Cooking for a cause 

Tierra and Sundown host a fundraising dinner, plus Midtown's Fishmonger

It's not every day that you get to stuff your face with good food and feel like you've done the world a good turn.

But that's the opportunity Tierra and Sundown Cafe are offering Atlanta diners at 6:30 p.m., Sun., Aug. 22, when the two restaurants jointly host a fundraising dinner for AID Atlanta. For $75, diners will receive two glasses of wine and four courses prepared by the two restaurants' four chefs. The cost includes taxes and gratuity.

The dinner will be held at Sundown (2165 Cheshire Bridge), according to manager George Trusler, who is in charge of reservations (404-321-1118). Trusler, known as the "Taco Nazi" to lunchtime diners who enjoy watching him roll his eyes and bark at slow customers, says the two restaurants hope to make the fundraiser a regular event.

The menu starts with a Peruvian fish and shrimp stew by Tierra's Ticha Krinksy, and is followed by a Chilean empanada stuffed with seasoned, hand-chopped beef made by her partner, Dan Krinsky. Sundown chef David Waller will prepare the entree -- roasted pork tenderloin with a mild pasilla sauce, served with a spinach-stuffed tomato and a homemade masa biscuit. Sundown chef Eddie Hernandez will make the dessert -- a mamey cheesecake with sour-apple and pickly pear sauces.

The four are certainly among the city's most creative chefs working in the Southwestern and South American styles. Indeed, the Krinksys have turned Tierra (1425 Piedmont Ave., 404-874-5951) into one of Atlanta's most interesting restaurants. The regular menu is a tour of Central and South America. And about six times a year, the Krinksys, who make regular gastronomical journeys to Latin America, offer a weeklong, three-course menu featuring the home-style cooking of a particular nation. A recent one ($22.50 for three courses) featured the food of Bolivia.

While Astrid Gilberto and Cesaria Evora played on the restaurant's sound system, I enjoyed a bowl of vegetable broth swimming with pearly, gold quinoa and julienne carrots and jicama, scattered with chopped parsley. My entree was a fricassee of cubed pork, slightly redolent of cumin, cooked in chicken stock with spicy dried green and red peppers that Ticha had brought home from one of her journeys. Large-kernel corn, almost like hominy, was also part of the stew and it was served with boiled potatoes. You know, a plain boiled potato is almost startling these days. It's easy to forget that potatoes, so ceaselessly gentrified by cooks, can have good flavor on their own.

Dessert was ice cream made of the barely acidic, sweet chirmoya fruit, served over a snowy meringue and drizzled with passion-fruit sauce.

Wayne ordered from the regular menu, starting with unquestionably the city's best black bean soup with apple-cured bacon, platanos fritos and créme fraîche. His entree was a grilled trout filled with chorizo, onions, cheese and spinach. He skipped dessert in favor of glaring at me as I ate mine.

Tierra's shared dinner with Sundown on Aug. 22 is a great opportunity to taste the artistry of both restaurants. If you can't make it, get in to try Tierra soon. I know you're already eating at Sundown regularly.

Fish comes to Midtown

A woman approached me at Ansley Mall this week and said, "Didn't I see you at Fishmonger's last night?"

I told her that I had indeed dined at Fishmonger Seafood Grill (980 Piedmont Ave., 404-881-8889), the latest restaurant to occupy the space vacated most recently by Balance.

"What did you think?" I asked her.

"I think it's about time a seafood restaurant opened in the area. Things haven't been the same since Indigo closed," she said. Then she drew a breath. "Unfortunately, not everything we ate was first-class."

Exactly my feelings. I was excited to see the restaurant open. I've dined several times at the Roswell Road Fishmonger and enjoyed it. The ambiance there, I have to say, improves the experience at the outset. Things have changed very little in the look of the Piedmont building since Balance left -- the color blue is less evident -- and the outdoor seating is still gloomy. And while the menu at the new restaurant is identical to that of the Roswell Road restaurant, it's not quite as well executed.

For example, a special of halibut with artichoke hearts and capers was annoyingly acidic and oversalted, even though the fish itself was well cooked. Another special, lobster bisque, was classic -- so classic it reminded me of the stuff my mother used to serve her bridge club 30 years ago. I mean that it wasn't at all bad, but not very interesting.

Wayne made the better choice, sticking to two of the restaurant's small plates: Turkish anchovies marinated in olive oil and vinegar, served over chopped celery; and a Greek salad appropriately made without lettuce (although its cucumbers bore too much resemblance to bread-and-butter pickles). There are lots of other small plates, like Portuguese chicken livers that I especially enjoyed, shrimp tempura, fried smelts and a sauteed shrimp and crab cake.

You can also enjoy some wacky service. When I asked our server to please, for god's sake, stop calling me "sir," he replied, "Sir, yes sir, you see, sir, my father was a Marine Corps drill sergeant, sir, and I call everyone sir or I get my ass kicked, sir, I mean, young man." Apparently the humor was contagious. After he told us desserts included "assorted cheesecakes," Wayne bent near and whispered: "What could sordid cheesecake be?"

"Just think of your youth," I told him. Ka pum pum.

It's gonna get better. And that woman at Ansley was right. We need a good seafood venue in town.

Reader's recommendation

Phil Openheimer writes: "This weekend I ate the most amazing sandwich: made with marble rye, grilled panini-style, with balanced layers of turkey and Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, and a soupcon of siracha hot sauce. The maestro who prepared the dish was Todd Collins, at Inman Park's terrific T.W. Collins. We've been hesitant to tell too many people about the place -- it's tiny -- but the time for selfishness is over."

Leave Cliff Bostock a voicemail at 404-688-5623, ext. 1010, or e-mail him at cliff.bostock@creativeloafing.com.

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