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Posts Tagged ‘Culinard Cafe’

I spent last week in Biloxi with my mom and had every intention of blogging about my adventures. I quickly figured out that I’d rather be having said adventures than blogging about them, however, thus the weeklong absence of posts.

Let’s start with the journey. Having discovered the amazing lunches at Birmingham’s Culinard Cafe a few months ago, I decided that I simply had to start my journey early enough to make it there to test-drive the breakfast menu.

The breakfast menu is significantly smaller than the lunch menu, but it still lists enough items to make anybody happy. It boasts three breakfast sandwiches on ciabatta bread, all featuring scrambled eggs: hot ham and Swiss cheese; bacon and cheddar cheese; and Southwestern chorizo, sautéed onions and peppers and jalapeno cheese. All are priced between $3.35 and $3.65.

My instinct pointed me toward the spicy chorizo sausage, but I’m still getting to know chorizo, so I chose the hot ham and cheese sandwich instead. I also ordered a small serving of loaded grits ($2.10).

My meal arrived with a surprise hashbrown pattie (a surprise only because I hadn’t really been paying attention to the menu details).

Just like the irresistible flat-iron steak sandwich that the husband and I have split a couple of times at the Culinard Cafe, the ham, egg and cheese sandwich was big enough for two people. Alas, I was by myself, but I did my best.

The bread, as usual, was spot on: thick and sturdy enough to safely encase the slippery ingredients, but thin and soft enough to bite through without too much effort. The eggs were cooked to perfection and then wrapped around the ham and gooey cheese.

The grits? Oh, the grits.

Loaded grits usually arrive with grease pooled on top, a consequence of adding more cheese and butter than necessary in an attempt, I presume, to fully “Southernize” the dish.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

There were no greasy pools in these loaded grits. They weren’t laden with butter or unmelted cheese. The grits were light (not so light that I thought they were baked with eggs in a casserole, however), and filled with small pieces of bacon — real bacon, not fake bacon bits.

The grits alone made the early departure worthwhile. I didn’t even have to stop for lunch (I actually tried to find lunch, but you know that span of I-65 between Montgomery and Mobile? That happened.)

If I have to plan a trip through Birmingham, I’m totally planning it on a weekday during this restaurant’s business hours.

 

 

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After enjoying the flat-iron steak sandwich at the Culinard Cafe in Birmingham two times within two weeks, I knew I had to start experimenting. The combination of creamy goat cheese and whole-grain mustard was simply magical, so I decided to start with condiments.

The first sandwich I had to work with this week involved ham, however, and I couldn’t envision goat cheese complementing ham all that well (I may be wrong about that). But thanks to a trip to Trader Joe’s in Atlanta on Tuesday, I had a fresh jar of whole-grain mustard ready to go. (I don’t know what other people do on vacation, but we go to grocery stores.)

It’s like I’ve been making sandwiches wrong for YEARS. The whole-grain mustard simply transformed the ham and provolone cheese; lightly toasted on the Foreman Grill, the sandwich was melty, spicy perfection.

Never doubt the power of new and exciting condiments.

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The husband and I stumbled on a culinary treasure in Birmingham last week, a restaurant that made the trip to drop off his mother at the Amtrak station more than worthwhile.

I spotted the Culinard Cafe between the interstate and the station and looked up the menu on the iPhone. It was a nice distraction as I hunkered down to wait for the 12:05 to arrive while trying to avoid the headache-inducing flicker of the overhead light. The restaurant is associated with the Culinary Institute of Virginia College in Birmingham and provides a working and learning environment for students.

The husband’s only concern was whether the menu held a ham sandwich. It did.

The lunch menu boasted a wide variety of sandwiches and salads, including some pretty fancy combinations (salmon & brie salad, anyone?).

My first choice was the Southwestern chicken wrap (it had me at “chili spiked mayonnaise”), but when I turned the menu over I spotted the flat-iron steak sandwich. Its menu description was pure culinary seduction: “Sweet chili roasted flat iron steak with grilled onions, Alabama Belle Chevre Goat Cheese, lettuce, tomato, and whole grain mustard and spicy aioli on Ciabatta.”

Goat cheese, whole grain mustard AND spicy aioli? You have GOT to be kidding me.

I chose the black bean salad for my side so I could compare it to my recipe. (Their version was more complicated, but I like mine better.)

The sandwich was simply divine. I actually put it down after the first bite and said, “I need to contemplate this sandwich for a minute.” The steak was cooked to tender perfection, and the goat cheese and whole-grain mustard added an unexpectedly creamy and tangy element (admittedly, the aioli seems to have gotten lost among the rest of the flavors).

Walkout price for this thing of delicious beauty? $7.95 before tax.

Oh, and the husband enjoyed his ham & Swiss sandwich with fries.

We are SO going back to this restaurant for lunch if we find ourselves in Birmingham on a weekday. You should, too.

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