Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Manci’s Antique Club – Daphne, Alabama

18 Jun

Manci’s Antique Club is essentially a bar and restaurant, not an antique store. Let’s get that straight right away. It had me confused for a short while, until my friend Chris Kalifeh dragged me in for a quick look around. I have long since become a convert. Manci’s has really tasty burgers and po-boys. They also live up to their Italian ancestry with some mighty fine pasta dishes. And the bar has a comfy, neighborhood pub feel to it. You might say it is the Cheers of Alabama’s Eastern Shore. They serve draft Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Ale too — that is a definite plus.

This freshly painted mural outside of Manci’s (above) is part of a larger city arts project in Daphne. I believe this particular image was lifted from an early photo of one of the Manci women. It is very well done and adds to the overall charm of the building’s exterior. My arsty wife Eileen has recently been asked to create a similar mural, so I’m anxious to see what she comes up with.

Horses like the one seen above will keep an eye on your vehicle while you’re dining/drinking at Manci’s. This joint is in a cool little part of Old Town Daphne. If you’re a foodie, you’ll also want to check out Will Hughes’ Catering & Market (www.willhughescateringandmarket.com) located directly across Daphne’s Main Street. It is a gourmet’s dream with a wide assortment of sandwiches, soups and other take-home treats. I am especially partial to Will’s New Orleans-style bread pudding. It’s about as good as it gets this side of the Crescent City. There is also a pretty unique cigar/wine bar (De-Cuba) and a cupcake bakery (Something Sweet Bake Shop) just a couple doors down from Hughes’ building.

The Menu Board (above) outside Manci’s entrance. Their Bloody Marys are notorious in these parts. In fact, Manci’s is often billed as “The Bloody Mary Capital of the Eastern Shore.” Beyond that, Manci’s also houses one of the world’s largest collections of Jim Beam decanters. Very impressive. We spent a few minutes before dinner strolling around the restaurant’s cool, dark interior. It was pretty darn interesting and kept the boys occupied as our meals were being prepared.

The lucky horse shoe on the front door at Manci’s Antique Club.

The handsome wooden Indian (seen above) just inside the front door at Manci’s — on the lookout for stogies? Either that or he’s seeking a “mansierre” to support his well-developed chest. Dusty relics like this can be found throughout the tavern. Honestly, it could take hours to have a real close look at all the “doo-dads,” “chotchkes,” and “brick-a-brack” they have collected over the many decades.  

Guns, booze, and gasoline — what a combination! I snapped another photo of an antique gas pump inside Manci’s Antique Club, which once was a filling station back in the ’20s. So in many ways, I guess this truly is an “antique club — although I don’t believe any of the items are actually for sale. Who knows? Make ’em an offer and see what happens.

A vintage gas pump from days gone by. American Pickers would love this joint!

Clutter? Yup. Eye catching? Yer dern tootin’! The main bar at Manci’s Antique Club. Alex Manci, the club’s current owner and resident barkeep, quietly holds court — all the while sporting his signature driving cap. This is his little kingdom and he reigns calmly but proudly. Barack Obama’s address concerning the Gulf Oil spill was on the bar’s lone TV as we took our seats. It was all a bit surreal. We were right in the heart of the affected area and preparing to dine on the type of seafood treats which have long made the Gulf region nationally famous. My visiting mother-in-law Pat is a Baltimore native. She declared the soft shell crab sandwich (aka “The Spider Sandwich”) to be first rate.

Boxing’s Rocky Marciano – still a major source of pride for Italian-Americans.

Minnie Pearl greets the female diners seeking rest — “HOW-DEEEE!!!”

Yes, Food Network’s Guy Fieri has been here to film an episode of Triple D. His signed poster adorns the door of the “GENTS” room. Manci’s is also prominently featured in one of Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins,  and Dives” cookbooks. Of the 3 choices, I would say Manci’s would fall under the DIVE category. You don’t see many tourists or out of towners in here. It’s pretty much a locals hangout. And I guess that’s the way they like it. It’s something of a secret dining society and I consider myself fortunate to finally be in on the secret.   

Combo Fried Gulf Oyster and Shrimp Po-Boy at Manci’s — get ’em while you can! Manci’s po-boys have been praised by the likes of Southern Living and Coastal Living. The Bayou La Batre oysters were obviously fresh and the shrimp were fat and meaty — unlike those puny little frozen cocktail shrimp you find in some lesser po-boys. The bread, which was freshly baked, was slathered from end to end with a homemade tartar sauce. I am normally not a big tartar sauce guy, yet this was quite well done and, more importantly, not overdone. A little bit of mayo goes a long way. Local tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, and red onions completed the symphony of complimentary ingredients. A little splash of hot sauce won’t hurt either!

Retro newspaper ads as seen on all the tabletops (pictured above) at Manci’s. Anyone need some Princess Bust Developer? Hey, maybe this is where our old friend the wooden Indian re-enters the storyline??? I’ve seen this kind of designer touch before, but it is right at home at Manci’s. In many ways you’ll feel like you have been transported back to the 1930’s in a time machine. A time machine, I might add, with really cold beer and really memorable chow.

Never heard of “Alabama Water before?” Neither had I. Tap water, lemon, and Sweet-n-Low — mmm, mmmm! I’m not sure how many of these drinks they actually sell each day. I didn’t bother to ask. However, it makes for a nice conversation starter if nothing else.

A dusty old carriage inside Manci’s.

Early prototypes of iPods on display inside Manci’s main dining room.

A vintage ROCK-O-LA juke box – check out the primo selection of tunes!


Who Will Be The New White House Chef?

25 Nov


Now, let’s get down to the truly important cabinet appointments …

CONCORD, N.H. – Speculating about a new chef at the White House has become — as one culinary insider puts it — fantasy football for foodies. But as tempting as it may be to see the Obama family’s choice as the ultimate “Top Chef” competition, former White House chefs say the job is about selfless service, not star power.

Walter Scheib, White House executive chef for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, believes there’s a 90 percent chance the new administration will stick with his successor, Cristeta Comerford. And if the Obamas do hire someone new, it won’t be a television personality or any of the celebrity names bandied about on food and political blogs, he said. “None of these people have any idea what the job is about,” said Scheib. “And they’re temperamentally not suited for it. You have to be a person who has a real heart of service, and it can’t be someone who needs to see themselves on camera.”

Roland Mesnier, who retired in 2004 after 25 years as the White House’s executive pastry chef, would never recommend a TV chef for the first family.Celebrity chefs, in my book, are not chefs. They’re entertainers,” he said. “All these people on TV? Forget it.”

A spokesman for President-elect Barack Obama said it’s too early to comment whether there will be a new executive chef. But outside speculation has focused on Art Smith, Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef; NBA star Carmelo Anthony’s personal chef, Daniel Young, who cooked for Obama at the Democratic National Convention; and Rick Bayless, whose Chicago restaurant Topolobampo is a favorite of Obama’s. At the same time, members of the Organic Consumers Association are organizing a letter-writing campaign urging Obama to promote healthy, sustainable and organic eating by hiring a well-known organic chef such as Nora Pouillon or Alice Waters.

None of the above would be a good fit, said Scheib. “I get a kick out of all these people saying the No. 1 thing should be green, or sustainable or this, that or the other thing. They’re missing the point. It’s not about advancing your agenda. It’s not about building your repertoire. It’s not about getting your business promoted,” he said. “It’s about serving the first family, first, last and in every way. That’s the only job.”

The head chef earns $80,000-$100,000 a year creating menus for state dinners, holiday functions, receptions and official luncheons hosted by the president and first lady. Though the gala affairs are organizational challenges, Scheib says the greater challenge comes on the personal side: feeding the president, his family and guests. A White House chef’s sensitivity and understanding is just as important as culinary skills, given that the chef is among the few people who interact with the first family in private, Scheib and Mesnier say.

“For the domestic staff — and for all the fancy titles, that’s all the people in the residence are — how they learn the temperament and temperature of the first family is crucial. It makes doing a state dinner look easy,” said Scheib, who has written a book and started a business planning private events since leaving the White House. “The challenge is how you give them everything they need and at the same time expand their horizons if they choose, but at the same time, not being underfoot.” Or as Mesnier puts it, “You have to be almost a clairvoyant, someone who can read a crystal ball and be able to judge what would they love today.”

Both men give Comerford, the first woman and first minority to serve as executive chef, high marks in that regard. Neither believes she will be replaced, an opinion not shared by Tim Ryan, president of the Culinary Institute of America, which has sent several alumni (including Scheib) to the White House. Though he says speculation about celebrity chefs is “like engaging in fantasy football,” he believes the Obamas will seize the opportunity to make changes. He suggests another CIA grad as a candidate — John Doherty, executive chef at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel — but said Obama could also shake things up with a rotating cast of big name chefs for state dinners, much in the same way John F. Kennedy invited famed artists and performers to the White House.

“Chefs are great performers. So to take a page from Kennedy’s playbook and recognize the artistic performances of the culinary greats, each state dinner could be organized by different high-profile chefs,” he said. That way, Obama could bring in chefs like Thomas Keller and Jonathan Beno — the first American chefs to be granted three Michelin stars — molecular gastronomy guru Grant Achatz or Ethiopian-born Marcus Samuelson of Aquavit restaurant. Such an arrangement would allow the president to “capture some of the star power but in a practical and realistic way,” Ryan said.

Curiosity about the White House chef is nothing new, Ryan said, but it has been amplified by the public’s Food Network-fed interest in all things food-related. “I recall back to the Reagan administration getting calls about it … so people are always interested in the White House chef,” he said. “But that said, it’s got to be exponentially greater today because the interest in food is so much greater.”

What Does a Busy NBC News Anchor Crave?

31 Oct

NBC’s Brian Williams was in Sarasota today to cover a Barack Obama rally. His handlers used our stadium offices as his home base for the day. One NBC staffer was responsible for keeping Williams desk stocked with his favorite treats. These must-have snacks Brian craves included the following …