Every now and then I take a journey from Cowlick Cottage Farm to the big city. I pack my bags and hop on a plane, leaving husband, dogs, chickens and garden behind. I feel a little wistful and a little guilty, but I go anyway. It’s good for me.
Recently I had the opportunity to fly up and visit our daughter, Heather, in Atlanta for a few days. She is urban and witty and gorgeous, a sweet Georgia Peach. We might as well live on two different planets, our lifestyles are so different. But we adore each other, and when we are together, there is a lot of laughter, talk, good food, and friends. It’s a lifetime of love wrapped up in a weekend.
Heather and Phil and their beautiful friend, Betzy, treated me to a very special evening at Restaurant Eugene. Actually, it was more of a food journey. An experience of a lifetime. Foodie heaven. Restaurant Eugene.
Before we even arrived at the restaurant, I was filled with excitement and anticipation. For a small organic farmer, it is a delight to eat at a fine dining establishment that procures its ingredients from local farms. This practice means that the diner is being treated to the freshest seasonal ingredients available. Kind of like home for a farmer, but with the added benefit of an expert staff. Restaurant Eugene lists a full page of local farms on its menu that provide their finest produce, meats, and herbs. And the restaurant staff makes almost everything from scratch. Jams, herbaceous oils, breads– even the ginger ale! I couldn’t wait to try everything.
The atmosphere of the restaurant is very pleasing. It is chic and sexy and elegant without being pretentious. It’s urbane and busy, but quiet enough to enjoy a conversation with your dinner companions. I like that. We first partook a seasonal libation at the gorgeous bar, where the bartender made me a Paper Dollar, an herbal concoction of Prairie Vodka, Dupont’s Pommeau, Bitter Lemon, and Fresh Basil. Delightful and refreshing. I noted an interesting and unusual wine list, and we enjoyed watching the expert bartender mixing his beautiful cocktails–Kir Royale, Country Dime, Scorched Earth.
Our dinner table was a comfortable booth with a view of the windowed dining room. And that’s where the journey really began. Phil ordered the wine and the 7 course tasting menu for all of us, and we let Chef Kyle have his way. He did not disappoint. Our first course was one perfect Kumamoto oyster with smoked plum granita and a heavenly bite of foie gras. This tease set the stage for the evening, which lasted several hours. Next was a celebration of lamb…a platter of lamb prepared in several different ways …lamb belly, terrine, charcuterie…accompanied by pistachio butter, red onion jam, fig mustard and blueberry conserve. Wonderful.
We inhaled the glazed benne gnocchi. I almost passed out from the aroma alone. The tender handmade gnocchi was served with hedgehog mushrooms, corn, peeled baby tomatoes, and rabbit leg confit. If I had died while eating it, my life would have been complete. But Chef Kyle was not nearly finished with us yet. The gnocchi was followed by…confit pork belly. Think rich and decadent. Swoon. Taste. Sip a little wine and repeat. The pork belly was accompanied by bacon, crisp little grit dumplings, sweet potato greens, and shallots . . . things we grow at Cowlick Cottage Farm. Very Southern and perfectly prepared.
Our fish course was one of my favorites, roasted jumbo flounder with local figs, red Russian kale, lobster mushrooms, and padron peppers. The flaky, buttery flounder was cooked perfectly, and the combination of flavors and textures was amazing. One of the most tantalizing parts about the tasting menu at Restaurant Eugene is that every component of each dish is fantastic on its own. A bite of ripe fig, a taste of lobster mushroom, a tender forkful of flounder. Each is savored. But when you combine a bit of each onto your fork and into your mouth, the chef’s knowledge and expertise is truly established, and each bite is a work of art.
After a short break, our next course arrived, served by the friendly and knowledgeable Bret. I did not think I could consume another bite, but then he presented a seared Hudson Valley duck breast with farro, lobster mushrooms, pickled ramp compote and a little cherry puree. I began to consider selling the farm and moving to Atlanta, but at that point, I was incapable of moving anything, except to lift my fork for just one more bite.
I almost never eat dessert, but I didn’t want to be impolite. A crisp and delicate shortbread with a hint of ginger and fresh grape syrup. Actually, I inhaled it. A light and perfect finale to a very special meal.
Thank you, Heather and Phil and Betzy, for a very memorable evening. Thank you, Chef Kyle, for one of the most sumptuous meals I have had in my life. Thank you to Bret and the rest of the superb staff at Restaurant Eugene, who made our evening a relaxing celebration. And Phil, I am really sorry that you had to carry me to the car. I was in a food coma.
2277 Peachtree Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30309