WAHOO! GRILL WAS ahead of its time when it opened its doors 14 years ago in Decatur. Now anchoring a hub of commercial activity on West College Avenue, the restaurant led the charge to serve this once over looked area of the city. Before “eat local” was a hip slogan, Wahoo! Grill was supporting local farmers, butchers and the community.
Owner Pam Ledbetter expanded her vision four years ago when she partnered with Ski Peterson in opening Wahoo! Wine & Provisions featuring boutique wines complemented by local goods. With the restaurant and wine shop side-by-side, the Wahoo! experience can now be achieved by dining in or just stopping in for a special wine to pair with a holiday get-together or a quiet night at home. This is what the holidays taste like Many of the restaurant’s recipes, such as the fried chicken double brined in salt and buttermilk, have fans across the city. Ledbetter credits the restaurant’s success with Chef Scot Davis’s
PAIR UP FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Wines that win
Looking for that perfect wine for Thanksgiving or other special holiday meals? Peterson suggests two that will fit the holiday spirit:
White: Gotas de Mar is a crisp, Spanish white Godello with aromas of Granny Smith Apples and Anjou Pears
Red: White Hart, a Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia Highlands, consisting of distinctive red and black fruit flavors with a lovely texture
According to Peterson, these two wines pair well with most holiday dinners and are wonderful, inexpensive host gifts for the holidays. More wines and bubbles can be experienced at this year’s Holiday Wine Tasting where 30 to 40 varieties can be tasted on November 29th in Wahoo’s private garden.
Creative vision. For example, the butternut squash soup with mole spice (Ledbetter shared the recipe with Decatur Living – see adjacent) came to life after a local farmer delivered crates of squash.
Ledbetter praises Davis, Alsace’s former chef, as having an “exceptional palate and knows how to elevate even simple dishes.” The restaurant offers a seasonal menu and weekly features. Showcasing the fall menu is a kale salad with caramelized apples, squash, cranberries and pepitas, perfect for vegetarians or vegans. The cider brined pork chop with sweet potato fingerlings, collard greens and apple onion marmalade is sure to satisfy any meat lover.
The taste of Wahoo! Grill can also be had at home in November and December. Turkey dinners with three sides are available to skip the stress of meal planning and prep to focus on entertaining and connecting.
The scene for holiday fun
Building relationships and memories is part of the Wahoo! experience. Every year the restaurant hosts a Santa brunch, where families bring their children to celebrate the season with Old Saint Nick.
“It’s so much fun watching children in our community grow up,” says Ledbetter. Given the selection of wine and the expertise of the Wahoo! owners, it’s no surprise that wine tastings are a regular event on Wednesdays. It’s a unique experience where customers are seated at their own table and presented three wines paired with three small plates and as little or much information as requested.
According to Peterson, “Wednesday wine tastings are true culinary experiences that customers can tailor. If someone is well-versed in wine, he or she may not want a detailed description. But a novice may want more of an education.” Following the tasting, patrons are invited to stay for dinner or head to the wine shop for a bottle to take home.
For more information about the many events and offerings at Wahoo! Grill and Wahoo! Wine & Provisions, check out www.wahoogrilldecatur.com and www.wahoowine.com.
A TASTE OF WAHOO!
Butternut Squash Soup
with Mole Spice
by Pam Ledbetter
My kitchen staff and I created this dish at Wahoo! to utilize the crates of the local squashes our favorite farmer was bringing us. This recipe is great as a soup with a lime and cumin spiked sour cream or with roasted chicken tortillas and rice.
- 5 pounds winter squash, (butternut, acorn, calabaza) split, seeds and fibers removed
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 small onion thinly sliced
- 1½ ounces minced garlic
- 1 poblano roasted, pealed seeded
- Mole spice (mix together and set aside)
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoon chili powder (we make our own with a combination of morita, guajillo and ancho peppers)
- 2 teaspoon cloves, ground
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
- 2 teaspoon oregano
- 2 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoon sesame seeds
- ½ cup dark chocolate, chopped
- ½ cup raisins
- 2 whole corn tortillas
- 3 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place squash, cut side down, on a lightly oiled baking pan and bake until soft, about 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven and, when cool enough to handle, scrape flesh into a bowl. You should have about 4 cups of squash.
- Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, cook for 30 seconds, then stir in peppers, mole spice, chocolate raisins, tortillas, stock and squash. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium; continue simmering for about 20 minutes longer. Puree roughly with emulsion blender or hand masher (I prefer a little texture from the squash). Season to taste with salt and plenty of pepper.
- Fill a clean plastic squeeze bottle with sour cream and ½ juiced lime. Ladle soup into wide, heated bowls. Squeeze sour cream in a W shape (for Wahoo). Sprinkle on some toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve hot or at room temperature. You can use softened warm tortillas or crunchy corn chips for dipping and sopping up the soup.