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?
January 1, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I probably should, but I don’t make “resolutions” for a new year, because truth be told, I forget I’ve made them by February 1. This year, I do intend to get off the couch after my “wintery/holiday” break of serious comfort food eating and whining that it’s too cold to leave the house to exercise. I also intend to persistently craft healthy yet budget-friendly meals for my husband and me. I often take the lazy way out, and ask myself just what really is more budget-friendly than a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese? With a beer. (Don’t judge me.)
In addition to these food/health-related intentions, I have a few more I’d like to share. Every year, I feel like I grow more into myself. I become closer to who I want to be, and for that I am grateful. I feel like this year, I was given a bit of an advantage. Somehow, getting married and starting a life with someone has made me feel all the more my own person. I feel braver, more confident, and more ready to take on the world. Not just because I have my husband beside me, but because I know me better. No one can love my husband the way I do, and together we make our life that no one else can live but ourselves. Together, we live, we love, we make choices, and we make moves. I’ve felt an overwhelming desire to grow myself, forgive myself, and live as myself.
Here are a few quotes that I hope better illustrate my thoughts and hopes for 2013. Happy New Year!
What are your intentions for 2013?
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.
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!
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.