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French fry grits, General Tso sprouts catch attention
North Georgia restaurants, wineries getting noticed
06072018 GRITS 1
Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery earned a statewide shout out this week from the Georgia tourism division's "100 Plates Locals Love" series, which picks out specific menu items from restaurants throughout Georgia that attract attention from Georgians. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Smith.

Grits in french fry form and General Tso Brussels sprouts — two North Georgia restaurants have earned a statewide shout out for their weirdly excellent dishes.

The Georgia state tourism division released its “100 Plates Locals Love” series on Monday; Chateau Elan and Wolf Mountain Vineyards near Dahlonega were among those nominated by Georgians for their novel approaches to local ingredients.

At Wolf Mountain, the Boegner family runs one of the most extensive lunch and dinner services paired with a winery in North Georgia. While wineries tend to be owned by the successful doctor in retirement or a well-funded investor, the Boegners’ background is in restaurants.

“We knew when we started the winery that we were going to have a full-service restaurant,” said Lindsey Smith, daughter of winery owner E. Karl Boegner who heads up dining, events and hospitality at Wolf Mountain. “It’s definitely evolved over the years; it started out pretty casual, just mainly with cold items and sandwiches and stuff. We’ve built it from there.”

And it shows. Wolf Mountain’s lunches, brunches and “winemaker dinner” events — an epicurean experience of dinner and wine guided by the winery’s chef and winemaker, who talks attendees through both their meals and the paired wines — are hits in the mountains.

And the winery’s Logan Turnpike grit fries are their own hit. Using grits from the Blairsville grist mill, the chefs at Wolf Mountain turn a famously mushy food into a crispy fry.

“He basically makes creamy grits from scratch and chills them overnight on a hotel pan. The next morning, he’ll come in and slice them in a steak fry width, he egg white washes them, panko crusts them and flash fries them,” Smith told The Times. “You’ve got a panko-crusted fry, and then when you bite into it you’ve got a creamy grit on the inside with a little bit of that scallion and bacon fat flavor.”

The fries are paired with a pimento cheese reduction that feels a bit like bechamel. Together, local, popular and appropriately Southern. They'll set you back $7.95.

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In Braselton, chef Cameron Udick is reviving the reputation of the humble sprout at Chateau Elan’s fine dining restaurant, marc.

Yes, that’s the correct capitalization — that’s how you know it’s fine dining.

Anyway, Udick has come up with a head-turning dish using Brasstown Beef, a cattle ranch in North Carolina, and the ubiquitous Chinese-turned-Americana General Tso recipe.

Head chef at marc, Cameron Udick, told The Times that the sprouts are the most popular side at the restaurant. He starts with the sauce — a blend of sauces and spices anchored by orange juice and red pepper juice and reduced until thick. 

The sprouts are halved and deep fried until crispy, giving them the rich flavor of roasted sprouts with the crunch of a comforting fried food. 

Brussels sprouts never leave Udick's menu, he said, but the General Tso sprouts are the most popular variety he's ever had on the menu.

"It’s been a hit. Everyone loves them," he said.

Together, the beef and sprouts come out to a $37 dinner that is catching attention at the Braselton winery.

“Typically, I'm not a huge fan of Brussels sprouts, but oh my word, these are amazing! Brasstown Beef in general is so delish, and this filet was everything,” wrote Emily T., who nominated the dish for the state tourism list.

The list of 100 plates is intended to serve as a list of locally sourced suggestions for travelers to Georgia. It’s published online and in Georgia Eats, the annual state culinary magazine published by the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Tourism Division.

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