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: 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.