I was lucky enough to be invited to the Muir Glen Vine Dining Tour at Buckhead’s Aria a few weeks ago. The Vine Dining Tour is a pretty interesting concept: the folks at Muir Glen are going around the country showcasing their reserve tomatoes, kind of like you would with a reserve wine. Their reserve variety is specially cultivated and hand-harvested and changes every year, this year’s being the “Meridian Ruby.” The Dining Tour asked 5 chefs across the country to come up with dishes showcasing Muir Glen’s tomatoes, and Atlanta’s was Gerry Klaskala, chef/owner of Aria.
We started with a number of passed hors d’oeuvres, including grilled cheese with bacon and tomato (OMG), tomato, blue cheese, and prosciutto bruschetta, fire roasted tomato burger sliders (missed these, sad face) and bloody mary’s. Unfortunately, I have no photos of the hors d’oeuvres, but I can assure you they were delicious, especially the grilled cheese. I won’t go into extensive detail on each dish because 1) I don’t think they’re offered on Aria’s regular menu, and 2) everything was perfectly executed, anyway.
So, once we were seated, we started by sampling Muir Glen’s regular and fire-roasted tomatoes straight from the can. Our first course quickly followed: fire-roasted tomato & shrimp bisque:
The tomato & shrimp bisque = fabulous. A favorite of many that night.
Next, ditalini with squash, tomatoes, and Parmigiano Reggiano, a recipe from Chef Klaskala’s grandmother:
The polenta in this spinasse ragu with Anson Mills polenta was so creamy and rich:
Main course time: oak-grilled lamb with tomato and eggplant ragout. I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but Chef Klaskala managed to make it delicious. Even vegetable-phobe Mario cleaned his plate! And the lamb was so, so tender and minimally seasoned to let the meat speak for itself. I almost wanted to gnaw on the bone when I was finished.
Finally, dessert. I was staring at this course on the menu all night wondering how a tomato panna cotta and tomato sorbet could be good. But Aria’s pastry chef wowed me. This was my favorite dish of the night. Along with the aforementioned dessert items, we also got sugar cookies with tomato jam sandwiched in between:
Wow. So this was a regular panna cotta with sort of a tomato glaze on top, finished with a helping of tomato sorbet. Everything was sweet, but not overly so, so you could still distinctly taste the tomato but knew it was a dessert. The sugar cookies and tomato jam were also fantastic.
The meal and service at the Muir Glen event at Aria were all spot-on. I am now looking forward to visiting Aria for a regular meal.