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!
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.
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/
To be honest, blogging can be a lot of work and often I wonder if it is worth the effort. And just when I decide maybe I don’t want to do it anymore I get invited to a dinner or tasting and I decide I like it again.
My latest food-venture was at Bravo! Cucina Italiana with fellow food blogger C.C. Fridlin. We attended a tasting of the restaurant’s new menu, which included a wine pairing.
We started with Zucchini & Eggplant Fritti with lemon aioli and pomodoro sauce. Yum! I’m sort of allergic to eggplant, my throat and mouth itches, but dang I love it, so I ate some anyways. I actually preferred the zucchini with this dish, so I minimized the allergic reaction. The first wine of the evening was 19 Crimes, which paired nicely with the appetizers.
I had the pleasure of dinning with Maddie, a spunky 5 year-old with a yen for lemons. Seriously, this girl loves raw lemons, she ate them by the bowl full and still wanted more! She is also very adventurous, tasting a bit from each dish. I know a lot of adults that could learn eating lessons from this young lady.Our second appetizer, Ricotta & Ciabatta, was heavenly. I’m a huge fan of dishes that you assemble at the table. I know it’s weird, but I love it!Next came the Antipasti Salad, which had a nice, tangy red wine vinaigrette. It is also gluten free, which can be hard to find sometimes.
Next came the wine wines and Spicy Shrimp & Clam Linguine. I honestly feel terrible for people that can’t eat seafood because this dish was divine. It had a nice slow burn that crept up on you at the end of the bite.
Next came the Linguine Carbonara! It was perfect for summer, creamy with hints of white wine. You can also add a sunny side up egg to it for a dollar. What a deal!
Haricot vert (green beens) framed the Grilled Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato Goat Cheese. The chicken was tender and cooked to perfection, but the veggie-holic in me especially liked the green beans.
At this point I was pretty full, but the food was so good that I kept on eating. I really enjoyed Decoy’s Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a nice pairing with the Bravo! Ribeye. The steak was wonderful, but I went crazy for the polenta and balsamic roasted mushrooms. I’m salivating just remembering it.
The last entree of the evening was Citrus Marinated Chicken, which was skewered thighs on a bed of orzo and vegetables. Since it was thigh meat it was especially rich and flavorful.
Maddie was quite excited when dessert came. See her patiently waiting with her spooned posed for attack! I don’t blame her as it was a delicious: a warm butter blondie, topped with vanilla bean gelato, cookie butter caramel and sugared pretzels. There were but a few crumbs left by the time we were finished.
Everything was nice and it is good to know that Bravo’s talented team is always working to update their menu. It is worth mentioning that the staff was truly spectacular. They were prompt, friendly and very informed about every dish.
There was very little food left by the time we were finished. It was all very good. Thank-you Huntsville Bravo and Tiffany Jordan for inviting me!! Thank-you also to C.C. Fridln for keeping up with all of the plate names. You are so much more organized than I am! Please visit C.C.s post here.
….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.
For years now I’ve been seeing dragon fruit show up in local groceries. I usually love unique produce, but for some reason I could never get the courage up to buy and try one. I think it was because I had no idea how to eat it, and to be honest, it doesn’t really look very appetizing. But this year, I has several friends that tried it and though it was received with a luke warm reception, I figured what the heck. I had to go to several places to find one and the one I bought was a little on the wilted side, but it was the best I could find. I research the origins of dragon fruit.
Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya or pitahaya is the fruit of different cactus species. Interestingly different species of dragon fruit are grown throughout the world, with the first dragon fruit found in Mexico, then cultivated in South American and later transplanted to Asia, where dragon fruit is quite popular.
I also searched how to eat it and found many interesting recipes.
Toss some dragon fruit in a salad
I went the easy (lazy) route and just cubed the fruit into a bowl to try it. For its exotic appearance I was a bit disappointed. Someone had told me it tasted like a wet cucumber, which I found pretty accurate. It’s like finally seeing a movie after everyone else has seen it and raved about it and you are full of anticipation but the movie can never meet the expectations after so much build up. That was the dragon fruit for me.