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.
February 13, 2013 § Leave a Comment
It’s cool—you can be impressed.
We used an adaptation of Sunny Anderson’s wings recipe for the Buffalo variety, and used that to add a spin to Caribbean Jerk marinade. I kid you not, these were the best wings I’ve probably ever had. Adding the lemon juice (we added the juice of half a lemon) and herbs to the sauce completely took wings to a new level for me. (We also cut down on the butter, and just did one stick). We then added a bit of lemon, butter, and herbs to Caribbean Jerk marinade, as well.
In addition to the great flavor, the texture of this was unreal. We shook these in a bag of flour, and then we let them sit for a few hours to absorb it all. What resulted was perfectly crisp, perfectly juicy wings. Ah, I’m salivating just thinking about it.
For Valentine’s Day, we talked about making pizza with a glass of wine. We talked about going out to a fancy dinner. And all of these sounded great, until James suggested we just do what truly is nothing but fun for us.
And so, we will be having hot and spicy wings and a pitcher of beer.
January 31, 2013 § 2 Comments
When I lived in Chile, I lived in french fry heaven.
Consider the chorillana: Home-fried papas fritas topped with steak, scrambled eggs, and fried onions. So wrong, so right.
We were up in Huntsville visiting James’ parents not too long ago, and they nearly made me tear up when they said they’d be frying their own french fries that night.
It’s just one of those things. I know I love french fries, but when I pop a fry into my mouth that is hot and crispy on the outside, and fresh, tender and rich on the inside, I can hardly articulate how my fry affection is taken to an almost forgotten level.
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?
October 5, 2012 § 7 Comments
The winner of the my two-part giveaway with Belle Chevre is…
Carrie Allen Tipton! Thanks for entering and sharing the giveaway, Carrie. I’ll pass your name onto Belle Chevre, and they’ll pick a final name after October 14. I hope you win!
Thank you ALL so much for entering! It was very exciting to participate in the virtual potluck and giveaway with an amazing company that makes awesome chevre.
As I told you yesterday, I’ve had the opportunity of participating in a virtual potluck with Belle Chevre to celebrate the release of Tasia’s Table, Tasia Malakasis’s new cookbook. (Did you miss my entry? See it here!) Now you have a chance to win your own signed copy of the cookbook!
This is a beautiful book with tons of tantalizing photos and creative recipes. If you’re a goat cheese lover like me, you’ll probably be ooing and ahhing over all the new and exciting ways to incorporate chevre into everyday dishes.
I’m offering four possible ways to enter:
1. Subscribe to cactus & kudzu by email. (Make sure you’re on the home page, and find the text box on the right side where you can enter your email address. If you’re already subscribed, leave a comment letting me know.)
2. Leave a comment below answering this question: What’s your favorite kind of cheese?
3. Share this entry or my potluck entry on Facebook. (Be sure to either tag me on Facebook or leave a comment letting me know you’ve shared it.)
4. Share this entry or my potluck entry on Twitter (handle name is @brettjaillet—be sure to include it!).
I will choose one winner, and submit it to Belle Chevre (each potluck participant will do so) and then Belle Chevre will choose a winner from all the blogs’ submissions. My segment of the giveaway closes at 8 pm central time on Monday, October 8.
But hey, if you just can’t wait, order a copy of the book here!
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
September 17, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This little review is way past due. In fact, these photos are from multiple visits to this favorite place of mine.
I love eating lunch at one of the picnic tables sitting right beside the Shindigs Catering truck, which makes appearances at various locations around town. Their food is fresh, local, affordable, and insanely delicious. I’ve also been very impressed with how quick and efficient they are when waiting on a line of hungry people.
I’ve visited them at a couple locations. The first time, it was the night of the BCS championship game. We watched it at Workplay (a neat place to watch a sporting event, actually). They parked outside, and I fell in love after sampling their steamed buns and truffle fries. Then they made a visit to FoodBlogSouth, where I tried their spaghetti squash with vegan meatballs—fantastic.
The next time was a trip to their Mountain Brook stop. And the most recent was in downtown Birmingham. That location was a little bit busier—plenty of students and doctors and business people were in line, but the food was still superb and it came out quickly.
First in line: their steamed buns ($3 each!). Two is just enough for lunch, but you might be tempted to finish it with a third or a side of truffle fries or chips (depending on what they’ve got). On the left: Pork Belly with Sesame and Shiso Hoison. The flavor is insane. There is crunch, sweetness, spice and tender, savory meat. But my favorite is on the right: the Crispy Catfish with Spicy Selma Slaw. I think the spicy slaw says it all—I have a love affair with this little guy. Well, let’s be honest—with both of them.
Next in line (pictured at the top of this post): their Melon & Mozzarella Salad, which is made up of bites of different melons, balls of mozzarella, cherry tomato halves, a bit of arugula, and fresh basil chiffonade (all for $3). It’s simply bright, sweet, and beautiful in flavor. It’s enough for a light lunch on its own, or to accompany a steamed bun (or two).
And finally: the Delizioso Burger.
It’s a salmon burger with crispy prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, balsamic onions, arugula, and basil yogurt served on a sweet potato roll with Wickles Pickles on the side. This is truly amazing. The flavors are balanced just right. It’s crispy, savory, and and the arugula and basil yogurt add a brightness that finishes it perfectly. Agh—my mouth is watering right now as I write this.
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 7, 2012 § 2 Comments
Hopefully you’ve heard about Freshfully by now, but if you haven’t, that’s ok! It’s a local-food store that exists both as a market in the Avondale neighborhood of Birmingham and as a website. Founders Jen Barnett and Sam Brasseale started the site in November 2011, and the store opened its doors just a year ago (they celebrated its 1-year-old birthday August 3 and 4). I love this place!
I recently got to ask Jen a few questions about who they are and what they do. And she gave some great answers. And in return, they’ve shared something with me—a special deal for my readers. So stay tuned to the bottom of this post to find out what it is!
c&k: Why start Freshfully? Why did Birmingham need this?
jen: Sam and I started Freshfully because we wanted to eat more local food, and we just couldn’t seem to find much. We had experience building large websites that listed businesses, included blogs, and sold products, and we thought we could apply that to local food to make it easier to shop and buy. I was inspired to start the business here after hearing Shaun Chavis, Wade Kwon, and Michael Nolan each speak about food at Ignite Birmingham. Out of 12 speakers at the event, three were speaking passionately about food and its importance to the community and our health. It made me want to turn our idea of Freshfully into a reality.
c&k: Can you explain how your website and brick-and-mortar location work together?
jen: Basically, the store and website are two separate entities with the same goal—making local food more available. On the site, you can order local food to be picked up around town or shipped to you. But not all food lends itself to being picked up in boxes or shipped in the mail. After we launched the site, we started meeting farmers who just didn’t have a way to physically get food to customers. Our little office park HQ became an impromptu pick-up point where we shuffled shrimp, beef, and heirloom seedlings from farmer to consumer. We built the market to address these needs and give people a simple way to buy local food every day.
c&k: What is your approach to selecting produce and goods to sell in your store?
There are times when we have to make decisions. For example, there’s no poultry in Alabama that’s both free-range and USDA inspected. For now, we’re selling Georgia chicken, and we’re looking for ways to make USDA processing more available and affordable for Alabama farmers.
c&k: Why is it important to eat and buy locally?
jen: We think there are five reasons most people seem to buy local food:
1. It’s patriotic. You’re giving your neighbor a hand and keeping your money in the community. You show local pride when you eat local food.
2. It’s more sustainable. The average bite of food travels 1,500 miles. Most of the food at Freshfully travels less than 60. You can learn first hand the growing methods farmers use, and make decisions about which methods you want to support.
3. It’s hip. I remember in the ’70s and ’80s when the fanciest restaurants in town were steakhouses and Italian eateries. Field peas and bacon and red, ripe tomatoes were everyday foods. Now, fine dining revolves around those simple, local ingredients.
4. It’s healthier. Most of the local foods we sell are fruits and veggies, lean meats and fish, and fresh dairy. Not to say we don’t enjoy the occasional Buffalo Rock ginger ale or Just Julia’s pound cake, which leads me to…
5. It just tastes better! Tomatoes that have ripened on the vine, not in a truck. Free-range farm eggs with bright orange yolks. Tender greens still covered in local soil. These are the foods of the gods, and we grow them all right here in our home state.
c&k: Why are you passionate about what you do?
jen: I’ve struggled with my weight since the first grade. Like lots of women, I’ve been on hundreds of diets and obsessed over food. I’ve wondered why it was so hard to lose weight and why obesity was so much more prevalent here in the South. When I was studying economics in business school, I had a theory that the law of supply and demand was at play—that people weighed more when food was cheaper. Human are natural economists—we want to get the most for our money. In studying this theory, I found that economics were indeed involved, but that there were so many more factors—from food subsidies to brand marketing—that encouraged us all to eat just a little bit more. Within 100 years, we’ve gone from a era of scarcity to a era of surplus, and it’s faster than our bodies can keep up. I began to believe that ditching processed food and embracing fresh, local food was the answer for me. Since creating Freshfully, I’ve lost 30 pounds, but more importantly, I’ve gained so much from knowing this community of farmers and eating the foods they raise nearby.
And now, here’s the special deal for all cactus & kudzu readers:
Freshfully is offering a 10 percent discount at the Avondale market during the entire month of August when you ask “Who’s Your Farmer?” or wear a “Who’s Your Farmer?” T-shirt in the store (Psst… buy yours here!).
I hope you head over to Freshfully soon! Thanks, Jen and Sam, for sharing your story!