Photo | crackerbarrel.com
I’m not sure what landed me in the dining room of Cracker Barrel on the Interstate 65 service road in Mobile. On the rare occasion I enter those doors, it’s usually due either to coercion from one of my kids or a strong desire for an ice-cold bottle of Bubble Up. I think this lazy Sunday I simply needed a change of scenery.
After wading through the shallow sea of country knickknacks, cheap toys and touristy products that could be classified as either religious, patriotic or sexually suggestive (I almost bought Bone Suckin’ Sauce, a hot dog candle and a shirt that reads, “I LIKE PIG BUTTS AND I CANNOT LIE”), we made our way to a table at a window. It was there we encountered a drink menu.
I’d heard they were adding alcohol, but it didn’t hit home until I saw the tabletop list. Ice-cold beer with selections from PBR to Blue Moon, mimosas and Sangria are enough, but there was also a wine list. Of the three categories, diners can choose from Sweet (3), White (1) or Red (1). Know thy audience. I was jonesing for my first buzz in a Barrel, but I was too early. They don’t serve alcohol on Sunday until 10 a.m.
With a decaf in hand, I turned my attention to the appetizer card. Buttermilk Biscuit Beignets were something we didn’t know existed. My son Graham was over the moon. The biscuit dough, fried and dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar, was a little heavier than what you may find at Café Du Monde, but very pleasant.
Katie and I were more excited about the Barrel Bites. These are nothing more than a deconstructed hash brown casserole made from tater tots, bacon pieces, melted Colby cheese and a healthy sprinkling of green onions for flavor and show. If you guessed anything other than buttermilk ranch as a dipping sauce, then maybe you should sit this one out. I’m all about the upgraded tots.
Colonel’s Tavern now serving nostalgia
Old Mobilians know it. If you miss the “good ole days” of burgers and dogs on a hot Port City afternoon, you’re more than likely flashing back to the time of the Colonel Dixie. Wait no longer. It’s back up and running in the form of the Colonel’s Tavern at 4940 Government Blvd.
The Colonel’s Tavern is getting over the new restaurant jitters as customers flock to the West Mobile location. You’ll be familiar with the menu, not exclusive to just Dixie Cheeseburgers and the Colonel’s Dog. There are also barbecue plates of pork, beef and sausage as well as loaded baked potatoes.
Current hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., closed on Sunday. As they say, “Bite the one you love.”
Memorial Day pops for the big and little kids
My 2-year-old Henry is going through a popsicle phase. His older brother Graham is also on board. Remember the first time you had a shower beer? Well, these guys are taking popsicles to the tub. It’s ridiculous. I don’t think anyone deserves more than one per day, but according to my grocery bill, they are sneaking them left and right.
Popsicles can be so much more than Kool-Aid in a mold. You could go super creamy or straight-up fruity. A touch of sweetened condensed milk will get that sweet tooth going; however, yogurt or full-fat coconut milk would be healthier options. I have always favored the fruity pops more than the creamy ones, but the creamy fans are out there.
Creamy or fruity, let’s use some real fruit. Keep in mind that once iced, the fruit will be less sweet, so let’s use our fruits in the sweetest state they can be, which is slightly overripe. The hard fruit really won’t do in this application. Even in a sweeter state, the riper fruit will probably need some sort of sweetener added to it before freezing.
Next, decide if you want your fruit to be chunky or completely puréed. I think the look of a popsicle with a wedge of kiwi visible from the side is attractive, but I prefer eating them in a more blended form. For us, the high-powered Vitamix does the trick. Of course, whatever fruit you are using, be it solo or in concert, you’ll need some liquid. A little water is fine, but fruit juice is better.
Remember you’ll need to sweeten it. Straight sugar is fine, simple syrup is better, but honey, agave nectar or sugar substitutes such as Stevia all work.
Memorial Day is often booze-filled. Should you want your pops more adult-friendly, you may need to take extra steps (and precautions). First, we need to keep them away from the kids. Get creative. Secondly, since alcohol has a lower freezing temp, they take longer to freeze and melt quicker than regular pops. The ratio needs to be 4:1 juice to alcohol. You cannot get a stout margarita to simply freeze solid without some commercial deep freezing capability.
Think of your favorite cocktail and mix accordingly. I like to have a little fun. I may put a little rum in a watermelon, lime and jalapeno pop. Peaches and Champagne sound good. Mango habanero and tequila could be a hit. Strawberry daiquiri would be an easy fix with the mix, but better with ripe berries. The most fruitful and colorful (and possibly least alcoholic) would be a Sangria with red or white wine depending on your fruit.
Don’t neglect the things you can do with plums, pears, figs and less common commercial flavors. Avocado and spinach are neutral flavors that take on what surrounds them. Eat for the season and pluck your pops from the tree.
We will be doing this all summer. Happy Memorial Day.
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