fiddlehead definition

fid·dle·head [ fídd'l hèd ] (plural fid·dle·heads) noun
Definition: edible fern shoot: the coiled frond of a young fern, often cooked and eaten as a delicacy

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Lawrence

I was not able to attend any of the dinner parties predating the opening of The Lawrence but have been so anxious for a chance to taste the menu. I am a frequent diner (and huge fan) of Top Flr and The Sound Table where Shane Devereaux is also Executive chef. So, on a sunny spring evening all by my lonesome, I finally made my way. Parking was unexpectedly easy on the corner of 8th and Juniper. I pulled into a free spot in front of the restaurant and wandered in. Well, to be honest, first I put my hand on the wrong door but caught my mistake before I could be giggled at. Scratch that. There was giggling.

I was greeted at the door by awesome bow tie clad co-owner, Patrick La Bouff (it really was a smashing tie) and seated at the chef's counter with a great view of the kitchen. Patric flitted about taking care of endless details. Shane was practically my dining companion and chef de cuisine, George Brooks (formerly of Rathbun's) was close by. From this vantage point I was able to observe the symphony that is the timing, plating, and garnishing of dishes. The kitchen had great flow. I love the warm tones and almost industrial sense about the place- really made Patrick's fancy bow tie stand out. Most of all, the lack of fluff around makes you concentrate on the food.

Erik Simpkins ( formerly of Drinkshop) shares the title of Co-Beverage Director with T. Fable Jeon, who will soon head the bar program at The Pinewood Tippling Room in the old Cakes and Ale spot in Decatur. Both are famed Atlanta Mixologists so I chose a cocktail to start. There are only a few on the menu but ask for a favorite and Eric can expertly craft a cocktail for you. He certainly knows his way around a Sazarac. Next time I need to try the Lady Lawrence: lavender mint tea infused vodka, ginger, lime, cassis and soda. The ladies next to me loved it.
Image from
I had wondered about the origin of the name but as soon as I was handed the menu, I figured it out (thank you religion minor). There are tiny images of a grid iron in different places of the menu. St. Lawrence is the patron saint of cooks, especially those who grill.  He was one of the 7 deacons martyred during the persecution of Valerian in 258. He died a slow, tortuous death over coals on a grid iron (which is on display at the Church of St, Lawrence in Lucina). He is also fabled to have said that he needed turning, making him also the patron saint of comedians.

10 courses, ready, set, go...

The maiden bite: Herbed whipped feta, beet, celery micro green. Fresh, light, subtle, and soft way to begin.

Crispy pig ears
Brined, thinly sliced and fried crisp then tossed in fennel salt. I've had pig ears many times, usually in an unsuccessful manner. These were crisp, absolutely grease free, and addictive. The faint fennel flavor is so unexpected. I couldn't stop reaching for more and kept thinking about what a perfect theater snack they would make. If only I had a bigger purse with me...

Pickled quail egg with micro cilantro.
This was my favorite of the evening. I would return just for these (read: hurry up and open for lunch). Tart and savory with just a touch of salt and pepper. So simple; so perfect.
Georgia English pea salad
I can't get enough of pea shoots this spring. I have been garnishing with them, adding them to sandwiches, and topping my eggs in the morning. I love this idea of pea greens as a main salad green. They have more bite, more prominence than say, Romaine.  The peas themselves were crisp and popped in my mouth with freshness, as did the cranberry beans. I made sure to toss the garlic and lemon dressing about. The entire dish was light and vibrant and full of textures from the smoothness of the Parmesan shavings to the crunch of the toasted ciabatta.

B&B pork brawn
B&B Family Farm head cheese, trotter fritter,pickled salad with Chinese radish, cucumber and cilantro, ciabatta. Oh how I loved this dish! The trotter fritter was so crispy on the outside and so warm and smooth on the inside. I loved the seasonings in the head cheese. Shane talked about the farm where the heritage pig came from. This connection to an ingredient by a chef easily comes through in lush flavors and careful attention to flavor.

Fish sticks
Salted cod, chick peas, pulverized tomato, and chive. I enjoyed the playfulness of this dish and loved the chick pea "stick." I have never had chick peas in a form like this. I really loved the transformation of such a simple, overlooked (by me) ingredient. The women next to me were moaning over the dish. Really; moaning. They were also enjoying pairings with each of their courses, some different than mine. Eric was explaining his pairing choices, noting subtleties of flavor components. I opted for a glass.

Potato gnocchi, spring onion, fennel frond pistou, chicharonnes
So many plates of this dish came out of the kitchen. It is clearly an early favorite of the restaurant. The pesto of fennel fronds was an unexpected surprise. I have fronds in my garden that our now earmarked for a dish at home. If only I was as skilled in the gnocchi making department.

Georgia rabbit schnitzel
This was such a pretty dish. I really captured that, right? I was trying to be stealth with my phone so this fuzzy image is all you get. You will have to see it for yourself because it was delightful. Greens of herbs de Provence, celery, and fennel topped it and charred tomatoes were nestled alongside the tender rabbit.

Heritage pork cheeks, spaetzle, Brussels, Three Philosophers jus
Holy smokes! Order this rich, almost decadent dish. The malty sweet jus is plate scrape inducing. The spaetzle is used sparingly and very crisp. There are a lot of spaetzle dishes around lately and the plate is usually loaded. A little goes a long way. The Brussels are a great balance with the jus and as a textural element. 

Golden raisin butter cake, salted caramel
When this was placed before me, I kind of shrugged it off. I was super stuffed and while adorable in a tiny jam jar, I just couldn't muster. "Just try it," Shane said. The cake was warm, gooey, and buttery, comfort food at its finest. He nodded towards the ice cream. Confession: I don't like ice cream. I humored him and took a small bite, then another and another until it was gone. Parsnip ice cream, or as he calls it, "parsnip milk." This is the second best ice cream I have ever tasted and I want more. *Best ice cream ever: mustard from now defunct Joel.

my view
I tried a good bit of the menu and really loved the chosen courses. I look forward to coming back.  Shane always has these unexpected pairings of ingredients with Asian spices with French technique that always works. Co-owners Darren Carr and Patrick La Bouff bid me adieu as I made my way for the door to drive home with the windows down after a great experience on a beautiful southern night. Experience...that's what it is. The Lawrence is more than just a restaurant; it is an experience.  I look forward to dishes that are edgy but approachable. I also look forward to August 10th, St. Lawrence's feast day. Something needs to be grilled.
The Lawrence on Urbanspoon

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