Lucy’s

For our last date during the month of June, we returned to the place where we met. June for us is a month of celebrations. We met on June 8, 2013, and had our first date together at what was Maestro 2300. Three years to the day we married in a wine vineyard in Oregon. My birthday is the following week and it’s the beginning of summer fun. Needless to say, I love June.

In the building where Maestro 2300 used to be located in the Moore’s Mill area of Auburn, Alabama, you will find the newly-opened, completely-renovated, vibrantly-cheerful,  Lucy’s.  Lucy’s is a great addition to the restaurant scene here in our growing community. Classified as a neighborhood eatery, with killer cocktails, shared plates, wine on tap, and good vibes only. During our visit, they lived up to all these things.

Upon entering the restaurant, I believe you will be blown away at the transformation Lisa VanderReijden, one of the owners and interior designer has done with this space. Her design style is impeccably classy and timeless. This space resembles nothing of is predecessor. It’s vibrant white, with black and yellow tastefully accenting the room. It’s no longer a choppy, obstructed dining room, but a beautiful open space that is welcoming and inviting. The beautiful bar, and the locally made metal accents throughout by John Howell add an industrial feel to the space.

We were seated in one of the booths just left of the bar area. It was a perfect spot to view everything going on in the bustling restaurant. As we usually do, we started with cocktails. My husband ordered the Affirmation, which consisted of Redemption Whiskey, Cappelletti, Vermouth, bitters, and Jack Rudy Bourbon Cherry. If you’ve never tried Jack Rudy products, I highly suggest you do. One of my favorites is their classic tonic syrup. It makes the best vodka tonics! I ordered the Habanero Paloma.  This delicious sip consists of Casamigos tequila, grapefruit, habanero simple syrup, sparkling rosé, and a Himalayan salt rim. This was a great kick off to  our dinner.

For starters, we ordered the tuna poke and the truffle fries. The tuna poke was a beautiful and colorful dish, almost too pretty to eat! You have probably seen poke restaurants starting to pop up. Poke originates from Hawaii and refers to the type of preparation of the dish. Poke is a chopped salad consisting of raw tuna (in this case), cucumbers, avocado with a house yuzu dressing. Lucy’s serves theirs with a side of plantain chips for dipping. The tuna was fresh and delicious, and I really enjoyed the plantain chips. The truffle fries were as expected, savory and delicious.

For our entrees, I ordered the Argentinian style New York Strip steak. My steak was cooked perfectly to my desired temp, medium well. I know many would criticize my temp preference on steak, but I like what I like, and that’s what I order. The chimichurri sauce served over-top of the steak was yummy. I almost thought about asking for more. Chimichurri sauce is a raw mix of finely chopped parsley, garlic, oregano with garlic, red wine vinegar, and red pepper flakes, originating from Argentina and Uruguay. The sides were lovely roasted potatoes that had been smashed into a flat disk, blistered tomatoes, and perfectly cooked asparagus. Everything was perfectly season and very tasty.

My husband ordered the garlic and rosemary lamb shank. The presentation was pretty awe-inspiring. The shank was served over McEwen and Son’s polenta, with stewed vegetables and braising jus. The shank peeled off the bone with ease, and all the combined flavors worked really well together. We enjoyed a bottle of a 2015 Jean Louis Chave Offerus Saint Joseph. This wine is comprised of one-hundred percent Syrah, which paired nicely with both of our meals.

Last, but certainly not least, we ended this magnificent feast with attempting to share the dessert board. This astounding board of chocolateness was comprised of ice-cold Blue Ribbon milk out of Tallassee, Alabama, served alongside fried cookie dough balls, and a hot fudge sundae with the cutest tiny milk can full of fudge to pour over ice cream and meringue crisps, and finally a small iron skillet full with monkey bread, served with bourbon butter pecan ice cream.  It was all sinful to the say the least, but was thoroughly enjoyed.

I cannot wait to dine at Lucy’s again! I really want to go back and try their brunch menu they serve on Saturday and Sunday’s. I see many more drinks and dinners here in our future!

Dinner menu.

Cocktail menu.

His and Hers Cocktails. The Affirmation for him, and the Habanero Paloma for her.

Tuna poke and plantain chips.

Truffle Fries.

Argentinian Style New York Strip steak with chimichurri sauce, served with asparagus, blistered tomatoes, and roasted smashed potatoes.

Lamb Shank served over polenta with stewed vegetables.

Dessert Board  (L-R) Ice cold milk from local creamery, fried cookie dough balls, hot fudge sundae with meringue crumbles, and monkey bread with Bourbon butter pecan ice cream.

A SpringHouse Birthday

“We literally ordered one of everything on the menu.”

For my birthday this year, we spent the weekend at a little slice of heaven on earth, Lake Martin, Alabama. We arrived late Friday evening and promptly went to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, SpringHouse. We arrived early in hopes of having time for cocktails and to also catch sunset off the upstairs porch. We arrived just in the nick of time and caught the sun just beginning to set behind the rolling hills and pine trees that color the horizon.

After enjoying our cocktails, we were seated near the chef’s counter in the downstairs dining room. One of our friends attending dinner with us this night was the opening bar manager at SpringHouse, so returning here for him was a very special treat. Before any of us could make an order, he told the waiter that we would just have one of everything on the menu, which is exactly what we proceeded in doing.

Some of the highlights of the starters were the boiled peanuts. You cannot get much more southern than serving boiled peanuts. I love them. They are the perfect southern snack. I enjoy them hot, and I enjoy them cold. I have even had a delicious boiled peanut soup that was simply boiled peanuts pureed into a smooth soup and seasoned to perfection. Another simple delight were the dressed cucumbers. This dish is very reminiscent of a dish my grandmother always has in her refrigerator during the southern summer months, cucumbers dressed in vinegar, salt, pepper, and a little bit of olive oil. When our summer garden produces cucumbers, this is something I love to have on hand to snack on. I like adding a little bit of sugar in some warm vinegar before pouring it over my cucumbers, but they are equally delicious without the added sugars. The final two highlights of the starters we had were the heirloom tomato pie and the grilled chicken sausage served over a delightful warm potato salad. The tomato pie was bright with acidity, and savory full of oozing pimento cheese. I could have eaten the entire pie by myself. The grilled chicken sausage was delightfully smoky, and the bed of potato salad was a southerner’s dream.

Our entrees were equally satisfying. Mr. Jim’s vegetable plate is one of the standout dishes for me. It was one of my favorite things to order at SpringHouse during the summer. I love fresh vegetables, and I love them even more when prepared by Rob McDaniel. The creamed sweet corn is to die for, and really could be your meal or your dessert. The squash gratin on the vegetable plate was also quite yummy. The squash still had a good bit of tooth to it, and you can pretty much put cheese on anything, and I’m going to love it.  For our proteins, we ordered the Tanglewood Farms chicken breast, the Black Angus ribeye, the pompano, and the pork loin. My favorites of this bunch were the ribeye and the pompano. You could not go wrong with any dish, but these two were my standout favorites.

Next time you and a group of friends go to dinner, just order one of everything on the menu and have a family-style dinner. Share laughs, delicious food and wine, and make memories that will last a lifetime!

SpringHouse sunsets cannot be beaten!

June 15, 2018 Menu

Grilled Chicken Sausage on a bed of creamy potato salad.

Dressed cucumbers.

Heirloom tomato pie.

Head-On Gulf Shrimp Cocktail.

Sauteed Squash.

Mr. Jim’s vegetable plate.

Tanglewood Farms Chicken Breast on limas and cornbread with a buttermilk aioli.

Hickory Grilled Pork Loin with balsamic and basil pesto.

Wood Oven Roasted Whole Pompano.

SpringHouse O.G.’s (L-R) Rob McDaniel (chef), John Mark Davis, (opening general manager), Grant Landry (opening bar manager)

Arricia Trattoria

Saturday evening we had the luxury of trying out the new menu at Arricia Trattoria in The Hotel at Auburn University located on College Street in Auburn, Alabama. Several things that I really like about Arricia Trattoria is that they serve dinner seven nights a week. I like not having to plan around a restaurant’s own schedule to accommodate my own dinners and events. Also, they have a Mediterranean style menu. I lived abroad for some time during college and really fell in love with the style of food and the pace of life found in many of the countries along the Mediterranean. Being able to have an experience and a little taste of that culture is always delightful to me, especially when executed accordingly. Lastly, the ambiance of the restaurant can suit any occasion. You can enjoy casual attire and a more casual dining experience, but you can also dress to the nines, and enjoy an exquisite, bougie date night here.

Upon entering the restaurant you are greeted by an open style kitchen. I love being able to see into the kitchen in which my meals are going to be prepared. We stopped and spoke briefly with the executive chef, Leo Maurelli III. Leo and my husband have been friends for many years, both graduating from the Hotel and Restaurant Management program at Auburn University. We have followed Leo’s culinary adventure from Central in Montgomery to here locally at the hotel. We have been blown away many times by his culinary skills and we were excited to see his new menu rolled out at Arricia.

We ordered a mixture of smaller plates and shared them together. We often opt for this style of eating when we go out. We like to try a variety of things, and often times I do not want or cannot eat an entire portion myself. The new menu here is perfect for that style of eating, but you definitely could enjoy the portions on your own too if you do not like to share.

For starters, we began with Leo’s choice, which consisted of the cillengini with sweetie peppers, basil, and balsamic. The sweetie pepper was something new to me. They originate from the Peruvian Amazon, and although they look tiny and fierce, they are sweet and delightful. I loved getting to try a new take on a classic dish (Caprese salad). We also tried the grilled octopus that was served with fingerling potatoes and a delicious, spicy romesco sauce. My husband about devoured this entire dish by himself. The third dish chef had us try was the Ahí tuna crudo. It was the standout dish for the evening. The tuna was light and refreshing, and the garnishes of lemon oil, citrus, shallots, and fennel made this my absolute favorite dish. It was delicate, yet very layered with flavors, and was a combination that I had never tried before. I thoroughly enjoyed the citrus pairing with the tuna.

We were enjoying our shared style supper so much we continued on our dinner throughout the evening in this style. Next up, we ordered the roasted beets, the heirloom polenta, and the burrata salad. The roasted beets stole my heart. I am a huge fan of beets, especially when they are cooked in a creative and delicious manner. The roasted beets had been tossed lightly in lemon oil and had a sprinkling of crushed pecans and blue cheese on top. It was absolutely scrumptious and another standout dish this particular evening. The burrata was also simple and delightful. The polenta was a huge hit with my husband. Polenta has a similar taste and consistency to grits, but they are different in that grits are typically made from white cornmeal and are ground finer, and polenta is made from ground yellow corn and is much coarser. It was creamy, and oh so good.

Even as we were getting full, we found ourselves unable to stop eating. We wanted to try one of the fresh plates of pasta they were making that evening so we ordered our favorite to share, the carbonara. It was delicious! The entire meal reminded me of being at a grandmother’s house in Italy; more food than you could ever possibly eat, and everything reminded you of home and comfort.

We had any bits of food we had leftover boxed up so we could finish enjoying them at home. This food was so incredibly good that we could not dare let even a scrap go to waste. We wanted dessert but were too full to continue eating. We ordered the tiramisu to go so that we could enjoy it later at home.

We highly recommend that you check out A.T. on your next date night! They often also have jazz in their lounge area, so follow them on their social media outlets for updates on their events and happenings!

New menu for Arricia Trattoria.

Ahí Tuna Crudo

Grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes and romesco.

Cillengini with sweetie peppers, basil and balsamic.

His and Hers Cocktails (L-R) Shaken, not stirred and Bellini

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Oh so good heirloom polenta. 

Roasted beets with lemon oil, toasted pecans, and blue cheese.

Carbonara.

2016 Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay

Tiramisu to go!

Playa in Orange Beach, Alabama

We had the pleasure this past weekend of checking out the newest restaurant in Orange Beach, Alabama.  Playa at Sportsman Marina is located at 27842 Canal Road just a short distance down the road from the legendary Doc’s Seafood Shack. I had been following the restaurant’s opening progress on their social media outlets and was just as thrilled to check out the interior design as I was to check out their menu!

The restaurant had just opened their doors on Monday, May 21st. I was happy that our trip down to visit relatives coincided with the opening of this new place. My excitement could hardly be contained, especially after finding out they had my favorite cocktail, frosé. We had an early dinner Saturday evening with friends on our way to the Florabama to hear another friend’s band play on the tent stage.

When you first pull off Canal Road into Sportsman Marina all you can see is the large boats and live oak trees that lead you down toward restaurant, which is perfectly situated dockside. You can also reach Playa by water, finding the docks just beyond Robinson Island in Terry Cove. We are fortunate to have family that lives right in Terry Cove, and I can see us spending many dinners here in the future.

Upon entering the restaurant, you will immediately be transported into a beach haven, with art deco flair, and coastal comforts. Johnny Fisher, the owner of Playa and Fishers also in Orange Beach, did an excellent job with the design of the space; from the tile details on the floors to the nostalgic cocktail glasses. Playa exudes character and charm. Our group was seated at a long booth with the prettiest vinyl palm leaf upholstery, and a classic “Woodie” car painting done by a local artist and friend of Fisher’s, Lila Graves.

The food and cocktail menus are divine. I was thrilled to see my favorite, frosé (frozen rosé), on the cocktail menu. They even have frozen coke or Topo Chico for those who do not want an alcoholic beverage. The food selections ranged from fresh guacamole, street tacos, oysters, conch fritters, and whole snapper, to mainstay dishes like cheeseburgers, steaks, and chicken. There is absolutely something here for everyone. We enjoyed trying the guacamole, jerk butter oysters, and baked crab dip during our first visit.

I highly recommend that you put Playa in Orange Beach on your list of places to check out next time you are in town!

Playa Menu

Fun upholstery and local art by Lila Graves.

Exquisite Interiors. Lots of bright light.

Beautiful Bar with lots of unique details.

His and Her’s Cocktails ( L-R) La Ropa and White Sangria

Frosé

Jerk Butter Oysters

Baked Blue Crab Dip

Blackberry Farm Dinner At SpringHouse

Last night we had the pleasure of attending the first beer dinner held at SpringHouse on Lake Martin. The beers featured for this special event were from Blackberry Farm out of Walland, Tennessee, about thirty minutes south of Knoxville. Blackberry Farm has been on my dream destination list for a while, so I was excited to at least get a little taste of their experience through this evening’s dinner.

Blackberry Farm is nestled on 4,200 acres of the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. This luxury hotel will transport you into an idyllic farm experience, with “out of this world” amenities, food, and service. It is one of the most celebrated small luxury resorts in the world due to their impeccable attention to detail and superb cuisines. Tonight we were able to try a variety of the beers curated at the farm, alongside Chef Rob McDaniel’s awe-inspiring culinary skills. Matty Hargrove of Blackberry Farm Brewery was also in attendance, and enthusiastically walked us all through the beer pairings for the evening.

As we walked into SpringHouse we were greeted immediately with our first tasting of the Classic Saison by Blackberry Farms. This beer had a medium body and a refreshing effervescence that paired nicely with a Smoked West Indies Salad on a house-made cracker and crispy thin catfish with fermented rutabaga tartar.  If you have not ever tried West Indies Salad, I highly suggest you do. It is a dish that has origins in Mobile, Alabama, and can be characterized as a crab meat ceviche. However, Rob’s version for this bite was prepared using wreckfish. The catfish was also sensational. I do not consider myself a fan of catfish, but the thin, crispiness of this dish with the unique rutabaga tartar sauce was a delightful bite. They also had the Wild Saison available for tasting during the cocktail hour. It was nice to try the Classic Saison next to the Wild Saison and make comparisons. I found that I enjoyed the floral and slight fruitiness of the Wild Saison.  The Wild Saison is made with a native yeast found on the farm, which really adds to the uniqueness of these craft beers. We were also offered the Barrel Series Brett Saison and the 18 Month Brett Saison from behind the bar. These two additional saisons were very interesting tried side by side and were paired with a hickory grilled chicken oyster coated with a mustard barbecue sauce. All hor devours were butler passed on some of Tena Payne’s beautiful pottery from Earthborn Studios in Leeds, Alabama.

Daniel Goslin, SpringHouse general manager, welcomed everyone to take their seats by ringing the large dinner bell on the impressive hearth in the heart of the restaurant. The entire restaurant and surrounding property is truly breath-taking. We had lots of friends attending this event, so we ended up with a pretty fun dinner table. The conversations were flowing, just as easily as the drinks.

The first dish brought to the table was a Chilton County Peach focaccia. I loved the sweetness of the peaches contrasted with the funkiness of the Asher blue cheese by Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville, Georgia. I love ALL cheeses, but I especially enjoy testing out unimaginable cheese pairings and being delightfully surprised by them. This course was paired with a Barrel Series Brett Belgo IPA.

This dish was followed up by the smoked Manchester Farm quail, which was served with baby carrots cooked in hay and glazed with Poirier’s Cane Syrup.  This was paired with the Native Series Sorghum Saison. The quail was markedly tender, and the carrots were equally sweet and savory. It was an overall nice dish and pairing.

We were then poured a very nice intermezzo in the form of the Sensibility Farmhouse Ale, a collaboration brew between Blackberry Farm Brewery and Stillwater Artisanal out of Baltimore. This farmhouse ale was aged in French oak barrels. There was a lot going on in this glass, and it’s depth and character were perfect to reset our palates for the next two courses.

The third course was my favorite of the night, a hickory grilled scamp with seasonal marinated vegetables, ramps, and corn. I thoroughly enjoyed the white, flakiness of the scamp, and the nice sweetness and texture brought to the dish by the corn. This course was paired with a Native Series Tennessee Cream Ale.

The fourth and final course of the evening was a delightful dessert of Chilton County Strawberry cobbler with sassafras syrup and a sweet cream ice cream. This sweet treat was paired with the Abbey Quad Belgian Ale. This beer that comes in at over 8% ABV was robust and malty with beautiful notes of berriesan outstanding way to cap off another truly memorable evening doing what we love.

Front of SpringHouse restaurant.

Exquisite dinner menu featuring Black Berry Farm beers.

Hickory grilled chicken oysters with mustard sauce.

Crispy catfish with rutabaga tartar sauce.

Chilton County Peach Foccacia with Asher blue cheese and black walnuts.

Smoked Manchester Farm Quail with baby carrots and Poirier’s sorghum syrup.

Hickory grilled scamp with early summer vegetables, ramps, and corn.

Chilton County Strawberry Cobbler with sassafras syrup and sweet cream ice cream.

(L-R) John Mark Davis of International Wines and Beer, Rob McDaniel executive chef at SpringHouse, and Matty Hargrove of Blackberry Farm Brewery.