Without the right spoon

At some point, you just end up breaking down and buying the damn grapefruit spoon. Photo credit Freelancing is a lot like eating a grapefruit without the proper spoon sometimes. It can be frustrating, barely rewarding, and energy consuming. Sometimes, it feels like you spend more energy trying to dig out just a little more fruit or juice with a blunt spoon. But once you've finally eaten the fruit and are squeezing the last drops of juice into your poorly paired spoon, you miss and spill the juice all over your shirt.

Or is that just me? Even better.

Over the past month, I've blogged my butt off for Birmingham Restaurant Week and been contacted by three different new clients. I've invoiced for more money this month than any other since I started freelancing full-time -- a welcome change after having to dip into my savings in July. Even with all of these things going right, I'm still trying to figure out how this writing thing will work going forward.

Several of the sections of my blog have gone on to become recurring paid columns. Cocktail of the Hour is now a regular part of my articles for mental_floss. I was blogging about health and fitness in exchange for personal training, but the gym has since closed. In the past, I'd used blogging to keep myself accountable as a writer or for my own health, but it hasn't stuck.

What I'd like to do is a weekly or monthly roundup post of what I did that week/month -- where I fell short, what frustrated me, and any victories. I'd love for my blog to be a place where I can focus on what I've done rather than leaving it in my head to loop endlessly through a montage of small victories and overwhelming obstacles. I can and will do this thing, and I will do it right. I hope.


Second Helpings: Slice

IMG_0787I love food. I love fixing it, eating it, and writing about it. After finding out that I would be one of the bloggers for this year's Birmingham Restaurant Week, I was excited for the excuse to eat all the food. But I was also extremely relieved to reach my last meal for BRW. Ain't it the truth

Slice is a great place to go for date night. Splitting a pizza, talking over a couple beers, enjoying either the AC or the patio -- there's not much that can beat it. Their Restaurant Week entrée is meant to be split, and it's enough food for even the hungriest couple. There are also a lot of different possible meals that can be put together since the meal is your choice of a salad, a pizza, and a dessert.

FullSizeRender (2)Adam and I chose the Summer Salad to start. This massive pyramid of watermelon, snap peas, tomatoes, feta, and peach vinaigrette brought together a lot of different flavors in a great was. The watermelon brought the cold sweetness, while the tomatoes and balsamic glaze added a bit of acid for balance. The feta rounded it out with a bit of fat and richness.

FullSizeRender (3)We decided on The Chilton. Almost every summer food I look forward to every year topped this pizza: braised pork shoulder, Chilton County peaches for sweetness, peppery arugula, well-cooked caramelized onions, and three types of cheese. All of it was topped off with a generous drizzle of balsamic glaze.

IMG_0786As the last dessert of BRW, we went with the salted butterscotch cheesecake drizzled with molasses. The texture was spot on: creamy and smooth, but not mouth-countingly fatty or sickly sweet. I'm not usually huge on butterscotch, but this worked for me. Adam and I spent the first few bites savoring it with lots of nodding, but without talking. The bit of saltiness balances any bitterness from the other ingredients (it's science), and made the filling's texture seem richer without adding weight.

While we were eating, the sun was getting lower. If we'd been on the main patio, we could've watched the sun set behind the Slice building, but we had places to be and things to write. Next time, we'll stay and watch.

For more Restaurant Week and Second Helpings coverage, check out the BRW website and James Martin's blog The Sipologist

Second Helpings: ROJO

FullSizeRender (1)At one point in my early adult life, Rojo was a line item in my budget. Almost every Wednesday, I went to play trivia in their side room. I'm not great at trivia itself, but I'm awesome at making up snarky and inappropriate non-answers. Even if we didn't win, we won a few things for being imaginative. FullSizeRender (6)They're also participating in Birmingham Restaurant Week's Second Helpings. Until the 29th, their BRW special meals are still available at the same price. Because it's still patio weather, we sat outside on theirs. It was packed out for Sunday brunch/lunch, and there was a line to order food for the entire time we were there.

FullSizeRender (8)Since Adam went with me, our two appetizers together covered six of the seven dips you can choose from for their appetizer. Queso is one of my favorite dips that exists, and Rojo's is classic and delicious. If you're in the mood for something a bit sweeter, the pineapple salsa is sweet without being spicy. The guacamole is also well-balanced, with a varied texture and just enough cilantro.

FullSizeRender (9)Out of the entrées, Adam and I both preferred the tomato and basil quesadilla to the tilapia sandwich. Tilapia isn't my favorite, so I'm a bit biased against it to start. I like the creamy sauce that comes with their mahi mahi tacos and this sandwich, but it didn't save the sandwich.

The quesadilla, on the other hand, was like a warm caprese salad between two tortillas. The cheese was creamy, with a nice acidity from the tomatoes and a bit of spice from the basil. With a touch of salsa and sour cream on the top, the variances in temperature and texture were tasty.

For more Restaurant Week and Second Helpings coverage, check out the BRW website and James Martin's blog The Sipologist.

Second Helpings: Moe's Original BBQ

A gift from Good People Brewing Co. During Restaurant Week, I've talked a lot about how fortunate I am to get to check out my friends's work. Believe it or not, Moe's Original Bar & BBQ (my tenth stop) was the second place I'd checked out that I didn't know anyone. But by the time Adam and I left, we'd made friends and are already planning to make their patio our hangout for football on Saturdays.

Located in a hundred-year-old house in Lakeview, Moe's is a bar-b-que joint with a thing for local beer. Though the night's music hadn't started yet, the continuing patio weather made their porch an easy choice. If it hadn't been for a late night Friday and Adam thinking about going for a run, we would probably would have hung out for longer over a beer or a Bushwhacker.

Daily drink specials

This year was their first time to be part of Restaurant Week. According to General Manager Cody Sellers, Moe's wanted to participate to get more involved with the community. "The atmosphere puts us in a different niche than a lot of other restaurants in town," he says. Out on the patio, it's definitely true -- with the swamp cooler going and a mild breeze, it almost felt like the beach.

Then the food came. One of my favorite things that I've had before is the Redneck Nacho plate. On its own, it's a full meal. The last time I had eaten it -- potato chips made in house and seasoned with dry rub, cheese, meat, jalapeño, and tomato topped with both red and white sauce -- was Sidewalk Film Festival 2013. Its name might not be my favorite, but it was as delicious as I had remembered.

IMG_0712Some Southerners might say that cornbread with sugar in it is cake, but I enjoy a bit of sweetness. It was toasted to a slight crunch, and was one of my favorite parts of the meal. Though the pork was delicious, I favored the turkey over the pork. It's well smoked, and drizzled with both red and white sauce. Paleo friends, rejoice: their meats and their slaw can be served without sauces. Another highlight was the wings. Before being fried, they're brined and then smoked with white oak (previously hickory). They're spicy, vinegary and all around tasty.

We also got to try all of the sides. All of them. Though they were all tasty, we did have a few favorites. The sweet potato casserole side was sweet and buttery and creamy with a bit of crunch from the nuts and corn flakes on top. The mac and cheese was creamy and rich, while the potato salad was creamy and refreshing. If you're feeling extra Southern, the collards are salty and meaty with a bit of acid.

IMG_0723In eating so much food, we wanted to get to the desserts, but we were both so full that we just couldn't. We ended up eating the leftovers and desserts for dinner. At that point, we figured out that the banana pudding is a tasty blend of fruit, baking spice, and vanilla. It's banana flavor is much milder than most others, but it's still very tasty. The Mississippi Mud Pie dessert is a delicious chocolate mousse with chocolate sauce and Oreos.

Moe's porch is a great place to hang out. It's obvious that their employees are passionate about their food: several different people told us about coming back to work after the Snowpocalypse a few years ago. The common thread was that they had missed the food so much during the storm that they came back and ate all of their favorite dishes in one sitting. Many of the employees have been there for years. Their passion shows -- in Sellers' words, "I just want guests to love this place as much as I do."

For more Restaurant Week and Second Helpings coverage, check out the BRW website and James Martin's blog The Sipologist

Birmingham Restaurant Week: Second Helpings

Clockwise, starting from top left: Rojo's appetizer sampler, Oscar's pepperjack chicken sandwich, Primeaux's bourbon cherry dark chocolate tiramisu, and Moe's Original BBQ's turkey, pork, and all the sides "But, Clair," you might say, "Why are you still posting about Birmingham Restaurant Week? It ended yesterday!" You'd be partially right since Restaurant Week itself ended yesterday. But 11 local eateries are extending their special menus until Saturday for a good cause. Called Second Helpings, this limited BRW extension gives people the chance to keep eating for a good cause. A portion of the proceeds from every meal purchased between now and Saturday at these locations will go towards to REV Birmingham's Urban Food Project's Farm to Corner Initiative.

During the ten original days of Restaurant Week, we bloggers managed to hit most of the Second Helpings participants. Links to reviews that have been published are included below.

Black Market Bar & Grill - Five Points South Chez Lulu (review is of the Continental Bakery DT menu) East 59 Café The Grill at Iron City Little Savannah Moe's Original BBQ - Lakeview Oscar's at the Museum Primeaux Cheese + Vino ROJO Silvertron Café Slice

For more Restaurant Week and Second Helpings coverage, check out the BRW website and James Martin's blog The Sipologist

Birmingham Restaurant Week: East 59 Café

IMG_0697East 59 Vintage & Cafe was founded in Eastlake as a place for community members to hang out, grab a cup of coffee, and check out their vintage offerings. I'm not usually able to work in coffee shops because of the music/friends/acoustics, but everything about this café was extremely laid back. When I got there, I was also surprised to see that the shop was quite full. It was on the early side -- about 11:30, but there was already a bit of a wait to get food. IMG_0692Their Restaurant Week lunch special, a grilled cheese with a side of tomato soup, was a grownup spin on a childhood favorite. The nostalgia was compounded by the use of American cheese and white bread, but the addition of cheddar and pepperjack added a touch of spicy heat. The cheese was pretty melty, and the bread was toasted to a light crisp.

The tomato soup was a bit heartier than I was expecting, but while I was eating, it started pouring down rain outside. As I've said before, rain makes me crave tomato soup, and Saturday was no exception. Unlike a lot of other soups, the tomato wasn't puréed into oblivion, so the texture was varied all the way through.

IMG_0699I was apprehensive about the white chocolate blueberry cookie since I'm not huge on white chocolate, but it was vanilla-y and not overly sweet. It fit perfectly with the trend of remaking childhood treats into grownup food, and seemed to be sized so that you could nibble on it for a quick treat at the end of the meal.

Though it's a bit out of the way, I'll probably be going back the next time I need to get out of the house and knock out some work. I'm also looking forward to poking around their vintage store, since there are very few things more satisfying than finding a one-of-a-kind piece to complete a room or wardrobe. With Counter Culture coffee and tasty looking pastries, who wouldn't?

Check out the Birmingham Restaurant Week website and James Martin's blog The Sipologist for more Restaurant Week coverage. 

Birmingham Restaurant Week: Vino

FullSizeRender (4)Outside of a few tiny sprinkles, Friday's night weather was pretty much perfect. It wasn't too hot or too humid, which made it ideal for spending time on porches and patios. Serendipitously, I had scheduled to eat dinner at Vino that night. Vino's patio is perched in English Village, which makes the patio prime people watching real estate. FullSizeRender (3)About 90 percent of it is in the shade, which means that you get a nice breeze without direct sun. Though it had been a pretty mild day, what was left of the day's heat was lingering, so we each started off with a glass of rosé. It was light and refreshing while still simple enough to pair well with pretty much everything they made.

Photo taken by Laura Foster

Since this meal made the tenth meal I've eaten out in nine days, I opted for the salad. The fruit was tart and fresh, and the sweet raspberry dressing was complemented by the candied walnuts. Laura got the butternut squash soup, which was creamy and rich in flavor but not very heavy.

IMG_0651Both of us got the Salmon Farfale entrée. Even though it wasn't too hot, the pork and chicken dishes looked a little bit heavier than what we wanted to eat at the time. The fish was light and cooked through, but not overcooked. The fresh spinach and tomatoes added some variety to the pasta's texture, and the capers gave it a bit of saltiness. The portions are generous, and I had enough to bring home for Adam to snack on.

IMG_0671Picking a dessert was a tough call. I went with the key lime cheesecake because I (foolishly) thought it would be the lighter option. The cheesecake was delicious, and the limes' tartness came through without being bitter. Since I love desserts' crusts as much or more than the filling, I was glad to find that the graham cracker crust was crisp and fresh.

Photo taken by Laura Foster

Laura went for the apple fritters, which were fried until the outsides were crispy and the insides were still fluffy. The slices of apple and vanilla ice cream contrasted the fritters' temperature and sweetness, rounding it out well. I've had a lot of overly crispy or just plain bad fritters in my time, and this was definitely a highlight in that category.

The next time there's a mild, breeze night, I'll be sorely tempted to revisit this patio. Few things are better in life than people watching with a friend and a glass of rosé, and sometimes you just need to take the time to enjoy life like that.

Check out the Birmingham Restaurant Week website and James Martin's blog The Sipologist for more Restaurant Week coverage. 

Birmingham Restaurant Week: MELT

That farmhouse ale though. Sometimes, life is hard for all the right reasons. I've eaten a lot during Restaurant Week, but as much as James and I joked about doubling up meals to boost the number of places we could cover, I didn't imagine I'd actually do it. Then Adam got invited to Dinner Lab for the same night I'd made plans to go to MELT. So, I did what any rational food lover would do and decided to eat two dinners.

I first heard about MELT when it was a food truck. After a hot yoga class at the Yoga Circle, I treated myself to a Mac n Cheese grilled cheese. Whether it was the yoga high or just the sandwich's deliciousness, I've been hooked ever since. When they opened in Avondale, I was stoked. Though I don't eat out often, I end up at MELT pretty often for lunch meetings. Pro tip: for the lactose intolerant folks out there, they have vegan cheese for the burger. Even with the fake cheese, it's tasty.

I'm partial to sitting at the bar because the bartenders are awesome (hi, Stephanie!). After my happy hour cocktail, Janice recommended a basil farmhouse ale for me to try. It was light, but still had a bit of kick from the basil. At the bar, you also get a show from the open kitchen. I don't mean witty banter, I mean a full-fledged show. While we were there, the kitchen serenaded us with ballads about cheese, fries, and cheesy bread.

IMG_0583Their Restaurant Week menu played to their strengths. I started with the tomato basil soup, a creamy mixture with just a touch of spice from the basil and a bit of richness from the olive oil garnish on top. Although I hated canned tomato soup as a kid, I've come to love it as a rainy day food as an adult. This soup was exactly what I was looking for after the solid five minutes of rain we'd had earlier in the day.

IMG_0594To experience MELT's offerings fully -- and to revisit an old favorite -- I ordered the tomato salad and Haley ordered the mac 'n cheese grilled cheese. I would say I was trying to eat more vegetables, but really I just wanted to try the salad before it wasn't available any more. The basil aioli brought together the spicy basil with the depth and creaminess of the aioli. This balanced the acid from the tomatoes while pulling together the flavors of the corn, black beans, and bacon.

FullSizeRender (2)Even though I was headed directly from this dinner to the pop up, I still ate about one-third of  Haley's grilled cheese. It's creamy, crunchy, salty, and just nice, something we in the South call stick-to-your-arteries good. With fries, it's a meal fit for the coldest of winter days or their hungriest summer counterparts. Though we polished off the tomato salad, there were some fries left after we had both eaten our fill.

It's a lot of food, especially if you get a sandwich. It's well-crafted, indulgent food that lives up to its name. It melts in your mouth and on your plate, and will satisfy even the deepest craving for something cheesy and delicious.

Check out the Birmingham Restaurant Week website and James Martin's blog The Sipologist for more Restaurant Week coverage. 

Birmingham Restaurant Week: Primeaux Cheese + Vino

IMG_0548After thinking about Primeaux for a while -- and if you taste their cheese plate, you'll be thinking about it too -- I've come to the realization that it wasn't what I was expecting. They're located out at the Summit, but aren't in a ridiculously large space. Both their food and wine are top-notch, but none of it is pretentious. Considering the people involved, I shouldn't be too surprised. Full disclosure: Chef Cory Bolton, his wife (!!!) Ashley AKA Primeaux's pastry chef, Sous Chef Grayson Taft, and Front of House Manager Melissa Pickering, all worked with my husband at Ocean. They're friends, and they know their shit, so it's not too surprising that my friend Taylor and I had a fantastic meal.

That freaking rosé. Can I have some more?

To start the meal, I ordered the budget-friendly rosé. With summer still in full swing, rosé is one of my favorite ways to cool down. It was dry with a nice bit of acid and a mineral-rich finish, which you may have guessed is what I like in wine. After a bit, Melissa replaced that with a glass of the Domaine Gueneau Sancerre Rosé which was exactly what I wanted but didn't know I wanted. Trust your servers, bartenders, and industry friends, y'all.

IMG_0545The apps came next. I started out with the charcuterie and cheese board, while Taylor chose the crabmeat cheesecake.* For the Restaurant Week version, they scaled it down to be closer to a single portion. Cured meat and cheese are two of my very favorite things, and the speck (a type of prosciutto) and salami were on point. Then there was the cheese. Oh my goodness, the cheese.

IMG_0558The cheese board itself included tastes of D'Affinois and a slightly firmer cheese, but Cory also let us taste the sottocenere di tartufo, a soft cheese made from raw cow's milk that had pieces of black truffle. Ridiculously good. I was enjoying the food enough that I forgot to take the photo until after a couple pieces had been eaten. Oops!

Taylor's appetizer was a riff on a crab cake. Instead of adding new ingredients to simple crab cakes, the crabmeat was worked into a rich, savory cheesecake with a pecan crust. It was rich, but the crabmeat was tender without being rubbery. It was also so good that both of us were discussing the likelihood of the existence of an entrée-sized version of the dish.

FullSizeRender (15)We'd both ordered the Cubano as our main course. Like the cheesecake, it's also a riff on a classic dish. It's pretty much cheese, housemade pickles, and spicy mustard with as much meat as can be physically stuffed into a sandwich, but it's done intentionally, and it shows. This sandwich is not a traditional Cuban sandwich, nor is it meant to be, but it hits all the notes of what you want a sandwich to be.

IMG_0559To finish, we had two desserts. The lemon icebox pie isn't on their Restaurant Week menu, but the well-spiced crust set off the tart and sweet filling just right. To be honest, I barely touched the pie because I was too busy contemplating and devouring the bourbon cherry dark chocolate tiramisu. At many other places, desserts flavored with bourbon use it very subtly. This dessert is bourbon-forward, with the tangy whole cherries and dark chocolate flavors filling out the flavor of the light, fluffy cake and rich filling.

With great food, better friends, and an excellent wine selection, I'll be back for more. Who wouldn't?

*These appetizers are available at both lunch and dinner. The Cubano is part of the lunch menu, not the dinner menu, and the desserts are only on the dinner menu.

Check out the Birmingham Restaurant Week website and James Martin's blog The Sipologist for more Restaurant Week coverage.

Birmingham Restaurant Week: Ocean

IMG_0506Two weeks ago, I told Adam that I was taking him on a date to a mystery location during Restaurant Week. Although he had worked at Ocean for four-and-a-half years, he had never gotten to eat there as a guest. It was entirely a surprise until an hour and 45 minutes before our reservations, but that's a story for another day. I've eaten at Ocean a few times when Adam misfired (accidentally ordered) something and once as a guest. After meeting Adam's restaurant family over the years, it was awesome to get to treat him to a meal. And what a meal. As a heads up, this post will be longer than most others since Adam and I ate the entire Restaurant Week menu. All of it.

FullSizeRender (13)Apparently the restaurant has recently switched over to bread from Birmingham Breadworks. We got to try some of the crostini and some of the Breadworks baguettes with a ramekin of olive oil and parmesan. While we were still working on the bread, the appetizers came out. The first one I tried, the papa à la pomodoro, was a rustic tomato soup. The garlic and basil added a bit of depth and spice, and as Adam said, it was like a texture-rich gazpacho.

Photo credit to Adam Evans.

Adam's first app, the beet salad, combined a lot of different ingredients to craft a much more complex dish. Both the golden and red beets were earthy, and golden beets gave it a bit of sweetness. The blood orange and avocado oil drizzled on top was a nice counterpoint to the beets' earthiness, while the dried kalamata olives gave it a tidge of saltiness. The goat cheese and candied pecans added creaminess and crunch, respectively, and rounded out the dish in a lovely way.

FullSizeRender (12)When the main course was served, I started with the salmon while Adam gave the snapper the first treatment. The salmon's risotto set (what was served with the fish) was buttery and creamy, and the bit of peach bar-b-que sauce was both sweet and tangy. But the fish itself was cooked to a perfect mid-rare, which made it the perfect counterpoint to the creamy set.

FullSizeRender (9)Adam's snapper was more of traditional Southern comfort food. The succotash that went along with the fish was a comforting mix of fresh summer vegetables. The snapper was mild, and the tastes blended almost perfectly. I had no trouble finishing the rest of the dish even though I was already full of bread and appetizer. We each got a different white wine -- Adam's was really close to the one I drank at Satterfield's. Mine was slightly less acidic, but paired quite nicely with the fish.

FullSizeRender (11)Then came dessert. The fig and cipollini tart wasn't the dessert I was most excited to try, but it was quite different from others I'd experienced during Birmingham Restaurant Week. The bruléed figs that were served with the tart were amazing -- the sugar on them was crisp, and the fruit itself was tender. Though the figs were the dominant element, the onion flavor came through in the second half of the flavor of the tart. The texture was quite lovely, and the flavor combination was unique.

After dinner, we headed to Octane for Daiquiri/Gimlet?/Daiquiri night to round out our tour of previous employers and to see some friends who had headed that way. If anything could round out a night perfectly, that was it.

Check out the Birmingham Restaurant Week website and James Martin's blog The Sipologist for more Restaurant Week coverage. 

Birmingham Restaurant Week: Oscar's at the Museum

FullSizeRender (8)Oscar's at the Museum is one of my favorite places to grab lunch. If I'm with a friend or by myself, it gives me a good excuse to wander around the Birmingham Museum of Art after I finish my meal. As with most places (for food or art), I don't make it out there as often as I'd like. When I saw that Oscar's was participating in Restaurant Week for a third year in a row, adding them to my list was an easy choice. I've wanted to see the "Rising Up," the Hale Woodruff mural exhibit that's in town, and this was my chance. It's awesome, incidentally.

So was the food. Since this is the week of visiting all my restaurant friends, I got to see Caitlin and Audrey during my time at Oscar's (hi guys!). It was a rainy afternoon, so I wanted something a bit heavier than what I might normally get. Though the fish taco and salad combination looked delicious, the pepperjack chicken sandwich with fries looked to be more filling.

The choice was definitely worth it. Even if my diet didn't consist of "Hey, that looks tasty, I'm eating it," I probably would have sprung for the chicken sandwich anyways. According to Executive Chef Christopher Cobb, they had only offered fish dishes for the past three years and wanted to mix up their offering with tacos and something completely different. His sous chef brought this sandwich this him, and it was delicious enough that it has stuck around.IMG_0480

Though I bolted down a good portion of the sandwich more quickly than is probably healthy, it was good. The grilled chicken gave a slight spice, white the creamy red pepper aioli and pepperjack cheese gave it a bit of richness and more spice. The bacon gave a further hint of smokiness (and, let's be honest, was a huge part of my choice). With the crispy, zesty fries as a side, it was exactly what I needed to get through the rain.IMG_0487

Then came the pie. Oh my goodness, the pie. The filling was light and airy and creamy. Drizzled underneath was a bittersweet lemon sauce, and the whole thing was topped with a goodly dollop of whipped cream. As a whole, it wasn't as overpoweringly bitter or sweet as some of the icebox pies I've had in the past. I ate until I couldn't, and the took the rest home for my husband.

Check out the Birmingham Restaurant Week website and James Martin's blog The Sipologist for more Restaurant Week coverage. 

Birmingham Restaurant Week: Continental Bakery DT

IMG_0457 This week, I'll be eating with people rather than by myself. I love being able to taste, have quiet, and take in the atmosphere at a restaurant, but I love the community that surrounds food. Making it, sharing it, eating it -- all are a regular part of my interactions with my friends. It's how Adam and I started dating, is part of how/what we barter for, and for me, a way to cement friendships.

Today, I'll be eating at Oscar's at the Museum for lunch. Dinner will be a date night (with a surprise location) for my husband. Yesterday, a friend and I went to Continental Bakery Downtown for lunch. It's only the second time I've been in there in the year and change that they've been open, but the decor is still warm and welcoming.

The Restaurant Week menu was entirely light and refreshing, perfect for a meal on the patio. The entrée and dessert were largely in the style of Alice Waters, offering Old World-style cuisine in a New World setting.

IMG_0466I started with the salad because I was craving veggies -- after a couple days of Restaurant Week under my belt, I'm trying to eat salads everywhere I can. The balsamic reduction on the greens was slightly tangy, with the toasted almonds adding a bit of fat to cut the vinegar's acid. Figs added a nice sweetness to add to the crunch of the greens.

The accompanying tuna-filled tomato was fresh. The tuna mixture inside was a chilled mixture of salty olives, zucchini, and fish. All of it was crispy and fresh -- two things good for a sweltering summer afternoon.

IMG_0473But when it comes down to it, the highlight of the meal was the dessert. Like the entrée, it was light and perfect for a summer's day. Since I was little, I've loved pie crust, sometimes as much as (or more than) what's the in the pie.

The ricotta, topped with a honey and lavender mixture, provided a richness and depth to the dish. Seared figs, which were caramelized quite nicely, added sweetness, and the blueberries gave the whole a bit of tanginess and a slight crunch to round out the dish.

So far, Restaurant Week has been an adventure into new restaurants and styles of cooking. I've visited Satterfield's and BYOB, and can't wait to see what else lies in store.

Check out the Birmingham Restaurant Week website and James Martin's blog The Sipologist for more Restaurant Week coverage. 

Birmingham Restaurant Week: Satterfield's

Hi, J! One of the biggest reasons I've been excited to blog about food for Restaurant Week is finally getting to visit places where my friends work. Several of my friends from various points in my life are part of the team at Satterfield's. I was lucky enough to have one of them (hi, Lucky!) as my server for the evening.

When I was looking up info on BYOB's lunch offering, I also checked out the Satterfield's menu. Though I was torn between the two apps and the two entrées, the dessert option had me daydreaming all day. After traveling to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail last month, I was excited to get some beignets in my life again.

FullSizeRender (5)But before dessert, there were two other courses. For the first, I chose the cold corn soup. The rich texture and nutty taste were offset by a slight spice that built a bit with every bite. The corn was sweet, and the Arbequina olive oil garnishing the soup added a lovely richness.

Since I was seated at the chef's counter, I had a wonderful view of the kitchen at work. I got to see both the tile fish and the Fudge Family Farms pork entrées being prepared, and both looked absolutely delicious.


Although the Restaurant Week cocktail sounded tasty, I was more in the mood for a glass of wine. Lucky set me up with an awesome glass of dry white wine that carried a nice acidity and minerality. It was absolutely perfect to cut the richness of the first two courses.

When it came down to it, I chose the pork. When I started eating, I immediately found it was a great choice. From the first bite, it was creamy with a slight crunch from the vegetables. The tomatoes' texture was still spot on, even after their time in the pan, and provided a lovely acidity that balanced the sauce's creaminess.

FullSizeRender (7)But the pork was the real showstopper. After it's added to the pan, the sauce cooks down with the meat and the flavors merge. By the time it's served, it's so tender it almost melts into the sauce. I ate all of it, and if the beignets weren't coming, I would've tried to get more of the pasta and vegetable mix -- it was that good.

Last but not least was the beignets. They were fried to a slightly crispy perfection and coated with sugar. The peaches were still fresh and sweet, and with the homemade vanilla ice cream were the perfect accompaniment for the fried delights. You'll probably get tired of my saying this, but Adam and I will be back here for some sort of special occasion. And if you want to eat from this menu, make your reservations now: Satterfield's isn't open on Sundays.

Check out the Birmingham Restaurant Week website and James Martin's blog The Sipologist for more Restaurant Week coverage. 

Birmingham Restaurant Week: BYOB

The back wall Yesterday I made my first stop as a Birmingham Restaurant Week blogger. In preparation, I've been drinking lots of water and trying (and mostly failing) to exercise every few days. I've also been struggling with how best to cover Restaurant Week while also treating my service industry friends well.

Though it's a fantastic, budget-friendly way to try out some of the best places in town, it's also a very difficult time for the people who work there. So if you eat out this week, make reservations, dress appropriately, and be on time. More importantly, be patient, be kind, and FOR THE LOVE, TIP WELL. It's your server's primary source of income, and prices are lower than normal, so be generous. </rant>

My first stop on Friday was for lunch at BYOB. Their name, which stands for "Build Your Own Burger" and "Birmingham's Years of Bands," is decorated entirely with photos of local musicians and memorabilia. Only local music played during service, and while I was there, I took a trip down memory lane listening to Wild Sweet Orange.

Then the food came out. Between the burger and the tots, the portions are large enough to satisfy even the hungriest guest. First came the cheesy tots. IMG_0425

Topped with garlic, cheese, cilantro, queso, scallions, and ghost pepper cheese, the tater tots were rich with a slight spice while still maintaining their crunch. I couldn't stop eating them. I may have spoiled my appetite for the burger.

FullSizeRender (3)And then there was the Topper Price burger. Highlights include the lemon aioli, 1/2 pound patty, and crisp veggies. It's rich and satisfying, and even though I ate a very early lunch, I didn't get hungry between then and dinner.

Adam and I will be coming back for brunch. Prices are extremely reasonable on their regular menu, and they had chicken posted waffles as their brunch special -- one of our favorites.

Check out the Birmingham Restaurant Week website and James Martin's blog The Sipologist for more Restaurant Week coverage. 

Restaurant Week is here!

The BRW Preview Party sold out! Last night, I was so excited for the start of Birmingham Restaurant Week that I had a bit of trouble sleeping. This year, I'm one of the two bloggers burdened with the glorious purpose of covering as many participating restaurants as possible.

Over the next 10 days, I get to eat a lot of fantastic food. Restaurants all over the city are offering prix fixée menus for $10, $15, $20, or $30 for lunch and/or dinner. A bargain and a great meal? Yes please!

I also get the chance to experience and chronicle my service industry friends' work. As much as I will enjoy doing it, I'm also a bit nervous about making sure that the descriptions of what they're doing are accurate and fully represent their work. No pressure, right?

Today, I visited BYOB for lunch and will be headed to Satterfield's for dinner. Before Restaurant Week, I hadn't eaten at either, so it'll be a great chance to try new things. On the 12th (A.K.A. last Wednesday), the Summit Club hosted the sold out Birmingham Restaurant Week Preview Party. Some of the highlights are included below, but I didn't take pictures of all of the tasty food I ate at the event.

Rusty's Bar-B-Que's ribs: amazingly tender ribs with their tangy, slightly sweet vinegar sauce. Also sampled: their sweet, spicy, and white sauces.

Rusty's Bar-B-Q's ribs: amazingly tender ribs with their tangy, slightly sweet vinegar sauce. Also sampled: their sweet, spicy, and white sauces.

Dixie Fish Co. brought a Piña Colada Cake. Their chef, Rick Trent III (or BB, as I know him), wanted something that "tasted like summer."

Dixie Fish Co. brought a Piña Colada Cake. Their chef, Rick Trent III (or BB, as I know him), wanted something that "tasted like summer."


Slice's bites: thinly sliced watermelon radishes topped with goat cheese, candied pecans (I think), and greens.

The Pantry by Stone Hollow Farmstead brought their A-game with ginger snaps topped with chocolate chevre and candied lemon rind (right) and flatbread topped with soft cheese, caramelized onions, and local tomatoes (left).

The Pantry by Stone Hollow Farmstead brought their A-game with ginger snaps topped with chocolate chevre and candied lemon rind (right) and flatbread topped with soft cheese, caramelized onions, and local tomatoes (left).

Regretfully not pictured: a delicious Krispy Kreme bread pudding from a source I will have to track down and some spicy authentic Thai food.