You know how baseball players and point guards get in hitting or shooting slumps? We were in a fine dining slump. It seems as if the majority of the last new, nice places that we went had gone to had been disappointing. (Sure barbecue joints, diners and ethnic restaurants can be nice, but I’m talking fine dining, here.) So, when in an Eater.com article about Alton Brown’s favorite spots in Atlanta earlier in the month, he mentioned The Butcher, The Baker on Marietta Square, we we followed his lead and went. The Marietta Square hasn’t been a fine dining destination in years, but it has been getting progressively more interesting. We often eat at the Marietta Pizza Kitchen (some place else I’ve never completed a blog entry about), but we hadn’t found anywhere else we liked.
Arriving on time for a 5:15 reservation, the place was fairly empty, but it filled up quickly.
The menu is separated into three sections – Snack and Share (small plates), Belly Up (entrees) and Save Room (desserts). Our server was wonderful and helped guide us through the menu, returning a couple of times to see if we were ready to order. I asked her which of the pork belly “Snack and Share” choices was best (they had two pork belly starters), and she said that one focused more on the bahn mi and the bread and the other had more pork belly. Decision made.
I started with pork belly with leek grits, and pickled radish. I passed the radishes across the table (those are red pepper flakes on top) and dug in. The salty pork belly was about 1/2 an inch thick and mixed perfectly with the slightly oniony grits. Had it not have been served in a cast iron skillet, I likely would have licked the serving dish. Jo was not particularly sold on any of the entrees, so, after discussion with our server, she decided on two starters – one to start and one for dinner. She began with a salad –
charred Tucker Farms greens, lomo (salted, dried pork tenderloin – that looks like prosciutto in the photo), chevre fritters and pickled citrus vinaigrette. The salad was warm and was well received. That plate was returned empty to the kitchen as well. I had a bite of the lomo, which was salty and delicious. She followed that with the flatbread –
roasted mushroons, rillette, house ricotta, frisee, pesto and non-disclosed-but-much-appreciated hot sauce. The crust on this was excellent, but the rilette was an unexpected surprise. A rillette is meat (in this case pork) that is chopped, then salted heavily and cooked slowly in fat until it is tender enough to be shredded, then cooled with fat to be used as paste. It was very much like a sausage pate and the taste (somewhat) threw her off the rest of the pizza.
I was torn between a couple of the entrees, so I asked our server (a self-professed carnivore) what was the best choice. She asked if I liked duck. Here’s the thing – I have an on-again-off-again relationship with duck. Occasionally, it’s wonderful. More often that not, it’s nowhere near that. So I told her that I was willing to give duck one more try and asked if their duck was worth being the last best effort? She said she thought so, so I ordered
seared duck breast, with rye spaetzle, braised cabbage and kumquat jam. The duck was cooked to a perfect medium and was very good. I dug underneath the braised cabbage (something of which I’m not fond at all) and pulled out the rye spaetzle, which I ate with the duck. The kumquat jam was more like entire kumquats that were highly concentrated – sweet and citrusy.
Their goal is true farm to table – they source all of the food locally and cook seasonally. In fact, while we were dining, I overheard at the table behind us that the couple actually owned one of the farm supplying produce – he said he’d been to the restaurant dozens of time, but this was the first time to eat. Jo was very excited about her salad – it reminded her that spring and summer were just around the corner and more vegetables are to come. All around, it was a great meal and I look forward to returning and trying some more of the menu, as the seasons change.