Kimberly Lyons, the pastry chef at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama is a talented 29 year-old. She thinks about her dishes “constantly” she told me, usually about how to improve them. She attended Culinard at Virginia College and she was hired by the Grand Hotel five and half years ago. She worked her way up in the kitchen to head pastry chef and is grateful to the chefs there who have trained her. Kimberly is invested in the culinary career. “I love what I do.” she said.
Our group of dessert hungry guests assembled in the Lagoon Room. With the tables adorned in white table clothes, we sat engrossed as Kimberly melted chocolate, whipped cream, beat eggs until they were frothy and combined them into three tasty classic desserts, Bourbon Chocolate Mousse, Crème Brulee and Crepe Suzette.
As each dish was completed, we were treated to tasting of the dishes. While this was not a hands-on class, the guests were encouraged to ask questions about the recipes. Kimberly took us through each step of the recipes and provided plenty of suggestions to modify the creations to everyone’s particular taste or occasion.
After class, I asked Kimberly what her favorite dessert was, she pulled up her sleeve. “Macaron’s” she said, showing off her forearm tattoo of the French treat. She is truly invested and loves what she does.
We purchased a few house made macarons at the Local Market before leaving the Grand for the ride home. They were definitely worth the price.
The iconic Fairhope hotel recently completed a thirty-two million dollar renovation and part of that transformation took place in the kitchen. “I could order whatever I wanted.” Kimberly said. She was thrilled that there is now a hot and cold kitchen, which means she can make every kind of dessert at any time. This is especially important to a chef in humidity prone South Alabama.
The Culinary Academy is a big draw for Saturday’s at the Grand, along with the Beverage Academy on Friday evenings. The trick is to come to the Beverage Academy on Friday not and stay over for the Saturday class. For the November 17 class, the chefs will be preparing Thanksgiving side dishes and in December, its make your own Gingerbread House. The December event is so popular that two classes are offered. It will surely be a family fun sellout! The Grand Hotel’s 2019 Culinary Academy should delight as Kimberly has the pastry classes laid out. Whether they are cooking savory or sweet, do not miss a chance to enjoy the southern charm of this historic hotel that overlooks Mobile Bay.
I wasn’t sure what to expect at the 4th Annual Down to Earth Farmraiser but I discovered on this pleasant October evening, that farming is alive and well in mid town Mobile.
Local chefs from twelve area restaurants and businesses wowed the crowd of hungry guests with their bite sized delectable creations. The thirty-five dollar tax deductable ticket admitted me to the event along with two glasses of wine and multiple samples of the various chefs’ bounty.
The restaurants included Noble South, Nourish, Haberdasher, Red and White, Pour Baby, Bay Gourmet and Old Dutch.
Victory Teaching Farm is all about sustainable, clean locally sourced food. It is South Alabama’s first and only teaching farm located in mid town Mobile on Rickarby Street. While the farm provides ample produce each year for the local area, it also provides internships, volunteer opportunities and fresh pick produce markets for locals.
This event gets bigger and better each year. Mark your calendars for early October, 2019. You will not want to miss this locally sourced food event. Come hungry, you will not be disappointed!
“Oh, wow!” I exclaimed upon entering the Barber Motor Sports museum. It is gigantic! Five towering floors filled with the world’s largest motorcycle collection. It also contains racing automobiles and bikes which adorn every nook and cranny.
There is even a race car on top of the elevator!
A massive sculpture, “The Chase”, commissioned from California sculptor Ted Gall, greets visitors at the entrance of the museum. These three enormous statues of men with masked faces riding large wheels weigh between 3,500 to 3,800 pounds and fits in well with this vast complex.
Birmingham native, George Barber, Jr., son of Barber Dairies founder, George H. Barber is the founder of the Motor Sports Museum. Barber Jr. who ran the dairy was also a real estate developer. Barber had raced Porsches in the 1960’s and began collecting motorcycles in the 1970’s. In 1994, his collection of motorcycles was established as the Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum. In 1998, Barber Jr. sold the dairy. In 2003 the museum moved to its present Birmingham location. Barber himself was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2014.
The nine hundred and thirty acre sports complex contains the museum and a 2.38 mile sixteen turn world class road racetrack. The track serves as site of Indy Car Series Grand Prix of Alabama races.
Of the fourteen hundred motorcycles in Barber collection, some nine hundred are on display at any one time. The museum welcomes some three hundred thousand visitors yearly including some three thousand foreign visitors.
Some two hundred different manufactures’ from twenty counties over the past one hundred years are represented in the museum. The Lotus 21 is featured in the world’s most extensive collection of Lotus cars.
One display drew particular interest, that of Jim Rogers, a thirty-seven year old investment banker who in 1990, with his girlfriend motorcycled around the world. They traveled some six-five thousand miles and setting the world record for land travel. He wrote a book “Investment Biker” about the journey.
A lucrative part of the Motor sports arena is the North American Porsche Driving School where individuals can experience Porsche racing cars on the track. Prices there can range from $1800 for a day to $9600 for four days depending on what level of experience you care to have.
The facility hosts the 14th Annual Barber Vintage Festival in October which will feature the American Historical Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA).
This unique automotive museum should not to be missed in Birmingham. Individuals who admire motorcycles and cars will flock to this bastion of automotive bliss.
Spot of Tea began as a tea room in 1994 at 306 Dauphin Street with seven tables and twenty-nine chairs. Ruby Moore made fruit pizza and her son, Tony Moore served tea. A year later, they expanded into what is now the Carriage room. In the mid 1990’s downtown Mobile was a bit of a ghost town and Spot of Tea has had a birds’ eye view of the rebirth of the downtown area. The two hundred year old building has seen a lot of changes through the years as the restaurant expanded to its present location at 310 Dauphin Street.
Seeing a need for breakfast in downtown because of the nearby newspaper, Mobile’s Press Register, Spot of Tea began a daily breakfast buffet created by Chef Patti Culbreth. With daily breakfast going strong, they then expanded the menu to include a Sunday Brunch.
The downtown icon is noted for its tasty Sunday brunch menu but it’s the signature dish, Eggs Cathedral that really put them on the map. In 2000, construction workers were remodeling the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception that stands just across the square from Spot of Tea. While the workers enjoyed the breakfast offerings, they wanted something more.
Having just received some fresh crab cakes, Tony Moore stepped into the kitchen to create the new dish. He took the crab cakes, an English muffin and scrambled eggs then smothered the dish with the seafood bisque that has been a staple menu item. The workmen devoured the new dish and Eggs Cathedral creation has continued to sate the hunger of many guests. The only complaint they have received about the dish, many guests say they need a nap after eating it.
With its fresh made to order menu, Spot of Tea remains the number one downtown Mobile restaurant for lunch. Spot of Tea will be making some changes to their menu in November. Don’t worry, nothing is going away but several new tasty dishes are being added, an Ahi tuna salad, Lobster roll and Birdsnest’ egg dish. I was treated to a tasting of these new scrumptious creations as I sat with Chrissi Moore and Ruby Moore to talk about their nearly twenty-five year history of Mobile’s perennial favorite, Spot of Tea. Three new dishes will be making a debut on the refreshed menu in November:
The Birdsnest, created with a grilled English muffin, avocado, tomato, a poached egg and served with hollandaise sauce. This is a much lighter dish than Eggs Cathedral that will complement the new refreshed menu. Guests will appreciate the creaminess of the egg and avocado and the sweetness of the tomato.
The Second Mortgage Lobster Roll is a complete lobster bite. The lobster claw and knuckle is soaked in butter before it is served on a buttered bun with mayonnaise and celery salt. This is scrumptious decadence. This dish will be a unique flavor treat for guests.
The seared Ahi tuna salad features seared Ahi tuna, feta cheese, mushrooms, cucumbers, avocado, onions and tomatoes and served with raspberry vinaigrette. This is a super light dish and a delicious salad option.
While serving great food and exceptional service, Spot of Tea has much more to offer.
The matriarch of the family, Miss Ruby offers etiquette classes for children aged five to ten upon request. During these afternoon tea parties usually held on the outdoor patio, children learn about a proper table setting, using proper table manners and how to dress for an occasion. For larger parties, the Carriage Room is available. Weddings are a big deal here too. From the engagement dinner to hosting the wedding itself, Spot of Tea can do it all!
With their continuing commitment to the downtown community, Spot of Tea launched Mobile’s Original Segway Tour, two years ago. With Mobile’s recently updated and easily accessible sidewalks, the segway tour is an easy and safe ride. This offers a fun and exciting way to explore the downtown areas museums and attractions. Nine segways available to rent and some three hundred have enjoyed the guided and self guided experience.
Recently, Spot of Tea began offering curbside service for food pickup. They recommend guests call back just as they get to red light at Dauphin and Claiborne, so the food will be hot when it is ready to be handed off.
Spot of Tea is truly an “Aquarium to the World”. People watching is entertainment for guests eating on the front porch or for those seated just across the street to have an up close view of the Cathedral.
Ruby, who is in charge of Public Relations, told me her advice for running a family owned restaurant business is simple, “You have to have a love of people.” Mobile’s number one destination for lunch and brunch offers more than food and drink. It offers a unique view of Mobile’s history and its future. Chrissi Moore told me, “I love it when someone from out of town loves Mobile so much that they want to move here. And it happens a lot.”
Stop in for a meal at this downtown Mobile icon and beginning in November you can sample their refreshed menu and new dishes. You may just discover some new dishes to add to your old favorites. One thing is certain, you will not be disappointed.
Southern Museum of Flight is a unique aviation museum located near the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Alabama is a place for all ages who are interested in aviation history and aircraft. Open since 1983, here you will learn about the beginning of flight from the Wright Brothers Flyer to the sleek SR-71, Blackbird. The size of the bowtie shaped museum is a bit deceiving but the seventy-five thousand feet houses over a hundred aircraft displays, including aircraft from the early days of flight to the newer experimental planes. It is literally chock full of every kind of airplane you can imagine.
With nearly sixty thousand visitors each year, the museum can be a busy destination especially during the school year. Education is at the core of the museum and two-thirds of the sixty thousand annual visitors are school age children. They have a dedicated teaching area for school tours that can accommodate one hundred children. The staff of ten and the group of dedicated volunteers make the museum a centerpiece for Birmingham.
During my visit, I spoke with both Wayne Novy, the Director of Operations and Curator of the collection and Brian Barsanti, Ph.D., who has been the Executive Director since 2014. Both are former military men and dedicated to the preservation of flight history. Novy is retired from the Air Force and worked with Frank Borman, the commander of Apollo 8. Barsanti is a Coast Guard reservist and educator who teaches at both UAB and Huntington College.
In the main hanger we began our tour with an impressive exhibit about the Tuskegee airman which includes short videos and artifacts from members of the Tuskegee airmen.
One display focuses on a visit by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to the airmen’s training facility. To show her support of the Tuskegee airmen, the First Lady flew with Alfred Anderson on a short flight.
The Russian MI-24 Hind helicopter demotes the main hanger space. This enormous helicopter flew military men, machines and supplies.
Continuing with the history of the Tuskegee airmen, there is a large display about a B-25 that was raised from Lake Murray in South Carolina in 2005 where it crashed during in April of 1945 during a training exercise. This is one of the very few planes that remain that was flown by the Tuskegee airmen. At present only a small section of the salvaged plane is displayed but the volunteers and staff are hard at work in the restoration shop to bring the entire aircraft back to life for display.
Both the Korean War and Vietnam War are remembered through two large static displays, video presentations and many artifacts that have been donated to the museum.
We continued in the next wing to explore the beginning of flight with the Wright flyer and displays of early aircraft including a Huff-Deland crop duster biplane used by the Delta Air Corp, a Fokker D7 flown in World War One and a Model T and 1903 Cadillac.
In the display cases are artifacts that denote moments in aircraft evolution. From the early escapades of wing walking to pilot Eugene Pyle’s first take off from the USS Birmingham in 1910 in Curtis D model byplane, the stories that are told are awe inspiring.
On entering the experimental aircraft hanger, you will find every shape and size of airplane. These are mostly homemade crafts that are built from the ground up by their owners. The EAA planes fill every nook and cranny of the hanger. When an owner donates an aircraft to the museum, many times the craft lands at the nearby Birmingham airport and is simply brought by trailer to its new home.
Women in Aviation are featured in a display of photographs by Carolyn Russo depicting seventeen contemporary women pilots.
We were lucky enough to investigate the museum’s restoration shop where they are working on a T-21 unmanned drone used to take photos high res pictures of Soviet Union.
The craft was flown by the NRO, National Reconnaissance Office and the program ended in 1972. It was preprogrammed to fly and would ditch cameras and crash then a C130 was tasked to pick up the ditched cameras. Barsanti liken it to the wile e coyote school of reconnaissance flight. As well as restoring aircraft, the staff and volunteers build wind tunnels and display cases.
Back inside, we visited the SR-71 Blackbird exhibit. A static display of this magnificent craft is located two blocks from the museum along with many other planes. The custom made flight suits worn by the pilots are more akin to space suits due to the attitudes that the pilots flew. In 1990, Ed Yeilding, a pilot from Florence, Alabama made the last blackbird flight from Los Angeles to DC in sixty-seven minutes, fifty-four seconds flying at times two thousand miles an hour. At that speed, he said, it is hard to tell the separation of earth. Try that on Delta sometime.
Near the Blackbird exhibit are enormous handcrafted models of both the USS Birmingham and USS Enterprise are housed in large display cases. Both models were built from scratch in a volunteer’s garage and took eighteen months to complete.
To complete our tour, we reviewed the “CIA exhibit” housed in the main conference area of the museum. This exhibit features paintings of aircraft, mostly combat situations, and feature several planes that are on display at the museum. A brief written background about the scene accompanies each painting or artifact. The exhibit was recreated with the permission of the CIA. One interesting story happened during a tour of the exhibit when a gentleman remarked that he had something to donate regarding the Fall of Saigon. Turns out the visitor had been at the Embassy and had recovered an official seal from the Embassy.
The Southern Museum of Flight is a exceptional and exciting place to celebrate Alabama’s role in aviation history. The museum also houses the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame. The museum is just at the beginning its capital campaign to raise money the museum’s site transfer. Its new home will be on a new twenty-four acre site near the Barber Motorsports Museum which should open in 2020.
Celebrating the cuisine of the Mobile, Bienville Bites, the first and only food tour company in Mobile, began offering food tours in downtown Mobile in October, 2017. Along with the tasty treats, the tour offers brief historical tidbits about the city as we walked through the downtown streets. Chris and Laney Andrews have embarked on providing tours of gastronomic fun and a bit of a history lesson featuring the best of Mobile.
Royal Scam on Royal Street was our meet up point. Owner David Rath opened the restaurant in the 2006 and it has become a regular treat for Mobilians. A little bit of rain did not deter our group of seventeen food tour participants. Tour guide Laney Andrews offered ponchos to those who wanted them but down South a little rain doesn’t discourage hungry souls from some of Mobile’s finest cuisine.
We sampled the Gumbo, a tomato based traditional Southern recipe created in 1702 by Madame Langlois. Their rue based broth made with onions, green peppers, celery, okra and shrimp is an excellent offering of this tasty dish.
Once the rain shower passed, we were off down Royal Street to Panini Pete’s. On this holiday weekend, Labor Day and the start of college football season, the place was unusually quiet.
We were treated to Pete’s take on a scrumptious beignet, Pete’s own recipe based on the New Orleans delicacy. Here the doughy treat is served with a lemon wedge and adds a little twist to the powered-sugar treat. We also sampled a selection of Panini’s. I chose the Muffaletta which was full of flavor with its olive tapenade. The Roast Turkey, their most popular Panini, was described by Chef Guy Fieri as the “State bird of Flavortown.” Pete’s prides itself on “Real food in our food”. They are a scratch kitchen and make their own mozzarella cheese. Owner and executive chef Pete Blohme is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has made his mark with a multiple locations in the area. Pete’s is open for breakfast and lunch.
Crossing the street, we sampled a small tasting of nuts from the A&M Peanut Shop. A fixture of Dauphin Street for over seventy years, it treats passersby’s with the aroma from the roasting peanuts. It’s hard not to stop in for a bag of goodies. You even get a musical treat.
We continued our stroll up Dauphin Street to Hero’s Sports Bar and Grille. The rain had left us so we sat outside across from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the glorious Catholic Church that dominates Cathedral Square.
Hero’s is a mainstay of sports bars in downtown Mobile and we were treated to one of Hero’s staples, Spinach and Crawfish dip. Served with pita bread, the smooth dip is a rich treat while watching the game on one of the many televisions showing the games of the day. Hero’s is open for lunch and dinner.
The next stop on our stroll was Wintzell’s Oyster House. An iconic landmark on the Mobile Restaurant scene since 1938, it began as a small oyster bar. It is a must do visit for visitors and locals alike. Surrounded by its signature signs, it offers a giggle for those who peruse the funny sayings.
We bellied up to the Oyster Bar for tasting of several offerings of oysters, Chargrilled, Monterey and Rockefeller.
Those who were so inclined were offered a raw oyster in its shell. A small dap of Tabasco sauce and you have a heavenly mouthful of deliciousness. Wintzells’ is open for lunch and dinner.
The light shower began falling was headed back down Dauphin Street to our final stop, Von’s Bistro that opened in 2012. With its unique mix of Asian and Southern cuisine, this eatery is not to be missed. Our tasting included a wonton and spring roll, both light and delicious. You will enjoy Von’s flare on traditional southern fare. Von’s is open for lunch and dinner.
During our stroll, Laney treated our group to historical tidbits about Mobile as well as the restaurants we visited. Mobile’s First and only Food Tour is a delightful way to spend an afternoon. They offer tours on Thursday evenings, Friday and Saturdays. The Old Mobile Tour which features some of Mobile’s better nighttime restaurants and the Loda Stroll, featuring the seven eateries described here. During Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebration, they feature Floats and Food tour. Be sure to check the Bienville Bites website for details on the tour times and tickets.
Visiting Mobile or just looking for an afternoon of relaxing fun, seek out this gastronomical tour that will be a treat for all your culinary senses.
Just off Interstate-65 at exit 228 is an oasis of venticulture in Alabama. Ozan Winery, established in 2005, sits on a hill in Calera, Alabama surrounded by Norton grape vines.
On this warm Saturday, my friend and I found ourselves seated at a small tasting table ready to sample the offering of twelve wines, from a Chardonnay to dessert wines.
We found our favorites in the Peach and the Norton Silver red wine. The wines are aptly named for their flavor. Lunch of a chicken salad sandwich and delicious sides of pickled vegetables accompanied our robust tasting.
After enjoying our wine, we spent the afternoon, “riding the rails”, in a 1950’s train from the nearby Heart of Dixie train museum. Onboard we opted for the pleasure of the air conditioned 1905’s passenger car.
Here is a quick video of the train switching locations to continue our short journey. Video_20180602143635
Ozan is a popular site for weddings as the vineyard adds a touch of elegance. The winery itself offers small plates and tastings daily, except Mondays. On most spring and summer weekends, you can have a magnificent wine tasting and train ride in the morning or afternoon. Ozan has recently begun distilling spirits. Their Yella whiskey, White whiskey and Vodka are tasty additions to their award winning wine.
Not far from Ozan is the Heart of Dixie Train Museum, which features a number of rail cars and massive locomotives. Run by local train enthusiasts, the Heart of Dixie makes a fun stop to learn about Alabama’s railroad history. The Heart of Dixie has twenty-five miles of track which is privately maintained to preserve Alabama’s railroad history.
In the two most recent additions to the civil rights trail, I found both the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum to be powerful experiences. I was pleased to see and hear the respect that was being paid by the visitors at each location. Sculpture is an integral part of the site.
The six acre Memorial site is designed to contextualize this horrific past of racial terror in our counties history. It is part of our collective history and these events should be remembered, recognized and reconciled.
Comprised of eight hundred and five Corten steel markers hung from the ceiling and etched with the names of the victims, one for each county where a lynching took place throughout the United States the Memorial is an impressive structure.
Upon entering, you start at eye level then the markers rise as you continue your journey through stories of those individuals lost to these horrific acts.
Over time the markers will weather in the elements and the site will continue to be transformed.
To the side of the Memorial is a field of markers waiting to be claimed and installed by the counties they represent. Leaving the grounds of the Memorial is another sculpture.
The Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum is located a short distance from the Peace Memorial, on the site of a former slave warehouse were the enslaved were imprisoned. The eleven thousand square-foot museum was erected midway between an historic slave market, main river dock and train station where tens of thousands of enslaved people were sold at the height of the domestic slave trade.
The exhibit take visitors through an in depth look from the beginning of slavery to the mass incarceration of African Americans today. Just before the Civil War, Montgomery was the capital of slave trade and one of the state largest slave owning states in the United States.
Some of the displays and recorded stories recounted here can be graphic and difficult to view but it is important to recognize and reconcile this into our mass consciousness. To date, the team at EJI has documented over four thousand lynching’s that occurred between 1877 and 1950.
Large jars of dirt that has been reclaimed from many lynching sites and are displayed in order to move toward reconciliation and to right the wrong done to the lynching victims and their families.
Both the Peace Memorial and Legacy Museum are the singular vision of Attorney and Author Bryan Stevenson; he is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.
Oprah Winfrey had an inside look at the Memorial and Museum before its opening in April on 60 Minutes.
“We want to tell the truth, because we believe in truth and reconciliation but we know that truth and reconciliation are sequential. We can’t get to where we’re trying to go if we don’t tell the truth first.” Bryan Stevenson said of the Memorial and Museum.
Bryan Stevenson further explains. “This shadow cannot be lifted until we shine the light of truth on the destructive violence that shaped our nation, traumatized people of color, and compromised our commitment to the rule of law and to equal justice.”
If you are in Montgomery, I urge you to visit these two powerful monuments.