February 6, 2011 by paiday
This past weekend, the ladies hit Hotlanta where the nation’s obsession with farm to fork cuisine is alive and well. The night started with a cocktail at Holeman and Finch Public House, a little local spot that will have you rubbing elbows, literally, with the single thirty-somethings of Atlanta. The decor resonants with notes of the gastro pub. Cured meats hang behind glass walls and the exposed kitchen sporting attractive, tattooed young chefs who would look more at home in Little Five Points. A group of women at the corner of the bar ordered the cheese tray which was rustic and beautiful with thick wedges of cheese, thin slices of proscuitto, and hearty whole wheat breads. I was certainly eyeing it, but our dinner reservations were calling and just a strong Belgian Ale would have to do. Oh, and by the way, the service here was great. A bartender circled through the crowd, deftly taking orders and payments so no drink went unfilled for long.
After tipping the valet, we were on our way to the Woodfire Grille. Watch out or you’ll miss the understated entrance of this Atlanta Hotspot. Steady reservations and booked seatings until 11:00 make calling ahead and must. The third in our party was delayed on a flight due to the generally miserable weather surrounding GA on Friday so we had some time to kick up our feet and try the imaginative bar offerings. I had the french hostage, which for me, was quite delicious as it was not at all sweet. A concoction of gin, bitters, lemon juice, this tart drink was refreshing and most of all, big and strong, just how I like it.
Chef Kevin Gillespie cooks with local ingredients and is part of the SLOW food movement, and if I had to sum up his inspiration, at least this night, I would have to say bacon. A liberal sprinkling of Atlanta-made Benton Bacon topped everything from the salad to the bread pudding dessert. We started the dinner with two of the dishes from the first course menu. Miss V. had the local baby lettuces topped with Benton’s bacon, cucumber, radish, sunchokes, and a buttermilk dressing. This salad was AMAZING. Seriously, it was colorful and the lettuce inspired me to get a little Butterleaf of my own at the market the next day. I was still envisioning it. Cara and I split the wood oven roasted honey mussels, which were served on a pool of pancetta, shallots, beurre fondue, chile oil, and bread crumbs. The mussels were good but I have to admit that I can’t see an improvement on the classic french preparation of mussels mariner. Just give me a bowl of mussels with that delicious mix of white wine, parsley, and garlic with some crusty bread on the side and I am happy.
We skipped the second course due to a lack of room in our tummies and our wallets and instead went straight to the thirds. With only four entrees offered, we tried almost everything. The three entrees graced our table. The first – a pan roasted Florida golden tilefish with cripsy potatoes, oil cured olives, romesco, and fried capers. Oh, capers. How I love you. How can you be any more delicious? Well, fried, of course. The romesco had a nutty depth without any bitterness which complemented the hearty tilefish. Next up was a wood grilled natural angus beef striploin with chimichurri, candied garlic, sweet potatoes, local oyster mushrooms, and green onions. The beef steak was tender and offered Asian flavors, which was a little surprising after the above menu description. For the Augustans out there, the side recalled a Ray’s House Salad. I am not sure how this is possible but I would bet almost anything that the signature mix of celery seed, green onion, and vinegar with which we are all so familiar could be found in that dish. Finally, the duck. Ok, anytime I see 100 yr. old Balsamic listed in the description, that thing is going to be mine. It could be tripe with 100 yr. old Balsamic and I would be tempted. This duck probably deserves it own paragraph so I am going to indent.
Succulent meat, crispy skin, a lingering flavor of bacon(?). Oh my goodness! This duck was heavenly. The side dish of sunchokes is one of my new favorites as well. This tuberous veggie is all the rage in the farm to fork movement and anyone who likes root vegetables can see why. The mild flavor blends well with a mired of flavors. Mixed with alsatian green cabbage, orange butter, and the ancient balsamic this side dish complemented the duck with a depth and complexity that made it hard to share.
Finally, to top it all off, a banana nut bread topped with vanilla ice cream, caramel drizzle, and what else (?) – Benton’s bacon! Great with coffee and I think I will let the pic of Miss V. do the talking on this one. Look how happy this little cutie is.
Stay tuned for the grande finale of the Atlanta trip. Paige’s trip to the Dekalb Farmer’s Market and the seafood feast that ensued!