A Memory Made
Ross chose Bamboo on 2nd for his 31st birthday dinner.
By Jan Walsh
Among all the restaurants on Birmingham Restaurants, Ross wishes for dinner at Bamboo on 2nd for his 31st birthday. And soon the birthday dinner becomes a “family reunion” as Ross, Kev, and I catch up with Sam Fallaw and Bernie Smith, owners of the restaurant.
We go way back with these guys to their days of Tavern on the Summit. We reminisce about a day when a big storm came through, and the power went off, while the three of us were lunching there. Luckily, we already had our food, so lunching under the restaurant’s gas lanterns while watching the storm blow made a lasting memory. Tonight, Sam teases me for ordering the Caesar Salad. But its roots came from that restaurant. And I do miss its authentic anchovy flavors. For Bamboo’s Spicy Caesar Salad they start with the former Tavern’s classic Caesar recipe and turn up the heat and add crunch with wonton crisps. And suddenly I find other forks stabbing at my sensational salad, so sharing plates are necessary.
A Champagne by the glass, at a reasonable price, served at appropriate temp and in proper stemware is something in itself to celebrate. We also enjoy the Sake Colada, which is a fruity delight that is not overly sweet.
New finds on the menu, sampled tonight, include Pork Momos, Slow Roasted Baby Back Ribs, and Kumo Rolls. Some favorites from the past are also a must, House Marinated Beef Bamboo Skewer and Salmon Cream Crunch Roll.
The pork momos’ spicy ponzu adds swagger to this dish, making it just spicy enough that we quickly “need” the next bite. The ribs dark, glistening hoisin glaze makes the mouth water at first glance. They are fall off the bone tender—without falling off the bone or shredding while eating. And from first bite to last, they are a synthesis of sweet, spicy, salty—and meaty. The ribs are served with a tasty sesame coleslaw that brightens the plate and the palate. Highly Recommended! Difficult to pick a fav roll of the evening. The creamy and crunchy smoked salmon roll is a tempura lovers delight. And the Kumo Rolls caught me at “fried soft shell crab.” The rolls also include cucumber, avocado, crab, and are topped with seared tuna and serrano peppers, which add a bite of heat to the delicate crab flavors. Delicious.
Sadly, we saved no room for a birthday dessert. But we depart fulfilled with a wonderful dinner—and another happy birthday memory made.
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Pizzeria GM takes comfort food to the cutting edge.
By Jan Walsh
Pizzeria GM makes new restaurant success look easy—although it absolutely is not. This place has been packed since day one and continues to please all because it is all about the food. Sure, it is a cool place, nice patio, and screened-in porch. The cocktail, beer, and wine selections surpass expections. But it is the food that brings people back to a restaurant again and again, not a concept or just a pretty place. And Chef Giani Respinto has made this kitchen a playground for his culinary talents—thinking outside the pizza box. And this passion is found on every plate.
Pizzeria GM’s menu continues to evolve with new dishes one would never expect to find in a pizza place, such as seared rare veal carpaccio, smashed avocado bruschetta with fried oysters, and more. He also avoids the everydayness of a set menu, with creative weekly specials, while keeping customer’s favorites always on the menu. Today he opened on a Sunday for St. Patrick’s Day with 20 percent going to Homewood Athletic Foundation, and a parking lot full carnival style games. There was even a special menu just for today, on which Kev found a Coney Island style hotdog that made his Irish eyes smile. In March he also developed separate menus for lunch and dinner.
Two new favorites found for both lunch and dinner are Chilled Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail and Roasted Cauliflower Salad. We shared both. The pristine shrimp are served with classic cocktail and remoulade sauces. The enormous shrimp rival any shrimp cocktail we have ever had at any fine dining restaurant—firm, plump, glistening, and even more lovely dipped in a combo of the house-made sauces. The Cauliflower Salad arrives plated in halves for us. Baby artichokes, roasted yellow peppers, roasted Roma tomatoes, and green olives are mixed among the cauliflower. It is served hot, in a basil oregano vinaigrette. I am not often wowed by a salad, but this is the exception. Acidic flavors of olive and artichoke shine in this dish, yet do not overcome it. Crisp rosemary flatbreads accompany the salad, adding nibbles of starch to each bite.
For our pizza, we just can’t seem to order anything but our tried and true favorite, which Kev has dubbed, “Jan’s Way.” We start with the Chicken Parmesan Pizza, but we build our own from there. Light on sauce, extra cheese, peppers, onions, and marinated black, Sicilian olives. It has it all and just like Pizzeria GM, only gets better every time.
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Slice of Life
Lunch for two, mother and son, at The Gardens Café
By Jan Walsh
Last week Jordan and I spent Friday at the Birmingham Bar Association’s annual membership event, held in Mountain Brook. We were there to debut the new mobile and social friendly version of our Local Lawyers’ BirminghamLawyers.com. And during lunch we snuck out for a window table at The Gardens Café.
The Gardens Café is the perfect place to catch our breath, catch up with each other, and plan our afternoon back at the forum. Jordan opts for the chicken gumbo and the burger, which was recommended ahead of time by Kev, who always orders it here. And I select tomato soup and vegetable sandwich. The gorgeous and scrumptious Chicken Gumbo is chunked full of light and dark meat chicken, rice, and veggies. My Tomato Basil Soup is a classic and a tried and true favorite from previous visits.
The meaty, Eight-Ounce Sirloin Burger is served open face on a Kaiser roll with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle. It is accompanied by piping hot French fries, so good that I had to steal a few. Jordan declares it “Delicious!” on first bite. So, it now it has achieved two guys’ approval from my fam, guess I need to bring Ross here for it next.
My Grilled Vegetable Sandwich is ordered without mushrooms due to my food allergy. I expect the mushrooms would add a layer of earthiness to the sandwich. But I can’t imagine how it could be better than mine. Thick, soft, slices of focaccia bread are lightly toasted, just enough to melt and meld the Swiss cheese onto the red peppers, spinach, and caramelized onion aioli. It is lovely—light yet fulfilling. Highly recommended! The sandwich is served with tasty thick, crisp homemade Parmesan chips, which add crunch and texture to the plate.
As we head back to work our local legal internet business, I realize how lucky I am to have a son as a business partner—who is also a foodie!
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Brock’s new Sunday Brunch boasts Croissant French Toast.
By Jan Walsh
Brock’s at Renaissance Ross Bridge Resort and Spa debuts Sunday brunch.
What a spread! We start with bloody marys, made to order, at the bloody mary bar with every imaginable garnish and multiple salts rubs to choose among. Next, we indulge in the salad station, seafood station of head on shrimp and snow crab legs, and the carving station's pork tenderloin. There is also fresh fruit galore. We had no room for the omelet station, made with cage free eggs. You may build your own by choosing toppings or order one of their signature omelets, mushroom hash or crab omelet. But we look forward to trying it on our next visit.
From the warming station, there are scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, and so much more. Here we discovered the food find of the week—Croissant French Toast. Alongside the French Toast are three red pots with bubbly hot options of maple syrup, strawberry syrup, and bananas foster. Kev opted for maple syrup, and I chose the bananas foster. On first bite of this rummy deliciousness I realize that although I never even heard of croissant French toast before now, I have been needing this all my life. And we both agree that this is one of the best French toasts we have ever had.Birthday Wishes
Tonight, we celebrate the tried, true, and new at Blueprint on 3rd.
By Jan Walsh
Our dear friend, Richard Phillips wished for and chose Blueprint 3rd as the restaurant for his birthday dinner. And his good taste is evident in each tasty dish.
Owners Dean and Jenny Robb generously treat us to a starter of Blackened Pork Belly, which we pair with a Cast Iron Skillet Pimento Cheese.
Oh, my… the tender, meaty pork melts in the mouth. It is topped with a creamy and green apple slaw and a plum jam, which lends a touch of sweetness. And it is adorned with scrumptious, spicy cashews.
And as the pimento cheese arrives sizzling in the skillet, I am in disbelief that I never ordered it before because it is a crowd favorite and mainstay on the ever-changing menu. As we spread this creamy, hot deliciousness onto soft, warm, pumpernickel toast points, it quickly becomes apparent that we should have ordered two—even though the size is generous.
For entrees, the guys order tried and true. Kev sticks to his favorite of Linguini with Chicken, and Richard has the Blueprint Poutine. But I find a new dish, Cavatelli Pasta and Pancetta. The colorful bowl of cavatelli pasta (little hollows), pancetta, rainbow chard, peas, and more has it all. It is an earthy celebration of winter. Order it soon.
As the birthday candle is blown out, and Richard’s secret wish is made, I make one too—many more special birthdays for this remarkable man.
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