A Visitors Guide to Birmingham, AL: Eat and Drink your way through the Magic City

A Visitors Guide to Birmingham, AL: Eat and Drink your way through the Magic City

As you can tell by my Instagram, I am back in Birmingham, AL visiting for the week and I am SO EXCITED! like, cannot express my excitement to be back in The Magic City. We loved living in Birmingham and I am so excited to be back and spending time here with some of my favorite people, and dogs.

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This picture is taken from the corner of my old office building, how cute is the Alabama theatre?

Any Birmingham native will tell you the best thing about Birmingham is the food! The south, in general, is known for its really heavy, fatty, fried, foods but you don’t have to look far in Birmingham to find options that aren’t traditional southern foods.

So you are in Birmingham for a conference, maybe staying in Birmingham with plans to drive to Tuscaloosa for a football game. This foolproof dining plan will have you falling IN LOVE with the Magic City.

Breakfast

Start your morning at a new local favorite, The essential. This eatery was started by two locals who aspire to give you the perfect meal with all local ingredients. It’s not your traditional southern breakfast but obviously, you will be able to get the staple sausage biscuit just make sure you don’t leave without their homemade pop tarts, YUM!

If breakfast is not your thing and you just need to start your day with a great cup of coffee then off to Woodlawn cafe you go. They have small bites and really great, strong coffee.

Lunch

Hattie B’s

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Hattie B’s in Birmingham

The famous Nashville hot chicken restaurant holds true to their roots in their Birmingham location, it’s so good. Anytime, we would have any visitors stay with us in Birmingham we would immediately take them to Hattie B’s.

My ideal meal:

  • Medium grilled tenders
  • Pimento cheese mac & cheese
  • French fries
  • Diet Coke

PERFECTION! (honestly, if I had to choose any meal, it would be this)

Jack Browns

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Jack Brown’s in Birmingham

If hot chicken isn’t your cup of tea across the street is an excellent hamburger joint, Jack Browns. Their hamburgers are small but mighty and they have the best beer selection to accompany a burger and fries. Anytime I see cream cheese and jalapenos on a hamburger, SIGN. ME. UP.

Dinner

Birmingham has some wonderful fine dining establishments including James Beard’s 2018 Outstanding Restaurant winner: Highlands Bar and Grill. While fine dining is wonderful, I am going to stick to my moderately priced suggestions to complete the day of great eating.

El Bario

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El Barrio – Downtown Birmingham

This delicious restaurant is mainly marketed as a Mexican restaurant but I would say its much more of Mexican/ Southern fusion. Needless to say, their grapefruit margaritas are EVERYTHING! They also have my favorite Saturday brunch in Birmingham. When we first moved to Birmingham I was immediately drawn to this place because the interiors remind me so much of restaurants in California.

Bamboo on 2nd

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Bamboo on 2nd – Asian Fusion, Birmingham, AL

Who knew Birmingham could deliver such awesome Asian fusion? Everything from their ramen bowls to their sushi is perfect, accompanied by a fun, energetic atmosphere. A wonderful downtown eatery.

Fancys on Fifth

Looking for a nice southern-inspired dinner? Look no further than Fancy’s on Fifth. Start with a dozen oysters, shoot, you can start and finish there. After Fancy’s go across the street and do yourself a favor and enjoy a sour beer at Avondale’s’ sour room.

Late Night Eats

If you are ready to end your night with a bang, the corndog at Carrigans will complete your food excursion in Birmingham. It’s the deep fried goodness that dreams are made of complete with hipster ranch you won’t regret this calorie binge.

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Corndog at Carrigans – Birmingham, AL

I have such a special spot in my heart for Birmingham, I mean shoot, my kitty Penny was born just south of the Magic City. This dining guide was so easy to make because its all the places I will be eating at this week while visiting Birmingham.

Easy White Sangria Recipe With Summer Fruit

Easy White Sangria Recipe With Summer Fruit

If you were following my Instagram stories this weekend you saw that I had the most fun girls weekend in Palm Springs. My college best friends came from LA to Palm Springs for some pool time, wine drinking and lots of Love Island watching (If you aren’t watching Love Island, its a must). Palm Springs is the perfect backdrop for a summer weekend with your best friends, it’s also the most photogenic city I have ever lived in.

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White Sangria Recipe with Peaches

I prepped for the weekend the best way I know how with delicious white wine sangria with triple sec. We enjoyed this summer sangria while floating in the pool all afternoon. My girls and I love wine but when sitting in the sun all day wine isn’t always my favorite option. If I am going to drink alcohol during the day I prefer something light, fruity but not sweet and refreshing. That mixture of items is hard to find but I think this sangria really is the best option.

Ingredients:

1 bottle of white wine (Dry wine, I used Sauvignon Blanc from California but a Pinot Grigio would also work)

1/3 cup triple sec

3 Peaches – cut in slices

1 cup of blackberries

3 limes – cut in eights

Sparkling water

Directions:

  1. Add lime to a large pitcher and muddle with a muddler or wooden spoon for 45 seconds.

  2. Add triple sec and muddle again to combine for 30 seconds. Add peaches, and blackberries and stir to incorporate. Then add wine and stir once more.
  3. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding sweetener of choice for sweetness (agave is the best choice for sweetness), lemon or lime juice for acidity, or fruit. Stir to combine.
  4. Fill glasses all the way up with ice and pour sangria to fill the cup until its three-quarters full. Fill the glasses the rest of the way with sparkling water, I like to use lime sparkling water for a more citrusy flavor.
  5. Garnish glass with peach slices and a few blackberries.
  6. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours, though best when enjoyed within the first 1-2 days.

I hope you LOVE this sangria! It’s:

Citrusy
Fruity
Not too sweet
Refreshing
& Delicious

Its the perfect drink to sip in the pool with your friends while you gossip the afternoon away. In cooler weather, I love a red wine sangria with cherries, whats your favorite wine to drink during summer?

Happy Relaxing.

-Heather

The Best Summer Cocktails To Help You Survive The Heat.

The Best Summer Cocktails To Help You Survive The Heat.

My ideal summer day at home is sitting in the hot sun with a cold drink while lounging by the pool. I like a beer in summer but I really love a nice, light, refreshing cocktail to help me through extreme heat that is Palm Springs in the summer.

What better way to celebrate the 4th of July then with a few nice, new summer cocktails? We are leaving for a Mexican vacation this week so for the first time we are having a quiet day at home for the forth and I can’t wait to drink a few of these cocktails!

Here are a few of my tried and true favorite summer cocktails.

Skinny Grapefruit Margarita

There is a restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama, El Bario that serves THE BEST grapefruit margaritas. To be honest, I had no idea that I liked grapefruit margaritas until I had one there.

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Grapefruit Margarita

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz freshly squeezed grapefruit, about 1/4 grapefruit
  • 1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime, about 1 lime
  • 1.5 oz triple sec
  • 2 oz  tequila
  • lime sparkling water to top

Garnish:

  • 1 lime cut in wedges
  • Kosher Salt

Directions:

  1. For salt-rimmed glass, begin by running a lime wedge around the top rim of a glass.  Fill a shallow bowl with salt, and dip the rim in the salt until it is salt covered.  Set aside.
  2. Add grapefruit juice, tequila, lime juice and Triple Sec to a cocktail shaker, and shake until combined.
  3. Fill glass with ice.  Pour in the margarita mixture over the rocks add lime sparkling water until glass is full.  Serve immediately, garnished with an extra lime or grapefruit wedge if desired.

Cucumber Collins

I mean lemon and cucumber together? Hello, summer!

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Cucumber Tom Collins
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 4 or 5 slices cucumber
  • sparkling water, to top.

Directions

  1. In the bottom of a mixing glass, muddle cucumber slices, lemon juice and simple syrup.
  2. Add gin, along with ice, and shake. Strain over fresh ice into a Collins glass, then top with sparkling water.

Watermelon Vodka Punch

Who doesn’t have great memories sitting by the pool as a kid eating watermelon? This drink is the adult version of that.

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Watermelon Vodka Punch

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds watermelon, rind, and seeds discarded and the flesh cut into pieces, plus thin slices of watermelon for garnish
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup Triple Sec
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Direction

  1. In a blender purée the watermelon pieces and ice cubes and strain the purée over a pitcher, discarding the solids.
  2. Stir in the vodka, the Triple Sec, and the lime juice, pour the drink into a glass filled with ice cubes, and garnish each drink with a watermelon slice.

 

Raspberry Lime Champagne Punch

This drink is the perfect summer mimosa substitute for a brunch with your boozy pals.

 

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Raspberry Lime Champagne Punch

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup lime juice, approximately 4 freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2 cups raspberries
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • 1 bottle Champagne or sparkling white wine
  • 1 can lime sparkling water

Directions

1. In a large pitcher, stir the lime juice, vodka and soda water to combine. Stir in the raspberries and lime slices.

2. Just before you’re ready to serve, add the Champagne. Serve chilled.

 

Mint Cucumber Sparkler

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Mint Cucumber Sparkler

Ingredients

  • 1-inch piece of seedless cucumber, finely chopped
  • ½ ounce fresh lime juice (that’s the juice from about half a lime)
  • 1½ ounces vodka
  • 2 teaspoons mint simple syrup (recipe below)
  • 3 ounces Prosecco or champagne
For the Mint Simple Syrup:
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves
For Garnish:
  • 3-4 slices cucumber
  • 1 sprig fresh mint

Directions

  1. First, you’ll need to make the simple syrup. In a small saucepan, bring the sugar, water and mint leaves to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, swirling the saucepan occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely before using.
  2. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the chopped cucumber with the lime juice. Add the vodka, simple syrup and a few ice cubes, and shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker becomes frosty. Strain into a glass filled with ice, and top with Prosecco. Garnish with a lime.
Enjoy responsibly and happy summer days!
-Heather

Most Memorable Meals: Traveling & Eating

Most Memorable Meals: Traveling & Eating

Time for another post from my sweet hubs. I’ve said it once, I will say it a million times,  my husband is the greatest adventure planner. When it is time to explore a new city he puts in work to find everything great about that city, including restaurants, this post is not about those restaurants. Today we are talking about the restaurants or meals that were discovered by accident but left an everlasting impression on both of us.

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Eating & Traveling with my favorite person.

We have all had amazing meals in our lives.  Whether they are homemade, at a Michelin rated restaurant, or a hole in the wall you walked by on your latest trip.  Great food can be found anywhere. What makes a meal memorable though? I have thought about this a lot lately. There are these meals I just can’t get out of my mind and they always make me smile.  That’s because all of these meals are associated with good times, good friends, and usually a funny anecdote. Although the food has always been great, the memory is what makes it, well, memorable. Almost all of these places I have only been to once and may be closed or in fact not great.  Remember these are memorable meals and not strictly food based. On to the list.

Kentmorr Restaurant, Stevensville, MD

July of 2016 Heather and I met some friends from Zurich, Switzerland in Washington, DC.  They were doing a small tour of America and meeting some of their old friends from Europe, who happened to be DC locals.  For dinner one night we took a road trip to a restaurant our new DC friends love, but don’t get out much too because of its location.  After renting some cars we traveled the hour or so out to Stevensville, MD and arrived at Kentmorrs, a small restaurant, and bar located on the east side of the Chesapeake Bay.  Our new local friends asked if they could order for the table, a move I will never turn down, so I never even looked at the menu. I was not disappointed. Appetizers of crab dip and crab pretzel (crab dip on top of a soft pretzel) were amazing.  The main dish? A large bucket of whole crabs, caked in old bay and other spices, was dumped directly on to the table. Hammers were passed out, pitchers of beer were ordered, and the next few hours were spent devouring crab, drinking beer and watching the sunset over the Chesapeake.  

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The view of the restaurant: Beautiful!!!

Dario Cecchini, Panzano in Chianti, Italy

In March of 2016, we took a trip to Europe and started off in Italy.  We wanted to be off the beaten track a little bit and decided to stay in Tuscany and ended up staying at a small winery in Greve.  Our host recommended we head down to Panzano, to a small restaurant for dinner one night. So we did, and we were not disappointed.  Butcher shop by day, Dario Cecchini is a reservation only restaurant by night. The one-room restaurant located above the butcher shop had family style seating at 3 tables.  We were the only non-Italian speakers, so we ended up at our own table. This place was a carnivore’s dream. Think 10-15 different cuts (all meat) served with wine and minimal vegetables. Every cut was brought out, shown to the tables, and then grilled over an open fire on one side of the room.  All of the meat was cooked to perfection and just melted in your mouth. The finale involved the apprentice butcher (or chef, not really sure), holding up two hunks of beautifully marbled, gigantic steaks and screaming at the crowd in Italian. We had no idea what he said but cheered right along with the other Italians as if we understood every word.  Fast Forward, a few months later we were back at home watching Phil Rosenthal’s PBS show “I’ll have what Phils Having.” During his Italy episode, he went to a dinner with Dario Cecchini who cooked up some of the giant steaks we enjoyed the night we were at his namesake butcher shop. Although he only speaks Italian in the show we had a wonderful conversation with him (in English) during our meal.  Check out minute 41 for a peek at those steaks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K199bfh6pEw

Charlies Pub and Grill, Ridgecrest, CA

My first job out of college took me to Ridgecrest, a small desert town in Southern California.  I lived there for just over 3 years and hated it. After growing up along the beaches of Florida and attending college in the Front Range of Colorado, the small desert town of Ridgecrest wasn’t for me.  I worked long shifts and as soon as my days off came I was off to LA to see Heather, always trying to escape Ridgecrest. Rarely did I eat out in town. Actually, for the first two years, I only ate at Charlie’s.  About every 6 weeks my boss, who was located in Denver, would visit. As part of his trip, he would always take me out for dinner. Every single one of these meals was at Charlie’s. Overall the restaurant was fine.  They made a good burger, they had a decent beer selection, and I never had to pay. The second or third time I was there the special was Thai Peanut Chicken. This isn’t something you would usually order at a pub and grill but I went for it.  I loved it. To this day I haven’t had Thai peanut chicken as good as the one at Charlie’s. I went to Charlies probably 25 more times after that and they never had Thai peanut chicken as a special ever again. Knowing the Ridgecrest crowd I was probably the only person who ordered it that night.  

The Martin Hotel, Winnemucca, NV

Two hours from Reno, Winnemucca is part of a string of small mining towns that dot northern Nevada.  Over a century ago, Basque immigrants came to northern Nevada as part of the booming gold industry in the area.  The Martin Hotel originally housed and fed these immigrants as well as the local ranchers and miners. Although the Martin is no longer a hotel, it still serves Basque food in their dining room.  Basque food is delicious. A traditional meal consists of an entrée of steak, pork, or lamb with multiple sides served family style. These multiple sides include, but are not limited to soup, salad, bread, house wine, beans, French fries, bread pudding, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, seasonal vegetables, and whatever else they have in the back.  The first time I went to dine at The Marin Hotel, one side option was sweet bread; fried cow pancreas and throat. All the sides are excellent, but the entrees are what you come for. My personal favorite is the lamb. If you can swing it, come with a group, drink a picon punch or an Ichthyosaur pale ale, and eat until you can’t eat anymore. The best part?  Meals range from $17 to $32.

Ramiro’s Taco Shop Pacific Beach, San Diego, CA

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Surf and Turf Fries: A San Diego Must!

One of our favorite weekend trips is to Pacific Beach, a small surf neighborhood in  San Diego.  We come to PB for the beach, the bars, and the Mexican food. Most of the Mexican Food in PB reflects the style of Baja California, but San Diego also has something strictly American; the California Burrito.  Carne Asada, sour cream, French fries, guacamole, and cheese all rolled up in a flour tortilla; great after a day spent on the beach and in the ocean, or great at 2 in the morning after trying to drink Pacific Beach dry.  After one of these nights, we were stumbling back to our hotel when we ran across Ramiro’s. Heather ordered up a California burrito and we walked to the beach, sat on a bench, and enjoyed the burrito as we overlooked the Pacific.  Definitely not the best California burrito I have had but it was my first, and most memorable.

Next week we are heading to Cabo (for both of our first time) and need some recommendations! We are staying at a resort but always love to get out into the city and eat the local cuisine. Help a sister out! Any wonderful places that we need to see? any amazing restaurants that we need to eat at.

-Mike & Heather

5 Tiki Cocktails You Should Be Ordering

5 Tiki Cocktails You Should Be Ordering

My husband has always pushed me to start a blog. He first had the idea when I moved from Los Angeles to Birmingham, AL, he wanted me to share the cultural differences with my friends back home, especially my non-understanding of the football-obsessed culture. BUT I never took him seriously and now here we are three years later and just getting this bad boy up and going. Anyways, when I told him about the travel blog idea he had SO many great ideas so I asked him to write a post a month and well now its time for his FIRST POST! If you can’t tell, I am his biggest fan and so excited to share this post today.

 

A little about my husband, Mike, he’s a flannel-wearing geologist by day and a tiki drink loving, budget trip planning expert at night. Seriously, he is the BEST trip planner, our friends are always asking for help finding fun things to do in new cities as well as getting his opinion on rocks and crystals. I saved this post for today because it is our 8 year (!!!!!!!!) dating anniversary, now that we are married are we still allowed to celebrate that??

Now without further ado, Tiki Cocktails….

In 1934, Don the Beachcomber opened the worlds first tiki bar, allowing people to depart their daily routine and escape to the islands with strong rum drinks and Polynesian décor.  Tiki bars went out of fashion in the 60’s but thanks to the rise of craft cocktails, tiki bars have been popping up all over the country. Think less of sugary slushies in a Margaritaville esque atmosphere and more potent, handcrafted cocktails with fresh juices in yes, a Margaritaville esque atmosphere.  Look past the name brand cocktails such as mai tais and hurricanes and try one of these lesser-known classics:

  1. Navy Grog.  More overlooked than lesser known.  The Navy Grog combines light and dark rum with lime juice and honey.  A more tart than sweet cocktail, Navy Grog is traditionally served in an old-fashioned glass with a cone of shaved ice.  Next time in Las Vegas, travel off the strip to The Golden Tiki where Navy Grog is the strongest drink on the menu.
  2. Fog Cutter.  Created by Trader Vic in the 30’s, the Fog Cutter combines rum, gin and brandy with orgeat, an almond-flavored syrup.  Orange and lemon juice help dilute this cocktail that is typically served in a more traditional Tiki Mug.  Find one at Tiki Ti’s in Hollywood.
  3. Lapu Lapu.  If you’ve ever spent time at the Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World you may have already had one of these.  This drink is named after Chief Lapu Lapu who led the Mactan people of the modern day Philippines against the invading Spanish conquistadors.  Less potent than most Tiki drinks, this cocktail has rum, fruit juice, and grenadine in a hollowed out pineapple. Find it at the Tonga Hut in downtown Palm Springs.
  4. Pearl Diver.  Similar to the Hemingway daiquiri, this drink combines 3 types of rum (light, dark, and overproofed) with lime juice and an orange-flavored liqueur.   The drink is garnished with a lime wheel and served in its namesake glass.  Go grab one at False Idol, a tiki-themed speakeasy in San Diego
  5. Three Dots and a Dash.  Named after the morse code for V, this strong cocktail is made with rum, orange, lemon, and spices.  It is also typically garnished with 3 cherries and a pineapple slice (in case you forget the name of the thing you’re drinking.)  The best place to drink one? Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago.

Go Exploring and drink some Tiki Cocktails.