By Sharon Gittleman
The sun is shining, the wind is calm, the margaritas are chilling, only one thing is missing – barbecue. There’s nothing like the scent of hickory to turn winter’s chill into a bad memory.
At Jimmie’s Rustics in Birmingham, barbecue is more than just an art – it’s a science.
“We specialize in high end grills, starting at $1,200,” said Manager Jarrod Wilkinson. “It’s like bringing your kitchen outside.”
At Jimmie’s Rustics, you find barbecues ranging up to 935 square inches – nearly three feet wide. There’s room for three chickens on the rotisserie, four steaks and ten bratwursts on the grill, with plenty of space left over for the sweet corn.
Men make up the bulk of Jimmie’s barbecue clientele, said Wilkinson. Many seem attracted to the stainless steel models with lots of gleaming chrome.
“It’s like having a Cadillac on your deck,” he said.
Rotisseries and side burners are just a few of the high-end barbecue options.
“We have some grills, you can throw a turkey on and close the lid and a few hours later it’s done,” he said.
Broilmaster and Lynx are two of Jimmie’s more popular models, said Wilkinson.
At Jimmie’s, outdoor entertaining doesn’t end with your grill. You can purchase gazebos, outdoor bars and gaming sets, including poker tables.
A similar variety of outdoor equipment can be found at Smith & Hawken, with a more ladylike bent.
Walk inside the store and you’ll inhale the scent of citrus and floral potpourri, hear the gentle splash of water fountains and find yourself surrounded by orchids and ferns.
“I like to think we provide our customers with beautiful items to create wonderful home and garden environments,” said Sales Associate Cynthia Kidd. “I think our products are elegant and unique.”
Victorian, contemporary and rustic garden, outdoor and home products are yours at Smith & Hawken, with everything from strings of lights shaped like dragonflies to a redwood patio greenhouse available either in the store or on the Internet.
Of course, there’s plenty of grilling equipment and supplies.
“We have our barbecue pit,” she said.
The pit comes complete with an extra-thick round copper basin set on a four-footed wrought iron stand, topped by a domed spark screen with slide-front access to let you add more firewood or make some s’mores.
A 24-inch round chrome grill is available to convert the pit into a barbecue.
“We have grilling planks in cedar and maple,” said Kidd. “They’re planks of wood you can soak and use to cook your fish or chicken on your fire pit.”
The planks add an extra dimension of flavor to the meat, ranging from smoky to sweet, she said.
You can buy a fire pit work station with a cutting board and hooks to hang your tools or a fan to blow the smoke away.
“We have extending forks to toast marshmallows,” she said. “They telescope out from 16 inches to 42 inches.”
Nestled among the teak and cedar Adirondack chairs, sweeping garden arches and packets of organic seeds, you’ll find another little-known treasure – a money tree.
“It’s supposed to bring good fortune to those who own it,” she said. “A lot of people buy them for gifts for people who are getting married or are starting new jobs.”
So far, no one who has bought a tree has come back to the story showing off the winning lottery ticket, said Kidd.
The tree’s name may come more from its own good luck.
“It has three trunks braided together and a canopy of foliage,” she said. “It thrives on neglect.”
You can visit Jimmie’s Rustics at 690 S. Old Woodward in Birmingham. Call the store at 248-644-1919.
Smith & Hawken is located at 296 W. Maple in Birmingham. You can reach them at 248-593-6010. Visit the chain garden store’s web page at http://www.smithandhawken.com.