Baking, Books, and Hot Chicken

By on 6 September, 2017 in Brandie Johnson, Fun with 0 Comments

I’ve been all over creation this past month. And by “all over” I mean I went to Birmingham one weekend and Nashville another. Oh, and I popped into Prattville Pickers too. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind month.

One of my absolute favorite places to go while I’m in Birmingham, besides PF Changs and The Cheesecake Factory (I know, I’m such a tourist), is a kitchen store called Sur la Table. Every time I say I’m going there, David’s (my husband) eyes fill with excitement and a touch of terror. Excitement because he knows I’ll get some wonderful thing, like a Bundt pan, that will inevitably lead to a delicious confection. Terror because he knows I have no control over my debit card when I’m there. Don’t misunderstand, their prices are quite reasonable, it’s just that I’m not. For instance, they carry ice cream makers, really cool ice cream makers (no pun intended, promise), and every time I see them I want one. The problem with that? We already have a practically brand-new ice cream maker. Oh, oh, and the cookware. I don’t even cook. And I don’t just mean it’s not my favorite thing, I mean I can boil noodles and make two different kinds of casseroles, that’s basically my recipe repertoire. Yet I find myself oohing over $400 sets of cookware. But where I actually drop the serious money is in the baking section. Baking is where I burn it up in the kitchen, and I mean that figuratively. I bake things quite evenly. Even though we have plenty of stores in Montgomery where I can find baking supplies (and I frequent them, believe me, I really frequent them), Sur la Table has a penchant for stocking particularly unique items. In fact, on my first visit I found a hummingbird cookie cutter which helped me make some special cookies for my sweet grandmother’s birthday; she loves hummingbirds.

Although David shudders a bit at how freely I swipe my debit card at Sur la Table, he’s actually jealous anytime I go there without him. We recently discovered they offer cooking and baking classes throughout the week and on the weekends. We’ve decided this would make a wonderful little Saturday date. We can go up there on Friday night, eat some chicken lettuce wraps at PF Changs (David’s a tourist too), grab some Chocolate Tuxedo Cream™ Cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory, and don our aprons the next morning. You get to taste all the stuff you make, by the way! When we decide on the class we’re going to take, I’ll write all about it.

Until then, let’s talk about Nashville. I was recently in the Music City for a workshop and, being the managing partner of a bookstore here in Montgomery, I couldn’t resist visiting the enchanting Parnassus Books. You walk in and see books literally going up to the ceiling. Those old school ladders with the wheels, you know the ones you see in old libraries, line the walls, seriously adding to the charm of the place. And you may or may not be greeted by one of a few dogs that call the bookstore home. Sometimes they’re napping, or handselling a book to another customer. The day I was there I had the pleasure of meeting one of the pups (but let’s keep that between you and me, my dogs would be devastated). I also got to see a wonderful author, Kristen Iskandrian from Birmingham, Alabama, read from her New York Times reviewed book, Motherest. Parnassus is known for hosting high quality events, so I’m not surprised that I enjoyed myself so much. If you have a kid, or are a kid at heart, their children’s section will blow you away. Large star-shaped lights hang from the ceiling while a custom mural painted by a local artist graces one of the walls. I could sit in one of their miniature chairs and read Clifford the Big Red Dog for hours. Despite the allure of the place, I managed to tell myself no to buying any books, as I’ve kinda been on a book buying binge. However, I did leave with a darling tote bag and a t-shirt.

Of course, no trip would be complete for me without eating some delicious food. I had the best mini spring rolls at Tokyo Japanese Steakhouse, a Georgia On My Mind (a dangerously tasty drink) at Green Hills Grille, and fried cheesecake at The Crow’s Nest. I didn’t eat any Nashville Hot Chicken, but I did have a Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich on the drive home. Does that count? Spring rolls and spicy chicken aside, the best meal I had in Nashville was actually, drum roll please… pizza. I know, who would’ve thought I liked pizza? To be totally accurate here, I didn’t eat this pizza on this trip, I ate it when I was in Nashville in 2016. David and I attended a concert at Cannery Row, an incredible venue, and, after the taxi we called drove right past us, we decided to walk the 15 minutes back to our hotel. Over the course of this trek, we realized we were starving but after listing to rather loud music for 2 hours, we weren’t really in the mood to eat at any of the lively joints that line the streets of downtown Nashville. Instead, we wondered into a quiet pizza parlor (so quiet in fact, we thought for a moment that it was closed). Thankfully they weren’t, and we proceeded to eat one of the best pizzas we’ve ever had. It wasn’t better than Fox’s but it’s up there on our list of favorites. If you’re ever out late and looking for a simple meal in a place where you can hear what your dinner companion is saying, (or you can read a book you picked up from Parnassus) stroll into The Italian Kitchen.

You can actually visit all of these places over a long weekend. Drive to Birmingham on a Friday night, visit Sur la Table Saturday morning, then drive the last leg of the trip to Nashville. Spend Saturday evening, and Sunday buying books, eating at all of the amazing restaurants, and drinking Georgia On My Minds. Maybe even eat some hot chicken. Or just grab Wendy’s at exit 65. Whatever you want.

Brandie Bradshaw Johnson is the managing partner of The NewSouth Bookstore in downtown Montgomery. In her downtime she enjoys: reading books, crocheting, cuddling with her two dogs, hanging out with her best friend/husband, David, and watching The Golden Girls.

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