May 22, 2012

Chocolate Waffle Bar

When I told my brother about having friends over for a "ladies lunch for (birthday) dinner," he commented on what a "crazy party" a salad party would be. And crazy it was with a special kind of bar, a chocoholic's dream.

A waffle filled with cocoa and chocolate chips tastes like warm dark chocolate cake and begs for a lighter sweetness to top its holey surface.

The bar: fresh whipping cream, chocolate chips, pecans, sprinkles (it was a birthday!), strawberries, the best chocolate sauce (a Lebovitz recipe), caramel banana topping

Not pictured above is the crown jewel: Cinnamon Ice Cream homemade in brilliance by Hannah. Really, you didn't even need the other toppings once you marry dark chocolate waffle cake with creamy spiced ice cream. Oooh.

Also, there was singing and other beauty of gathering the ladies who are a constant source of encouragement, inspiration and companionship to me. The only thing that tops that is presents of snickers salad (only really!), caprese salad, oriental slaw, chicken salad, fruit salad, potato salad, strawberry-pretzel salad, green salad with yogurt ranch dressing, vino, and, of course, cinnamon ice cream! (And lots of other sweet people thinking of me on my birthday, including (home) blog love from Amy.) Thanks, birthday crew. Y'all rock.

May 16, 2012

Meeting the chefs behind the latest fresh food concepts in Birmingham

All of a sudden, there is farm-fresh food coming in everywhere I look in this Magic City I have been reclaiming as my own. New farmers markets have come to the city at Railroad Park on Wednesdays and even at suburban concrete chain store mecca The Summit on Thursdays to add to the Saturday market spread at Pepper Place, East Lake, Homewood, West Homewood, Valleydale and Mt Laurel. Not to mention that Freshfully's storefront just opened in Avondale to complete a triumvirate of brewery-barbecue (or even better, Pork and Greens plate served over grits topped and topped with onion rings!)-market on 41st Street, marrying my East Birmingham love with food love.

Also, there are restaurant dudes in my papers' areas doing uber cool things with fresh food. I got to chat with these guys and take their pictures over the past month, because my job rocks.

Little Donkey
Josh Gentry

Josh, Chiliquiles (fancy nachos), fresh veggies and the corn grinding machine. Photo for The Homewood Star.
Josh Gentry insisted I drink a Corona and munch on Queso Fundido ("cheese dip's" far superior cousin: sausage and veggies topped with a thick layer of cheese you "grab" with a corn tortilla) while I interviewed him. I like to think I know about food, but  Gentry opened the door to a world I don't entirely know when he went through a who's who in the chefs who endorsed Ideas in Food (the guy who wrote it advises Little Donkey as they create new dishes) while we chatted. He and the other masterminds behind the restaurant know how to cook pulled pork (they are the Jim N Nick's guys), but here they mix it with authentic Mexican flavors and, best of all, lots of fresh avocado. I'm still dreaming of their slow-cooked meat, and their fish taco.

Food Studio B
Sean Butler 

Photo for 280 Living.
My mom met me for lunch at Food Studio B after my interview with chef and owner Sean Butler, and she insisted we go back the next week when we were driving by on our way out of town. The following week, I talked with my hairdresser about how Sean delivers healthy yet awesomely delicious meals to their salon, a different meal for each day, as a part of how he caters to the Paleo (meats, veggies, seeds loved by Irontribe enthusiasts and others, too) diet around town.

I loved hearing him talk about how important his son, the business' namesake is, and his dreams to have like 15 restaurant concepts (bakery, cafe, caterer, snack food creator, wine dinners, market, ice cream parlor, cooking class host) in one all fresh, healthy and mouthwatering in his new space in Chelsea. And, he has an excellent baker on staff, whose yellow cake with fudge icing was unbelievably from-scratch, real-butter tasty.

Mountain Brook/Everywhere
Chad Schofield and Mac Russell

Prideful point: Mac (left) called to tell me he liked my picture of "Mountain Brook Mondays"; yay. Photo for Village Living.
These guys make vegan meatballs ("L.A. balls") taste better than meat. And anything that comes from their truck is fresh fist-full of flavors that make me say "wow" every time. Every time. They now park in Mountain Brook on Mondays, making it super convenient for me to drop by from work; it's dangerous.

Conclusion: As much as my friends and I tend to talk of the idealism of moving to a farm in the country one day, I am quite content with the farm coming to me at markets and in restaurants that so respect where their food is grown.

May 5, 2012

Blueberry-Lemon Layer Cake

A is for Amy, who likes fruity, fluffy desserts and hence inspired me to bake a cake that wasn't chocolate.
A is for apartment, which we christened with a celebration of Amy's birth.
Blueberry cake layer, lemon cake layer, blueberry cake layer, all covered in a creamy lemon frosting.
 And A is for appetizers, of which we ate plates full before moving onto dessert.
Evidence of a tart with caramelized onions/tomato/goat cheese and pull-apart sausage bread sit behind the almost-blown-out-candle-topped cake.
 Cake verdict: Butter-y, subtly lemon-y. berry-y, pretty darn scrumptious for not being chocolate.