A BuhBye Banquet at Bacchanalia

July 24, 2004 | By | COMMENTS

Lauren and I have been roommates for two years now–I moved in two summers ago–and sadly tomorrow night marks the end of our cohabitation. Remember how the Golden Girls ended with Dorothy getting married and Blanche, Rose and Sofia opening a hotel? This is sort of like that except neither of us is getting married nor opening a hotel—we’re merely moving to different cities. I’m New York bound (two weeks from today!) and Lauren is headed to DC. Tomorrow night is our last night because Sunday we both head out to take the bar and then I come back and move before Lauren returns in the middle of August.

But let’s not get all mushy. Lauren and I are stout-hearted individuals and, as you may remember, psychic twins. (We were born three hours apart in the same hospital and didn’t meet each other until college). We’ll stay close, calling and e-mailing and visiting. She’ll get Lolita on the weekends–all will be well. Plus, we all know that parting is sweet sorrow: we shirked our bar-studying responsibilities tonight and fine-dined at Bacchanalia and WOW what a meal.

Context is important here. Lauren and I have been cooped up in coffee shops buried in stacks of law books for the past two and a half months. We’ve been doing this since May. The idea of eating food that was not a burrito or cheap sushi was a heavenly prospect. Plus, there was wine.

Our waiter was phenomenal. Don’t give me precision, don’t give me Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto mannerisms—give me an enthusiastic foodie like Matt (I think his name was Matt) our waiter. He steered us through the menu masterfully. This was a prixe fixe menu ($65 for four courses) and he pinpointed the best from each column. Plus, he was a great wine guide. For some reason I was craving Rose–like Britney Spears I’m not a girl, not yet a woman–and I asked Matt (his name?) if that was ok. That’s a strange question I admit. But I’m an insecure wine drinker. And I like sweet things. Matt gave the thumbs up—”You can drink whatever you like; there’s no right or wrong wine.”

So I had the Wolffer Estate 2002 Rose and Lauren had the Riseling Kabinett, Graacher Himmelreich, Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler 2002. (Impressed that I remembered that? I didn’t–I stole the wine list.) Ironically, Lauren’s was sweet and mine was subtle and not-so-sweet. I regretted my wine-choice and seethed with jealousy as Lauren sipped hers.

Now then, on to the food. Wow.

First, two gifts from the chef. The first I didn’t photograph: a puff pastry with cheese in it, served hot from the oven. The cheese had an aged mature quality that cranked this beyond a Bar Mitzvah handout.

Then there was Chef Gift Gazpacho:

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Summer is really the best time to fork up the dough and eat out at a nice ingredient-oriented restaurant. Here were great summer flavors all fused in one bowl. And there was only about three bites worth and already I was salivating for the food to come.

Now for the first course I learnt from the mistake I made when I went to Bacchanlia with my mom a few months ago. She ordered the crab fritter and I didn’t. That was my mistake.

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This is truly, beyond any doubt, the best crab fritter you will ever have in your life. Amazingly, the recipe is on their website. Steamed fresh blue crab, homemade mayonnaise, Tabasco, Panko, Thai pepper essence and assorted citrus supremes and you’ve got yourself a flavor bomb that will detonate in your fantasies for a lifetime.

Lauren refused to heed the tale of my mother’s crab ecstasy and instead ordered an appetizer of California Snails with Gnocchi and Pesto.

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The aroma practically lifted Lauren out of her chair with anticipation. “It smells sooo good,” she said. Then she bit in and smiled euphorically. “Wow.”

I tasted a bite and agreed that it was delicious but it was no crab fritter. More like a snail fritter. Without the fritter.

Moving on, then, our meal was presented in the French style—appetizer, entree, salad/cheese course, then dessert. Thus, our entree came next.

Lauren ordered the Wood Grilled Duck Breast with Rosa Bianca Eggplant Caponata. (Impressed that I remembered that? I didn’t…I also stole that menu.) (Ok, ok–the waiter gave it to us).

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Lauren raved over its deliciousness. I was too busy devouring my Roast Veal with a Fricassee of Wild Mushrooms:

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The waiter sold me on this one (I think his name was Matt). He told us that the veal takes three days to prepare—that they brine it (I think?) in herbs and then slow roast it all day to give it an incredibly tender quality. (Sidenote: Paula Poundstone just made a post-drunken-mishap appearance on David Letterman and she did a bit about waiters giving too much information at fancy restaurants: “The Chilean Sea Bass wasn’t line-caught, it was lured on to the boat by a reading of the Canterbury Tales.”)

Anyway, the veal was absolutely wonderful. (I’m running out of adjectives here.) I literally scraped my plate clean.

Now for the cheese course. Earlier today–having studied the Bacchanalia menu earlier in the week in a fit of bar-study distraction–I resolved to get the cheese selection for my third course. This was a big deal because I come from a cheesophobic family and I would never in a million years, but for my new interest in food, order a cheese selection when other options were available.

However, Lauren opted to order the cheese selection and I listened to the waiter (Matt?) and chose the world-famous-featured-in-Gourmet-and-Bon-Apetit Roasted Marinated Beets with Vermont Fresh Chevre & Beet Sorbet.

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Let’s give an A+ for presentation, shall we? And that beet sorbet–that’s the equivalent of flavor LSD. Not in the sense that it’s good (which it is) but in the sense that it really blows your mind. It looks like it’ll taste like strawberries or raspberries but then it tastes like beets. See what I mean?

Lauren’s cheese cart arrived and she was able to make a selection:

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The cheese lady was well-intentioned but, according to Lauren, not very well informed. She mispronounced several of the cheeses. (Again, this is according to Lauren who is a French snob). I thought the cheese lady did fine—I liked her use of the word “nose” to describe the cheese. “It has a powerful nose,” for example. [Interestingly, I've been described the same way.]

Lauren settled on some cow’s milk and some stinky soft cheeses:

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Lauren offered me a sample and, echoing my cheese-eating sentiments from Per Se, it tasted like a foot–only moreso. Blech. I washed it down with a huge gulp of wine.

Oh more about the wine. The waiter paired our entrees with special-entree wine pairings. With Lauren’s duck there was Van Duzer Pinot Noir 2001; with my Veal there was Glen Carlou Grand Classique 2000. (Does that mean anything to anyone? To me they’re just a bunch of words and numbers. But maybe that will be valuable to some readers).

And now for my favorite part of any meal–the uninhibited butter knife killing spree. Oops. I mean dessert.

First, a pre-dessert gift from the kitchen:

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This was a pluot, blueberries and a scoop of some kind of yogurt. Very tasty.

Now then, of course, Lauren chose the Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake with Malted Milk Chocolate & Vanilla Bean Ice Cream:

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I ordered outside the box and chose a Berry Empanada with Malted Vanilla Frappe:

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You know those fried funnel cakes at carnivals and Six Flags? How their smell fills the air and you want nothing more than to devour one so you can barf it up after riding the Mindbender? That’s what this was like (without the barfing). Plus there were berries and microgreens and a frappe. How could this be bad? It wasn’t, I assure you.

And then with the check a final gift from the kitchen—those little sweet bonus dessert nuggets called Mignardises. I love stuff like this.

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Let’s see—on the left is a sour melon, then an apricot dipped in chocolate, some kind of brittle, candied orange peel, and a chocolate truffle. Talk about living like a king.

After paying, Lauren and I descended the steps—ready to face the bar (on Tuesday and Wednesday) and then to journey forward in our separate though surely-to-be-intermingled futures.

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A perfect dinner to cap off a perfect friendship. May we carry it with us always. [Well not always, that would be unhealthy. But you know what I mean.] Here’s to many great meals to come!

Categories: Georgia

  • mary

    Why are you letting this girl get away?

  • http://www.ritilan.com ritilan

    Your post is on the money about Bacchanalia the wife and I return time and again to taste the culinary wonders that they create. I go and every time I expect to be let down or find a flaw in the food but I never do. I think it is a perfectly wonderful way to leave Atlanta.

    -ritilan

  • Veronica

    Daaaaaaaaamn that looked delicious. DAMN! I am so jealous but also sad because you and Lauren are headed to different cities. *but* both nearer to me!!! :) I am glad y’all had a great dinner, you’re going to HOUSE your respective bar exams.

    ~Veronica

  • http://therustybarrel.com/david/blog David

    Whoa, that sounds like a meal fit for a King. Now I am extremely hungry…but what can satisfy me after reading about this meal?

  • A Big Fan of the AG

    You saved the best of the best for last – a perfect dinner at the most perfect restaurant with the most perfect company! God speed and good luck to you both, it will be oh so lonely at ELS without you.

  • http://the_samantha_files.typepad.com/ Samantha

    Ah, gotta love your Atlanta files! The hubby and I are going to Atlanta over Mem Day (we lived there on externship from the CIA – ha ha culinary that is) and I’m going to make a res for Bacchanalia. Good call, we haven’t been there yet and it looks amazing!