Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fresh Produce at Chicago Street Farmers Market

See that pile of goodness up there? Locally grown squash, okra, and peaches from the Chicago Street Farmers Market. I spent just $5 on my take. There were also blueberries, peppers, corn, honey, eggplant, green tomatoes, potatoes, and cabbage. Plus, homemade pies and cookies, seafood, and a nice selection of plants.

The market kicked off May 22 at Heritage Park in Foley, and though it's small, it's got plenty. (And I suspect it will get bigger as the season heats up and the produce comes in.) It's held every Friday, 4-7 p.m., through September, with music and movies under the stars through July.

Chicago Street Farmers Market
Heritage Park
Chicago Street @ Highway 59
Foley, Alabama

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cornbread Sandwich at Down South BBQ

This sandwich is worthy of a country song, maybe even a sonnet. If it were a comedian, I’d give it its own sitcom. If it were a politician, it would have my vote. Point being: It’s damn good.

We’re talking about a pile (maybe a pound?) of tender, juicy BBQ topped with crunchy coleslaw and cozied between two hot-off-the-griddle jalapeno cornbread pancakes. It fills the entirety of a large Styrofoam takeout container and comes with extra sauce on the side. Because it’s as big as your head, it’s more than a normal person can eat at one sitting, but you can bet that if I were a hard-working construction hunk, I’d down one of these sweet babies most every day. And at just $7.50 (tax included), it’s recession friendly.

Down South BBQ operates out of a teensy wooden house with one window for ordering and one for picking up. You can also get regular sandwiches, baked beans, sweet tea, and fruit cobbler. Everything is made to order, so this isn’t fast food. But it’s worth every minute of the wait.

Down South BBQ
County Road 10 @ Highway 59
Foley, Alabama

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Seafood Po'boy at The Shrimp Basket

Yesterday my uncle called midmorning and said he was on his way down to make some sales calls and had a hankering for a po'boy. So I put on my thinking cap and came up with The Shrimp Basket.

He picked me up at about 11:30 and we headed toward the beach, pulled in, plopped down in plastic chairs, and ordered our sandwiches. Mine was fried shrimp; his was fried crawfish. We shared an order of crispy onion rings. And though the view from the patio isn't much, the spring air felt nice and our sandwiches were stuffed to perfection and overflowing with goodness.

Sometimes it's the simple things.

The Shrimp Basket
Second Avenue @ Highway 59
Gulf Shores, Alabama

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fish and Shrimp at Fresh Market Seafood

So you’re down at the beach and you want fresh seafood. To cook. You could go to Blalock’s. That’s the obvious choice. There you’ll find a staff that is indifferent (at best) and fish and shrimp that’s been trucked in from the west. For reals. A friend reports that she recently stopped in and asked if the shrimp was local; the young man behind the counter said, “Well, yes, they’re from Texas.” Texas, kids, is three states away.

For honest-to-god-fresh raw seafood, head north across the bridge and into Foley. At the corner of Highway 59 and County Road 10 there is a service station. Attached to that service station is a fish market/bait shop called Fresh Market Seafood. There you will find a wide selection of fish and shrimp that were swimming in area waters five minutes ago. You’ll also find bags of gorgeous frozen scallops, lobster tails, and gumbo made nearby in Theodore. (Plus enough rods and reels and line and weights to make any fisherman grow gills.)

Yes, the place smells a little fishy. No, you cannot buy artisanal olive oils, specialty crackers, hot pepper jelly, chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, or any of the other gourmet goodies that Blalock’s stocks. But you can get that in Birmingham.

Fresh Market Seafood
Highway 59 @ County Road 10
Foley, Alabama

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Panini at The Coffee Merchant

This photo really doesn't do the goodness justice: the panini at The Coffee Merchant always hit the spot. The bread is light on the inside, crispy on the outside. It's also locally made. Fillings are generous and basically you pick from one of three choices on the menu each day, though the cook will customize if you ask. Today, for example, I got the roast beef with spinach, artichokes, and colby but asked for turkey instead of beef. Not a problem. The salad dressing (mine was lemon dill) is homemade. Each panino (that's the singular; panini is plural) is made to order and served hot. Try not to drool while it's on the grill.

The Coffee Merchant
229e East 20th Avenue
Gulf Shores, Alabama

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesdays at The Cork Room

Only recently was I introduced to Two Dollar Tuesdays at The Cork Room, but I now try to make this a weekly outing. The $2 wine night was recession proof before recession proof was cool, and it draws a healthy crowd of locals. Yes, you can totally get drunk for about the same as it would cost to just stay home. But here's the real joy: dinner for less than $20. It's hard to believe, but it's true. Two glasses of house white or red and a 4-ounce steak and one side (plus a basket of bread) will set you back just 19 bucks. Or go for the Schezuan shrimp and grits with a couple of glasses and spend just $15. It's not a lot of food, but it's consistently happy-making — and quite right for a Tuesday night.

The Cork Room
225 East 16th Avenue
Gulf Shores, Alabama

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Everything at Cobalt

There's a new kid on the block, and it's definitely going to be like that new kid who came to your high school in tenth grade who everyone fell in love with instantly: The one all the guys wanted to be and all the girls wanted to date.

Cobalt has reset the bar — and it's high.

Last night was my second trip out to the big restaurant that sits on the water underneath the intercoastal pass and though it was certainly good the first time I ate there right after it opened a few months ago, the kinks are gone and all the stops have been pulled out for this baby.

The location is perfect for watching the sun set. The patio is going to be the hottest spot in town come summer (live music every night). The lighting is just right (finally someone gets it). And the food! Oh, my, the food. We snacked on local oysters, BBQ shrimp Louisiana style, and the tuna and avocado stack (I could eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Next time maybe we'll tackle the entrees.

Also, the bakery counter opened last week. The chocolate tarts, peanut butter cookies, and Key lime cupcakes look divine.