Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A night at Briza

Bar at Briza. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

 Some days, being a blogger is a bit like being Cinderella at the ball, without the annoying missing shoe. Take June 25, for instance. I worked at my day job, punched the clock at 5:15 p.m., turned the key in my minivan and pointed ol' Linen Gold towards Atlanta where I met my friend Christine for a five-course media dinner (with pairings) at Briza in Midtown.

Guests at Briza. Christine Habib Photography

Christine and I joined two dozen other writers, photographers and bloggers to sample Chef Janine Falvo’s summer menu. “Farm to table” is the buzz phrase used to describe the careful sourcing and preparation of produce and proteins, but Chef Falvo’s offerings need that extra step, “farm to chef to table” – her wit and sophisticated technique transforming the farmer’s bounty into elegant fare.

Chef Janine Falvo by Christine Habib Photography

Chef Falvo is the heartbreak kid of Top Chef Season 9, who just missed the cut-off to compete on the full season. Top Chef's loss is Atlanta's gain. The Pittsburgh native spent many years in California wine country before moving to Atlanta last fall. She credits the bounteous West Coast produce for her inspiring her love of fresh vegetables and fruits, subjects near and dear to a Southerner’s heart.

Christine Habib Photography

Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was the food, maybe it was sitting in a restaurant and not having to ask for a kid’s menu or extra napkins, but sitting at the table between courses, something felt distinctly different. I looked around at my tablemates, accomplished young women with exciting jobs living in a big and busy city. I remembered a line a crusty reporter once hurled my way “I’ve got brassieres older than you.”

Christine Habib Photography
 More about my mental meanderings later, let me get to Chef Falvo's menu with pairings and Christine's fantastic photos. (with a few ok pictures by me).

The amuse bouche
beau soleil oyster, green tomato-black pepper mignonette
iron horse “russian cuvee”, green valley ‘04

Oyster with green tomato-black pepper mignonette. Christine Habib Photography

heirloom tomatoes
burrata cheese, watermelon, gazpacho water
iron horse “russian cuvee”, green valley /04

Heirloom tomato salad. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
I wish my picture could do justice to this lovely salad, a spin on the summer classic of tomatoes, watermelon and mozzarella. Chef Falvo compressed the watermelon to concentrate the flavor and the rich burrata just took it over the top. The black sprinkles are "basil caviar," crunchy basil seeds. I want to eat this salad from now through Labor Day.
artisan foie gras
fried pies, strawberry –rhubarb compote
castillo de monseran garnacha, carinena d.o. ‘09

Foie gras fried pie. Christine Habib Photography
This is what I mean by Chef Falvo's wit. I think it's hilarious that two blocks from the Varsity, the mother ship of greasy fried peach pies, we were served this cute little foie gras fried pie with strawberry jam. Delicious and fun.

Alaskan halibut
lobster home fries, truffled Hollandaise
buena vista pinot noir, carneros ‘09

Alaskan halibut with lobster home fries by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
The fish was sweet and tender and the lobster home fries were a perfect complement.

48 hour short rib
vidalia onion puree, rattlesnake beans, stone fruit watercress salad
joseph carr merlot, carneros ‘09

48 Hour short rib. Christine Habib Photography
 The diners pretty much groaned in ecstatic unison as we ate this tender short rib flavored with apricot and cherry. Chef Falvo cooks it sous vide for 48 hours, and because her kitchen is small, the short rib simmers away in her office. 

sour cream pound cake
grilled georgia peaches, spicy peanut brittle, peach sorbet
paolo saracco moscato d’asti, piedmonte d.o.c.g

Sour cream pound cake, peaches and cream. Christine Habib Photography
Anyone who's turned out a few dozen pound cakes has earned the right to be a snob about a dessert featuring pound cake. I was a little worried when the plate arrived, wondering if the pound cake would be as good as mine, or more like Pepperidge Farm out of the box. No worries, this pound cake is the real deal, worthy of any Southern grandmother's recipe file. The peaches and cream and sweet Georgia peaches made it a fitting end to a farm to table dinner.

And back to my mental meanderings... maybe it was the wine and maybe it was the food, but in this youthful company on this night, I felt older, but richer for the experience. Shoes intact, this Cinderella climbed into her mommy car and headed back to the burbs, mellow from the meal and rich with conversation and good food.

Briza. 866 West Peachtree Street Northwest  Atlanta 30308. (678) 412-2402.


I have a gift certificate for $40 for Briza to give away. If you're in the Atlanta area and would like to enter the drawing for the gift certificates, please leave a comment below. I will choose a commenter at random on Sunday, July 22 and contact the winner via email.

Many thanks to Chef Janine Falvo and the wonderful staff at Briza for a lovely evening with fantastic food.

For more about Christine Habib's photography, please check out her Facebook page.


LBMahana said...

Excellent review. I mean really good. I can tell just how good this chef is and the menu is right up my alley...will certainly try this restaurant!

Hydrangea said...

Beautiful photos, looks like correct portion sizes to enjoy and be completely sated. I also like the thoughtful wine pairings.
Thanks for sharing.

Hydrangea said...

Beautiful photos and portion size seems perfect-love the wine pairings and the review that a meal is much more than the food-it's the company, service, ambiance-the total experience. Looks like you had that! Thanks for sharing.

Hydrangea said...

Thanks for the review-just proves that a great meal is the food, company, ambiance and of course dessert of pound cake and peaches? What???

Anonymous said...

You had me at "date night."

Your cheap friend,


Gayla said...

G Bearden, great recipes and opportunities to learn about different restaurants. Thanks Lucy
Please put me in for the drawing for the gift card!

krissy l said...

I always love your stories and reviews. Makes me want to drag my hubby out of dville for dinner :)

MiddletownPodCast said...

Sounds like a nice "high falootin" place to eat...