Monday, May 2, 2016

Derby Day Lamb with Mint Julep Gastrique

The Kentucky Derby is the annual Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbred horses, held annually in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday each May. A number of traditions play a large role in the Derby atmosphere especially the mint julep; an iced drink consisting of simple syrup, mint and bourbon. Kentucky burgoo (a variation of the traditional French cassoulet,) is also a popular Kentucky dish during Derby week.

The mint julep originated in the southern United States, probably during the eighteenth century. The first mention of a mint julep in print came in a book by John Davis published in London in 1803, where it was described as "a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.” The term 'julep' is generally defined as a sweet drink, particularly one used as a vehicle for medicine. U.S. Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky introduced the drink to Washington, D.C., at the Round Robin Bar in the illustrious Willard Hotel during his residence in the city. It later became the official drink of Churchill Downs in association with the Kentucky Derby in 1938.

Gastrique is a sweet and sour sauce that also begins with a simple syrup which is caramelized, deglazed with vinegar (white, cider, red wine or balsamic dependent on your flavor profile) and flavored with herbs, spices, berries or fruit juices. The flavoring of a gastrique should be based on the protein it is being served with. For example, a rich blackberry gastrique would enhance fattier red meats like duck or beef, while a more delicate herbed citrus sauce would complement fish or chicken dishes. The flavor combination of mint and bourbon are the perfect accompaniment to one of our favorite meals: grilled lamb.

So whether you enjoy an icy liquid mint julep or lamb drizzled with our mint julep gastrique to celebrate this year’s 138th running of the “Run for the Roses,” we hope you’ll be cheering “I’ll Have Another!”

Mint Julep Gastrique
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • Pinch salt
  • 30 (about ½ cup) fresh mint leaves, torn
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon

Mix sugar and water in the bottom of a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan; the mixture should resemble wet sand. Heat the sugar mixture over medium-high heat until the sugar granules completely dissolve and bubbles form. The tip of a spoon pulled through the mixture should leave a trail.

Watch as the sugar begins to caramelize. It will turn blonde at first. If you plan on making a delicate gastrique to pair veal or fish stop at this stage. For a more concentrated taste, continue to let the sugar caramelize to a deep, golden color; the darker the caramelization, the deeper the flavor. Swirl the pan gently to help it cook evenly. Remember not to use non-heat-proof utensils or to get the molten sugar on your skin because it is extremely hot.

When you've reached the desired level of caramelization, add the vinegar (in equal proportion to the sugar). This step can be intimidating, as the sugar mixture is very hot. To keep the splattering to a minimum, pour the vinegar into the caramel quickly rather than adding it little by little. It will make a loud sizzling sound and left off a good deal vinegary steam.

The sugar will immediately coagulate at the bottom of the pan, this is normal even though it looks like a mess. Continue to cook the sauce until the sugar re-dissolves, taking the mixture back to a liquid state. This is your basic gastrique which will continue to caramelize as it simmers.

This is the stage to add the torn mint leaves and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Once the gastrique has reached a thick syrup, remove from the heat. Strain the syrup through a sieve to remove mint leaves and add one teaspoon of bourbon. Remember the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.

Drizzle the mint julep gastrique over sliced lamb and serve immediately. The gastrique can be made ahead and reheated just before serving. Five to one odds you’ll have a winner dinner!

Originally published May 3, 2012


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Cinco de Mayo Guacamole

Everybody at our house LOVES tacos, and Cinco de Mayo is a perfect excuse to have them for dinner. Of course, it wouldn't be "Taco Night" without homemade guacamole. We use copious amounts of cilantro in our recipe. We hope you like it as much as we do!

2 ripe Haas avocados
1 lime, juiced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, chopped (optional)
Hot sauce* to taste (optional)

Cut avocados in half lengthwise, remove seeds and peels. Place in a bowl with the lime juice, garlic, 1 tablespoon cilantro, and salt. Mash with a fork until desired texture is achieved. Mix in jalapeño and/or hot sauce to taste.

Add more of any of the above ingredients to taste; We prefer extra cilantro and lime juice. If you are serving your guacamole with tortilla chips, remember that they tend to be very salty before you add more salt to your mixture.

Garnish with remaining cilantro. If you like smoother guacamole, it can be mixed in a food processor with a tablespoon of mayonnaise.

* Our family's favorite hot sauce is Louisiana Hot Sauce made by Bruce Foods.

Published 5/5/2010


Thursday, April 21, 2016

How To Guide: Atlanta Food & Wine Festival 2016

In six short weeks, the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival begins with an opening toast in the lobby of the Loews Atlanta. In its sixth year, this festival is not to be missed. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned veteran, these insider tips will help you to make the most of your culinary weekend.

Launched in 2012, this “feastival” was created by entrepreneurial friends Elizabeth Feichter and Dominique Love as a way to shine an international spotlight on the rich traditions of the South. “As we get ready to celebrate five years as a festival, we have to make note of how our region continues to grow in awareness, surprise in the kitchen and our talent is influencing culinary traditions across the globe,” says Love. “The commitment these chefs have to educating the general public and our event consumer continues to awe and inspire. In our five years, we have just scratched the surface on the depth and richness of the food and beverage traditions of the South.”

Atlanta Food and Wine Festival takes place from Thursday, June 2nd to Sunday, June 5th with nearly 100 classes, curated tasting tents, exclusive dinners and a new a pop-up Vineyard. The weekend will be organized around three different categories: Learning Experiences, Tasting Experiences, and Dinners & Events. The Learning Experiences will feature cooking and cocktail demonstrations, tasting seminars, and panels with industry professionals. To take full advantage of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, we recommend the Connoisseur Three-Day Pass, which includes a personal concierge to help with planning your weekend as well as access to connoisseur-only areas, exclusive event invites, and special dinners.

Here are a few tips to make your tasting experience the best that it can be!
  • Choose your ticket level carefully: VIP tickets are more costly, but you have access to a special areas and classes with wine, beer and cocktails tastings as well as exclusive restaurant tastings (no additional tasting tickets required). You may feel the extra money is worth the benefit.
  • Do your Research: The AFWF has a fantastic planning guide with printable schedules, worksheets, and festival maps. There is also a frequently asked questions page with valuable information on tickets, parking, etc.
  • Make class reservations: Take the time and effort to go through the class schedules and reserve a space in the classes that are of most interest to you. Classes fill up, so you may not be able to attend the sessions you want without a reservation made in advance.
  • Download the App: Yes, there’s an app for that! A new 2016 app is coming in May which will be available for iPhones and Android phones, will have full schedules, maps and personal options for you to enter your classes and events.
  • Plan your Parking: Expect to pay $15-20 to park close to the event. There is limited street parking in the neighborhoods around the festival, however, with all the walking you will be doing, a hike back to your car at the end of the day may put you over the top. Additionally, the police enforce parking aggressively. Consider taking Uber especially if you plan to partake of cocktail samples at the Tasting Tents.
  • Check the weather forecast: AFWF is held rain or shine. It is better to be prepared than to be too hot, cold or wet!
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes: While there is no enforced dress code, you should plan to dress appropriately considering the nature of the event. Shorts and t-shirts are not considered appropriate attire for evening events. You may want a light sweater for air-conditioned class sessions. For the Tasting Tents; do not wear your skinny jeans; you will need some breathing room. The terrain is not optimal for high heels, while they may look great, you will struggle to maneuver through the crowds with ease.
  • Consider taking a bag: While frequently there are vendors handing out reusable bags of some sort, you may not have a bag when an opportunity to collect some take home samples presents itself. I take a plastic grocery store bag folded tightly enough to fit in my pocket to use until that better bag presents itself.
  • Allot plenty of time: This is not a “I’m just gonna stop by” kind of event. There will be crowds and there will be lines.
  • Pace yourself: Maximize your sample to appetite ratio. The same holds true for cocktail sampling. Consider drinking some water between libations. It is a long day and you may have a considerable walk back to your vehicle.
  • Water: Whether you take a refillable water bottle or pick up a bottle along the way, drink lots of water. Both the climate-controlled hotel spaces and the outdoor venues can be very desiccating. Stay well hydrated.
  • Take advantage of all offerings: Several vendors provide cooking and product demos in the common areas of the hotel during the festival. You can rest your feet and your palate, and who knows you might actually learn something new. There are also evening dinners and sponsored events both at the Loews and around the city; explore all that’s happening during the festival.
  • Lastly, cancel your dinner plans! You will not leave hungry.
To purchase tickets, download the app, or obtain other information, please visit the AFWF16 website. 


Monday, April 18, 2016

Root-To-Leaf Chopped Salad with Spring Onion Dressing

Each Saturday, the sidewalks come to life as neighbors scurry by with empty shopping bags headed toward the Morningside Farmer’s Market located in the parking lot adjacent to the newly opened Morningside Kitchen on North Highland Avenue.

On this brisk Saturday, offerings included a variety of seasonal greens, carrots, spring onions, asparagus, beautiful strawberries and fresh meat products from Market regulars Crystal Organic Farm, Burge Organic Farm, Moon Organics, Grateful Pastures, and Riverview Farms. Market customers enjoyed hot coffee from Café Campesino and a nice selection of fresh breads and pastries from La Calavera Bakery.

A large crowd gathered for the first chef demo of the season by Steven Satterfield, Executive chef and co-owner of Miller Union restaurant and Author of “Root To Leaf.” Chef began his cooking demonstration featuring fresh greens of all sorts and root vegetables including radishes, baby beets and carrots chosen from market merchants mere moments before.

Chef Steven hand washed all greens, spinning them dry in a salad spinner. He was very focused as he finely chopped a wide selection of greens like kale, chard, arugula and the tops of carrots, beets, hakurei turnips, radishes. The root vegetables were very thinly sliced on a mandolin and added to the salad. He chatted with spectators about vegetables, his award-winning cookbook, and explained the nuances of the various vinegars used in his spring onion dressing. As you can see from the recipe, the dressing is quite complex with many layers of flavors that bring out the exceptional flavors of the fresh greens.

The dressing is made in two parts and then combined. The dressing base is a mixture of a few specialty vinegars with spring onion, honey and extra virgin olive oil. There is an herbal walnut pesto that is then stirred into the dressing base which adds a complexity and nuttiness to this salad.
Dressing base:
1 spring onion, sliced
1 tablespoons grain mustard
1/2 cup verjus
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup banyuls vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil

Combine all and pulse lightly in blender or food processor to fully mix.

Walnut pesto:
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup walnut oil
Zest of half of an orange
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
1/4 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup basil
1 sprig thyme, leaves only
Pinch maldon sea salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Toast walnuts in walnut oil on 300°F for 8 minutes. Allow to cool. Gather the rest of the ingredients while the nuts are cooling. Combine all in food processor and puree until well-combined. Then combine the dressing base and the walnut pesto and whisk together until incorporated. Taste for seasoning.

To dress the salad, Chef Steven recommends pouring the dressing along the side of the bowl of chopped greens and tossing the salad by hand to ensure that all ingredients are fully coated.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

ReVEALing Excellent Osso Buco

Everything old is new again. For decades, Americans have tried numerous variations on recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation in an attempt to improve them with new ingredients and exotic flavors only to return to the original. As a nation, we are finally embracing what our ancestors discovered early on: impeccable ingredients that are simply prepared are the best.

The overall popularity of ethnic food has never been higher with authentic ingredients becoming more widely available. When it comes to ethnic food in America, no other cuisine is as popular as Italian food, according to a recent report by the National Restaurant Association. We have, for years, tried to reconnect with customary Italian recipes and traditions, so when we had the opportunity to work with Mountain States Rosen on their ReVEALing Excellence contest, we immediately jumped at the chance to cook with safe and responsibly raised osso buco from Cedar Springs Veal.

Veal, produced for centuries as a delicacy, is a perennial favorite among Italian chefs. Famed Italian- born cookbook author, Marcella Hazan, who taught generations of Americans how to create simple, fresh Italian food describes osso buco as “the sweetest and most tender on the entire animal."  Osso Buco, for those uninitiated, is a Milanese specialty of cross-cut veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and broth which generally served with a vivid yellow saffron risotto. Osso buco is Italian for "bone with a hole" in reference to the marrow hole at the center of the cross-cut veal shank.

Not only is veal moist, tender and delicate, it’s packed with nutrients with a 3-oz. portion having less than 400 calories! When raised humanely on a nutritious and wholesome diet, veal is more than luxurious. It's simply unbeatable.

2 lbs.  Mountain States Rosen veal shanks, thick cut
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup flour
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 medium carrots, diced
3 celery rib, diced
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
Fresh parsley for garnish
Saffron rice, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Rinse veal and pat dry with paper towels before seasoning with salt and pepper. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole or Dutch oven, heat the oil until shimmering.

Lightly coat each shank with flour and add the veal cooking over moderately high heat, turning, until browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Transfer the veal to a plate.

Drain the fat from the casserole leaving 2 tablespoons in the bottom. Add the onion, carrot, celery and oregano and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened. Add the white wine and bring to a boil, scraping any browned bits.

Simmer until the wine is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste and chicken stock and bring back to a boil. Return the shanks to the casserole, cover and braise in the oven for 2 hours. The meat should be perfectly tender. Let stand covered for 10 minutes to allow the juices to retreat.

Serve the osso buco with saffron rice and garnish with freshly chopped parsley. Michelin-star Chef Angela Hartnett recommends eating this dish with your fingers to get every morsel off the bone rather than fiddling about with a knife and fork. She also recommends extra napkins!

While sample products were gifted from Mountain States Rosen; the recipe, photos and narrative included herein are original and opinions are honest and unsolicited.


eatingwitherica, eating with erica, erica key, erica angie


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Davio's Atlanta Spring Renewal

At Davio’s Atlanta, it is still "all about the guest." While the Atlanta Davio’s recently announced some exciting changes including the appointment of Paul Dunn as General Manager and Timothy Magee (formerly of Community Smith) as the location’s new Executive Chef, the title of owner Steve DiFillippo’s 2013 advice-laden memoir remains the company tenet.

We had the pleasure of attending a menu tasting hosted by DiFillipo and his exceptional Atlanta team last week. After mingling with glasses of champagne, we were seated as a service of the restaurant’s signature popovers arrived at the table just before the first dish of the evening: Mediterranean octopus with purple cauliflower puree, spicy carrot puree and chopped almonds.
The octopus was very tender and the 2013 Davio's Reserve Chardonnay made for a wonderful pairing. All of Davio’s French-style, private label wines are sourced from Merriam Vineyards which is nestled in the warmest edge of the Russian River Valley.

Plates of delicate ricotta-prosciutto ravioli in a Parmesan broth topped with fava beans were next on the tasting menu. The pasta was perfectly prepared with understated yet masterful, flavor profiles that matched well with the 2013 Davio's Reserve Pinot Noir.

Then came the main course: Brandt prime aged sirloin was moist and soft with a rich Barolo demi-glace accompanied by confit potatoes served atop mashed potatoes which created an interesting contrast of textures. The inclusion of morel mushrooms was a nice surprise; making their first appearance of the season. The 2013 Davio's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was a sensational pairing.

The dinner plates were cleared and replaced by hot cups of cappuccino and coffee and bowls of flan-style panna cotta. The subtle vanilla flavor of the custard was accentuated by local Georgia strawberries and a petite lavender shortbread wafer making for a nice finale to our menu sampling.

Thanks to the Steve DiFillippo and the attentive Davio’s Atlanta staff for a glorious evening on the patio. To experience this Italian hospitality first hand, make Davio’s Atlanta (located at 3500 Peachtree Road in Phipps Plaza) your next dinner destination.

While the menu items we sampled were complimentary, the opinions included herein are honest and unsolicited.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Chocolate Salami Tomfoolery

Our faithful readers know that we like to give you a little history lesson along with your recipe. I had intended to give you some information on the origins of April Fool’s Day, however, it seems that the joke's on us. Many believe that the first mention of the “holiday” was in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales published in 1392, while others debunk this theory. It would take many (many) paragraphs to share what the folks at The Museum of Hoaxes have already done very nicely.

So, regardless of how we got here, April 1st is the day for our loved ones to completely terrorize us and freak us out. I prefer the kinder, subtler form of deception: illusions that will both surprise and delight. And as tomfoolery goes, this chocolate salami is one of the best. Lay these out on a cutting board, perhaps as part of a cheese course, and watch as your guests discover a whimsical and festive chocolate dessert hidden inside the chameleon clothing of cured meat.

In truth, this is not salami at all, but chocolate, nuts, confectioner's sugar and other simple ingredients combined to create a trompe l'oeil illusion of a cured salami. Even after you cut into it, the trickery continues until it is tasted, then all illusions are over. "Salame al cioccolato" is a traditional Tuscan dessert, that is actually a popular Christmas treat.

1 - 12 oz. package of chocolate chips
¾ stick butter
2 tablespoons liqueur (Amaretto, Kahlua, Cointreau)
¼ cup cocoa powder
¾ cup nuts (almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, walnuts), chopped
¾ cup cookies, crushed
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Melt together the chocolate and butter in the microwave on medium for about 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir. Repeat heating at shorter intervals, 20 to 30 seconds, stirring in between, until the chocolate is completely melted and has a smooth consistency. Be forewarned, melted chocolate can be messy…

Stir the cocoa powder and liqueur (or extract) into the melted chocolate. We used Amaretto, but if you prefer a non-alcoholic version, simply use vanilla extract or strong coffee instead. Add the nuts, cookie pieces and stir until combined. For the cookies, any dry plain cookie will work. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until it becomes firm enough to form, about 20-30 minutes.

Divide the chocolate mixture in half. Place half of the mixture in the center of a piece of plastic wrap. Using a spatula, form the mixture into a log, about 7 inches long and 2 inches in diameter.

Roll up the log in the plastic and twist the ends to seal. Roll back and forth on a work surface a few times to make the log evenly round. Repeat with the remaining chocolate mixture. Refrigerate the logs until firm, about 1 more hour.

Spread the confectioners' sugar on a baking sheet. Remove the plastic wrap from the logs, then roll them in the sugar until coated. Using a pastry brush, brush away the excess sugar. Let the logs sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices and serve.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Happily Eating at The Capital Grille

The Capital Grill is one of Atlanta’s most distinguished steakhouses so you can imagine how thrilled we were to receive an invitation from our friend Milla Williams of Happily Eating to experience the restaurant. As soon as you open the front door, you notice the mahogany paneling and art deco chandeliers which add to the warm, elegant atmosphere.

As we gathered and chatted, the friendly staff came around with glasses of the restaurant’s signature cocktail known as a “Stoli Doli” which is Stolichnaya vodka house-infused with “Dole” pineapples. We were then treated to our choice of other drinks from their exclusive cocktail menu. I selected a Bohemian made with Absolut Apeach vodka, a splash of berry liqueur, and topped with chilled champagne and a fresh raspberry.

Soon plates of pan-fried calamari with fiery peppers, large plump garlic shrimp cooked and served in a small cast iron pans, and exquisite mini tenderloin sandwiches with mushroom duxelles and Boursin cheese arrived at the table. As we all took pictures, Chef Matt Stone ambled around the table describing the ingredients and techniques for each dish. We shared the plates as the attentive staff took our dinner orders. Selecting an entrée proved more difficult than you might think.

The Capital Grille, located at Perimeter Center West in Dunwoody, has a wide selection of steaks to choose from: ribeye, New York strip, filet mignon, and porterhouse. Long before their steaks ever touch the grill, they are meticulously dry aged for at least 18 days to achieve their incomparable flavor and texture. After which, each steak is hand-carved by in-house butchers to exacting standards. An intensive process to be sure. I opted for my favorite cut: a porterhouse which is the best of both worlds; a succulent filet mignon and a tender, meaty, bone-in strip steak.

My steak was a generous 24-ounces which I could have happily shared with a dinner partner! There were several menu options for non-steak-eaters such as the Chilean sea bass in mushroom soy broth, sashimi-grade, sesame-seared tuna and seared citrus-glazed salmon.

Our entrees were served with truffle fries with Parmesan that were crispy and not overly truffled; soy-glazed Brussels sprouts with large chunks of pork belly were nicely caramelized; and, fantastic lobster macaroni and cheese with huge pieces of lobster throughout.

We were still licking our lips from the tender portions of beef as plates of dessert samplers arrived. We all gave a collective satiated sigh, but no one could resist the trio of treats set before them which included classic crème brûlée with seasonal berries, a decadent flourless chocolate espresso cake with cocoa powder and fresh raspberries, and their signature individual cheesecake with a brûléed top served with fresh berries. We were also treated to cups of cappuccino the size of cat’s heads. For a group claiming to be full from their delicious meal, those desserts disappeared faster than a buttered bullet.

We extend our sincere thanks to our gracious hostess Milla Williams for coordinating such a lovely evening and to the staff at The Capital Grille for their courteous and attentive hospitality who showed us the true meaning of Southern hospitality.

While the menu items we sampled were complimentary, the opinions included herein are honest and unsolicited.

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