I’ve been agonizing for weeks about how to write this post. Finally, I decided to just come out with the crux of the matter in the title: we are leaving Birmingham.
This move is bittersweet for us. We love Birmingham and the community of friends, including many close foodie friends, we’ve made here. The reason for the move is an exciting job opportunity for me, and the decision was a difficult one. But it’s all set-we leave July 31.
We’ve been slowly telling people – mostly close friends and colleagues – about the move over the last several weeks. Usually the first question they ask is, “What about the blog?”
The blog was also one of the very first things we thought about once we had made the decision. We started it nearly 4 years ago, and it has become such a big part of our lives. It’s something we care a great deal about.
But importantly, the blog was never actually about us. It was about two food enthusiasts (not experts) discovering the exploding food scene in Birmingham, which includes all the stuff you would expect in a small-ish Southern city (BBQ, fish and grits) but also a whole bunch of stuff you might not (momos, pho, Poke). We just happened to be the first people to do it, and we knew we wouldn’t be the last. The trick would be to find someone who could carry on the spirit of what we started, and even take it to the next level in ways we didn’t and couldn’t.
You may recall that a few months ago, we were interviewed by Erin Shaw Street for an article about our blog. Erin’s background is in journalism, and also in media and PR-she’s done it all. The three of us shared a mutual enthusiasm for Birmingham food, and also a collective philosophy. As we sat at The Pizitz and talked for hours over Ono Poke about much more than just what she needed for her post, we realized that we all had a passion for using writing and photography to tell compelling stories about the people behind the food. We also shared an appreciation for What to Eat in Birmingham’s ability to do this unfettered by external pressures. We are our own bosses and our own editors, and that allows us to focus on telling the stories we want to tell. These stories are often about new-on-the-scene, not-yet-famous, off the beaten path restaurants, chefs, and food entrepreneurs. Erin really “got” us. We just clicked.
So it was no surprise that when we decided to leave Birmingham, we immediately thought of transitioning the blog to her. Several weeks after her article was published, we sent her an email out of the blue inviting her to John’s City Diner. And it again was no surprise that she understood exactly why we wanted so badly for the blog to continue. It was over the dark chocolate bread pudding that she agreed to take it on. (That bread pudding is amazing, and it will make anyone agree to anything, guaranteed.) Our conversations continued at Falafel Cafe and Starbucks (gasp), and by email over the following few weeks. We talked big picture strategy, logistics, and transition planning.
The most important first step in the transition plan was figuring out how to tell you, our blog fans, as well as the close friends of the blog who have joined us to try so many amazing restaurants. We thought, no better way to accomplish both than to have a typical friend-of-the-blog meal, this time with Erin as the guest of honor. Since we had been wanting to do a post about Big Spoon, and it’s always best to make transitions and build new friendships over high-calorie foods, we had the perfect plan.
So off to Big Spoon we went one Saturday night in late May. We invited so many friends of the blog-names you may recognize from our previous posts-Ashley, two Heathers, Victoria, Kristina, Michelle, Jo, and Leight. This enabled not only a smooth transition, but for us to order the entire menu-an important bonus. (We were already showing Erin the ropes of how it’s done, and laying the groundwork for future meals with this enthusiastic group.)
Another huge bonus is that not only do we get Erin’s writing skills (she has actual training and mad skills, y’all!), she has a full-time unpaid intern. Her son Nate, age 11, is a budding photographer.
So as not to deprive you of the food pics you love and have come to expect, here’s what we ate. Big Spoon clearly has this craft ice cream thing down. Launched in 2014 with an ice cream trike, the storefront recently debuted. Not only do they make amazing ice cream, but everything that accompanies it is also made from scratch and just as thoughtfully prepared. Here we go:
First of all, the store, located in the ever-expanding Avondale, is gorgeous. Being inside is an experience that occupies all the senses-the simple yet artful aesthetic mixes with the aroma of sugary happiness.
Snack time (contains chocolate covered pretzels, cookie dough, and brownie bites) over strawberry, on a homemade waffle cone:
Lemon poppy over pistachio on a chocolate waffle cone:
I asked for all the toppings not otherwise represented to be placed on snacktime-there’s some cookie dough and chocolate covered potato chips.
A cookies and cream sammie:
Speaking of letting go….we stood back and watched Erin and Nate clink spoons with the crew we love so much, who have been so integral in developing and maintaining this blog. And now, I’m going to let Erin take it from here. Our crew got to know her, and now it’s your turn. Here are a few words from the new voice behind the blog:
I love supporting storytellers and locally-owned businesses. This transition has a little bit of both. First, a note about our eating-of-the-feelings ice cream adventure. Big Spoon was a fitting place to meet the What to Eat crew.
I met the Big Spoon owners, Ryan and Geri-Martha, back in summer 2014, when they posted an Instagram shot of Big Spoon’s first batch of ice cream for sale. They sold it from their driveway. I was so impressed, I wrote about it for Southern Living, where I worked as a travel editor at the time.
Now Big Spoon has this beautiful storefront and continues to turn out batch after batch of high quality ice cream. Sharing a banana split with the What To Eat team and my family, knowing I’d help continue this site, was a great moment.
Truth time: back when I was a magazine editor, I’d read What To Eat In Birmingham and think, ‘Who are these people?’ The truth is, they scooped me in my own city. That drives media types nuts. It wasn’t until years later — this spring — that I met the people behind the site. As we shared a meal in Pizitz, it struck me that that they had pulled off a major coup by helping shape the look, feel and experience of this space that would change the Birmingham food landscape.
Over the course of years, they established themselves as a trustworthy source of information. It’s important to note that these are two people with robust, non-food/non-publishing careers, who set out on the purest mission: find good food, vet good food and create a rich resource for our community and visitors. They’ve done that humbly and quietly, without shining the spotlight on themselves. Instead they point their attention toward spectacular dishes, great dining experiences, and the hardworking men and women behind Birmingham’s food culture.
I moved to The Magic City in 1998 to work at the Birmingham Post Herald. Back then my regular dining experiences included the long-closed La Paree and the forever-may-she reign Nikki’s West. There was no Railroad Park, no artisanal doughnuts, and certainly no Ethiopian restaurant. There were no bloggers, no Food Media South (which played a pivotal role in the launch of What To Eat), no “influencers.” There were just old school reporters, men and women whose restaurant reviews guided the way.
Nearly 20 years later, one thing is the same: people want to know, “Where should I eat?” In many ways, joining this team is a return to where I started: straight up reporting. Community. And if I do it as well as my predecessors — service.
I’m honored that this duo has asked me to help continue to tell stories on this platform, and take that seriously. We come from different backgrounds but share the same mission: to point people toward delicious food in this great city. And to support diverse business owners who put their hearts into their product and services.
It’s my hope that What To Eat In Birmingham will continue to be a dynamic resource for people who are visiting or new to our city, or those who’ve been here for a while and have an insatiable desire to try the next great meal.
It’s funny how things work. When The What To Eat Team told me they were leaving Birmingham I was bummed. When they asked if I’d be interested in continuing the site I was beyond thankful. It felt right to have that conversation in a place where generations of people had enjoyed the same cornbread sticks, even when ownership changed.
As they’ve mentioned, I’ll be joined here with the next generation of content creators — namely my 11-year old Nate. A rising sixth grader, he’s grown up going on reporting expeditions with me, and dreams of being a botanical photographer. But food first!
Please be patient with us as we get going. We might make some changes, but are committed to continuing the quality and spirit of what you’ve come to expect here. Please continue to send tips and suggestions!
And we can’t eat all this food ourselves, so will be calling on friends new and old, to help. I believe we can all support local businesses, tell stories, and be a part of advancing our community’s food culture.
And for our fearless founders — your seats will always be at the head of this table.
Now, where can I get a good meal in Pittsburgh …