Bow & Arrow

We had the exciting experience last night of getting to be some of the first few diners at Auburn’s newest culinary addition, Bow & Arrow.

Upon pulling into the parking lot you could smell the aromatic wonders of the smokers cooking a variety of meats. The design of the restaurant is warm and inviting. The ambiance is that of a hunting lodge, with a woman’s softness added. There are big buck trophy’s adorning the walls, all from local hunters.

When you walk in the front of the restaurant you are greeted by the visual sights of a tortilla machine cranking out freshly made tortillas, and then a feast of meats as far as the eyes can see. The restaurant is counter service in style, and family-style sharing of food is encouraged.

At the beginning of the order line, you will begin by selecting your meats.  There is a butcher that will cut them to order for you. To choose from there were brisket, turkey, pork shoulder,  chicken, ribs, jalapeno cheddar link sausage, and the Bow and Arrow original link, which was my personal favorite. You can order as many things as you want. We were in a group of six people and we chose to order several things and share our trays family style as suggested. We tried an array of the meats, and for the sides, we had the potato salad, mac & cheese, tater tot casserole, creamed corn, camp beans, butter beans, and potlicker greens. I think the only thing we missed was the corn cabbage slaw. Everything was very delicious and flavorful. There was an entire bar of sauces, relishes, and other dressings for the meats that I missed out on. I know several of our friends were raving on the white sauce. There was not anything that we did not enjoy. Standout favorites being the tater tot casserole, and the creamed corn.

We had fun sharing dinner with our group of friends, and the evening temps were mild enough that they were able to open the garage-style doors that line one side of the dining room that led out to a picturesque lit picnic table style seating area.

Listening to David Bancroft share his enthusiasm about the cultivation of this restaurant, and all the care and attention to detail that was paid to every single element, you cannot help share in his excitement. It was a wonderful evening shared with “friends and family” and we cannot be happier for our friends, David & Christin Bancroft and Caleb Fischer on this new venture. I truly felt the presence of Lord throughout the evening, I know they will all be blessed  and will be able to bless many others through your delicious food!

Beautiful iron work done by John Howell.

Hand-crafted bow and arrows. 

The buffet line. All the servers were so friendly and excited to serve.

Big Buck Hunter games will bring out your serious side. 😉

I think he covered all bases with this plate. 

 (L-R) Rob McDaniel of SpringHouse, John Mark Davis of International Wines, and David Bancroft of Acre & Bow and Arrow.

Adorable outdoor seating area that can be opened up to the dining area.

Arricia Trattoria

Saturday evening we had the luxury of trying out the new menu at Arricia Trattoria in The Hotel at Auburn University located on College Street in Auburn, Alabama. Several things that I really like about Arricia Trattoria is that they serve dinner seven nights a week. I like not having to plan around a restaurant’s own schedule to accommodate my own dinners and events. Also, they have a Mediterranean style menu. I lived abroad for some time during college and really fell in love with the style of food and the pace of life found in many of the countries along the Mediterranean. Being able to have an experience and a little taste of that culture is always delightful to me, especially when executed accordingly. Lastly, the ambiance of the restaurant can suit any occasion. You can enjoy casual attire and a more casual dining experience, but you can also dress to the nines, and enjoy an exquisite, bougie date night here.

Upon entering the restaurant you are greeted by an open style kitchen. I love being able to see into the kitchen in which my meals are going to be prepared. We stopped and spoke briefly with the executive chef, Leo Maurelli III. Leo and my husband have been friends for many years, both graduating from the Hotel and Restaurant Management program at Auburn University. We have followed Leo’s culinary adventure from Central in Montgomery to here locally at the hotel. We have been blown away many times by his culinary skills and we were excited to see his new menu rolled out at Arricia.

We ordered a mixture of smaller plates and shared them together. We often opt for this style of eating when we go out. We like to try a variety of things, and often times I do not want or cannot eat an entire portion myself. The new menu here is perfect for that style of eating, but you definitely could enjoy the portions on your own too if you do not like to share.

For starters, we began with Leo’s choice, which consisted of the cillengini with sweetie peppers, basil, and balsamic. The sweetie pepper was something new to me. They originate from the Peruvian Amazon, and although they look tiny and fierce, they are sweet and delightful. I loved getting to try a new take on a classic dish (Caprese salad). We also tried the grilled octopus that was served with fingerling potatoes and a delicious, spicy romesco sauce. My husband about devoured this entire dish by himself. The third dish chef had us try was the Ahí tuna crudo. It was the standout dish for the evening. The tuna was light and refreshing, and the garnishes of lemon oil, citrus, shallots, and fennel made this my absolute favorite dish. It was delicate, yet very layered with flavors, and was a combination that I had never tried before. I thoroughly enjoyed the citrus pairing with the tuna.

We were enjoying our shared style supper so much we continued on our dinner throughout the evening in this style. Next up, we ordered the roasted beets, the heirloom polenta, and the burrata salad. The roasted beets stole my heart. I am a huge fan of beets, especially when they are cooked in a creative and delicious manner. The roasted beets had been tossed lightly in lemon oil and had a sprinkling of crushed pecans and blue cheese on top. It was absolutely scrumptious and another standout dish this particular evening. The burrata was also simple and delightful. The polenta was a huge hit with my husband. Polenta has a similar taste and consistency to grits, but they are different in that grits are typically made from white cornmeal and are ground finer, and polenta is made from ground yellow corn and is much coarser. It was creamy, and oh so good.

Even as we were getting full, we found ourselves unable to stop eating. We wanted to try one of the fresh plates of pasta they were making that evening so we ordered our favorite to share, the carbonara. It was delicious! The entire meal reminded me of being at a grandmother’s house in Italy; more food than you could ever possibly eat, and everything reminded you of home and comfort.

We had any bits of food we had leftover boxed up so we could finish enjoying them at home. This food was so incredibly good that we could not dare let even a scrap go to waste. We wanted dessert but were too full to continue eating. We ordered the tiramisu to go so that we could enjoy it later at home.

We highly recommend that you check out A.T. on your next date night! They often also have jazz in their lounge area, so follow them on their social media outlets for updates on their events and happenings!

New menu for Arricia Trattoria.

Ahí Tuna Crudo

Grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes and romesco.

Cillengini with sweetie peppers, basil and balsamic.

His and Hers Cocktails (L-R) Shaken, not stirred and Bellini

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Oh so good heirloom polenta. 

Roasted beets with lemon oil, toasted pecans, and blue cheese.

Carbonara.

2016 Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay

Tiramisu to go!

The Blue Fin Auburn

Friday evening we were fortunate to check out the newest restaurant coming to Auburn.  Located in the rapidly developing Bent Creek area in Auburn, the Blue Fin will have it’s official opening next week on Monday, May 14th. The Blue Fin will be the newest addition to the new strip mall development in the Sam’s Club/Academy Sports shopping center in Auburn, just down from the newly opened Moe’s BBQ.

The Blue Fin will be a seafood-focused restaurant and bar. Friday evening was their soft opening, which is a tactic that many businesses will use to ensure a more successful business by opening the doors without any advertising or other fanfare normally associated with the grand opening. This allows the business an opportunity to obtain valuable practice and often insight into improvements that can be made prior to the official opening.

We had an early reservation for at 5 PM since we had a concert in Waverly, Alabama later that evening. The dining space is cozy, bright, and clean. It is always nice to enter a seafood restaurant and not be overpowered by an odor of fish. Also, it is swell to have another quality seafood option in our area. There is a beautiful blue mosaic tile bar immediately to the right in the front entrance. There is also a patio seating off to the right of the building. Unfortunately, it’s already 90 degrees in Alabama this May, so the air conditioning was a welcomed option.

We started with cocktails. I had the cucumber mojito and my husband had his usual Maker’s Mark on the rocks. They have ample cocktail and wine selections to choose from. For an appetizer, we ordered the Fin Fin shrimp, which was a flash-fried, light-battered shrimp with a spicy sauce covering them. The shrimp tasted fresh,  the presentation was nice, and the sauce was delicious. Only wish there had been more of it. We also both had small Cesar salad, which was excellent.

For our entrees, I ordered the panéed chicken with a lemon caper sauce, and my husband ordered the blackened snapper. The panéed chicken was yummy. The light batter on the chicken was just right, and I really enjoyed the lemon caper sauce. The mashed potatoes were savory and very tasty. My husband’s snapper was flaky and moist. The grits were flavorful and the spicy sauce was a nice balance to the dish. The ‘Louisiana Popcorn’ were little-fried crawfish tails.

We did not have time for dessert this evening since we only had a little time left to make it our next destination for the night. The restaurant was full and bustling by the time we asked for our check. We had a delightful experience, and I hope to see this place flourish and add value to the emerging restaurant scene in our area.

Entrance to The Blue Fin in Bent Creek, Auburn.

Excellent cocktail menu. Feels like being at the beach!

Dinner Menu

Main dining room. Art work being installed this weekend.

Cucumber Mojito

Fin Fin shrimp appetizer.

Peneed Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce.

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Blackened Snapper with Louisiana Popcorn.

Downtown Auburn Family Supper

On a warm spring evening residents of Auburn and Opelika gathered in downtown Auburn for the first ever Downtown Family Supper. We had previously attended a similar event in downtown Dothan a few years back, and I was really excited to see the idea brought to the “Loveliest Village on the Plains”. Tichenor Avenue, between College Street and Gay Street in downtown, was blocked off for the evening for this special event. Farm tables and sparkly lights were lined down the center of the street for the most picturesque scene. The dinner was served “family style” which is comprised of large portions passed and shared among the tables. The weather couldn’t have been better, and the night was overall blissful.

Six of downtown Auburn’s chefs came together to create the food offerings.  The dream team was comprised of  (in no particular order) David Bancroft & Caleb Fischer of Acre, Leonardo Maurelli and of Ariccia Trattoria, Scott Simpson of The Depot, Robbie Nicolaisen of The Hound, Miguel Figueroa of Amsterdam Cafe, and Patrick Gallagher of Hamilton’s on Magnolia. They all donated their talents & time for the evening, along with much of their restaurant staff also volunteering their time to help with the serving of the food and wine. All the proceeds from the supper will benefit the non-profit organizations, Downtown Merchants Association and Nourish Alabama. Nourish, AL was created through a partnership between Hornsby Farms and Pediatric Associates of Auburn with a mission of providing food insecure families in Lee County and the surrounding community with healthy nutritious foods and the tools to prepare them. This dinner with out a doubt embodied, in so many ways, the great community we are so fortunate to live in.

Each attendee enjoyed a five course meal, wine, and entertainment by Martha’s Trouble. The wines for the evening were Hahn Pinot Noir and Flint & Steel Sauvignon Blanc. Both wines paired really well with all the dishes served. The Sauvignon Blanc was especially nice with the Togarashi tuna poke prepared by Scott Simpson of The Depot and the bright beet salad prepared by David Bancroft of Acre. The Hahn Pinot Noir was particularly good with the incredible, fall-apart Heritage Farm pork ribs with the watermelon molasses prepared by Chef Robbie Nicolaisen.

Every dish that was served was incredibly delicious and every bite was thoroughly enjoyed. All efforts that went into making this inaugural event special were above and beyond. Although Auburn is changing in many ways, the core of who we are as an Auburn family is strong and unwavering. Proud to be a part of this place we love calling home.

The tablescape for the evening.

Chef David Bancroft adding the secret sauce to his brussel sprout salad.

What an appetizing menu!?!

Amazing collaborative effort! Go team!

Chef Scott Simpon’s Tuna Togarashi Tuna Poke.

Chef Scott Simpson of The Depot on Mitcham Avenue downtown Auburn.

Chef Bancroft’s golden beet salad, sultanas, fried peanuts, and mint.

Chef Bancroft’s shaved brussels sprouts, peach vinaigrette, smoked bacon and blue cheese.

Chef Miguel Figueroa’s chicken chicharrones with a garlic mayo ketchup.

Chef Robbie Nicolaisen’s roasted carrots, pepper jelly, burrata, and pistachio dukkah.

Chef Patrick Gallagher’s signature macaroni and cheese.

Chef Leo Maurelli’s extruded pasta primavera, local veggies, arugula, and pecan pesto.

Chef Figueoa’s pineapple upside down spiced rum cake with piña colada buttercream.

 

Wine selections for the evening, Hahn Pinot Noir and Flint & Steel Sauvignon Blanc.

Hornsby Farm Spring Harvest Dinner

Last night we attended the Spring Harvest Dinner at Hornsby Farms in Auburn, Alabama. The farm is a short drive from Auburn,  located just south of town off College Street. After turning off the main highway, you make a short drive down a dirt road and you land in what feels like the middle of the country. The weather was mild and enjoyable, and there was not a cloud in the sky. The beautiful orange and blue sunset sky that is the embodiment of life on the plains was a beautiful backdrop for the commencement of our evening.

The chef for this particular dinner was Caleb Fischer of Acre in Auburn, Alabama. The chef for these dinners rotates around, and we were really pleased to have to opportunity to enjoy some of Caleb’s cooking. He is currently the Chef de Cuisine at Acre, and he will be the Executive Chef at their new restaurant Bow & Arrow when they open later this year. We were able to celebrate a little bit Caleb making it to the finale of the Spring Baking Championship on the Food Network last evening. I know the entire community has enjoyed watching him succeed in the competition, and cannot wait to see what other great things are in the future for him.

All the food that was served for this event came directly from the farm, including the pork. Truly farm to table. Hornsby Farms grows over one hundred varieties of fruits and vegetables on their farm year round. They offer weekly produce basket deliveries in the local area. They also work with many of the local restaurants that you may have dined in, such as, Acre, Moores Mill Club, Amsterdam Café, and SpringHouse, to name a few. We were able to tour the farm prior to dinner, and I really enjoyed getting to see all the chickens, ducks, pigs (Okra and Squash), and hear Josh tell us about what he had planted for the upcoming summer months.

After the sun had set, we all gathered around the barn. The Hornsby family welcomed everyone out for the evening, and Chef Caleb discussed his preparation of all the food we were about to eat. It was interesting to hear his story of harvesting the pig and the care and consideration they took in the butchery of the animal. The event was very reminiscent of a boucherie in Lousiana, which Caleb made reference to, full of food, libations, and fellowship.

Along with the savory pork we were served stewed cabbage with radishes, succotash full of limas & corn, a roasted cauliflower and broccoli crudité salad, and very tasty dirty rice. Instead of providing the traditional, typical sauces served with barbecue, we were offered a variation of their farm made jams and jellies, my favorite being the peach habañero jelly. I also put a dollop of the jelly in my succotash, like you would a chow- chow. The meal was soulfully delicious and getting to know all the other people at our table made the evening that much more interesting.

For dessert, Caleb finished the meal with a cornbread cake with strawberry preserves. The cornbread cake was divine, and Caleb incorporated some of Beth’s Sweet Heat Pepper Jelly into the strawberry mix, adding a little bit of a surprising heat to the dessert. The only thing that could have made it better, would have been a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

As the night dwindled down we gathered around the bonfire while we finished our desserts and sipped on what wine we had left. I could have stayed in that exact spot all evening if my schedule would have allowed. The peaceful silence, cool air, and the starlit skies almost made me want to consider farm living. If you ever have the chance check out Hornsby Farms and all the wonderful things they have to offer!

Beautiful skies over the farm.

Farm tables made by Josh Hornsby.

Campfire seating area.

All food, minus the pig, this evening was cooked in cast iron on the open fire.

This little piggy went to market.

Happy plate full of dirty rice, succotash, pork with Beth’s pepper jelly, cabbage with radishes, and broccoli & cabbage crudité salad.

Iron Chef Wine Dinner

Last evening we were able to attend the Iron Chef Wine Dinner at Acre in Auburn, Alabama. David Bancroft, chef and restaurant owner, won the Iron Chef battle on the Food Network back in December. Our community could not be more proud or happy for him, his family, and his team. The dinner featured a five course menu based around the dishes that helped David win the competition on Iron Chef. Tickets for this event sold out in minutes. We felt very fortunate to be able to attend.

The wines paired with each course were from the Honig Winery out of Rutherford, California. Michael Honig was in attendance and spoke about the winery and the wines that were paired with each course. I was lucky enough to visit this picturesque winery with my husband a few years back. We attended a wine dinner in their vineyards for the summer solstice. It is an exquisite property, and I strongly encourage you to visit if you are ever in the area.

Cocktails started at 6 PM. Guests were welcomed into the dining area by servers carrying trays of the first wine pairing, which was as 2017 Napa Sauvignon Blanc. This was paired with a short rib tartare, which was served on a crostini with an oyster mayo, lime, and radish greens. They were also passing around a delectable lagniappe David had prepared, a Conecuh sausage and oyster donut with a cheesy mustard sauce on top. They were absolutely divine! I hope to see these on the menu in the future.

The dinner was assembled in the bar area of the restaurant.  Two long tables were lined up in a farm table style setting. We had a great time getting to know our companions at the table who shared our love for food and wine. Christin, David’s wife, did an a marvelous job with the decor for the dinner. I loved the personal touches used for the place cards. They were Honig wine corks that had been halved and held the place card for each seat. The flowers arranged down the center of the tables were exquisite. C. Wayman Floral & Events  did the floral arrangements for this event, and also keep the restaurant regularly styled with beautiful bouquets of flowers. I have been a long time follower of theirs on social media and have always admired their striking floral designs.

As everyone took their seats, Christin welcomed and thanked everyone for attending. David came out and talked about the preparation for all the dishes. Listening to him describe his food is absolutely captivating. You can easily see and hear his excitement for his thoughtfully constructed dishes. He is genuinely excited for you to eat his food, and the excitement is contagious. Caleb Fischer, the Chef de Cuisine at Acre and future Executive Chef at the soon to open sister property Bow and Arrow, spoke on the final course, the bone marrow pots de crème. Caleb is also a local celebrity. We have thoroughly enjoyed watching him compete on the Spring Baking Championship, also on  Food Network. We hope he can too bring back a win for our hometown!

For the second course, we were served David’s famous Alabama tamales. He makes them with a sweet potato masa, spicy chorizo, and wraps them in collard greens, versus the traditional corn husk. On this particular evening, he had the tamales atop a bed of a melon vinaigrette. Listening to him describe the preparation of the vinaigrette had my mouth watering. The delicate sweetness of the melon vinaigrette paired perfectly with the spiciness of the chorizo. The 2016 Rutherford Reserve Sauvignon Blanc paired sublimely with these flavors as well.

The third course was a St. Louis style rib that had been coated in a chicken skin streusel and blackberry preserves. Being a true southerner, they won my heart at chicken skin; Yummy, crispy chicken skin. These were by far the best ribs I have ever had. The deep, rich flavors of the preserves coating the rib, and the subtle crunch of the delicious chicken skins were mind blowing. This course was the introduction to the red wine pairings. The pairing for this courses was a 2015 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.

The fourth course consisted of another style of rib, a slow smoked beef short rib. The wine pairing for this dish was my favorite of the dinner. The bold, robust flavor of the 2014 Bartolucci Cabernet Sauvignon stood up to the rich, complex flavors of this rib dish. The beef rib was covered in a roasted beet gravy and Alabama morel jam. There was a little bit of raw celery and peas atop the rib that added a little extra crunch and texture to the savory, fall-apart rib. The beet gravy and morel jam were out of this world good! I hope these two items will be a mainstay on the menu at Acre as well.

The final course was a heavenly dessert, which was paired with a 2016 Napa Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. The dessert was a bone marrow pots de crème that had a toasted hazelnut sprinkled atop a lemon curd with a red ribbon sorrel garnish. This pairing and dish was the favorite of our dinner companions. The bright lemon was subdued by the bone marrow, and the hazelnut crunch on top added texture to the dish. Caleb really has a knack for making incredible desserts.

We had a delightful evening at the Iron Chef Dinner. The food and wine pairings were sheer perfection. We enjoyed getting to meet the other diners and share with them our love of food and wine. We are so proud of Acre and their team. They do an exemplary job of demonstrating true Southern hospitality, and we are truly blessed to have them in our community.

Beautiful tablescape.

David Bancroft (right) and Caleb Fischer (left) talking about the menu.

Michael Honig talking about his winery and wines.

Short Rib Tartare.

Conecuh sausage and oyster donut with a cheesy mustard sauce on top.

Alabama tamales.

St. Louis Style Rib with chicken skin streusel.

Personal touches!

Slow Smoked Beef Short Rib.

Bone Marrow Pot de Crème.

(L-R) David Bancroft of Acre, John Mark Davis of International Wines, Michael Honig of Honig Winery.

 

 

Cart Barn Grille

Just a short drive from Opelika, Alabama up I-85 north, you will find some of the best seafood in the south at The Cart Barn Grille in LaGrange, Georgia.

There are zero frills and no pretentiousness, just plain good food. We were introduced to The Cart Barn Grille a few years ago by a dear friend of ours who frequented the restaurant so much they named a dish after him, the Grouper Willi. We were told that they had incredible seafood dishes, and a laid back atmosphere that could not be beat.

The original Cart Barn was located just off Exit 13 on interstate I-85 in Georgia. They were forced out of that location due to the construction of the new, large Great Wolf Lodge. Originally, owner Tony Bishop, thought this might be his time to retire, but the demand for his food was too strong. Thankfully, the stars aligned and an even better location was found. Now the new and improved Cart Barn Grille is located at 625 Jefferson Street in the historic Hillside neighborhood of LaGrange, Georgia. The neighborhood is up and coming, with Beacon Brewery going in just across the street from the Cart Barn’s new location. I am excited to see the progress these new businesses will bring to the area. I love to see a town embrace their historic buildings and neighborhoods.

We arrived at The Cart Barn Friday evening to find a wait. Expect to find a wait most any time you go here. I consider a wait a good thing. It usually is a good indication of the quality of food you are going to get. The wait has never been unbearable, and we enjoy ‘tailgating’ in the parking lot talking with friends while we wait. They serve lunch on Monday, and have dinner and lunch service Tuesday-Friday. They are closed on the weekends. Even with atypical hours, this place is booming nonstop, and it is due to one simple reason, delicious food.

For appetizers we took a non-traditional route and ordered “off the menu” starters. We ordered one of their delicious cheeseburgers and split it with the table. For some added tastiness, we also ordered the fried shrimp a la carte. Their fried shrimp is some of the best I have ever had. The batter is light and crispy, and the shrimp is fresh and tender. If you order this combination, they will definitely know who sent you.

My favorite entrée on the menu is the Grouper Willi. The grouper is sauteed in lemon pepper, served over a bed of mashed potatoes, with lump crab meat, broccolini, and covered in a delicious beurre blanc and avocado aoili. The fish is fresh and flaky, and all the seasonings combined make this a bright and tasteful dish. I have ordered this dish more times than I can count, and it is consistently good every time.

My husband ordered the veal prime rib this particular evening. The veal chop was a bone in roast, with a demi-glace sauce, tobacco onions, all served over a bed of mashed potatoes and broccolini. He raved about this dish for days. I am sure he will be ordering this again if it is on the menu next time we return.

We adore The Cart Barn and do not hesitate in making the short drive to LaGrange. I do not consider myself a huge fan of seafood. However, the seafood here is so fresh and delicious, that I have discovered many seafood dishes that I now love. Not only is the food delicious, but the hospitality is second to none. From the first time I visited the Cart Barn, Tony and his son Shawn, made us feel like locals.

Hope you make the trip to The Cart Barn soon and enjoy a delicious meal. Tell Tony the Dining Winos sent you! 😉