Tag Archives: food

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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Winter Restaurant Week: Galley & Garden

IMG_1411Winter Restaurant Week has been a seriously nostalgic time for me. Yesterday, I visited Galley & Garden for the first time for lunch. Six years ago, my first experience with Birmingham Restaurant Week happened in the same building when it was called The Veranda.

Since I was last inside right before they closed for renovations, lunch gave me the chance to marvel at all the changes in the building. A window into the kitchen really lit up the bar area, and the whole space seemed lighter. That’s not even to mention great service (thanks, Max!), and really good food.

IMG_1406As for the meal itself, the Faroe Island salmon was the first up. Accompanied by a lightly dressed butter lettuce salad topped with a brown butter vinaigrette on the side and roasted veg, it looked just about as good as it tasted. There were a couple brussels sprouts in the mixture, but I could’ve eaten a whole bowl — they were slightly charred on the outside, but sweet and soft on the inside. The fish was cooked to a perfect medium (by my inexpert estimate), seared to a lovely crisp on the outside and warm and tender when you cut into it.

IMG_1414Then came the dessert. As most Southerners can attest, every bread pudding is a little different. Galley & Garden’s was deliciously divided — the pudding portion was soft, with crispy apples, a Granny Smith apple compote and a touch of rich chantilly cream on the side. I was almost full before dessert, but it was worth it. Man, my job can be awesome.

For more #WRW2016 coverage, check out the Birmingham Restaurant Week website.

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It’s Baaaaaa-ack: Birmingham Restaurant Week, Winter Edition

BRWWIf you were missing my (amateur) food blogging posts, fear not! This week, Birmingham Restaurant Week is launching their first annual winter edition. As part of the deal, they’ve invited me to reprise my role as their food blogger. Steel yourself for an onslaught of gratuitous food photos and blog posts, and make your plans to treat yourself this week.

Here’s the deal: for one week, you can sample lunch and/or dinner from some of the best restaurants in town for ridiculously low prices. These places are offering prix fixé lunch and dinner menus for $5, $10, $15, $20, or $30.

Needless to say, I’ll be eating a lot (eight meals, to be exact). Luckily, I now have a gym membership, so hopefully I can find a balance between eating too much delicious food and staying active.

In any case, I’ll be visiting Cantina today for lunch and John’s City Diner for dinner. Stay tuned!

Check out the Birmingham Restaurant Week website for more coverage.

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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?

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.

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Confessions: Food Edition

Homemade pork pot stickers. Nom nom nom nom

Homemade pork pot stickers. Nom nom nom nom

As a runner, writer, bartender, tutor and friend, time and mental space are constantly in short supply. Though I try to eat well and exercise often, I don’t have a lot of time to cook. With Adam in the middle of finals, working shifts at the restaurant and still holding down his day job, neither does he.

The past couple weeks have witnessed a lot of takeout and eating at odd hours. I’ve managed to throw together a few Crockpot staples and some baked oatmeal for breakfast on the weekdays, but there are a lot more styrofoam containers in the fridge than usual. Don’t worry — I don’t like wasting food, so I’ll be eating a lot of leftovers during the next few days.

I know it zaps my energy, kills my endurance and wrecks my dreams of fitness, but I work six nights every week. During the day, I’m usually either writing or exercising. Naturally, cooking and cleaning both fall by the wayside.

Adam has helped me learn proper technique for cooking, and I can honestly say that I’ve gotten absolutely spoiled on food in the last two years. We’re the poster kids for time crunches, but he and I take care of each other by cooking, cleaning and leaving notes. Before I met him, I bought and prepared foods that were low or lacking fat. After starting to eat a healthy amount of fat, I (unintentionally) lost weight during a period of little to no exercise.

As Hippocrates said, “Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” When I’m eating right, I have energy. I want to exercise, to write, run, bartend and live well. I can do all these things and enjoy the prep time that goes into every meal — well, almost every meal. With seven deadlines fast approaching and five shifts in between now and then, I’ll probably be still eating takeout for another ten days.

We will get back to eating well, to fixing almost every meal from scratch and making better fitness decisions, but that time must wait until after my writing load calms down. Until then, I’m going to enjoy my noodle bowls from Surin and takeout barbecue.

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Keep your sickness off my newsfeed

Image credit here

Need one? Take one. Image credit here

During the past week, I’ve drunk more tea than a British grandmother and fallen asleep during two movies. Yes, I have the sinus-y ick that’s going around, and yes, I’m taking lots of vitamins and herbal supplements to fight it. I have also made a short list of bodily functions that should never, ever be put on social media.

1. Snot talk
If I wanted to know the details of your illness, I’d go to med school and specialize in family medicine. I haven’t yet, so use your text messages and voice minutes to tell your friends and family your symptoms, not your Facebook or Twitter feeds.

2. Bowel movements
I don’t want to know what goes on in your bathroom. Neither does your mother.

3. Updates from your tear ducts
This item is directed to all the people who tend to emotionally word vomit on my feed. If you want to talk about your breakup or have a problem with me, call or private message me. I’m less sympathetic to your personal plight if it is so personal you have to share it with your social media networks. Also, if you live Tweet or Facebook your feelings about anything other than concerts, movies or other performances or events, chances are I’ve already hidden your posts. I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not.

4. What you eat
Unless you’re making an special meal or something that is really, really delicious, I don’t care. “OMG my yogurt and granola was super healthy this morning LOL” would make me want to scream. If you aren’t sharing a homemade yogurt recipe along with your terrible grammar, don’t make the post at all.

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Things you don’t know about me

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Photo credit to Mary Katherine Morris.

Alright, stalkers. Today’s Blog Like Crazy post is to make a list of interesting facts about yourself. Here are mine:

1. I don’t have an all-time favorite album, song or movie, but I can give you a top 10 list for each that will rock your world.

2. Your use of BRB or LOL in face-to-face conversation makes me want to pull my hair out.

3. I drink tea instead of coffee even though I much prefer coffee.

4. Trashy pop music is one of my guilty pleasures.

5. Elf is my favorite movie and is one of the two DVDs I own. When I’m in a bad mood, Adam will sit me down in front of the tv/computer/laptop and put it on. I tear up every freaking time I watch it when Santa flies over the crowd singing Christmas carols.

6. When I was a kid, I would choose fruit or raisins over candy every time. I’m pretty sure that’s part of the reason I get headaches if I eat too much sugar.

7. If I’m wearing a lot of blue, yesterday sucked. Light blue makes me happy.

8. Few things irk me more than Highway 280. When the Nordstrom’s Rack is completed, I may be more inclined to make the trek, but right now I avoid it outside of my commute as much as I can.

9. Star Wars Episodes 1-3 didn’t happen. The franchise did not get sold to Disney and they are not making an Episode 7. This video covers the topic well.

10. I have puppy fever like you wouldn’t believe, but am unwilling to adopt or buy a dog before I have the time and resources to be a responsible owner.

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