Posts Tagged With: Dauphin Island Alabama

Dauphin Island, Part the Second

My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past weekend, on the 17th.  I think that’s a pretty big deal.  And I’m particularly excited that they got married, because otherwise we would not have been able to celebrate that milestone on Dauphin Island a couple of weekends ago.  Nor would I have been born, which was pretty important, too – at least to me.

If there is any activity that makes me hungry, it is swimming.  I’m not sure that floating around in the ocean or excavating the moat around my sand castle counts as real exercise, but somehow I got pretty hungry anyway.  Our lunches in the condo were tame but plentiful – sandwiches, chips and dips followed by two limited edition flavors of Golden Oreos– lemon crème and birthday cake.  (Nothing really beats an original Oreo, but I try not to let a new flavor come along without trying it at least once.)  As a side, I had a few bites of West Indies Crab Salad I’d picked up at Bayley’s restaurant on the way to the island.  It’s basically just crab meat and onions marinated in cider vinegar, oil and cold water, invented by Mr. Bayley back in 1947.  Simple but tasty, and also a check mark off one of my eat-it-before-you-die lists.

Our second evening there was family photo night.  We all donned our white tops and khaki bottoms and took as many shots as possible before dark-thirty, then caravanned to dinner.  Despite the legion of culinary options in Mobile, we chose to forgo the long drive and went across the street to Islanders.

The Family Reed, in official beach photo attire

The Family Reed, in official beach photo attire

We started with a big plate of fried crab claws, another family Dauphin Island tradition.  I should have been wary when it said “market price”.  But hey, we were celebrating.  For the main meal I found myself in a menu dilemma.  They had shrimp and grits, a dish that always grabs my attention.  Even when there are other enticing selections, I always wonder “what amazing rendition of shrimp and grits might I miss if I don’t order it here?”  The other option I was considering was a pork ribeye, which I had never seen on a menu before.  I figured I was at the beach so the seafood choice was the logical one.  The shrimp and grits were decent – they had little bits of Conecuh sausage mixed in, too, which added to the Alabama-ness of the whole thing.

The next morning was play-time in the kitchen.  Younger brother made pancake bites – little mini-muffins made from pancake batter, served with syrup.  I brought along my deep fryer and made donuts from canned biscuits – buttermilk Grands with a hole cut out of the center. I’m not usually a big fan of canned biscuits, but when you deep-fry them and pour on the glaze, they take on a new personality, one I would like to spend more time with.  So we had pancakes that were muffins and donuts that were biscuits.  Twisted but fun.

At dinner we went back to the ocean, so to speak.  Skinner’s Seafood, just down from the hotel, provided us with local grouper filets – some we fried and some we blackened for fish tacos.  We also brought home steamed shrimp, which Younger Brother combined with an oven roast of corn cobettes and the tiniest little potatoes I’ve ever seen, for a spin on a low country tradition.  Needless to say, we ate long and well.  Again.  Thank goodness I got up at dawn to run ten miles on the beach every morning.  Right.  Dessert was chocolate cobbler and homemade vanilla ice cream which didn’t really want to freeze.  It was more like vanilla milkshake poured over chocolate cobbler.  But does that sound bad?  Nope.  It was just fine.

After a quick snack breakfast the next morning we checked out and headed for the end of the island to catch the ferry over to Gulfshores.  While we waited, we all got ice cream at the little monopoly shop at the ferry departure point, because it’s never too early in the day for ice cream.  Besides, it was hot, and that Coke float was just what Dr. Jay ordered.  Literally, that’s what I ordered.  They didn’t get it wrong.

Younger Brother and fam headed to points east, while we cut north to Foley.  We had some last-minute school shopping to do at the outlets, and had our sights set on Lambert’s Café for lunch.  Since we’d just had ice cream, we waited till mid-afternoon to go and the parking lot was still packed to the gills.  Once we were seated, they began bringing the “pass-arounds” – fried okra that they spoon out on the middle of the table on a paper towel, and the famous “throwed rolls”.  If you haven’t been to Lambert’s before, you need to be a little wary.  They throw the rolls.  Across the room.  They are amazingly accurate throwers, but one toss to Son ended up smacking me directly on the right ear.  Another hit Doc on the head, split in two, sending one half spinning  directly into Daughter’s hands.  The Wife took one for the team directly on the chest.  And the food just kept coming.  I considered sustaining myself solely on the pass-arounds – macaroni with tomatoes, black-eyed peas, cabbage, fried potatoes with onions.  That would have more than filled me up.  But I noticed they had deep-fried hog jowls.   How could I not order that?  The server described them as similar to thick-sliced bacon, and that’s essentially what appeared – a plate full of curled pieces of thick fried bacon.  Wow.

Lambert's Deep-Fried Hog Jowls, with a little sorghum for dippin'

Lambert’s Deep-Fried Hog Jowls, with a little sorghum for dippin’

I’d love you to believe that I came home and ate low-fat yogurt and salads with no appreciable dressing for the next week, or that I actually ran those early-morning miles on the beach.  But some of you have seen me since that weekend and you know better. It was worth the sacrifice to celebrate such a big day.  Happy 50th, Mama and Daddy!

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Dauphin Island Eats – Part the First

Everyone should have milestone memories of childhood summer vacations.  We had some great ones, but my earliest revolve around family trips to Dauphin Island, Alabama.  I don’t remember the first time we went – I was but a wee lad, after all – and without studying hurricane history I can’t pinpoint the year we started going elsewhere (though I think it had something to do with the Holiday Inn blowing into the Gulf).  But I do know that it was our standard vacation for several years running.  Some of the details are fuzzy, but I remember little bits about playing on the beach, visiting Fort Gaines and the USS Alabama, and hearing on television that Elvis had died – Mama didn’t believe me.

Some of my more vivid memories, not surprisingly, have to do with what and how we ate on those early trips.  We always took a cooler and an electric skillet, so Mama could cook in the room.  Other regular passengers were Vienna sausages and saltines, since they travelled pretty well.  A special treat was the deviled ham – it wasn’t something we ate at home very often.  We did eat out at a restaurant in Bayou le Batre called Mary’s Place, where I learned to love fried crab claws.  My folks remember chickens and other barnyard animals hanging around the parking lot.  Farm to table, indeed.

All this reminiscing is not just random.  The memories have been revived because we finally went back.  It took us around thirty-five years to do it, but we made it, just in time for an early celebration of The Folks’ 50th wedding anniversary.   Younger Brother and his family, The Folks, and my crew crammed ourselves into a condo which just happened to be on the same property where the Holiday Inn once stood.  How cool is that?  Pretty cool, if you ask me.

As you have come to expect, we took care to fill up the celebratory weekend with good eating.  But we had to get there first.  We weren’t able to check into the condo until mid-afternoon, so we decided to stop for lunch in Mobile.  At this point on the trip there were eight of us in the caravan: The Folks, The Wife and I, Son and Daughter, and Younger Brother’s dual offspring-ettes, Thing 1 and Thing 2.  That meant we had to find a place that would please a multitude of appetites.  I found the Dew Drop Inn on my handy-dandy list of must-eat dishes in Alabama and asked Mama (since she wasn’t driving) to locate it.  It turned out to be only a few blocks off the beaten path, and was known for hot dogs and hamburgers – convenient and simple, the perfect combination for our travel party.

SAMSUNG

The Dew Drop Inn has been around in some form or fashion since 1924, and bills itself as Mobile’s Oldest Restaurant.    Even more interesting to a food enthusiast like me, it may well have been the restaurant that introduced the hot dog to south Alabama.  And though the menu was extensive, I stuck with tradition.  The World Famous Dew Drop Inn Hot Dog is a bright red frank (that concerned Thing 2 just a little, but she was able to get past it in the end) on a toasted bun, dressed with chili, sauerkraut, ketchup, mustard and a pickle slice.  They’ll fix it however you like, but when I order someone’s signature dish, I like to get it the suggested way.  There were a lot of flavors popping in the mouth with this dog, as you can imagine just by reading the toppings – and I thought they all worked well together.  Thing 1 got some onion rings (also highly rated) so I enjoyed a few of hers in addition to my fried dill pickle spears.  The Wife got a Dew Drop cheeseburger, which supposedly is the one that inspired Jimmy Buffet’s love for burgers during his boyhood years in Mobile.  History can be fun, especially when you get to eat it.

World Famous Dew Drop Dog

World Famous Dew Drop Dog

Younger Brother is a food enthusiast much like me.  Whenever we get together, we end up swapping ideas and stories about places we have been and what we’ve eaten there.  Together we have discovered some memorable places, but on this trip we chose to maximize the family time by preparing most of our meals in the condo.  What did that mean?  It meant that together we brought enough food to last the ten of us about a week.  We stayed three nights.  But we had lots of variety, and we didn’t go hungry.  It worked for us.

Night one was Mexican night, primarily sponsored by Younger Brother and fam.  He brought chicken and ground beef and all the fixings for tacos; I contributed some green onion sausage from Jerry Lee’s Cajun grocery in Baton Rouge – it was as close as I could come to chorizo on short notice.  For dessert I had a grand idea: all three families would bring an ice cream freezer, we’d make three different kinds of homemade ice cream on the first night, and eat it all through the weekend.  Alas, that didn’t happen, but we did whip up a freezer of strawberry to cool off our palates after the spicy dinner.  It lasted, oh, about one night.

The next morning we had one of our two meals out.  We had done our research, and found that the place with the best reviews on the island was breakfast at the Lighthouse Bakery.  We kinda’ went crazy.  The signature pastry was the cinnamon roll, so we got a few of those (plain and pecan).  On the savory side, we snagged a drove of little pigs-in-blankets and some bacon-wrapped twisted rolls.  (Breakfast equals pork, right?) A few cheese and raspberry-filled danishes, lathered in decadent icing, brought us back to the sweet side along with a couple of fruit turnovers.  That gave us enough energy to pack our snacks for the beach and start thinking about lunch.

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