Sunday, January 31, 2016


155 Sycamore Street
Decatur, GA  30030

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:

A photo of the bar and restaurant from their website:
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):

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!

Saturday, January 30, 2016


2277 Peachtree Rd., NE
Atlanta, GA  30309

I have been wanting to try Linton Hopkins' Holeman and Finch for ages, and finally committed to making a reservation (weeks in advance) and going with friends recently.

Holeman and Finch describes itself as a "Gastropub" which is a fancy way of saying that it's a pub/bar atmosphere dedicated to serving quality food.  So the idea here is small plates to share - not that you HAVE to share, but that's how the menu is designed.

But let me back up a bit - when you drive into the front of the restaurant, you see Restaurant Eugene on your left, and Holeman and Finch is on the right.  It's valet parking only, and they were prompt and whisked the car away quickly.

Upon entering the "pub" we were greeted immediately and briskly seated by the hostess.  It's loud and bustling with patrons in the bar as well as in the main restaurant.  We were seated in a booth, and it needs to be noted that seating is a bit cramped in the place.  I'm only 5'5" but my husband is almost 6'5" and was pretty miserable feeling throughout the meal.  Not sure there was another spot in the place that would have worked for him though - it definitely wasn't designed with tall people in mind.

Anyway, our waiter arrived, and we eventually were asked our drink orders, and we begin our dining experience.

The menu changes often, and it's stamped with the date at the top. The food is most definitely fresh and all farm to table. Having never been here before, our waiter was helpful is describing the menu and offering up some of his favorites.

 We decided to "start" with one cold dish and one hot - we chose 2 orders of their deviled eggs and 1 order of their shrimp toast.  Both were outstanding.

 So, it's not THE greatest photograph here, but the 3 deviled eggs were (from left to right) a dill pickle, a cayenne and a country ham one.  We all favored the country ham one - I could've eaten a dozen I think!

 My Moscow Mule - very good.
 A couple of pics of the Shrimp Toast - we all plowed into the dish before I remembered to snap a pic!  But this dish was perfectly prepared - the toast was delicious to sop up all the "sauce" and the shrimp cooked to perfection. Loved!

 Another oops!  My "main" dish choice was the Pate Melt.  I went with our server's recommendation. It's pate that's served on toast with melted cheese and a smoked onion jam.  It was rich but outstanding.
 The creme de la creme at Holeman and Finch - the cheeseburger.  And it lived up to the hype!  It's juicy and greasy and decadent - everything a great burger should be. This burger used to only be served to the lucky few that happened to be there at 10PM each night, but they changed their policy and now all patrons can order this delicacy any time.  Really stupendous burger!
 My friend Lori got the short ribs with fingerling sweet potatoes. It doesn't photograph well of course, but it was a great short rib dish.
 And my husband ordered the "Crunchy Lady." Not sure why they call it that?  But, it was great!  It's their version of a Croque Madame and was so so good.  We were all vying for a bite!

And even though we were totally stuffed, I had heard great things about their Sticky Toffee Bread Pudding.  It was good, but not great. 4th and Swift has one that is "moan worthy," and King + Duke's is to die for, alas, this one was not. But it was a fine dessert to share between the 4 of us to end our meal, and it was tasty, just not memorable.

Had a fabulous time with our friends at Holeman and Finch!  A few things do need to be noted however.  The place (as I mentioned above) is very LOUD.  At the end of the evening I felt my throat straining to talk across the small booth.

Also, the service was extremely slow.  Drinks didn't come out together, so that was awkward for 1-2 of us to have our beverages to enjoy while the others didn't.  And we ordered 2 orders of deviled eggs, and they brought out only 1 order.  When we brought it to our server's attention, he immediately said that he knew that and the other one was coming out.  But very odd to serve them 5 minutes apart!  And I watched other patrons being served and having issues - it wasn't just our table.  They do not seem to be dedicated to seeing to their customers' every need - it's sort of an attitude of "we've got a great thing going here and you're lucky to be here." Not rude per se, and he WAS knowledgeable, but he was not welcoming or warm either.

But, the food is the star here. Everything we had was wonderful.  It's not for those on a diet, but that's not why we chose to go there.  I'm still talking about that burger...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


So it's been awhile since we've tried a NEW restaurant in Atlanta.  But, my birthday is Monday, and my choice was Marcel, Ford Fry's latest installment to his empire of restaurant gems.  Anyone who knows me knows what a devoted Ford Fry fan I am, and happily his latest creation did not disappoint.

Marcel is located in the space formerly occupied by Abattoir, in the Westside Provisions District (around the corner from Bacchanalia).

1170 Howell Mill Road
Atlanta, GA  
Here's what we experienced:

When you walk in the door, the atmosphere is very different from Ford Fry's other establishments in that it's more intimate and dark.  Having just returned from a trip to Paris this past summer, I definitely felt the French brasserie influence.
The menu of the evening.

Go to their website for a better view - Marcel.

We started with one of their signature cocktails -

King Charles Vodka, Dolin Blanc, Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters
Birthday girl pose with my guy:
THAT drink!
Then the real fun began - the food!  They brought out griddled focaccia bread (TO DIE FOR) slathered in olive oil, along with warm ricotta cheese, olives and charcuterie.  Seriously, the bread course was just amazing and decadent.

Our server was fabulous and recommended a Malbec to go with our dinner, that we thoroughly enjoyed.

But first!!! - we went with "Oysters of the Moment" that were served with homemade crackers (naturally) and a cocktail sauce sprinkled with fresh horseradish as well as a great mignonette.  There was also a hot sauce that was delicious! AND - my crackers were presented with a candle since it was after all my birthday dinner! Nice touch.
 Oysters "of the moment"
 Salad Marcel (TO DIE FOR!).
Chopped with creamy maple and bacon vinaigrette and bleu. Seriously - this salad has been touted as the best salad in Atlanta, and I can now vouch for it.  I couldn't begin to tell you everything that was in it, but it was really fabulous.  We split the salad and were glad we did - there's a lot there.  So so good!

I had a hankering for veal, so that's what I went with.  I know, I know - it's a steakhouse, and it's a French brasserie, but this Italian dish is what spoke to me! It was really really great.  Tender, not chewy and the tomato sauce and cheese were perfect.
My husband chose a bone-in filet that was one of the tastiest steaks we have ever tried.  There wasn't a smidgen of it left (other than the bone!).
Great asparagus as a side - just what the doctor ordered.
And finally we went with our server's recommendation again for dessert.  It was a pear/toffee delight. I just absolutely loved it and it wasn't too heavy after the heavier entrees.
PEAR TARTE TATIN: caramel, toasted milk ice cream, walnut crumble, salted caramel anglaise
And these little gems were presented with our check - a little gingery nosh to send us on our way.
All in all it was a truly memorable evening at Marcel.  The food did not disappoint.  And in typical Ford Fry style, there wasn't a detail missed.  The service was absolutely outstanding - very very attentive without being a burden.  The restaurant does get loud however.  We arrived fairly early (6:45PM), and by the time we left 2 hours later, I could barely hear my husband without straining.  Lots and lots of large parties were there, and it was December, so that may have played a part

But Marcel is a great choice for a special evening out.  Be aware that it is a higher end restaurant however, so the bill will be pricier than a typical Ford Fry restaurant.  But, the high quality food is sublime; the service is excellent, and God willing, we'll be back!