each of the sauces is the closest you’ll get to playing with your food as an adult.

Smokebelly turkey plateSmokebelly sliced brisketDon’t worry vegetarians, you’re still welcome at Smokebelly. There are a variety of vegetarian options and entrée size salads. All diners will enjoy the Chilled Sweet Corn and Edamame “Succotash,” and the collard greens-style Smoky Braised Kale is a standout among the sides (though just a warning for vegans, the kale and the baked beans are made with bacon).

Smokebelly banana puddingIf it is possible that you still have room for dessert, you’ll want to find out about the evening’s special offerings. While the peanut butter cake sounded incredible, we went for the (seemingly) less rich banana pudding. Lightly caramelized on top, with sliced bananas and a decadent creamy filling, it was a gourmet take on the southern sweet.

Smokebelly BBQ is open for lunch and dinner Sunday through Wednesday from 11am to 10pm, and Thursday through Saturday 11am until late. Plenty of free parking is available at the restaurant.

Smokebelly BBQ, 128 East Andrews Drive, Atlanta (Buckhead).
404.848.9100, smokebellybbq.com

>> Connect:
Facebook: SmokebellyBBQ
Twitter: @SmokebellyBBQ
Instagram: @smokebellybbq

Cucina Asellina Celebrates First Anniversary

Happy anniversary Cucina Asellina! The modern Italian restaurant is celebrating one year in Midtown Atlanta.

Cucina AsellinaCucina Asellina is able to seamlessly bring together two seemingly opposing concepts. It’s hip and trendy, the kind of restaurant to kick off an evening on the town. Yet at the same time, you feel like you’re enjoying Italian home cooking.

It’s due in part to Chef de Cuisine Andrea Montobbio, who grew up in the Capriata d’Orba region in Northern Italy and studied at top Italian schools. Since moving to the United States at 21, Chef Montobbio has honed his skills at Atlanta restaurants including Pricci, The Mansion on Peachtree, and Taverna Fiorentina.

Start with the Seared Beef Carpaccio, which is served with arugula, pickled root vegetables and pink peppercorns. Or try the Scottish Salmon Tartare, which gets added freshness from sliced grapefruit. The house cured duck prosciutto is a standout in the chef’s selection of cured meats.beef carpacio, duck prosciutto, salmon tartare

You’ll never go wrong with the Meatballs, made with veal, pork and beef, and served in a tasty tomato sauce (don’t worry, there’s plenty of bread for dipping).meatballs

Whether you’re a first time diner or a regular, you’ll want to try one of Chef Montobbio’s pastas. Made in house, each offers a tempting combination of flavors and textures.

The Square Spaghetti is as fun to eat as it is to look at. A simple preparation lets the freshness of the ingredients shine.

The filling in the Burrata Ravioli is accented by oven-roasted tomatoes. Balsamic vinegar infused in the pasta gives it a unique dark color.pastasquare spaghetti, risotto

A highlight is the Risotto that, with the addition of Prosecco, is light enough to enjoy on the hottest of days.

The wine list offers a variety of Italian whites and reds that complement the food. The knowledgeable servers are helpful in offering guidance when selecting a glass or bottle.

For dessert, the Tiramisu is a top pick. Or try the Cannoli, which are filled with a decadently creamy filling of fresh sheep’s milk ricotta and Grand Marnier.tiramisu and cannoli

No experience at Cucina Asellina is complete without tasting the housemade Limoncello. Served ice cold, it’s wonderfully sweet and deceptively strong.limoncello and panna cotta

Make a reservation for lunch or dinner now — your mouth will be watering after looking at the photos below.

Cucina Asellina, 1075 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta 30309 (Midtown)
404.793.0141

The Perfect Marinade for Grilling

Planning on firing up the grill for the 4th of July?  Try my simple and delicious marinade that tastes great on lamb or beef.  It’s always a hit with my family and friends — I guarantee yours will love it too!

Be sure to scroll down for some helpful grilling tips.

Here’s what you’ll need:

• 2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
• 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
• 2 heaping tbsp. Dijon mustard
• garlic salt or garlic powder
• black pepper

Mix together Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and mustard and pour over meat.  Grind black pepper on meat.  Sprinkle on garlic salt (substitute with garlic powder if you prefer more garlic flavor).  Place meat in the refrigerator to marinate, taking it out 15 to 20 minutes before you’re ready to grill.

I recommend marinating the meat overnight, though several hours will do if you’re pressed for time.

Save a few spoonfuls of the marinade to drizzle over the meat when it is served.

Here are some additional grilling tips for steak and lamb:

• Take the meat out of the fridge with enough time to warm to room temperature before grilling.  This helps the meat cook more evenly.
• Preheat the grill on high and start grilling with high heat to sear the meat and seal in the juices.
• Use tongs to turn the meat, not a fork.  Piercing the meat allows juices to escape.  Similarly, do not pierce the meat with a meat thermometer.
• Use your face to test the doneness of the meat.  Using your index finger press your cheek, then your chin, then your forehead.  When you’re ready to check the meat, use your fingers.  Rare will feel like your cheek, medium like your chin and well done like your forehead.
• Once the meat is off the grill let it rest for at least 5 minutes before you cut it, otherwise the juices will run out.

Happy Independence Day and happy grilling!

Eating Las Vegas

During my long weekend in Las Vegas, everything seemed up.  I won a few hundred dollars playing craps, boosted my tan while relaxing by the pool and managed to put on a few pounds, thanks to the many dining options that Las Vegas has to offer.

I spent most of my restaurant time at Mandalay Bay, where I was staying.  You can’t go wrong there, with more than 20 restaurants including a few by big name chefs.  I did venture off site on Sunday for the Wynn’s incredible Champagne brunch, which I fondly remembered from the year before.

Click here to read about the Champagne brunch at the Wynn from April 2009

My husband and I arrived at the hotel around 9:30pm Friday night, though it felt like well after midnight to us.  We knew we weren’t up for gambling quite yet, but weren’t ready to go to sleep either.  We decided to get a glass of wine at Aureole, Charlie Palmer’s restaurant famous for its four-story wine tower and its “wine angels” who fetch the bottles.

Click here to read “Wine and a Performance at Aureole” from April 2009

We found a comfy table in the lounge and took a look at the wine list.  Had we not been so tired it would have been fun to select a bottle from one of the thousands on the eWinelist and watch a wine angel get it for us, but we instead opted for one glass each.  Both wines were great — a big and earthy Napa Cab for me and a spicy Russian River Valley Zin for him.  We split an order of the sirloin sliders, perfect with both wines.  Juicy, with guacamole and a zesty chipotle sauce, they were some of the best sliders I’ve had.

The reason for our trip was to meet up with my sister, who was traveling to Las Vegas the following day with a group of friends during their week off from their third year of medical school.

Fresh from assisting in surgeries and other doctor-related activities that make my weak stomach turn, my sister was ready for a weekend of fun and relaxation — and of course, good food (it runs in the family).

To ensure the trip kicked off on a high note, we had booked a table for three on Saturday night at Fleur de Lys, Hubert Keller’s restaurant.

Before dinner we decided to try our luck in the casino.  We hit the craps table at just the right time, doubling our money in 20 minutes thanks to a few hot shot rollers (my sister included).

Feeling good after cashing in my extra $50 in chips, I couldn’t wait to put the money towards a nice meal at Fleur de Lys, conveniently located about a 30 second walk from the craps tables.

Though just steps away from the casino floor, Fleur de Lys felt like an entirely different world.  Through the doors that blocked the chiming of slot machines, the restaurant was smaller than I imagined, with 30 foot ceilings that helped keep the noise down.  The room was warm and inviting with its chocolate brown tones and wall of stones and fresh roses.  From our table I could look up into the wine loft at part of the restaurant’s 12,000 bottle collection.

I could have spent hours looking through the wine list, a binder with all sorts of enticing options.  Fortunately for us budget conscious diners, the list had all of its bottles under $100 listed in one section.  I chose a lovely Côtes du Rhône that cost $63.

Since we wanted to get the full experience of Fleur de Lys at our first visit, we all opted for the four course prix fixe menu that cost $89.  I didn’t take photos of the dishes because it didn’t feel appropriate in the restaurant, but suffice it to say that the presentation of all our courses was artful with a purpose.  Everything on the plate was so flavorful and could be enjoyed on its own or together.

For the first course I had the Ahi Tuna Tartare, which was chopped up and served on a bed of shaved fennel slaw with a ginger ponzu sauce.  I’m not normally a fan of fennel but I loved it in this dish.  The fennel soaked up the ponzu sauce and offered a refreshing contrast in taste to the meaty tuna.

Next I ordered the Braised Veal and Yukon Gold Potato Ravioli.  Veal is not something I tend to order at restaurants but I was glad that I did here.  The pasta itself was so light and delicate, with wonderfully flavored meat inside.  It was a toss up who had ordered better, me or my husband and sister who had both opted for sea bass that was wrapped in a thin slice of chorizo and served with barley in a savory sun dried tomato sauce.

For the main course my husband and sister ordered the Prime Filet Mignon, served with a red wine reduction.  I have never seen a steak more perfectly cooked.  Both were medium rare, with a uniform pink color from one side to the other.  The meat itself was delicious and extremely tender.

However, I won the round with the Stout Braised Beef Shortribs.  They were topped with a small bit of whole grain mustard and served with a root vegetable puree.  “Wow” is really the only thing I need to say about this dish.

Besides being by far the best shortribs I’ve ever eaten (I’m a fan so I’ve ordered them often), it was the best dish I’ve had in months, maybe years.

I couldn’t get enough of the sauce, an insanely good Guinness reduction that the waiter poured around the meat.  Beef, lamb, a piece of cardboard — I would eat anything served with this sauce.  My husband and sister agreed, scooping up the sauce on pieces of their filet mignon after I refused to share any more of my shortribs.  And the root vegetable puree!  It was silky and luscious and wonderful with a little of the sauce.

With every dish, Keller demonstrated his exceptional skill at sauces.  Like a great wine, all were loaded with flavor, and yet they were never heavy.

I had already made up my mind that my meal at Fleur de Lys was the best dining experience I’ve had in the last couple of years; dessert made it official.

I ordered the trio of desserts: a warm Valrhona chocolate cake, peanut butter milkshake and caramel corn ice cream, served with a few pieces of caramel corn.  I’ve lost track of how many warm Valrhona chocolate cakes I’ve eaten over the years but this one was the best, with a center of pure heaven.  The ice cream was a sweet palate cleanser between the cake and the milkshake, my favorite on the plate.  Served in a glass resembling a tall shot glass with a short straw, the milkshake tasted like Reese’s peanut butter cups.  Though full after the fabulous meal, I wish I could have gotten several refills!

Top Chef Masters fans, take note: Fleur de Lys offers an early evening menu based on the dishes Keller made on season one of the show.  Yes, even the macaroni and cheese he made in a dorm room shower makes the menu, though I’m assuming he doesn’t actually prepare it in a shower anymore.

During my trip I also ate at Keller’s Burger Bar.  Though I’m kind of over the concept of big name chefs opening up burger joints because they’re ALL doing it, I have to say I was a fan of Keller’s.  From my seat at the bar I could see the assortment of beers on tap and the even larger selection of bottled beer in the fridges.  I ordered an amber from Sin City Brewing Company, a local microbrewery.

As with all these burger restaurants, the meal can cost as little or as much as you’d like it to be, depending on how many toppings (and how exotic) you order.  Burger Bar offers an assortment of patties including Black Angus, Kobe beef, buffalo, salmon, chicken and a veggie burger.  You also choose your bun from five options.  Toppings range from a variety of cheeses, sauces, mushrooms and bacons, to the more expensive foie gras and lobster.  Those who’ve won big may want to skip the customization and go right for the Rossini, a Kobe beef burger with sautéed foie gras and shaved truffles on an onion bun which costs $60.

I opted for the Country Natural burger ($10.25), made from beef which comes from a family-owned sustainable ranch.  I selected a ciabatta bun, then added on cheddar cheese and oyster mushrooms, which bumped up the price by $1.85.  It arrived loaded and juicy, and was great with my amber.

Had I not ordered both the sweet potato fries and the beer battered jalapeño pickles, I might have had room for dessert.  Specifically, the Nutella milkshake.  Thinking back to the yummy peanut butter milkshake, I could imagine how wonderfully rich it would taste.  I planned to return another day just for the milkshake, but unfortunately never made it back.

For diners wanting a burger for dessert, Burger Bar offers a Chocolate Burger.  It has a warm donut for the bun, Nutella mousse for the patty and passion fruit, strawberry and kiwi as the toppings.

On my final evening in Las Vegas I happened to visit another Top Chef Masters star’s restaurant — Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood, a sustainable seafood restaurant in the middle of the desert.

As we were a large group (in addition to my husband, sister and me, four of my sister’s friends joined us), we were seated at a big table just outside the restaurant which took away some of the ambiance, though we still enjoyed our meal.

For my first course I went for turf rather than surf, with the oh so good Steak Tartare ($17), which had pieces of shaved truffles, Parmesan and miso egg yolk mixed in.  For my main course I ordered the Cioppino ($35), a delicious mix of mussels, clams, shrimp, fish and calamari-resembling calamarata pasta in a light and savory tomato broth.  The shellfish was well cooked, not too chewy, and the broth was so good I wish I had more of the sourdough garlic bread to soak it up.

My second favorite dish was the Rainbow Trout ($31), which my sister ordered.  It was served on top of bacon and marble potatoes with a pecan-mustard dressing.  I loved the flavor combination of the fish and the smoky bacon.

Even before we arrived at RM Seafood, we knew we were ordering dessert.  And we knew which dessert we were ordering: Rick’s Tasting Game.  Sixteen different ice creams and sorbets are served blind, with the diner guessing the flavors.  As our waiter informed us, no one has ever gotten all 16 correct.

Armed with my experience tasting wines, I was ready for the challenge.

How did we do?  Click here to find out.

A Family Favorite: Ethiopian Food

It’s one of my family’s most cherished food traditions: sharing a delicious meal at our favorite Ethiopian restaurant in New York City. It started in the early 1990s with my first taste of Ethiopian food in Washington, D.C. and has become a meal my family looks forward to. My sister orders the food, I control the plate of bread, my mom takes the chicken meat off the bone so it’s easier to eat and my dad finishes all the lentil and vegetable dishes. We eat almost everything in front of us and complain how full we are for hours after the meal. Yum.

My sister and I have become vary particular about our Ethiopian food outings. We don’t invite just anyone into our dining group. No fast eaters (they’d finish everything before we got our fill), and no one who would be frightened by our carnivorous, overeating ways.

If you’ve never tried Ethiopian food, you wouldn’t understand my family’s enthusiasm. A meal at an Ethiopian restaurant is something everyone should experience. Even finicky eaters should give it a try – the taste is too good to resist.

If you like the spice and complex flavors of Indian food, you’ll like Ethiopian food – though the two taste nothing alike. It may not look that appetizing but the flavors are intense. Chicken, beef, lamb and vegetables are mixed with peppers, herbs and spices that create a bold and savory taste. You don’t use utensils; you pick up the food with injera, a flat, spongy bread that resembles a crepe and tastes like sourdough. The intense flavors of the food with the tangy taste of the injera is a combination I often find myself craving.

When my family goes out for Ethiopian food we always order the same dishes: doro wat, gomen besega, special tibs and a vegetable dish of green beans and carrots sautéed in a tomato sauce.

Doro wat is chicken stewed in a spicy berbere sauce and is served with a hard-boiled egg. Simply put, berbere sauce is really really good. It’s made with chili pepper, ginger, cloves, cardamom and other spices. If you enjoy wines that have big and complex flavors, you’ll like berbere sauce. The sauce is so big it’s hard to identify all the elements that combine for its taste.

Gomen besega is beef sautéed with collard greens. The collard greens are what make this dish. They have a delicious and slightly tart taste that refreshes your mouth after a bite of the spicy berbere sauce. I’ve tried to recreate the taste in my own kitchen with a mix of lemon juice and spices but haven’t come close.

If it’s your first time at an Ethiopian restaurant and you’re dining with one other person I recommend ordering doro wat and gomen besega to split.

Special tibs is chunks of lamb sautéed with onions, tomatoes and green pepper. It looks simple but the taste is an explosion of flavor. I like to dip it in the berbere sauce when the chicken and egg are gone.

The dishes are served together on one big platter for sharing. On the bottom is injera, which soaks up the sauce and tastes great when you’re getting towards the end of the meal. The food comes with a few side dishes; this past weekend it was two lentil dishes and collard greens flavored differently than the greens in the gomen besega.

It didn’t matter that my family had eaten a huge Thanksgiving dinner two nights before or that we started saying we were getting full halfway through – we finished nearly everything on the platter, including the injera on the bottom (the evidence is to the left). Each time we go out for Ethiopian food it’s the same – I eat way too much and am uncomfortably full for hours. I can’t help myself! The food tastes so good that I keep eating it until it’s gone.

If you don’t live in a city it may be hard to find an Ethiopian restaurant. If there is one in your area you should definitely make dinner plans. My family goes to Meskerem on West 47th Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues in New York City. There are a few other Ethiopian restaurants in Manhattan. In Washington, D.C. you’ll find a bunch of Ethiopian restaurants in Adams Morgan. I’ve only found one restaurant in Miami: Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant, located in the Design District. The restaurant is currently closed and it’s not clear if or when it will reopen.

I’ve found recipes for injera and my favorite Ethiopian dishes online. I hope to try them sometime to see if I can recreate the great tastes in my own kitchen.