Tag Archives: beer

New Kid On The Block: Oak + Raleigh

Usually, I'd have a shot of the cafe or outside of the building to show the ambiance, but it was raining cats and dogs that night.

My beer!

With the weather warming up, patio season is fast approaching. This spring, one place I’ll be adding to my patio tour will probably be Homewood’s Oak + Raleigh. Though they’re still working on their patio, it should be a cool spot to hang out with a frosty beer on a warm day.

Nestled in the heart of West Homewood, Oak + Raleigh is a  combination of bar and deli. But don’t expect plain deli sandwiches or the usual five domestic beers — this neighborhood joint is trying to put itself on the map for its mixture of elevated deli cuisine, traditional bar snacks, and a wide-ranging selection of beers and wines, many of which are available for carry-out purchase.

The space inside is a whimsical blend of arcade, bar, and restaurant. They serve beer and wine only, but offer about 100 beers in cans and on draft and around 30 bottles of wine to go. Brock Owen, the bar manager, made some pretty cool beer suggestions throughout the evening — I started with the Bosteels Pauwel Kwak, a traditional Belgian ale served in a really, really cool glass. Adam began with the Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabazo, which was light and floral on the nose, with a pleasantly sour, well-balanced (and dry) body. Tasty.

Usually, I'd have a shot of the cafe or outside of the building to show the ambiance, but it was raining cats and dogs the night we ate there.

Usually, I’d have a shot of the cafe or outside of the building to show the ambiance, but it was raining cats and dogs the night we ate there.

On the food side, much of their produce is sourced from their owners’ garden, and what’s not is purchased as locally as possible. Despite the small kitchen, all of their pickles and pâté are made in house. While we were there, we started with the Pâté B&J. The texture was nicely varied, with crisp apple, crunchy bacon, and sweet fig jam setting off the creamy pâté.

IMG_1529Next up was the Pâté, Pigs, and Pickle, which combined the same pâté with salami, their house pickled veggies, and herb cream cheese spread. Once again, great texture. This plate contains a lot of food, so we ended up bringing some pickles home.

IMG_1532For our main courses, we stayed simple: I got the French Dip and Adam got the Cuban. Both were a step away from the ordinary: the French Dip sauce was a rich, delicious concoction of soy, worcestershire, butter, garlic, and cayenne. It’s also their best-selling sandwich, and it’s clear that the secret is in the sauce. Adam went so far as to name it the best au jus he’d had.

The Cuban was a pretty cool take on the traditional sandwich, which paired pork and chicken instead of different types of pork. The sides that came with the sandwiches were extremely varied: the loaded bacon potato salad was creamy and rich and the pasta salad was indulgent. But the broccoli and cauliflower salad stole the show: the roasted corn offset the texture of the broccoli, and the tiny bit of soy sauce in the dressing made it slightly salty.

Full disclosure: the bar manager, Brock, is a high school friend of my husband’s, and invited us to dine a couple weeks ago. I would’ve posted sooner, but we’ve had a lot of family stuff to attend to recently.

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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

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

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Outlining wet sidewalks in halogen

Photo from last Third Friday c/o Dave Phipps. I got distracted.

I visited Naked Art‘s new location for the first time earlier this year on a rainy February night. The gallery was open late for Microlove, their annual pre-Valentines Day show of local artists’ smaller works. That night, Adam and I spent more than an hour wandering the brightly colored hallways, sipping sangria, visiting with friends and befriending strangers.

Since that night, I’ve become a regular at their openings and special events. I’ve introduced several others to the monthly Third Friday in Forest Park and Avondale since then and taken them to visit this gallery and the beer, produce, wine tasting, boutiques and barbecue in the neighborhood.

With so many local venues participating, the featured sales and specials offer something for almost everyone. If you’re new to Birmingham or are a long-time resident, going to Third Friday is a great way to connect with a new and different crowd of people, to discover new parts of your community and support local businesses.

Today’s title comes from Passion Pit’s “Little Secrets.”

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Time out for mindfulness

Picture sourced from here.

With work and tutoring, writing and gift-making, all of my time between now and the holidays is already budgeted. Somewhere in there, I have to take some time to keep my mind clear so I can stay focused on my own goals and supportive of Adam’s. Therefore, my four small goals are centered around mindfulness:

1. Work out three times a week or more. I may not be participating in my gym’s holiday motivator because I don’t need more t-shirts, but I do need to make sure my body and brain are in shape to get through.

2. Read The Three Pillars of Zen. Touted as the American guide to zen Buddhism, this book will be a useful resource in learning to consciously practice mindfulness and happiness.

3. Cook more. Sourcing my food and drinks locally when possible allows me to be a better steward of my resources. Supporting local farmers and business owners helps build the Birmingham scene and help the economy.

4. Pare down my belongings. The less you own, the less you have to clean. I would like to get rid of one more box of stuff by the end of the year. The big, exciting Christmas gift I’ve asked for this year is a vacuum cleaner. It’ll cut the time required for cleaning sprees and the amount of dust left in my house. Thrilling, I know.

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Give thanks, y’all

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Abstract impressionist turkey

Last year, the list of things that make me thankful was scribbled on the cover page of a physics problem set along with my drawing of a turkey. This year, my list is even simpler.

I’m thankful for:
1. My family by blood. They might be 50 shades of crazy, but they raised me to be focus more on what I have and how much love is in my life.
2. Adam. My friend and partner holds me tight and keeps me (as) sane (as possible). He has phenomenal taste in people who have welcomed me with open arms.
3. My family by choice. I have a community of friends who’ve supported me through heartbreak and anger and celebrations. Their strength and love has been a true inspiration for healing and growth.
4. Social media. I’ve met many amazing people through Twitter, and Facebook allows me to keep connected to friends and family all over the world.
5. Beer. Birmingham’s craft beer scene has grown exponentially as I’ve watched, thanks in part to the work of Free The Hops. I have gotten to know many wonderful individuals in real life over beers in the city.
6. Bonfires. I’m pretty sure lighting fires within city limits is illegal, mmkay? Because it’s illegal, none of my friends would ever do that. Ever. Now that’s out of the way, some of my favorite memories are from my friends’ backyard snuggled into winter coats around a bonfire with a bowl of stew.
7. Photos. They add beauty and can remind you of people and places that would not be present in your life otherwise.
8. My tiny apartment. It’s not large, glamorous or tidy, but it’s weatherproof and feels like home.
9. Tutoring. I love this job, and getting the chance to relearn entire subjects is so much fun. Work-wise, only writing comes close to the satisfaction of watching my kids’ moments of discovery and comprehension.

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