Archive | August, 2010

Two Versions of Johnny Horton’s Classic “The Battle of New Orleans”

28 Aug

This is the original version (above) of the 1959 hit song.

The British version (above) was recorded for sales in the UK.

***Why let a few little historical facts get in the way of commerce???

Good Eats around Bon Secour, Alabama

22 Aug

Down South BBQ is near the intersection of AL Highways 59 and 10. It’s close enough to 59 to make this a quick &  easy stop for tourists vacationing in nearby Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. They seem to stay very busy year round, but especially so during the steamy summer months along the Gulf Coast of Alabama.

You order at the window. Carry out or dine at screened-in picnic tables. Lots of unique menu choices. Service is friendly and fairly brisk. Thank goodness because it’s hot as hell this time of year. The nice young gal working the window this day had a German accent. That’s something you don’t get much at Alabama roadside BBQ stands.

This may be one of the best T-shirt slogans I’ve seen in quite some time.

We couldn’t resist the BBQ sandwich served on cornmeal pancakes. Man, it was huge — I had no idea it was gonna be so massive when I ordered it. I ended up sharing the sandwich with my son, Travis. He woofed it all down in short order and pronounced it delicious. It was indeed good, although the cornbread “bun” didn’t hold together as well as the more traditional bun or Texas toast. Make sure you get plenty of BBQ sauce to balance out the natural dryness of the thick cornmeal pancakes.

I would definitely return to Down South but would still rate Robertsdale’s Hickory House as the very best BBQ we’ve enjoyed along Alabama’s Eastern Shore. Try ’em both and let us know what you think. We’re all ears!

www.downsouthbbq.com 

  Captain’s Galley Restaurant is a short ride west of Down South. Confused yet?

I was excited about this first visit. I’d been told that they serve smoked mullet. Now I love smoked mullet, yet I hadn’t enjoyed any since our visit to Ted Peter’s Smoked Fish in St Petersburg, FL more than a year ago. The smoked mullet at Captain’s Galley was good, if not up to the world class standard at Ted Peter’s. My order was a little dry — but still extremely flavorful! Just be careful as you savor all the smokey goodness — there are little bones throughout the entire fish. Yes, you get a whole smoked mullet for just $4. Are you kidding me? The smoked mullet platter at Ted Peter’s (which comes with warm German potato salad) runs about $14.

Had to show you this table tent (above) to prove the smoked mullet was just $4!

Learn more about the Captain’s Galley of Bon Secour, AL at:

http://www.facebook.com/CaptainsGalley

Sweetie Pies Bakery in Gulf Shores, Alabama

21 Aug

Sweetie Pies Bakery is located just off Highway 59 (near Target) in Gulf Shores, Alabama. They have been in business since 1990, but this particular location is a relatively new one. It is a sparkling new and exceptionally clean little place. Lots of pink too — if you like that kind of thing. This area is the shopping hub for all of Baldwin County and Sweetie Pies luckily resides in the midst of all the hustle and bustle. Talk about a built-in audience!

The best pies? Pretty hard to argue with that one. Southern Living magazine has long sung the praises of Sweetie Pies. There is also a deli here offering soups, sandwiches and salads … and I’m sure it’s all very tasty. But don’t let any of that get in the way of your pie fix.

A towering meringue pie from Sweetie’s is a thing of beauty and wonder. Roughly 16 different types of pie are served up each and every day here. The pecan pie is simply fabulous — no doubt about that. And there are 4 different varieties of pecan pie to choose from. Seriously! Southern Pecan Pie, White Chocolate Pecan Pie, Tropical Pecan Pie, and Chocolate Pecan Pie. They sure make it tough on a guy to arrive at a decision. Prefer meringue topped creations? Well, you might want to order Key Lime Pie, Lemon Pie, Chocolate Cream Pie, Coconut Pie, or Peanut Butter Pie. You can also find Chess and Custard pies plus seasonal favorites like Pumpkin & Sweet Potato.

This colorful original painting (above) adorns the dining room wall inside Sweetie Pies. Looks like some kind of a fruit pie to me — and they have those as well. Apple, Blueberry, Cherry, Peach … they all sound good, don’t they? Whole pies range from $15 to $18 and single slices all go for $3.95. Don’t miss this place on your way to or from the beach. And if you live nearby, there’s really no reason why you should go to the time and trouble of baking your own pies. Sweetie Pies does it better than you. And if you don’t buy that, I want an invite to dessert at your place!

Whole Southern Pecan Pies do justice to the fine white lace they rest upon.

The sheer amount of chopped pecans inside each slice is mindblowing!

www.sweetiepiespelicanplace.com – Homey and Tasteful!

GooRoo’s Grill in Robertsdale, AL

21 Aug

GooRoo’s Grill can be found along Route 104 (just west of Highway 59; across from the Livestock Auction) in Robertsdale, Alabama. It’s been there for a while, but we had not tried them out until yesterday. Glad we stopped in. Nice folks and definitely a notch or two above big brand fast food. Things must be going well for Ed (The GooRoo). Internet reviews have been positive and they will soon be moving into a larger, more permanent location just down the road a piece.

GooRoo’s bright orange globe logo lists many of their popular food offerings.

The burgers at GooRoo’s are indeed extremely popular – and reasonable too.

We ordered up a GooRoo Burger on our first visit. Must try the seafood soon.

The GooRoo Burger comes on a nice fluffy bun and is topped with real Cheddar Cheese. It’s gooey and good — just what you would expect from a guy nicknamed The GooRoo. We sampled the 1/4 lb. burger. It’s also offered in a hulking 1/2 pound size for those with big  boy appetites. All food here is cooked to order with the seafood and ground beef coming fresh from nearby markets.

Just look at that cheese! Now how can you resist that, people???

GooRoo’s also offers seafood po-boys & what’s said to be a pretty good gumbo.  

www.gooroosgrill.com

Concord Releases Definitive Riverside/Prestige Collections from Monk, Coltrane and Rollins

21 Aug

Concord Music Group Spotlights John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Sonny Rollins in Its Definitive Series

Two-disc sets capture some of the finest jazz
recorded in the 1950s

All three collections to be released on August 24, 2010

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Following up on the success of The Definitive Vince Guaraldi, Concord Music Group has assembled three new titles in the Definitive series showcasing some of the most influential figures in modern jazz. The Definitive John Coltrane on Prestige and Riverside; The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige and Riverside;The Definitive Sonny Rollins on Prestige, Riverside and Contemporary not only put the spotlight on the monumental work of three individual jazz players of the 1950s, but also provide an overview of the hard-bop period, one of the most significant chapters in the evolution of jazz. Each of the 2-CD collections is set for release on August 24, 2010.

• The Definitive John Coltrane on Prestige and Riverside tracks Coltrane’s artistic development from his first Prestige recording session in November 1955 for Miles: The New Miles Davis Quintet to his last sessions for Prestige (for Bahia) in December 1958.

Trane’s career was marked by various shifts in style throughout the ’50s and ’60s, “but if you like straight-ahead, yet inventive, hard-bop playing, then this collection of recordings from the mid- to late ’50s is definitely one of the sweet spots,” says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R and the producer of the Definitive series. “And yet some of what you hear in these tracks gives hints about what was to come from this restlessly creative artist.”

Extensive liner notes by veteran music journalist and Coltrane biographer Ashley Kahn provide an in-depth look at the tracks and the circumstances surrounding their genesis. “The Definitive John Coltrane offers a best-of culled from these early recordings,” says Kahn, “offering an inspiring listening session that allows for much to be gleaned: Coltrane’s talent at recasting decades-old themes with a modern touch; a penchant for brooding, minor-key melodies; the uncanny rate of his personal development — building on his strengths, articulating a signature sound; an increased ability born in the one-take fire of three-hour recording dates to toss together timeless performances.”

• The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige and Riverside covers an even broader span of the ’50s, beginning with trio sessions in New York featuring bassist Gary Mapp and drummer Art Blakey in October 1952 and stretching to sextet dates in San Francisco with trumpeter Joe Gordon, tenor saxophonists Harold Land and Charlie Rouse, bassist John Ore and drummer Billy Higgins in April 1960.

“This is some of the most amazing Thelonious Monk on record,” says Phillips. “Whether he’s playing a standard or one of his own compositions, he sounds uniquely like Thelonious Monk and nobody else. All of the tunes in this collection that Monk wrote have become jazz standards. Conversely, he plays standard tunes like ‘Caravan’ and ‘Tea for Two’ with such distinctive genius that you’d swear he had written them himself.”

But Monk was no overnight sensation. He made “a long, slow climb from underground to mainstream adulation, and the ten-year period represented by this collection captures that ascent,” says Kahn in his liner notes. “The one constant — creatively, promotionally, and economically — was his recordings. First for Prestige Records from 1952 to ’54, then for the Riverside label from ’55 to ’61, Monk was afforded the chance to create new music and work with a number of significant jazz peers in a number of contexts — from solo piano, to trios, to quartets, even a big band . . . Most importantly, what Monk composed and recorded during the ’50s amount to the definitive versions of some of the most enduring, joyous melodies in modern jazz.”

• The Definitive Sonny Rollins on Prestige, Riverside and Contemporary comes out a few weeks ahead of Rollins’ 80th birthday on September 7. Like the Thelonious Monk release, the Sonny Rollins set also covers almost an entire decade, from a December 1951 session in New York for Sonny Rollins with the Modern Jazz Quartet to an October 1958 session in Los Angeles for Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders.

“That was such a significant period in the development of jazz in general, and Sonny Rollins was at the heart of all that was going on during that decade,” says Phillips. “Just look at the Miles Davis session where he recorded ‘Airegin,’ ‘Doxy’ and ‘Oleo,’ for example. Those are all tunes that he penned, and all remain indelible jazz standards. That’s a whole lot of jazz history that was made on just a single day in the summer of 1954.”

Liner notes for The Definitive Sonny Rollins are provided by music journalist Bob Blumenthal, co-author with photographer John Abbott of the forthcoming book, Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins.

“That the marks of [Rollins’] genius were fully apparent in the music he made over a half-century ago has been obvious to all who have followed the trajectory of his unprecedented career,” says Blumenthal. “As a contract artist with Prestige Records between 1951 and 1956, and through his work on various labels from 1957 until the beginning of an extended sabbatical two years later, Rollins laid the foundation for his status as a master improviser, saxophonist and composer; an influence far beyond his chosen instrument and idiom; and a living icon of affirmative creativity. Concord Music Group is the steward of many of the finest Rollins performances of the ’50s, and has culled them well in presenting this short course in what made Sonny Rollins Sonny Rollins.” released in October 2009, and

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Title Track Highlights New Richard Barone CD

21 Aug

RICHARD BARONE IS BACK WITH TONY VISCONTI-PRODUCED NEW ALBUM, GLOW, ON BAR NONE RECORDS, OUT SEPTEMBER 14, 2010

Bongos frontman, author and Tiny Tim producer features co-writes with Paul Williams (yes, that Paul Williams) and Jill Sobule

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Glow, the new album from Richard Barone, frontman of cult faves the Bongos, is a sonic delight, like a lost solo Beatle album from a glam-rock future-world. After taking a break from performing to produce others and write a book Barone is back, working with producer Tony Visconti (along with Steve Addabbo, Jill Sobule and others). Glow indeed glows with songs like “Gravity’s Pull,” “Yet Another Midnight” and a captivating cover of T. Rex’s “Girl.” The king of chamber pop shines on this stunning new addition to his catalog. The recording on Bar/None Records will ship on September 14, 2010.

The album started as a somewhat casual collaboration between Barone and Visconti. Richard had wanted to work with Tony ever since scheduling conflicts prevented the latter from producing the Bongos’ major label debut. Most of Glow’s tracks were written in the studio; some, like “Girl,” came together very quickly and others, like “Sanctified,” became elaborate Visconti productions. The album utilizes lots of vintage synthesizers and obscure music-making devices that Tony had accumulated from working on sessions with Brian Eno, David Bowie, T. Rex and others.

Glow also features state-of-the-art gear that Barone picked up through his close collaboration with Gibson Guitars, including the Digital Les Paul guitar. Each string has the ability to be recorded on its own individual track. The title tune was written when Richard stopped by producer Steve Addabbo’s studio to pick up a hard drive and showed him the prototype instrument. “Walking through Manhattan, I started hearing the arpeggio chords of ‘Glow’ in my head,” says Barone, “Then some words and a melody became attached, set to the rhythm of my walking. When I got to the studio, I couldn’t wait to show Steve the guitar, plug it in and demonstrate the possibilities. I started playing ‘Glow’ and asked if we could record it. It was amazing how quickly it came together.”

Amid the high-tech studio recordings Glow also has some lo-fi parts that just sounded right in sequence. Garageband-generated “Radio Silence,” recorded at home on a laptop, comes off as a Euro-Vision style four-on-the-floor classic. The Paul Williams co-written “Silence Is Our Song” is from a live radio broadcast on New York WFUV-FM DJ Vin Scelsa’s “Idiot’s Delight” program.

How did Barone end up writing with the guy who gave us such pop radio classics as “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “We’ve Only Just Begun?” Did you know Williams wrote the B Side to Tiny Tim’s “Tip Toe Through the Tulips”? Richard did. He met Williams at a tribute show and the two writers from different eras immediately hit it off. After a number of delays Richard made it out to Paul’s house in California and an all-day marathon writing session ensued. “I started strumming chords as he circled his living room spouting phrases I quickly jotted down on a yellow legal pad. We wrote like that all day,” he says.

Another frequent Barone collaborator is Jill Sobule. Among other songs, Barone co-wrote “Bitter” for her album Pink Pearl and Sobule returned the favor on “Odd Girl Out.” The song tells the true story of a lesbian teen in the pre-Stonewall days of the West Village. This time Richard scribbled down lyrics while Sobule strummed.

Barone was born and raised in Tampa, Fla. He actually was a DJ at the age of seven on a local Top 40 station and as a teenager befriended and produced Tiny Tim, who was performing in the area. In 1977 he hitched a ride to New York with the Monkees touring backup group (CBGB stalwarts the Laughing Dogs) and lived in a small room in their practice loft as he attempted to take on the big city. This and many other tales can be read in his memoir Frontman: Surviving the Rock Star Myth, his how-to-be-an-entertainer guide as well as a gimlet-eyed autobiography.

After moving over the East and Hudson rivers Barone found himself in Hoboken, N.J., where Steve Fallon was just opening the famed music venue Maxwell’s; the club maintains its status as the last of the metro area’s ’70s nightspots. Along with the likes of the Feelies, the dB’s and the Individuals, the Bongos put Hoboken on the map as a place where young musicians could get a start. Many would come from all over the USA to place roots in the metro area’s pre-Williamsburg indie-rock capital. The New York Times asked, “Is there a musician more deserving of the moniker Man About Town than Richard Barone?”

The Bongos were the first group from the Hoboken scene to get signed to a major label — on the strength of Drums Along the Hudson, an album that featured a top CMJ Radio single “Mambo Sun” (Barone’s first Bolan cover) as well as “In the Congo” and “The Bulrushes.” The group became a favorite in the emerging college rock circuit and toured the U.S. and Europe sharing bills with the likes of the B-52s and R.E.M. Their song “Numbers With Wings” became a favorite in the early days of MTV. The Bongos released two albums and an EP and left an unfinished album for Island Records called Phantom Train. In 2007 the group reunited for the Hoboken Music and Arts Festival and were given the key to the city by the mayor for their pioneering pop.

Barone would go on to make many solo albums including the much lauded Cool Blue Halo that found him experimenting with the cello playing of Jane Scarpantoni while delivering his songs in a chamber-pop setting.

In the last decade Barone has worn many hats, writing with others and producing large musical events. Moby recently got involved with a re-mix of the Bongos classic track “Bulrushes.” And the B-52s’ Fred Schneider has tapped him to produce, arrange and co-write on numerous occasions. Tom Moon on NPR said, “Barone knows the alchemic formula for converting an everyday thought into a powerful refrain.” Now he moves on with Glow, a singular burst of optimism with the power of a sunset and the sunrise that follows.

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Southern Gal Marshall Chapman Still Rockin’

21 Aug

MARSHALL CHAPMAN’S NEW ALBUM, BIG LONESOME, DUE OUT OCTOBER 26

Release is dedicated to the late Tim Krekel. Co-produced with Michael Utley, accompanists include Will Kimbrough, Casey Wood, and Jim Mayer.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Marshall Chapman’s life, as author/friend William Gay puts it, “is like five or six lives shoehorned into one. It’s like a movie or a good book.” Speaking of books, the multifaceted singer-songwriter has written two, and the newest (They Came to Nashville) is being released the same day as Big Lonesome, her sixth release on Tallgirl Records and twelfth overall.

“I wasn’t going to make another album, at least not alone,” says Chapman. She and close friend Tim Krekel were planning to record a duet album when Krekel was diagnosed with cancer. “Three months later he was gone,” Chapman continues. “Dreams were dashed, gigs got cancelled, and life went on. As trite as it may sound, the only thing that comforted me during this period was picking up my guitar. Then new songs started writing themselves. They were coming from an uncharted place so deep and true, I knew what I had to do.”

Chapman contacted Michael Utley (producer for Jimmy Buffett and Roy Orbison, and player on albums by Aretha Franklin, Kris Kristofferson, and the Neville Brothers), who brought in Will Kimbrough, “Uncle” Jim Mayer, and Casey Wood. Utley himself plays Hammond B3 organ.

“I’d never recorded or worked with any of these guys,” Chapman says. “Sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone.”

Once in the studio, things started happening. “Whatever it was, it was bigger than all of us,” Chapman says. Gay, known for his novel Provinces of Night among others, offers this assessment: “Big Lonesome feels organic, like something that just grew naturally on its own. It sounds like the result of one of those rare and happy occasions when everything fell together in the recording studio, when everyone is on the same page, when the musicians are locked in almost reading each other’s minds like The Band in its early days.”

Chapman has perhaps her strongest slate of songs here, most of which she wrote or co-wrote. Some were inspired by the loss of Krekel (whose vocals and guitar appear on this album), and his memory seems to be an invisible presence that has been absorbed into the music. The songs have a stoic strength. Remember concept albums, when songs used to form a cohesive and interlocking whole? Big Lonesome has that feel. It also doesn’t hurt that Marshall is in great voice, or that she surrounded herself with great musicians.

Gay continues: “I first heard of Marshall Chapman through the pages of a now-defunct magazine. It was in the late ’70s and Jaded Virgin, her second album for Epic, had just been released. The article summed up Marshall’s background: a refugee debutante from South Carolina wealth and privilege who laid it all aside to follow music, heading out with only her guitar and the songs already forming in her head, mesmerized by the sight of Elvis from the balcony of a Spartanburg theater where she bonded irrevocably with music. A rebel who didn’t even know she was rebelling, she sounded like a combination of Elvis, James Dean, and Lauren Bacall, taking Nashville by storm, kicking down country’s sexist doors with ballroom slippers. She also sounded like someone I’d like to know.”

Chapman has written and performed with the likes of Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, and John Hiatt; written plays with Lee Smith, Jill McCorkle, and Matraca Berg; had her songs covered by everyone from Wynonna to Joe Cocker; acted in a movie (she plays Gwyneth Paltrow’s character’s road manager in the soon-to-be-released Country Strong); and received advice from Jerry Lee Lewis: “Don’t you burn out, hon,” Lewis told her after she and her band opened for him one New Year’s Eve in Atlanta. Marshall has, like Icarus, flown too close to the sun a time or two, had her wings scorched by burning candles, but Big Lonesome is proof she never came close to burning out.

“Nobody goes through life without learning things,” concludes Gay. “But not everybody can take life’s joys and hard lessons and by some curious alchemy transmute them into art. Marshall Chapman can. ‘I wouldn’t have it any other way,’ Chapman sings on ‘Falling Through the Trees.’ And that’s good news for the rest of us.”

Longtime friend Kristofferson said of Marshall’s new album: “In this soulful, sincere tribute to her ‘best friend in music, Tim Krekel,’ Marshall reminds me how she reminds me of Hank Williams. The songs are heart-breaking and beautiful and exhilarating and absolutely honest. And Mike Utley’s co-production and keyboard and Casey Woods’ mixing and percussion are perfect. There’s not a false note on the album. I believe Marshall truly does ‘love everybody’ and it shines through every song.” Matraca Berg added, “I just love this record. It’s . . . like . . . Marianne Faithful and Willie Nelson had a baby!” And Todd Snider has this to say: “This record kicks ass. Beautifully written and recorded, it’s sad, but not hopeless . . . like Blood on the Tracks.”

For Chapman news and musings, as well as announcements about her CD, book, and live appearances, visit her website: http://www.tallgirl.com. The album will be available from the site on October 26.

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Late Saturday Morning in Robertsdale, Alabama

8 Aug

We took a day trip to Robertsdale and Foley yesterday. Both towns straddle Alabama State Highway 59. And who knew what a Southern food stronghold this area was becoming? Our first stop was Charley’s Chicken Outlet on Highway 59. Charley used to toil in the real estate business. But times are pretty tough and he decided that working class folks might want to purchase their chicken at wholesale prices. Not a bad idea, really.  

Charley’s boasts a memorable phone number — no question about that! He also offers fair prices on a wide variety of frozen bird parts. For example, we purchased a 10 lb. bag of boneless skinless chicken breasts for just $20. Shoot, a 2 lb. bag runs about $7 at your local grocery store. It was tasty bird too. Tried it tonight in my soon to be famous Green Enchilada Pie.

“You Get More Cluck for Your Buck at Charley’s!” OK, I just made that up. I guess I was just inspired by this majestic rooster (above) standing guard outside Charley’s front entrance. We surely enjoyed chewing the fat with him (Charley, that is; not the big ceramic bird) and we wished him the best of luck (or is that cluck?) going forward. OK, I’ll stop.  

Another interesting foodie stop along Highway 59 is Hickory House BBQ. And yes, they do use hickory wood here. It’s a rather tiny joint, but the aromas emanating from the kitchen were mighty powerful. The help was super-friendly and the clientele was raving about the Q before I could even take my first bite. It wasn’t even lunchtime yet, but I couldn’t resist ordering a BBQ pork sandwich, a couple ribs, and a heaping slab of Lemon Ooey Gooey Cake.

I stood looking on in glassy-eyed wonder as the pork for my sandwich was pulled to order. Yessir, the owner herself pulled the charred shoulder from the warmer, donned a pair of clear disposable gloves, and methodically peeled the lean, smoky meat from the Boston Butt. She then gave it all a rough chop, loaded it onto a fresh baked bun, and doused it with their homemade “SMOKEY” BBQ sauce.  

I sampled the ribs too — provided for free by the owner. They were good, no doubt about it. Probably better when slathered with a little sauce. I requested them sans sauce so I could taste the unadorned flavor of meat and hickory. My wife Eileen loves lemon squares … and the Hickory House’s Lemon Oooey Gooey Cake looked something like a lemon bar on steroids. All puffed up and flaky. It was, well, oooey and gooey and … incredible! I gotta try the Chocolate Oooey Gooey the next time I’m in Robertsdale — that’s for certain.

Ribs = Good, BBQ Pork = Better, Lemon “Ooey Gooey” Cake = Best!

A return trip to this area is definitely in the cards for this hungry dude. I’ve heard positive comments about The Magnolia Blossom Cafe. Mac and Jerry’s Diner is also worthy of a pop-in. We even spotted a tiny but promising Italian joint (Guttadauro’s) along the main North-South highway. Looked like a Mom and Pop establishment and that’s always a plus in our book.  

So when Robertsdale starts turning up on the Food Network, just remember you heard about it here first. OK???

Sublime Catfish Tacos at Cortlandt’s

7 Aug

I’d heard the buzz about Cortlandt’s for several weeks, I guess. Cortlandt’s just sounds Southern, doesn’t it? I mean bow tie and seersucker Southern. Truman Capote and Harper Lee Southern. Cortlandt Inge is actually an Alabama native and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Now some folks are terribly impressed by the latter. But frankly, I am even more impressed by the former. A massive live oak (seen above) shades the 300 block of George Street in Historic Old Mobile. It’s been there a long, long time. I trust Cortlandt’s will stick around a while too.

Cortlandt’s is actually at the corner of Savannah & George Streets in “The Little Easy.” This is one of Mobile’s most scenic neighborhoods. The stately Oakleigh mansion is just around the corner. Think the Garden District of New Orleans — it has that kind of vibe.

The main entry to Cortlandt’s dining room is pictured above. This is obviously a former home that has been deftly converted into a fine dining establishment. Fine dining, yes. But outrageous pricing and snobby atmosphere, no! I was not serenaded by chamber music as I awaited my server. Nope, it was more like The Clash, Crowded House, and The Beatles. I really liked that.

Elegant white tablecloth dining doesn’t always come with high prices. Cortlandt’s is comfortable and cheery on the inside. The decor is certainly not overdone. Tasteful food and tasteful surroundings … what a concept!

The white paper lunch menu featured several tempting selections including Gulf Coast favorites such as Shrimp and Grits or Grits and Grillades. Both were priced at about $12, which I thought was quite fair. The Mississippi Catfish Tacos (above) are offered for lunch for less than $10. The tacos come with a small house salad (this day topped with a refreshing housemade tomato vinaigrette). My decision had been made.

The sweet pickled red onions are a very nice touch atop the Catfish Tacos. The tang of the onions offered a nice counterpoint to the lightly battered mudcat filets. I normally prefer my fish tacos to be grilled, yet Cortlandt’s impressed me with these not-greasy, perfectly cooked pieces of white,  flaky farm-raised fish.

Cream and Sugar (above) is another part of Cortlandt’s growing culinary empire. Located right next door to Cortlandt’s, Cream and Sugar specializes in sweets, fine coffees, teas, etc. I was thinking how lucky residents of this neighborhood truly are. To have both these places within strolling distance (people here in Mobile don’t walk, they stroll; too darn hot to walk!) was a blessing indeed.

I’d suggest you stroll on over to Cortlandt’s at your earliest possible opportunity. It is destined to become one of Old Mobile’s more civilized respites from the fast food world outside.   

www.cortlandts.com

Constantine’s is a Welcome Addition Along Mobile’s Old Shell Road

4 Aug

Warm, hardworking Kamal “KC” Constantine is of Lebanese descent. Lots of folks in Mobile, Alabama are as well. KC works for Food for Less, a chain of locally-owned grocery stores right here in Mobile. I wanted to toss that out there right away. The man really knows food and he knows all about good food. I have personally known KC for about a year now. I even had the extreme pleasure of partaking in some of his tailgate feast prior to a South AL Jaguars football game last fall. Amazing homemade hummus, grilled meats of all kinds — a true party for the tastebuds.

Flash forward to this past week. A mutual friend (Chris Kalifeh) tells me that Mrs. Constantine (KC’s wife) has opened a Mediterranean restaurant on Old Shell Road. I wanted to know all the details right away. Nope, I couldn’t wait. Yep, you could say I was a little excited about the news. The restaurant (aptly dubbed “Constantine’s”) can be found directly across the street from the Mitchell Center, the home arena of South Alabama Jaguars basketball. My on-campus office is also nearby, so this clean little place will surely earn a regular spot on my lunch calendar.

The eatery is housed (literally) in an older single family home — very cozy!

This open-air patio should get a lot of traffic at night and on cooler afternoons.

The Cream of Lentil soup is an excellent starter – and only $1 with an entree!

This Kafta wrap platter — with housemade pita chips — goes for just $5.95.

The Kafta wrap was absolutely delicious — packed with ground tenderloin, onion, tomato, lettuce, thinly sliced dill pickles, and a delicious yogurt sauce. I had sampled a few kafta skewers at KC’s tailgate party, so I knew I was in for a mighty fine sandwich. It did not disappoint.

Constantine’s newly fashioned menu also features traditional Middle Eastern favorites like baba gannouge, stuffed grape leaves, tabbouli, and kibbi. OK, there’s more. Falafel, spinach pies, meat pies, gyros, baklava — you get my drift. It will take me quite a while to work my way through the entire menu, but you can bet your sweet baba gannouge I will savor every bite of it!

Stay tuned, friends. You’ll be hearing a lot more about this place in the days and weeks to come. They don’t have a website yet. But I’ve often been told that people will beat a path to your door if you simply offer great grub at fair prices. So if that saying holds true, just look for the beaten path along Old Shell Road in West Mobile — and you’ll surely find Constantine’s.