What a weekend! While the rest of the country is locked down in ice and snow, our little pocket of the southeast has luckily gotten away with only being colder than normal. So we decided to take advantage of that fortuitous weather and headed to Atlanta to see the Louvre exhibit at the High Museum since the Squad won’t be taking a trip to Paris anytime in the foreseeable future. But where should we eat in Atlanta?
Papa and I have both read and enjoyed Cornbread Nation 1, a collection of writings on Southern food. One of the entries that stood out for both of us was the story of Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. Scott presents his versions of Southern classics at his restaurant, Watershed, in Decatur, GA, a suburb of Atlanta. This was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
Papa and I believe that you really can’t judge a restaurant on just a single visit, and sacrifices must be made for the benefit of our loyal reader(s?), so we decided to go all out and try all three menus at Watershed: lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.
We began our Watershed experience with lunch before the museum. We started with the creamy stone-ground shrimp grits and Pullman plank. The grits were smooth and thoroughly infused with rich shrimp flavor. The Pullman plank was a huge slab of toasted fresh bread. The combination of the two was pure comfort food bliss. I can’t think of anything I would rather eat on a cold winter day.
We didn’t want to fill up too much to enjoy the museum exhibit, so we each chose a sandwich for lunch. Squirrelly, Jr., picked a grilled country ham and cheese sandwich. The ham was deliciously salty and the melted cheese pulled into perfect strings with each bite. We had a very happy boy. I ordered the oft-maligned pimento cheese sandwich. Watershed’s pimento cheese is obviously and wonderfully made fresh, and the bread was a perfect balance between soft enough to melt in the mouth but tough enough not to get soggy from the cheese filling. As my mother says, “Oh, I just love pimento cheese!”
Papa chose the garlic and thyme roasted pork sandwich with fig conserve, fresh cheese and Dijon mustard. The bread was butter-toasted, the pork was tender and succulent, the figs were sweet and rich, and the cheese and Dijon gave a perfect touch of sharpness to the whole thing. We shared a side order of perfect French fries and absolutely wonderful new potato salad with sour cream and bacon. We decided not to have dessert in the interest of staying awake for art. Besides, we’d be back for dinner in just a few hours.
We planned an early supper so that we could surprise Teh Boy with a show at the Center for Puppetry Arts. Luckily, we spent our time between meals walking in the museum and then at the Carter Center, so we were able to work up our appetites for dinner.
We started the meal with butter bean hummus with crudites and homemade pita. The warm, soft pita and rich, smooth hummus were a perfect combination. Teh Boy was not particularly fond of the hummus, but he enjoyed the pita and devoured the olives and fresh cheese from the crudites. As Papa put it, “That hummus even makes cucumbers taste good.” I paired my meal with a wonderful Riesling that complemented the smoothness of the hummus beautifully. We also shared the salad special: local lettuces wilted with hot bacon dressing. The lettuces were tender and perfectly wilted and the dressing was a perfect balance of sweet and savory. We all enjoyed it.
Teh Boy chose beef Stroganoff for his entree. That’s one of his favorites at home, but I’m afraid that Watershed’s put mine to shame. Teh Boy was presented with a huge bowl of noodles drenched in a rich, beefy sauce with wild mushrooms and tender bites of meat. He ate as much as he could hold and then took the rest back to the hotel to finish off before bed. And he really did finish it off! I’m not sure where he put it.
I decided on the roast duck breast with sauteed greens and whipped sweet potatoes. At medium temperature, the duck was perfect. The meat was tender and juicy, and the skin was crisp and well-seasoned. The sweet potatoes were light and fluffy without being too sweet. The greens of the day were Brussels sprouts. Papa and I have never been sprouts fans. We’ve even tried to make them ourselves to see if we could make them into something that we would like. Where we failed, Watershed succeeded. I would eat those Brussels sprouts any time. Other than the sprouts, Teh Boy would have taken my meal in a heartbeat. I’m not sure he would have traded his for it, though. I think he might have just gotten really greedy. I couldn’t blame him at all.
Papa couldn’t resist the vegetable plate. It was a perfect garden bounty. There were savory whipped rutabagas, perfectly cooked Lima beans, crispy fried cauliflower, divine collard greens, zesty roasted tomatoes, and braised cabbage served with a wedge of rich, moist cornbread. I could be a vegetarian easily with vegetables like those around. Papa’s only complaint was that the cornbread was too moist to crumble into his greens. Teh Boy and I made sure that there wasn’t any of it left for him to worry about.
Then it was time for dessert. Teh Boy’s choice was quick and easy: cookies and milk. It was exactly what it sounds like: a plate of hot, fresh chocolate chip cookies with a nice cold glass of milk. Papa decided on the Very Good Chocolate Cake. It was better than very good. The cake was rich and moist with dark chocolate frosting that was only barely sweet. Teh Boy and I aren’t really big chocolate eaters, but we both loved that. Papa had to keep his guard up to keep his cake. Not that I wasn’t busy with my own dessert. I chose the apple crisp: tart Granny Smith apples with a sweet, buttery crumb topping covered in vanilla custard. It was as absolutely perfect as the rest of the meal.
However, the pinnacle of our evening was yet to come. We asked our server if they had any signed copies of Scott and Edna’s book, The Gift of Southern Cooking. She checked and came back to tell us that they were out of signed copies, but Scott was there, and she was sure he would come out and sign one for us personally. And he did! We were one thrilled Squad o’ Squirrels.
After a night of blissful sleep with full bellies, it was time to get together and head back to Memphis. Of course, we couldn’t head back home on empty stomachs. So we headed to Watershed for Sunday brunch.
We started our breakfast by sharing a bread basket of homemade English muffins, biscuits, and brioche served with butter, raspberry preserves and orange marmalade. It was a perfect start to a perfect breakfast. Next, we shared a Toad in the Hole, an egg fried in a griddle-toasted Pullman plank. Teh Boy can’t wait to try to make that at home. For my entree, I chose the creamed spinach with country ham bits, corn griddle cakes and poached eggs. Papa went for the chicken hash with corn griddle cakes and poached eggs. Those griddle cakes took me right back to breakfast with my grandfather. He called them flapjacks, and they were one of my favorite breakfast foods. Paired with the eggs, spinach and hash, they were delicious. Teh Boy chose the country style ham steak with red-eye gravy, grits, eggs and biscuits. He got a huge plate of food. Teh Boy is not a coffee drinker, but even he liked the red-eye gravy. Papa and I enjoyed trying to help him finish the food that wouldn’t fit in him.
The stars of the meal for Papa and me were the beverages. I chose steamed milk with honey. It was a perfect warm drink for a winter morning. Teh Boy is planning to start getting up early during the week so that he can make it for himself every morning. Papa selected the coffee milk. One sip and we were both five years old again. For those not familiar with it, coffee milk is a blend of equal parts of very sweet coffee with cold milk. It was both Papa’s and my introduction to coffee courtesy of our respective grandmothers. Teh Boy thought he might even learn to like coffee if he had coffee milk all the time.
For the squad to award four acorns, every detail of a restaurant experience has to come together perfectly. Service, atmosphere and food have to leave nothing to be desired and no aspect that we would even think about changing. Watershed earned four acorns. Now the only question is when we’ll get to go back.
Watershed — Moved
406 West Ponce de Leon Avenue
Decatur, Georgia 30030
Monday – Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Sunday Brunch 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.