the fig tree cafe's tomato saladGarden to Table 

The Fig is all about the fabulous food. 

By Jan Walsh 

Chef J.P. Holland makes a job of sourcing his food. From where it comes, how it is raised, and the care and expertise of its preparation, Chef is very involved in the breeding and genetics of the pork and beef served. His seafood comes from Greg Abrams. Local farmers bring their products to the table. And, in Fig’s own garden, he plants, grows, and harvests mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, and wax beans. 

fig tree cafe blueberry lemonade It took me awhile to discover this place tucked away in Cahaba Heights, but we have been regulars. We get take out for working lunches, enjoy laid back brunches on Saturday and Sunday, and on occasion reserve a table for their incredible dinners. 

Today Kev and I arrive early for Saturday brunch. It is a hot one. So, we sit inside their cool, cozy bar. J.P. sees us through the open kitchen and drops by for a table visit. Then he disappears out the front door. But he is back soon with a handful of tomatoes that he shows me, saying he picked these end of season heirlooms to make a salad for me. Wow! 

fig tree cafe chicken and waffleWe order our favorite Fig cocktail, spiked blueberry lemonades. Always refreshing and brunch friendly. Kev orders his regular, Truck Stop Chicken and Waffle. And I order the Fish of the Day, red snapper. While sipping our cocktails, we share a colorful array of beefy heirlooms, bursting with flavor. The tomato salad is topped with crisp pig skins, providing a touch of whimsy and texture to the dish. 

Kev’s large chicken breast is golden outside, white and moist inside. The light and fluffy Belgian waffle has large squares and deep pockets that hold up to the syrup, without getting soggy. I steal a bite… No wonder he orders it again and again. This dish is also available as a hot chicken option. 


fig tree snapper My lovely snapper filet is served on a succotash of purple hull peas, okra, corn, onions, and tomatoes. I flake bites of the fish into the succotash below, making a heavenly seafood medley. A delightful dish! 

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gianmarco's heirloom tomato salad
Listening Skills 

Don’t order dinner at GianMarco’s until you hear the specials. 

By Jan Walsh  

Tonight, we are headed to GianMarco’s Restaurant for dinner with Jordan. And on the ride, he asks me what I plan to order. I advise against deciding ahead of time by looking at the menu online because we must hear the specials first. I also advise to listen closely because there will likely be several special apps and several special entrees.

gianmarco's bone in filet steakAs we are seated at “our table,” we get a big wave from Giani. I do not know how he does it. I go to Pizzeria GM, and he is there. I come to GianMarco’s. He is here. We select a red and white wine from the extensive, new wine list. And after hearing the specials, we opt for a variety of them—as predicted. Passing up thepasta is not easy. But Kev and I eat their pasta dishes often for lunch here. So, we are really not passing it up, but merely saving it for another day. And after all, who can resist their seasonal shrimp Louie salad, fried oysters, bone in filet, Gulf snapper, and fried chicken?  

gianmarco's snapperJordan’s plump, succulent oysters arrive fried to a golden brown and are accented by a tasty tomato relish. Our Louie salads are a colorful layering of avocado, bacon bits, and crumbles of boiled egg atop the chilled, pink, firm Gulf shrimp and dead ripe, red heirloom tomato slices—all enveloped in lettuce leaves. Highly recommended! Kev’s golden, fried chicken is a substantial and comforting bird. It is accompanied by mashed potatoes and collard greens full of down home flavor just like my grandmother made. Jordan’s filet is cooked to order, medium rare. It is seared on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside. House cut, steak fries and sautéed spinach round out his marvelous meal. And my snapper floats atop a polenta cake and fresh, sautéed spinach. Each bite of this white, flaky filet speaks to its freshness. GianMarco’s has the best sources for poultry, beef, and seafood. He and Marco develop and execute dishes that are deserving of these fine, quality food products—bringing each to its potential on the plate. 

gianmarco's blueberry cheesecakeFor dessert we share blueberry cheesecake. And this is not just a cheesecake with blueberries atop. It is made with fresh blueberries, as well as covered in a blueberry sauce and fresh berries. Light, creamy, and lovely. 

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galley and garden heirloom tomato saladOne Price, Three Courses 

Galley and Garden’s new prix fixe menus please both palate and pocketbook. 

By Jan Walsh 

Galley and Garden rolls out new prix fixe menus for brunch, lunch, and dinner. The current menus are good for the month of August. And I have hopes they will continue this tasty trend into the fall. 

Kev and I had lunch, ordering from the lunch prix fixe menu. But we could not resist starting with the Heirloom Tomato Salad from the regular lunch menu, while considering our new options. Options include two ($20) or three courses ($25 includes dessert) for lunch. Yet with peach shortcake as the dessert, we both opt for the three-course lunch.  

galley and garden watermelon saladThe tomato salad is a colorful mix of local heirlooms enhanced by bites of blue cheese, and a lovely array of olives, all in a red roasted vinaigrette. We should have ordered one each because it is too good to share. 

Among the three choices for our first course, Kev selects the Grilled Chilton County Peach Salad, and I have the Melon and Feta Salad. His peach salad arrives with grilled, skin on peaches encircling a beautiful Burrata cheese, which is ensconced with red gastrique onions. The dish is dotted with sliced almonds and drizzled with pesto. The mellow flavors of the fruit is captured in its charred exterior. The cheese adds creaminess that is cut by the acidity of the onions. The almonds add texture, and the entire dish is brightened by the touch of pesto. My watermelon salad is scrumptious. Chunks of dead ripe, delicious watermelon are accompanied by thinly, semi-translucent slices of fresh cantaloupe and honeydew—all resting atop watercress. A dusting of crispy speck tops off this delicious dish. Highly recommended! 

galley and garden chicken breastAs a second course, Kev ordered the Herb Marinated Springer Mountain Farms Chicken Breast, and I chose Seared Gulf Shrimp. His bird is a beauty —tender, moist, and bursting with freshness. It is served with a fresh mix of summer squash, tomato, onion, red pepper coulis. My three, succulent  shrimp arrive atop a marvelous maque choux. The portions of these entrees are perfect, fulfilling but not too filling. 

The shortcake dessert boasts a large biscuit overfilled with fresh peaches and a hearty dollop of fresh cream. We end our lunch with plans to try the fixe prix brunch and dinner menus soon. 

galley and garden peach cream shortcakeView Galley and Garden Profile 

highlands bar and grill cornbreadCrab Claws and Cornbread

Dinner at Highlands Bar starts with the tried and true. 

By Jan Walsh 

Driving to Highlands Bar and Grill tonight, Kev asks what they are having for dinner. I reply that I am not sure, but as long as they have crab claws and cornbread, I will be happy. 

highlands bar and grill shrimp cocktail crab claws Upon arrival, there are two couples ahead of us, waiting for the doors to the Bar to open. But fortunately, as they enter, neither takes our favorite seats—in the middle corner of the bar. We pull up our stools, order a bottle of cava, and ask when the cornbread will be ready. 

In the meantime, we order the Gulf Shrimp Cocktail and Crab Claws from the oyster bar. The perfectly curled, succulent shrimp are icy cold and have the firm texture that makes each bite a refreshing delight. And the claws are also as good as ever. Their delicate meat is enhanced by its acidic marinade and creamy ginger sauce. 

highlands heirloom tomato saladhighlands shrimp louie salad
As our hot, cornbread muffins arrive, they quickly become a contagious dish that everyone else at the bar now wants. Slathering butter on them, we dig in to this deliciousness. Although I have Frank Stitt’s recipe and occasionally make this cornbread at home, it never looks or tastes like this. I need to get in his kitchen soon and see what magic I am missing. 

For apps we order the Heirloom Tomato Salad and Shrimp Louie. The tomato salad is a scrumptious stack of various heirloom varieties in all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. It is accented by filed peas, and a lovely little wedge of Old Chatham Camembert. This ultimate Louie is packed with protein. Three chilled shrimp are nestled atop a bed of lettuce, local farm egg, avocado, tomatoes, and jumbo lump crabmeat. And at the integral to this Louie is its tangy, creamy dressing that gathers all other ingredients into its creamy command, enhancing each. 

highlands red snapper highlands peach blueberry cobbler dessertWe split an entrée of red snapper in order to save room for their famous dessert. Two filets of Greg Abram’s Red Snapper arrive, golden on the outside, white and milky on the inside—bursting with freshness. Not the slightest need for a squeeze of lemon, which is my measure for how fresh a piece of fish is. The fish floats atop its accompanying and tasty mix of cherry tomato confit, diced yellow squash, onions, and farro. 

We end the evening with more in season goodness from their famous, award winning, pastry chef, Dolester Miles—Peach and Blueberry Cobbler. The cobbler is cooked in its own white ramekin, which has colorful juices from the fruit, that bubbled up during baking, cooked onto its sides. A scoop of ginger and honey ice cream tops the golden, sugary crust. On first cut of the thick crust, ice cream melts and blends beautifully into the bounty of fruit below. Hot meets cold. And it marries well. 

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