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100 of 100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die The Best of the Best at Bottega

For the past few you years, I’ve been on a mission to personally taste every single dish listed on the Alabama Department of Tourism’s “100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die.”

Well, I.Did.It! Today, After a good bit of vacation time, I am writing about my 100th dish experience.

The Parmesan Soufflé at Bottega in Birmingham is the #100th dish on my quest to eat all 100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die.

I had been thinking for some time about the most fantastic place that I could visit for this momentum occasion. Then, life happened and I had one insanely busy summer.

As it turned out, I was able to visit Bottega in Birmingham. By a stroke of luck, it was a rainy day, before the dinner rush, I shook the dice to see if I could get seated.

bottegaside

Bottega of Birmingham, AL

The fine building that houses Bottega is located on a hill in the downtown area of Birmingham.  There is free parking on side streets or for your convenience, Valet parking. The Bottega Cafe is adjacent to the Bottega Dining Room.

bottegaout

Bottega, Birmingham, AL

I absolutely loved the outdoor dining areas.  It is not a stretch to get the feeling of dining al fresco in a fine establishment of an Italian city neighborhood.

bottega ou

Courtyard in the front of Bottega in Birmingham, AL

Too bad it was pouring rain!

bottega out

Bottega Restaurant courtyard in Birmingham, AL

From the floor entrance,

bottega enter

Bottega entrance floor to ceiling perfection. Birmingham, AL

to the ceiling entrance, there was no decor detail left to chance.

bottega ceiling

From the floor to the ceiling, no detail is left to chance. Bottega, Birmingham, AL

 

Before I made it into the dining room, my visit began in a way that I disliked. Dressed casually in a way that a suburban Mom might dress. Not trashy nor too casual, simply average.

Before entering, a young man dressed in his fine work clothing literally looked us up and down, and then asked if we had meant to go to the more casual Cafe’ Bottega in the adjacent room.

Because I was looking to try the Parmesan Souffle, he sent us to speak with the maitre d.

I’m not one to get uncomfortable because well, I can rock the Mom look, but I had to go through this one more time with the maître d.  You know how you look at your shoes  (Clarice) and nails after an encounter such as this. Just plain. Awkward.

In all fairness, this is a restaurant that is booked up often well in advance.  I knew this ahead of time but sought to roll the dice.  Arguably, I put myself in this situation.  It is possible that the young man was not judging but trying to help me get a great dinner. Assume positive intent is my mantra.

 

bottega dr2

Bottega getting ready for the evening guests. Birmingham, AL

 

Anyway, the maître d finally suggested we sit at the bar. After an awkward amount of time, the professional bartender seemed to sense what was happening, and well, saved the day.

bottega bar

Bar at Bottega of Birmingham, AL

From this point on, my visit was nothing short of spectacular and I came to the conclusion that this visit would perfectly reflect my admiration for the food, people, and for the state of Alabama. A perfect dish for my 100th blog on this subject.

bottega window 2

View from the bar area Bottega, Birmingham, AL

Chef Frank Stitt and his wife Paradis own Bottega. I have written in more detail of this royal couple’s restaurant empire. Trust me, I am not writing in a cynical manner. This couple along with their dedicated and professional talented staff has given me some of the best food that I have ever eaten, and in general, some of the most incredible dining experiences of my life.  As a restaurant group, they are masters of perfection.

In fact, the meaning of Bottega per Merriam-Webster Dictionary literally means. : the studio or workshop of a major artist in which other artists may participate in the execution of the projects or commissions of the major artist.

The praise that I give to this restaurant, is not just my humble opinion, “Frank Stitt’s Bottega restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama, “combines Southern cooking ideology and Italian tradition to craft a new style of eating,” says Mario Batali, which is why “I think it is one of the best Italian restaurants outside of Italy.” The dishes are “never precious, always inventive” (The New York Times): a lima bean and orzo soup with escarole, a pork scaloppini with greens and polenta, a Capellini gratin. [1]

On the menu  of the day, the Chefs were listed as

Executive Chef; Frank Stitt and Chef De Cuisine John Rolen.    I did not catch the name of the Professional Bartender. This group should be extremely proud of his customer service.

When I entered the restaurant, I saw this delicious platter of heirloom tomatoes.

bottega tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes of the day. Bottega, Birmingham, AL

It may have influenced my dining decision when I chose the heirloom tomato salad for my appetizer. Made of heirloom tomatoes, field peas, arugula, and mozzarella, it won my heart.  I have tried to duplicate it several times over. Absolutely delicious.

Bottega salad

Heirloom Tomato Salad with field peas, Arugula and Mozzarella at Bottega, Birmingham, AL

Freshly baked bread with olive oil went perfectly with the tomato salad.

bottega bread

Fresh bread at Bottega in Birmingham, AL

The Parmesan soufflé at Bottega is the signature appetizer of this fine establishment. I have read that people liken it to grits. NO,  just no. To me, it tasted as rich as a creamy cheese souffle should. Creamy as in slides off your tongue as in dessert creamy. I imagine high-quality cheese, eggs, and heavy cream.    A souffle without “bacon” and “mushrooms” cooked on the inside. Almost a dessert. *See MEGathoughts below.

bottega parmesan suffle

The signature appetizer at Bottega in Birmingham, AL is the Parmesan Souffle

Not to be upstaged, the porcini mushrooms and prosciutto di Parma is served beautifully with the soufflé.

MEGathoughts. Of course, porcini mushrooms were used. Known often as “the King of mushrooms,” they are collected from nature only, have a great texture and an amazing woodsy flavor. And, of course, prosciutto di Parma was used in this dish. Made from a certified heritage pig located in the Parma region of Italy and cured naturally without preservatives. [2] This is not bacon.  High-quality ingredients, sourced locally when possible and house-made dishes.  The best of the best sums up the food, the Chefs, the staff, decor, and experience.

MEGastars 5 ***** This dish will rank amongst the BEST appetizers that I have ever tasted.

Onto the other dishes that I was able to taste.  I was getting full and decided to “graze.” I ordered this fantastic dish off of the appetizer menu.

bottega pasta

Garganelli Neri at Bottega of Birmingham. AL

My plus one chose Pappardelle. Made with house-made fennel sausage, pasta, chanterelle mushrooms, and marjoram. This is a dish that I would not order on my own because I lean away from meat-based dishes. Again, I felt privileged to taste this dish because it was simply exceptional. MEGastars 5 *****

bottega stroganoff

Pappardelle at Bottega, Birmingham, AL

Now here is where I break the news to you. As of this note, there are about 229 dishes on the 100 dish list. I hope to get to all of them. I have a few that are a high priority on my personal list. I likely will not be visiting the listed restaurants as frequently as I have in the past but will seek to complete my list. I am thrilled to have made it to “100.”  I would not have had the time of my life visiting Alabama from North to South had it not been for Tourism Alabama.

MEGatips-

  1. When visiting Birmingham Alabama, I highly recommend a visit to Bottega and Bottega Cafe. Frank Stitt’s other restaurants also include Chez Fon Fon and the HIghland House. In any of these restaurants, you will have one of the finest dining experiences of your lifetime. This Chef is a James Beard nominee and winner as well as the Pastry Chef Dolester Miles.  The dessert menu is out of this world! [1]
  2. Frank Stitt has several cookbooks available. Frank Stitts‘ Bottega Favorita is one that I highly recommend. In this book Chef Stitt weaves comparisons between traditional Italian cuisine and fresh food from the land and sea of Alabama. The cookbooks are available from many large retailers such as Barnes and Nobel and Amazon.
  3. You will find a rotating menu with Southern, local foods. The menus may be found on their website, including drink specialties and dessert.  If I lived in Birmingham,  I would want to eat all of the dishes at all of the restaurants.
  4. Do as I say, get reservations! Reservations can be made on the homepage link.
  5. Link to Bottega.  Do check out the Press page for the accolades and honors. Bottega
  6. Also, while I was grooving on the tomato salad, I was told that the olive oil used in the recipe was made in-house and was for sale.  I bought two bottles, one for myself and one for my friend.  If my memory is correct, the oil is infused with 16 herbs.
  7. See my blog on Highland House and

 

[1] Highland Bar and Grill Website/careers. Excerpted from Frank Stitt’s Bottega Favorita, Copyright: Artisan, 2008.  Copyright © 2017 Highlands Bar and Grill/Careers.  (See link above) 

[2] Parma and Proscuitto Parma

 

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This MEGabites and MEGastars description is found at the bottom of each post. If you are new to my 100 Dishes in Alabama escapade, this may be helpful information.

ABOUT:  *100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die,” is a compilation of food to chow down on “Bama style.”  Thanks to Tourism Alabama, www.alabama.travel my Alabama bucket list just became a little easier.  I am going to have some food fun while making my way like Ms. Pacman, in yet another state that I call home.   From the little old diner to the white cloth setting, this journey is an opportunity for me to explore my new state and experience pride in food from restaurateurs who are dedicated to local food, with some Alabama style. From the local BBQ smoker to James Beard recipients, you too will take a culinary trip across scenic and historic Alabama.  From this list, I select stops based upon convenience of location and they are in no particular order (but I already have a few favorites.)  Perhaps when I finish this list, I will rank my favorite dishes. You too may pick up the brochure at Alabama Tourism stops or download the alphabetical brochure that begins in Abbeville and ends in York.

I use a 5 MEGastar system.  For the most part, I am traveling a distance to try these dishes and these places get one shot at how I view the food and experience.   I will not be taking an average of three visit experiences and I factor this in when I give my star rating. That said, I’m very easy to please, I can overlook quite a bit and have worked in the foodservice industry.  I am not a paid food critic, just Meg, a curious traveler, with an interest in trying different foods and sharing my two cents on the experience.  I try to follow my own star system so that I may be fair to the wonderful dishes on this list.

  • *meh food. Just wasn’t good. Maybe the food came from a can? or,  the place was not one that I would want to send someone to show pride in Alabama.   This has happened to me a few times and is a difficult write.
  • ** passable – the food was “ok” but the place was not “ok” or vice versa.
  • *** good but not outstanding or unique.
  • **** Very tasty dish AND meets one of the definitions set forth by Alabama Foods/Tourism, of local food and/or truly highlights Alabama Pride.
  • ***** I actually died, went to heaven and came back when I ate the dish. And/Or, something is very unique, something you cannot get anywhere else.

 

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