February 21, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Whether or not you’re planning a big day, you definitely should take a look at Celebrate‘s first ever weddings special issue! Our whole team worked hard on this. We love a challenge, and I think this issue shows it.
You can pick this issue up on newsstands, or you can order it here! (Hey, it’s at a special price right now!)
January 30, 2013 § 2 Comments
We FINALLY went to Little Donkey a couple of weeks ago with my sister Brynn and her husband. I had been dying to try this Mexican-barbecue fusion spot in Homewood for oh so long.
There has been plenty of buzz about this restaurant, as it is founded by Birmingham restauranteurs Nick Pihakis and Joshua Gentry of our beloved local chain, Jim ‘N Nick’s. Pihakis and Gentry took their homegrown, slow-cooked barbecue expertise and used that to season their take on Mexican fare. What I appreciate very much about this place is that this is apparent throughout the experience.
We started off with horchata! What else? This is a nostalgic drink for me. It takes me back to family trips to La Fogata in the San Fernando Valley. Little Donkey’s version of this sweet beverage is rice water flavored with almond, cinnamon and vanilla.
We also snacked on their chips and salsa, which had a deep, savory roasted flavor. Of course, my only issue here was that just one basket was complimentary.
For lunch, I enjoyed the Torta de Cerdo, or the Drunken Hog, which a cross between a Southern pulled pork sandwich and a Mexican torta. Tender, Jim ‘N Nick’s-reminiscent pork was topped with pinto beans, pickled red onions, cheese and guacamole with their homemade bread. It also came with tomato broth on the side for dunking. Biting into this tasted as a torta should, with a bit of Southern comfort.
As my side, I chose the elote—street vendor-style corn on the cob topped with crema, cotija cheese and cayenne.
And truly, one of the best tamales I have ever tasted lives at this restaurant (Arguijos, don’t be mad! Notice I said ONE of the best). My sister ordered a taco alongside a pork tamal.
I reached over and grabbed a bite of it with my fork, and the tamal sang. The maza was so well flavored and moist, and the meat was as tender as could be. Both components married each other in flavor—you could taste it.
And finally – one of my favorite things – was La Concoccion: Mexican rice topped with black beans, cotija, a poached egg (omg!) and green onions. Decadent, comforting, perfect. I’m so making this at home.
We didn’t stay for dessert … we ran over to Steel City Pops next door! Tales of that adventure are coming soon. Have you visited Little Donkey? What do you like to order?
December 16, 2012 § Leave a Comment
As Christmas approaches, I’m missing California more and more. I love my home here, though … but it’s ok to be a little homesick.
One thing I am quite homesick for are my momma’s tacos.
She always makes them when we’re at home. And of course, we pull out our little collection of La Victorias from the fridge. My personal favorite is Salsa Brava, which I’ve found is much spicier when purchased in California.
Last Christmas was no different from any other time periods spent at home, and we set the table with boxwood and red-ribbon accents. Brikki had a friend over, and it was wonderful.
I will miss those tacos this year. I will miss my mom, dad, and sisters this Christmas. But I am grateful for what I do have: my husband! My husband’s family! My pup! And, of course, I’m grateful for having two of my sisters so close by. Though they will spend Christmas in California, knowing I get to see them year round makes the distance not sting so badly. I am truly blessed.
December 14, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Ok, so confession — this post is extremely delayed because I’m a bad blogger. I don’t think I’m going to review this restaurant, I’m just going to highly suggest that you go there and try it for yourself.
Our last night on our honeymoon in San Francisco, James and I had a serious sushi craving. And after some research, James discovered that our hotel was just a few blocks from Ryoko’s, a family-owned little spot with great reviews. We hungrily headed over in the blustering July breeze. It opened at 6 pm, and we arrived at about 5:50. We were the first ones there, and a line started to form as we waited outside. I knew we had found a great spot.
The atmosphere was rockin’. The restaurant was small, underground, dimly lit, and chill music was playing. I hear they have DJs weekend nights starting at around 8.
The service was great, and we started with a Sapporo on tap.
The sushi was so fresh and flavorful. I recommend the Alcatraz, the barbecued eel with avocado—that was our favorite. We also enjoyed the Spicy Golden Gate, which was spicy salmon, shiso, cucumber, and flying fish roe over the top.
Sushi by the sea—nothing I’ve had since that last night in San Fran has come close to this. I miss you, Ryoko! I will visit you again one day.
December 13, 2012 § 2 Comments
I hope you all will forgive my absence. I feel so bad about it! I think the truth is that a 1-hour commute to and from work has made me a little less inclined to spend free time on my computer and more anxious to savor precious time with my little family. But every time I blog, I realize how much I miss it. So please pretend it hasn’t been so long, and let’s pick up where we left off.
About, uh, two months ago now (sheesh), James and I had the splendid opportunity to take a quick trip home to California (James got a work invite to a press event, and I was his guest!). It was such a quick trip that it almost felt like a secret. We literally touched down in LA, had a quick couple of days, then turn around and left.
That Friday we landed, headed to our hotel, and my parents + Brikk met us for lunch. Ever since my family had brought it up what felt like a year ago or so at this point, I had been dying to try Umami Burger.
There are about a handful of locations within five miles of where we were staying. (Actually a Pasadena location just opened up! It wasn’t open at the time). So this a local chain, and a darn good one. We chose to head to the one at The Grove so we could follow lunch with some shopping.
As the name of the restaurant indicates, its focus is on deep, savory flavors. It is said that umami is one of the five basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and, of course, umami, which can be translated from Japanese to mean “pleasantly savory.” This flavor profile was first proposed in 1908, according to my lengthy research on Wikipedia, and was officially added as a scientific term in 1925.
The restaurant boasts that it has mastered the art of “creating the perfect mouthful.” Their house-ground beef is fused with their Umami Master Sauce which is the base for each burger. Going over the menu took quite some time as I deliberated each beautifully described burger. At the end, I chose the Port and Stilton.
This burger has blue cheese, onions caramelized in port. It was rich, so deep.
This was probably one of the best burgers I ever had. I don’t think I’ve ever had a burger where I can taste how well thought out each flavor truly was. The meat was cooked to perfection and I could taste the subtle sweetness of the caramelized onions with the depth of the savory meat. The saltiness of the stilton was the perfect finish.
Next time I am in Pasadena, I’m going back for more! Have you been here? Did you enjoy it?
On a finishing note, I’m so grateful for this precious time spent with my parents and youngest sister. As it turns out, James and I won’t be able to head to California this Christmas. So this trip was truly a blessing. Thank you, Lord!
October 4, 2012 § 6 Comments
If any of you know me, you know I love cheese—and if you were to guess my favorite, you might guess goat. And you’d be right. I’ve long been in love with the tangy, creamy cheese by Belle Chevre, so imagine my excitement when I was invited to participate in a virtual potluck to celebrate the release of Tasia’s Table, the new cookbook by Belle Chevre’s passionate cheesemaker Tasia Malakasis.
I loved perusing this cookbook. Tasia has combined her two loves on every page: her Greek heritage and her Alabama home. While there were so many recipes to volunteer for in this potluck, I noticed she deviated into my territory with these beautiful enchiladas. I’m so glad she did! They immediately became my number one choice.
Here’s my little tip with the sauce—if you’re a little skittish around spicy foods, you might want to decrease the serrano peppers called for from 10 to about 4. I actually chickened out and just did 6, and believe me, it was plenty spicy. (Seriously! Believe me! I love spicy foods!)
When rolling these up, don’t worry too much about exact measurements. Just know that the more goat cheese is involved, the more you’ll love it. I actually would not be opposed to trying these veggie style next time and skipping the chicken altogether. Oh, and here’s a tip: Instead of cooking and shredding a chicken (especially if you’re lazy like I am), pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. You’ll have lots of leftovers to play with.
Here’s another tip: The sauce might scare you with its heat! But trust Tasia. Go ahead and pour all of it over the enchiladas. Some of the heat mellows when it cooks leaving just the right amount of spice remaining.
These were amazing. I loved having the fresh peppers in there, and the goat cheese addition was just incredible. I’m so honored to be included with such amazing bloggers! Thanks, Belle Chevre! Oh, and order a copy of Tasia’s book!
Here’s the full recipe:
Chicken and Goat Cheese Enchiladas with Red Sauce
1/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 green serrano peppers
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup of water
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
12 6-inch corn tortillas
3 poblano peppers, seeded and cut into strips
3 cups (about) chicken, cooked and shredded
1 1/4 pounds goat cheese
Sour cream (optional)
Heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat, and add the serrano peppers, turning occasionally for about 4 minutes. Add half of the onions and the chopped garlic and stir occasionally for 2-3 minutes. Blend hot ingredients as well as water, canned tomatoes, cilantro, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor.
Heat 1/3 cup vegetable oil in a heavy small skillet over medium-high heat. Using tongs, add 1 tortilla and cook until softened, turning once, about 15 seconds for each side. Transfer tortilla to paper towels and drain well. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in heavy large skillet. Add remaining half of onions and poblano pepper and cok until tender, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Lightly oil 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon 1/2 cup sauce into dish. Place scant 1/4 cup chicken in center of 1 tortilla. sprinkle with 1 generous tablespoon onion mixture. Set aside 1/2 cup cheese for topping. Sprinkle 2 generous tablespoons cheese atop chicken. Roll up tortilla and place seam-side down in prepared dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas, chicken, onion mixture and cheese. Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover with foil. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill.)
Preheat oven to 350°. Bake enchiladas, covered, until sauce bubbles and cheese melts, about 35 minutes. Serve with sour cream.
PS: Take a look at the rest of the amazing bloggers who participated below. A lot of them are giving away a copy of the Tasia’s cookbook. My giveaway will start tomorrow, so stay tuned!
Cooking with Books
Cheese and Champagne
Deep South Mag
Sale e Pepe
La Buena Vida
Story of a Kitchen
Sugar & Spice by Celeste
Once Upon A Cutting Board
Miss in the Kitchen
The Picky Eater
August 8, 2012 § Leave a Comment
But really, this is so easy—so worth the minimal effort to add an extra layer of flavor that will go well with any sandwich. Do you want to know another way Molly at Orangette uses it? She adds it to deviled eggs. Ah! Imagine crostini with a layer of this topped with egg salad. Yes, I do believe I shall.
We followed suit with The Kitchn and added this to a BALT. Or a BLAT. Or a BLT with Avocado.
There aren’t many finer things in this life than the simplicity of a BLT + A. And then add this mayo? Really, over the top.
Go forth and make this tonight. Here’s the recipe one more time: California BLT with Avocado and Basil Mayonnaise.
August 1, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Lately there have been plenty of mini food adventures here at home—both in Birmingham and Northport. But I still have a few more memories I’d like to share from our honeymoon. So, real quickly, I’ll share the lunch of a tourist in San Francisco: clam chowder in a bread bowl from Boudin Bakery.
Boudin boasts that it is the original purveyor of sourdough bread in San Francisco. Founded by the Boudin family in 1849, their single bakery has multiplied, and smaller locations are spread throughout the city. Sinking your teeth into that chewy crust to find your way to the tangy, spongy, warm bread is only part of the experience. The other is simply watching loaves upon loaves make their way through the factory overhead as you place your order.
The bread was heavenly—it was everything I love about sourdough bread. And I found the chowder to be quite a treat as well. The clams tasted fresh, and it was well seasoned. A wonderful accompaniment to the local brew.
This may be so touristy you might contemplate staying away, but I suggest just going for it and sitting outside with a nice lunch. We opted not to dine in the restaurant, but went to the lunch counter, put it on our order, and brought it to the tables on the sidewalk. I mean, where else can you dine on soup alfresco in early July and be completely comfortable wearing a light sweater? Well, probably plenty of places, but definitely not in Alabama.
July 23, 2012 § 2 Comments
Next in my recounting of the honeymoon, I’ll take you to the Hog Island Oyster Company in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. I have been dying to talk about this place!
We were given a very reliable tip by our dear friend Diane McCracken, who is one of the best people to talk to if you’re contemplating a San Francisco visit. She had a long and thorough list of places to go, and we could not have been more grateful! When she was coming up with ideas for us, she she simply uttered the question, “Do you two like raw oysters?” Our eyes widened and heads nodded, and so she told us where to find them.
Though we didn’t get to sit at the envied spot at the bar—where, inches from your plate, chefs dump mesh bags of oysters onto their workspace and begin rapidly shucking—we got to watch that scene from our table by the window, enjoying the beautiful view of San Francisco Bay.
Ok, down to business. We started off with a couple of local brews. James ordered a Moylan’s Irish Style Red by Moylan’s Brewery in Novato, and I ordered a Blue Star Great American Wheat Beer by North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg. We would recommend both. Also, the bread was amazing.
So who knew oysters from this part of the country were going to taste so different from their Southern brothers? They are smaller and saltier, and their shells are slightly more gnarled with a wide variety shapes, colors, and sizes. We ordered the Oyster Bar Mix so we could sample a bit of everything on the menu.
Included in the Mix:
- Hog Island Sweetwater (Tomales Bay, CA)
- Hog Island Cliffside (Discovery Bay, WA)
- Chelsea Gems (Eld Inlet, WA)
- Island Creek (Duxbury Bay, MA)
- Hurricane Island (New Brunswick)
They don’t serve oysters with hot sauce, horseradish, and saltines like they do in the South. Hog Island serves their Hogwash—a cider vinegar sauce with bits of onion and jalapeño. It was a bright complement to the briney flavor of the oysters. One slurp, and I was addicted.
This was a pricey little meal for us, but the experience was well worth it—especially for a honeymoon (4th of July!) lunch.