Two weeks ago, Marie and I joined several other area bloggers for a “Big Night Out” at Cibo e Beve to celebrate their first anniversary, enjoy a huge and delicious meal, and get the advance word on their forthcoming Sunday brunches, which will launch on August 5th.
We also got to try out some of their newest cocktail creations. Cibo e Beve has one of the most detailed and fascinating bar menus of any place that I’ve ever seen. With pages and pages of fake-aged paper in old leather binders, they look more like seventy year-old found objects than anything else, and are certain to leave guests studying them intently. The bar is headed up by Justin Hadaway, formerly of The Iberian Pig, and he’s usually experimenting and mixing behind a really big block of ice that is chipped and chiseled for patrons’ glasses. Enjoying a little house-made lemonade, simple syrup and an ounce of Angostura bitters around that block in your glass is a great way to beat the heat for a little while.
We joined our friends Leslie from The Food and Me and Malika from Atlanta Restaurant Blog and got to meet a few more people, including Broderick from Savory Exposure and Becca and Kelly from Urbandaddy as they brought some terrific food out for us to try. First up was the Goat Cheese Panna Cotta. It was served over a fried green tomato and pea shoots, with a drizzle of pepper jam and pancetta syrup and was incredibly delicious. Chef Linda Harrell, whom we got to meet for a short time, has never actually been to Italy – and neither have we – but she has nailed the flavorful and rich blend of tastes that we associate with the region’s cooking.
I did not get the usual level of detail about the wines that I try to pass on to our readers here, but the cheese was paired with an excellent Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Esk Valley. I enjoyed that a great deal, but I was less enthusiastic about the San Giuseppe Lambrusco del Emilia. It was very thin, and had no legs, but the wine was paired with a really wonderful dish of caramelized black figs with burrata and Salumeria prosciutto. This was my favorite dish of the evening, and I could have gladly just filled up on it all night. The tastes of the fruit, cheese and ham were so perfectly balanced that a bite of each just blended like a rhapsody.
As I am allergic to most shellfish, I missed out on the next dish, Cibo e Beve’s famous Spaghetti all’Aragosta, which is made with fresh Maine lobster, leeks, shallots, and heirloom tomato in a white wine sauce. Marie said that it was very rich and just a little sweet, and really loved it. Instead, I received a dish of the wonderful Gemellialla Senese, with a really meaty sausage ragu that just exploded with black fennel, and ricotta cheese. Now, I’ve mentioned here quite honestly that I am still very much a naive novice with wine, and I punched the air, joking around with our server, Tim – ask for him, for he is amazing and has a memory for detail like a steel trap – when they announced that the pasta would be paired with a glass of Altadonna Vermentino. It was certainly very, very good, but Altadonna’s is not a patch on Antinori’s Vermentino, which I had enjoyed a few weeks previously at Soho in Vinings. Nor did the very complex and fruity flavors pair quite so well with the heavy sausage. It is a splendid wine, but in my amateur’s opinion, it would pair much better with either seafood or a white meat. That said, I certainly did not complain when Tim brought me a second glass.
Perhaps everybody was so very pleased by the pastas that the Gulf Coast pan seared black grouper suffered in comparison. It was served with a cauliflower puree, salty sea beans with a drizzle of citrus extra virgin olive oil, but it tasted overdone to us, and was overpowered by the sea beans. It was paired with a glass of Vietti’s Roero Arneis which was quite nice.
For dessert, they spoiled us with servings of a Tiramisu, made with – and I love the way the menu puts this – pavesini cookies, illy cafe, cocoa nibs, and mascarpone mousse. Longtime readers might recall that, late last year, I realized that I was overusing the word “decadent” and banished it from use. Well, nothing else will suffice here; this was the absolute definition of decadent. Most of our friends enjoyed espresso or cappucino with their desserts and retired very, very satisfied.
But before we left, we got to look over the menu for the new Sunday brunch, and everything looks really, really promising. They will be offering all four of their regular, popular pizzas, but have three new pasta dishes not on their present lunch or dinner menus. These are a Tuscan lasagna, a baked manicotti and a Sunday Gravy that sounds really wonderful. It’s rigatoni served in a San Marzano tomato-based stew of sausage, beef, pork and meatballs.
The “main plates” for the Sunday brunches are all new, and there are some great-sounding things on it. The three that intrigue me the most are the “Toast Modenese” (hazelnut mascarpone-stuffed French toast with cherries, black pepper maple syrup, and honey butter from the Savannah Bee Company), “The Hipster” (and not just for the name alone, it is another French toast stuffed with prosciutto and taleggio with a mustard-rosemary maple syrup), and “The Georgia Bowl” (two poached farm eggs with polenta from Anson Mills, greens and Italian sausage). There are ten main plates in all, and they are priced between $10 and $15. These launch, not this Sunday, but the next, August 5. This looks a lot like something to check out if you’re free on Sundays. Unfortunately, I work, so somebody go have a Georgia Bowl and tell me how it is!
(Naturally, this was a media event and our meal was complementary. It’s our policy to always note when we’ve received our meal without charge. If you would like to invite us to your restaurant’s media events, please drop Grant a line at firstname.lastname@example.org .)
Other blog posts about Cibo e Beve:
Blackbird Ideas (July 21 2011)
Atlanta Restaurant Blog (Aug. 2 2011)
Foodie Buddha (Aug. 24 2011)
Dishes Delicious (Aug. 29 2011)
AJC’s Food and More (Oct. 6 2011)
Omnivore (Oct. 25 2011)
The Cynical Cook (Oct. 27 2011)
You can see all the restaurants that we have visited for our blog on this map, with links back to the original blog posts. It’s terrific for anybody planning a road trip through our area!