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!

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.

 

 

George’s Farmers Market

It is my favorite time of year. The weather has started to warm up. The sun shines a little bit longer every afternoon. The azaleas and dogwoods are abundant, and they are blooming. There is a haze of yellow dust from all the pollen in the air, and the grass is getting greener. I eagerly bring out the Birkenstock sandals, paint my toes, and start enjoying an Alabama spring!

Another favorite part of this season is the beginning of planting the garden in our back yard, flowers in my pots on the front porch, and being able to buy some of our favorite produce of the season that we’ve missed over the colder months. One of our favorite places to stock up on local produce, meat, and all other things local is just a short drive from Auburn and Opelika, George’s Farmers Market off Highway 431 in LaFayette, Sturkey proper.

This Sunday, my husband and one of his good buddies went turkey hunting at our family’s place in LaFayette. Since the weather was so incredibly beautiful I suggested that we meet in the middle at George’s Farmers Market, and I would bring a picnic lunch. It was a perfect day for a picnic. The sun was warm, but there was a nice cool breeze. There are several picnic tables, a sandbox, and monkey bars for the little ones to play on just to the side of George’s Market. I have also witnessed many beautiful sunsets at this exact spot. It is a great spot to have a picnic whether it is for lunch or dinner.

After we finished our lunch, I did some grocery shopping for dinner. George’s Farmers Market has all the necessities to stock your pantry, and for a delicious dinner. Some of the things we bought included: Alabama tomato basil pork sausage out of Eclectic, two beautiful Georgia raised pork chops, plenty of sweet baby squash, sweet potatoes, local lettuce from Selma, cheddar cheese out of North Carolina, and I also stocked up on local Auburn honey while we were there, harvested by  Jesse’s Girls Honey. Wild honey is great to add to your diet during allergy season. It is believed that eating local honey helps you build up resistance to the pollen, easing allergy symptoms. Plus, it just makes everything taste yummy. It is a great alternative to other sugars as well.

With our finds we were able to create delicious appetizers and dinner. We grilled the Alabama tomato basil pork sausage, and used the cheddar cheese to make pimento cheese. In my opinion, any southern appetizer platter must have pickles, so we added some canned pickles as well. We ended up with a beautiful local, homemade-style charcuterie board. We paired this with a 2016 Schloss Vollrads Estate Riesling. The Riesling was sweet, crisp, and delicate. It reminded me of wild southern honeysuckle. This pairing was a great juxtaposition to the savoriness of the sausage and pimento cheese. What a great way to start the evening, and dinner.

For the main course, we cooked the pork chops. We first rubbed the pork chops in Uncle Clyde’s Gold Dust Seasoning, out of Selma, and put them on the hot grill. We took the sweet potatoes, diced them up, tossed them in a light dusting of cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, paprika, salt, and pepper and baked them until tender. Right before serving we drizzled the honey over the sweet potatoes. The sweetness of the honey played well with the spices on the sweet potatoes. This is absolutely my most favorite way to eat sweet potatoes! With the baby squash, I sliced it in half and lightly salted the squash halves. Let them sit for about five minutes and sweat. I, then, heated about two tablespoons of butter in a skillet, put the squash halves face down in the butter, and sautéed the squash, flipping occasionally, until the butter starts to brown the squash and a slight char is achieved. I had an elderly lady teach me this preparation a long time ago, and it became the only way I want to eat squash. We put together a salad with our fresh local lettuce and tomatoes. It was the perfect meal. The pork was juicy, tender, and flavorful. The sweet potatoes were delicious and savory. The squash was sweet, soft, yet crispy. We amazingly had enough left over for lunch for one the next day. For the entree, we paired a 2011 Chateau de Vaudieu Chateauneuf-Du-Pape with the pork. The rich, complex flavors of this wine paired nicely with the well-seasoned pork.

George’s Farmer’s Market is open Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 5 PM and 1 PM until 5 PM on Sunday. Hours may vary if weather is inclement. The drive from Auburn or Opelika is short and scenic. Pack a picnic, and go enjoy their outdoor space. If you are social media savvy follow their Instagram and Facebook pages to stay up-to-date with the events, special hours, and other things they have going on at the market. Some of the events they host throughout the year range from farm to table dinners, sunflower fields, pumpkin patches, Christmas trees, and pie tastings. You definitely can have a good time while grocery shopping at George’s, make new friends, and discover new local products that you will not want to live without.

Pro tip: If you are fortunate enough to catch them with a stock of their fresh homemade sourdough bread, buy it! It is amazing!

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