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Hearth Pizza Tavern

One of the perils of meeting good old friends and going out to eat is that there is a potential to overeat spectacularly. The conversation is flowing, the jokes are great, the food tastes fantastic… Somewhere amidst all that bonhomie and good cheer, it is easy to overlook the fact that you are on your fourth slice of pizza already, the cheese, runny and warm and rich, is beginning to weigh down your tummy, and it feels like you want to curl up in your chair and take a nap.

Sigh.

Not to fault the food at Hearth Pizza Tavern at all…  It may very well be a testament to its deliciousness (and my lack of awareness, gulp) that I overate at lunch, skipped dinner that night and ate very little the day after. Even my sturdy digestive system (touchwood!) realized that it had to take a break.

All that being said, Hearth Pizza Tavern has an excellent selection of appetizers, pizzas, salads, sandwiches and burgers. Too bad that I couldn’t try more items off the menu!

The first time we went with friends (yes, the time we went overboard, at least I did, with the food), we ordered an assortment of appetizers: Roasted Broccoli (we told our server to leave out the salami), Eggplant Chips, Missy’s Intense Hearthbread. The broccoli was roasted to perfection and it jived perfectly with the caramelized onions. The Eggplant Chips felt a tad greasy, not too much. But it is a dish worth sampling in little doses, yes. Missy’s Intense Hearthbread was fairly good. I wish I could remember more but it’s been weeks since we visited, my memory is dim. Yes, I should have written up this post earlier, I know. Lethargy hits and it hits hard.

It was time to order the pizzas. We got the Ring of Fire (sans chorizo), Mom Says, “Eat Your Veggies!” and Leaf Kickers. Ring of Fire has a spiciness to it, courtesy the garlic chili oil, and the cherry peppers lent the pizza a piquant kick. The crust was perfectly crisp, done to perfection. Leaf Kickers had phenomenal flavor what with roasted pumpkin and butternut squash, kale and sage browned butter, pistachios and pumpkin seed oil… oh Yum. It was easily the best pizza we ordered, I think. Mom Says, “Eat Your Veggies!,” unlike its preachy title, is not a veggie-overloaded pizza at all. It comes with spinach, roasted red peppers, broccoli, roasted cremini mushrooms, butternut squash, homemade marinara and Hearth’s premium cheese blend. I think we asked the server to skip the butternut squash since Leaf Kickers contained the same.

Leaf Kickers, Eggplant Chips, Hearth Bread, Ring of Fire, Mom Says, "Eat Your Veggies!"

Most of the Hearth pizzas come with their premium cheese blend that comprises of fontinella, fontina and mozzarella, shredded in-house and blended. This, I learned on my next visit to Hearth a few weeks later. I was meeting Malika Harricharan, noted Atlanta-based restaurant blogger and author, for lunch. This time, I was more prudent. We kept things simple. Malika and I split an order of Crispy Brussel Sprouts. The dish contains pancetta but Malika, in lieu of my preference, asked the server to skip it, so that’s how we got it. Yummy indeed in that roasted-caramelized-burnt brussel sprout style! The balsamic-port reduction added a layer to sweetness.

Crispy Brussel Sprouts

Malika ordered a Mass Pike pizza while I opted for a Simple White with homemade marinara, spinach, basil, roasted red peppers, black olives. It was excellent. It was light (if that’s possible with an 8-inch pizza that contains a blend of three cheeses), fresh tasting and flavorful. And the size was perfect.

Simple White with Toppings

Dessert was skipped both times, so another visit is due. Plus there are so many interesting sounding items on the menu calling my name! Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese, Queen’s Right pizza, Fun Guy…

Hearth Pizza Tavern
5992 Roswell Rd NE
Sandy Springs GA 30328

404-252-5378
www.hearthpizzatavern.com

Little Thai

Little Thai sits right across from the parking lot where Sandy Springs Farmers Market is located. That’s where we went for dinner this week.

I am no connoisseur on Thai food but it feels like all Thai food, well most of it, that I have sampled tastes the same. Some curries are sweet while some are spicy, and most dishes feature the same set of vegetables namely carrots, sweet peas, broccoli, baby corn, red peppers, potatoes. Scan the menu of any Thai restaurant and you’ll see the same names – Red Curry, Yellow Curry, Green Curry, Penang Curry, Massaman Curry, Pad Thai, Basil Noodles and so on. I love that the curries are choc-a-full of vegetables, I like the fresh flavors. But I do wonder if I am missing anything. And I don’t mean the meat, you know that.

Little Thai was no exception.

It is a cheerful space, tastefully decorated and casual. The servers were really nice and made us comfortable, stroller et al. We ordered an assortment of appetizers – Tom Yum Goong Soup (huge bowl, lots of vegetables, nicely spiced), Larb (lettuce leaves with a side salad of tofu, red onions, cilantro, lime juice) and Thai Roti (similar to Roti Canai – Malaysian paraantha served with curry that was a tad too sweet and lacked the fire).

On to entrees… Basil Noodles, Massaman Curry and Pad Prik.

We had asked for medium spice levels although I thought all entrees were a tad spicy. Nothing to complain really except that the flavors didn’t really jump out at me. Decent food, many vegetarian options, lots of vegetables, friendly staff- good stuff, hmmm.

For dessert, we got banana dumplings served with vanilla ice cream. As usual, P griped about it (he always does!) but dug his spoon in to the mound of ice cream eagerly when it came.

Would I go to Little Thai again? Sure, why not. Maybe we will sample other dishes on the menu and hopefully have a more unique experience. I know the pictures are fiery red but the light was poor, so I couldn’t take regular pictures! Apologies…

Little Thai Cuisine
220 Sandy Springs Circle, Suite 209
Sandy Springs, GA 30328
404-943-9189

www.littlethaicuisine.com

Cafe Sunflower, Sandy Springs

I had written about Cafe Sunflower in the beginning days of this blog. That post was about the branch in Buckhead. This weekend, we visited the one in Sandy Springs. I recall going to this one and feeling like the place lacked energy. It felt dull, the decor lacked vibrance of any sort, and there were very few folks eating there. It must have been a couple of years ago.

All that has changed. I visited Cafe Sunflower in Sandy Springs with a friend two weeks back, and then again this weekend with P. Both times, the restaurant was bustling, most tables were occupied, the menu had changed (maybe) and there was a definite energetic vibe going on that caught my interest.

Above our table was a wooden cabinet that stored teapots and packets of herbal tea. The whole place is done up in earthy tones of brown, crimson, maroon, dull gold. The servers are cheerful, hip and friendly, and as expected, fully understanding of what it means to be vegetarian, issues linked with eating soy in excess (yes, I was eavesdropping on a conversation going on at a nearby table) and how to use the Scoutmob application too! This iPhone application gave me a 50% discount on eating at Cafe Sunflower – I guess that explains why we landed there on a rainy Saturday evening, first day of the year, to boot! But I really like this place too, didn’t I say that already?

I ordered a pot of the peach tea. I wish it was peach-ginger but it was plain peach. On a day as rainy as that, I would have gone for anything-ginger but they didn’t have any such combination. P, on the other hand, ordered a bottle of the Outrageous Ginger Ale! Both of us are avid ginger fans, obviously. That ginger ale was a fantastic combination of spicy and sweet. I do wish it had less sugar… 🙁 Even our other favorite ginger ale, Reed’s contains a little more sugar than I am comfortable with. It is an occasional indulgence, end of story.

For the entrees, P ordered the Spicy Pad Thai Noodles. I asked for the Tuscan Sandwich. The dinner entrees come with house salad and dinner rolls. P asked for the soy sesame dressing and I went with the creamy Italian (after confirming with our sweet server that it was vegetarian/vegan).

Yum! I think the salad contains greens, shredded carrots, white beans, bulgur wheat. Generally, I find Italian dressing a little too tart for my taste but this was rather mild. P’s soy sesame was nice too, not too oily or heavily sweet. I wish I could recall what other ingredients the salad contained. I am not a salad fiend, meaning I am not going to be ecstatic if you give me a plate of lightly sauteed kale for lunch. But I am a fairly dispassionate person and so I will be satisfied (!). Anyway, I really liked this salad. The greens and the bulgur together provided a nice leafy-nutty flavor combination plus both dressings were very good too!

The dinner rolls… I thought I’d get full eating them, sigh. They were made of whole wheat and came with a tiny bowl of buttered jam (or jelly, as is called in the US). Raspberry flavored, I think. I always love dinner rolls, I wish I had taken them home or something. I only ate half a roll but they were wonderful.

The entrees were fantastic. P is what I would call a Pad Thai afficianado; he really likes the dish. Hmmm, I wonder why we haven’t tried making it at home.

Rice noodles, oyster mushrooms, chopped red peppers, baby corn, roasted (or sauteed?) tofu, kale, all swimming in a gloriously flavored coconut peanut sauce. Honestly, the picture on the left cannot do justice to this dish. It was not overwhelmingly garlicky or spicy neither was it over-the-top peanutty. It was perfection in that lovely burnished bowl. I must mention, my friend and I shared this dish when I visited earlier, and loved it that time as well. The kale is a definite healthy touch to the dish but it is very crisp and lightly cooked, hence does not ruin the taste at all.

My Tuscan Sandwich was wonderful too. It is a generously portioned dish, split into two halves. Oh, it came with a side of baked sweet potato fries and coleslaw. The fries could have been crisper. They were too soft, I thought. The coleslaw was nice but I didn’t eat much of it due to the briny dressing (didn’t want to risk pitta aggravation).

The filling?

Deliciously oozy basil goat cheese, giant chunks of portabello mushrooms, caramelized onions, juicy tomatoes and sauteed spinach. Oh, the bread is rosemary focaccia. I couldn’t eat both halves, ended up taking one home for lunch the next day. Can you believe, it tasted as delicious?

Dessert was a flourless chocolate ganache with a nut crust. I don’t recall if it was vegan (most probably, it was) but it was certainly gluten-free and DELICIOUS. Again, I had gotten this dessert on my last visit as well. Oh, it tastes so silky and chocolate-y without being too sugary or cloying. It is dark chocolate but not too bitter. I think it’s a dessert best shared.

Cafe Sunflower is certainly no cheap joint but I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone, vegetarian or not. This is not your vegetarian restaurant that has fake meat dishes on the menu. Instead it is all about fresh ingredients, full flavors and innovative preparations.

If you think I gushed too much in this post, you should just go check the place out.

Cafe Sunflower
5975 Roswell Road
Atlanta GA 30328

404-256-1675

www.cafesunflower.com

Farmers Market Goodies

Sandy Springs Farmers Market is soon growing to be a place I love. I visited this morning and what did I come home with?

Tender okra, potatoes, summer squash, juicy figs, ripe tomatoes and one green pepper. Well, I had to get home soon or else I’d have picked up some mozzarella, herbs and some peppers, maybe?

The freshness and succulence of the produce is what makes me look forward to going there every weekend.

Last week, I went to Dekalb Farmers Market. I had resolved that I wouldn’t buy a thing that came from the West Coast. Well, California, actually. Would you believe that I got hardly any produce? This huge farmers market in GA stocked very little from the home state and got most produce from CA. I walked away from Turkish Figs, peaches, beans, apples… It was quite disappointing.

The idea of eating local and seasonal produce wasn’t something that I really followed. It’s so much easier to go to the market and buy what your heart desires to eat. Well, you cannot always do that if you buy local and seasonal produce. Anyway, as I started buying fruits and vegetables that grew close to GA and were in season, I could very easily discern the difference in taste. Now why I know why people make the weekly trek to farmers markets. I am one of them now.

The figs I got home this morning… so ripe and juicy.