Saturday, May 19, 2007

Of the sea.

I had a special treat this past week. I got a sneak preview of a new restaurant that's opening in Madison. It's called Atlantica, and it's DIVINE! It's upscale and serves primarily steaks and seafood. The restaurant is located in Madison, near the Home Depot shopping center. Just travel west after you get off Interstate 55, and you should see it.

The atmosphere of the restaurant is lovely - dimmed lighting, art on the walls, cushy booths for large groups, and tables scattered throughout. The restaurant features a semi-open kitchen; there's a large picture window on one of the walls through which you can see the chefs preparing your food. I thought this was a nice touch, and I loved "peeping" into the world of a professional chef.

The restaurant also features a glass room lined with wine bottles, and there's one table in the middle of the room that would be wonderful to reserve for special occasions. Lastly, the restaurant features a full bar and an extensive wine list.

The food is YUM. We tried several things:
1.) appetizers - my pick here is the asian shrimp dish. It's rounds of pineapple, with a perfectly cooked shrimp resting on each one. The little packages are coated in a delicious sauce, and the dish comes with a garnish of fried rice noodles that, if eaten, provide a satisfying complementary crunch. I thought this was a highly inventive appetizer, and unlike anything you might order elesewhere in the Jackson area.
2.) salads - the restaurant really shines here. We tried the salad Atlantica and the Boston Bibb salad. Both were exceptional. The salad Atalantica is garnished with pine nuts (which I thought was a great, original touch) and REAL olives - briny, firm, probably imported - not the mushy schlock you get in most restaurants. The Boston Bibb salad was a standout as well, a beautifully presented head of lettuce with blue cheese, tart dressing, and nuts. YUM! Again, what struck me about the salads was their uniqueness. I have eaten at many restuarants in the metro area, and I don't recall much duplication of what I saw at Atlantica. I thought the inventiveness of the menu was a really smart business move for them.
3.) entrees - We tried the filet and the quail, both of which I'd recommend. The filet could be cut with a butter knife. The lump crabmeat that we ordered to top it was delicious. The quail entree featured two perfectly cooked quails along with a side of asparagus risotto. (I'm not sure if the quail will be billed with the rositto once the restaurant opens. They were still testing the menu, I believe.) Excellent. The quail was accompanied by a delicious pomegranate suace, which I requested more of. (I could have eaten a VAT of that stuff.)
4.) dessert - Needless to say, after consuming all of the above, I didn't have room for dessert. So you're on your own there.

Prices are spendy but worth it (and not out of line with what other upscale restuarants in the metro are charging). The restaurant is scheduled to open May 22, so fire up your tastebuds and get ready!!

Monday, May 07, 2007

What I'm eating right now.

Now that spring has sprung, my thoughts turn to food. (Don't tell me you're surprised.) I strongly believe that spring and summer are the best times to eat in the South. The farmer's markets open back up, and they are filled with fresh, local produce. As the summer stretches on, it only gets better.

Plus, with the temperatures getting hotter, one craves lighter fare, making all-day grazing or heavy appetizers a fine replacement for the heavy meals of autumn and winter. It opens up all kinds of new meal-lets.

Here's what's on my plate:

Watermelon (TONS of it)

Asparagus with ranch dressing

My go-to summer salad: halved cherry tomatoes mixed with chopped cucumbers and real mayo (Lots of salt and pepper, eat with crackers)

Those tiny new potatoes, halved and boiled, the drained and dressed with a bit of butter, olive oil, and chopped fresh herbs of choice

Strawberries (This time of year, I love whole wheat toaster waffles topped with light vanilla yogurt and chopped strawberries for breakfast. With a cup of coffee, there is nothing better for a quick weekday breakfast that'll make you feel like you slept in.)

Tomato sandwiches - thin slices of swiss cheese on white bread, slices of ripe tomato, real mayo, and a few spinach or basil leaves. This sounds so simple, but you will think you've died and gone to heaven.

Once the figs are ripe (I'm counting the days.), I love figs stuffed with ricotta, sprinkled with chopped pistachios, and drizzled with honey. OMG.

I intersperse foods like these liberally with smoked almonds (YUM.), whole wheat pita chips, and low-fat cheeses.

I could go on, but the fridge is calling. Happy eating!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Lurching towards a classic

Last week, I got the absolute treat of seeing Moonlight & Magnolias at New Stage Theatre. What a hoot! A friend and I laughed ourselves silly.

Here's the set-up - It's 1936, and David Selznick has halted production of Gone with the Wind three weeks into filming because the script isn't working. He's also fired director Cukor, so now he has a cast under contract and a budget threatening to spiral out of control. To salvage the script, Selznic calls screenwriter Ben Hecht (who, unfortunately, has never read the famous novel). To replace Cukor, Selznick pulls Victor Fleming off The Wizard of Oz.

Desperate to salvage his production, Selznick practically takes Hecht and Fleming hostage in his office for five consecutive days to hammer out the script. The men subsist on peanuts and bananas (which Selznick insists are "brain food"). Because Hecht is unfamiliar with the novel, Selznick and Fleming are forced to act out all of the scenes for him, making for some hilarious pantomime.

The New Stage production was tight as a drum. With a small cast such as this one, every actor gets the chance to flex. The standout was Russ Blackwell as Victor Fleming. He was absolute inspiration, and he knew who his character was from the moment he appeared on stage. (He was also the brightest star in last fall's production of The Crucible. His John Proctor was a revelation.) Turner Crumbley as Selznick and Bill Campbell as Hecht were also very strong, with Francine Thomas Reynolds rounding out the cast as Miss Poppenghul, Selznick's secretary. We SO enjoyed this show; I love productions with smaller casts, as they tend to feature stronger performers overall and better pacing. Scenes in which Fleming and Selznick were acting out events from the book as Hecht struggled to grasp the storyline were particularly enjoyable. If you missed it, YOU MISSED OUT! Sorry for not alerting you to my great experience while it was still running, but I've had a busy week. I do think it's safe to say, though, that if New Stage casts Russ Blackwell in ANYTHING again, it's worth your time to come check out his performance.

On a side note, we enjoyed dinner at an old favorite, Hal and Mal's, before the show. I'd never ordered their fried oyester platter before, so I had no idea how substantial it was. It is HUGE, and plenty to split between two or maybe even three people. YUM!

Lastly, a new publication caught my eye this week. It's a slick, four-color magazine titled Portico Jackson. I thought it was pretty well-written, and it contained some articles on interesting, if not new, topics. As a Jacksonian, I've watched over the past several years as one magazine after another started up and then quickly went out of business. Magazines are tough work. You've got to sell lots of ads, find the best talent (writers and photographers) that you can, and then pray for success. While I think Portico has some good content going for it, it didn't cover any new ground. I'll reserve final judgement until I see more.