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Dec 23, 2011 06:24 AM

Birmingham -- Best meal of 2011

Birmingham Hounds: What was your best meal (or meals) of 2011?

Mine was a dinner with my wife at Highlands Bar and Grill, an absolutely magical experience. To start, I had the baked grits (split that appetizer) and the pork belly simmered in bourbon.

For an entree, I had the Poulet Rouge Two Ways, which may be the best chicken dish I ever have eaten. Made with a French heritage bird that is raised in North Carolina that has such a powerfully chickeny flavor. Thighs were slow braised and the breast was roasted and studded with herbs.

Oddly, you can find a recipe for the chicken dish in one of Chef Frank Stitt's cookbooks -- but it's the Bottega cookbook, not the Highlands one.

Second best had to be my first meal at Ollie Irene, which led to many more meals at the new gastropub that has become a more-than-minor obsession.

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  1. I second BD; my first meal at Ollie Irene was my favorite Bham meal all year. The pressed pork entree there is still my favorite, although I preferred the summer preparation with tomatoes, corn, and butter beans to the current one with celery and celeriac purée (I personally don't think celery leaves should be used liberally in most dishes).

    An aside: best meal of the year goes to Uchi in Austin, TX. Also maybe the best meal of my life.

    1. My best meal of 2011 was at Bottega. I started with the Parmesan Souffle, which is always delicious. But the standout was my entree, lobster spaghetti. The lobster was tender and flaky, the noodles perfectly cooked, and the tomato-sauce delightfully spicy. For dessert, I had a blueberry, polenta-poundcake tiramisu.

      Nothing else really came close to that meal, although I'll give shout-out to MIX for their Pork Belly BLT. That was definitely my best lunch of the year.