SpringHouse Sunsets

We had the most perfect evening the other night at SpringHouse on Lake Martin. During the last wine dinner we attended at Café 123 in Opelika, we discussed with some friends about taking advantage of the Wednesday and Thursday night special that SpringHouse offers. You can order an appetizer, entree, and dessert for $40 per person.

I have written about SpringHouse before and probably will do so many more times. It is one of our favorite places to dine. In the summers when we have to chance to spend time on the lake, not only do we enjoy dinners here, but we really love to have brunch there on Saturday or Sunday mornings too. You can even arrive on your boat if you want. The restaurant is not water side, but they have a golf cart service during the summer that will transport you to the restaurant. Riding through the property is beautiful. You get to take in the rolling hills, the stables, the beautiful horses, and the other wildlife that this property offers.

We arrived at 6:30 in the evening so that we would have time for a cocktail and a gorgeous SpringHouse sunset. We ordered our cocktails at the upstairs bar. I always like to try something new off their specialty cocktail menu. Tonight I tried the Tee Time cocktail, which consisted of Bombay dry gin, a yummy mint, cucumber puree, salt and lime. It was bright and refreshing. After getting our cocktails we made our way outside to see the sunset. Off the back of the restaurant are rolling hills that eventually make their way down to the lake. I have witnessed numerous breathtaking sunsets here. It is an incredible way to start your evening. The upper patio was closed this particular evening, so we were welcomed to go out back to the little garden off of the well house.

As soon as you walk out onto the garden, you are immediately greeted with nature’s beauty. The mini garden itself is so picturesque. I have had friends that have gotten married in this little spot and have had their dinners in the well house afterwards. My husband celebrated his bachelor weekend here with a group of his guy friends in the well house. It is a perfect place for celebrations. Not only are you provided with a beautiful back drop, but you also have incredible food and libations. What else do you need?

We timed everything perfect. We were able to finish our cocktails and take some beautiful photos of the sunset. After the sun had dropped out of sight, we made our way back up stairs to begin dinner. The dining room of SpringHouse is large and open. The open kitchen, and stately fireplace are definitely focal points of the restaurant. We were seated in the front of the restaurant near the wall of windows.

The kitchen sent out one of my favorite small bites, the pimento cheese stuff peppadew peppers. I had never had a peppadew before having them the first time at a wine dinner months back at SpringHouse. It was love at first bite. They are briny and sweet, and with the creamy pimento cheese stuffed inside, they are divine. They also sent out the wood oven roasted beef marrow with short rib marmalade, celery salad, and grilled ciabatta. Everyone loved the marrow and short rib marmalade, but I just could not get enough of the celery salad. It was crispy, and had the best flavors. Celery salad is not something you typically see on a menu, and I was delightfully pleased with how delicious it was. We also ordered the deviled eggs and shared as a table. Rob’s deviled eggs are delicious! I do not normally like anyone’s deviled eggs besides my own, but his have this creamy, whip to them that I adore.

For our entrees, I ordered the duck dish and my husband ordered the pork chops. We like to order different dishes and then share. The Jurgielewics Farm Duck was served on top of a spring vidalia onion romesco that was superb, along with roasted beets that had been preserved in an orange vinaigrette. The duck was tasty, tender, and delicious, although I must say I would have thoroughly enjoyed this dish minus the duck. The spring vidalia romesco puree was so tasteful and bright, and the beets were tender and slightly sweet. Marvelous! My husband ordered the Hickory Grilled Bone In Pork Chops served with green rice and a sweet onion gravy. This is a dish we have shared before, and it is delicious. The bone in pork is full of flavor that the wood fired grill enhances with a touch of smoke. This is one of those dishes that reminds you of something your mom would make. We shared a bottle of the 2016 Raeburn Pinot Noir. It had lush notes of strawberry, raspberry, cherry, and a touch of spice that all paired wonderfully with my duck and his pork.

I was beyond full at this point, but we still had desserts to order as part of our dinner deal. Can you ever really say no to dessert? I had a little bit of the pinot left and craved something chocolate. I just ordered a scoop of the chocolate ice cream, which was plenty enough for my full stomach. My husband tried the strawberry shortcake, and another guest had the buttermilk panna cotta.

Everything was delicious, as anticipated. We were planning our next visit before we left the table. Definitely give SpringHouse a try if you are truly wanting an all around memorable dining experience.

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Tee Time cocktail
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Sunset off the back of the well house.

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Wood Oven Roasted Beef Marrow w/ short rib marmalade, celery salad, grilled ciabatta
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Jurgielewics Farm Duck spring vidalia onion romesco, roasted beets, preserved orange vinaigrette.
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Hickory Grilled Bone In Pork Chops w/ green rice and sweet onion gravy.
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Pan Seared American Red Snapper w/ charred broccoli, cauliflower, garlic breadcrumbs, pecan vinaigrette.

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Strawberry Shortcake

The Waverly Local

Make plans to say goodbye to Auburn/Opelika for the evening, and head northwest up highway 280 towards Lake Martin. Once you exit off the highway, you will be transported into a place of an era gone by in Waverly, Alabama. As you drive down the (only) main street in Waverly, you’ll know you are entering town as you pass the cemetery on your left and the legendary Standard Deluxe to your right. Just beyond this point you will see the newest addition to town, The Waverly Local on your left. Some of you may remember this location being the Yellow Hammer Restaurant many years ago, or even a Ford dealership even further back than that. The location is the same, but the building has gone through renovations, and it is better than you could ever imagine.

Saturday evening, we met a group of friends here for an early evening dinner. While we were waiting for our friends to arrive we started off with cocktails in the bar, which is directly right of the main dining room when entering the restaurant. I started with a glass of the Veuve du Vernay, and my husband started with his usual, a Maker’s Mark on the rocks. The new bar area is very inviting and would be a great spot to grab drinks and appetizers with a friend.

Once our friends arrived, we took our seats in the main dining room. I think you will be equally impressed with what the new owners have done with the decor of this building. The outside still maintains much of its same look and appeal, but upon entering the building, you will be delightfully surprised by the design of the interior. It is what I would call industrial and modern, while keeping it’s historic elements. One wall is lined with these large, green round banquette booths. I haven’t yet had the chance to sit at one of these tables, but they are screaming my name for a special occasion. This wall is also marked with pieces from one of my favorite artists, RC Hagans. Most of the work, if not all of it, was done by local craftsman and artists. I love that this restaurant works hard to not only support local farmers, but also artists and craftsmen.

Between our entire group I believe we tried absolutely everything on the menu. No one in our group had a single thing that they did not enjoy. For appetizers, each couple at table ordered the bacon- wrapped Wickle’s okra and the dirty rice fritters. Within a blink of a eye we all had clean, happy plates.

For our entrees, I ordered what is becoming my usual, the heirloom pork with butterbean gnocchi. I could eat an entire bowl of the butterbean gnocchi with just the delicious broth base of the pork. The flavors of this dish are stupefying. My husband ordered the fresh catch of the day, the grouper. This was atop Bradley’s (of George’s Farmers Market) creamy grits, greens, and the Mayor’s mushroom butter. The fish was sweet and perfectly cooked. The grits and greens give the dish some soul, and the mushroom butter adds a lovely umami compliment.

For dessert, our table shared all three options, the coconut cake, the flour-less chocolate torte, and the classic cheesecake. I’m partial to the coconut cake myself. It is not something you find on every restaurant’s dessert menu, and it is simply divine.

We have already returned to The Waverly Local since this dining experience with our friends. They are starting to have live music during the week and are running different specials. We have also heard talk of seasonal menu changes, a broader wine selection, and the possibility of brunches on the weekends. We cannot wait to see this restaurant thrive in one of our favorite places on earth.

Dirty Rice Fritters
Roasted Heirloom Pork, butterbean dumplings, stewed greens, ham hock jus, pone bread crumbs
Grouper over Bradley’s creamy grits, wilted greens, pot likker, and the mayor’s mushroom butter

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Cheesecake
Flourless Chocolate Torte with orange caramel sauce
Amanda’s Coconut Cake with vanilla cream

Café 123 March Wine Dinner

Located in the center of the most charming city in Alabama, Opelika, you will find an equally charming restaurant, Café 123.

First of all, I must give full disclosure that Opelika is my hometown, so I am somewhat biased on it’s lure. As a child, I remember going with my father to what was, Haynie’s Drugstore, in this exact location. Haynie’s was, during its heyday, a drugstore in the heart of a bustling railroad town. During the 1990’s, the store was revitalized to be very reminiscent of the drugstore days, and they served milkshakes, ice cream, and sandwiches. My dad would take me here to order a limeade, “made the real way” as he would say, and a muffaletta sandwich. He still swears to this day there is no other muffaletta that can come close to the one served at Haynie’s.

Café 123 was born in the early  2000’s, and although the restaurant has taken over the location, there still maintains much of the drugstore charm; with the black and white tiled floors, and the nostalgic and historic soda fountain bar as the focal point of the main dining room.  The amount of ambiance provided by this location definitely enhances your dining experience.

Chef Eron Bass, has never prepared a dish that I did not enjoy. He did not disappoint this evening either. Eron is also an Opelika native, and he graduated a few years ahead of me in high school. He started out his culinary career as a line chef at the Auburn-Opelika Marriott at Grand National. He then advanced from sous chef under Chris Cannon in the early days of Café 123, to now, having been the executive chef over the restaurant for over the past ten years. His undeniable culinary prowess has undoubtedly been the driving force in propelling his career in a positive motion.

We started our dinner with a 2016 Ancient Peaks Winery, Sauvignon Blanc. This was paired with a “Saltine Cracker” Fried Oyster, served with a cornbread salad, Ralf’s locally grown bibb lettuce, and a buttermilk dressing. Not to discredit the rest of the dinner right off the jump, but this was my favorite pairing of the evening. The most surprising thing about this is, I do not like oysters! The crispness of the batter encompassing the oyster, combined with the sweetness of the delicious cornbread salad, made for a delightful bite. Cornbread salad, does not get much more southern than that! The sauvignon blanc had a brightness and a nice acidity that paired perfectly with this dish. I can imagine many things that this particular wine would pair nicely with.

The second course was a Prime Rib bruschetta that had been prepared in a Dijon, red onion, and crispy caper sauce, atop a crostini, and garnished with arugula and horseradish cream. This was paired with a 2014 Paolo Cottini Winery Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore of Veneto, Italy. The flavors of the dish were brillant, and paired excellently with the Ripasso. This was the favorite of several guests at our table. I am not a fan of rare beef, so this was not a particular favorite dish of mine. I did however really enjoy the Ripasso, and could agree that the pairing went together seamlessly.

The third course, and my second favorite dish of the evening, was a Springer Mountain Farms chicken coq au vin. The chicken was succulent. The fresh pappardelle pasta in a bed of Burgundy braising jus, cremini mushrooms, bacon, and pearled onions,  was exquisite. This was a magnificent dish that I would definitely order again if it were on the menu. The wine pairing for this course was a 2015 Cave des Vignerons de Buxy, Mercurey of Burgundy, France. This old world pinot noir played very well with the coq au vin.

The fourth course was a seared duck breast glazed in a blueberry port sauce, served with golden potatoes gratin dauphinois, and braised carrots. This was paired with a 2015 Revelry Vintners, Merlot out of the Columbia Valley in Washington state. It’s palate of red and blue fruit and nice tannic structure were a perfect match for the dish. The duck was tender, and the blueberry port sauce was a welcomed addition to the palate of the dish. The potatoes gratin dauphinois, is a French style preparation of sliced potatoes baked in milk from the Dauphiné region of southeastern France. There are not many preparations of the potato that I do not enjoy, but the creaminess and tastiness of this dish, definitely made this dish shine.

To end the dinner, we were served a dessert consisting of a salted caramel peanut butter silk pie. This was paired with a Coste Petrai, Prosecco Treviso Brut of Veneto, Italy. I was tremendously satiated at this point, and I could barely indulge in the peanut buttery richness of this dessert. However, the bite I had was divine. The bubbles were a perfect way to cap a wonderful evening spent in very good company.

Saltine Cracker Fried Oyster with Cornbread Salad
Prime Rib Bruschetta
Springer Moutain Farms Chicken Coq Au Vin
Seared Duck with a blueberry port sauce, Golden potatoes gratin dauphinois, and braised carrots