Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Woodfire Grill

Took a little Southern road trip recently and found myself in the capitol of the New South, Atlanta. Atlanta holds many fond memories for me of playing in Fourth of July softball tournaments. Yes, I did say fond despite nearly suffering a heat stroke that comes with playing any outdoor sport in Atlanta in July. Happily the end of September is much less oppressive in the heat and humidity department. I had one dining out night and despite my good friend Chickory's suggestion of Richard Blaise's Flip, my friends and I made reservations at the Woodfire Grill.

Yes, Kevin Gillespie's Woodfire Grill. Kevin's restaurant is the perfect example of The Top Chef Effect. From the background I could dig into, Woodfire was an ok restaurant but not exactly setting Atlanta's culinary scene on fire with it California country menu. Flash forward to the chef owner selling to the group of current owners and add Kevin's huge run of success on season 6 of Top Chef and suddenly you've got a restaurant that's getting decent reviews, full tables and a ton of buzz during an incredibly tumultuous economic downturn. However with that popularity and recognition also comes huge expectations and pressure. Will the food still measure up? Time to find out.


It was a relaxed Wednesday night when we plunked down in our booth. I had driven in from KC the night before while my friend Jenny had flown in from Seattle to visit with her friend Lynn who lives in Atlanta. They had both eaten here before and loved it. But what to get? We could have ordered à la carte or we could go with the 5 or 7 chef's tasting menu with wine selections paired up with each course. However if one of us wanted to do a tasting the whole table had to do the tasting. We chose the 5 course but even better, Woodfire is very attentive to the specific needs of it's diners. We had one guest who is a vegetarian and one who keeps kosher but neither request was a problem for the kitchen, each menu was easily adjusted to each diner's requirements. So the night's grazing begins with drinks and bread.


Jenny's martini, so pretty and made Jenny oh so happy. Yours truly stuck with ice tea, not the sweet tea mind you but regular tea. A basket of rustic, hearty slices of bread soon appeared. It was wonderful bread, with that deep crusty flavor perfect for dipping into soups.

A warning about the night's photos. It was fairly dark inside the restaurant and I have yet to find the right Karmic balance between shooting restaurant photos with flash and not disrupting other diners with my crack monkey antics. So my photos are not as crisp and sharp as I generally like to post for you, my readers. I apologize.

Back to the food.
Amuse bouche

An amuse bouche of peaches and cheese. A quick delicious little bite taking Georgia's signature crop and pairing it up with a smidgen of goat cheese. Next up for me was the Chinese Long Beans.

chinese long beans

Slightly spicy boiled peanuts (another Southern foodstock) on Chinese long beans with a hint of citrus paired up with a smokey sauce. Excellent.


A perfectly cooked scallop on a bed of pesto parsnips and black eyed peas. Cannot remember what the sauce was but a well cooked scallop is a thing of beauty, crispy edges on the outside, tender flavorful flesh on the inside. Heaven.

celery shot

A shot of celery juice with an apple cider vinegar foam. I love servings like this, something you would never think of pairing on your own but after trying it finding yourself smiling at how good it is.

quail and pork belly

Ah yes, the man and his muse, the mighty pig. When I look back on my sequence of photographs of the night, there was only one shot of this dish. Because when pork belly is waiting on your plate, you don't make it wait long. I had to restrain myself from gobbling it all down like Oprah on a Krispy Kreme. The cube of pork was seasoned with salt and a hint of pepper, the crust was succulent and the ribbon of meat was smoky and tender. I think I sucked the silver right off the fork. Not to forget the quail...it was tender and juicy but let's face it, the star here is the pork belly. The next course for me was the duck breast. The photo sucked so I'm not posting it and it was the weakest dish of the night in my menu. It was still good but mine was a little tough, tiptoeing ever so slightly into rubbery territory. I'm not sure if it was prepared a la sous vide or if it was roasted. I'm guessing the former. Or it could be that nothing after the pork belly is going to measure up.


Happily the dessert course picked up the slack from the duck offering. A blueberry corncake with blueberry ice cream and a limoncello ganache. The corncake was amazing combination of fresh corn niblets and plump blueberries, letting the corn and the blueberries provide the sweetness as opposed to sugar being the sweet component. Balance that with the tart smooth textured limoncello ganache and you've got some pretty happy campers and a wonderful ending to a wonderful meal.

Did I get to meet the man himself? Sadly no, he was traveling in France, I'm sure learning the ways of the Pig, French style. Still his kitchen more than held up their end of the night with amazing food, prepared with style and flare. If you find yourself in Atlanta, definitely give Woodfire Grill chance to rock your pig loving world.


moi said...

Wow. You said the portions were small, but those are SMALL! So it goes with tasting menus, I suppose. I'm glad it was all delicious and your photos are great, considering the lighting conditions. The celery juice shot is especially pretty. I recently had a celery soda pop and was surprised at how good it was.

LaDivaCucina said...

Wow, looks like a wonderful night! Sham, it's so hard to take photos in a restaurant at night especially with everyone waiting to eat but yours look better than mine ever do!

Everything looks delicious but it's the celery apple shot that sounds so fresh and appealing to me. And the dessert with blueberry corn cake. I love corn meal. By the way, in Australia, the Asians call long beans snake beans.

What's this I hear you made your ricotta gnudi?! Jealous!

Dani said...

Good Times. :) Glad you had a wonderful evening of friends and delish pork belly.

Making Space said...

Oh wow this made me smile!!! Peaches and pork belly - everything looks delicious - and you really don't have to apologize for those photos. I'm glad you had such a lovely dinner - very very classy, Shamster.

intuitive eggplant said...

Thank you, thank you for sharing this fine meal with us. I've been very curious as to what Kevin is serving up, and your descriptions and photos (no need for apologies) remind me how much I would like to check out Woodfire Grill if I ever make it to ATL. That limoncello ganache sounds particularly appealing. Thanks again!

Boxer said...

Items in the photos may be larger than they appear.

It was a fabulous evening (love that martini!!) but you know I woke up at 3:00 a.m. STARVING.

Your picture taking was subtle and I believe we got better service because of it.

Buzz Kill said...

I wish my photos would come out as bad as yours. Bwahahaha

Nice write up and it shows how good a chef Kevin really is. Those plates are beautiful, especially the boiled peanuts and Chinese long beans.

I tried to make reservations at Kevin Sbraga's Rat's Restaurant in Hamilton NJ for my anniversary dinner but there was a 2 week wait list. I may try again in a couple of weeks.

Syd said...

Yum! Looks like a fun meal.

Although, I'd probably head to The Varsity for a burger afterward. Looks like you got maybe 5 bites.

I'm dying to try pork belly.

Thanks for the review.

chickory said...

i actually think the problem of low light enhanced these photos. i think theyre awesome. i grew some long beans two seasons ago and sold them all as i had not idea what to do with them. they were so long they couldve been attached to a chinese emperor or a salesclerk at Bebe. grrrherhaha

you gotta do Flip next trip. Its my favorite Top Chef venue. who what that other guy on TC - the one who lived with the parents?

nice review. i like a tasting menu. most places give portions that are WAY to large. too much isnt better.

Aunty Belle said...

-- Great review!

The peaches wif' goat cheese--inspired! SO jawja.

Pork belly --of course of course!

Photos are still source of envy--wunnerful !

But.....did ya snag that limoncello ganache recipe??

Big Shamu said...

The portions were small but it was a tasting menu. Maybe it's just that our stomachs have been supersized?

I had an excellent time Dani, but don't worry I will get to your neck of the woods and we'll go to Carlos's restaurant. It's fantastic.

MS, gotta get some chefs in your neck of the woods to do better on the show.

Eggy, it was all delightful. My mouth still waters for the pork belly.

Boxer, we got better service because you two were like little puppies with the waiter. I'm still smacking myself for not getting a picture of him.

Thanks Buzz. You might as well take a trip to Maryland and eat at Michael Voltaggio's Volt instead. I'm betting the wait has finally died down and in my opinion, it's better food.

Syd, pork belly is the rage, I'm betting there is a fine dining establishment near you who is serving it. Might have to come down and investigate....Will Roadtrip for Pork Belly.

Chickory, you know I'll be back so I'm putting Flip in the list to try but only if you're there with me.

Aunty, I know huh? Peaches with goat cheese is quite tasty. But it's got to be sweet Georgia peaches. As for the limoncello ganache recipe, no I did not snag because I was trying to figure out how to ask for pork belly as a dessert course. The ganache was so smooth and creamy and just the right counterpart to the cake and ice cream. A really nice ending to the meal.

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