Shaken And Stirred Up: Petite Auberge Infuses Olive Oils and Vinegars to Flavor a Creative New Menu and Take Home, Too

Posted on: Jul 19th, 2013 By:

Photo credit: Jaimes Lee.

By Rachel Marshall
Contributing Writer

“We also like the addition of vinegar to our classic martinis.”

Jaimes and I exchanged a look. Much like oil and vinegar, our solutions of total fascination and doubt just did not seem to mix. They just bumped into each other, making a separation that could only be eased by actually experiencing just what a vinegar cocktail could be. Surely, we had heard Michael, our host at Petite Auberge’s  oil and vinegar bar, wrong. Had he really suggested mixing alcohol and vinegar? You may remember Jaimes from the Moe’s BBQ article, and our adventure with the Adios, Motherfucker!. Although three kinds of liquor and Powerade can prepare a girl for practically anything, the concoction could not have prepared us for the main ingredient in a vinaigrette to suddenly merge with alcohol, like Tetsuo on a bender, but with more alcoholism and less orbital lasers.  In any case, the dynamic duo from your last ATLRetro article received more than they bargained for in the best possible way at the long-standing French restaurant, Petite Auberge.

So, if you’ve been kicking around ATL since the mid-70s, you’ve heard and most likely dined at the Petite Auberge. Michael, our host, has more than amply accepted and risen above the challenge of keeping the PA relevant, fun, and with no sacrifice to its already firmly placed integrity. The newest addition to the restaurant’s entourage of gastronomy holds a nondescript, humble portion of the restaurant to itself. A guest entering Petite Auberge could miss the set-up at a glance, but a longer look – even if just for a moment! – would rampantly breed curiosity. What are those metal containers doing lined up like that? What’s in them? Michael was more than happy to show off the answer.

Photo credit: Jaimes Lee.

Infused olive oils and vinegars await the adventurous gourmand, fledgling and pro a-like. Infusion is a delicate process, but Michael is working with the right kind of mad scientists from Cibaria International and Olive n’ Grape to bring his guests a completely unique experience. When it comes to his collection of olive oil and vinegar, Michael is one proud poppa. He took us on a tour of your basic olive oils to start, the canisters of which will greet you in the main lobby of the PA when you arrive.  What was remarkable was the grassy start on most of the olive oils that progressed to a smoky after-bite the further removed you became from extra virgin olive oil. I always liked the floral nature of olive oil, but trying the good stuff from Michael’s aforementioned heavy-hitters not only woke up my palatte, but redefined any and all olive oil standards. He treated us to a fantastic collage of snacks that showed off just what these oils and vinegars could do in the right hands.

In this case? We were put in Chef Tom’s care. He was catching his second wind from preparing a catering order, and took the time to serve us a couple light, but flavorful meals, such as a pecan-praline balsamic vinaigrette that took a pecan-crusted trout above and beyond its simple plating. The lightness of a medium cooked salmon filet was elevated by a drizzling of lemon white balsamic. Personal favorite?  You know, the one that tested Jaimes’s friendship and mine with its ultimate rivalry-inspiring awesomeness? Yeah, that was a frozen crepe served with raspberry coulis in a chocolate sauce boasting a blood orange olive oil as its main components. As good as the crepe was, Jaimes and I kept going back for sauce, and started to fantasize about mousses and chocolate terrines.

Photo credit: Jaimes Lee.

We enjoyed all of these simple, but wonderful dishes with a couple glasses of Michael’s recommended Riesling. We were discussing the industry, Michael’s German roots, and the rampancy of foodies as we enjoyed some crusty bread and herby Tunesian olive oil when the whole “vinegar in the martinis” thing came up. Michael suggested a chocolate martini, probably my least favorite drink in the history of drinks that were ever drinks. They’re always too sweet, too heavy, separate and unbalanced, just a hunk of sugar with some vodka thrust unapologetically and carelessly into the mix. Why would anyone treat vodka that way in the first place? Now that you understand where I’m coming from, let’s get to the cool part – I loved the chocolate martini. The usual ounce or so of chocolate was replaced with a teaspoon of dark chocolate balsamic.

Aside from our bartender’s natural and talented knack for making a damn good drink, the balsamic definitely lightened the mix, and eliminated any burn the vodka attempted to leave behind.  When it comes to my spirits, I pretty much like anything served neat with beer, and occasionally I’ll dabble with a White Russian if I trust the bartender. The sweet-treats and “girly drinks” are just always too cloying, heavy and stomach-ache-inducing from careless, unbridled sugar. That being said, I was in love with each peach white balsamic martini and/or Bellini set in front of me. Each drink was buoyant and delicate on the tongue, sparing my tummy.  Really, think about it. The substitution of syrup or sauces for vinegar – in terms of booze – is not so mysterious. Vinegar, much like distilled liquor or barreled beer, is fermented. The ethanol both vinegar and booze share wind up dancing together in a glass, a matrimony of basic, tasty chemistry awesome enough to make Antoine Lavoisier go weak in the bloomers.

Photo credit: Jaimes Lee.

So, in an age where everyone is checking out the next wine, beer or liquor tasting, I would suggest stopping by Petite Auberge’s olive oil n’ vinegar bar for a change of pace, and a delicious meal that flirts with infusions too numerous to be enjoyed during just one visit.  Being a lover of all things chewable, slurpable and mmmm-able means  sometimes  going outside of what’s cool, trending,  tried-and-true,  and instead venturing into a new, often times unpredictable territory that supersedes any and all expectations.  You would be surprised what amazing components can mesh together so well, just like oil and vinegar.

Category: Wednesday Happy Hour & Supper Club | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Getting the Rub on Moe’s Original Barbecue: A Diabolical Love of All Things Smokey, Caramelized, Spicy and Sweet

Posted on: May 21st, 2013 By:

By Rachel Marshall
Contributing Writer

“Come find me. I have a drink for you. I call it the Adios, Motherfucker,” John grinned, and left me and my friend Jaimes to wonder what exactly goes into an Adios, Motherfucker. Tequila, clearly, but after that? Jaimes and I would find out later, but until then we continued to enjoy our night at Moe’s Original Barbeque in Midtown.

The only person I wanted at my side for a foray into all things meat was Jaimes. She is no stranger to barbecue. In fact, some of my favorite grilling adventures come from this lovely, food-crazy girl. Naturally, she was going to be my co-pilot, as we investigated the newest Moe’s location here in ATL. Boasting several locations, Moe’s never lets the success go to their head. In fact, the establishment bends over backwards to show a flexible and diabolical love of all things smoky, caramelized, spicy and sweet.

Not only does Moe’s lean on traditional, familial “there’s, like, 15 ingredients in our rub” barbecue, this current Moe’s location refuses to let go of 349 14th Street’s past. Upon entering the establishment, a large Kool Korners Gro. sign is impossible to miss, crowning the curling, copyright cursive of red and white “Coca Cola.” Before Moe’s was Moe’s, Kool Korners Grocery was a hot spot for any foodie looking for a fix of Cuban sandwichery. Our host – chef, pitmaster, and all around badass Rocketman – was pretty clear that Moe’s was not in the market to forget the deeply forged roots of 349 14th St.

The space feels like a high-end dive, a plus in my books. Never really felt that a barbecue joint should be dressed up in the trappings of fine-dining with quartet music humming through the air. No, no! The more peanut shells on the floor the better, the more I have to yell for someone to hear me across the table, the better. Now, Moe’s does not have peanut shells or decibel violation, but there is a hominess that settles in as you find your seat within the belly of the beast.

A cold pitcher of beer later, and Jaimes and I are recovering from a feast. Rocketman and John pulled out all stops to make sure we really got to taste the spectrum of Moe’s barbecue offerings. Highlights for us? The smoked wings! Not fried. Not broiled.  Not roasted. Smoking the wings brought an incredibly subtle char, and left the meat inside juicy. These scarlet gems of meat candy cannot be missed if you scoot your way down 14th St.! The St. Louis-styled ribs are a perfect balance of sauce to rub, allowing me to savor every flavor, instead of one overlapping the other. Butterfly fried shrimp and catfish can still be detected in a complimentary batter, and shine when combined with house-made remoulade. I was hesitant to try the collards, because I generally find them over-cooked and sour everywhere I go, but these collards are different. Just looking at them, you can immediately spot the difference. The collards are vibrantly verdant, and a not-so-liberally applied vinegar makes them shine. Instead of a vinegar bomb erupting and blinding my palette for the rest of the meal, I was actually enjoying the taste of collards, instead of dark green vinegar death.

The feeling I had, enjoying this food, was that Moe’s was in the market to respect the food, and broadcast the flavors. Let’s take their coleslaw, for example. Some barbecue joints will slather their coleslaw in mayo and call it a day. Moe’s does a light apple cider vinegar marinade, which maintains the texture, and avoids any mayo-cloying that can occur. Moe’s is also very conservative with sauces, keeping most of them on the side, or lightly drizzled over food so as not to mask anything. At the same time? These same sauces and rubs follow a certain barbecue tradition. You ever ask a pitmaster what goes into their rub, the best answer you could receive is a long sigh, and a laundry list of herbs and spices. A lot of the time, this sort of list won’t have measurements of quantities; a pinch of this, a bit of that, and some of that stuff over there.

Jaimes and I are on the patio, flirting with a couple of coconut pies while we smoke cigarettes, and cautiously explore the Adios, Motherfucker. John is nearby, also enjoying a cigarette the way someone enjoys a quick snack. He sits with us, and we talk about where we come from, what we cook, what we like about barbecue, and what doesn’t work. Just shooting the shit with some food philosophies, a conversational path I stumble down and cannot wait to call a past-time. There is something nostalgic about finding a good barbecue place, whether it’s a longstanding player in the food game, or a newcomer. You can reminisce on cook-outs with your own folks, or grilling with friends on a back-porch. You maintain tradition, you continue to tell a story that someone in your family (or their family) started years and year and years ago with salt, pepper, brown sugar, cayenne, a pinch of this, and a pinch of that.

If you want to find out what’s in an Adios, Motherfucker, or just enjoy some really great grub, check out Moe’s Original Barbecue at 349 14th St., Atlanta, GA 30318.

Category: Wednesday Happy Hour & Supper Club | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Deoch. Ceol. Bia. Rince. Finding Simple Retro Pleasures at Rí Rá Irish Pub Just in Time for St. Patrick’s Day

Posted on: Feb 27th, 2013 By:

By Rachel Marshall
Contributing Writer

Deoch. Ceol. Bia. Rince.

Just as you’re leaving the main bar of Midtown’s Rí Rá location, glance over your shoulder on the way to the Harbour Bar and you’ll see these words. They mean: Drink. Music. Food. Dance. Consider some of the other chain restaurants you have been to or fast food gambles you have made – telling you there’s nothing like the neighborhood, or implying you have nothing better to do, so you “gotta eat.”  So, when you work for a site that specializes in the Retro, the nostalgic, and the wonderfully weird… what is one to do with a restaurant that has a dozen locations across the U.S.?

The simple answer to the question is:  “Deoch. Ceol. Bia. Rince.”

Rí Rá’s layout is heavy with homeland and family nostalgia. The founders were passionate about capturing a “proper Irish pub” experience. There are some obvious decisions in the decorations, but then there is something subtle that begins to take over: the warm wooden architecture, the open space and the fact there are large “group tables” scattered throughout the restaurant, actively encouraging patrons to celebrate with friends. Two and four tops throughout the restaurant also cater to those looking for something more intimate or relevant to a date night, but the best experience you can have at Ri Ra comes from sitting down to a large table, surrounded by happy faces that become rosier and louder with each course and each drink.

Friendly bartenders Adam and Eoghan at RiRa.

Crammed into the Harbour Bar with other lovers of food and drink, I entered expecting to hear the lilting Irish “stock” music that often pops up at self-proclaimed “Irish pubs.” Instead? Dropkick Murphies. Flogging Molly. The list just kept going, and before I knew it, the grinding voice of Dave King had enabled me to tuck into yet another Smithwicks. The room was buzzing with photographers and writers and travelers, all of them discussing their own journeys –  if they are going to the upcoming beer festival, if they managed to check out that restaurant they suggested at the last gathering. These are marathon eaters and comprise a total thiasus to all things Bacchus. We sat down ready to dine, ready to drink, ready for the music and the dance of a four-course meal.

Pear and goat-cheese salad at RiRa

Getting into the full array of the tasting menu would push the boundaries of the review. You are a busy reader with things to do, after all! But Chef Kelly Sollinger played an incredible balancing act with his meals. Each dish was playful and a special, worthy introduction to Irish eatery. He respects the qualities of an ingredient that make it subtle or overwhelming. For example, cheddar, an ingredient I believe some chefs play very fast and loose with, became a subtle binder for a boxty cake, decorated with sautéed arugula and balsamic vinaigrette. Earthy rosemary cut the rich density of a ground lamb slider, which also boasted pickled red onion taming the sharpness of a goat cheese spread. Not only are his dishes in perfect synch with their ingredients, but they pair very well with the Harpers, Guinness and Smithwicks on tap – especially the pear and blue cheese salad which melded perfectly with its champagne vinaigrette and the Smithwicks served alongside.

Before we reached dessert, the table enjoyed a 14-day house-brined beef brisket and ale-battered haddock. Brines are tough for me, so is cabbage, but the flavor is there, and the parsley-cream sauce and fluffy piping of mashed potato kept everything in line. Chef Kelly’s background with seafood is delightfully present. The haddock was battered respectfully, giving the diner that satisfying crunch, but letting the haddock’s tenderness and texture take over from there.

Dessert at RiRa: sticky toffee pudding and Guinness and brown bread ice cream.

By dessert, I was in a very happy place with my surroundings and my table-mates. The sponge cake with dates and toffee pudding neighbored a Guinness and brown bread ice cream, sharp on the back end as if I had just finished off a long draw from a tall glass of the same stout. The Irish coffee served was made with the French press method, my favorite when it comes to coffee – you just get so much more flavor from the ground bean that way! One of our bartenders, Eoghan, was circling the table with his third song of the evening – U2‘s “Where the Streets Have No Name.” I have heard that song 101 times, but here we were – all of us from different walks of life and different backgrounds, different beliefs and different moralities, all gathered around a table. The song is about the ideal world where a person is not defined by the “street” where they live, a world where there are no divisions of any sort. At a table like this, at no point do any of us think about one another’s class, race, wealth or some other criteria that has been deemed important. We only think about the food, the drink, the music, and how our conversations simply dance.

Irish coffee tops off an Irish feast at RiRa.

How retro can you get? Before any of the movies came out that we fell in love with and defend its kitch to this day, before we first played a plumber trying to save a princess from an angry monkey, before the first radio broadcast was played… we gathered around the table. Rí Rá, if you give it the chance you need to give it, is not just a chain, not just one in 12, not just another corporation. The restaurant wants you to sit for a while, to have a drink, to eat some food, and to celebrate just being there. This message becomes clearer if you speak to co-founder David Kelly who said, of this “reintroduction” of Rí Rá, that the message is simply: “We exist.”

So, if you aren’t doing anything this St. Patrick’s Day, or hell, this weekend? Head over to Midtown, and pull up a seat at the bar in Rí Rá. Make sure you dance. Make sure you listen to the “music” surrounding you. Make sure you drink. Make sure you eat. Simply exist.

Beginning Tuesday, March 12, Rí Rá will host friends, family and local Irish patriots as they kick-off their six-day toast to St. Patrick, highlighted by a block party celebration, closing off a portion of Crescent Avenue on Saturday, March 16 and Sunday, March 17 for live music performances and other fun activities. For more info on each day’s festivities and other special events, such as whiskey tastings, visit www.rira.com/atlanta/.

Category: Wednesday Happy Hour & Supper Club | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Of Cupcakes and Pillow Fights: Pink Pastry Parlor is Like a Scrumptious Slumber Party for Girls, Both Big and Small

Posted on: Jan 31st, 2013 By:

By Rachel Marshall
Contributing Writer

Brave the traffic of Buckhead and you will be rewarded with a tasty treat at Pink Pastry Parlor‘s new Phipps Plaza location where owner Tiffany Young-Cooper is offering a sweet twist on girl power. Her confectionary parlor marries those first shopping trips with Mom and baking with Grandma to produce a palatable paradise to any little princess looking to cut loose with fellow royalty for an unforgettable party. Not only does Pink Pastry promise delectable and adorable cupcakes, but there is a runway room, tea room and, yes, even a pillow fight room where girls can feel beautiful, playful and classy. The Pink Pastry also offers daycare, as well as pastry lessons if Mom wants a ladies night out to enjoy cupcakes and wine.

ATLRetro had a chance to hang out with Tiffany for some glamour shots and stayed for the cupcakes!

What inspired the pillow fight? Because that is basically awesome.

The pillow fight idea came about while I was brainstorming about what every little girl wants for her party – A SLUMBER PARTY! This way she gets a little bit of everything!

Favorite cupcake? Or if it’s impossible to name just one, name your top three.

My favorite cupcake is the Italian Dream, and our top sellers are Strawberry Fairy and It’s My Birthday Cake!

Any new cupcakes you’re just dying to make? 

Salted caramel!!!!

You mention that first shopping trip with your mom and helping grandma bake. Can you go further into detail on how these women shaped your life and work?

I dreaded spending summers in the country learning to bake with my grandma. I loved kids and just knew I would be a pediatrician. But my granny saw something that I didn’t, and all those long summers paid off! Wish she was still here.

If you had any advice for anyone looking down the entrepreneurial path, what would it be? In retrospect, what was your best first step, and what was your worst?

Advice: Save up until you can’t save anymore! So put those hair/nail/massage appointments to the side for four months and see how much of an impact that makes! My best move: Staying economical. Every business owner in my plaza had luxury cars, and I’m still driving my 2007 Dodge. Delayed gratification is key! My worst move: Location is key. I chose affordability over profitability. Continue to save until you are able to afford a good location.

Which doll did you spend the most tea-time with while you were growing up? 

I’m a BARBIE girl. I had all five in one chair!

Do you like to listen to music when you’re baking? Any favorite playlists right now? 

I jam while I’m baking! My favorites are ol’ school: Queen and Donna Summers!

You emphasize self-esteem and empowerment. When you’re down, what is the best confidence booster? 

Best confidence booster is getting all dressed up in pink, hop on the Pink Pastry runway, lights out/disco ball on/alone/after hours and blast “Anything Can Happen” by Ellie Goulding. Talk about CONFIDENCE BUILDER!

If you could say anything to the little, rambunctious girl out there with flour on her hands and chocolate on her cheek, what would that be?  

It’s time for you to be your OWN cake boss at Pink Pastry! Maybe teach me some tricks!

Pink Pastry Parlor is located on the second floor of Phipps Plaza, next to Belk. Call (404) 841-9997. Or  visit the original Pink Pastry Parlor at 8465 Holcomb Road, Suite 1000, in Alpharetta. Call (770) 650-PINK (7465). http://pinkpastryparlor.com/

All photographs are courtesy of Pink Pastry Parlor and used with permission.

Category: Wednesday Happy Hour & Supper Club | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Just a Jump to the Left of The Plaza, Let’s Do Beer and Burgers at The Righteous Room Again

Posted on: Jan 16th, 2013 By:

Photo credit: Rachel Marshall

By Rachel Marshall
Contributing Writer

“We don’t really have a manager,” Rebecca the bartender said, offering a silly, sly, unapologetic grin. See, I had asked if I could speak to a manager about their experiences within a bar called The Righteous Room.  That moment when it becomes clear that the inmates run the asylum is the moment you realize, as someone who just wants a good drink and a good bite to eat, you’ve come to the right place.

The Righteous Room is located on Ponce De Leon Ave., right next to the glorious gloom and clattering 35mm projectors of The Plaza Theatre, which to me has never been crowned just by a glorious marquis, but by the parted lips of an old ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW poster. So, let that be your landmark. Just a jump to the left of a theatre in a perpetual state of doing the Time Warp again, The Righteous Room has been intriguing newcomers and keeping regulars hooked for about 17 years.

You are, essentially, entering a dive bar. Rugged brick and exposed vents bathe in the mingling hues of electric yellow chandeliers and blue Christmas lights that framework dusty chalkboards displaying the latest beer specials. Purchasable works of local artists adorn the walls, and the bathrooms need no decoration, only the whims of drunken occupants armed with Sharpies and wits hopped up on shots. Similar whims will often pump quarters and dollars into a nearby jukebox in a bid to hear that one perfect song before they either wander off into the Atlanta night, or trudge into The Plaza (a step to the right).

Photo credit: Rachel Marshall

So, I settled in for a drink and a meal. What’s great about the service at The Righteous Room is there is very little pomp or circumstance when it comes to service, and frankly, in a dive, that’s all I want. I want someone with metal piercing their faces and ink intricacy staining their arms to hand me a frosty beverage and a juicy burger. No flourish, no stage-show, just a grin that says: “This will mess you up. See you on the other side!”

I enjoyed a Mamma’s Lil Yella Pils and a New Belgium “Snow Day” under the gaze of a local artist’s portrait of Mardi Gras. In time, a pulled pork sandwich arrived between two gargantuan slices of grilled bread. With house-made horseradish sauce at my side, I tore into my meal without hesitation.

That’s right. House-made. With a couple of exceptions here and there, everything is made within The Righteous Room. Not only that, but if you’re not as carnivorous as me and prefer the leafier side of things, The Righteous Room has a menu that flatters the herbivores out there. The peppery whisper of dandelion greens within a fresh salad, the cool, creamy indulgence of hummus and a fire-good veggie chili are just a few things on the menu that will cater to those of you that aren’t meat-feeders like me.

Photo credit: Rachel Marshall

So, sure, these dishes may help keep you on your feet after that third or fourth shot, but before those kick in, it dawns on you; this is not your typical dive. Rebecca approaches to see how the meal is going, and soon we’re talking about the heart of the bar. Behind the scenes, the owners work close with the staff. Everyone is interested in each other’s goals, and seeing what everyone can bring to the table. Literally! The owners love meeting with their staff for open forums on the industry and what shapes not only their company, but their own experiences. This approach doesn’t just mean a restaurant or a bar does well, it resonates.

Yes, even if it’s just a small bar next to a movie theater.

Photo credit: Rachel Marshall

Overall, The Righteous Room is an excellent meet-up before and after Plaza viewings. Frankly, it’s a good hang-out even if you aren’t taking in a movie. Now, if you’re looking for a fast bite and some quick table turnover, The Righteous Room may not be for you. No, this is where you go to hang-out, unwind, get messed up and really touch base with friends and regulars before moving on with the rest of your evening plans. The chefs take their time with your meal, devoting a lot of attention and care to the plating and the flavor. Don’t get restless, just order yourself a drink! The bartenders and servers are attentive, quick and efficient with potent, cool drinks. Stick around long enough, come back enough and before you know it, you’ll feel like a regular on CHEERS where everybody knows your name.

Check out The Righteous Room on 1051 Ponce De Leon Ave., N.E., Atlanta, GA 30306. 

Category: Wednesday Happy Hour & Supper Club | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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