When Augusta restaurateur Faulkner Warlick opened American bistro Finch & Fifth, he turned to family friends to help realize his vision. From branding by Wier / Stewart, to layout and design by Plan C. Brett Gorrell, who has served as general manager since they opened nearly four years ago. Gorrell shares that the friends and family ethos continues to be an important part of the restaurant’s success, from the staff culture to the diner experience. “Everyone is a person and everyone has a personality. We want to give them the chance to be themselves, whether they’re working here or eating here,” Gorrell says.
For diners, this means creating a convivial atmosphere that feels more like a casual dinner party than formal dinner service. To get the party started, there are shareable signatures like customizable charcuterie and cheese boards, and “In Jars”—four-ounce Mason jars filled with spreads like bacon jam, deviled egg salad, olive tapenade and pimiento cheese—served with toast points. Main dishes echo the polished-yet-down-home vibe with stepped up Southern classics, like gourmet meatloaf made with a blend of ground chuck, short rib and brisket; and luxe bistro fare like the truffle burger, which features a black truffle-studded patty on a brioche bun slicked with white truffle aioli.
Though they’ve got a menu of hits on their hands, Gorrell says that they are keen to embrace change. That means giving staff a voice too, which not only helps foster an inclusive and familial work environment, but it also has the added benefit of breathing new life into the menus. For example, a recent special of mofongo (fried plantains mashed with garlic and oil) and prawns is a dish inspired by chef Alex Figueroa’s Puerto Rican heritage. And though the signature cocktail list still features several of Gorrell’s original creations, he’s quick to tout the Gin & Mousse, aka the Sexy Lexi, created by bartender Lexi May. Her signature cocktail features a smooth blend of Citadelle gin and Giffard Crème de Pamplemousse Rose liqueur for a heady burst of pink grapefruit, finished with a splash of tonic.
“Everyone is a person and everyone has a personality. We want to give them the chance to be themselves, whether they’re working here or eating here.”
A Sexy Lexi is perfect for sipping during sultry late summer months, particularly during Sunday brunch. Keep the Sunday Funday vibes going and roll right into Sunday dinner, featuring live jazz performed by a four-piece house band starring former Finch & Fifth cook James Reed on drums. And be sure to save room for a slice of Oreo-crusted peanut butter pie—the recipe is chef Sean Daniels’ family recipe. At Finch & Fifth, it’s all in the family.
Sometimes the answer really is right in front of you. In 2007, best friends Scott Zepp and Matt LaFon were drinking beer and trying to figure out how they could work together, but still do something fun. The more they chatted and sipped, they realized that the answer was in those bottles of craft beer. After opening a craft beer store, they quickly saw that their customers were thirsty for more—for a larger selection, more beer-talk and a comfortable place to hang out with friends. The pair went all in and opened their first World of Beer in Tampa, Fla., featuring 500 different craft beers from around the world.
The response was overwhelming and the pair quickly grew the brand, opening additional locations and adding spirits and food to the mix. One patron, David Schultz, was so smitten after his first visit to World of Beer that he immediately asked for a job. With his kitchen operations management experience, he was quickly promoted and helped coordinate several new openings, including the Augusta location (which opened in May 2016), where he now serves as general manager.
“It is important for us that a broad spectrum of patrons, from the beer aficionado to the casual beer fan, can enjoy the best beers on the planet and increase their beer knowledge in a comfortable and upbeat setting,” Schultz shares.
The extensive offering represents everything from Belgian Trappist ales to West Coast IPAs, but as an independently owned and operated franchise, there’s room to highlight regional and local brews too. Of the 53 taps at World of Beer Augusta, about a dozen are dedicated to Georgia-crafted beers, like Service Brewing Co.’s Battlewagon, a double IPA brewed with Savannah Bee Co. honey, or Riverwatch Brewery’s Scenic Overlook, a refreshing blonde ale that’s brewed right here in Augusta. Local breweries are also invited to participate in Thursday Tap Takeovers, which give customers a chance to sample new releases.
Beyond what they’re pouring, World of Beer Augusta serves the community in other ways. They partner with local nonprofits like United Way and Support One to donate raffle prizes or food and beer for fundraising events, and they also offer military discounts, host service industry nights and sponsor Augusta Sports Leagues. We’ll drink to that!
What happens when an engineer with an affinity for throwing dinner parties lets his imagination run wild? Artisan pork rinds. You might be thinking that pork rinds, with their ‘so-bad-they’re-good’ reputation should stay firmly rooted in guilty pleasure territory. But with Pork Clouds, Brett Goodson is out to prove that a crave-worthy snack doesn’t need to be bad to be good.
“I used to be a product development engineer where I worked on making a new type of hybrid vehicle battery. This gave me some background in product development, which I used to turn a popular dinner party recipe into a delicious product line for anytime,” Goodson shares. “The recipe turned out to be stunningly tasty and more impressively, healthy.” It was this recipe that led Goodson to start Bacon’s Heir, an Atlanta-based company that’s earned a following for its airy pork rinds. And while your doctor isn’t likely to tout pork rinds over say, kale, each bag clocks in at just 100 calories and zero carbs per bag, making them a satisfying and practically guilt-free snack.
The key to achieving superior taste and a less-greasy texture is to start with fresh (never frozen), hormone-free pork skin that’s trimmed, cured and dried to a precise moisture level. The dehydrated skins are then quickly dunked in hot olive oil (a proprietary Mediterranean blend), whose temperature causes the skins’ remaining moisture to puff up, giving them a cloud-like texture. While the oil on the skins are still hot, they’re dusted with pure rock salt (which is the only added preservative) as well as herb and spice blends. Gourmet flavors include garlic thyme, Szechuan garlic, Malabar black pepper, and rosemary and sea salt (one of the original dinner party recipes and a top seller), as well as Goodson’s personal favorites, habanero pepper and cinnamon Ceylon.
Besides making for an addictive snack, Pork Clouds are an entertaining workhorse. They make an excellent scoop for dips—try the garlic thyme with hummus and the rosemary and sea salt with pimiento cheese—and their savory snap makes them a perfect match for beer. They can also star in main dishes—grind them up to create a no-carb breading (also known as Pork Dust) to give everything from pork chops to fried green tomatoes an extra crispy layer and hit of flavor.
You can purchase Pork Clouds on Amazon or at BaconsHeir.com, where you’ll also find recipes and pairing suggestions.
Article appears in the August/September 2017 issue of Augusta Magazine.