Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Taste of Atlanta Barcraft Competition 2014

E. Tyler Alford's winning drink

If you've been trying to decide which day to go to Taste of Atlanta this year, my suggestion is to do both Saturday and Sunday, because, trust me, you do not want to miss out on the Barcraft Competition presented by Fernet-Branca! I went to the Quarter Finals that were held at the Painted Pin, Bellwoods Social House and the Family Dog, and the contestants who are competing for the coveted title made some amazing cocktails!

First, let me say thank you for the amazing hospitality shown by all of the venues hosting the Quarter Finals, the food was all delicious, and the punch, don't even get me started! Graham Lansford's punch at Bellwoods - Cutty Sark Prohibition, Stirrings Ginger liqueur, black and almond tea rich syrup, fresh, unstrained lemon juice, a splash of club soda and fresh thyme leaves was so very easy to drink, I had to stop myself from chugging the entire bowl!

Graham's punch

The first round at Painted Pin featured some of the fruitiest entries with lots of pineapple, coconut, berries and even hibiscus, which paired beautifully with the featured spirit, the Fernet-Branca. The Semi Finalist selected was Bobby Eldridge from Empire State South, whose Tiki inspired cocktail was as beautiful to look at as it was tasty to drink. 

Bobby Eldridge

The next round at Bellwoods featured some stiff competition, but E. Tyler Alford from Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville, beat out all of our Atlanta favorites. I will say his Bull's Blood concoction was pretty amazing, I even asked for the recipe. He said he would email it to me, but he hasn't, so I'll have to try and get it from him this weekend.

E. Tyler Alford

The last round was held at the Family Dog after a last minute venue change and despite more stiff competition from some of my favorite people - Paige Lane, Graham Lansford, Timothy Thiel and  Leo de Rivera, yet another out-of-towner took the prize, Marcelo Nascimento from the Social in Chattanooga. 

Marcelo Nascimento

Luckily Atlanta's bartenders got a second chance to advance when Charles Freeland from the Painted Pin won the coveted crowd favorite spot. He knows how to work social media, he even created an event on Facebook to get all of his friends out to vote for him, take note less savvy competitors!

Charles Freeland
There was one more Wild Card entry, Rich Stradtman of Baraonda, who supposedly won based on the creativity of his cocktail name, but I'm pretty sure it was because he brought bowls full of whiskey infused chocolates. I may have eaten half a pound of them, so I can tell you they were ah-MAZ-ing!!!!

Rich Stradtman
Please come out on Saturday and Sunday and help make this a local Atlantan only final round of the Barcraft Competition, sorry Marcelo and Tyler, but I want my guys to win!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Flowers

Helleborus 'Pink Lady' ?

This has been an unusually cold winter for us here in GA, so I am so happy to see a few signs of Spring!

Hamamelis 'Diane'

Hamamelis 'Jelena'

Unfortunately, my camellias dislike the cold as much as I do.

As this past weekend was so warm, I thought my tropicals needed an outing, so I brought them out to enjoy the sun and a nice bath.

Polypodium aurem 'Mandianum'
What can I say, I like hairy feet - in ferns, that is.

Polypodium aurem 'Mandianum'
Fuzzy fern fronds unferling...

My bog orchid always blooms at this time of year, as does my favorite begonia Phil, although his blooms didn't last due to being kept under the heat vents in my office. Poor Phil.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Don Antonio by Starita

Antonio Starita
If you are a long time reader of this blog, you probably remember my post on STG Trattoria from a couple of years ago. For a while, it was my favorite pizza spot in town, with fun cocktails and the best panna cotta I'd ever tasted. Then their pizzaiolo ran into some trouble, Josh Hopkins left for Empire State South and it just wasn't the same after that, so I continued on my quest for the perfect pizza. Fast forward to Les Dames d'Escoffier Afternoon in the Country in November where I was lucky enough to get the last, room temperature slice of margarita pizza being handed out by a lovely Italian gentleman, Roberto Caporuscio. Even though it wasn't hot and the crust was decidedly limp, I could tell that it had the potential to be a truly delicious slice of pizza. During our conversation, I found out that he was representing a new, not yet opened pizza place called Don Antonio by Starita. When I asked where they were located, I was surprised to hear that they were opening in the STG space.

Potato Croquet
I waited patiently for the grand opening, what seemed like forever, but was really only two months. I was fortunate enough to attend a preview night where I got to sample quite a few things off the almost overwhelmingly large menu. The biggest surprise for me were all of the tasty antipasti, from the croquets with their velvety soft potato interior and oozy cheese creating a lovely contrast to their crispy exterior, to the completely insane home made burrata filled with truffled cream, it's hard not to fill up on them while you wait for your pizza.

Fried dough stuffed with provolone and pepper
Luckily, the pizzas only take about 90 seconds to cook, so if you don't want to stuff yourself silly on all the lovely starters, you can just dive right into the pizza.

Italian Old Fashioned
As with STG before, they have a solid list of cocktails, including an Aperol Spritz that will be a big hit when the heat comes back to Atlanta, and my personal favorite, the Italian Old Fashioned. Let me just say that I am not a Scotch drinker, but somehow, this drink tastes like caramel and vanilla and everything delicious. Plus, I can never pass up any drink topped with cherries.

The pizza choices are completely different from anything else being offered in town, both because they have a number of gluten free options that are apparently as good as the real thing, and because they offer different shapes and styles than I have ever seen before. The Rachetta, above, has a "handle" stuffed with ricotta and mushrooms as well as the mixed vegetables and mozzarella on the "head", so it's like getting two pizzas in one.Their signature Montanara Starita is a lightly fried disc of dough, topped with their flavorful tomato sauce, little pieces of intensely smoky mozzarella and fresh basil, baked in the oven for another few seconds to melt the cheese and then served. I will say, when I went back with a friend, the sauce was actually cold, but I didn't really mind because I was wolfing it down too fast to pay much attention to minor problems.

Prosciutto e Arugula
With over 50 different pizzas to choose from, there is sure to be something on the menu for everyone. The Prosciutto e Arugula was one of my favorites, with the salty ham and bitter arugula, as was the Pistachio e Salsiccia with pistachio pesto, fennel-y sausage, creamy mozzarella, it was wonderful.

Nutella Pizza
It's worth saving room for dessert, if you are a nutella fan, it's their slightly sourdough crust baked, sliced open and slathered with a generous smear of melty nutella, cut into wedges and dusted with powdered sugar. You may want to eat an entire one yourself. If you want to see more of my pictures from Don Antonio by Starita, and other restaurants around town, follow me on Instagram.

Don Antonio by Starita
102 West Paces Ferry Rd NW
Atlanta, GA
Phone: 404-844-2879

Monday-Thursday:  Lunch 11:30AM-2:30PM, Dinner 5:00PM-10:00PM
Friday & Saturday:  Lunch 11:30AM-2:30PM, Dinner 5:00PM-11:30PM