Making the Good Times Roll, Mobile Mask, Mobile, Alabama

The Mardi Gras season is just around the corner and soon our streets will be filled with revelers celebrating Carnival I had the pleasure of speaking with Steve Joynt, the editor of the Mobile Mask, the foremost magazine for Mobile’s Mardi Gras season about his unique and treasured piece of Mobile’s Carnival Season. 

Though Steve was not born under an azalea bush, he has spent a lot of time in Alabama. First, working for the Birmingham News and then for the Mobile Press Register. He was first introduced to Mardi Gras when he visited New Orleans. It was there he discovered a whole new holiday, one that lasts two and half weeks and isn’t just all about kids.

While working at the old Mobile Press building, Steve always appreciated that you could go see a parade then go back to work. He served as the Assistant City Editor at the Mobile Press and as the Mardi Gras coverage reporter.  As the Mardi Gras reporter, he eventually run out of ideas about the season. The running out of ideas was Steve’s spark of an idea. He began researching the history of the carnival season from the ground up.  He wanted to try and answer all the unanswered questions about our Mardi Gras.  “There are a lot of them.” Steve told me.

2019 Mobile Mask

THE BEGININGS OF THE MASK

When Steve went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, he used the Arthur Hardy guides to steer his adventures. He discovered there was nothing like the Hardy guide for Mobile’s carnival season. He had in mind as a similar guide for Mobile when he began to create the Mobile Mask.  He worked on the magazine at night and soon he had a decision to make, either do it or not.

In September of 2011, Steve took medical leave from the Mobile Press Register. He returned at a time of upheaval at Press Register. He took the buyout offered from the newspaper in 2012.  Then during the 2012 carnival season, he took lots of pictures of the parades for what would be included in the magazines’ debut issue in 2013. “Why I thought one person could put out a magazine, I don’t know. It seemed doable.”  He told me. 

GETTING THE MASK ON ITS FEET

What Steve didn’t know at the beginning of the adventure was how difficult it would be to sell ads for the magazine. He is very grateful for his first customers and that they have continued to be customers through the ensuing years. “I can’t talk people into advertising but I can sell an ad for the magazine.” He decided against coupons in the magazine because “The Mask” is considered a keepsake publication. 

Mr. Mardi Gras
Steve Joynt

MR. MARDI GRAS

The Mask has now become the “go to” guy for everything Mardi Gras, the media now calls Steve to see if parade is going instead of checking with the local police.  The Mask’s Facebook page is very active during the season and it is now become the source of all Mobile Mardi Gras information.  Steve admits he doesn’t know it all but he does dedicate himself to the topic all year long.  He attends all the association meetings in order to get the inside scope on what will be happening for all the parades for the carnival season.  He was there when a new Saraland organization’s members showed up in costume, all so that the organization would get its parading permit.  

Steve’s main objective with The Mask is to “Make it a Happy Place”.  In a twist on his journalist roots, Steve has the organization’s review the articles before their stories are printed in the magazine.  There are no ‘got ya’ stories. He wants people to be pleased with the articles. He wants people to enjoy the article and to “cut them out, put it in a frame and hang it in their den.”

The 2018 Mobile Mask

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MOBILE AND NEW ORLEANS CARNIVAL CELEBRATION

What’s the biggest difference between New Orleans and Mobile Carnival celebration, “If you want a good seat for a New Orleans parade, it’s pretty much an all day affair.  In Mobile, you can set your watch by the parade and go have dinner afterwards.”  Mobile has more days of parading than New Orleans and Mobile has more mystic societies. New Orleans organizations don’t rent their floats and Mobile does.

An interesting fact is that in Mobile, fire truck drivers do most of the float driving.  There is also only one man in Mobile who pulls the floats in and out of the float barns. This is a highly specialized skill.

MOBILE’S BEST KEPT MARDI GRAS SECRET

“Nobody is in Charge.” Steve told me. Everyone thinks someone oversees but it’s a myth.

This year, over ten thousand copies of The Mask will be printed.  Be sure to get your hands on this unique, Mobile original keepsake. The Mask is here to “enhance people’s fun.” Steve said. It will lead you to understand and enjoy of the Carnival Season when it hits the streets of Mobile.

Be sure to have your copy handy for all the festivities and remember to Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler (Let the Good Times Roll) on Mardi Gras Day, Tuesday, March 5, 2019!

http://www.mobilemask.com/

Rene Culler, Glass Artist, Mobile, Alabama

Rene Culler

Professional glass artist Rene Culler relocated to Mobile from Cleveland, Ohio in 2010 to lead the glass program at the University of South Alabama. Rene received her Master’s in Fine Arts from Kent State, is a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar and was also voted one of the 50 top researchers in past 50 years for her knowledge of Kiln work.  Kiln glass work is formed colored glass that has been created is a new art form.  Rene also taught at the Cleveland Institute of Art and recently opened her studio here in Mobile where she teaches classes in kiln glass work.

I became aware of Rene’s artistry in 2017 when she presented “The Delta” at the Southern Abstraction show at the Mobile Museum of Art.  Comprised multiple styles of glass, the piece took her a year to create.  She remembers flying into Mobile and was fascinated by the colors and shapes of Delta from the plane window and she knew she wanted to recreate it in glass.

THE MOBILE DELTA: Glass & Light

BUILDING THE STUDIO

The Studio

In her studio in Mobile, which is housed in a former engineering office, she recently designed and built a large Kiln, a furnace used for heating the glass to temperatures of nineteen hundred degrees.  She is a woman of many talents, which includes welding.  She learned the trade while in school. It was expensive to buy a furnace so the students learned to build the tools needed to work the glass.  She also has a sandblaster, for blasting glass as well several smaller kilns which are lined with fire brick.  Her wall of Frit, or colored glass, in the studio is not only functional but attractive. She explained that, “Kiln glass work can be done on your own, but blowing glass, you need help to do.”

Kiln

With blowing glass, she explained, “Your body can only put up with so much.  There’s a rush when working, you want the opportunity to create something.”  I asked her how did decided what to charge for a piece. “You can’t charge what it’s worth. Two hours and thirty years,”  She laughed.

Blown Glass

Magic Square

She is very interested in pattern tile and created a magic square which is based squares she has seen in Asia.  The squares are based on the phases of the moon. In the 1400’s astronomer’s assigned numbers to the stars, if you add the numbers on the diagonal, you get the same number. She said,   “We can’t survive without numbers. The future is all about numbers.”

HISTORY OF THE ART

She told me about Dale Chihuly, perhaps one of the most recognized names in the glass world, when he had received a grant to teach people how to blow glass in 1971. With the assistance of sixteen students the group built shelters and a glass blowing furnace at an old tree farm in Washington State. When there was no money to do a second year, Chihuly found a sponsor who owned the tree farm in order to continue the program.  This is now the Pilchuck Glass School, which is one of the world’s top schools for glass artists.

INSTALLATIONS AROUND THE GLOBE

Rene has created many installations for hospitals and libraries across the county. She has been told that people “Like her work because they see different things in it.”  She has pieces in both of the Cleveland’s teaching hospitals.  One San Diego hospital told her not use too much red in the installation, they wanted calm colors because the color and shape affects each individuals emotions.

Art for Sale

She has travelled throughout the world and did her Fulbright scholar work in 2012 in Korea. “Art is a big deal there.” She blew a lot of glass while in Korea and was able to show her work in Seoul. “I really enjoy learning about other cultures, Learning about the philosophy behind what they do what they do.”  While there her husband began to learn and read Korean which was not an easy task.

AUTHOR, AUTHOR

Rene is also an accomplished author with “Glass Art from the Kiln” and the forthcoming “Imagery in Glass.”

https://www.amazon.com/Glass-Art-Kiln-Rene-Culler/dp/0764335421/ref=asc_df_0764335421/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312172766117&hvpos=1o3&hvnetw=g&hvrand=17624136912040013281&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9012995&hvtargid=pla-597604742844&psc=1

What does the artist love about glass?  “It’s a great experience, magical stuff.  To take something from the earth is opaque and make it transparent.”  Transforming glass is just “Another idea of a common material that is taken for granted.” She said.

Mosaic

WHERE TO FIND RENE

Seek out Rene’s work or experience one of her workshops at her studio at 2468 Commercial Park Drive, Mobile Al 36606.  On December 1, 2018, Rene will host a Holiday Open Studio and Sale event from 11-4.

http://www.reneculler.com/wp/

https://www.facebook.com/ReneCullerGlass/

Max Morey, Man behind the Crescent Theater, Mobile, Alabama

 

Crescent Theater in Downtown Mobile

 

On November 1, 2018, the Crescent celebrated its 10 year anniversary with a party for the Crescent supporters with a showing of Bottle Shock. This was the first movie that debuted for the reopening of the theater on October 31, 2008.  I recently spoke with Max Morey about the history of the theater and what lies ahead for this popular downtown Mobile movie venue.

 

Max Morey

 

 

Max, who is originally from Atlantic City, New Jersey, was working in the casino business in Biloxi when he came to the Mobile for a college basketball game and was immediately drawn to the City .  He soon relocated here and began working with business partner, John Switzer, developing residential properties in downtown Mobile. When the City approached them with the idea of reopening a downtown movie theater, they jumped into the project, researching the buildings’ history at the University of South Alabama archives, so they could be true to the Crescent’s past.

THEATER HISTORY

The original Crescent Theater opened in 1885 as a vaudeville theater then was updated in 1912 to show silent films. In 1937, the name was changed to the Century Theater which closed in the 1970’s.  In 2008, after a renovation, the Crescent Theater reopened its doors to its Mobile patrons.

“We call it an art house,” Max told me as we discussed the films coming soon to the Crescent. “There’s no plan. I try and get what I can.”  He selects films he likes and knows the patrons will like them too. “I’m trying to get happy films.”  Though at times working with the film studios can prove to be a challenge.

“A single-screen theater is a recipe for disaster.” Max said.   “It can’t be a successful business in and of itself, it needs community support and the community has rallied around the Crescent.”  Max explained.  When the theater faced closure a few years ago, he told the city of the situation.  He is very thankful for the individuals that got together and had a fundraiser to keep the theater open. He said he didn’t see that coming. “The Crescent Film Society is very important to the theater and keeping it going.”

Max says there is always dip in ticket sales in both the summer and the fall when the weather is good and everyone wants to be outside.  But the Crescent’s ticket sales have shown a gradual increase in these past 10 years.  In fact, he has as many new customers as he does regulars.

DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT

Community engagement is important to Max and the Crescent. Charles Morgan, of Chuck’s Fish sought out Max to tell him that the Crescent was the reason he was building restaurants in Mobile.  “Every progressive city in America has a single screen theater in its heart.”  Charles told him.

Max also lavished praise on the Mobile Downtown Alliance, “I’m the President of their fan club. They work quietly behind the scenes for every positive thing we have. Without them, we’d be back in the 1970’s.  Nobody has given them an award, the city ought to.”

Crescent Theater

You can find Max at the Crescent daily, interacting with local business people that stop by to check on his stock of beer and wine for his customers or local patrons in search of a good afternoon movie and a brief chat.  Max is enjoying life. “I’d rather have people’s friendship than money in my pocket.” He told me.

 

 

Come downtown to the Crescent and see a movie in this unique part of Mobile’s movie past and future. You are sure to enjoy a fine film and good conversation.

UPCOMING FILMS

The upcoming films for the Crescent are: Green Book, The Return of Mary Poppins and Mary, Queen of Scots.  Get those tickets now!

https://www.crescenttheater.com/

 

Victory Teaching Farm, Down to Earth Farmraiser, Mobile, AL

Victory Teaching Farm

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.

Planting beds

 

 

Farmraiser

 

 

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

Roosters!

The restaurants included Noble South, Nourish, Haberdasher, Red and White, Pour Baby, Bay Gourmet and Old Dutch.

Pour Baby

Nourish

 

Guncles

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FARM

Overlooking the plants

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!

http://victoryteachingfarm.org/

Spot of Tea-New offerings coming to Mobile’s Landmark Downtown Restaurant

Spot of Tea

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.

Eggs Cathedral

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:

Birdsnest

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.

 

Lobster Role

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.

 

 

Seared Ahi Tuna Salad

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.

Children’s Afternoon tea

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!

 

Segways!

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.

https://www.spotoftea.com/

Bienville Bites LoDa Food Tour, Mobile, AL

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.

https://bienvillebitesfoodtour.com/

Royal Scam

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.

Gumbo!

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.

https://royalscammobile.com/

Panini Pete’s

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.

 

 

Beignets

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.

http://www.paninipetes.com/

A&M Peanut Shop

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.

Music Time!

https://sites.google.com/site/ampeanutshop2/

 

 

 

 

Three George’s

Our walking party made its way up Dauphin Street to Three George’s, which at 101 years old is one of the oldest companies in the city.

Candy maker, Tasha Thompson entertained our group with her energetic praline making and a hardy “Roll Tide”.  (Did I mention it was the opening weekend of college football)?

Pralines!

This Southern confection of sugar, butter and pecans is delicious and having them hot out of the pot only added to their magnificence.  The sugar buzz was well worth it.

http://www.3georges.com/

 

 

Hero’s Sports Bar and Grille

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.

Spinach and Crawfish dip

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.

https://heroessportsbar.com/

Wintzell’s Oyster House

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.

Wintzell’s Oyster Bar

We bellied up to the Oyster Bar for tasting of several offerings of oysters, Chargrilled, Monterey and Rockefeller.

Oysters!

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.

http://www.wintzellsoysterhouse.com/

 

 

 

Von’s bistro

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.

http://vonsbistro.com/

 

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.

https://bienvillebitesfoodtour.com/