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It’s been a while

Ensley Steel Mill

Abandoned Steel Mill in Ensley, Alabama

Good readers, I have not forgotten both of you. Over the last few months, I have been quite busy performing my writing and editing services. Birmingham Magazine took me on as their primary food blogger at Good Taste, in addition to my monthly beer and casual dining columns in their print edition. The weekly posts there have robbed this Sandwich of many posts. Sorry about that.

Strawberry-Buttermilk Ice Cream

Strawberry-Buttermilk Ice Cream. Photo by Caleb Chancey.

In other blogland news, Birmingham photographer Caleb Chancey approached me with a collaboration that we eventually published on Kim Sunee’s website. That recipe for Strawberry-Buttermilk ice cream is one of my favorites and I was happy to share it with Caleb, Kim and her loyal following.

That brings me to my last bit of news, dear readers. After much deliberation, I left Birmingham for plumper pastures at the end of August. After three years, I feel like I had just scratched the surface of that magical city and already miss my friends and colleagues there with my whole heart. This blog, as it was centered in Birmingham and about the South, will be migrated to my other blog–The Gourmetro–and in all likelihood, this will be the final post. That site is undergoing serious upgrades and will be pretty and functional soon. The Gourmetro was originally envisioned as a group blog about excellent, attainable food and travel centered in New York City. Over my years there, it had three major contributors and I am excited to have it running again.

Barbecue, Catfish & Irish Food in and around the city

Fat Man's Bar-B-Q Last month, Birmingham Magazine sent me out to St. Clair County. The beautiful, rolling hillsides of St. Clair County–about 30 minutes East of Birmingham–is chock full of great local eateries. Pell City had a bunch of barbecue haunts, and I found one of the best catfish fillets I have ever eaten.

Meanwhile, Brannon’s Public House has come into its own in downtown Birmingham. I stopped by a few times for sandwiches, burgers, and beers and left impressed.

See additional photography I shot for Birmingham Magazine’s March issue, and click for more about Brannon’s, and the St. Clair Barbecue and Catfish story. Continue reading →

Sunday Morning Buttermilk Biscuits

Buttermilk Biscuit

I have a lot of fond memories of these biscuits as an eight-year-old on humid summer days in my Dad’s kitchen, but I hadn’t picked up the recipe since 2005, when I began experimenting with it. Vegetable shortening was the first item on the list (I can hardly abide it). I started by reducing it to half-and-half butter and shortening , then all butter, then I got crazy and tried substituting olive oil. A lazy baker, I stopped rolling the dough and began producing oddly shaped drop biscuits. They had some flake, the familiar crumb and half the mess, but they weren’t the same.

Five years later with a quart of full-fat buttermilk in the fridge, I pulled out the old recipe. Looking it over, I saw some places I could improve on my Uncle Joe’s old biscuits. My food processor incorporated the butter and I patted out the dough by hand. That first all-butter batch was well-layered but greasy and flat. I fired up the oven again, and reduced the butter by 25 percent (leaving all other measurements alone). I processed that second batch less, froze the butter  beforehand, and was constantly conscious of how much I handled the dough.

The result? Damn good (if I must say so myself).

Continue reading →

First Bite: Kool Korner Sandwiches (Vestavia Hills)

Kool Korner Grocery - Classic Cuban Sandwich

Recently, I have wondered how one could possibly go wrong eating a hot pressed sandwich with melty cheese, roast pork, ham, pickles, and a few other choice toppings. I am sure it’s possible, just not at Kool Korner, located in the Publix shopping center in Vestavia Hills.

IIldefonso Ramirez, the shop’s Cuban-born owner, arrives each morning and personally roasts enough pork, eye-round, and chicken for the day. He opened the original Kool Korner Grocery in Atlanta in the mid-1980s and reigned as the cuban sandwich king through the 1990s. The Vestavia location opened in June 2009 and he runs the shop with his son Guillermo and grandson Will.

For more on my experience here, check out the January 2010 issue of Birmingham Magazine and its Buzzwords podcast.

Kool Korner Sandwiches
790 Montgomery Highway #134 [map]
Open Monday to Saturday
10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Kool Korner Grocery - Classic Cuban Sandwich Kool Korner Grocery - Stuffed Eye of Round Kool Korner Grocery - Lunch for Two Kool Korner Grocery - Pineapple Soda Kool Korner Grocery - Yerba Mate Soda

Dan is the producer of ‘Ham Sandwich. Read about his cooking adventures as Skip on The Gourmetro and learn about him on aisle-9.net.

The Taco Truck

Jason Wallis/jasonwallisphotography.com

Jason Wallis/jasonwallisphotography.com

I’m not quite sure what it is about food from a truck that makes it so completely irresistible. This truck, the Taqueria Guzman, parks in a run-down Texaco parking lot on West Valley and turns out some of the best tacos in town.

Check out my article in this month’s Birmingham magazine (or, while I’m shamelessly plugging, get a subscription) for details about my experience at Taqueria Guzman.

What to remember:

  • 3 tacos ($1.75 each) make a good meal
  • have a cane sugar Coca Cola
  • try the lengua (tongue) or tripa (tripe, but make sure it’s extra crispy)

Dan is the producer of ‘Ham Sandwich. Read about his cooking adventures as Skip on The Gourmetro and learn about him on aisle-9.net. Photos by Jason Wallis www.jasonwallisphotography.com.

Fall Favorite: Spooning Persimmons

Perfect Persimmons

I picked up these pretty persimmons at the Oak Street Market a few days ago. When they’re red and soft (probably overripe) I like to cut the top off and eat them with a spoon.  After a very brief wikipedia read, I learned that underripe persimmons could cause goo buildup in your stomach and result in serious issues. Damn.

Some people prefer thinly sliced crisp persimmons, but the syrupy sweetness that I go for doesn’t quite develop until it begins to soften. Oh, and the prevailing local variety is the sweet fuyu. Petals From the Past is a chief supplier to the Birmingham area.

For anyone who hasn’t yet been to the Oak Street Market, it’s a small local market located in Crestline Village that supports local farmers. They’ve got a great selection and friendly people. Go check them out, they’ve currently got some late-season corn, lots of apples, and tons of squash and pumpkin among their stock.

Dan is the producer of ‘Ham Sandwich. Read about his cooking adventures as Skip on The Gourmetro and learn about him on aisle-9.net.

Market Update: What’s Hot at Pepper Place

Swedish Peanut Potatoes October 10, 2009
64 degrees and light rain (at 8:15)

Apples (McIntosh, Cumberland Spur, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Matsu, winesap, granny smith, jonagold, rome)
Beets (Chiogga and red)
Bok Choi
Collard Greens
Eggplant (white, Japanese)
Escarole Continue reading →

Market Update: What’s Hot at Pepper Place

Pumpkins and Squash

October 3, 2009
54 degrees and sunny

Apples (McIntosh, Cumberland Spur, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Matsu, winesap, granny smith, jonagold, rome)
Beets (Chiogga and red)
Collard Greens
Eggplant (white, Japanese) Continue reading →

BottleTree to Show Food Inc.

I am so pleased to know that BottleTree Cafe will show the documentary Food Inc Saturday, Sept 5 and Sunday, Sept 6. As excited as I am that viewers will not have to travel, as I did, it is disappointing and sobering that this excellent film, highlighting the current crisis into which our food system seems to be locked, will only be shown two days in one of the country’s most obese cities (according to Forbes, 2007).

Please reserve a ticket and support BottleTree. This film is important for everyone who eats, so no matter how well-versed on the topic you are, you will hear and see something new. Be aware that there is seriously distressing footage.

This week on the farm

The Donut King, James King Me with Happy Goats
Bob's Lunch Exterior Morning on the farm

The Sandwich has been quiet for a bit since I’ve been in upstate New York living and working on the American Masala Farm. And a busy few weeks it’s been. We’ve mucked barns, eaten delicious doughnuts, and, of course, have made some fantastic Indian food from chef Suvir Saran‘s cookbooks. I’ve been updating the Gourmetro frequently and plan to continue until I get back to Birmingham.

Goat Vindaloo with curried green beans and riata Croissants from Mrs. London's Pan Seared Steak with Potatoes Goat Vindaloo Panel in Albany Spectrum 8 Petalos Wine Label Morning on the farm Ingredients for Suvir Saran's Mirchi Kaa Saalan Goat Vindaloo Pot morning on the American Masala Farm