Friday, October 22, 2010

Hands on Dumplings

We are so lucky in Atlanta to have so many options of where to shop for our food. While I am a big proponent of supporting my local farmers, there are times when you need kaffir lime leaves or turmeric or some other foreign ingredient, without which your curry or tom yum gai would fall flat. I love the cut-rate prices of Super H and Great Wall, but for more extensive selection, especially with Latin and South American flavors, you can't beat the Buford Highway Farmers Market. If you haven't been recently, this is not the run down place you remember. They have put a lot of money into upgrading the store and making it a much more appealing place to shop. But don't worry, they still sell those little corn things with the custard filling, yum!

Along the lines of expanding their customer base, the market is now offering a range of cooking classes. They are moderately priced, $20, plus they give you a $10 gift card for the market at the end of the class. Recently, my friend Todd and I decided to go to a Chinese Southern Belle class on making dumplings.

We had such a good time! Natalie and her mother, Margaret, gave a good general overview of Chinese cuisine and even whipped up a quick veggie stir-fry to tide us over until it was dumpling time.Then we got to the good part, we learned how to make a variety of dumplings hands. I have to admit, I am not much for rules and love to improvise in the kitchen, so my dumplings were a little out of the box, but despite their unusual form, they held together well during boiling and tasted amazing. One of the best things about the class is that you sit at communal tables and all work together and offer suggestions like how to get the best seal, or what to mix together to make the best dipping sauce. The other best part is getting to eat the product of your labor, I'm fairly sure Todd ate 30 or more, although he claims he kept it under 2 dozen.

I think these classes would make an excellent setting for a fun weeknight date night, or even better for a blind date. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone and look forward to going back and taking more classes soon. For more info on upcoming classes, you can look here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Patron Secret Dining Society

This summer Patron Tequila developed a new marketing strategy, they would promote their brand by throwing uber exclusive, secret dinner parties all over the US. Naturally, this sounded right up my alley, so when I first heard about it, I hoped like crazy that they would come to Atlanta and on September 23rd, they did. On their website they have clocks counting down the seconds until they reveal their next destination and this time I just had this hunch that it would be Atlanta. The window of opportunity was miniscule, you only had 30 minutes to submit your answer to a riddle based on the previous event in Rhode Island, but I was ready and submitted my answer almost immediately. The next day I get an e-mail saying "Psst... You're In" with a request that I confirm my attendance and name of my guest within 12 hours and very little information other than a date and time, if "evening" can be called a time.

I am on pins and needles awaiting my next contact, which proves to be a cryptic phone call the very next day, instructing me to go to a location and text a secret code to a number at a specific time. It was so funny sitting in this random parking lot with all of these other cars waiting to get a text. We didn't have long to wait. We didn't have long to wait before we were directed to our mystery location, the Goat Farm, a sort of artists colony in west midtown. We are greeted with the first of many Patron cocktails and a fresh shucked oyster. We mingle and enjoy the country-in-the-city ambiance as we sip our cocktails and enjoy the tasty snacks being passed around. My favorite was the bite-sized tuna tartare taco, although the pork belly on polenta was also pretty phenomenal.

As it was getting dark, the Patron people introduced our mixologist, Brandon King of the St Regis and chef, Keira Moritz of Pacci and told us that our journey wasn't quite over yet. We were lead through the darkened complex to the location where our dinner would be served, at one long table, encouraging us to mix, mingle and make new friends. It was a beautifully laid table with candles and floral arrangements in empty Patron bottles.

The best was yet to come! My favorite Patron pairing of the night was the Passionate - Patron Silver infused with pineapple, jalapeno, and pink peppercorn, Patron Citronge, passion fruit puree, sour mix, citrus spice rim and red chili pepper garnish accompanying a gorgeous scallop served with a fava bean, chanterelle, pea shoot salad. That was followed by duck confit with polenta, lamb chops with farro, and a Patron XO Cafe Mousse Strata, an icy treat, the perfect way to end a hot fall evening in Atlanta.

It was impressive that they were able to put together a meal of that caliber in such a rustic setting, it seemed like something that would make a good Next Iron Chef challenge, dinner for 40 with only a couple of folding tables and some tents. They really pulled it off, so maybe Chef Moritz might want to consider trying out for one of those shows. As the evening was winding down, they announced another surprise, a band that they flew in all the way from LA to play for us. I'm pretty sure that we were meant to be dancing, but as it had cooled down to only about mid 80's, there wasn't a lot of interest in that.

We contemplated staying to give our take on the event to the videographer, but I new my face was a shiny mess, so we headed home, grabbing our fabulous swag bag on the way out. If you want to see the video re-cap, you can watch here. You can also enter to win everything you need to recreate the Patron Secret Supper in your own home here. Good luck! (If you win, I will expect to be invited)