At Ironwood Kitchen + Cocktails inside The Valley Hotel in Homewood, out-of-town guests and locals alike get a taste of Alabama, prepared with creative flair.
“Bangin’ Bama Collards” appear frequently on the menu at the restaurant located on the main floor of the boutique hotel, which opened in early 2021. Platters that form the base for Ironwood’s signature appetizer, The Hanger (brown sugar chipotle bacon), are shaped in the state outline.
Pimiento Cheese Fritters; a seafood platter with Gulf oysters, shrimp, and fish; and touches like crispy pig ear in the Ironwood Caesar salad also speak with a Bama twang. Diners’ plates are made by Leeds potter Tena Payne.
At a recent media dinner there, we were treated to a sampling of the restaurant’s seasonal menu and cocktails. The food showcased Chef Jason Logan’s experience in high-end, locally-focused cooking, including stints at Greystone Golf and Country Club, the City Club of Birmingham, and the Country Club of Birmingham.
The head mixologist and sommelier, Demian Camacho, previewed intricately-prepared cocktails that are coming this summer to hotel’s Terrace Bar. Bottles from Ironwood’s extensive wine list are on display in and near the dining room.
The Hanger appetizer is the latest evolution of trendy charcuterie boards, only the meat hangs from a rack above the base board. Bacon strips are coated with a brown sugar and chipotle powder glaze and baked. Upon order they’re clipped to the rack and torched. The meat balances nicely among sweet, smoky, and spicy flavors.
A menu newcomer, Garden Biscuit, is made with pureed Brussels sprouts, carrots, leeks, and white cheddar folded into the dough. The veggies add a pleasantly vegetal quality to the cheese biscuit.
Ms. Tammy’s Savory Tart, a puff pastry filled with the kitchen’s perfectly cooked Bangin’ Bama collard greens, is garnished with an oil-poached tomato. The tart and slightly sweet tomato melds with the vegetal greens. The puff pastry stays crisp in parts, and sops up the pot likker from the greens in other parts. Bacon lardons round out the classic flavors.
Steak N Egg is one of the raw dishes that rotate onto the menu seasonally. In this version minced beef is mixed with Wickles pickles, shallots, and grain mustard. That’s topped with a yolk from a McEwen and Sons egg, and garnished with flying fish roe. The dish is served covered by a dome filled with wood smoke. You mix it all together to spread on the grilled toast that accompanies. It’s a great combination of textures, scents, and flavors. A similar tuna tartare dish is also smoked and finished with shaved cured egg yolk.
Pan-Seared Gulf Grouper, typical of a Chef’s Fresh Catch offering at Ironwood, evokes New England chowder with red shrimp, smoked pork, and rich seafood broth thickened with asparagus velouté.
Desserts from head pastry chef Tammy Riley include key lime pie on shortbread, sweetened with chunks of grilled pineapple. Red Velvet Moon Pie is a colorful rift on Mobile’s favorite Mardi Gras throw. Ironwood Chocolate Decadence is aptly named. Served in a Mason jar, it features pot de crème made with moonshine, layered with cream cheese and crushed chocolate cookies.
Cocktails at the Terrace bar range from classic to creative. Camacho demonstrated two newcomers, a smoky margarita called Ahumado de Homewood and a take on the pre-Prohibition drink that he calls The Upside Down Clover Club.
The former combines tequila and mezcal, simple syrup infused with mesquite smoke, orange liqueur, and cocktail bitters made with lemony yuzu. Camacho spritzes the glass with lemon verbena from a mister before pouring the cocktail. He garnishes it with a lime slice cratering black sea salt with a sage leaf poking out.
The other drink blends the flavors of raspberry, fragrant gin, dry vermouth, and fresh lemon juice, topped with foam spiked with raspberry liqueur and fruit, and lemon zest. Garnishes include chocolate pearls.
Ironwood Kitchen + Cocktails, which serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, draws a fairly even mix of hotel guests and locals, especially on weekends.
But even though the hotel is part of a major international imprint, both Camacho and Chef Logan stress the importance of providing its restaurant and bar patrons the special flavors that define the place they’re dining.
“We like utilizing local purveyors, local farms, and local products,” Camacho says.