February 4, 2013
ATL Dining Chatter: Week of Feb. 4, 2013
The latest news bites from the dining scene and ATL’s newest eats beats
By James Oxendine
Precocious sommelier Justin Amick Spills the Secrets of The Spence’s Wine List and His Favorite Sips Right Now; Plus all the latest nosh news, including Deli-licious dishes at just-opened General Muir with Bocado’s former chef; Asha Gomez of Cardamon Hill announces a creative new culinary space and chef Kevin Gillespie gets animated!
A Glass Act: Q&A with Justin Amick, Sommelier at The Spence
Justin Amick, 31, the scion of one of Atlanta’s great restaurateurs, Bob Amick, has some grape expectations for our town. Since he has been paired with Top Chef Richard Blais at the red hot The Spence, the sommelier has taken his game to a whole new level. He’s studying for the final level of the Master Sommelier certification and he wants to share his prodigious skills and knowledge with his customers.
Amick, the son of Concentrics Restaurant’s founder Bob Amick, attended Tulane University on a basketball scholarship. Following graduation in 2004, he moved to New York City, where he was hired into Chef Tom Colicchio’s Craft Restaurants Management Training Program. After honing his restaurant chops in the front and back of the house for three years, he relocated to the Napa Valley, where he worked for the Trinchero Family Estates winemaking team.
Amick returned to Atlanta after his Napa Valley experience and joined the family business, rising to general manager at Parish.
In October 2011, Amick became the proud recipient of the prestigious Rudd Scholarship from The Court of Master Sommeliers, which honors the individual with the highest combined score in the Advanced Sommelier Exam.
And in May 2012, Amick became the general manger and beverage director of The Spence. The modern American resto has been packing them in since day-one with a blend of Blais’ creative cuisine; top-notch service and Amick’s polished beverage menu. Amick’s savvy wine and beverage picks have been featured in The New York Post, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sommelier Journal, The Atlanta Business Chronicle, Wine Business, Southern Living and, most recently, on CNN.com as part of the “new wave of vino pros.”
Recently, Amick chatted with me about the Master Sommelier certification; his collaboration with Richard Blais, his favorite sips right now, and which is more important: the grape or the glass?
Q: How is the Master Sommelier certification process proceeding, are you almost there?
JA: I feel so close but yet so far away. Hopefully, I will be invited to sit this year. They only offer the Master's Exam twice a year and you have to be invited. To date, there are less than 200 people who have passed this exam in the entire world.
Q: With all of the attention, both local and national, focused on The Spence and you, how do you go about meeting your customer's expectations on a daily basis?
JA:The best way to exceed your guest’s expectations is to listen to them. I try to extract as much information from them about what they like to drink. Then I combine that intelligence with the food they have selected and come up with the best possible pairing. Too many sommeliers get caught up listening to themselves talk, that they end up selecting something they personally like, as opposed to what best fits that guest’s palate.
Q: Along those same lines, how do you and Richard collaborate to make his cuisine and your beverage program work so seamlessly?
JA: The relationship works so well because it’s so fun to put together a wine program that challenges our guests’ palates like Richard's cuisine. He is such a creative chef and our menu changes daily with such a wide array of classic and less traditional ingredients. Everything on the plate has a purpose. It’s the same premise with my wine program.
There isn't one wine on my list that I don't love. Each and every wine brings something different to the table. Half of our list is classics and half is meant to drive guests out of their comfort zones and encourage them to be a little more adventurous with picks that feature more obscure grape varieties, places of origin, or up-and-coming wine regions.
I think Richard and myself push each other to further realms of creativity, which is then passed onto our consumers.
Q: What are some of your plans for your beverage program in 2013?
JA: It’s not so much my plans for 2013, but my plans for tomorrow. Every day I want to fall in love with a new wine that I can allow my guests to enjoy. I love educating my staff and my guests in an unpretentious manner. Fine wine can be so snooty sometimes. I like to see my guest’s enthusiasm and excitement by the stories I tell tableside. I find that stories are always a great way to help sell interesting wines whether its something about that specific grape, region, appellation, vineyard, winemaker, climate, or some other tidbit or trivia that might be interesting for the guest to hear. It makes them feel more invested in what they are drinking and further appreciate what’s in the glass.
Q: Who are some of your sommeliers here in Atlanta and where do you go to enjoy a great glass of wine here and around the country?
JA: We have an extremely talented group of sommeliers here in Atlanta, who share the same goals as myself of becoming a Master Sommelier. Some of those include Matt Bradford at Canoe, Linda Torres at The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, Joon Lim with the Kevin Rathbun group, and Jacob Gragg down at The Cloisters in Sea Island.
My favorite place to enjoy a glass of wine is by my backyard fire-pit at home. I work so much sometimes it’s just nice to open something from my personal cellar and hang with my wife, son, and dog.
Q: What is more important from your perspective, the grape or the glass?
JA: The grape. Glassware is important too, as its meant to help enhance and best showcase what is in the glass. But the grape in the glass is what determines the style, structure and color. It all starts with the fruit. If you don't have good fruit you’re not going to have great wine.
Amick Selects His Favorite By-the-Glass Sips at The Spence Right NOW
1987 Giuseppe Quintarelli Valpolicella from the Veneto
“The king of Amarone has recently passed away, but his wines continue to blow your mind. How often can you get a 26-year-old wine by the glass, let alone from one of the greatest winemakers in the history of winemaking?
This juicy jam bomb is still loaded with ripe, pure, almost candied red fruits. The wine still maintains some polish and structure in its old age and goes well with so many different proteins.”
2009 Terre Nere Nerello Mascalese from the Etna Rosso DOC in Sicily, Italy
I love Nerello Mascalese. To me it’s like combining different elements of red Burgundy with Sangiovese from Tuscany and Nebbiolo from the Piedmont. Its super light body somehow packs a structural punch, along with layers of ripe fruit and spice, and with the rusticity that you would expect from Southern Italy.
2011 Doniene Gorrondona Hondarribi Beltza from Bizkaiko Txakolina in the Basque region of Spain
"The grape Hondarribi Beltza reminds me a lot of Cabernet Franc. It's light in body with intense green, herbal and spice dominated aromas. Its lively acidity makes it a flexibile and versatile wine to pair with many different kinds of food."
JAMES OXENDINE’S NEWS BITES FROM THE LOCAL DINING SCENE
The Southern Food Tour will hold its launch party on Saturday, February 16th from 6pm until 10pm at the Goat Farm. The launch party will feature an evening of southern favorites, beer, spirits, live music, and a preview of a short film about the South’s culinary heritage. Star chefs will honor the cuisine of the various regions of the south with dishes such as a pig roast from Ford Fry and Kevin Gillespie; gumbo from The Optimist’s Adam Evans; tamales from JCT Kitchen’s E.J. Hodgkinson; and chicken biscuit sliders from Buttermilk Kitchen’sSuzanne Vizethann. For more information on the Southern Food Tour, please visit: www.southernfoodtour.com
Kevin Gillespie will be on this season of FX’s new animated, spy comedy Archer. The owner/chef of the highly anticipated of Gunshow, Atlanta’s version of San Francisco’s State Bird Provisions, is making his second animated television appearance. In September 2011 he appeared on an episode of Squidbillies.
Savi Urban Maket, an Atlanta gourmet grocery which currently has stores in Inman Park, Brookhaven, and a soon-to-be-opened 15,000 square foot space in the Tuxedo Shopping Center, Buckhead, is rebranding itself. Its expansion plans not only include new stores in Atlanta, but also Charlotte, North Carolina, and a name change. Savi Urban Market, re-named Savi Provisions, will also unveil a new store model, featuring an expansive cheese wall, Lavazza coffee, a fresh organic juice bar, a wide selection of charcuterie, specialty chef prepared cuisine and a rich menu of chocolates. Paul Nair, CEO of Savi Provisions, says that he plans to open two more Atlanta stores in the next year in Midtown and Emory Point. He promises that the new stores will offer “a distinct ‘Dean and Deluca’ style experience with online shopping options coming as well.”
We hear that La Grotta will undergo a “pretty big renovation, the first in 13 years” soon. The Johnson Studio will be the architect for the renovation.
Storico Fresco Pasta, the pasta “laboratorio" (laboratory) from Mike Patrick, opened up shop at 3210 Roswell Road. The store is open Mon., noon-6 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat., 2-5 p.m.
The General Muir, from the West Egg team, opened in Emory Point on Wednesday, January 30th. The Square Foot Studio designed restaurant will serve Jewish deli-style breakfast and lunch, with a full-service dinner menu from exec chef Todd Ginsberg and pastry chef Lauren Raymond (formely of Miller Union and Empire State South) Included on teh menu: the cult double-stack burger that Ginsberg made famous at Bocado. Breakfast options include bagels that are made in-house daily and can be topped with a variety of schmears like lox or smoked trout salad. Other deli-licious dishes include smoked hash with crisped pastrami; poached eggs and grits with gruyere and roast mushrooms; hazelnut-crusted French toast; and fish and potatoes—i.e. smoked salmon over latkes with apples, sour cream, argula and lemon. The dinner menu includes 3 versions of a chicken dinner with sides such as the poached chicken breast with carrots, foie gras matzoh ball, madeira-truffle sauce; and a “piled high” 14 oz. pastrami plate. Early visits indicate that this is a winner
See the full menus for General Muir here: www.thegeneralmuir.com/menus/eat.pdf
Cheers to Brickstore Pub, which was selected as part of Garden & Gun’ s “50 Best Southern Bars,” based on its reputation as “one of the country’s prime beer meccas”
The Olde Kitchen, an all-day breakfast “farm-staurant” featuring chicken & waffles, banana macadamia nut pancakes, and Red Velvet pancakes topped with cream cheese frosting and powdered sugar, is now open at 323 Walker Street in Castleberry Hill.
According to Atlantaeater.com, The Lawrence has a new top toque, Jeff Sigler, who previously helmed the kitchen at the now-shuttered River Room and worked with Richard Blais at Element and Eli Kirshstein at ENO. Sigler replaces Jonathan St. Hillaire as executive chef at this popular Midtown eatery and drinkery. Stay tuned for future updates on Sigler’s new menu adds.
Old Fourth Ward:
Julie Williams, formerly of Bacchanalia, is new General Manager of 4th & Swift. According to owner Jay Swift, “her drive, knowledge and personality have shone through from the first interview and she was an easy choice. Most importantly, we know she shares our values of kind, knowledgeable service and modern, responsible and ingredient-driven food and beverage”.
Per her press release, Cardamom Hill chef/owner Asha Gomez has a new concept called the Third Space that is slated to open this winter in the Studioplex development next to Serpas. According to Gomez, the Third Space will be a multifaceted event space and culinary salon for entertaining and experimenting with food. Gomez plans to bring in chefs, writers, and other talent to conduct events like chef demonstrations and culinary classes open to the public.
Monday Night Brewing, an industrial microbrewery that doubles as a pretty perfect spot to sip cold IPAs, has opened for tours and tastings this month at 670 Trabert Ave NW on the Westside.
Dining tips are welcome. Please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org