Jul 162016
 

um1How about the tantalizing smells of basil, oregano, and freshly-baked crust, underpinned with eight local draft beers in a family-friendly environment? Amore!

A new franchise to northern Alabama, Uncle Maddio’s has a made-to-order fast-casual model, but with a decidedly premium feel. There is an impressive array of toppings for both pizzas and salads. Everything you expect is here, but you can take the road less traveled as well. Chicken apple sausage? Check. Black bean corn salsa? Goat cheese? Grilled tofu? While you are certainly welcome to customize your own, there are numerous signature tastes available. Lea and I enjoyed a BoWilliams.com sneak preview on Thursday evening.

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Lea had a Peachy Keen, a summer special including prosciutto, caramelized onions, feta crumbles, balsamic vinegar, and (yes) sliced peaches. It was beautiful to look at, and she reported it was tasty indeed.

The Peachy Keen. Click to get close enough to smell!

The Peachy Keen. Click to get close enough to smell!

I went with a Spicy Italian, which includes banana peppers, spicy sausage, mushrooms, and fresh basil. None of mine survived to be taken home.

Mmm, spicy Italian. Click for a closer look.

Mmm, spicy Italian. Click for a closer look.

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The menu further includes calzoney situations called Foldwiches, and there are numerous regular offers, including lunch specials and a rewards program.

Uncle Maddio’s caters very well to those with special dietary needs. Vegetarians and vegans will find many options here, and those who want to exclude gluten will find not only gluten-free crust, but a ready list of toppings and ingredients that are free of it. This attention to making it easy to put together a robust and interesting meal will doubtless be appreciated by those with restrictions.

Uncle Maddio’s is in a new facility on the north side of U.S. 72 in Madison, just west of Wall Triana Highway. It’s a good option for all ages, both in terms of offerings and budget. Then, some unambiguously gourmet touches can add a little date night vibe to a family dinner.

 Posted by at 11:11 am
Jul 092016
 

For a few months in 2016, every week or two I’m going to have the hottest wings available at a different area restaurant and give you my thoughts.

grylls1Johnny Gryll’s came enthusiastically recommended to me by a colleague. It is a fast-casual American eatery—wings, burgers, onion rings, and so forth—in a shopping center just north of Sparkman High School on Jeff Rd. in Harvest.

Wings are listed in quantities of 3 to 100 on the menu, with lower per-piece prices at higher quantities. Several flavors and heat levels are available, including a few dry rubs. The hottest on the menu are called Creapin’ Reaper. My five drums and five flats were $9.16, and arrived with two pieces of celery and a cup of bleu cheese. (The celery appears to be free on request, but you do need to ask for it.)

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Quality: 8/10. These wings were fried when I ordered them, and well. They arrived warm enough that I needed to separate them a bit to cool. They were sized on the large side of general expectations—eminently reasonably for the price—and they were devoid of excessive fat.

Flavor: 10/10. Wow! These things are delectable. They smelled really good when they arrived, building pleasant anticipation, and then they delivered. The primary scaffolding is a mustard-based barbecue sauce—rather South Carolina—with a little sweet-smoky harmony. There is a whisper of garlic in the finish. It’s a fabulous cocktail of flavors. I was sad when I finished them.

Heat: 8/10. There is a slight Louisiana/vinegar hot note on the front end, but the significant heat here comes from habaneros and reapers. This sauce is a textbook example of the slow, relentless heat of Capsicum chinense cultivars. You go up slowly, and you come down slowly. At the top I had a good sweat, a few tears, and an endorphin dump. It was an entertaining ride, and I’ll definitely go again—particularly when the heat is part of such a delicious sauce.

There are some excellent wings lurking at Johnny Gryll’s, just up Jeff Rd. a piece. I will be back for these. And the quantity pricing is driving entertaining visions of football parties this fall.

 Posted by at 4:18 pm
Jul 062016
 

This is one of my favorite photographs. It’s a self-portrait of Tracy Caldwell Dyson aboard the International Space Station in 2010, two weeks before she came home. Tracy Caldwell Dyson, who would have so totally been my girlfriend except that we grew up on opposite sides of the country and did completely different things, has […]

 Posted by at 11:08 am
Jun 272016
 

We found ourselves at Fulin’s last night because of a dinnertime power outage at home. As we ate, they were showing competitive diving—possibly Olympics tryouts—on television. Nathan mentioned that the last time he’d been at a pool with a 10M diving platform, they weren’t letting anyone use it. Apparently this is common now; liability concerns. […]

 Posted by at 7:15 am

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