I recently went on a work trip to Birmingham, where I got to explore (culinarily speaking) a city that's not familiar to me. I've driven through Birmingham on several occasions (as Birmingham sits in between Memphis and my hometown Anderson, South Carolina, depending on which route is taken), but my dining experiences have generally been limited to fast food options along the highway.
(Spring Salad - Hot and Hot Fish Club)
It took a lot of arm twisting from me and the front desk manager at the Birmingham Embassy Suites, but I was able to convince my colleagues that we should dine at Hot and Hot Fish Club, a popular fine-dining restaurant that has received tons of acclaim from folks like the James Beard Foundation.
(Cheese Plate - Hot and Hot Fish Club)
The food was obviously very fresh, and the plating was exteremely whimsical. The spring vegetable salad was almost like a beautiful painting. Every time I ran my fork across the plate, I scooped up different flavors and textures. No one bite was the same, and the salad was light, refreshing and satisfying all at the same time.
(Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Olive & Sinclair Chocolate, Candied Blood Orange and Bitter Chocolate Cream - Hot and Hot Fish Club)
I think my traveling companions were also very impressed with the quality of the food. While the price point is a little higher than I would spend on an average evening out, if I were a Birmingham resident, I would definitely put Hot and Hot on my special occasion go-to list.
Our group was full of coffee afciandos, so when we spied a sleek, non-chain coffeehouse, we had to stop in.
(Pour Over, Hand Dripped Coffee - Octane)
Apparently, the Octane concept began in Atlanta, and recently expanded to the Homewood neighborhood of Birmingham. At Octane, they utlize the pour over coffee method, which is said to extract more flavor thantraditional brewing. They also stock a large variety of baked goods (the cinnamon rolls and the scones looked particularly scrumptious the day we were there) as well as breakast items like biscuits and oatmeal.
Octane Coffee 2821 Central Avenue Homewood, AL 35209 (205) 969-1177
During one of our meetings, it was suggested that we visit Steel City Pops, a gourmet popsicle shop. Now, you all know my love of the Mexican frozen treat, the paleta, so of course I was on board.
(Me and my buttermilk popsicle in front of a mural - Steel City Pops)
There's something for everyone with fruity flavors like strawberry balsamic, tamarind, hibiscus and blood orange, along with decadent creamy varieties, like peanut butter, chocolate chili and avocado. I went with the buttermilk, because the woman at the front counter said it tasted like cheesecake. It absolutely did, and I was very happy with my choice. There's very little seating, and it looks like parking can be an issue, so I would suggest visiting Steel City during non-peak hours.
What better way to celebrate National Burger Month than by creating your dream burger? Now through May 31, you can "design the next Huey's burger" for a chance to have your burger featured on the Huey's menu and a $50 Huey's gift card.
Just a couple of rules:
All burgers must use the Huey's 5 1/3 ounce patty, seasoned with Huey's seasoning blend.
Burgers must use one of Huey's current bread selections - sesame seed bun, wheat bun, sourdough bun, Kaiser roll, wheat berry bread, wheat toast, Texas toast, hoagie roll, marble ry or croissant
Entries must include French's mustard or Cattleman's BBQ sauce
Make sure to include specific measurements, cooking instructions and layering techniques.
So what are you waiting for? Get your burger on, and be creative. Send you entry to Shannon Little at slittle(at)hueys(dot)cc by May 31.
Interim Restaurant & Bar has had many ups and downs in its relatively brief history. The space started out as Chef Wally Joe's signature namesake restaurant. When Chef Joe left to create his dream space (the popular Acre restaurant) the ensuing space was called Interim as a temporary fix. Well, Interim might as well be permanent fixture, because six years later, the concept has stuck. With Executive Chef Jackson Kramer (in his second stint at the helm), it looks like Interim is here to stay.
(Grilled quail with roasted grapes, pistachio cream and grappa)
Interim is one of those restaurants that's nice enough to impress, but reasonably priced, so as not to break the bank. The wine list is extensive, and the mixed beverages are potent. The bar is a popular weeknight hangout spot, but it's the food that helps Interim keep its permanent banner.
The appetizers are a bit more inventive than the entrees, but everything is well prepared and exemplifies the importance of the details - the housemade chutney that is served with the cheese cheese board, the beet puree that comes with the lamb, the garlic aioli that makes the Interim burger one of the best in the city. Interim doesn't skimp.
Diners may want to take advantage of the lunch menu, which offers the same thoughtful cuisine for half the price, and some dinner appetizers, like the grilled quail with roasted grapes, is large enough to satisfy a hearty appetite all on its own.
So if you know me or you've been following this blog for any length of time, I'm sure you've realized that I'm working to live a healthier life. I'm exercising more, being careful when I eat out, and attempting to just make better choices.
I have an affinity for healthy cookbooks. I probably have more than I'll ever need, but I love to flip through them to get ideas and I actually cook a fair amount at home. At this point, I really have to, in order to be able to eat out on occasion like I do with my husband and friends or for work.
In my current cookbook rotation, I've been heavily utilizing Now Eat This! Diet by Rocco Dispirito. Rocco reimagines how to cook certain foods to cut the calories and fat, but leave the taste. His method for making macaroni and cheese is ingenious, really.
You steam a large sweet onion and several cloves a garlic with a little water, puree the mixture and then simmer it with freshly grated cheddar. Then you stir in a little plain Greek yogurt, and it does an excellent job of mimicking a cheese sauce that would typically consist of tons of butter and heavy cream. Toss with some high fiber pasta (using less than you'd think), top with some Panko bread crumbs and a little Parmigiano Reggiano. It's rich, creamy, delicious and an excellent way to have your mac and cheese and eat it to.
I can't wait to get back to Tokyo. Next time, I hope to visit as tourist, so I have the ability to visit some of the great attractions that I missed out on this trip.
As soon as I found out there was an Eataly in Tokyo, I knew I had to get there. I've been trying to get to Eataly for years.
So it's absolutely true that I made it to Eataly in Tokyo long before I got to the one in New York City, and from what I know about that store, the one in the Daikanyama neighborhood of Tokyo is much smaller in scale. But I didn't care.
Since I couldn't get there before our final day in Tokyo, I was limited on time. I also had to select my items carefully as I needed to make sure that everything I bought would not only fit in my suitcase, but also not cause issues in customs when I got back home.
We also stopped at the cafe for a snack. I still have dreams about that chocolate croissant.
Tokyo is one of the culinary capitals of the world. I knew that I didn't necessarily want to just stick to Japanese cuisine. Since Italian is my absolute favorite, I was really excited to try some Italian food in Toyko.
Elio Locanda was suggested to us as a place where Italian ex pats go to eat. I was sold. We gorged on stuffed prawns, seared beef, and of course, pasta. The creamy risotto was to die for.
Service in Japan is exceptional. Every waiter or waitress waits on every table. And, there is no gratuity. There is a 10% service charge added to every check and that is what the servers split.
And if you know me, you know I enjoyed the dessert cart. There were so many options, and they would just pull a tray off, cut you a slice, and keep on rolling.
My other foray into Italian fare was at at Obika Mozzarella Bar. A place dedicated to cheese? I'm so there.
First of all, you get a free appetizer when you order a drink. The night we dined, we were offered these delicious spinach and mozzarella fritters. We also indulged in a mozzarella sampler with two kinds of bufala mozzarella, burrata and a smoked mozzarella. It was an excellent way to start our evening. The restaurant also had a fantastic vibe. It would be a great place to grab drinks after work.
But, the crowning jewel of our culinary tour of Tokyo started with a little film that Tom saw via Netflix called Jiro Dreams of Sushi. This set in motion one of the most interesting dining experiences of my life.
We dined at Sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro, while Jiro's son prepared some of the freshest sushi I've ever seen, straight off the fish. Course after course after course - fatty tuna, abalone, squid, makerel, bonito, scallop, clam, uni and so much more, finshed off with a little tamago.
Now if you know me at all, you realize that this was not my idea of a good time. But, I was more than happy to be a part of the experience, and I enjoyed being there with Tom.
Now this place is not for the faint of heart. This was the most expensive meal we've ever eaten in a restaurant, by quite a lot. Keep in mind, if you ever find yourself at this famed restaurant, that they will keep sending out courses until you say stop. I think Tom and I had around 25. The cost can get out of hand really quickly if that's the case. When it's time to settle the bill, there's no itemization, just a slip of paper with a number on it. (If you really want to know how much it was, drop me a note, I'll be happy to share that with you)
I'd love to make another trip to Tokyo and try a whole new set of restaurants, but I fear the memories of this trip will have to last me for quite a while.
I'll wrap up my tour of Tokyo with life-sized Buzz and Woody from Legoland in Roppongi Hills because...well, why not?
Anybody who knows me at all, knows that I absolutely adore Italian food. It is my absolute favorite type of cuisine. So you know that I was excited when a mediocre barbecue restaurant in Bartlett was replaced by a casual Italian eatery.
Thank goodness Bruno's is here to give me a low-key, non-chain Italian restaurant near my house. And this one really delivers.
We started out with the fried ravioli; Bruno's version rocks! Instead of the typical bread crumb coating, this ravioli had a light, almost tempura-like batter. It was crisp, and not at all greasy. I could have made a meal out this and a side salad.
For entree's, we had the chicken parmigiana sandwich with asparagus and the eggplant parmigana. Looking back, it probably would have been a good idea to vary our choices so we could have maybe tasted a different sauce, but c'est la vie.
That being said, these were very tasty plates of food. The asparagus is dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette and topped with some chopped tomatoes. This elevated it above the standard steamed version. I found Bruno's marinara a little tangy; it was too much for the plain spaghetti that was served with the eggplant parmigiana, but absolutely delicious with the eggplant and melted cheese.
For dessert, we split a slice of cannoli cake. It was enormous, super rich, and decadently creamy. The combination of ricotta cannoli filling, chocolate ganache and orange zest was really tasty, but I was glad I was splitting it with Tom. I don't think I could have taken it down by myself, and I have a serious sweet tooth.
Bruno's has an extensive menu of traditional classics. The prices are reasonable enough to put it into our regular dinner rotation. We don't even have to save it for a special occasion.
Just in case you haven't heard (Although, if you're friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, I'm sure you've heard) Memphis has been nominated for Southern Living's Tastiest Town. Now, I'll be the first to say that I believe that I'd put the cuisine in Memphis up against that of any other "foodie" city, including New Orleans or Charleston (both of which are nominated this year.)
So, if you love me, or if you've ever loved me, then please vote for Memphis. You can vote once a day per email address.
Also, the MCVB will be hosting a voting party on February 6 at Sweet Grass Next Door from 5-7 p.m. Join us for drink specials, door prizes and complimentary snacks.
The weather has gotten a bit colder, and it's perfect soup weather. Now, I told you about the delicious pho at Noodle Star, but if I had to pick my favorite soup in town (outside of the ones I cook in my kitchen), this one would win, hands down.
The tonkotsu ramen from Sekisui in Cordova is by far the richest, most delicious, amazing soup of its kind that I've tasted outside of Tokyo (Oh wow, I can legitimately say "outside of Tokyo") The cream based broth is so savory; it definitely has that "I've been cooked for 2 days" flavor. It served with slices of roast pork, scallions and hard boiled egg. You can also get additional accoutrements like sweet corn and bean sprouts.
It might be hard to tell from the picture, but the bowl is massive. I always get two enormous meals from one serving.
Sekisui Cordova has an entire menu of soups that are currently unavailable at any of the other Memphis locations, so take a trip out east. I promise this soup will blow your mind.
If you're a frequent reader of Tiffany Tastes, you might remember that I'm not expert on BBQ. For someone who lives in Memphis, this is probably unheard of, but it's really something that I only get a taste for about once a month. When my mom comes to visit, we eat barbecue everyday for a week, and most of the time, that's enough for me. That being said, when I do eat it, I enjoy it. And, people often ask me what's my favorite barbecue in this great barbecue city. I'm not certain this particular establishment is the best, but it's definitely in my top 3.
I'm not the only person who considers The Bar-B-Q Shop in Midtown Memphis to be one of the best barbecue restaurants in the city. I find that almost everything on the menu is done very well. It's one of the few places in town where you can get your barbecue sandwich served on buttered Texas toast. Let me urge you to take them up on that offer. The richness of the buttery bread is a great counterpoint to the barbecue sauce, which is on the sweeter side.
Another popular dish that you'll find in restaurants around the Bluff City is barbecue spaghetti. While it is an acquired taste, some restaurants do it better than others. The Bar-B-Q Shop is tops in my book. Barbecue spaghetti can easily be overly sweet, especially since noodles don't offer much flavor to counter the sauce. So if the barbecue sauce sucks, the barbecue spaghetti will suck, too. If you want barbecue spaghetti, definitely get it from here.
You won't find a bad barbecue dish on the menu. So, if you have friends or family from out of town and you're looking for a place where everything across the board is good, this is your place.
You've heard about it. You may have seen some pictures. Finally, I'm thrilled to tell you about our trip to Japan.
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to travel to Tokyo for work. Even better, Tom was able to come with me. Having never been anywhere near the continent of Asia, we were both really excited to experience the atmosphere, culture and cuisine of Japan. So we strapped ourselves into the biggest plane I've ever seen, and prepped ourselves for the 15-hour ride across the world to Tokyo.
A few things about Tokyo: The city is extremely clean. Taxis are very prevalent, and the inability to read Japanese is going to cause me some issues in this post. Namely, sometimes I didn't actually catch the name of the restaurant. So, I'll do my best.
One of the things that I definitely wanted to try was a big authentic bowl of ramen. I managed to check that off my list on my very first night. Our good friend, Victor, lives a couple hours outside of Tokyo, and he came to meet us and show us around. By the time we got from Narita airport to our hotel (Hotel Okura), it was after 9 p.m, but there were still plenty of places to grab a bite to eat. We strolled around the neighborhood near our hotel, and found a great little restaurant nearby. Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where I don't know the name. But, I got my ramen, and it was so good!
The broth was spectacular, just what I was looking for. The cafe was pretty small, with maybe seating for 20, and a little too nice to be considered a "dive" or a "hole in the wall." It was still plenty crowded at 10 p.m. on a Sunday evening. Prices were ridiculously reasonable, and I was thrilled to be able to get my authentic ramen so early in the trip.
The next night, Victor and his friend took us to a dungeon-themed izakaya restaurant. An izakaya is a Japanese restaurant, more known for it's drinks, but also pairing food with those drinks.
This particular restaurant (again, no name, but I do know it was in the Ueno neighborhood, across from Ueno Park.) The interesting thing about this izakaya is that you could order ala carte, but the best deal was the all you can eat. All you can eat and drink (including alcoholic beverages) for 2.5 hours for the equivalent of $40 USD/person, which was a great deal!
Most of the cuisine was typical American-style bar food, like chicken wings and fries. However, some of the dishes definitely represented Japanese style, like sashimi.
But, the real star were the drinks. In this particular venue, they were fashioned to look like science experiments. Some were more successful than others, but since they were all we could drink, if we didn't like one, we just ordered another.
This izakaya also offered a performance as well. Every two hours, an alarm sounds and people in monster costumes run through the restaurant, banging gates and making noise until waitresses dressed as sexy police officers come by and cart them away.
Dinner and a show, all you can eat and drink for $40? Sign me up. It was an awesome experience.
In the next Tiffany and Tom do Tokyo installment, the food gets serious. (And I finally remember the names of some restaurants).
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