Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spring Has Sprung?

Yes it is January, the 29th to be exact, but today we had one of those perfect prelude-to-Spring types of days that we are occasionally graced with here in Atlanta during the winter months. Temperatures in the high 60's, clear blue sky with just a few scattered wisps of clouds, a light breeze - this is flip-flop weather, this is patio weather. I will admit I spent more of it than I wanted toinside, but tomorrow I plan todo better. After such an unusually cold, icy, snowy period it is nice to see Atlantans coming back outside. I saw several tweets and facebook updates with statuses like "had a pizza picnic in the park" or "so nice to see the patio full at lunchtime again". That got me thinking about some of my favorite outdoor dining destinations, with Canoe coming in at the very top of the list.

If you haven't been, they have an amazing location on the banks of the Chattahoochee that they maximize to the fullest with a riverfront bar with live music during nice weather, manicured paths to meander through the landscaped grounds, as well as arguably the best patio in the city. Thankfully, the food lives up to the setting, making it one of my top brunch spots, as well as a solid pick for dinner. In fact, I even chose Canoe for my company's holiday dinner this year and was pleased when my co-workers enjoyed the food as much as I do. I like the consistency that comes out of Chef Carvel Grant Gould's kitchen because I know that I can order both old favorites and nightly specials and be equally happy with both. On my last visit I did just that. I started with a salad of port wine poached pears, beautiful greens, spiced nuts, blue cheese. What made this dish exceed my expectations, other than the fresh ingredients, which should be a given, was the dressing. This wasn't your run-of-the-mill vinaigrette, it had dried fruit blended into it and it transformed the salad into something like dessert, in the very best way.

I went from that to one of Canoe's classics, the smoked salmon. I love that they are now offering it in two sizes so that those of us who are addicts can still order it every time we come in, but also enjoy other things from the menu without feeling like we have eaten enough for 15 people. I love the velvety texture of the house-smoked salmon against the crispy texture of the potato pancake and the creamy goat cheese thatties it all together. Make sure that you eat every last sprig of micro-basil, that stuff packs tons of flavor, don't assume it's thereto make the plate pretty. Even if you aren't a fan of smoked salmon, I'm not, try this, it is not the oily, fishy stuff you are used to getting.

As I had already eaten both a salad and the smoked salmon, I wanted to stick to the small plates for my entree. I was happy I had when my Pekin style quail was placed in front of me. The meat was perfectly cooked and I freely admit that I picked it up with my fingers to better suck every last morsel off those tiny little bird bones. The Asian flavor profile was further picked up in the chillied collard greens the bird lay on and in the star anise boiled peanuts scattered about the plate.

You might assume that after consuming three small plates, I would be skipping dessert. You would be wrong. As I'm sure you've gathered by now, this isn't the kind of place that writes off dessert by placing orders to some commercial bakery. They take as much care with the final course as they do with all of the others. My current favorite, even in the heart of winter, is the buttered popcorn ice cream. It tastes exactly like caramel corn and not just because it sits on a pile of house made cracker jack. The popcorn flavor is steeped into the custard and is so good you will ignore all threats of brain freeze and dive right into it. Trust me, the pain is worth it.


  1. Chef Grant brought the popcorn ice cream to Corks and Forks. I probably ate about 8 cups.

  2. Oh my that meal looks lovely and I'm so glad you didn't skip dessert because that ice cream sounds amazing!