Date Night, Done Right
In the mood for romance? Get a table, at Galley and Garden.
By Jan Walsh
Galley and Garden has a reputation for romance. Whether it be drinks at the bar, Champagne brunch on the patio, or popping the question over dinner. But it doesn’t stop here. The restaurant and its private dining rooms are also popular for wedding parties and rehearsal dinners. Thus, it is no surprise that one of Galley and Garden’s most recent accolades is being named “Alabama’s Most Romantic Restaurant,” by Eat This, Not That.
Galley and Garden is located in the historic Merritt House, which was built in 1908. The home featured expansive porches, dormers and stained and leaded glass. And in 2014 the exterior was restored to its historical condition. Also, inside the two-storied mansion, there is also a wine room worthy of Galley and Garden’s stellar wine program, which is Alabama’s most awarded. The wine collection has received Wine Spectator's “Best of Award of Excellence” annually since 2016. And it was named among Wine Enthusiast's “Top 100 Wine Restaurants” in 2018.
We arrive to valet in waiting for our first dinner with Chef de Cuisine, Vicky Rutledge. The restaurant begins dinner service at 4:30 p.m., which suits us. We eat dinner as early as possible. Maître D’ Stan Reynolds, who is also the house artist, has our favorite table waiting. Seated in front of the fireplace, General Manager and Beverage Director, Jesse Jewell introduces us to Chef Rutledge. And she graciously offers for us to leave the dinner to her. We happily agree. And she is already aware of my food allergy before I can say a word. She then proceeds to the kitchen. And our server brings a chilled bottle San Pellegrino with its own ice bucket, another mind reader, as this is what I always order.
We also select a bottle of J Vineyards Cuvee 20, which brings back memories of visiting the winery and being hosted by them at two wine dinners for the NOWFE back in the day. And the bottle arrives at the perfect temperature (45 to 50 degrees) with proper stemware. Sparkling wines are the only wines that make a sound. And the only sound better than the pop of a Champagne bottle is the faint escape of effervescence as we toast the beginning of my birthday week.
The way to this man’s heart is with… pork. And Kev’s generous portion of Comfrey Farms Duroc Pork Belly is melt in the mouth, fatty and fabulous. Baby heirloom carrots, baby bok choi, shiitake mushrooms, house kimchi, soy, and miso reduction add texture and delightful Asian accents.
Also amazing are two salads: Roasted Baby Beet Salad and Pickled Strawberry Salad. A colorful array of beets shines brightly atop in
Southern organics mixed lettuces, which suits my organic life. Also in the mix are shaved fennel, and candied pumpkin seeds, all dressed in pumpkinseed oil vinaigrette. The colorful beet salad boasts fresh, floral flavors rounded out by creamy, crunchy, and whimsical pistachio goat cheese balls. Oh, my, these babies are the bomb! The strawberry salad is the essence of spring, starring luscious pickled strawberries tossed with arugula, shaved fennel, feta, red onion, candied pistachios, and a divine Dijon vinaigrette. Both salads are highly recommended!
Chef Rutledge’s selections of entrees are also outstanding: Grilled Hereford Bistro Tenderloin for Kev and Tea Smoked Muscovy Duck Breast for me. The tender, juicy steak is served sliced, topped with a gratifying bourbon, garlic, and herb steak sauce, which enhances without overpowering. Accompanying the steak are a side of comforting, scrumptious Parmesan smashed potatoes, and a lovely garden salad. A man pleaser!
The delightful duck is also served sliced and fanned atop baby carrots, baby bok choi, cippolini onion, in a ginger and black currant gastrique. This delicate duck has a thin skin, which is crisp on the outside. And on the inside it is lean, meaty, tender, full of flavor, and speaks with an Asian accent.
Dessert selections include Dulce de Leche Cheesecake and Chef's Special Brownie. This cheesecake is much like my old, family, secret recipe, which I make for my family’s birthdays and holidays. It is tall, moist, and bursting with caramel with hints of bourbon. Chef's Special Brownie is a wonderful wedge of dark chocolate filled with candied walnuts, presented with chocolate espresso beans and brown butter-buttermilk ice cream. A chocolate lovers must!
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