Sunday, August 2, 2009

Random Adventures: Restaurant Reviews of Spoon and Highland Tap, Tasting Notes from Sherlock's

Okay, so I guess I suck at starting revolutions. Or maybe people don't want to admit they're from Alabama. After the Cycles Gladiator ban, I can't say I blame them.

Just a reminder for all you Atlantans, it's Atlanta Restaurant Week. Actually, it's Atlanta Restaurant Two Weeks because it goes through August 9th. Hubby and I grabbed the vegetarians and headed to Spoon on Thursday.

Random aside: Hubby had dropped me off at work on Thursday morning and took my car to his office, where he parked it under a tree. If you recall, Thursday was really rainy, and apparently the tree was really full of ants, which resulted in my car being infested with strange looking greyish-tan ants. At least they don't bite, but they did swarm me on Friday morning as I drove to the Y for Pilates. If anyone noticed a redhead driving through downtown Decatur smacking the seat beside her and yelling, "Die! Die! Die!" uh, yeah, that was me.

I've been trying to remember to take pictures of what I eat since that's apparently what food bloggers do. The problem is that my Blackberry has a really bright flash, so unless the restaurant lighting is bright, I can't really do it subtly. Still, I did get a couple of pictures.

The vegetarians went for the green curry, which wasn't part of the prix fixe menu, but Hubby and I decided to enter into the spirit of Restaurant Week (i.e., stuff yourself for a lot less money than you would have paid otherwise) and did the three-course menu. We all started with the sweet tofu basil rolls, which were served with a spicy hoisin-peanut sauce. They were fresh, and the tofu and basil had nice crunch to them. Hubby had the sesame tofu cubes with Thai ginger sauce, which he liked, and I splurged for the Ped Pa Lo Noodle: wide rice noodle with slow cooked duck in Thai five spice soup. The duck was a little fatty, but the noodles were good, and the soup was very savory. I even got a picture:

And then there was dessert. Hubby got the blueberry chocolate chip spring rolls with mango dipping sauce. He said that the spring rolls were okay, but he could've eaten just the coconut ice cream with mango dipping sauce and been perfectly happy. Of course chocoholic me had the chocolate caramel mousse with green tea ice cream, which was also served with a berry compote. The mousse itself was the perfect texture and balance of chocolate and caramel, which was good since a lot of places overpower the chocolate in their mousse with the secondary flavor. It went well with the green tea ice cream, which added fresh notes to the mousse along with the berries. I got a picture of it, too!

We ordered wine, a Gewurztraminer from the Columbia Gorge, but unfortunately I did not record the name of it before they whisked the wine list away, and the wine list isn't online. Yeah, yeah, I should know better by now. I think it may have been the Domaine Pouillon because the description fits: citrus, lychee, and mild nuttiness. It went well with the food.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Medium dark and a little noisy
Food: Very good
Wine list: Good for an Asian place; not a lot available, but nice variety
Wait staff: Very Good
Desserts: Apparently the chocolate caramel mousse was voted as being in Atlanta's Top 25. The ice creams are great, too.
Vegetarian friendly? Yeah, it's Thai. Just about anything can be made with tofu.
Kid friendly? You wouldn't think so, but there were some in there.
Would I go back? Yes

On Friday, the adventures continued when Hubby and I as well as half of Decatur went to the Sherlock's "Extraordinary Tasting Event!!!" That's what the emails said, anyway. The guest of honor was Steve Manos, wine instructor at Disney and the U.S Division Manager for Gruppo Mezzacorona. There were light munchies as well as a giveaway. Hubby didn't make it home in time for us to get any of the playing cards that served as drawing tickets, but we did get some wine.

We skipped the Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio (Dolomiti, Italy), but the provided notes look interesting, especially the "apple pie and cream part." Here are the ones we did try (vintage info not provided):

Mezzacorona Chardonnay (Dolomiti, Italy):
Hubby liked because it was oaky; I skipped

Mezzacorona Moscato (Dolomiti, Italy):
floral with orange blossom and honey; off-dry, but I liked it; may be too sweet for hard-core white drinkers
Rating: Good to Very Good

Arancio (Sicilia, Italy): 100% Grillo
apple nose, mineral body
Rating: Good

Axis Sauvignon Blanc (Central Coast, CA):
Herb nose, slightly oaky with grapefruit finish
Rating: Good

Axis Chardonnay (Central Coast, CA):
Hubby tasted, I skipped. He found it to be way too smoky.

Mezzacorona Pinot Noir (Dolomiti, Italy):
Nice fruity nose, but the wine fell flat
Rating: Okay

Arancio Pinot Noir (Sicilia, Italy):
Strawberry, gentle tannins, and a nice finish with a hint of butter.
Rating: Very Good

Mezzacorona Merlot (Dolomiti, Italy):
Very berry, but nicely balanced with acidity & fruit
Rating: Very Good

Mezzacorona Cabernet Sauvignon (Dolomiti, Italy):
The notes described as a "simple juicy red for grilled steak." I concur. Definitely had the "I'm a Cab!" stereotypical football linebacker characteristics to it: big but not too bright.
Rating: Good to Very Good (I appreciate honesty in a wine)

Axis Zinfandel (Lodi, CA): 86% Zinfandel, 14% Petite Syrah
Okay, those of you who know me will have probably guessed that this was my favorite of the evening. A little peppery on the nose with lots of lush fruit and that cedar-caramel overtone that I love in my Lodi's. Yeah, it was my favorite.
Rating: Very Good to Excellent

Last night, Hubby and I joined the Scot and his girlfriend at Highland Tap. The Scot graduated yesterday from Georgia Tech with a Master's degree in urban planning. Congratulations, D!

We knew immediately why the Scot had picked this place for his celebratory dinner. It's tucked in a cellar in Virginia Highlands, and it reminded me of many of the pubs we visited in Scotland with its exposed stone and wood paneled walls and dark, cozy interior. We sat at the bar, where Hubby had a Scotch (McCallan 12, neat), and I had a glass of A to Z Pinot Gris, which is one of my favorite summer pre-dinner wines. The Scot and his girlfriend arrived a little later, and we were immediately shown to our table by the friendly hostess. I didn't realize it before we went, but the menu is all about the meat, specifically steak. What triglycerides?

Last night also marked a first for me in Atlanta: bringing wine to a restaurant instead of ordering it off the list. We'd gotten the Scot a bottle of Bordeaux for his birthday, and he generously offered to share it with us for dinner. The waitress didn't balk at all, but was more curious about the wine, and she immediately brought out four glasses (corkage fee is $10).

The 2006 Chateau Chantemerle (Gaillan en M├ędoc) is a Bordeaux blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. It's a very smooth red, and while I am reluctant to use phrases such as "supple tannins" because for some reason, that particular phrase makes me think of the post-seduction scene in the movie "The Graduate" when she's putting her stockings back on, I think this one warrants it, so here we go: nicely balanced dark fruit with some oak, supple tannins (but not in a sexy middle-aged seduction kind of way), and leather (okay, really don't go there!). The flavors really came out nicely with the meat with some nice spiciness (this is just getting worse).

Okay, on to the food. As I mentioned, the Highland Tap is a steak place. Hubby got the "Queen cut" prime rib, and I got the "Petite" Filet, which was a non-petite eight ounces. Yeah, there are now leftovers. We both got as sides the parmesan-truffle potatoes, which were incredibly good. Those didn't come home.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Very dark, fun to people watch as the evening goes on ("White patent leather heels? Srsly?")
Food: Very good to excellent
Wine list: Decent from what I could tell
Wait staff: Very Good and personable; also good at helping each other out when necessary so that the food is timed right
Desserts: Don't know
Vegetarian friendly? Ummm, it's a steak place
Kid friendly? Probably not
Would I go back? Yes

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