It may come as a surprise to visitors of the Magic City that Birmingham chefs regularly nab some of the nation’s most-esteemed culinary accolades, but locals know good food abounds beyond the restaurant scene (and mom’s kitchen too). From the butcher and baker to chicken coop maker, Birmingham is home to a diverse and ever-growing marketplace of passionate foodies offering generous helpings of handcrafted and curated selections that put Birmingham on the Southeast’s gastronomic roadmap. This year “The Foodies” list showcases producers who are lending incomparable interest and flavor to our hometown—and they share some of their favorite finds too.
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Neighborhood Hops and Vine
Chandler Busby neighborhoodhopsandvine.com
Like most wine and beer connoisseurs, Chandler Busby got his start in college. Little did he know that the weekends spent at parties would be the start of a career path. He graduated from screw tops (before they were cool) and cheap keg beer to fine vintages and craft beer with on-the-real-job training as a bartender at Highlands Bar & Grill and later as a rep for Grass Roots distributors. Now, seven years into Neighborhood Hops & Vine, a retail beer and wine shop in the heart of Crestline Park, Chandler speaks legs, lace, and finish as a second language. He hosts regular tutoring sessions—aka wine tastings. For scheduled events, become a fan on Facebook. For general knowledge, stop by anytime.
WHAT IS YOUR PERFECT MEAL AT HOME? V. Richard’s Braveheart ground beef with Dak’s Bourbon Barrel Smoked Black Pepper pattied up into a monster burger cooked medium and dressed with a fresh ripe tomato, blue vein cheese, and Crystal Hot Sauce on a scratch-made bun. Pair the grilling effort with Good People IPA and serve the burger with a West Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Add good music, my wife and kids, and a day to sleep in.
WHAT IS A GROWLER? Plastic jugs and reusable brown glass bottles (both considered “growlers”) are available for draft beer to go. Why do you need it? Many local breweries don’t package the beer, they only brew it.
WHAT’S ALL THIS HIGH GRAVITY BEER TALK ABOUT?
The higher the malt concentration, the highter the alcohol content. Hops, a grain, balances out the malt providing each beer’s unique flavor.
The whole craft beer scene, has been like a happy wave for us to ride. All of us wine nerds crave good beer—it’s like dessert after drinking wine all day.
“When it comes to what you put in your body—whether it is food or drink— you have to trust the local vendors to do their job and bring the best offerings to you.”
You and your wife Ginger want to sit outside for a great dinner. WHERE DO YOU GO? What do you eat and drink?
Ginger and I recently enjoyed a great dinner of soft shell crab and cobia with Hirsch Grüner Veltliner on the new deck at Dyron’s. Wherever we go, we usually try to sit at the bar because it is buzzing with people, conversation, wine, beer, and cocktail action! Our absolute favorite, though, is to pull up a seat at the back bar at Highlands Bar & Grill, put my arms on 6 inches of cool marble and order oysters on the half shell with a glass of Grower Champagne. That really takes the edge off of the summer heat. I look at the wine menu to see what chef is glassing and swap beverage experiences with the bartenders.
Which do you pour most often—wine or beer? What are you drinking nowadays?
Beer seems to get my attention more now because it’s new and exciting. I love a can of Westbrook White Thai—it’s an Asian-themed wheat beer, great with savory food. For wine, I love Thevenet Macon Pierreclos, a simple, delicious white Burgundy that has been made by hand for generations by the same family. For red, Lioco’s 2009 Indica blend. It’s rustic but undeniably ripe California fruit. For weird fruit though, I like Carignan, Grenache. That wine is so authentic and complex. Both reds are under $20.
Neighborhood Hops & Vine
1109 Dunston Avenue / Birmingham, AL 35213 / 205.915.9741 / firstname.lastname@example.org
HOURS: Sunday & Monday: 12:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Tuesday – Saturday: 10:30 am – 8 pm
Mr. P’s Butcher Shop & Deli
Charles Pilleteri mrpdeli.com
When Mr. Charles Pilleteri opened his butcher shop in 1975, his customers asked if he had a special seasoning or rub to put on their steaks. “They said that when they were younger and went to the butcher shop with their mother, the butcher would rub their steaks with his special seasoning rub, ” says Mr. P. “I did not have anything like that. So I had a customer bring some of the seasoning that her old butcher was using so I could see what was in it. It had some ingredients like ground charcoal that are not good for us to eat. I took out the bad things and added Worcestershire powder to get that marinated look and taste along with garlic, onion, black pepper, and a little salt. We went through several samples before we had the taste and appearance we wanted. That was the first Pilleteri product. We named it Pilleteri’s Original Seasoning and Rub. Today there are 10 Pilleteri’s Seasonings to choose from.”
“I started putting our products in grocery stores in 1990. Back then, I was selling out of the trunk of my car. Today we have seven salesmen distributing our products across Alabama and the Florida panhandle.”
FAVORITE KITCHEN TOOL? A heavy skillet is key. I love to brown meat on both sides then cut the heat to a simmer and cover to bake the inside just as I like. The key is to eat the meat while it is still hot and juicy. This works for steaks, pork chops, and chicken.
WHAT DO YOU DRINK WITH A GREAT STEAK? A Red Wine—Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir are good choices. At Mr. P’s when you buy meat and wine at the same time you get $1.00 off each bottle of wine. Of course in the South, sweet tea or a favorite beer is not bad either.
Mr. P’s Guide to a Perfect Steak
1. Buy Mr. P’s fresh-cut steak.
2. Have Mr.P’s rub your steak in Pilleteri’s Marinade.
3. You can freeze your steak with Pilleteri’s Seasoning Rub on them at this point.
4. Sear steaks on both sides either in the skillet or on the grill.
5. Reduce heat to low or move to indirect heat on the grill and cook the inside as rare as you like. Enjoy your steak hot and juicy.
Today people are accustomed to getting their meat pre-cut, portioned, and shrink-wrapped at chain grocers and big box stores. Why is it better to buy from a butcher like Mr. P’s?
Most grocery stores are getting their meat from a central cutting warehouse. The pre-cut meat comes frozen. At Mr. P’s we cut our steaks, pork chops, and roasts by hand with a knife. Our meat is not frozen before we cut it and has been aged 21 days or longer. We call our hamburger ground sirloin and it is 100% steak. We grind round steak mixed with pieces of other steaks like New York strip, ribeye and filet mignon that are not big enough to sell as a single steak. We also make special meats like our homemade sausages and stuffed pork chops.
What old-fashioned cuts are experiencing a renaissance among cooks today?
I sold oxtails at my father’s grocery store in the 60’s. Customers would boil them, then grill them. Today’s recipes for oxtail use them as a good substitute for lamb shanks in braised dishes like Osso Bucco.
What is the most popular item from the butcher shop? What is the biggest seller in the deli?
We make our homemade Italian sausage fresh daily from a recipe my great grandfather brought to this country from Italy in the 1800s. My family made it in Italy for their village before we started making it here in our first Birmingham grocery store (Supreme Super Market) in 1934. Our holiday best seller is bacon-wrapped filet mignons rubbed in Pilleteri’s Seasoning Rub. Our best selling deli sandwich is the ribeye steak sandwich. We cook a whole boneless rib roast seasoned with Pilleteri’s Seasoning Rub. We add Pilleteri’s Liquid Marinade to the pan drippings to make the Au Jus for each ribeye sandwich.
Mr. P’s Butcher Shop & Deli
813 Shades Crest Rd / Birmingham, AL 35226
Text by Katherine Cobbs • Portrait Photography by Major Adam Colbert