Designing Delicious Dining at Blueprint on 3rd

Blueprint on 3rd, one of Birmingham’s hottest new restaurants, is named, quite simply, for the building it occupies – the old Birmingham Blueprint Company headquarters. But, really, owner Dean Robb’s decades-long career as a restaurateur has been a kind of creative, working blueprint for this place.

Robb understands the value of honoring the past, and he looked at some 25 spaces before deciding on this one with Pepper Place right down the avenue and historic Sloss Furnaces as a backdoor landmark. Maybe that’s because he has his own noteworthy history of regional and local food experience. He worked for 17 years with Frank Stitt as the general manager of Bottega Restaurant and Bottega Café. He spent five years growing Taziki’s Mediterranean Café from 11 locations to 72 in 13 states. He left his position as vice president of Operations after Jim Keet stepped down as Taziki’s CEO, and the two soon partnered to create Blueprint on 3rd.

Brittany Faush and I did a story on Blueprint on 3rd for Alabama NewsCenter, and you can read the entire piece here.

Robb describes his American brasserie as “polished-casual,” which means “it’s between fine dining and casual dining. I want it to be fun and I want it to be approachable. I want you to have a pair of shorts or jeans on or a three-piece suit or an evening gown and feel equally comfortable. It’s about the food. It’s about us not being pretentious in the way that we serve you but serve you correctly.

“We wanted to have something that is American because, for one thing, in this area, I didn’t see a great American restaurant. … You’ve got Chris (and Idie Hastings at OvenBird) doing Argentinian tapas and doing a great job. You’ve got Jorge (Castro at Cantina Tortilla Grill) doing Mexican food. You’ve got James (Lewis of Bettola) doing really good Mediterranean food,” Robb says. “Put me on the other end, and all of a sudden you’ve got American. That also doesn’t limit your creativity very much considering the melting pot that is America,’’ he says. “There are so many elements to doing something American, because America is made up of everybody.”

Robb says Blueprint on 3rd fills a niche in the Birmingham food community with quality and value in a space that is comfortable and versatile. “I don’t know anywhere that you can get this quality of food with this casual and this nice of atmosphere.

The restaurant recently did a wine dinner for TumTum Tree Foundation. A 20-top, long table in the more intimate back of the restaurant had 120 wine glasses down the middle, while near the front door, folks were sitting at the bar enjoying a burger and a beer and a ball game.

“It can’t be everything to everyone,” Robb says, “but it can be anything you want it to be on any given night.”

Blueprint on 3rd

3000 Third Ave. S. (near Pepper Place)

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. (bar opens at 4:30 p.m.)

Phone: 205-479-3000

www.blueprinton3rd.com

Make a reservation online at www.opentable.com.

Easy Apps

The holidays are hectic for everyone, but entertaining doesn’t really have to be hard. Here are some quick and tasty appetizers that are truly super-easy—–especially when you start with already-prepared ingredients.

I made all these recipes for a Portico Mountain Brook story. It’s in the Winter issue, which is out now, and you can access it here.

Meanwhile, these delicious dishes—delighting your guests in under 30 minutes—range from subtly sophisticated to unbelievably easy. Most have five or fewer ingredients, and every one of these things can be found in local shops and grocery stores. The secret is to incorporate ingredients that are already made for you. Then you combine them in ways that make the dishes your own.

Romesco and Bucheron Dip with Almonds

INGREDIENTS:

2 containers romesco from The Continental Bakery’s cold case

6 ounces bucheron (also from that cold case), rind removed and discarded, sliced into ¼ inch-thick strips (you can substitute a goat cheese log)

¼ cup sliced almonds

HERE’S HOW TO MAKE IT:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Smooth romesco in the bottom of an ovenproof baking dish or small cast-iron skillet. Top with cheese, and bake until bubbly (about 10 minutes). Top with almonds, and serve immediately with crackers or French bread.

(This dip can be assembled up to eight hours ahead of time and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to cook it, remove the plastic wrap and add five minutes to the baking time. )

Serves 6

Prep time:  5 minutes

Total time:  15-20 minutes

Blue Cheese and Honey Bruschetta

INGREDIENTS:

1 baguette from The Continental Bakery

6 ounces blue cheese

4 Tbsp local honey

HERE’S HOW TO MAKE IT:

Preheat oven to broil.

Thinly slice the baguette (the folks at the bakery can do this for you), place rounds on baking sheet and broil them until they are toasted (about 1 ½ minutes per side).

Place pieces of blue cheese on the toasted bread slices, and drizzle honey evenly over them.

Serves 8-12

Prep time:  10 minutes

Total time:  10 minutes

Ham and Cheese Skewers

INGREDIENTS:

½ pound smoked deli ham from The Pig or Western, sliced ¾ inch thick

1 5-ounce blue cheese wedge (or a block of cheddar)

1-2 large gala apples (or not-too-ripe pears), sliced

1 bunch fresh watercress (or arugula)

60 skewers

HERE’S HOW TO MAKE IT:

Cut ham into ¾-inch cubes. Break or cut cheese into 60 small pieces. Cut apple slices into bite-size pieces.

Thread cheese, apple, watercress leaves and ham onto skewers (with ham at the bottom). Stand skewers upright, ham ends down, on a serving plate.

Makes about 60 skewers

Prep time:  20 minutes

Total time:  20 minutes

Skinny Buffalo Chicken Dip

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups chicken from a plain rotisserie chicken, shredded or roughly chopped (again, this is available at The Piggly Wiggly or Western).

8 ounces low-fat cream cheese, cubed and softened

1/3 to 2/3 cups hot sauce (such as Frank’s RedHot)

¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 packet ranch dressing

1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt

Optional: sliced green onions and blue cheese crumbles

HERE’S HOW TO MAKE IT:

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, hot sauce, cheddar, ranch dressing and Greek yogurt until well combined. (If the cream cheese is hard to mix, microwave it for a few seconds.)

Fold in the chicken, and combine well.

Pour mixture into an 8 x 8 baking dish or a small cast-iron skillet, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until dip is hot throughout. If desired, top with sliced green onions or crumbled blue cheese.

Serve hot with celery and carrot sticks.

Serves 8 to 10

Prep time:  5 minutes

Total time:  20 to 25 minutes

Goat Cheese Log Rolled in Nuts, Herbs & Cranberries 

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup pistachio nuts, finely chopped (or pecans or walnuts)

2 tsp thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped

¼ cup cranberries (fresh or dried), finely chopped

1 large goat cheese log (keep it cold so it’s easier to work with)

HERE’S HOW TO MAKE IT:

Mix nuts, thyme, rosemary and cranberries together in a small bowl.

Spread the nut, herb and cranberry mixture onto a piece of waxed paper or parchment and roll the goat cheese log across the mixture, making sure it is well coated. Press down gently as you roll, to pack the mixture onto the log of cheese.

Just before serving, drizzle generously with honey.

Serve at room temperature with crackers and more honey and any leftover nut, herb and cranberry mixture.

(Note:  This recipe can be easily changed to incorporate things you like. Roll the goat cheese in freshly cracked black pepper and chives, edible lavender flowers, or chopped bacon and pecans. Really, the choice is yours.)

Serves 10-12

Prep time:  7 minutes

Total time:  7 minutes

Party Crackers

INGREDIENTS:

1 package The Original Savory Party Cracker Seasoning (available at Smith’s Variety)

1 2/3 cups canola oil

4 sleeves saltine crackers

1 2-gallon zip-top plastic bag

HERE’S HOW TO MAKE IT:

Follow the directions on the spice packet. Combine canola oil and one package of Savory Seasoning mix in a large plastic bag, and mix well.

Add all four sleeves of saltine crackers. Seal bag full of air. Tumble crackers in the bag every five minutes until all of the Savory Seasoning is absorbed.

Let crackers rest in the bag at least overnight for best results. Store in an airtight container. Refrigeration or freezing extends the flavor, but they probably won’t last that long

Serves 10-12

Prep time:  5 minutes

Total time:  25 minutes, but they get better overnight

Finally, Brie topped with things you like is one of the easiest appetizers ever, and it always looks (and tastes) amazing.  The Cook’s Store of Mountain Brook offers Brie recipes with every Brie bowl they sell. I love my piece from Tena Payne‘s Earthborn Pottery available at The Cook’s Store and Alabama Goods in downtown Homewood! The basic instructions go like this: Place a small round of Brie into your lovely Brie baking bowl, and top it with what you want. Bake it at 350 for about eight minutes.

Seriously. That’s it.

Some topping suggestions: Pesto from a jar. Jam from a jar. Chutney from a jar. (Consider Holmsted Fines balsamic red onion. Rebecca Williams, the owner of Holmsted Fines, discovered the versatility and joy of gourmet chutneys when she trained at Le Cordon Bleu in London. Alabama Goods has a nice selection of these chutneys.)  Add chopped nuts for some texture. If you want to get a little fancier, top the cheese with cranberry sauce, triple sec and brown sugar, or cover the cheese with some bourbon, almonds and brown sugar and bake.

Serve with crackers or French bread and sliced apples or pears.

Happy Holidays to you all!

XOXO,

Susan

Fox 6 Books: December

Here’s what I brought to WBRC Fox 6 on December 4. These books are as much fun to give as to receive. 

You Asked for It!:  My Clients’ Favorite Recipes

Rosalyn Bloomston has been cooking and catering and delighting her clients for more than three decades. Now, this Birmingham author shares her most-requested recipes with all of us. This spiral-bound book features foods such as blue cheese puffs, stuffed French toast, orzo salad with shrimp and feta, Moroccan couscous, cranberry chutney, she-crab soup, corn custard pudding, chicken supreme with balsamic vinegar and shallot sauce and Roz’s signature fudge cake. She says she “fell into catering quite by accident, and continued on by the ‘seat of my pants’ for 34 years without any training!” She’s done the homework on these recipes though; they are tried and true. Go to https://youaskedforitcookbook.comto get the book and see some sample recipes. It’s also available at Amazon. Also, Roz is a member of the Birmingham chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International. The philanthropic organization is having its annual Holiday gift ideas and giveaway right now on social media. Go to https://www.facebook.com/ldeibirmingham/and enter to win.

Rocket Men:  The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon

This true story of American heroes, written by Robert Kurson, is a great gift for a history buff or anyone, really, who loves a real and riveting read. The bestselling author of Shadow Divers writes compelling about the first time humans ever left Earth for another destination. On Christmas Eve in 1968, three brave men orbited the moon and, for a little while, a country that was deeply divided became united in awe of that accomplishment. The launch was sudden and without the usual methodical timeline, and that, of course, made it all the more risky. The book is drawn from hundreds of hours of one-on-one interviews with the astronauts, their families, NASA personal and dozens of scientists. A handful of photos in the middle of the book help tell the story. And even if you already know that story, this book makes it feel exciting and immediate.

The Book of Joy:  Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

“The ultimate source of happiness is within us,” says His Holiness The Dalai Lama. “We grow in kindness when our kindness is tested,” says Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Both these statements sum up this extraordinary (and timely) book by two incredible world leaders. Both men survived decades of exile and oppression, yet they are two of the most joyful people on this planet. This book grew from a trip in spring of 2015 when Archbishop Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama’s home in India to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday and create a gift for the world, with the help of Douglas Abrams. They traded personal stories, teased each other quite a bit and shared their spiritual practices. By the end of the week, they had come up with a way to share the joy they felt. They explored the Nature of Joy and talked about the Obstacles to Joy and, in this book, they offer us the Eight Pillars of Joy, which are a usable foundation for lasting happiness.

Best Friends in the Universe by Hector and Louie 

Hector and Louie are best friends, and they do everything together—they dance, they joke, they share the same odd name for their fishes (Python). So they decide to create a book (with the help of Stephanie Watson) to celebrate their awesome friendship. But when a secret is inadvertently revealed, that friendship is tested.  Can a do-over save the day and the friendship? This funny, energetic book with fantastic illustrations (digitally enhanced pencil and crayon) by LeUyen Pham, is a great lesson on the true meaning of real and lasting friendship.

I link to Amazon to show you exactly what book I’m talking about, but I love to shop locally at Church Street Coffee and BooksThe Alabama Booksmith, Little Profess