Saturday, November 15, 2008

Atlanta cuisine-catch it at CANOE

I am only here in Atlanta for one night and had a hard time finding a place to dine in the NE burbs near the new Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. The streets are lined with strip malls and a dearth of Italian, Chinese and Mexican chain restaurants, so I was thrilled when my crystal Zagat and the Cobb Center website yielded up a neighborhood just 5 minutes away called "the Vinings." This are has numerous quaint spots and CANOE ( is probably the largest sitting on the river with a glass wall facing reeds, wooden gardens and flocks of geese and ducks.

My booth was on a raised step up just inside the glass wall and all the tables in this section are quiet and even romantic as the sun sets. Once dark my attention turned the other way to a large room of exposed brick with an open kitchen on the far side hooded by a huge copper canopy.

The service is southern hospitality at its best with lots of smiles and friendliness, and my server Christine was always checking up on me to make sure I was happy...and I was...VERY HAPPY.

Chef CARVEL GRANT GOULD is self-trained and worked her way through the ranks at the spot and other local dining establishments and has put together local and varied ingredients to create a true new Georgian cuisine. Her pasty chef Thomas Numprasong assists with superb desserts and soft sourdough, tasty wheat, poppy seed and sunflower breads and an I can't get enough of this sage-chili oil flatbread!

The menu has a bout a dozen choices for the first two courses and it was a hard decision but I headed right for the DUCK STUFFED GEORGIA QUAIL over Grilled Endive, Braised Cherries and Roasted Georgia Peanuts. The superb breaded coating has a "southern-fried" feel with each quail half boned and stuffed with duck, confit and foie gras....a divine dish and combo with the tasty endive, cherries and more crunch from the peanuts.

Christine really tried to sell me on the ALASKA King CRAB special appetizer, but I had to drift to the quail as it was truly a "local" dish and so creative; I was happy. BUT, I was even happier when Christine (having noticed my indecision in choices) brought over a small portion of the fresh flown in that day from the Aleutian Islands' Dutch Harbor RED KING CRAB. It seems that Chef Gould made friends with the crab fishers some time ago and this is the only place they will same day ship to anywhere in the lower 48 (I guess even 49) states, making it the only non-frozen Alaska crab around these here parts. She prepares the soft shelled chunks over an emulsion and piece of Butter (Bibb) Lettuce and tops it with an Extra Virgin Olive Oil Sorbet which is simply to die for. Christine even brought over a small taste of the BODEGAS MUGA "Blanco," a Viura from Rioja in Spain that is very reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc. Her tip just jumped 7%!

My entree was a PANKO DUSTED SKATE WING Fillet with MEYER-LEMON and BABY SHRIMP RISOTTO, Haricots Verts and RIESLING BUTTER SAUCE. It was all simply divine from the tasty light fish that is so underrated to each bite of risotto with the tiny shrimp and strong lemon flavor to the crunchy tasty green beans. A glass of TELMO RODRIGUEZ "Gaba do Xil" Godello (a crisp white) from Galicia was a perfect pairing as well, and the Spanish Godello is quick becoming one of my newest favorite options for dry white wine.

Dessert was a MEYER LEMON SHORTBREAD with Toasted MERINGUE with TANGERINE. The small shortbread looks like a cookie canoe and the lemon curd sits in this with 10 tiny peaks of meringue on top. It is light, refreshing and was just what I needed, surrounded by citrus slices and a small pillow of ever-so-light chiffon whipped cream. The cappuccino was frothy and superb and a small plate of cookies was a highlight with a fudgy chocolate biscotti-looking cookie bar, a shortbread cookie and the I will never forget crunchy OATMEAL RAISIN cookie oozing WHITE CHOCOLATE!

I could easily go back to Canoe, as such detail and attention are not only shown with each dish, but with each patron.