As I've mentioned before in this blog, I recently joined the Atlanta Food Bloggers Alliance, which I was hoping would get me posting more regularly, but that has obviously not happened. What has happened, is that I now have even more exciting things to not write posts on =) Take for example the first AFBA meetup of 2011 at PACCI and Alto Rex. Their effervescent Executive Chef Keira Moritz was kind enough to host our little group to a fun cooking demo, tons of tasty food to sample, and even homemade marshmallows for us to roast and turn into s'mores afterwards.
Keira is one of my favorite chefs in Atlanta, as much for her genuinely kind personality, as for her delicious take on Italian cuisine. That her food is amazing should be no surprise, you aren't appointed executive chef at a major restaurant at age 28 unless you have some real skills. Although this Valdosta native swore she wouldn't come back to the south, I think Atlantans should be very happy that this talent returned to her southern roots.
The logistics of our meetup could have been a problem, because, of course, a hotel
kitchen is open at all hours. (Side note,Chef Keira and her capable team run all the catering for the meeting space at the hotel, so if you are planning a meeting, you can be sure you won't receive dry chicken and rice-out-of-a-box here.) Luckily there is a kitchen at the shuttered-for-the-season Alto Rex rooftop bar. Although the current kitchen is certified to serve cold food only, the hotel has plans to update the space and the offerings at this hot spot very soon.
On the menu for the day were a grilled romaine Caesar salad with Chef Keira's dressing made with coddled egg, which impressed me no end as I am tired of being told that your aren't at risk for salmonella if you know where your eggs come from. Salmonella is a bacteria that a large number of chickens harbor, causing them no ill effects whatsoever, but that is easily transmitted from the hen to the yolk where it can't be detected until you undercook it and get sick. You can keep one chicken in your own backyard and still have salmonella as it can be in their feed or they can even get infected from a single common fly. Rant over.
We also got to taste gnocchi with gorgonzola, walnuts, sage and brown butter, an Italian classic, always a tasty preparation. Chef Keira even made two batches as there is an AFBA member with a walnut allergy. As for me, I could happily have eaten dozens of those buttery little potato pillows.
Next came the crespelle, these were stuffed with a mixture of sauteed pears and ricotta. I personally thought that a little nutella would not have been amiss, but these were perfectly seasonal and appropriate topped with more brown butter and some micro basil. I actually didn't get a chance to taste these, or the s'mores that followed, because I managed to over-schedule myself, as usual. I had 4:00 reservations for afternoon tea at Watershed with my mom and grandmother, who was visiting from Minnesota, so I had to dash out before the end of the meetup, but I thoroughly enjoyed the time I had with Chef Keira and her team and all of my friends of the AFBA.
If you would like to try some of the delicious food at PACCI, including some of the same items we were fortunate enough to sample, Chef Keira has generously offered my readers the below coupon for a complimentary carpaccio or dessert with the purchase of an entree. Go taste for yourself and let me know what you think!