Restaurant Review

Sky Castle Gastro Lounge Review

Looking for a casual restaurant, with an upbeat vibe, and upscale, but affordable food? Look no further than Lakeview’s newest Foodie Haven… Sky Castle Gastro Lounge!  Chef Haller Magee has upgraded Lakeview’s culinary offerings in an innovative way that is guaranteed to be a neighborhood favorite!

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What Did I Sample?

For Snacks our table devoured the Roasted Cauliflower and Radish Toast!  Both are highly recommended!  The snacks added enough flavor to wet my appetite while leaving room for my entrée!

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As for main dishes, it was all about the red meat!  The Sky Castle Burger could be up for awards in the near future!  And that’s saying a lot since Birmingham is home to some pretty fine burgers!  The homemade bread and butter pickles paired nicely with the tomato jam, caramelized onions, and smoked cheddar cheese! It’s a triple threat guaranteed to give you flavor explosion!

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I can also personally vouch for the Red Wine Braised Short Ribs that were served with a butternut squash puree and charred brussels sprouts! The short ribs were packed with flavor and seasoned with perfection! Well done Sky Castle!!!

What a great environment to watch your favorite sports team, catch up with good friends, and celebrate good food!  Great memories will be had at Sky Castle Gastro Lounge! This establishment adds new personality to the Birmingham food scene!

6 Local Birmingham Eats

Support our lovely city of Birmingham by eating local!

Babalu

The best part about their food: locally grown! One of my favorite dishes involved their delicious grits that are grown in Wilsonville, AL, McEwen & Sons. They were the perfect amount of flavor underneath the Braised Beef Short Rib, which was also amazing. The portions are the exact right amount for full satiety without being too large.

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When you taste their food you can tell that it is made with care and fresh, fresh, fresh! Their food items are made daily and even their margaritas are made with fresh ingredients (I highly recommend their baba-rita).

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They are partnered with Jones Valley Teaching Farm, a non-profit organization, to promote the education on locally grown foods. Jones Valley Teaching Farm is dedicated to educating the young community on what these fresh foods can do for your body! They provide many opportunities to volunteer and get involved here.

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Sprout and Pour

Sprout & Pour has been around Alabama for some time at various farmers markets but has just opened a storefront in the heart of Edgewood!  Sprout & Pour is family owned and uses fresh and local produce to make their cold pressed juices and serves up whole food smoothies!  Many juicing techniques lose key nutrients in their methods, but Sprout & Pour utilizes a cold-pressed method that preserves the vital nutrients in the local produce they use to create their nutrient dense treats!!

Galley and Garden

The galley is the kitchen and the garden is the area for you to enjoy your delicious meal. The chef, James Boyce, originates from Huntsville and owns three successful restaurants there. The restaurant has only been open for a short time and already has stirred talk around the town. The menu features modern American-French style with southern influences. I recommend trying the Grilled Hearts of Romaine salad and Pan Roasted Gulf Mangrove Snapper.

Dreamcakes

Dreamcakes is a locally owned bakery in the heart of Edgewood!  This bakery shares the cupcake love by sending cupcake trucks around the city!!! The creative team at Dreamcakes are consistently impressive at serving up whimsical excitement throughout the year with cupcake flavors and festive treats!  For example, during a pit-stop in October, the Wednesday special was the Sorting Hat cupcake. The Sorting Hat is Harry Potter themed and underneath the chocolate dipped topping is a SURPRISE FLAVOR! Nothing gets me like a hidden surprise inside a delicious cupcake.  Besides cupcakes there are cakes, brownies, chocolate strawberries, macaroons, and oatmeal crème pies. The shop is quaint and in the perfect area to eat outside and walk around to shop locally afterwards.  NutriFocusRD urges everyone to experience this unique & delectable bakery!!!

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Oli.O

Another family owned operation, Oli.O sells fresh olive oils and balsamic vinegars. These oils are from all over the world including: Spain, Italy, South Africa, Australia, California, and more! The shop provides tastings so you can see which oil or vinegar your taste buds prefer! One of my favorite new things to test out in recipes is infused olive oils and Oli.O has some great varieties like: chipotle, cilantro and roasted onion, organic basil, organic butter, and more! If you check out their website, they provide some recipes for your everyday needs.

Hotbox

Hotbox is considered a “permanent food stand” in the courtyard of Parkside in Avondale. I love the Avondale area, especially on a warn day when you can grab a dish at surrounding restaurants and eat at Avondale Brewery. Hotbox would be perfect for that very idea! Their menu has so much variety I would not know how to describe it besides: my perfect menu. Spicy soba noodles, beets and bok choy, carnitas tostada, and pork belly drunken noodle are on the top of my list. My mouth is watering as I type…

Therese Bridges

Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.....

How are you celebrating National Nutrition Month?!! What new foods have you enjoyed?!

This weekend I practiced what I preached at 1892 East (www.1892east.com) located in Huntsville, AL!! This locally owned restaurant is located in the vibrant Five Points neighborhood and is committed to purchasing locally grown food to support local farmers!!! The farm fresh ingredients really set the stage to ENJOY our food!!!!

We started off by enjoying a delectable appetizer featuring cheddar cheese from Wrights Dairy Farm (www.wrightdairy.com) located in Alexandria, Alabama. The appetizer was white cheddar cheese lightly fried and served with horseradish mustard sauce.

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For an entree I enjoyed Wild Salmon served with Brown Rice Pilaf with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds and Brussels Sprouts.

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To complete the meal, I enjoyed a few bites of Double Chocolate Bread Pudding with Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

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Hats off to 1892 East for a fantastic meal with friendly service!!!

How have you been enjoying your food in honor of National Nutrition Month 2014?! #NNM >

Learning to Leave with Leftovers!

Two weekends ago my mom and dad came to Birmingham to spend the weekend with me and finish up Christmas shopping!  I was so excited about their visit because my parents have always loved Christmas so they bring the Christmas spirit and excitement with them wherever they go!  To me, being around family is part of celebrating this holiday!

They arrived on Friday and were kind enough to take April and I to dinner and the restaurant was my choice!  Since I was in the mood for a good baked potato and a warm meal, I chose Firebirds (http://www.firebirdsrestaurants.com ;  191 Main Street, Patton Creek Shopping Center, Hoover, AL 35244  Phone: 205-733-2002) located at Patton Creek in Hoover!  I can confidently recommend this restaurant to everyone because the menu has a wide variety so it is guaranteed to please the largest of crowds.

For a lot of individuals, dining out can be stressful.  I hate to know that people have avoided social situations and spending time with friends and family because their eating disorder is screaming louder than they can handle!  I encourage everyone to follow two simple rules: ORDER EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT, NOT WHAT YOUR DIET OR EATING DISORDER WANTS & YOU DON’T HAVE TO FINISH YOUR PLATE!  Somewhere along the way, most southerners feel the pressure to eat everything on their plate!  Part of the dining experience is enjoy the taste, textures, and aromas of foods which can only truly happen if one is eating mindfully!

At Firebirds, April ordered the Grilled Salmon with Spiced Green Beans and Baked Potato which came out portioned very reasonable.  Her portions would deem eating 100%. My dad and I ordered the Coconut Shrimp, which was a large portion and could have been shared if we had known the amount. Especially since we both enjoyed a cup of Smoked Tomato Bisque (my all time favorite soup!) before our meal arrived!

The meal was fantastic and it came with another favorite menu item of mine, the tortilla slaw!! This delicious slaw has pumpkin seeds, tortilla strips, cabbage, and dressing!  Instead of getting overwhelmed by the serving size, I simply enjoyed eating and knew that my body would let me know when it has had enough!

Once my body tuned me in to its fullness, I asked for a box to take the shrimp home! My dad also had leftovers so I packed his shrimp up as well!  On Sunday, I prepared Mike and I dinner using the leftovers and we enjoyed a wonderful meal without the large expense! I placed the warmed coconut shrimp on top of a romaine salad topped with chopped pecans, apples, cranberries, and grapes marinated in raspberry vinaigrette dressing!

If your portions are extremely large, Be creative! Use leftovers so you can enjoy the meal over & over!

Food & Friends: Food's Social Aspect (Part 5)

So it is finally time for me to close out the Austin trip! I apologize for the long delay, but life got hectic! :)  So please refer to Food & Friends: Food's Social Aspect Part 4 to refresh your memory on our journey!

So after we purchased our delicious cupcakes from "Hey Cupcake" we ventured out for the day! The day was beautiful with a blue sky and tons of sunshine!  The feeling in the air was much like any Saturday in the southeast, excitement about FOOTBALL! Texas had a home game later that afternoon, so we got a tour of the campus to experience the excitement!  But before our tour, Zach took us to an Austin, Texas landmark since 1977, called "Trudy's". (http://www.trudys.com)

We visited Trudy's central location on West 30th Street!  To the locals, Trudy's is known for their infamous "Mexican Martini", which the establishment limits the locals to the purchase limit of 2! The restaurant prides itself on their powerful martinis, but you should be forewarned about the strength of this specialty drink! The menu had a wide variety of choices to fit everyone's taste!

April ordered the Spinach Quesadilla which was a flour tortilla filled with spinach, spicy black beans, and sauteed mushrooms and onions!

Zach ordered the Fish Tacos which is properly listed under "Southern Specialties" on Trudy's menu! The fish tacos were 2 corn tortillas filled with breaded tilapia fillets, shredded red cabbage, and fresh cilantro. The entree was pair with a chipotle ranch dipping sauce to add a nice punch of flavor!

I ordered the Veggie Combination Plate which consisted of an enchilada filled with mushroom and cheese, a spicy black bean taco, Spanish rice, and beans!  I can confidently recommend this choice to any future visitors to Trudy's, but the spicy black bean taco did not match the same quality and taste that Trudy's represents through their other menu items!

But of all the entrees we ordered, Mike's won the prize for best flavor! Mike ordered the Chicken Flautas plate which consisted of 4 corn tortillas stuffed with spiced chicken rolled and fried. Served with guacamole, sour cream, and queso.

After enjoying this hearty, satisfying lunch we were ready to continue our adventures in Austin!  After hours and hours of wondering around the city, we worked up an appetite and decided to have dinner at a Texas BBQ place with the name of , Rudy's! (http://www.rudys.com) And yes, the name of the restaurants rhyme, but this was not our intention! ha!  I do not have pictures of our meal choices at Rudy's, but in summary we all enjoyed BBQ turkey and brisket, roasted potatoes, white bread, and creamed corn, which was my personal favorite! All items were ordered separately in family style containers!  Rudy's hosted a layed back environment and great tasting food!

This concludes my journey to Austin, Texas but more adventures of Food & Friends continue as I share more recent travels with the NutriFocus family!

Food & Friends: Food's Social Aspect (Part 4)

Upon waking up on day 2 of our mini-Texas vacation, we walked to a unique, coffee “stop” just around the corner from our adorable abode.  Jo’s Hot Coffee (http://www.joscoffee.com/congress/jossouthcongress.htm) is located next to San Jose Hotel, a hip hotel tucked away in luscious greenery, in the funky district of south Austin.Jo’s menu did not include just your ordinary coffeehouse selections. Jo’s menu included fresh baked goods, hot & cold coffee beverages, deli-style sandwiches, side items (potato salad, coleslaw, fresh fruit, chips, and shredded green salad), beer, and cigarettes! Since it was breakfast time, I was focused mainly on the breakfast menu which included breakfast tacos (which seemed to be a popular menu item in Austin), fresh baked muffins, and homemade granola!

The main advertisement on their aluminum siding shack, bragged about an original specialty drink called “Iced Turbo”.  I decided I must go with their original creation to ensure I was experiencing Austin's food genre!  So I ordered a small “Iced Turbo” and picked up a bag of homemade granola.  Since Mike and I planned to nibble on each other’s food, he picked out a freshly baked blueberry muffin!  Both items were absolutely incredible, but the true essence of Jo’s was captured in the funky, eclectic environment that consisted of an aluminum shack, random outdoor tables, non-matching chairs, and the ambiance that encouraged friends to converse and people watch as the city of Austin begin to awaken!

On the way back to the house, we decided we better go ahead and pick up cupcakes from “Hey Cupcake” (www.heycupcake.com/) since they were closed the previous night when we wanted to pick up a few treats.  Just like Jo’s, Hey Cupcake was a small establishment, (it was actually a trailer) located on the side of South Congress Avenue.  By the looks of the trailor, you would never realized that located inside was an array of delicious, delectable, freshly baked cupcakes!  Their slogan: “Who You Callin Cupcake?”

As we began reading through the menu, the decision making process became more difficult with each menu item!  So I, the dietitian, make the final decision that a decision does not have to be made because I read a sign that states “The Dozen Deal: Buy 11 cupcakes and Get 1 Free” so that is exactly what I ordered.  I asked for two cupcakes of each flavor and agreed to a sampler party later on that evening with April, Zach, and Mike!  Our "dozen deal" flavors included: Vanilla Dream, Carrot Cake, Red Velvet, Pumpkinator, Michael Jackson, and Sweetberry!

 

After sampling a combination of the Pumpkinator, Sweetberry, Carrot Cake, and Red Velvet, I claimed the Pumpkinator (the Pumpkinator cupcake is the third cupcake from the top in the box on the right-hand side in the picture above) as the winner of my personal taste test. I have to admit that my cupcake taste buds are hard to win over since I am a Birmingahm local with unlimited access to Dreamcakes Bakery (www.dreamcakes-bakery.com)  in Homewood! Although "Hey Cupcake" put up a strong fight with the Sweetberry cupcake (equivalent to Dreamcakes Simply Strawberry cupcake), I still claim Dreamcakes as the champion of strawberry cupcake making!

With a cupcake sampler plate consumed, a tall glass of organic milk to wash it all down, and tired feet from walking the city of Austin all day, it was no doubt the perfect combination to get us all ready for bed!

Austin's laid back environment continues to intrigue me on our visit.  I think the following quote can really sum up the unique and inviting restaurant industry in Austin, Texas! It's good food without the haughty attitude!

"Never trust the food in a restaurant on top of the tallest building in town that spends a lot of time folding napkins."

~ Andy Rooney

Food & Friends: Food's Social Aspect (Part 3)

Imagine this:  it’s late afternoon, the sun is setting, you are sitting comfortably on a balcony overlooking a beautiful lake (Lake Travis) with the sun set reflecting off the water; surrounded by the ones you love, laughing, talking, and taking in this beautiful picture as you nosh on a pre-dinner appetizer and a true Texas margarita!  Sound like perfection?! Well take it from me, it was!! This was the exact experience I got to enjoy with my friends & husband in Austin, Texas as we relaxed at The Oasis on Lake Travis (http://www.oasis-austin.com/).  The Oasis confidently refers to Austin as the “Sunset Capital of Texas” and after experiencing it first hand, I would have to agree! It sits directly on Lake Travis and has 4 tiers of balconies that host numerous table for all guest to enjoy the breath-taking sunset view!  I cannot vouch for the food, as we did not have dinner, but we did enjoy the chips & salsa with a fresh rita!

Our days move at such a rapid pace, that it is such a rare and treasured gift to have the opportunity to sit, responsibilities free, no time limit or time frame to heed to, with loved ones, around a table and simply talk about life, the good, the bad, and the funny! To catch-up, share stories, and laugh till it hurts are the small moments in life that make life worth living and memorable!  When I consider the number of women in the world that make excuses to avoid such social situations because of the potential of food being present, breaks my heart and fires up a passion within to encourage women to reject the “social norm to diet” and to live in freedom.. To allow a calorie to subtract from the memorable moments in one’s life is devastating.

The four of us walked away from that table totally relaxed and excited about the night’s events!  It was on to South Congress Café!!

 

South Congress Café (http://www.southcongresscafe.com/) is located on South Congress Avenue and was conveniently located within walking distance of our vacation home!  Upon walking into this venue, I knew we were in for a treat!  The atmosphere is eclectic, but chic and full of life! The cuisine was impressive due to its ability to be casual, yet elegant all at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April enjoyed a warmed goat cheese salad topped with scallops!

Mike enjoyed Grilled Pork Chop served w/ truffled mac’n cheese, vegetables du jour, spiced apple demi-glace. Mike and I shared a warmed goat cheese salad prior to our meal!

 

Zach and I ordered the same entrées and were both VERY impressed. We enjoyed the Five Spice Crusted Pork Tenderloin served with blue corn bread chorizo stuffing, a spicy ranchero burgundy sauce, and asparagus!  The flavors and textures really played off one another well and the meal was satisfying. I would highly recommend this dish to everyone that plans to visit Austin in the future!!

This concludes DAY ONE of my adventures in Austin, Texas! More to come very soon!! So I leave you with this:

"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!" ~ Julia Childs

Food & Friends: Food's Social Aspect (Part 2)

Recently I’ve had several travel experiences with friends, including a recent trip to the capital of great state of Texas, Austin!  Austin is a hot spot for creativity, in fact, the city celebrates being different which is evident by the city’s slogan - “Keep Austin Weird.” As most people know, Austin is the home to the Longhorn named Bevo.  What some of you may not know is that Austin is also home to some of the country’s best kitchens of Tex-Mex!  You won’t find many chain restaurants in Austin since the locals mainly support local and organic food establishments!  The restaurant scene is an accurate reflection of this creative, unique, and lively city which seems to be the very pillars Austin prides itself on!

My best friend (April) invited us to visit her and Zach in Austin for the weekend so Mike and I jumped on a plane not really knowing what to expect since it was our first visit to this quaint city.  We were excited about the chance to have quality time with our friends.  When you work hard during the week, it is important to make time with friends to relax, unwind, and refresh the soul!  Time spent with friends are moments to be cherished and are truly unique experiences that make life rich.  I think Julia Childs said it best when she said

" It's fun to get together and have something good to eat at least once a day. That's what human life is all about - enjoying things."

We had the privilege of having an Austin local (Zach) as our tour guide!  He loves Austin which was evident in his displayed pride and excitement towards his hometown  which was displayed throughout the weekend!  Zach treated us to some of the best Tex-Mex I’ve ever consumed! Once we arrived in Austin, Zach was gracious enough to take us to a great Tex-Mex restaurant called Guero’s Taco Bar (http://www.guerostacobar.com).

Guero’s Taco Bar is located on South Congress Avenue, an eclectic area of Austin made up of unique clothing shops, quaint homes, and sidewalks lined with locals and visitors alike.  After reviewing the menu, I decided to have the “Poquito Fajitas” (one fajita taco topped with guacamole and jack cheese and served with rice and beans) which was out of the ordinary for me. I’m usually a quesadilla type gal! But I wanted to make sure I experienced the most out of the cuisine in Austin!  The dish was phenomenal due to the quality ingredients the restaurant served which gave the food a fresh, clean flavor.

After lunch, we decided to stroll into the shops (Mike had a Jessica Alba sighting!) before we ventured into a nostalgic candy shop named Big Top Candy Shop!  This candy shop was every child’s (and adult's) dream come true!  Just to give you a slight indication of the magnitude of this store, Big Top’s slogan is “The Most Amazing Candy Shop the World Has Ever Known” The walls are lined with every candy imaginable and the cases are filled with homemade treats that range from a variety of truffles  to chocolate covered bacon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My chosen treat was a white chocolate peanut butter cup which melted in your mouth! The chocolate was smooth and decadent. The peanut butter was creamy and sweet which added a powerful flavor punch when paired perfectly with the white chocolate!  Each bite was truly divine experience all within itself!  April enjoyed a chocolate covered pretzel and Mike enjoyed a coconut haystack which both received positive reviews as well!

After consuming a portion of my peanut butter cup, we traveled on to continue our adventures in Austin. I look forward to sharing our dinner experience with you, as well as, the rest of our trip in upcoming blog entries!

Food & Friends - Food's Social Aspect (Part 1)

In America, food can be the central focus in the majority of social scenes.  For those who suffer from disordered eating or eating disorders, this can be paralyzing and increase the desire to isolate.  I am a dietitian who is passionate about removing rigid “food rules” and striving to help individuals learn how to enjoy food without limitations, but in moderation. With the holidays approaching, social eating will be on the rise.  With that being said, I wanted to share a few of my experiences dining out with my friends in a new miniseries I am calling “Food & Friends – Food’s Social Aspect.” This miniseries will be a chance for me to share a few personal experiences involving different foods I’ve recently tried, either directly and indirectly, related to a social setting in hopes to encourage you to stop allowing a diet mentality to dictate the type of relationships in your life!!  Perhaps you can also use the restaurant reviews as a way to decide where your next girls’ night out will be!

Memphis, Tennessee – October 29th – 31st

It is imperative that all women have good girlfriends.  They can be the very foundation on which we stand to survive life’s mishaps and celebrate life’s goodness.  I am very fortunate and have a few close knit friends that I consider part of my family!

During this particular weekend, a couple of my girlfriends and I planned to see “Wicked” at the Orpheum  in Memphis, TN to celebrate Halloween weekend in a new and different way!  Ms. Katrina (my BF’s mom) kicked off the weekend by giving us a “Wicked” happy which included an adorable witch mug filled with all our favorite candies!

Next, my friends and I met for a girls’ night out dinner at a fabulous restaurant called Bluefin. (www.bluefinmemphis.com) If you are ever in Memphis, you MUST put this on your to-do list.

We started off our wonderful meal with an appetizer of edamame!

April and I wanted to try sushi and an entrée so we decided to split sushi and a flatbread pizza cooked in a wood oven.

Christina is the meat eater of the group so she enjoyed a delectable steak with shoestring French fries.  Everyone left the table impressed with the service, in awe of the atmosphere, and more than satisfied by the quality of food!

We had a blast watching “Wicked” at the Orpheum!!  If you are looking to plan an entertaining evening, check out the schedule to see when “Wicked” will be near you!

And of course the night was not over until we had DESSERT!!  Dessert came from Dreamcakes Bakery (www.dreamcakes-bakery.com)  located in the Edgewood District of Homewood in Birmingham, AL. Dreamcakes' cupcakes are definitely the best in the southeast, if not the entire country! My personal cupcake favorite is the "Simply Strawberry" followed closely by "Pumpkin".  April's favorite cupcake is "Over the Moon" which is a flavor that can only be found at Dreamcakes Bakery, and my husband's favorite cupcake is the traditional white cake with white icing that  is called "Wedding Cake".  They have a cupcake for everyone along the spectrum!

The imaginative flavors and wonderful quality make the cupcakes more than dessert, they are an experience! Their slogan perfectly describes this establishment, "Cupcakes make people happy!".

Let me know if you've tried Bluefin or Dreamcakes Bakery in the past or if you do in the future! I would love to hear reviews from other members of the NutriFocus family!!

In closing, I leave you with the following quote, which I feel fully describes a "healthy" relationship with food  -

"Everything in moderation... including moderation." ~ Julia Childs