Hot and Hotter
Hot and Hot Fish Club V2 opens at Pepper Place.
By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
I built my home twice. The first one taught me what else I needed, and what I did not. It took living in it and then building the second version of it to get it perfect. So, I relate to Chris and Idie Hastings’ opportunity to keep what worked from the original Hot and Hot and expand on it. And tonight, at the pre-opening party, we celebrate Hot and Hot’s past, present, and future.
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Kev’s birthday wish? Dinner at GianMarco’s.
By Jan Walsh
Memories are precious. Four years ago, we enjoyed a big birthday that celebrated seven decades of Kev’s life here at GianMarco’s. It was in their private dining room, filled with family and friends who surprised him with their presence, not presents. They are all gifts in his life, including those who have passed since.
Tonight, we start the new decade, making more birthday memories at GianMarco’s—with dinner for two. Our favorite table is waiting when we arrive at 5:00 P.M., as are many people in the bar who did not make a reservation.
Kev and I often dine here for lunch. So it is the dinner specials, not listed on the menu, that we are anxious to hear. Our server had Kev at Stone Crab Claws and me at Seafood Stew.
The stone crab claws are sold by the claw. He orders three. Much like shrimp cocktail the claws are served on ice. Upon cracking each enormous claw, the delicate crabmeat is picked with a cocktail fork, melting in the mouth. My chowder is incredible. An array of seafood: head on shrimp, scallops, mussels, and clams float in a tomato-based broth. It is also chock full of veggies: potatoes, yellow corn, onions, carrots, and celery. This hearty stew is a synthesis of integrated, deeply layered flavors and is among the best I have ever tasted. Highly recommended!
As we order entrees it occurs to me how we never feel rushed here. We select two more dinner specials—creating our own surf and turf—of Scallops and Bone-in Ribeye. My succulent four scallops arrive on a scrumptious bed of creamed corn. This divine dish is not filling, but fulfilling instead. I have been in the kitchen with Giani when he makes the steak special. So, I know how delicious it is going to be and am delighted Kev ordered for his birthday.
The 12-ounce, bone-in, pasture raised ribeye is cooked to order and served with chive butter atop along with Rigatoni Quatro Formaggio and Brussel Sprouts. The steak is juicy, tender, and cut with just enough fat to flavor it. You won’t find a better steak anywhere. The cheese mac and cheese is comfort times four, with comte, asiago, grana Padano, and fontina cheeses baked inside and out of the rigatoni. And the Brussel sprouts are caramelized, boasting hints of bacon fat and butter. Click link below to view recipes and cooking video of Giani making the steak, rigatoni, and Brussel sprouts
During dinner Marco visits with us and graciously treats us to dessert. I wonder what he wishes for as Kev blows out the candle on tonight’s hot meets cold dessert—of warm blueberry cobbler with house made ice cream. Heavy on blueberries and light on crust, the ice cream melts down into the warm berries for a creamy, sweet tart temptation. And another sweet memory made.
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Enjoy eight-ounce lunch, cheeseburger for $10 at Bistro V.
By Jan Walsh
Kev and I love to lunch at Bistro V. I am a big fan of the fish of the day and the farmer’s market veggie plate specials. And he always opts for a sandwich.
So far, Kev has enjoyed the roast beef sandwich, grilled cheese, Tuscan grilled chicken sandwich, po boys, and turkey panini. And once he orders a sandwich he tends to have the same sandwich the next time—tried and true.
Today he opts for the Bistro Cheeseburger. Eight ounces of fresh ground beef are hand patted and cooked to order over the grill. It comes with lettuce, tomato, and Maytag Bleu Cheese. Kev changes the cheese to cheddar and adds bacon. The hearty, juicy, and scrumptious cheeseburger arrives cooked perfectly to order, and accompanied by fries—his way.
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Hot and Hot ends the decade with finale dinner at original location.
By Jan Walsh
Tonight, Hot and Hot Fish Club is the place to be for New Year’s Eve. It is Chris and Idie Hastings’ last night of 24 years of service for the original location. And in addition to New Year’s Eve dinner, they are hosting a midnight until party as a tribute to the Old Upside Down Plaza.
Yet Kev and I aren’t waiting until midnight to toast the end of 2019 and this original location of Hot and Hot Fish Club. We have early dinner reservations. Tonight, the address is “Memory Lane,” as we remember the many good times here. And seeing Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc on the wine list conjures up a special one. In 2014 I arranged for Scramsberg’s vintner, Hugh Davies to host a private wine dinner for the Birmingham IW&FS at Hot and Hot. The, sold out with a waiting list, dinner began with Davies daringly sabering a bottle of bubbly to a round of applause. He then signed the saber, and gifted it to me, which I keep on our tasting room table in our wine cellar. Cheers to good times gone by at Hot and Hot!
The New Year’s Eve dinner is four courses with three options for the first three courses. We begin with a tasty amuse bouche of Chef Chris Hastings’ Duck and Shrimp Gumbo, which whets the appetite for our first course. Next, Kev and I both opt for the Beet Salad. Gorgeous, golden beets adorn a bed of goat cheese mousse and are accompanied by watercress, honey, and a pecan tuile in this refreshing salad, bursting with layers of flavor and textures.
For our second course, Kev selects the Pan Seared Scallops and I order the Shrimp and Grits. The scallops here are always perfection. And tonight is no exception. The large, delicate scallops are seared to a firm, golden crust and white, quivery, and succulent inside. An array of farm spinach, turnips, and foraged mushrooms rounds out this divine dish. My shrimp and grits are crowned with a crisp of Benton’s ham. Below is a crepinette of Bayou La Batre shrimp over the most wonderful grits—Carolina Gold Rice Grits. Each bite of this dish is bursting with flavors of the land and sea. The comforting rice grits spoon sticky yet separate on the palate for an incredible mouthfeel and texture. And the minced shrimp is sensational.
For our main courses, Kev selects the Braised Lamb Shank. And I opt for Southern Bouillabaisse. The shank’s earthiness and melt in your mouth tenderness is complemented by its white truffle risotto—making a hearty meal to end the decade. And just when I think my last course will be my favorite, my bouillabaisse arrives. Oh my, where to begin? With the saffron broth, of course. It permeates the seafood: red snapper, clams, scallops, and mussels with its fragrant flavors, without overpowering, allowing the seafood to shine in this amazing dish. Best bouillabaisse I have ever tasted. Highly recommended!
We end the decade and the evening with hugs from the Hastings, decadent desserts of Ruby Chocolate Mousse and champagne sorbet, and another sweet memory made.
The Hastings will move Hot and Hot Fish Club to Pepper Place in early 2020.
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