From the moment I read the write up on Atlanta's Woodfire Grill in Bon Appetit's 2004 Restaurant issue--I knew I had to check it out. So last October, while in Atlanta for a conference, I made a reservation (our only meal out) for the eight of us to dine there. I've been dreaming of it ever since. Actually, at a planning meeting this past January to prepare for this week's gathering, when the design team asked about great places to eat in Atlanta, I whipped out the menu from my first visit to show them where I was planning on eating. And no, I don't carry every restaurant menu in my briefcase but this place is special.
The Woodfire Grill captured my palate off the bat for several reasons. The first was their great website--a colorful, informative, and enticing site that made no bones about Chef Michael Tuohy's love for local, organic and sustainable meats and produce. He had come to Atlanta from the San Francisco Bay Area bringing the sensibility of Alice Waters along with him. How could I not love this place? In what used to be a seating area--now the Cafe at Woodfire--postcards touting Point Reyes Blue Cheese and info about the local farmers' markets helped me to learn about the food Chef Tuohy valued and his commitment to supporting local producers. And then there was the wine list--a fabulous list and much of it available by the glass. That they served Hangar One vodka and had some of New York's own Brewery Ommegang beer on hand sealed the mark of high quality for this establishment.
Last Monday, I managed to convince four friends to "trust me" for a return visit--they're still talking about it. This second visit was another meal to remember. Like that first visit, we had seats at the long table that looks right onto the namesake grill. We ordered drinks and watched the food theatre taking place just a few feet away.
I had the Berkshire Farm pork chop with Anson Mill grits, steel pan greens and apple butter. Whenever I have porkchops I'm reminded that getting a flavorful, moist chop to the table is easier said than done. Woodfire gets it just right, though. The greens and apple butter were the perfect foil for the creamy grits. I couldn't figure out which wine would be best but our server steered me in the right direction with a German Riesling--oh how I wish I could remember the winery...
Other dishes on the table--grilled rib eye with a celery root and potato puree, greens and truffle butter, and a mixed grill of New Zealand venison, duck, potatoes, spaghetti squash and muscadine jelly (not pictured)--all fabulous except that our L wished she'd had more duck.
By this time we were stuffed--but not too stuffed to contemplate dessert. But before we could get that order in two great things happened: Chef Tuohy obliged my request for a photograph and then he sent a gift of a cheese course to our table. Several of them were local, artisanal cheeses from nearby Thomasville, GA. The standouts for me were the Sweet Grass Dairy pecan chevre--from Thomasville and a Campo de Montalban from Toledo, Spain. The cheeses were accompanied by marcona almonds and that delicious pecan raisin bread that came in the bread basket.
Gluttons that we are, we ordered a few desserts to share anyway--I had a duet of house-made vanilla and cinnamon ice creams and R had the apple crisp with vanilla ice cream and a cookie. Also on the table was the dark chocolate-cherry tart with chocolate mousse and chocolate sauce--too much chocolate--nah--it was luscious and not overdone.
The Woodfire Grill has done much to expand my notion of what Atlanta dining is like. I think Tuohy's influence is bearing fruit. If Woodfire and the other excellent meal we had at One Midtown Kitchen are any indication--Atlanta will soon be called Hotlanta for its hip and creative food scene. In any case, I have filed the latest menu I rescued from Woodfire and look forward to my next visit--hopefully before another October rolls around.