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. 

This Rockwellian Life

Norman Rockwell, Portrait of John F. Kennedy Norman Rockwell's most reproduced works depict idyllic American family interactions. Until recently, I was almost convinced that these familiar paintings represented the totality of his talent and subject matter. The Birmingham Museum of Art hosted the Norman Rockwell’s America exhibit from Sep. 16-Jan. 6, and Adam and I made it out on the last day of the exhibit.

Boy, was I wrong. Though some of his works may be the basis for "traditional American values," many of these iconic images also demonstrate the artist's understanding of irony and sense of humor. When Rockwell turned his attention to the national and international rapid political and social change in the 1960s and 70s, his style also shifted. His new detailing techniques and slightly different color palette create a different type of emotional experience for the viewer.

His second portrait of John F. Kennedy stood out to me from the other works of this era. Painted on a dark canvas with reddish undertones, the contrast and outlines that don’t create his suit are done mainly in light shades. Rockwell’s loose brushstrokes and contrasting create a tension that mirrors Kennedy’s troubled expression. The shadowing around and on the subject’s face is deep, making him appear tired and older. This depiction emphasizes the difference between this and Rockwell's previous portrait of JFK.

This style is worlds away from most of the artist’s “Saturday Evening Post” covers. Though those pictures are technically perfect, the evocative use of color in this painting draws a completely different emotional response from the viewer.

To be honest, I would have missed the exhibit entirely if it wasn’t for the museum’s social media presence. The posts about upcoming events, giveaways and community involvement repeatedly piqued my curiosity about Rockwell’s work. Even two days later, the experience is still fresh in my mind.

Our world-class museum has hosted exhibits from very different backgrounds over the past few years. If you missed out on Normal Rockwell’s America, be sure to attend the next visiting exhibit. You never know what you’ll learn from the art until you experience it.