So, my beautiful best friend and foodie godmother, Erica, is at it again. She’s always got something big going on… but this time, it’s a full on FOOD TOUR! (Exciting, I know.) Basically, she is taking a group of her bloggers besties around the southeast to experience the culture and cuisine in some of her favorite cities. I absolutely loved the idea and accepted my invitation without any hesitation. Not saying I’m her favorite (ok, I am) but I was actually the first person to accompany her on the tour. The first stop?
I was SO excited when I heard we were going to Birmingham! It’s no Hollywood, but I actually grew up there as an awkward elementary school kid and was eager to see if I recognized anything once we arrived… Either all the fun I had at UGA (sorry Mom and Dad) or the fact that it’s been a solid 15 years took a toll on my memory, but Birmingham was far more beautiful and had much more to offer than I remembered.
We obviously wanted to fit in with the locals, so we showed up in coordinating Houndstooth outfits (when in Alabama, am I right?) and immediately felt right at home…. OK, not really. But we did look ready for SEC game day. Roll tide?
Our rooms were booked at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa and when we pulled into the cobblestone drive, I knew Erica had chosen the perfect place for our mini vacay. The estate was absolutely breathtaking! From the sprawling lobby to our room with a stellar golf course view- we were head over heels for our luxurious accommodations. I only took my robe off when deemed absolutely necessary.
From then on, the weekend was a blur of food, fun, and all things Birmingham! It was so interesting to learn all about the town’s history while simultaneously experiencing the current culture and community. If I wrote about everything I enjoyed on this trip, the post would wind up being 10 pages long, so I summarized some of my favorite stops below:
Our most unique stop was definitely Cashio’s Meatball Market! This family owned and operated meatball joint offers the tastiest meatballs, ever… and I’m Italian. First, you choose your meat: chicken, veggie, Italian sausage or classic beef. (Sometimes they have specials, like lamb! Yum!) Then you choose your sauce: pesto, alfredo, mushroom marsala or spicy marinara. (Again, sometimes there are special sauces. Like tzatziki!)
When you eat with Erica, it’s always an adventure… so we went with the meatball flight! 5 different meatballs, 5 different sauces. ALL of them were absolutely AMAZING…. but I could have had 10000x more of the chicken pesto balls…. SO damn good!
I am a huge fan of Chef Chris Hastings, so I was over the moon when I found out we were visiting one of his restaurants while in Birmingham. I knew his food would be stellar, but I never expected we’d have the opportunity to actually meet him…. so when we did, you can imagine the big, cheesy (and somewhat awkward, yes) smile on my face. I was fangirl-ing, hard.
Everything we ate that night was incredible, so I’ll hit the highlights…
Our favorite appetizer? The Bayou La Batre Crab Pie with Pickled Beech Mushrooms, Bacon, Crispy Shallots, and Sherry Vinaigrette. YUMMMM! I didn’t want to share this, but Erica obviously insisted. I give it a 12/10, conservatively.
Next on my must-try list? The Hickory Grilled Wagyu with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Poached Farm Egg, White Truffle Oil, Rapini and Grana Padano. Typically I wouldn’t order red meat at a restaurant touted for it’s seafood…. but this dish was just too hard to pass up and turned out to be one of the most memorable of the trip. I would describe it as the most delicious and delicate spin on meat and potatoes you’ve ever had. The wagyu was cooked to perfection…. and LOOK AT THAT RUNNY YOLK! *sigh* Chris Hastings knocked it out of the park with this one.
Even though we were stuffed to the point of being uncomfortable, we still managed to order dessert…. because, dessert. Duh. We went with the Hot and Hot Doughnuts with Blueberry Jelly, Lime Curd and Blueberry Gelato…. and I have absolutely no regrets. Not. Even. One. These were light, perfectly sweet, and served warm. I recommend getting an extra order to-go for midnight snacking- you can thank me later.
I don’t know everything there is to know about this whole “life” thing yet (I’m 25, hello) but one of the most important things I have learned so far is this: no matter how much you love certain friends- regardless of how weird your inside jokes are, no matter how many Netflix shows you binge together, and despite your shared love for queso, gossip and sugary cocktails…. there are some people you just can’t travel with. You never truly know if you can travel well with someone until after you’ve done it the first time…. and by then, the trip has already either been an incredible success or the worst weekend of your life… Luckily for me, Erica is a grade A travel companion and our trip to Birmingham was filled with nothing but champagne, outstanding food, and lots and lots of laughs. This was definitely a trip for the books- I can’t wait for our next adventure!
Follow along with Eating with Erica to see the next stops on her tour! You don’t want to miss this.