Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Spicy Chocolate Easter Bunny Contest

Chocolate Easter bunnies have it bad. They're low on the chocolate scale, they have horrible wardrobes and they are usually thrown in with the Halloween candy months later (yuck!). Rachel Rifat of Chocolate Snob has a great contest to encourage creativity and help out the bunnies. Spice up your chocolate Easter bunny and win great prizes from tsp spices.

Here are the rules:

1. dress your chocolate easter bunny to "spice it up" (it can still be in the wrapper).

2. put it in front of a backdrop, national monument, or a homemade scene.

3. take a picture of your spicy bunny.

4. give your picture a clever title.

5. you may eat the bunny ears off but you may not do it in photoshop.

Send a high-res jpg of your spiced up bunny to Use the subject line "spicy bunny". Contest ends on March 20, 2008!!

Voting: The panel consists of complete snobs. Remember to be creative and imaginative. Email your favorite posted bunny by March 17 to determine the fan fav.

Prizes (from tsp spices):

Grand Prize Winner (most creative spiced-up bunny) prize: tsp 'spice basics' and tsp 'sweet basics' spice collections, valued at over $80

Most Green (this bunny must be environmentally sensitive) prize: tsp 'green basics' spice collection, valued at over $40

Fan Favorite - prize: tsp 'savoir fare' spice collection, valued at over $15

Best Use of Spices - prize: tsp 'sweet heat' spice collection, valued at over $15

Most Imaginative - prize: tsp 'sun shine' spice collection, valued at over $15

Check out some examples from past years at Chocolate Snob. Everyone is talking about it! (Got Art, Redondowriter's Sacred Ordinary)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pop the Cork and Open that Bottle!

Intimate and cozy La Tavola Trattoria is big on Bologna! The capital city -- and culinary capital -- of Emilia, Romagna in northern Italy has been dubbed “la grassa” or “the fat one.” Sounds like a huge inspiration for this Fifth Group Restaurant’s “La Grassa” dinner menu presenting some of the region’s best flavors Wednesday, February 20 through Saturday, March 1. Ragù, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Modena’s balsamic vinegar all claim Bologna as home and hold their own on the La Grassa menu ($6 - $21), which includes:

Antipasti -bomba di riso, rice timbale filled with peas and braised duck ragù with a salad of dressed frisèe; tagliata di Manzo, seared, thinly shaved beef with Parmigiano-Reggiano, arugula and balsamic vinegar; lentil soup with parsnips, butternut squash and a dollop of herbed ricotta; and a blood orange salad with mâche, grana padano cheese, shaved red onion and saba.
Primi- options range from saffron risotto with braised veal and beef ragù to lasagna with braised rabbit and wild mushrooms to capellacci, a sweet squash in capon broth.
Secondi - selections include bocconcini with chicken, sausage, cipollini onions, potatoes, rosemary and balsamic vinegar; grilled pork chop with radicchio, pears and vin cotto; and a roasted monkfish with potatoes, fennel, Taggiasca olives, thyme and Meyer lemon.
Dolci- delights with a cinnamon and clove budino with blueberries and saba.

The La Grassa dinner menu will be offered prix fixe or à la carte during regular dinner hours. Wine pairings selected by Fifth Group Restaurants’ Beverage Director Vajra Stratigos will be available for an additional cost. 992 Virginia Avenue; 404-873-5430.

Virtual voyeurs will want to tune in to this online exhibition video of La Tavola Trattoria Executive Chef Craig Richards preparing a roasted chicken and mild Italian sausage dish.

The staff at Canoe thinks of everything: Riverside setting, heated dining tent, four gourmet courses and delightful wines from Eyrie Vineyards, one of the first wineries in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. David Lett founded the winery in 1965 when he planted Oregon’s first Pinot Noir and America’s first Pinot Gris vines. In 1980, Eyrie’s 1975 Pinot Noir competed successfully with French Burgundy in a Paris tasting. This week, on Thursday, February 21, guests can mingle and sip at the 6:30 p.m. hors d’oeuvre reception before settling down for dinner at 7 p.m. Eyrie Winemaker and Manager Jason Lett, son of Eyrie founder David Lett, will be there to share knowledge, and Executive Chef Carvel Grant Gould’s menu will feature wine-complementing meats and seafood dishes. $125 per person (tax and gratuity included). For reservations, call Laurie Vance at 770-436-9292.

Can’t make the dinner? Eyrie wines will be featured through February 21 along with Canoe’s renowned cuisine. 4199 Paces Ferry Road, NW; 770-432-2663.

”Perhaps you know of this condition. . .that of the special bottle waiting quietly on the rack for an occasion worthy of its corkage. Get the corkscrew ready, the night is here! Saturday, February 23 is “Open That Bottle Night,” a time to celebrate good memories, favorite wines and the gifted sommeliers and beverage directors who steer us through Atlanta’s wine and beverage lists!

Would you buy a drink from a bareboat captain? Matt Bradford, Wine Director at Canoe, is that man!
After chartering a 43-foot boat through the Southern Caribbean and hiking for two months on the Appalachian Trail, selecting the perfect wine alongside the Chattahoochee River is a piece of cake for avid outdoorsman and Canoe Wine Director Mike Bradford! From the outside in, Bradford is a natural for the job. Bradford is at home managing both front-of-the-house wine and beverage operations and educating the staff so they can help patrons make wise beverage selections. The UGA alumnus, who has also served and bartended at Canoe, continues his own education by pursuing certifications from The Court of Master Sommeliers and then passing on his new knowledge to his staff. Canoe: 4199 Paces Ferry Road, NW; 770-432-2663.

In the business since age 10. . .Vajra Stratigos, Fifth Group Restaurants®’ Beverage Director
An enthusiasm for all things liquid has propelled Vajra Stratigos through the beverage world more forcefully than ice in a blender. Being born into a family of Greco-Italian restaurateurs gave Vajra an early start in the field at the age of 10. Over the years, Stratigos has racked up many professional milestones of his own: certifications from the International Wine Guild, Court of Master Sommeliers, The Wine and Spirits Education Trust and The Society of Wine Educators, and being distinguished as a “Rising Star Sommelier” by His favorite poet, Kahlil Gibran, wrote, “Work is love made visible.” Thus, Stratigos is poetry in motion. . . at his restaurants, charity events and when giving out wine advice and cocktail mixing how-to’s on his blog. Fifth Group Restaurants owns and operates Ecco, Food Studio®, La Tavola Trattoria, South City Kitchen® Midtown and Vinings and Bold American Catering®.

Cocktail chemist welcomes all! Michael Stachura, Marlow’s Tavern Director of Beverage Operations
The word “tavern,” as in Marlow’s Tavern, conjures up images of a seasoned beverage master, well-versed in the ways of welcoming guests. With a decade of experience in the hospitality and beverage industry in his glass, Michael Stachura has poured this mix into his role as Director of Beverage Operations for Marlow’s Tavern since 2004. Stachura is one part cocktail chemist and one part business: The FSU grad creates Marlow’s signature drink recipes, including the one for Atlanta’s first pomegranate martini, and develops beverage programs for Aqua Blue and High Life restaurants. On his shelf, management and development experience at East Andrews Café and Andrews Upstairs, The Tavern at Phipps, The Clubhouse, Dantanna’s and Twist. Marlow’s Tavern locations: In 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.

Hooked on French Champagne -- John David Harmon, Whole Foods Markets’ Specialty Coordinator for Wine and Cheese
John David Harmon learned two lessons at an early age: that bread was the staff of life as he earned $1 a night plating bread for his chef father, and celebrations such as New Year’s Eve call for French champagne. Years later, the UGA grad is still hooked on sparkling wine and has traveled the globe delving into wine and food. He’s written a monthly wine column for Barcelona Metropolitan while exploring the Spanish wine country and living in Spain. He earned an MBA-IM at Thunderbird, The American Graduate School in International Management in Arizona, then moved to La Paz, Bolivia as a consultant while honing his now fluent Spanish. With visions of wine and cheese still haunting him, he returned to Atlanta as cheese monger and buyer for Star Provisions before making his home at Whole Foods Market. Here, the world explorer is content to explore a seemingly endless world of new wines, beers, cheeses and chocolates. A toast of French champagne seems appropriate!

Seven locations of Whole Foods Markets in Metro Atlanta:
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, SE; 770-578-4400

VP and GMs value knowledge of the vine at Morton’s The Steakhouse
There’s more than one expert behind the wine lists at upscale Morton’s in Buckhead and Downtown: Vice President Wine and Spirits Tylor Field, Assistant General Manager-Downtown Jon Strudthoff, and Assistant General Manager-Buckhead Tim Thurman. Tylor Field began his career with Morton’s in Boston in 1990 and has since held positions of General Manager, Regional Manager-West Coast and Regional Manager-East Coast. Field, who is on the Court of Master Sommeliers (1st Level) and Millennium Board, oversees all purchasing, marketing, training and development of Morton’s beverage programs and acts as a national media spokesperson for the restaurant group’s wine and spirit program. Knowing that Morton’s guests know their wines, Field insists that all wine managers at all 78 Morton’s locations pass the Master Sommelier “Introductory Sommelier Course.” Assistant GM’s Strudthoff and Thurman have completed this in-depth Master Sommelier course of study covering wines and wine regions around the world, spirits, beer and cigars. In 2007, the Guild of Sommeliers awarded Fields the “Distinguished Service Award,” one of only eight awards given out in the world. Did we mention he conceptualized and implemented the World’s Largest Wine Bottle for the Guinness Book of World Records in 2005? That’s no trivial pursuit! Morton’s in Buckhead: Peachtree Lenox Building at 3379 Peachtree Road, NE; 404-816-6535. Morton’s Downtown: SunTrust Plaza Building, 303 Peachtree Center Avenue; 404-577-4366.

The mantra behind the meat at South City Kitchen Sunday Barbeque Nights is “from Georgia farms to Georgia’s tables.” Chew ‘cue smoked with pride from Berkshire pork and grass-fed beef worth boasting about, raised the natural way right here in north Georgia on small, family-owned and operated Riverview Farms. Savor slow-smoked beef brisket, molasses and spice-crusted pork shoulder and country-style ribs all served with Carolina-style mustard sauce, vinegar sauce and sweet red sauce. Barbecue and sides are served family style. $19.95 for adults, $9.95 for children 12 and under.

South City Kitchen Midtown: 1144 Crescent Avenue; 404-873-7358. South City Kitchen Vinings: 1675 Cumberland Parkway; 770-435-0700.

Pour one for the paparazzi! Wines will star at the 9th Annual Oscars of Wine, benefiting the High Museum of Art, from 4 – 7 p.m. at TROIS on Sunday, February 24, 2008. Before the five categories of winning wines make it to the “envelope please” phase, they will have been selected for the event by an elite group of wine connoisseurs, judged for “Judges’ Choice” by a team of celebrity judges, and voted on for the “People’s Choice” Oscar by event patrons. Twisting the cork even further, it turns out that the wine selectors -- Fifth Group Restaurants®’ Beverage Director Vajra Stratigos, The Wine Store’s Chris Hinton, Atlanta’s Wine Maverick Rick Stack and Quality Wine and Spirits’ Michael McNeill -- are vying against each other with the hopes that their selections will be voted tops by the participants and celebrity judges!

Tickets for the Oscars of Wine are $45 per person in advance or $50 at the door. Call 404-815-3337 to make reservations.

Oscar voter or not, you can pick up beverage insights and how-to videos from last year’s expert panel winner, Vajra Stratigos, on his new blog. Become more familiar with Vajra’s selections at Fifth Group Restaurants around Atlanta: South City Kitchen® Midtown, South City Kitchen Vinings, Food Studio®, La Tavola Trattoria, Ecco, and Bold American® Catering. For more information, call 678-302-3251 or visit

invites you to come meet internationally acclaimed wine importer Eric Solomon of European Cellars at an exclusive reception from 6 – 8 p.m. on Monday, February 25. Sample Eric’s newest releases, rub elbows with industry insiders and enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres. Wines available at the reception include:

Artadi, “Orobio,” Rioja, Spain 2004
Castano, “Hecula,” Yecla, Spain 2004
Mi Nina, Tempranillio, Spain 2004
Mustaguillio, “Mestizaje,” Spain 2004
Pago Alto Landon, Manchuela, Spain 2004
Paisajes, “Paisajes IX,” Rioja, Spain 2004
Rafael Palacios, “Louro do Bolo,” Valdeorras, Spain 2005
Tikalo, “Kios,” La Mancha, Spain 2003
Vidanueva, Rueda Blanco, Rueda, Spain 2006
Mas Que Vinos, “Ercavio Blanco,” Spain 2005

Tickets for the VIP reception are $20 and can be applied toward dinner at Ecco that evening. For reservations, call Ecco at 404-347-9555. 40 7th Street in Midtown.

Decant more knowledge about Eric Solomon Selections at

For the past six years Aqua Blue Restaurant & Bar has drawn diners looking for affordable luxury and global cuisine to its Roswell location. Ready for a new face and look, owners John C. Metz Jr., Tom DiGiorgio, Richard E. Rivera and Hank Clark brought General Manager Brian Longacre to the Aqua Blue scene, which, by the way, has been redesigned and decorated. Steeped in the business of hospitality, Longacre knows well the nuances of generosity and attentiveness that turn a neighborhood restaurant into an extension of the home. Longacre comes to Aqua Blue with managing experience at Ray’s in the City in Atlanta, Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse, and several country clubs including Olde Towne Athletic Club, The Georgian Club and Brookstone Golf & Country Club here in Georgia.

On the décor side, take a look at the new patio, the dining room’s new deep blue hues and a private event room that’s ideal for up 30 guests, corporate events and the restaurant’s upcoming winemaker dinners. Open for dinner nightly; live entertainment on Thursdays and Fridays. 1564 Holcomb Bridge Road in Roswell; 770-643-8886.

If you’re wondering what Trilogy’s Wednesday Karaoke nights are like, check out this video for an inside look at all the fun. Even if you didn’t quite make the cut for “American Idol” or “Singing Bee” (perhaps “America’s Funniest Home Videos” is more your style), you can belt it out with the best of them at Trilogy every Wednesday night beginning at 8:30 p.m. for karaoke. There’s no cover charge, and the fun is open to anyone and everyone. Make a night of it by coming earlier for dinner or for libations to loosen up those pipes and douse any vestiges of stage fright! You’ll find Trilogy in East Cobb at 4930 Davidson Road; 770-971-4770.

We’ve all clicked on them, blogs that sound so enticing. . .yet turn out to be nothing but yada, yada, yada. Not this thyme, posts more than a dash of spice history and facts, uses, recipes and more from the “cardaMoms.” We’re sure The Seasoned Palate of the “cardaMoms” can one-teaspoon-up spice girls any day!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Groundhog Day at Black Bear Tavern

I recently attended the annual Groundhog Day party at Black Bear Tavern. Not only was the beer flowin' and band crankin', this little fella was shakin' it all night long to the tune of, "Get Down Tonight" by K.C. & The Sunshine Band. He must have been quite excited about his prediction of 6 more weeks of winter -- he came dressed in Mardi Gras attire.