My Favorite (Game-Changing) Hair Tool

My older daughter told me about the Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer Hot Air Brush when I was recovering from shoulder surgery recently. Blowouts at Blo Blow Dry Bar in Homewood were awesome (love that head massage!) but I couldn’t do that every week.

But even with very limited range of motion (happy to say I’m better now!), I was able to use this brush-dryer combo to get smooth and sleek, yet still full, results. It really is an amazing product.

And now that most of us are spending more time at home anyway, this is a good item to have on hand.

While I’m all about supporting local stores, most are not open now so you can order it from Amazon here.

But when all this is over, I encourage you to visit my friends at Blo. They do a really great job and it’s such a treat!

Virtual Dance Party

I miss my friends (and the energy!) of The Bike Room at Ignite Cycle at Pepper Place. Often I was the oldest rider in the room, but that never mattered. We all become equal on those bikes, riding for ourselves and, recently, for each other.

Also, I loved, loved, loved going to class there with my grown kids!

It really is a wonderful, welcoming community. It’s a giving community, too. They share their fantastic setlists on the Ignite Cycle website, and when I’m not in The Bike Room, I use those sometimes as running playlists.

In an effort to reach out and lift up, the Ignite team is hosting virtual dance parties Monday-Friday and on Saturdays, too. Over the last two nights, more than 500 people joined in!

One participant left this message on Ignite’s Instagram: “as I danced alone, all that weird lonely energy that had been building up all day melted away. your INCREDIBLE vibes filled me to the brim with joy and gave me the motivation to keep going. I’m grateful to wake up today and to have something *totally stress-free* to look forward tođź–¤”

If you want to dance along with the uber-cool Ignite girls, tune into their IG Live for a 45 minute set from @djkallima Monday through Friday at 5:15 p.m. and Saturday at noon. It’s easy. Go to their Instagram at the appropriate time, and click on the profile picture and watch the live video.

It’s free. They say: “Community is too important for us to charge for it at a time it’s hard to find đź–¤

The lyrics will be CLEAN … they know some people have “little ears” at home. Go on; dance with your fam!

It’s easy. Just hop on IG Live and get on the digital dance floor. Maybe you FaceTime with some friends, and it really does become a party.

Meanwhile, connect with the Ignite team @ignitecyclebhm on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Fresh, Bright Flavors at the Wildflower Cafe

Over the years, Wildflower Café has become a dining destination in Mentone, which is, of course, its own awesome destination atop Lookout Mountain.

I traveled to Mentone recently for Alabama NewsCenter to spotlight this unique restaurant. You can read the entire story here.

Café owner Laura Catherine Moon (just “Moon” to everyone she knows and meets) is as much of a draw as the regionally famous tomato pie or the carefully curated small general store with handmade art and crafts or the eclectically furnished, hippy-chic dining rooms or the colorful, peaceful wildflower garden surrounding the 1800s log cabin that houses the café and store.

Moon has owned Wildflower Café for more than a decade, but she never really intended to go into the restaurant business.

“It’s true,” she says. “I didn’t mean to.” She had owned several shops in and around Mentone throughout the years. One of them was a natural health food store called Mountain Life. “I sold organic produce and natural foods,” she says. “I sold herbs and my herbal blends. It was a store for wellness. It was sort of a convenience health food store up on the mountain.” Whenever the produce would start to wilt, she would think to herself:  “Well, if I could just cook it, then people could know just how good this food is.”

About this time, the Wildflower Café became available for purchase after being open for about a year. Moon first wanted to team up with the café’s chef, thinking he could run the restaurant and she would run her store. When he left three months later, she stepped up.

“I never even worked in a restaurant before I owned this one,” she says. “So it was a huge challenge to learn the ins and outs and the ropes and how to do it. And it just turned out that I’m really good at it.”

People come up from Birmingham and Montgomery to visit the café; they drive down from Nashville and Chattanooga. They travel over from Douglasville and Atlanta.

They come to Wildflower Café for the grilled or blackened wild-caught salmon and trout; the gourmet chicken salad with grapes and almonds; the big Canyon Burger made with freshly ground sirloin and filet; grilled chicken smothered with sautéed onions, bell peppers, honey-mustard sauce and cheeses; the prime rib with its crust of cracked peppercorns and spices (all these meats are hormone-free); angel hair pasta with a flavorful strawberry-balsamic sauce (there’s a vegan version of this dish, too); and signature shrimp and grits made with polenta. They come for hummingbird cake and old-fashioned chess pie and homemade crepes filled with sweet cream cheese and topped with house-fresh strawberry puree. And a great many of them come for the savory, cheesy tomato pie, which is so popular that Moon also offers a tomato pie wrap, a tomato pie salad, a tomato pie burger and a loaded tomato pie entrée (vegetarian and not).

A few words about this famous tomato pie:  It is worth any drive. Ripe, roma tomatoes are cooked down to sweetness and marinated in balsamic vinaigrette. Some cheddar and mozzarella and a beautifully flaky crust make it completely delicious.

Moon relies on area farmers for lots of her fresh ingredients like the humanely raised pork and poultry from Mildred’s Meadows Farm or fresh tomatoes, squash, corn, herbs and lettuces from The Farm at Windy Hill, Mountain Sun Farm and Feel Good Farm. “Nena’s (Produce and General Store), in the valley down here, carries some of the local farmers’ stuff,” she says. “So I’ll go down and buy from her as well.”

She brings local musicians to Wildflower on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and sometimes Thursdays. The country store is a gallery of local and regional arts and crafts:  clothing, wood crafts, jewelry, soaps, pottery, paintings, candles, music, books, foods like honey and jams and organic chocolates and Moon’s own natural lip balms and skincare (when she has the time to harvest the ingredients).

Moon says she’d like for customers to tell other people that “they came here and had an amazing experience and that the staff was friendly, the food was great and they just felt good when they were here. That’s what I want them to say,” she says. “And that the Wildflower is a great complement to Mentone. That would be a huge compliment to me, because Mentone is one of my favorite places on the planet. No matter where I’ve ever traveled, Mentone is the best.”

Wildflower Café

6007 Alabama Highway 117

Mentone, AL 35984

256-634-0066

http://www.mentonewildflower.com

Reservations are highly suggested for dinner and must be made by phone at 256-634-0066 or in person.  The café does not take reservations for lunch or Sunday brunch.

Hours:  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
Lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. General Store open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Lunch  11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner 4 to 8 p.m.
General Store open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sunday
Brunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. General Store open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

(On holiday weekends, the restaurant closes at 6 p.m.; call and check before you visit.)

Art Alive!

AIDS Alabama brings together local artists to create art and opportunities through an art auction with a real-time twist.

AIDS Alabama does serious work, but the fundraisers this organization puts on tend to be lots of fun.

On the heels of April’s successful Dining Out for Life, when AIDS Alabama teamed up with local restaurants like Bottega Café and Chez Lulu for a day of giving, AIDS Alabama presents its 3rd Annual Art Alive!

Art Alive! is set for Saturday, July 27 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Canary Gallery  (2201 Second Ave. N. in downtown Birmingham). Guests can watch eight local artists create original artwork—ranging from abstracts to more realistic pieces—during the event. These works will be available that evening through a silent auction.

Tickets are $50 each. There will be foods from El Barrio Restaurante Y Bar, a friend to AIDS Alabama that also participated in Dining Out for Life; complimentary beer from Cahaba Brewing Company; and wine from International Wines & Craft Beer. Matthew Carroll Band will entertain the crowd.

The silent auction is an exciting focal point for this event, but people other than the winning bidders can go home with new art, too. Several previously completed works in the artists’ gallery will be available for immediate purchase.

Art Alive! featured artists include:

“We are so grateful to our talented and extremely generous featured artists,” says Caroline Bundy, director of development for AIDS Alabama. “To have the opportunity to actually watch these artists as they create their work is a thrill, especially considering the different methods each uses to create their own individual piece. You don’t want to miss this fun and unique event!”

Fundraising like Art Alive! allows AIDS Alabama to devote more of its energy and resources statewide, helping those with HIV/AIDS live healthy, independent lives and working to prevent the spread of HIV.

Right now, there are more than 14,000 Alabamians living with HIV/AIDS, Bundy says, and, according to the Centers for Disease Control, Alabama ranks 11th in the nation for new HIV diagnoses.

AIDS Alabama works tirelessly to meet the needs of Alabama’s HIV-positive population, providing safe, affordable housing to low-income people living with HIV in Alabama. Additionally, AIDS Alabama’s prevention education and outreach efforts provide free and confidential HIV screening, accurate HIV information and links to care for thousands across the state

There have been many important medical advances that make HIV manageable as a chronic disease, Bundy says, but HIV rates in the South remain high and within epidemic proportions, making AIDS Alabama’s prevention, transportation, mental health and housing services more vital than ever.

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here, or go to www.aidsalabama.org.

Summer Edit Part 3: Beauty and the Beach

I have a couple of friends with whom I routinely share beauty tips and news about clever, effective products. It’s funny, really. These women are highly successful professionals, truly amazing at what they do and I know them mainly in a business sort of way. But when one of us finds something good to slather, dab or spray upon ourselves, we always are ready to share it with each other.

And why not crowdsource this sort of thing in between all the important stuff? I think it’s a lovely thing to do.

So, in order to share that love … here’s a look inside my summer travel bag. These are some of the products I took with me to the beach where minimalism is the key, sunscreen is highly important and looking good is as effortless as possible.

This sunscreen from Supergoop! is something my daughter Allison shared with me. It’s a light, lightly scented (sort of citrus) mousse that just melts into your skin. It has shea butter to moisturize and blue sea kale for antioxidants. I use it on my face, neck and chest, and a little goes a long way. Note that it’s SPF 50. I don’t go for anything less.

I love to multitask, and OUAI Haircare Rose Hair & Body Oil is a great double-duty kind of product. I use a few drops to smooth the ends of my hair. I rub a little into my skin (hello, shoulders!) for hydration and a subtle bit of sheen. And it smells amazing, so it works as a summer-perfect perfume, too.

This Essie Treat Love & Color ultra sheer nail polish in Tonal taupe is my go-to for beach nails. I don’t have to worry about chips because I really can’t see them! It’s just a little wash of color, and I swear my nails are better for wearing it. Tinted Love is another great almost-not-even-there shade.

I picked up this rollerball of Persian Rose fragrance from Pacifica at Target right before my trip. I wanted something light and a little different. This is it:  floral and a tiny bit smoky. And at only $12, perfect for tossing in a travel bag. It’s TSA friendly, too. The description mentions the Persian poet Rumi. I can’t remember the last time I had a Rumi-inspired impulse buy.

I keep a jar of Aveda stress-fix Body Cream on my bedside table. I carry a smaller jar everywhere I go. The certified organic lavender, lavandin and clary sage are proven to reduce stress. Also, the aroma reminds me to breathe deeply. That surely can’t hurt.

This is how I clean up at the end of the day. Derma-E Anti Wrinkle Scrub has marine plant extracts, vitamin A, glycolic acid, apricot seed powder and papaya to smooth and really, really exfoliate. Another multitasking product!

As I get older, I’ve become a fan of facial oils. I believe I got a sample of True Moringa Pure Moringa Simplicity Facial Oil in one of my Birchbox shipments. Or maybe Allison gave it to me. In any case, it’s made with 100% pure, cold-pressed moringa oil, which is great for moisturizing after a day of sand and surf. True Moringa works directly with a network of 1,600 smallholder farmers throughout Ghana providing sustainable livelihoods through access to credit, agricultural training, nutrition programs, and fair wages. So there’s that, too.

Finally, a product called Captain Blankenship Mermaid Sea Salt Hair Spray almost screams to go on a beach trip. I spray it onto damp hair and scrunch. It’s made with Atlantic sea salt (for after I wash out the Gulf of Mexico sea salt) as well as organic aloe vera and sea kelp and essential oils of geranium and palmarosa. Because beachy waves should smell nice.

44 Hours (approximately) in Asheville, NC

I love sharing Birmingham with friends. I love just as much when friends share their own special places with me–opening my eyes to something I don’t see every day.

My husband, Rick, and I recently spent about 44 hours in Asheville, North Carolina, with our friends April and Sid and Bob and Tondee. April was the resident expert, and she curated a trip that was food-focused, art-centered and absolutely awesome. April clearly delighted in doing this, and she’s incredibly good at it! We left town after our long weekend having seen and done (and tasted) so much. I am grateful beyond measure, and I’d like to share some of April’s favorite things. You’re going to want to take a road trip.

FRIDAY NIGHT

We arrived at Sid and April’s home, stopped briefly to unload our bags and enjoy a glass of rose and then headed to Gan Shan Station for dinner. Patrick O’Cain (he’s the tall one you’ll see behind the chef’s counter) was born and raised in North Asheville. He spent time in the kitchens of Asheville’s Curate and McCrady’s restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. He left McCrady’s and opened Charleston’s Xiao Bao Biscuit as sous-chef. Then he returned home to his own dreams and opened a restaurant in the neighborhood where he grew up. Gan Shan Station is in an old gas station in North Asheville. The open, airy place is named for Sunset Mountain where Patrick spent his childhood.

April arranged for the chef’s table tasting menu, and it was a stunning mix of Southern foods and Asian flavors–and clever drink pairings from around the world. Sichuan salt and pepper tofu (a table favorite even with people who don’t like tofu) was paired with a cocktail made of mezcal; whole flounder, sprinkled with fresh flowers and herbs and served over crispy Laotian rice, came with a Tuscan white. A miso-glazed pork chop with pickled blackberries and buttermilk dressing was paired with a French merlot. Six people fell in love with Sichuan pepper that night.

Gan Shan Station

143 Charlotte Street

Asheville, NC  28801

828-774-5280
info@ganshanstation.com

Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., closed on Sunday

SATURDAY

We started our day at Hole Doughnuts with cooked-to-order, served-hot-y’all doughnuts and great coffee roasted at the nearby PennyCup Coffee Co. At Hole, the yeasty dough is rolled out by hand, right in front of you. The doughnut varieties change all the time, but expect them to be glazed, dipped or sprinkled as you watch. Our doughnuts were crisp on the outside, wonderfully fluffy inside with vanilla glaze; a seasonal topping of hand-crushed wineberries; a dusting of cinnamon and sugar; and a crunchy, slightly savory topping of almonds, toasted sesame seeds and cinnamon.

Hole Doughnuts

168 Haywood Road

Asheville, NC 28806

(828) 774-5667

7:30 am – 2:00pm, Closed Tuesday

We spent the rest of the morning walking through the River Arts District where converted warehouses and industrial buildings along the French Broad River house studios for all kinds of artists. We looked at Cheyenne Trunnel‘s dreamy acrylic, pencil and watercolor landscapes and talked with Cindy Walton about her contemporary oil and cold wax paintings.

We were delighted with what we found at Splurge. Artist Robert Nicholas is collecting eclectic antiques and vintage objects and creating awesome things for his gift shop. What we loved: pendant lights made of huge commercial mixing-bowl attachments (whisks, paddles), mirrors surrounded by industrial floor-polishing brushes (I have a wall waiting for one of those, and you can see them here), chandeliers made of wire and wood.

Next stop:  Lexington Glassworks, where we saw a demonstration and bought a few colorful things.

For lunch, April guided us to Chai Pani with its Indian street food by two-time James Beard Foundation nominee for Best Chef Southeast Meherwan Irani. The self-taught Irani also owns a Chai Pani in Decatur, GA, as well as Botiwalla, a traditional tea and kabab place.  He teamed up with Chef Elliott Moss (another James Beard Best Chef Southeast nominee) to open Buxton Hall BBQ  in Asheville’s South Slope area. Buxton Hall features wood-smoked, whole-hog barbecue, Low-Country dishes, Southern favorites, seasonal pies and a daily slushy. Irani also owns MG ROAD Bar & Lounge and a Spicewalla spice store, both located near Asheville’s Chai Pani. Spicewalla spices are sourced, selected and blended by Irani. Some of these spices are available (along with cool t-shirts) at Chai Pani.

During our lunch, we enjoyed butter chicken thali with marinated Joyce Farms chicken; uttapam (savory crepes made of rice and lentil batter) with corn, peas, onion, cilantro, curry leaf, ginger and hot peppers; and (our surprise favorite) crispy masala fish roll with cumin, lime, chili powder, ginger and garlic in hot-buttered naan.

Chai Pani

22 Battery Park Avenue

Asheville, NC 28801

828-254-4003

info@chaipani.net

Monday to Thursday 11:30–3:30 / 5:00-9:30
Friday and Saturday 11:30–3:30 / 5:30-10:00
Sunday 12:00–3:30 / 5:00-9:30

 

We shopped at Nest Organics for vintage-feeling, Asheville-themed dish towels made of flour sacks, and we ducked into Asheville’s own East Fork Pottery because we had so admired the beautiful stoneware on our table at Gan Shan Station the night before.

 

SATURDAY NIGHT
For dinner, we headed to Nightbell for some shared small plates and (individual!) craft cocktails. Executive chef and owner Katie Button serves dishes made with local Appalachian ingredients in the intriguing setting of a former nightclub (you’ll notice the colorful disco lights here and there). Katie was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef award in 2012 and 2013 and a nominee in 2014, semi-finalist for Best Chefs in America in 2015 and a nominee for the JBF Best Chef Southeast award in 2018. She was one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2015, and she hosted an international television series, The Best Chefs in the World.
Katie and company source ingredients mostly from small, local farms, and a nose-to-tail butchery program, in partnership with her Cúrate, has them serving sustainable (often lesser-known) cuts. Nightbell gets its name from the days when guests rang the “nightbell” for entrance after 5.
What we loved:  the “deviled eggs,” which are an airy mix of corn sabayon, sunburst smoked trout gravlax and pimenton in an egg cup (certainly like no other deviled egg we’ve ever had); brown butter skillet cornbread with chicken butter and seasonal jams; grilled baby beets with bresaola, puffed Carolina gold rice and bĂ©arnaise yogurt; seared scallops with roasted sweet potato, sour corn and dashi; and house-made French fries with rocket sauce.
Nightbell
32 South Lexington Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
828-575-0375
Open at 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday
Closed Mondays
SUNDAY
Before heading home, we went to Limones for brunch. This cozy, downtown restaurant specializes in Mexican and California cuisine.
We shared a plate of lobster nachos with crema, guacamole and Serrano peppers to start. Other favorite dishes highlighted the inventiveness of this kitchen and included roasted fennel and organic snap pea slaw enchiladas with mole Amarillo, chipotle rice, crema, guacamole, queso fresco and pickled onion; huevos divorciados with chipotle rice, bacon, refried beans, queso fresco and avocado; and smoked chipotle chilaquiles with two eggs, epazote, refried beans, crema, queso, pico de gallo and Southern farm bacon.
If you go, begin with the awesome bloody Mary or the Basil Refrescante (Oronoco rum, muddled basil, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup) or a peach-chipotle margarita (Patron Reposado, Patron Citronge, fresh lime juice and house-made peach-chipotle puree).
And you must end the meal with a cup of anise-scented hot chocolate served with the best churros ever!

Limones

13 Eagle Street

Asheville, NC 28801

828-252-2327

Monday through Sunday 5 to 10 p.m.

Sunday brunch 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

 

We made one more stop before we left–a quick trip into Mast General Store for some last-minute souvenirs:  postcards, local honey and a black bear-shaped cookie cutter. Perfect! That cookie cutter is going to my dear friend Maria who lives in Germany and makes amazing sweets. The postcards already have arrived, she told me.

April, thank you for a wonderful weekend … and for helping me share the love and your special place!

Come to the Table

When women help other women succeed, good things happen. Tasty things do, too.

This year, $10,000 in scholarships and awards from a group of women leaders in our food community will help four college students pursue their food-science studies, three high schools better serve their culinary-arts students, Jones Valley Teaching Farm connect with more kids, and entrepreneur Nancey Legg grow her business and make more kombucha.

The Birmingham chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI), a philanthropic organization of women leaders in food, beverage and hospitality, awarded its $3,000 2018 New Entrepreneur Award to Legg, who owns better kombucha. Jones Valley Teaching Farm received the $2,000 Non-Profit Organization Award.  The Birmingham chapter gave four $1,000 college scholarships this year; recipients were Rebecca Klang from Jefferson State Community College; Hope Etheridge and Sydney Smith, both of whom are majoring in dietetics at Samford University; and Ally Cound, an Auburn University nutrition major. And three high school teachers—Lauren Bolding, Albertville High School; Melissa Allphin, Moody High School; and Diann Pilgrim, Wenonah High School, Birmingham City Schools—shared a $1,000 teachers’ grant.

Read the entire story here on Alabama NewsCenter.

Then join in. Southern Soiree is the main vehicle for the Les Dames philanthropy.  It’s an al fresco, sunset dinner with wine and cocktails in the gardens of Jones Valley Teaching Farm.

Consider yourself invited.

This year the event will be October 7 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., and scholarship and grant recipients will be recognized there.

You can get tickets here.

A Few of my Favorite Things

My friend Christiana Roussel and I are members of the Birmingham chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International. This is a philanthropic organization of women leaders in food, wine and hospitality. We are a varied group of food writers and bloggers, chefs, restauranteurs, sommeliers, farmers, cookbook authors, cheese makers, educators, food photographers and stylists, nutritionists and more.

We are dedicated to growing, creating, promoting and sharing our local food culture, and on an even more basic level, sharing food itself. We also focus on education and mentoring the young women who will follow us, and we fund scholarships to help them along.

But sometimes we just want to have fun.

So Christiana, our programs chair (who also is a food and lifestyle blogger–check out her Christiana’s Kitchen here), decided to throw a “Favorite Things” party.

Here’s how she described it:  “Each dame is to bring three items, each valued at less than $10, unwrapped, in a bag. When the party starts, each dame will get up and tell about her favorite things. After each presentation, we will pull three dame names from a bowl, and they will take home some new favorite things. At the end of the night, each dame will have shared three things and collected three things. It’s a fun way to learn more about each other.”

We gathered at the John Hand Club in downtown Birmingham (check out the incredible view), added a little wine and some delicious hors d’oeuvres to the mix, and we had ourselves a party. With really cool favors.

Here’s what I brought:

I love, love, love the Diva scent of Glamorous Wash by Tyler Candle Company (Funny story:  I ran around my neighborhood for weeks thinking it was the best-smelling place on earth and wondering why. Then I realized it was because people were doing their laundry with Diva Wash. The dryers were getting the scent out into the neighborhood.) A little of this laundry detergent goes a long way; I mix it in with my regular detergent when I wash my running and yoga clothes. The little 8-oz bottle came in just under $10.

The Party Cracker Seasoning from Savory Fine Foods, LLC in Texas makes an instant awesome snack in quantity. I included the extra-large plastic bag needed to mix it up with an entire box of saltines. This seasoning comes in other varieties:  chipotle, dill, cinnamon sweet, but I love the original mix best. This cost about $6.

Who doesn’t appreciate some cheeky cocktail napkins? These MikWright napkins with vintage photos and clever phrases are some of my favorites. I always have a few different versions on my home bar, and they are instant conversation starters. These are around $6.

 

 

 

 

And here’s what I brought home:

A three-pack of microfiber face-cleansing mitts. No more ruined washcloths! I’ll use one with Sephora’s Supreme Cleansing Oil, which is my go-to at the end of each day, and I’ll share the other two mitts with my daughters.

A great coffeecup with abstract birds on it. Perfect for sipping my morning coffee while I watch the bird feeders outside my kitchen window to see who shows up. Hummingbirds are coming soon. So are the lovely goldfinches.

A bottle of Kirkland Prosecco because who doesn’t love Prosecco or Costco, for that matter?

Some of the Dames brought items from their own businesses like a cellphone credit card holder with a gift card from Ashley McMakin, owner of Ashley Mac’s; (have you had Ashley Mac’s hot spinach and artichoke dip?). Specialty coffee from Erin Isibell, owner of The Red Cat Coffeehouse and salted chocolate granola from Jennifer Yarbrough, owner of Crestline Bagel Co. (check out my post about Crestline Bagel’s new Cahaba Heights location). Becky Satterfield, of Satterfield’s Restaurant in Cahaba Heights, brought cardamon-scented sugar; Katherine Cobbs brought honey from her own hives and a “mother” vinegar starter (with instructions) from her own kitchen. Sonthe Bokas Burge shared Shoreline Extra Virgin Olive Oil (available at Shoreline Foods International Market & Deli in Pensacola, FL) as well as a personal story of love and friendship in Crete.

Other inventive favorite things (mostly around or under $10):  a Kuhn Rikon serrated veggie peeler that even peels tomatoes, a hummingbird feeder, Maybelline skinny eyeliner, sea salt caramels, Zkano Organic Cotton Socks (made in Fort Payne), a BabyFoot peel, handmade absinthe-scented soap from NOLA, Ellis Stansel’s Gourmet Rice, a Corkcicle, handmade cards, Harney & Sons Paris tea, cans of wine, Trader Joe’s Organic Tahini and L’Oreal Voluminous eyelash primer.

I’d love to know your own favorite, under-$10 things. Feel free to share!

Cake for Breakfast and More at Southern Foodways Alliance Winter Symposium

I spent the past weekend at the Southern Foodways Alliance 2018 Winter Symposium here in Birmingham. I joined more than 150 people from all over the country to talk about what it means to produce, grow, cook, eat and love food in the South.

Attendees included James Beard Foundation Award-winning restaurateurs and chefs as well as some of the latest crop of nominees. There were coffee growers, food writers, oral historians, a mariachi band, educators, activists, photographers, farmers and filmmakers. Some people were there simply because they love Southern food.

And that’s good enough.

From a drink made with Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka, Good People‘s Snake Handler reduction AND Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale to breakfast cake made by Dolester Miles, the pastry chef at Highlands Bar & Grill, to Chef Duane Nutter‘s lunch of Sea Island Red Peas and Shrimp (and much more!) to Becky Satterfield’s amazing gumbo full of Conecuh Sausage, it was a delicious time worth savoring.

See my story on Alabama NewsCenter for all the details.

In this early 1900s picture, Jack Daniel (seen in the white hat) with Nearest Green’s son, George Green, to his immediate right. Photo credit: Jack Daniel Distillery.

You’ll find that we heard CNN’s Moni Basu talk about growing up in an Indian household in the American South and how food narratives can effect change. Fawn Weaver and Clay Risen talked about Nathan “Nearest” Green, the former slave whom many believe taught Jack Daniel how to distill whiskey. Writer Julia Turshen spoke about her book Feed the Resistance: Recipes and Ideas for Getting Involved, which benefits the ACLU. Food writer and dining critic David Hagedorn explored the various meanings of Southern hospitality, and Atlanta-Journal Constitution reporter Rosalind Bentley talked about the women who fed the Civil Rights Movement and sustained protestors with home-cooked meals respectfully served on their good china.

You’ll want to put next year’s Winter Symposium on your calendar. I’ll see you there.

 

 

Day Trip to Unclaimed Baggage

A couple of my kids are great thrift-store shoppers, so I took them to the thrift-store mecca Unclaimed Baggage Center. This huge store in Scottsboro, Alabama, is where unclaimed bags and cargo from all over the country eventually end up.

“You never know what you’ll find,” is the logo of this store. It’s an understatement. We found (among too many things to list) David Yurman jewelry, a glittery ice-skating dress, hundreds of sunglasses, an Escada jacket, Tag Heuer watches, a Gucci dress, lots of Michael Kors handbags, a men’s Givenchy cashmere coat that was one of the most beautiful pieces of clothing I’ve ever seen, furs, Burberry trench coats, Beats headphones, iPads, iPhones, Kindle Fire tablets, MacBook air computers, wedding dresses, camping equipment and soccer jerseys. Ironically, or maybe not, there were lots of suitcases, too.

We bought:  Two Kindle tablets, Ray-Ban sunglasses (aviators and Wayfarers) with cases, a soccer jersey from Burkina Faso, a men’s Levi’s denim jacket, a few sweaters, men’s dress socks, two 90s-era windbreakers and a pair of Adidas hightop sneakers that were so ugly they were beyond cool. We spent less than $250.

In business since 1970, Unclaimed Baggage is one of Alabama’s top tourist destinations. It’s been featured on NBC’s Today show, in The New York Times and in Smithsonian magazine. There’s a cafe in the store (serving Starbuck’s coffee) if you need a little space in the 40,000-square-foot store (which covers more than a city block).

According to the company’s website, they’ve opened luggage to find:  a Versace gown straight from the runway, a full suit of armor (replica), a Las Vegas showgirl costume (not a replica), a 5.8 carat diamond packed in a sock, a 40.95-carat natural emerald, a platinum Rolex worth more than $60,000, a bearskin packed in salt, a camera from the Space Shuttle (which they gave back to NASA), a live rattlesnake, an ancient Egyptian burial mask, a Limoges vase (it sold for $80 and later was appraised at $18,000) a painting that sold for $60 that actually was worth $25,000 and a missile-guidance system for a fighter jet (which they returned to the Air Force).

In 2016, Unclaimed Baggage earned the Alabama Retailer of the Year Gold Award. The store is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.. It’s closed on Sunday.

Unclaimed Baggage is about two hours from Birmingham and is worth the drive. Especially if you make it a day and have lunch at 50 Taters.

 

This casual restaurant features all sorts of comfort food. You can’t go wrong with the fried catfish here, and the stuffed baked potatoes (we filled ours with pulled pork) are huge and delicious.

 

Tips for shopping at Unclaimed Baggage Center:  Go in with a set amount of money and spend just that. You will be tempted to spend more. You can call ahead and reserve time with a personal shopper. In any case, do stop by the customer service area for a map of the place. And be sure to spend some time in the smaller store called Etc. This is where the biggest bargains live (including lots of stuff for kids). Also, this is where the famous hourly “Roll-Outs” happen.