Dorie was restless, wondering what to do. Movies? Nothing playing we could agree on. All our friends were out of town (how does that happen). All of a sudden she turns to me and says “Is 8:30 ok?”
“Dinner at Woodfire Grill.”
We had been wanting to go there ever since we saw the executive chef, Kevin Gillespie, on this season’s Top Chef. Yeah, we were hoping for a little bit of lookie-loo at the cable celebrity, but we don’t have many vices so give us a break. We’ve already been to Flip to goggle-eye Richard Blaise.
I looked up the menu online, and was moderately interested. Although I’m addicted to the Food Network, I’m not a foodie. I’m kind of a picky eater, scared of things I haven’t tried before. I like what I like and will pay for quality, but I don’t branch out much. After looking at this menu, I figured I could find something to eat on there although it was more expensive than I was expecting it to be. Kind of pricey for an impulse dinner out, but what the hell.
We got dressed (I actually tucked my shirt in!) and headed out to a Cheshire Bridge road, following the loopiest Google directions ever. Rather than just telling us to “Go to Piedmont road and turn left on Cheshire Bridge and it’s up a little ways” our Google overlords had us winding all through the back woods of not-quite-Buckhead. Pretty tony neighborhoods, I have to say.
We got to the Woodfire Grill early, so they had us take a seat at the bar. Dorie got a glass of wine and I got a glass of water. We kind of expected the place to be packed, because Kevin is one of the favorites to do really well on Top Chef. Two weeks in, he’s pretty much kicking ass consistently. It was fairly busy, but not packed. And we got a reservation an hour in advance, no less. It’s too soon to tell, but if he stays in there like Blaise did I expect the Woodfire Grill to be packed before long.
After a short wait they led us into the dining room and sat us at a four-top right on the other side of the wall from the actual woodfire grill area.
FIrst thing we noticed was that the whole place smelled like a burning fireplace in winter. It smelled so good we found ourselves sniffing each other once we left because we were hoping it rubbed off. We went to Borders books afterward, and I could definitely smell it on my clothes. *inhale* mmmmmm.
Second thing we noticed was that Kevin Gillespie was standing at the grill. I pointed him out to Dorie, who was compelled to immediately Facebook. I Tweeted. What’s wrong with us? Sheesh.
It took longer than we’d have liked for the waiter to get around to taking our drink order, but while we waited we eavesdropped on the grill, and heard some people wishing Kevin well as they walked out. So we snarked a little, and chatted about Top Chef and Project Runway and the differences between them, and whether the contests are friendly off-show. Dorie was nursing her house cabernet, and I eventually had my standard unsweet ice tea with sweet n’ low.
They brought out a basket of mixed bread, and despite our determination to stick to our diets, we caved and split a slice of dark bread, with garl/herb butter. That was the start of our glide down the slippery slope.
Then they surprised us with an amusee bouche– a little spoon with two pieces of fried okra on top of some aioli. This started my adventurous streak for the night. I’m always a little trepidatious of “greens” because I find them bitter and slimy. But I tried this, and it was pretty good. Dorie was more impressed than I, having had fried okra more often. She said they didn’t spice the breading too much, which is apparently key as okra has its own flavor that you shouldn’t mask.
For our “First” (that’s what they call it on the menu) we split a plate of two pan seared diver scallops on top of a local field pea salad — $15 in a celery vinaigrette. micro celery. I couldn’t tell that it was celery, much less micro celery, but it tasted awesome. It was cooked peas, not a “salad” salad, kind of like a bed of beans in a sauce, under the seared scallops. Hard to describe but really good– we didn’t expect the combination to work, but we were about to lick the freaking plate when our “Main” arrived:
Dorie: wood grilled local bobwhite quail. braised greens, with a smear of brown butter sweet potato puree under the fowl and a little pile of coriander spiced pears to eat with it. — $26
John: wood grilled grassfed beef strip loin. skillet roasted cabbage and beans, a little pile of candied vine peach salad and a smear of butterbean hummus under the slices of beef. — $32.
I had some of Dorie’s quail, and it was perfectly done and so tasty with the sweet potato. She doesn’t eat red meat, but I’m here to testify that the beef was perfectly cooked. I don’t usually eat cooked cabbage, but I was being my version of adventurous, and had some of each side with my bites of beef. It was so good. I ate it all, when I usually leave that kind of side item on the plate.
This is what I always hoped a fine restaurant would serve– something that I had to like despite my fear of things I’ve never had, or items that in other forms I don’t like. Like cooked cabbage!
The portions are “fine-dining size” (as opposed to like, a Lonestar Steakhouse with gigantic piles of mashed potatoes and two chicken breasts at a sitting), so we were in excellent position to be tempted by dessert. Our momentum on that slippery slope was unstoppable by now, so we just nodded dumbly when the waiter handed us the menu.
But it wasn’t a Dairy Queen banana split or anything. It was a couple of small banana fritters with milk chocolate mousse, Bavarian creme stuff (it was like a flavored whipped cream, not a custard), on top of schmears of salted caramel, and… a strip of candied bacon. Which I got to eat all of, since Dorie, bless her heart, doesn’t like bacon. Holy moses this thing was so good it almost killed us. — $8
Our total bill was about $102, with a $20 tip and $3 for the valet (gave him extra because the parking lot is across a busy street).
As we were walking out, Dorie just couldn’t resist catching His eye and offering our best wishes for success on the show. Well, ok, actually she just kind of nervously said “we hope you win!” as we walked by. He was gracious and thanked her very sincerely. Just as on the show, so far at least, he seems to be a really nice, professional, down-to-earth guy.
We’re going back to the Woodfire Grill soon. We’re taking people with us. It’s our new “you gotta go” recommendation for dining in Atlanta. Normally we suggest people go to Watershed, for its southern take and its “semi-fine-dining” feel. But Woodfire Grill is the real deal.