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Getting Lucky 52 Tuesdays-Tasty Tuesday MEGapicks 2016

From the 52 Tasty Tuesday’s in 2016, I have had a blast re-tasting food and laughing at a few odd moments.

I have composed my second annual review of foods that fit into several categories. This past year, I have taken my food travel to another level by finding one restaurant and one pizza that thus far, are my all time favorite. If you too are interested in some of the best food and restaurants in this universe, interesting dishes and fun places to eat, read on.

Before I begin, here is my disclaimer. Tasty Tuesday writes and picks are heavily slanted towards Alabama. I would like to give an extra thank you to my readers who follow my quest to eat every one of the 100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die.  this list is put out by Alabama Tourism.

The Best Restaurant

  1. Highland Bar and Grill located in Birmingham Alabama.  Hands down this is the best restaurant that I have EVER visited. Because I do not review places before I visit, from the moment I stepped in the door, I was blown away by the perfection of this restaurant. Ignorance was bliss. The restaurant motto reads: “Ever-changing seasonal menu of French-inspired, regional Southern fare served in an elegant setting.

    highland exterior

    Highlands Bar and Grill is located in a unique restored 1920’s building in Birmingham Alabama.

I feel a bit lame picking this restaurant because I am not worthy. We are talking food writers, James Beard Awards, Chef Frank Stitt, New York Times, Bon-Appetit worthy. This restaurant has been nominated for James Beard Awards an incredible and unheard of eight times.  Against restaurants from cities like New York, San Francisco, this is a big deal in the food world. Who knew that after eating in many places in our universe, my best restaurant would be right here in Sweet Home Alabama?   From the 100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die, the Highland Shrimp and Grits were my 59th taste and my Number 1 restaurant experience.

highlandgrits

The Mick Jagger of grits. Award winning Baked Grits at Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Alabama.

Runner Up for Best Restaurants

  1. Bettola in Birmingham Alabama It is easy to write about this visit in short. I went to this fantastic restaurant in Birmingham, ate award winning, wood-fired pizza with quality ingredients created by award-winning, Master Chef Lewis. But it isn’t simple. This visit had me practicing my skills in Italian, considering high-quality ingredients and techniques used for centuries in the Naples region of Italy.The setting of Bettola is as cool as the pizza.  This was also my most “learning visit” of 2016. See more below in pizza category.
  2. The Springhouse. Also located in Alabama, I had the best dessert of 2016 in this fantastic restaurant.  Near to a resort area called Lake Martin where there are multimillion dollar homes, this restaurant will impress anyone and they even welcomed me in my hiking clothes.  I can’t wait to visit this restaurant in 2017.
  3. Shipp’s Harbor Grill in Orange Beach Alabama.  “Once You Try Shipp’s – You’re Hooked!” This one is not my pun.   However, I shipp you not, the Grilled Grouper Pontchartrain at Shipp’s Harbour in Orange Beach Alabama, was among the best grouper that I have ever eaten.  And those smoked gouda mashed potatoes had me at hello.  This is THE restaurant that I recommend for seafood to those visiting the Alabama beaches.  Outstanding!

Best Dessert 

  1. S’more.  This is not your childhood s’more.   
    smore

    S’more at Spring House Restaurant c’mon baby light my fire.

    Beginning with a crisp homemade graham cracker, made from scratch marshmallows. On top of that is amazing warm chocolate lava cake with rich chocolate sauce, topped with more of the marshmallow. C’mon baby light my fire!  PSST MEGatip-I read that 2017 will be The Year of the S’more.  Two other desserts that I was able to try at the Spring House Restaurant may show you why this was one of my best of restaurants in 2016.

    springhousedessert

    This Spring House combination dessert platter is To die for.

Pictured from the top of this photo and moving clockwise. Crème Brulee made with chai and cara cara orange.  Lemon Tart with homemade whip cream. Muscadine Hull Pie, and that S’more. I found that Muscadine Pie to be intriguing. Made with local Muscadine & Scuppernongs, baked in a perfect pastry and served with homemade ice cream. And yes, I had to google scuppernongs before I ordered. I ate this first and absolutely loved it!

Best Sandwiches

 

amsterdamcrab

Crab Cake with Avocado from The Amsterdam Cafe in Auburn, Alabama.

 

  1. Crab Cake with Avocado on a Croissant at Amsterdam Café’ in Auburn, Alabama. Made of lump crab cake, avocado, creole remoulade, mango Pico de Gallo inside of a lightly toasted flaky buttery croissant. This sandwich is served with a pickle and a choice of kettle chips or house-made sweet potato chips. For this Tasty Tuesday blog, I wrote; This will now be my standard for any crab cake. Good luck anyone else trying to woo me with crab cake ever. Also, I really loved the house-made sweet potato chips, I am usually not a huge fan but they were really delicious, crisp and NOT over salted. Hurrah! Lekker, lekker, Lekker. LOVE!
  2. Burgers at Flip Burger Boutique of Atlanta Georgia and Birmingham AL

    flipoaxacaburger

    Flip Burger Boutique Oaxaca burger that was made up with Angus beef, avocado, cilantro-lime mayo, queso fresco, pico de gallo. She said it was above outstanding.

flipburgerfries

Earth + Turf which is made up of a mushroom & beef blend, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, gruyere cheese, pickles, mushroom mayo. Oh and I dipped a few bites in that smoked mayo and was torn between those two lovers. Just YUM!

And those fries. The Beef Fat French Fries are served with Smoked Mayo/Ketchup and were over the top delicious. The smoked mayo literally gave me a Meg Ryan moment. I had to put it on my burger and ask what it was made from. And them shakes! The shakes are literally conjured up by a sorcerer to rock your world. With choices like Krispy Kreme, Nutella and Burnt Marshmallow, Cap’n Crunch, Turtle and Strawberry Shortcake, they are pretty hard to resist. I am thankful that my friend ordered the Krispy Kreme. I would not have ordered this yumminess, since well, I am a woman of a certain age and must choose my calories accordingly. But, holy moly was it out of this magical, like for real!

flipshakes

Dem shakes at Flip burger Boutique

That view

flipview

View from Flip Burger Boutique in Birmingham, AL

Favorite Unicorn Dish

What is a unicorn dish? They are rare, hard to find, unique and maybe served once a week, or simply hard to come by.

  1. Runza Burger from the Runza Hut in Lincoln Nebraska. Found in the Midwest states of Nebraska and Kansa. This sandwich made it to Nebraska by the way of a group of Germans who settled in Russia.
    runzasandwich

    Runza Burger from the Runza Hut in Lincoln, Nebraska.

    The original version was simple in theory; a Bierock/Runza is a doughy yeast bun filled with ground beef, cabbage, and onion. I really loved tasting and learning about this unique regional food. By the way, this photo gets it’s own category for worst food photo of the year.

Best Soul Food

  1. Buffet at Dorothy’s Hall. Soul Food is served on Wednesdays and Sunday Brunch.  Located on the historic Tuskegee University grounds inside of The Kellogg Hotel.  

    tuskegeefood

    I ate every bite of my southern Cuisine choices. The “yams” are in the upper right corner

  2. Pork n’ Greens at Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Birmingham for slow-smoked tender pork, sweet vinegar-based BBQ sauce, served over creamy grits, and tangy greens, topped off with killer crispy onion rings. The portion size was ginormous, a bit too salty for me but dang tasty and interesting.

    sawssoul

    SAW’s Soul Kitchen Pork n’ Greens

Best Seafood

  1. Grouper Ponchatrain (this was the spelling on the menu) at Shipp’s Harbour Grill in Orange Beach Alabama. Made from locally caught Grouper, Panko Bread Crumbs, Shrimp, Crab, Red Onion, Mushrooms, Lemon Butter. Served with a salad that was and their smoked Gouda mashed potatoes that had me at hello.
    shippsgrouper

    1/2 serving of Grouper Ponchatrain (menu spelling.) at Shipp’s Harbour Bar and Grill

  1. Sea Bass wrapped in banana leaves at Cosmo’s Restaurant and Bar is also located in Orange Beach Alabama. The restaurant is described as offering modern Southern & global fare served in a casual setting.  This was some darn good fish.
    cosmosseabassopen

    Cosmo’s Seabass cooked in banana leaves

    For the banana leaf-wrapped fish, the menu reads “our chef ‘s selection rubbed with a special blend of herbs & seasonings, wrapped in banana leaves & baked. Served with our house rice & vegetable selection.” Fortunately for me, the chef selection of the day was sea bass.

 

3 . Oysters at Highland Bar and Grill in Birmingham Alabama.  As James Beard once said, they were simply “one of the supreme delights that nature has bestowed on man.”  Since moving to Alabama, I am becoming an oyster freak and the ever so safe Beau Soleil New Brunswick Oysters at Highlands were outstanding.

highlandoysters

Beau Soleil New Brunswick Oysters at Highlands Restaurant in Birmingham Alabama is the perfect example of how oysters should be served.

Often recommended to beginners for the mild buttery flavor and not as strong of a briny quality, they are one of my favorites. A great read by this server. Served with crackers, fresh-ground horseradish, cocktail sauce, and champagne vinaigrette, I liked them naked but just had to try the condiments.  When I asked the waiter what the vinaigrette sauce was he replied “a champagne vinaigrette.” I am pretty sure in retrospect, it was a champagne mignonette and he answered my question in a way that was not offensive. And this behavior my readers is what separates a puppy from the big dog.

 

  1. Royal Red Shrimp at King Neptune’s in Gulf Shores Alabama.  These steamed shrimp arrive right off the boat from The Gulf of Mexico’s 1500-foot deep waters.   The fishery is 15-minutes from the restaurant.

    kingneptunesplate

    Royal Red Shrimp Platter at King Neptune’s of Gulf Shores, Alabama

These rather large shrimp and have a bright ruby color. Their taste is described as sweet salty, moist, and yet a distinct texture and subtle flavor. The owner of King Neptune’s once described this delicacy” to be as big as a banana and as succulent as lobster.” He is right.**** People, if you come to visit the gorgeous beaches of Alabama put this Royal Red Shrimp on your food bucket list.   This species of shrimp may be found at other establishments in this area.  I also personally tasted them at Doc’s Seafood in Orange Beach and can vouch for this shrimp at that establishment.

 

  1. Fried Shrimp.   When I am not food tasting on my travels, I no longer eat salt and fried foods. However, the fried shrimp at Kowaliga Restaurant located outside of Alexander City Alabama and also near Lake Martin resort area. This casual restaurant sits on the lake and these large and juicy Gulf Shrimp are delivered every three days to this restaurant. It is fried from simple ingredients of; cornmeal, flour, buttermilk and is said to have just the right amount of salt and pepper.
    kowaligashrimp

    The Fried Alabam Shrimp at Kowaliga Restaurant in Alexander City

    Always served with fresh warm hushpuppies and your choice of one side. I am picky about fried shrimp and I have to say that these were amongst the best that I have ever eaten.

Best Pizza

Also extremely picky about pizza, this year, I have had the best pizza of my life thus far. And finally another state ranks.

  1. Lucille’s in Madison, Wisconsin. This is a pizza like no other. I tasted two types of pizzas. I was able to speak to the pizza chef, who described unique qualities of their pizzas. The finely ground, high-quality wheat flour is a long process, 36 hours to be exact. Huh? This helps a fermentation process. Huh? Fermented with New Glarus Spotted Cow Beer. My friends be jealous, this delicious and much-coveted beverage can only be purchased in Wisconsin. After rising, the dough is hand-tossed and put into a high-temperature oven where it is said to make a “blistery delicate crust.” This pizza was created in the “Detroit style.” So, not as thick as Chicago-style and yet still served with sauce on top. The Detroit style is made with brick cheese as edges and when cooked, it caramelizes the cheese. So this is where the genius comes in.

    lucillespan

    Lucille’s Steel Pan Pizza

The creators of this masterpiece use Wisconsin’s own Shullsburg cheddar cheese for the edges and add some Wisconsin butter under the crust to further caramelize the dough. Instead of water, they use the Spotted Cow beer and oregano in the crust. Topped with fresh tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella.

lucillesslice

Love just Love at Lucille’s

 

  1. But, back to Alabama. Deep Dish Pizza at Tortugas in Birmingham, Alabama. Yes, deep-dish pizza in Alabama and yes, I have eaten at all of the famous Chicago pizza eateries.

    tortugas

    Deep dish Pizza at Tortuga’s in Birmingham, Alabama

  2. Neapolitan Pizza at Bettola in Birmingham Alabama. I think the thing that I loved most about this pizzeria was in learning of the passion and commitment that this chef has for his craft.
    bettolaoven

    The pizza oven imported from Italy at Bettola Restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama

    I have had wood fired pizzas in several approved Neapolitan pizzerias, but this place takes their pizza seriously.

    bettolapizza

    Bettola Pizza Neapolitan

     

    Best BBQ Places of 2016

    1. BBQ Plate at Hancock’s Country Bar-B-Que in Selma Alabama for great pork, cole slaw, and that good bread. Another great overall Alabama Bar-B-Que experience.

      hancockbbqplate

      Hancock’s BBQ Plate

    2. Pork Platter at Johnny’s Bar-B-Q located in Cullman Alabama for some amazingly tender meat and great overall experience.
      johnnysplate

      Small portion BAR-B-Q Plate at Johnny’s with white bread.

      Shockers

      1. Shrimp and Chardonnay Grits at Ginny Lane Bar and Grill in Orange Beach Alabama. Not going to lie, I was not looking forward to eating grits, again. However, one bite in, I knew that this was no ordinary shrimp and grits. Made with sautéed Gulf Shrimp, Tomatoes, Bacon, Thyme, Rosemary, Green Onions, Shallots, Garlic, and Chardonnay Cream Sauce Over Cheddar Grits.
        ginnylanegrits

        Shrimp And Grits at Ginny Lane of Orange Beach, Alabama. My #72nd taste on 100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die

        This dish had me at Gulf Shrimp, cheddar and chardonnay cream sauce.   #WOW #YUM #KABAM

 

Although I have had a few duds along the way, I have had a few life-changing dishes and experiences and consider. I feel fortunate to have tasted 52 Tuesday foods. I wish food for all and support those causes. One of my biggest food goals for 2017 is to minimize waste of food for myself and for others. I continue to volunteer at a community-based farm that helps educate, act, and transform food practice.

I have fallen head over heels in love with Alabama food. Alabamians should be proud of their culinary feats, and the bounty of both land and sea that this gorgeous state has at their fingertips.   I am having a blast visiting this state in every corner. A special thank you to my followers of Alabama foods. I hope to inspire you to have fun trying new foods and food experiences.

Looking forward to food adventure in 2017.  Eat on and stay healthy!

Meg

 

 

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