Roots and Revelry:  SNEAK PREVIEW

Once in awhile, Mr. Foodie and I have an opportunity to gain access into Birmingham’s inner foodie circles.  This is a weird thing for me.  I’m by nature an introvert, and as you know, I blog anonymously.  However, once a blog post is up, it often ends up “outing” me to the restaurant owner.  And sometimes, as a result, I get the opportunity to check out some really amazing food and report back to you, my loyal blog fans.  These opportunities usually come out of the blue, when I’m least expecting anything exciting to happen.

Last week, I was enjoying an evening of laundry folding and Netflix documentary watching when I saw an email from John Hall’s PR person.  She had recently become involved in another pop-up dinner series in Birmingham (which seem to be popping up everywhere, pun intended) and wanted to know if Mr. Foodie and I would attend an upcoming event.  No requirement to blog, she just wanted me to be there.  Of course, I said yes, and I signed up our bloggie friends Sandy and Ben to join us too.

She tells me she’ll email me the day of with the location and she does – in a loft building downtown, and tells me to arrive a few minutes before 7.  This made the event sound so covert and hush hush, I felt the need to wear a dress and high heels.  When we get there, this is on the door, along with the suite number of the event:

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[suite numbers have been removed to protect the foodies and chefs]

Roots and Revelry!  I vaguely recalled her mentioning something about this in the email …. this is the new restaurant brought to you by Chef Brandon of Saw’s BBQ and Post Office Pies fame that will occupy prime space in the newly renovated Thomas Jefferson “Leer” tower when it re-opens next year.  Turns out, this dinner is part of a sneak preview series Brandon is running to show off how amazing Roots and Revelry is going to be.  When we get upstairs, we find Sandy and Ben already enjoying a glass of wine in front of an incredible panoramic view of the city including, of course, the Leer tower.

We stand around talking and watching the chef and his staff work.  With the open floor plan, we’re practically in the kitchen and a part of the action.  We soon meet another couple who tell us that their daughter and her boyfriend have just moved to Birmingham, and they will be joining us soon as well.  When they arrive, we sit down and begin to introduce ourselves and how we all came to be at this dinner.  The new Birmingham residents turn out to be our neighbors … and they also turn out to be the new owners of the Leer tower.  As a die-hard city person and downtown Birmingham enthusiast, I was thrilled to have a meal with a couple who had made the conscious decision to play a pivotal role in Birmingham’s downtown renaissance.  And they and their family were the nicest, most down to earth people you could ever meet.  For Mr. Foodie and I, this is a recurrent theme in our time in the Magic City.  We are just two regular people and on a routine basis, we have the opportunity to meet very forward-thinking, creative people who are helping to fill important voids in our city.  Sitting there waiting for what I could already smell would be an incredible meal, I felt inspired.

And it certainly wasn’t lost on us that we were looking out of a giant loft window at the Leer tower, about to eat a meal with the owner of the Leer tower, from a chef whose restaurant will soon be inside the Leer tower.  You can’t make this stuff up.

So then, the food begins to arrive.  First, this salad. Pickled cucumbers, fresh corn, and tomatoes tossed in a light lemon dill vinaigrette.  Such a nice, light way to start the meal.  Completely refreshing – tasted like summer.

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Here’s a close-up.  Isn’t it beautiful?

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Next, tuna tartar on top of a bed of leaks cooked with a touch of cream, surrounded by a mixture of fried and not fried capers.   The saltiness of the capers mixed with the freshness of the tuna, with a tiny bit of cream to round it out.  Absolutely fantastic.

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And of course, a close-up:

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Then the first meat course.  Pork loin on a bed of what you southerners would call peas, but what I would call beans, topped with homemade pepper jelly.  Served medium rare, the pork was so tender it just melted in my mouth.   I typically hate all beans, but a few dishes in Birmingham have recently begun to win me over.  This was one.  Perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked, a great accompaniment to the pork.  Several of us requested extra pepper jelly – I could have just eat that all day.

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Now for the profile view:

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Then the second meat course.  Rare-medium rare lamb t-bone served with a thick, slightly sweet blueberry-blackberry sauce  over summer squash and tiny potatoes.  Again, the meat just melted.  The sweetness of the sauce enveloped it, and the saltiness of the potatoes and vegetables cut right through.  Delish.

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Finally, the much awaited dessert course.  A white Chilton County peach – chosen for its firmness, which helps it hold up well while cooked – in a Greek yogurt sauce, drizzled with a deeply rich pomegranate reduction and topped with toasted pecans.  The simplicity of the dish allowed the incredible flavor of the peach to shine through – a truly Alabamian dessert.

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After dinner, we had the opportunity to talk to Brandon about his philosophy.  What he had hoped to do with our meal, and what he plans to do for Roots and Revelry, is to create a casual fine dining experience that reaches a point somewhere in between fancy southern cuisine and BBQ.  His philosophy is to use cooking techniques that allow him to “get out of the way,” as he put it, so the top notch ingredients can shine through.  His approach came through loud and clear in every course in our pop-up dinner.  If this is what he can do out of a tiny loft kitchen, I’ll be first in line to try his food at Roots and Revelry.

There are still a few more dinners in this Roots and Revelry preview series.  If you are interested in attending, please contact Caitlin atCaitlin.justice@gmail.com ASAP.