Tag Archives: #BRW2015

Without the right spoon

At some point, you just end up breaking down and buying the damn grapefruit spoon. Photo credit

At some point, you just end up breaking down and buying the damn grapefruit spoon. Photo credit to Viacheslav Blizniuk

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.

 

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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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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.

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Second Helpings: Moe’s Original BBQ

A gift from Good People Brewing Co.

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

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

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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

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

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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. 

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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

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

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. 

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