Wagner Family Wine Dinner

Last week we were delighted to attend the Wagner Family Wine Dinner hosted by The Depot in Auburn, Alabama, and International Wines and Craft Beer. We arrived early, as we customarily do, and had a few cocktails at the elegant bar in the entrance of the restaurant. I tried one of the current specialty cocktails, the “Gardner’s Spritz”. It was refreshing and slightly-citrus. It would have been a perfect brunch drink or a dock-side libation. John Mark ordered his usual Maker’s on the rocks.

As attendees started piling into the bar area the wait staff started passing around the appetizers. One them was a crostini-like bread with basil, roasted tomato on top, including a sardine. Chef Scott Simpson explained he wanted to showcase the sardine, as they are a sustainable food. I have tried sardines in the past, and personally, have a strong aversion to anything with a strong fish taste or odor. John Mark enjoyed the bite but agreed that the sardine would not have suited me. The other appetizer being passed around was a black-eyed pea falafel with a Romesco-like sauce and crumbled feta on top. It was absolutely divine. I think these would be a great addition to The Depot’s bar bites menu.

We all promptly seated for dinner and Chef Simpson along with John Mark Davis of International Wines spoke about the courses we were about to be served and the wines that they would be paired with. The Wagner Family of Wines belongs to a family in Napa Valley, California, who have farmed the area since the mid-1800s, beginning to grow grape vines in the early 1960s. They were put on the “wine-world” map in the early 1970s with their Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon. The family produces several labels and all of the wines we had this evening were exceptional. The pairing efforts of the chef and sommelier demonstrated beautifully throughout the dinner.

The first courses consisted of a very delicate portion of grouper from the Gulf of Mexico. The grouper was abed a helping of jicama slaw, arugula, and a black-eyed pea puree. Jicama is more commonly known as a Mexican turnip and has a slight sweetness to it. It is often compared to a cross between a potato and a pear if that helps you visualize the texture and taste easier. These flavors were a delightful pairing with the Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay.

For the second course, we were served a wonderful salmon dish. I never order salmon because it can be cooked inconsistently from one restaurant to the next, but this salmon was cooked to perfection. The salmon had been prepared by first having been rubbed in herbs, then later by grilling on cedar planks. It was served atop a bed of spring onion and carrot risotto, which was out of this world good! The blueberry beurre rouge sauce was a very interesting combination with the salmon and risotto, but I was delightfully surprised at how well it paired with the dish and wine, and thoroughly enjoyed trying a blueberry type sauce on a salmon dish; very outside of the box. The beurre rouge is the colorful sibling of beurre blanc, which is more commonly seen on menus. A beurre blanc is a classic French sauce, comprised of shallots, butter, reduction of vinegar, and white wine; whereas, the beurre rouge is made of shallots, butter, and reductions of red wine vinegar and red wine. The blueberry was a nice compliment to the dish, but really brought home the wine pairing of the Mer Soleil Reserve Pinot Noir.

For our third course, chef presented us with a coffee-rubbed Beeler Farm pork cheeks, rosemary fingerling potatoes, broccolini, upon a base of a mole negro demi. Beeler Farms is located in Madison County, Iowa, and they have been raising pigs and selling their pork since 1846. I was pleased to see the cut of pork used, the cheeks. I have had them in the past and knew that the cheeks of the pork were one of the most delicate pieces of pork you can get and that this would be a real treat. The mole negro demi-sauce was excellent, adding great richness and flavor to the pork. This also was another dish I would not mind having again. The Red Schooner Voyage 6 was paired with this course. This wine is a Malbec with grapes grown in the Andes Mountains, that are chilled and then shipped to Napa Valley, California for processing and bottling. The robust flavors of this wine paired wonderfully with the complex and deep flavors of the mole negro demi and pork cheeks.

Finally, the dessert course was brought out. I was very intrigued by the description of the dessert on the menu and was most curious about trying the candied prosciutto. The goat cheese tart itself did not have as much flavor or sweetness as I thought it would. The goat cheese itself was pretty savory. There were honey and Marcona almond base on the plate, which I probably should have scraped onto my fork with each bite of the tart to add the sweetness that was needed. The candied prosciutto was amazing! I would love to see this again and again, used in any way possible. Who doesn’t love candied bacon, in one form or another? The Conundrum Sparkling Rose was a perfect ending and pairing for this dinner. This dry, delicate sparkling wine is the perfect compliment to any dessert and any occasion.

I highly recommend checking out The Depot in Auburn, and/or tasting some of the Wagner Family Wines upon your next opportunity!

Front entrance of the building. Mural by R.C. Hagans.
The “Aperol Lavender Spritz”
Extra dirty Tito’s Vodka Martini
Menu for the Wagner Family Wine Dinner
Falafel bites with goat cheese on top
Sardine Crostini’s with basil-roasted tomato and mint
Thyme Roasted Gulf Grouper with Vanilla Jicama Slaw, Arugula, and black-eye pea puree
Cedar Planked Salmon, Spring Onion and Carrot Risotto, Blueberry Beurre Rouge
Coffee Rubbed Beeler Farm Pork Cheeks, Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes, Broccolini,  and         Mole Negro Demi
Goat Cheese and Candied Prosciutto Tart with Toasted Marcona Almonds

Downtown Auburn Family Supper

On a warm spring evening residents of Auburn and Opelika gathered in downtown Auburn for the first ever Downtown Family Supper. We had previously attended a similar event in downtown Dothan a few years back, and I was really excited to see the idea brought to the “Loveliest Village on the Plains”. Tichenor Avenue, between College Street and Gay Street in downtown, was blocked off for the evening for this special event. Farm tables and sparkly lights were lined down the center of the street for the most picturesque scene. The dinner was served “family style” which is comprised of large portions passed and shared among the tables. The weather couldn’t have been better, and the night was overall blissful.

Six of downtown Auburn’s chefs came together to create the food offerings.  The dream team was comprised of  (in no particular order) David Bancroft & Caleb Fischer of Acre, Leonardo Maurelli and of Ariccia Trattoria, Scott Simpson of The Depot, Robbie Nicolaisen of The Hound, Miguel Figueroa of Amsterdam Cafe, and Patrick Gallagher of Hamilton’s on Magnolia. They all donated their talents & time for the evening, along with much of their restaurant staff also volunteering their time to help with the serving of the food and wine. All the proceeds from the supper will benefit the non-profit organizations, Downtown Merchants Association and Nourish Alabama. Nourish, AL was created through a partnership between Hornsby Farms and Pediatric Associates of Auburn with a mission of providing food insecure families in Lee County and the surrounding community with healthy nutritious foods and the tools to prepare them. This dinner with out a doubt embodied, in so many ways, the great community we are so fortunate to live in.

Each attendee enjoyed a five course meal, wine, and entertainment by Martha’s Trouble. The wines for the evening were Hahn Pinot Noir and Flint & Steel Sauvignon Blanc. Both wines paired really well with all the dishes served. The Sauvignon Blanc was especially nice with the Togarashi tuna poke prepared by Scott Simpson of The Depot and the bright beet salad prepared by David Bancroft of Acre. The Hahn Pinot Noir was particularly good with the incredible, fall-apart Heritage Farm pork ribs with the watermelon molasses prepared by Chef Robbie Nicolaisen.

Every dish that was served was incredibly delicious and every bite was thoroughly enjoyed. All efforts that went into making this inaugural event special were above and beyond. Although Auburn is changing in many ways, the core of who we are as an Auburn family is strong and unwavering. Proud to be a part of this place we love calling home.

The tablescape for the evening.
Chef David Bancroft adding the secret sauce to his brussel sprout salad.
What an appetizing menu!?!
Amazing collaborative effort! Go team!
Chef Scott Simpon’s Tuna Togarashi Tuna Poke.
Chef Scott Simpson of The Depot on Mitcham Avenue downtown Auburn.
Chef Bancroft’s golden beet salad, sultanas, fried peanuts, and mint.
Chef Bancroft’s shaved brussels sprouts, peach vinaigrette, smoked bacon and blue cheese.
Chef Miguel Figueroa’s chicken chicharrones with a garlic mayo ketchup.
Chef Robbie Nicolaisen’s roasted carrots, pepper jelly, burrata, and pistachio dukkah.
Chef Patrick Gallagher’s signature macaroni and cheese.
Chef Leo Maurelli’s extruded pasta primavera, local veggies, arugula, and pecan pesto.
Chef Figueoa’s pineapple upside down spiced rum cake with piña colada buttercream.

 

Wine selections for the evening, Hahn Pinot Noir and Flint & Steel Sauvignon Blanc.

Iron Chef Wine Dinner

Last evening we were able to attend the Iron Chef Wine Dinner at Acre in Auburn, Alabama. David Bancroft, chef and restaurant owner, won the Iron Chef battle on the Food Network back in December. Our community could not be more proud or happy for him, his family, and his team. The dinner featured a five course menu based around the dishes that helped David win the competition on Iron Chef. Tickets for this event sold out in minutes. We felt very fortunate to be able to attend.

The wines paired with each course were from the Honig Winery out of Rutherford, California. Michael Honig was in attendance and spoke about the winery and the wines that were paired with each course. I was lucky enough to visit this picturesque winery with my husband a few years back. We attended a wine dinner in their vineyards for the summer solstice. It is an exquisite property, and I strongly encourage you to visit if you are ever in the area.

Cocktails started at 6 PM. Guests were welcomed into the dining area by servers carrying trays of the first wine pairing, which was as 2017 Napa Sauvignon Blanc. This was paired with a short rib tartare, which was served on a crostini with an oyster mayo, lime, and radish greens. They were also passing around a delectable lagniappe David had prepared, a Conecuh sausage and oyster donut with a cheesy mustard sauce on top. They were absolutely divine! I hope to see these on the menu in the future.

The dinner was assembled in the bar area of the restaurant.  Two long tables were lined up in a farm table style setting. We had a great time getting to know our companions at the table who shared our love for food and wine. Christin, David’s wife, did an a marvelous job with the decor for the dinner. I loved the personal touches used for the place cards. They were Honig wine corks that had been halved and held the place card for each seat. The flowers arranged down the center of the tables were exquisite. C. Wayman Floral & Events  did the floral arrangements for this event, and also keep the restaurant regularly styled with beautiful bouquets of flowers. I have been a long time follower of theirs on social media and have always admired their striking floral designs.

As everyone took their seats, Christin welcomed and thanked everyone for attending. David came out and talked about the preparation for all the dishes. Listening to him describe his food is absolutely captivating. You can easily see and hear his excitement for his thoughtfully constructed dishes. He is genuinely excited for you to eat his food, and the excitement is contagious. Caleb Fischer, the Chef de Cuisine at Acre and future Executive Chef at the soon to open sister property Bow and Arrow, spoke on the final course, the bone marrow pots de crème. Caleb is also a local celebrity. We have thoroughly enjoyed watching him compete on the Spring Baking Championship, also on  Food Network. We hope he can too bring back a win for our hometown!

For the second course, we were served David’s famous Alabama tamales. He makes them with a sweet potato masa, spicy chorizo, and wraps them in collard greens, versus the traditional corn husk. On this particular evening, he had the tamales atop a bed of a melon vinaigrette. Listening to him describe the preparation of the vinaigrette had my mouth watering. The delicate sweetness of the melon vinaigrette paired perfectly with the spiciness of the chorizo. The 2016 Rutherford Reserve Sauvignon Blanc paired sublimely with these flavors as well.

The third course was a St. Louis style rib that had been coated in a chicken skin streusel and blackberry preserves. Being a true southerner, they won my heart at chicken skin; Yummy, crispy chicken skin. These were by far the best ribs I have ever had. The deep, rich flavors of the preserves coating the rib, and the subtle crunch of the delicious chicken skins were mind blowing. This course was the introduction to the red wine pairings. The pairing for this courses was a 2015 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.

The fourth course consisted of another style of rib, a slow smoked beef short rib. The wine pairing for this dish was my favorite of the dinner. The bold, robust flavor of the 2014 Bartolucci Cabernet Sauvignon stood up to the rich, complex flavors of this rib dish. The beef rib was covered in a roasted beet gravy and Alabama morel jam. There was a little bit of raw celery and peas atop the rib that added a little extra crunch and texture to the savory, fall-apart rib. The beet gravy and morel jam were out of this world good! I hope these two items will be a mainstay on the menu at Acre as well.

The final course was a heavenly dessert, which was paired with a 2016 Napa Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. The dessert was a bone marrow pots de crème that had a toasted hazelnut sprinkled atop a lemon curd with a red ribbon sorrel garnish. This pairing and dish was the favorite of our dinner companions. The bright lemon was subdued by the bone marrow, and the hazelnut crunch on top added texture to the dish. Caleb really has a knack for making incredible desserts.

We had a delightful evening at the Iron Chef Dinner. The food and wine pairings were sheer perfection. We enjoyed getting to meet the other diners and share with them our love of food and wine. We are so proud of Acre and their team. They do an exemplary job of demonstrating true Southern hospitality, and we are truly blessed to have them in our community.

Beautiful tablescape.
David Bancroft (right) and Caleb Fischer (left) talking about the menu.
Michael Honig talking about his winery and wines.
Short Rib Tartare.
Conecuh sausage and oyster donut with a cheesy mustard sauce on top.
Alabama tamales.
St. Louis Style Rib with chicken skin streusel.
Personal touches!
Slow Smoked Beef Short Rib.
Bone Marrow Pot de Crème.
(L-R) David Bancroft of Acre, John Mark Davis of International Wines, Michael Honig of Honig Winery.

 

 

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

R

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

Valentine’s Dinner At SpringHouse

The first dinner date my husband I went on was at SpringHouse, on Lake Martin, Alabama. I had to meet him there because I had to work late that evening. We met first at a friend of his lake cabin, where we would be spending the weekend. I got lost on one of the many dirt roads that led to the cabin, and I couldn’t help but think, “where is this man taking me?” When I finally reached the bottom of a red dirt hill, it opened up to a quaint cabin nestled on a slough on emerald green Lake Martin. We had an amazing weekend, and share many fond memories from this time we were falling in love.

SpringHouse was the absolute first choice for our Valentine’s celebration, which was also the kick off to an extended weekend vacation. I highly recommend reservations if you are planning to dine here. It is by far one I’d the best dining experiences in the state of Alabama. My husband and I prefer sitting at the chef’s counter, where you can witness the dynamics of the kitchen. We have had many memorable celebrations here over the years, and once you visit, you will certainly see why.

Chef Rob McDaniel has a dumbfounding way with his cuisine. I have never had a dish there that didn’t blow me away. He makes me enjoy such things as sweet breads, duck, and octopus. I feel safe exploring stranger cuisines when I know he is preparing them. I can’t think of a time I have ever been disappointed.

We started our evening out at the upstairs bar. Of course, it being Valentine’s Day, the entire restaurant was bustling with chatter and laughter. My husband had his usual, Maker’s on the rocks, and I tried the Lemon Twist cocktail. The weather was mild enough to go out on the patio deck and take in the view of the stables, and in what seemed like seconds, our seats at the chef’s counter were ready. I highly recommend getting here early enough in the evenings to watch the sunset. It is breathtaking.

For starters we ordered the pimento cheese stuffed peppadew peppers {a favorite} and the deviled eggs. We also had an order of the Benton’s ham and biscuits with red-eye gravy and cane syrup. If you’ve never had Benton’s bacon or ham, try it immediately! All of these dishes were spectacular, and we were left with very ‘happy’ plates.

For our entrees I ordered the bone-in pork chop. The set consisted of green Carolina rice and a sweet onion gravy. It was perfectly seasoned and delicious. My husband ordered the duck. Typically we each order different entrees so that we can share and try a wider variety of foods.

Not to slight the pork chop, but the duck was on point. I am not a huge fan of duck either. It has to be prepared perfectly for me to really enjoy it. Chef Rob didn’t disappoint. The skin was extra crispy and complete perfection. The duck meat was prepared medium rare per chef’s recommendation. It was delectable. It didn’t have a gaminess or chew that some duck I have had in the past that was not to my liking. The duck was atop a yummy farro, butternut squash, pickled raisin, and kale bed. It was a beautiful and well thought out dish.

All of our dinner was paired with a 2014 Domaine Louis Boillot Gevery-Chambertain which was an excellent compliment to both main courses.

For dessert we had the caramel pot de creme with pecans paired with a Madeira flight from Rare Wine Company’s Historic Series. It consisted of three different Madeiras; the Savannah, the New York, and the Boston. I loved the combination of the different dryness levels with this dessert.

I cannot fail to mention Daniel Goslin and his service staff. They were attentive and helpful throughout the evening. Their immaculate service did not go unappreciated. It was a perfect ending to a wonderful dinner at one of our favorite places. We can’t wait for our next SpringHouse experience.