Dining at The W

Hotel restaurants typically don’t have a good perception when it comes to offering superior quality food or unique cuisines. But the W Atlanta – Midtown is an exception.

Inspired by its Georgia location, TRACE restaurant incorporates southern cuisine in the menu, using seasonal locally sourced ingredients.

The Midtown Atlanta hotel can be described as urban chic at best. Glamorously dressed people can be found getting out of their uber expensive cars into the illuminated car port. The lobby feels like a trendy lounge with live DJ, as patrons cheer their martini glasses.

TRACE is located up a flight of stairs, on the second floor of the hotel. Walking past the bar feels like you have entered a massive den/ library/ man cave. The bar is beautiful, but the stack of cookbooks by local authors displayed on the shelves catches my attention. Krista Reese, Kevin Gillespie, to name a few…

The interior of TRACE is contemporary, yet comfy. Tall glass windows line one of the walls of the room, while the exposed ceiling creates a feeling of a warehouse. Then there are colored pots and pans covering an entire wall, dark wood floors, and giant blue gray screens hanging from the ceiling. I feel like I’m in a 21st century barn!

Cocktails are the main attraction at TRACE. In addition to regional brews and global wines, hand crafts cocktails with unique names are rotated off the menu often. My favorite was Anger Management (perfect after a tough week right?) with mango vodka, agave, pineapple and orange juice. The powdered habanero around the rim of the glass is sure to give you a burn with each sip. Gotta Wear Shades (I told you the names are creative) was also quite refreshing for a bourbon drink. It had fresh blackberry/ blueberry juice, peach bitters and Ridgemont Reserve 1792.

The menu is sectioned into shared plates, salads, entrees and sides. Southern favorites such as fried gulf oysters, deviled eggs, and thrice cooked wings are nostalgic starters. The oysters are fresh are corn flour battered, served with spicy rep pepper jelly aioli. The mushroom and goat cheese toast is hearty and delicious. Grilled salmon is seared crisp on the outside and tender in the center. It feels more of a personal entree than an app plate though. Everything comes with generous portions of healthy greens sourced from GA farms.

The crab and avocado salad was my favorite. Again, a good portion of greens is topped with fresh steamed jumbo lump crab meat is perfect for seafood lovers, and the grilled avocado adds a surprise element to each bite. Gulf catch  of the day, grouper in this case, was chewy, though well seasoned with with black pepper, and sat on some very spicy cooked kale. Another twist I enjoyed was the pimiento mac and cheese. Though the pimento made the dish a bit runny, the toasted bread crumbs added a crisp nice texture.

For dessert, I tried the chocolate mousse cake, a rather rich flourless version with dark creamy mousse. The raspberry and chocolate sauces were a bit runny for my taste, but good enough to lick the plate clean!

Farm to Table Southern Style

Enter the kitchen of Chef Thaddeus Barton to find authentic flavors of the South, blended with his culinary skills from Chicago, San Francisco, Ohio and Portland. At Farmhouse, the main restaurant located at Serenbe Farms (south of Atlanta), the chef and farmer come together each morning to plan a locally inspired menu. Ashley (the farmer) gives an inventory of vegetables and herbs growing on the property, and Chef Barton changes the menu weekly. Ingredients are not only sourced from Serenbe, but also neighboring farms in Georgia and around the south.

serenbe farms

The first thing you have to try on the dinner menu is the Farmhouse Yeast Rolls. These are melt-in-your-mouth buttery-warm biscuit style bread rolls that are comforting at all levels. It is very difficult to stop once you grab one bite! Chef Barton says he played around with the recipe till he got it “just right.”

yeast rolls at serenbe farm

A popular dish in the south is Fried Catfish. Delicate fillets of fish are breaded with rustic corn flour and deep fried till crispy. These are served with a red chili sauce to turn up the heat.

fried catfish at serenbe

No visit to Georgia is complete without Fried Green Tomatoes. This classic southern recipe has slight variations in the batter, sauce, and presentation (I have enjoyed ones with blue cheese). The tomatoes are picked from the gardens at Serenbe located right outside the Farmhouse restaurant. It is highly encouraged that you take a short walk around the campus before sitting down for a gastronomic feast.

fried green tomatoes serenbe

Chef Barton keeps true to his diverse culinary experiences when serving the Jambalaya Risotto. Peppery flavored shrimp, chicken, and sausage in perfectly looked arborio – oh my!

Jambalaya Risotto

If you crave for those weekend dinners at your grandmothers home, come to Serenbe on a Sunday. The Farmhouse serves a mean Fried Chicken, with green beans and mashed potatoes (sides change weekly) from 11:30am-6pm.

The desserts are southern as they can be – satisfying Red Velvet Cheesecake, crunchy and not overwhelmingly sweet Pecan Bourbon Pie, and a cake-like Peach Cobbler.

To wash it all down, try the Farmhouse Martini (Hangar 1 Vodka, Cointreau, Organic Cranberry Juice, Lime Juice, Prosecco), a glass of the Lavender Champagne, or select from a comprehensive bar menu.

Serenbe also features a Southern Chef Series that includes cooking classes and book signings with celebrity chefs from the south. Coming up in 2015: Linton Hopkins from Restaurant Eugene, Kevin Gillespie of Gunshow, Asha Gomez of Spice to Table, Gerry Klaskala of Aria, Ford Fry of The Optimist (plus a few others), Art Smith of Southern Art, Iron Chef Chris Hastings, and TV personality Nathalie Dupree. Reservations need to be made months in advance.

Additionally, the Serenbe Farmers and Artisan Market runs from May – October and is open to the public. Enjoy a meal in the country and take some bounties home to cook with!

Click here to make a reservation at The Farmhouse at Serenebe Farms.

Momma throws down

 

My Momma Throws Down is a new comedic cooking competition that will be airing on TV One starting in April 2012. It is hosted by Ralph Harris (as seen on Last Comic Standing) and produced by Triage Entertainment (who produced Iron Chef America).

Yesterday, I went to the filming of the show at Turner Studios in Atlanta. It was actually quite an entertaining experience.

First of all, the set was beautifully done with two stations for each of the competitors, neatly organized pantries and starlit ceilings. The competition starts out with family members of the mamma’s who swear by the food she cooks. They have to nominate (or mominate) their mom’s to be the best cook out there.

The lively supporters also have to engage in a round of “smack down” where they verbally (in good humor) attack the opponent, saying “Your mama cooks so bad….no one shows up for dinner, there is a state of emergency…etc.”

In another round, one family member from each team is blindfolded and asked to taste and decided who has the most delicious dish. Often times, the person is unable to pick his/her own mamma’s food and ends up disappointing her!

The celebrity judges on the show include African-American foodies, actors, authors and more. Yesterday, there was Jessica Harris, Malinda Williams, Vanessa Williams and Nicole Ari Parker. The judges had to taste the competing dishes and decide which one was the best. In the first challenge, the winning signature dish won $500 and in the second challenge the two mamma’s had to cook an entire meal racing against the clock. The winning mamma won a prize of $2,500 in cash.

While there are hardly any elements of The Iron Chef in this show, it is a family-friendly lighthearted comedy with the backdrop of a kitchen feud. It gives an opportunity for everyday mom’s to shine and be valued for what they do for their families day after day.