Sunday, February 20, 2011

Friends Lunch - Easy Creamy Onion Soup

My vote for the best “friend-I-haven’t-seen-in-a-long-time” lunch in Buckhead? Au Pied du Cochon. The d├ęcor is spectacular – but the food and service make the meal. The restaurant, located in the Intercontinental on Peachtree is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Au Pied doesn’t close at all. Which makes it perfect for a late afternoon rendezvous with a friend.

The original restaurant in Paris is located in Les Halles, the site of the legendary French meat and fish market. Opened in 1946, it has never closed its doors since 1947. Just like its namesake, Atlanta’s own Au Pied du Cochon celebrates the pig in all forms, including the feet or “trotters”. Don’t be scared by the pork selection, there are an array of other delicious meat, seafood and veggie choices on the menu.

The service is polished and professional, perfect for a long leisurely lunch. Each month brings a special lunch menu, with specials like savory or sweet crepes or waffles. (I know savory waffles sound funky – but the smoked salmon and cream cheese waffles were divine.) Much more than traditional French fare is offered, although it is hard to resist a bowl of the creamy, cheesy and delicious onion soup. Just in case you have forgotten what excellent wine service is like, they bring the entire bottle and offer a generous pour tableside. This applies to any of the wines offered by the glass. Lovely! How nice to be able to see the label of the wine you have chosen.

At the end of a relaxed and comfortable lunch, don’t be surprised to receive a little take home treat, like a chocolate or a fruit jelly, an excellent end to a lovely lunch and good conversation.

Here’s my take on the classic French Onion Soup that is easy, quick and just a little lighter:

French Onion Soup

A Rich, Beefy Broth Dense with Onions, Topped By Toasted Bread and Covered with Melted Cheese

4 Large Yellow Onions

1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter

1 Bay Leaf

1 Tsp Ground Black Pepper

1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

4 Cups Light Beef Broth

1 Cup Dry White Wine

Sea Salt to Taste

1 Baguette

1 1/2 Cups Shredded Gruyere*

Step One

Slice your onions about 1/4” thick with your food processor, or a mandoline.

Step Two

Saute your onions with the butter in a large pan over medium heat until golden brown – this should take about 20 minutes. (Or, In a covered oven-proof pot, melt the butter. Add the sliced Onions. Place your pot in a 400F oven for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown.) 

Step Three

Remove from the oven, and add the Bay Leaf and Black Pepper. Cook for 15 minutes more over low heat, (on stovetop). Add the Flour, and stir to coat the Onions. Add the Beef Broth and White Wine. Simmer for 1 hour over medium heat, or until creamy. Taste, add the Salt, and remove the Bay Leaf. 

Step Four

While the soup simmers, cut the Baguette into 1/2” slices, place on a cookie sheet and toast for 8 minutes at 350F or until light brown. 

Step Five

Pour the soup into individual ovenproof bowls or ramekins. Top with the Baguette Toasts and Gruyere. Pop under the broiler for 3-5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

This Article was originally published in the Buckhead Patch online newsletter at

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Grilled Lemon Rosemary Chicken Inspired by a Bottle of Pinot Noir

Walking in the door of PH Wine Merchant is like stepping into an wine oasis. The new store in Peachtree Hills is warm, welcoming and definitely different from your run of the mill bottle shop. Owned by Anthony Yambor and Patrick Shippley, it is a partnership based on helping customers discover a wine they will enjoy, instead of simply presenting them with a wine they “should” or are “supposed to” enjoy. Their belief that each person should select wine according to their own preferences is a refreshing change in an industry filled with so-called “experts”.

The impetus behind the store was dinner, a great bottle of wine and discussion on business ideas and goals. Anthony discovered his passion for wine while working in the restaurant business. After implementing a wine training program for staff and building wine lists for a set of restaurants, he left that industry with a renewed focus. His desire to work one-on-one with enthusiasts led him to the retail wine business. With several years of experience under his belt, Anthony set out to start something new and different in wine retail with Patrick.

The range of wines in the store by region and price is extensive. From the most expensive bottle, a $700 Lucien Le Moine Richebourg 2008 to a $6 bottle of Vina Borgia Grenache from Spain, it’s not difficult to find a bottle to suit your taste. If you need help learning about wine, PH Wine Merchant has an educational director on staff. Maggie Meroney’s wide range of knowledge makes her classes interesting and enjoyable.

Anthony’s enthusiasm for wine is contagious. During a recent visit, I asked him to choose a bottle he would take home for a weeknight dinner. He choose a bottle of 2008 Joseph Voillot Bourgogne Rouge Vielles Vignes, a fine match for a rosemary-scented chicken breast. Here’s a simple and easy recipe inspired by his delicious choice of wine.

Grilled Lemon Rosemary Chicken

¼ Cup Fresh Lemon Juice

Zest of 2 Lemons

1 Clove Garlic, Grated

2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1 TB Minced Fresh Rosemary

½ Tsp Coarse Sea Salt

6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut in half vertically

Step One

Combine all the ingredients to create a marinade. Reserve ½ of the marinade and place the rest in a plastic zippy bag, add the chicken and marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Step Two

Remove the chicken from the marinade, pat dry, and cook on a preheated grill or grill pan, basting frequently with the reserved marinade. Grill until golden brown.

This article was originally posted in the Buckhead Patch on 2/08/11 at

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Working Out a Plan for Eating Better

Perfect Post Workout Snack: Nutty Fruit Granola Bars

First Published in the Buckhead Patch January 28, 2011

So what does a personal trainer have to do with eating? Lots! One of the reasons I love being a chef is the opportunity to motivate others to eat better. But it’s not just what we eat that makes us feel good. How we move, (or not), is part of feeling great. That’s why I’ve chosen to study with Jack Clamon, one of the most authentic and inspiring athletes I’ve had the pleasure to meet, a fellow Buckhead resident and Westminster alum.

Jack is teaching me how to work out with kettle bells. You know – the funny looking bowling-ball-with-handles weights that have become popular lately? He has lots of gems of encouragement like, “Remember, you become the way your body feels”, or my personal favorite, “Own your body, Nancy!” His workouts are tough, but his personal care and attention to technique and form allow me walk out of the workout energetic and walking tall.

Although our zeal for helping others take care of their bodies comes from two different perspectives, we share a common interest in living well. We talk a lot during our sessions about health- supportive eating. Here’s a recipe that I shared with him for a post-workout bar. It’s low in calories, full of protein and fiber, and easy to bake and enjoy after exercising, or anytime you need a healthy, delicious snack.

Nutty Fruit Granola Bars

1 Cup Raw Almonds

1 Cup Raw Pecans

3 Cups Oatmeal, Divided

¼ Cup Whole Wheat Flour

1 ½ Cups Chopped Dried Fruit

4 Large Eggs

½ Cup Dark Brown Sugar

2 TB Canola Oil

1 ½ Tsp Cinnamon

½ Tsp Allspice

½ Tsp Sea Salt

2 Tsp Vanilla Extract

Step One

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 9" x 13" pan with foil, allowing it to overhang from the sides. Coat with non-stick cooking spray.

Step Two

Place the nuts and the oatmeal on two baking sheets with sides. Bake for 10 minutes or until toasted, stirring once. Chop the nuts finely in a food processor.

Step Three

Place the flour and 2 cups of the oatmeal in the processor and pulse until smooth. Combine with the dates, nuts and remaining cup of whole oatmeal.

Step Four

Whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, oil, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Stir in the oatmeal-almond mixture until well mixed. Spray your fingers with nonstick spray and pat the batter into the prepared pan.

Step Five

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a rack for an hour. Using the foil as handles, remove from the pan. Cut into bars with a serrated knife. To store for the week, wrap bars individually in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge.