February 24, 2013 § Leave a Comment
There are a great many things Birmingham has to offer that let you feel that you are enjoying life to the fullest. I’ve often found myself searching for just the right suggestions for out-of-towners searching for somewhere to go, somewhere to truly experience Birmingham. The city has several attractions: the Civil Rights Institute, the Vulcan, Birmingham Museum of Art, Sloss Furnace, Railroad Park (just to name a few), or just driving around beautiful, historic neighborhoods and experiencing the architecture and the culture.
If this locale fits the crowd you’re with, I suggest a boozy afternoon at Avondale Brewing‘s taproom.
First, head two doors down over to Saw’s. (I reviewed this place some time ago, when their only location was in Edgewood, but the city now boasts two more locations: Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale as well as Saw’s Juke Joint in Crestline. This little establishment has seen some well-deserved growth.)
Back to your to-do list: place an order at Saw’s. I recommend one of their Baker’s—the pork one is incredible. On top of this oversized baked potato, you have an entire layer of tender, juicy, divine pulled pork with crispy, charred edges. Then as you dive deeper in, you get a layer of cheesy potato with green onions and more pork. And if you order a side of white sauce, it’s just all over.
Or you could also get the Saw’s Burger, which is a darn good burger. And on the side, order onion rings or fries—you can’t go wrong either way.
Then carry your food over to the Avondale taproom, and find a spot to sit and eat while sipping a beer, perhaps a seasonal Peach Saison, which is light, crispy, and delicately sweet.
Finish that beer, then order a flight of their flagship beers.
My personal favorites are the Spring Street Saison which is citrusy and crisp (I’ve mentioned this before), the Scottish Ale with its sweet flavors and buttery aftertaste, and the Vanillaphant Porter, with chocolate and coffee undertones.
July 12, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Go vote! It’s fun to contemplate your absolute favs. The results for both of these will appear in the September 2012 issue of Birmingham Magazine and the fall issue of Tuscaloosa magazine. Click here (or on the image below) for Best of B’ham and here for Best of Tuscaloosa to fill out your answers. And hey, there’s a little spot for a favorite local blogger on the Best of B’ham. Maybe consider listing yours truly??
May 23, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Back Forty Beer Company, which is based out of Gadsden, offers a Kudzu Porter. I enjoyed its tamed hoppiness with chocolate and nutty undertones. I suggest you try it! And obviously, since kudzu has a special place in my heart, I thought it was perfect to share with you all. And as a side note, their Truck Stop Honey Brown Ale is one of my absolute favorites.
May 3, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This post is a bit delayed (well really, what hasn’t been delayed with me lately, huh? I am ready for things calm down just a bit!), but James and I visited Slice Stone Pizza & Brew not too long ago (well ok, this was before Lent, but we’ve been back since). I had been once before, and I wasn’t all that impressed, so I was a little reluctant to return. But Bettola was closed because it was a Sunday, and a grey and rainy one at that, and we really needed pizza, so we came here.
After this visit, I completely changed my mind about Slice.
The first time I went, I ordered the Basic Pesto pizza, which was good, but it felt lacking in anything special.
On this rainy Sunday, we took refuge from the downpour inside the historic Craftsman home turned restaurant on 29th Street. Its walls are covered with graphic art depicting beer, pizza, and Birmingham icons like The Vulcan.
We sat at the bar, and we ordered the Bajalieh Special —named after the brothers who founded this pizza joint— and it was topped with tomato sauce, cheese, bacon, grilled red onion, and Wickles Pepper Rings. Ah! So good! The crust was seasoned very well—a little crisp and just a little chewy (how I like it). The peppers on the pizza were fabulous. I love spicy things—especially on pizza. We devoured this.
This restaurant also prides itself in its local, fresh ingredients that top the pizzas and its local beer selection. What I really liked was that a beer pairing suggestion was listed on the menu beside each item.
The suggested beer for this was Good People IPA. But I’m not a big IPA consumer. I wanted to try something new, and that day it was Avondale Spring Street Saison—my brand new fav. Light, crisp, citrusy, and a bit sweet. Love it.
Ok, and because I said, “Hey, I’m going to blog about this” (I was really on the ball about that now, wasn’t I? I’m a terrible blogger as of late.), I made James split dessert with me. We ordered—hold onto your hats—their special ice cream with blackstrap molasses and bacon.
Ah! So delish. So decadent. So sinful. But so pricey! It was $6.50. That’s a lot for one scoop, in my opinion.
So then we come to end of all this, which was a $35 bill. It’s not bad, but when you’re grabbing pizza (that yielded no leftovers) and a couple of beers (one each), it does seem like a lot to spend for us. I think that’s why this place has had mixed reviews—it’s quite pricey. And that’s probably why I wasn’t too impressed with my former pizza adventure here.
However, we loved that pizza, loved the unique flavor of the ice cream, and we really enjoyed the atmosphere. So we have been back (we skipped the beers to keep it cheaper). We reordered the same pizza, and we were just as happy. So go try it!
December 13, 2011 § 3 Comments
James and I hosted a little get together over the weekend in Tuscaloosa. The theme? Beer and cheese (two of my favorite things, of course).
This party is quite easy to throw, especially if you’re on a budget, like we are. We asked our friends to bring their favorite craft brews of choice, and we supplied the cheese.
My tablescape was easy. I used wooden cutting boards to create a rustic feel and allow the cheese to be the stars of the show. I put out a few more items (cherry tomatoes, olives, pigs in a blanket for a hearty snack) and I designed my own little cheese labels. I purchased a small rosemary tree (which I see as an investment because I can cook with it!) to bring the holiday spirit to the table. And I was inspired by the tree to pull off sprigs and use them as skewers for mozzarella (Thank you, Celebrate, for teaching me that little trick). And finally I created and printed out a sheet that suggested beer pairings for guests to use as a guide.
I also set up a bar, and asked everyone to place their empty bottles so we could admire what each person was drinking. And I set out a bottle opener and a little bowl for caps (to add to my collection, of course).
Host your own party! It is easy and inexpensive to pull off this time of year. And you can use my printables. Click here to download them.
Also — don’t forget to participate in my first giveaway! One lucky reader will win a $15 gift card to Whole Foods. Contest ends soon, so get your entries in asap. Check out the details here.
October 21, 2011 § 2 Comments
Words cannot express how thrilled I am. Click here to take a look at the agenda.
What’s even better—I’m able to go with the financial help of Hoffman Media! The Lord is good.
So this is doesn’t occur until January, but here are the three things I’m hoping to get out of attending:
1. Celebrate is developing a website (see what we currently have now), and with that new website will come a new blog. The goal is not only to sell subscriptions to our magazine, but also to bring in an audience of web users who will return to our site again and again. And with the addition of a blog, we hope to attract a unique readership of bloggers. So the skills I learn at this conference and the connections I make will hopefully give me great insight to contribute effectively to this project. We hope to have it up within the next couple of months.
2. I also manage the newsletter The Cottage Journal for Hoffman Media (click here to subscribe!). This newsletter focuses on all things cottage—whether it’s home decorating, comforting recipes, entertaining, and all the other joys that come with cozying up in a delightfully cute cottage. This is an exciting newsletter to be apart of, as one of our newest Special Interest Publications, The Cottage Journal Seasons, starts to take shape and gather more subscribers. So this conference can definitely help me come up with new and exciting topics and develop my planning skills with each newsletter I put out.
3. And, of course, I want to hone my blogging skills to make Cactus & Kudzu an all-the-more enjoyable experience for my readers. I am dying to learn everything I can possibly absorb about food photography, recipe developing, restaurant reviewing, being a great story teller, and writing what’s interesting and relevant to all of you who regularly visit my blog. And might I take this opportunity to tell you: THANK YOU!
Like I said, the Lord is so good! I am completely over-the-top excited.
September 10, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Last weekend I got a visit from one of my best friends, Charlotte. Even though I’m lucky if I get to see her more than once a year, it felt like we hung out all the time and that hardly any time had passed since we last spent a weekend together. So grateful to have such a good friend!
Anyways, I tried hard not to make her visit a food tour of Alabama, but that pretty much happened. We went to Big Bad Wolves on Saturday, the Waysider Sunday morning, and then spent a drizzly Sunday afternoon inside the brick walls of The J. Clyde.
The J. Clyde, for those of you who do not know, is the place where beer lovers of Birmingham unite. Their beer menu is literally like 20 pages long (I might be exaggerating, but it sure feels that way). And it is now open on Sundays to raise money for tornado relief. The first beer you order must be either the charity beer, which is brewed by Good People Brewing Company (a Birmingham brewery), or a $5 donation, which lets you sample any draught beer.
The highlight of our visit though was no doubt the food. I had never eaten at The J. Clyde before, aside from a cheese platter, which doesn’t really count, even though it was amazing (mustard ale cheese! omg!). On Sundays, they only have their pub menu available. Can’t wait to try their full menu sometime soon!
Here’s a list of what we split. We may or may not have gone a bit overboard, but it was oh so worth it:
Fried Sauerkraut Balls
These were my favorite. It is sauerkraut, cream cheese, and sausage rolled in panko, deep fried and served with a spicy remoulade on a bed of red cabbage slaw. Holy guacamole these were so ridiculously flavorful. If you love sauerkraut, which I do, you’ll love these.
Beer Cheese Soup
This was Charlotte’s favorite (although I really loved it as well). It’s a three cheese soup made with Good People Pale Ale. Oh, and those garlicky toasted croutons on top were just perfection. I need more. Right now.
We did not take a picture of this because we forgot, but apparently it wasn’t on the menu. After the sauerkraut and the soup, we were thinking dessert. So we asked what they had. And this is what we got: a chocolate-y, mousse-y, pudding-y concoction. The secret ingredient? Good People Fatso. Sorry to not have photographed it.
But after that we were still hungry.
So we ordered this:
The J. Clyde Burger
This was topped with a fried green tomato (Char’s very first) and served with sweet potato fries. However, I was not too crazy about this burger. It was good, but did not come close to the deliciousness that was the fried sauerkraut and the beer cheese soup. Sorry, burger.