Not just any carrot puree, mind you. Only the one served at Foundation Social Eatery, Roswell’s newest entry on the culinary scene and already one of the best restaurants I’ve ever visited.
Chef and owner Mel Toledo uses it as an underpinning for succulent sautéed scallops in brown butter. As much as I love scallops, for me, the carrot puree is the star of the plate. In the first bite there was an immediate and intense burst of earthy goodness tinged with just a hint of sweetness, which I later found out came from shavings of whole vanilla bean.
Folks, I could eat this puree by the bucketful. And this is indicative of the high caliber of execution and attention to flavor details in everything my dining companion and I ate at Foundation Social Eatery one day last week.
We began with a roasted red beet salad with a dab of fresh basil-infused goat cheese, orange segments and greens dressed in sherry vinaigrette. Though I noticed beet salads began showing up on a plethora of OTP menus in the last two years, very few can measure up to this one.
Toledo uses a light pickle of red wine vinegar, sugar and water for the roasted beets that amplifies their natural sweetness. The citrus and vinaigrette play well with the richness of the cheese. Toledo said he likes using acidic components like this in his dishes to brighten up and balance flavors, a practice I have always enthusiastically endorsed.
A second app, Scotched olives, came to the table looking like slightly oversize hush puppies. These are Toledo’s take on a classic, Scotch eggs. He wraps house-made country sausage around a Kalamata olive, breads it and pops it in a deep fryer. With a side of basil orange aioli for dipping, this is upscale bar food at its finest.
When we were told Toledo makes his pasta by hand, we also had to try his mushroom ravioli, filled with a mix of seasonal ‘shrooms first braised in shallots, garlic, thyme and butter. When the liquid is cooked down, the kitchen adds tawny port and reduces the liquid a second time, adds cream and then reduces it one more time, concentrating all the flavors. It’s finished with truffle oil and porcini mushroom powder.
The ravioli is napped with delightful foam that uses the same ingredients as the filling, with additional flavor from chives and grana padano, a northern Italian cheese similar to Parmigiano. It’s one of Toledo’s purely vegetarian dishes.
As tasty as this is, perhaps even more impressive are his potato gnocchi, which are feathery light and tender. Fresh asparagus, cipollini onions, mushrooms and a fine dice of carrots, onions, celery and garlic, each cooked individually for optimum texture and flavor, are blended in a sauce of bacon, chicken stock, rosemary, thyme and cream.
Topping off the dish is a soft-cooked egg. Pierced with a fork, its rich liquid yolk melds perfectly into the dish.
We split an order of pan-roasted halibut, one of my favorite fish. I was blown away by the level of flavor the kitchen managed to impart with minimal seasoning and a luscious sauce made with luxuriant European-style butter.
Desserts here are deceptively simple. Toledo believes that at the end of a full meal, overly sweet desserts would be out of balance, so he keeps it subtle. Good move. As full as we were, we couldn’t stop spooning up vanilla pot de crème topped with fresh cherries simmered in liquid strawberries, shortbread crumbs and mint.
It’s not unexpected that food here exhibits all the skill and creativity of a fine dining chef at the helm. Toledo’s culinary creds are sterling. Classically trained with extensive experience in kitchens in France, his background includes stints at one of California’s highest-rated French restaurants, Tapenade; Atlanta’s Bacchanalia, a nationally recognized gem; and Century House Tavern, purveyor of upscale comfort food in historic Woodstock.
It was at Century House that Toledo realized that the northern suburbs would be an ideal setting for the restaurant he wanted to open. He and his wife, Sandy, an emergency room nurse for WellStar Cobb who handles the business end of the restaurant's operation, zeroed in on the east side of Roswell, an area that has been underserved by restaurants of this distinction.
The space they took in the shopping center at 1570 Holcomb Bridge Road was formerly occupied by Twisted Taco, but even farther back in time it was local favorite Dick and Harry’s.
With the help of well-regarded design firm ai3, the space now is contemporary and bright with plenty of wood and agricultural and industrial metal elements. Rebar is utilized in several places, such as the wine racks, in keeping with the theme of constructing a solid foundation for culinary excellence.
Look closely and you’ll see another decorative theme: orchids. The exotic flower was Sandy’s bridal bouquet and can be found on everything from silk-screened panels to nail head art hanging in one of the dining areas.
Though it is less than a month old, the restaurant is already getting buzz from diners that borders on the rapturous. Now open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m., Toledo also has lunch service on the drawing board at some point in the future. There is a full bar and a small but discerningly selected list of wines and beers.
Foundation Social Eatery
1570 Holcomb Bridge Road