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Annie Mae Turnes Justice, the primary inspiration behind DixieDining.com, dies at age 101

26 Aug

“Living a century on Earth is pretty remarkable — even in this modern age of medical miracles. But Annie Mae was a truly remarkable lady in many ways. I may be more than a little biased, but I believe this with all my heart. Many people today measure a successful life in terms of fame and fortune. Sad, but true. I can honestly say that Annie Mae never got caught up in any of that. She lived a simple, graceful life — and always seemed more than content with life’s simpler pleasures. In her long lifetime, she rarely left her home state of Virginia. Here favorite place to be was at home — surrounded by her friends and family. She first worked at Tubize Artificial Silk Company and, later, along with her husband Phillip, ran Justice Grocery in Hopewell, VA. She preferred home cooked meals to ritzy restaurants. She loved farm markets and yard sales. She could cook up a mess of greens with the best of ‘em. Her crispy fried okra was an inspiration. Her red velvet cake and chess pie were other worldly. When I recently asked her to name her favorite food, she surprised me by saying: “Potatoes.” Think about it: “Potatoes!” Not steak. Not lobster. I think that says a lot. The woman lacked pretension of any kind.”

“Annie Mae was indeed a woman of simple needs and tastes. And she possessed the unique God-given gift of turning simple, everyday things into something rather exceptional. I always admired that trait in her. As she aged, the world around her became increasingly busy, materialistic, and complex. But Annie Mae chose to keep it simple. She never seemed to long for material things. Never appeared to worry about what she didn’t have. She was too busy being thankful for what she did have — and placing other people’s needs ahead of her own. Annie Mae was always a giver — not a taker. She was ever positive — rarely complaining. She gave enormous hugs — and had an unforgettable, infectious laugh. And she was always perfectly comfortable in her own skin. What a rare quality that is these days. I can only hope a little bit of that has rubbed off on me.”

“I recall visiting Annie Mae & Phillip during my college years. As soon as I pulled in their Petersburg driveway, Annie Mae was quickly out the door to the grocery store. She wanted to whip up something extra special. I told her that wouldn’t be necessary, but she wouldn’t hear it. So she was off in a flash. She backed her sedan out of the carport — and slammed right into the front of my car.  I was so mad at myself for not reminding her that my vehicle was parked there. Just hadn’t thought about it. Didn’t have time. And, of course, I was concerned that she might have hurt herself. But all she could talk about was how sorry SHE was — and how she still needed to get groceries. That story speaks volumes about Annie Mae’s outlook on life. It was NEVER about her — ALWAYS about someone else. But in living out her life in that fashion, she forged a lasting legacy of love that few can match.”

A picture of me & Granny – taken at her 100th birthday party 

“We were all so blessed to have had Annie Mae Turnes Justice in our lives. Her quiet, selfless, Christian way of moving through this world made a massive impression on me. We were separated my many miles in recent years, yet I always felt a special bond with that wonderful Southern lady I called “Granny Justice.” Or, sometimes, “Granny Mae.” She would often tell me: “You were always my boy.” It never failed to put a smile on my face. During our last family trip to visit Granny, we arrived at Imperial Plaza cradling white cardboard box lunches from Sally Bell’s Kitchen in Richmond, VA. And by Granny’s reaction, you would have thought we were toting jewel boxes. She made such a big fuss about how tasty everything was – and how nice it was to see us all. Her smile lit up the room. Meanwhile, our youngest son Travis was growing more anxious by the minute — stomping back and forth — constantly asking when we would be leaving. Eileen and I were so embarrassed. But Granny, true to form, was simply “tickled” and that uncomfortable feeling of embarrassment soon disappeared. She had worked her special magic once again.” 

“I know the final few months were very hard on her. A loss of independence and energy, no more cooking, bland hospital meals, a bad fall, and a broken hip. She slowly lost her healthy appetite for good food — and for life. She was ready to go. She said that more than once during our last phone conversation. The Lord knew this, sensed her pain, and promptly carried her to Glory. God, as she often reminded us, is SO good! In our time of sorrow, I take comfort in knowing that Granny is no longer suffering, she is in a far better place, she sees clearly, she walks without pain, and she is at last (after 26 long years) reunited with her beloved Phillip Hendry Justice. They have an awful lot of catching up to do. And lots fish to catch too. That was always their thing. Rest in Peace, my sweet Granny. I love you so much and feel blessed to have had you in my life for so many wonderful years. I will see you again on the other side — and I will be fully expecting one of your famous bear hugs.”

“Give a Hoot” — Eat at West Mobile’s The Hungry Owl

10 Dec

The Hungry Owl is a relatively new addition to the West Mobile dining scene. Although I work in the immediate vicinity, it actually took a somewhat recent episode of TV’s Man vs Food to alert me to the Owl’s delicious culinary offerings. The object of host Adam Richman’s carniverous desire was Chef Tony Nicholas’ Ultimate Tony Burger.  

The chow at the Hungry Owl is Nappie Award Winning (as the above banner obviously implies). And the Ultimate Tony rules the roost. This bulging burger is absolutely massive with toppings like a fried egg, two kinds of cheese, crispy bacon, and jalapenos.

This retro van sits outside the Hungry Owl — too cool!

There’s even a Doggie Park outside – how’s that for added value?

The Owl accents are evident at every turn — inside and out.

The Owl wing door handles are a very creative designer touch.

This (above) is the Original Tony Burger. Big? You’re dern tootin! This baby was priced at $11.99 (c0mes with one side). My side this day was the mashed sweet potatoes — pretty tasty. The taters were served in a tin cup, which briefly reminded me of an old Warner Brothers prison flick. Ha! I must try the smoked gouda grits next time. Now that sounds just dandy. The burger may look well done in the picture, but it was actually cooked just right. Nice and charred on the outside, a little pink on the inside. It’s blending of quality ground beef and Alabama-made Conecuh sausage is pure genius. Mad scientist genius, even — and I mean that in a good way, Tony.   

 So, you may inquire, just what makes the Ultimate Tony so, well, ultimate? They basically take the the Original Tony and further accessorize it with a slippery fried egg, a big ole slab smoked gouda cheese, and a mess of chopped jalapeno peppers. The Ultimate Tony will set you back about $14 buckeroos and also comes equipped with one side item.

Now don’t get me wrong. I may have led you to believe that this is nothing more than a glorified burger palace. If I have, then I should apologize. It’s quite a bit more than that, folks. The menu, which I’m quite anxious to further explore, is surprisingly adventurous. Some of the Cajun and Creole dishes look especially interesting. You might say the non-burger portion of the menu is Southern with a gourmet flair.

So here’s wishing Chef Tony continued success.

We give a hoot about The Hungry Owl — you should too! 

I hope to catch you nesting here soon.

The Hungry Owl – 7899 Cottage Hill Road, Mobile, AL 36695

(251) 633-4479; www.thehungryowl.com

Open for Lunch and Dinner; closed Sunday and Monday

Gulf Coast Foodways Organziation is Officially Unveiled

24 Mar

 

Gulf Coast Foodways is a new community of foodies on a mission to preserve and promote the rich culinary culture along the US Gulf Coast through education, events, documentaries, seminars and more. Gulf Coast Foodways will be a member driven organization and we’re currently looking for charter members and sponsors.

How exactly are we going to do all of this, you ask?  Through the development of thematic maps and tours, we can drive food tourism to our region. Through video documentation, we can capture and show off the unique culinary culture of our coast.  Cookbooks and published compilations of local food writings and treasured family recipes will draw attention to the traditional foodways of our area. 

We plan to hold periodic meetings for members to make connections and network. These events will include guest speakers on local topics and you can always count on a good meal or two along the way. Our annual symposium weekend is now in the initial planning stage.  Hotel and restaurant industry members will always benefit from the trails, meetings, and symposiums.

We’d like for you to play a key role in the creation of this tasty “gumbo.” 

 Your annual membership or sponsorship will:

 *Help finance research projects

*Promote food-related businesses along the Gulf Coast

*Document local traditions & businesses preserving them

*Promote and grow food tourism along the Gulf Coast

*Underwrite any necessary administrative costs

 In return, your benefits will include:

 *Bi-annual e-newsletter

*Profile feature on the Gulf Coast Foodways blog: www.gulfcoastfoodways.wordpress.com 

*10% off all Gulf Coast Foodways event registration

*Priority registration for events

*Discounts at participating restaurants/shops

 We urge you to join this worthy cause today.

Contact Eileen or Gary Saunders at gulfcoastfoodways@yahoo.com.

***Pass this note along to your friends and LIKE us on FACEBOOK.

UGA Press publishes “The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook”

5 Oct

The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook

Edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge
Foreword by Alton Brown

“Local recipes from the worldly South”

“Each page herein delivers a strong sense of community; the contributions are from real people with real names; the collection is democratic, but with nary a sign of culinary chaos; and the food is just plain good. And here’s the best part, as far as I’m concerned: Regardless of whether it looks back into the past or ahead into the future, this book looks ever Southward.”
—Alton Brown, from the foreword

Everybody has one in their collection. You know—one of those old, spiral- or plastic-tooth-bound cookbooks sold to support a high school marching band, a church, or the local chapter of the Junior League. These recipe collections reflect, with unimpeachable authenticity, the dishes that define communities: chicken and dumplings, macaroni and cheese, chess pie. When the Southern Foodways Alliance began curating a cookbook, it was to these spiral-bound, sauce-splattered pages that they turned for their model.

Including more than 170 tested recipes, this cookbook is a true reflection of southern foodways and the people, regardless of residence or birthplace, who claim this food as their own. Traditional and adapted, fancy and unapologetically plain, these recipes are powerful expressions of collective identity. There is something from—and something for—everyone. The recipes and the stories that accompany them came from academics, writers, catfish farmers, ham curers, attorneys, toqued chefs, and people who just like to cook—spiritual Southerners of myriad ethnicities, origins, and culinary skill levels.

Edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge, written, collaboratively, by Sheri Castle, Timothy C. Davis, April McGreger, Angie Mosier, and Fred Sauceman, the book is divided into chapters that represent the region’s iconic foods: Gravy, Garden Goods, Roots, Greens, Rice, Grist, Yardbird, Pig, The Hook, The Hunt, Put Up, and Cane. Therein you’ll find recipes for pimento cheese, country ham with redeye gravy, tomato pie, oyster stew, gumbo z’herbes, and apple stack cake. You’ll learn traditional ways of preserving green beans, and you’ll come to love refried black-eyed peas.

Are you hungry yet? Place your order now!

http://www.amazon.com/Southern-Foodways-Alliance-Community-Cookbook/dp/0820332755

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

Claire’s Place on the Creek – Mobile, AL

6 Apr

Claire’s is a fairly new country buffet place on Halls Mill Road in Mobile, AL. The Stagecoach Cafe used to be at this rustic pine-shaded location, but they have decided to focus all their attention on their primary location in Stockton, AL. But not to fear! Louisa “Claire” Terrell has re-opened the place and really all that has changed is the name.  

You can always tell a good Southern lunch joint by the vehicles in the parking lot. Lots of trucks and police cars = good chow. Really good chow!

The grilled pork chops were simply delicious with a authentic char-grilled flavor. I snagged a couple chops at the bottom of the chafing dish to make sure they were plenty juicy — and they were. The green beans were smoky and soft to the bite. Claire’s also makes a killer jambalaya loaded with tender pieces of white chicken and bright green bell pepper. The cornbread dressing was excellent and the tomato pie tart & tasty (especially if you can score an end piece). I even tried fried asparagus spears for the first time in my life and found the flavor combo to be, well, a downhome natural.

Believe it or not, I did save a little room for dessert. That’s a good thing because the choices here are plentiful. Claire’s buttermilk pie was moist with lots of chewy flaked coconut in each and every bite. The banana pudding was even better — incredibly smooth and heavenly. I was on Cloud Nine.

Pricing at Claire’s Place on the Creek ( yes, they are on a creek) is $9.50 and includes the all you can eat lunch buffet, drink ( I suggest the Leroy Hill fresh brewed Sweet Tea), and as many dessert treats as you dare tackle. You will not go away hungry or dissatisfied. This is the real deal y’all and I am so glad to have found them. They can already count me as a regular.

NOTE: Claire’s Place is also open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.

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