Hot and Hot Fish Club’s Chris Hastings outdoes himself in 2012.

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Chris Hastings achieves most successful year to date in 2012. This year Hastings presence on the national culinary stage hit a new high with his 2012 Best Chef of the South James Beard Award and his triumph on Iron Chef America. In 2012 Hastings also appeared on The Today Show, CBS Morning, and Martha Stewart and was featured in national food magazines.

So what’s next, relax and enjoy the success? Not a chance. Hastings and his wife and business partner, Idie are leveraging the success they have built—becoming even more involved in the local and national culinary scenes—while continuing to execute the standard of excellence at Hot and Hot Fish Club.

The Place
Hot and Hot Fish Club is a farm to table restaurant, located at 2180 11th Court South. The restaurant is open for dinner, Tuesdays through Saturdays. There is a private patio for dining al fresco. Inside at the bar guests enjoy seasonal, signature drinks, inspired by local farmer’s harvest. The Harvest Room also has a harvest table for large groups and smaller bar area tables. In the dining, local artists’ paintings flank the walls surrounding the tall windows and semi circular limestone chef’s counter, framing the open kitchen where aromas of tonight’s specialties rise into the air along with the kitchen’s flames.

The People
Both the Hastings are chefs with their own individual talents and rich experiences. Chris’ role is executive chef.  Idie’s primary role is running the front end of the house and the business aspects of their restaurant. Beyond their own restaurant the Hastings are also “Restaurant Consultants,” helping many other restaurants. Chris also serves as an advocate for the Alabama Seafood Commission and Director of the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundations Culinary Council.

Yet it takes more than two people to achieve this restaurant’s success. More than 40 people are employed at Hot and Hot Fish Club, each with their own vital role. And tonight two spots at the chef’s counter are our 50-yard line seats. Here we watch Hot and Hot’s team prepare our dinner with precise execution.

Favorite Fare

To celebrate the success of this year, we select cocktails of Donny Draper and Southern Sloe Gin Fizz from Hot and Hot’s “Farm to Glass” cocktail menu. The Donny Draper is a smooth, golden mix of Bulleitt Rye Whiskey, Sassafras Syrup, bitters and lemon—served in a low ball and on the rocks. And the Southern Sloe is a light and fizzy, sweet sour blend of a delightful Muscadine infused Bombay Dry Gin with lemon lime soda.

From a long list of appetizer options, the Cauliflower Soup is immediately selected. In each warm and hearty, comforting spoonful of soup flavors of fresh cauliflower and Cinderella pumpkin shine through. Also from the appetizer list, we choose Foie Gras Terrine and Apple, Almond and Endive Salad. The work of art, Foie Gras dish delicately balances perfection in its texture and flavors. Pecans lend spice and crunch. Petals of the Past persimmons add fruitiness and fall color. And an acidic verjus is offset with sweet sorghum, further balancing the richness of this dish. In the salad a divine creamy herb dressing accents its juicy apples, tasty almonds and each fresh, crisp and colorful endive leaf—including both red and white. And our sparkling J. Brut Rose makes a lovely and light match for all of the appetizer selections.

Entrees of Hickory Grilled Prime Strip Loin and Simple Grilled Black Snapper tempt both the meat and seafood lover in us. Our beef dish is matched with a full-bodied Falcor Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, which stands up nicely to this tender, juicy, hickory-grilled beef served, as ordered, medium rare. Alongside the beef is a piece of wood oven, roasted bone marrow filled with earthy and deep orange sweet potato puree, alongside tender, deep green rapine, which have an appearance and flavor similar to, yet more bold than, turnip greens. Our black snapper is paired with Neil Ellis Sauvignon Blanc 2012 from South Africa. Golden and firm on the outside, while being white and moist on the inside, this light and delicious fish is presented with and enhanced by succulent Gulf Shrimp leeks, fennel, and arugula—swimming with Cassava pearls in a tasty lemon saffron broth.

For dessert we order after dinner drinks of German Chocolate Coffee and Houndstooth. The highly recommended German Chocolate Coffee boasts Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, Baily’s Irish Cream, topped with Grand Mariner Whipped Cream and toasted coconut. And the Houndstooth is also a fall winner, combining a house made coffee liqueur, Stoli, and Licor 43 with cream and Garvey Cream Sherry Float. The drinks are paired with the dessert that we can never seem to resist—Hot and Hot’s Doughnuts. Tonight’s Southern flavors include Roasted Apple, Brown Butter Walnuts, and Bourbon Caramel spiced Sweet Potato Ice Cream. Each is a sweet bite of Southern heaven.

Published, B-Metro magazine, December 1, 2012, Taste column, Favorite

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