Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tasting Menu at Woodfire Grill

Last night MLAers McCall, Caryn and I had dinner at Woodfire Grill. I’m embarrassed to say that I hadn’t been in since before Michael Tuohy’s departure several weeks ago, and after last night’s dinner I can’t believe I wasted so much time! Kevin Gillespie, executive chef, has added the option of a three or five course tasting menu to the regular dinner menu every night. The tasting menu is mostly dishes that are not on the regular menu, and we loved not knowing what was going to come out of the kitchen. Every plate was a surprise. We choose to do wine pairings with our five course dinner and, although initially unplanned, we ended enjoying a flight of all screw cap wines. It made for a fun evening and one that was so interactive with the kitchen.

Owner Nicolas Quinones started us with a wonderfully acidic, crisp Willakenzie Estate Pinot Gris to go with our amuse-bouche, a petite rice fritter topped with an Indian spiced duxelles. I was so quick to pop it in my mouth that I totally forgot my blogging mission temporarily and missed the photo op. You’ll have to use your imagination…
Our first course was a perfectly cooked piece of wild artic char served on top of Carolina Gold rice with chanterelle mushrooms and a hint of Indian spices. It was a great foil to the crispness of the Pinot Gris we were drinking.

Next, we move on to Artazuri Grenache rosé. It was dry and fresh with no hint of sweetness – perfect! The rosé was paired with our second course of Georgia white shrimp served over a horseradish and pimenton infused broth and tomatoes.

Now we take a small detour because we were lucky enough to get a bonus course from both Kevin and Nick! Nick poured a delicious Viognier from South Australia – Yalumba – and Kevin dished up an incredible roasted African soup with hazelnut mousse and honey glazed apples. Oh my sweet, salty goodness, this was an incredible dish and my personal favorite of the night.

By this point in the night, we noticed that so far all our wines had been screw caps. So, in keeping with the theme of the evening, Nick chose a Vincent Girardin Pinot Noir. It was a fabulous Pinot Noir, much richer and full bodied than what you expect with a pinot noir. Our third course was veal sweetbreads with a sweet potato salad and mustard pan sauce. Is it rude to lick a plate clean when you like it this much?

Now we are on to the big reds of the night. Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz was our screw cap partner for the grilled duck breast served with creamed arugula and some of the best potatoes I’ve ever had. I dare you to find better.

Thank goodness we’ve made it to the last course because I honestly don’t think I could have made it through many more plates. Somehow, I did manage to clean my plate of its dense chocolate cake with caramel ice cream. The dessert managed to find that perfect sweet salty balance that the African soup had.

Overall, the dinner was just incredible. It was such a neat experience to come in on a weeknight and have this unbelievable, and unplanned, dining experience. At the end of the night, they actually printed out a copy of our tasting menu for us to keep. The tasting menu is available every night and is different every night so it will be fun to compare this menu to all the future tasting menus I plan on enjoying at Woodfire Grill.

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