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.
Madison Alabama has a new pizza place, Uncle Maddio’s Pizza, and it’s pretty awesome! I had the pleasure of attending Maddio’s Ribbon Cutting and VIP event (somehow I’ve tricked people into thinking I’m a VIP, he he he) and got a first taste of the pizza and restaurant.
Maddio’s specializes in fresh pizza made with local ingredients. There are 3 types of crust (traditional, whole wheat and gluten-free), 6 types of sauce (tomato basil, BBQ, buttermilk ranch, buffalo, herb pesto and garlic olive oil) and 45 toppings!!
At the event I met up with fellow bloggers C.C. Fridlan, Bo Williams, and Constance Smith. Make sure you check out their blog posts as well. The restaurant is a family-friendly, casual restaurant with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients.
The way it works is, you select your crust and sauce and then comes the hardest part, you have to pick your ingredients, which seems easy until you realize that you have 45 to choose from.
So many options!I went with the gluten-free, Peachy Keen summer pizza, which had fresh peaches, basil, onions, prosciutto, and balsamic vinegar. It was de-licious!
The staff was friendly and lovely. The employee (pizza artist, pizzista, I don’t know the official title) making my pizza even happily tolerated my manic picture-taking and posed to let me get a photo right as it was about to go into the oven.
After the pizza is assembled it goes into the oven and you go to your table to wait.
We all received our meals promptly, which was impressive considering the throngs of people who were there. As us bloggers enjoyed our pizzas we were brought cookies and cannolis (though I think this was only because it was a VIP event). I am absolutely not supposed to have wheat or sugar (that’s a blog post for the future) but I did partake in one cannoli.
I’m such a sucker for tiny desserts!Everyone’s pizza looked delectable and I’m looking forward to bringing my husband and trying Maddio’s again. They had so many local beers on tap for the adults and a children’s menu for the kiddies. There really is something for everyone!Patrons can order online and avoid the line. The employees were fast, so the line wasn’t a problem for me, but if you have small children this could be a life saver.
Check out Uncle Maddio’s in Madison and let me know what you think!
Our second stop of the Food Tour for Restaurant Week brought me and my fellow bloggers to Hildegard’s Biergarten. This was the one restaurant I hadn’t yet visited so I was especially excited to dine here.
Hildegard’s was voted the Best International Restaurant in the Valley, the Best German Restaurant in The Valley AND the Best German Restaurant in Alabama, so I went into the restaurant with high expectations and I’m happy to report that I wasn’t disappointed.
Hildegard’s has two locations: one on Whitesburg Drive and the other on Heathland Drive, which is across the street from the Madison Square Mall. We visited Hildegard’s on Heathland and it was a little bit difficult to find, so I used my GPS to get there. Once you know where it is, it is easy.
The restaurant is large, which makes it ideal for big parties, but I saw plenty of couples there as well. The decor is cute with, appropriately enough, lots of garden (or should I say “garten”) paraphilia. As you walk into the restaurant, you are greeted by bundles of flowers, gardening accessories and even a bird bath. They have very comfortable patio and picnic tables, and booths decorated with floral themes.
Though the decor is lovely, the star of the restaurant is definitely the food. We met the owners Sabina and her husband Jeff, and they were happy to talk to us about the restaurant’s history and cuisine.Then Sabina brought out dish after dish for us to try. In fact, there were so many different things that I started to lose track and didn’t even photograph the pork schnitzel, which was to die for! Everything we ate was perfectly cooked, amazingly seasoned, and most importantly delicious (even the stuffed cabbage, which I was never a fan of before now). Being a biergarten, they also had an extensive selection of beer (my kind of place!) and I had an Amber Ale with my meal.When we were so full we doubted we would be able to walk out of the restaurant without assistance, Sabina brought the desserts. I actually lost count of how many I tasted, but my favorites were the Black Forest Cake and the Blueberry Cheesecake. Her mother makes all the desserts in-house and she is a culinary artist. Everything was wonderful.As an added bonus, I made my first TasteMade Video about Hildegard’s Biergarten. Check it out at the link below. Note: Be kind, this is my first video! Also, I don’t know why it is so hard to say “Hildegard’s Biergarten”.
We also had a new blogger with us on this leg of the journey, Bo Williams, who blogs for Rocket City Mom.
Make sure you check out all of the bloggers’ wonderful posts.
Clint Cantwell with Grillocracy
Phillip Fryman with Southern FATTY
Bo Williams with Rocket City Mom
Constance Smith with Cosmopolitan Cornbread
Katie Wright with Katie Actually
1010 Heathland Dr Huntsville, AL 35816
256 – 513 – 8260
11: 00 am to 9:00 pm Mon-Sat
It is said that the goddess Aphrodite aka Venus was born after Cronus castrated his father Uranus and threw his … um … er… ‘member’ into the sea. (ouch!) Sea-foam formed where Uranus’s genitals fell into the water and from this foam Venus sprang forth, fully formed and a goddess to be reckoned with.
I don’t believe the craft beer, Heady Topper, has quite as dramatic of an origin story, but the beer is as revered, loved, and sought-after as the great Venus herself. I recently had the pleasure of encountering this highly ranked, elusive beer while on a trip to see my family in upstate New York.
While in New York, I was posting various photographs of local brews to my Instagram account and a friend jokingly commented that if I wanted to bring her back a souvenir, she would love some craft beer.
“What do you want?” I asked.
“Heady Topper if it’s available! Never had it.. only heard the folklore,” she said.
Sure, why not, I thought. Little did I know the journey she was sending me on. The ‘folklore’ comment should have been my tipoff.
Over the next couple of days, I glanced at the grocery store’s beer selection but didn’t see anything, so I decided to research it. It was then that I learned how complicated it was to get this beer.
Heady Topper was ranked by Beer Advocate as the # 1 beer starting in 2013. It is currently ranked # 2 on the list, but could move back to the number 1 spot at anytime. It is hard to get because it is a world-class beer that is only distributed in Vermont. Heady Topper often sells out within the hour and people wait in long lines to get it. There are even a story of 1 can of beer selling for as much as $42. After learning all of this, I was ready to throw in the towel and just send my friend a post card, but my Dad got quite inspired about getting his hands on some. We had a trip planned to Burlington, so he started watching the brewery’s website to see where Heady would be distributed.
He learned that it would arrive at City Market on Tuesday.On the big day, we got a late start and didn’t get into Burlington until 12:30 pm. I figured we had missed out, but then we saw this sign.The most important part of the sign was that the beer wouldn’t be brought out until 2pm, so we hadn’t missed out! My father was very excited and after a visit to customer service to inquire about the appropriate Heady purchasing protocol, he promptly got in line. I kept on asking if he was sure he wanted to wait for an hour for a beer we’d never even heard of a week earlier, but he was adamant that he was in it for the long haul.
My mother and I went across the street to a local bookstore as my father bonded with his line-mates. Some were newbies like himself, but others were Heady fanatics that raved about how much they LOVED this beer.
At one point, a woman came by and observed the growing line of Heady shoppers.
“You know, there is perfectly good beer that you don’t have to wait in line for!” she exclaimed. She shook her head at their ridiculous fanaticism.
As she walked away the man behind my father said, “That used to be me, wondering why someone would stand in line for beer. Then I had Heady and now here I am, standing in line.”
By 2pm, over 50 were waiting for the beer. There was no limit on how much a customer could purchase, so everyone had to hope the person in front of them didn’t buy everything. My father was 5th in line, so he was able to get his prize quickly: a case of Heady Topper.
My mother and I met with him at a nearby restaurant to celebrate his victory. I noticed that the menu featured another beer from The Alchemist brewery so I ordered it.
“I’m sorry,” said the waitress. “We’re all out, but we do have Heady Topper.”
“Perfect!” I said, and my mother, father and I all ordered some.
On the ride home to New York, a double rainbow smiled down upon us. Heady Topper IS magical!!
UNA had its graduation ceremony on Saturday. As an UNA alumni I got quite nostalgic about my years at the university, so I dragged my husband around the campus, pointing out locations of various fond memories and hijinks. “That’s where a gang of squirrels chased us down”, “here’s where a weird, religious zealot would stand and scream at students passing by”, “there’s where the LARPers would practice their sword fighting skills”. You know, typical college stuff.
After several hours of walking down memory lane, we made the short trek to The Pie Factory. I was actually quite jealous of the current UNA students, as the downtown Florence area is completely different from when I was a student. There are numerous wonderful stores and restaurants that we would have killed for back in the day, including The Pie Factory.
The Pie Factory opened their doors in 2013 with the goal of creating place that served great New York style pizza in Downtown Florence. A mighty tall order, but one which The Pie Factory does very well.We opted for an early dinner and arrived to the restaurant around 5:30. The restaurant was pleasant, with fun pizza themed details festooning the walls. The general ambience was lively, but laid-back. It weather was perfect, so we sat in the outdoor seating area. The outdoor veranda had a beachy feel and made me reminiscent about white, sandy summer vacations. Olivier and I split a wedge salad, which was just they way it should be: simple and fresh.
I knew we would be ordering pizza, but I still agonized over the menu for quite a while. There were numerous interesting choices such as The Funky Chicken, which included gouda cheese and another pizza (I can’t remember the name) which included pork tenderloin and peaches. The Restaurant Week Special is the Arthea’s Franklin, which is a spicy Buffalo chicken pizza, including ranch glaze, grilled chicken, jalapeños, Frank’s Hot Sauce, red onions, chives and both gorgonzola and mozzarella cheese. I did get to sample a slice of this at the Kick Off of Restaurant Week and it was quite delish, but in the end I went super basic and got The Sweet Marguerite.
Tomatoes + Basil + Mozzarella = Perfection
Shortly after we got our pizza a little bird perched across from us, hoping we were messy eaters and he could bag a few scrapes. See even the birds love The Pie Factory.The restaurant also has an extensive collection of beers. I was happy to see a lot of local brews and ordered Straight to Ale’s Monkeynaught to pair with my pizza. In the end we all enjoyed our food: Olivier, myself and the bird. Not that we’re messy eaters but I fell for the guilt trip and tossed him a bit of crust. The bird, not Olivier.
I am looking forward to going back and trying something more adventurous, perhaps the Funky Chicken.
Disclosure: I was invited to participate in Florence Restaurant Week by Florence Main Street. My hotel was paid for by them to make it easier for me to participate and I received a $20 gift card from The Pie Factory. I paid the remaining balance out of my own pocket and all thoughts and opinions about the restaurant are my own.
….At times soft and quiet,
other times loud and boisterous.
This was how the Yuchi Indians
described the Tennessee River
as it poured over the rocks and reefs
of the shoals.
− Singin’ River Brewing Co.
My first leg of the Florence Restaurant Week blog tour began at Singin River Brewing Co. and it was the perfect way to start.
Rob and Michelle Jones started the Singin River Brewing Co. just over a year ago. They celebrated their 1 year anniversary May 1st. Rob has been experimenting with brewing since the 90’s and Michelle discovered her love of craft beer through Rob after they started dating. The two of them have been touring craft breweries throughout the States since they met. Their shared passion for craft beer turned into a career with the creation of Singin’ River Brewing, Florence’s only craft brewery!
My husband (Olivier) and I visited the brewery/taproom early Friday evening, when it was “soft and quiet”. I’ve been to Singin’ River when it was packed with loud, boisterous patrons and though that’s a fun time to visit, it isn’t very conducive to good photography and leisurely chats with friendly bartenders.
The taproom is gorgeous, which if you visit a lot of taprooms, you’ll quickly find this isn’t always the case. There are beautifully designed rustic tables and chairs throughout. Carefully matching artwork adorns the walls and the bar is a stylish combination of corrugated metal and raw wood.
When I visit a taproom the first time I usually start with a flight of flagship beers so I can get a feel for the general style of the brews. It is a great way to try a little bit of everything without emptying the wallet and over-indulging. The flight cost only $5.
Daniel was our very helpful bartender. In addition to bar tending he is also a photographer (what luck!), so he was able to give me beers that were tasty, as well as beautiful. He also helped me scope out good locations to photograph them in.
The flight (from left to right): Handy’s Gold, Dopplemaibock, Renaissance City Red, and Porter.
Olivier and I have very different palates, so usually if he isn’t thrilled with a beer I know I’ll love it and vice versa. This makes us the perfect drinking partners! I loved all the beers, but my favorite was the Renaissance City Red and Olivier’s was the Dopplemaibock.
I also tried the Hard Pear Cider, which was nice and light. It was a perfect ‘summer evening watching fireflies on the porch swing’ drink. It was very bubbly, which gave it a celebratory feel. I really wish they bottled this one. (hint hint)
For my last drink I had the Cornbread Saison, which was interesting in a good way. It is brewed with jalapeños so it has a spicy kick to it, which sounds weird, but it is actually really good.
After Daniel explained to us how to play Cricket, we played darts for a while. Sadly, I lost, but it was a close game (mostly because I was cheating).
We had a great evening and will definitely be back the next time we are in Florence!
- TUE 5PM-8PM
- THUR 5PM-9PM
- FRI 5PM-9PM
- SAT 2PM-9PM
Disclosure: I was invited to participate in the Florence Restaurant Week by Florence Main Street. My hotel was paid for by them to make it easier for me to participate and I received a $10 gift card from Singin’ River. I paid the remaining balance out of my own pocket and all thoughts and opinions about the brewery are my own.
I was invited to participate in Florence’s Restaurant Week 2015. Wonderful local food (for free), great people, and the chance to spend the weekend in one of my favorite cities. Yes please!
Florence is near and dear to my heart as it is home to my alma mater, UNA. I both studied and taught journalism and photography at the university. I have many wonderful memories of the city, which has great restaurants, fun festivals, and supports an impressive music and arts community.
This year, 14 restaurants are participating in the Florence Main Street sponsored charity event. Each restaurant will offer specials for participants. As part of the event, patrons that eat at one of the restaurants will have the opportunity to vote for one of their five favorite charities. At the end of restaurant week, the charity that has received the most votes will receive $5000, generously donated by McDaniel Window & Door.
On Wednesday, I attended the kickoff for restaurant week at Singin’ River Brewery and got to sample food from all of the restaurants. Everything was delicious and it made me super excited about this weekend. I also got to meet my fellow bloggers: Eve and Roger from Friday Date Night and my blogger BBF Christi Britten Williams (we were photojournalism friends at UNA) from Dirt Plate. Make sure you check out their posts this week as well.
Below are the participating restaurants of the event. Make sure you check my blog next week for lots of photos from the 5 restaurants I’m covering this weekend. I’m seriously regretting making an appointment with a personal trainer on Monday. 😦