I have been wanting to take a trip to the Hot and Hot for a long time, but my desire was further fueled when Chef Chris Hastings beat Iron Chef Bobby Flay in the Iron Chef competition. It is the only time I have pulled for any chef over Bobby Flay, but I had to support one of Alabama's own in that contest. As it was, Hastings narrowly beat out the Iron Chef by one sweet point. During the competition, Chef Hastings served his creations on dishes hand thrown by Earthborn Pottery in nearby Leeds, AL., another place we need to visit. (The food at the restaurant is also served in Earthborn pottery.) Finally, our interest in Hot and Hot was piqued anew when we discovered our newest Twitter follower. Oh yes...our heads swelled a bit when we got that news!
You would think it would not be so hard to get to the Hot and Hot. It is only a couple of hours south of us and we go to Birmingham often. The restaurant is only open for dinner, however, and reservations are a must. This time we were determined, so Lu and I made plans to meet our friends, Merri and Susan, got our reservations and headed back to Birmingham. The Hot and Hot is located in the Highlands Park area of Birmingham, just west of Birmingham's Five Points. The restaurant is in an old building that first saw life as Caddell's Creamery, a burger joint in the 1950's. In the 70's and 80's it was transformed into a pool hall called the Upside Down Plaza.
When we arrived, we were seated near the large crescent shaped bar surrounding the food preparation area. The tables are tightly packed and the place quickly filled up. The only problem was that the place was so tightly packed that my chair was bumped by the waiters the entire meal. The food was so good, however, I was able to overlook the constant jostling. The menus at Hot and Hot are seasonal, depending on what is fresh and in season. Even the bar menu is seasonal with drinks that feature fresh fruits available for each season.
We made our choices pretty quickly. While we waited for our plates to arrive, our waiter brought us an Amuse Bouche. It was a tiny little bite to wake up our appetites. I'm not sure what all was in that little bite, but I hated that my three friends dove into their's so quickly. I didn't have time to steal them! The bottom of the bite was either a pickled apple or pear topped with a tangy mousse. Wow, it was good! We were really looking forward to our entrees now!
Susan settled on the grilled yellowfin tuna. It came sitting in a pool of turmeric whey broth, pine needle ash and fennel top puree, accompanied by hominy and root vegetables and drizzled with pine needle oil. Susan's fish was amazing...perfectly cooked, medium rare, and well-seasoned. I've never had pine needle ash and pine needle oil, but the hands that prepared that dish must have used just the right amount, because the fish did not taste like a pine tree. It was just very, very good.
Luanne selected Rora Valley Farms chicken roulade with fried egg yolk. Her entree was accompanied by Carolina Gold rice risotto, English peas, oyster mushrooms, and Cipollini onions. The chicken was moist and flavorful. With the risotto, peas, onions and mushrooms, it was a very tasty dish.
I chose seared Diver scallops with Hedgehog mushrooms, celery root puree, red watercress, braised greens, roasted spring Vidalia onions and pickled rhubarb. My scallops were crispy and golden on the outside, delicate and buttery on the inside...just divine! I had never had Hedgehog mushrooms before, but I loved them. They were meaty and looked and tasted a lot like Merri's steak.
For dessert, we shared a plate of ice creams...four different flavors with a New Orleans twist. One of the flavors was Bananas Foster, another was a praline flavored cream. One had a peanut butter flavor with some sugary peanuts on the side and, for the life of me I cannot recall what the last flavor was, but it was all very good, a perfect ending to a perfect meal.
Three Friends and a Fork and our friends Merri and Susan give Hot and Hot Fish Club three HOT Yums UP!