Nuts for Butternuts

Autumn brings a bounty of butternut squash to Bottega Café.

By Jan Walsh

I love everything about butternut. It is the color of fall boasting sweet, butterscotch, nutty flavors. Plus, butternut squash is touted by health experts as a cold weather superfood, rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber… Even the name sounds good, butter + nut!
When fall arrives, much like our two squirrels, “Peanut” and “Pecan,” searching for acorns, nuts, and seeds, I scout out butternut squash. And at Bottega Café, there is a cornucopia of these bell shaped, hard winter beauties among the snacks, salads, and mains.

The Café does not accept reservations. Thus, we arrive at the door before it opens for lunch. Not only does this strategy snag the best table it also gives us first dibs on the warm, house made Focaccia. We dredge the moist and fluffy bread in Bottega’s own, golden, robust infused olive oil as we nibble their Marinated Olives. These are our favorite olives anywhere. It does not get better than Bottega’s selection of olives and the marinade of fennel seed, cumin, and lemon peel.

Also, from the starters list we opt for Belle Meadow Butternut Squash. Oh, my! One bite of this colorful and aromatic dish, and I declare it to be the quintessential butternut squash dish. Delicate microgreens encircle the butternuts, which rest atop warm, creamy polenta, enhancing each caramel-colored bite of the squash with comfort. Ruby colored, tangy, crunchy pomegranate seeds, and chewy, nutty pumpkin seeds dot the dish with color and texture. And a drizzling of brown butter vinaigrette, completes it with richness, acid, and salt. The most delightful and memorable butternut ever!

Butternut squash is also found in the Autumn Salad, which will be calling us back another day because we spy both pasta with butternuts and risotto and butternuts in the mains list. Kev opts for Calamarata Pasta. And the kitchen makes my day by graciously and unexpectedly offering to make the Scallop Risotto without chanterelles listed on the menu, due to my allergy. Both cozy and rich, Kev’s pasta plate is perfection. Short thick, al dente rings of calamarata are enveloped in a tomato, red wine sauce along with a patchwork of mid-autumn savories. Melt in the mouth, braised beef, butternut squash bursting with fall flavors, and fresh dug carrots snuggle together with the pasta like kids under a homemade quilt. I can’t resist reaching for a piece of the pasta entree and close my eyes to wallow in this wonderful bite. Highly recommended!

My golden risotto is another plate of plentifulness. Four delicate sea scallops anchor the rich risotto, encircling a scallop floating on top. Enveloping butternuts, leeks, vermouth, and thyme into each creamy spoonful, this risotto has it all even without the mushrooms. Every grain of these creamy, puffy pearls exhibits a distinct bite and velvety texture. Catch it if you can!

For dessert we are treated to Raspberry Semifreddo, along with our order of Bottega Sundae. Semifreddo translates to half frozen or half cold. Yet semifreddo is full frozen. And Bottega’s are always divine. Today’s sweet tart raspberry version is a fluffy tower, resting atop a cookie, draped with raspberry glaze, and punctuated with pistachio and fresh raspberries. Dolce! The sundae’s luxurious Luxardo Cherries bring new meaning to the term, “the cherry on top.” Shining with sophistication, the cherries are naturally and intensely black red. Handpicked in Veneto’s fertile volcanic soil, they are candy like in texture, earthy, and mellow. Each cherry bursts with a blast of juiciness. If you have the world’s best cherry “on top” what is on the bottom? We spoon down from the fresh whipped cream atop through the ice cream and cherries, and into the decadent brownie below, made of Valrhona Chocolate. This chocolate is also the world’s finest, made in the small village of Tain L'Hermitage, France since 1922. Chocolate and cherries bring back the 1970s, when Aunt Celia (who was the sister, I never had) frequently surprised me with boxes of chocolate covered cherries for us to share. How I wish she were here…

Download Birmingham Restaurants App




Copyright ©2023 Birmingham Restaurants

Categories: Casually Upscale, Reviews
Location: Blogs Parent Separator Reviews