Pan Seared, Hearth Roasted
Hot and Hot Fish Club's pan seared scallops are topped off with hearth roasted ice cream.
By Jan Walsh
Tonight, Kev and I pull up a bar stool at Hot and Hot Fish Club. Our favorite seats are waiting at the chef's table/counter for our 5:00 p.m. reservations. Here we watch the "cooking show" as the restaurant fills around us. From singles at the bar to couples and groups in the dining room, the restaurant bustles with foodies looking forward to a memorable meal at Chris and Idie Hastings' original restaurant.
For dinner we never know what to expect, other than something(s) special, as Hot and Hot's menu changes nightly. Tonight, Hastings offers ducks, which he hunted on the menu, as an app of Duck Confit Beignets and an entrée of Dry Aged Duck Breast. Tempting but the "Fish Club" part of the name always leads me back to the seafood. After we devour a shared app of Charcuterie and Cheese Plate, I opt for the Pan Seared Scallops for my entrée.
The wood burning stove roars with bright orange and yellow flames. And nothing is more appetizing than watching the chefs heat their iron skillets and finish off dishes in this oven. I also watch as the chefs and cooks prep and pan sear my scallops, picking up a new chef's secret.
He places them in a skillet lined with a cotton towel after removing them from the skillet. This I could manage at home. But to cook each one perfectly, golden on the outside, white and milky on the inside, takes more expertise. These lovely, delicate and succulent scallops are served a bed of risotto in a field garlic nage, with crumbles of hazelnut, and topped with hearth roasted ice cream. The ice cream begins to melt immediately, adding an extra layer of creaminess to this beautiful dish, which proves to be my Weekly Food Find. I pair the scallops with a melon colored, on the rocks, citrusy Lady C cocktail from their Farm to Glass menu.
If you missed it, BirminghamRestaurants.com and I were highlighted in USA Today's "10 Amazing Chef Tables You Should Know About" when Hot and Hot Fish Club was named one of the 10. Read Here
Pork and Greens
Frank Stitt debuts Niman Ranch Pork-Two Ways at Highlands Bar and Grill.
By Jan Walsh
My husband's birthday tradition is dinner at the Bar of Highlands Bar and Grill. This year we arrive early to secure "our seats" at the Bar, and settle in for an evening of bubbles and apps.
Kev is old school and loves the shrimp cocktail, which is always perfectly succulent every time in temperature, texture, and flavor. We also share an amazing lobster and shrimp salad, and a beautiful grouper and scallop entree.
But the hit of the night is a dish we did not expect. Frank Stitt stopped by with an entree of a new dish he is excited about and wants us to try: Niman Ranch Pork Two Ways. And when he checks back later to see how we liked it, Kev had rave reviews of the tender, melt in the mouth pork cheek and pork belly. The pork is plated on the best collard greens I have ever tasted. No stems here. These deep, dark greens are cooked down to a silky tenderness, exuding deep layers of flavor with each moist bite. So it is not surprising that the greens came from the Stitt's farm, Paradise Farm. And the white wine jus encompasses each bite of the pork and greens, melding the flavors and textures together into an outstanding Southern synthesis. Stitt and I both highly recommend this dish.
Soup and Sympathy
Pair Veggie Soup with Ginger Flu Buster from The Pantry by Stone Hollow Farmstead.
By Jan Walsh
I am super impressed with the women in food in our city and state. And among those I
admire most is my neighbor, and sister Les Dame, Deborah Stone. This iconic entrepreneur was a pioneer in the day spa concept in the 1980s. And today her Botaniko Skin products are sprouted on her 80-acre flower farm. Here she and her daughter and business partner, Alexandra manage the soil, plant, propagate, nurture, harvest and then distill, extract, tincture, macerate and process all botanical ingredients used in Botaniko Skin.
Stone Hollow Farmstead, located in Harpersville, Alabama, is home to hundreds of goats and chickens and a few jersey cows, raised on the grass based system. And the goats convert grass into rich milk that is made into a variety of farmstead cheeses. In addition to the cheeses, The Pantry by Stone Hollow Farmstead, located in Mountain Brook, is the place to shop for those of us striving to eat organically. It includes a juice and smoothie bar and groceries canned at the farm.
For winter weather I keep The Pantry by Stone Hollow Farmstead’s Vegetable Soup in my own pantry. Just heat on stove and serve. It is chock full of fresh, organic veggies grown on the farm. I use it as a base, making my own version of the soup. I always spice it up. Sometimes I add protein and other times just make a cake of cornbread to go with it.
Also perfect for winter weather, and when you are under the weather, is The Pantry’s Ginger Flu Buster. It is made of freshly juiced ginger and lime, with a touch of honey and cayenne. The 16 ounce concentrate makes four servings, by adding six ounces of hot water to the four ounces of the concentrate. Drink four to six servings a day.
Fresh produce from local farms is found at The Pantry every Tuesday. And they offer a CSA. Click to view Stone Hollow Farmstead’s CSA program. If you purchase a spring share before January 31st you will receive the early bird pricing! CSA includes local produce, fresh cheese, aged cheese, artisan breads, canned goods, cut flowers, and more!
National Championship Worthy
I take a daydream trip from Birmingham to Atlanta for this week's "Food Find."
By Jan Walsh, Photography by Jan Walsh
Given Alabama is playing Georgia in the National Championship on Monday, I have been bombarded with Atlanta PR firms asking me to recommend “their” restaurant clients to “my” readers. And while I appreciate them reaching out to me, I have my own favorite, highly recommended restaurant in Atlanta—Bones.
Bones is not a chain or multi location steakhouse. It is a fine dining steakhouse, which opened in 1979 and has been serving the finest prime beef and seafood since. I fell in love with it at first bite decades ago and most recently celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary there.
My husband, Kev typically orders a steak. I order seafood. We have dined here many times. And every lunch and dinner have been perfection. But three things we both always order are the lobster bisque and the hash brown potatoes. I have never tasted a French onion soup, lobster bisque, or hash browns in the league with Bones. The French Onion Soup boasts complex layers of deep, dark caramelized onion flavors that meld with the creamy cheese topping as it runs down throughout the bowl. The creamy bisque is also a complex bowl. It is filled with hearty bites of Maine lobster and is topped off with sherry poured tableside, if you choose. And we always do. It makes a perfect bisque beyond perfection. And the large round, mound of golden thick cut hash browns also arrives piping hot, topped with sour cream and fresh chives. Crisp on the outside and moist on the inside, you will never find a better potato dish anywhere.
I would go there just to have their soups and potatoes. But everything from their bread to desserts, including Southern specialties are also perfection. Thus, I suggest you start with the French Onion Soup, Bones Lobster Bisque, and Hash Browns, for sharing, with your choice of entrees.
Bones is open for lunch and dinner. Make reservations. Or just show up very early for bar seating. Full service at bar but no food served at bar tables.
Lunch Hours: Monday - Friday: 11:30 - 2:30
Dinner Hours: Sunday - Saturday: 5:30 - 10:00
Phone: (404) 237-2663
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