Category Archives: Birmingham

Holiday Classes: Cocktails and Bread-Making

Come learn with me! I’m teaching two classes this weekend, and I want you to sign up!

On Saturday, December 15, I’m running a holiday mixology workshop at Painted Shovel Mercantile in Avondale. For $25, you’ll learn three seasonal classics: Mulled Wine, Eggnog, and the French 75—plus a Painted Shovel Holiday Margarita I’ve created just for the class. (And yes, you get to try all the drinks!) To enroll, please call 205-593-2083 or email

And on Sunday, December 16, my bread and rolls class returns to Freshfully. This lesson sold out last time, so make sure to grab your spot now. It’s just $15, and you’ll learn my foolproof bread-from-scratch recipe, sample some delicious bread and rolls, and go home with a batch of dough all ready to bake immediately (or to freeze and bake later). Enroll online here.

See you this weekend in Avondale!

Bistro Two Eighteen's crawfish and leek crepes

First Taste: Bistro Two Eighteen

Bistro Two Eighteen's crawfish and leek crepes

When I read the Birmingham News report about Bistro Two Eighteen, I have to admit, my feelings were mixed.

It’s a new restaurant downtown (yay!) in a historic building (yay!) from a Birmingham-born, culinary-school-educated chef (yay!) with a that’s only open for lunch and during the week (boo!) and has a weird confusion of a “French” menu that includes classics like quiche Lorraine as well as burgers and gumbo (boo!).

I stopped by for lunch last week (the restaurant’s second in business), and I’m glad to say the food is better than expected! The place is similar in feel to Chez Fon Fon and Chez Lulu but with lower prices than the former and larger portions than the latter.

The food is mostly French, though there’s gumbo on the menu and they were playing New Orleans jazz, so maybe they’re going for a little Creole influence too. And for some strange reason, they have shrimp and grits available as an appetizer. I understand you’re in the South, but if you’re going to be a French restaurant, be a French restaurant.

Bistro Two Eighteen's steak frites

The specialty of the house seems to be steak frites—you can’t go wrong with meat and fries. It’s a pretty good portion of flatiron steak, with two options of sauce: horseradish cream or chausseur (a mushroom, tomato and tarragon combo). I ordered mine medium, and it came out exactly right, paired with a simple salad. And those fries are excellent: skinny and super-crunchy, and they stay that way even after they cool off. The whole deal is $12, a bit steep for an everyday lunch but a very good price for what you get.

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Jason holding bread

Make Bread with Me!

Jason holding bread

I love bread. I love eating bread, I love baking bread, I love kneading bread dough.

And I want you to, too.

So I’m working with awesome local-food-only grocery store Freshfully to put together a bread-making class on Sunday, October 21.

Look: People are afraid of baking their own bread. For some reason, they think it takes some kind of alchemy (plus a French accent) to bake a decent loaf. They are wrong. All it takes is four ingredients and a couple hours, and you can have as much fresh-from-the-oven bread as you want.

In the class, I’ll go over my pretty-much-foolproof method for making all kinds of bread and explain some of the science behind how bread-making works while you mix and knead your own batch of dough. Then, while the dough rises, we’ll sample a bunch of my own breads (including white-chocolate, olive-and-herb, and more), paired with some local cheeses.

At the end of the class, you’ll go home with a batch of bread dough ready for baking (sorry, Freshfully doesn’t have an oven) or freezing for later (yes, I’ll tell you how to do that as well).

Registration is $30, but for reading through this post, I’ll save you five bucks! Just use coupon code DOUGH at checkout.

See you Sunday!

Little Donkey's chilaquiles

First Taste: Little Donkey

Little Donkey's chilaquiles

What do you do after building a highly successful chain of barbecue restaurants? If you’re the people behind Jim ‘n Nick’s, you open a high-end Mexican restaurant.

I’ll admit, I didn’t have very high hopes for Little Donkey when I first heard about it, but one taste cleared away all my doubts. I was invited to the place on opening night last week for a media “preview,” and just about everything was fantastic.

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Vaguely Asian Slow-Cooker Lamb Chops (and a New Source for Local Food in Birmingham)

The best part of being a food writer/blogger is that sometimes you get a free box of local meat.

In October, a couple friends of mine launched Freshfully, an online grocery store for local food in Birmingham. It’s a fantastic idea: Farmers, ranchers, beekeepers, dairies, and other producers offer their stuff online, and you get to buy it without being limited to a once-a-week farmers’ market. (Each vendor sets up pick-up or delivery on their own.)

The site’s picking up new vendors at a solid pace. It recently added Johnson Farm, which raises grass-fed beef, Berkshire pork, Katahdin lamb, and chicken in Elba, Ala., and the Freshfully folks offered me a box of lamb from the farm’s first Birmingham delivery to “review” on the blog.

Besides going home with ground lamb, lamb steaks, a lamb roast, and a couple beautiful rib chops, I also got to meet farm owner Drexel Johnson, a cowboy-hatted, pick-up-truck-driving, grizzled rancher who fits the part perfectly. (He also tells a hilarious story.)

Continue reading Vaguely Asian Slow-Cooker Lamb Chops (and a New Source for Local Food in Birmingham)