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Hometown Foodstalking- Flip Burger

For the holidays, I traveled back home to the place where the foodstalking magic first happened between LG and Miss Em: Birmingham. I got to sample several new-to-me spots, including a couple that are new to the Magic City.

First up was a newcomer to the B’ham restaurant scene, Flip Burger Boutique. I had been stalking this menu for months in eager anticipation of visiting the new Birmingham location over Christmas. This is the brainchild of Top Chef alum and Atlanta native, Richard Blais, one of my all-time favorite Top Chef competitors. He made his mark on the show with a playful and accessible brand of molecular gastronomy.

Blais himself was in da house on the night that we braved post-holiday Summit traffic to grab some gourmet burgers. He was looking a little flustered- later on I think we would find out why.

Hipster fun with the light fixture


Even after reading this menu dozens of times, the fam and I had a hard time choosing between all of the amazing sounding burgers. One whole side of the menu is dedicated to beef burgers, the other side is anything-goes. I went for the carne- specifically, the Butcher’s Cut with caramelized onions, blue cheese, and red wine jam. At our table, we had a Farm Burger, a Korean BBQ burger, a Chorizo burger, and two regular ole hamburgers. The general consensus, I believe, was that the burgers were tasty, but that there was an issue with service and/or the kitchen on that particular evening. They had been open for no more than 2 weeks at this point, so I’m sure they were still ironing out the wrinkles. Most of the burgers arrived to our table not exactly warm. I thought mine was tasty, but definitely could have been warmer and I would have preferred the ratio of toppings a little different: less blue cheese, more red wine jam. We sampled fries, fried pickles, fried okra, and the warm potato salad. All were perfectly serviceable, although the okra especially were very greasy.

My choice. The Butcher's Cut.

E's Chorizo burger

Dad's Korean BBQ burger. Points for originality.

As an apology for the hour-long wait for our food, and the lukewarm-ness of it when it finally arrived, we were sent a sampling of Blais’s famous liquid nitrogen milkshakes. My favorite was the Pistachio, rather shockingly. I don’t dislike pistachios, but I would never think of it as the first flavor I’d order on a milkshake menu. The slight saltiness went with the sweetness very well. Other flavors at our table: S’mores, Krispy Kreme donut (just like the real thing pureed into a frosty mug), and Foie Gras (seriously not as disgusting as it sounds- if you didn’t know it was Foie Gras, I bet you wouldn’t be able to guess).

S'mores. Pleasingly burnt marshmallows on top with bits of graham cracker interspersed.

Pistachio

While our experience was less than perfect, I do think we’ll be back. For one, the prices are fair. The menu is so varied that you’ll always have something new to try. And of course, I’ll be back because I have faith in Blais! Hopefully he can attract and retain some real talent in the kitchen, folks who are able to execute the “foodie” vision that this restaurant is going after.

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Brown-Baggin’

I take my lunch to work most days of the week. On the one hand, a package of turkey, spinach, grape tomatoes, wraps and homemade salad dressing stretch my dollar pretty far. But on the other, it can get a little ho-hum.

I was inspired a while back by a slideshow featured on MarthaStewart.com all about Brown-Bag Lunches. She suggests a variety of meats, cheeses, spreads, greens and other veggies to put a little more ooomph into a lunch routine. The photography isn’t too shabby. Oh Martha, you slay me.

name of sandwich here

roasted pork with scallion mayonnaise © 2009 Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc.

So lately I’ve been trying to make a lunchbox item on Sunday evenings in preparation for a week of packed lunches. Sometimes it’s just grilled chicken or a new salad dressing, but even that seems an upgrade after a week of bread-turkey-mustard.

My first two lunchbox projects were classics: Crunchy Ginger Rotisserie Chicken Salad and Egg Salad. And then I followed it up with SmittenKitchen’s Smashed Chickpea Salad.

My mom makes really superb versions of both chicken and egg salads, so I wasn’t looking to out-do, I was looking for different. And as far as I know, there are no “wrong” chicken salads. There are so many varieties, and everyone has an opinion about nuts and grapes and mayonnaise and relish and curry and everything. I embrace them all. But when it’s time to be choose, I do like crunchy and chunky over more spread-like chicken salads. The chicken salad wrap from The Fresh Market deli has always been a favorite of mine, so with a little searching, I found their recipe online.

chicken salad

crunchy ginger rotisserie chicken salad

Crunchy Ginger Rotisserie Chicken Salad
INGREDIENTS

1 rotisserie chicken (or quickly roast some chicken cutlets in the oven)
1/4 cup sour cream (light is OK)

1/4 cup mayonnaise
* my addition: honey for sweetness; I added a couple of tablespoons. Just enough to taste.
1/2 cup celery, diced
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, minced (find this on the international foods aisle)
salt to taste

roasting the bird

roasting the bird

Roasting the chicken, if you haven’t purchased a rotisserie bird, is an ideal and easy way to add lots of flavor to the chicken salad. I lined a baking sheet with aluminum foil, drizzled the cutlets with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, lemon juice and rough chopped rosemary and garlic. You could substitute just about any combination of aromatics here. Put it in a 350º oven and just check it until it’s done. Then allow to cool before dicing and mixing with other ingredients.

when it's done

done

The crystallized ginger is one of those kind of quirky ingredients, but it’s worth it! Because it’s a little gummy, I recommend popping it in the freezer before you attempt to dice it. It will be much easier this way.

crystallized ginger

crystallized ginger

After you combine the ingredients, chill it in the fridge for a few hours, allowing time for the flavors to marry. Yum!

Now for the Egg Salad. When I read 101Cookbooks.com‘s Heidi Swanson’s take on egg salads—It has long been my personal belief that the egg salad sandwich is a sandwich too ugly to look at, let alone eat. I’m talking about those structure-less mayo bombs served on soggy white bread”—I laughed because I know what she’s talking about. And I often like those egg salads. But after trying out her recipe, I know I’ve found a winner egg salad that tops the traditional.

Egg Salad
INGREDIENTS

6 large eggs
1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise (or Greek yogurt)
Salt and pepper
A tiny squeeze of lemon juice
2 stalks celery, washed and chopped
1/2 bunch chives, chopped

the main ingreds

the main ingreds

Seems easy enough, but as 101 Cookbooks points out, it’s all about boiling the eggs properly, striving for a tender, bright yellow yolk and no green-grey ring. The no-fail method is this: Place the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water by a 1/2-inch or so. Bring to a gentle boil. Now turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for exactly seven minutes. Have a big bowl of ice water ready and when the eggs are done cooking place them in the ice bath for three minutes or so – long enough to stop the cooking. Crack and peel each egg.

ready to toss

ready to toss

Then gently fork the eggs until broken up, but retain some texture. Toss with the mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery and chives. Funny enough—the chives are what led me to this recipe. I have some in my herb garden that I wanted to use. Plus, chives and eggs are a happy pair, so I imagined there was a recipe out there for egg salad with chives.

easy-on-the-mayo egg salad

easy-on-the-mayo egg salad

What I liked about this egg salad was that it was moist, from the tender eggs and a touch of mayo— just enough to bind everything together, but not enough to make it drippy. Toast up some grainy bread and add a couple of scoops of egg salad. All the components come together so happily. It’s absolutely delicious—crunchy celery and tender egg with a mild onion flavor.

Now for the less traditional recipes. I am a huge fan of this Smashed Chickpea Salad. I was thinking I’d do some sort of cucumber-tomato-chickpea rendition until I came across SmittenKitchen’s recipe, which was inspired by the chopped chickpeas at ‘wichcraft (Tom Colicchio’s sandwich venture). I don’t put this spread on bread, but instead I eat it on a good, hearty cracker with lots of seeds on it.

chickpeas aka garbanzo beans

chickpeas

Smashed Chickpea Salad
INGREDIENTS

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons pitted, halved and very thinly sliced black olives (you can just buy these in small cans, already sliced, then just dice them)
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Zest and juice from half a lemon (if you’ve got one of those sad, juiceless lemons, use both sides for juice)
Couple good pinches of salt
A few grinds of black pepper
A few glugs of olive oil (not so much that it becomes oily; after a few days in the fridge, it was good to be able to add a few more glugs of olive oil to perk it up)

tasty add-ins

tasty add-ins

Mix all but olive oil and mash the chickpeas gently with the back of a fork (or a potato masher if you own one). Texture makes this spread interesting. Think of it like a deconstructed, chunky hummus. Once combined, stir in the olive oil. Allow to chill in the fridge before dipping into it. And if you can wait a day, the flavors will be really jelling by then.

Here’s why I like it. The olives. It has taken me until the last couple of years to like olives. I am really proud of being an “I’ll eat anything” kind of person, but olives for the longest time were a big hangup. Can taste buds change? What’s new? But I love olives now. Something about that tangy flavor and meaty texture can really add something special to a bite. The flavors in this spread remind me a lot of one of my favorite snack foods on the planet. It’s a spread my mom makes—Snowman Cheeseball. (Sidenote: It’s called the “Snowman” Cheeseball because you can shape it into a snowman around the holidays.) The snowman cheeseball is mayonaissey and cheesey with prominent onion and diced green pimento olive flavors. So as it turns out, some of the basic ingredients are the same, but chickpeas would be the healthier option.

This is a tasty snack on crackers, an addition to a salad or a spread on a sandwich (SmittenKitchen recommend pairing with tahini and roasted red peppers). I will definitely be making this again, maybe as a party snack next time? Oooh! I bet it would be really great with pita chips.

smashed chickpea salad

smashed chickpea salad in bad lighting

Can I have some remedy?

Headed to a newish place downtown, The Remedy Diner, this past week for a St. Patty’s Day (I want dah gold!) dinner with friends. I was bugging for a yummy sandwich. “Cures What Ales You” is the place’s tagline/brand promise, and they delivered on it.

welcome to the remedy diner

welcome to the remedy diner

The remedy motif is carried out through the entire menu with these listings: Quick Fixes (appetizers like hummus, pico & chips), Experimental Treatments (Daily Specials), Morning Doses (Breakfast Fare), Alternative Therapies (Vegetarian & Vegan Sandwiches), Mainstream Therapies (Sandwiches with Carne), Prescription Only (Booze). I ordered from the Alt Therapies, The Veggie Hero. The kitchen was out of hoagie rolls, so I substituted ciabatta (good move): Cucumbers, banana peppers, red onion, tomato, lettuce, sprouts, Swiss, mayo.

a heroic veggie sandwich

an heroic veggie sandwich

I am in the midst of a revived obsession with sandwiches, particularly with piling on the veggies. I’ve had plenty of veggie sandwiches before, mostly mediocre. But Remedy used the freshest ingredients, and the most delicious, soft ciabatta. It’s a good reminder that simple is better, and better ingredients require less “treatment.”

Other orders at the table included…

the spicy turkey sandwich

the spicy turkey sandwich (with jalapeños & chipotle mayo)

the greek salad

the greek salad

chicken salad pita

an impressive vegetarian chicken salad pita (a non-vegetarian eater said, "this tastes just like chicken!")

the remedy breakfast

the remedy breakfast (with eggs, bacon, toast, grits, hashbrowns)

all-beef hot dog (a veggie dog is also on the menu)

all-beef hot dog (a veggie dog is also on the menu)

With such a varried menu catering to meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, plus a strong selection of beers, The Remedy Diner will be appealing to many people passing through, going out or working downtown. It’s a great addition.

Some other side notes on the experience…the interior is cute, though a little tight for a place that has a strong following already. Goodnight Raleigh!‘s contributing history editor did some good digging on the building’s origin as a physician’s practice.

There are a couple of tables outside on the street that will be ideal for people watching on sunny afternoons. I see Remedy Diner possibly reaching Rockford status for the Moore’s Square area, as a lunchtime favorite with an eclectic crowd. That is a big compliment from a Rockford lover.

dig their signage

dig their signage

And now a little something I’ve got in the works: a cooking contest! I’ve been testing recipes and taste testing. A thorough entry will follow in the next couple of weeks, but just this preview and hint for now:

something in the works

testing our puff pastry & some different flavor profiles