A Feast Fit for a King: Chef Val Domingo Cooks Up an Elvis Beer Dinner at Meehan’s Public House Thurs. Jan. 26!

Posted on: Jan 23rd, 2012 By:
Elvis Presley‘s birthday was Jan.8, but Meehan’s Public Housein Sandy Springs isn’t done celebrating. In fact, Chef Val Domingo is preparing a feast fit for a king this Thurs. Jan. 26. His Elvis Beer Dinner features a delicious four-course menu for just $47 (beer included) themed around the rock star’s music, movies and favorite foods, paired with a selection of Belgian-style brews by Ommegang Beer, a Cooperstown, NY microbrewery, and nationally known tribute band, Young Elvis and the Blue Suedes. ATLRetro caught up with Chef Val to find out what’s cooking, why Ommegang, how he got the ideas for rock star/music-themed dinners which have become a regular feature at Meehans, and what’s next on the music menu…
ATLRetro: How did you get the idea for rock star/music-themed dinners?
Chef Val Domingo: I first got the idea when I was the chef at Coastal Kitchen in St. Simons Island.  During the off-season, we were trying to think of ideas outside the box to generate income.  In my career, I’ve always thought of music and the culinary arts as being very similar.  In music, there are different notes, tones and instruments that when they complement each other, produce a harmonious sound.  Similarly, in food, we have different ingredients that have different flavors and textures that when cooked in a certain way produces a unique and pleasing complement to your taste buds.
What’s on the menu for the Elvis Beer Dinner?
First course – Louisiana crab cakes infused with andouille sausage, and served with crawfish gumbo. Second course – sesame-crusted Ahi tuna with rocquet greens, candied macadamia nuts, red curry pineapple vinaigrette, avocado and mandarin oranges.  Third – hickory-smoked Memphis ribs, dark chocolate bbq, smoked bacon and potato gallete, grilled asparagus. Fourth course – banana bread French toast with house-made honey-roasted peanut butter ice cream
How did you decide what to serve to honor the King of Rock n Roll? Did you look to his music for inspiration or more to the foods he enjoyed? 
I used his music, his background of where he grew up and lived, his acting career, and reviewed some of his favorite foods. For example, the first course is from the song and movie, KING CREOLE, second course is from his album, BLUE HAWAII, third course is from his album, FROM ELVIS IN MEMPHIS, plus the fact that he lived in Memphis, [and the] fourth course is a version of one of his favorite sandwiches, peanut butter and banana.

Executive Chef Val Domingo. Photo courtesy of Meehan's Public House.

What one dish do you think he’d especially enjoy and why? 
The dessert course, “21st century peanut butter and bananas” because just like a creative musician, I think he’d appreciate my creativity in bringing a different twist with the banana bread French toast and homemade honey-roasted peanut butter ice cream.
Can you tell us a little bit about Ommegang Beer, and how it compliments the food pairings?
Ommegang brewery is the first farmstead brewery built in the USA in over a century.  It is located in Cooperstown, NY.  I chose this high-gravity brewery because of its uniqueness, just like how Elvis was a unique artist during that time.  For example, the Three Philosophers that I am pairing with my dessert course is quadruple ale blended with Kriek, a fermented cherry beer in Belgium, that complements the dessert with some bittersweet chocolate tones and the hint of cherries.  Another beer that I’m using is Ommegang Hennepin that pairs extremely well with shellfish. It is one of the few beers that is aged in a cave 45 minutes from Cooperstown, 40 meters below the ground in at a temperature of 52 degrees.  I am pairing my Louisiana crab cakes with that beer.  I believe beer is the best palate cleanser due to the carbonation in the beer cleansing your palate from what you just ate.
What else will be going on in addition to dining and drinks? 
We have an Elvis tribute band, Young Elvis and the Blue Suedes, which is a national act that is endorsed by Elvis’ stepbrothers. They are different from other Elvis tribute bands because they actually use the vintage instruments in their performances.
How often do you schedule music dinners, and what other rock/music stars have you developed menus around?
We do these music themed dinners on Thursdays, for the most part.  I chose Thursdays because [it’s] a preview to the weekend. Other dinners I have done in the past include The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra, Dave Matthews, Ray Charles, Pink Floyd.
Which was your favorite, and who was the most challenging? Why?
Most challenging – Pink Floyd because at the time, we had the biggest attendance, and for my entree course I had to make as part of my entree, Yorkshire pudding, for 55 guests. Yorkshire pudding, if you haven’t made it before, can be tricky, and you can’t really prep that too far ahead of time. My favorite is a tie between Ray Charles and Johnny Cash.  I’m a huge fan of both.  With Ray Charles, I prepared the menu with his ties towards Georgia, using all local produce and ingredients native to the state.  Johnny Cash was my first music dinner at Meehans Public House, Sandy Springs.  All the food was perfectly executed, and we had a great turn-out at 47 guests. It was so successful that we are now partnering up with the Atlanta Ballet in March to do the dinner once again, during their THE MAN IN BLACK performance.
What’s and when is your next music dinner? And can you give us a taste of what’ll be on that menu yet?
Our next music dinner will be a New Orleans Mardi Gras dinner that will be held in late February. The music will be jazz tunes. My entree for that dinner will be a cast iron blackened catfish, andouille sausage red beans and rice, shrimp etoufee. My dessert will be sweet potato beignets with house-made butter pecan ice cream.
For more information and reservations, call 404-843-8058 or visit www.meehanssandysprings.com. Meehan’s Public House is located at 227 Sandy Springs Place Atlanta, Ga. 30328.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Half-Baked’s J.J. Tomlinson Dishes About Casseroles as the Ultimate Retro Holiday Comfort Food and Shares a Recipe

Posted on: Dec 21st, 2011 By:

J.J. Tomlinson of Half Baked Casseroles.

When picking a Kool Kat for this week, we thought a long time about the ingredients for a Retro Christmas in the South which had to make us think of food. And being the south, that means not just a ham or a turkey, not just sugary cookies—but a feast fit for an extended family with a seemingly endless supply of casseroles made by your mom, your grandma, your aunts and maybe nowadays a male relative or two as well. That tasty thought led us to two Atlanta chef/entrepreneurs Lee Bradshaw Johnson (Dog Days doggie daycare) and J.J. Tomlinson (The Fickle Manor boutique) who this year co-founded Half Baked Casseroles, a Buckhead bakery specializing in the quintessential seasonal comfort food.

Traditionally, casseroles became a winter staple because they put good and long-lasting use to winter vegetable and meat staples like potatoes, sweet potatoes and pork—or in my Finnish mom’s case, rutabagas and liver (No, casseroles aren’t just a American holiday tradition!). At Half Baked, Lee’s and J.J. give recipes handed down from their grandmothers a modern twist, with fresh ingredients, no preservatives and all-natural, antibiotic-free, hormone-free meat. The dishes are prepared for convenience, oven-ready or frozen. They come in recyclable pans in three different sizes, and most bake in 45 minutes or less. Larger sizes are available upon request for special events or a hungry family. Half-Baked even delivers for a small extra charge or mails gift casseroles to nonlocal family and friends. And if you want to fill out the entire holiday feast, the menu also includes yummy appetizers, soups and desserts!

In the spirit of the season, ATLRetro asked J.J. if she’d tell us a little bit about what Christmas casseroles mean to her, what customers are hungry for in the holidays and the lucky side of a special New Year’s treat cooked up to bring you luck in 2012 and even share a recipe!

Casseroles and the holidays just seem to go together, especially in the south. What role did casseroles play in your Christmases growing up and who made them?

As a child, my grandmother was the chief cook, and I can’t remember a Christmas without casseroles. My personal favorite was the sweet potato casserole. Every time I smell it, it brings back a picture of Grandma’s holiday cooking.

How did you both get the idea of a casserole specialty bakery, and why do casseroles seem to have such staying power?

We got the idea for frozen casseroles after my business partner Lee had a baby. She received some casseroles as gifts from friends. Everyone is so busy these days, and we are always in need of quick dinners.

We’re guessing you’re pretty busy this week. What menu items are most popular this holiday season?

We are slammed this week! Many people are buying appetizers for drop-in guests. All casseroles, appetizers, soups, bread and desserts can be frozen up to three months, too.

Which casserole hasn’t been as popular but folks really ought to try it and why?

There doesn’t seem to be an item on our menu that people aren’t buying. That may be because we thought long and hard before we opened in order to have a variety that would be appealing. The word-of-mouth aspect has been wonderful. It seems that friends are telling each other about their favorites. Of course, there are also many different tastes and we seem to have something that will appeal to most everyone.

Chicken and Half Baked Biscuits.

What’s the deadline to mail or schedule a delivery for a gift casserole?

We will try to accommodate your requirements for a gift casserole, but as a rule, we need at least one day’s notice.

You don’t just bake casseroles, but appetizers, soups and desserts. What other holiday delights do you recommend to start or finish off a meal.

My recommendation for the holidays is that you try our pecan pie. It’s crustless, so those calories are saved for the extra rich filling—and maybe some vanilla ice cream to top it off. We also have gluten-free casseroles.

Finally, we understand you’re cooking up a special dish for New Year’s celebrations called the Hoppin’ John Casserole (black eyed peas, collard greens, rice, and pork). Why should we put it on our menu and will it bring us good luck?

Southern tradition says that eating Hoppin’ John on New Years Day will bring you good luck and financial rewards all year long. We can’t guarantee that, but you’ll feel mighty lucky when you taste this dish.

Recipe: Hoppin’ John

1 bag of dried of black-eyed peas
1 stick of butter
1 chopped onion
16oz of cooked collard greens
2 ham hocks
10 cups of cooked white rice
1/2 cup hot sauce
2 tablespoons of sea salt

Soak black eyed peas overnight in water. Drain peas. Add onion, hot sauce, ham hocks, butter, and salt to peas in crock pot. Cook for 8 hours on high. Take bones from ham hock out of black eyed peas. Combine rice, collard greens and black eyed peas into a pan. Cook in oven on 350 for 30 minutes.

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Let Them Eat Cupcakes! The Sugar Dolls Bake Up a Scrumptious Saturday in L5P!

Posted on: Oct 5th, 2011 By:

When ATLRetro heard that The Sugar Dolls were throwing their 2nd Annual Day of the Cupcake party on Saturday Oct. 8, we couldn’t think of a more delicious way to officially kick off our latest weekly feature, the Wednesday Happy Hour & Supper Club. While a holiday just for this Retro sweet sounds scrumptious enough, this quintet of beautiful bakers (Alexis Gorsuch, Lena Kotler, Crystal Chambers-Goggin, Jessika Cutts and Kelli Graham) has cooked up an entire day of activities, starting from noon to 7 p.m. at Sacred Heart Tattoo in Little Five Points and then continuing late into the night at Java Lords ($5 cover; proceeds to Atlanta Bully Rescue). They’ve tempted you with everything from boobalicious chocolate confections to flaming strawberries at Blast-Off Burlesque shows, Mon Cherie spectaculars, Rockabilly Luau, but Saturday will be all about celebrating the cupcake through activities, art and music. You’ll lick your lips for cupcake-inspired games, a Sugar Skull decorating room so you’ll be all set for the Day of the Dead, tasty tattoos, live bands (including Six Shot RevivalThe Sneaky Hand and The Claymores), karaoke, burlesque, pin-up hair-styling with Cherry Dame, a pin-up contest and, of course, cupcakes!

In fact, the idea of spending a day celebrating this timeless treat made us so hungry that we asked the Sugar Dolls if they’d be so sweet as to add ATLRetro to the menu as a sponsor. We’re thrilled to say that we passed their taste test, especially since we’ll be serving up a tasty new look at the end of this week, courtesy of Derek Art, too. That it’s Anya99’s birthday two days later is just icing on the cake, and she really loves icing, so while you’re dropping by for cupcakes, be sure to say hi. We’ll also be selling our first batch of ATLRetro T-shirts, so if you dig what we’re doing, consider buying one and supporting our humble efforts to keep Retro Atlanta alive.

With an all-day event, it’s sometimes hard to know when’s the best time to show up, so we asked Alexis to clue us in on all that’s cooking on Saturday. Of course, we couldn’t resist a few questions about the perennial appeal of the cupcake and the secret recipe behind the Sugar Dolls’ secret origin and success.

For a while, cupcakes seemed to have a bad reputation as being cheap alternatives instead of a real cake and mostly just for kids, but lately this quintessentially Retro treat is not just back in style, but as The Sugar Dolls have shown, can come in all sorts of creative flavors, even in adult versions such flaming with a drop of liqueur. What do you think accounts for their comeback?

Trends in fashion loop around so many years and I have been told on numerous occasion, it is due to nostalgia. “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” By Coco Chanel.  So what is more nostalgia than food, needless to say sweets? You nailed it on the head with the fact that cupcakes are Retro, but aside from that they have given us a sweet and simple way to step back to the past yet enjoy where we are and look forward to the future! I love how some of our sweets take me back to being a little girl, but the same cupcakes are the most elegant wedding display or engaging party favor. So much diversity in these simply amazing treats and people are really starting to recognize the possibilities and fun at reasonable budget. So honestly it is a nice handful of things that has really allowed these sweet cuppies to bloom into their own world.

We can’t think of a better name for a cupcake company than The Sugar Dolls. How did you gals get together and what made you start baking?

Thank you, we are pretty fond of the name too! Well, baking is such a sweet family tradition for so many folks, and all of the Dolls have some great memories and continue to make them together and with our families. We all met at different walks in our life but seem to have come together to make something bigger than ourselves. We want to share our love and experiences with you, and baking is the sweetest outlet to share those things and give in the many ways we would like.

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Wednesday Happy Hour and Supper Club

Posted on: Jan 26th, 2011 By:

Welcome to the first Wednesday Happy Hour and Supper Club. Starting in March, check back for the latest news, reviews and features on Atlanta restaurants, bars, lounges and nightclubs with a Retro location, menu or attitude. ATLRetro also will search the city for the most authentic and delicious retro or retro-inspired cocktails and recipes, or teach you how to make it at home.

Soon I’ll be posting our first major restaurant feature in which Dante Stephensen provides a tour of some of his favorite artifacts decorating the walls at Dante’s Down the Hatch. I remember when I first visited Dante’s at Underground Atlanta as a child and the sense of anticipation and mystery when I descended down the stairs into a giant coffin to find myself on the deck of a magnificent sailing ship. Combine that with live jazz music and fondue and you have the perfect example of a mid-century theme restaurant, conceived with care and creativity rather than the artificiality of many of today’s chains. In the 1980s when the old Underground closed (look for an upcoming Lost Atlanta feature revisiting its uniqueness, too), Dante moved the restaurant to Buckhead and rebuilt it even bigger and better. If you haven’t eaten there lately or you’ve never been, it’s a true Retro treasure.

Photo credit: Philip Nutman, 2010

Also in the works is a feature on Livingston. While Livingston has only been around for a few years, it’s located in the opulent art-deco Georgian Terrace Hotel. I’ll be asking Chef Zeb Stephenson about how its Retro location influences his recipes, giving a sneak preview of its current seasonal menu and sipping a few cocktails, too.

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