Archive | 7:53 pm

Joe’s Fabulicious Homemade Ice Cream in Fairhope, AL

5 Jun

We stumbled upon this new wonder on the way to the Fairhope Wal-Mart located near the intersection of Routes 104 and 181. Sadly, it was only 10 am on Saturday and Joe doesn’t start his day until 11:30. Not to be denied, we made a pact to return after lunch for our first taste.

Following lunch, I somehow decided it was a good idea to mow the lawn as well as take the weedeater around our entire property — in 90 degree heat and sweltering humidity. Yeah, I know, DUMB! Yet there was a method to my madness. I was working up an appetite  for something cool and creamy. Follow me?

We learned upon arrival that Joe’s has only been open about 3 days. In fact, they are so new they have not yet decided on their hours of operation. That will be determined after gauging business activity over the first week or two. Joe, an older gentleman originally from Ohio, makes all the ice cream using his mother’s own recipe. He hired a very friendly Alabama lady (a former manager at the Fairhope Burger King) to run the day to day operation.

The manager seemed to be fretting a bit about how slow business had been all day. But the cars literally started pouring in shortly after our arrival. Not sure what that was all about. Anyway, we were happy to see the gravel lot filling and the line forming at the the front of the trailer. My two boys got a small chocolate cone, while I called for a small vanilla cone. Asking for a small cone turned out to be a mistake for me — I needed more. So without an ounce of guilt, I got back in line and ordered a small chocolate cone. Strictly for the blog write-up, I explained. The kind lady simply grinned, took my $2 (cash only here), and rendered another scoop of that homemade heaven on a cone.

I really hope they make a go of it here. The ice cream is really fine. No oils, no guar gum, no nasty aftertaste. Just good, fresh, wholesome All-American homemade ice cream like you remember from picnics and family reunions of days gone by.

So if you’re living in the Baldwin County area or just passing through on your way to the Gulf Coast, please stop in and order up a double scoop on a freshly made waffle cone. Or perhaps one of Joe’s highly touted shakes or sundaes. But eat fast, friends. It’s hot as the dickens down here and homemade ice cream has a way of melting quickly. It’s a race against the clock, but a race you can’t help but win!

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Roadside Mayhaw Jelly in NW FL

5 Jun

I spotted the above signs as we were driving through NW Florida recently. Not the heavily traveled FL panhandle, but the remote, unglamourous part of the “Sunshine State” just before you connect with Interstate 10. Stands like this really don’t exist on the interstates anymore, so I figured this might be my last chance to explore the flavors of Old Florida. It ain’t Stuckey’s or Cracker Barrel, folks — and that is truly a good thing in my book!

Willie Robinson’s Pecan House was furnished with all kinds of edible Southern goodies, yet it was the Mayhaw Jelly and Tupelo Honey that struck my fancy this particular day. Tupelo Honey is pretty hard to find outside of this part of the world and can be rather expensive. Mayhaw Jelly is even more rare … only appearing in roadside stands & country farm markets in the late Spring of each calendar year.  

Mayhaw Jelly is a pricey seasonal treat & worth every penny. It is made from a small, tart wild berry that grows in Dixie swamps. Here’s what the nerds at Wikipedia have to add: 

Mayhaw is the name given to the fruit of the species of Crataegus series Aestivales[1] that are common in wetlands throughout the southern United States. The principal species are C. aestivalis, the eastern Mayhaw, and C. opaca, the western mayhaw.[1]

Mayhaws grow in moist soil in river and creek bottoms under hardwood trees. The fruit ripens in late April through May, thus the name mayhaw. The fruit is also found in bayous surrounding lakes, such as Caddo Lake on the Texas/Louisiana border. Mayhaws are often collected out of the water from boats to be used to make jelly.

Families used to go on outings to collect mayhaws and create stockpiles of the jelly to last throughout the year, but the tradition has declined with the increasing urbanization of the South and the destruction of the mayhaw’s native habitat. The fruit has also been cultivated to grow outside of wetlands and this is increasing the source of the jelly.

Willie Robinson ran this little cottage industry for several decades before passing away a few years back. His brother Arthur (pictured above) picked up the reins in hopes of carrying on the family tradition. Arthur was kickin’ back in a battered recliner, rusty fan going full blast, when I met him on this steamy, hazy May afternoon. He pulled himself out of his “Archie Bunker chair” and slowly walked me through all the merchandise.

Arthur is a very mellow old dude. He paused momentarily to show me a recent newspaper clipping singing the praises of his sweet Tupelo Honey. All the while, I was wondering if I was his first customer of the day — this place was pretty remote and he, it seemed, had all the time in the world.

I wasn’t packing a whole lot of cash and let’s just say Arthur doesn’t accept credit cards. No surprise there, right? However, I did rustle up enough green to score a tall jar of Mayhaw Jelly. We were already packing some fresh Greek bread that we had picked up earlier in Tarpon Springs and I sensed that the Mayhaw preserves would make an excellent foil for the recently baked loaf. I turned out to be right on the money. A clash of cultures, perhaps. But the end result was a true melting pot of pleasing textures and flavors.

We’ll be passing through again in December and I trust our friend Arthur Robinson will still be here – chillin’ in his beat-up easy chair, rusty fan buzzing away, carefully balanced jars of Mayhaw Jelly, pickled Okra, and Tupelo Honey standing at attention, ready for service.

Best Pizza on Siesta Key — “Bada Bing!”

5 Jun

Those of you who know me well know how much I enjoy a good pizza. I mean a really good pizza … made by professionals who know what they are doing … not some pimply-faced geek pulling minimum wage. Great pizza made with “amore” is increasingly difficult to find these days. Yet turn on the TV and The Sopranos seem to have a great pie joint on every corner. It’s just not fair, right?

Thankfully, I discovered such a joint on Florida’s Siesta Key. We lived on the Key for a couple years and learned very quickly that this was a go-to pizza hangout. Real pizza. Jersey-style pizza. Made by a couple of brothers named Solorzano. Their folks run an authentic Italian restaurant — just a couple miles away in Sarasota. The brothers operate a cozy little pizza shop just a short stroll from the white sands of Siesta Beach. Follow your schnozz, you’ll find it. Once you’re there, locals will give you a knowing wink. You’ll be on to their little secret.

You’re likely to hear classic songs like this while you sip on your chianti

They’ve got all the traditional Italian delights you’d expect at Solorzano Brothers. And they’re all magnifico. But just like Sinatra was a notch above Bennett, and DiMaggio a more prolific slugger than Rizzuto, Solorzano’s gelato, calzones, & pastas are ultimately overshadowed by the big boss — PIZZA PIE.

Another example of the soundtrack to your primo Solorzano’s meal

Have a look at the above pie. Now that’s an offer you truly can’t refuse!!!

You can load your pizza up with all the toppings you want, but I still prefer to go straight pepperoni. Why clutter up a good thing, huh? No need to “guild the lilly” at Solorzanos — let the real Italian flavor shine through. Take in all the ambiance too. The brothers will likely be talking trash behind the counter … or maybe bragging about their favorite New York sports teams … or debating their favorite episode of The Sopranos. Tony Soprano’s mug hangs proudly on the wall alongside images of Old Blue Eyes, ex-Giants QB Phil Simms, Al Pacino, or perhaps an old Dean Martin album cover. Just what you’d expect from a couple of pizanos from Hoboken. And all the stuff I wanna see at a REAL pizza joint.  

Tony says “Just get to Solorzano’s right now … capiche???”

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