The Roaming Foodie

Archive for the ‘Atlanta’ Category

So, after Friday evening, I can now say I’ve eaten at two Top Chef restaurants. And not just any Top Chef restaurants….those that are attached to the names Richard Blais and Kevin Gillespie. Both of them made it to the top three of their respective seasons, and after eating at their restaurants, I know exactly why.

Woodfire is expensive, especially since I am on a college student’s budget. But the dinner was a gift from my great-uncle, and definitely quite the treat.

Woodfire is located on Cheshire Bridge Road. Cheshire Bridge is an eclectic mix of sketchy buildings and some really great restaurants. Woodfire is a very unassuming orange building near where Cheshire Bridge intersects Piedmont.

The inside is wonderfully warm, cozy, and inviting. I loved the inside. It wasn’t pretentious, despite the white tablecloths, it just felt very homey. They had some pillows that I fell in love with on all of the booth seating. The restaurant is also a LOT bigger than it looked from the outside.

Everyone inside was very friendly. Our waitress was phenomenal, very nice, prompt, and knowledgeable. The service was really well-timed, and it didn’t take long at all for us to get our drinks and our starters.

Now, Woodfire has a great sounding 5 course tasting menu for $65, with full table participation. Andrew and I opted for drinks, a first course, and a third course so that we wouldn’t go overboard. And I’m glad we did, because everything we ate was amazing and very filling.

For my cocktail (Andrew got a Sweetwater 420), I had something they called the Botanical Garden. It was vodka, lavender syrup, pear liquer, something citrusy (I think, I can’t remember) and club soda. It was incredibly refreshing and delicious, perfect for Spring like evening in the middle of February (I love the South).

We ordered our first and third course, and the chef sent out an amuse bouche. It was beet and microgreens, and something else. Point is, it was the first restaurant I’d been to that served an amuse bouche.

We both ordered the potato and bacon soup for our starter. It was potato and bacon with creme fraiche and crispy potato skins. It was delicious. What I loved was that the potatoes were left in chunks, and not cooked down so much like other potato soups, so the texture was there to cut through the creaminess of the soup. What made it special was the crispy potato skins, but I’m not sure there’s a dish out there that can’t be bettered by crispy potato skins.

I ordered the wood-fire grilled hudson valley duck breast for my entree. It was hands down one of the best dishes I’ve eaten. I generally don’t like duck, but this was so good that my mind may be changed. I had it cooked medium, and the inside of the duck was oh so tender while the outside was perfectly crisped. The wood-fire grill gave it a great smoky flavor as well. The duck was served atop some black-eyed peas flavored with small pieces of sausage. The breast was topped with microgreens, crispy duck cracklings, and a citrus dressing. Everything worked so well together on the plate to create a dish that I might just obsess about a little.

Andrew got a wood-grilled beef striploin. I can’t say anything about it. Sorry, I was way too focused on my duck dish to even remember that he was eating. I might get him to describe it to me. I’ll see if he’ll write about it. And he just described it to me:

“It was some sort of beef with some sort of mint salsa verde, and a creamy sauce. And some vegetables. And it was good. Be sure to put that on there.”

He’s pretty awesome 🙂

All in all, Woodfire Grill was one of the best (if not the best) meal I’ve had in Atlanta. Kevin Gillespie is a fantastic chef, and definitely a top chef. His menu is brilliant and inspired. I love that he changes it based on what’s in season, only it makes me wish I could afford to return more times. But I’ll definitely be back as soon as I can.

Woodfire Grill on Urbanspoon

I’m writing this post immediately after eating at Agave, and I am completely in a food coma. You know, when all you can do is lay down and think about the fact that you just stuffed yourself as possible with delicious food? (it most commonly occurs at Thanksgiving and Christmas)

I went with Andrew, his sister and her boyfriend, and his other sister to celebrate his sister’s boyfriend’s birthday. Agave is down Boulevard, kind of near the MLK Jr. swimming pool (it was the only landmark I noticed, sorry). the atmosphere is pretty cool. It’s a little dark, the walls look like pueblos, and it’s decorated with Mexican/Native American stuff (this is where my being more familiar with Mexico and South America and the Southwest US would come in handy). The food at Agave is basically southwestern, with a few Spanish dishes thrown on there. I really should leave the southwestern/Mexican food analysis to people who know their stuff, but this food was so good that I have to write about it anyway.

Anyway, there are complimentary chips and salsa. Good, but I’ve had better salsa (La Fonda, for example). They more than make up for it in their actual food, though.

Andrew ordered the ceviche as an appetizer (he pronounced “ke-vich-ay”. I corrected him, so that when he ordered it he’d be right. He ordered “ke-vich-ay”. Ah well, I tried). It came served in a little glass with greens and some more corn chips. It was shrimp, tuna, and tomatoes tossed with a slightly spicy and citrusy dressing. For those who don’t know what ceviche is, it’s seafood that’s tossed in citrus juice raw, and the acid from the citrus cooks it. Generally, it’s done with just shrimp. The shrimp was cooked through by the citrus, but the tuna was still pretty raw. But, the seafood was clearly good quality, so the raw tuna wasn’t a problem (and I eat so much sushi that I don’t think twice about it anymore). It was the first time I’d had ceviche, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

For my dinner, I was between ordering Vegetarian Enchiladas and Red Pepper Salmon. I went with the Red Pepper Salmon, and holy lord was a I glad I did. The salmon came pan seared to perfection, crisped and well seasoned on the outside, juicy on the inside. It was served on a bed of julienned zucchini, squash, and carrot saute with three huge grilled stalks of asparagus. The real star of the dish was the red pepper sauce. The sauce was smoky, sweet, and made the dish more than just your standard fish and vegetables. Maybe it’s just because I’m obsessed with red peppers, but I loved loved loved my entree. Loved. It. I’m going to figure out how to make that sauce. It’s my new goal.

Andrew ordered Beer Braised Pork shank. They quite literally brought him the whole shank, which he later said that although the meat and sauce was good, it was too much pork to be placed in front of him (I don’t believe him…he still devoured the whole shank). I took a bite, but can’t tell you much about it other than that it was tender, fell off the bone, and was pretty good for pork.

We then all shared the dessert platter. This is what sent my poor stomach over the line from being happily full to cursing my name from being stuffed. It was supposedly small amounts of each dessert. But it turned out to be what I hope was full portions of everything. It included (for $25)  a glass of Belgian chocolate mousse with cinnamon whipped cream, key lime pie, Banana Plantain Dark Chocolate cheesecake, flan, Peanut Butter Mousse Pie, a flourless Dark Chocolate torte, and a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream in the middle. It was…decadent. I loved every bite. But I have to say my favorite was the Peanut Butter pie…the crust had cayenne in it, so there was a little kick in the back of your throat after taking a bite. I love cayenne in desserts for that reason. It gives it that extra little something.

That’s about all I can say now…it’s time for me to go lie down until bed time, and not even think about eating again until tomorrow morning. But I think Agave might be where I go for my birthday dinner…maybe. It’s definitely near the top of the list. Regardless, I’ll have to go back sometime.

Agave on Urbanspoon

So, as I was looking at ajc.com this morning, I came across an article about Downtown Restaurant Week 2010.

Which then led me to http://www.atlantadowntown.com/fun/restaurant-week

If I were a 12 year old Justin Bieber fan, I would say I had an “OMG” moment.

I’m not, so I’ll just say I had a revelation. Or epiphany. Or a “hey, at $25 to $35, this would be a pretty awesome way to try some of the more expensive restaurants I can’t go to on any given day”.

Atlanta Downtown Restaurant Week, in case you didn’t check out all those links above, runs from July 26 to August 8 (so it’s actually 2 weeks). The featured restaurants provide the diner with a three course menu in which you choose what you want for each course for a fixed price of either $25 or $35 per person.

Anyway…I kind of want to try French American Brasserie http://fabatlanta.com . Here’s the menu of what they’ll have during Restaurant Week http://www.atlantadowntown.com/_files/docs/fab_darw_2010.pdf . That warm chocolate cake sounds absolutely divine.

If I go, I’ll write an awesome post about it. If not…well, I’ll write about something else soon 🙂

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Tuesday night, Andrew and I met Andrew’s sister at The Bookhouse Pub for dinner. I’m pretty sure the main reason we went here was for the extensive beer list because both Andrew and his sister had each had a rough day and agreed that a beer was in order. I didn’t partake in this aspect of the evening, so I can’t say much about the alcohol other than the beer list is significantly larger than the food menu. But, they also have decent food.

Andrew and his sister each got a burger, and I got a veggie burger. The veggie burger was made from edamame, black beans, roasted corn and red peppers. It was pretty good, although it fell apart very easily (I’m guessing because it was fresh made) and I ended up eating it with a fork. It also had kind of a cornmeal texture to it, so I’m guessing they used something like that to bind it together, but I didn’t mind it. It just kind of reminded me of cornbread. They also grilled the bun that it was served on, which was a nice touch and something I always enjoy. It was served with “asian bbq” sauce (aka, hoisin sauce) and instead of fries I had a side salad with ginger vinaigrette. I didn’t try any of Andrew’s burger, but I did snag some fries. The fries were kind of oversalted.

Service was good, if not overly friendly.

The bookshelf in the place is small. It runs only part of the wall, and is like this little shelf right next to the ceiling. I kind of thought that a place named “The Bookhouse Pub” would have more of a décor focus on books. But I guess the point is the booze and the food, so I won’t count it against them too much.

Plus, I’m kind of obsessed with this veggie burger now.

The Bookhouse Pub on Urbanspoon

Apologies for the Seinfeld reference in the title…I couldn’t help myself 😛

A few nights ago, in the midst of a random thunderstorm in Atlanta, Andrew and I went out to dinner at La Fonda on Ponce de Leon Avenue. We picked La Fonda randomly, due to our collective indecisiveness and attempts to get the other one to be decisive (it makes picking dinner oh so fun). I was glad La Fonda ended up being where we went, just because it’s close and I didn’t have to drive in what looked like impending doom from the skies.

La Fonda is a Latin restaurant that’s owned by the same people that own Fellini’s Pizza. It has everything from Spanish dishes, Mexican dishes, and Cuban sandwiches. They have what looks like a nice upstairs patio, and one downstairs (I’m a sucker for eating on patios) but due to the darkening skies, we sat inside. Inside was pretty nondescript. There were tables. A cashier. And the kitchen. Pretty standard. We were also the only ones sitting inside, until it started to rain, then there was an influx of people from the upstairs patio.

Like most Hispanic restaurants that I’ve been to, La Fonda gives you free chips and salsa with your meal (also known as my diet’s archnemesis). The salsa tasted fresh made, kind of like my mom makes in the summer. It had big chunks of tomatoes throughout, none of that jarred pureed salsa like you get at the grocery store. I love salsa that’s made like this, so this started the meal off on a good note.

Andrew ordered for us (thank God…I never took Spanish, and was starting to fret, thinking I’d have to order an item on the menu that had the least amount of Spanish in it so I wouldn’t mess it up and offend anyone). He ordered the Paella del Mar (???? it was the paella with all the seafood…so sue me for taking French and German and Chinese and NOT Spanish) for two. We also ordered Maduros, or fried plantains.

I thought the Paella was delicious. It was garlicky rice with green peppers, onions, and pimentos that was studded throughout with calamari, salmon, shrimp, scallops, and mussels. This was my first time trying paella, so there’s no way for me to judge it compared to other paellas. But I thought it was very tasty, and definitely a good, warm, comforting dish for such a gloomy evening. All the seafood was cooked well and seasoned well. The Maduros were just simple fried plantains. They were good, but nothing out of the ordinary for fried plantains. The service was also good, but nothing out of the ordinary (I’d rather have normal service than bad service though).

In general, La Fonda is a good restaurant that provides a tasty meal with a nice patio (if the weather is nice), even if it’s nothing to write home about. Definitely somewhere I would return to (their Cuban sandwiches looked killer), but also nothing rave-worthy.

Thursday night, I found myself craving a meaty, juicy, perfectly simple beef burger (it’s a rare occasion that I willingly seek out beef, but it happens). I didn’t want Flip. As good as it is, I wanted something simple and classic, and I wasn’t in the right mood for the atmosphere either. I rounded up Andrew, as he is male and also a carnivore. He called his sister, since the only places he could think of for burgers were Five Guys (never been, and sounds way too greasy from what he’s said) and The Vortex (I like it, but I couldn’t bring myself to NOT order their veggie burger). She suggested a place in Virginia Highlands called Highland Tap. Andrew and I pushed that to the side, as neither of us seemed to be greatly familiar with that area of Atlanta. So I called my Atlanta food guru (aka, my brother). He suggested Highland Tap, saying that it had one of his favorite burgers in Atlanta. Alright…so if both of our siblings recommended this place, we had to go. (Thanks guys!)

My brother asked, “You’re familiar with the Highlands, right?” to which I replied “Of course” even though I totally wasn’t. He told me that Highland Tap was next to Noche (I had passed by it before and remembered the sign) and Murphy’s (again, had passed by it and remembered where it was). So after passing by both Noche and Murphy’s a few times a) looking for Highland Tap and b) trying to find somewhere to park, Andrew finally spotted a sign that said steaks and burgers, and then noticed the window that said Highland Tap (go Andrew. I never would’ve seen that, but in my defense I was watching the road). It’s tucked in there and hard to find, and when you do find it and enter the front door, you head down a set of stairs into a dark, basement-y (not a real adjective, but get over it) bar. To the right of the bar area is the restaurant. The whole restaurant is also dark, all the furniture done in mahogany, a dark red fleur de lis wallpaper on the walls that weren’t exposed stone, with the only light coming from the kitchen and little low lit lamps situated on the tables. Though I generally prefer restaurants with a lighter ambiance, the food more than made up for the lack of lighting. Also, I shouldn’t complain too much…it labeled itself as a “steak cellar” so I should’ve been a bit more prepared for the cellar vibe.

But, let’s get to the real point. The food. I was going for the burger, and searched and searched the menu, until I found it in it’s own little box (clearly, my observation skills were lacking for the evening). It was a 10 oz steak burger. As in, burger made from steak. Not a steak sandwich. Um…yum! But, even in my carnivorous state, 10 oz was a lot of beef. I kept reading down, and found what was called a “Mini Tap Burger”. It was the steak burger, but only 5 oz. This was apparently my lucky night. One could also choose from a variety of different condiments for the burger (it came with onions, lettuce and tomato), such as different cheeses, mushrooms, etc. I went with avocado on mine, and a side of onion rings. Andrew got the 10 oz with avocado and Swiss cheese, and a side of fries. He also ordered more onion rings. The onion rings came out first, and to me, they were pretty much perfect. Nothing fancy; just a perfect ratio of breading to onion. The onion was thick cut, not over cooked or overbreaded and well seasoned. Definitely get the onion rings, if you’re into that.

Our burgers came out shortly after the onion rings. The Mini Tap Burger was about the same size as a Flip burger, and it was the perfect amount to satisfy my hunger for meat without going overboard on eating. The avocado was a nice, cool contrast to the rich juicy beef.Highland Tap definitely scored points with me by having avocado as a topping for the burger…I love love love avocado.  I’m not sure what else to say about this burger…it was just a classic burger done perfectly. Nothing pretentious. It was cooked exactly how I ordered it (medium rare…I hate when you order a certain doneness and it comes out overdone. That’s happened many times to me, and so Highland Tap scored more points by doing mine medium rare like I asked).  Andrew’s 10 oz burger was HUGE, and he managed to devour the whole thing. That’s his way of saying he really enjoyed it as well. I tried a french fry from his plate, and it was good. Well seasoned, well cooked.

Our service was also great. Everything came out quickly (there were only a few other diners. Most everyone was at the bar) and she was attentive without being overly so.

After our wonderful meal at Highland Tap (my new go-to burger place, when I’m not in the mood for Flip), Andrew and I took a nice walk down the street to Ben and Jerry’s. Virginia Highlands is a really pretty neighborhood. We passed lots of nice, upkept gardens in front of nice houses, and the smell of various flowers blooming made the evening lovely. We got to Ben and Jerry’s, got some ice cream (he got Peanut Brittle, and I got Half-Baked Frozen Yogurt). Getting it fresh scooped from the store was about a million times better than getting a pint of it from the grocery store. Although there are times when a pint from the grocery store is necessary, but when you aren’t in dire need of destroying a whole pint, then getting a cup from the store is far superior. (Believe me…I know the merits of a whole pint of ice cream when things just aren’t going as they should, or when you’ve had a bad day, etc.)

I will definitely be returning to Virginia Highlands to try out other restaurants (I’ve heard Murphy’s is good) and other places (there’s a gelato store we’re going to next time, because I love gelato. The end.) Thanks for a nice evening, Highlands!

Highland Tap on Urbanspoon

Why is that when I eat here, I always want to go back the very next day?

Answer: It’s just that damn good.

Andrew and I went back to Antico last night for dinner, and it was just as incredible, maybe even more, than the last time we went. We got the San Gennaro, with it’s deliciously sweet and spicy roasted red peppers (they should really just sell jars of those…I’d buy them and eat them all the time). The crust didn’t seem to be as charred this time as the last time, but still with enough char to make it oh so crispy, and yet still have a tender, soft crust on the inside. The buffalo mozzarella was delectable, the sausage meaty and savory, and the crispy basil leaves sweet and herby (which I don’t think is a word, but I don’t care)

Antico warrants two posts. It’s that good. And mainly I just want to reminisce and bask in the moment of eating the San Gennaro last night. Since I’m most likely not going to be able to justify going back for another pizza today. No matter how much I want one.

I love your addictive slices of heavenly pizza, Antico.

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