A Thai for a Thai

You lose one, gain another. The bad news is Mobile’s downtown is done with Thai. Since we last spoke Busaba’s has shut its doors. I will say they outlasted many a downtown restaurant. With 13 years of service and three Nappies for “Best Ethnic Food,” somebody must have been doing something right.

A heartfelt goodbye was issued from their Facebook site Dec. 4. Already I have been getting emails from folks who miss the place. There is talk of a new Mobile business venture from the owners. We will keep you posted.

So while you are waiting for a possible Busaba move, why not try the new place on Bel Air Boulevard aptly named Thai. I’ve yet to have the pleasure, but a friend of mine recently went and says she will definitely be back. Her only complaints? Lack of female servers and ‘80s music. Hey, you’ve got to let them iron out the kinks. Add some bad ‘90s music and some waitresses and they will be sitting on a goldmine.

Big Al’s burns out

Sad to report another one bites the dust. Big Al’s Barbecue at Airport and University has burned its last coal. It wasn’t bad cue, but the breakfast was exceptional. No word on whether it is a permanent shutdown or a relocation. Either way, always sad this time of year.

Gigi’s getting ready for New Year

It’s a new year and a new leaf for Gigi’s Cupcakes. The latest addition to the menu is a variety of muffins geared toward meetings and gatherings of sophistication where cupcakes may be a bit too sweet. But that’s not all. Stuffed cookies are also one of this season’s “it” items. And as we draw nearer to the Mardi Gras season one can expect those cookies to be stuffed with King Cake. Of course there will be King Cake and Moon Pie cupcakes along with the daily selections you’ve come to enjoy at 273 McGregor Ave.

Sriracha is heating up the news

I cannot tell you the first time I tried Sriracha. But I was first told about it from a friend at work in the late ‘90s. I’ve been a Tabasco man my whole life, mainly because I know exactly how much to use, but I don’t even consider Tabasco and Sriracha kissing cousins. Tabasco has the vinegar, salt and cayenne thing going on while Sriracha is a thick puree of red jalapenos and garlic. Different applications, folks.

But in recent years Sriracha has taken on a cult like following. The wonderful red sauce with a rooster on the bottle is a recent Lay’s potato chip flavor. You’ll find it at Subway restaurants in a cream sauce. People (that is plural, boys and girls) are sporting Sriracha tattoos. There’s a flavored vodka that I’m sure would make a hell of a Bloody Mary. There are even Sriracha candy canes.

Recently Huy Fong Foods, the makers of the lovable sauce opened a new plant in Irwindale, Calif. Not long after that the townspeople began to complain because the strong fumes were irritating people’s lungs and eyes. If your hot sauce is killer enough to create respiratory and vision problems then you are on my list of “must haves.” So long story short they were asked to shut down a portion of the plant. Not the entire thing, just a portion.

Meanwhile, the sauce was already backordered and restaurateurs and fans alike were beginning to panic. But the panic escalated when California state health regulators called a halt to the shipping, stating laws that require a 30 day waiting period for uncooked processed foods to ship in order to search for pathogens.

Huy Fong Foods is complying and the culinary world is in a frenzy. People are stockpiling those bottles of “rooster sauce” and making matters worse. If you have a bottle, don’t panic. I go through maybe one per year. Things will be back on track before you know it. I remember when you could only find it at Food Pak (where I bought my first bottle). Now it’s in most grocery stores, so I think Mobile will be OK.

If you’d like to learn more about this amazing American success story there is a 33-minute independent film available on the internet called “Sriracha”. What began as a Kickstarter campaign is now a movie available for $5. Look for it everywhere.

Food predictions for 2014

I asked around, mostly friends, and got some fairly strong opinions about what food trends we could expect to see in the upcoming year. I get the feeling these are less prediction and more wishful thinking. My personal predictions were fairly simple. I predict smaller hamburgers, less hoppy beer and that some restaurant will begin serving armadillo, calling it possum on the half shell. Mark my words. Here are some others from my so-called friends.

• More ceviche. I’m on board with this. Ceviche everywhere. Grocery stores, fast food restaurants, ceviche street carts, and with a variety of fish and shellfish.

• Designer popcorn will be huge. Things like chocolate peppermint, butter almond or Bourbon flavor could be here before you know it.

• Nut butters. Yes, it sounds funny, but healthy peanut, cashew, almond, pistachio, and any kind of nut you can think of. Natural and healthy is the way to go. I’ve had some macadamia nut butter before. It was something else.

• Hopefully more cow tongue. The lengua at the OK Bicycle shop is often sold out due to its popularity. Where else can we find it?

• Pop Tarts will become more designer oriented than cupcakes. Truth is they are on their way. I’m waiting for the frosted margarita flavor to hit the shelves. No salt, of course.

Some predicted more chicken dishes, others predicted folks would go the “udder” way. Chicken steroids, recombinant bovine growth hormone, who can win? Bad things like that can even make our ice cream an udder failure. Maybe we will eradicate these practices of tainting our meat and poultry only to find there is some other ingredient that will harm our children’s children. I’m not condoning anything but I’m sure I’ve eaten mountains of steroid-riddled meat. I may not be that bright, but I’m still around.