A couple of weeks ago I got invited to the soft opening of Local Taco. I walked in hungry, but I waddled out so so full and so so happy. The restaurant is located at the Shops at Merchants Walk, close to downtown Huntsville, but also convenient to my neck of the woods, Madison. The restaurant has a cool, open floor plan with hip, clean decor. The polished concrete flooring and restoration-style lighting makes this place perfect for young professionals, but it also very accommodating to families. It’s a great versatile place with delicious food. The hubby came with me on this adventure and we both had a blast. We started out with a quadruple sauce tray that included guacamole, two types of salsa and smokey jalapeño queso. Everything was delicious, but our favorite was the queso. We KNEW we needed to pace ourselves because we would be served numerous dishes, but everything was so good that we royally failed. With our dips and chips we each had margaritas: mango strawberry and peach strawberry. Both were too yummy for their own good.Then the tacos started coming out. This is when we over indulged, but the food was so good. All of it! We started with the chef’s recommendations and got Nashville Hot Chicken (one of my several favs!), Al Pastor, El Carnicero, and the Mission Smoked Chicken. We did spilt the tacos, but they are still quite filling. They also have gluten-free options, so it is a great place for dietary restrictions. At further recommendations we went with the Dory, a catfish taco with pickled onions, coleslaw and pico. It was by far my favorite taco. The restaurant is officially open, so make sure you pop in. If you are a catfish fan it is imperative that you order the Dory. You won’t be disappointed!
Huntsville has a new brewery!!! Let’s all toast Green Bus Brewery with a pint of Hop Bus IPA!!Back in 2009 craft beer in Huntsville was in its infancy. Prior to this beer with an alcohol content of more than 6% was banned from the state. Other prohibition era laws remained of the books and essentially stifled an industry that was thriving and benefiting other states throughout the country. In 2005, a group of passionate beer lovers started the Free the Hops movement to change the laws and bring more sophisticated beer drinking habits to the state. And once change started there was no stopping it. Throughout Alabama craft breweries started expanding, but no place took to it like Huntsville. Maybe it’s all of our out-of-state brew drinking transplants, maybe it’s our high populations of beer-loving engineers, but whatever the reason, Huntsville loves craft beer!Now that we’ve hit 2016 Green Bus will be the 8th brewery in Madison County. I had the pleasure of dropping into the Grand Opening.The Grand Opening lasted all day and I picked a time that I thought would be dead, but I would be wrong. There were tons of people, lots of beer, food, games, live music, raffles, and a guy in lederhosen. ‘Tis the season I suppose. They even had the infamous green bus! It was covered with stickers from all the other local breweries. I love how the craft beer industry in Alabama is so supportive of each other. I can’t tell you how many times brewers have told me ‘when one of us succeeds we all do’.I’d loved to have tasted the beer, but unfortunately I am currently under a strict gluten-free diet (doctor’s orders) so alas I could only photograph it. I will say it was quite pretty and the drinkers around me seemed immensely happy.
All North Alabamians know and love Piper & Leaf and now there is a second location in Madison!!You can’t pop into a local farmer’s market without seeing the long lines of smiling faces coming from the Piper & Leaf tent and for good reason. Their tea is, in a word, divine.With flavors like Apple Cart Blossom, Pumpkin Moonshine and Strawberry Shindig there is a tea for everyone. The new location is in the Sprout’s shopping center, tucked nicely against The Juicery, allowing you to get all of your healthy treats in one area. To kick of the grand opening Piper & Leaf threw one of their Splendid Shindigs, which included morning yoga, henna painting, contests, raffles and much more. Olivier and I arrived to the new location, which is light and modern. I’m so hesitant to use the term hip, as the hipster movement has such a bad rap, but the new location was all the good parts of hip. Clean, interesting, local, fresh and energizing. It was also very inclusive, accepting of all with judgement of none, which is very unhipster. There are lots of comfy sitting options throughout. You can enjoy your tea and nosh at the bar and watch the masterful tea artists at their best or in the overstuffed sofas in the back.The Piper and Leaf has amazing french cookies and house made pastries, so Olivier and I each got a savory pastry to pair with iced Piper Mint Blue at half sweetness (my favorite). My french husband said the pastries were the best he’d had.. outside of France of course, but still that is a huge compliment. Unfortunately, I went into complete glutton mode and forgot to find out what the names of the pastries were. They were delicious and I’d guess you really can’t go wrong. I will say they were presented on the most stunning wooden trays and I recommended eating them in-house for just that reason. The trays are created but the ultra talented artist Joshua Arney from locally produced Alabama hardwoods. Each one is a unique masterpiece so make sure you follow him at The Irish Crafter.Piper & Leaf also has dry tea and brewing accoutrement for the homebody and if you don’t need an entire jar they sell smaller bags. There are also samples if you can’t decide!Pop over today and enjoy the new location. It’s comfortably close to my house so I think I’ll be spending a lot more of my money on tea! You can also stick with the tried-and-true and visit the original Piper & Leaf at Lowe Mill Arts in Huntsville.
There is a new coffee shop in Madison County! Be still my caffeinated heart. Theo’s Cafe recently opened their doors in the Hampton Cove area of Madison. Of course, like any good cafe, they offers a wide array of coffees, teas, and pastries. Most of the pasties are house or locally made. In fact the shop offers a variety of local products including Piper & Leaf teas, artisan soaps and art from Lowe Mill.In the hot Alabama sun you can enjoy a fresh smoothie, a Suzy Ice Pop or ice cream. Or maybe an iced coffee with cream in more your speed. There is a variety of sandwiches and salads. I took the staff’s recommendations (thanks Cayla!) and went with Theo’s Chicken Salad. I’m very particular about my chicken salad and I can honestly say this was delicious!! I loved it. I also had the Strawberry Pecan Salad. Don’t worry, I had help eating everything. It was also really nice, fresh and fruity. It was super gloomy/rainy out and a creamy, hot latte with dark chocolate on top was required. It was superb and hit the spot. Cayla made my coffee perfectly. It was pretty strong, which is alright by me! She even showed off her latte foam art skills by making a little heart for me. Awww. Next time I’m asking for her to create Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man with the foam. We finished with Peach Cheese cake that was created by owner, Josh. It was everything a dessert should be, sweet (but not too sweet), creamy, rich, and decadent. Delicious!! The restaurant itself was really fun. As I said, there is a rotating display of local art which sets off the clean, hip feel of the cafe. There are also many personal photos which gives the place a more intimate feel. The cafe is named after owner Josh’s mentor and grandfather James Theodore Martin and he is very present in the place.
There are also many events at Theo’s including: local bands and pottery glazing classes. The cafe is a great place to socialize, learn something new, or just spend some quite time by yourself to enjoy a cup of joe and slice a cheesecake.
Last weekend I participated in my 4th food blog tour to celebrate a Restaurant Week. They are always fun and interesting, so I thought I’d give an inside look of this year’s tour.
The tours actually start out kind of awkward, especially if you don’t know anyone. You’re just eating with a bunch of strangers and though you’ve read their profiles you don’t really know much them. I’m always worried that I’ll do something stupid, because I usually do, this year I misplaced my shoes and may or may not have accidentally mooned someone when a gust of wind caught my skirt. I was fulling immersed in photographing a beautifully plated dish and didn’t pay attention to how windy it was getting. To that person walking by on the sidewalk I’m sorry.. or you’re welcome.
But in the end the bloggers all become fast friends, because we are brought together by food and the experience of eating 3 meals together. In the beginning we are so polite and proper, but by end we are sharing food off each other dishes, recommending places to get good photographs, and laughing and joking with each other.
And it always nice to read each other’s experiences on the blogs afterwards and I recommend you do the same.
We also risk life and limb to get a shot. As a photographer you get yourself worked up about ‘finding the right light’ and ‘making sure you captured the ambiance of a place’. You know that friend that is SO annoying Instagraming every piece of food that goes in their mouth, and then your food, and then the food of the people at the table next to you, well that is child’s play when it comes to a food blogger. I come to a restaurant with a full camera bag, I shoot with a reflector and sometimes a tripod. I climb up on chairs to ‘get the shot’. So obnoxious. The nice things is I am not alone on a food blog tour!
It is also nice because you have people who help aka egg you on to do something crazy.
Thank-you to the Huntsville/Madison County Visitor’s Bureau for hosting us and thanking to all the restaurants and bloggers for making it a great experience.
Make sure you check out their blogs!
Katie Actually: http://www.katieactually.com
Charles Hunter III: https://thesaltedtable.com
Jennifer Garvens: http://www.sweettmakesthree.com
Bo Williams: http://bowilliams.com
Stephenie Walker: http://www.rocketcitymom.comDid I get the shot? Yes I did! Thank-you to Charles from TheSaltedTable.com for making sure I didn’t break my neck or really embarrass myself by getting stuck in a chair and having to have firefighters cut me out or some nonsense like that.
Thank-you to Katie for letting me use your shot from KatieActually.com.
This week I’ve been participating in a food blog tour to kick off Huntsville’s Restaurant Week. Fellow bloggers and I visited three restaurants and got the inside scoop about what specials they would be offering from August 12th until the 21st.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, but what a sweet end it was. The last day of the food tour found us at Beignet Cafe. I recently went on a trip to New Orleans, so I came into Beignet Cafe wondering if they could match the culinary delights I’d experience in The Big Easy and boy did they ever. The food was equal, if not superior, to the Cajun cuisine I’d experienced several weeks earlier.The restaurant itself is really cute, with simple, but cheery decor. Live flowers adorn every table and french signage gives the cafe an authentic NOLA feel. Of course, we started the proper way with sugar laden, warm and oh so wonderful beignets and full cups of Café du Monde, chicory coffee. At this point it had started raining, but that only added to the comforting effect of our soft pastry starter.
I did not made a good wardrobe choice that morning and was wear a black shirt, which was covered in sugar after my first bite. It was worth it! All of the bloggers order different dishes so we could try lots of items. I started with a cup of gumbo. It was excellent, with pieces of chicken, seafood, vegetables and the perfect level of spices.For my entrée I had the Dirty Grits, which were covered in chunks of andouille sausage and chicken, cooked in Cajun seasoning. It was a perfect comfort food, spicy, but pleasant with creamy grits and savory toppings.There was also a gorgeous Strawberry Feta Salad topped with blackened chicken and balsamic vinaigrette.The Egg Bake with fresh fruits looked delicious, but I forgot to sample that. It seemed like a hit though. You could get three varieties of Egg Bakes: Veggie, Classic or Meat.
We were all quite content, but owner Denise had one more surprise for us: Tres Leche Bread Pudding. One word: Heavenly.
I always wondered why Southerners loved bread pudding so much, because honestly bread pudding kind of sounds unappetizing. The first time I heard about it I envisioned chocolate Jello on top of Wonder bread. Yuck! But this Yankee admits she was wrong (again) and that Tres Leche Bread Pudding is delicious and decadent. Thank-you to Denise and the wonderful staff at Beignet Cafe for hosting us bloggers on this last day of the blog tour!!And thank-you to the CBV for inviting me to the 2016 Food Blog Tour. As usually it was a great experience.Make sure you check out my fellow bloggers posts about Beignet Cafe.
Katie Actually: http://www.katieactually.com/beignet-cafe/
Sweet T Makes Three: http://www.sweettmakesthree.com/places-to-eat-in-huntsville-alabama/
Rocket City Mom: http://www.rocketcitymom.com/huntsvilles-beignet-cafe/
As celebration of a growing food community in North Alabama the Huntsville/Madison County Visitor’s Bureau will host Huntsville Restaurant Week. From August 12th until the 21st restaurants across Madison County offer specials that range from $5 to $30, allowing patrons to dine in wide variety of eateries over this 10 day period.
To kick off the event several top-notch bloggers (and myself) get to sample the special deals and blog about it.
Fun(free food + blog idea) + A=(happy food bloggers)5 Solve for A (Show your work)
Day 2 of the blog tour found us at the Toybox Bistro and I’ll admit I was really excited about this one. I’ve been hearing great things about the Bistro, but I haven’t tried yet and this was a great excuse to visit (not that you need an excuse).
I’m going to get to the food, which was exceptional, but let me start with the ambiance, which was surprisingly fun and exciting.
As the story goes owner Michelle was married to Steve, who was a big collector of all things nerdy. He had a huge stash of geeky toys from just about every genre and when he passed away Michelle wasn’t really sure what to do with it all. At around the same time her BFF Bill, who has extensive experience in the restaurant industry wanted to “build a place where he can cook some funky food and serve some cool beers and just let people hang out.” Out of this came the funky, geeky amalgamation of nerd meets foodie, The Toybox Bistro.The decor is epic. No matter what your fandom is, you will probably find a corner in the Bistro that represents your love. There is Pokemon, Mario, Star Trek, Star Wars, Magic, UNO, Voltron, Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, Hungry Hungry Hippo, etc, etc, etc.
There are canisters of legos to bring to your table, but honestly it is so exciting to just look around that you won’t have time to build anything.Each table and corner is unique, so you’re bound to have a favorite nook or cranny. Even the ceiling is covered with model space ships, nostalgic board games and over 150 Pez dispensers. It is hard to not feel nostalgic in this place. For a photographer it is a dream restaurant to get pictures. And we haven’t even gotten to the food!! After you have marveled at the toys and games, had childhood flashbacks, pointed out nerdy things to the other people at your table, you start to realize that you actually came to eat, so you peruse the menu.
The menu is as nerdy as you’d hope, with dishes such as the Redneck Luigi, The Sonic Gut Buster and Fires of Mt. Doom Chili.They also have cool culinary dishes that explore the joys of comfort food, such as Waffled Mac & Cheese, Lobster Rolls, Fried Wickles and the northern favorite, way northern (like Canada north) Poutine (fries, with gravy and cheese curd).
Because food bloggers are great at sharing we all ordered a bunch of specials and had a little of everything!
See all of the bloggers working together!!Our first dish was the PB & Yay Burger with the poutine that I just mentioned. The burger was a fresh (never frozen) 6 oz patty with tomatoes, red onions, tons of bacon, pepper jack cheese and peanut butter. Yep, you read that right, peanut butter. It was surprisingly awesome. The next sandwich was the C3PO, which is a hand breaded chicken breast with bacon bescemel sauce, more bacon, tomato, ham and crisp lettuce. I liked both sandwiches, but this one was my favorite. It also came with a side of fried wickels. Oh so yum!Then came Mac and Cheese Waffles. I know, right! The best part of Mac and Cheese the is crispy, melted bits and this entire dish was covered in it. Yum!!At this point I was post-Thanksgiving dinner stuffed, but just like with Thanksgiving there is always room for dessert. And this dessert was spectacular: Cherry Cheese Cake Rangoons.
Warning: the portions are generous is an understatement, so make sure you come hungry or at least with loose-fitting clothes.
Make sure you check out my fellow bloggers posts. There was so much to see and talk about that I know they all covered a lot of stuff that I didn’t even touch on.
Katie Actually http://www.katieactually.com/toybox-bistro/
Rocket City Mom (with a Kid Reporter!!) http://www.rocketcitymom.com/kid-report-toybox-bistro/
Sweet T Makes Three http://www.sweettmakesthree.com/places-to-eat-in-huntsville-alabama/