Basil in Buckhead

After another relaxing interlude at Prohibition, Hank and I decided to try a little restaurant that was about to expire on Scoutmob (50% off), my new favorite iPhone app.

Bar at Basil

Basil on Grandview Ave. is a delightful little restaurant specializing in Mediterranean cuisine in the heart of “old” Buckhead, bounded by Peachtree and Piedmont.

We walked into a very cozy, pretty little house with a welcoming fireplace, and nice art on the walls.  Bilbo Baggins would have been very comfortable and content here.

All that was missing was the pipe smoke wafting towards the ceiling.

Basil dining room

Basil opened in 1989, and once again, Hank and I realized that there are so many jewels in Atlanta we have not tried.  Ah, so many good restaurants, so little time.  The wait staff was very laid back but helpful and efficient. We dove right into the appetizers — mussels and the Basil “Mesa” specialty of hummus, baba ganoush and grape leaves — the pita triangles were nicely grilled and crispy, not spongy like so many others.  Hank selected a very nice wine, a 2009 Ruta 22 Malbec from Patagonia, Argentina — a lot of fruit with black cherry notes.

Hank at Basil with Malbec

I had the lamb shank with vegetables and mashed potatoes — delicious, and Hank had the mixed grill with Jasmine rice.  Soon, we were leaning back with our hands entwined on our pregnant bellies, and Hank was asking for a to go box — enough for his lunch for 2 days.  All in all, another good “lunch” with good company.

The Shed at Glenwood Park



The Shed Restaurant in Glenwood Park

Visited The Shed for the first time last night, after hearing about it from friends James and Phillip.  A very cool and laid back place.  I went for “slider” night and was not disappointed.

Sliders!

The Angus Burger was tasty, and the Beef Tongue with Grilled Jalapenos was fiery and good.  The best, though, was the White Truffle Chicken Salad.  I wish I had gotten a bowl to take home to eat with my Triscuits.  An added bonus was getting to see my friend Chris (Surin’s loss).  He looks happy and relaxed in his new job.  It was a pleasure meeting Carla, too.  She is a delight.  Glenwood Park has been nicely developed into a mixed-use neighborhood that reminds me of the Manhattan brownstones.  I’ll be back to The Shed and surrounding environs.

Why isn’t everyone in Italy?

Dinner at Fattoria Terranova, 6/10 outside Sorrento in the hills. The Ruoppo family created an agriturismo from an old farm. Shelley and I spent several hours at a Neopolitan feast. The appetizer would have felled a lesser gourmand. There was the parma ham and the salami and the grilled veggies and the potatoes and olives and the cheese and the caprese salad. The pasta dish was past and white onions with pecorino cheese and a little basil. The wine is made for the family. The seconde is a fillet of orata with “crazy water”. The fish has a pronounced character, some hints of pompano and blue fish in a single fish. Very good. The salad is a combination of farm grown carrots and fennel root, lettuce dressed in the local lemons and olive oil. The white Vino da Tavola was crisp and had a good finish, but like the red has a slight hint if a lambruco on the front of the tongue. Dolce was a chocolate mousse that was debse and, of course, very rich. Also a Neapolitan traditional chocolate and ground hazelnut torte called a caprese.

The Botanical Gardens and Oceanaire

Shelley Beth and I had a lovely evening at the Members’ Opening for the Canopy Walk at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Steve Robinson of Axios Architecture got the idea for this wonderful design of a cantilevered, curving, tree top walkway from a photograph of Fred Astaire dancing with Ginger Rogers. Astaire is leaning back on one leg supporting Rogers spine as she twirls is a curve. What an extraordinary example of life imitating art! See the walkway and the photo of the transition from dance to walkway at http://www.axiosarchitecture.com/abgcanopywalk.html, or better yet, go to the Botanical Gardens and see this great structure for yourself. Following our adventure at the Gardens, which also included the new “Edible Gardens” with a wall of herbs that is inspirational, we went to Oceanaire at 1100 Peachtree St., http://www.theoceanaire.com/locations/atlanta. It was great to see Adam Norton again.

Adam is Executive Chef and the Operating Partner for the Atlanta branch of this terrific fresh fish restaurant. Atlanta is one of 12 locations across the country. Saturday I had the grilled halibut, Shelley had trout and Shelly’s sister, Sharon, who joined us for dinner, had sashimi style Ahi tuna. We shared a salad and green beans with peanuts and perhaps the biggest and sweetest sweet potato I have ever had. Our waiter, Robert, suggested a good Pinot Noir and we finished another good meal at Oceanaire.

One or two more spring training stories and a visit with James Lohse

When you are next in the Tampa area and ready for a culinary adventure try Latitudes at Madeira Beach. Madeira Beach is on that wonderful spit of land off Tampa and St. Pete that runs from 35th Ave. to the south all the way to Clearwater to the north. Madeira Beach, and more importantly, Latitudes, is just slightly to the south of the Tom Stewart Causeway (15th St. or St. Hwy 666) at 13205 Gulf Blvd. The restaurant is on the third floor of what looks like a beachfront office building. The stairs aren’t bad and the elevator works. I admit that this is sort of an unusual place for a restaurant, but it overlooks the Gulf and a great marina, and the seafood is really exciting. Look them up at http://latitudesmadbeach.com/.
After we left the Braves game at Disney we drove to Gainesville so we would be able to see The Devil’s Millhopper in the morning. This is a 10,000 year old, ½ mile in circumference, 180’ deep sinkhole on SR 232 in Gainesville, and worth your while. To my amazement I made it down and back up the 228 steps, but my panting efforts pale compared to the woman who runs those same steps 22 times daily.

As is our want on these “One Eyed Parrott” spring training adventures we try to stay in the roadside motels that made Florida before Disney famous, and we may have broken our own record in Gainesville. We found “The Bambi Motel” quite near the University, and I believe we have never stayed at a better known facility. In fact, most of the people with whom we spoke the next morning, not only knew of the place, but few ‘lowed as how they would ever tell anyone had they themselves ever stayed there. I must admit that none of the same cars that were there when we arrived in the evening were there in the morning. We had a great breakfast at David’s BBQ, 5121 NW 39th. This may have been my first BBQ breakfast, but when you are next in Gainesville, try it. All of the folks at David’s, even the waitress, knew of Bambi’s, but none knew anyone other than us who had stayed the whole night.
Enough of a traveling feast, and back to Atlanta. Lloyd and I went to Kevin Rathbun’s Steakhouse following a very nice dinner at 4th and Swift (621 North Ave., NE; www.4thandswift.com) so we could have a drink and cigar on Rathbun’s back patio. We had a long conversation with James A. Lohse, Chef de Cuisine for Rathbun’s. If one is not actually engaged in the process of eating food, one of the best things to do is to be thinking about food and talking about food with someone who really knows and cares about the subject.

Lloyd and James
Both restaurants we visited that night buy and grow locally (with the exception of Rathbun’s steaks, which are some of Chicago’s finest). In fact, the salad we had at 4th and Swift was picked on property.

On April 20 I lucked into the Top Chef tour in Atlanta at the back of the parking lot at Star Provisions, and saw Kevin Gillespie (Woodfire Grill) and Richard Blais (Flip Burger) doing a “quick fire” demonstration of a microwave sponge cake on a Thai peanut butter with some grapes that had been frozen into a kind of a grape caviar. You can see a much better description of the event at Betsey Metcalf’s blog “Glutenfree” (http://glutenfreedomatlanta.com/2010/04/top-chef-the-tour-in-atlanta/).

Rocky Patel, Live at Prohibition!

Hank, Rocky Patel, and Lloyd

Hank and I had a delightful evening at the East Andrews complex including Prohibition and Cellar 56.  Owners Steve and Stan planned a very nice Steak and Scotch dinner out by the fountain (the weather was perfect).  Mike from Alpharetta joined Hank and me, and we got a chance to exchange tales of other good meals and cigars.  We started the evening at Prohibition where we watched Mickelson don the Green Jacket for the third time.  Then we moved outside for the dinner which started with a Caesar salad, Macallan 12, and a Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 cigar.  Scotch and cigars, does it get any better? Moving on, we next tasted the Macallan 15 with our bone-in ribeyes — the mac and cheese served with it is phenomenal!  Stan introduced Rocky, and he spoke to us for a few minutes about cigar making — the detailed process of selecting wrappers, binders, and fillers is very interesting.  Rocky knows his stuff.  And on top of that, he is a very nice and approachable guy.  Hank and I couldn’t resist the deals they were offering on boxes.  We each purchased a box of the Decade — my favorite of Rocky’s cigars.  We finished the dinner with a coconut cream tart, the Macallan 18 (smoooooth!), and the Rocky Patel 1961.  Kudos to Steve and Stan for a extraordinary evening.

Rocky signs Hank up
Rocky and Hank

Surin

Spent my usual Tuesday night waiting out the traffic having a drink and appetizer at the bar with my man Phillip (Fi-Fi) and friends James and Nikki.  Surin is like an old friend.  I’ve been going there since 1991.  The food has been good and consistent all these years.  What can I say, Thai food has been my favorite since my first in 1977 at the first Thai restaurant in Atlanta (Bangkok Restaurant at Ansley Mall).  Surin (the owner), this is for you — keep our neighborhood restaurant the way we like it with our good friends Phillip, Carol, Fon, Joey, Mai, Nick, Mark, Josh, and Diamond.  Chris, we miss you.

Lloyd, Hylan and Hank in College Park

Lobster pot pie, broccoli, and good company!  What a joy to have this good company.  Lloyd and Hylan were both my wife Linda’s students, and I have known them since they were in high school, almost 35 years ago.  I thought kindly of both of them as I steamed and disgorged the lobster and peeled the pearl onions and made the volonte sauce of the lobster blood, sherry and a little vodka pickled with hot peppers that my organic gardener friend, Jimmy, had grown with the help of the Devil.  The peppers are so hot that just a taste has reformed six sinners of record, and that is just through March!  I made a basket weave for the pie crust, and the whole thing looked great.

The wine, a Sonoma Chardonnay, 2008, from the Russian River Valley called “Hook and Ladder” was a great complement.  Very light on the oak and it married with the lobster.  Worth your $15.  The cheeses from Star Provision were as good as usual.

We finished the evening on the porch with a couple cigars, a little Woodford Reserve, and Bevin Hill’s CD from her Masters Recital at the Manhattan School of Music.  Everyone must hear Bevin sing “A Woman In Love” at least once before they die.

Kevin Rathbun Steak

On Friday afternoon, my good friend Bill and I kicked back after a long week at Kevin Rathbun Steak.  The steakhouse in Inman Park is housed in an old refurbished warehouse with brick walls, tall ceilings, and lighting that puts away all the cares of the work week.  The inviting and friendly staff take good care of you without being intrusive.  We had the always excellent Dry Aged Cowboy Ribeye (bone-in) with broccoli and twice baked potatoes.  Since Hank wasn’t there, I got to gnaw on the bone (grin).  Allen Brothers of Chicago supplies the steaks. The Rathbun website says they’re the nations best.  I can’t argue.  I always like a nice bold Napa cab, and we had a nice one — Conn Creek ‘Limited Release’ , Napa, 2005.  With the driving, cold rain (Spring, come quickly), we retired to the porch to enjoy a Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 and some Booker’s neat.  The porch is nicely shielded from the elements, but, even so, come on Spring!