Wednesday, July 24, 2013

These Friends Have Soul!

Well, well, well!  Sometimes the most wonderful things turn up in the most unlikely places. And sometimes really happy things happen when you least expect them. Three Friends and a Fork took a little road trip to Birmingham.  The day was nasty, stormy and gray, but the company, as usual, was bright and sunny.  We set out with lots on our minds and as we traveled down the road we were busy making plans.  We don't let any time go to waste, no sir!  I was driving and Sherri and Luanne were making calls, sending texts and planning a little trip to see our favorite principal.  For those of you who may not know, our principal has taken a new job in Tennessee and we were not about to let him leave without a great send off from us...whether he likes it or not!  Brownwood Elementary has been very fortunate to have had this hard working and positive leader at the helm for the last four years and there are a lot of sad and worried teachers he is leaving behind.  But we all wish him well and we want the folks from Lynchburg, Tennessee to know you are getting one FINE principal!  Be good to him or we will gladly take him back!

So, as Sherri and Luanne were making plans, I was keeping my eyes on the slick, wet road.  We were heading to the largest city in Alabama.  Birmingham has gone by different nicknames over the years, The Magic City, Pittsburgh of the South, and Steel City.  The skyline of Birmingham is most notable for the large sculpture of the Roman god Vulcan, god of the fire and forge.  It is the largest cast iron sculpture in the world.  Vulcan keeps a watchful eye over Birmingham, but the communities behind Vulcan get more of a full moon, because Vulcan wears an apron and nothing else.  A song was even written about the situation.  It was called, "Moon Over Homewood".  The tongue in cheek song went something like this: "Moon over Homewood, it's so unrefined. We have to get mooned with the Vulcan's behind. Moon over Homewood, we don't think it's fair, That we have to look at his big derriere. " Vulcan's bare posterior has also been the inspiration for a uniquely Birmingham treat called, appropriately, Vulcan's Buns. Birmingham writer, Anne George, published a version of Vulcan's Buns in her book, Murder Gets a Life.  For you foodies who would like to try them out for yourself, here is the recipe:

Vulcan's Buns
1/4 c. warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 T. sugar
1/2 c. butter
3 eggs, separate one of the whites and set aside
1 t. oregano
1 t. basil
1 1/2 c. cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 c. dried tomatoes, chopped
1 c. milk
5 c. all purpose flour sifted 3 times (If you have 2 friends, like me, you can each take a turn to sift! )
1 t. salt
Olives stuffed with pimiento and Feta Cheese

Dissolve yeast in water.  Cream butter and sugar.
Add yeast, eggs (reserve one egg white for later), tomatoes, oregano, basil, cheddar cheese and milk to the butter/sugar mixture.
Add flour and salt and knead 5-8 minutes on a floured surface. Place dough in a greased bowl, covered and allow to rise in a warm place for approximately one hour or until doubled in size.
Punch down dough, form into a smooth loaf and divide into 36 balls, each the size of a large walnut. With a finger make a dent in the center of each ball and stuff with either one pimento stuffed olive or one piece of feta. Place 2 balls, pinched side down in each cup of a greased muffin tin.  Mix the left over egg white with one T. water and brush it over the tops of the buns.
Allow to rise 45 minutes to an hour until almost doubled.
Preheat oven to 375 and bake 7 minutes. Remove from oven, brush with remaining egg white mixture again and return to oven.  Bake for another 7-8 minutes or until golden brown.  Yield: 18 buns

Hey, if you try this, let us know how it turns out.  I have always meant to make them because I think they sound yummy, but just never got around to it.  You might want to hum Moon Over Homewood as you knead!
Our Problem!

So, back to the trip. We decided as we were traveling down the road to take my brother-in-law, Tim's advice and seek out Saw's Soul Kitchen.  Remember how I told you the family was wanting to get in on the restaurant reviews.  Well, my sister, Kerri, said Tim rated Saw's Soul Kitchen, not 3 Yums UP, but, "Lord Have Mercy"!  I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me!  Sherri said I-20 was torn up for repairs and we might need to take an alternate route.  You know where this is headed, don't you?  We had to depend on our navigational systems to take us a new way.  We knew Saw's Soul Kitchen was located in Avondale across the street from Freshfully Market, a wonderful store that sells things grown or made in Alabama.  Sherri and I had been there recently, so this was not totally unfamiliar territory, except for one thing.  Our alternate route needed an alternate route, and our navigational system was having no part of it.  There was construction on 41st Street, the street on which Saw's is located and we needed a way to go around to come in from the other direction.  Unfortunately, no matter what we did, we ended up back at that same old road block.  After about 15 minutes of chasing our tails, we were hysterical.  Literally, tears were running down our faces from laughing so much.
Finally, we made it to our destination, and, honestly, we were a little unsure of Tim's recommendation.  Saw's Soul Kitchen is truly what Guy Fieri would call a dive.  It is tiny!  And it does not look like a place where someone would find "Lord Have Mercy" food.  But, being the warriors that we are, Three Friends and a Fork parked our car and bravely made our way across the wet street to Saw's Soul Kitchen.
Menu Board...the kitchen is visible in the background

There were maybe six tables in the joint, with a bar for ordering, paying and retrieving beverages. The bar was in the back separating the kitchen from the dining area.  We were early, as usual, but the place was already filling up and people were also sitting and eating at tables outside.  It was raining, people!  Ok, not much at this point, but enough that we didn't want to sit outside.  The menu was on a large chalkboard on the back wall.  We stood in the middle of the room and stared at the chalkboard.  What to get?  Finally, Sherri declared she was getting the fried green tomato BLT.  I decided to get what Tim had recommended, Pork and Greens.  Luanne was still undecided.  She wanted to be adventurous, but the girl can't even bring herself to eat mayonnaise, mustard and catsup.  How adventurous could she be?  Helpfully, I suggested that she get the Pork Belly Salad.  That sounded adventurous.  Well, she wanted someone to get it, but she didn't want it to be her!  So, even though I had already ordered my Pork and Greens, I told her she could have that and I would order the Pork Belly Salad.  See what a good friend I am?  So, she finally placed the order for the Pork Belly Salad and we agreed to swap when the entrees arrived.

And, two of the entrees did arrive....Sherri's Fried Green Tomato BLT and my, now Lu's Pork and Greens.  They were half way finished with their entrees before Lu's, now my, Pork Belly Salad made it to the table. No, it was not the fault of the was the Friend who couldn't make up her mind!
Sherri's Fried Green Tomato BLT

Richi's Pork Belly Salad
Anyway, the entrees arrived on some fine styrofoam trays.  Sherri's Fried Green Tomato BLT looked great, even on toasted white bread, and she said it was very good.  Luanne's, now my, Pork Belly Salad was surprising.  There was not one sliver of lettuce on that tray!  It was a puddle of pink lady peas topped with marinated green tomatoes and about 4 square-sided logs of pork belly. The peas were also coated in a vinegary/sweet/BBQ-ey dressing.  They were cold, but not unpleasantly so.  The tomatoes weren't hard, like you might expect a green tomato to be, but the pork bellies were the star of the show.  Oh, my!  I know why Chef Michael Symon always swoons over pork bellies! They were salty, crusty, bacony, smoky...oh, my!  I never had one before, but if I see them on the menu again, I won't pass them by!  The combination of the tiny peas, the tangy green tomatoes and the lovely pork bellies was unique and delicious.

Lu's Pork and Greens

But, honestly, the entree that won all the prizes?  My, now Lu's, Pork and Greens.  You will not believe the layered creation that was placed before her.  It started with a pile of beautiful turnip collard greens swimming in a pool of creamy cheese grits, topped with a mound of smoky barbequed pork and crowned with some of the tastiest onion rings I have ever put in my mouth.  They were thinly cut, expertly seasoned and deep fried to a golden crunch.  The things I give up for my friends!  Oh, and did I mention, Saw's Soul Kitchen knows how to make tea!  The tea was perfectly brewed.
Banana Pudding

We decided, because the portions were not so ridiculously huge or filling, that we had room to sample the one and only dessert on the menu...banana pudding.  It arrived in, what else?...A small styrofoam cup, which we shared.  The pudding was very good, not too sweet.  It was creamy and cold.  A fine end to our meal.  Guy need to visit Saw's Soul Kitchen.  It would be a perfect addition to Diners, Drive-ins and Dives!  Tell them Three Friends and a Fork sent you!

Freshfully Market

We left Saw's as true converts, never to doubt again.  But we weren't quite done.  Freshfully Market was right across the street, and we could not pass up another opportunity to browse through the made in Alabama products and produce.  We know why it is called Freshfully...everything looks like it just came out of the garden.  Tomatoes, onions, peas, garlic, squash... if a local farmer grows it, Freshfully probably has it.  They also have spices, herbs, homemade granola, eggs (we even saw some green eggs!  Dr. Seuss would have been so pleased!).  We love Freshfully Market and wish we had one near us so we could go more often.  It would be a great place to shop for out of state family or friends to whom you would like to send a little piece of Alabama.  An Alabama shaped cutting board or an Eat the Ham (Birming-ham, that is) shirt would make a fun gift.  And, Freshfully Market serves lunch, too.  We spied one lady, standing up, eating a beautiful leafy green salad dotted with fresh peaches in, yep...a styrofoam tray!

Sherri and Lu are amazed at the size of some of the tomatoes!

As we left the Avondale neighborhood of Birmingham, we were content, but not too stuffed and knew we would be coming back in the future.  But was our day over?  Oh, no!  Until next time, America...
The Birmingham adventure continues!

               Three Friends and a Fork give Saw's Soul Kitchen 3 Soulful Yums UP!

Saw's Soul Kitchen on Urbanspoon
Three Friends and a Fork
Three Friends and a Fork

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1 comment:

  1. My brother-in-law, Tim, just informed me that those greens were collards, not turnips. I apologize for the misinformation. I gotta learn my greens! :)