February 12, 2013 § 2 Comments
About five minutes down the road from where I work sits a shiny, brand-new doughnut shop. Walk through The Heavenly Doughnut Co.’s doors, and this Christian-run operation is filled with the sweet smell of doughnuts baking, and a case full of tempting options sits in front of you.
Christina and I ate doughnuts for lunch last week. These doughnuts, to be precise:
This was easily my favorite of the bunch. I appreciated what a bit of salt and savory can do to a sweet maple glaze on a yeast doughnut. Next time I go in, it will be to try one of these or the one below.
2. Blueberry Cake
Whenever I eat a blueberry cake doughnut, I’m transported back to after-church snacking when I was little. I’d make a cup of tea with way too much cream and sugar, then I’d grab a blueberry cake doughnut and go find my friends. This was a great version of, what is for me, a classic. I didn’t find the cake too heavy and the blueberry flavor was sweet and prominent.
3. Bavarian Cream
The cream was as rich as you’d hope without being over the top. I love how light the yeast doughnuts were.
4. Chocolate-Peanut Butter
Ok, this one crossed a line for me—it’s way too rich. I had one bite and had to stop eating.
So have you been by yet? What did you order? What do you think? I would suggest liking Heavenly Donut Co. on Facebook – they have special deals and trivia questions with free giveaways often posted there. YUM!
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 3, 2013 § 2 Comments
I went to lunch awhile ago with a fabulous lady just a week before her wedding day. I still hadn’t tried Tin Drum AsiaCafe at the Summit, and I wanted to give it a shot. My dear friend so willingly obliged.
This casual spot is quite accurately described as an “Asia” cafe. Its menu didn’t pick an allegiance to any specific country within the continent, but featured Thai, Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese fare. It certainly put its own spin on classic flavors and boasted a menu that had a long list of street-food type dishes I wanted to try. Also, after a bit of reading up on the semi-local chain, I was surprised to discover that the first Tin Drum was on Georgia Tech’s campus and had expanded from there. The service was great, and the staff was friendly.
When we went to order, we were told that nothing was frozen and that everything was fresh and prepared daily in-house. That’s always a plus.
So, to start, I tried the Crab N Cheese Roll, which was delightfully fried and greasy and cheesy (three of my favorite food characteristics), however, I couldn’t detect very much crab; I definitely would have appreciated more.
And then I went with the Thai Basil Spring Roll. I liked the first bite—the brightness of the basil with the deep savory tamarind sauce was a nice pairing, but as I continued into the roll, I felt a lot to be lacking. It felt a bit too dry to continue, even with the addition of the sauce. Plus, due to its spring/summer roll nature, it started to fall apart.
As my entree, I chose the Tin Drum Curry.
The chicken was tender, the curry was spot on in depth, spice, brightness, and that hint of sweetness. The rice was perfectly sticky. I enjoyed the fresh spinach, but I felt there could have been a bit more of it and perhaps a bit more to it. I would have enjoyed some additional flavor added to the spinach—a quick sauté perhaps? A bit wilted? For some reason it seemed a bit out of place in the dish, but then again, I liked how the warm curry handled the wilting of it. So I guess overall I’m undecided on how I feel about those baby spinach leaves. I would definitely take them rather than leave them, though, as a bit of freshness is always appreciated.
Everything aside, the prices were good. My little rolls only set me back about $3 altogether, and my curry dish was $8. I will be giving this place another try (I’m anxious to sample their street tacos), and I recommend you do, too.
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.
July 13, 2012 § Leave a Comment
To start off the documentation of food consumed on our honeymoon, we’ll go to one of favorite meals in Monterey.
Kudos to my husband for locating a great hole-in-the-wall, a true “where the locals go” kind of place. This Mexican seafood joint is off the beaten path of regular Monterey tourist-frequented areas. And when I say off the beaten path, I mean it’s down the freeway inland a bit until you reach a slightly rougher part of town (technically you are in Seaside at that point). But nonetheless, we were delighted to discover this little spot.
When you order a Modelo Especial (or any beer), you’re given an ice-cold bottle with a lime wedge and a shrimp dipped in their flaming cocktail sauce sticking out of the bottle’s opening. We were so excited about this novel idea that we immediately exclaimed, “Ah! Shrimp!” And we popped our shrimps in our mouths and gushed over that perfect heat of the sauce before I even thought to take a picture. I think that little treat alone is worth a trip to this restaurante.
I ordered a ceviche tostada. It was fabulous and fabulously affordable (we’re talking $4 here!). The fish was delightfully flavorful and fresh. The shell was crisp and cooked well. It was topped with another fresh little shrimp.
I do have one thing to say: I also ordered the crab quesadilla. I did not like that. The crab was disappointingly fishy.
But I am so willing to overlook it when I contemplate my tostada, and the shrimp cocktail (which, by the way, you can order a large serving of. We wish we had done that.).
March 21, 2012 § 2 Comments
So apparently, when I gave up bread for lent, I also gave up blogging. Sorry, everybody. I had no idea bread was such an inspiring component in my food appreciation.
One my besties was in town from Indiana last week, so on Thursday I left straight from work to meet up with her and her fiance downtown at the Good People Brewing Company taproom (awesome atmosphere by the way—a great band with a killer fiddle player goes perfectly with a good local brew). We enjoyed a couple of Brown Ales, and then we headed down a few blocks to try the newest addition to Mexican fare in Birmingham — El Barrio.
As soon as I walked in, I was in love. The atmosphere is rustic, colorful, urban, and beautiful.
My first instinct was to order tacos or perhaps a chorizo quesadilla, but alas—bread! So instead, I ordered the Roasted Chile Relleno. The first bite provided that ever overwhelming sense of “ahh.” The flavors were phenomenal.
What comes in this lovely dish is a rosted poblano pepper stuffed with black beans, cactus, oxaca cheese and their amazing roasted garlic cream and sprinkled with pine nuts.
The pepper was perfectly roasted and tender enough to cut with a fork. The garlic cream sauce had just a little bit of a kick and completed the dish in a decadent way. I couldn’t quite detect the cactus, but it might be because I have never ordered anything with cactus before. I don’t think it has too powerful of a flavor. The only thing I would have liked would have been just a kick or two more of spice. I do like spice.
The price wasn’t bad—around $10 for my meal. And the food, presentation, and atmosphere make it well worth it. The only thing I’d say is be prepared to wait. We arrived at around 8 pm on a Thursday and had to wait a good 30 minutes to sit down. But regardless, I will certainly be making a trip back soon.
February 6, 2012 § 4 Comments
My sister and I finally live and work in the same city, so we have been having regular sister lunches. Last week, we went to Urban Cookhouse. I’ve made many a trip to the one in Homewood, but this was my first visit to the new location at The Summit.
In the past I’ve enjoyed every meal at Urban Cookhouse, so it’s hard to give a bad review of what I ordered. But I did learn at Food Blog South last weekend (which was awesome by the way) that bloggers need not be afraid to be critical. But hey, sometimes it is just easier to just go on and on about all things you love.
So I ordered the Pepper Patch Wrap, which is grilled chicken, black beans, corn, red onions, tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, and roasted jalapeno vinaigrette wrapped in a wheat tortilla. While a lot of these ingredients weren’t in season, I decided to try it anyways. Much to my chagrin, the wrap was very dry. There was not enough dressing on it. The tomatoes were mealy, and I didn’t get any “pepper” taste until the very end of the wrap.
In the past, I have ordered the pulled pork sandwiches and they were quite delicious (at the Homewood location). Also the broccoli salad is sweet and crisp and definitely worth trying.
The one thing I will rave about is their strawberry lemonade. It did taste very fresh and the man behind the counter told us that they press the fresh strawberries right there in the kitchen the day of. And the flavor definitely confirmed that story.
I’m certainly willing to give Urban Cookhouse another try, but I left feeling like I should have ordered something else or gone elsewhere for lunch. Sad. But with time, maybe the kitchen at this location will catch up with its Homewood sibling. Have you tried the new location? What are your thoughts?
January 19, 2012 § 4 Comments
If I were a celebrity chef, and they asked me to go on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” and the episode had a Mexican theme, I would probably say the flauta plate La Fogata. (Though this might come in at a close second).
La Fogata is a Bralley family favorite. My parents have been taking us to this Sherman Oaks eatery literally our entire lives, and they’ve been frequenting it for even longer. And as you know, we Bralleys are quite particular about our Mexican fare, so whenever we make a trip out to the Valley (which we did on our most recent trip to California), we pay a visit to La Fogata.
Every time I came here growing up, I ordered the #16: the Two Flautas plate. It comes with two shredded beef flautas and is topped with sour cream, fresh guacamole, a tomato slice, and served alongside rice and frijoles. The shredded beef is something you must try if you go to La Fogata—it’s one of their signature items.
This time, however, I insisted that James order the flautas, while I ordered their tacos, just to shake things up. While my tacos were absolutely to die for (a crispy fried corn tortilla shell, juicy shredded beef, fresh tomatoes and lettuce) I looked longingly at those flautas. So James gave me a bite. The fried flour tortilla is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and the shredded beef is hot and flavorful.
Also, La Fogata serves the best horchata I’ve found anywhere. Hands down. All others I’ve tried anywhere else have so far paled in comparison. But this might have something to do with the comfort factor of La Fogata’s sweet combination of rice, milk, and cinnamon.
Related post— what I ordered: Pinches Tacos
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!
November 17, 2011 § 6 Comments
Well basically I found out it’s time to car shop. Yep, my little Jetta is on its last leg, and I need to trade that puppy in for an upgrade before it dies on me and is therefore useless. So literally all of my spare moments have been consumed with running numbers through my head—can I afford this? That? Can I get that car down to that price? Also, I need to somehow fit in trips to various car lots when it’s dark and rainy outside?
And then another not so fabulous number came to my attention yesterday: the cost of car insurance. I guess I figured I’d be paying the rate that’s on my current car + maaaybe a little more. But with a car that isn’t 10+ years old comes a steeper price (plus I’m still relatively young) and the quote I got yesterday shows it. I found this out at the end of the day, so I decided to take a break from car shopping, not deal with the dishes in the kitchen, and grab some amazing comfort food: Nabeel’s.
Nabeel’s Cafe and Market is located on Oxmoor road about halfway between Downtown Homewood and Edgewood. Birmingham has a great selection of Greek food, but if I were to pick one place to suggest to an outsider, it’d be here. I ordered a Gyro Athenian (I contemplated ordering a few different things, but, man, this wins out every time). It is sliced gyro served in a warm pita with their homemade tzatziki, tomatoes, onions, and feta. It was just what I needed.
Then I really indulged. It’s hard for me to go here without ordering the Taramosalata Dip, which is a red caviar spread. Please don’t let this freak you out. It is salty, bright, and bursting with bold flavor, and perfectly pairs with a warm pita wedge or a kalamata olive. You might think you’re not crazy about caviar, but I think you’d need to reevaluate that after you have a bite of this. Just sayin’.
Also I had a much-needed beer, courtesy of Daniel Salinas who generously left it in my fridge after football-watching this weekend. Thanks, D.
I felt much better, and now I’m ready to rearrange some numbers.