Century House Tavern has long been high on my restaurant bucket list. The reviews from trusted informers were overwhelming affirmative. I’m also quite cognizant of the impressive resume of Executive Chef and Partner Daniel Porubiansky — previously the Executive Chef at Bacchanalia, which is almost unanimously recognized as one of the elite and often acknowledged as the premier restaurant in Atlanta. Before that, he studied and worked under Guenter Seeger, a Michelin-starred chef, at the Dining Room at Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead.
Twice specific plans to go were thwarted by Marcia Brady Syndrome — something suddenly came up. When my austere bosses at ScoopOTP forwarded an invitation to Century House’s James Beard Foundation Dinner, I knew the time had come.
Beard is a legendary cookbook author and television personality. The James Beard Foundation Awards are in short, the restaurant Oscars. Only the most accomplished chefs are invited to cook at the James Beard Foundation House. Porubiansky was worthy of this nobility. When I had the opportunity to the special dinner in which the celebrated chef would duplicate the meal he served to the most exclusive audience, it was one of the easiest decisions of my life. I’m no VIP, but I’ll happily play one on the computer for that.
I wore long pants, an ironed (okay steamed) shirt with buttons and everything. Miracles happen. The good news is Century House, like the town of Woodstock in which is resides, is quite casual. The dress code may be a far cry from Porubiansky’s Dining Room at Ritz-Carlton days, but no doubt Seeger would be enormously impressed with what his protégé is plating, even if less pleased than I am with the conspicuously absent monkey suits among patrons.
So, what did I love? It’s unequivocally a compliment, not an evasion, to say everything — literally the whole kit and caboodle. The Beard Foundation menu, as anticipated, leaned more toward the fine dining than the full restaurant menu, but both have ample options for the venturesome (raises hand) and more conservative palate (meaning I can take my wife).
From Century House’s current menu, I adored the foie gras torchon, a popular French delicacy pate. Perhaps a future seasonal menu will include the equally luscious tuna tartare. Porubiansky’s adaptation with radishes is competitive with many beloved versions I’ve sampled in both sushi and more traditional restaurants. And I’ve had many over the years.
Let’s talk about the pan roasted halibut and the side dish, that in a peculiar way may be the best testament to the magnetism of Woodstock’s top restaurant. Cooked perfectly with minimal supplemental flavoring, allowing the top-shelf fish to shine, it is tough to find an imperfection with this dish. There are only a few food items I generally despise, but sweet potatoes are on that short list. Yet somehow Porubiansky pulled off the impossible. I was craving more of his sweet potato puree, surely the greatest sweet potato anything in the history of mankind.
Hopefully Porubiansky will have enough faith in the daringness of Woodstock patrons to have his beef cheek goulash with potato dumpling on the regular menu soon. True Woodstock is not (at least yet) the dining mecca that Roswell and Alpharetta, and of course Atlanta before that, have become. But this dish is too awe-inspiring to reserve just for city slickers.
Chicken breast is generally the most mundane of meats and poultries. However, Georgia’s own Springer Mountain Chicken is unquestionably the best supplier in this region with their all-natural bird. Fed only pesticide-free grains and fresh mountain water, Springer Mountain is the option of most of the premier local chefs. Our white meat was pan-seared with thigh rillette schnitzel, proving even chicken breast can be sumptuous when the finest craftsman prepares with the premier supplier.
It took too long for me to finally confirm the hype, but I shall return, likely as often as I can drive west. I dream of duck leg confit, Jack & Coke glazed pork belly, and the tempting charcuterie board. But heck, the Reuben with beef brisket pastrami is screaming for me.
CHT met my high expectations. The least surprising part of the night is that it most reminds me of Roswell’s Foundation Social Eatery. FSE’s chef/owner Mel Toledo is an alumnus of Century House. Their cooking style and talents are very similar.
Nestled in a century-old house, Woodstock has a destination-worthy restaurant led by an accomplished chef and its name is Century House Tavern.
Thank you to Jennifer Carter of I love Downtown Woodstock for her beautiful pictures.