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*pick your poison.

You know, I'm a fan of an addiction. I think there's something to be said for singular focus to the point of madness. It indicates passion, and provides fodder for excellently maudlin television programming.

I have many addictions: '90s sitcoms, sartorial stretchiness, cleanliness avoidance, binder clips, Pandora radio, That Damn Dog, and making a long story much, much longer.

But lately I've developed a heroin-level hankering for orzo. (Witness here, here, and here.) Frankly, there's a lot of pasta in this here vegetarian diet, and it turns out that if you cook a late-night batch of orzo and dump cheddar cheese into it, you have a feel-good snack that should probably shame anyone who's staring down the barrel at her 30th year.

Not that I know anyone fitting that description.

I had planned to make something else entirely for dinner, but I started scratching and twitching when I arrived at the greengrocer and U-turned to Ina's Roasted Shrimp and Orzo.

I halved the recipe, which meant I only needed 1 pound of fresh shrimp.

scrimp.


Or in the case of the Publix, 1 pound of previously frozen shrimp. The liquid from these is a canine aphrodisiac. Should you at any point need that information. Once the tails are removed, the shrimp get a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and are shoved into a 400-degree oven for 5 to 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, a big pot is bubbling on the stove, cooking up the beloved pasta. I mean really, what is better than this?

or zo.


All the ecstatic high from cooking meth, without the danger of melting your face off! (Note: This does not apply to me. The incidence of flesh-burning in my case is equal for orzo and amphetamines.)

While the pasta cooked, I made the vinaigrette—olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper—

simply dressed.


then poured it over the still-warm pasta.

pour, favor.


I think I might need a moment.

The shrimp come out of the oven, in typical Ina Garten fashion, perfectly cooked.

curls.


After that, it's mixmaster time. Big bowl, pasta, shrimp, green onions,

green delicious.


cucumber,

kewk.


red onion,

ornion.


parsley,

parse.


dill,

dilly.


and feta. OK, no, that's not feta. It's ricotta salata. Feta has always baffled me, because I think it's the black sheep of the cheese family. I just find it almost prohibitively salty. The ricotta option isn't much better, but it's great for leftovers because it doesn't break down the way feta does.

lotta ricotta.


Then the whole mix has to sit for an hour for the flavors to come together.

shrimp mix.


At which point a person can do the dishes, or take the dog for a walk, or finish a couple of loads of laundry, or train her cockeyed stare at something brain-damaging on the CW.

shrimp salata.


Make this. Now. No, seriously, right this second. Don't make me ask you twice. I know I had this for lunch, but I NEED MORE. Just a bite, I swear.

I'll quit tomorrow.

Rock the weekend, ladies and gents!
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*christmas in july.

Yesterday I arrived on the Woodside to find that Santa had been there! This past Christmas the momster gave me a DNA kit for J, an attempt to determine his diverse (and, I naturally presumed, illustrious) ancestry.

badge of honor.


Two weeks ago I carefully swabbed J's slobbersome cheeks to collect a sample of his genetic material, then lovingly wrapped the Q-tips in their official! sterilized! envelope! and put them in the postman's capable hands.

bio pet.


When the certification arrives, it is explained thusly:

levels.


Level 1 breeds are those with which your dog shares more than 75 percent of his DNA. J's results were ...

DRUM ROLL PLEASE ...

nuthin'. Whatevs. He doesn't need to be a "majority" anything. He would prefer to be an abjectly insane mix of things. Good news, J!

Level 2 breeds are those with which your dog shares 37 to 74 percent of his DNA. J's results were ...

DRUM ROLL PLEASE ...

STAFFORDSHIRE BULL TERRIER! Or what is essentially known as the American Pit Bull. Go figure.

laughing bull terrier




But wait! There's more! Level 3 breeds are those with which your dog shares between 20 and 36 percent of his DNA. J's results were ...

DRUM ROLL ahfergetit.

SHIH TZU!

Are you kidding me?

Daisy


underbite.


OK, you have a point. But still. Are you kidding me? I have a pit bull/shih tzu mix? A pit shit?

Jesus.

Level 4 breeds are those with which your dog shares 10 to 19 percent of his DNA. J's results were ...

BOXER! Go ahead and gloat everyone in the world who predicted this but me. I know you want to.

Ellie flossing with neighbours toys.




And also ...

ITALIAN GREYHOUND! Um ... kay ...

Pumpkin Portrait


fore legs.


And finally, LHASA APSO! What the holy hoo hah is that?

TJ




So there you have it. The answer you've all been waiting for. Our beloved J, killer of squirrels, licker of butts, eater of anything that stands still long enough, is ...

a staffordshire shit box greyhound lhasa.

ancestry.


I'm so proud.
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*brunch drunk.

The FinFam used to descend upon any range of local eateries for Sunday brunch, traipsing in in vast hordes with varying looks of too-much-sleep or last-night's-makeup crusted around the eyes, screeching "IS IT NOON YET?"

We live in the Bible belt. In our county one can order a cocktail, but not until after 12 p.m. Because that's when Jesus takes his nap.

That Sunday tradition has for the most part been replaced with more recession-friendly activities, like cooking at home and drinking bottom-shelf hooch.

But this week we revived it for a day, making our triumphant return to Avo, a relatively new 'ham establishment characterized by one of those infuriatingly unpronounceable names that makes you say, "Hey, you wanna go to Ay voe? Ah voe? Whatever?"

Turns out it's Ah vo, short for avocado.


cado.


The decor is whitewhitewhite with big windows ushering in pretty light and views of storybook rooftops. When I saw the too-cheerful sunflowers occupying oh-so-modern square vases on each table, I was all, "Mary Engelbreit decorated this place?"

But then I realized they were real, and I had my comeuppance.

fleur de sol.


TFin and I both ordered the Sutter's Hill, a sunrise comprised of Hangar One vodka, freshly squeezed orange juice, tangerine juice, and house-made grenadine.

grenadine.


Topped with one of those horrible cartoonish cherries, which I normally hate but relished in this incarnation. It gave the whole thing a Shirley Temple quality. If Shirley needed a swift buzz. The tangerine juice cut the orange juice's classic cloying nature, and the grenadine was sweet without being too mawkishly cherry flavored.

I ordered the fish tacos, beer-battered cod with cabbage slaw and poblano salsa.

dear cod.


The fish was a little underseasoned, but these are all about texture, and the cabbage slaw added that beautifully. It was subtly dressed, but the poblano salsa, a nice touch, needed a little more kick for my taste. The slightly charred tortillas were a nice touch, but a girl needs more than two wimpy lime wedges!

For dessert, I had the blackberry chantilly pie, a rather odd concoction that LSis declared "like a Jell-O no-bake dessert." The gingerbread crust was strangely not at all crusty, and there's just something disconcerting about eating purple food.

chantilly.


The chocolate mousse TFin ordered fared not much better.

moose.


The florentines were crunchy and nutty, but the mousse lacked chocolate flavor and the brandied cherries may have given an unsuspecting LSis baby Stella's first hangover. And the portion was absurd. A mousse is a dessert best served by the spoonful, not the bucketload.

I think the problem with Avo for Sunday brunch is that you're looking to be wowed—The Foodimentary Guy ordered the steak and potatoes, which was $20. When you order cocktails at $10 a pop, your expectations are high. You want fireworks, or solid-gold flatware, or shirtless waiters.

The dining room was echoingly empty, which made the pace of the meal rather breakneck. On our way out we ducked into Dram, the whiskey bar that occupies downstairs space from Avo, and the menu there looks inventive (if also prohibitively expensive). I spied bison burgers and masculine black-and-white horse photographs and—gasp!—poutine.

Oh, maybe I'll go back. I can do without some of the finer things, like "laundry detergent" and "dog food."

Avo
2721 Cahaba Rd
Mountain Brook, AL 35223-2333
205.871.8212
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*weak ender.

48-HOUR AGENDA


Eat.

lox stock.


Drink.

dick's.


Be sleepy.

regal.


Have a rock star weekend, my people!
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*water water everywhere.

I can't complain too stridently about the weather here lately, because the temperatures have been 10 degrees below normal with a precocious breeze. But yesterday we had a pissy little rainstorm, and today it is oppressive. Sure, 82 degrees is nothing to cry about, but 62 percent humidity?

That's walking through an armpit, is what that is.

What that means, for those of you who live in temperate climes, is that everything is wet.

fallin' on my head.


Sure, some of it can be pretty.

dew flower.


But the grass on the Woodside is being choked out by weeds, the plants are growing gangly and untended, and whole swaths of vegetation have surrendered to repeated canine stampedes, yet I've somehow managed to grow fungus the size of dinner plates.

gills.


shy shroom.


fungus.


These things grow like other people's children—bigger and more monstrous every time you attempt to annihilate them.

princess jasmine.


Nothing is free from the assault of moisture.

teardrops.


And just a few weeks ago, this appeared outside a neighborhood house of worship.

repent.


Should I be worried?
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*five high.

Birmingham recently snagged its very own Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and despite more than four years as a DC native, I'd never heard of the District bastion.

That could be because I'm not generally a big burger girl, or it could be that I have a tendency to avoid leaving the house and refer to things that happened more than a year ago as "recent."

In 2007, Birmingham Business Journal outlined what sounded like a cocaine-addict's business plan, meant to ensure that there is a Five Guys next door to every single living human on the planet, but as there's currently only one Woodside-adjacent location, I assume this wacky economy gave the administration pause to put down the blow for now.

As a professional contrarian, I'm sometimes put off by superlatives, and Five Guys does all it can to remind you that they are THE BEST.

The menu is simple—hamburgers and hot dogs, with or without bacon (with a "little" option for the kiddies), veggie burgers, and grilled cheese. Toppings are plentiful and free, and fries come in two sizes.

I ordered the grilled cheese, because I was afraid the veggie burger would have veggies in it. Mayo, lettuce, tomato, and freshfreshfresh onions, please.

let us.


Look! A vegetable! That's how you know this meal is healthy. Never mind that mayonnaise and cheese is arterial spackle; I have it on good authority that lettuce has cholesterol-neutralizing properties. My cardiologist told me that. Or maybe it was Paula Deen. I wasn't really paying attention.

There is something narcotic about this sandwich. Buttery, yielding bun; soft, mild, salty cheese; and crunchy veg. I know it sounds ridiculous to wax ecstatic about a grilled cheese, but cut me some slack. I haven't had a surprising front-stoop kiss from a nice boy in a very, very long time.

Overshare!

At Five Guys, it isn't really about the fries. They're a little overly brown for my taste, but that's tempered by the fact that they're served from a bulldozer. Quantity over quality, friends.

guys' fries.


And now, with storm clouds gathering out other people's windows and work clothes bunching in uncomfortable ways, I'm jonesing for some 100% cotton and a brown bag of yum from FGBaF. Where there's coke in the business plan and heroin in the food.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries
585 Brookwood Village
Birmingham, AL 35209
205.414.8459
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*praise the lord and pass the ammunition.

It sometimes can be impossible to describe to people what it's like to live in Alabama, where James Beard–winning chefs and Nobu chefs compete for market share with steam tables and chicken-fried steak, and some of the poorest counties in America occupy real estate just a few hours south of NASA.

I live in a city where the mayor is this homophobic nutjob and the town criers are these two chinless wonders.



(Roy "Crazy Eyes" Moore makes a spectacular cameo on that video. Watch as he struggles to find the word "empathy." Then Doocy tries to say the name of Moore's book and it comes out So God Help Me. TELEVISION GOLD.)

There will always be things here that will make me laugh and there will always be things that terrify me, but it's super nice of the American Legion to render them simultaneously.

pass the ammunition.


This is a (very large) sign that resides along tree-shaded streets in a cozy Birminghamlet. I understand the sentiment and I respect the service and I appreciate the context, but I really would like to drive down a street without getting the peripheral sense of large guns around every corner.

So let this serve as your tourism guide: There is only one way to visit a cemetery in this fair state, and that way is heavily armed.
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*paws for reflection.

paws for reflection.


A strange thing happened this weekend.

There I was, mindin' my own business, cuttin' at the shrubs and mowin' the grass, when I received astonishing news: TFin and JB had a baby.

salie.


Her name is Salie, the Catahoula Heart-stealer.

run, salie, run.


She's 6 months old. She slept straight through her first night home with nary an accident. She's blue-eyed and full of moxie. She was practically free and she hangs on your every word and she never, ever talks back.

love at first sight.


She's already his favorite child.




Photos 2, 3, and 4 taken by JB.

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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.

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