Oct 192014
Dirty martini and kalamata bread at Sheehan's Pub in Augusta, GA

Dirty martini and Kalamata olive bread at Sheehan’s Irish Pub

Mr. Olive Crazy and I went out on the town last night. Since moving to Wrens, Georgia, were I am conducting version 2.0 of my olive variety trials, we hadn’t had a proper “date night.” And, we needed one – badly.

After a day of making farm-related purchases in the nearest “big city,” Augusta, we turned to our trusty mobile restaurant apps to find good food, a comfortable atmosphere, and a tasty martini. After some debate we settled on Sheehan’s Irish Pub at the intersection of Central and Monte Sano Avenues. It was the perfect choice.

We settled into a cozy corner booth, ordered drinks, and food and turned our attention to the college football game playing behind the bar. While I sipped my drink, Tom wiped out the bread the waitress left on the table. Seeing that the bread quickly disappeared, the waitress asked if we’d like some more. I hadn’t had any so I left that decision to Tom. He gave her an enthusiastic – yes, and remarking about its salty, chewy, deliciousness asked what kind of bread it was.

My ears perked up at her response. “Kalamata olive bread,” she said. Now I absolutely had to try the bread.

It was wonderful. The exterior was slightly crunchy without being a tooth-breaker. The inside had a light but chewy texture and the saltiness of the Kalamata olives was perfect.

I tried to find out which bakery made the bread but didn’t have much success. The restaurant orders it through Sysco and the invoice had a code of BrkSimp, which wasn’t helpful. I’m resolved to call Sysco on Monday to find out the bakery name. It’s a start.

After our splendid meal Tom and I went old school and drove through a local car wash featuring disco lights. It seemed fitting since the car wash is across the street from the former location of Stonehenge, a discotheque from the 70s, where a young Tom held up the wall near the dance floor and a young Mary danced her heart out to The Commodores Brick House and the Bee Gees Night Fever.

These days the not-so-young Mary and Tom are content to grow olives, eat Kalamata olive bread, and drive through a disco car wash before returning to the country where soft breezes blow through the silvery leaves of our young olive trees.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Apr 242013

Mr. Olive Crazy and I’ve made Friday night our official ‘date night’. Tom flies in from wherever on the planet he’s working and I make reservations for us on Open Table while I wait for him at the train station.

Over the course of the last few years the selection of restaurants for our Friday night outings has shrunk to a favorite few. Last week we decided, again, to go to Highland Tap in the Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta. We are fond of its atmosphere, which is below street level and feels like a faded, gentlemen’s club. We are also fond of their food: The menu offerings abundant and every item ordered, well-prepared and delicious. We even developed a fondness for the wait staff, all of whom have been there for ages. I can even name most of them, except for the lady with the bun.

We arrived at about 9:30 pm, a little early for us, and the staff seemed out of sorts. I didn’t look down at the menu since I was waiting to engage in my pre-food-ordering ritual, the summonsing of the cocktail. At last, cocktail in hand and glass on lips I glanced at the menu. “Oh no!” I said aloud. “It’s just one page.” With the assistance of my phone flashlight app, I looked hard at the words. I didn’t really see anything missing even though it was obvious many things were. All our favorites where still listed. That was good. So we placed our orders and sat back for a comfortable evening.

Tom and I had already begun catching up on the events of the week when a warm, fragrant, fresh-baked loaf of bread arrived. “This is new,” I said to Tom. Then our waiter plunked down a small plate and requested our attention to the bottle he was displaying in his hands. We didn’t order wine, I thought. I glanced at the bottle and let out a sort of squeak. It was a bottle of the Georgia Olive Farms latest extra virgin olive oil offering. Delightful, I thought and goodbye butter.

There was still plenty of evoo left after the dipping and sopping, so I poured it on my meat and vegetables. The waiter saw what I was doing and bumped up the volume a bit. What a sweetie.

After dinner I asked the waiter about the menu change. He said that regular diners had mixed feelings. I asked if it was causing some ‘work flow’ issues and he said it was. That explained the feeling of wait staff tizzying that I detected earlier.

All in all, Tom and I were content. The menu was different, the staff hadn’t settled into it’s new groove yet, and the newest addition to the menu, the Georgia Olive Farms extra virgin olive oil, was a welcome surprise.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Jan 112013

by Tahni Segars

Until recently, eating healthy has never really been a priority. I’ve always just been after whatever tastes the best, no matter the calories, the nutrients, or the fat content. But I turned a new leaf and made a commitment to eat better and live better. And at first, I thought that meant sacrificing flavor and foods I liked. But after I picked up a spatula and started experimenting and creating my own menu, I realized there’s plenty out there to keep my taste buds and my heart happy.

The only thing that still trips me up is when I’m stressed and overwhelmed with work and all the surprises life throws my way. During those times I can’t quite make it to the grocery store and am tempted to find a drive thru and gorge on something quick, greasy and fried. I have to remind myself there are other options.

MetroFresh, a restaurant in Midtown Atlanta, has specialized in “fast food” that’s healthy, fresh and creative since it opened in 2005. This alternative to common burger-laden menus offers a constantly updated menu of unexpected fare that’ll make your mouth water.

“We don’t have a deep fryer or a microwave,” said Bryan Kraatz, executive chef at MetroFresh. “Our freezer is like someone’s freezer at home … our food is fresh and we buy most of our produce locally. I get all my produce that day and it gets made that day, so it’s impossible for our food not to be fresh.”

The secret to some of Kraatz’s amazing cuisine is olive oil. The former front man of a rock band and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Kraatz brings a lot of creativity to the menu. His take on cooking is to highlight ingredients’ natural flavors.

“Because (olive oil) is such a strong flavor and I like to let the natural flavor of things stand on their own, I only use olive oil to finish a dish — like marinating or in salad dressing.”

When this man mentions marinating, you listen — he’s the only chef who’s convinced to me to eat kale and actually want more. His marinated kale sent my taste buds swooning.

One of Kraatz’s favorite olive oil recipes is a basil vinaigrette dressing. So next time you’re looking for something quick, easy and tasty, pull out the food processor and try your hand at dressing up the food in your kitchen or head to MetroFresh for a sampling of Kraatz’s fun take on fresh and fast food.

“(MetroFresh) is unlike any other restaurant I’ve worked at,” Kraatz said. The eatery’s ever-evolving menu keeps him pretty busy with a daily to-do list that calls for freshly made soups, sides, sandwiches and dinner entrees. “You have to be quick, creative, be on your toes, which is something I like. Otherwise, I’d get bored.”

Basil Vinaigrette

1/4 lb fresh basil (stems discarded)
1 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
1 peeled shallot (coarsely chopped)
Kosher salt (to taste)
White pepper (to taste)
1 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients except olive oil in food processor.
2. Pulse ingredients until smooth.
3. Add olive oil in a steady stream with food processor on high to emulsify.
4. Remove vinaigrette and enjoy.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Sep 052011

This past week I emailed birthday wishes to my former college roommate; Carthage, Tunisia housemate; and dear globetrotting friend, Katie. We haven’t seen each other for decades but are waiting until one day we can escape kids and responsibility and meet up again. That time is drawing near so we started planning.

I suggested Europe and she suggested our first meeting should be at her favorite restaurant in the world, Oliva, in the Vysehrad neighborhood in Prague. Katie wrote that in addition to great food they start off your meal with a basket of fresh baked bread and a worldly variety of extra virgin olive oils for dipping. Olive Crazy could not be more thrilled. What a great location for rejuvenating a friendship.

Here is the link to Oliva Restaurant and Cafe. I checked out the website very thoroughly and was surprised at how much I could understand without activating Google translator. I love the interior decor and the exterior murals are charming. Yes, the food pictures look great too but I prefer to sample the dishes before passing judgment.

If you have been to Oliva or are planning a visit, let me know. I’d love your report.

May the sun shine through your branches.