Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Atkins Park Brunch | Atlanta Restaurant Review

I've been living in Virginia Highlands for over four years now, and I can honestly say it would never have occurred to me to eat at Atkins Park. When I think of Atkins Park, I picture my 20-something self prowling the bars along North Highland. Now that I've got a husband and baby in tow, spots like Atkins Park, Hand in Hand, etc., never hit my radar.

So when I got an invite to check out the new brunch menu at Atkins Park, my interest was piqued. Brunch at a bar? When I'm looking for a brunch spot, I only ask for a few things: No long waits, outdoor seating, breakfast cocktails and something more interesting than an omelet or pancakes on the menu. Well check, check, check, check...Atkins Park has it all.

To start with, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had outdoor seating in the little alley next to it. Inside would be a bit dark for my taste on a sunny Sunday morning, but outside was perfect and baby and dog friendly to boot. Service was also friendly and attentive.

Little apple fritters to start were ridiculously delicious. Not exactly diet food but hard to resist. My short rib and poached eggs were hearty and far more upscale than I was expecting. It was a good sized portion of meet and the eggs were nice and runny. Salmon and potato pancakes sounded interesting but didn't quite do it for me. I was expecting more of a Hannukah style shredded potato latke, but instead it was a soft and perhaps too soggy more traditional style pancake made with potatoes. 

Baby G approves of the Atkins Park Patio
The kids meal yielded tasty and well priced french toast and grits for Baby G. The serving of grits is perhaps too big even for a grown man, so it can easily be shared by the table.

Brunch isn't complete without a cocktail, and my spicy bloody mary was a great addition to a very pleasant meal. All in all a very nice surprise in the hood! I may not hit the bars of Va-Hi at night any more, but it's nice to know there's still something for me at Atkins Park!

*Full disclosure: Although my first meal was comped, I always endeavor to offer my unbiased opinion of the experience! 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

AT Reviews Relished: Home Delivery of Fresh Dinner Ingredients

We're no strangers to ready-to-cook meal delivery services.  We've already given Atlanta-based PeachDish not just one review, but a second review after they revamped their offerings.  Recently, we got to check out Relished, a Chicago-based startup trying to nose into the Atlanta market.  Based on our experiences with them, we think they have a good shot at making a big dent into the appetites of Atlantans.

Relished sent us three different meals, lamb meatballs with creamy polenta and a tomato ragout; quinoa and roasted vegetable salad with pan seared chicken; and panko crusted cod with roasted baby carrots and asparagus.  Huge props to Relished for the gratis food and a three night reprieve on grocery shopping!

Relished meal delivery service - lamb meatballs with polenta ingredients
Ingredients for the lamb meatballs with polenta.  The can of tomatoes is hiding behind the recipe.
We kicked things off with the lamb meatballs with polenta and tomato ragout.  The ingredients were all neatly packaged and clearly labeled.  Aside from dicing a shallot and rolling up the meatballs, there was very little prep work involved in this particular dish.  Even making the polenta was quick, a far cry from my own attempts at polenta that involve me stirring corn meal and water until my arm is about to fall into the pot.  

Making the tomato ragout
Altogether, the prep took me about the 30 minutes advertised on the flyer, though the meatballs took a little longer than the listed 10-12 minutes to cook through..   After plating the polenta and meatballs, the recipe called for the entire meant to be topped with baby arugula.  While I am a big fan of arugula in salads, it felt a bit out of place on top of this dish, even though it did make for a very pretty plate.  Still, the finished product was quite good; probably my favorite of the three meals by a nose.  While the lamb meatballs were relatively unseasoned (cumin, salt, and pepper), the sweet tomato ragout helped make up for that and also made a great sauce for the polenta.  As an unanticipated bonus, the generous portions made great lunchtime leftovers the next day.

The finished product
The next evening, I made the quinoa and roasted vegetable salad with pan seared chicken.  We are somewhat frequent quinoa eaters and I'm always looking for interesting new ways to make the super-healthy but bland Bolivian staple more interesting.  

Relished food delivery - Quinoa and roasted vegetable salad
Quinoa and roasted vegetable salad ingredients and recipe card
Aside from a yellow pepper that was just starting to get a little wrinkly, the vegetables included were fresh and it appeared that once again we would have plenty of food leftover after dinner.  The preparation was easy, and the included recipe page had step-by-step instructions with color photos of each step.  Even the most inexperienced cook should have no problem following along.  That said, I found the order of the instructions a little perplexing.  If you were to follow the instructions step-by-step without reading ahead, you'd have a pot of cold quinoa and cold roasted vegetables while waiting for your chicken to cook.  I knew enough to work on multiple steps simultaneously, but the instructions could be a little clearer in this regard.

Once everything was cooked, it was simply a matter of tossing everything together.  While the colorful salad looked great on the plate, it was decidedly lacking in seasoning.  The raw green onion was a bit overpowering and the rest of the salad lacked flavor stand on its own.  And the chicken - well, it was white meat chicken cooked in a pan, 'nuff said.  This mean won out for healthiness but it was decidedly the least interesting of the bunch.
Healthy, and it tasted healthy too
Happily, our final meal from Relished was a winner, and unexpectedly so.  My reaction to seafood is usually a groan, and it was no different when I saw the panko crusted cod recipe in among the package from Relished.  

Panko crusted cod ingredients and recipe card
I often think of home-cooked fish as a recipe for bland food and being hungry an hour after dinner.  The one fish I could get behind cooking on a regular basis is salmon, but unfortunately for me Lindsey doesn't share my love of that fatty, pink delight.  The cod from Relished came neatly packaged along with carrots, asparagus, panko, parsley, garlic, a lemon and organic butter.

Prep was very simple on this dish.  After chopping the parsley and garlic, you melt the butter in a pan and add the garlic, panko and parsley.  Top the fish with the panko and bake it.  The instructions said 10-12 minutes but I found it took about 16 minute to cook the fish.  Meanwhile, toss the veggies in a bowl with salt, pepper, and olive oil and roast on a baking sheet for 8-10.  Again, the instructions were a little unclear about timing the various components to get everything finished at the same time.  I would say to get the breadcrumbs on the fish and get that in the oven, then prep the carrots and asparagus and put that in the oven about 5 minutes after the fish.

The resulting dish was quite good, so good in fact that I'll be looking to make cod a more frequent dinner guest in the future.

Relished food delivery: Panko crusted cod and carrots and asparagus
Panko crusted cod with carrots and asparagus: the best fish dish I've made at home in long time!
All told, I was quite impressed with Relished.  Even as somebody who is comfortable putting together weekday meals without having the recipes and ingredients delivered to my door, I could definitely see calling on Relished to ease the burden of weekday menu planning, shopping, food prep, and cooking.  At $9.95 per serving (available in 2, 4, and 6 serving increments), it's no more expensive than decent take out and frankly it's a heck of a lot better than most takeout.  Plus, there's been enough food with two of the three meals we had--the lamb meatballs and the quinoa salad--that we had leftovers.  As for the inevitable comparison with PeachDish, I don't think you can go wrong with either service as they frankly seem pretty comparable.

You check out Relished's current offerings at their website relishedfoods.com.  Through April 4, use the promo code AdventurousTastes to get 60% off your first order.  Happy cooking!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Film to Table Series at the Atlanta Film Festival

Atlanta Film Festival

The Atlanta Film Festival kicks off this week on Friday, March 28. With its Film to Table series, you can combine two of your fave things (movies and food) in one. It's kind of like the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups of festivals. Get your tickets here.

2014 Atlanta Film Festival
Film to Table – Food Programming

Food on Film
Saturday, March 29, 2:15PM – The Plaza Theatre, Chipotle Auditorium
Food on Film is the festival’s annual celebration of movies for foodies. This year attendees will snack on culinary shorts including “The Cake Lady,” “Sumo Roll,” “Sausage” and “The Scarecrow,” followed by the documentary “Sriracha,” an examination of our nation’s new favorite hot sauce. Pass & ticket holders may join in for actual film-inspired treats at the Highland Ballroom afterwards, made possible by Epting Events.
Admission: $10
Attending Talent: Griffin Hammond (Director, Sriracha), Randy Clemens (Writer, The Sriracha Cookbook)

HBO Presents: Game of Thrones
Season 4 Premiere
Sunday, March 30, 4:00pm – The Plaza Theatre
HBO is partnering with ATLFF to give guests a sneak preview of GAME OF THRONES. Based on the popular book series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” by George R.R. Martin, this hit Emmy®-winning fantasy series chronicles an epic struggle for power in a vast and violent fantasy kingdom. Watch the first episode from the new season a full week before it airs on HBO, on Sunday April 6! Then join us for a Westeros-themed feast and party made possible by Epting Events after the screening.
Admission: Free with RSVP (looks to be already full but there's a waitlist!)

Dog Days
Atlanta Film Festival | Dog Days

Sunday, March 30, 9:30pm – The Plaza Theatre, Chipotle Auditorium
directed by Laura Waters Hinson & Kasey Kirby
USA, 2013, English, 75 minutes
After losing his job in 2009, Coite Manuel sets off to build his dream business with the help of two unlikely women—Deane, his harp-playing aunt, and Siyone, an East African hotdog vendor and single mother of four. Staking his meager life savings on a vision to revive Washington, D.C.'s dwindling hotdog vending community, Coite faces bewildering challenges—from hostile city regulations and an entrenched local monopoly to the sudden popularity of food trucks. Filmed over the course of four years, "Dog Days" journeys to a world where the top dogs of big business meet the underdogs of street food in a comically serious caper about the promise and struggle of the American dream.
(Film to Table)

Atlanta Film Festival | Farmland

Sunday, April 6, 12:30pm – The Plaza Theatre, Chipotle Auditorium
directed by James Moll
USA, 2014, English, 70 minutes
Most Americans have never stepped foot on a farm or ranch or even talked to the people who grow and raise the food we eat. “Farmland” takes an intimate look at the lives of farmers and ranchers in their twenties, all of whom are now responsible for running their farming business. Learn about their high-risk/high reward jobs and passion for a way of life that has been passed down from generation to generation, yet continues to evolve.
(Film to Table)
Attending Talent: James Moll, Director



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