Never underestimate the ladies who lunch at Chez Fonfon.
By Jan Walsh
Chez Fonfon is a favorite lunch spot for both business and pleasure. And today I am here for some of both with my friend, Rosie Pihakis of
Table 52 Hospitality. We catch up, sharing the latest happenings in Birmingham’s restaurant scene and best practices of driving internet traffic to restaurant clients.
On my last lunch here, I enjoyed crawfish tartine and Friday’s dujour special of Riveria seafood salad. So, I suggest the crawfish tartine to share. And the kitchen graciously sends us orders of fried oysters and grilled jumbo asparagus. So, we take our time nibbling over these three delicious starters. The tartine is piled high with a scrumptious mix of crawfish, sweet peas, and avocado. The oysters are amazing—golden and crisp on the outside and fresh, tender, briny bites of the Gulf on the inside. And the grilled asparagus is accompanied by farm egg, capers and fennel. All three are lovely and light enough to whet our appetites for entrees.
Rosie orders the shrimp and avocado salad, and I order today’s (Wednesday) special, scallops from New Bedford. Not many can achieve what Frank Stitt’s kitchens do with chilled shrimp—from Highland’s shrimp cocktail to the shrimp remoulade in this salad—the quality, firmness, texture, and taste are perfection again and again.
And I have never had better scallops than today’s delicate, buttery delights. They are golden on the top, white and milky on the inside, and bursting with freshness. Today’s set is rice pilaf with crawfish and sweet peas, which accent the scallops beautifully.
We order a dessert that I have not been able to stop craving since I was recently in the kitchen at Highlands for a chef demo, with award winning pastry chef, Dolester Miles—the chocolate nut tart. There I watched her top off a whole tray of chocolate tarts with this sweet, crunchy nut mix and then remove the rings that held each in place. And I wanted to eat the whole pan… But today I restrain myself and share one with Rosie. Highly recommended!
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Is this Pepper Place or a Hallmark movie?
By Jan Walsh
Just as Kev and I head out to The Market at Pepper Place, rain begins to fall. Not being one to depend on a weather forecast, I am already prepared with my hooded parka and two umbrellas in the car.
At the market we dodge the rain by dashing into OvenBird for Market Brunch and order cocktails: Market Mimosa and Komcucha Spritz. While sipping our refreshing spirits, I see Pepper Place’s Leigh Sloss-Corra outside the window, under her umbrella, heading to the market. She waves and comes in to dry off. This market is her baby, and she is a little concerned about the rain dampening the day for her farmers here. And just as I point out that the clouds are starting to break up, the sun comes out, and the clouds begin to roll away. And it soon becomes a beautiful day.
Leigh also shared news that brightened our day. Pepper Place is now an entertainment district. Ah, so we can take our cocktails with us while we walk around the market, if they are served in or poured into official entertainment district cups. Who knew?
Kev orders Boudin Rouge, and I order the Oatmeal Waffle. His deep, dark sausage comes with a warm, roasted tomato and peppers from the market, fried farm egg, and toasted bread. The sausage crumbles into the orange yolk along with juicy bites of tomato, which is scooped onto the bread like a melt in your mouth fork and knife sandwich.
My waffle is cooked to perfection with no charred or torn corners and is topped with sliced strawberries, from the market. Its wholesome goodness shines through the sorghum syrup that I lightly pour over it. Highly recommended! But I could not resist a poached farm egg, so I add it as a side dish. And I steal a bite of the toasted bread from Kev’s dish to mop up the yolk. And we finish with three delightful Churros, dipped in dulce de leche.
Idie Hastings stops by the table, and we catch up with her and the plans for Hot and Hot to move to Pepper Place. And we imagine being able to stop in OvenBird for a before dinner drink, and taking our drinks with us as we walk to Hot and Hot Fish Club, after it is relocated.
We order another round of drinks to go in the official cups, and head out to FarmStand, where Deborah and Alex Stone are holding their open house. Along the way I bump into Frank Stitt for a quick hug.
On FarmStand’s deck, along the umbrella tables, is a flower cart with organic flowers for purchase. Inside free tastings of many of their Stone Hollow Farmstead and Botaniko products: jams, cheeses, skincare, and more are being sampled by this packed house. The store should be the setting for a Hallmark movie. Love this place! And I cannot leave without the Alabama White Marble slab with rough cut and polished edges for my breakfast table.
We continue to sip our drinks as we make our way around the perimeter of the market, buying bread from Corey Hinkle. I see my organic farmer who I buy strawberries from is sold out at this late hour. Next, we make our way to our farmer friend, Noah Sanders of Rora Valley Farms. And we buy the best chocolate chip cookies ever from him, knowing they are Jordan’s favorite, who is coming to town this week. Noah’s cookies also freeze well and are even better heated in the oven until the chocolate melts.
We leave the market without strawberries, but with so much more—time spent with our food friends and joy in watching their businesses bloom.
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2180 Memory Lane
My birthday dinner takes a nostalgic turn at Hot and Hot Fish Club.
By Jan Walsh
Tonight, Kev and I celebrate my birthday at Hot and Hot Fish Club. After 24 years in its original location, 2180 11th Court South, Hot and Hot will be moving to their new location at Pepper Place in Fall. So, I feel a bit sentimental about my last birthday sitting in my favorite seat—at the far corner of the Chef’s Counter.
I have many memories of this place. Last year, we celebrated our anniversary here. We have attended many Hot and Hot wine dinners including the night I brought my friend and Schramsberg’s vintner, Hugh Davies here from Napa Valley for an IW&FS dinner. And for another IWFS wine dinner I was seated beside IW&FS Americas Inc. Chairman, Andrew Jones who engaged me to write a feature for their international publication. An especially fond memory is when I reviewed this chef's table for USA Today in their feature, “10 Amazing Chefs Tables You Should Know About.” And special memories were made when we were honored to be among the Hastings’ friends and family, private events—including the viewing party when Chef Hastings was pronounced the winner of Food Network’s reality cooking show "Iron Chef America." And many more…
Idie Hastings sends bubbles and wishes me a happy birthday at this restaurant. She shares her own bittersweet feelings about this place, where the Hastings sons’ feet are imprinted in the sidewalk out front. Yet we are all looking forward to the new larger space, which will include main dining room seating, as well a bar space and patio. Another advantage of the new location is that it will be close in proximity to their other restaurant, OvenBird. And I am delighted to hear from her that they are moving everything inside the restaurant to the new location—including Chris Hastings famous chef’s counter.
April brings strawberries to the menu tonight. I start with a luscious strawberry drink, Pepper Patch from the Farm to Glass cocktail menu. And Kev orders the foamy and deeply flavored Uncle Lou’s Lemonade.
Local asparagus and Gulf crawfish are also in season. We start with Grilled Asparagus Salad. Warm crawfish tails and fresh watercress are sprinkled around the asparagus that is bursting with grassy, spring flavor. Delicious!
For entrees Kev selects the Hickory Grilled Wagyu Sirloin. I always order seafoodAfter all, “Fish Club” is in the name. And tonight, it is difficult to pass on the crawfish risotto and pan seared red snapper. But so is the and Yellowedge Grouper, which I order. The tender, juicy steak is served sliced and is cooked to order. Grilled rapini, fingerling potatoes, and a poached farm egg accompany the steak. The glistening, gorgeous grouper is fresh and flavorful. It is served atop scrumptious veggies: sunchokes, baby turnips, snap peas, and English pea nage.
For birthday desserts, Kev orders the carrot cake, and I order strawberry shortcake. After making a wish, I blow out my candle, and we dig in. My First of the Season Strawberry Shortcake consists of a sweet biscuit overfilled with macerated strawberries and topped with whipped cream. And we agree that we have never tasted a better carrot cake than the 7 Layer Carrot Cake, filled with cream cheese icing and butter between each layer, and served with pecan ice cream—divine and highly recommended!
Although I will not celebrate any more birthdays at this place, I hope to enjoy many special dinners at Hot and Hot’s relocation at Pepper Place.
Choose an app, entrée and dessert at Seasons 52 for one price.
By Jan Walsh
Ordering is always fun at Seasons 52 Fresh Grill. They not only change menus with the seasons; they offer special menus along the way.
For today’s lunch, there are three menu options: the new spring menu, lunch pairings menu, and Kev’s favorite, “Hello Spring” menu. This man pleasing menu includes three-courses: appetizer, entrée, and Mini Indulgence dessert for $29.95.
Kev always orders lemonade at Seasons 52. And today he spikes it, with a refreshing Rosé
Lemonade. This mixture of Ketel One Botanical Grapefruit and Rose Vodka, Royal Post Rosé, and lemon tastes like spring and quenches the thirst. From the hello spring menu, he selects black bean and bacon soup, wood grilled bistro steak, and strawberry rhubarb cheesecake.
The soup makes a hearty start for this rainy day. Flavors of pork and beans meld in this scrumptious bowl, chock full of bit bacon bites and beans.
The steak arrives cooked to order, medium. This large cut of prime sirloin is sliced thick enough to satisfy and thin enough to keep its tenderness. And it is enhanced by a racy red wine sauce. The steak is accompanied by roasted asparagus and marvelous marble potatoes, which are bursting with flavor and have a lovely texture. Blistered perfectly, one could eat these babies like popcorn. No wonder. They are grown exclusively for Seasons 52.
And the cheesecake mini ends the meal on a sweet and fruity note, perfect for spring.
“Hello Spring” Menu is available until May 26.
View Seasons 52 Profile + Hello Spring Menu