New York: Blue Bottle Coffee New Orleans Iced Coffee. Photo by Dan Schumacher

New York: Blue Bottle Coffee New Orleans Iced Coffee. Photo by Dan Schumacher

My relationship with coffee began, as many do, as a casual friendship. I had been working overnight at Apple’s Fifth Avenue store and after a year of nocturnal living found myself wanting its warm, comforting buzz. It wasn’t the energizing chemicals so much as the atmosphere of Mud, a slightly-small, dark East Village coffee shop that really got me hooked. Manhattan felt more crowded and hostile all the time and I knew I could always wrap myself in the warm blanket of good music, hot espresso macchiatos and friendly faces.

Birmingham: Urban Standard Cappuccino. Photo by Dan Schumacher

Birmingham: Urban Standard Cappuccino. Photo by Dan Schumacher

It was a treat, a preemptive reward for being productive. I didn’t drink it daily or prepare it for myself–I didn’t own any of the necessary equipment. Months later I started a mostly-new life in Birmingham, Alabama, a city that from the start I could tell wouldn’t be as innately challenging as New York. That was a relief, but the feeling wore off as the reality of starting over set in. There was no nearby Mud to serve as my hideout, and there weren’t many people I could have shared it with even if there were. Urban Standard opened a few months later and provided Downtown Birmingham with just the kind of expertly-made coffee and social space I needed. Still jonesing for more? Click through

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It’s been a while

by Skip on November 1, 2010

in Birmingham, Alabama,News

Ensley Steel Mill

Abandoned Steel Mill in Ensley, Alabama

Good readers, I have not forgotten both of you. Over the last few months, I have been quite busy performing my writing and editing services. Birmingham Magazine took me on as their primary food blogger at Good Taste, in addition to my monthly beer and casual dining columns in their print edition. The weekly posts there have robbed this Sandwich of many posts. Sorry about that.

Strawberry-Buttermilk Ice Cream

Strawberry-Buttermilk Ice Cream. Photo by Caleb Chancey.

In other blogland news, Birmingham photographer Caleb Chancey approached me with a collaboration that we eventually published on Kim Sunee’s website. That recipe for Strawberry-Buttermilk ice cream is one of my favorites and I was happy to share it with Caleb, Kim and her loyal following.

That brings me to my last bit of news, dear readers. After much deliberation, I left Birmingham for plumper pastures at the end of August. After three years, I feel like I had just scratched the surface of that magical city and already miss my friends and colleagues there with my whole heart. This blog, as it was centered in Birmingham and about the South, will be migrated to my other blog–The Gourmetro–and in all likelihood, this will be the final post. That site is undergoing serious upgrades and will be pretty and functional soon. The Gourmetro was originally envisioned as a group blog about excellent, attainable food and travel centered in New York City. Over my years there, it had three major contributors and I am excited to have it running again.

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Fresh out of bed, I was set on doing what I’d done the last few Sunday mornings: whip up buttermilk biscuits. Then I saw @writingherstory‘s tweet about  Lemon-Lavender scones, and was sufficiently intrigued. I went through the ingredient list and thought I’d give it a go even though was out of lemons and fat-free yogurt (well, to be honest I never really have fat-free yogurt).  Lime zest and juice, and homemade creme fraiche would perform well enough as stand-ins.

Coco’s recipe from her Roost blog was well-written and made a really kick-ass, tender scone. The glaze is sweet, limey and compliments the scone very well (the lime zest flavor did not come through in the scones themselves). I usually skip glazes, but this one was worth it. Please see my amendments below:

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Fat Man's Bar-B-Q Last month, Birmingham Magazine sent me out to St. Clair County. The beautiful, rolling hillsides of St. Clair County–about 30 minutes East of Birmingham–is chock full of great local eateries. Pell City had a bunch of barbecue haunts, and I found one of the best catfish fillets I have ever eaten.

Meanwhile, Brannon’s Public House has come into its own in downtown Birmingham. I stopped by a few times for sandwiches, burgers, and beers and left impressed.

See additional photography I shot for Birmingham Magazine’s March issue, and click for more about Brannon’s, and the St. Clair Barbecue and Catfish story. [click to continue…]

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Buttermilk Biscuit

I have a lot of fond memories of these biscuits as an eight-year-old on humid summer days in my Dad’s kitchen, but I hadn’t picked up the recipe since 2005, when I began experimenting with it. Vegetable shortening was the first item on the list (I can hardly abide it). I started by reducing it to half-and-half butter and shortening , then all butter, then I got crazy and tried substituting olive oil. A lazy baker, I stopped rolling the dough and began producing oddly shaped drop biscuits. They had some flake, the familiar crumb and half the mess, but they weren’t the same.

Five years later with a quart of full-fat buttermilk in the fridge, I pulled out the old recipe. Looking it over, I saw some places I could improve on my Uncle Joe’s old biscuits. My food processor incorporated the butter and I patted out the dough by hand. That first all-butter batch was well-layered but greasy and flat. I fired up the oven again, and reduced the butter by 25 percent (leaving all other measurements alone). I processed that second batch less, froze the butter  beforehand, and was constantly conscious of how much I handled the dough.

The result? Damn good (if I must say so myself).

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