Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Dining Out: Miller Union (Atlanta, GA) - Emerging Foodie Roadtrip, Part 1

This spring I attended a work-related convention in Atlanta, followed by my annual trip to the Team America Rocketry Challenge national finals in Northern Virginia and a visit with my daughter (the George Washington University graduate student in American Studies) in the DC metro area. More than 10 days on the road, half of that on my own and with an expense account?1 That could only mean... Emerging Foodie Roadtrip! Over several posts, I'll be recalling for you, my faithful readers, the best of my gustatory adventures from that trip.

When I learned I would be going to Atlanta, I made it a point to DVR and carefully study the Atlanta episode of Anthony Bourdain's Travel Channel show The Layover. One segment that stuck in my mind was his visit, with Alton Brown, to the Miller Union farm-to-table restaurant; I just knew it had to be one of my stops.

Miller Union wasn't my first blogworthy meal of the trip, but it's definitely where I want to start. Described by Alton Brown as "not the only farm-to-table restaurant in Atlanta, but it's the best farm-to-table restaurant in Atlanta," I scoped the locaton out on my first night in town, though I didn't make it there to eat 'til my last night. It was worth the wait!

The only reservations for 1 available were either very early or very late; I chose the former, arriving at (as I recall) 5:30 pm, one of the first parties of the dinner service. The early evening light actually showed off the place's marriage of clean, modern design and country farmhouse motifs beautifully:

 And, of course, it was after 5:00 pm, so naturally I began with a cocktail, the Miller Thyme, made with Millers gin (according to my excellent waiter, that name is a coincidence; it's not a house brand), lemon, and fresh thyme.

Naturally, as a starter I had to have the very farm egg baked in celery cream that I'd seen Anthony Bourdain lap up on Alton Brown's recommendation. As promised, it's such a simple thing... and yet such a rich, delicious, beautiful thing. The delicate aromatic flavors of the cream; the richness of the egg; the chewy goodness of the grilled rustic bread... I could've almost ordered a second one as my entree.

 But of course, I didn't. Instead, I ordered duck breast with celery root purée, dandelion greens, and green garlic, along with a side of roasted beets with orange and olive oil. The latter, my waiter assured me, was a signature dish, like the egg appetizer, and I can well believe it. I was a late-in-life convert to beets, but I've quickly come to love them, and these were the best I've had. The duck was amazing, too: I've just about concluded that the duck is almost as noble a beast as the swine. (Almost!) And the celery root purée filled in checked off one of those foodie ingredients I mused about years ago... although, honestly, I'm not sure I could even now isolate that flavor from all the other wonderful ones on the plate.

 When I'm just eating for fuel, I usually don't order dessert, but I was determined to have the full Miller Union dining experience, so I ordered not one dessert, but two: a cornmeal cake with rhubarb jam and rose-hibiscus cream, which I so eagerly dove into that I barely remembered to take a picture...

 ...and a scoop of the most amazing mint ice cream (which was actually part of a different dessert on the menu, but I asked if I could just order it by itself). Mint ice cream may not sound all that amazing, but this was made with cream deeply infused with garden-fresh mint, and the result was utterly different from the usual candy-like mint flavor that most mint ice creams (including my homemade ones) have. I'm determined to try to duplicate that flavor with my homegrown mint... but frankly, I'll be shocked if I can get it half as good. This was a truly wonderful way to end a truly wonderful meal!


1 Just to be clear regarding this and other posts about eating out during the Atlanta portion of my trip, I only ever expensed a reasonable meal cost, and covered any extravagences (including alcohol) myself. Jus' sayin'....

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