Sunday, January 31, 2016

CAKES AND ALE


155 Sycamore Street
Decatur, GA  30030
404/377-7994

A recent weekend night we decided to head to Cakes and Ale with another couple.  The restaurant is owned by husband and wife team (Billy and Kristin Allin).  Billy grew up in South Carolina, and Kristin grew up in Atlanta (and yay! is a Georgia Tech grad!).  They lived in San Francisco, where Billy attended culinary school and worked at various restaurants there, before deciding to relocate to Atlanta.  Billy was sous-chef at Watershed before starting Cakes and Ale in 2006.

Their bio on the website says it all - Cakes & Ale is modeled after Billy and Kristin’s basic dining philosophy: cook unassuming food using the highest quality ingredients and serve it in a comfortable and welcoming setting. 

The view of the restaurant as we walked up the street:

catebogue
A photo of the bar and restaurant from their website:
cakesandale
We waited a bit for our friends to arrive and enjoyed their version of a Moscow Mule.  And first impressions - the hostess was extremely nice and accommodating, steering us to the bar where we could wait.  And the bartender was outstanding - likable, knowledgeable and most importantly - he KNEW how to craft a cocktail!

 The BRASS BUTTON: barrel aged gin, cynar, lemon, saffron, sugar

The  menu of the evening (which is tweaked and changed often):
catebogue

Our friends arrived and we were seated in the main dining area.  The first thing I noted was the sound level - compared with a recent dining experience that was deafeningly loud - Cakes and Ale is a bustling restaurant without it being exhausting to have a conversation.

We met our server (Doug) and decided to begin with some starters while deciding on dinner.

We began with Citrus Marinated Olives.  These olives were so fabulous - they tasted amazingly fresh, and I haven't tasted olives this good since we were at a Paris Farmer's Market this past summer.
And their bread!  Just wow!  It was all I could do not to eat more than one slice.
Another appetizer we went with were the Roasted Rosemary Almonds.  Again - a hit!  These were so good in fact, my husband, said later that we should attempt to roast some like these at home and serve at a dinner party we're hosting next weekend.  They were THAT good.

 Bayonne Ham and Sopresatta with mixed greens

This starter was good, but I think we were all thinking it would be a bit more substantial with a $12 price tag.  I loved that all was shaved see-through thin, and I loved the tiny oyster fork that accompanied the dish, and all tasted very very good.
Finally, we had a 4th starter - their Squash Dip with Naan.  I absolutely loved it (but I'm a butternut squash officianado!).  My husband wasn't doing back-flips over it, but THAT NAAN!   It was slathered in olive oil and garlic, and, I probably could have devoured the entire thing myself.

Our friend Ben and I decided we HAD to be a bit adventurous and try the sweetbreads.  I have never tried sweetbreads before (which is the thymus gland of a calf or lamb - I know, I know, sounds gross), fearing that it would taste like chicken liver or something.  So I've been squeamish over the years.  But, let me tell you, I've been missing out!  There were 2 sweetbreads for us, and both Ben and myself LOVED them!  I didn't try the quail or the grits and collards but the rest of the table loved them as well.

Crispy quail and sweetbreads: jimmy red grits, collards, pepper vinegar

Now - on the the mains!

We decided at the suggestion of our server Doug, to go with 3 main dishes to share.  After reading about how good the NC trout was, we knew we HAD to begin with that one.

It's served whole with bacon mayo and salad greens.  And it's brought to the table and filleted right in front of you on the table.  But the best part?  It's delicious!  I'm usually NOT a big trout lover, but, I became a convert after this dish!

Whole Roasted NC Trout



 The 2nd main course we chose was a pork dish.

Maiale al Latte - farro, rutabaga and carrots, brussel sprouts and pickled raisans

So the fancy name aside, it's basically Pork Roast and Shoulder Braised with Milk and Fresh Herbs.  We all LOVED this dish!  The pork was so tender and juicy and all the accompaniments were fantastic.  There wasn't a morsel left on the plate.

 The last main dish we sampled was their Black Bass Baked in Parchment.  The server unwrapped the fish, split it in half and then carefully removed the bay leaves and lemon slices before drizzling both sides of the fish with olive oil.  Lovely presentation.

I've had fish in parchment numerous times, and while it makes for a moist fish, sometimes it ends up (to me) being a bit boring and lacking flavor.  Not this one!  The fish was so flavorful that I'd definitely order it again.  Again, none was left after we were through!




And once our meal was through we were presented with the cheese and dessert menu.  Another note: we were not rushed through the meal (unlike some restaurants).  The employees here genuinely seem to want you to savor your meal and enjoy your evening (which we did immensely!).

And we were full, but that Toffee Bread Pudding was screaming off of the menu to me, so I coaxed our group into trying it (along with a couple of cappuccinos!).

 The Sticky Toffee Pudding

I'm not sure where to begin here?  The picture doesn't begin to do it justice - it was perhaps my favorite thing of the evening (and that's saying a lot!).  Not sure the exact ingredients of this typically English dessert, but it's a sponge cake (usually with crushed dates) topped with a fabulous toffee/caramel sauce and finished with whipped cream.  AH-MAZ-ING!

So, just to recap, we all totally enjoyed our experience at Cakes and Ale.  From the time we entered the restaurant until we left, we were treated well, enjoyed great food and drinks, and were totally able to enjoy an evening eating and conversing with great friends.  And extra kudos to our server Doug - he was friendly, available, knowledgeable and not intrusive or pushy.  Sometimes you just take a server for granted, and other times you notice how aloof or arrogant a server can be.  Doug is certainly of the calibre that I would tell friends to specifically ask for him.

Bravo Cakes and Ale!!!  We will be back!