Thursday, July 9, 2009


Cynthia Wong, pastry chef of Cakes and Ale restaurant in Decatur, Ga., uses the berries from a bramble in her backyard for a wild-blackberry brown-butter tart. “The wild berries are a little bit bitter and almost astringent,” she says, “so they’re a good foil for the richness of the brown butter.” She augments the wild berries with cultivated ones she buys from a vendor in North Carolina to make a blackberry soda, which she then makes into a float by adding chocolate ice cream. Wong says the wild berries don’t have enough juice to make into soda, but their bitterness is agreeable, especially with the chocolate ice cream. “They really do have a kind of wild flavor to them,” she says. She adds sugar to the blackberries, purées them and strains them through a jelly bag. She mixes that with seltzer and adds house-made chocolate ice cream.
Now on the menu, but only until the berries are around: Brown butter wild blackberry tart, creme fraiche.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Non-Alcoholic Does Not Mean No Fun

A friend of ours who works for Whole Foods turned us onto these guys from Portland. We proudly carry the Organic Root Beer, Orange Soda and Ginger Brew from Maine Root ($3 each). The sodas are organically sweetened and are produced in an environmentally responsible manner which means that I don’t have to feel so bad about giving my kids, Liam and Van…

The guys at Maine Root use organic evaporated cane juice which is extracted by passing the sugar cane through a set of rollers, then drying the extract into crystals. That’s it.

Root Beer -- “Organically sweetened handcrafted soda made with the extracts of wintergreen, clove and anise. Our recipe combines these ingredients to allow the flavor of each of these extracts to come through.”

Orange Soda -- “Made using Fair Trade Certified organic evaporated cane juice, pure water, and mandarin orange. It's so great tasting you think you are back in Floridar.”

Ginger Brew -- “Our recipe lets the spicy flavor of the Ginger Root loose to mingle with Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, purified water, and Happy Bubbles. We make Maine’s first and only Organically Sweetened sodas, and we are proud of it!”

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Does Size Matter?

I have always maintained that a small wine list is optimal --from my time spent in California, where I literally had the Western wine world at my fingertips, to my experience as Sous Chef at Watershed, here in Decatur where I was blessed with both a retail list as well as a dining room wine list. I have had the good fortune to work in restaurants with arguably mass scaled lists and restaurants where securing placement on a tiny list was a feat indeed. At Cakes & Ale, I typically run a list of 40 – 48 bottles.

A few of the top line reasons why I keep the list small:
Inventory turnover is important to ensuring that pricing remains consistent and that the list itself is flexible. Excessive or hard-to-move inventory takes up valuable space. Storage space is at a premium in a restaurant of our size and therefore every bottle must count – we price our wine to be value-oriented and approachable. The flexibility of a smaller list allows for less risk in terms of our shelf space therefore we are able to continually offer bottles that are original, exciting and new.

Staff is knowledgeable.
This one is obvious but with a small list, the staff has the ability to fully experience the wine and provide more knowledgeable pairings. It affords a more value-added conversation between guests and servers who know the list well and are able to provide accurate guidance based on intense knowledge of every selection offered. I strive to provide a list that is both utilitarian as well as well-balanced.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

July 09

Summer Begins!
The upside of the summer heat is the start of okra season! Tonight (July 2) was the first night of fried okra at Cakes & Ale. For our first batch, we bought all we could get our hands on (about 10 orders worth) from farmer Bobby Britt. Here's some from our garden, which will go into Cakes & Ale's upcoming summer dishes.

Have you met Richard yet? He's in the kitchen or running the expo most of the time, but he likes to peruse the dining room when he gets a chance to make sure his and Billy's dishes are getting a great reception from our guests. Richard is the Sous Chef at Cakes & Ale and has been with us for about four months. He has great experience, which we love, spending time at Table 1280, Eno, and Bacchanalia after finishing culinary school at the Art Institute of Atlanta. Aside from performing the day-to-day duties of running a restaurant, Billy and Richard bounce a lot of ideas around, and spend time testing and perfecting their creations to let the flavors of the foods take center stage. Here's Richard butchering a beautiful Alaskan salmon (and Cynthia whipping up some of her delicious desserts in the background):

Billy stopped at a farmstand on the way back from Sylva, NC last weekend and picked up some pretty cranberry beans.