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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.

Downtown

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

Buckhead

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

Midtown

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

Decatur

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

Marietta

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

Roswell

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

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.

Buckhead

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

Downtown

Game-X

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

 

Ventanas

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

Gunshow

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

Midtown

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

 

Olmstead

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

 

Woody’s

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

Morningside

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

Decatur

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

It’s Time for Wine: Napa for 2013 Part 2

By Monty and Sara Preiser

Click Here for Part 1

As promised, we continue to share our experiences with new finds and some old favorites. Today we touch primarily on dining, but won’t leave without some wines being mentioned as well.

Ca’ Momi is “Obsessively” Good

The old saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover doesn’t quite fit here. It is more like, “You should always take the time to read the cover before making a judgment.” We admit we had passed by Ca’ Momi more than once because we thought it was a small operation in Oxbow Center (kind of like a mall if you are not familiar with the property) where customers ordered from the counter and found a table. Boy, were we wrong!

Ca' MomiOur perception was guided by the relatively small open kitchen, which we thought limited any restaurant, but which we now know can produce some stunning food. Beyond that, owners Dario De Conti and Valentina Guolo-Migotto have acquired the bar and sitting area around which Oxbow foot traffic must flow, and have created a romantic setting on the outside walkway of the building. Even on the off season Monday night we visited, the bar was crowded with young, good looking Millennials, and the outdoor ambiance was set to receive them for dinner.

We had the good fortune that night to sit with Valentina and Dario while we dined, and their driving force was quickly apparent. It is their goal to present truly authentic regional Italian cuisine with organic ingredients whenever possible. While many ristorantes use these words, it is unusual when they are adhered to, especially in the U.S., where diners so often expect the restaurant to conform to their tastes rather than vice-versa. At Ca’ Momi, however, the motto is “Obsessively Authentic Italian,” and they lovingly stick by it.

Interestingly, Dario and Valentina also own a winery with the same name as the restaurant – Ca’ Momi. Neither they nor we will tell you these wines are designed to satisfy someone who only desires to buy expensive bottles. They are, instead, painstakingly crafted to well accompany the cuisine with which the owners expect them to be consumed. Once again, we were willing test subjects who were converted to believers, for time and again a wine that was pleasant alone, became a present with food.

Our favorite dishes:
– Pan fried sardines in white wine marinade with caramelized onions and pine nuts;
– Chickpea flower cake cooked in a wood burning oven and seasoned with pepper;
– Any of the cured meats and artisanal Italian cheeses;
– Classic Tuscan soup with veggies and cannellini beans;
– The Napoletana style (not Neopolitan) pizzas, which are actually “VPN” certified (Verace Pizza Napoletana) as to style, manner of preparation, and taste.  There are so many pizza options it would take weeks to get through them. Take a night and try a few.
– And the best: Spezzatino (beef stew) and Polenta.

We do want to call attention to the spezzatino above and the 2010 Ca’ Momi Napa Pinot Noir ($26). They are spectacular allies.

The Ca’ Momi 2011 Napa Merlot ($22) went well with our soup, and we particularly enjoyed the tropical and banana nuanced 2011 Ca’ Momi Napa Chardonnay ($22) with the sardines. Just so you know they can produce the more complex wines as well, our proprietors offer an excellent 2009 Napa Cab Reserve for $58. But they are more than happy to show off their beautifully made lesser priced wines with their beautifully spiced food. Here is a place you cannot help but be happy.

Ca’ Momi, 610 First Street, Napa, California. (707) 257-4992

 

Marita’s Vineyard – More then Just a Wine

We recently spent a delightful afternoon at Marita’s Vineyard as the luncheon guests of Bulmaro, Sara, and Mara Montes (for whom the winery is named – Marita is the diminutive of Mara). We went primarily to review the wines, but left with a story just as equal in richness and longevity.

Marita's VineyardWineries are born in many ways. Generations ago almost all vintners were farmers from birth while in this day and age a celebrity might simply stroke a check and purchase an ongoing brand in a heartbeat. However, there is a middle ground – the upwardly mobile vineyard worker who goes on to “make it” in business, and then turns back to his love of wines  – only this time as the boss.

As you may have gathered, Bulmaro is that very guy. Coming to California from Mexico as a teenager who spoke little English, his hard work in the vineyards saw him promoted to Vineyard Manager at the prestigious Joseph Phelps Vineyards, and, subsequently, to the organization’s Vice President of Operations. In this key position, Bulmaro helped produce some of the world’s most respected wines for decades, including the iconic Insignias.

Retiring from Phelps in 2003, Bulmaro purchased acreage east of the town of Napa, and set about planting vines and farming it to his own demanding specifications. This dedication has culminated in the two wines his family now produces – Soma and Marita’s.

Soma ($86) is named for the two daughters (So = Sofia, who is also a bank manager, and Ma = Mara, who is also in the financial world and serves as the winery’s stately ambassador). It is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and evidences cassis, black plum, and raspberries, all dancing within a velvet mouthfeel.

Marita’s Vineyard ($150) is named after Mara, who was inspirational to Bulmaro. It is one of the best wines made in the Valley, and the one that inspired us to first visit the family, and then pull out a credit card so we could own some. Showing even darker plums than its sister wine, there are chocolate notes throughout. We love a layered wine that noticeably evolves in the glass, and Marita’s does just that until it explodes on your back palate.

You can taste these wines by calling the winery and setting up an appointment. The cost depends on the number of wines and types of food to be paired. With Sara’s cooking, Mara’s instruction, and Bulmaro’s wines, it is an exceptional experience.

Marita’s Vineyard, P.O. Box 4164, Napa, California. (707) 259-5313

 

Tarla, the Mediterranean Cuisine Napa Needs

It looks like Napa (downtown Napa at least) is turning the corner toward its acceptance of ethnic cuisines (except for the disastrous loss of Neela’s, one of the country’s best Indian houses). Thai, Southern Comfort Food, Himalayan, Japanese, and, of course, Italian, are all thriving along with the ever prevalent wine country contemporary food. Now comes Tarla Grill, a welcome addition.

TarlaLocated downtown on revitalized First Street, the menu reflects elements of the entire Mediterranean region, but is probably most influenced by Greece and Turkey, along with a fusion of these two nations. The wine list is more than adequate, and good news for all is that a full bar will soon be serving cocktails.

We truly enjoyed the meatballs with wild truffle-wild mushroom cream, and the caramelized diver scallops. Saganaki, a traditional Greek dish of flaming cheese, always pleases our palates, and this one paired beautifully with beer. The night’s clear winners for us were the mussels and clams in Calabrian chili, garlic, roasted lemon, and butter.

Service at Tarla is friendly, timely, and professional. We think this addition to the Napa dining scene will be around for a while.

Tarla Grill, 1480 1st Street Napa, California. (707) 255-5599

images from winery and restaurants’ websites

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It’s Time for Wine is a column published by wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser that is featured on the Amateur Gastronomer.

Monty and Sara Preiser reside full time in Palm Beach County, Florida, and spend their summers visiting wineries and studying wines on the west coast where they have a home in Napa. For many years they were the wine columnists for The Boca Raton News, have served as contributors to the South Florida Business Journal, and are now the principal wine writers for Sallys-Place.com.  Monty and Sara also publish The Preiser Key to Napa Valley and Sonoma, the most comprehensive guides to wineries and restaurants in Napa and Sonoma. Click here to read more columns by the Preisers.

Ammazza: Neapolitan-Style Pizza in the Old Fourth Ward

It’s not often that you find a restaurant that’s both hip and family-friendly but Ammazza does both – with tasty results.

Pizza is the main attraction at this new Old Fourth Ward restaurant. The menu is inspired by the street food of Naples and features classic Italian cooking methods that use Italian, locally-sourced and house made ingredients.

Ammazza is located on a quiet stretch of Edgewood Avenue, with great potential to inspire other shops and eateries to open nearby. Parking is easy and free, in a lot next to the restaurant.Ammazza

Ammazza is Italian slang for expressing astonishment or admiration. The slang captures the casual and relaxed feel of the space. You place your order at the front counter, then walk down a narrow hallway to the dining room that has a view of the large wood-burning ovens (great for keeping kids entertained). Dishes are delivered to your table. There’s a second bar in the dining room for when you’re ready for another drink.

Order one of Ammazza’s antipasto to share while your pizza is being prepared. Try the Polpette, homemade meatballs topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, romano and ricotta cheese. If you’re more in the mood for a salad try the Pomodoro Caprese, a stack of roma tomatoes, house mozzarella and basil drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.polpettepomodoro caprese

The Neapolitan-style pizzas are large and come with eight slices so there’s plenty to share. Try the Capricciosa (a traditional pizza that comes with marinated artichokes, wild mushrooms, olives, shaved ham, basil and house mozzarella) or the Inferno (topped with spicy sopressata, house mozzarella, calabria peppers and basil). If you want a taste of Naples street food try a Pizza Fritta. Similar in style to a calzone, house made dough is stuffed with cheese and meat and fried to a golden brown.capricciosa pizza

For dessert you can’t go wrong with the Cannoli. The crisp pastry shells are filled with decadently creamy and sweet ricotta cream. Also worth saving room for is the Torta Caprese, a flourless chocolate almond cake from the isle of Capri that is topped with homemade chocolate ganache.cannoli and torta caprese

Ammazza, 591-A Edgewood Avenue, Atlanta 30312 (Old Fourth Ward)
404.228.1036, ammazza.com

 

Good Things Come in Tre

You don’t have to head to Lincoln Road for nice al fresco dining.  Tre Italian Bistro is making Flagler Street in downtown Miami the new place for outdoor eating and people watching.

TreAs the saying goes, good things come in threes, a number that has special meaning for the restaurant.  It’s both its name (tre means three in Italian), and its location (the corner of Third and East Flagler Streets).  Tre is the third downtown restaurant from the three partners of La Loggia, an Italian restaurant across from the courthouse.

Fortunately there are more than three tables at Tre because the restaurant has been busy since opening last month.  The good news for those who have been hungry for a place like this in downtown is that the food is good — and shows potential to get better.

TreDespite its small bar area, Tre has a good mix of cocktails, all priced at $9.  There are the standard South Florida favorites like mojitos and caipirinhas, as well as more adventurous drinks like the Tre-Tini (a cucumber and honeydew vodka martini), the Per Lei (Campari and mandarin vodka with a splash of Sprite), and the rich sounding Stracciatella Martini (vanilla vodka, Godiva light and dark liqueurs and vanilla ice cream).

Though I’m not a big sangria fan I really liked Tre’s white sangria.  It’s fruity without being too sweet, and is light and refreshing on a hot day.  A glass costs $6 and a 1 liter carafe is $18.

Both the lunch and dinner menus feature a little bit of everything.  There are salads, sandwiches, burgers, pizza and classic Italian pasta dishes and entrées.

Like any good Italian restaurant, Tre has great bread.  Be sure to have some of the delicious homemade focaccia while you’re looking over the dinner menu.  Or go for lunch and have a sandwich on it.  It’s even better when dipped in olive oil that the servers pour onto your bread plate.

Tre carpaccioIf you’re a big meatball fan you may be disappointed by Vinnie’s meatballs ($7), which are a little dry and under-seasoned (it didn’t help that mine were served on the cool side).  I did like the beef carpaccio ($12), thinly sliced seared filet mignon topped with baby arugula.  The meat tasted great though the large portion of arugula needed olive oil or some sort of dressing.  I’m not sure whether this omission was intentional or accidental.  One quick fix — the servers could leave the olive oil bottles on the table after they pour it onto the bread plate.  Update: bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar are now left on the table.

Tre pizzaTre joins a handful of Italian restaurants in downtown that serve individual thin crust pizzas — though you can’t fault them for joining the crowd because their pizza is pretty good.  Each pizza is made in a wood oven and is big enough for two people.  The Queen Margherita ($9) keeps it simple and tasty, with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil.  If you prefer more toppings try the Fig and Prosciutto ($12), a nice balance of salty and sweet with figs, prosciutto di parma, catupiry cheese and tomato sauce.

Tre linguineIf you like seafood with some spice, I highly recommend the seafood linguine ($13).  It’s black linguine in a fra diavolo sauce with a generous serving of shrimp, scallops and calamari.  My pasta came out cooked perfectly, just slightly al dente.  Also delicious is the lobster and champagne risotto ($14).  It’s creamy without being too heavy, with big chunks of lobster.

If you’re not into pasta try the shiitake crusted mahi-mahi served with sautéed bok choy and bell peppers ($15).  The slightly sweet and tangy sauce is so good you’ll wish there was more of it.  Another good choice is the roasted chicken marinated in beer and fresh herbs served with truffle roasted potatoes ($14).

For dessert you can’t go wrong with the Tropical Tiramisu ($6), lady fingers and mascarpone layered with strawberries and peaches and topped with toasted coconut, or the Dulce de Leche Soufflé ($7), a warm caramel soufflé with vanilla ice cream and freshly ground cinnamon.  Or order the Stracciatella Martini, which has enough ice cream to double as a dessert.

Tre also offers a weekend brunch, featuring traditional breakfast fare.  Dishes cost $12 and include a Mimosa, Bloody Mary, glass of sangria, fresh orange juice or cappuccino.  Want a second or third drink?  They cost $3, of course!

Tre Italian Bistro is located at 270 East Flagler Street in downtown Miami.  It opens at 11am on weekdays and 9am on weekends, and closes at 10pm Monday through Wednesday, 11pm Thursday through Saturday, and 4pm on Sunday.  For more visit tremiami.com.

Posh Pies at Ecco Pizzateca + Lounge

If you’re in the mood for a slice of pizza, consider getting a whole pie instead at Ecco Pizzateca + Lounge.  It’s the latest trendy dining spot to open in Miami’s central business district, adding to the flourishing downtown dining scene.

Ecco PizzatecaEcco is located on the ground floor of the Huntington Building, on the corner of Southeast 1st Street and 2nd Avenue.  Surrounded by office buildings, it is quickly becoming the power lunch spot for the non-power lunch crowd.  Ecco has a funky and fresh vibe with an affordable menu — no expense account required.

Ecco won’t satisfy your craving for a slice of real New York pizza but it’s not a bad alternative.  There are nearly 30 different gourmet pizzas to choose from, created by award winning pizza chef Massimo Fabio Bruni of Italy.

The pizzas range from the basic Margherita (house made tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil, $9), to the not so traditional Shock (spicy salami, broccoli, spinach, parmesan and gorgonzola, $15).  Ecco PizzatecaI ordered the Capricciosa ($11), which has ham, mushrooms, artichokes and black olives.  It had a great crisp thin crust, though it could have used more tomato sauce.  All of the individual pies are pretty big, so you’re guaranteed to leave full.

If you’re not in the mood for pizza, Ecco has a variety of salads, paninis and pastas, plus a few meat dishes.  The Lasagna Tradizionale ($9) is a generous serving of meat lasagna, though it tastes a bit bland.  If you’re craving baked pasta I’d recommend going to Soya e Pomodoro instead.

Ecco PizzatecaI like Ecco as a spot for an after work drink and light bite.  Sit on one of the funky chairs in the lounge area (my favorites are the big armchairs covered in cow print), and order an Antipasti.  The All’ Italia has something for everyone — Italian cheeses, prosciutto, salami, olives, roasted red peppers and arugula.  Pair it with a mixed drink, a glass of wine or beer, or a San Pellegrino Limonata.  Belgian beer fans will be happy to know that Ecco has Chimay on tap and serves it in Chimay goblets.

Though Ecco is mostly a weekday lunch spot (opening at 11:30am and closing at 4pm Monday through Wednesday), it is now open until 11pm on Thursday and Friday, and will soon be open on Saturday.

Ecco Pizzateca is located at 168 SE 1st Street in downtown Miami.  For more information visit www.eccomiami.com.

Champagne Brunch Buffet at the Wynn

You can’t visit Las Vegas without checking out at least one buffet.  My pick: the weekend Champagne brunch buffet at the Wynn.

For me, buffets can be dangerous — no matter what I tell myself beforehand I always eat way too much and leave uncomfortably full.  I never seem to learn that my eyes are always bigger than my stomach.  But with 16 live action cooking stations and a wide variety of dishes I just had to try a little bit of everything, right?

The Wynn buffet has all the traditional brunch fixings.  There’s a fresh fruit station, salad station, breakfast pastries station, and omelet station alongside all the usual hot breakfast foods.  I skipped all these so I could fill up my plate elsewhere.  There is a seafood station with three different kinds of ceviche and an assortment of sushi rolls (I filled up on spicy tuna hand rolls).  There is a dim sum section with steamed pork buns, dumplings and egg rolls.

Among the many options for the -unch part of the buffet are pasta, enchiladas, pizza, salmon, game hen and a delicious lamb risotto (my favorite).  Another highlight is the carving station, which features a large slab of meat normally prepared as bacon that is instead covered in spices and roasted.  It has a great taste and a soft, slightly chewy texture.  It’s a decadent treat for anyone who likes bacon.

At the Wynn buffet you’ll definitely want to save room for dessert.  There’s a separate room just for sweets.  My first stop was the ice cream bar, where I got a scoop of chocolate and coffee (I couldn’t pick just one).  Then I moved on to the cakes and pies.  The pecan pie and bread pudding were yummy and I really liked the Oreo and chocolate mousse cake, though it was so rich I could only take two bites.  I wanted to take some cookies to go but decided not to.

For an extra $7 you can get a glass of Champagne.  Bonus: unlimited refills.  When I went they were pouring Freixenet Brut Nature, a crisp and dry Cava that went well with the mix of flavors on my plate.  During my two hour grazing session I easily drank an entire bottle, thanks to our enthusiastic server Kevin.  When our glasses were half full there was Kevin, ready to fill them up.  When we were finally ready to leave he even brought us to-go cups.

The Buffet at the Wynn is open for lunch, breakfast and dinner.  The weekend brunch costs $30 without Champagne.  If you go, get there early.  I arrived around 9:30am and had no problem getting a table but two hours later there was a very long line.

For more information visit www.wynnlasvegas.com.

Highlights from Ultra Music Festival

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I’ve been sick with a sore throat the past couple of days.  Perhaps it was from all the cheering at Ultra or trying to shout over the music.  Either way, it’s a small price to pay for getting to check out two days of performances by some of the biggest DJs and producers in the dance and electronic music scene.

Ultra Music FestivalWhat I enjoy about this genre of music (besides the music itself), is that it brings all sorts of people together.  Between 50,000 and 60,000 people attended Ultra each day, united by a love of dance and electronic music.  The fashion ranged from preppy to sporty, from hipster to raver.  A guy in a polo shirt would be enjoying the same music as a girl wearing a neon-colored tutu and black fuzzy boots with bead bracelets halfway up to her elbows.  It was truly an international event — music fans from approximately 80 countries made up the crowd and waved flags in beat to the music.  Maybe all they need at the G20 summit is a little dance music.

Even hip-hop artists are getting into the electronic scene.  The Black Eyed Peas chose Ultra as the venue to unveil the first song from their upcoming album.  Their performance Friday night (their first performance as a group in three years), kicked off with the hits “Let’s Get It Started” and “My Humps” before the debut of the beat-driven “Boom Boom Pow.”  If the audience’s reaction to the group’s high energy performance is any indication, The Black Eyed Peas will have huge success with their new album, due out June 9th.

Black Eyed Peas and LMFAOThis being Miami, the audience cheered loudly anytime The Black Eyed Peas mentioned the city by name.  And they went insane when the duo from LMFAO came on stage and joined them for an extended version of “I’m in Miami, B—-,” their song that’s huge right now in Miami clubs.

Ultra seemed to have several surprise appearances.  My favorite was during David Guetta’s set on Friday when he was joined by Kelly Rowland (of Destiny’s Child fame) to perform their new song “Love Takes Over.”  And wow, this woman can really belt it out!  The song has a great melody and you’ll want to sing along.  It’s definitely going to be a huge club hit this summer.

On Saturday music producer Timbaland tried his hand at DJing.  He mixed together beats from his hit songs like “The Way I Are” and “SexyBack.”  It seemed like he was a little unsure of his DJing abilities at times, relying on a hype man for encouragement and to pump up the audience.  Maybe he’s practicing for a new career?

Paul van DykTiësto and Paul van Dyk didn’t disappoint, headlining Friday and Saturday respectively with their brand of techno and electronic music that brought them to the top of the dance music scene.  It was incredible looking around at the massive audience during their sets; performing to a crowd of around 50,000 must be an incredible rush.

During his performance Saturday night Paul van Dyk debuted his latest single “Home.”  It has a warm mix of house music and pop vocals, but seems to rely too much on the same formula as his other popular singles.

Ultra Music Festival is loaded with so many different performances at a number of different stages that it makes it tough to choose where to go.  I found myself running from stage to stage, trying to get in as many performances as possible.

Roni Size and GoldieI’m a big fan of drum & bass so I made sure to be right up front for Roni Size (who performed in the U.S. for the first time in seven years with Reprazent), and Goldie.  Years ago it was music from these two who piqued my interest in drum & bass.  If you’re not familiar with this kind of music, I’d describe it as a heart-pumping frenzy of beats and bass that would make the heads of many parents (mine included) explode.

A big disappointment was the Prodigy, who started their set 20 minutes late and then proceeded to spew out a string of epithets to get the crowd going.  The cursing got old after a few minutes and I ended up leaving to check out the other stages.

Deadmau5Another disappointment was the no-show by Kaskade, whose song “Move for Me” with Deadmau5 is currently one of the most played songs on my iPod.  I did enjoy seeing two sets by Deadmau5, who took the stage wearing a helmet that was one part Mickey Mouse and another part Takashi Murakami.

Ultra Music FestivalIn between the main stage performances I spent a lot of time in the Carl Cox and Friends tent.  With friends like Moby, Pete Tong and Eric Morillo, there was a great mix of songs and beats.  I always made sure to return for Carl Cox, who is great at manipulating the energy of the crowd through his music.

Ultra Music FestivalIn the middle of all the action was the international food market, which tempted me with delicious smells even when I wasn’t hungry.  There was pizza, burgers, gyros, fried chicken, crepes, frog legs, gator bites, pasta and more.  My favorite was the stir-fried noodles, which were among the cheaper food items at $7 (my slice of pizza Friday night cost $10).  I did go a little overboard on eating but I figured I’d work off all the calories while dancing!

With non-stop, electrifying performances, Ultra Music Festival is the highlight of the Winter Music Conference.  Now that my ears have finally stopped ringing I’m ready for Ultra 2010!

Pret a Manger and Quick Bites at Grand Central

Free WiFi is the greatest. I’m sitting outside at Bryant Park on this gorgeous fall day and am loving the fact that I can connect to the internet. The park is packed with businessmen and women having lunch, parents pushing children in strollers, friends chatting over coffee and tourists carrying bags from the department stores.

I myself just finished lunch. I grabbed a sandwich at one of my favorite British imports, Pret a Manger. As the name indicates, everything is ready to eat – from sandwiches, to salads, to soups, there’s a wide assortment of options for breakfast and lunch. While studying abroad in London, Pret a Manger was the place I went for yogurt and a mocha in the morning, a sandwich for lunch and a mid-afternoon brownie if I was craving chocolate. Today I got a sandwich with sliced chicken, avocado, lettuce and basil with balsamic dressing. To drink I had a bottle of Pret’s chilled organic Assam tea. It’s pure tea, no sugar, just the way I like it.

Bryant Park is around the corner from one of my other favorite places in midtown for a quick bite to eat – Grand Central Station. Growing up in Westchester, Grand Central was like home base for me: the beginning and end to many adventures in the city. I’ve spent lots of time sitting on the marble steps waiting for trains; I’ve had panicked sprints through the main concourse hoping to catch the last train of the night.

Grand Central Station is a great destination for food. Grand Central Market is a long hall of bread, seafood, cheese, olives, prepared foods and more. If I lived in the area I’d stop there to pick up something for dinner. Downstairs at Grand Central’s dining concourse you can choose among Japanese, Italian, Chinese, Indian or Mexican restaurants, or have ice cream or a slice of pie. I always head right to Two Boots, a pizza restaurant with several locations throughout the city. It’s a blend of Italian and Cajun cooking; the two boots refer to the shapes of Italy and Louisiana. Two Boots’ pizza is so tasty because it’s made with a cornmeal crust. It’s thin and crunchy and has a slightly sweeter taste than standard pizza dough. You won’t want to order cheese here; instead go for one of their creatively named slices, from the Mr. Pink made with chicken, plum tomatoes and mozzarella, to the Newman made with sopressata and sweet Italian sausage. I like ordering my slice with a Brooklyn Lager. It’s one of my favorite combinations to get every time I visit New York.

If you prefer your food raw, the Oyster Bar is the perfect place to go. Along with a wide variety of raw oysters you can get clams, shrimp, chowder and all sorts of fish. It’s simple, quick and good, a great spot to unwind before catching a train. Hopefully I’ll have time for a quick stop there today before I have to head to the airport.

Coming up tomorrow, I’ll be posting my tasting notes from the New York City Wine & Food Festival.

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