Chef J.P Holland wows foodies with his earth oven dinner.
By Jan Walsh
Ross and I were guests of Fig for their Hardcore Foodie Dinner. Upon arrival Chef, J.P. Holland is stoking the coals and unearthing a variety of charred proteins and veggies: lamb, snapper, pumpkins filled with shrimp, and squashes.
An earth oven—also known as a ground oven or cooking pit—is ancient cooking structure. It is a simple pit in the ground, which traps heat in order to bake, smoke, or steam food. Historically, earth ovens have been used in many places and cultures. And archaeologists seek evidence of these cooking pits as an indicator of human settlement. For baking the fire is built and burns down to a smolder. The food is placed in the oven and covered to bake. To steam food, the fire heated coals are put into a pit and covered with green vegetation (to add moisture) before a top covering is added. Holland also has a smoker behind the earth oven that is smoking additional proteins.
Holland is famous for his careful sourcing of the best food products and executing on their preparation. Tonight, is no exception. Fig’s Hardcore Foodie Dinner is served family style and carefully paired with wines that bring forth the beauty of every bite. After removing the char, heads on shrimp, pumpkins and squash, lamb, and snapper two ways are served. And the melt in the mouth, natural essence of each smoky, divine dish shines through—making it a night that even hardcore foodies will never forget.
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Paella on the Patio
OvenBird celebrates 4th anniversary al fresco.
By Jan Walsh
Tonight, Kev and I toast four years of OvenBird with Chris and Idie Hasting.
A lovely array of crisp Argentinian wines, of Gouguenheim Winery are poured as Chef Hastings gets the fire started. Then he and Idie visit with us while the fire gets hot. Unreal that four years have passed since I did a pre-opening review of the restaurant.
But the Hastings are not ones to look back. Thus, our conversation leads to the opening of the new location of Hot and Hot Fish Club, their other restaurant. Chris shares that Hot and Hot will remain at its original location through 2019 and will open at Pepper Place in January 2020.
The patio is packed for the dinner. And other restaurant guests walk past wondering what they are missing. Chef soon returns to the fire kettle, Idie welcomes guests, and we indulge in tapas of fresh oysters, seafood paella, veggie paella, and steak with fingerlings. Scrumptious saffron rice, fall vegetables, succulent heads on shrimp, and tender beef are paired with rose bubbly, whites, and reds. We love the paella on the patio events here and never miss one. Highly recommended!
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Early Bird Brunch
Arrive early for Iron City Grill’s new Sunday brunch.
By Jan Walsh
Today Kev and I open up Iron City Grill for Sunday Brunch at 10:00 a.m.
We are greeted by executive chef, Ian Barker who gives me a quick tour of the newly remodeled kitchen while our brunch cocktails are being made—hand squeezed mimosa and bloody mary, which are $2.00 until 11:00 a.m. And pair them with delightful, spiced cake donut holes with a beautiful house made apple butter, for starters.
An array of entrees and omelets makes it difficult to choose our mains. But we finally settle on a surf for me
and turf for Kev. My shrimp and grits is a colorful and flavorful plate of wild Gulf shrimp sautéed with poblano peppers and caramelized onions, along with bites of Conecuha sausage in a spicy roasted red pepper cream. It is served over a thick and creamy bed of McEwen and Sons cheddar grits. The grits are among the best I have ever had. The texture is smooth, thick, and hearty. No running all over my plate, and can be eaten with a fork. And most importantly they are bursting with corn flavor. These grits are also available a la carte. Kev’s steak and eggs arrives piping hot and cooked to order, medium plus steak and sunny side up eggs. One cut of the eggs and the orange farm yolk runs onto the steak. This generous 12-ounce Certified Angus Ribeye is tender, juicy, and beefy. It is served with yummy roasted potato hash and a side of the same gorgeous grits, and sweet potato biscuits.
For dessert we split one of the best pastries I have ever tasted, Danish Puffs. Light and heavenly, house-made puff pastries are covered in powdered sugar and filled with delectable, house-made cherry conserves and a tangy citrus cream cheese. Highly recommended! Next time we will each order our own, no splitting these in my future.
I have had my eye on this young chef, Ian’s culinary skill and talent and watched it develop for years, both here before here. His attention to detail and pursuit of extra effort shows in every plate, and it shows in every bite.
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Catch the catfish pontchartrain at Blueprint on 3rd.
By Jan Walsh
Tonight, we take our son, Jordan for his first dinner at Blueprint on 3rd. I am anxious for him to get the full experience. So, upon being seated, I inform the server that we are going to be ordering a lot of food.
It is 5:30, and this place is quickly packed. We start with cocktails and beer
as we catch up with Dean. I recommend the baked oysters to Jordan, which I enjoyed previously. They are a marvelous meal in themselves, baked in apple smoked bacon with spinach, parmesan, and crisp breadcrumbs. And we all split an array of apps: golden fried okra basket, crisp fried green tomatoes with spicy voodoo shrimp, and a basket of down-home cornbread with hot honey butter.
For entrees, my carnivores find the beef… Jordan has the scrumptious Blueprint burger, which is two patties thick topped with charred onions, taleggio, and bacon and tasty fries. And Kev enjoys a hearty plate of tender braised beef with fall root veggies. As usual, I am drawn to everything from the water, including tonight’s special, catfish pontchartrain. I have learned from past visits that the specials at Blueprint are really—special. So, the pontchartrain it is.
The heavenly hunk of farm raised, top fed Mississippi catfish arrives like a
gift, wrapped in ribbons of applewood smoked bacon. On first cut, I discover it is stuffed with seafood: shrimp, crabmeat, crawfish tail meat, along with buttery breadcrumbs. Flavors of the seafood and catfish meld together creating layers of flavor in this memorable meal. This pan seared and roasted delight is served with gorgeous McEwen grits, smoked tomato butter sauce, and French green beans. Highly recommended!
Somehow, we find room for desserts of Kev’s favorite, banana pudding and Jordan’s favorite, pecan pie. The creamy, pie-like pudding is filled with bananas, with a crust of fresh, crisp cookies—just like his mom used to make. The pecan pie has a perfect ratio of candied nuts to its filling and is topped with a lovely praline sauce and ice cream. I have a bite of each and leave the rest to my guys… such fun to watch them devour these delicious desserts.
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