January 9, 2012 § 1 Comment
I went to Bettola as a goodbye dinner to my roommate Taylor, who moved back to California after interning for 4 months at Coastal Living. This was in December, and we had originally planned to go to GianMarco’s. We thought surely we’d get in on a Tuesday night. But I guess the holiday shopping/our ignorance (?) crept up on us, because we arrived and they told us there was no way we’d get a table that night. Yikes. Then we called another spot or two—all full. Then Bettola came to my mind. Yes! That would be a great place, and it’s ever so slightly off the beaten path in Pepper Place, so maybe it wouldn’t be as jam packed. And success! We had a table in 20 minutes.
We left Bettola so happy we came, raving about the meal.
To start, we ordered the Insalata Argulua. Y’all—from the moment I took the first bite I sincerely regretted not taking a picture. What was I thinking? I guess my mind was just ready for pizza, and my fork moved faster than my brain. This salad is prepared with local arugula, 2-year aged Parmesan, thinly sliced red onion, and a lemon and oregano emulsion as a dressing. I am going (to make a sad attempt, most likely) to prepare this at home. The peppery flavor of the arugula was brought out even more by the lemon and oregano (brilliant!). The red onion added an extra kick and each bite was perfectly coated in dressing. An unassuming leafy salad turned out to be bursting with bright flavor. I recommend this so highly.
Then we each ordered our own pizza. And we each just about finished our own (had to hold off on the last piece only because I wanted it for lunch the next day). I ordered the Pancetta e Cipola pizza, which is caramelized onions, pancetta, and hot peppers. The sweetness of the onions, the spice of the peppers, and the saltiness of the pancetta made this a well-rounded, very flavorful pizza. And the crust has a rustic, delightfully charred flavor. It’s thin and crispy, and it tastes even better whilst gazing at the brick oven in the center of the restaurant.
Taylor ordered the Beitola pizza, and we traded a piece for a piece. It was topped with the house sausage, spinach from Owl’s Hollow Farm in Gadsden, fontina, pecorino, mascarpone, and finished with a farm egg. Well it was my first time trying a pizza with an egg on it, and the buttery rich flavor complemented the earthy essence of the sausage and the creaminess of the cheese. And the spinach tamed all that richness in just the right way. It was beautiful.
Ok and then—the dessert. Our waitress sneakily placed menus in front of us (otherwise we might have held back), so we ordered the Torta Cioccolata, which is described as warm truffle chocolate, baked in a toasted almond tart, topped with toasted almonds, and served with espresso gelato.
As my roommate, Elana, articulated it, this dessert is a good example of why I love food. The subtlety and the flavor was so spot on and creative, it just about made me cry. Each bite of gelato was accompanied by a tiny crunch of caramelized sugar that was layered beneath. And the chocolate was deep, deep. dark chocolate—as bittersweet as it comes. The espresso gelato was actually sweeter than the chocolate, and the tart shell was crunchy and the almonds purveyed a pleasant nutty addition.
We left feeling that our money was well spent and grateful for the fabulous experience and last evening out together. I highly recommend Bettola. And if you can’t make it for dinner, head over for lunch and try a flatbread sandwich!
October 5, 2011 § 2 Comments
I marched into Publix on a bright Saturday morning prepared to load up on game-watching snacks and must-haves (i.e. beer, chips, hot dogs, etc.). I hadn’t even made it down a single aisle when, lo and behold, a shiny fruit stand overflowing with Barlett pears stood before me.
They were only $0.88 a pound. Oh, the joys of fall. I ripped a bag off of the handy baggie wheel, tossed a few in, and tied a knot to close it. Then I proceeded with the rest of my shopping, contemplating what to do with those beautiful little pears.
Later that day, TV on and friends all around, I drank a beer. (Time out — is this the second post in a row that talks about my beer drinking? Oh that’s great.) Anyways, I was drinking a Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale that we discovered in the fridge. It was then that I knew. I knew I would make a pear cobbler with the delightfully sweet taste of this maple nut beer.
However, come Sunday afternoon, (I had to wait until 12 pm to buy alcohol. Because that’s the law on Sundays in these parts.) there was no Tommyknocker to be found in our craft beer stores. So what did I use instead?
This Southern delight. Brewed and bottled in Kiln, Mississippi, Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale proved to be a delicious complement to my crisp, ever-so-sweet-smelling pears.
So how do you make a cobbler boozy? Here’s how:
While pears are soaking, combine your dry ingredients: Sift together a cup of flour and a cup of sugar. (You’ll later be adding a cup of milk, so that’s easy to remember: A cup’a cup’a cup’a.) Then combine your wet ingredients: A cup of milk, one egg (lightly beaten), a teaspoon of vanilla, and half a stick of melted butter.
Then add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients and stir until combined (batter will be a little lumpy). Then butter a 9×11-inch Pyrex dish. You could use an 8×8-inch, but it may be a bit too much with the pears and the beer. Choices, choices.
Then wonder how your boyfriend’s kitchen manages to have so many baking dish options while yours doesn’t. Then realize it’s because you’re super cheap, and you should probably invest in a few good pieces.
Pour your batter into the well-buttered dish. Then pour the pears and beer carefully into the batter. Stir a bit to spread the pears throughout the dish. Then sprinkle some sugar over the top to get a nice crisp crust. Place into the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour.
Boozy Pear Cobbler
Makes 8 to 10 servings
4 medium-sized Bartlett pears
3/4 cup nut brown ale (I used Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan)
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 stick butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×11-inch baking dish. Set aside.
Slice pears into 1-inch slices. Place in large bowl, and add beer, stirring to evenly coat. Set aside for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to allow all pears to soak in beer.
In a large bowl, sift together flour and 1 cup of sugar. In a small bowl, combine milk, egg, vanilla, and butter. Add wet mixture to dry mixture, stirring until combined. Batter will be slightly lumpy.
Pour batter into prepared dish. Then, carefully pour beer and pear mixture into dish on top of batter, stirring a bit, if necessary, to evenly distribute pears. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar evenly over dish. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until crust is golden brown.
Related: Summer Flavors and a Summer Lunch
September 19, 2011 § 2 Comments
I am already SO hungry this morning. If I had my way, I’d eat a four-course Italian meal for lunch. And I’d probably just go ahead and eat it right now (at 10:30 a.m.).
I’d start with this.
Bruschetta — Apron and Sneakers
Then I’d have some of this.
Caesar Salad — Martha Stewart
And the main course…
Spaghetti Marinara— à la mode
And I’ll end it with some of this.
Beeramisu — 101 Cookbooks
Oh I am angry with me right now for making myself this hungry. Maybe I’ll have to visit the nearest Italian eatery for lunch today.
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.
September 2, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I still consider myself a Birmingham newbie, so I found Birmingham Restaurant Week to be the perfect time to check out a few places and try some dishes for a good price. I went to two different places during the week: One was a great deal, the other wasn’t so much.
The first place I went to was Rojo with my roomie. And I’m ashamed to say that the price for the food most definitely was not worth it, and I probably should have just known that if I had actually checked out the menu prices. I think I would have spent the same money had I ordered all three courses anyways. I don’t even really want to say what I paid. I mean it’s really not that bad, but not ideal for a lady on a budget. Also, I would have most likely ordered something else if I was going to pay that money anyways.
I had never been to Rojo, so I wanted to check it out. And yes, I was mildly disappointed in what I paid. But I did like the atmosphere of the place a lot. It’s fun, funky. More of a bar scene, but definitely cool, eclectic fare. It has both an American and Latino menu, serving everything from a Philly Cheesesteak to a spicy Paella.
I ordered the Shrimp Tomatillo Tacos, which were kind of bleh (didn’t feel the shrimp was as fresh as it could have been, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the salsa. Plus the tacos were screaming for something creamy…like sour cream or cheese?)…but the queso appetizer I ordered was incredible. I couldn’t stop eating it:
The queso has chorizo and jalapenos in it — holy moly was that fantastic.
For dessert, I ordered the Chango: cheesecake wrapped in a flour tortilla, deep-fried, and served with whipped cream and chocolate. I couldn’t eat it all at once. I had to take the rest home. But it was amazing—so amazing I forgot to take a picture. I just dove right in.
Now my other Bham Restaurant Week experience was with my sister, Brynn. We went to Bottega Cafe on Saturday for lunch. For $10 each, we each got a half pizza, a side salad, and an absolutely delightful olive oil sponge cake. Plus, the service was wonderful, and it was all in all a very fun experience!
In the mean time, Roll Tide. Charlotte, one of my bffs from high school who now lives in DC, is coming to visit me this weekend! We’re going to the Alabama vs. Kent State game (she’s never been to a college football game!). I am so excited to share the Alabama experience with her, and I can’t wait to introduce her to some great Southern cuisine. I’m really hoping for some Big Bad Wolves and Waysider and/or Rama Jama in her near future.