Tuesday, February 5, 2019

New Taste Tuesday: Fudo Sushi in Chamblee

Fudo is a new sushi restaurant that opened in Chamblee in January. It is quickly becoming known for its high quality of ingredients and the chefs’ creativity when it comes to food presentation and combination of flavors.

I had the pleasure of experiencing all of the above on a recent double date at Fudo with my friend Maryashley of Simply Maryashley. We grabbed our husbands (both named Michael!) and asked the chefs and bartenders to surprise us with their favorite dishes, which was an unforgettable experience!

Read on to see what we ended up noshing on (including some secret menu items) and for some tips to help you plan your visit to Fudo.

Because you appreciate sushi that is both fresh and imaginative. Fudo does both very well.

Modern and cool, both in vibe and color scheme. Think dark wooden tables, concrete and metal details, a wrap-around sushi bar and a separate cocktail bar.
The main dining room of Fudo (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Speaking of cocktails, do start your meal with a hand-crafted libation by one of Fudo’s bartenders. The Zen, the Toki-Yo, and the Mandarin Oriental cocktails are all great options to choose from. Or could simply ask the bartender to make you something yummy with your preferred liquor.
Left: The Zen cocktail, made with gin, tequila and green chartreuse; right: hot sake (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Fudo has an extensive selection of sushi rolls, nigiri and sashimi options, as well as small plates, soups, salads, tempura, and rice bowls (donburi). Fudo’s menu is so impressive, it may seem overwhelming at first. Here are a few tips to help you narrow down your choices.

Small plates:
Try the Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and dynamite shrimp. The veggie dishes are served warm and are very flavorful, and you can never go wrong with some sweet and spicy shrimp, right?
Clockwise from upper left: Cauliflower, pickled veggies, Brussels sprouts (c) Anna Lanfreschi

If you’re extra hungry, share the oyako-don with your group. This teriyaki chicken bowl is served with bok choy and lotus root chips over steamed rice.
Oyako-don: Teriyaki chicken with bok choy, lotus root chips, over steamed rice (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Sushi rolls:
The Audi, Hunger Games, A Star Is Born, and Fantasy rolls are all excellent! If you’ve never had a hand roll before, do try one of the eight on the menu (pick the one with your favorite fish). They’re similar to regular sushi rolls ingredients-wise, but they usually have the seaweed on the outside and you eat them with your hands (no chopsticks required!).
The Fantasy roll: Shrimp tempura, crab salad, avocado, mango, topped with masago and scallions (c) Anna Lanfreschi

You won’t find a lot of sashimi/nigiri options on the regular menu at Fudo – they are mostly on the specials menu, as these options heavily depend on the kinds of fish the restaurant gets that day. These dishes tend to be incredibly creative and change often.

If the following are available during your trip to Fudo, I highly recommend trying them:

-bluefin otoro bites with uni and ikura: fatty tuna topped with sea urchin and salmon roe 
-madai nigiri: lightly charred Japanese snapper atop rice 
-salmon ceviche: light and fresh, served mixed with julienned fresh veggies 
-sashimi dessert: snapper topped with fresh peaches (see first photo in this blog post)

Bluefin tuna bites (c) Anna Lanfreschi 

Charred snapper nigiri (c) Anna Lanfreschi
Salmon ceviche -- isn't the presentation gorgeous? (c) Anna Lanfreschi
Leaving the decision-making in the hands of talented chefs is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the best of what a restaurant has to offer. During this dining experience at Fudo, I did exactly that.

I asked the chefs to bring out their favorite dishes of the evening, and they surpassed all expectations, including in terms of ingenuity, presentation, quality of ingredients, and service. If you’re feeling adventurous, I highly recommend this style of dining. And you can trust that your experience will be exceptional at this restaurant (Maryashley agrees).

Fudo is located at 5070 Peachtree Boulevard in Chamblee’s Parkview on Peachtree. It is in the same area as Poke Bar and The Alden, and is catty-corner to Whole Foods. It is open daily for lunch and dinner and has plenty of free self-parking.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Where to eat healthy in Atlanta during the holidays

So you overdid on all the holiday treats these last couple of weeks (I’m looking at you, office pastries!). That’s OK – no use in feeling guilty about it. Instead, opt for a healthy meal to help you get back on track.

One of my favorite places in to get an actually healthy, balanced meal is gusto! Wood Fire Grill. This Atlanta restaurant describes itself as an intersection of quality and speed, meaning you get a fresh meal quickly and for a great price.

Gusto! operates on a make-your-own-bowl concept:
  1. Pick your base: Mixed greens, brown rice, a combination of both, or a flatbread wrap 
  2. Choose your protein: Grilled chicken, spicy chicken, grilled shrimp, or grilled portabella
  3. Add your gusto (or topping): Chile sesame BBQ, chipotle mango avocado, tahini cucumber feta, sweet soy sriracha, ginger lime peanut, or tzatziki lemon artichoke

I usually tend to go for the mixed greens as my base, with either grilled chicken or shrimp as my protein. And I pick my gusto based on what I’m craving that day.
This bowl is topped with the ginger lime peanut gusto, aka the Thai flavor (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Each “gusto” is a combination of global-inspired ingredients that gives your meal its delicious flavor. Craving Thai? Go for the ginger lime peanut gusto. In the mood for Mediterranean? Try either the tahini cucumber feta or the tzatziki lemon artichoke gusto.

I absolutely love this concept, because it lets me indulge in some of my favorite international flavors without loading up on carbs that often come with them (pasta, rice, noodles, etc.).
The half and half bowl with the tzatziki lemon artichoke gusto (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Don’t get me wrong – from time to time, I absolutely enjoy the carbs that typically accompany these dishes, but as an occasional splurge instead of on a regular basis. With the gusto! bowls, I can devour the flavors of my favorite international meals while still eating healthy.

Two more things I love about gusto!: Their sweet potato chips and their 2-for-1 deals (aka, #FlannelFridays). The sweet potato chips are absolutely divine: They are super thin, crispy, just salty enough, and are perfectly portioned! Again, zero guilt in indulging!
The most delicious sweet potato chips, which are handmade daily (c) Anna Lanfreschi
And you can get the 2-for-1 deal every Friday at the Ponce location if you wear flannel! So bring your favorite person to gusto!, take advantage of the cooler temps and show off your favorite checkered shirt to get the second entrée for free. You can claim it any time on Friday, between 11 am – 10 pm, only at the Ponce location.

Gusto! has three locations in Atlanta – on Ponce de Leon Avenue near Ponce City Market, on Peachtree Street near Piedmont Hospital, and on N. Decatur Road near Emory Hospital. And they’re opening their newest location in West Midtown, at Northside and 17th.

What do you think: Will you be visiting gusto! to help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Celebrate the holidays at Babalu Tapas & Tacos

Yes, the words “holidays” and “tacos” do belong in the same sentence! First of all, tacos are always a good idea. And secondly, what says holiday cheer better than friends getting together and sharing food and drink?
The Baba-Breeze drink: Bombay Sapphire gin, fresh cucumber, ginger, mint, fresh lime juice, soda water

Babalu Tapas & Tacos puts a Latin flair on your holiday gathering to help you make it more memorable. Think chorizo tacos with house-made tortillas, simultaneously winter-and-beach-inspired drinks, and tableside guacamole.

Read more about how the guacamole is prepared
This guac is made in front of you, with the ingredients you want. Served with tortilla chips or fresh veggies for dipping
Churrasco steak with chimichurri sauce, served over the most delicious roasted potatoes ever!
Pan-seared crab cakes (left) and blackened salmon over queso grits (right) 

In addition to tacos, Babalu's menu also boasts incredibly delicious small plates. You can't go wrong with any of the seafood options, and if your dish doesn't come served over roasted potatoes, do yourself a favor and order a side of them. They are perfectly crispy and gooey and the same time! 

The midtown eatery has a casual yet festive atmosphere and daily deals

Mondays -- $5 Luna Ritas all day
Tuesdays -- $2 tacos all day (because #tacotuesday)
Wednesdays -- half-priced bottles of wine and $5 glasses of house wine
Thursdays -- $4 sangria by the glass 
Daily, 3 – 6 pm -- specially priced menu of drinks and appetizers
Babalu's signature cinnamon bread pudding, served with Patron chantilly cream, Kahlua caramel, and fresh strawberries 

So pick a day of the week, grab your friends, and host your holiday gift exchange at Babalu Tapas & Tacos this year. The restaurant will also be open until 3 pm on Christmas Eve, so running out of time is not an excuse.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

New Taste Tuesday: Bell Street Burritos

Bell Street Burritos now serves breakfast! Every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the beloved Atlanta eatery is offering a new breakfast menu with four delectable items. Think fluffy scrambled eggs and cheese wrapped in the most delicious tortilla of your preferred configuration (burrito, quesadilla, etc.) with your choice of meat, salsa fresca, and all the dipping sauces your heart desires.

Check out more details about the new breakfast menu below and let me know which menu item you want to try the most.
Don't these look delicious?

WHY GO: Because there’s no better way to start your Saturday morning than with a tasty breakfast burrito!

VIBE: Chill, simple, clean. There is plenty of seating – indoors and out – if you’d like to eat at the restaurant, or you can grab your breakfast burrito to go.

DRINK THIS: Pick your choice of canned or bottled beverage, alcoholic or not (think beer and sodas).

EAT THIS: You have several options to choose from on the new breakfast menu: The burrito, quesadilla, shrimp & grits, or the breakfast bowl. 

The burrito is, obviously, amazing. It’s what Bell Street Burritos is known for, and you can customize it to have just scrambled eggs and cheese, or add sausage or bacon.
The tortilla on this breakfast burrito is one of the best I've ever had in Atlanta

The quesadilla is also tasty, and the shrimp and grits has a nice little kick to it.  
The quesadilla topped with salsa verde 
The shrimp and grits 

But my favorite item from this new menu is the breakfast bowl: It’s the healthiest option and comes loaded with scrambled eggs, spinach, and salsa fresca. As with the burrito and quesadilla, you can add your choice of meat (sausage or bacon), and you can also add a side of guacamole, which I highly recommend doing.
The meatless breakfast bowl -- that guacamole is so delicious!

Of course after 2 p.m., you can choose from a full menu of tacos, quesadillas, salads, and – of course – burritos.

LOGISTICS: Two of Bell Street Burritos’ three locations now feature the new breakfast menu: Midtown/Buckhead and Inman Park (on the Beltline, near Krog Street Market). The hours and parking availability are different for each location, so check out the restaurant’s website for details.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

New Taste Tuesday: Gypsy Kitchen

Gypsy Kitchen is now serving brunch! The Spanish tapas restaurant in the heart of Buckhead is known for its dinner service and late-night cocktails, but they’ve added a new daytime menu, and it is fantastic! It puts a Spanish-inspired twist on all your brunch favorites, which is the absolute best hangover cure you didn’t know you needed.  

WHY GO: Because you love tapas and brunch, and on Sundays, Gypsy Kitchen has both.

THE VIBE: Exotic and inviting. There’s something about this Moroccan-inspired décor that immediately makes you excited to be there and to nosh on all of Gypsy Kitchen’s delicious offerings.

The restaurant’s expansive patio is also worth mentioning, and a perfect place to grab brunch.
The patio of Gypsy Kitchen (c) Adam Davilla
DRINK THIS: Definitely try the Bloody Mary bar. It. Is. Impressive! There are two types of mix – spicy and regular – and seemingly countless options for hot sauces, spices, and toppings. The latter include pickled shrimp, prosciutto-wrapped dates, blue cheese-stuffed olives, and a wide assortment of fresh and pickled vegetables.
The giant Bloody Mary bar -- look at all those options! (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Choose your spice level on the Bloody Mary mix, before adding all the extras (c) Anna Lanfreschi
EAT THIS: Start with gypsy-style poutine. This dish is a bit of a surprise from the brunch menu, because it’s not necessarily a classic Spanish tapa, and it’s not quite authentic Canadian poutine – it’s a mix of the two. And it is so good! Perfectly cooked potatoes, topped with a cheesy sauce, bacon chunks, and a poached egg.
Poutine by way of a gypsy -- the official name of this delicious plate (c) Anna Lanfreschi

Other tasty brunch options to consider: Steak and eggs, Gypsy Kitchen migas, and the candied spicy chorizo Belgian waffle. Yep, it’s a fluffy waffle topped with candied chorizo and served with dulce de leche syrup. Y’all, it is ridiculously delicious! Again, sounds a little out there, but all the flavors go so well together, it’s magical.
Candied spicy chorizo Belgian waffle (c) Collin Rooney

Gypsy Kitchen migas -- chicken sausage, country bread, piquillo charon sauce, sunny side egg (c) Anna Lanfreschi
Pro tip: All plates are tapas-sized, so they’re smaller than typical brunch servings. The server recommended 2-4 dishes per person, and that worked out great. I would highly recommend getting at least 2 orders of the waffles!
Non-brunch tapas are also available, like this whipped goat cheese with mushrooms & cashews (c) Anna Lanfreschi  

One more pro tip: Chef Gary Finzer is working on perfecting the brunch version of his famous paella, and once it’s ready, it will be served family-style on the patio during Sunday brunch hours. Be sure not to miss that once it launches.
The brunch paella -- it is so good! (c) Collin Rooney

LOGISTICS: Gypsy Kitchen is located at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta. Self-parking is available in the garage, and the restaurant validates it.

P.S.: The first photo in this blog post (along with a couple of others throughout the post) is by photographer, videographer and editor Collin Rooney. Thanks, Collin! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Heads up: Taste of Atlanta is this weekend!

The best foodie event of the year, Taste of Atlanta, is happening this weekend, October 19-21! Taking place inside the Historic Old Fourth WardPark, the three-day food and drink festival will showcase the best bites and beverages from more than 90 Atlanta restaurants for the 17th year in a row. 

New to Taste of Atlanta this year is the beer garden, which will not only highlight Atlanta’s best craft breweries, but also serve wine and cocktails to satisfy all taste buds.

Taste of Atlanta is pure foodie heaven: Noshing on culinary art from renowned Atlanta restaurants, mingling with top Atlanta chefs, learning new cooking tricks during chef demos, sipping on craft cocktails and local brews, all while enjoying beautiful fall weather. It doesn’t get much better than this for an Atlanta foodie!
One of my favorite dishes from Taste of Atlanta 2015: Seared scallop over succotash 

Here’s how to get in on the action and what to expect from Taste of Atlanta this year:

Friday night: All-inclusive kickoff party
WHAT: Honoring the theme of “World of Taste,” chefs will wow festivalgoers with global flavors from their internationally inspired Atlanta restaurants. The host chefs for the evening are Hector Santiago of El Super Pan, Eddie Hernandez of Taqueria del Sol, and Archna Becker of Bhojanic, but more than two dozen Atlanta chefs and restaurants are participating, including Porch Light Latin Kitchen, Tiny Lou’s, and Donetto.
WHEN: Friday, October 19, 6:30 – 11 pm
HOW MUCH: $85 perperson, which includes all food and drink, as well as live music

Saturday: Full festival day 1
WHAT: The first full day of the foodie festival will feature presentations such as “The Sexiest Dish in Atlanta,” “Grilling with Wine,” and “Eat Better One Morsel at a Time,” in addition to celebrating the expansive local restaurant scene.
WHEN: Saturday, October 20, 12 – 7 pm
HOW MUCH: Generaladmission tickets are $25 per person, VIP tickets are $75 per person

Sunday: Full festival day 2
WHAT: The second full day will also be full of tasting tents throughout the park, as well as presentations such as “Brunch-a-Holics,” “Sharpen Your Southern Cooking Skills,” and the tenth annual Barcraft Celebration.
WHEN: Sunday, October 21, 12 – 6 pm
HOW MUCH: Generaladmission tickets are $25 per person, VIP tickets are $75 per person

Quick note on tickets: General admission tickets include an RFID wristband preloaded with 10 tasting points, which you can spend on any of the bites at the festival. You can always add more tasting points to your wristband for $1 per tasting point.

VIP tickets come preloaded with 20 tasting points, which you can spend both inside the VIP tent and in the general festival areas.

In case you're curious, here's my recap of the 2016 Taste of Atlanta.

Details for getting down to Taste of Atlanta: Street parking is limited, but there is additional parking in Deck B of the Atlanta Medical Center. Ride sharing, taking MARTA, or riding an electric scooter down the Beltline are highly recommended instead of driving.

As an incentive to take alternative methods of transportation, Taste of Atlanta is offering promo codes for existing and new Lyft riders (TASTEATL and TASTEATLNEW), as well as a complimentary shuttle to the park from the Civic Center MARTA station.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Fall cocktails coming to the Marquee Club at the Fox Theatre

Now that fall is officially here, the Marquee Club at the fabulous Fox Theatre is celebrating Atlanta's best season with the addition of two new craft cocktails to their menu: The Atlanta old fashioned reborn, and the secret crush.

Both cocktails are made with Atlanta’s 18.21 tart cherry & saffron bitters and have just the right hint of cherry flavor. It’s not overwhelming and is so perfect for sipping on the Marquee Club’s rooftop patio during Atlanta’s fall season.

The Atlanta old fashioned reborn is made with ASW Fiddler bourbon and a mix of 18.21's coffee vanilla cacao, barrel old fashioned syrup, and the tart cherry & saffron bitters. 

The secret crush is crafted with prosecco, Jack Rudy small batch grenadine, and of course, 18.21's tart cherry & saffron bitters. 

If you haven’t been to the Marquee Club yet, here’s what you need to know:

  • The new, fully renovated space opens 90 minutes prior to the start of the show and is also open during intermission and after the show
  • Heavy hors d’oeuvres are served before the show, and coffee and dessert during intermission
  • Non-alcoholic beverages are included in the price of the ticket, but alcoholic ones cost extra
  • You have to have a ticket to a show at the Fox Theatre on the same day you want to visit the Marquee Club
  • The space has three distinct levels, and there are restrooms on each one (so no waiting in line for the bathroom during intermission!)
  • There are bars on the main and rooftop levels, so no waiting in line for a drink either
  • The rooftop alone is worth the price of admission! Instead of offering city skyline views, like other rooftops in Atlanta, the patio at the Marquee Club makes you feel like you’re in the heart of the city
I had the chance to check out the Marquee Club before seeing Aladdin at the Fox Theatre, which is in Atlanta through September 23, and I absolutely loved the entire experience! The admission is pricy, but worth it. The food was delicious and filling (so no need to scramble for a rushed dinner reservations before the show), the service impeccable, and the drinks delectable.

Speaking of drinks, the new fall additions to the menu will be available starting in October, so if you have tickets to any of the upcoming Fox Theatre shows – whether it’s a Broadway shows, like School of Rock, or a concert, like David Byrne's Atlanta stop on the American Utopia tour — be sure to grab your ticket to the Marquee Club and order one of the new beverages.