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.
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.
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/
‘Tis the time of year that North Alabama foodies rejoice and get their taste buds ready: Huntsville Restaurant Week! This is the 5th year of Huntsville Restaurant Week and from August 12th until the 21st patrons can enjoy speciality menu items at great prices from numerous restaurants across Madison County.
As part of the kickoff to Restaurant Week several fellow bloggers and I visited three eateries to get a first look at their specials. I’ve had the pleasure of participating in this Blog Tour for 3 years running. I love it, so please feel free to keep inviting me back! (Not so subtle hint)
This year’s talented bloggers included:
Charles Hunter III with The Salted Table
Jennifer Gervens with Sweet T Makes Three
Katie Wright with Katie Actually
Bo Williams and Stephenie Walker with Rocket City Mom
I’ll include a link to each of their posts at the end, so make sure you give them almost as much love as you give me!
Our first stop was Grille 29. Last year the blog tour had brunch here (the shrimp and grits were to die for!) so I had very high expectations, which were surpassed yet again. You can check out last years post here.
We started with Roasted Cauliflower Soup, which was garnished with crispy prosciutto and greens. I’m a huge veggie-aholic, so I found this dish completely addictive. I seriously dreamed about it that night.Next we sampled a Southern classic, fried green tomatoes, topped with pork belly and blue pimento cheese. It was also scrumptious! Next came the main course Flat Iron Steak, enhanced with a roasted shallot reduction, topped with house-made Pico de Gallo and sweet potato straws, over cheese grits. Are you hungry yet, because just writing this post is making me drool.When we knew we couldn’t possibly eat anymore, dessert came out and we mustered the courage to go on.
We started with a Lemon Lava Cake, which was stunning. It was a delicious dessert, but it was also a beautiful dessert, which really warms a food photographers heart.Then came a Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle, which I’ve had before and loved before. From what I could tell it was a fan favorite. And last, but certainly not least, was the Cheesecake of the Day, Turtle Cheesecake.Everything was delicious! While we were photographing food on the patio a jealous lizard kept on eyeing the Lemon Lava Cake. Sadly for the lizard, we didn’t have any leftovers.All of the food was created under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Cara Thompson. Make sure you attend Rocket Chef at the Merrimack Hall on August 8th and cheer for Chef Cara as she competes against other culinary geniuses for the title of Rocket Chef. All proceeds from the event go to the Food Bank of North Alabama, so it feeds your soul as well as your belly.More about Grille 29 please visit:
Katie Actually: http://www.katieactually.com/grille-29-2/
Sweet T Makes Three: http://www.sweettmakesthree.com/places-to-eat-in-huntsville-alabama/
Rocket City Mom: http://www.rocketcitymom.com/grille-29/
Over the Christmas holidays my husband, my sister-in-law and I jetted away for a whirlwind, two day trip to London. We were going to spend several days in the city, but (London Fun Fact) the trains shut down on Christmas Eve Eve (Dec. 23rd) so we shortened the trip.
Since we only had two days we hit the highlights and stuck to the most stereotypically touristy parts of London: Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, fish and chips, tea, etc., but it was still immensely fun.
Now let’s be honest, Great Britain isn’t exactly known for their culinary prowess. True they have tea, scones, and fish and chips, all of which are lovely, but they also have a mysterious, slightly scary, tar-like substance called Marmite, which I’ve gathered you eat on toast (Is it like jam or closer to peanut butter?) and Stargazy Pie, which maybe delicious, but honestly just looks terrifying. (Are you supposed to eat the fish heads?) My point being, I had very mixed expectations when it came to English cuisine.
I am happy to report that most of the dishes were wonderfully delicious and I would eat them again. That being said, I played it pretty safe and avoided the fish head pies and jellied eels (look it up).
In the morning went sightseeing, shot the obligatory photo at Big Ben, toured Westminster Abbey with an audio recording by Jeremy Irons (fancy), complained about the pesky tourists (Wow, Americans are SO loud! Sorry rest of the world), and in general enjoyed this wonderful, exciting city.
When we finally decided to stop for lunch we had no plan, so we picked the first interesting place we across: Westminster Arms. Apparently we picked well because in addition to being frequented by politicians and journalists, it has also been visited by Desmond Tutu, Angelina Jolie and Bill Clinton. All of this I learned after I got back to the States.We walked downstairs to the crowded restaurant portion of the pub and I fully expected to be turned away or a long wait.
“Are you here to eat?” asked a man brusquely. He definitely seemed like the owner, so from henceforth I will refer to him as such.
“Yes” I answered. I reined in my Americanness and said it with polite, deference rather than the exuberant, enthusiasm I’m used to in the States. Polite, deference would never fly at T.G.I.Fridays. They waitstaff would harass you until you faked absolute bliss to be eating artichoke dip. Being an American can be exhausting, who wants to be that upbeat and energetic all the time.
The owner walked up to a table filled with pint sipping patrons and said to the people “These people are eating, you need to leave.”
My husband and I were shocked, but the people seemed to take it in stride, got up and headed upstairs so we could take their table. I guess it is tavern protocol.
I ordered the most tourist dish possible, fish and chips, which was more for the mashed peas than the fish and chips. I’ve tasted canned Mushy, which I wasn’t a fan off, but it made me want to try the real stuff. As I suspected, real mushy peas are delicious! Of course the fish and chips were also wonderful. My husband went for the second most touristy dish, bangers and mash, which was also quite good. I’d like to visit again and try something less obvious, but overall everything was well-cooked and plated. The tavern itself was nice with booths, tables and a bar at the front. Everything was covered in wood and complimented with appropriate art and decor.
The ladies’ toilets were also an adventure. There was a sink with two facets: one for hot water and one for cold water, but none for comfortable temperature water. I’ve been told this is fairly common in Great Britain, but this was the only sink I encountered like this, granted I was only there for 2 days.The restroom also had charming wall art to keep you entertained during your visit. I’m not sure what ‘cor scrummy’ means but I take it to mean something good. ‘Sexy’ maybe, ‘tasty’, it’s possible. If anyone knows please feel free to educate me.