Atlanta: Float Away Cafe

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This was supposed to be a restaurant in Italy. It was the way we dreamed we would celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Our 8th anniversary took place in Venice and we had big dreams of repeating that. We never planned for the economy to take us in a sudden new direction.

Being married to a very optimistic and happy man, I’ve learned to look at life through his rose-colored glasses. He would be happy anywhere we could be together. And, like him, I’m happy, to have just celebrated at home cooking my husband’s favorite meal and sharing our night with friends.

To continue our anniversary into the weekend, we ate at the Float Away Cafe as part of our “it’s not Italy, but we can still go to Atlanta” for a nice dinner. And, I’m happy that I got to start the meal with with blue crab, enjoy lobster as my main entree and finish with a strawberry souffle.

This is the first time that I have featured a restaurant on my site. It’s not because I don’t love to eat out in restaurants. I do, but lately I’m more passionate about cooking at home. If only I could have shared with you all the many restaurants in our travels of the last ten years, because restaurants are a major cooking school for me. When people ask me to teach them to cook, I tell them to eat out, because the secret to cooking is learning how to taste.

The Float Away Cafe’s kitchen is run by Chef Drew Bellini and is part of a group of trendy Atlanta restaurants owned by chefs Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison. A sister to Bacchanalia, it is tucked away in an industrial complex, and not knowing what to expect, I was completely charmed by the decor. There is handsome outside seating, yet the inside seating is so fresh and calm, and we were placed next to the window to have full view of an outdoor garden. It’s a perfect spring choice. The decor is simple, clean and reminds me of Martha Stewart casual chic. The decor (a remodel from a more stark setting) is perfect for the food…beachy, unpretentious, but not ordinary.

The particular dish that would most take me back to the Float Away was a warm starter, crespelle (the Italian word for crepe) stuffed with blue crab and sorrel. I grew up not far from Maryland, eating blue crab at least weekly, and I think it is the ultimate seafood and best when super fresh and not crowded with too many ingredients. He got this as right as possible. The crab was seasoned with sorrel, and stuffed into a crepe and then quickly roasted in a light buttery, lemony cream sauce. The only unfortunate thing was that we decided to share this. I would return and have this as my main course as it is one of the best appetizers of my life.

Wood Oven Roasted Crespelle of Gulf Blue Crab and Sorrel

My main entree was lobster prepared with dill, butter-poached gnocchi and pink grapefruit.

The gnocchi were perfectly prepared and light as a feather. If I were to change one thing, it would be the cylinder shape of the gnocchi, which I found unattractive. Food shouldn’t taste that much better than it looks, but I’m an artist and overly visual. Most folks wouldn’t notice. The lobster was sweet and the butter sauce was not overpowering. It still has to be one of the more beautiful entrees on the menu.

I watched a few dishes get devoured beside us and judging by the gusto in which they were eaten, they deserve a good word. The table shared warm starters of calamari and soft shelled crab, and the main courses were hanger steak with crisp fries, and trout with local cucumbers, fennel, pea sprouts, orange and radish and the lobster. Each guest seemed to truly enjoy each bite, and I kept thinking I should have ordered the steak, no the trout, but I was very happy when my lobster arrived.

They ordered the strawberry souffle and insisted I order it also. DC ordered the profiteroles because he saw they were served with roasted peanuts. The souffle is more than picture perfect and is topped with a strawberry meringue that reminds one of pavlova. I thought that added a layer of sweetness I didn’t care for, but I don’t have a super sweet tooth and you need that for this dessert. It’s served with a side of creamy not too sweet strawberry ice cream. The pastry for the profiteroles were prepared perfectly, but the peanuts seemed to be just an after thought and not really tied to the dish the way he had hoped.

DC had a caprese salad made with hot house tomatoes and there were no complaints, as the tomatoes were red, juicy and drizzled with right amount of oil and balsamic. The picture says it all.

He ordered a pizza, and while it was not bad, it was not great, as the crust wasn’t as thin and crisp as we like, but pizza is not the reason to go to the Float Away Cafe.

The really good food paired with local, organic produce, (some of it from the Quatrano family farm, Summerland) prepared for with great care, with french country, Italian and mediterranean influences, edited perfectly, are the reasons to go to the Float Away Cafe.

Caprese Salad, with just the right drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Strawberry Soufflé, Strawberry Ice cream

We took a drive over to Star Provisions, the gourmet food, wine and cheese shop, that is located adjacent to the Bacchanalia and got to peak in. When the timing is right we will head there to step it up with a prix fixe dinner, featuring contemporary American cuisine from chef/owners Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison. The difference in price is approximately $100 per person, so this will have to wait, but remains on my wish list. Not far from this location, is their newest restaurant, the Abattoir, a nose to tail restaurant, which serves every part of the animal. That’s kind of funny and daring in our mixed up foodie world of vegans and meat-eating protestors and I’ve heard recently a very good report.

A Few Comments
I need two things to happen when I dine out. I want good food, and inspiration. My passion is more cooking than eating out, and I want to be able to sit there wondering what is in the dish and how can I make it. The only way to learn to cook is to experience good food first hand. Cook books will never take that place. I experienced food prepared in a new way and I am inspired to make these dishes.

A plus in dining out is great service that is hospitable, engaging, and part of the dining experience, offering suggestions, and showing excitement for the dishes. Our service was good, but not engaging. That’s great for some diners, but we enjoy forming a relationship with the staff and a relationship will bring us back to a place more often than not.

It was a saturday night and there were many empty tables, although when we tried to make a reservation on-line with open table, we couldn’t get anything except 6:00 p.m. We decided to phone and we were able to get a 7:00 reservation. While it seems convenient to book a reservation on-line, I recommend that you always call and do your best to get the time you desire.
Highly Recommended
We highly recommend this restaurant, and we look forward to a future date at Bacchanalia, and I can’t wait to get into the kitchen and see what I can do with this new inspiration.

Enjoy a recipe from Chef Drew Bellini for Organic Dandelion Greens with Bartlett Pears, Montgomery Clothbound Cheddar, and Walnuts Dandelion Greens.

Key Words: Atlanta Restaurant Feature, Float Away Cafe, Dining Out
Spinach Tiger Entry 62- Angela Roberts, Dining out in Atlanta: Float Away Cafe
All original content (outside of adapted recipe) copyright © 2009 Angela Roberts, All Rights Reserved

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