Re-discover Your Inner Child Along Alabama’s Gulf Coast

Though I missed Be a Kid Again Day on July 8th–and you may have too, it’s never too late to connect with our inner child. And don’t we all need that considering not only our own busy lives but also what’s going on in the world. Sigh! It’s enough to make you want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head. But here’s another suggestion.

Why not head to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, two twin beach towns along the Gulf Coast known for their miles and miles of sugar-white sandy beaches and myriad water and land activities as well as great seafood and lots of you-can-only-find-it-here fun. Want examples?

Think prehistoric creatures that go beyond the big screen this summer. That’s right. It’s Jurassic Golf. But don’t worry. You don’t have to run from these creatures. Your only concern at this indoor, glow-in-the-dark miniature golf course is whether you can get finally get a hole-in-one,

Or further your education. That’s right. But this isn’t calculus. Instead it’s Sand Castle University, a program teaching “students” the very best ways to build sand castles. Yes, soon you’ll be the beach equivalent of Frank Lloyd Wright. Well, maybe not. But you’ll certainly have some Instagramable moments.

Those covers aren’t looking like such a great option anymore, are they?

Well, let’s do some more convincing. Building sandcastles and playing miniature golf with prehistoric relics calls for sustenance. And since calories don’t count on vacation (honest, trust me on this) check out The Yard Milkshake Bar for their creative mind-bending dessert concoctions served in jars. 

The options at City Donut include their unique, made-from-scratch donuts with toppings like Nerds or Fruity Pebbles, or you can just go glazed–all are yummy.

Now that we’ve gotten dessert out of the way, sit down for dinner at LuLu’s, a family-friendly restaurant which not only has great coastal cuisine (including allergy-friendly dishes) but also features ropes courses (including the Mountain of Youth, a three-story climbing structure), an arcade, a seasonal caricature artist and live music. Oh and views of the water. Last time I was there I saw a dolphin pop up but he didn’t stop to say hi.

Fortified, stop at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo which offers up-close and personal animal encounters with kangaroos, lemurs and sloths. For kangaroos and lemurs, kids must be at least 3 years old to attend, but sloths will hang with guests of any age.

Thye’re definitely not hands-on or good for close encounters but the zoo recently brought in three new African lions (Daniel, Chadwick and Regina from the Pittsburgh Zoo) to assist in lion conservation efforts. Guests will be able to spot them as they’re introduced to the zoo’s resident lion, Nandi.

Nothing is more relaxing and rejuvenating than getting out in the fresh, coastal air. Hop on a bike at Gulf State Park and enjoy the 28 peaceful miles of the Backcountry Trail. The park offers a free bike-share program, so visitors can explore the nine different ecosystems that make up the park. Bikes in the park are designed for adults and bigger kids; if you have younger children, several local bike shops rent kids’ and tandem bikes. And if biking seems like too much effort, that’s okay. The park also offers more than three miles of public beach to the visitors who prefer to just sit on the sand and listen to the sound of crashing waves.

Looking for a day trip from the Gulf Shores? Consider Magnolia Springs, a true step back in time.

Convinced? Then begin planning your trip at https://www.gulfshores.com

Celebrating Mardi Gras 2022

Even if you can’t make it down for Mardi Gras this year, there’s no reason to miss out on the fun. Here are our options for celebrating the holiday in person or from home. So start planning so you don’t miss out on the fun.

Mobile, Alabama

Mobile is THE birthplace of Mardi Gras in the United States, with the American celebration dating back to 1703. In this city, where MoonPies are the most coveted parade “throw” and beads hang from trees year-round, Mardi Gras is truly a way of life.

Planned Events:

A full listing of planned events can be found at Mobile.org. All events are subject to change.

  • The 2022 parade schedule extends from January 29 to March 1.
  • A tradition that started in 2021 is continuing to roll into the 2022 Carnival season. The Mobile Porch Parade is a socially distanced way for Mobilians to join in the fun by decorating their homes and registering to be on the official parade map. Everyone is invited to follow the “parade routes” – by way of foot, car or bike – at their leisure.

Celebrate at Home

  • To help get you in the spirit of the season, Toomey’s Mardi Gras features one of the largest inventories of Mardi Gras supplies anywhere in the world. Headquartered in a 70,000-square-foot facility is overflowing with beads, costumes, masks, and decorations. And that’s just the start. They even have MoonPies.
  • Local women-owned business ellenJAY offers a seasonal Mardi Gras Combo Box, Inside are four beautifully decorated mask sugar cookies, four chocolate chip sammies with vanilla buttercream and Mardi Gras sprinkles, and four cinnamon teacakes. The 12-count combo box is $59.95.

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama

Head to  Gulf Shores and Orange Beach and celebrate Mardi Gras on the beach.

Planned Events:

A full listing of planned events can be found at gulfshores.com

. All events are subject to change.

  • Don’t miss the Orange Beach Mardi Gras Parade. Organized each year by the City of Orange Beach, this year’s parade is scheduled for Saturday, February 26.
  • They all love a parade. That’s why the city of Gulf Shores offers both land and sea parades on Mardi Gras With the oldest parading order in Baldwin County, the Gulf Shores Mardi Gras Parade will take place at 10 a.m. on March 1. Later that day, the Mardi Gras Boat Parade, organized by Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s, sets sail. 

Celebrate at Home

  • Possibly the most famous of all Mardi Gras dishes is gumbo, and we’ve got a great recipe to share. Excerpted from Lucy Buffet’s “Gumbo Love” recipe book, Summer Seafood Gumbo. Ignore the name, this gumbo is good year round.

Coastal Louisiana

Coastal Louisiana epitomes the Cajun French expression “Laissez les bon temps roulez,” or as we would say “Let the good times roll.” Historically, New Year’s celebrations overlap the Carnival season kickoff starting on the Epiphany (January 6) and continuing on through Mardi Gras beginning this year on Tuesday, March 1.

Planned Events:

A full listing of planned events can be found on each destination’s website. All events are subject to change.

  • Lafourche Parish is recovering from the impact of Hurricane Ida last summer, but Mardi Gras is giving residents of Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou some reasons to celebrate. Here’s a complete list of the festivities scheduled for this year.
  • Located a short 40 minutes from the French Quarter, St. Tammany Parish is home to such quirky and unforgettable Mardi Gras parades as the Carnival in Covington Parade on March 1.
  • In Southwest Louisiana, the famed Iowa Chicken Run, an event that winds its way through the small town of Iowa to collect ingredients for a celebratory gumbo, is scheduled for March 1.

Celebrate at Home:

Mindy’s Meat Plus Three: Serious Eating Southern Style

It must be a Southern thing because I’d never heard of Meat Plus Three, aka M&3, until my friend Mindy Bianca shared with me six restaurants–three in Mobile, Alabama and three in Spartanburg, South Carolina where a meat-centered meal (think fried chicken, catfish, or ribs) comes with three sides.

“By my calculations, that’s six meats and 18 sides,” says Mindy, who used what she calls Mindy Math to come up with that number. “And goodness knows how many gallons of iced tea.”

Nothing Fancy

Now don’t go looking up M&3 because Google will take you to either an ad for a very fancy BMW or a bunch of three-star Michelin restaurants. Now as wonderful as M&3s are, you’re not going to find serious looking people taking little bites of fancy looking food, chewing slowly and then writing notes in leather bound notebooks. If you see that, you’re not in a M&3 restaurant. How do you know? Because anyone at a M&3 is going to be chowing down big time. And if they have to write something down, they do it on a napkin. I mean, we’re talking seriously down-home cooking and just as seriously delicious.

Alabama

MOBILE, ALABAMA

Mama’s on Dauphin

22o Dauphin Street

            Mama’s is a fixture in downtown Mobile, a popular spot for local businesspeople on their lunch breaks and visitors checking out the nearby attractions. The restaurant truly believes in supporting other small businesses, so they source their produce from local farmers markets and gear their menus to the seasons. If you want to get real serious about all this, Mindy says that technically, Mama’s is a meat and two, as each entrée comes with just two sides. But she’s giving Mama’s a pass because  a lot of those proteins automatically get mashed potatoes and gravy with them/

            “That’s why Mama’s makes it to my list of M&3’s,” she says, noting that her pick here is their Meatloaf Monday with  mashed taters as part of the entrée. “I suggest adding squash casserole and fried okra as the other sides.

Mindy’s Pro Tip: Order an entrée that comes with mashed potatoes … because you still get two other sides!

The Noble South

203 Dauphin Street

            Right down the street from Mama’s, The Noble South is an upscale meat and three, which is an entirely new concept. Afterall, part of the charm of a M&3 are uneven legs on your table or chair (that’s easily fixable by slipping in some sugar packets under the too short leg and yes, sugar packets are another sign of M&3s), cracked linoleum floors—those aren’t fixable with sugar packets so just go with the ambience, or flatware and glassware that doesn’t match. Yelling from the kitchen also counts. So seeing white tablecloths at The Noble South at dinner time was a little off. Could it really be an M&3?

            Turns out that  Chef/Owner Chris Rainosek has the concept down pat. He offers a “lunch plate” with a changing selection of proteins comes with a choice of one, two or three sides. Of course, all is fresh whether it’s from local farms or the Gulf of Mexico. You do know that Mobile is on the Gulf, right?

            Chris changes the menu all the time and everything is good but if fried catfish with sides of heirloom tomatoes, cucumber salad and creamer peas are being offered when you stop by, go for it.

Meat Boss

5401 Cottage Hill Road

            This meat and three is a bit unconventional, as it’s a mashup of the standard M&3 and a BBQ joint. But don’t judge. You can still do a meat and three … just know that all the meat is smoked in-house and totally cuttable with just a fork. Or, better yet, pulled apart with your fingers.

             There’s a six-step process here which can be a little complicated, but you can figure it out. After all, I did and I’m really bad at math.

            First you pick your meat, followed by your bread, sauce, basic toppings, the amazing sides, and your drink. Here’s an example: beef brisket with that Alabama specialty–white BBQ sauce—recipe follows), cheddar cheese,  sides of slaw, Boss beans, and potato salad; and sweet tea to drink.

            It’s really worth the work of figuring out.

South Carolina

SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA

Wade’s Restaurant

1000 N. Pine Street, Spartanburg

            This is the quintessential meat and three and an absolute legend in South Carolina’s Upstate. Wade and Betty Lindsay opened a small grocery store on this site in 1947 and by the 1970s it had become a full-fledged meat and three. Wade’s is known far and wide for its fried chicken but the chicken pot pie is wonderful and not something you typically find at a M&3. Whether you go for the pot pie or the chicken, you definitely have to order the sweet potato souffle. And since carbs don’t count when you’re on the road, go with the navy beans and creamed corn. Then comes another hard choice—corn bread or yeast rolls. I know, it’s tough. But keep in mind that Wade’s serves some 3500 yeast rolls a day. That’s how good there are.

Mustard Seed BBQ

2000 S.J. Workman Highway, Woodruff

            When you get  outside of Spartanburg, don’t bother with a map. Just follow the aroma of a wood burning smoker coming from the direction of tiny Woodruff. There’s not much to see at Mustard Seed BBQ—it’s just a little  building with a big parking lot. But it’s home to a BBQ/Meat and Many (think Meat Boss in Mobile). The restaurant hosts their famous Soul Food Sunday Buffet. There’s no limit to the number of sides you can get or how many refills you can ask for. and the standard BBQ menu expands to include fried chicken and fish as well as such favorites as mac and cheese, collards, and banana pudding.

 Just don’t be shy. No one’s really counting and if they are, well—you’re just passing through, they won’t see you again.

Charlene’s Home Cooking

1136 E. Blackstock, Moore

            On your world tour of meat and threes, stop by Charlene’s on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. But don’t mix up the days,  because she’s not open the other three days of the week. All in all, that’s probably good news as otherwise we’d have to hit the gym even more often. Charlene and Mike Davis use recipes from Charlene’s family headed by matriarch Ma Bessie. You just got to know she knows how to cook. The restaurant claims, “soul food just like Grandma’s” and I’m totally into that. But just for the record—and honesty’s sake–MY grandma, after raising six kids, never cooked again so what do I know about Grandma’s cooking but  she did take up drinking and the occasional cigarette but you get the idea). If Charlene were my grandma, though, I certainly would want seconds, no make that thirds of heaping helpings of her fried seafood platter along with sides of fried green tomatoes, black-eyed peas and yum-yippity yams.

Duke’s Mayonnaise

Lolly’s Alabama White BBQ Sauce–Alabama White Sauce

Still made using Eugenia Duke’s original recipe dating back to 1917, Duke’s is the Southern king of mayonnaise. Eugenia, who lived in Greenville, South Carolina, made sandwiches in her home kitchen and sold them to army canteens during World War I. They were such a hit that even years later soldiers were still writing to Eugenia asking for her sandwich recipes and jars of her mayonnaise. So in 1923, she started putting it in a bottle and it remains a favorite to this day. Note to Northerners who can’t find Duke’s at the grocery store. You can order it or substitute Hellmann’s. The tastes are slightly different but it works.

  • 1 cup Duke’s Mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 tsp. prepared horseradish
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Additional pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together to combine.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pour over grilled or smoked chicken or use as a dip or dressing.

Eight Historic Hotels for Those Who Love History and Travel

Knowing how much I love historic architecture and enjoy immersing myself in the grandeurs of centuries past, Sara Martin sent me a list of resorts and hotels dating back a century or more. All are in the U.S. except for one in St. Croix. But because it is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands passports are not required for American citizens. Whether you’re looking for a warm weather, winter, an urban or country stay all are relatively easy places to get to by plane or car. So take this step back into history and have a wonderful time.

The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, Trademark Collection by Wyndham in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Back in 1653, Charles Martel, a Knight of Malta, constructed the first building on the eastern end of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. After the Denmark purchased St. Croix 80 years later, a sugar mill and home were built on the estate. Later the land was used for growing cotton and raising cattle. In 1922, the Armstrong family took over the property and continued raising cattle until when, in December 1947 they built and opened an 11-room inn. Now the Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, Trademark Collection by Wyndham remains in the Armstrong family and is today considered one of the Caribbean’s finest resorts.

Don’t expect to find a lot of cows mooing around now days. Instead of hay bales, the Buccaneer boasts 131 elegant guest rooms, three restaurants, three beaches, two pools, a water sports center, a full-service spa, a 24-hour fitness center, an 18-hole golf course, eight tennis courts, and more. Committed to remaining an individually owned and operated resort, the Buccaneer recently partnered with the Trademark Collection by Wyndham. Located just a short drive to Christiansted, the capital of St. Croix.

Because the Buccaneer is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands no passport is required for U.S. citizens.

The Otesaga Resort Hotel

Located in Cooperstown, New York, The Otesaga Resort Hotel, which opened in 1909 has been the crown jewel of this lovely town nicknamed “America’s Most Perfect Village.” Commissioned by the Clark family, who still owns the hotel today, The Otesaga was a very model of what was state-of-the-art back then featuring such luxuries the many Americans didn’t have in their own home like a telephone in every guest room, individually controlled central heating, and a refrigerator cooled with 30 tons of ice.

Maintaining its old-world aura of charm and grace while evolving with time, The Otesaga today features 132 luxurious guest rooms, including 26 suites, spread among a diverse collection of accommodations. A sampling of all there is to see and do at The Otesaga includes golfing at the resort’s highly rated Leatherstocking Golf Course, swimming at the outdoor heated pool, rejuvenating services at Hawkeye Spa, playing tennis at the two all-weather courts, fishing in Otsego Lake using equipment provided by the resort, and more. Guests can also enjoy a rich diversity of dining options at the resort including The Hawkeye Bar & Grill, which serves comfort foods and delicious cocktails.

Though formerly a seasonal hotel, closing in October, The Otesaga is now open year round.

HOTEL DUPONT in Wilmington, Delaware

In the early 1900s, the growth of the DuPont Company and the need for hotel and entertainment venues lead the company’s president and secretary-treasurer to commission the development of HOTEL DUPONT. The building, which originally served as the headquarters for the DuPont Company, was the first skyscraper in Wilmington. When it opened in 1913, the luxurious European-inspired hotel featured 150 guest rooms and served as a financial and social epicenter for Wilmington’s elite. A 1918 expansion brought such additions as 118 more guest rooms, a “Gold Ballroom,” and a theater that is today known as the Playhouse on Rodney Square. Throughout the years, the iconic hotel has undergone renovations true to its original roots but with all the amenities expected by discerning travelers. A prime example is the reimagining of the legendary Green Room, originally serving as a venerable gathering place for politicians, business leaders and the occasional celebrity, after a recent remodel, it now is known as Le Cavalier at The Green Room, a French brasserie with a relaxing and inviting vibe.

Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa in Montchanin, Delaware

The Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa, located in the beautiful Brandywine Valley and at one time part of the Winterthur Estate. Its name is a homage to Alexandria de Montchanin, grandmother of Henry Francis du Pont who founded the DuPont Company. One of the few villages or what were also known as company towns still remaining, thee village was where those laborers working the DuPont mills lived. Comprised of 11 restored buildings dating back to 1799, the Inn’s 28 guest rooms and suites today blend historic charm with luxury and modern comforts. Furnished with period and reproduction furniture and marble baths, several of the rooms include cozy fireplaces and many offer beautifully landscaped private courtyards. The property also features a spa, a restaurant housed in a renovated blacksmith shop, and a private “Crow’s Nest” dining room for up to 40 guests.

Hotel Gunter in Frostburg, Maryland

Hotel Gunter, located along Historic Route 40 in the heart of Frostburg’s growing Arts and Entertainment District, was originally named Hotel Gladstone when it opened in 1897 on the National Road, America’s first federally funded highway. The name changed in 1903 when William Gunter bought the property and embarked upon a 20-year, $35,000 renovation adding such enhancements using electricity instead of gas lamps with electricity. Other improvements meant adding a dining room that sat 175, and when Prohibition loomed, a speakeasy in the basement bar. A savvy businessman Gunter added a jail cell—but not for regular guests. Instead, it was a place for federal agents transporting prisoners to house their charges and enjoy a wonderful stay themselves. T Marhe jail cell is still there but now it’s just a place for the guests to explore. As a nod to its past, the speakeasy was restored though there no longer is cockfighting as there was one hundred years earlier. Amenities also include cozy rooms and event banquet facilities. Hotel Gunter also shares space with Toasted Goat Winery and Route 40 Brewing and Distilling Company.

Town Hill Bed & Breakfast in Little Orleans, Maryland

Sitting atop Town Hill Mountain and surrounded by the 44,000-acre Green Ridge State Forest in Allegany County, “The Mountain Side of Maryland,” Town Hill Bed & Breakfast was originally built as a fruit stand in 1916. By 1920, it had become the first tourist hotel in Maryland offering accommodations to those traveling by machine as automobiles were commonly called at the time. Up until then, car gypsies as they were sometimes called, when ready to get off the road, would stop at a farmer’s house and inquire if they could camp on their property. The prices were typically right–$5 might get you a spare room in the house and a homecooked breakfast by the farmer’s wife. Camping was even cheaper.

Like the Hotel Gunter, Town Hill Bed & Breakfast is on the historic National Road. It’s also near the C&O Canal National Park, a perfect place for cyclists and hikers traveling along the historic canal’s towpath. The Inn retain much of its original woodwork and furnishings loving preserved during its many renovations. Today, the 101-year-old Inn offers such amenities as 27 guest rooms, a 65-seat dining room where their legendary breakfasts are served, campfire area and easily accessible hiking trails. Another plus is the overlook with its panorama view of three states and seven counties.

Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa

The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa in Mobile, Alabama

The site of the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa dates to the beginning of the 19th century when it served as the headquarters of General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812. The first hotel to debut here was the Franklin House in 1825. In 1829, new hoteliers opened the Waverly Hotel on the site, before the Battle Brothers – James, John and Samuel – constructed their own hotel here in 1852. After operating as an independent hotel for more than a century, the proprietors sold the company in 1958 and is now one of Marriott International’s prestigious Renaissance Hotels brand. The Battle House has 238 sleeping rooms, including 31 luxury suites; a 10,000 square-foot European spa with eight treatment rooms; a state-of-the-art fitness center; and a rooftop pool. Unique dining experiences include The Trellis Room, which serves family-style Italian cuisine at dinner; Joe Cain Café, which serves soups, sandwiches, pizza and salads; and Royal Street Tavern, featuring a menu of appetizer favorites.

Fort Condé Inn in Mobile, Alabama

MBCVB Facebook Banner shots – Thanksgiving Season

The Forte Condé Inn, the second-largest house, built in 1836, was an elegant mansion but time isn’t always kind and the hotel fell into disrepair before being expertly restored in 2010. Now the Inn, alongside nine other restored historic properties that are part of Fort Condé Village. Located in the heart of downtown Mobile, Forte Condé Inn is among the city’s most historic landmarks. A four-star boutique hotel, guests can immerse themselves into the unique charms of its past but have the most modern of amenities. Featuring dozens of one-of-a-kind accommodations in the village with its cobblestone streets lined with century oaks, and verandahs lit by gas lanterns. The inn, known for its legendary breakfasts that pay homage to the many cultures and cuisines in Mobile, recently opened Bistro St. Emanuel.

Crazy Sista Cooking: Cuisine & Conversation with Lucy Anne Buffet

Lucy-8690-smWhen my daughter was in high school, I drove her and a friend down to Gulf Shores, Alabama for spring break. While we were there, a friend insisted we go to Lucy Buffet’s Lulu’s Gulf Shores, a bayside beach restaurant. I was pretty sure, no make that positive, that this would be some kind of not-so-good-but-my-brother-Jimmy-is-a-major-celebrity type of place. The good thing, I thought when we sat down in the very crowded main dining room was that we could see dolphins frolicking out in the water from our screened in, over-sized window. That would make the bad food worth it.

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Okay, so I totally misjudged what Lulu’s was all about. The food was delicious, whatever was fried was done just right—not greasy or heavy—and there were plenty of other options on the menu that were delicious like the crab melt, Crazy Sista’s Juicy Pot Roast Sandwich (yes, indeed, pot roast), gumbo, Lulu’s Jerk Chicken Quesadillas and, of course, this being the south, fried okra and fried hushpuppies (both of which were wonderful). I was given a copy of her cookbook, Crazy Sista Cooking: Cuisine & Conversation with Lucy Anne Buffet (Grand Central Life & Style) that included a foreword by brother Jimmy. Crazy Sista is Lucy Anne’s nickname. Now Buffet also has restaurants in Destin, Florida and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and several other cookbooks including LuLu’s Kitchen: A Taste of the Gulf Coast Good Life and Gumbo Love: Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking, Entertaining, and Savoring the Good Life. Many of the zippy recipes are the same with new ones added. For the fried oyster recipe Dave requested, I included Mama’s Favorite Oyster Loaf. Instead of oysters, you can use fried shrimp or even fried veggies instead.

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The recipe calls for making a lot of the ingredients such as her Sweet and Sassy Icebox Pickles and Lulu’s Crazy Frying Cornmeal. I’ve included those recipes, thinking you can plop the pickles in the refrigerator and eat them at other times and save the left over cornmeal mix as well. But if you’re in a hurry, feeling lazy or just want to make it simple, you can just find comparable ingredients at the grocery store.   And since it’s good to have an accompaniment, I’ve included Lulu’s recipe for Sweet Tomato Pie.

The following recipes are from LuLu’s Kitchen: A Taste of the Gulf Coast Good Life by Lucy Anne Buffet (Grand Central Life & Style, $20).

Listen to Lucy talk about Gumbo Love.

Mama’s Favorite Oyster Loaf

Makes 4 sandwiches

1 quart oysters

4 (8-inch) New Orleans-style French bread or 1 baguette, cut into four pieces

2 to 3 tablespoons butter, softened

Mayonnaise to taste

Lettuce leaves

2 medium tomatoes, sliced

Sweet and Sassy Icebox Pickle slices (recipe below)

Hot Pepper Sauce

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Fried oysters (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Fry oysters in batches and place cooked oysters in oven to keep warm.

Slice bread horizontally, about three-fourths of the way through, leaving one edge intact.

Spear a little butter on inside surface of French bread and toast. I like to place mine face-down on a warm skillet or grill.

Spread mayonnaise on toasted read.

Layer lettuce, tomato slices and pickles on bottom side of the bread. Top with fried oysters, using about eight oysters per sandwich.

Add a few dashes of hot sauce to taste.

Cut into halves or quarters depending upon the bread you’re using and serve.

Sweet and Sassy Icebox Pickles

1 (1-gal.) jar whole kosher dill pickles, drained, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

4 cups granulated sugar

4 cups packed light brown sugar

1 cup apple cider vinegar

2/3 cup peeled, halved, and sliced fresh ginger

1/4 cup prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

4 medium-size yellow onions, thinly sliced

20 garlic cloves, sliced in half lengthwise

8 cinnamon sticks

Place all the ingredients in a big ol’ stainless steel bowl or large plastic food-safe container with an airtight lid. Using your hands, toss well. Cover and chill overnight. The pickles will reduce in volume, so the next day you can place in a very large jar or several small airtight containers for easier storage.

Refrigerate at least 1 week before using, turning topsy-turvy every day. Pickles are ready when sugar has dissolved and all dill flavor has vanished. Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks.

Perfect Fried Oysters

Make Lulu’s Crazy Crying Cornmeal (recipe below) or use regular cornmeal.

6 cups peanut oil or enough to fill a skillet, about 2 inches deep

1 quart oysters, drained

Heat oil in cast iron skillet to 355 degrees or heat until a little flour flicked into the oil sizzles

Taking a few oysters at a time, dredge through cornmeal mixture coating thoroughly.

Gently drop into hot oil. Fry until golden brown turning once or until they float to the top. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

Lulu’s Crazy Frying Cornmeal

2 cups all-purpose white cornmeal

2 tablespoons Creole seasoning

1 tablespoon black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Sweet Tomato Pie

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Pastry for 1 pie crust

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon sugar

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon sour cream

1 tablespoon honey mustard

1 cup shredded Parmesan

4 green onions, including the green part, cut into 2-inch pieces

4 large red tomatoes, in 1/4-inch slices

1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 cup fresh basil, cut in ribbons

2 cups shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Sprinkle flour over work surface and roll pastry dough to fit a 7-by-11-inch baking dish, making sure dough comes up the sides of the dish. Poke bottom of crust with a fork in several places. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.

In a cast iron or heavy skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sugar; sauté until onions are very brown and caramelized. Add garlic and stir constantly for 1 to 2 minutes or until garlic is cooked through and tender. Remove onions and garlic from skillet and let cool.

Using a food processor, process cream cheese, mayonnaise, cream, sour cream, mustard, Parmesan and green onions until well mixed.

In the cooled pie crust, layer half the onions, cream cheese mixture, sliced tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil and Gruyere. Repeat. Bake for 35 minutes or until pie is bubbling and top is browned. Cool for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.

Screen-Shot-2018-06-19-at-3.40.28-PMWHITE SANGRIA

Serves 4 to 6

1 (750-milliliter) bottle Pinot Gris or any other crisp light white wine

1/2 cup peach-flavored vodka

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 fresh pineapple, chopped into cubes

1/2 lemon, cut into wedges

2 fresh strawberries, chopped

1/2 mango, chopped into cubes

1 (8-ounce) can ginger ale

Ice cubes

In a very large pitcher, combine the wine, vodka, sugar, and fruit. Stir well. Let the ingredients steep in the fridge for 2 to 24 hours (the longer, the better).

Add the ginger ale and ice cubes about 30 minutes before serving.

Place a strainer over the mouth of the pitcher and pour to order. Garnish with any leftover fruit, such as more of the pineapple, lemon, strawberries, and mango.

 

 

Magnolia Springs, Alabama

On a languid afternoon after too much time in the sun in Gulf Shores, Alabama, I decided to follow the coastline along the Eastern Shore through Fairhope to  Magnolia Springs, a small town along the headwaters of the Magnolia River. With jasmine and bougainvillea in bloom, it seems like a true Southern Gothic (in the good sense of the word) type of place with historic mansions, postal delivery by boat (one of the few places in America to do so) and a great place to eat—the award winning ­Jesse’s Restaurant, in what was once the Moore Brothers General Store, which first opened in 1922. The building is on the National List of Historic Places. They’re a award winner of Wine Spectator. As for the hamlet where it’s located, Southern Living named Magnolia Springs one of The Most Charming Small Towns in Alabama.

Their specialties include unique cuts of dry and wet-aged steaks, bone-in cuts and fresh fish brought in daily. I ordered the shrimp and grits and more oysters than I should have and then headed down Oak Street, where live oak trees create a living canopy above the roadway, past the 19th­ century Episcopal Church and to the Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast, which dates to 1897, for a peak inside.

Oak-St.-from-yard

Co-­owner Dave Worthington quickly volunteered to take me on a tour of the place, which has been a hotel since it opened. Leafing through a guest book dating back to the early 1900s, I can see this place was a hit, even though for visitors from Grand Rapids and Lawton, Michigan as well as Chicago and other far away northern climes it took two days and three modes of transportation to get down there back then ­first by train, then by boat, and finally by horse and buggy. And there wasn’t even air conditioning when they arrived.

But the food was good, the landscape serene and the fishing, I’m told, was great. I don’t know about the fishing now, but the town is beautiful and the inn serves a wonderful breakfast.

To give you a taste, here are some recipes Dave shared.

David’s Apple Dumplings

·      1 red Delicious apple

·      1 can crescent rolls

 Cinnamon Sauce:

·      Warm the following three ingredients until
dissolved:

·      1 1/2 cup orange juice

·      3/4 cup sugar

·      1/2 stick butter

Peel, core and cut apple into quarters or thirds. (You also can use a pear, peach, blackberries or a ball of cranberries ­ anything that makes a good cobbler will be great for the filling).

Wrap 1/4 of Apple with one piece of crescent roll and seal all edges.

Place seam side down in Pyrex pan (9×13-inches).

Pour sauce over them then sprinkle with cinnamon.

Cook at 350 degrees for 20-25 min. till done.

Baste dumplings with sauce in the pan before moving to plate.

I drizzle a small amount of sweetened vanilla yogurt on top as icing.

Makes 8 dumplings cut in half to make 16 servings.

Dave also drizzles a small amount of sweetened vanilla yogurt on top as icing.

David’s Eggs

8 eggs

1 can green chilies

16­ ounce cottage cheese­ large curd

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons flour

Shred cheese and coat with flour. Beat eggs with green chilies. Add cottage cheese, then cheddar cheese, and mix.

Pour into 9­inch pie pan and bake at 350 degrees for 55­-60 minutes.

For more on the inn, visit magnoliasprings.com