Monday, September 1, 2014

Oh, Fiddlefish!

On a recent trip to Alabama's beautiful beaches, I was a bit dismayed at the price of eating out on the Gulf Coast. It seemed every restaurant we went to, all the old favorites, had increased prices dramatically from years past. We rarely found anywhere that was under $100 for three people. The prices had escalated, but I did not think the quality had increased to the same level. So, it was a happy discovery to find a new restaurant in Orange Beach that was not only reasonably priced, but the food was very good, too. 

Fiddlefish, in the San Roc Cay shopping center, is located in what was originally a deli. It is a laid back, casual little place with a beachy personality. I especially loved the rustic wooden fish decorating the restaurant on the inside and outside. Another happy discovery, because the place is fairly new, we did not have to wait forever for a table. I am sure this will change when vacationers get wind of Fiddlefish.  Hmmmm...on second thought, perhaps I should stop right here!  Oh, ok...I'll share my secret!

We were seated in a booth and quickly given menus and drinks. After studying the menus, JD's buddy Rhett, who was extremely happy to find something besides seafood on the menu, chose the Fiddleburger. This burger was decked out in a fried egg, cheddar cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato. Rhett was one happy fellow when this monstrosity was delivered. It was huge!  He told us it may have been the best burger he had ever had. The Fiddleburger came with a side of crinkle cut fries.

JD couldn't resist the Fiddlefish shrimp poboy when he discovered the fried shrimp were covered in Fiddlesauce, Fiddlefish's version of bang bang sauce. The big sandwich roll was split and over flowing with lots of big shrimp, lettuce, sliced tomato and red onion. JD said this was definitely the best shrimp poboy he had ever had.

While the boys made their selections quickly, I had a much more difficult time deciding. My inclination was to go with the shrimp taco, because that is always a safe bet for me. On the other hand, I felt the name of this blog might have to be changed to Three Friends and a Taco, if  I didn't branch out.  It was a bit late, and I really was wanting something on the light side, so the next thing I did was completely bewildering. I asked the waitress for suggestions and let her talk me into this behemoth of an overstuffed baked potato.  I still do not know why I did, because it was the direct opposite of small and light! 

The thing was huge, stuffed to overflowing with grilled shrimp, cheese, green onions and covered in crab and corn bisque. The dang thing would have fed a family of four! It was rich and tasty, but there was no way I could finish the whole thing. 

The best surprise of all came when the waitress brought out the bill. I could not believe how reasonable it was to eat at Fiddlefish. The total bill for all three of us including our drinks was under $40. We had lots of food, the seafood was fresh and expertly prepared, we didn't have to wait forever and the staff was friendly and helpful. This place is a bargain! Do not fiddle around! Go to Fiddlefish on your next trip to Alabama's Gulf Coast!

Three Friends and a Fork give Fiddlefish 3 enthusiastic Yums UP!

Fiddlefish Seafood Café on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Scottsboro's First Monday and Art Sunday...The Tradition Continues

Labor Day weekend is a big one in Scottsboro, Alabama. Two important events draw crowds to the historic town over the three day celebration. One event has roots that run deep into the early 1900's, while the other is a bit more recent, but just as brilliant.

According to the official Scottsboro website, First Monday Trade Days began in 1902, as a horse swapping event imagined by a local newspaper editor. James Armstrong, editor of the Scottsboro Citizen, dreamed up the cockamamie idea and, even though the first one was not a roaring success, Armstrong had the audacity to keep promoting it until it finally caught on.  One of his reasons? To bring crowds into the city...sound familiar, Scottsboro?

Today's First Monday begins on the Saturday before the first Monday of the month and the one on Labor Day weekend is the MacDaddy of all First Mondays. Each First Monday, including the Labor Day event, runs for three days, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, with Sunday being the busiest.

2014's Labor Day First Monday was jazzed up a bit by the addition of Dale's Stuft food truck. Dale sells five different varieties of stuffed baked potatoes: Cow Tater, Pig Tater, Chicken Tater, Turkey Tater and Garden Tater.

I ran by Dale's after I had completed my shopping and picked up three taters for our dinner. Scott and Rob wanted Pig Taters and I chose the Garden Tater.

My Garden Tater
Pig Tater
I am not kidding when I tell you those taters were tasty! The combination of white sauce and bbq sauce is really divine. Scott said the pork was wonderful and the flavors on my Garden Tater were right up my alley...cilantro, lime, corn, black beans, green onions. Oh, yes, it was so good!

But the taters were at the end of my day, so let me back up! I arrived on the square in time for an early lunch at the Veranda Catering Company. Veranda had a special $5 menu just for the Labor Day weekend. One of the items on the menu caught my eye and since I had been hearing lots about the Veranda's chicken and waffles, I decided to try them out. Chicken and waffles are one of dishes I have been curious about, but have never tried. It sounds like an odd combination and I am not sure how they were invented, but it was a sweet idea. Veranda's chicken fingers with waffles and maple syrup are a marriage made in heaven. 

As I was polishing off the last of my meal, I kept noticing the beautiful plates popping up on other tables. Yes, I am nosy! I saw some delicious looking sandwiches, strawberry pretzel salad, sweet potato fries and desserts. Made me want to order a second round, but I knew I had taters to look forward to!

Veranda's strawberry pretzel salad...yum-o!
After leaving the Veranda, I strolled around the square, checking out the vendors and talking to friends along the way. I ran into my friend, Kelli, who had just polished off an entire tiger's blood shave ice with extra, extra cream and did not leave one smidge for me to photograph. She said she bought it for her son, but I noticed he was nowhere around and when I dusted the cup for fingerprints, his were not there! 
The local Three Arts Club sponsors Scottsboro's popular Art in the Park event.
Paper Moon is one of the favorite vendors at Art in the Park.
From First Monday, I hopped in my car and drove down to Caldwell Park to the other big Labor Day weekend event, Art in the Park, hosted by Scottsboro's Three Arts Club. This year's event was the 41st annual occurrence of the art fest. Proceeds from the event support art and educational endeavors in the community and talented vendors from all over come to share their creations. Everything from jewelry and paintings to candles and soap can be purchased at the tents set up under the shady canopy of trees in the park. 

WhimC is one of the local vendors with cute and colorful crafts.
Love this vendor's clever booth.
More original creations...
And for those who didn't dine on the square, there were plenty of food choices, too. BBQ, lemonade, chicken salad sandwiches and kettle corn were all available and looked delicious. 

My talented friend, John Warr, always supports this local event by bringing his amazing art. John does realistic wildlife and civil war paintings, as well as paintings of local scenes. His latest, The Osprey's of BB Comer Bridge,  commemorates the beautiful birds that have made their home on Scottsboro's historic old bridge. 

More fantastic John Warr creations...

One of my favorite vendors is Paper Moon, the brainchild of two talented sisters. Their paper maché creations have the feel of a Tim Burton movie and their booth is always one of the most popular in the park. Don't you just love this mischievous looking jack-o-lantern?

My friend, Lavinia, snagged a trio of pretty leather, freshwater pearl and stone necklaces. She shared them with me, so I could share them with you. Here are a couple of them. Unfortunately I didn't get the name of the vendor, but I am sure we could find out.

I found my own pretty pottery necklace at a booth called Artjewelz. My friend, Shannon, learned the importance of making up your mind when shopping near me. As soon as I told the owner I would take this cute Auburn tiger paw, Shannon acted like I had taken it out of her hand!  I had to laugh at her...but I didn't put it down! Next time I bet she makes her choices known! Too bad it was the last one! She was in luck, though. The owner is going to mail hers. 

War Eagle! 

And now we are right back where we started. I left Art in the Park and wheeled right back to the square, where I picked up three piping hot, over stuffed, baked potatoes and headed home just in time to avoid the torrential rain that began to pour from the sky. All in all, I would say it was a great day to be in Scottsboro, Alabama!

Veranda Cafe on Urbanspoon Dale's BBQ on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 24, 2014

brick & tin

Recently, my sister, Kerri, and I spent a day in Birmingham where we enjoyed lunch at a wonderful place called Brick and Tin. Brick and Tin is located in downtown Birmingham on 20th Street North. There is also a second Brick and Tin located in nearby Mountain Brook, but on this day we headed to the original 20th street location. Brick and Tin is housed in building constructed in the early 1900's, which began life as a shoe store. The chef/owner of Brick and Tin is Mauricio Papapietro, who happens to have been associated with two of Birmingham's premier chefs, Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings. The name of the restaurant was decided when the remodeling of the old building was taking place. As sheetrock and ceiling tiles were removed, brick walls and a pressed tin ceiling was revealed. Voila...Brick and Tin! 

The concept and philosophy for Brick and Tin is one of locally sourced, farm to table, simply prepared food. As the Brick and Tin web page states: At brick & tin we believe that people should know where their food comes from. Since most food consumed by Americans these days travels hundreds or thousands of miles before making it to a hungry mouth, we have carefully sourced our ingredients from purveyors as close to home as possible. We also believe that it is important for people to enjoy food that is free of hormones, chemicals, or other additives. Meats prepared here are humanely raised in pastures and free roaming ranges. Our purveyors are serious enough about this to pursue and obtain animal welfare certification. We care about our local farmers and support farming that is responsible and sustainable. By doing so, we may help ensure that future generations can share in the same bounty you find before you.

As we entered through the front door, we noticed a line had formed in front of the bar, so we joined in. While waiting to place our orders at the bar, we studied the menu. It all sounded wonderful...soups, salads, sandwiches, desserts.

When our turn to order came, Kerri selected the Southern roasted chicken salad sandwich with a classic side salad.  The chicken salad had celery for a nice crunch and toasted pecans on homemade challah. The salad was beautifully green and fresh with more toasted pecans. 

I chose the slow roasted beef brisket sandwich with caramelized onions, white barbecue sauce and corn chowder. While I would not have called it chowder because I typically think of chowders as being chunky and this one was smooth, more like a bisque, the soup was still very good.  I would have been happy with just the corn chowder. The braised beef brisket was fall apart tender and, of course, being from Alabama, I loved the white barbecue sauce!

Both of our sandwiches came on bread baked right in the restaurant's bakery and both were delicious. I snuck back to the bakery to check out all the varieties of bread and discovered cookies, too! 

We loved the cold bottle of water the waiter brought to our table. It really is the simple things that set places apart!

For dessert we shared a chocolate bread pudding topped with fresh whipped cream.  It was marvelous! When we finished, that bowl was empty!

We could not leave empty handed!  My sweet sister bought me a box of cookies, even though she said she would never have picked out the flavors I chose. She isn't big on herbs in her cookies, which I don't understand at all! My three choices were Mexican Hot Chocolate with a pinch of hot pepper, Black Currant Rosemary, which was my favorite and White Forest made with white chocolate, of course! All of the cookies were delicious.

Brick and Tin will definitely be on my list of places to revisit when I am in Birmingham. I loved everything about it from the rustic/institutional city loft feel to the great food and great service. 
Three Friends and a Fork give Brick and Tin 3 Wholesome Yums UP!

Brick & Tin on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Swing Lowe!

Have you been to Lowe Mill yet? If not, you should definitely swing by.  This old cotton mill in Huntsville just southeast of downtown has been converted into a home for arts and entertainment and is billed as the Southeast's Largest Center for the Arts.

Enjoying Tea and chocolates!

The only reason I found out about Lowe Mill was because I was on a quest for tea.  After sampling that wonderful tea from Piper and Leaf at Huntsville's food truck rally, I was desperately wishing for some more. After doing some online research, I noticed that Piper and Leaf had a shop in Lowe Mill. I wasn't sure what Lowe Mill was, but Scott knew, so off we went. When we pulled up to the old cotton mill, we were a bit confused as to where to start looking for Piper and Leaf. No worries! The tea peddlers are almost the first shop you find when you leave the parking lot.  The shop is tiny and there were a couple of customers ahead of me so I looked around, checking out all the tea flavors and the eclectic decor.

When it was my turn at the tea bar I quickly asked for the Front Porch Special which is a blend of Earl Gray tea, jasmine and spearmint.  I had guzzled a gallon of this tea at the food truck rally.  One of the guys working there told me this was their most popular flavor. I absolutely love the quart sized canning jars they serve the tea in. They come with screw on lids with a hole in the tops for straws. How often do you go into a restaurant and wish they would just bring the pitcher? That's kind of what this is like because a quart of tea is a lot of tea! I left Piper and Leaf with my jar of Front Porch Special and a bag of the same blend of tea and spices for brewing at home. I will tell you that my brewing at home is not as good as Piper and Leaf's brewing, but it carries me through until I can get to Piper and Leaf again.

We left Piper and Leaf and meandered on through the old mill. That is when I made another happy discovery...chocolate!  Tea and chocolate, does it get any better?  Not for me! Pizelle's Confections has some of the prettiest and tastiest handmade truffles around.  With names like Green Dragon, Depth Charge and Sexyback and flavors such as cardamom, local stout and chipotle, I was overwhelmed in a very good way!  Since making decisions is not my long suit, I opted for a box of 12 different truffles so I could try one of almost every kind they had in the case. 

From left to right starting at the top, here's what I got...
Top row: Afternoon Delight, Sureshot, Steel Magnolia, ?, Depth Charge
Bottom row: Date Night, Goodbye Earl, The Holy Trinity, El Machete, Nut Job, 7th Street Truffle and Green Dragon.
The only one I can't remember the name of happens to be the one I loved the most. The fourth one on the top row with the flowers. Maybe someone from Pizzelle's will come on here and tell me what it is. It was slightly spicy and oh, so good! 

Rob waiting in Pizzelle's.
The Steel Magnolia was so cute I almost hated to eat it...almost!

With chocolate and tea in hand, we decided to scout out the rest of Lowe Mill to see what we could discover. We took this old cotton elevator to scope out all three floors.  See my friend on the elevator. He posed for me. We decided he looked like he was behind bars!  I loved the old elevator. It gives the whole place lots of personality.

I'm not sure what that old piece of equipment is, but I love that Lowe Mill is embracing its roots by leaving these pieces in place. The floors of the old mill are filled with vendors, shops and artists of every imaginable kind. We saw textile art, jewelry, paintings, name it! If it is art, Lowe Mill probably has it. 

I also understand Lowe Mill has classes, workshops, comedy, theater and concerts. I clearly need to make a return trip to Lowe Mill!

Three Friends and a Fork give Piper and Leaf and Pizzelle's 3 Creative Yums UP!