November 20, 2011
This Just In: New Eats Beats in ATL
Steak, oysters, muy caliente Latin cuisine and a specialty ice cube list (?!) are on the menu
By Nancy Staab
Sexy meat market STK to open mid-December, Ford Fry to do fish camp/oyster bar in Westside, and a sneak peak at Fifth Group’s Latin-inflected Alma Cocina opening in time for the holidays
STK Adds Sizzle to Loews Hotel, Midtown
Midtown is about to get a glitzy new steak joint housed in Loews Hotel at 12th and Midtown and opening Dec. 15. With outposts in Miami, Las Vegas, NYC and other pleasure posts, this carnivore palace aims to please with a sensual, clubby atmosphere and decadent menu to match. But don’t be overwhelmed by the 34-oz. cowboy rib steak, as there’s plenty of small portions, salads and delicate bites for the ladies. Even seafood lovers will be appeased. BluePointe’s Jeremy Miller was recently hired as executive chef (with the announcement of BluePointe’s closing), so sushi and sea fare will be prepared with as much finesse as the red meat, toppings, sauces and sides. We admit we are dying to try playful favorites like Shrimp Rice Krispies, Foie Gras French Toast and the lil’ BRGs (mini, gourmet versions of Big Macs prepared with Japanese wagyu and special sauce on sesame seed buns). Or sink your teeth into a sirloin topped with bordelaise and summer truffles, sides like parmesan truffle fries or sweet corn pudding, or yellowtail snapper with ponzu shiitake brown butter. Go early or linger late in the adjoining lounge/bar for seasonal specialty cocktails like the Godiva Chocolate Martini or White Orchid (ketel one, canton ginger, white cranberry, candied ginger). Note: specific menu items taken from sample menus at www.togrp.com and may not represent the specific menu in Atlanta, which has yet to be released. And did we mention that starlets from Jessica Alba and Posh Spice to J-Lo have favored the STK establishments? Showstopping décor by iCrave (they also did W Midtown) completes this glossy steak place. Visit www.togrp.com for more info and sample menus. STK opens Dec. 15, taking reservations starting Monday Dec. 5, 404.793.0144
Ford Fry Goes Coastal with a Fish Camp/Oyster Bar
Fresh off the heels of his success at No. 246, the Italian eatery in Decatur helmed by chef and partner Drew Belline, Ford Fry announces a sea-worthy new project to bow in Westside this spring (the target month is March). No word yet if the JCT Kitchen chef/owner Fry will helm the kitchen at this new restaurant, but he will certainly oversee it. Like his other two establishments, this place will no doubt have an instantly livable, worn in-chic décor as is the specialty of Smith Hanes, who was hired as designer for the project. As for the fare: think sustainable seafood and daily catches prepared in wood-burning ovens. An adjoining oyster bar with a more casual fish camp vibe, outdoor patio, libations and live music will surely be a mecca for good food and fun this spring. The restaurant will be called The Optimist, a play on the obvious definition of the word, but also a term for a small dinghy used to teach children how to sail. We are likewise optimistic about the success of this rather novel concept for land-locked Atlanta! Optimist will be located at 914 Howell Mill Road.
Chef Chad Clevenger brings his Coyote Café training (and his pork truck??) to Atlanta with Alma Cocina, Downtown
We couldn’t find any former menus for Alma Cocina Chef Chad Clevenger, but the fact that he cut his teeth as executive chef at the hallowed, haute-southwestern Coyote Café in Santa Fe, N.M. while still in his twenties, is culinary street cred enough. He also helmed two critically acclaimed restaurants in Denver and has cooked alongside famed chefs like Rick Bayless, Tim Love and Jesse Ortiz. It also warms the cockles of our heart that while in Denver, Clevenger also operated The Porker-- a popular pork-centric food truck of global treats from tequila-habanero barbecue ribs and pork tamales to sweet-soy roasted pork belly with cold soba noodle salad. Now the Southern-born chef has alighted in our city and will man the kitchen at Fifth Group Restaurant’s new Alma Cocina (translation: Soul Kitchen), set to open in One Ninety One Peachtree Tower on Tues. Dec. 6 (in the former Il Mulino space). Ai3 and Bill Peace of Peace Design will trick out the 5,200-square-foot space for power business lunches as well as leisure dinners with two distinct bar areas, and a central dining area. Originally Fifth Group planned a Tex-Mex style resto, but when they alighted on Clevenger and his gourmet Latin cooking chops, the focus changed to modern Mexican cuisine with Latin American inflections. Note to Clevenger: bring The Porker when you come-- your pork truck will find it’s native home here in the South!
One Ninety One Peachtree Tower, 191 Peachtree Street NE, 404.968.9662, http://www.alma-atlanta.com. Opens Tues. Dec. 6
On the Menu at Alma Cocina: Latin Treats and Specialty Ice Programs for the Cocktails!
The Alma Cocina menu has been released and includes ample appetizers like duck confit tostadas, pork cheek arepa, and guacamole and butternut squash with chipotle and queso fresco; ceviches like bay scallop with blood orange juice and aji Amarillo chile; classic tortilla soup; Taquito small plates; and main dishes such as grilled flatiron steak with poblano-goat cheese poato gratin and adobo sauce or red snapper mole Amarillo with huitlacoche sauce, Swiss chard, roasted hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and citrus salsa. Finish with a flourless chocolate ancho cake or churros.
But don’t ignore the ambitious cocktail list and “specialty ice cube program.” Beyond tequilas and margaritas, the libation list will “showcase the great spirits from around Latin America” such as Piso, Cachaca and Mezcal, according to Fifth Group’s beverage director Vajra Stratigos. Here is official word on the new ice-cocktail pairings courtesy of Fifth Group:
“There is a new movement in bar culture: The rise in awareness of ice and how deeply it can affect the flavor and texture of a cocktail…We have created a truly unique specialty ice cube program that explores the nuances of hand selected tequila paired with infused ice. The restaurant will pair a large, house made infused ice cube with featured tequilas based on specific characteristics of each tequila,” says Sratigos.
The three tequilas and ice cubes that will be offered upon the restaurant’s opening include the following:
1. Plata: 2010 Single Estate Tequila Ocho, “Los Corrales” – a unique, small batch tequila with clean, precise tropical notes and honeycomb aromas flanked by pure, earthy agave flavors.
Ice Selection: seasoned coconut water, fresh pineapple
2. Reposado: Hacienda Herradura Amatitán, Jalisco – the world’s first commercially available Reposado invented in 1974. The liquid is twice distilled and, after 11 months of ageing, holds fragrant aromas of sweet oak, cinnamon and spice.
Ice Selection: prickly pear, dragon fruit
3. Anejo: Tequila Don Julio – considered to be the world’s first luxury tequila, Don Julio is named after its founder, who was a trailblazer in vertical integration. Aromas and flavors of butterscotch, charred orange and honey accent this profoundly smooth anejo experience.
Ice Selection: coffee, maple-caramel
Excerpts from a local interview with Alma Cocina’s Chef Clevenger by Lori Midson at WestWord.com, 2009.
In the interview Clevenger relays his appreciation for molecular gastronomy, Spanish tapas, traditional Southern food, Asian cuisine and gastro pubs like the Spotted Pig. Perhaps hints of what’s to come at Alma Cocina? We are hoping he brings his chocolate chile cake recipe with him. (We would also print his amusing opinion of Bobby Flay but we want to try to avoid being slapped with a lawsuit!)
Six words to describe your food: Seasonal, playful, fresh, refined, global and bold.
Favorite cookbooks: Alain Ducasse's Flavors of France; Diana Kennedy's Essential Cuisines of Mexico; Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen; Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook, by Alfred Portale, all the Jean-Georges cookbooks, anything by Michel Richard, the chef at Citronelle, and I also like James Peterson's stuff.... The list goes on and on.
Favorite New York restaurant: Le Bernardin. I had dinner there with Mel and Janie Master, and it was just ridiculous. The service -- all French servers, all speaking French, all in suits -- was perfect, and the food was amazing, clean, balanced and not over the top. The fluke ceviche tasting still makes my mouth water, and the surf and turf of skate wing and pork belly -- wow. I can't wait to go back.
One food you can't live without: Whoa, that's a tough question. I have a few. Is that okay? It's a toss-up between barbecue, biscuits and gravy, and carnitas with green chile. Without all three, I'd probably have a coronary. I grew up in the South, where barbecue is a weekly thing and the biscuits and gravy are amazing -- much better than any butter- poached lobster, foie gras or filet mignon on the planet. And green chile and carnitas? What's not to love?
Favorite celebrity chef: David Kinch, who owns my favorite restaurant, Manresa, a two- star Michelin in Los Gatos, California. He keeps his mouth shut and cooks, plus his food is amazing and he has his own biodynamic farm. He's a rock star.
Best food city in America: I've been to San Francisco and New York, and both are amazing when it comes to culture, street food, late-night spots and having the best restaurants and chefs in the world -- but in my opinion, it's ultimately the Big Apple that comes out ahead.
Favorite music to cook by: I'm a classic-rock, alternative, hip-hop kinda guy. I allow music in the kitchen, but the volume is low, it stays low, and I have to keep the circus music to a minimum. Oh, and none of that country crap. Stuff is depressing.
Most overrated ingredient: Probably truffles. Unless you're buying really expensive Alba white truffles, they're just not that special. They're too expensive and really don't have much flavor.
Most undervalued ingredient: The chile. Most people, chefs included, use chiles solely for heat, when they should be used for their different flavor profiles. They're pretty inexpensive and can be cooked and used in so many different ways other than in just salsas and green chile sauce. I've got a new chocolate cake on the menu that uses both achiote and chipotle chiles -- not because of their heat, but because of their flavors.