By Blair Knobel
AUGUST 31, 2011
With Mad Men the wild trend, it stands to reason that the martini is hot, its sleek countenance like a ’60s starlet with steel blue eyes.
This drink, no matter what decade, radiates cool. And American Grocery Restaurant has injected it with a twenty-first-century twist.
The restaurant feels like a born Southerner who went big but came home again, bringing back a worldly sophistication to match cozy charm. Owners Darlene Mann-Clarke and Chef Joe Clarke opened it in 2007 out of a passion for wine and food (Darlene is a certified master sommelier and Joe heads up the kitchen) but also as a means to support and promote the sustainable-food movement. American Grocery serves proteins and produce based on what it can acquire seasonally from local farms.
Darlene puts as much thought into the beverage program as the couple puts into the food. This striking libation, the Smoky Blue, is served chilled, up, with American Harvest organic vodka. In true AGR fashion (AGR, cleverly, an acronym for agriculture), Darlene enhances the drink, this time with a hint of hickory smoke. Add the briny accompaniment of three Spanish queen olives, plump with smoked blue cheese, and it’s almost so sexy it hurts.
The experience is sort of like sipping a posh martini while queuing up hot dogs for the campfire. But that’s what’s special about it. Like this restaurant that is equal parts town and country, this is a city drink that calls to mind a sweet, Southern fall night.