Clear your Saturday brunch schedule, fellow foodies. Let me explain.
I met Kristen Farmer Hall 5 years ago this month, before I even moved to Birmingham. She was one of the very first people I met when I visited. I always tease her that Mr Foodie and I moved to Birmingham so we could be her friends-and it’s really true. Kristen’s enthusiasm and optimism about Birmingham helped us feel confident that we would find our niche here. And we have.
When Kristen started a craft bakery, Baking Bandits, it made sense. (Read more about the adorable story behind Baking Bandits here.) She is one of the most creative people I’ve ever met. She has the ability to take something that you know well, something that could be ordinary – a brownie, a chess bar, a scone – and elevate it to an extreme. She started the business out of her home, then developed a strong following at Pepper Place and at Rev Birmingham’s Woodlawn pop-up shop. I should mention that not only has Kristen become known for her food’s deliciousness, she’s also admired for its beauty. Her baked goods are such works of art that her hand-painted short bread cookies were featured in an installation at the Birmingham Museum of Art. This has also led to some enviable food photography and a stunning Instagram account. Everything she touches turns to beautiful.
With all of that as a solid foundation, exactly a year ago, Kristen entered the Big Pitch. This is a business pitching competition hosted by REV Birmingham, an influential local business accelerator. She pitched opening a storefront, and she won. Since then, we have been following along closely. When Mr Foodie and I ran into her at Hotbox a few months ago, she told us she had come up with a name: Feast and Forest. Feast and Forest is a joint venture between Kristen and Victor King, formerly of Highlands Bar and Grill, who also had his own pop up dinners for a stint. Their first collaboration involved making meat pies – she made the crust, he made the filling. What a perfect foodie partnership.
In advance of its opening, Feast and Forest has already been profiled on Carrie Rollwagen’s blog and in Good Grit Magazine. These pieces do a great job of telling the backstory in more detail than I have here-and you should read them. But, fellow Birminghamster foodies, we wanted to be the first ones to bring you the low-down on the food.
We went to check it out on Day #2 of their soft opening, this past Saturday. I enlisted the help of my trusty foodie friend Ashley, who is obviously a good friend as she also helped me out by going on a pre-food run so we would be maximally hungry, and was up for trying anything when doors opened at 7am. (We wanted to be sure they didn’t run out, so we got there right on time.)
Feast and Forest is located at 212 24th St N – right around the corner from Urban Standard and just down the street from my beloved Yo Mamas and Bamboo on 2nd. This corridor is becoming quite the foodie destination.
The outside is beautiful in its simplicity:
The inside is too. The display case is a vintage find and sets just the right tone for the room. Kristen and Victor made the tables from gorgeous wood they bought from a local developer. The exposed brick reminds you that you are in a loft space in downtown Bham. Remember, everything she touches turns to beautiful:
Here are some photos of the goodies saying “pick me! pick me!”
Let’s take a closer look at those brioche cinnamon rolls. Like flowers they are:
As you probably guessed, we had one of pretty much everything. They also had 2 of their hot items: their breakfast bowl and quiche. We ordered both. When they have their full opening later in the week, they’ll have an even wider selection of breakfast on weekdays and brunch on Saturdays. Did I mention they also serve Octane coffee to go with all of this?
Our first course was baked goods. First, these beauties:
One of those unbelievable looking cinnamon brioches with a pecan pop-tart. I couldn’t believe how light and fluffy the brioche was-and cinnamony sweet. Incredible, and unlike anything I’ve had before.
The pop tart can be heated or served cold. Super flaky pastry crust with gooey, sweet candied pecans inside. Oh my. Here’s the interior view:
Kristen brought over a rosemary shortbread cookie for us to try. It was the perfect savory accompaniment to what we had just eaten. Still sweet, but the rosemary really shone through:
Before breaking egg:
Next, the quiche. The lightest, fluffiest eggs you can imagine. I had to ask how they do it-they’re whipped. Almost has the consistency of cheesecake. Mixed with roasted red peppers, and framed by a flaky pie crust of Baking Bandits quality. Served with a nice light salad with a yummy vinaigrette dressing. Incredible.
We decided that we needed a dessert course. Ashley and I had been eyeing the Nutella pop tart from the very beginning. Nutella isn’t Mr Foodie’s favorite, but it was so beautiful that even he had to agree that we needed one. Look at this:
So to sum it up, Feast and Forest is a much anticipated, welcome addition to Birmingham’s burgeoning downtown brunch scene. Its unpretentious atmosphere, combined with stellar hot food and bakery items, are a reflection on the creativity, vision, and let’s face it, perfectionist streak Kristen has shown us since the early days of the Baking Bandits. To put it bluntly — and I’ve said this to Mr Foodie a million times since I heard that Kristen was going to be opening a restaurant — Kristen is not someone who I’ve ever known to do anything half-a**ed. Everything she does is a painstakingly planned work of art. Feast and Forest is the actualization of her approach. And now working together with Victor, who is clearly cut from the same cloth, a new Birmingham foodie gem has been born.
Note: Feast and Forest’s official opening date is this Thursday, November 19th. After that point, it will be open Tuesday-Friday serving breakfast and baked goods starting at 7am, and Saturdays serving baked goods starting at 8 and brunch starting at 10. A milk and cookies happy hour in the afternoon is also in the works.