Looking for a perfect date idea? Valentine gift? Got it.
Try an Atlanta Culinary Tour, as I did. Tours are essentially progressive dinner parties that include a little face-time with chefs and some history to boot.
First stop: Savi Urban Market
The tour of Inman Park and Old Fourth Ward begins with a stop at Savi. There, we sample wines from the wine tasting machine — a popular first date stop we’re told. Savi serves us roast beef sandwiches with spicy aoili and tuna casserole
with farfalle, peas and feta. We end with samples of custardy-tart-key-lime pie (yum) and chocolate-overload cake. While we munch, we hear about products the market offers, including the new sous-vide-entrees-to-go.
Second stop: Parish Foods and Goods
At Parish, we sit at the large rustic table in the downstairs market. Chef Joe Schafer brings out plates of house-made smoked andouille with caramelized apples, arugula and Chinese mustard. We hear the history of the restaurant and its building while savoring the sausage.
Then, we have a bit of time to walk upstairs to peek at the gorgeous dining room and buy handmade oreos from the market.
Third stop: Park’s Edge
At Park’s Edge, Chef Jorge Pacheco welcomes us with warm smiles, eager to tell us what he is preparing. We know from the tour that he is from Mexico City, is classically trained and experiments with sauces. We start with perfectly cooked pan-seared scallops topping a rich cremini-mushroom risotto and a tart-cranberry beurre blanc. Many of us choose to purchase a glass of wine to accompany our scallops. We finish with a bright
palate cleanser of lemon and lime zest, orange juice and basil.
Fourth stop: P’cheen
At P’cheen, we line the bar and eye the wooden boards holding assorted cheeses, charcuterie and grilled bread that await us. Some guests purchase cocktails from the bar to accompany these bites. We are offered four more of the restaurant’s signature dishes: drunken ’shrooms, Thai wings, coconut-curry mussels, and fish and chips. Our favorite are the Thai wings. Though we have to abandon the knife and fork and dive in with our hands, the wings are sweet, spicy, and have a lovely charred flavor.
As Chef Alex Friedman presents his dishes to us, someone remarks on the plating of the wings — how they are stacked. Chef Friedman isn’t afraid to admit that his childhood fondness for Lincoln Logs has influenced his culinary aesthetic.
Still More? Next stop: Across the Street
At Across the Street, we squeeze in a tight space to sip samples of sangria and traditional margaritas while tasting goat cheese enchiladas with a spicy mango salsa. Our friends buy a spicy margarita made with the house-flavored tequila — stored in a gorgeous tall glass container filled with tequila and dried-cayenne peppers.
Final Stop: Sno-Flake
Sno-flake, a creative alternative to an ice cream shop, treats us to shaved ice with milk-based flavorings. Here, you get the ice cream experience with fewer calories and less fat. We sample both the strawberry and mango ‘flakes‘ both topped with fruit.
We leave the tour thinking, “Why hasn’t this been done before?” The formula works. Tour-goers sample a number of restaurants they might not otherwise try and feel indebted for the hospitality. Foodies have the chance to interact with local chefs. Atlantans get a feel for its neighborhoods. Restaurants promote their brand and develop relationships with customers. It’s a win-win situation and loads of fun.
Atlanta Culinary Tours are led by Dave Jones, publisher of the blog Eat Buford Highway, and Beth Robinette, ethnic food writer for the Examiner.com. Jones and Robinette began the tours last fall, starting with the Inman Park tours. They will soon have tours in Norcross and then have plans to develop tours in Cabbagetown, Midtown West, and East Atlanta Village.
The tours make the perfect date and would make a lovely Valentine’s Day gift. The next two tour dates are scheduled for Feb.19 and March 19 ($39). But there are only 12 spots per tour, so book early — and enjoy!
–by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog
– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team. She also publishes her own blog, Going Low Carb.