A taste for all things culinary

Published 5:44 pm Tuesday, November 25, 2008

“If Emeril LaGasse and Paula Dean had a love child, that would be me,” laughs Etricia Williams. “My cooking style is ‘southern butter’ with an overlay of Creole, which is the influence of my Natchez childhood roots.”

Etricia, who will soon open 122 Tree Lane — her restaurant in Old Town, comes naturally to her love of food.

“It started with the Easy Bake Oven that I received when I was four and the birthday cake I baked for my mom. When I saw the look on her face, I knew I wanted to be able to make other people feel that good! Now, I cook because that is what I love to do –– it’s a part of me,” Etricia said.

That is the premise behind Tree Lane, where she has created an inviting space and a menu offering familiar dishes and several with her own individual twist. Her Calypso Chicken Salad is a mix of fresh greens, jerk style chicken, strawberries, mandarin oranges and fresh pineapple topped with Cherry Rum Vinaigrette.

Growing up with grandmother Sadie Lee Hunter Williams, grandmother of 13, Etricia remembers cooking as the best way to spend one-on-one time with her.

“She was the person whose door was always open to anyone in the community for a meal,” Etricia said. “Her sons came nightly, even after they married, and on Sundays … all the generations came together for a huge meal.”

While attending the University of Montevallo, Etricia further honed her interest at the Blue House Café, once an Alabaster landmark. There she prodded the young and talented chef, Mark Berry.

“Mark introduced me to a genre of food beyond grits,” she grinned. “He taught me what polenta and béchamel sauce and ratatouille are and inspired me to think more creatively.”

Around the spreading cherry–blossom tree on the back wall at 122 Tree Lane, Etricia looks forward to adding a favorite quote from customers.

Initially, daily lunch will be offered from 10-3 p.m. Etricia also plans to offer catered events and lunches, as well as holiday meals for carry-out. Over 10 pastries and desserts, Etricia’s speciality, including Hummingbird Cake and Kentucky Derby Pie will be available.

For more information and menu details, visit www.122treelane.com.

Laura Brookhart can be reached by e–mail at laurabrookhart@yahoo.com.