The National and Ciné's Dinner & A Movie happens three nights a week, Sunday through Tuesday. It’s a great way to try out celebrity chef Hugh Acheson’s The National restaurant for a reasonable price. Plus it makes a great date night since the Ciné movie theater is just next door. You can check out the latest Dinner & a Movie menu here and the Ciné movie schedule here. Make sure to make reservations by calling 706-549-3450. The National is at 232 W Hancock Ave. in Athens, Georgia.
From the category archives:
We adore the Local Republic and anytime we’re near Lawrenceville, we try to stop there for a meal. The restaurant fills up quickly, so try to get their early – like before 6 pm – even during the week. They have an amazing craft beer selection, and their specials are terrific no matter if it’s fish, wild boar, or beef. However, my favorite is a small plate of chicken liver – so delicious, so good.
Local Republic - 225 West Crogan Street, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30046, 678-205-4782. Open Mon-Thu 11am–10pm, Fri-Sat 11am–11pm, and closed Sundays.
At the Food Blog South 2013 conference, the food was provided by Saw’s Soul Kitchen, Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q, Southeast United Dairy Industry Association, Juban’s (alligator and frog leg gumbo!) along with awesome beer at the Good People Brewing Company.
While I was there, I also had a a mixture of Greek and Southern food at lunch at Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood, AL and breakfast at Over Easy in Birmingham, AL (purple grits with Gouda, eggs over easy and gluten free toast – wow!)
Last December, my husband and I had an amazing dinner at Tristan in Charleston, South Carolina. (We left the kids back at the condo we were renting.) Paul had the wine accompaniment. I had a glass of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka on the rocks. The menu is below. We ordered variation on the five course menu and shared when we had different dishes. Our favorites were the scallops and the risotto, followed by the starter course and the desserts. The presentation, taste and service were all superb.
You can connect with Tristan on Twitter @tristandining or on Facebook. Call for reservations at 843-534-2155 or book online through Open Table. Tristan is also able to work around food allergies and food sensitivities – just mention it when you make your reservation so your server and the chef can be prepared for your visit.
Last month, I attended the Buick Encore Lifestyle Event in Atlanta as the “plus one” of my friend, Eileen Calandro, the Chief Mom Connector of Mom Central. She was invited to test drive the new Buick Encore before it hits dealerships in February, 2013.
I was looking forward to spending time with Eileen while driving a luxurious crossover around the Atlanta metro area including a stop at a local Toys “R” Us to shop for the Toys for Tots program. However, I was just about out of my mind that we would meet celebrity chef and Top Chef Season 10 judge, Hugh Acheson at his restaurant, Empire State South, and tour the Love is Love urban farm. Have fork will travel!
Love is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens
Driving through suburban Decatur, Georgia, you’d never know the Love is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens is there. Yet over 15 years ago, the housing development East Lake Commons was built to include a working, organic farm. The farm grows a surprisingly wide diversity of crops, enough to accommodate a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
Our Buick Encore Lifestyle group met with farmer, Joe Reynolds, who showed us around while explaining how the farm manages planting, irrigation, composting, and crop rotation. Joe also told us that the Love is Love farm has a close relationship with many Atlanta restaurants that provide the vegetable scraps for their impressive composting piles. In turn, the farm sells them organic, hyper-local produce, big bags of which we loaded into our Buick Encores to be cooked up for our dinner at Empire State South.
The farm tour was fascinating and I loved Joe’s passion for local, sustainable organic farming. It made me wish I lived closer so I could take advantage of their CSA.
Dinner at Empire State South
After a quick stop back at Twelve Atlantic Station at our gorgeous suite (complete with a full kitchen), Eileen and I were driven in one of the Buick Encores to Empire State South for dinner. Our group hit the bar for cocktails, appetizers and charcuterie. I had two unique cocktails, Orchard Punch, a bourbon drink, and Death on the Moon, made with absinthe. The charcuterie was marvelous, and I’d order it again as a meal, along with a glass of red wine.
Then it was off to a private dining room for a cooking demonstration from Hugh Acheson! He was as funny, personable and down to earth as he appears on Top Chef. He told us a story about appearing on a food panel with Paula Dean. While he likes Paula a lot, he doesn’t agree with her that Southern cooking means fried foods and tons of butter and sugar. Instead, his philosophy is cooking with traditional foods grown in the South, in a modern, sophisticated way.
While he demonstrated his Turnips and Their Greens Risotto (recipe included below), Hugh told us about the Southern goodness of Carolina Gold rice and making your own chicken stock in the slow cooker. (Loved that tip!) We sampled the risotto along with our dinner.
First course was Local Lettuces with roasted Brussels leaves, beets, pickled carrots, ESS fromage blanc, and served with a crisp sourdough. Second course was a choice of Roasted Georgia Trout, Chicken Roulade, or Prime Ribeye. (I had the rib eye, which was served rare with celery root and bread gratin, roasted kale with shiitakes, and a shoyu vinaigrette.) For dessert, we had Meyer Lemon Parfait clementine, bergamot brioche, candied cranberry, and sweet potato sorbet.
Eileen and I agreed it was a fabulous meal. I can’t wait to go back to Empire State South with my husband!
Turnips and Their Greens Risotto
Serves four as a lighter supper
- 3 small hakurei turnips
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup minced yellow onion
- 1 cup Caroline Gold Middland's broken kernel rice
- 4 cups homemade chicken stock
- 2 cups finely chopped turnip greens
- 1/2 cup finely grated (rasp) Parmagiano
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon finely cut bias cut onion top for garnish
Very thinly slice the turnips. Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and set aside. These will finish the risotto.
Warm your chicken stock in a pot and place a ladle in it. Keep this on the back of the stove. Place a good pot on the stove over medium to medium high heat and add the remaining olive oil. Add the minced onion bulb and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until the onion is translucent but not charred at all, about five minutes.
Add the rice and lightly glaze the rice. From the moment the rice goes in, the is about 17 minutes to completion, so keep an eye on the clock. You should be stirring a lot but no need to stir all the time.
Start adding the stock, about a cup at a time and stir and cook until the stock is absorbed. Then add more. Repeat. After a while you will see this luxurious, starchy liquid surround those little rice kernels. This is good. After about 15 minutes taste your rice. it should have a slight crunchiness to it but you have to soothsay what it will taste like after two to three more minutes as it sits in the bowl before consumption.
Let's finish this up. Add the butter and the parmesan - and stir well to fold those beautiful finishes into the risotto. Then add the turnip greens to wilt them into the risotto. It's done. When it gets in that bowl it will set up well. Spoon into shallow bowls and garnish with the raw turnips and some more Parmagiano.
More about the Buick Encore Lifestyle Event
Eileen posted about the Buick Encore and our Toys “R” Us shopping spree for Toys for Tots at Luxurious, Affordable Design with the New Buick Encore at Mom Central’s blog. If you love cars and auto design, you'll love her post.
Don't forget to check out the Buick Encore, too! My favorite color is Ruby Red with the Saddle interior. What’s yours?
Disclosure: I was invited to an all expenses paid editor’s trip by Buick. I also received a signed copy of Hugh Acheson’s cookbook, A New Turn in the South, and some promotional items. All photos except for the Empire State South collage were provided by Buick. All experiences and opinions are my own.
Hyman’s Seafood is THE restaurant to go to when you visit Charleston, SC according to everyone we talked to from neighbors to coworkers. It’s very family friendly. The service is terrific. The amount of food you get is enormous and delicious. And Hyman’s even has a gluten free menu (just ask)!
From upper left going clockwise: Hushpuppies, Grouper with the Gluten Free Prep, their signature appetizer – the Wadamalaw Delight (fried green tomatoes served on grits with a Carolina cream sauce), and a glass of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka on the rocks with a slice of lemon.
Lucie and I took my mom for English tea at the Madison Tea Room & Garden while she was visiting during Thanksgiving. I highly recommend it as a terrific girls’ day out for lunch. Lucie and her mémé loved it. And any excuse to wear funny hats, drink tea, and eat little sandwiches and desserts is A-OK with me, too!
Moving to Athens, Georgia from Colorado has been made a bit easier by finding new restaurants. I’m blown away by the variety of places to eat out here from barbecue and Southern (of course) to Mexican and Vietnamese. There is even Jamaican restaurant here that serves amazing jerk chicken!
As I’ve explored local restaurants, I’ve been looking up reviews on the YP.com app on my iPhone, which you can download in iTunes or on Google Play. (For other devices, check out the list of app downloads here.) The app has helped me discover new places in whatever neighborhood I’m driving through at that moment. I use their search function to find a list of nearby restaurants or search on types of restaurants, like “barbecue,” that I’m always on the look out for.
You can also use the YP app on your phone to find the cheapest gas available nearby. I don’t use it this way, because I live down the street from the regularly cheapest gas station in the Athens area! However, it would come in handy if I was traveling around the state, however.
One of the other neat features of the app is the deals section, which points you deals from local merchants. I find using the YP.com website offers even more deals, so this may be something you want to check out on a regular basis at home or work.
Overall, I’ve found the app very easy to use – from finding new places to adding pictures and entering reviews. Plus, you can go to YP.com to find additional features and even make edits of your reviews if you find a typo or want to add additional information. It’s a very user friendly app for those who like to share their opinions of cool (or not so cool) places around town. Try it out!
Welcome to the South – now eat some Cuban food
One of the biggest surprises was finding a Cuban Style restaurant – Cali-N-Tito’s – here in Athens. (Above is a picture of their Cuban Fried Rice Dish.) You can read my review of the restaurant here. However, I still need to update the YP website with the restaurant’s hours. (I like that they let customers do that.) It’s my little way of giving back to the folks in Athens and promoting some places I really like.
Do you like to share your opinions about local restaurants and merchants on apps like YP?
Disclosure: Thank you to YP for being a sponsor. Check out the latest YP app or YP.com to find food nearby fast! YP is your local companion for making decisions on everything from where to eat to where to find cheap gas. This post is in conjunction with my relationship with the Clever Girls Collective, and all opinions expressed here are my own. #YPcrave
On our move out from Boulder, Colorado to Athens, Georgia, my family and I traveled through prime barbecue territory – Kansas City, St. Louis, and Tennessee. I wrote about the restaurants we dined at in my guest post, Guest Post: A BBQ Tour Through The South!, at HotelCoupons.com’s blog.
I think my overall favorite barbecue restaurant on our trip was Jack’s in Nashville, though the brisket at Gates in KC was to die for. (And to be fair, I think they were having an off day on the ribs. That’s what some of the local folks we shared our ribs with thought.)
What’s your favorite barbecue restaurant?
I recently attend Applebee’s blogger summit, Behind the Menu, at their Kansas City headquarters. I was reluctant to go at first because I hadn’t been to an Applebee’s in years and don’t care for their food all that much. I’d rather go to a mom and pop Asian restaurant and have a bowl of pho, frankly. After discussing the opportunity with a friend, I decided to go as the would offer good insight into the trend of chain restaurants offering healthier menu items. Also, since KC is so close to Denver, it would be an easy and quick trip.
Applebee’s PR agency put together a small but intimate group of blogging veterans and newbies who blog in several niches from healthy lifestyle to food to family. While most of us flew in from around the US, several bloggers were KC locals:
- Army Wife 101
- About A Mom
- Dine & Dish
- Real Mom Reviews
- RM – Making Geek Look Good
- Roni’s Weigh
- Our Kids Mom
- Kansas City Mamas
- Fat Fighter TV
- Mommy of Two Little Monkeys
The Behind the Menu summit
The objective of the summit was to give us a behind the scenes look at the Applebee’s brand, their history, and their food. The highlight of the trip was meeting Chef Shannon Johnson, VP, Culinary and Menu Strategy and Jessica James, Executive Chef. They were with us the whole time explaining menu development, food sourcing, quality controls, and training.
They also cooked up dishes off the new U550 (under 550 calories) and Weight Watchers menus. We had a chance to taste many of the U550 and the three new Weight Watcher entrees that premiered in restaurants on Monday, February 20. The dishes were really tasty and the portion sizes were generous.
Frankly, I had been under the impression that all their food – even the healthier stuff – is just reheated in the restaurants. They proved me wrong when they took us in the back to the test kitchen to show us exactly how the dishes are made in the restaurants from scratch using fresh ingredients.
It was very interesting to learn how Applebee’s comes up with their new dishes. Chefs Shannon and Jessica explained how they develop new menu items, a lengthy process that takes 12 to 18 months. For the U550 menu they come up with 60 ideas on paper, pick the 20 strongest dishes, and prepare a food show for Applebee’s executives, marketing people and franchise chefs to get their feedback. After the food show, three to five dishes are then tested by groups of consumers.
For their Weight Watchers menu, they create slimmed down versions of their regular menu. They also travel around the country to try regional dishes, a process they call “dine arounds.”
Applebee’s also collaborates with their vendors to create items used in their dishes, like hamburger buns or desserts. Their vendors create items especially for Applebee’s and made to their exact specifications.
Seasonal influences play into menu items as well especially for the Weight Watchers dishes since they are packed with fresh vegetables. The U550 items are also veggie heavy and focus on bold flavors, sauces, seasonings, onions and garlic. It’s hard to believe that they’re under 550 calories.
Healthing up the Applebee’s menu
Applebee’s philosophy is to offer a variety of items to fit people’s needs and wants whether that’s healthy or decadent. In fact, they’re working on providing more vegetarian versions of their popular dishes. They also offer online allergen information on common sensitivities like soy, egg, dairy, peanut, nut, gluten, and seafood and understand how dietary needs, allergies and food sensitivities make dining out a challenge.
Applebee’s Culinary Team is concerned about healthing up their menus as well, and look at every ingredient to improve nutrition, quality and taste. That’s why Weight Watchers only works with Applebee’s. It’s also why starting in May 2012, Applebee’s will be part of the Kids Live Well program. Their plan is to add more whole grains and vegetables to the kids menu, but still make the food palatable to kids.
The reality of the situation
All in all I have a new appreciation for Applebee’s and was impressed with their generosity in sharing their processes. The culinary and marketing teams truly care about quality, seasonal foods, healthier dishes, company history, and their brand’s mission. I was also impressed that dishes at Applebee’s are made from scratch from quality ingredients.
However, I see a disconnect at the franchise level. For example, one blogger from Pennsylvania complained that her local Applebee’s was awful – cold food, overcooked nasty steaks, rude servers, etc. Shannon said that he’ll be going out to visit that location soon and often makes unannounced visits to Applebee’s around the US to make sure that the franchisees are keeping up with quality and training their staffs properly.
To test my theory about HQ food vs. franchise food, I took the $25 gift card I was given at the event and took my family out to the Applebee’s in Longmont, Colorado. The wait staff was great – super friendly and helpful. My “SkinnyBee” margarita (only 100 calories) was even more delicious than the one I had at HQ. My son, Nathan, and I had steak and both were perfectly done. The substitution I asked for (no potatoes, double the veggies) was done to my satisfaction. Good portion sizes, too.
Still, the food didn’t look as pretty as it did at HQ and on the menus. The food tasted good at the restaurant, but it wasn’t as good as what we were served at HQ. There’s definitely a difference between the highly trained and experience chefs at HQ and the line cooks at the franchise restaurant.
Even so, I’m happy to promote Applebee’s healthier menu options to my readers. Americans need healthier choices when going out to eat, and Applebee’s provides that.
Disclosure: Applebee’s provided transportation, lodging, meals and a goodie bag including a $25 gift card. All experiences and opinions are my own.
I’ve now had the pleasure of dining twice at Udi’s Pizza Café Bar in Olde Town Arvada (Colorado). The first time was last December when my husband and I went there on a date. To start, we shared a large roasted beet salad with goat cheese. To drink, I had a gluten Raspberry Ale from New Planet (I prefer their regular ale) and my husband had a couple of beers from Udi’s extensive drinks menu.
We both had pizza. My husband Paul had the ham and cheese pizza with caramelized onions and I had the squash and goat cheese pizza on Udi’s gluten free pizza crust. I really liked that my husband, who isn’t gluten free, didn’t have to have gluten free food just because I was having it. We didn’t have dessert because we were too full – the portions were really filling.
Udi’s Vegan Supper Club
Most recently my children and I attended Udi’s once a month vegan supper club. First, if you have a nut allergic child like my daughter, Lucie, don’t go to the vegan night. I forgot how much vegan recipes use nuts – a real stellar parenting moment on my part. Luckily, Udi’s waitstaff was extremely accommodating and brought my daughter food that didn’t contain nuts, including a few extra cookies that really won her over. Also, they told me that their gluten free bread is not vegan since it contains eggs, but were happy to supply it since I’m GF.
The dinner consisted of four courses (appetizer, pizza, entree and dessert). You had the option of ordering more of any course except for the dessert. The meal was $24 per person and $5 for kids under 12. The reasonable prices, especially for the kids, explained why the place was packed with families.
In addition, you could also order a four course wine pairing for $18 per person or drinks from Udi’s special cocktail menu. I ordered a virgin Maharaj – a carrot juice drink that also contained ginger, lime, coconut milk and agave. Nathan had a Tennessee Cowboy mocktail, which contained pineapple, orange, cherry and mint juice mocktail. Both were $6 – and delicious.
Winning the kids over one vegan dish at a time
At first, my 11-year-old son, Nathan, was apprehensive about the vegan menu calling it “not real man food.” (Where does he learn this stuff? His father, of course.) He was quickly won over by the cashew cheese with fig compote that he liberally spread on his bread. (The picture of the cashew cheese is at the very top of this post.) He also loved the shitake arancini meatballs with tomato basic sauce – we all did and ordered more.
The kids weren’t too excited by the sage pizza with olive oil, sun dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, and kalamata olives. The flavors were rather strong, and of course, all kids want cheese on their pizza. I thought it was delicious, but I could see their point and wondered why Udi’s didn’t try to incorporate almond, rice or soy cheese with their pizza.
That evening, Udi’s vegan menu also featured several delicious vegetable dishes like the roasted root vegetables with miso “butter” and parsley. (The “butter” was amazing.) I especially enjoyed the roasted broccoli with toasted raisins and caraway seeds because of the addition of a tangy balsamic vinegar reduction. I ate the entire plate by myself since the kids wouldn’t go near it.
To learn more about Udi’s supper club go to the Ud'i’s website and click on Special Events. For reservations and more details email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also chat with them on Facebook or Twitter.
Udi's Pizza Cafe Bar in Olde Town Arvada, 7600 Grandview, Arvada, Colorado
Phone: (303) 421-8000
Monday 11am – 3pm
Tuesday 11am - 9pm or later
Wednesday 11am - 9pm or later
Thursday 11am - 9pm or later
Friday 11am - 10pm or later
Saturday 10am - 10pm or later
Sunday 10am - 9pm or later
Disclosure: As a Udi's Gluten Free Community Leader I'm compensated for my time and efforts on their behalf. Also, my meal and my children’s vegan supper club meal were complimentary, but my husband and I paid for our dinner. All opinions are our own.
Smorgie.com is a new website devoted to sharing lists of your favorite (and maybe not so favorite) restaurant online with like minded food folks. Recently, I had the chance to join Smorgie to test drive it. Here are some of my thoughts.
Smorgie, interesting but not quite fully cooked yet
- It was very easy to join Smorgie.com and set up a profile.
- The Smorgie.com website is very attractive and fast loading.
- As soon as I joined, I immediately started to add restaurants by searching on a city nearby me. However, when I searched on the town’s name nothing came up. Instead, I had to list both the town and the restaurant name. I would like it if a bunch of restaurants would come up when I searched on just the city, so I could pick and choose from that list.
- Once I searched on and found a restaurant I liked, it was easy to add it to my favorites. It was also easy to create a list and add the restaurant to the list.
- I liked that the restaurant information (address, phone, etc.) and the Yelp.com listing came up instantaneously.
- I also liked that I could share the link via email, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. However, the Pinterest link doesn’t work as it takes me to someone named Kate’s Pinterest profile.
- While adding a picture is easy, adding more than one is cumbersome since you can only add one picture at a time. As a food blogger who loves taking pictures of my dining experience, this is a huge inconvenience.
- Sometimes when I was uploading pictures, I’d come out of the website interface and get a primitive looking upload page. I could only get back to the restaurant listing by using the back button on my browser.
- Browsing lists is interesting but problematic. You cannot search on the lists, so if you’re looking for restaurant lists in a certain area or of a certain type (for example, Japanese restaurants in Seattle) you’re out of luck. There are 43+ pages of lists, so I’m already overwhelmed before I click through them all.
- The only way to find and friend other members is by viewing the lists. Again, either a search function or a listing of members would make it easier to find like minded foodies.
- Smorgie would work better as a smartphone app. After all, you’re not at the computer when you’re dining out! However, you probably have your phone with you to take pictures, download photos, and write short reviews. Seems redundant to go home, download your photos to your laptop from your phone or camera, then upload them to Smorgie.
Smorgie’s a cool idea, but it needs more time in the oven before it’s ready to serve.
What’s your favorite restaurant dining app?
Disclosure: This sponsorship’s brought to you by Smorgie.com who I’ve partnered with for this promotion.
Some of the fantastic meals I had at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant while I was staying at The London West Hollywood. I was in LA courtesy of Frigidaire to film a cooking demo with Chef Suzanne Goin and a Thanksgiving discussion with Jennifer Garner.
Disclosure: Travel, meals and lodging were provided by Frigidaire.