Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Uncork Your Tastebuds at The Bottle






If you are looking for an elegant little spot for dinner or maybe just a night out without the kids, look no further than The Bottle in downtown Huntsville. Located on Washington St. right off the square, The Bottle is just the kind of upscale restaurant for a special celebration or quiet get together with friends. Lucky me, I have been twice in recent weeks, once with two of my best girls and once with two friends who really are family to our family.


On the first trip, here is what we ordered. Our friend, Greg, got this delicious looking tomato basil soup. I can't believe I didn't order it, too. And the rolls with herb butter are a singular reason to visit The Bottle. Delish!


For both of my visits, I ordered this pear and arugula salad with toasted walnuts, blue cheese, honey caviar and a balsamic gastrique. I guess you could say I loved it! I am showing both pictures of my salad here because, even though they were the same, they must have been prepared by different people. The first one was kind of a jumble, but the second time it was very composed. Both times it was delicious! The pears were sweet and crisp, the arugula was fresh and peppery and I am in love with honey caviar! I'm not sure how they do it, but they are like sweet little pearls of honey that explode in your mouth. 



Also, sticking with the pear theme, both times I enjoyed this delicious concoction called, A Lovely Pear, and it was! It was made with Absolut Pear, Triple Sec and muddled pears. It was deliciously light and refreshing.


Our friend, Malinda, ordered this beautiful piece of fish (I've forgotten exactly what kind) perched on top of risotto with a medley of squashes. It looked like it was perfectly cooked.

                          

I chose this crispy fried quail with mashed potatoes and a celery root puree. It was so good!


Greg had grilled New Zealand rack of lamb, rare, with couscous, roasted horseradish glace and haricots verts. He said it was very good, but so much there was no way he could eat it all.

                            

Scott's selection was Hereford beef filet mignon with horseradish blue cheese chive butter,  demi glace, mashed potatoes and broccoli. He loved his dinner, which is saying a lot. He is very picky about his steak, so the chef must have cooked it perfectly. 

                             

The best part of the dinner? Catching up with two of our oldest and dearest friends. We always have a wonderful time together. We love them and know they love us, too. That makes any dinner special.


On the second trip to The Bottle, my friends, Dede and Deborah and I enjoyed a much needed and spontaneous girl's night out. We planned to go with our friend Allison to celebrate Dede's birthday. Then Allison had to cancel, so we decided to reschedule. We rescheduled, but then we had the brilliant idea to squeeze two trips out of the situation by going as we had originally planned and then going again when Allison could join us. The old saying, "if you give them and inch, they will take a mile", definitely applies to us!


We started with this wonderful crab cake which we all shared. It had lots of lump crab, a lemongrass buerre blanc and a corn relish salad. It was fried to perfection and the corn was a perfect 
accompaniment. 

                                       

We each enjoyed a different salad, so we could sample a variety. In addition to the pear and arugula salad I had, Deborah got this beautiful heirloom tomato and fried okra salad. It came with rocket lettuce, extra virgin olive oil and a balsamic gastrique. We didn't know what rocket lettuce was and pondered that burning question for a while but got distracted with all our eating and forgot to ask someone who would know. 


Dede opted for this Asian slaw made with Napa cabbage, blue cheese, bacon and walnuts with a warm vinaigrette. It was very good and very different. 

                                       

The verdict on the salads was that Dede and I both liked the pear salad the best, but Deborah preferred the slaw. They were all delicious, though, and I would order any of them again. 

We also chose three different entrees. These girls have the whole concept of Three Friends and a Fork down! I picked the pan seared red snapper with stone ground grits, walnuts and hericots verts. I have to say, The Bottle has fish cooking down to an art. One of the hardest things in cooking is to get a beautifully browned piece of fish without overcooking and drying out the tender inside. The Bottle gets an A+ on both counts. And the fish was as fresh as any I have gotten at the beach. Those grits were not too shabby either! I ate every single grit! I can't believe I just wrote grit! Every Southern girl knows grits are never singular. 

                            

Deborah also selected a fish entree. Her's was black grouper, which our server told us is considered the best grouper. I personally researched this to make sure he wasn't just pulling our legs, and he was telling the truth. Deborah's fish was sitting atop a mound of risotto and served with haricots verts. Her grouper was amazing, as was the risotto. 

                             

Not to be landlocked when the rest of us were sampling sea life, Dede's entree of choice was pan seared Georges Bank jumbo sea scallops. Those mollusks were buttery and sweet with a lemongrass buerre blanc, mushroom confit and tender asparagus. 

                               
                         
By this point we were pretty stuffed, but Dede and I couldn't resist sampling one little dessert. We picked the one we thought would be the least filling and most light, which was this little lemon tart with blueberries and a dollop of ice cream. Dede and I loved it. Blueberries always marry so well with lemon. Deborah, who didn't even taste it admitted that she did not like lemon desserts. Who knew?? I mean I knew she didn't eat anything with horseradish, but this was the first I had heard of her aversion to citrusy desserts. I say citrusy, because she also informed us she didn't like key lime pie either. The things you learn about your friends when you go out to eat! It was even more surprising because Deborah, like me, is usually a pretty adventurous eater.


Again, it was another delicious night of fun and friendship and delicious food. You definitely should make time to sample the creative cuisine at The Bottle. Three Friends and a Fork and all our dear friends give The Bottle 3 memorable Yums UP. 






The Bottle on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Papa Dubi's Cajun Kitchen


On the way through Guntersville last weekend, Scott, Rob and I made a detour up the mountain to Papa Dubi's Cajun Kitchen. Papa Dubi's, named for the Cajun grandfather of one of the owner's, was one of Sherri's favorite places to eat. She loved good, fresh seafood.


The guys and I got there right before 12:00 pm on a Sunday and were seated right away, but not long after we arrived, the tables started filling up. If you are going to Papa Dubi's for lunch on Sunday, keep this in mind. The restaurant is not large and it fills up pretty quickly when the churches start letting out.


After our drink orders were taken, we studied the menus. There were lots of tasty sounding seafood and Cajun choices. Here's what we ordered.

Scott chose a half shrimp poboy. The half order was huge. I cannot imagine being able to eat a whole order. The overstuffed sandwich looked delicious. Scott said the bread was really good, crusty and fresh. He also requested some remoulade sauce to go with his sandwich. I suggest you do the same if you order a poboy, because that remoulade sauce was wonderful.


I chose a cup of gumbo and coconut shrimp. I loved them both. The dark gumbo was rich, spicy and full of seafood. Rob liked it, too (he ate half my gumbo). 


The coconut shrimp was crispy and coconutty and came with a wonderful sweet and spicy Jezebele marmalade sauce. I really liked the slaw that came with my meal. It was mayonnaise based  and slightly sweet. I dipped my French fries into some of that delicious remoulade sauce. Yum!


Rob couldn't decide, so he ended up with a little of everything on a seafood platter. He had oysters, shrimp, clams and fish with French fries and slaw. He ate every bite.



We all loved our lunches. If you have a craving for fresh seafood with a Cajun flair, head straight up Sand Mountain going from Guntersville toward Albertville and give Papa Dubi's a try. You will be glad you did. Ayeee!


Papa Dubi's on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 9, 2015

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies to Feed a Crowd



The day my son called from college and asked if he could bring a few of his fraternity brothers home, I was, first, thrilled that my child was coming home and, second, excited to meet some of his new friends. Then he asked if forty-two would be too many. Forty-two? Forty-two fraternity boys? For the entire weekend? Well, sure, why not!

Rounding up 42 brothers was difficult, so we are missing a few in this picture, but the dog was well behaved!

As it turned out, that weekend was also the weekend that we buried our precious friend, Sherri. How Sherri would have hooted to hear that I was going to feed forty-two fraternity brothers for an entire weekend! And, did I mention the fraternity brothers were bringing one dog. I really did not know about the dog until they arrived. Additionally, that same weekend, our cross country team was hosting an invitational. My younger son was running and I was expected to help the other cross country parents host the meet. 

When I am faced with things that seem overwhelming to me, I tend to compartmentalize and deal with one thing at a time. So, that is exactly what I did on this weekend. First, my sweet college boy had asked if I would make wings for dinner when they arrived. So, Friday night was 450 hot, grilled chicken wings, baked beans, cheese grits and Texas sheet cake. It looked like we had invited piranhas for dinner. The only things left were bones. 

Saturday morning dawned bright and early as I headed to the cross country meet to watch my child race. Thankfully, some of the other parents stepped up and took my responsibilities for the meet so I could leave as soon as my child's race was over. I watched my boy run and then went straight to Sherri's funeral. After we said our emotional goodbyes to Sherri, I raced back to the house to concentrate on my visitors once more. Dinner Saturday night was pulled pork barbecue, 150 cheesy potato skins, potato salad, more baked beans and some of the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever had. 

My friend, Lavinia, who always has my back, sent the chocolate chip cookies for the hungry mob. You may remember Lavinia from our trip to Somewhere on the Lake or The Sicilian. As soon as she handed me the cookies I snatched one for myself before setting them out for the boys. It is a good thing, too. They were gone before I could blink. I wasn't surprised. Lavinia's cookies were delicious and I was kicking myself for not hiding a few more of them. 

I have been thinking about those delicious cookies ever since, so the other day I called Lavinia and begged for her recipe. I also asked her if I could share it here. Not only is Lavinia one of the best friends I have ever had, she is also one of the best cooks I know. Her style of cooking is much like her personality, warm and inviting. Lavinia can make you feel like you are the most important person in the world and her food is always comforting and lovingly prepared. She meticulously uses the best and freshest ingredients and she is an expert in southern comfort cuisine.  She is also generous. She readily shared her recipe with me and gave me her blessing to share it here. 

I know you are going to love these cookies. They combine the best of a chocolate chip cookie with the chewiness of an oatmeal cookie. I think they are amazing, just like my friend. This recipe makes a ton, which is convenient when you are feeding a fraternity! I used a small ice cream scoop and got ninety cookies. 

CHOCOLATE CHIP/OATMEAL COOKIES

1.  Blend together:
4 sticks softened butter
2 C granulated sugar
2 C brown sugar

2.  Add 4 eggs (one at a time, blending after each)


3.  Add: 2 tsp vanilla



4.  Add the following (blended together):
4 C all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt



5.  Stir in:
2 (12 oz) packages chocolate chips (I like the dark chocolate)
2 C chopped nuts
3 1/2-4 C oats (I use either quick cook or old fashioned oats or a combination of both)


Place heaping tablespoons of dough on parchment lined cookie sheets. I like to use a small ice cream scoop. Leave two inches between balls of dough. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-12 minutes.  



Notes:  
*may add 12 oz chunk chocolate
*don’t overcook; check after 9 minutes
*make cookies large - use heaping tablespoons of cookie dough



Three Friends and a Fork wish for each of you a true friend, like Lavinia, and lots of fun with your children and their friends...no matter how many of them show up!


Printable Recipe




Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sunday Brunch at Eighteen58 at the Sewanee Inn


When our friend, Tracy, suggested a Sunday trip for brunch at Eighteen58 at The Sewanee Inn in Sewanee, Tennessee, we couldn't wait. Tracy is one of those friends who is great at coming up with ideas for new adventures and unique places to visit. I knew this was a trip I didn't want to miss. First of all, Sewanee is a picturesque town. It is the home of one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country, The University of the South. The gothic architecture of the buildings on the campus is especially lovely.  Established in 1857 and owned by 28 southern dioceses of the Episcopal church, the college sits atop Monteagle Mountain in the Cumberland Plateau. 

The views from atop Monteagle Mountain are breathtaking.
Naturally Rob got a little too close to the edge of the mountain for my comfort!


The Sewanee Inn is constructed of sandstone in an English Tudor style. As soon as you walk through the front door, you know you are in for an experience. 



This beautiful bedroom suite comes with the expansive living room below and a large wraparound porch overlooking the golf course.






But of course, the experience we were most looking forward to on this day was Sunday brunch, so as soon as we all arrived, we scurried to the Eighteen58 dining room to get seated. In addition to Rob, Scott, Tracy and me, we were joined by Tracy's husband, Tony, and our friends, Deborah and Jeppa. Our server explained the set up, took our drink orders and turned us loose to explore the myriad of buffet tables. There were tables that included an omelette station, roast beef carving station, pancakes and French toast bar, and other hot entrees, in addition to all the usual breakfast suspects such as, eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, and gravy. Then there was the salad bar, dessert bar, and Bloody Mary and mimosa bar. Smoked salmon, with all the toppings from cream cheese and capers to chopped red onion and tomatoes, took up one entire table. Choosing what to put on our plates would be difficult, but we rolled up our sleeves and got to work! Some of our creations are pictured below. Self preservation prohibits me from identifying which plates belong to which diners. Suffice it to say, we were all full when we finished!








                           






                     


So, what did we like best? The bacon, roast beef, shrimp and grits and grillades and grits all got rave reviews. The fruit was sweet and the shrimp salad was fresh with a mustardy bite. Rob and I loved the smoked salmon. At the dessert table there was much to love, but the creme brulee was creamy and divine. The Bloody Mary and mimosa bar was fun and only $5 extra for unlimited refills. With all the food, there weren't many refills, but even if you only get one drink, it is still a bargain. The sweet potato and chorizo hash browns were a big hit. A couple of unusual items, eggs Benedict over blue corn cakes and shakshuka, an Israeli dish of eggs cooked in a spicy tomato broth, were surprisingly delicious. The thing about the brunch at The Sewanee Inn is that it is so creative and innovative, as well as tasty and fresh. Sometimes those are difficult things to achieve when so much food is coming out of the kitchen at once. The Eighteen58 Sewanee Inn brunch buffet succeeds magnificently. 

You almost expect Robin Hood and his Merry Men to come riding down the road.
                 
                                          The gothic architecture and lots of beautiful stone make for a very Medieval impression. 

This enormous cross is a memorial to the students and citizens of Sewanee who fought in WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War and Desert Storm. Rob and Tracy were happy to pose by the cross.

While you are in Sewanee, take the time to stroll around campus. It is so lovely. From the beautiful buildings to this gigantic memorial cross, there is something around every corner. And, on your way out of town, keep your eyes open. You never know what you might find. For instance, I couldn't resist checking out this cute little shop, The Amish Hippie. If the colorful sign wasn't enough to draw me in, the name certainly was!.





 It was full of everything the name implies, handmade soaps, jellies and jams, teas, incense, lotions, wind chimes and yard art. The Amish Hippie was cheerful and colorful even on this gray Sunday. I left with a trio of tasty Amish Hippie jams which are made in nearby Bell Buckle, Tennessee. I know this because I asked!





 So, next Sunday, take the scenic drive to The Sewanee Inn and enjoy a wonderful Sunday brunch, stroll around the beautiful campus of The University of the South and hug a hippie on your way out!

Three Friends and a Fork, Rob and Scott and our friends Tracy, Tony, Deborah and Jeppa give The Sewanee Inn 3 bountiful Yums UP!




Eighteen58 on Urbanspoon