I can remember being a little girl freezing outside in Eagan, Minnesota, as I anxiously awaited my school bus to pick me up to take me home. The only thing that would keep a smile on my face was the excitement of arriving to a warm home with pumpkin spiced candles burning and hot tomato soup with crispy grilled cheese sandwiches waiting for me. Although I'm slightly older, one thing that remains the same is that when fall arrives, I am still looking forward to comfort food.
I was thrilled to attend a fall dinner featuring Chef Nick Walker and his Chef's Table at the Cobb Galleria located in Atlanta, GA. Chef's Tables are my favorite dining experiences. For those who are current and aspiring foodies add a Chef's Table to your bucket list. There's nothing better than an intimate dining experience with a chef. It's an ideal opportunity to learn about the food, the chef and current trends. About a week ago I had the opportunity to attend a Chef's Table at the Cobb Galleria. This location has 320,000 square feet and it's a facility that has national reputation for premier meetings, conventions and trade shows. It is located in Northwest Atlanta, just 20 minutes from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and minutes from Downtown.
Upon arrival to this lovely venue a gentleman began to walk me to the back of the establishment. I watch entirely too much Law and Order SUV so I immediately started texting my boyfriend and best friends to let them know my location. To my surprise, this Chef's Table was held in the kitchen. Imagine my surprise when I walked in I was greeted with bubbly champagne and warm smiles of the staff and the chef.
Chef Walker has been the executive chef at Cobb Galleria Centre since May 2010. Chef Walker brings a fresh, innovative approach to corporate and social events at the Centre. His cuisine is inspired by his Georgia roots with many of his dishes sourced from local and regional farms and small businesses. A Milledgeville native, Walker came to the Centre from the Intercontinental Hotel Buckhead where he served as sous chef for Au Pied du Cochon and later banquet chef for the hotel. Walker is a graduate from the Art Institute of Atlanta’s Culinary Arts Management Program (magna cum laude/bachelor of science). He worked at various restaurants in the Athens and Atlanta areas, and he has worked in almost every kitchen setting including country clubs, resorts, hotels, and off-premise catering. Chef Walker also has worked with the Food Network and the continuing education department of AIA as an instructor. He currently is an instructor with Kennesaw State University’s Institute for Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality Management. Throughout this dinner, Chef Walker educated guests about the power of large-scale buying and supporting local farmers and food businesses. He also discussed how he provides a Southern fare for convention/meeting visitors and gala events.
The real treat was that we were provided a delicious six-course dinner paired with various wines and champagnes. I couldn't think of any better way to welcome fall. With the seasons changing, so does the menus. I'm always excited to try new fall favorites. And let's be honest, with fall already here and winter in the horizon, who doesn't love comfort food.
During this chef's dinner I enjoyed:
Ambuse Bouche Green Tomato Pie with Goat Cheese: Anything with goat cheese is a winner in my book. I am somewhat obsessed with the delightfully tart flavor of the cheese. So immediately I was very excited to try the bite-sized hors d'oeuvres.
Smoked Scallop Crudo Country Ham Fresno Chili, Celery and Grilled Peach!
This course was light and extremely fresh. The country ham used was aged for 400 days and the scallops were literally caught the previous day. The presentation was lovely and it tasted as good as it looked!
Nothing screams fall like soup and sandwiches. The charred carrot soup and baby grilled cheese and yogurt powder was by far one of my favorites of the evening. The soup had just the right amount of spice and grilled cheese sandwich was extra cheesy and grilled to perfection.
Southern Fried Quail with Buttermilk Pancake. Black pepper, sorghum vinaigrette apple and frisée.
I love quail. When asked how to describe quail, the best way I can would be to think of quail having a more assertive flavor than chicken, but I would say not nearly as the taste of duck. If you've ever had duck and liked it, don't worry about liking quail. You definitely will. If duck's too strong off a taste for you, quail may still be just what you may like. This quail was fried just right. The pancakes were topped with quail sorghum vinaigrette apple and the sauce around the plate was frisee. It was a great blend of hot and sweet.
Braised Rabbit and Sweet Potato Dumplings. Chicken and dumplings has always been a fall favorite. It is a popular comfort food dish, commonly eaten in the south and midwest. It's also attributed to being a French Canadian meal that originated during the Great Depression. Chef Nick's unique spin with rabbit and sweet potato dumplings was innovative and incredible. The rabbit was very tender and the sweet potato dumplings were sweet and slightly thicker than your typical dumplings. The dumplings reminded me of a gnocchi. The two combined were a match made in heaven.
Creole Catfish Pork Belly Cream Corn Roasted Red Pepper Harissa. What I liked most about this course was the creole spices. They were perfect! I mean, pan-seared catfish and pork belly? Heaven! The spicy seasoning really set the course above the rest. The creamed corn was southern, which meant it was extra thick and extremely creamy. The pork belly was cooked just the way I like it which is slighty crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
Vanilla and Ginger Blackberry Cobbler served with buttermilk gelato. When I first looked at this beautiful dessert, I thought how was I going to eat this? The dessert was so pretty. Eventually, I dived into the delicious warm vanilla ginger and blackberry cobbler topped with cold buttermilk gelato. I was a happy camper. The dessert wasn't too sweet. And it was very fulfilling.
Chef Nick is an amazing chef. When the dinner was over, I asked for the recipe for the charred soup. I like when the seasons change. However, I think I like the menus changing even more in the fall!