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.
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!
Outback Steakhouse is upping their steak game by unveiling a new center-cut sirloin. I got invited to a VIP tasting event at Outback on Whitesburg to sample the new steak and east some of their tried and true fare (a blooming onion). I very rarely feel like a VIP, but I had a cool super-star moment at this event. Being Outback at dinnertime, there were many, many people waiting for tables. My husband and I walked up to the event (late as usual) and I was mentally preparing myself to wait. I told the host that I was there for the VIP Tasting and she ushered me to the back, no wait at all! The servers immediately started bringing us cocktails, appetizers, steaks, etc. I felt so much more important than I am.There were also fellow ‘VIPs’ in attendance, including the illustrious Christy Jordan, super-star blogger and creator of Southern Plate, (sorry I didn’t get a photograph) and the amazing Bo Williams, duel blogger for Rocket City Mom and BoWilliams.com. I tried to pay attention to the names of all the dishes but I wasn’t as good as I should have been. If I have messed up a dish please let me know.
We started with drinks and bread. I like how Outback violently stabs their bread through the middle when they bring it to you. I’m not sure what that says about me, but when the bread isn’t stabbed I feel really let down. Then came shareable cocktails, which was a weird concept for me. Why would you share your cocktail. They were delicious though, despite the shareable issue. I tried the strawberry peach sangria and my hubby went for a fresh fruit gin cocktail. Both were great, but I loved mine. I’d totally get it again.Of course there were some blooming onions (did you know the blooming onion has its own wikipedia page #goals) and Aussie cheese fries.
We then got two types of steak: Center Cut Sirloin and Slow Roasted Steak. Both were lovely.They also served Bacon Bourbon Salmon, which was to die for. We ended with Oreo Mousse, which unfortunately I couldn’t partake in because of current allergy issues, but it seemed like a hit.Thank-you Outback for the invite! See you again soon!
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!!
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. 😦
We don’t often get snow in Alabama, so it is an epic event when we eventually get some. Everyone is outside, making snowmen and forts, sledding on sheet pans and cardboard, having snowball fights, and of course making snow cream. But rather than make the tradition snow cream, I made snow cream with a southern twist: sweet tea! I used Peaches and Cream Tea from the amazing Piper & Leaf and it was delicious. You can purchase it at the link above and I highly recommend that you do!The only snag I ran into was placing a bowl outside to catch clean snow and then forgetting about it. At first I thought someone had stolen my bowl, but then I realized I just had to dig it out from the snow. At least I had plenty to work with!
To make the Sweet Tea Snow Cream I just added cold tea, heavy cream, and raw sugar to fresh snow. It was so tasted I made a second batch as soon as I ate the first one.
Also check out my post for traditional Snow Cream. Includes photos of gnomes!