Chilling in the Murphy’s Wine Shop with Michael Kunz & Bob McKechnie

shelvesEditor’s Note: This is the third in a three-part series by VaHi food blogger Denise Romeo spotlighting the ever-popular Virginia-Highland eating establishment, Murphy’s Restaurant, located at 997 Virginia Avenue. Murphy’s is open Monday through Thursday 11:00am – 10:00pm; Friday 11:00am – 11:00pm; Saturday 8:00am – 11:00pm; and, Sunday 8:00am – 10:00pm. Look for conversations with Murphy’s owner Tom Murphy and Chef Ian Winslade in previous issues of The Voice. Photos courtesy of Denise Romeo.

Even on an otherwise quiet Tuesday afternoon, Murphy’s wine shop is bustling. Murphy’s Wine Consultants, Michael Kunz and Bob McKechnie, squeezed in a short interview between two meetings and preparations for the evening’s wine tasting.

What differentiates Murphy’s wine shop from full-service beverage stores like Green’s or Tower Package?

Michael: We view ourselves as wine concierges. We provide one-on-one service to our customers and track preferences and purchases so that we can make recommendations that suit each individual palate. We offer a boutique experience with a filtered selection of 30 or so wines that are traded out seasonally based on price, taste and variety. For example, the wine stewards just removed a large number of hearty reds from the shelves and replaced them with rosés which are seasonally more desirable and go better with dishes on Spring menus.

Bob:  Because we are part of a restaurant, we can have access to wines that others don’t. We can also order any wine available in Georgia. Most of the wines in our wine shop are available by the glass which gives patrons the opportunity to taste a more expensive bottle of wine before committing to a purchase.

placard2Are wine pairings with specific menu items critical, or do you find that customers order wines that they prefer instead? 

Bob: Each season when Chef Winslade updates the seasonal Murphy’s menu, Leslie Johnson, our Beverage Director, pairs wines from the wine shop with items on the menu. However, we do find that most customers tend to order wines they are familiar with and know they like.

Michael: The wait staff is very knowledgeable about which wines parallel with menu items for those that ask for specific pairings during their dinner service.

The Murphy’s wine shop has wine tastings each Tuesday. Who should attend these tasting events?

Bob: Everyone over the age of 21! Each Tuesday has a different theme, so it is a great chance to try three new wines each week.

Michael: Anyone who has an interest in learning a little bit about wines, or just wants to come and hang out and drink a good wine and eat some great Murphy’s food. Our wine tastings can be done either in the wine shop bar or any tables outside the shop. We have folks that come to the tastings for a girls’ night out and baby showers. It’s a great opportunity for neighbors to walk over and have a nice evening and walk home with no cars involved.

Bob: Reservations are required though. So folks need to remember to sign up at http://www.murphys-atlanta-restaurant.com/atlanta-wine-tastings before they head over on a Tuesday.

xavierOf your current stock, which wine do you feel is the best surprise for the money?

Bob: That is such a difficult question to answer, and not because I like them all (which I do), but wine preferences are so subjective and any time you introduce money as a qualifier, it gets challenging. Having said that, the 2010 Xavier Cotes du Rhone for $40 is an exceptional choice.

Michael: I agree with Bob. We have a wide variety of amazing wines offered at varying price points. It all depends on the customers’ tastes and budget. The 2010 Xavier is an excellent choice.

What else do you want your Virginia-Highland neighbors to know about Murphy’s wine shop?

Michael: The wine shop has its own mailing list to inform members of online specials, great offers on new releases, closeouts, and hand-picked standout wines before they ever (sometimes never) hit the shelves. Maybe learn a little, maybe laugh, and hopefully find some great wine. It is a great way to shop for highly-recommended wine without having to leave the house!

Bob: We also have a closeout rack in the wine shop with some amazing closeout deals on wines that we only have a few bottles left of.

Local food blogger Denise Romeo has lived in the Virginia-Highland area for 24 years. She and her husband, Dom, enjoy spending time together cooking and entertaining. You can read more from Denise on her award winning blog at We Like To Cook!

Dishing With Murphy’s Chef Ian Winslade

Murphys#1Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series by VaHi food blogger Denise Romeo spotlighting the ever-popular Virginia-Highland eating establishment, Murphy’s Restaurant, located at 997 Virginia Avenue. Murphy’s is open Monday through Thursday 11:00am – 10:00pm; Friday 11:00am – 11:00pm; Saturday 8:00am – 11:00pm; and, Sunday 8:00am – 10:00pm. Look for conversations with Murphy’s owner Tom Murphy and Sommelier Michael Kunz in past and future issues of The Voice. Photos courtesy of Denise Romeo. 

The sun is shining brightly and a cool morning breeze tickles the gathering crowd as Chef Ian Winslade of Murphy’s restaurant peels and chops a little known vegetable for his Celeriac And Golden Beet Remoulade. On this sunny Saturday, Chef Winslade has stepped out of his kitchen on the corner of Virginia and North Highland Avenues to demonstrate how to cook with fresh, organic vegetables at the Morningside Farmer’s Market.  (Click here for the recipe.)

winsladeChef Winslade is a major advocate of the farm-to-table movement and strives to cook with locally-sourced ingredients as much as possible. He currently works with four local farms to provide fresh produce for the restaurant explaining that the further the ingredients must travel, the less healthy they are due to the processes used to prolong their shelf life. Chef Winslade plans his menus around four distinct seasons and likes the challenge of working with what is available locally each week: “It forces me to constantly be flexible and think about workable flavor combinations.” He continues in his velvety British accent, “Last year was particularly challenging due to the unseasonably wet Spring. We had planned for a glut of zucchini and tomatoes that never really came in, and our menu reflected those shortages.”

Current menu items for Spring include fresh peas, fava beans and morels.

When asked about the impetus for Murphy’s “Meatless Monday” menu, Chef Winslade explained that cutting meat from your diet, even if it’s just once a week, can dramatically decrease your risk of heart disease. “Meat is hard for your body to digest; giving your body a break each week allows time for it to catch up and heal. It also reduces your carbon footprint and saves natural resources.” He enjoys working with healthy grains such as farro and bulgur, and uses chickpea flour in lieu of less healthy, processed wheat flours.

remouladeMurphy’s has many menu options for vegetarians, vegans, and customers avoiding gluten, and these are all clearly labeled for customers.

“We try to accommodate any dietary restrictions that our customers may have,” Winslade explained. “With few exceptions, all of our dishes can be adjusted to a customer’s needs.”

Chef Winslade went on to say he’s surprised that more people, especially Virginia-Highland residents, do not take advantage of Murphy’s take-out option.

“You can walk in and order almost any menu item for take-out or call in your order for pick-up,” he said. “It is a wonderful way to have a freshly prepared dinner at home even when you don’t have time to cook it yourself. You can even pick up a bottle of wine from the wine shop to go with your meal.”

In addition, members of the Friends of Murphy’s guest loyalty program can accumulate points with take-out purchases as well as in-house dining. To join Friends of Murphy’s, sign up during your next visit to receive a membership card and a signing bonus of 250 points ($10 reward) toward your next visit.

Local food blogger Denise Romeo has lived in the Virginia-Highland area for 24 years. She and her husband, Dom, enjoy spending time together cooking and entertaining. You can read more from Denise on her award winning blog at We Like To Cook!

Catching Up with Tom Murphy, Dean of VaHi Restaurateurs

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series by VaHi food blogger Denise Romeo spotlighting the ever-popular Virginia-Highland eating establishment, Murphy’s Restaurant, located at 997 Virginia Avenue. Murphy’s is open Monday through Thursday from 11:00am – 10:00pm; Friday from 11:00am – 11:00pm; Saturday from 8:00am – 11:00pm; and, Sunday from 8:00am – 10:00pm. Look for conversations with Murphy’s Chef Ian Winslade and Sommelier Michael Kunz in future issues of The Voice.

By: Denise Romeo

Murphys#1Most of us don’t remember a Virginia-Highland without Murphy’s, the venerated restaurant that is literally the cornerstone of the neighborhood. Those of us who have been here a bit longer recall the first location with its friendly and colorful mural, and its cozy, intimate dining. It was one of the first restaurants my husband and I went to when we were dating in the late 1980s, and was a driving force in the revival of the Virginia-Highland neighborhood over the following decade. I had an opportunity to sit down and chat with owner Tom Murphy at his neighborhood eatery. Looking as though he were seated in his own living room with a cup of fragrant tea, Tom reminisced about how he got his start in the restaurant business and his neighborhood.

Where did you get your start in the business of feeding people?

When I was eleven, my Dad bought a New York-style hotdog cart for my brother and me. We would sell hotdogs to neighbors at Peachtree Battle Shopping Center, to symphony goers at Woodruff Arts Center and at Georgia Tech on game days. During high school, I worked in a wine and cheese shop in Lenox Square which came in handy when my father opened a cheese shop in the Municipal Market (better known today as the Sweet Auburn Market.) So, while my college buddies were still eating Velveeta, I became known as “The Cheeseman.”

Tom-Murphy

Tom Murphy
Photo courtesy of The Saporta Report

During my junior year at Georgia State University, I was taking a management class and the professor asked us to do a feasibility study on opening a business. Since I was running the Cheese Shop, I decided to go with what I knew. So, with the help of a few classmates, I developed the concept of a neighborhood delicatessen. My professor and I actually took that feasibility study to the bank to get financing. Again, going with what I knew, I chose Virginia-Highland because that was where I was living at the time.

How has the Virginia-Highland neighborhood changed in the last 33 years?

Virginia-Highland is one of Atlanta’s oldest neighborhoods and it was around long before I arrived. In the 60s and early 70s, there was an exodus from the neighborhood to the suburbs. The original plans for Georgia 400 had the highway going directly through our neighborhood to connect to Freedom Parkway at the Carter Center. That threat resulted in a collaboration of Virginia-Highland residents – old and new – to stop the highway and “rebuild” the neighborhood. In 1979, when we were just getting started, Virginia-Highland was transitional. While the neighborhood had well-established Greek and Jewish communities, it was also cheap for college kids to find apartments and share houses in the neighborhood. It had an artsy, SoHo/Greenwich Village feel to it. About that same time, it was starting to be desirable to live “intown” again. We knew, or at least hoped, that we were on the ground floor of something that would be much bigger.

murphys-cookie-jar

Murphy’s cookies are legendary.

Our original location was in the basement of a house owned by John Capozolli (of Capo’s Café fame). In 1993, the house and property were sold and we were forced to find a new location. I didn’t move because I wanted to. I moved because I had to. Looking back, we had the right momentum and it was the right time, so we did. We were fortunate to be able to move to the corner of Virginia and Highland. We went from Murphy’s Round the Corner to Murphy’s On the Corner. We were very excited to be able to maintain an environment that felt as though customers were coming into our home and that we were creating sincere hospitality for them.

After one of this past winter's snowstorms, Murphy's used a snow-blower to clear a path for customers looking for a place to eat.

After one of this past winter’s snowstorms, Murphy’s used a snow-blower to clear a path for customers looking for a place to eat.

What is the most significant food trend that you have seen over the last 33 years?

The most noteworthy change in the food industry is the American diet. People generally seem to be more health conscious and want to live longer lives. Product origin, freshness, and sustainability are major elements of the food conversation today. We are excited to have embraced the Farm-to-Table concept at Murphy’s early on, way back in the Municipal Market days.

There is new dialogue about the need for businesses to be more socially aware in their treatment of the Earth, and also in their treatment of their communities. In fact, this was exactly the reason I started Good Measure Meals which is one of my greatest accomplishments. When my mom had ovarian cancer, I would take her food while she was undergoing chemo. That is when I noticed a gap in the availability of meal replacement services for middle-income families. I took my social entrepreneurial concept to Project Open Hand because they already had the capital assets (kitchens, dieticians, people, and distribution) in place. I invested in the business model and helped Project Open Hand launch it. Today, Good Measure Meals does over 4 million dollars of business, is a major contributor to a non-profit organization, and is a leader in its industry.

Lastly, what is the most important thing you want Virginia-Highland neighbors to know about Murphy’s?

We are STILL here! Come eat!

Earlier this year, we re-introduced our popular Meatless Monday dinners; a three-course, meatless dinner for $20 (or $25 when paired with a wonderful wine selection,) and our brunch has been recognized as one of the best in Atlanta, and in the country for that matter. Some of the most popular items on the huge brunch menu include Eggs T. Murphy, Crab Cake Benedict and Chilaquiles as well as our famous Bloody Mary, which has been praised as being the best in the country by USA Today and Jezebel Magazine. We even offer a wonderful loyalty program called “Friends of Murphy’s” that features a wide-range of benefits including cash rewards, a complimentary birthday meal and access to exclusive Murphy’s events.

Local food blogger Denise Romeo has lived in the Virginia-Highland area for 24 years. She and her husband, Dom, enjoy spending time together cooking and entertaining. You can read more from Denise on her award winning blog at We Like To Cook!

Murphy’s To Host Seventh Annual Christmas Tree Lighting

The folks at Murphy’s have let us know they’ll be hosting their Seventh Annual Christmas Tree Lighting & Neighborhood Celebration this Thursday December 5th from 6:30 – 7:30 PM.

You’re invited to come join your neighbors in listening to – and singing along with – Christmas carols performed by the Georgia Boys Choir. There will be plenty of complimentary hot cocoa and fresh baked cookies to help warm things up a bit. Even Santa won’t miss this event so you’ll want to stop by for sure.

Murphy’s is located at 997 Virginia Ave., next door to Taco Mac.

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Voice – Fall 1992


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- Annual meeting brings BIG crowd
- The PATHway for bicycling
- Ponce Task Force has new plan
- School report by Joe Martin, Atlanta School Board
- Recycle today, you can make the difference, by Nan Hunter
- Summerfest ’92 a success! by Beth Marks
- What are we doing to our parks? by David Robertson
- Col. Mustard reviews Everybody’s Restaurant
- Ponce property under discussion (disposal of 6 lots facing Ponce between Barnett and Bonaventure), by Jerry Bright
- Profile of Morningside school, by Mary Joe Peed
- Parks committee needs flower power, by Kathy Couch
- VHCA gets new phone service, by Nyna Gentry
- Murphy’s restaurant update
- Crime statistics

Voice – Summer 1992

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- Letter to the editor from Douglas W. Jones, president of the Ponce de Leon Corridor Association, urging action to oppose Grady Hospital from expanding onto Ponce
- Rep rap, by Rep. Jim Martin
- Reduce, reuse and recycle: participating streets, by Nan Hunter
- New parking committee comes to life, by Elmo Colburn
- Col. Mustard review of Mid City Fish
- Update on Murphy’s move, by Jeni Evans
- Ponce Task Force focuses on reducing risk to investors, by Jett Marks, VaHi rep to PTF
- Piedmont Park Conservancy by city councilmember Mary Davis
- John Howell Park, by Jerry Bright
- Plan to save your life in case of fire, by Ken Lavine
- School update
- Crime graphs and statistics
- Composting comes home, by Nan Hunter
- Summerfest ’92
- Danny’s Run 5K and fun run

Voice – Spring 1992


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- Atkins Park traces its past, by Tinka Green
- Murphy’s Law #92: more parking. Finding parking for Murphy’s new location at Virginia and Todd. By Jeni Evans
- Rep rap: Easy access to guns is killing us, by David Scott, State Senator
- Heart Strings: volunteers needed for Atlanta’s largest AIDS fundraiser
- A tale of two neighbors and a wild boar, Wild Boar beer at George’s, by Yvette Weatherly
- Making music in VaHi, a profile of Michael Moore (Atlanta Symphony Orchestra) and Paula Peace-Moore by Alison Nelson
- The zoning and variance review process, by Ed Neal and Nyna Gentry
- Finally, Virginia-Highlanders can build snowmen (photos)
- Ponce Task Force update
- Many residents perturbed over parking, by Vicky Favorite
- Schools update
- Recycling: we need more VaHi curbside recyclers in ’92, by Nan Hunter