Abel Brown Southern Kitchen & Oyster Bar is far more than just that. It is an enlightening experience that you will not forget. They offer a variety of delicious southern-style cuisine with a unique twist coupled to an impressive index of varying oysters and preparation styles, yet the true experience can be found sitting at the bar. Yes, they have an actual oyster bar facing their iced selections, but the beverage bar is where you should sit on your first visit. Walking through the front door, you will almost not notice the friendly hostesses as your head scans the somehow modern-yet-comforting design of the interior. Both bars are located to the left of the front entrance, but again, sit where there are drinks and memories to be had. The head bartender, Steven K. Tsoukalas, is a certified sommelier with much more to offer than simply wine pairings to food. Coming up with eclectic cocktails and elaborating on any drink/food that you may have an inquiry about, he seems to ‘never NOT’ have an answer to inquiries. On several occasions, he and the Abel team have went into picturesque explanations with details about everything asked….and everything else mentioned in said answer. If time permits, allow an hour or two just for grabbing a suggested wine and to pick their brains. It is almost like chatting with an old friend over drinks in a relaxing venue.
That being said, I have had the pleasure of coming here some ten times, and have never been disappointed. However, my last visit easily takes the cake for being the most memorable. Cheese is involved, yes. Meeting a friend there to enjoy the happy hour menu and drink specials from 5-7pm (T-Sat), we were greeted by Chris M. (bartender) with a welcomed smile. A suggested wine to start things off with was the Cien Malvasia from Spain. It is a delightfully refreshing white wine with floral notes and a citrus finish, perfect to be the predecessor for a charcuterie plate. Right at 16$, the charcuterie plate had far more than just cheese and/or meat. It actually contained 3 different cheeses, prosciutto, salami, cornichons, quince, Marcona almonds, toasted bread points, and a spicy whole-grain mustard. This was all served on a rustic wooden slab which added a certain something extra to the presentation. To further enrich things, we were offered a cozy basket of warm bread with whipped butter. Honestly, what doesn’t taste better with bread and butter?
Referring to the above image, the three cheeses from left to right were a Point Reyes Blue, La Bonne Vie Brie, and SeaHive Cheddar from the Beehive Cheese Company. Having previously enjoyed the Brie on multiple occasions, it still did not fail to satisfy. All cheeses were delicious with their own specific characteristics. The Cheddar was mild and creamy with just a hint of salt and seemed to go best with almonds or bread. The Brie is a triple cream, slightly saline with an enormous creamy flavor due to the high fat content. It paired with the quince, meats, mustard, and cornichons best. The Blue simply stood firm by itself or with a crispy toast point. It was not overbearingly pungent nor excessively salty like some blues can be. Mild, creamy and flavorful with an earthy undertone and slight bitterness – that is a good description for the Point Reyes. A brief interview with Steven about his favorite cheese, why it was his favorite, and what wine would pair best with it, lead to a thorough explanation of fat. Fat, apparently, is the reason that Steven loved the La Bonne Vie Brie best of the three selections. He loves fat and, from his own mouth, “fat loves tannin, acidity, and sugar.” That being said, he suggested a strong red wine “in between a Merlot and Cabernet.” A Rioja Tempranillo or Priorat Red were the first two wines he said would fit that bill. Please keep in mind that everything written here happened in a matter of 30 minutes, so this was a serious conversation! After hearing his suggestions, I was inspired. A red wine was in order to finish up the charcuterie plate. Another happy hour wine, the Dom De La Combe Au Loupe Gamay is a prominent red that paired much better with the listed cheeses as opposed to the Malvasia. Still coming into my pairing senses, the Malvasia seemed to mask the true flavor of each cheese while the richer Gamay accentuated them. I mentioned that to Steven and he just smiled…then handed me a book called What to Drink with What You Eat. Browsing over the text, it became clear that this was the proverbial “Bible” of beverage and food pairings. A wise man presenting a wise book. We concluded the evening after the plate and wine were both finished. This was essentially two hours of some of the most enriching culinary information I have experienced. That being said, try out this gem of a find here in Augusta and let me know what you think! I will certainly be back. The Happy hour menu changes weekly along with the rotating daily specials, so there is always something new to try and draw you back in for more. Until next time! Cheers!
Abel Brown Southern Kitchen & Oyster Bar
Surrey Center – 491 Highland Ave, Augusta, GA 30909