Anatomy of a Dinner Party: a day in the life of a hospitalityaholic

October 21st, 2009 browsing by day


I Finally See The Lumen

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009


Since I have arrived home to Atlanta after two years in Los Angeles, I feel like I have been reborn. Reborn under a lucky the luckiest star. Today was a shining example of this.  Shining like shrouded chandeliers and gobo lights.

The Ritz Carlton is everyone’s gold standard for perfection. I also believe that most feel that the Ritz is only for the upper crust.  But Lumen, the dazzlingly decorated lobby bar at the Ritz Carlton in downtown Atlanta is most certainly within reach.  I was invited by my friend, Tami Hardeman, from Running With Tweezers, for an early evening of cocktails and noshes. Tami had been invited by the lovely and gracious Sandra Ryder, Area Director of Public Relations for the Ritz Carlton Hotels of Atlanta, and she asked me to tag along.  As I have been yearning to visit Lumen since our return home, there was no way I would miss this opportunity.

Designed by The Johnson Studio (my favorite!), Lumen brings the Ritz Carlton to a different level altogether. It is sexy, alluring and attentive – like a fantasy lover.  But this is the real deal.  The degree of lavish attention each patron receives is seductive.  I have never felt  so pampered and cared for.  From Kristin, the amiable Bar Manager, who noticed me waiting and introduced me to Sandra, who had been waiting for us, to Kerem Kendigelen, the charismatic Food and Beverage Manager, as well as the delightful gentlemen (and I do not use that word lightly) at the valet – every single employee I encountered was charming and treated me as if I were royalty.  This is what one would hope for when visiting the Ritz Carlton, but these wonderful people really deliver.  I cannot wait to go back.

Lumen was first unveiled in June of this year. It is all about the glow.  You can’t help but feel beautiful just sitting there and sipping cocktails.  The first delicious surprise comes when you open the menu. What’s the surprise?  You know, since I am dying for you to check it out, I don’t think I will spoil it for you. Go ahead – see for yourself.  Bill Johnson and his team of miracle workers reworked this room from a plain Jane to a fierce goddess.  The sexy settees are cloaked in midnight blue mohair, perfect for that rendezvous you have been planning to relight the fire.  As we were planning a tasting of the bar menu and cocktails, Sandra chose the onyx-topped, under lit communal table for us, which was perfect.

Next, the cocktails. Tami and I both chose a signature cocktail that was created to match the artwork. Fabulous. This was my drink (description from the Ritz Carlton itself):

“Evening Bonfire”
Clem Bedwell’s dramatic work, (Lakeshore, Evening Bonfire, acrylic on canvas, 45 x 43 inches), may be viewed in The Lobby above a large-scale Chippendale Mahogany sideboard refinished in a hand-applied gilded platinum tone. “Evening Bonfire” is made with Absolut Kurant Vodka, Limocello, and Blue Curacao, served in a martini glass embellished with blueberry and mango puree, mimicking the extraordinary paint strokes and deep, rich tones of Mr. Bedwells’ inspiring canvas.

Tami’s Drink:

“Seas of Europa”
Named after the magnificent installation at the Peachtree Street entrance foyer by R. John Ichter, (Seas of Europa, mixed media on canvas, 144 x 102 inches), the “Seas of Europa” cocktail is served in a specialty martini glass acquired specifically for Lumen. Created with Stoli Straw-berry Vodka, watermelon pucker, a dash of strawberry puree and a splash of Cointreau poured over watermelon, Blue Curacao and sour apple pucker pearls, the cocktail is a whimsical representation of Mr. Ichter’s breathtaking work.

Artful Cocktails

Time for the food. Wonderful!  Chef Bennett Hollberg’s southern take on bar food is delicious and locally sourced when possible. The trout come from a place called Enchanted Springs – don’t you want a fish that comes from a magical sounding place?  Of course you do.  We sampled the Southern Style BBQ Pork Sliders with Pickled Sweet Potato – who knew you could pickle sweet potatoes? It was savory, barbeque goodness.

BBQ Sliders

Next up was the Oxtail and Wild Mushroom Flatbread, Arugula, Oven Dried Tomatoes, Fontina Cheese.  Every bite was perfection.  The wild mushroom surprises the palate with something far superior than those white buttons you are used to.  All the ingredients were super fresh. It really hit the spot.

Wild Mushroom Flatbread

There were also lavosh crackers with cider hummus. This was Tami’s favorite.  French fries came out crispy, hot and amazing. The best.

My favorite part of the evening was visiting with Chef Hollberg. Sitting down and getting to really know the chef behind the food is one of life’s greatest treats.  Chef Hollberg did not spend his childhood on the family farm, churning butter and gathering eggs. Au contraire.  He went to college on a baseball scholarship and realized that it was a full time job and one that he did not relish.  When he decided on culinary school, he moved  up to Seattle to study and after graduation moved home to his native Atlanta (there are still a few around).  Chef Hollberg, asked around on the best place to hone his craft. He was told, “the Ritz Carlton, but don’t expect to get hired”. Well – he got hired. Just like that.  And has been at the Ritz in Atlanta for three years now.  His newest passion involves smoking foods and he convinced the General Manager at the hotel to allow him to install a smoker in the kitchen.  Most unusual food he has recently smoked? Chocolate – for ice cream. Isn’t that brilliant?  We also talked about dining trends and how some other chefs fall under the impetus for food that looks clever, but may not be very appetizing.  Funny chef quote for the evening – “It needs to taste good, whether you are making grilled cheese or foie gras with sparklers in it”.  This soft spoken chef has a rapier wit.

Chef Bennett Hollberg

He has spent the better part of 2009 changing things up on the menus for both the bar at Lumen and the Atlanta Grill, upstairs in the hotel.  The Grill is reaping the rewards of the aforementioned smoker in the form of a smokehouse menu in addition to the regular offerings at the restaurant.  From beef brisket to a salmon filet, this is high end smokehouse fare.

Chef Hollberg has also put his own twist on the hotel’s high tea.  Once only serving hot tea, the hotel is now serving iced tea with a most innovative sweetener – flavored cotton candy! I love it and I bet anyone who visits will be just as delighted.  Keep attending those marketing meetings that spark these ideas, Chef Hollberg!

And then, our enchanted evening was over.   As I drove home in my trusty sedan (that I’m sure was an elegant horse drawn carriage when I arrived at the Ritz Carlton), I felt every bit the princess.

Visit Lumen. It is a magical place where you are transported from the humdrum of the everyday.  It is affordable, beautiful and bewitching.  Relax for a couple of hours in this city respite where you will feel like royalty. You will thank me.

I would like to extend many thanks to Tami, Sandra, Kerem, Kristin and of course Chef Bennett Hollberg for the very special evening.

I will definitely be back. Soon. Very soon. Maybe tonight

Take the time to pamper yourselves, Darlings – you deserve it.

xoxo, Patti

Lumen - Lobby Bar at the Ritz Carlton on Urbanspoon