Exquisite Eats

Blackberry Farm’s chef Adam Cooke brings the farm’s fare to Ritz Carlton’s Atlanta Grill.

By Jan Walsh

The Ritz Carlton, downtown Atlanta is hosting a program to show off the culinary skills of renowned young chefs from the Southeast. These dinners will take place on several chosen weekends over the summer, with a different chef preparing dinner at Atlanta Grill.
 
The chefs—ages 27 and 32—and their cuisines are featured at Atlanta Grill on selected dates throughout the summer. Bennett Hollberg, chef de cuisine, will collaborate with each of them create a four-course dinner menu, with wine pairings recommended by Silvio Garcia, hotel sommelier. “This is a unique opportunity for guests to meet the young chefs who are making an impact on the culinary scene now, and who will be leading the future dining experiences in the region,” said Chef Hollberg. “We’re excited to be working together, and guests are going to enjoy great dining experiences.” 

The cost of the dinner is  $85 per person, inclusive of tax and gratuities and exclusive of wines. The hotel is also offering The Young Chefs of the Southeast Package (starting at $359), which includes a deluxe guestroom for one evening, Young Chefs dinner for two in Atlanta Grill, turndown amenity themed by the visiting chef, and overnight valet parking.

My husband, Kevin and I were guests at the hotel during the weekend of the first dinners and attended the first dinner prepared by Adam Cooke—chef at The Barn at Blackberry Farm, on June 4.  Before dinner we sipped cocktails in the Lumen Lobby Bar. Here art themed signature cocktails are named for their contemporary art. But my favorite cocktail here is a work of art itself—the Maragtini. This divine drink is served in a martini glass with a salty rim. It combines the luscious flavors of a margarita with the smoothness of a martini, and the mix is magic.

At Blackberry Farm Cooke creates dishes with seasonal produce and herbs found in the farm’s gardens, fields and forests, ensuring a taste of East Tennessee in every course. Most recently, Chef Cooke—a recipient of  “Grand Chef” status by Relais & Chateaux—cooked at the James Beard House in New York, and was named one of The Mother Nature Network’s “Top 40 Chefs under 40.”

Dinner began with Amuse Bouche of black truffle and asparagus soup and a tasty raw asparagus salad. The delightful first course of  heirloom beets, fresh sheep’s cheese with dandelion greens with pickled strawberries and candied walnuts is paired with a German Riesling by St. M Pfalz. A smashing second course of Morel Mushrooms, country ham and wild ramps is served with crayfish, garden peas with scrambled farm eggs. A lovely, crisp white blend of Chardonnay, Sauvigon Blanc and Marsanned from Washington State is paired with this course. For the entrée, tender braised Painted Hills short ribs with deep, dark layers of flavor are served with hand made, old world scallion pasta and gorgeous grilled torpedo onions and baby carrots that are bursting with freshness. This course is well matched with Louis Matini Cabernet Sauvignon, from Napa Valley.

And dessert by Blackberry Farm’s pastry chef Adjryche Channing is a beautiful yogurt parfait made of Blackberry Farm’s sheep’s milk with cherry and wildflower consommé with fresh almonds, and petit bitter almond Madeleine. A sparkling demi-sec styled, Celebration from South Africa is paired with dessert. And small bags of Bon Bons—chocolate covered almonds and fruit tied with Blackberry Farm’s ribbons—are saved for tomorrow’s snack.

Other dinners scheduled for the summer include the following:
Sue Zemanick, Gautreau’s, New Orleans, June 25-26
A finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Star Chef” award in 2009 and 2010, Chef Zemanick’s cuisine may be both down-to-earth and out-of this-world. She was named one of the “Top Ten Best New Chefs” by Food & Wine in 2009, as well as “Chef of the Year” by New Orleans Magazine. Gautreau’s is renowned for its classic New Orleans flavors and largely French-inspired menu, and is consistently rated one of the “Top Ten Best Restaurants in New Orleans” by the Times-Picayune.

Kelly English, Restaurant Iris, Memphis, August 20-21
Chef/Owner Kelly English brings endless passion to the guest experience at Restaurant Iris, considered by many to be the dining jewel of Memphis. Among his many recent awards and recognition, Chef English was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation award “Best Chef of the Southeast” (2010); voted “Best Chef,” “Best Restaurant” and ”Best Service” by the readers of Memphis Magazine (2010) and named ‘Best New Chef’ by Food and Wine (2009). Restaurant Iris specializes in French-Creole cuisine featuring local and seasonal ingredients.

Jeffrey McInnis, The DiLido Beach Club, The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, Sep 10 - 11
Chef McInnis routinely gathers accolades at South Beach’s only oceanfront restaurant and lounge, but it is his appearance on Top Chef Season 5 that fuels the buzz surrounding his every move. A veteran of major culinary events, he has appeared at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, New Orleans Food and Wine Experience, South Beach Wine and Food Festival and the New York Food and Wine Festival. His Sun Cuisine features dishes inspired by tastes from beach towns he’s visited along the southern Mediterranean and North African coasts.

Pick a weekend for your own culinary getaway. Reservations are required and may be made by calling Atlanta Grill at 404-221-6550 or at Open Table. Hotel reservations are available at www.ritzcarlton.com.