Brunch in Buckhead: Watershed, a Southern Jewel

wpid-20130714_135352.jpgWatershed on Peachtree
Atlanta, Georgia

Mornings and I have been butting heads since 1983–the year I was born. That’s why brunch is quite possibly the best concept ever. I love everything about it. The idea that sleeping in is perfectly acceptable, the ease of drinking coffee near afternoon, the pleasure of indulging in breakfast and lunch foods simultaneously…it all feels a bit devious, but oh-so-good. When I roll to the big city of Atlanta, discovering new brunch spots is my tolerate-six-lane-traffic and fast-paced-people salvation. Upon my last visit, fate introduced me to Watershed on Peachtree. As if the complimentary valet parking wasn’t enough, the country ham biscuits served with peach marmalade, local honey and whipped butter almost sent me over the edge. It’s a Southern jewel with big presence, in a location where the competition is ravenous. 

wpid-20130714_124235.jpgRecently named one of the Best New Restaurants in the American South by Conde Nast Traveler, the highfalutin’ eatery is an upscale farm-to-table experience I believe everyone in the free world should try at least once. I ordered the Bay Bloody Mary above, when I learned it was seasoned with Old Bay. Garnished with pickled green beans, pimento-stuffed olives and a juicy lime wedge, the souped-up cocktail and salted rim had me at hello.

THE FOOD:

wpid-20130714_124854.jpgCountry ham is a rarity in restaurants anymore. To see it featured on the menu in its rightful place between two flaky, fall-apart-in-your-mouth buttermilk biscuits…what is life? Other Starters on the brunch menu include Pimento Cheese Toast, Wild Mushroom Toast, Sausage Gravy & Biscuit served with bacon jam and fine herbs, and Smoked Ham Wrapped Gulf Shrimp a la plancha (grilled).

I’m attracted to all things coastal, even more so when I feel landlocked. Naturally, I ordered the Coconut Pancakes served with coconut syrup and a side of bacon. The bacon was cooked to perfection without an ounce of fat…lean and crispy, the perfect crunch to the meal. At just $10, the pancake stack was sweet and satisfying, keeping me full late into the day.

We also tried the Huevos Rancheros and Chilaquiles featuring eggs any style, Heywood’s andouille sausage and salsa ranchero. My boyfriend ordered a side of fries because the table’s order next to us looked so appetizing. Potatoes rock. Offering a variety of sophisticated, yet recognizable dishes like Chicken Fried Poached Eggs, Seafood Melange and a Crabby Shrimp Burger, the brunch menu also boasts classics like the Southern Cobb and Wild Georgia Shrimp Salads. Prices range from $6.50 for Starters to $18.50 for Steak & Eggs.

THE ATMOSPHERE:

Watershed on Peachtree has a beautiful, raw setting that’s bright and open with modern lighting. From the moment you set foot in the elegant entryway, the cheerful and clean atmosphere invites you to stay.

THE STAFF:
wpid-20130714_134323.jpgOur server, John had been waiting tables at the restaurant for just four months, but was very informative and most helpful. He told us all about the famous fried chicken served only on Wednesdays. In Southern Living magazine this month, Watershed on Peachtree is considered an upscale place to get The South’s Best Fried Chicken, noting it’s “always sold out by 8 p.m.” He also shared that Executive Chef Joe Truex, native Louisianian, couldn’t wait to begin serving up gumbo on Thursday nights.

wpid-20130714_134800.jpgWatershed on Peachtree has a commitment to seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Many of the cocktails are even organic! With an ever-changing menu, the restaurant’s cocktail napkins read, “creative and delicious Southern food enjoyed in comfort and community.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Watershed on Peachtree on Urbanspoon

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A Beach-Food Experience for Landlocked Atlantans

100_8024The Optimist Fish Camp & Oyster Bar
Atlanta, Georgia

I walked in and the first thing I saw were the words, “Country Ham” in navy blue and yellow, painted on a white wall. The restaurant had been converted from a previous slaughter-house and the words preserved. Country ham is one of those Southern mainstays, and I knew immediately this was a place I would love. I had driven from the coastal plains of Southeast Georgia, about 200 miles, to the big city of Atlanta on a business trip to meet a good friend. We had done our research, and of all the fine places to dine in the notorious A-T-L, had naturally settled on what the restaurant’s Twitter account classifies “A beach-food experience for landlocked Atlantans.”

100_8013
100_7949While we waited on our table in the main dining room, we sat at the Oyster Bar and tried just about everything–East and West coast oysters of every variety, snow crab & lobster knuckles, oyster crackers and salt & vinegar chips. The oysters were served with fresh horseradish and a mignonette sauce (a sauce of vinegar and shallots, typically served with raw oysters). The mignonette sauce was so bright and fresh, it would awaken even a sloth.

100_7996You can’t have oysters without a cold beer, so I took the chance to try the one in a red can with a lighthouse pictured on the front—Cisco Brewers Sankaty Light from Nantucket, MA.

100_7947This oyster was served over warm “coals,” roasted in a wood-fired oven with parmesan cheese and bacon at $3 a pop. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

100_7941The Opi Salt & Vinegar Chips were crunchy…the perfect bar food.

100_7950100_7954100_7953Next, let’s talk about the snow crab claw & lobster knuckles in a chili-lime butter bath. It took a little work, but once I got my hands on the cracking tool, we were good to go. Who wouldn’t want to eat something presented that beautifully?

THE FOOD:

I experienced food at The Optimist like I have never experienced food before…intense flavors with no detail undone when it came to presentation. Every encounter I had with staff members was pleasant, from the hostess taking notice of my black dress and providing me a black napkin, the bartender who told me he even spent his days off there, to the manager who described the place as “one big house.” I could tell our waitress Jenn, genuinely enjoyed her job and was very knowledgeable about the menu.

THE ATMOSPHERE:

Some Kinda Good is all about good food and good company, and when the two are combined, that’s a life well lived. The Optimist is a breath of fresh air for the city life, a nautical escape. My friend Harper said it perfectly, “That wasn’t just going out to dinner, that was the best two-hour dining experience of my life.”

The Optimist on Urbanspoon

Culinary Event Celebrates Georgia Coast Bounty, Benefits Local Non-Profit

I couldn’t be more excited to tell y’all about the Inaugural Saint Simons Food & Spirits Festival happening this September at Gascoigne Bluff in my favorite vacation destination…the beautiful Golden Isles of Georgia.

If you’re like me and love seafood and Southern cuisine, this is an event you won’t want to miss. Headlined by James Beard – award-winning television personality, cookbook author and grand dame of Southern cooking –  Nathalie Dupree and her co-author, Cynthia Graubart, the festival will highlight the talents of many major players in the culinary world.

Nathalie Dupree was a household name when I was growing up and like many of you, I am a very big fan of her cookbooks. Other participants will include Atlanta chef of No. 246 Restaurant, Ford Fry; food blogger and cookbook author Libbie Summers and Saint Simons’ own beekeeper, Ted Dennard, founder of Savannah Bee Company.

Think wild Georgia shrimp & grits. Crab cakes. Local honey. Fine wine. The food is sure to be Some Kinda Good, but the cause is even better.

While celebrating the bounty of Georgia’s Golden Isles, the Saint Simons Food & Spirits Festival will raise dollars and awareness for Hospice of the Golden Isles, the only community-based, non-profit hospice serving the area. A variety of ticket prices will cater to every budget.

Culinary talent, bluegrass musical performances and local, coastal cuisine–what’s not to love? I hope you’ll join me and area restaurants, regional farmers and artisans at the first event of its kind September 21 – 23.

Find out who’ll be there, learn more about volunteer opportunities and get the full event schedule by visiting The Saint Simons Food & Spirits Festival website.

Never been to the Golden Isles? Check out my photo gallery to get a glimpse.

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Dining the Way the South Intended

South City Kitchen
Midtown Atlanta, Georgia

In a city as large as Atlanta, Georgia choosing a place to dine is like being on a weight-loss plan and trying to fill your plate with only your favorite dishes on Thanksgiving. That was the situation last Saturday as we drove around the A-T-L in search of the perfect brunch spot. It was South City Kitchen that won me over–the lively patio full of happy customers drew me in and as soon as I laid eyes on the menu, I knew we’d made the right choice.

We were greeted politely, then led through the cool, sophisticated dining room out onto the more relaxed patio. We took a seat in the wicker chairs and soon after, our well-dressed waiter delivered a bread basket and poured us up a cold glass of purified water. It’s the little details that really take a dining experience up a notch, like watching your server pour water into a clean drinking glass while sitting outside in the June humidity.  Filled with warm, soft biscuits and golden corn muffins, the basket also sported softened butter and cold apple butter for spreading. One bite of that biscuit and it was circa 1991 and I was in my Grandma’s kitchen without a care in the world.

On the menu, you’ll find many southern classics like Buttermilk Fried Chicken, BBQ Pork Sandwiches, She-Crab Soup and Grits & Grillades. Unpredictable side options like corn and tomato, kale salad and fingerlings are a nice surprise. The prices ranged anywhere from $5.95 for their House Made Granola to $19 for the Shrimp & Red Mule Grits- stone ground from Athens, Georgia.

The atmosphere is settling like a slower pace from a previous time. As a customer, you get the feeling you’re a respected guest. The restaurant’s most popular menu item is the Buttermilk Fried Chicken. Shrimp & Red Mule Grits takes second place.

I decided on the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Waffle with pure maple syrup for $17. I must admit, I’ve always been curious of the combination. Crazy as it seems, it works. The crunchy fried chicken with the buttery waffle…now I know why it’s a Snoop Dogg favorite. Right on Snoop Doggy Dog!

We finished the meal with a sweet and fruity Watermelon Sorbet, available by one scoop or two, with coffee.

Finding parking was the only challenge to eating here, but after the chicken & waffle dish, it sure didn’t hurt me to walk a few blocks. Open since 1993, South City Kitchen lives up to its motto…dining the way the South intended.

South City Kitchen Midtown on Urbanspoon