Tuesday, April 3, 2018

New Taste Tuesday: Babalu Tapas & Tacos

Babalu Tapas & Tacos is a fairly new addition to the Midtown Atlanta dining scene, with a beautiful patio and an extensive menu of delicious small plates. Yes, I said small plates -- don't let that scare you. 

Tapas get a bad rap: The prices are lower than usual, but portions tend to be tiny, so you end up spending more than at a regular restaurant if you want to leave feeling full. 

That's not the case at Babalu. Their portions are almost appetizer-size, with most tapas still priced around $10. Plus, they have pretty great specials daily -- keep reading to learn more about them, and about why this place rocks in general. 

WHY GO: Because it’s #TacoTuesday, duh!

THE VIBE: Cool and slightly retro. Think metal tables and counters, garage doors that open when the weather is nice, and “I Love Lucy” projecting on the back wall.
Can you pick up on the slightly retro vibe? (c) Anna Lanfreschi

DRINK THIS: The Baba-Rita. It’s Babalu’s take on the classic margarita, with the addition of tart pomegranate juice. It’s not too sweet and perfectly delicious.

If you’re a fan of tequila, you can also get a vertical or a horizontal flight: One gives you three different types of tequila from the same brand (say, Patron), the other gives you a taste of three different brands but of the same type (say, reposado).
The Baba-Rita--super tasty! In the back, you can see the remnants of the tequila flight (c) Anna Lanfreschi
EAT THIS: Seafood tapas, and all the tacos! My absolute favorite dish was the pan-seared crab cakes. They’re served with chipotle chili sauce and fresno pepper slaw, and they’re made of jumbo lump crab. And the portions are generous! I will definitely be back for this dish again (and again and again).
These crab cakes were amazing! (c) Anna Lanfreschi 

My husband and I got the chance to sit at the chef’s counter, which is an amazing experience where you see how all the food is prepared and get to interact with the chef himself. 
Chef's counter -- highly recommend this dining experience! (c) Anna Lanfreschi

After chatting a bit, he recommended his favorite dish on the menu: pan roasted redfish. An excellent recommendation! Served over roasted potatoes and corn pico de gallo, it tasted fresh and delicious, and I, too, would recommend it. 
Redfish -- the chef's favorite dish on the menu (c) Anna Lanfreschi

This blog post wouldn't be complete without mentioning the table-side guacamole. It is a must! Made with fresh ingredients right in front of your eyes, it is super satisfying. And Babalu uses a secret ingredient to give their guac a little extra flavor! 
Start your meal off right with this guacamole, prepared table-side (c) Anna Lanfreschi

And then there are all the tacos… no seriously, alllll the tacos. We asked the chef which was his favorite, and he said you can’t go wrong with any of them!
ALLLL the tacos! (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Oh, and between 3-6 pm on weekdays and 10 pm-close daily, all tacos on the bar bites menu are only $3 each! The bar bites menu also includes drink specials, like $4 sangria and draft beer, $5 house wine and well drinks, and $6 house margaritas!
Do save room for dessert, especially when you can get a little sampler like this one (c) Anna Lanfreschi

LOGISTICS: BabaluTapas & Tacos is located at 33 Peachtree Place, at the intersection of West Peachtree Street and Peachtree Place. There is public parking in the adjacent garage on Peachtree Place, which Babalu validates. The restaurant is open 11:30 am until 9 pm on Sundays, 10 pm Monday through Wednesday, midnight on Thursdays, and until 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Fave Five: Restaurants that march to the beat of their own drum

Sometimes, you just want something a little different when going out to eat. Sure, delicious food, cool ambiance, and great service can always be part of your decision-making process when picking out a restaurant, but every once in awhile, you may be looking for something unique.

That’s where the five eateries below come into play. As the name of this blog post suggests, they all definitely march to the beat of their own drum: No matter the food industry trends, these restaurants stay true to their original visions. And a lot of them have been around for years, if not decades, so you know what they’re doing is working.

And speaking of drums, did you know STOMP is coming to Atlanta? The international percussion group is only in town for a limited time – April 6 and 7 – so definitely grab your tickets for their performance soon.
Not sure what STOMP is all about? The award-winning show boasts amazing drumming routines using everyday objects, like brooms, lighters, and car parts. You won’t see any conventional percussion equipment throughout the show, but you’ll be captivated the entire time! You can read more about theshow here, watch a preview here, and get your tickets here.

5 restaurants that march to the beat of their own drum:

Unique doesn’t even begin to describe this Atlanta institution. We’re talking super colorful interior, live exotic birds outside, and a lengthy menu full of inventive, health-conscious items. The entire space is reminiscent of a tropical island. If you don’t have a selfie with one Mr. Thomas’ birds (or a pic of the food), can you even call yourself an Atlantan?

What do you get when you combine burgers and sushi? Burgushi! That’s actually the name of this restaurant’s signature dish, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: Burger ingredients in the form of a sushi roll. The rolls vary, from one with cheddar cheese, bacon and ketchup, to another one topped with seared filet.

This restaurant has such a cool concept: Half their menu remains constant throughout the year, but the other half rotates every quarter to a different global cuisine. So one quarter it may be Thai, followed by Russian the next quarter and Cuban the next. And the décor here is super eclectic and worldly, in the best way possible.  

Decorated with upside-down umbrellas and serving high tea with all the proper accoutrements, this place is one of the most unique ones in Atlanta. And the ATL ladies love it! From a simple catch up to a lovely baby or wedding shower, this is such a fun way to connect with your girlfriends.

If you come here for an early dinner, you may not see what makes this place unique. But if you stay for the dancing after dinner, you’ll understand what I mean. Starting at 10 pm, a DJ starts spinning, Ouzo starts pouring, and dancing is only interrupted with shouts of “Opa!” and throwing of napkins up in the air to celebrate… whatever you want to celebrate!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

New Taste Tuesday: New Realm Brewing

New Realm Brewing is finally open in Atlanta! Located right off the Beltline, this spot boasts great views of the city from its rooftop patio, a well-designed dining room, tasty food that pairs well with cold brews, and, of course, delicious craft beer.

WHY GO: Because you want to try some new beer, but you’re also hungry, and you only want to go to one place.

THE VIBE: Chill and slightly California-esque. The inside dining room has tall ceilings flanked by brewing tanks, and outside – both down and upstairs – the patios offer sweeping views of the Atlanta skyline.

Check out my Instagram for more on what New Realm looks like inside and out!
Rooftop patio with a view

DRINK THIS: Get a taster flight so you can try a variety of New Realm’s delicious brews.

I tried the Euphoria (pilsner), Perun (pale ale), Acca Dacca (Australian sparkling ale), Doomsday Hound (Russian imperial stout), and Pilotlight (coffee porter). I liked the coffee porter the best, which surprised me, as I usually gravitate toward lighter beers. But honestly, all the beers I tasted were great.
Flight of Euphoria, Perun, Acca Dacca, and Doomsday Hound

You may have noticed IPAs are missing from my tasting, and that’s because I’m not a huge fan of them; but I’m told New Realm knows what they’re doing when it comes to IPAs. They have Mitch Steele at the helm, the award-winning brewmaster of Stone Brewing Company and author of “IPA: BrewingTechniques, Recipes and the Evolution of the India Pale Ale.” So yeah, you can count on a delicious IPA from New Realm.

The Radegast is the brewery’s flagship beer and is described as “wonderfully aromatic and massive in fruity hop flavor.” There’s also the Hoplandia (American IPA) and Kikimora (imperial IPA), so if you’re a fan of hops, New Realm’s got you covered.

EAT THIS: Go for the Radegast burger. The combination of burger and beer just can’t be beat, and this one comes on a brioche bun and with the best secret sauce ever!
The Radegast burger with Caesar salad (although you can get fries as your side)

If you’re looking for something to snack on, try the crispy corned beef rolls or the Georgia peanut hummus. Both are tasty, and the latter is super Instagram-friendly! I hear the wood-fired salted pretzel is also delish, and it’s served with beer-queso for dipping.
Georgia peanut hummus
Crispy corned beef rolls

New Realm’s food menu also has a selection of greens, soups, sandwiches and pizzas. Oh, and do save room for dessert! The campfire s’mores are absolutely worth the calories: They come deconstructed, with graham crackers and already toasted marshmallow and chocolate mousse for easy assembly.
Campfire s'mores

PRO TIP: If you’re not a fan of crowds, come to New Realm early in the day. Try to get here right as they open (5 pm Monday-Wednesday, or 11 am Thursday-Sunday); otherwise, expect to wait in line for your brew and to drink it standing up. Lunch may be your best bet for avoiding crowds, which is served Thursday through Sunday.

LOGISTICS: New Realm Brewing is located at 550 Somerset Terrace NE, right next to Two Urban Licks and near Ponce City Market. If you’re driving, you can find street parking on Somerset. If you’re walking in from the Beltline, turn by the giant installation of what looks like rusted upright beams and walk in through the parking lot. 

P.S.: Credit for the very first photo in this blog goes to Yelp.com/Kyle S.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

New Taste Tuesday: The Local Pizzaiolo

Atlanta’s Neapolitan-style pizza scene is crushing it! And there’s one newcomer you should know about: The Local Pizzaiolo. The flavors are authentic, the sizes are smaller than usual (aka, perfect for one person), and I love that. Read on to see what else makes this place worth visiting.

WHY GO: Because the brains behind this pizza place, Giulio Adriani, is BFFs with the brains behind the best pizza place in the world (Gino Sorbillo, of Sorbillo pizza in Naples & NYC). Clearly, he knows how to make great pizza. 

THE VIBE: Casual but with fancy cocktails.
How adorable is this mural inside the restaurant? (c) The Local Pizzaiolo
DRINK THIS: Speaking of cocktails, grab any one that’s on tap. Yep, I said on tap. Your choices include negroni (such a classic Italian cocktail!), Aperol spritz (talk about another classic!), Neapolitan storm (an Italian take on the dark & stormy), and espresso martini.
The Neapolitan Storm cocktail -- super pretty and delicious!

EAT THIS: Pizza, duh! My favorite pies include When Pigs Fly (with prosciutto and arugula) and The Farmer’s Market from Giulio’s pizza menu, as well as the Puttanesca from the gluten-free menu. Yep, I said gluten free. And no, you can’t tell it’s GF.
The Farmer's Market pizza, with Brussels sprouts, goat cheese and bacon bits (c) The Local Pizzaiolo
The Gypsy pizza, with roasted wild mushrooms, bechamel, and truffle oil
The Local Pizzaiolo menu also features a great selection of salads, as well as a little something called Pizza Al Metro. It’s not a pie, but rather a sandwich made of pizza dough and stuffed with pizza ingredients of the day, like Italian cured meats, cheeses and veggies. Giulio dreams up a new flavor each day, and it depends on the ingredients available that day.
All the gelato please!

There’s also dessert. Your choices are authentic Italian gelato in a multitude of flavors (hazelnut is delicious!) and Nutella bites: Fried strips of pizza dough served with whipped cream, powdered sugar and Nutella. Yum!

LOGISTICS: The Local Pizzaiolo’s first Atlanta location is now open in West Midtown, near 5 Seasons and Hop City. And they’re opening up a few other locations around the city, including at Toco Hills, Madison Yards and Sandy Springs. 

PS: The first photo in this blog post is courtesy of The Local Pizzaiolo, via the restaurant's Facebook page.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Event recap: Uncorked Atlanta Wine Festival in Piedmont Park

Unlimited tastings of wines and craft beer, live music, and tasty food, all on a covered patio on a sunny Atlanta day. Doesn’t this sound like the best way to spend a weekend afternoon?

That’s precisely how I spent last Saturday, February 3, at Uncorked Atlanta Wine Festival at Park Tavern. And it. Was. Glorious.

The sixths annual event had more than 50 varieties of vino from some of the best wine producers in the country: We’re talking Robert Mondavi, Chateau Ste. Michelle, and Joel Gott. For one-and-done wine drinkers, the festival also had a nice selection of craft beers and branded adult beverages.

Spending the afternoon drinking wine is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon, in my humble opinion, and the Park Tavern patio is one of the best places in Atlanta to do so. It’s covered (aka, temperature controlled), but still offers gorgeous views of the city.
Basically, what I’m saying is that the Uncorked Atlanta Wine Festival was awesome, and I’m already looking forward to its seventh annual installment. Want to check out even more pics from the event? Check out their Facebook page

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

New Taste Tuesday: Amorino

It’s never too cold for ice cream! Am I right? Especially when it looks as beautiful as this gelato cone from Amorino at The Shops Buckhead Atlanta.

Nestled between ATTOM and Tod’s, this location is Amorino’s newest in Atlanta, and I’ve recently had the opportunity to check it out. It is absolutely adorable, and the menu is impressive! 

In addition to authentic Italian gelato, Amorino offers delicious coffee (I would definitely come here for my morning cup) and tasty pastries. Check out the photos below for more details.

WHY GO: Because you have a serious gelato craving!
Amorino has lots of different gelato and sorbet flavors
THE VIBE: Warm and enticing. How can it not be, with all those flavors of gelato staring right at you!

DRINK THIS: Macchiato! We’re talking the Italian kind, not the Starbucks kind. As in, a shot of espresso with a little dollop of milk foam on top. It’s small, yes, but mighty satisfying.
Macchiato (in a glass) and espresso (in a cup) drinks

EAT THIS: The flower cone! It’s too beautiful to pass up, and it’s what makes Amorino stand out in the sea of gelato shops throughout Atlanta. You can get the cone in three different sizes and with as many flavor combinations as you’d like.
The staff at Amorino makes such impressive creations!

I also chose to add a gelato macaron to mine. Yes, you read that right: A macaron with a gelato middle.

Amorino also serves gelato in the form of a frappe (a blended, Frappuccino-style drink), on top of waffles, or inside crepes. They also have sorbet, which you can get in a cup, or as a granita or a smoothie.

Oh, and there are so many sweet treat options: There are pies, and tortas, and biscotti. Basically, Amorino has all your sugar craving covered!
All the sweets

LOGISTICS: Located inside The Shops Buckhead Atlanta, this location of Amorino is on Bolling Way, near Le Bilboquet restaurant and Tod’s and Diptyque boutiques. You can self-park in the main garage or valet.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

New Taste Tuesday: Genuine Pizza

The newest restaurant opening at Phipps Plaza is the perfect cure for your shopping hangries. It’s called Genuine Pizza, and it offers an extensive menu of Italian-style pies, as well as healthy snacks, green salads, filling entreés and decadent desserts.

Warning: Drool-worthy content ahead.

WHY GO: Because shopping is a sport, and you have to refuel your body after such strenuous exercise. But also, because the food is so good here!
Genuine Pizza has lots of seating options, including booths, tables, and counter and bar seats
THE VIBE: Warm and colorful. The restaurant is filled with green, yellow and orange hues throughout.

DRINK THIS: This really depends on what you’re eating. Genuine Pizza carries beer and wine, so ask your server for a pairing that would complement your order. The staff is really knowledgeable and will make an excellent recommendation.

EAT THIS: Order a pie or two to share with your table! My favorite pizzas are the short rib, the mushroom, and the pesto ones. However, Genuine Pizza has many creative topping combinations, so dare to try something different during your visit. Psst: There is a gluten-free dough option!
The short rib pizza was easily my favorite! 
To start off your meal, consider some of their snacks and salads, too. The polenta fries are addicting, and the dish is a creative take on a classic Italian ingredient. There’s also homemade ricotta and marinated olives, which are both super shareable. And if you’re looking for a protein-based option, try the meatballs or oven roasted wings. The latter are topped with agrodolce (Italian sweet and sour sauce) and come with rosemary crema – yum!
Polenta fries with spicy ketchup 
Oh, and the Brussels sprouts and burrata salad is not to be missed. It may have become my new favorite salad in Atlanta! Served with basil, pears and almonds, this flavorful combination is perfection on a plate.
Brussels sprouts and burrata salad -- YUM! This photo doesn't do it justice... 
Last but very much not least, the cookie. THE cookie. Genuine Pizza’s warm chocolate chunk cookie is the best chocolate chunk cookie I’ve ever had! I’m not huge on sweets, but I’ve been craving it ever since I tried it. I have no idea what it is about that cookie that makes it so damn delicious, but I need more of it in my life! Definitely save room for this one at the end of your meal. (sorry, no pic – ate too quickly!)

: Genuine Pizza is located inside Phipps Plaza, near the main entrance of the mall. It is open for lunch and dinner daily, and reservations are not necessary. There’s plenty of free self-parking, as well as complimentary valet.