If by chance you have not heard the great news from one of this cities greatest institutions, Southern Living, Birmingham has been chosen to compete for the very cool title of “tastiest town in the South”. Among the competition are ten other great Southern towns with rich food histories and great pride in their food communities. To check them out go online southernliving.com.
With that said an important thing for us to do at this moment is to look at what makes Birmingham such a great food community and how it got there.
It is always helpful when looking at why we are where we are today to review the past and identify moments that were pivotal in informing us as a community as well as setting us on a clear trajectory towards greatness. In this case I would like to take everyone back to the late 70’s. Birmingham was largely a food town like so many others that depended on country clubs, entertaining at home and a handful of good restaurants for a night out. Okay options but nothing that happening in the American food scene around the country.
However, what you may not know is that there was a small group of wine and food lover’s who gathered every Tuesday evening in Birmingham since 1976 to taste wine, discuss wine and discuss food.
This group was know as the Tuesday group and they still gather today, though now known as the Tuesday group that gathers on Thursday. Anyway it is a collection of people with a wide variety of backgrounds; businessmen, wine collectors, wine distributors, wine shop owners, a physician and a young chef. It would be this group of people who created the moment when Birmingham changed forever in terms of its food trajectory towards greatness and away from medi reflected the dynamic nature of what was ocrity. It is this group that created the foundation on which we all stand today and set in motion a better alternative. Kind of like when our own little big bang moment happened and our food universe was created.
So who are these people and what was it that happened.
For those I leave out forgive me. The groups members are Charlie and Rudd Yates of international wines, Frank Stitt who needs no introduction, Tony Meyer a physician and owner of Classic wines in Homewood, Wimberly Miree a Buisness man and collector of wine and David Black a wine broker and foodie.
So what did they do.? They set the new standard for enriching your life through food and wine !! Frank opened “Highlands Bar and Grill in 1983, Tony has been selling to the general public world class wines since 1990, Charlie and Rudd have been selling restaurants and retailers the most amazing selection of wines since 1973. Wimberly and others formed the Birmingham chapter of the International Wine and Food Society.
All of these things were the bedrock for what was to come. One important note: Birmingham embraced these organizations like the Israelites who had been living in the desert for 40 years and then finally found the promised land.
Hats off to you Birmingham, a lot of cities have these big bang moments only to see them fade due to lack of support or desire for excellence, allowing mediocrity to regain its control, often forever (insert your city of choice here).
Since then what has happened?
Dozens of wine shops have opened all over town, a nationally celebrated food community thrives, many new wine distributors have expanded your options, countless charitable organizations have raised millions of dollars via the gener osity of the food and wine community.
We have the world class “Pepper Place” farmers market, a great independent restaurant organization the “Birmingham originals” assuring support and aware-ness for independent restaurants, we have Jones Valley Urban Farm, you can join any number of CSA’s (community supported agriculture) in town, countless farmers sustainably raising fruits, vegetables, pigs, beef, turkey, veal, goats, chickens, honey and cheeses etc all providing you a healthier food supply and choice. Oh yea and the BBQ! Forget about it, Birmingham Q is as good as any anywhere. Never forget what the BBQ community does for our community on many levels. Love those guys. The Bright Star is a James Beard Hall of Fame winner! How Awesome is that?
One of the things that is most amazing about this whole thing is how it has impacted the cities perception. Our food and wine community has become recognized around the country for its commit-ment to excellence and this is a source of great pride for Birmingham. Speaking for everyone in the food and wine community we are proud to be a part of the positive message coming out of our city.
If you ever run into any of those men stop and thank them. We all stand on their shoulders and our town is the “Tastiest Town in the South” thanks to them. My personal thanks to all of these men and everyone since who has carried the flag of excellence for our food and wine community.
I encourage you to go out and vote at www.southernliving.com
Regards, Chris Hastings, Chef and Owner Hot and Hot Fish Club Hastings Consulting 2180 11th Court South Birmingham, AL 35205 205-933-5474(w) 205-873-1753(c) firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.twitter.com/chrishastings00 https://www.facebook.com/chef.chrishastings