Feedbag - King strong

Food Studio's winter menu plays it safe but sound

I love visiting King Plow Arts Center. The vibe is laid-back and artsy, and the space always makes me feel so hip and urban. From the balcony of the Food Studio, inside King Plow, we surveyed the Sunday night half-crowd and mused about marketing restaurant decor kits to fake the "this building used to be a warehouse/factory/mill" look (though this one is the real thing).

When I asked our waiter to point out the new winter dishes on the recently updated seasonal menu, he quickly assured me that it was a complete overhaul. I definitely recognized a few remnants from the old menu, however, including the easy-to-love beet appetizer with horseradish cream and truffle oil.

With Jack Frost nipping at my extremities, the white bean soup seemed like an excellent first-course selection. Hoping for a steaming bowl, I was a little disappointed when it arrived only vaguely warm. The oversized island of smoked bacon flan was too large to be a garnish and too unctuous to marry well with the soup. The foie gras appetizer looked so intriguing that we had to try it. Seared and laid over a sliver of pineapple pound cake and poached pineapple, the liver was like a silky, meaty frosting on the tart-sweet fruit and cake.

Unlike many of Atlanta's white tablecloth establishments that too often shine with the first and last courses and neglect the main course, the Food Studio puts its best foot forward with their "bold American entrees." My duck breast was precisely medium, with the skin scored and crisply browned. It was perched between halves of a confit spring roll and a scatter of turnips that soaked up the flavor of shallot-duck jus. The venison was also a pinky medium and quite tender. It was an unmistakably wintry dish, served over cabbage and Georgia apples, with candied chestnuts and calvados peppering the plate.

For dessert, we went with the cleverly named Hot Chocolate and Cookies, which was definitely rich with chocolate and covered in toasted marshmallows but otherwise nondescript. We also sampled the lemon basil bombe, which was interesting but tasted more like summertime with a light tinge of bologna. In retrospect, I should've just ordered a second slice of the pineapple pound cake from my appetizer.

Overall, the food was carefully prepared — if a bit safe at times. But Food Studio's physical space is always impressively elegant yet casual, and the fireplace going in the far corner is warmly welcoming after the chilly stroll through the King Plow walkway.


New Year's Planning

Time to get on the ball and make plans for New Year's Eve. The following restaurants have something special going on. Make reservations early — many will fill up quickly.

Avra in Midtown will host two seatings: 9:30 and 10 p.m. The Greek, four-course menu is $50 per person. 794 Juniper St. 404-892-8890. www.avragreektavern.com.

Di Paulo in Alpharetta will host an Italian four-course meal with a midnight champagne toast. Cost is $75 per person. 8560 Holcomb Bridge Road, Alpharetta. 770-587-1051. www.dipaolorestaurant.com.

Joël will offer a special five-course meal — with choices such as marinated lamb with porcini ravioli and raspberry-vanilla sablé with crème fraiche sorbet — for $90 per person. 3290 Northside Parkway. 404-233-3500. www.joelrestaurant.com.

Mosaic in Buckhead will offer two special menus — three courses for $55 per person, and four courses for $70 per person — in addition to a limited regular menu. 3097 Maple Drive. 404-846-5722.

Murphy's in Virginia-Highland will offer cuisine and champagne specials, and will open at 8 a.m. on New Year's Day for those who opted out of late-night partying. 997 Virginia Ave. 404-872-0904. www.murphysvh.com.

Seeger's will present two seatings: A 5-5:30 p.m. seating will include four courses at $135 per person; the second seating will be from 9-9:30 p.m., and include a seven-course meal for $200 per person. 111 W. Paces Ferry Road. 404-846-9779. www.seegers.com.

Trattoria Monaco in Alpharetta will begin the evening with a 6:30 seating, offering a four-course dinner for $59 per person, $79 with wine pairings. The late seating is at 9 p.m., with a five-course feast for $75 per person, $99 with wine pairings and a champagne toast at midnight. 5530 Windward Parkway, Suite 250, Alpharetta. 770-664-0056.

Woodfire Grill will be serving a five-course dinner for $75, or $125 with wine pairings, per person. The regular menu will also be offered. Complimentary champagne toast at midnight. 1782 Cheshire Bridge Road, 404-347-9055. www.woodfiregrill.com.

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