Friday, February 1, 2008

Ecco: Cocktails, Cheese and Charles!

After hearing such great things about Ecco, I decided it was finally time for me to visit once and for all. My roommate (Whitney) and I decided to have dinner there Tuesday night for some much needed catching up. I was ready for amazing food, beautiful scenery and great conversation. Well, I got all that and more during my first visit to this popular Atlanta eatery.

First we ordered drinks. I decided even though I was not a big fan of gin, I had to try the award winning Long Live the Queen cocktail (pictured left). It was truly a wonderful concoction and a great way to start off the night. It surprised me with its sweet citrus flavor and a hint of mint. It didn’t have that overwhelming gin flavor that I presumed it would.

Our meal was delicious to say the least and our waiter, Charles (pictured right with Whitney), was truly one of a kind. He was so energetic and gave great recommendations from the menu. We hit it off with him right from the start and he even sat down and talked with us a few times.

After chatting with Charles, we decided to sample a few meats and cheeses, the fried goat cheese with honey (pictured left), the pork and beef meatballs, the sweet gem lettuce salad and lastly, we ended with a caramelized onion and white anchovies wood fired pizza. My favorite was the fried goat cheese; it was like a cloud of yummy cheese in a sweet funnel cake-type batter – truly heaven! Overall it was a great night at Ecco. I enjoyed the drinks, the food and Charles!

Fun Sips at Food Studio

Meryl and I decided to stop by Food Studio earlier this week to try out the restaurant’s new cocktail menu…we sampled the Nectarita (Partida Blanco Tequila with agave nectar and lime pulp), Rosemaya (Hendrick’s Cucumber and Rose Petal Gin chilled and served up with rose water essence) and New Fashioned (Makers Mark Bourbon and pomegranate molasses with the classic muddle). All three are $12. Meryl is the biggest margarita lover I know and she gave the Nectarita four thumbs up (yes, four - you will be seeing double after a few of these). My favorite was the Rosemaya – the rose water finish makes this one SO refreshing. Always friendly bartender Andrew and Beverage Manager Chris Dean will keep you entertained while you throw back some delicious drinks for a fun evening on the Westside. If you find yourself in need of sustenance as lavish as these libations, Chef Mark Alba creates the best foie gras dishes in the city. It’s currently being served with a mini biscuit and kumquat compote. Get it while you can - the kumquats come straight from Alba’s father’s backyard in Louisiana!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

An Interview with the Pasta Princess: Elisa Gambino

Elisa Gambino, owner of Via Elisa Fresh Pasta, answers a few questions about her life outside the pasta shop. But if you want to know more about her pasta and how healthy pasta can be, read this article from yesterday's AJC.
What's your fondest childhood memory?
Finding a blue velvet winter coat under the Christmas tree when I was 10.
What's your most memorable moment?
Meeting Nelson Mandela during the first free elections in South Africa.
Who's the most famous person you've cooked for?
Paul McCartney and his band.
Who's your favorite singer?
I love Seal and think he is so sexy.
If you were on a deserted island and could only take one kitchen tool, what would it be?
I'd take my food mill so my sauce would be nice and smooth.
Do you have a facebook page?
Yes, I have one and so does the store. Sign up to be my friend!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Shades of Gray

There’s no doubt Team MLA has incredible synergy. For example, today most of us arrived at the office wearing different outfits all in the same color scheme, like a memo had gone out the night before detailing the uniform color of day. Oh well, great time for a photo shoot. Get out of my head girls…this is getting weird.

Atlanta Restaurants Bring Big Eats for the Big Game

Remember that Re-solutions pledge you made with Whole Foods Market back on January 1? We’ve listed market-fresh re-solutions to help you recover from two common midwinter conditions: cabin kitchen fever and dead-of-winter doldrums. First, resolve to dine out and try some new light-hearted recipes and wines. Second, get crazy at a Mardi Gras parade and “laissez les bons temps rouler!”

Dine at the Five & Wine in Whole Foods Market-Buckhead on Thursday, January 31
This month’s Healthy Resolutions Dinner features five light and healthy courses with wine pairings at 7 p.m. on January 31 in the Café. Punt any preconceived notions that healthy is bland when you try this menu featuring almond-crusted sea scallops and more. $30 per person; reservations and payment must be made by January 30 at customer service. Whole Foods Market - Buckhead: 77 West Paces Ferry Road, NW; 404-324-4100.

Mardi Gras Marches into Whole Foods Market – Sandy Springs on Saturday, February 2
To accommodate the schedules of fun-loving soccer moms and dads and hoop-hollering basketball fans, Whole Foods Market – Sandy Springs is sporting its annual Mardi Gras parade…during two time slots. Make one a priority: 11 a.m. or 3 p.m. Every department has whipped up a float and will fuel the frolicking with beads and goodies. Whole Foods Market – Sandy Springs: 5930 Roswell Road; 404-236-0810.

More than 35 restaurants, pubs and novelty feeds will be dishing out their delicacies at the 5th Annual Taste of Dunwoody on February 1, 2008 from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at the W Atlanta Perimeter. (111 Perimeter Center West; 770-396-6800). Two of our favorites include Aqua Blue and Hi Life…ah, but we digress…there’ll be everything from tapas to ribs to European desserts, a cash bar, a silent auction and live music by RELIX at Dunwoody’s tastiest fundraiser. $35 per person. All proceeds benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Tap into a list of participating restaurants and more event info by clicking on “Supporting Children’s” at

Over the years, America’s Super Bowl has become a Supper Bowl as screen-side noshing competes with on-screen action (and let’s not overlook those memorable commercials and half-times). The American Institute of Food Distribution ranks the Super Bowl as the second-largest food consumption event of the year behind Thanksgiving. Thank goodness Atlanta restaurants have super strategies for a winning evening, no matter who you’re rooting for come kick off on February 3.

Develop your game plan at Salud! Lifestyle & Cooking School inside Whole Foods Market in Duluth-Johns Creek. Meat dishes and craft beers are all-star players at this “Football Party” from 7 – 9 p.m. on Tuesday, January 29. Meat expert Nathan Coutts will lead the class on a play-by-play through the meat department and with recipes for hearty eats. Try best-ever bison chili, smoky raspberry chipotle wings and ultimate nachos with pan-seared fajita meat and fresh guacamole. Tackle thirst with craft beer samples. $35 per person. 5945 State Bridge Road; 678-514-2400.

Chipotle Mexican Grill sacks the snack competition on Super Sunday!
Prior to kick-off, call in the play to Chipotle, then touch down briefly to pick up your pre-ordered burrito boxes-to-go. MVP status will be yours when you arrive cradling one of these sturdy, heat-retaining boxes filled with up to 25 of Chipotle’s plump burritos packed with marinated and grilled, naturally raised chicken, pork or beef and fresh fixings. Pre-order your burrito box in person, by phone or by fax and pick up before the party. Sorry party mix, you don’t stand a chance against this delicious defensive line! For locations, visit

Marlow's Tavern sends out a strong starting line up that will carry your team through the game: Super Bowl Party Platters. Order by Saturday, February 2 for pick up on Sunday, February 3. Pick your players:

· Chicken wings in a choice of flavors including teriyaki, lemon pepper, original, spicy, hot honey mustard and sweet chili (20 wings for $15; 30 wings for $20; 40 wings for $25).
· Marlow’s famous hummus with pita chips, carrot sticks and celery sticks ($12 for a serving for 20 people).
· Slammin’ slider platter with cheeseburger sliders and chicken melt sliders ($15 for 10).
· Veggie crudités platter with celery, carrots, red peppers, broccoli, French beans and sun-dried tomatoes with Parmesan ranch ($10 serving 10 people; $20 serving 20 people; larger sizes available).
· Crab pot stickers with soy glaze and sweet chili sauce (10 for $10; 20 for $20).
· A selection of wraps including turkey, roast beef and grilled buffalo chicken served with fresh kettle chips (10 pieces for $20; 20 pieces for $40).

Available at all Marlow’s Tavern locations: Alpharetta at 3719 Old Alabama Road, 770-475-1800; Kennesaw at 745 Chastain Road, NW, 770-425-8777; Midtown at 950 West Peachtree Street, 404-815-0323; and Vinings at 2355 Cumberland Parkway, 770-432-2526.

South City Kitchen Vinings knows Southerners love their tailgating fare as much as they love football, so they’re offering a super Southern approach for grid iron gourmets. The food is fab, and you’ll be much more comfortable than you would be tailgating in a stadium lot! Make a first down in crab and cheese fondue ($9); and continue to score with black bean dip ($6.75); smoky hot wings ($9.50); green chili with hominy, shrimp and braised pork ($8.50); loose meat po boy ($9.50); fried shrimp po boy ($10.50); muffaletta ($9.50); and smoked chicken Caesar salad ($10.25). Quenchers include Terrapin beer for $3 per bottle. South City Kitchen Vinings: 1675 Cumberland Parkway; 770-435-0700.

Trilogy is the place to go for team spirit with a pre-game party begining at 4 p.m. then playing on through the game and beyond. Bring your team of fans for buffet fare, game day favorites and Budweiser specials along with 14 42" LCD screens for better-than-stadium seating! $10 per person. East Cobb at 4930 Davidson Road; 770-859-0041.

A Whole Foods Market reusable shopping bag is your newest perfect accessory!
Plastic is so passé…or actually, that’s the problem. Plastic bags can take 1,000 years to pass away, ending up as litter, landfill fodder and marine-life hazards -- while depleting natural resources -- during the interim. Whole Foods Market, the world’s leading natural and organic foods supermarket, is “bagging” the use of plastic bags at the checkouts in all of its 270 stores in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. with the goal to be plastic-bag free by Earth Day, April 22, 2008. While many cities and countries are placing restrictions on single-use plastic shopping bags, Whole Foods Market is the first U.S. supermarket to commit to the cause. Already, the supermarket is depleting bag stocks on hand while increasing the selection of reusable bags available for purchase. For years, Whole Foods Market shoppers have been given five or ten cent refunds at checkouts for bringing their own bags. Trend-setting shoppers will want to go ahead and purchase the stores’ inexpensive yet colorful and sturdy reusable shopping bags to use now as they work their way into a reusable mindset by Earth Day! Learn more at

Atlanta Whole Foods Market locations include:

Buckhead: 77 West Paces Ferry Road, NW; 404-324-4100
Briarcliff: 2111 Briarcliff Road; 404-634-7800
Duluth-Johns Creek: 5945 State Bridge Road; 678-514-2400
Sandy Springs: 5930 Roswell Road; 404-236-0810
Ponce: 650 Ponce de Leon Avenue, NE; 404-853-1681
Harry’s Farmers Market in Alpharetta: 1180 Upper Hembree Road; 770-664-6300
Harry’s Farmers Market in Marietta: 70 Powers Ferry Road, S.E.; 770-578-4400

Fifth Group Restaurants® and their guests recently tackled a formidable opponent, hunger, by fielding two successful events at three of the company’s restaurants. Everyone who participated was an MVP, helping to bring in 1,600 pounds of canned goods to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Ecco hosted “Friend & Foe” night on December 18, raffling off four pairs of tickets to the Auburn vs. Clemson match up at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, accompanied by one-night stays for two at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. South City Kitchen Midtown and Vinings traded raffle tickets for canned goods on January 16, giving away three pairs of tickets to the NHL All-Star Game on January 27 at Philips Arena. Fifth Group Restaurant’s newly updated Web site,, has the details on South City Kitchen Midtown and Vinings, Ecco, La Tavola Trattoria, Food Studio and Bold American Catering. For wine recommendations and pairings, cocktail recipes and demonstration videos from Fifth Group Restaurants’ Beverage Director Vajra Stratigos, check out his “Vajra Straight Up” blog at

South City Kitchen Midtown: 1144 Crescent Avenue; 404-873-7358
South City Kitchen Vinings: 1675 Cumberland Parkway; 770-435-0700
Ecco: 40 7th Street at the corner of Cypress Street in Midtown; 404-347-9555

The Atlanta Community Food Bank has fought hunger by engaging, educating and empowering our community since 1979. It distributes almost two million pounds of food and other donated grocery items monthly to more than 800 nonprofit partner agencies in 38 counties in metro Atlanta and North Georgia.

Monday, January 28, 2008

There’s No Bull About it, Cuerno is a Keeper!

I have to admit, my heart belongs to Beleza, Riccardo Ullio’s other recently opened restaurant on the ground floor of the 905 Juniper condos where I spend way too many evenings. But when his Spanish spot Cuerno opened next door a couple weeks ago, I was itching to try it. No disappointments here. I sipped on the white sangria (made with Viura and Cointreau and garnished with star fruit) – refreshing and delicious. The restaurant has snagged a great bartender, Jason, who used to work at Murphy’s. We sampled a few of the tapas to start, including the ham croquettes, potato and onion tortilla and a scallop tart with sofrito (pictured above). These dishes were definitely my favorite part of the meal and were quite filling; I probably could have done without the rest of the dinner altogether but what fun is that the first time around? So we tested out the lobster paella (for two) and the bacalao. While a bit pricey, the paella contained plenty of lobster left in the shell which made for a lovely presentation, and was worth every penny. For some strange reason, Cuerno’s décor reminds me of scenery from the movie Romeo & Juliet (the modernized adaptation from 1996), which I’ll also admit to adoring. It has a dark, yet warm and pleasant ambience with charcoal walls, fabulous chandeliers, maroon and gold drapes and dark wood. And then of course, there’s the giant metal bull in the front of the restaurant welcoming guests as they walk in…