The Roaming Foodie

Posts Tagged ‘Birmingham

At least…it did when I woke up this morning, really jonesing for some tacos. I decided to venture to a Taco Truck that one of my friends here in Birmingham had mentioned several times. On a study break, of course.

The weather is incredibly warm today, and very sunny and bright, so it was kind of nice to head outside to get lunch from a truck. It’s located on W. Valley Avenue in a gas station parking lot, right down the street from my beloved Red Pearl Restaurant. There were quite a few Hispanics outside (always a good sign that the food is going to be authentic), women in scrubs, and men in business suits that reminded me of my brother. I guess because of the suits. But I digress.

All you have to do is decide what kind of meat you want in your taco (there’s a sign, in Spanish, on the side of the truck. If you don’t know Spanish, some of the names have English in parentheses, which was good for me). I had already had the “al pastor” (barbecue pork) recommended to me. I decided to be less adventurous and get “pollo” (chicken), even though I was kind of considering getting “tripa” (tripe) or “lengua” (tongue).  They have Mexican bottles of soda and such available too, but I didn’t get any, since I needed to get my tacos to go instead of sitting in the parking lot to eat. Although, it’d be a lot of fun to sit outside on a warm day by a taco truck with a friend (or the boyfriend) and eat tacos.

The chicken was so incredibly tender. It was shredded, not chopped, and just perfectly spiced and still juicy. The al pastor was chopped up, and had been barbecued in a smoky, slightly sweet marinade. I’m going to go ahead and guess it was chipotle based, but I’m not exactly an aficionado when it comes to Mexican food. All tacos come in two very soft, very fresh corn tortillas. Believe me, two shells on each taco are needed, especially after you add the salsas to the tacos. They have a red salsa, which is pretty spicy, and a green salsa, which I didn’t try because I was told it was really spicy. All the tacos come with cilantro, onions, and a lime wedge to squeeze on top. The al pastor had cheese, but I don’t believe the chicken taco did (it’s hard to judge…I kind of inhaled them). I definitely recommend this taco truck (officially called Taqueria Guzman, but I’ll always call it Taco Truck, haha) if you’re in Birmingham and looking for cheap (each taco is only $1.75) and authentic tacos. They also have burritos (the guy in front of me got one and it was HUGE), quesadillas, and tostadas. I don’t what it is, and maybe it’s just me, but food always seems better when it’s served from a truck or a street cart. And this taco truck is legit. Trust me, and go eat a taco (or three…) from Taqueria Guzman.

Back to studying. My exam is in an hour and a half. Then I’ll officially be a senior.

It’s at Red Pearl Restaurant in Birmingham.

The restaurant is tucked into the Super Oriental Market on W. Valley Rd. It’s basically the typical Oriental Market I’ve found elsewhere (reminds me a lot of the one in Pittsburgh that my mom and I visited), with fresh fish and eel (fresh as in still swimming), and even fresh conch! It’s a tiny little place full of fascinating finds for an American that is as, for lack of a better word, obsessed with Asian culture as I am.

Anyway, my Chinese 101 class went to Red Pearl together, with our laoshi (teacher, in Chinese) and our TA. We each ordered a dish or two that we wanted, Yang laoshi ordered several, and we all ended up sharing the feast that was presented before us.

I’m not even sure I can remember all that we ate, but I’ll give it a shot. Also, it’s probably the closest thing to authentic Chinese (from what I’ve heard about Chinese food from China. I’ve never actually been to China to eat it, so that statement is a slight shot in the dark) that you’ll get in Birmingham, AL.

Steamed dumplings-Definitely the best dumplings ever. They were very lightly fried, not greasy at all, and the skin was crisp, tender, and light. The filling was a typical pork and vegetable, but there wasn’t too much filling and it was very flavorful.

Eggplant in Garlic Sauce-I couldn’t stop eating this, probably because I love eggplant, but also probably because the sauce was delectable. Not too spicy, but definitely packed full of garlic, it was a nice compliment to the stir-fried, tender eggplant.

Peking duck– Not a huge fan of duck to begin with (it’s too rich and too fatty for me), but this was some good duck. I only had a bite of it, but the skin was crisp and it was seasoned and cooked well. But I probably wouldn’t order it again, but only because of my opinion of duck. Everyone who liked duck seemed to really enjoy it.

Chicken with Broccoli– this is what I ordered. Absolutely amazing. The broccoli was fresh, the chicken pieces tender, and the sauce was full of flavor without overpowering the chicken or the vegetables. Also, they didn’t drown the whole thing is sauce, which is what most Chinese restaurants do, so it wasn’t soggy at all. It was just…amazing.

Pork Lo Mein and Shrimp Lo Mein-I didn’t eat any of this, as by the time I even considered getting some, my stomach was beginning to protest being stuffed with any more food. But, the things I did notice just from looking at the dish was a) the noodles were wide noodles that looked like they were fresh made, b) it also wasn’t drowning in sauce, so the veggies and noodles still retained their color, instead of staining brown and c) there were more veggies besides onions and carrots, which is what I’ve experienced with many lo meins.

Mongolian Beef– Probably the most Americanized dish we ordered other than my chicken and broccoli, but still really good. They were a bit heavier on the sauce in this dish, but the sauce was good, so it wasn’t a problem. Not my favorite of the bunch, but then again, beef isn’t exactly my favorite thing either. Sorry I don’t have much to say about this one, but I only ate a bite of it.

Pork, Tofu, and Bamboo Shoot– This dish was incredibly good. There wasn’t much (if any) sauce on it, the bamboo shoots were fresh (not the kind out of the can), and the tofu complimented the pork in a nice way (I thought mixing tofu and pork would be weird, but it was a nice texture contrast). I loved the fresh bamboo shoots in the dish. Our TA told us that the bamboo shoots in the dish were actually the sprouts of the bamboo. Whatever they were, they were really good, and tender, and didn’t have the canned taste to them like bamboo shoots from a can.

Fried Fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce– Fried. Fish. Need I say more? (I will anyway). I kept eating pieces of this dish. The fish was fried to perfection, with just the right ratio of breading to fish. The fish was also very fresh (I’m guessing it came from one of the tanks in the front of the market), tender, and flaky. The sauce, while orange, was not quite as neon red as other Chinese restaurants. It’s something I would definitely order again if I go back (IF? I’m so going back before I leave)

Sauteed Chinese Broccoli and Sauteed Lily Bulbs with Spinach– these dishes were probably the most fascinating to me. Not because they were complex in anyway…In fact, they were quite quite simple. Just broccoli sauteed in a little oil, and spinach and lily bulbs sauteed in a little oil. And by a little, I mean hardly any. The thing that fascinated me was that I’d never, ever encountered such fresh and such lightly cooked vegetables in a Chinese restaurant. They were cooked just enough to be cooked, but still retained a bright green color and crunch. Both were very lightly salted. And lily bulbs? Yummy. They were just little white chopped up bulbs that mainly provided a watery crunch to the spinach more than any extra flavor. But it was a nice texture contrast between the crunchy bulbs and the soft spinach.

This is the best Chinese meal I’ve had. The food was great, my class is full of a fun and good-natured bunch of people, and our Laoshi is the sweetest person ever. The atmosphere of the restaurant was nice, despite its location in a grocery store. It wasn’t the fanciest place ever, but it was comfortable and clean. The waitress, who was a bit too serious at first, warmed up as soon as we started counting in Chinese while she was getting a picture of the group. She provided good and quick service, despite the fact that she was the only waitress in the restaurant serving a large group like ours plus a few other tables.

All in all, it was a fantastic meal. My only regret is that I didn’t find this restaurant sooner.

Super Oriental Market and Red Pearl Restaurant on Urbanspoon

So, my mom visited me on Wednesday and Thursday on her Spring Break, before bringing me home for Easter Break. We spent the day and a half shopping, hanging out, and more importantly, eating at a few of the places that she really enjoys in the Ham.

Wednesday:
I took my mom back to Edgar’s for one of the last visits (I’m making at least one last one myself). She ordered a Chicken Avocado Wrap, and I got the usual Red White and Blue wrap. We split it, so we had half of each wrap. The Chicken Avocado had grilled chicken that was slightly spiced but incredibly moist and juicy, mashed avocado, and lettuce. My wrap has incredibly lean roast beef, feta cheese, cabbage, and tomatoes, and is so so so good and addictive. The thing I like about Edgar’s wraps is that they press them in a panini press, so they’re slightly warmed through and it makes the outside of the wrap a little bit crispy. Then we split a chocolate cupcake. The chocolate icing at Edgar’s is to die for. It’s like eating softened fudge. So good, and really hard to explain how good it is. So just go try it. Then you’ll know just how delicious the chocolate buttercream is. Since it was Easter, the bakery had Easter decorated cakes, petit fours and cookies. My mom and I bought the most adorable Easter bunny sugar cookies to eat for dessert that night. The cookie itself reminded me of the cookies we make at Christmas, so it wasn’t that astounding (but still really delicious) since my mom and I can totally make it ourselves. But the decorating was absolutely adorable.
For dinner, we went to Jim n’ Nicks, a barbecue place in 5 Points, but they’re also scattered about elsewhere, including around Atlanta (I’ve seen one out in Gwinnett, but I don’t know if there are any In The Perimeter). Basically, JNN has the best creamed spinach I’ve ever had, hands down. It’s perfectly creamy with little pieces of artichoke in it. I really could eat just a bowl of that for dinner, but they don’t offer that, so my mom and I each ordered 1/4 of a barbecued chicken and a side of creamed spinach. The chicken is incredibly moist with a great smoked flavor to it, and you can totally tell it’s cooked “slow and low” like all good barbecue should be (and if it’s not actually cooked that way, then they have an amazing way of faking it), and they’re sauce is good, even if it is a little spicy for my taste.

Thursday:
We ate breakfast at Starbucks, each getting a Turkey Bacon Egg sandwich. It was alright, but doesn’t hold a candle to Panera’s breakfast sandwich (I could eat those crazy delicious things everyday. But I don’t. Go me.)
For lunch, before heading home, we ate at Dragon, my favorite Chinese restaurant in the Ham. They don’t use MSG AT ALL, and for $12, my mom and I each got an egg roll, a bowl of egg drop soup, an entree that could’ve fed two people, and a scoop of rice. The food was waaaay more than expected for $6 each, and it’s really great Americanized Chinese food. Which is about all you can find in B’ham as far as I know, except for a place called Red Pearl that’s inside an Oriental Market. I haven’t been, but we’re going as a group in my Chinese class in a few weeks, so I’ll let ya’ll know how it is 🙂

That’s about it for now. I’m home for Easter/my grandmother’s birthday right now, then I’ll be back down to Atlanta to meet Andrew’s parents on Sunday night. Good food for Easter, of course. Ham, roast asparagus, potato salad, bread, and I’m making cupcakes! Easter cupcakes! I’ll post pictures in all their decorated glory, as long as they look good 🙂

Happy Easter or Happy Passover!!!

Alright. So here’s my first real post. It’s based on something I’ve been wanting to discuss, but didn’t know where. And now I have a place to put it!

So. Flip Burger. It’s run by Richard Blaise (he was one of the three finalists on Top Chef Season 4). He’s an Atlanta chef whose creativity level, in my opinion, is way above anything I have ever experienced. He opened Flip as a new, inventive way to enjoy the classic American staple…burgers.

What’s cool about Flip is that they grind their beef for the burgers in house. Everything is fresh, and seasonal (so yeah, that means the menu changes, which I like, but some people may not). They even make their pickles in house (and they are absolutely delicious). Their milkshakes are made using liquid nitrogen to freeze them, so they come out with smoke on top, but with a creamy consistency that you can’t get with traditionally made milkshakes.

I ate at the one in Atlanta several times with my brother and some other friends. I wrote about it awhile ago, so I’ll just repost that here as my insight into Flip Burger Atlanta.

so, after fighting through some Atlanta traffic, we arrive at Flip. It’s in a kinda odd area, surrounded by some auto dealerships or whatever, but it’s not too terribly far from Tech. The ambiance is very cool and hip, albeit slightly on the small and crowded side. The majority of the restaurant was painted white, with touches of red in the seat cushions, and lots of light coming into the restaurant. The plasma TVs sat behind the bar and were framed by white picture frames.  It had a good crowd, mostly younger/middle aged people, but there were a few older adults scattered. I think I saw like one kid (my kind of place).we didn’t have to wait for seating, probably because we went at like 6:30 on a Thursday night (my brother went on a Friday night last time and said he had to wait about 2 hours, but well worth the wait).  we were seated at the chef bar, so you could actually see them working on plating the dishes and serving them (SO FREAKING COOL). And who just happened to be at the chef bar, right smack in front of where we sat? that’s right…Richard from Top Chef. spiked hair and all. He didn’t stay there long…he stood there for a few minutes right when we were seated, and came back at the end of our meal…still awesome either way.

Here’s what we had:

Butcher cut: beef, caramelized onions, red wine jam, bleu cheese -probably my favorite of the three. simple and classic, but made exceptional by the red wine jam with gave a nice sweet contrast to the bleu cheese. Luckily this one is always on the menu.

Kobe beef: kobe beef, seared foie gras, shaved truffles, pickles, red wine syrup -this one was delicious, but one of those things I’d only order once in a blue moon.  The beef was so tender, it was like butter. I’d never had kobe beef before, and this was an awesome way to eat it, although it was a little on the pricey side.

tuna: yellowtail tuna, pickled ginger, vietnamese herb salad -probably my least favorite of the night, but still really good. Kind of spicy, with a lot of cilantro on it.  Next time I’d probably try one of the other non-beef burgers instead though.

vodka battered onion rings -I’d heard of beer battered, but never vodka. And they were amazing. Not too greasy, and still crunchy when they got to our table (I hate soggy onion rings). They were served with a beer honey mustard sauce that was quite good as well.

french fries with smoked mayo -just normal, well cooked french fries, but what made them exceptional was the smoked mayo. I don’t know how one goes about make smoked mayo…but i’d like to.

and to finish it all off…nutella with burnt marshmallow milkshake. -it tasted more like chocolate than nutella, and had bits of hazelnut in it to give it a nice crunch.  The whole thing was topped off with a good handful of marshmallows that were burnt with a torch on top. It was delicious, and I don’t think I could go with any of the other milkshakes, though if someone ordered a krispy kreme milkshake (they literally put a doughnut in a blender), i’d have to take at least a sip. but the nutella was fantastic.All in all, an exceptionally wonderful meal.  Totally brought out the side of me that secretly longs to be a chef and own a restaurant.  I loved how hip and trendy it is, and how it’s taken classic burgers and made them gourmet (not a new concept by any means, but a nice change of pace for Atlanta).

Other times I’ve been to Flip Atlanta, I’ve had the Shrimp Po’Burger, which is just a fried shrimp patty with lettuce tomato, and Old Bay mayo. I didn’t care for that too much, as it was too shrimpy for my taste, but what I did really like on it was the fried lemon. Weird, but very yummy. My absolute favorite burger at Flip is the turkey burger. It’s a turkey patty with avocado (I love avocado so much), alfalfa sprouts, and pomegranate ketchup. I get this everytime I go now, because it’s not as heavy as the Butcher Cut (my favorite beef burger), but still incredibly yummy. As far as milkshakes, I usually stick with the Nutella, but once I tried a Chocolate Mole. It was just a normal chocolate shake, but it had cayenne in it which gave a nice warm background to the sweetness of the chocolate. I still like Nutella best.

When I moved to Birmingham, I was deeply saddened at the loss of several of my favorite Atlanta restaurants, Flip included on the list. One weekend, though, while I was shopping at The Summit (an outdoor, kind of ritzy expensive shopping area), I noticed that…much to my shock and happiness…a Flip Burger was opening here! It finally opened in December, and my mom and I went before I went home for Christmas break.

Flip B’ham has a much bigger space to occupy, is a lot lighter feeling (probably because of the huge window at the back that looks out over the summit and provides a beautiful view of some mountains and the horizon), but had pretty much the same setup and decor as Atlanta. We were seated fairly quickly, as we went at 11:30 am, so the lunch crowd hadn’t quite appeared. We sat next to two businessmen, who, after learning that we ate at the one in Atlanta a lot, kept asking us for advice, lol. I was happy to give it…it makes me feel like a real foodie.

So, looking over the menu, I was immediately disappointed to see that my favorite turkey burger was not there. They had a turkey burger…but it was a “wild turkey burger” that had bacon, and a lot of unnecessary things on it (where was my avocado and pomegranate ketchup burger???). The special of the day was a turkey club burger. My mom ordered that, I ordered a mushroom and swiss (from here on out referred to as M&S). We also ordered the fried pickles, which I believe were the best thing we had that meal. The M&S was a patty made from mushrooms, topped with swiss cheese, red wine ketchup, and lettuce, tomato, and onion. It was good, although hard to share with my mom, because when you cut it, the mushroom patty got squished and fell apart. My mom’s turkey club was a fried turkey patty with bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. It was alright, but too heavy for my taste. I do not think that any kind of meat patty really needs to be fried and slapped on a burger, but that’s just me, and I can only take so much friend food. They also didn’t have my Nutella shake on the menu, but they had a S’mores milkshake, which was essentially the same thing minus the nuttiness of the Nutella. It was good…I liked the graham cracker bits in it, and of course I loved the toasted marshmallows.

All in all, I definitely prefer Flip Atlanta. The atmosphere seems more chill and a lot less pretentious than B’ham (which, I think, was only because of it’s location in a shopping center that has a Saks Fifth Avenue). I personally like that Flip Atlanta is a little crowded, kind of small, and in a weird location. I also like the food better at Flip Atlanta. I mean, come on, they have my turkey burger! I’m not saying Flip B’ham is bad, because the quality of the food is still fresh and very high quality, but it’s just not nearly as good as Flip Atlanta, and that’s mainly due to the fact that the menu is slightly different.

FLIP Burger Boutique on Urbanspoon

Flip burger boutique on Urbanspoon