Alabama Again

Hello Diners! It’s so nice of you to stop by!! Before I tell you about the deliciousness of Alabama (my second visit in so many months), I want to apologize for the delay in posts – technical issues. Hopefully things are back on track, they have to be since the Twelve Days of… are just around the corner! Thanks for your patience at the counter.

Well, it’s back to Alabama, the second time in two months, this time for my annual visit with SS, Miss Audrey Rose and GeoJohn. We started off with a lovely evening at SS’s Café, fresh pasta with artichoke alfredo and barbecued chicken on our grandmother’s heart-warming Dots and Daisies china (or pottery in this case.) SS did a fantastic job, and I learned a new term “Part Two.” When SS has leftovers, she dubs them “Part Two” so a few nights later we had Pasta Part Two – delicious again. Maybe HH will buy-in to “Part Two” better than leftovers, stay tuned on that one.

The next day, SS and I had our big “girls” day, with breakfast at the French Café which included lattes and chocolate croissants. Then it was on to lunch which was supposed to be the Hot & Hot Fish Club but ended up being Chez Fonfon for shrimp salad and fancy grilled ham and cheese sandwich with fries – we shared, so delicious. Oh! And my favorite, a glass of iced tea with a side of simple syrup, a do-it-yourself Sweet Tea (I’ve been dreaming of this lately, it makes me so happy.)

Then it was on to Brick & Tin downtown for dinner. Miss Audrey had a deviled egg appetizer, and grilled cheese sandwich for dinner (right Miss Audrey?) I had butternut squash soup and a harvest salad, just perfect on a fall evening in the South.

Oh, sure there were stops between dining, book stores (including my favorite, the Alabama Booksmith) and specialty stores, gardens and walks, a visit to historic Gee’s Bend to see the quilt ladies and a drive through Selma, but no one cares about that at the Diner! Right?

The day after that it was Meat + 2 at Miss Kitty’s with Miss Audrey, her friend and SS. The plates look pretty monochromatic, but SS and Miss Audrey did have lima beans so there was some green floating around. That night SS and GeoJohn took me to Taco Mama’s, definitely risky since Mexican food in the South is different than Mexican food in San Diego – authenticity comes into question with one of those locations. SS and I shared a fish taco plate, and GeoJohn had fish nachos – yes, fish nachos! I was a bit skeptical, but GeoJohn ate the whole plate so they must have been good. The fish tacos, chips and salsa were very good, more like a California Fresh Mex than traditional Mexican food, but worth another visit on another trip for sure.

The last day of the visit included Nutella Crepes at SS’s Café (very warm and yummy) on a rainy morning, Pasta Part Two, and a visit to Steele City Pops. This visit to Steele City Pops I had the very decadent Maple Bacon Bourbon pop, not quite as creamy as I thought but very delicious (the bits of bacon were fabulous!). SS’s was a berry cream cheese pop that was very creamy, and Miss Audrey had something else delicious and wonderful.

We concluded the last day with the set-up of The Mixer. Since Art’s Mixer now sits at Holly’s Diner, my mixer needed a new home. SS had been with me when I originally purchased The Mixer and she was happy to add it to her Café. So The Mixer traveled about 1700 miles and now proudly rests at SS’s Café waiting for the a new opportunity.

Another year, another visit to the South, more delights experiences, more opportunities to dream about. Already, I can’t wait for next year!


Alabama Adventures - Extras

One thing I left out on our Alabama Adventure was one of our “finds” along the way.  As with every adventure, HH & I seek out thrift stores and yard sales even when we travel.  The challenge is always making sure we don’t “fall in love” with something that is too big to fit in our suitcases.


On this trip, HH discovered quite a find at a thrift store in Scottsboro – a baker man list maker.  I remember one of my grandparents or my Dad  had when I was growing up, although not quite so decorative.  This one is really cute and oh so handy at the Diner.



Another stop I missed in Parts 1- 4 was Tate’s BBQ.  Tate’s is in Scottsboro and we must have passed it about ten times during our trip on our way back and forth to town.  At first we thought it was closed just like the bar next door, it sure looked like it.  Then one day we noticed two police cars in the parking lot chatting with each other and wondered if it might be open for lunch, but it still didn’t look like there was much life.  Then we drove by and noticed someone getting an order from the window so we decided to take a chance and just share something.  I was sure we were going to regret this choice, but what the heck, we would regret it together.


As we pulled into the parking lot and up the slope, we could tell there was someone inside.  HH was the brave one, approaching the window and ordering a pulled pork sandwich.  As HH got our order he had to ask about the bag of water hanging over the window – why was it there?  He was told, to slow the flies down.  Okay.


We took our pulled pork sandwich back to the cabin and shared it on the dock.  It was delicious, no barbeque sauce (forgot to ask), and we enjoyed it.  One this day, taking a chance paid off.


Alabama Adventure - Part 4

HH & I spent the last afternoon/evening of our Alabama Adventure in Birmingham with SS, Miss Audrey Rose and GeoJohn.  First culinary stop:  Steele City Pops.


Apparently Steele City Pops was the hottest thing  since cupcake bakeries this past summer.  Steele City Pops is a specialty popsicle shop.  When SS mentioned it as our first stop, HH & I agreed but wondered how creative the popsicles could be.  We found out real quick.


The menu at Steele City Pops allows you to choose from fruity or creamy.  With lots of options we ended up with pink grapefruit/pink peppercorn, banana, raspberry/lemon and pumpkin - we all passed on the maple/bacon/bourbon.  SS said they should have egg nog and peppermint for the holidays – yummy!

We enjoyed the afternoon exploring Birmingham, visit the botanical garden, then we stopped in at Pat’s for hors d’ oeuvres.  Pat made some wonderfully tasty, yet deliciously simple snacks -  seasoned oyster crackers.  Here’s the recipe if you want to try them:


Pat’s Oyster Crackers

½ cup oil
½ tsp each of garlic powder, dill weed, lemon pepper
1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch (dry mix dressing)
1 box oyster crackers

Mix together everything except the crackers.  Put the mixture into a zip lock bag and add the oyster crackers, shake well.  Lay wet crackers on a cookie sheet to dry for about 2-3 hours, serve.



After some visiting at Pat’s we were off to Dreamland, the barbeque we had been waiting for.  Dreamland was a comfortable, eclectic place that was full of locals – and there was even someone else with a Hawaiian shirt on!  HH was no longer the lone ranger!


 The first thing we were served was a plate of white bread and barbeque sauce.  I thought this was for us to make sandwiches; Miss Audrey helped understand that this was our appetizer kind of like chips and salsa.  Interesting.  Different.  The bread was fresh and tasty, the barbeque sauce was flavorful.  Next dinner was served, there were a lot of ribs ordered at our table, and some pulled pork sandwiches as well.  Everything was delicious.


It’s always good to have a tour guide when visiting a different city, especially when it come to food.  Thank you SS, Miss Audrey Rose and GeoJohn for everything.


Alabama Adventures - Part 3

For this part of our Alabama Adventure, HH & I were driving from Scottsboro to Birmingham to visit SS, Miss Audrey Rose and GeoJohn (his new nickname).


HH & I decided we need to stop somewhere for a quick lunch before arriving in Birmingham, and HH was on a mission to find southern fried chicken.  There really wasn’t any convenient fried chicken in NOLA, and Scottsboro and Guntersville didn’t seem to be featuring fried chicken either.  We knew we would be having barbeque in Birmingham that night, so HH really wanted to find fried chicken.


As we drove the two hours from Scottsboro to Birmingham we kept an eye out.  We pasted KFC and Popeye’s, we didn’t think Bubba Ritos would have fried chicken but who knows.   Besides, we were laughing so much as we past Bubba Ritos it was too late to stop by the time we recovered.  We past Zaxby’s and The Waffle House and many other southern delights, but still needed some fried chicken.


Finally, the road signs were telling us that we were 12 miles from Birmingham so HH got off the freeway in hopes of finding something close and quick.  Also by this time, I was getting a little hungry and a bit anxious to get to SS’s – I just didn’t want to miss a minute of the time that we were going to have together on this visit and our estimated arrival time was fast approaching.  We pasted a number of the chain restaurants that were right off the freeway and proceeded into the town when we arrived at stopped traffic on the two-lane road.  It turned out church had just gotten out and the local police were stopping the traffic on the road in both directions so the cars could clear from the parking lot of the First Baptist Church.


Ten minutes later…we were finally able to drive into the town to find fried chicken.  After a little more driving, unsuccessful Smartphone fried chicken search on my part, HH pulled into a big strip mall to do his own search.  And just as I thought we were actually going to stop and eat, it seemed KFC would have to do but HH continued his trek for something more homegrown - much to my chagrin.  Then he had me follow the map on his phone and direct him to what he found.


Much to my surprise and amazement, we pulled up in front of Irondale’s.  This is a restaurant across from an historical train station that inspired Fannie Flagg to write Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.  But more importantly, this was the first place I had dinner on my first fall visit with SS, Miss Audrey Rose and not-quite-yet-GeoJohn nine years ago.


Irondale’s is a “meat + 3,” it’s cafeteria-style with a menu on the chalk board so diners can figure what they want before they get to the serves behind the counter.  You select your meat (HH got his fried chicken, I got chicken pot pie) and one, two or three sides depending on what you want.  HH had fried okra and mashed potatoes with gravy; I had fried green tomatoes and mac & cheese.  We both had cornbread, and I washed it all down with sweet tea, of course!  It was delicious, and so worth the wait.


With all the angst I was feeling as we got off the freeway and spend probably 30 + minutes trying to find fried chicken, HH found the perfect place.  It was nostalgic, it was the perfect southern meal, there was fried chicken, it was quick and I knew my way around.  HH did it again.  Thank you, HH, for your persistence and patience.


Alabama Adventures - Part 2

This part of our Alabama Adventure is all about Payne’s Sandwich Shop & Soda Fountain.  Payne’s was first opened in 1869 and was a combination drug store/soda fountain.


HH & I discovered Payne’s on our first day in Scottsboro on the way to Unclaimed Baggage.  We drove by in the afternoon and Payne’s was closed with no hours posted, but clearly in business, so a few days later we stopped by at lunch time and knew it was okay when we saw locals lunching.


HH & I were greeted with “Sit anywhere,” by, what turned out to be, Paula.  Then we sat down and looked at the chalk board behind the soda fountain to decide on lunch as Dean walked by (we learned his name later) and said to HH “Don’t run a restaurant when you retire,” and he walked away.  HH & I looked at each other and smiled and mulled over the lunch menu.

Dean, behind the counter fixing lunches from the orders on the clothespins

Dean came back to our table to take our order, HH had the daily special which featured chicken, and I had the grape & nut chicken salad sandwich.  The next question, what did we want to drink – fountain drink or can?  I asked for a Coke with cherry syrup from the fountain, HH had a root beer from the fountain.  Paula served our drinks and said if we didn’t like them, let her know, fountain drinks aren’t always what we are used to tasting from a can.  She wants effectively “selling” the fountain drinks and although they tasted a little different, they were delicious.

Our lunches
We enjoyed our lunch, Dean visited a little more, Paula visited with everyone along the way and we decided we needed to come back for malts at the counter later on.  As we left, we decided to take a few photos out front and as another family approached the man said, “They must not get out much!”  We introduced ourselves to Jimmy, as the rest of his family went inside Payne’s.  We told Jimmy we were from San Diego, which sparked, “Then why are you here in Scottsboro?”  Anyway, Jimmy was in town for his 40th high school reunion and told us lots of stories including the one about visiting Payne’s regularly when he was a kid to have a soda after school.

Paula behind the counter

HH & I went off to do a few things, more geocaching in Scottsboro, then we made it back to Payne’s about a half hour before closing to belly up to the counter for malts.  HH got a butter pecan malt and I got a vanilla malt.  We visited with Paula and Dean (she said it would be easy to remember their names with that combination), the other folks at the counter and learned that they were open from 10:30 AM – 1:30 PM Monday – Friday.  Yet they are on-site from 5:30 AM – about 5 PM each day, Dean was right, don’t work in a restaurant when you retire – it’s too much work!
Paula fixing a malt


Payne’s was such a bright, fun, spirited local diner in the heart of Scottsboro with ties and threads and attachments connected to that community.  The food was great, the malts were delicious, but Paula and Dean and the other locals are really what made it a wonderful place to stop.  Next time you are in Scottsboro, AL stop by Payne’s and tell Paula and Dean that Holly’s Diner sent you.


Elvis' Pound Cake

Covered in flour, just like it should be

I found this recipe in the October 2012 issue of Saveur Magazine, it was from a list of 101 Classic Recipes.  There were a number of recipes that looked interesting (and some are still earmarked), but the Elvis’ Pound Cake looked delicious, easy and I wanted to enhance it a bit based on some pound cake HH and I just had in Alabama.  Besides, a reason to use Art’s Mixer!
This recipe is easy, yummy and moist.  I added a teaspoon of lemon extract because I wanted a lemony taste.  The one thing that surprised me was that when it went in the oven and started to warm (it didn’t take long), the batter seemed to get “soupier” than I expected which meant that I filled the pans a bit too full.  Good thing I put a cookie sheet under the loaf pans which catch the run-off.
HH asked why it was called Pound Cake, wondering if it was because the cake weighed a pound, and I gave him some history.  For those of you who don’t know, when the pound cake recipe was originally shared years ago, bakers were told it took “a pound of flour, a pound of sugar, a pound of eggs.”  Thankfully the measurements are more refined for cooks without a kitchen scale like me.
One of two delicious loaves
Anyway, here’s the recipe.  Oh!  And it is called Elvis’ Pound Cake because according to the article in Saveur, Pound Cake was Elvis’ favorite dessert.
Elvis Presley's Pound Cake
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
3 cups cake flour, sifted, plus more for pans
3 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ tsp. kosher salt
7 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 9"x 5"x 2" loaf pans; set aside. Beat butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a bowl on medium-high speed of a hand mixer until pale and fluffy, about 6 minutes. Add eggs one at time, beating well after each, until smooth. Add flour and cream alternately, beginning and ending with flour, beating until smooth. Increase speed to high; beat batter until smooth and light, about 5 minutes. Divide batter between prepared pans, and smooth tops with a rubber spatula; bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a couple crumbs adhering to it, about 1 hour, 15 minutes. Let cool 30 minutes, and then unmold onto a cooling rack; let cool completely before slicing and serving.