In the surprisingly cosmopolitan town of Birmingham, Alabama you can have a deluxe five-star vacation filled with down-home hospitality, beautiful scenery, and amazing food while relaxing and rejuvenating your mind and body. Once you arrive you will immediately notice the sprawling green landscape and the fresh, clean air. The downtown seems old-fashioned, yet the buildings are sleek, modern, and clean.
Venturing off the main freeway, you will reach the new development of the Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Situated on 2,000 acres of rolling hills; Ross Bidge is a beautiful and massive stone establishment that would rival any majestic hillside country castle.
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The 259-room property features a golf course situated on 330 acres of lush landscaping and is known as the third longest golf course in the world with 8,191 yards from the tips. Other world-class amenities include the 12,000 sq. ft. spa, as well as two restaurants, bar, pool and gym.
Enjoy a morning at the two-tiered outdoor pool that offers what appears to be miles of chaise lounges as well as a fun water slide.
For lunch, get your first taste of the South with a stop at Niki’s West. This casual cafeteria-style eatery features mounds of the best in Southern food; fried chicken, Southern fried steak, catfish, collard greens, pasta salad, pinto beans, fresh vegetables, mac n’ cheese and fried green tomatoes. Founded in 1957, the restaurant mixes casual comfort with high-class eats. Tourists and locals mix, sipping on sweet tea and indulging in the sweet potato pie.
After lunch hit the little-known Alabama wine trail. Featuring half a dozen wineries, this can make for a perfect afternoon. Alabama wines are high in antioxidants due to their enriched soil, and most wineries carry varietals native to the region.
One popular Southern wine is muscadine. A sweet wine, muscadine is from a tough berry and grows primarily in southeastern states. Fruit wines (blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, apple and peach) are also very popular for those who like a sweeter wine. One winemaker that has made his mark in the area is Tom Vizzini of Vizzini Farms Winery. The second-generation Italian winemakers produce about 3,000 cases a year and are known for their delectable raspberry chocolate wine and soft peach dessert wine.
For dinner, head to the best restaurant in the city: Hot and Hot Fish Club. Run by world-renowned Chef Chris Hastings and his wife Idie, this casual yet wholly upscale eatery specializes in perfection. Upon entering the establishment, you will immediately feel at home. Unpretentious, yet chic and decadent. Service and hospitality are held to the highest standard.
The menu features ever-changing entrees, as most of the food is locally grown and organic. If in season, indulge in the Hot and Hot tomato salad, a delicate concoction of heirloom tomatoes, applewood-smoked bacon, fresh peas, corn, fried okra and chive aioli. The charcuterie plate gives a preview of the meal to come with foie gras, pickled veal tongue, homemade souse meat and duck prosciutto.
For a light meal, the bouillabaisse is a seafood medley from the nearby gulf that is warm and delightful. Not to be missed is the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth shrimp and grits. A staple in Alabama, grits can be done in hundreds of different ways. They will show up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and occasionally dessert. At Hot and Hot, the chef has found the perfect balance of creamy, subtly sweet, and absolutely delicious. Added country ham, tomato and fresh thyme make it faultless. Another Hot and Hot specialty is Idie’s Icepick. This concoction of Earl Grey Iced Tea, Absolute Citron and simple syrup is a dangerous mix, since it goes down easy and is a must for any tea lover.
As the day comes to an end, head back to Ross Bridge to enjoy the striking sunsets while you listen to the in-house bagpiper play a tune while relaxing at Brock’s with a nightcap and dessert while overlooking the picturesque golf course taking in Birmingham beauty.
Make sure to take home a taste of Alabama with products made right here Birmingham. A great gift bag would include Golden Flake Potato Chips, (since 1923) Bud’s Best Cookies, The Peanut Depot Peanuts (around since 1907!) and Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale. Alabama is a place where one bite can show you a whole new world of edible enchantment.
What & Where:
Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa (4000 Grand Ave, Birmingham; 800-593-6419)
Niki’s (West 233 Finley Ave W. , Birmingham; 205-252-5751)
Vizzini Farms Winery (800 Highway 87, Calera; 205-685-0655)
Hot and Hot Fish Club (2180 11th Court South, Birmingham; 205-933-5474)