Birmingham Restaurants is excited to announce our new weekly features!
Each week our publisher, Jan Walsh dines and discovers. Then she shares her fave food and wine or spirit finds of the week. These are often fresh and new to restaurants' menus, or sometimes it is a dish or wine that has been previously overlooked. Our foodie following is already loving to discover new dishes and wines, and learn what makes them so special.
Week of December 24: Marre & Allen Bar + Kitchen
Gulf Shrimp Caesar Salad + Paloma
I was so impressed with Marre & Allen Bar + Kitchen when it opened at the Birmingham Marriott in 2017. And on every visit since then they continue to live up to my original impression. The restaurant opened as a part of the hotel’s approximately 15-million-dollar renovation. It is chef driven and uses local, regional, and seasonal ingredients and products. Looking on the light side going into the New Year, I order the Caesar Salad with Gulf Shrimp. The salad is also available with Joyce Farms Chicken or Harris Ranch Ribeye Steak. It arrives in two large, deep green, wedges topped with capers, house made croutons, generous grates of the king ofcheeses—. On the side are xix large, succulent Gulf Shrimp grilled to perfection—completely curled, pink outside, and white and opaque on the inside and a serving of creamy, authentic Caesar house made dressing. The dressing glistens as I drizzle it across the shrimp salad. And from first bite to last, this salad has it all—as it all melds together in a delicious synthesis of flavors, colors, and textures. I pair the salad with a lovely golden pink, tequila, and grapefruit cocktail, Paloma. This scrumptious salad will bring me back for more. And next time I plan to have the Caesar with chicken or steak—if I can resist the shrimp.
Week of December 17: Bare Naked Noodles
Bare Naked Noodles EVOO
Just when I think I know what is going on with the city’s chefs and restaurants, I get surprised. This time it is a special surprise in the form of a gift basket of Bare Naked Noodles brand new Extra Virgin Olive Oils and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP.
Owner, Linda Croley recently launched the line that includes the following infused EVOOs: Meyer Lemon, Pomegranate, Blood Orange, and Basil. The 250 ml bottles are stackable and were hand blown in Italy. Larger bottles, 750 ml are being hand blown at press time and will soon be available. All flavors are also available in tins. Bare Naked Noodles line of oils can be purchased at Bare Naked Noodles Cafes.
I have yet to taste through the entire line, but I have tasted the EVOO and Balsamic Vinegar. The EVOO is light in color and full of fresh, fruity, and peppery flavors. And the Balsamic is very dark in color, glossy, velvety on the palate, and mellow tart in acidity. Both are lovely and highly recommended.
Week of December 10: Abhi Eatery and Bar
Momos in Kathmandu Street Sauce
Today when working on my annual 50 Favorites from home with no time to go out. I get take out from Abhi Eatery and Bar. And just when I thought I could not love Abhi’s momos more, he smothers them in a new sauce—adding a whole new dimension to this dish. Chef Abhi’s Kathmandu Street Sauce is actually not new but is back by popular demand at Abhi Eatery and Bar, adding a wild side of heat and complexity to the mild and delicate momos. After my first bite, I ate half the dish before taking this photo. And the momos pair well with beer and bubbly and take out even better than before in this sauce. They are destined to be an award-winning dish in Birmingham Restaurants upcoming 50 Favorites – All Time Favorites 2017-2018.
Week of December 3: Dyron's Lowcountry
Food Find: Southern Style Breakfast
We are predictable, typically ordering seafood for Sunday brunch at Dyron’s Lowcountry because no one does seafood better than Chef, Randall Baldwin. We always start with the fried crab claws and their heavenly biscuits. And we pair it with a bottle of their affordably priced, French bubbly. But today my hubby breaks this habit ordering a breakfast plate instead. This Southern Style Breakfast is a pork lover’s plate. It includes not just your choice but ALL the following: two McEwen and Sons' farm eggs (any style), cheese grits made with McEwen and Sons Organic Grits, potato hash, Conecuh sausage and bacon, and grilled Benton Ham. He ordered the farm eggs poached, and they are served to the side of grits and potatoes, topped with fried bacon sausage and a slice of grilled ham. A cup of divine, housemade strawberry jam and butter arrives with the biscuits. But nothing is better with the biscuits than the first cut the bright orange yolk runs into the cheesy grits. The scrumptious, finely chopped, pan fried potatoes add another layer of starch to this comforting dish. And for those of us who want to know where our food is sourced, Dyron’s Non-GMO, local, and regional products are listed on the blackboard.
Week of November 26: Chez Fonfon
Food Find: Pear & Almond Tart
Wine Find: Champagne by the Glass
Friday, December 1 was annual National Pie Day. And what better way to honor the day than to name Chez Fonfon’s Pear & Almond Tart as my Food Find of the week? While lunching at Fonfon with dear friend, John Krontiras on Wednesday, he spotted the tart on the menu. And when we heard that the pear was poached in red wine, we were all in. Pastry Chef, Dolester Miles perfects French Provincial pastry in the crust filled with frangipane, and topped with half of a sliced poach pear. The pear is a deep burgundy in color and adds a layer of complexity to the fresh pear flavors. Sliced almonds encircle the pear adding crunch and texture—rounding out this delicious dish. We pair with Champagne by the glass, served in high quality and elegant Champagne flutes with thin rims, verses thick, cheap flutes found in many restaurants. Yes, admittedly, I am a stemware snob, but for good reason. Details matter. The senses are heightened by the look and feel of the flute and aromas, flavors, effervescence, and mousse of Champagne.
Week of November 19: Slice Stone Pizza and Brew
Chef's Chili + Rockin' Moroccan Salad
Although it is difficult not to order a pizza at Slice Stone Pizza and Brew, Chef, Terrill Brazelton is a master at soup making and at inventing divine and unique, in-season salads, made of local ingredients and products. So I often order the soup of the day at Slice Pizza and Brew, and pair it with an in seasonal salad. Today my family and I are here the day after Thanksgiving in the mood for pizza and more when we discover his Chili, made with a variety of meats and beans. It is chock full of smoked brisket, ground beef, and ground pork and Conecuh Sausage in addition to five beans: kidney, black, pinto, garbanzo, and great Northern Beans. And it is topped with cheese and chives, adding a touch of color, and making a creamy first bite of this beautifully textured and deeply flavored (but not too hot) chili. As a salad pairing we discover the Rockin’ Moroccan, filled with a variety of local beets, radishes, walnuts, goat cheese and greens in a gorgeous vinaigrette. It is the epitome of eating clean.
Week of November 12: Flip Burger Boutique
Food Find: NY Strip Burger
Spirits Find: Strawberry Mojito
Flip Burger Boutique, located at The Summit, has an interesting list of a dozen different and unique burgers on their lunch and dinner menu. But here’s the beef! There is also a daily burger special and salad special. So we order the burger—a thick patty of ground New York Strip steak, cooked to order and served atop lettuce and topped with tomato, melted Wisconsin Cheese, and slices of thick, crisp bacon on a toasted bun. This beefy burger has it all and is highly recommended. Pair it with their French fries and onion rings—cooked in beef fat. We pair with a scrumptious strawberry shortcake shake and a gorgeous strawberry mojito.
Week of November 5: Seasons 52 Fresh Grill
Bosc Pear Salad Two Ways
For two separate lunches this week at Seasons 52 Fresh Grill, I opted for varying versions of Seasons 52 Fresh Grill’s Bosc Pear Salad. On my first lunch I chose the Caramelized Bosc Pear and Buratta. It is one of the most beautiful salads I have ever seen or tasted. Plated with wedges of caramelized pear leaning against a bed of arugula, it is served in a 15 year old balsamic, with a touch of honeycomb that just makes the dish. And although it also has prosciutto, I ordered mine without it. This salad called me back again, when I found another version of it on the Harvest Dinner Menu. This menu is available until November 22 for lunch or dinner with fave autumn ingredients. This menu is three courses for $29 and optional wine pairings for $6. This Spinach Salad with Roasted Bosc Pear is served with a bed of spinach crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and pear in thirds propped on the side. Equally delicious, there is a tie for food find this week.
Week of November 5: Village Tavern
Caymus-Suisun Grand Durin
Exclusively at Village Tavern, this Chuck Wagner Petite Sarah is one of the most beautiful new wines I have tasted in years. It is deep purple to black in color, full in body and offers with jammy notes of black fruit and mocha. It is $15 a glass or $60 per bottle while supplies last. Don't miss this wine over the holidays.
Week of October 29: Bare Naked Noodles Cafe
Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna
New for Fall 2017 today is Bare Naked Noodles' Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna!
I keep Bare Naked Noodles' Handmade Meat Lasagna and MeatBalls in my freezer. They made a homemade meal in half an hour by popping in the oven. But now I have a meatless option! Owner, Linda Croley brought me a taste while delivering my latest Bare Naked Noodles order. So I was the first to try the new dish... And I am in love! This dish has it all. It is colorful and bursting with fresh, fall flavors of sweet and nutty butternut squash, layered with sautéed spinach, on a bed of Bare Naked Noodles Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce. Highly recommended for the holidays. I plan to serve the meat lasagna and this one on the night before Thanksgiving when my family arrives for the weekend.
Week of October 22: GianMarco's Restaurant
Marco's Four Cheese Torta
Patient Cottat Sancerre
Never know what you've got until its gone... After ordering GianMarco's lunch entrees, we decide on Marco's Four Cheese Torta as an app only to be told by our server that it is no longer on menu! Seated near the chef's counter, I teasingly say, "Hey Marco, why did you let Giani take your torta off menu?" He says, "It's back!" And sends us home with one to go, on him. Thank you Marco, and thank you guys for bringing it back! A lot of work to make but so worth it... And leave it to me to pair this Italian dish with a French wine. But I do. Patient Cottat Sancerre is one of my favorite food friendly wines, available by the glass or bottle at GianMarco's.
Week of October 15: Marre & Allen Bar + Kitchen
Marre and Allen Bar and Kitchen is my favorite new restaurant. It is located inside the Birmingham Marriott, at 3590 Grandview Parkway (off Highway 280, across highway from Grandview Medical Center). Here Chef Chad Schofield incorporates local and regional, in season, fruits and vegetables into his made from scratch dishes. I recently did a menu tasting and am back for more of the Rice Bowl. It is available with white or brown rice, accompanied by baby kale, black beans, pico de gallo, avocado, and Buckhead Valley Pepperjack. This delicious dish layered in hearty textures and fresh flavors. Added protein options include Joyce Farms Chicken, Gulf Shrimp, Harris Ranch Ribeye Steak, and Citrus Braised Pork. Today I opt for the brown rice and chicken. I do not know the secret to Chef Schofield’s braise or marinade for this succulent, flavorful chicken. But it adds another dimension to this delicious dish. And the portion proves to be more than I can eat, so I take home half for tomorrow’s at home lunch. From the Bar, my new favorite cocktail is the New Fashioned. Not my daddy’s bourbon, this cocktail is ruby, amber in color with smooth notes of cherry and and blood orange.
Week of October 8: Bellini's Ristorante & Bar
Wood Grilled Caesar Salad (for take out)
In lieu of featuring one bottle of wine this week, please buy a bottle of Cali wine, and pray for Cali wine country fire victims.
I have long been a fan of the Wood Grilled Caesar at Bellini's Ristorante & Bar. But I have never ordered it for takeout for fear it would not take out well, given it has both hot and cold components. But I was wrong. Bellini's knows how to pack it up for takeout. Each item: grilled onions, anchovy, tomatoes, croutons, and two types of dressing, balsamic and Caesar have their own container, keeping them at proper temps. And the lettuce stayed warm off the grill all the way home. It was as delicious at home as it is in the restaurant. Loved my new take out find!
Week of October 1: Hot and Hot Fish Club
Bayou La Batre Crab Pie
That's Not My Tie
Chef Chris Hastings' latest Hot and Hot Fish Club menu is full of fall fare. But I got my last taste of summer tomatoes with this scrumptious crab pie topped with blistered cherry tomatoes, and served with bacon, crispy shallots, and sherry vinaigrette salad. And my cocktail gives new meaning to "hot" (flaming not tasting) on Hot and Hot's Farm to Glass specialty cocktail list. I asked my server how to put out the flame. He said to blow it out. I asked if I could make a wish, and he said, "Absolutely." I closed my eyes, made a wish, and blew out the flame... and so far it seems to be coming true. Try this drink and no need to wait for your birthday for wishes to come true.
Week of September 24: Galley & Garden
Buttered Halibut will soon be on the fall menu at Galley and Garden.
Louis De Grenelle Saumur Rosé is light, crisp, and food friendly.
"Executive Chef, James Boyce hosted us for a preview of the upcoming Fall 2017 menu this week. One of the exceptional dishes was this buttered halibut. It is among the best fish dishes I have ever tasted! The grapefruit adds a touch of acidity to this buttery fish that melts in my mouth. The rosé makes a perfect pairing for the fish and comes from the last remaining family-owned property of the major Saumur sparkling producers. This 100 percent Cabernet Franc wine is fermented and aged in tank, and produced using the Méthode Champenoise." - Jan Walsh
Week of September 17: Bottega Cafe Week of September 10: Bistro 218
Food Find: Burrata with grilled bread, garlic, grated tomato, olive oil is a true Italian delicacy.
Wine Find: New Cava, is available by the glass or bottle, at Bottega Cafe, Raventos i Blanc 2015, a high quality Cava with a hint of salt on the palate.
"Burrata means buttered in Italian. And this gorgeous artisanal cheese has a solid shell on the outside and a soft, buttery, creamy textured cheese on the inside, which flows out when cut. Slather it on the bread for a bite of heaven. I added a hint of salt to it and the tomato topped bread. I so appreciate that Frank Stitt keeps salt and pepper on his tables so I do not have to take my own or ask for it." - Jan Walsh
Fingers & Frites on Bistro 218 lunch menu for only $9
Rafael Palacios Bolo Godello Valdeorras Eyrie Pinot Gris Dundee Hills 2015, is new to wine list: round, dry and light with notes of pear and citrus.
"If you work or live downtown and Bistro 218 is not one of your lunch faves, you don't deserve to eat! Both the chicken and fries are fried in Non-GMO oil. In fact, everything at Bistro 218 is made without GMOs, making it safe for those avoiding GMOs (such as myself) to order anything on the menu here." - Jan Walsh