hurricane

Mobile’s Best: An Ode to Sandwiches

In 2007 I did an article for ‘Zalea Magazine entitled An Ode to Sandwiches.  It was a tour of some of my favorite sandwiches in the Mobile area.  Due to restraints on the page a few of my favorites were yanked by the editor so I thought I would drop them off here with a few of my new favorites.

I’ll start with the Mellow Mushroom at the corner of Old Shell and University. Yeah, I know it’s a chain and as a rule I don’t eat at them but the ‘Shroom has an impressive list of hoagies with the Tempeh being the most interesting offering:  Tempeh is unfermented, marinated tofu and it is offered on your choice of French or whole wheat bread with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, Teriyaki, Balsamic vinaigrette, feta, grilled onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and sprouts.  The flavors are strong and pungent.

The Roast Duck Panini at the Royal Scam is amazingly decidant while still holding true to the comfort aspect of a sandwich.  Along with the duck breast you will find spinach, applewood smoked bacon, Gorgonzola, herb/garlic cheese and balsalmic vinaigrette.  Oddly enough, it is not the best sandwich I have had at Dave Rasp’s swanky tapas bar.  At one time they offered a vegetarian panini with goat cheese that was hands down the best sandwich I have ever had.

Regency Shopping Center offers two of the best sandwiches starting at Orleans ‘Po Boys (Airport and University and now Schillenger’s Road) which has been kicking out Mobile’s favorite sandwiches for over 10 years now.  They have award winning traditional ‘Po Boys, but their most popular is not exactly traditional.  The Joe Don includes roast beef, ham, Swiss cheese, gravy and LTO. The bread they use is absolutely perfect with a light, crunchy crust and a soft, airy middle.

Fifty yards or so away is La Cucina home of the Tortas Tampiquena which is tailor made for carnivores.  This huge sandwich is stuffed with Chorizo (a Spanish sausage), chicken, and a grilled hot dog.  They also pile on the cheese, mayonnaise, and LTO.

Looking for an excuse to visit the small Baldwin County community of Crossroads?  Stop by the Hurricane Drive-In and try one of the best BBQ pork sandwiches you will ever eat.  Thick, tender cubes of slow smoked pork tossed in a sauce that is neither too sweet nor too tangy on a large fresh bun.  Try it with the world’s best onion rings and a chocolate malt.

The Spot of Tea on Cathedral Square also boasts a healthy list of sandwiches with its two crown jewels being Jeromeo’s Hot Pastramio (pastrami topped with pepper jack, sliced pepperoncini, and Dijon mustard on New York rye) and the best Monte Cristo you will likely ever try.

The Little Winery That Could

Originally published in ‘Zalea Magazine August 2007.

Oddly enough Paul Giamatti, a frumpy character actor, is responsible for our nation’s blossoming crush on wine. In the 2004 Oscar darling Sideways, Giamatti plays Miles Raymond, a middle-aged novelist racked with self-confidence issues. Raymond’s defeatist personality has a savant, an unbridled passion for wine. In one scene he describes his favorite varietal, Pinot Noir, saying, “Only someone who takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression.”

Of course Raymond’s discourse is actually a cathartic description of himself, but the unintended result of this scene is that Americans are now obsessed with Pinot Noir. Part of the movie’s domino effect on pop culture has been an upsurge in interest in the wine country. Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, and the North Coast are swarming with tourist.

But one does not have to leave the Gulf Coast to see a real working winery; there are seven of them right here in Alabama. The oldest, Perdido Vineyards (22100 County Road 47) is in Baldwin County. The South has a wine tradition of its own in Muscadine grapes. These native grapes are larger and heartier than their European cousins plus they have seven times more of the precious antioxidant, reservatrol.

Reservatrol is an amazing chemical that is believed to keep cells from turning cancerous. Other benefits stemming from reservatrol include controlling the inflammation of cells and it stops the spread of malignancies. It is also thought to be the source of the “French paradox” – despite enjoying a high cholesterol diet, the French have astonishing low rates of heart disease.

Mike Bailey, general manager of Solo Vino (West Rd.) in Mobile features wines from Perdido Vineyards and is leading the charge to stock them in every locally owned grocer and restaurant in the area. Bailey helps out Perdido proprietor Jim Eddins at the north Baldwin winery, but he is not the only one. According to Bailey, “lots of folks volunteer because they want to see this part of our heritage preserved.”

Todd Hicks, the brew master at Hurricane Brew Pub in downtown Mobile (Dauphin St.) also lends his time and expertise to help Mr. Jim. He provides the locally crafted beer that is used to make the Casa Perdido Malt Vinegar which took gold in 2006 at the Mostbarkeiten in Carnthia, Austria. In 2005 they also captured the gold with their Elberta Gurkenessig (a cucumber vinegar), and in 2004 scored bronze with their White Muscadine Wine Vinegar.

Like Bailey, Hicks feels that we need to support our local artisans, of which he is one. Businesses like the Brew Pub, Sweet Home Cheese Farm (Elberta), the many apiaries in the area, et al are the epitome of home grown. They are owned locally and use local ingredients to make products that reflect the bay area persona. At the forefront of this group is Jim Eddins and his little winery.

Perdido was the first winery in the state and as such has seen its share of adversity for that is the burden of being the first to do anything. Eddins’ battles with various governments have left him skittish about bureaucracies. Greed and inefficiency, the two strongest attributes of any bureaucracy, often combine to the detriment of the citizenry they were originally created to protect.

On more than one occasion armed agents have invaded Eddins’ vineyard because of something as asinine as a clerk misfiling paperwork, but the biggest obstacles have been natural. Flooding and high winds are hard on the grapes. As Bailey can attest grapes thrive on difficult circumstances saying, “They love stress.” But hurricanes Ivan and Katrina were far more than just “stress.” Ivan nearly destroyed the vineyards and the winery, Katrina stripped the newly recovering vines of every single grape at the peak of harvest.

Still, Perdido Vineyards presses on making high quality muscadine and scuppernong wines, amazing vinegars, and the refreshingly pleasant muscadine grape juice. The juice is higher in life extending antioxidants than that of regular grapes and lacks the thick, syrupy texture of commercial juices. It is a vastly superior fruit juice than what most of us are used to.

Fine vinegars and grape juice are just the beginning of the innovations at Alabama’s oldest winery. This winter they plan on clearing out the vines, transforming this little patch of South Alabama into a picturesque setting not unlike those one sees when touring the Tuscan countryside. A stately gazebo set on a hill overlooking the vines will become a wedding chapel of unmatched beauty and a gift shop is also in the planning. All, of course, after the necessary permits, licenses, and other sundry authorizations have been attained, after all Caesar must be sated.

Perdido Vineyards is open Monday through Saturday 10 – 5.

Celebrating the Gulf Through It’s Food

I was lucky enough to be selected by Foodbuzz to participate in the July 24X24 which is a fund raiser for Gulf recovery.  For those not familiar with 24X24 it is a monthly global dinner party featuring 24 meals by 24 bloggers in 24 hours.  This month’s party hasn’t gone unnoticed as the major news wires have picked up on it.  MSNBC said, “Foodbuzz, the largest online food community, is calling on food bloggers across the country to cook up a Gulf Coast-inspired meal on July 24th — and blog about it — all in support of the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF).”  So I gathered a few friends together, most Gulf Coast natives, and we celebrated by eating the foods we’ve all come to love.

This has special importance to me because I live in South Alabama right on the Gulf of Mexico and I have seen first hand the economic devastation in the area.  Just a few months back I took in the annual Blessing of the Fleet in Bayou La Batre and it was evident to the people in that small fishing village that life would never be the same again.  Recently I released a new cookbook, Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico and it is from that work that I draw the recipes for tonight’s menu: filé gumbo, Cuban pressed sandwiches and Key lime tartelettes.

Gumbo is as continuous an argument around these parts as politics, money or religion but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the one thing that cannot be omitted from gumbo is okra.  The word gumbo is an African for okra.  It is a dish that has been adopted by the people of the Gulf Coast as our official soup.  There are some people who just can’t handle okra so I am stealing an idea from Chef Bobby Flay and using fried okra as a garnish so it remains an official gumbo.

File’ Gumbo

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 1 lb crab meat
  • 1 pint oysters
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 1 bunch celery stalks, rough chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 lb okra (optional), sliced
  • 1/2 bottle Louisiana Hot Sauce- a whole bottle if you like it HOT!
  • 4 tablespoons flour4 tablespoons butter
  • Salt, cayenne pepper, File’, white pepper, & black pepper to taste
  • Bay leaves
  • 1 quart fish stock or shrimp stock

Boil rice in plain water and set aside. In a large stockpot melt butter and add flour to make a roux cook until chocolate brown, roughly 20 minutes. Add onions, celery, bell peppers, and a little water if needed and simmer a few minutes then add hot sauce, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt, both peppers and fish stock. Simmer for about half an hour. Add okra (if using) and seafood and simmer about another twenty minutes. Remove bay leaves. Serve hot over rice, and garnish with a sprinkle of file’ and fried okra.

The influence of our Latin American neighbors can be seen all over the Gulf of Mexico, especially in Texas and Florida and it is in the latter that our next course has become an institution.  And no wonder with two kinds of pork.

Cuban Pressed Sandwich

  • 4 loaves French bread
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 pound smoked ham, sliced thin
  • 1 – 1½ pounds slow roasted pork
  • 1/2 pound Swiss cheese, sliced
  • Hamburger dills
  • Mustard

Finally my dessert also hails from the Sunshine State.  I am including my recipe for Key lime pie although for the dinner I poured my custard into graham cracker tartelettes rather than a single large crust.  Despite the name, Key limes are no longer grown commercially in the Florida Keys, you can thank the hurricane of 1935 for that.  Today most Key limes come from an area of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico that has identical soil and climate to the Keys where this small lime is indigenous thus making it a true Gulf of Mexico delicacy.  You can make this same pie using regular limes but don’t call it a Key lime pie because there is a noticeable difference in flavor.

Key Lime Pie

  • 1¼ cups graham crackers, crushed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed Key lime juice (roughly 12 limes)
  • Whipped cream
  • Dash of fresh grated nutmeg
  • 3 – 4 Key limes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In medium bowl, mix together sugar and graham cracker crumbs. Melt the butter and blend well with sugar and graham crackers. Press into a 9-inch pie pan. Bake 6 to 8 minutes. In another medium bowl, combine the milk and egg yolks with an electric mixer on low speed. Add key the lime juice. Mix until thick. Pour into prepared crust and put in refrigerator overnight. Top with whipped cream, nutmeg and garnish with key lime slices (optional).

NOTE: Real Key Lime Pie is never green.

For more information on the “Gulf Ambassador” program visit HERE.  Follow Foodbuzz on Twitter or the Facebook Fan Page.

My Menu for the Foodbuzz Gulf Fund Raiser

As many of you may have read on MSNBC or at the Foodbuzz home page I am participating in this month’s Foodbuzz 24X24 dinner party.  This is a special 24X24 as it is geared to raise money for my beleaguered Gulf Coast.

Destin BeachWith remnants of Katrina still strewn everywhere and oil soiling what are easily the most beautiful beaches in the 48 contiguous, we need a little good news.  The folks at Foodbuzz have come up with just the ticket.  But I’ll let MSNBC tell you all about it:

    SAN FRANCISCO, CA — As the Gulf Coast struggles to recover from the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, Foodbuzz, the largest online food community, is calling on food bloggers across the country to cook up a Gulf Coast-inspired meal on July 24th — and blog about it — all in support of the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), which has been playing a key role in relief efforts in the wake of the tragic oil spill.

    Each month, Foodbuzz’ 24×24 section of the website showcases blog posts from 24 Foodbuzz Featured Publisher bloggers from around the world about meals they’ve prepared within one 24-hour period. This month, Foodbuzz has chosen 24 bloggers from around the country to serve as “Gulf Ambassadors” and host a Gulf Coast-inspired meal on Saturday, July 24th. A donation of $250 in the name of each of the bloggers will be donated to the GNOF, for an initial contribution of $6000. Some of the participating bloggers from around the country include:

  • Passionate Eater – San Francisco
  • Cooking with Christen – Louisiana
  • Fresh Local and Best – New York City
  • SheSimmers – Chicago
  • Le Grand Fromage – Florida
  • Don’t (White) Sugar Coat It – Boston
  • Four Points Foodie – Austin
  • Wannabe TV Chef – Alabama
  • First, Make a Roux! – San Diego
  • For additional food bloggers — up to 100 — who would like to participate in the program by hosting their own Gulf Coast-inspired meal, Foodbuzz will also donate $25 in their name to the GNOF. Posts can be submitted to Foodbuzz on July 25th at editorial@foodbuzz.com.

    READ THE REST

Here is my menu which features recipes from my cookbook Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes from the Gulf of Mexico:  I’m starting with a rich seafood gumbo chock full of Gulf shrimp, blue crabs and Conecuh smoked sausage.  For my main course I’m knocking out some Cuban pressed sandwiches with lots of roast pork and ham and I’m finishing with Key lime tartelettes.  HERE is the post of the dinner party complete with recipes and plenty of food porn.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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