Ollie Irene, delicious and homegrown in Birmingham.

Last night, we drove to Birmingham for dinner with my sister and brother-in-law (whom I will just call “BMW bike dude” for short in honor of his new tricycle) at a softly-opened new restaurant in Mountain Brook.

Like all worthwhile southern gems, this one is rooted in a history- a family legacy sweetened by the scent of soil, Alabama summers, and an inspiring grandmother. Ollie Irene was named after Chef Chris’ grandmother who knew how to use every vegetable, herb, and animal on her land in concocting the most delicious homestyle meals. Apparently, the taste of Ollie Irene’s handmade biscuits, pinched, smoothed, patted, and turned with the measure of her knowing hands, outlived her physical body. Combining locally-grown, seasonal produce with the romantic ambiance of moonlight and magnolias minus the lace and fluff, Ollie Irene is a tribute to its community as well as its namesake.

A photo of the lovely Ollie Irene.

I can’t really do the entire experience justice except to say that every single plate and every object on that plate held its own particular taste. Chris used the Alabama peaches in season right now to create artistic marvels- to bring out the juicy tenderness of the pork roast, to compliment the woodsy spice of the arugula and rich flavor the goat cheese. By remaining faithful to the natural qualities and tastes of simple, homegrown ingredients, Chris, Wim, and the other chefs made our meal feel like a museum experience in which we marveled over all the different ways an artist could make beautiful use of the color blue. Or green.

Little Milla appreciated her high chair, and used it to serenade the waitresses with various requests. She absolutely could not get enough of the Silver Queen Corn Salad on my sister’s plate. In fact, she amused us by pointing at it and screaming and then pointing at her own empty plate emphatically. Carla repaid Milla by stealing her pub fries, savory potatoes cooked in duck fat and flavored with herbs, whenever Milla turned her head. Suffice it to say that there was much stealing and sharing and “mmmmmming” at our corner table.

By the time we got to dessert, I had consumed enough of my Algonquin cocktail to understand why the writers of the Algonquin Round Table always seemed to verge on tipsiness. And the dessert was so spectacular than if I were a true Southern lady, I might have fainted with pleasure. I don’t like creme brulee, so I rolled my eyes when Patrick ordered it and then proceeded to lick every bite from the spoon and snap at Jeremy when he approached the plate. Poor Jeremy ordered the Peach Tarte Tartin with homemade vanilla ice cream and ended up with very little for himself. It was UNBELIEVABLE. Just unbelievable.

Aunt Carla and Milla at Ollie Irene’s. The soft glow of candles doesn’t show up well on my lame Iphone 3 camera…

See for yourself. I know you will call me and say, “Unbelievable….” because that’s really all there is to say about it.

Presently, Ollie Irene’s will be open Tuesday through Saturday evenings for dinner. Doors open with a limited menu and absolutely delicious cocktails, beer, and wines beginning at 4 pm. At 5 pm, the full menu is available. Located across from the Botanical Gardens, Ollie Irene can be found at 2713 Culver Road, Mountain Brook, AL 35223. If you have any questions about the menu or hours, contact them at 205-769-6034 or just send an email to info@ollieirene.com. To learn more about the proprietors, Chris Newsome and Anna Lakovitch, enjoy their impressive bios. This restaurant grew from a well-nourished and cultivated dream. I can’t wait to see what Chris cooks up with the next season’s produce…

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