Tag Archives: oysters

STK Atlanta

Oyster & Champagne Party at STK Atlanta

Oysters for $1 each and a glass of champagne for $5 starting at 5pm on Friday, March 31st at STK Atlanta.

You really don’t need to know much more than that. Fab food and drinks at a great price at one of Midtown’s coolest spots kind of speaks for itself.

oysters at STKBut here are the full details: STK Atlanta is hosting a “Shuck Yeah! Oyster and Champagne Party” in its bistro and lounge in honor of National Oyster on the Half Shell Day. It’s from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the 31st.

Fresh, chef handpicked East Coast and West Coast oysters will be $1 apiece, and the price of champagne changes based on the hour. At 5 p.m. a glass of bubbly is $5, starting at 6 p.m. it’s $6, and then it’s $7 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. A live DJ completes the party, making STK the perfect place to kick off the weekend.

Stay for dinner and add some turf to your surf, with one of STK’s mouthwatering steaks. I recommend the 28 oz Dry-Aged Porterhouse.

Shuck Yeah! Oyster and Champagne Party at STK Atlanta
Friday, March 31, 2017 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
1075 Peachtree Street, Atlanta 30309
(404) 793-0144, www.stkhouse.com

Images courtesy Caren West PR

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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Oyster Cook-Off at The Hangout in Gulf Shores, Alabama

Love oysters or think you make the best oyster dish around? Then you’ll want to visit Gulf Shores, Alabama on November 9th for the Gulf Coast Oyster Cook-Off.

Oyster Cook-Off at The HangoutNow in its 6th year, the Oyster Cook-Off is presented by Alabama Gulf Seafood and held at The Hangout, a family-friendly spot just steps from the beach. Entry is free, and tasting tickets may be purchased for $2 each or $30 for a book of 20 tickets.

At the cook-off chefs and amateurs will compete for bragging rights and big bucks – $10,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded. More than 65 chefs will be participating, including Atlanta chefs Adam Evens of The Optimist, Ron Eyester of Rosebud, Bob McDonough from F&H Food Trading Group and Mimmo Alboumeh of Red Pepper Taqueria.

Oyster Cook-OffThink you have what it takes to compete? For an entry fee you can show off your best Rockefeller, Cajun or raw oyster dish. The dishes will be judged by attendees and a panel of celebrity judges. The fee to enter is $300 and the deadline is October 18th. Click here for more information on the entry Oyster Cook-Offand judging rules.

Teams must be on site by 9am on Saturday, November 9th and ready to serve at 10am. The event opens to the public at 11am.

In addition to all the oysters you can eat, there will be live music and football shown on big screens.

Click here to see photographs from the 2012 Oyster Cook-Off.

The Hangout also hosts a music festival in May.

The 6th Annual Oyster Cook-Off, Saturday, November 9th at 11am at The Hangout, 101 East Beach Boulevard, Gulf Shores, Alabama 36542.

photos from The Hangout’s Flickr page

Dining Atlanta: Week of August 12, 2013

It’s the return of Dining Atlanta, a round up of news and events from the city’s chefs and restaurants, organized by neighborhood.

Have something to add to the next Dining Atlanta? Email tips@amateurgastronomer.com.


Alma Cocina is adding a little spice to the regular work-week lunch with Tamale Tuesdays. Every Tuesday beginning at 11:30am Chef Chad Clevenger will park Tamale Tuesdaysthe restaurant’s food cart in front of Alma in the atrium of One Ninety One Peachtree Tower to sell his award-winning pork and veggie tamales. The vegetable tamale is made with mushrooms and zucchini, smoked tomato sauce, crema and charred corn salsa. The pork tamale includes braised pork shoulder, bacon-corn masa, green chile sauce, crema and pico de gallo. Tamales are sold individually for $7 or as a combo with chips, salsa and a beverage for $8.50. The tamales are only made in limited quantities, so once Chef sells out, he packs up the food cart until the following Tuesday.
191 Peachtree Street NE, (404) 968-9662. www.alma-atlanta.com


Diners looking to get closer to the culinary action at King + Duke can now reserve a spot at the new Chef’s Counter. Seated in front of the 24-foot open hearth, diners can enjoy a special five-course tasting menu created by executive chef Joe Schafer and his team. The cost is $75 per person and the menu changes daily. Reservations are available nightly at 6pm and 8:45pm Each seating can accommodate two parties of two. The restaurant will note any dietary restrictions at the time the reservation is made.
3060 Peachtree Road, (404) 477-3500. kinganddukeatl.com

Seven Lamps is introducing a couple of new dining specials. Mondays through Fridays from 5pm to 7pm enjoy $1 oysters and $3 “champagne” (Miller High Life beer-tails). To end the weekend check out the new chicken and waffles dinner special. Every Sunday from 5 to 10pm executive chef Drew Van Leuvan will serve juicy fried chicken, cheddar waffles plus a side, which will change each week. A half chicken portion is $16 and a whole chicken is $28.
3400 Around Lenox Road, (404) 467-8950. sevenlampsatl.com

Inman Park

The Albert is now serving weekend brunch. The menu, created by executive chef Shaun Whitmer, features traditional brunch dishes with a southern twist, light and healthy options, and more, complimented by a new signature cocktail menu. Patrons can enjoy dine-in or take-out brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 3pm.
918 Austin Avenue NE, (404) 872-4990. www.thealbertatlanta.com


Cucina Asellina has a new extended happy hour. Monday through Friday, 5pm to 7pm enjoy $3 draft beers, $6 drinks and $5 select light bites.
1075 Peachtree Street, (404) 793-0141. www.facebook.com/CucinaAsellina

lobster boilLure will be offering a special limited-time-only lobster menu. From August 19th through 23rd Lure will offer the $60, 3-course, prix fixe lobster menu in addition to the regular dinner menu. The meal will include a chilled lobster salad with champagne vinaigrette; boiled 1 ½ lb lobster dinner with boiled potatoes and corn on the cob; and blueberry buckle with vanilla buttermilk ice cream for dessert. Reservations are suggested.

Additionally, Lure will bid aloha to summer from Lure Luau2pm to 4pm on Saturday, August 31st with a unique luau experience. Guests will be greeted on the patio with a lei while the sounds of the ukulele fill the air. The patio will be decorated with tiki torches and tropical flora. Boozy Hawaiian punch, Singapore Slings and Blue Hawaiians will be flowing. Executive Chef David Bradley and his culinary team will prepare traditional Polynesian dishes including Ahi Tuna Pole Lettuce Wraps, Lomi Lomi Salmon, Pork Lau Lau Steamed Buns, Whole Roasted Fish, Hawaiian Potato Salad, Coconut Rice, Coconut Cream Pie and a Fresh Fruit Mountain. A limited number of tickets are available and cost $45 each, including tax and gratuity. Click here to purchase tickets online.
1106 Crescent Avenue NE, (404) 817-3650. www.lure-atlanta.com

Park 75 Lounge at the Four Seasons Atlanta is offering a taste of “Southern Summer” with food and drink specials daily during August. From 5 to 7pm Park 75 Lounge will offer Southern-Fried Okra for $5 and Arnold Palmer cocktails for $6. The cocktail incorporates vodka into a mix of lemonade and iced tea.
75 14th Street, (404) 253-3840. www.fourseasons.com/atlanta

West Midtown

Bone Lick BBQ will be celebrating its first anniversary on Saturday, August 24th. The all-day bash kicks off at 12pm and features live music, DJs, a dunk tank, classic arcade games, drinking and eating competitions and more. Free to attend. Bone Lick’s full menu created by award-winning pit master Mike LaSage will also be available throughout the day and night.
1133 Huff Road, (404) 343-6574. www.bonelickbarbecue.com

Congratulations to The Optimist, which was named one of the top 10 best new restaurants in America by Bon Appétit magazine. Click here to read the article.
914 Howell Mill Road, (404) 477-6260. theoptimistrestaurant.com

Outside Atlanta


No. 246 is hosting a Backyard BBQ on Sunday, August 25th and has invited some nearby establishments to join the fun. Sous chef Andrew Isabella and Colin Miles of Leon’s Full Service will be roasting pork on a Big Green Egg. There will also be beers from Decatur’s Three Taverns Brewery including Single Intent (a lighter-bodied blonde ale) and A Night in Brussels (a Belgian-style American IPA). The new craft brewery takes an open-minded American approach to Belgian-style beers. The Backyard BBQ is from 4 to 7pm and will feature live music from Jason Pomar starting at 5pm. The cost is $15 per person. Reservations are not available.
129 East Ponce de Leon Avenue, Decatur, (678) 399-8246. no246.com


Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint, a fast casual pizza chain with locations in six states, will have an opening party for its new Marietta location on Saturday, August 17th. The East Cobb County location is the 18th Uncle Maddio’s. The the Uncle Maddio'srestaurant will serve free 9-inch, three topping, fully-customizable pizzas to all customers in line from 11am to 2pm. One patron in line will be awarded free pizza for a year. The opening party will include face painting, balloon animals and a bounce house. Uncle Maddio’s pizzas are customizable, made-to-order and served up in just seven minutes for under $7. Uncle Maddio’s offers four sizes, three types of crusts including gluten-free, six sauces and nearly 50 fresh toppings, many vegan, organic, and hormone-free.
4101 Roswell Road, Suite 1100, Marietta, (678) 324-3590. www.unclemaddios.com


Aqua blue Restaurant & Bar is turning 12 years old with a week-long celebration featuring a special three-course menu. From August 14th through 21st, the menu costing $20.01 per person will includes a tasting plate, Aqua blueentree and dessert. Throughout the anniversary week the restaurant will present each table with a thank you card containing surprises such as 10% off, free appetizer, free entrée and $50 gift cards. On Wednesday, August 21, Aqua blue will host an anniversary party with live music from band Open the Skye, plus complimentary cake and a champagne toast. Every guest will receive a raffle ticket that evening for a chance to win free dinner for a year. In addition to its anniversary, the restaurant is also commemorating the recent start of weekday lunch service and longtime chef Kien Sam becoming an operating partner.
1564 Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell. (770) 643-8886. aquablueatl.com

A New Era for the Old Vinings Inn

Old is new at the Old Vinings Inn. A longtime landmark on Paces Mill Road, the restaurant is beginning a new era, with new management and a new executive chef.

Old Vinings InnIt’s an evolution, not a revolution, according to new owner Lee Schulman. Since the transition in mid April the Old Vinings Inn hasn’t missed a beat, offering simple yet satisfying upscale southern cuisine.

Though Executive Chef Don Diem has added his touch to the menu, longtime diners will still recognize the Old Vinings Inn. At the same time, it gives new diners a reason to choose it for a special night out.

The Old Vinings Inn is the total package — a charming setting in a historic building, friendly and attentive staff, and delicious southern food. Even the yeast rolls are tasty. Topped with melted honey butter, you’ll have a tough time eating just one.

charcuterie plateIn addition to wines offered by the glass and bottle, Old Vinings Inn has a tempting selection of cocktails. Try the Old Vinings Inn Plantation Punch, made with St. Germain, Campari, champagne and fresh grapefruit juice. Or try the Chattahoochee, made with Jim Beam, St. Germain, ginger beer, lemon juice and bitters.

To start, try the Charcuterie Plate. It comes with a selection of house pickled vegetables, salumi, cheese, flatbread and a generous serving of Chef Diem’s pimento cheese, a real guilty pleasure.

gulf coast oystersNot to be missed are the Blue Corn Crusted Gulf Coast Oysters. Big and juicy, they’re perfectly cooked and bursting with flavor.

For the main course, try the Pecan Mountain Trout. The pecans add a wonderful flavor and texture to the fish. The Pan Seared Lamb Lollipops offer a touch of sweet with savory. They’re served with a wild mushroom and leek farmhouse bread pudding.

If you want to stay more traditional, go for the Buttermilk Fried Chicken or the Shrimp & Grits.

peach pieYou’ll have a hard time choosing among the side dishes, but make sure the Pot Likker Collards are one of them. They just may be some of the best collard greens you’ll find in Atlanta.

If you have room for dessert try the Farmhouse Peach Pie, which comes with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

The night doesn’t have to end when you get the check. Head upstairs to the cozy Attic Bar for a digestif. There’s live music every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night starting at 9pm.

Old Vinings Inn, 3011 Paces Mill Road, Atlanta, 30339. (770) 438-2282
Dinner Monday through Thursday from 5pm to 9pm; Friday and Saturday from 5pm to 10pm. Brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30am to 3pm.
The Attic Bar is open beginning at 5pm.

Bubbles & Bivalves at the Oyster Bash

Nothing sets a celebratory mood more than Champagne.  And it’s even better when it’s paired with raw oysters!

Enticed by this delicious combination, I eagerly looked forward to the Oyster Bash at the Standard Hotel, one of the 2009 New York City Wine & Food Festival‘s Saturday events.  The afternoon of indulgence featured free-flowing Champagne and a nearly endless supply of oysters.

Four chefs served their favorite oyster preparations, using oysters farmed by cultivators from the northeast and Canada who were on hand to chat about their craft.  You could try the chef’s preparation or grab an oyster directly from the person shucking them.

After enjoying a glass of Champagne, I decided to start with a Beau Soleil oyster prepared by Sam Talbot.  Known for both his good food and good looks on season 2 of Top Chef, Sam seemed to have mostly women coming back for a second and third oyster (I’m sure serving an aphrodisiac didn’t help).

Sam served the oysters on the half shell in a spicy pomegranate juice topped with pomegranate seeds and thyme.  The crunch from the seeds and the spice from the pepper was a great contrast to the slippery smooth texture of the oyster.

Next I tried Rhode Island oysters prepared by Franklin Becker, the Executive Chef at Abe & Arthur’s Restaurant.  The plump oysters were topped with what appeared to be a tomato and fruit salsa, which made for a light and refreshing bite.

Offering a more savory preparation was Alexandra Guarnaschelli, the Executive Chef of Butter Restaurant.  Bits of chorizo added a nice meaty flavor to the Long Island oysters, which were served alongside a shot of clam chowder.

It was hard to top the duo of oysters offered by Christian Zammas from the Stewart House in upstate New York.  The first oyster presentation was a true tribute to the Big Apple.  The oyster was sprinkled with white balsamic vinegar and apple vodka made in upstate New York, and topped with a thin slice of apple, also from upstate.  It was salty, tart and sweet all at the same time, with a crisp finish.

This would have been my favorite oyster of the bash had I not tried Christian’s second preparation, which looked more fit for a college dorm room than a Champagne fête.

The preparation attracted lots of attention from bash-goers including Duff Goldman from Food Network’s Ace of Cakes, who attended with several members of the Charm City Cakes crew.

Using what would best be described as a gastronomic gravity bong, Christian lit a mix of black pepper and apple and pomegranate tea.  He filled a small glass bulb with the smoke, which he placed over a raw oyster.

To eat the creation you lifted the bulb and inhaled the smoke before slurping down the oyster.

It was a unique sensory experience, with the lingering aroma from the smoke adding a nice fruity and spicy taste to the cool, slippery oyster.

After another glass of Champagne and several more oysters, it was time to leave the party.  And because I believe you can never have too much of a good thing, I had even more oysters a couple of hours later at dinner.

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.

Destination: Boulder

Breathtaking mountains, great hiking, pedestrian and bike-friendly streets, charming restaurants and cafés, and tons of breweries — these are what make Boulder such a great destination.

I recently spent a long weekend in Boulder for my friends’ wedding.  It was my first time there and I loved it from the start.

Coming from flat South Florida, I found I couldn’t take my eyes off the mountains.  From the iconic Flatirons, to the distant ranges that I drove by, I was glued to the scenery.

Besides the incredible views, you can’t beat Boulder’s dry air.  No humidity is such a treat when you’re used to living in a steam room!

Of course you can’t visit Boulder without exploring its many breweries and brewpubs!  Over the next few days I’ll be sharing some of my favorite brews, as well as my visit to a meadery and my first taste of Colorado wine (spoiler alert: it was pretty good!).

Even if you’re not a beer drinker, Boulder is a great town for foodies.  I had a lot of fun strolling through Boulder’s farmers’ market on Saturday.  It’s the largest farmers’ market in Colorado, and features an assortment of locally grown fruit, vegetables and flowers, as well as meat, cheese, nuts, coffee, wine, bread and pastries.  Bring your appetite so you can taste some of the locally prepared food.

The Boulder farmers’ market is located next to Central Park on 13th Street between Canyon Boulevard and Arapahoe Avenue.  It’s open on Saturdays from 8am to 2pm until November 7th, and Wednesdays from 4pm to 8pm until October 7th.

If you like tea, you must visit the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse.  It’s also on 13th Street so you’ll walk by it if you go to the farmers’ market.  Built in the late 1980s, the teahouse was a gift to Boulder from the Mayor of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, to celebrate their sister city ties.

Stepping inside, you feel as if you’ve entered an Asian palace.  The ceiling and columns were hand-carved and hand-painted in vibrant colors by more than 40 artisans.  It’s truly a special place to enjoy a cup of tea and a bite to eat.

Tea enthusiasts won’t be disappointed — there are pages of teas to choose from including Puerh teas.  Though not well known here, these teas are prized in China.  The tea has a strong flavor, the result of several unique processing steps and aging underground (some Puerh tea is aged up to 50 years!).

Breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are served at the teahouse.  Traditional afternoon tea costs $18.95 per person and $10.95 children under 9.  Reservations for afternoon tea are required 24 hours in advance.

If you love raw oysters, you won’t want to miss happy hour at Jax Fish House on Pearl Street.  Every day from 4 to 6pm you can get East Coast oysters for $1 each.  The oysters are big and juicy with a fresh, clean taste — definitely worth a special trip!  A selection of appetizers including peel and eat shrimp and ceviche cost just $3.  House wine and draft beers are $3 as well.  From the bar you can look back at the kitchen for a glimpse of executive chef Hosea Rosenberg, the winner of Top Chef season five.

The best meal I had while in Boulder was at the Black Cat.  This intimate bistro cooks up organic fare with produce harvested daily from their own farm (you’ll see their produce at the downtown farmers market).  Chef Eric Skokan’s menu changes often and expresses both the season and what’s exciting right now.  Each dish excels at letting its main ingredients shine, with subtle flavors adding support.  The green beans that came with my appetizer were delicious, and likely only had a little olive oil and salt on them.  For my main course, the duck was perfectly cooked in a heavenly lavender, honey and thyme sauce, and so tender I barely needed a knife.

To pair with the mouthwatering cuisine, the Black Cat has a great wine list.  There are many bottles from wineries you’ve likely never heard of, and even a few from Colorado.  Our server helped us select a lush Meritage from Washington.

The Black Cat is located on 13th Street just south of Pearl Street.  Definitely call ahead for a reservation.

If you’re in the mood for a late night snack visit Boulder Baked on Broadway Street.  Here you can get all sorts of baked-to-order cookies, cupcakes and comfort food.  Open from noon until 2am Monday through Saturday (midnight on Sunday), Boulder Baked is the place to go when you’re craving a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie or a chocolate peanut butter cookie (they make both).

Click below to read more:
Boulder’s Best Brews
A Visit to New Belgium Brewing Company
Odell Brewing Company and Oskar Blues
Mile High Mead: Redstone Meadery
Colorado Wine: BookCliff Vineyards

A Conch Tour of the Florida Keys

I love spending a weekend in the Florida Keys.  It’s a quick drive from South Florida but it feels so much farther away.  As soon as I turn onto the Overseas Highway and can see sparkling blue-green water on both sides, I immediately feel happy and relaxed.

Of course no visit to the Conch Republic is complete without enjoying the fresh seafood — especially conch.  Whether my destination is the Upper, Middle or Lower Keys, I have a favorite restaurant I always visit for conch chowder or conch fritters.

Key Largo: The Fish House

The first time I dined at the Fish House was during a family trip to the Keys in the mid 1990s.  Since moving to South Florida a few years ago, I’ve been able to visit the Keys more frequently and always include a meal at the Fish House.  The seafood here is as fresh as it gets — fisherman deliver whole fish each day to the back door.

Fish HouseMake sure to start with a cup of the Fish House’s conch chowder, my favorite conch chowder in the Keys.  It’s a tomato-based soup with lots of chewy conch.

For the main course I always order blackened mahi-mahi.  The fresh fish and mix of spices is a delicious combination that I can’t get enough of.  It’s a dish I like ordering when I’m near the ocean, so the taste of it always reminds me of being on vacation.

conch chowderService is friendly and fast.  If you come when it’s crowded don’t be concerned about the wait time, it’s usually shorter than what the host tells you.

The Fish House is about an hour and 15 minutes drive from downtown Miami — close enough that you can go there and back in a day, and get a pint of conch chowder to take home.

The Fish House is located at Mile Marker 102.4 on the Ocean side.

Islamorada: Islamorada Fish Company

This restaurant looks like a place that locals might stay away from but don’t let the tourists scare you.  Islamorada Fish Company serves up fresh and tasty seafood.

Islamorada Fish CoLocated on the Gulf side of the Overseas Highway, Islamorada Fish Company is a great place to watch the sunset.  Tables are outdoors and over the water, so you get a great view from every seat.

The conch dish to order here is the conch fritters.  They’re the biggest I’ve seen anywhere in the Keys and some of the tastiest.  The fritters have large pieces of conch and not too much filler.

The raw oysters are also really large and as a bonus, well priced.  A dozen oysters cost around $10, one of the best deals you’ll find in the Keys.

If you’re still hungry, try the grilled grouper Reuben.  A big and juicy piece of grouper is topped with Thousand Island slaw dressing and Swiss cheese and served on grilled rye bread.  In a word: yum!

Islamorada Fish Company is located at Mile Marker 81.5 on the Gulf side.

Sugarloaf Key: Mangrove Mama’s

Blink and you’ll miss Mangrove Mama’s, a tiny restaurant located about a 15 minute drive from Key West.  The ambiance is island eclectic — simple tables, bright colors, unusual artwork, and an outdoor patio shaded by palm trees.

Mangrove Mama'sI go to Mangrove Mama’s for two dishes: the conch fritters and the Key lime pie.  The fritters have a great crunchy outside and a warm chewy inside, with big chunks of conch and a slight spicy kick at the end.

I’ve tried Key lime pies at restaurants all over the Keys and Mangrove Mama’s pie is my favorite.  Theirs has the perfect balance of tart and sweet, with a nice, crumbly graham cracker crust.

Mangrove Mama’s is located at Mile Marker 20 on the Gulf side.

Have your own must-visit restaurant in the Florida Keys?  Feel free to share it in the comments!

Deering Seafood Festival

If there’s a food festival going on, I’m there!

Deering Seafood FestivalYesterday I had the chance to check out the 5th Annual Deering Seafood Festival on the Bay at the Deering Estate at Cutler.  It was my first time at both the seafood festival and the Deering Estate and I had a great time.

Grey skies and occasional drops of rain didn’t frighten away the crowds.  The appropriately named Seafood Alley was packed with people lining up to try the fresh offerings from local restaurants and catering companies.

crawfishGolden Rule Seafood‘s raw bar was my first stop.  Their oysters were some of the biggest I’ve seen and had a great creamy and meaty taste.  I normally eat raw oysters with cocktail or hot sauce but these were so good I ate them on their own.  I really wish I had saved room for Golden Rule Seafood’s cajun crawfish which looked and smelled delicious.

Next I tried a pair of dishes from Black Point Ocean Grill.  Their jambalaya was rich and well spiced, with large pieces of shrimp, chicken and andouille sausage.  Their grilled shrimp gazpacho was light and refreshing with a great kick to it — perfect for the hot and muggy afternoon.  Black Point Ocean Grill’s location in Homestead is a bit of a drive for me but after yesterday’s tasting I’ll be making a special trip.

I’m not sure if alligator actually qualifies as seafood but I knew I couldn’t leave the festival without trying some.  I’ve only had alligator fried beyond recognition so I was excited to try the smoked gator kabobs from the Les Seafood Express.  The gator meat was moist and tender, with a slightly more chewy texture than chicken.  The smoky taste suited the alligator meat really well.

garlic crabsMy eyes are always bigger than my stomach and I wish I could have eaten much more — especially the surf and turf nachos, lobster sliders and frog legs.  I should have gotten the seafood paella from Paellas R Us to go, I don’t know what I was thinking by passing that up!

The Bahamian Junkanoo enhanced the seafood celebration with an energetic and entertaining performance.  You couldn’t miss the brass band marching around in their bright neon uniforms.

I left the festival happy and very full — a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  I’ll definitely be back next year!