Q&A with David A. Carson, Chef de Cuisine of Bacchanalia
The innovative chef tells Wine Enthusiast about his focus on modern American cuisine at this Atlanta, Georgia award-winning restaurant.
Modern American cuisine with an emphasis on wine pairings is the focus at Bacchanalia, in Atlanta, Georgia. Most guests don’t leave without tasting Chef de Cuisine David A. Carson's Crab Fritter with Thai Pepper Essence and Avocado, on the menu for 19 years. Wine Enthusiast caught up with Carson to talk about his award-winning food menu, which features local ingredients.
Wine Enthusiast: Your menu is driven by seasonal ingredients. Which season do you enjoy most for its ingredients and wine-pairing possibilities?
David A. Carson: The first signs of spring to me are the most inspiring times to cook. The transition from bold flavors, roasts, roots and braises into young vegetables, leaves and herbs promotes simplicity and light, raw, crisp flavors accompanied by wine pairings.
W.E.: After working a hectic Saturday night in the kitchen, what’s your favorite post-shift snack and drink?
DC: Very cold beer, cured pork and noodles.
W.E.: What’s your methodology for crafting a new dish for your prix fixe menu?
DC: Let the ingredients speak for themselves. We are very product- and produce-driven. Georgia has very long, diverse growing seasons, which allow for an abundance of amazing, fresh ingredients. We are blessed to have access to an incredible community of farmers and artisans who supply us with the products we serve. Bacchanalia’s chef-owner, Anne Quatrano, likes to say, “What grows together, goes together.”
W.E.: Are there any off-menu items your regulars ask for?
DC: Most notably are the classic Bacchanalia dishes “from the old house.” People are always asking about the dishes they remember from throughout the almost 20 years Bacchanalia has been open, such as the Scallops with Foie Gras and the Lobster with Corn, Ginger and Rosemary.
W.E.: Which wine or food trend would you be happiest to see disappear?
DC: I believe that most recent food trends are moving in the right direction. I see that direction as going back to where food was generations ago—foraging, charcuterie, farmers’ markets, local growers and artisans. I see people embracing their community foodways and supporting them more than ever.
W.E.: Is there a specific wine-and-food pairing that’s still on your bucket list?
DC: Dinner at The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa, California.
W.E.: In what ways do you feel wine enhances the overall dining experience?
DC: Wine has the ability to transform a single dish or a full-on tasting into an incredible experience—a memory, a place and a time.
W.E.: Can you elaborate on any onsite herb gardens the restaurant uses?
DC: Each day, we receive produce, herbs, greens and eggs from Annie and Clifford’s Summerland Farm in Cartersville, Georgia, to use in the restaurants. We can also walk out the back door of Bacchanalia and choose from more than 25 herbs, flowers, microgreens and sprouts to use as accents and garnishes to the menu.
W.E.: Specifically, does Bacchanalia feature any of these herbs in cocktails that we should know about?
DC: Currently, we are working on spring cocktails using a variety of herbs and greens, including sorrel, nasturtium, basil and honeysuckle.