Atlanta, Georgia

Sunday, December 6, 2009 - Friday, December 11, 2009

So, our crazy beginning of December travels continue! I drove to Scranton on Sunday morning to hop a Northwest/Delta flight to Atlanta to meet Jill, who was flying in from Salt Lake City (via Houston). Being that this was our anniversary, we wanted to at least have a nice dinner to celebrate after a long day of flying. We found a nice little tapas restaurant called Noche in the Highlands neighborhood. We had a delicious meal, which included: grilled vegetable flat bread with goat cheese and cilantro pesto, bacon wrapped grilled scallops with cucumber confetti, queso fundido with chips and salsa, blue cornmeal crusted fried green tomatoes with manchego cheese, lobster taco with peppers and Oaxaca cheese, and grilled BBQ salmon with jicama slaw. For dessert, we had tiramasu and creme brule.

After dinner, we drove about 15 miles north to Alpharetta. For this trip, we stayed at the Hyatt Place on Windward Parkway.

Monday morning brought the beginning of Jill's class, and I decided to lay low just hangin' at the hotel, and reading the rest of the book I had brought with me. On Monday night, we went and picked up Sara and Andrew to take them out to dinner. Our original destination was Maggiano's, but when their stated twenty minute wait morphed into 45 minutes and we still didn't have a table, we walked next door to the Cheesecake Factory (where there was no wait!). We took the kids back home, and headed back to the hotel afterwards.

On Tuesday, Andrew had his winter concert at Campbell Middle School. Jill and I headed out from the hotel shortly before 6 o'clock, to make the twenty minute drive to the school. One hour and fifteen minutes later, after sitting in the rain and horrible traffic, we arrived at the school. By some grace of God though, the concert started late and we came into the auditorium just as the kids started playing! Andrew did an awesome job, and it was just great to be able to see him play.

Since we hadn't had dinner beforehand, we found a place in Vinings to eat before going back to Alpharetta. Padriac's on the Cumberland Parkway was exactly what we were looking for! We shared the lobster nachos (holy yummy!!), Jill had a grilled salmon salad and I had the Padriac's burger. Purple Haze on tap to boot - can't beat that!!

Then, came Wednesday. Jill spent the day teaching what is usually the toughest day of the bootcamps, and I decided to do some exploring in Gwinnett County. I found the rink where the Gwinnett Gladiators play, which was nicer than most AHL rinks we've been to, let alone ECHL ones; and also the stadium where the Gwinnett Braves play, a facility that just opened this past year luring the Braves AAA affiliate away from their long time home in Richmond, Virginia. The stadium didn't impress me in the least, and we've been in similar AA stadiums - certainly no cutting edge here.

Wednesday night was the 'piece de resistance' in our lifetime of cullinary experiences - Woodfire Grill. This is a restaurant on Cheshire Bridge Road in Atlanta whose head chef is Kevin Gillespie of 'Top Chef' fame. Ironically, and by no advanced planning by myself, we happened to have reservations for the night where the Top Chef was being aired, the one where Kevin was one of three finalists! Wanting to beat the Atlanta traffic, or at least give ourselves enough time to not miss our reservations, we left the hotel around 6:15 - and hit light traffic along the way. This put us at the restaurant at just after 7:00, for our 8:00 reservation. We checked in, and were invited to have a drink in the bar area as we waited for our table. There, we had a couple of drinks - Jill had a Chenin Blanc - Domaine Du Viking - Vouvray AOC, France - 05, and I had Sweetwater - 420 - Pale Ale - Atlanta (yep, even though this was a way classy restaurant, it was still the kind of place you could have a good beer!). Also, instead of the usual popcorn and peanut bar fare, we were offered pork rinds and olives instead, and they were delicious. While sitting in the bar, I did have a speechless moment (even though I tried to say something) when Kevin walked through, heading from the front grill to the back kitchen - yep, even on his 'big night' he was still slaving away for the patrons at Woodfire Grill! We were taken to our table at 8:00 on the dot, and found the interior of the restaurant to be as inviting as the bar area. Jill was actually seated where she could see Kevin and his sous chef preparing the meals at the grill - bonus! After ordering, but before our courses arrived, we were given an amuse bouche which was a deconstructed borscht. Jill and I figured it was an homage to Kevin's fellow Top Chef competitor Michael Voltagio. For our first course, Jill had sage water battered chanterelle and oyster mushrooms with ossau iraty fonduta and candied garlic syrup, and I had cream of local cauliflower soup which was roasted cauliflower puree with crisp fried razor clams. For our second course, Jill had heirloom pumpkin carnaroli risotto made with local pumpkin puree, roasted vegetable jus, pecorino frica, and quince, and I had olive oil poached laughing bird shrimp which included celery, radish, turnip, roasted jalapeno, cilantro, and meyer lemon marmalade. To note at this point in the meal, the most uttered word up to this point was 'wow'! For the main course, Jill had wood grilled sonoma artisan duck breast with roasted onion grits, root vegetable and toasted peanut salad, and buddha hand citron confit, and I had (because you can't come to Kevin's restaurant and NOT have his favorite ingredient!) wood grilled berkshire pork loin with sauteed local endives, buttered vegetables, cava, and rosemary glaze. Along the way, Jill had a Peach Blossom to drink, which was prairie organic vodka, elderflower syrup, peach bitters, fresh lime juice, and soda, and I sampled a couple of other types of beer, Allagash, a Belgian White from Portland, Maine, and Edison, from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (yeah, I know, who would have ever though anything good came from Wilkes-Barre!). To top off our meal, we found we still had a little room for dessert! Jill had honey roasted pear with carrot cake, golded raisin verjus, honey cream cheese, and candied carrot, and I had banana cake with brown sugar bacon buttercream, fried banana ice cream, salted caramel, and banana chips. So, there you have the synopsis of our dining experience, now for the opinion of all of it - best meal ever, from start to finish. We've eaten a lot of places in our travels, and hands down this was the best we had ever had from course to course. Other places have had one really good course, and a few other adequate ones, but not here - this was a complete and excellent meal!

On Thursday, it was another day of class for Jill, and another day of hangin' out for me. Thursday night brought the second school concert of the week - Sara's holiday concert! Jill had to teach Kaplan classes, so she wasn't able to go, but I made the trek to Pebblebrook High School to watch Sara's performance. By the time I got back to Alpharetta (nothing is really close in Atlanta), it was almost 11:00. Hungry, I went across the street to the Wild Wing Cafe and grabbed us some dinner.

Friday brought our travel home day. Jill finished up her class, we packed up the room and headed out. One last 'Atlanta' stop though - The Varsity. We found one in Alpharetta (instead of searching out the one 'downtown'), and grabbed some lunch. To the airport after that, for our flight back to Scranton, and then the drive back to Binghamton.

Trip Notes:

The address for the Woodfire Grill was 1782 Cheshire Bridge Road Atlanta, GA 30324