I’m still not entirely comfortable revealing to just anyone that I’m a food blogger. Sometimes it seems like a strange thing to bring up in conversation. So when dining with people I don’t know well, I skip my typical nerdy blogger routine, which includes photographing not only my food, but everyone’s at my table as well. This process is saved only for those “special” family and friends, who recognize my food obsession and tolerate me anyway.
When I went on a trip to Atlanta and Chattanooga recently for business, I somehow managed to restrain myself for most of our meals. Except for one. By the end of the three-day trip, I finally decided to throw caution to the wind and snap some pics for this blog post. (Who even has to know I’m taking pictures? That’s why the iPhone is the best camera ever – nobody needs to know you’re not texting or checking email!)
Somehow I knew the food was going to be amazing when we stepped into Alleia in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It started with the decor. Words that came to mind were dramatic, unexpected, and raw. Lots of exposed wood and concrete, plus every corner of the restaurant revealed something intriguing and new.
In case you can’t tell, what you’re looking at above is wax. I’m not sure how they accomplished this without burning the place down, but they did, and it was very cool.
I love an open kitchen; it adds an instant element of excitement to the dining experience. Makes you feel like you’re a part of things, even though you’re just sitting in the dining room. But I digress; onto the food. If you click on the menu below you will open a larger and more readable version.
I started with a martini (can’t remember all the ingredients, but the main flavor was coconut) and the grilled romaine salad.
This salad came highly recommended from our server, who revealed it is his favorite thing on the menu. It is difficult to imagine grilled lettuce tasting good, but somehow this works. Romaine is pretty tough, so it stands up to being charred on the grill quite nicely. The result is smokey, blackened greens with a ton of flavor. Accompanying elements included thinly sliced pears, stagionato (an Italian cheese with a mild nutty flavor not unlike Parmigiano Reggiano) and pancetta. This salad was to die for. It was so hearty that it was basically a meal in itself. The cheese was divine and provided the perfect compliment to the sweet pears and smokey lettuce and pancetta. Brilliant!
For dinner I ordered grouper, which turned out to be another great recommendation by the server. (Sometimes it pays to ask.) This particular dish is not on the menu shown above, but was described as “dayboat” grouper, which turns out to mean the fish has been caught and delivered to the restaurant within 24 hours. Since I miss out on good seafood in NE Ohio, I jumped on this one. Even though Chattanooga is still landlocked, this whole dayboat concept sounded promising. The grouper was prepared very simply on the grill, with sweet onions and capers. It was moist, tender, and delicious with al dente purple cabbage and seasoned redskin potatoes. Again, another palette pleaser with this dish.
When the dessert menus arrived, it seemed crazy not to look. I spotted the homemade gelato and knew it would be perfect ending to this meal. I was happy to learn that you can actually sample three different flavors in one dessert. I opted for chocolate, mixed berry, and peach. Awesome combination I created, if I may say. Oddly the peach was my absolute favorite – surprisingly light and refreshing.
Wow, it doesn’t get much better than this, people. If anyone is ever in Chattanooga, which happens to be a pretty cool little town by the way, you must get yourself down to Alleia for a very memorable dining experience. Ideal for date night or a special celebration.