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.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bushwackers at Lulu's

There's really not a whole lot I care to eat at Lulu's. Mostly things are fried, and I've never walked way from a meal there feeling really happy about the food. I absolutely marvel at the summer crowds who wait for hours for a table. Sure, the place has its charms — the live music and chance to dump your kids in the sand while you get sauced — but I wouldn't wait five minutes for a table. Instead, make your way to the bar and order a Bushwacker. Lulu's version is the champagne of Bushwackers (and Florabama's is the PBR). It's thick and ice creamy and made extra special with a generous squirt of chocolate syrup and a swirl of whipped cream on top. Might as well call it dessert.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tomato Basil Seafood Chowder at Guy Harvey's

Does anyone successfully make the leap from famous [fill in the blank here] to restaurateur? In just four months' time that Vegas restaurant that Nick Lachy and Nicky Hilton opened was pronounced a dismal failure. And remember that restaurant that a bunch of models opened? No, of course you don't. Most people should just stick to their day jobs. And that includes marine wildlife artist Guy Harvey.

Last week I had dinner at The Wharf outpost of Guy Harvey's Island Grill. And I have two words for you: Skip. It.

My date and I each had a Blue Moon and a bowl of tomato basil seafood chowder. I wasn't looking for a heavy meal, but I am always looking for a good one. Before ordering, I asked the waitress to rate the soup on a scale of 1 to 10. She gave it a 5, but assured me that people raved. I know better than to listen to "people." But I got the soup anyway.

And I was disappointed. Not thick. Not rich. Not what I would call chowdery. It was a watery tomato soup with a few little shrimps and a flake or three of crab meat. I salted it. My date crushed up three packages of saltines in his.

It was edible, so the lack of flavor really wasn't the worst of it. The value, or lack thereof, was the tipping point. It's why I won't go back to Guy Harvey's. If that was a bowl of chowder, they're serving the cup-a-soup in a demitasse. Skimpy. Skimpy. Skimpy. At $6.99 I think it came out to $1 per spoonful.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Maltese Cake at Bruno's

Let's start this puppy off with, well, a puppy! I just love these little Maltese cakes from Bruno's on 59. This guy's got his Easter bonnet on, but the baker accessorizes them for all occasions (Christmas, Mardi Gras, Fourth of July). So cute! Now granted, these are grocery store cakes and probably full of trans fat (not cute), but the fun factor can't be beat.