A Creative Chef Helps Put Birmingham Cuisine in the Spotlight

Vegetable plate at Hot Hot Fish Club, Birmingham.
Vegetable plate at Hot Hot Fish Club, Birmingham. Organic, local, great.

Last night we sampled the handiwork of a local legend in Birmingham. Chris Hastings spent years under the tutelage of  Frank Stitt, one of the city’s top chefs and in 1995, he and his wife Idie opened the Hot Hot Fish Club, in a round building downtown.

The elegant mood set by the soft lighting and the circular bar where diners get a front row seat to the action of the chefs preparing meals was just the beginning.  When we sat down the salt was one of the first things we noticed. They make their own version, adding herbs and peppers and grinding it up to make it slightly green.

The vegetables were one of the real stars of the night…the plate above included parsnip puree, almost a foam of delicate flavors, and was paired with grilled radiccio, a crock of roasted purple potatoes and brocoflower and faro, a nutty buttery grain. I love the presentation in the small bowls, which were made in Alabama.

Chris told us he’s been at this for quite a while, spending time cooking in different parts of the US and abroad, and he was recently featured on Martha Stewart making a cauliflower chestnut gratin which we sampled.The chestnuts melted in our mouth and the creamy cauliflower was exquisite.

Restaurants and food play a big part in any city’s hipness and cachet.  The Hastings have done their part, and definitely puts Birmingham in the class of up and coming cities where dining is an adventure. And locally, organic produces gets its due.