Next Thursday, Nov. 13, Chef Tory McPhail of Commander's Palace will be in Birmingham to promote his new book, "Commander's Wild Side: Bold Flavors for Fresh Ingredients From the Great Outdoors."
For a special dinner at Veranda on Highland, McPhail will prepare some of his favorite recipes from the book (jazzed up a bit for the restaurant, since the recipes are very much aimed at the home cook), with the help of his old colleague, Tom Robey, executive chef at Veranda.
As executive chef at the famed Commander's Palace restaurant in New Orleans, Tory McPhail has big clogs to fill, following in the footsteps of household names like Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse and Jamie Shannon. His mentor Shannon must have taught him well; he was a James Beard Rising Star Chef Nominee during his first year at the helm.
Tom Robey, executive chef of Veranda on Highland, goes way back with McPhail, to the early 1990s, when they were up-and-coming line cooks at Commander's Palace. McPhail went on to become executive chef after Jamie Shannon's death seven years ago; Robey, who had moved up to sous chef, took the head chef's job at the new Veranda on Highland after evacuating to Birmingham during Hurricane Katrina. ("I didn't want to be a sous chef at 40," he says.)
The book includes more than 100 recipes for meats, wild game and seafood, inspired by his stint hosting the TV show "Off the Menu," which aired on Turner South and featured some of the South's most celebrated chefs as they found, caught and cooked wild game.
The dinner will include a Wild Game Bird Gumbo, Andouille Grilled Shrimp & Wild Alligator, Deep Dish Rabbit & Autumn Mushroom Pie, an Assiette of Wild Texas Venison (basically venison three ways, Robey told me), and Bananas Foster S'mores.
Each course will be paired with wines from Napa Valley's Bouchaine Vineyards. Tickets are $150 per couple, plus tax and tip, and include an autographed copy of McPhail's cookbook. Cocktails start at 6 p.m. and dinner begins at 6:30. Call (205) 939-5551 for reservations.
Veranda on Highland has been open about a year and a half and is probably the best restaurant you haven't been to. It doesn't get the buzz that some other restaurants get, but the restaurant offers a cozy, elegant-yet-casual dining experience, and Robey's New Orleans-influenced creations are not only delicious but also less expensive than most other white-table restaurants in the area. And don't miss their Sunday jazz brunch. Robey says there may be other white-tablecloth restaurants offering weekend brunch, "but we still have the best band."
- Bhamdining.com review of Veranda on Highland
- Growers and Grocers Blog: Trying a recipe from the new book
- Veranda on Highland Web Site
- Review of Veranda on Highland, Birmingham Magazine, November 2008
- Commander's Palace Web Site
- Review of "Commander's Wild Side" at Delish.com
- Buy "Commander's Wild Side: Bold Flavors for Fresh Ingredients from the Great Outdoors" at Amazon.com
We called Friday to confirm our reservation and the only seats left were at the bar, so this is one popular event!