Thursday, May 27, 2010

Canoe...Never, Ever Gets Old

I originally published this blog on 3 December 2008, but in thinking about my upcoming trip to Atlanta, and in tweeting about Canoe, I thought you might be interested in reading about one of my favorite Atlanta places. Its heyday was during the ramp-up to Atlanta hosting the Summer Olympics during the 90s, but I tell ya, I've never had anything but wonderful food and service there. It may not be the hottest of the hot, but I don't care. A great, quality restaurant will never be out of style in my opinion, as long as they don't replace the innovation and quality that got them the reputation for trading on it. Since we were there last, the restaurant (and other homes and businesses in the Atlanta area) suffered a destructive flood, which closed Canoe for renovations. As I look forward to our visit on Sunday, I can't wait to see what's different.

Happy reading!

I spent my 38th birthday in Atlanta, owing to the fact that it fell on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. I'm a bit of a homebody, so I asked Jeremiah that, if we had to be away from home for my birthday, could we please have a special evening, just the two of us, for dinner? He happily agreed, and booked a table at Canoe, my favorite restaurant anywhere, ever.
Canoe sits on the bank of the Chattahoochee River, and is located on Paces Ferry Road, one of the most beautiful avenues in Atlanta. (It's just a stone's throw from the governor's mansion, which is far from being the loveliest home on the storied route.) The building has been around for a long time; if memory serves, during the early to mid part of the last century, it featured a dance hall and dining. Now, the space is rustic and cozy, with lots of wood and forged iron surrounding the overstuffed booths and comfortable, oversized chairs. The beautiful gardens add to any occasion, and offer a nice place to stroll before or after your meal. Jeremiah began his culinary career (more or less) there; I've celebrated three birthdays there, and Jeremiah proposed in Canoe's garden. You could say that it holds a special place for us.

When we were seated, the gracious staff immediately wished me a Happy Birthday (a nice touch, for it's always nice to be wished a Happy Birthday on your birthday.) Once we were shown to our table, our server brought us two glasses of sparkling wine to commemorate our special occasion. While enjoying our aperitif, we got down to the serious business of ordering.
For appetizers, Jeremiah chose the she-crab soup, and I chose the house-made smoked salmon. Jeremiah's generous bowl of soup (one never, ever leaves Canoe hungry) was served with a tiny carafe with sherry to top the soup. Its texture was velvety, and the lump crab garnish, fresh. It was fabulous...and owing to the fact that it was my birthday, I got at least three bites.
While J foolishly chose a dish that I love for an appetizer, and was therefore forced to share, I was much, much wiser, and chose salmon. My husband is not a fan normally. Of course, house-made smoked salmon is a fish of a different color, and he loved it. Canoe serves the salmon on a crispy, Yukon Gold potato pancake, generously smeared with goat cheese. The whole thing was garnished with crème fraiche and an herb-infused oil. It was a battle not to make yummy noises, and with the generous portion, I could have called it quits right there, and would have had a satisfying meal. (It was a delightful coincidence that the sparkling wine paired well with both of our choices.)

For entrees, we followed our normal protocol and ordered items that we wouldn't normally make at home. I ordered a maple-glazed duck breast, served on a grilled romaine crepe that was stuffed with duck sausage and carrots. Jeremiah ordered pheasant, which was roasted with sage and served with pheasant croquettes and brown-butter sweet potatoes. J stuck with water; I ordered a glass of St. Cosme Cote du Rhone – one of my favorites. And as a bonus, I finally learned how to pronounce St. Cosme! (It sounds like "comb" if you're interested.)
We skipped dessert. I'm sure you can see why.

If you are ever in Atlanta, I highly, highly recommend Canoe. I can't say enough good things about it…from the attentive service, to the beautiful surroundings, to the delicious food, to the value for your dollar – before tip, we were under $100. They also serve, hands down, the BEST Sunday brunch anywhere in Atlanta – anywhere, period, as far as I'm concerned. So actually, forget my first sentence…make a trip to Atlanta, just for Canoe. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Newcastle Pot Roast

I love, love, love, chuck roast - when it's good. When it's leathery, under-seasoned, or tastes as though it's been boiled - no thanks. I love to braise this inexpensive cut to bring out the flavor, and I probably have a dozen recipes, all requiring, oh, at least thirty to sixty minutes of prep time. So when I saw this gem of a recipe on my friend Karrie's Facebook a few months back, I thought it sounded so incredible that I literally dropped everything, ran to the store, and bought the ingredients. Granted, I was pregnant at the time, and was a complete slave to my temptations and cravings, which frequently included protein. But in finding the recipe, and making it, I've added something so simple to our repertoire that I am eternally grateful to Karrie for posting.
Sure, you could caramelize the onions. And of course you could dredge the roast in seasoned flour, brown on all sides, and deglaze the pan to get all the wonderful fond for the sauce (I actually had someone suggest that "this is how I would prepare it, because I like a little more flavor." As if....! K, well maybe she wasn't that snooty, but it felt like it.) But you know what? I didn't wanna. I wanted to throw everything in a pot, set the timer, walk off, and come back six hours later to dinner. And that's pretty much what this recipe does for you.
A quick internet search for the recipe turns up that it more than likely appeared in Cooking Light in its original form. Funny, CL's recipes always seem to involve dozens of ingredients; this one is either some strange anomaly, or else it's not really a CL recipe. But just to be on the safe side (having read a David Lebovitz article about the subject of recipe plagiarism just last week) here is the recipe, courtesy of Cooking Light (probably), via Karrie H. Enjoy. It's so, so SOO, good. And easy enough for a Monday nite when you've been on the go all day.

2 T butter
2 large onions, sliced
a 2-3 lb beef roast (I use a boneless chuck roast, but use what you like)
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t dried thyme
1 c. beef broth
12-oz bottle of Newcastle Ale
2 T cornstarch

  • Set slow cooker to low.
  • Add the butter and sliced onion and stir together.
  • Place your roast on top of the onions and season with the salt, pepper and thyme.
  • Pour in the broth and beer.
  • Cover and let cook for 6-8 hrs or until the meat falls apart.
  • Spoon out about 2 cups of the liquid and place in a saucepan.
  • Bring to a simmer and add the cornstarch, stirring constantly with a whisk.
  • Let cook one minute more and remove from heat.
  • Serve roast alongside potatoes and pour the gravy over both, if you like.

You can also prepare the roast in the oven. If you do, first brown the roast in a skillet on all sides and then cook in a 300 degree oven for 1 1/2 -2 hrs.

No effort, no thought. And I promise that your family will LOVE you for this.