Thursday, March 8, 2012

An Experience that will keep you coming back ...again and again

Recently my group of close friends and I celebrated a birthday at Cibo e Beve.  I had ordered ahead of time a chilled bottle of sparkling wine and it arrived along with “complements of Chef Linda”-sometimes,  It pays to be a chef.
 a huge platter of charcuterie, meatballs, and figs arrived at our table soon after our arrival.
I ordered a Caesar salad to share: "teenage" romaine, poached farm egg crouton, white anchovy, reggiano, and croutons.  The poached egg was a refreshing change from the typical Caesar; the salad was flawlessly dressed, perfectly portioned and delish!  A definite keeper!
Next came the entrees.  I ordered Rigatoni with Gorgonzola dolce, and pistachio cream, a specialty of chef Linda.  The food beautifully plated, and inviting, tasted superb.
I heard about Cibo e Beve through a colleague.  Chef Linda has been around the Atlanta food scene for sometime. When we arrived, a smiling, friendly hostess greeted and welcomed us to the restaurant. She led us to our table -one with an amazing view of the kitchen!  The entire wait staff was seasoned, friendly, knowledgeable of the menu items and faultless in their jobs.
Now the final course! To our delight and surprise, the chef sent us a dessert sampling for the table to share.  This close-to-orgasmic sampling included:
 classic tiramisu, pavesini cookies, illy caffe, cocoa nibs, mascarpone mousse, cannoli Siciliani, white chocolate mascarpone cream, chocolate “Salame” traditional zabaione, fresh berries, amaretto cheesecake, amarena cherries, and almond brittle.  My absolute favorite was the classic zabaione, which I can only describe as warm red velvet donuts, deep fried and paired with white chocolate sauce!!!!  I'm salivating just thinking about it.
I highly recommend the Cibo e Beve experience to anyone wishing for a dining delight!
Until next time, Chef Jess.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Chain... you ask?

My original plan for this blog was to write weekly, but my busy life prevents this.  So I’ve lowered the ambition of a once a week critique to writing as often as I can.  

At first I decided to avoid chain restaurants but on second thought, remembered what an important role they play in American society.  As a rule franchised restaurants are more family oriented than others, the meals are familiar, consistently prepared dishes, the “wait” is shorter and are easier on the wallet.

As soon as we entered Bahaman Breeze on Haynes Bridge Rd, two friendly hostesses greeted us, we took our pager and headed to the packed bar.   
The eager barkeep described seasonal specials and recommended some of the drinks.  We settled on a ginger Mojito  (The fresh ginger was a refreshing surprise.) and a "Pain-Killer.”  The drinks tasted amazing, and we enjoyed them and the live Island Music for 10 minutes until our pager alerted us that our table was ready.

The hostess led us to our table in a dimly lit dining room adjacent to the bar; the seating area, though crowded, was adequate.  

As an appetizer we decided to split their  “Famous Coconut Shrimp.”  In a short time we were served piping hot, perfectly browned, crisp, coconut covered shrimp and a tropical honey mustard dipping sauce, garnished with a fresh pineapple slice. YUM

The entrees arrived quickly on hot plates and filled with hot food (requirements in my restaurant).  The fish was absolutely perfectly seasoned and cooked: moist and flaky meat with a crisp coating! Our huge portions of sweet potatoes, with a dash of cinnamon were delicious.  The haricot verts  were obviously blanched and shocked (a chef's must) prior to service and at the last moment sautéed with the utmost care to retain the bright green color and perfect al dente bite.  
I left Bahama Breeze fat and happy...and a little tipsy because I just had to try the Mojito one more time during dinner.  As a chef I usually don’t expect such a good experience from chain restaurants, so I must tuck my cape between my legs, and admit that some chain restaurants can be appreciated even by the pickiest of chefs. 
Until next time...  I must pocket my whisk

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Taco Thursday

NIMR  (Not In My Restaurant) 

Last Thursday night...I’m running errands and spot a sign, "Now open...The Taco stand"...  
Dreaming of authentic Mexican street food and atmosphere (with hand-smashed avocados!).  I excitedly pull into the lot.  Entering the new establishment my dinning companion and I are greeted by... no one!
Confused by the lack of signage demanding that we wait to be seated, (I make a quick NIMR mental note) and contemplate a quick exit.  I remind myself that this is a newborn restaurant, and I'm here for the greater good: supporting a new establishment and authentic Mexican chow
Finally, a young lady dressed in jeans and a tee nonchalantly approaches us (as if doing us a favor).  I ask, "Are you open???"  The “hostess” seats us in a dining room amongst 15 other patrons, leaves menus, and scurries off.

We exchange apprehensive looks but dive into the menu expectantly.  Immediately, I cringe!!!  Three tacos are listed!!!  I rant to my friend, “At a taco stand there’s no room on the menu for ... wings...hamburgers...hotdogs!"  Ugh!  
A more likely name for the restaurant would be  "(such and such..) Bar & Grill.”  (And a bad one at that).  
We were served cold, unseasoned tortilla chips and salsa that tasted like a can of chopped tomatoes.  Both of us ordered a couple of tacos and while waiting a woman (at first we thought she was another patron) approached our table to apologize, "Please bare with us, we are still getting our sea legs” Awkward to say the least.  Sea Legs?? I think, "Are we going fishing"?

I can forgive mediocre service if I have spectacular food.  The tacos were blah: the steak taco had huge pieces of meat, which made it difficult to eat and the "traditional" was under seasoned.
Taco Stand of Alpharetta- “At the very least change the name of the restaurant!  My Suggestion: " Taco Stand -My ass!” 

Until next week, with apron and whisk in hand, The Chef Turned Underground Critic, is watching!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

From a Chef's Point of View...

It all started last Wednesday night when I decided to try a new/different restaurant and it failed me...
Atlanta, Ga., "The foodie city of the south" has hundreds of restaurants and countless amazing food markets.  Some of the best food in the world should be at our doorsteps.  And yet my experience has been the contrary: the service is poor, the food is sub-par, the atmosphere pitiable or all three at once.
As a Chef, perhaps a future restaurant owner, and a die-hard optimist I keep an ever-growing list of "Things I Won't Have In My Restaurant".  My personal mantra is "What can I learn from this"?
For this blog I plan to eat out at least once a week and report back to you with my recommendations.

My expectations: Friendly, professional, inviting service and quality food that will call me back again and again.
The Result: Chef turned underground restaurant critic.....dun..dun...dun..grab the apron and the whisk, suddenly I feel like a superhero..The Chef-Critic is watching you!