I was at South Main Kitchen not that long ago (fbo certain reader’s “Not That Long Ago” means about a month ago :)) to do my final installment on cocktails. Don’t worry. A similar review will return with a different twist. Anyway, I was at South Main Kitchen when I realized that we connoisseurs of cocktails have created a monster and every restaurant I’ve reviewed for cocktails this summer portrays the truth of that monster. I give you this fictional example:
“The Alpharettan – Demerara Rum with a local beer, Peychauds, Pastis, Absinthe Spray, Tempus Kina, Cynar and Chia Seeds”
You might need your smart phone to quickly Google some of these ingredients. What local beer, you might ask? And if you are a connoisseur of cocktails you would be wondering what the dominant flavor would be in the above drink. Maybe you like one of the ingredients a lot, but you don’t like, say, the taste of licorice. “If you mix them all together you get a flavor explosion more than the sum of it’s parts,” the server will tell you. But is that a chance you are willing to take for a $15.00 cocktail that fills about 5 or 6 ounces of some highly decorative cocktail glass?
There is something to be said for those lonely drink titles at the bottom of today’s cocktail menus: “Dirty Martini” or “Gin and Tonic” or “Scotch and Soda”. These classics are classic for a reason. We know what is in them, and it’s hard to mess them up.
So, there you have it. The conundrum of the artsy cocktail menus that I hold so near and dear.
At South Main Kitchen, the cocktail list is equally as creative as any of the restaurants I reviewed this summer. Indeed, I pre-visit reviewed it over lunch with my 16 co-workers and asked them what I should order that evening. My assistant, J., who is French and who knows me so well, pushed the one drink he knew was a safe bet with me, the Blonde Grapefruit Negroni. Turns out, he was right, of course.
The Blonde Grapefruit Negroni is a cocktail mix of gin, pamplemousse, Aperol and blanc vermouth. The pamplemousse is grapefruit, the ‘blanc’ vermouth is an herb-focused vermouth. The Aperol is what makes this drink interesting and is probably why South Main calls this drink a “Negroni”. It is an Italian aperitif with hints of gentian, orange, rhubarb. It is woodsy, herbal. It should be had all by itself really. So, as you can see, with the exception of the grapefruit – a straight-up citrus flavoring – this drink is an herbal powerhouse. Even gin is essentially a spirit flavored with herbs of various and sundry kinds.
But enough of cocktails. Because, you see, something else stole the evening. I’m not exaggerating. Surely any of you who have visited South Main know this. Trumpets please….
How could anyone dress up a lowly, humble, peasant vegetable like brussel sprouts the way South Main does? Is it a complicated list of ingredients you ask? It includes feta, I know that. And that’s not complicated. It includes bacon, I know that, and neither is that complicated. But the secret I think lies in that “mandarin vinaigrette”. What this mandarin vinaigrette is made of, I do not know. Must be a secret. In any case, this so-called starter dish from the menu at South Main is outstanding. The problem is, it suffices as dinner if you eat it all by yourself. I recommend you share it with a friend or two.
I didn’t stay for dinner at South Main, but I do want to say “Well done!” on the space. I’ve visited that space for over 20 years and South Main Kitchen is the best one yet.