Village Tavern treats us to a very special lunch paired with craft cocktails.
By Jan Walsh
Corporate Executive Chef, Mary Grace Viado Howard’s middle name, “Grace” describes her well. She displays grace in all she does, in good times and in bad, and today is graciously hosting us to a lovely lunch. Although we have picked up at the curb recently, this is our first time back to Village Tavern in the past few months. And it is like a homecoming being here with Mary Grace and team again.
Kev and I are led to our booth, already set with specialty cocktails—Grapes and Berries Spritz and Pain Killer—along with our own special lunch menu that states, “Welcome Birmingham Restaurants.” Nice touch. The spritzer takes me back to our early days together—holding hands and sipping wine spritzers for lunch. It is light and luscious with bright, slice strawberries and plump, fresh blueberries floating among the ice cubes, which I can’t resist fishing out with my straw. But don’t take its lightness lightly. This cocktail has both Grey Goose Vodka and Chateau St. Michelle Riesling in the mix—deliciously calming. And a pain killer is appropriate to our current pandemic needs. Kev reached straight for this long, tall, and golden glass topped with a generous garnish of fresh pineapple. Yet once he offered me a sip, he no longer had control of this tropical, creamy colada. Layers of flavors—Pusser’s Blue Label Rum, mango, coconut cream, pineapple, grated nutmeg—blend into one of the best cocktails we have each ever tasted. Mary Grace knows us well. She has watched and listened through the years, filing our preferences away in her mind (such as, early spritzer days and Kev’s love of a good colada). So, these two drinks were not chosen for us by happenstance. Her attention to detail is part of her grace.
Next arrives a platter of Shanghai Flash-Fried Calamari. Neither of us have ever been big calamari fans—until now. Oh, my! Crisp (not chewy) calamari glistens in ginger-chili and Thai-peanut sauces, adding a delightful heat to the dish. And a finishing touch of scallions and peanuts add additional taste and texture. Be the person who shares this amazing app with your table!
Village Tavern has one of the best Caesar Salads ever. It has always been my favorite salad here. Crisp, romaine hearts, Reggiano parmesan, and house made croutons make a refreshing salad course.
For entrees we share Brick Chicken and Hemingway Florentine paired with another round of our newfound favorite cocktails. We are impressed to just see a half chicken that is boneless (How did she do that?), and even more impressed at first bite. This all-natural bird was seared with a hot cast iron skillet until crisp and served in its own jus, along with gorgeously fresh green beans and garlic mashed potatoes. Managing Partner, Kevin Buckley, who served us the entree, shares that it is his favorite dish. What good taste he has. And the fabulous Hemingway Florentine is a plate of succulent, pan seared, fresh grouper in white wine with touches of acidity from lemon, tomatoes, and capers. It is accompanied by a scrumptious sautéed spinach with Parmesan.
Mary Grace ends our meal with a comforting Warm Butter Cake for dessert. Just what I love a hot and cold dessert… The warm round of cake is topped with Bassett’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and is encircled with strawberries and blueberries in the same raspberry sauce as the cake. We take our first bites just as the ice cream begins to melt and drizzle over the warm cake—melding the creamy and buttery flavors together. And the fresh fruit balances and brightens the dish.
But that is not all… as we finish, Mary Grace stops at the table to say goodbye and leaves us with a take home treat of Double Chocolate Cheesecake for tomorrow. What a chef and hostess!
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