Taste – Fall 2019

SIP

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By Griffin Nelson | Photos By Sara Wise

When Chops & Hops opened its doors, the goal was to have an interesting selection of craft beer on tap to complement the cuts of meat on its menu. There were nine taps then, from some of the earliest craft breweries in the U.S. and the Athens area. At the time, the city and county laws were more restrictive, but a few years ago this changed, allowing the restaurant to expand its bar. The now 12 taps are constantly rotating. They offer seasonal brews from different breweries, local when available, from up and down the Eastern Seaboard and occasionally cross country.

If you’re looking for something a little more predictable they have a menu with a little something for everyone highlighting Georgia breweries like Creature Comforts, Sweetwater, Monday Night, Orpheus and Oconee Brewing. Occasionally, they’ll even do tap takeovers by a specific brewery, allowing customers to sample a wider selection by the same company, as the number of breweries in the state and beers made by each one have grown exponentially in recent years.

Chops & Hops has also added an extensive wine list with both easy-drinking house wines and unique choices. The wines have a slightly wider reach than the beers, with an international list that includes the Hess Select Pinot Gris out of California, a Barone Montalto Cabernet from Sicily and a Biurko Tempranillo from Spain. The reserve wine list includes some amazing special-occasion-worthy options as well. Wine tastings have been a feature on their calendar including a recent event based on the creative concept of “wines that you don’t see,” allowing attendees to think outside the box and try something new.

The recent change in liquor regulation has also allowed them to create a stunning cocktail list. There’s a Spring/Summer and a Fall/Winter list plus some standard drinks that are available year-round, like the Oconee Cosmo. There’s something on the drink menu to pair with whatever is ordered from the restaurant, complementing flavors and seasonal preferences. Between the bartender’s attention to creative and quality drinks, imported wines and a revolving door of local beers, Chops & Hops appeals to a universal palate.

EAT

After nearly a decade in business, Chops & Hops in Watkinsville consistently serves up a primo menu and rotating drink selection. Owners Mellony Adkins and Andrew Wallace, both with a background in the food industry, have built a family of friendly servers, quality-concerned chefs and creative bartenders.

The original inspiration behind the restaurant stands strong today – house-cut pork chops, lamb chops, steaks and good craft beer. Through the years, they’ve expanded the menu with burgers, salads and seasonally available fish and vegetables. Locally sourced vegetables and wild caught fish are used whenever they’re available and each dish is created with fresh ingredients and care by head chef Josh Aaron.

Each cut of meat, whether its pork, steak or lamb, is the highest quality available. The ribeye has juicy marbling and the pork chop comes with a delicious bourbon pecan glaze. If you prefer to see a few more vegetables on your plate, there is a veggie platter on the menu. This summer’s yummy selection of vegetarian and side dishes has included delights like honey roasted carrots and pesto Parmesan mashed potatoes.

The interior of Chops & Hops is bright and open with a lovely banquet room upstairs for events that can seat up to 70 people. The space is decorated with a rotating selection of work by local artists giving it both an upscale yet comfortable vibe.

Chops & Hops can also come to you. Event and wedding catering is available with the same attention to detail and quality of service and food found in the restaurant. There is even a second location in the works! Chops & Hops is doubling up, bringing their quality food and expertise to downtown Athens toward the end of the year.

ARTISAN

If you’ve never had fresh pasta, you don’t know what you’re missing. With a higher quality of ingredients comes more meticulous production, fresher food and authentic flavor.

Antonio Zenere was born in Italy and lived there until 1988, when he moved to Athens. For many years he worked and studied food science at the University of Georgia, eventually earning a doctorate. His passion for the food of his home country would eventually inspire him to open a small market in downtown Athens. It was during this time that he purchased his first pasta maker.

When he closed the shop, he couldn’t part with the machine and decided to keep making the pasta and selling at the Athens Farmers Market on Saturdays. Over the past 10 years, the public reception has been overwhelming, with college students and regular customers coming back week after week to ensure they can bring a taste of Italy into their own kitchens. With a small but dependable support team, he’s even been able to expand to farmers markets in Atlanta.

His setup now involves a couple of different machines to speed up the pasta-making process, but the pasta is still made entirely from scratch and essentially all by hand. The ingredients are measured out, and all of the eggs are fresh from the free-range chickens in his backyard. After mixing, the pasta goes through a roller multiple times, which guarantees consistency.

Different ingredients can be added to change the color or style of the pasta, and then the sheets are cut into whatever kind he is making that day. Fillings are added for ravioli. Each batch of pasta is coated in a light semolina-flour mixture to make sure that it doesn’t stick together. The pasta is then packaged and frozen so that what you’re eating at the dinner table tastes exactly like it would if it had come directly from the hands of Zenere in his kitchen.

Visit www.antoniosfreshpasta.com for recipe inspiration and more about Antonio Zenere. Look for Antonio’s Fresh Pasta locally at Athens Farmers Market.

LAGNIAPPE

Make your own fresh pesto at home to complement Antonio’s Fresh Pasta and you’ve got a fast and flavorful meal!

ANTONIO'S PESTO

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • juice from half a lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • Place all ingredients in blender to combine.
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