Friday, April 30, 2010

Stonewood's Chef Mike Drury bakes Chocolate Bread Pudding

What an honor to have a cooking lesson from Chef Mike Drury, who heads up the culinary operations for the Stonewood Grill and Taverns throughout the state of Florida. Mike is a charming master in the kitchen and admits he loves chocolate. 

He told my group, "Fat is the delivery truck of flavor and I drive that truck. Don't count the calories in this dish--just enjoy." And we did.  It's decadent, gooey chocolate to be savored.

Chocolate Bread Pudding
Serves 4

Ingredients listed in the order used.

Whiskey Sauce
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ounce Jim Beam Bourbon
1 egg
2.5 ounces butter

Bread Pudding
1 loaf French Bread- not stale
3 Tablespoons butter
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
4 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
pinch salt
2 eggs (beat in one by one)
4 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons cocoa
10-15 each chocolate chips

Vanilla Ice Cream

Whiskey Sauce Directions
Bring water to a boil.  Add sugar and stir constantly until completely dissolved. Add vanilla and bourbon and bring back to a boil.

Beat eggs in a stainless bowl, put half of the syrup into the eggs and stir continuously. Pour eggs back into syrup.

Cut butter into small pieces and stir until fully melted into sauce. Cool down in ice bath and store.

Bread Pudding Directions
Cut French bread into 1" x 1" squares. Pour melted butter over bread.  Combine heavy cream, sugar, salt, rum and eggs whisking together in mixing bowl. 

Melt butter, sugar and cocoa powder in a sauce pan.  Stir until smooth, like hot chocolate, never leaving it unattended.  Temper in 1/2 cold mixture to hot mixture and stir until smooth. 

Combine liquid mixture with bread and mix thoroughly.  Mike used his gloved hands and said to let it sit a while to penetrate. Be sure not to use stale bread or the pudding will be too dry.

Spray oven resistant baking pan or muffin tins with non-stick aerosal spray. Portion evenly into dishes or muffin pans, heaping way over the top. Sprinkle 10-15 chocolate chips on each top and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Remove from oven, turn pudding mixture over onto serving bowl or plate, drizzle with Whisky Sauce and top with a scoop of ice cream.


There are 16 Stonewood Grill and Tavern locations throughout the state of Florida. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

5 Tasty Places to Dine in Tuscaloosa

A Review of Tuscaloosa's Restaurants

I recently made my first trip to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that southern city with the funny sounding name. She's home to the University of Alabama, its 28,000 students and approximately 90,000 residents. That's a lot of hungry people to feed, but plenty of innovative restaurateurs manage to please all tastes.

Here's a sampler of some of the best:

Nick's in the Stick's
4018 Eutaw Highway  
205 758 9316
An unapologetically beat up, rustic and fun-loving place for a steak. It's officially Nick's Original Filet House and features juicy tenderloins at student friendly prices. Order onion rings and receive a near-toppling pyramid. The famed house drink is the Nicodemus, a fruity punch concoction similar to a New Orleans 'hurricane'. Try one, you'll love it; try two and those demons will find you in the morning.

Chuck's Fish
508 Greensboro Avenue
205 248 9372
Chuck's specializes in fresh fish and shellfish from the Gulf Coast and insists it be caught on "hook and line." The chefs create exotic looking sushi in the former warehouse. If not sushi, try crab stuffed shrimp wrapped in bacon and broiled. Friends meet up for long, relaxing meals around eclectic art on the walls, flat-screened TV's and live music. Dining is casual or dressy.

The Cypress Inn
501 Rice Mine Road North
205 345 6997
The Cypress Inn offers an upscale atmosphere with relaxed dining along the banks of the Black Warrior River. College students beg their visiting parents to take them here. The Cypress Inn is famous for their smoked chicken served with white BBQ sauce and the ever popular fried catfish with hoppin' John and greens.

Brown's Corner Dueling Piano Bar and Grill
2325 University Boulevard
205 342 9033
Brown's attracts a sometimes rowdy crowd with live dueling pianos. The musicians banter back and forth and inspire the diners to sing along. Song requests are encouraged, along with a tip. Food service is typical pub fare but the fried pickles, one of the house appetizers, are worth a splurge. The crispy dills, coated in the lightest of batters, arrive with a dipping sauce. There's outdoor seating, too.

Dreamland BBQ
5535 15th Avenue East
205 758 8135

Ain't nothing like 'em nowhere is the motto and I'd say that true.  Oven pit bar-b-qued ribs, smoked sausage or pulled pork.  The original Dreamland only seats 68 but attracts huge crowds for tailgates on game days. Restaurant service is picnic style with plastic ware and rolls of paper towels for messy fingers.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

How Dreamland BBQ Got Its Name

There's a little joint in Tuscaloosa, Alabama that seats just 68, but its reputation is known far and wide. Dreamland BBQ boasts the motto, "Ain't nothing like 'em nowhere," and I reckon that's true.

I recently visited the place and met Jeannette Bishop, the current owner and daughter of now deceased originator John C. Bishop and his wife, Lilly.  The Bishop's opened their establishment back in 1958.  You see, John had purchased the land and considered building a cafe and funeral home.  He figured if the food gave his patrons high blood pressure, he'd end up burying them. His wife flatly refused that notion, so John built the drive-thru rib joint. Wonder if the name came from his funereal plans or as Jeannette says, "God just whispered it into his ear."

No matter; the barbeque sauce is so renowned and tasty that a plate of white Sunbeam bread comes to every table, just so you can sop it up.  The slabs of barbeque ribs are cooked in an open pit for 45 minutes or there's smoked sausage and pulled pork. Up until a year ago that was the extent of the menu.  But, management now offers sides like baked beans, coleslaw and potato salad.  Everyone eats off plastic plates, plastic cups and plastic sporks. Yes, sporks--a combination spoon and fork. Plastic bibs are available and usually necessary. A big roll of paper towels acts as a table centerpiece and sure comes in handy.

And, I dare not forget dessert-- banana bread pudding. It's the house specialty and mighty good, though one doesn't have much room in their tummy after those ribs.

On Game Days (that means when the University of Alabama has a home football game) customers wait two to three hours for a table. They apparently don't mind; they tailgate with beer and listen to the live music. That scene was part of  "Big Daddy John's"  entrepreneurial vision. The CBS and ESPN gang love to stop by when they're in town.

Dreamland has expanded to other southern city locations but they all use the same recipes. You'll find one in Huntsville, Mobile, Birmingham, two in Atlanta and many around Tuscaloosa. These restaurants serve additional menu selections, but not the original store on Jug Factory Road. They know a sure thing and keep it that way. Hours are 10 AM to 9 PM Sunday through Thursday, 10 to 10 on Friday and Saturday.  Yes indeed, down-home casual Dreamland is a real happening place.

Online orders now available at: