chocolate taco magic city chocolate challengeChocolate Taco 

And the winner of the Magic City Chocolate Challenge… 

By Jan Walsh 

It was my pleasure to judge the 4th Annual Magic City Chocolate Challenge last night. The event was held at Regions Field in the Diamonds Direct Ballroom and benefits Disabilities Rights and Resources, Here local chocolatiers and pastry chefs competed as we tasted and judged which dish would be named Birmingham’s Best Chocolate. The event also included live music, a silent auction, free non-alcoholic beverages, and a cash bar. 

regions field jan walshGo Pro Event Solutions made this event magical from start to finish. Upon arrival in the VIP parking lot, I am welcomed with a BIG thank you—the judges names on Regions Field’s scoreboard. Nice touch. 
And inside not only was I provided water and milk, but also a bottle of sparkling wine for pairing. 

We judges tasted through each entry until the final dish. Of all the food I have tasted, I never once had a chocolate taco—until now. For Savoie Catering, pastry chef, Aimee Bishop whipped up this delectable winner of a chocolate pancake filled with white chocolate chips, chocolate pastry cream, fresh strawberries, shortbread crumble, salted toasted almond, and topped it off with a white and dark chocolate ganache. Congrats, Aimee! Well deserved. 

the gardens cafe tomato salad Lunch Date 

Do lunch with your mate at The Gardens Café by Kathy G. 

By Jan Walsh 

Today Kev and I are on a lunch date at Birmingham Restaurants newest member restaurant, The Gardens Café by Kathy G. It is located in Birmingham Botanical Gardens and boasts palladium window views of the gardens from the dining room. And the patio is lined with Oak Leaf Hydrangeas. There is also a private space upstairs open to and overlooking the dining room and staircase, making it a popular wedding event venue. Yet much like Champagne, this place is too welcoming to save it for special occasions. The café offers lunch Tuesdays through Fridays from 11:00 until 2:00. And the menu is “his and hers” friendly. 

the gardens cafe tomato soupNew to the summer menu are Fish Tacos and Summer Caprese Salad. I select the salad along with the soup of the day, tomato basil and pair it with a glass of white Bordeaux. Kev orders a beer and can’t decide between the Cuban and the 8 Ounce Sirloin Burger until the second he has to order. And the burger it is, which proves to be a great decision.

The soup arrives piping hot and is bursting with fresh tomato flavor. The tower of tomato salad is stacked with beefy, juicy slices of tomato, lined with layers of Mozzarella cheese, on a bed of arugula, topped with charred white corn and a sherry vinaigrette. It is a divine balance of creaminess and acidity. And the crunchy texture of and flavors of the corn adds another layer to this delightful dish.

the gardens cafe burger the gardens cafe wine beer Thick cuts of melted cheddar top the cooked to perfection burger, served on a Kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and thick cut French fries in sea salt.

Kathy stops by the table to visit, and Kev proclaims to her that there is not a better burger in Birmingham. And he has had them all.

She treats us to a decadent dessert of their cheesecake of the day. After all, what is a lunch date without dessert? 

the gardens cafe cheesecake dessert








hot and hot peach cobbler

Just Peachy 

From cocktails to desserts, peaches are in season at Hot and Hot. 

By Jan Walsh 

Kev and I celebrate our 22nd anniversary at one of our favorite restaurantsHot and Hot Fish Club. And we start with “Farm to Table” cocktails at the bar. With peaches in season, I order Teaches of Peaches, which is served in a lowball, on the rock—a large 

ice sphere. The drink is light, but not sweet, and is a delightful balance of peaches and bourbon—highly recommended. 

hot and hot sparkling wineWe always sit at the chef’s counter to watch the action. And tonight, we are treated to a bottle Thiabaut-Janisson sparkling wine from Virginia, compliments of the restaurant. Made of 100 percent Chardonnay from the Monticello Appellation, the wine is perfectly chilled, crisp and sparkling with consistent effervescence, and offers notes of apples and pear. Thank you, Hot and Hot! I will be in search of this food friendly wine for our cellar and summertime sipping.  

Hot and Hot’s owners, Chris and Idie Hastings have been instrumental in my efforts to rid my reader’s kitchens and local restaurants of GMOs. They proudly display our “Alabamians for GMO Labeling” logo on their menu and door. No canola, corn, soy, or other GMO oils are found here. So, I know it is safe to order any fried food on the menu, as they are safely cooked in sunflower oil. After sharing an app of one of my all-time favorites, the Fried Okra Basket, we enjoy two excellent entrees: Fried Softshell Crab and Bayou La Batre Shrimp Pasta, before saving room for  more peaches—dessert. 

hot and hot fried okra basket hot and hot fried soft shell crab

And our evening comes to a sweet end with the Peach Cobbler. Forget grandmother’s lattice work crust. Think large ferris wheel shaped, vanilla tuile, with one seat filled with peaches and vanilla pecan streusel, and a side of peach ice cream. I have never found an artful presentation to pretty to eat, and I am not starting now. From bottom to top we eat our way up without filling up. Just like the peachy cocktail, the dessert is light, delicious, and not too sweet. 

hot and hot peach cocktail

hot and hot non gmo label

pizzeria gm duck confit salad  New Delicacies 

Pizzeria GM rolls out new dishes and weekly specials. 

By Jan Walsh 

Chef Giani Respinto is having fun with his new place and it shows. He just rolled out a new menu, including delicious new delicacies, and now offers awesome weekly specials.

pizzeria gm appetizers Today we are at Pizzeria GM lunching with friends, Chris Townsley and Angela Howell, of Birmingham Marriott fame. The new menu and more peeps at the table bring an opportunity to break out of our delicious rut of always ordering the same faves: crab and spinach dip, roasted chicken wings, and chicken parmesan pizza. Although we still ordered the dip. 

From apps to desserts we enjoy an array of new menu items and ones we have not yet tried. And new faves at the table are decidedly the Duck Confit Salad and an appetizer of Fried Mozzarella Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms. The generous, earthy salad boasts a mountain of tender, shredded duck confit mixed with dried figs, gorgonzola,

 toasted walnuts, atop mixed greens, in a balsamic dressing. It is flanked by two pieces of flatbread because how can you not have a bite of their bread?

pizzeria gm prosecco lemonade And leave it to Giani to have the courage—and coolness—to fry delicate zucchini blossoms. Three golden pieces of fried blossoms arrive piping hot in a bed of tomato sauce, drizzled with pesto. We spoon the sauce over the fried blossoms, and swoon over each—crisp on the outside, and cheesy on the inside—bite. Both dishes pair well with beer and bubbly of Blackberry Farm Brewery’s Saison and a lovely Prosecco Lemonade. 

Pizzeria GM is owned and operated by the Respinto family, also owners of GianMarco's Restaurant. It is open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Saturdays. View Pizzeria GM Restaurant Profile