Yes, it’s getting weirder by the day. I’m not sure exactly how this week is different from last week from a legal standpoint, but the overall feel is settling in. I’ve been to a few restaurants, talked to many who have shuttered for this storm and am trying to remain positive about the food scene and my non-essential business (it’s essential to me!).
As I lick my freshly sanitized index finger and hold it up to the wind in hopes of feeling a change in direction, my gut tells me small business owners who dabble in food are finding ways to navigate these choppy seas. Some are still limping on, but better than last week. A few who shut down are talking about opening again (beg Guncles). We are dealing with this better, but no one is on solid footing.
I’ve still managed to make some rounds, supporting our local economy as much as a stifled income allows, and there are chefs and line cooks putting out stellar work.
It wasn’t even Monday, but I was treated to some red beans and rice from Bay Gourmet at Crown Hall. I’m a huge fan of their grits and grillades, but my neighbor Susan brought me the beans and I will say they are fantastic. I was surprised at how much of a kick was built into the creamy beans. I was even more surprised when my 18-month-old got into them without batting an eyelash.
Noble South has a family dinner special. Order an appetizer, a salad, two sides, a protein and dessert and they send you four helpings of each and a bottle of wine for $100! We did this and had so much food leftover. I don’t know how that kale salad keeps for so long, but it was sturdy the next day. They weren’t scraping the bottom with the wine, either. A better than decent Cabernet made the evening what it needed to be.
I called Red or White and got the fabulous Mary to pick out a bottle of red in the $20 to $25 range for a steak. I breezed into the parking lot and she met me just outside the door with a California blend that met and exceeded my needs. Chef Arwen and crew are doing large portion, family-style specials, but still offer cheese and antipasto boards for starters. Check the specials daily on Instagram and Facebook. I missed the Royal Red shrimp rolls, but gained two pounds staring at the pictures. Call me next time, OK?
This week, old Mother Nature thought it’d be funny to send a tornado in the middle of all this. It didn’t affect Midtown much, but I somehow managed to lose a tree. The next day, my almost 15-year-old, Lucas, helped his Pop chainsaw and tote these logs to the street. Filthy, exhausted and hungry, my young lumberjack wanted Callaghan’s for lunch. We had food in our hands in less than 20 minutes, with a smiling Cheryl meeting us on the sidewalk. We took our L.A. burger with bacon and cheese to Washington Square and had some father-son time at the big oak next to the iron deer.
Another day found me heading across the bay to grab something from my guitar store. I could no longer resist the urge. Waffle House was calling my name. The Daphne location on U.S. 90 is temporarily closed according to the internet, so I wheeled into the one on U.S. 98 a couple of blocks away. A friendly young carhop took my order and I was on my way with a large to-go cup of grits — smothered, covered and chunked. That’s the pro tip: grits in a cup. You can eat them while driving, and they never tasted so good.
Baldwin County has some great things going on. Make your way to Ivey’s in Robertsdale for some fine lunch dining. I’m hearing great things. East Shore Café needs your help sponsoring lunch for a first responder. Alternating between the Daphne Police Department and Fire Department, $10 gets your name and a custom message on the box so they know who sponsored their “Quarantine Burger,” side and drink. Reach them at 251-625-0055. Trattoria Pizza & Italian have a GoFundMe page raising money to feed local first responders and medical professionals fighting COVID-19.
Baumhower’s Victory Grille has set up a pop-up drive-thru at all of their statewide locations, including ours in Daphne and the Mobile restaurant at The Shoppes at Bel Air. The “Just Wing It” drive-thru tent allows you to order on the spot, with choices of wings and Curly-Q fries. This is in addition to their curbside “Pick Me Up” menu, which can be ordered and paid for online at baumhowers.com.
I was also treated to some wonderful catfish by Christopher Watkins. Straight out of the Tombigbee River, he’d made quick work of filleting and skinning these monsters. I fried them up in peanut oil after soaking them in buttermilk and dredging them in cornmeal. The oil needs to be at 350 degrees, but I lost my thermometer in a hard-crack accident. I fried hushpuppies to gauge temp.
1 1/2 cups white cornmeal
1 small onion, diced
3 green onions, diced
1/2 cup buttermilk
Mix it all together. Make certain the onion is finely diced. Drop by the spoonful, a little less than 1/4 cup at a time. My instincts had the oil too hot on the first few. The insides were doughy and the outsides too dark. I lowered the heat and had the perfect batch. So perfect, in fact, by the time I finished the last two of the first batch, they were gone. I had to whip up a second batch.
This is not to take away from the catfish. When a Mississippi boy brings you catfish, you’d better take it seriously. I’d like to think I did you proud, Crico. This week, bass!!
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