Tag Archives: Atlanta

Oh My Ganache!

THIS RECIPE IS A FINALIST IN THE GREAT AMERICAN BAKING CONTEST IN ATLANTA! Judging is March 11 at The Cooks Warehouse!

I decided to do some baking and enter the Great American Baking Contest in Atlanta. This event and bake sale help to support efforts by Share Our Strength to end childhood hunger in America. This year marks the 3rd anniversary of the bake sale in Atlanta. The actual event is on Thursday, March 11th at Cooks Warehouse in Midtown Atlanta.

My hubby and I will attend so that we can get to taste all the goodies, support the effort and see who wins the best dessert in all the categories (professional, amateur (that would be me 🙂 ) and child baker.

I had been thinking about trying to create a cupcake that combined all my favorite things – dark chocolate, raspberries, mascarpone cheese and a little booze! Well, this is the winner!

I have baked a dark chocolate cupcake, filled it with a raspberry filling, glazed it with a dark chocolate ganache flavored with Chambord and topped it off with a decorative touch of mascarpone icing! There is nothing better than getting a bite of the cupcake with all the chocolate, raspberries and ever so slightly sweetened cheese. Oh, yum!

There are so many recipes for chocolate cupcakes out there. I know one of the favorites is Martha Stewarts’s One Bowl recipe. I say use whichever you prefer and then add the other goodies. I start with a recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated. I add a little espresso powder to really bring out the flavor of the 2 types of chocolate. I prefer this one since it only makes 12 cupcakes and I know I certainly do not need to have more than that number in my home!

Be sure to check these cupcakes for doneness at about 15 minutes. You want to underbake them just a bit!

Oh My Ganache!
Makes 12 Cupcakes

Cupcakes
8 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 4 pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (1 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (3 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup sour cream (4 ounces)

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin pan (cups have 1/2-cup capacity) with baking-cup liners.
2. Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.
3. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine.
4. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add espresso powder, sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is homogenous and thick. DO NOT overbeat the batter.
5. Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out almost clean, 15 to 18 minutes.
6. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.

Raspberry Filling
1 10 oz. package frozen raspberries with sugar
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Thaw raspberries and drain. You should have almost 3/4 cup liquid/juice. Put liquid in a small saucepan and combine with sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Cook stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil and is very thick. Let cool. Stir in raspberries without the extra juice that drains further (you want the filling to be thick). Fill cupcakes by removing a small piece in the middle of the cupcake, fill hole with about 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling. Trim the piece you have cut out and place back over the filling in the cupcake. You can also pipe filling into the cupcake, however, this is pretty thick, so it is more difficult.

Chambord Ganache
3/8 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 teaspoon Chambord

Bring cream and butter just to a boil. Pour over chocolate chips. Let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk until glossy and smooth. Add Chambord. Let mixture sit 5 minutes to set before frosting cupcakes.

Mascarpone Frosting
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
3/8 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/2 cup whipped heavy cream

Beat together mascarpone cheese and sugar until smooth. Gently fold in whipped cream until combined. Place in a decorating bag and decorate tops of cupcakes as desired.

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Filed under Atlanta, Baking, Chocolate, Cupcakes, Great American Bake Sale, Mascarpone Cheese, Raspberries, Recipes, Share Our Strength

C and S Seafood and Oyster Bar – Vinings, GA

My hubby and I went to C and S Seafood for an early Valentine’s Day dinner last Saturday evening. I have to say that we used to go to C and S all the time when they first opened and we actually had not been there in a while.

We were so excited when C and S first opened (about 3 years ago). It was close to home, had a nice atmosphere and felt and looked more like a seafood restaurant in Boston that we know and love rather than some place located in Vinings, GA! We thought the food was awesome and we thoroughly enjoyed sitting at the bar and chatting it up with the bartenders.

Well, here we were once again at the bar (we could not get a reservation for a table) and we were chatting with the same bartenders that have been there since day one. I know that it a good sign that business must be okay. Obviously, these guys are happy. They were part of the original group that opened C and S.

When we arrived at 6:45 pm we were still able to grab 2 seats at the bar, however, by 7 pm, the bar and the restaurant were packed. Granted, it was the day before Valentine’s Day , but C and S must be doing well to have that kind of crowd. The food is definitely at a higher price point and I had been wondering how they were doing with the current economic situation.

We, quite frankly, stopped going because our little nibbles at the bar were becoming quite extravagant. There are definitely restaurants that are close by that offer a similar bar dining experience (South City Kitchen), that are far less pricey. However, it was Valentine’s Day, so we splurged a bit.

I did notice that there have been some additions to the menu since we were in last. They now offer a bar menu with small plates, appetizers and sides that range from $7 to $16. They also have added a few entrees that are between $18 to $21. Other than those options, you can count on mid to upper $20’s for seafood entrees and between $28 and $48 for steaks. There are also pretty hefty prices for salads, soups and appetizers ($8 to $18).

I ordered a shrimp cocktail that had 4 colossal shrimp. It seemed a bit overpriced at $16, but considering the quality of the shrimp, it was appropriate. My husband ordered 9 Blue Point Oysters ($3 each). He said they were excellent and very fresh. We both had salads. I chose the chopped salad. I do have to say that they really should step up the salad at $10. It was a very small portion and almost seemed like an afterthought. It barely had any of the “chopped” ingredients. It was primarily field greens. It was better and more generous in the past. I really was disappointed. My husband had the same situation with the house salad at $8. I used to make a dinner of the salad and an appetizer. I could not do that now.

We both ordered the Chilean sea bass ($28). It was a generous piece and cooked perfectly. The tomato basil vinaigrette sauce was recommended to us to accompany the fish. It was nice with the sea bass, however, I wish I had asked to put the sauce on the side. I thought the kitchen put too much of the sauce on an already rich and buttery fish. The accompanying vegetables were parsley new potatoes and squash.

Overall, we had a very enjoyable dinner. The food is good, but not outstanding. We have had some mixed experiences over the years, but we do continue to return partly because it is convenient and partly because of the atmosphere. The overall value to us is that we do enjoy sitting and the bar and having a glass of wine and a bite to eat. We enjoy chatting with the bartenders and appreciate the short drive home.

I do have to say that there are many dining options in Atlanta when you are willing to spend this much for dinner. Unfortunately, I would have to say that the food is better at many of those other restaurants. I think C and S really needs to focus on keeping their prices down and perhaps be a bit more creative and generous with some of the other items (such as their salads).

I look forward to trying some of the lower priced options. It is nice to offer something lighter and less expensive so that customers like us will be more inclined to go more often and enjoy the atmosphere and conversation at the bar. We hope that C and S continues to thrive. It is great to have so many nice restaurants close to home. We do try to support the local spots whenever possible. Hopefully, the new menu will also bring in new patrons that might not have gone in the past.

C&S Seafood And Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Atlanta, C and S Seafood, Restaurant Reviews, Seafood, Vinings

Stir It 28 – Food Bloggers Align for Haiti Relief

Some of you all may be familiar with this effort already. If you are not, Chrystal of Duo Dishes , Courtney of Coco Cooks and Bren of Flanboyant Eats have formed Stir It 28, which is a blogger based fundraising effort and culinary event to help with getting aid to Haiti following the devastating earthquake.

The culinary events will take place in four cities across the country – LA, Chicago, NYC and Atlanta. The date is Sunday, February 21st. I hope that you will be able to attend. If you are not in any of these cities, you may also donate to directly to Stir it 28. You can click here to get all the details about the culinary events as well as how to make a donation.You can also go to the Stir It 28 Facebook page for information on the Atlanta event.

Bren is hosting the event in Atlanta, so I contacted her about doing a post to try to reach some other bloggers and individuals that may not be familiar with the effort. My husband and I will attend the Atlanta event next Sunday. It is great to bring people with common interests together for such a great cause!

I have a very close friend who is a committed volunteer in Haiti and goes quite often. I know first hand from her how dire the situation was for these people prior to the earthquake. I cannot even imagine the loss of life, illness, starvation and complete chaos the Haitian people are experiencing now.

However, in the wake of this terrible devastation, this is also a unique opportunity for Haiti to become a completely changed nation due to the magnitude of the effort underway. So, it is so important, now more than ever, to give in any way that you can.

Any donation will be welcome. Just think, one less latte is all you need to give up to give to others.

I know that your participation in one way or another is greatly appreciated!

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Filed under Atlanta, Haiti Relief Efforts, Stir It 28

Bistro Niko – Atlanta

I was excited to finally make it to Bistro Niko today. I would have preferred to have dinner there, but I was invited for a ladies that do lunch gig, so that is what I did! Bistro Niko is the latest addition to the Buckhead Life Restaurant group and is located in the new Sovereign Building on Peachtree Rd. (which also is home to the revamped Buckhead Club). The “Niko” part of the name is a bit confusing for a French bistro, but the restaurant is named after Niko Karatassos, who runs the Buckhead Life group (so I suppose that makes sense).

I tried to get a reservation for dinner at Bistro Niko twice before Christmas with no success. They were incredibly busy on the weekends shortly after their opening in early November. Since the main dining area was fully booked, I asked about having dinner at the bar instead. I thankfully was advised by the maitre d’ not to do that. He said the bar was far too busy and loud to enjoy dinner. I certainly appreciated their honesty.

I have to say that the restaurant has a very classy, Parisian feel about it. In fact, it reminds me of a fussier and much larger version of Brasserie Le Coze (which I miss terribly). Brasserie Le Coze was the little restaurant that used to be right next to Neiman Marcus before the renovation at Lenox Mall. It reopened as FAB (French American Brasserie) in downtown Atlanta a few years ago.

Bistro Niko was not terribly busy today (a Wednesday) at 12:30, which was surprising. It is a large space, so I imagine keeping it busy at all times may be difficult these days. I also have read some mixed reviews, so I do not know if that has had an impact. However, I would say that most of the reviews have been pretty complimentary. My friend had been to lunch once before and had a nice experience. In fact, she enjoyed the Tarte Aux Champignon ($11) so much on her last visit, she ordered it again today.

We each had a glass of Pouilly Fuisse ($13 a glass). It was a lovely wine, however, I thought for that price the pour could have been a bit more generous. I ordered Chicken Paillards that were served with bits of asparagus, fresh cherry tomatoes and arugula ($16). The chicken was lightly sauteed in what tasted like a mixture of butter and olive oil and the serving was so large that it actually filled the plate. It was a light dish (other than the portion size) and was good, but I thought it lacked something. I actually had to add a bit of salt to perk up the flavors. I know this is the latest trend in restaurant kitchens. Chefs are letting the patrons add their own salt rather than loading it up in the kitchen. However, the chicken was still a little flat to me. I think a bit of lemon or fresh thyme might have brightened up the dish.

My friend had the endive salad which was served with blue cheese and walnuts ($9). The presentation was quite nice and she said it was very tasty. As mentioned earlier, she had the mushroom tart as well and said it was as good as she had remembered from the last visit. We did not have dessert, although Baba au Rhum sure sounded tempting! I do have to mention that the service was quite attentive. We were there for 2 hours chatting and our waiter knew when to come and check on us and when to just let us be.

One of my favorite things about Bistro Niko is the open kitchen area that you see upon entering the restaurant. I thought that was a really nice touch (especially if you like kitchens and kitchen toys and enjoy cooking). I also love the atmosphere. It is a little bit of Paris when you cannot be there. However, it was noisy (even when the restaurant was not very busy), so if you like a quiet lunch or dinner, this might not be the place for you. I can imagine that it would be very loud on a crowded evening. Obviously, the bar area gets quite busy and noisy. There is so much glass, brass and tile and nothing to absorb the noise.

The menu is traditional Parisian brasserie complete with Coq au Vin and Steak Frites. There is also a nice selection of appetizers, tarts and sandwiches, if you are interested in a lighter meal. The wine selection is comprised of primarily French offerings. There was a broad selection of both white and red wines. Within the whites, which I selected from, prices ranged from approximately $7 to $13 a glass.

I enjoyed the food enough to want to go back and have dinner. We are not fond of loud dining spots, but I am willing to give it a try. The restaurant is beautiful and I certainly am happy to have another French brasserie in Atlanta. Was I “wowed”? I do not know if I would say that. I think the food presentation was nice, I like the feel of the restaurant, but I would like to have dinner and see how the food and service is in the evenings.

Regardless, it is a wonderful addition to the dining scene in Atlanta. It is attractive, fun, parking is easy (they have valet parking) and it is very French (except for the Niko part)!

Bistro Niko on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Atlanta, French

Craftbar Review…..

I love to go out to dinner. We used to go out quite a bit more than we do now (could it be the economy???). I think I now go out to dress up (and wear great shoes!) and not have to clean up the dishes. We are finding that the food at home is better than most of the restaurants in town (per my husband), but a girl needs a break from the kitchen sometimes!

I find that it is really difficult to choose a restaurant in the Atlanta area because so many of them are preparing the same type of cuisine – fussed up Southern! This has been a trend for several years now and more places seem to keep jumping on the bandwagon. (How many ways can one prepare grits??). Now I do enjoy several restaurants that serve this type of cuisine, but sometimes you just want something else.

So, a few weeks ago I tried to get a reservation at several new spots (Bistro Niko, French Bistro cuisine and La Pietra Cucina, a great new Italian restaurant). With no luck at either of those, I called Craftbar and pretty much had a selection of times for a reservation (which concerned me). I had been wanting to try it as well, so Craftbar it was going to be.

Craftbar is Craft’s more casual restaurant which was opened by Tom Colicchio (Chef and owner) of the other 2 restaurants with the same name in LA and NYC. It is housed in a separate building in front of the Mansion on Peachtree (which incidentally had no lights on upstairs). Is anyone staying or living there?? Anyway, we were promptly greeted by the valet staff as well as the restaurant staff. We did note that it was terribly quiet for a Saturday night.

My husband had their famous burger and fries ($16.00). It was slathered with cheese, bacon and tomato jam. It was huge! He said it was good, but rich and he was not crazy about the tomato jam. We shared a delightful beet salad with a colorful selection of beets dressed lightly with a vinaigrette and topped with blue cheese. I ordered the hanger steak. I was assured that their special preparation of this cut of beef would be tender. It was not tenderloin (and was not expected to be so), but was reasonably tender at medium rare. The beef was accompanied by a selection of roasted root veggies, potato puree and unfortunately a way over salted bordelaise sauce that engulfed the entire plate. Somebody needs to lay off the salt in the kitchen!

The most confusing thing about the place was the wine prices! My entrée was $24.00, which was one of the highest priced dishes. They offered several glasses of wine that were as much as the meals. You have to be careful when looking at their pricing by the glass. They offer 3 oz. tastings and regular glasses at 6 oz. I think my glass of red wine ended up at $16.00 (a Malbec). My martini before dinner was $13.00 (which was a normal price for an upscale spot). However, I think there needs to be some adjustment to the wine list so that the price of wines by the glass are in line with the price of the meals (many of which are in the mid-teens to low twenties).

We thought the prices were not in line for the quality of the food or the caliber of the wine at their casual dining option. I will say that it was quiet, we had a nice seat by the window looking onto Peachtree and the service was decent. Is there enough to make us want to go back? Probably not. It is a shame since the dishes were different from many of the newer spots in Atlanta (at least I did not see grits five ways or fried okra on the menu), but they need to make some changes to compete in this town. There are too many restaurants vying for customers with better food and more competitive prices.

If you are interested in reading other reviews of Craftbar, click on the link below to Urbanspoon.

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