Friday, March 26, 2010

Mama's in Mobile

In my quest to find unique dining establishments in my current home port of Mobile, I made my way downtown and strolled the quaint Dauphin Street to see what was going on... culinarily speaking. I found a lovely restaurant producing some great food without pretense, snobbery, or "flair." Nice atmosphere, just like you stepped back in time... the good time. High ceilings, a nice smell coming out of the kitchen, and people enjoying their meals. The name was simply "Mama's."

This place has been open in this location about 6 to 7 years. While there is no official Mama, Marshall Barstow answers to the call of owner, manager, or proprietor. A friendly fellow who told me how he'd like to expand but there's nowhere to expand to. That's a shame, they seem to have a great business. I was there around 1:30 on a Monday, and the place has full. It seemed to be mostly locals who, by the way, can lead you to the better eating establishments. (BTW of you're in a cruise port, follow the crew to the best eateries) I settled in and inquired from a fellow at a table nearby, "what's good?" "Everything," he said. Sounds like I've hit the spot.

I was greeted by a schweeeet little lady named Julie. Not only was she pretty, but was friendly as can be. I settled one some gumbo, since we all know "I LOVE GUMBO" and I need it every-so-often to summon my "inner Cajun" spirit. The gumbo was very good, nice and dark, with ample bits of seafood, in a word, TASTY! I will have to say I was disappointed their "Lunch Special Meatloaf Platter" was sold out. Dang, my second favorite, oh well, back to the menu. Oh, in this picture, Julie is on the right in a green shirt, and her friend and fellow waitress Ashley is next to her.

For my entreé, I chose the Red Beans and Rice. Being a Monday, and we all know the rule about Red Beans... well you don't remember??? Red Beans are cooked on Monday since it's wash day. The object is that you put them on and slide them back on the stove on simmer and let'em cook all day. The beans were exceptional, seasoned with the local favorite Conecuh Smoked Sausage, they had a wonderful flavor, all that smoky goodness in each bite. I also chose a side of collard greens with my meal. They were very nice as well. Everything was good here. I know they serve fresh seafood and Alabama Wild Shrimp for example. Good products make good meals.

In case you haven't figured this out, there is a lot of Cajun and Creole food down here in Mobile. As I've said before, "if I can't work out of New Orleans, Mobile is a great alternative." I would mention Mama's website, if they had one. I told Marshall he needs to get on that right away. He said he would. Since I am link happy, CLICK HERE for a page of great reviews. They are located downtown Mobile, at 220 Dauphin St., about a block from the park. They are only open for lunch, five days a week, 11:00am - 2:00pm. They have great food, good prices, and friendly attractive ladies to serve it to you. That's not sexist, they are pretty, and smart too, they liked my new hat I had just bought next door. I'll get a pic of it up soon, it's real nice!


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mobile's Cookin' Chili... woo-hoo!!!

I smell cumin, I smell tomatoes, hurry where are my chili boots, get my chili boots!!! OK, let's relax and take a breath. Smell that? Mmmmmm, that's the smell of Mobile Alabama's 21st Annual ACS Chili Cook-Off, and I'm heading downtown.

I work on a cruise ship out of Mobile, a lovely little place that, if I can't do a ship out of New Orleans, Mobile is a nice runner-up. You can see an influence from the numerous Cajun and Creole restaurants to the Mardi Gras that takes place the same time as the one in New Orleans. Interestingly the Mobilians will tell you that Mardi Gras originated in Mobile. A fact that New Orleaneans tend to avoid, but I won't go there.

Anyhow, I arrived on Saturday to join the ship and got a call from my buddy Jason, telling me that the Chili Cook-Off was going on in the park downtown. We made plans to meet and test the different chilis and determine which we think is best, or worst. My first chili cook-off and me without my lucky wooden chili spoon. I would survive.

Well the atmosphere was electric with a hint of cilantro. We got our hand stamped and moved through the crowd following our noses. Jason had been there earlier that day and knew the ins and outs. We arrived at the first tent and received my first taste of chili.

The first chili we sampled was actually one of the best ones we tasted. The provided sour cream, shredded cheese, and the best part was a piece of cornbread. Now before I go any further, the chili was about 1 or 2 spoonfuls, the cornbread was the size of a cube of sugar. I found out why you get such tiny portions later after our 4th or 5th tent. Those little spoonfuls add up quickly, thankfully I was not adorning my chili with the cheese and sour cream, but it does accumulate quite fast.

Now most of them tasted about the same. A few of them had a nice smoky flavor, indicating the inclusion of andouille or a similar smoked meat. A few of the booths were REALLY aggressive and, funny enough, these tended to be the lesser chilis, over-compensating for an inferior product. There were actually a few that were AWFUL.

Some of the highlights were the Fire Department that included corn fritters with theirs. Since I am on a low-carb diet, one of these, along with the aformentioned cornbread, and hidden carbs in the chili had me at my limit for the day. There were great corn fritters containing bits of corn and jalapeña peppers. Very tasty, and helped out the fact their chili was only marginal at best. Sorry guys, I love and admire firemen, but the chili was just OK. While we're talking about good causes, I nearly failed to mention the Chili Cook-Off was sponsored by the American Cancer Society. What a great organization, it always feels good to help them out.

I will have to say that the two worst chilis of the day were those containing odd meats like buffalo, etc. The buffalo chili was horrible. Now, I can't imagine buffalo actually tasting like this and people around the country eating it and telling everyone how great it is. "Oooh, buffalo is sooooo good, and low in fat, and this, and that, and blah, blah, blah," you can hear them gushing. This chili actually tasted spoiled or like it contained some alien organ meats of some sort. It went straight in the trash.

Now for the mmost part the contenders were traditional chili types, not one of those snooty Texas cook-offs where everybody is braggin', "they ain't no beans in my chili, true chili don't contain no beans, that's the way we cook it in Texas, while we use our double-negatives and such." They're like that about their barbecue too, oh they brag about it with their tough-ass brisket and "no sauce" policy. Don't get me started. Anyway, I like beans in my chili, they add so much to the dish, in my humble opinion. Of course you pay for it later.

To sum this post up, my buddy Jason and I had a great Chili Cook-Off. I managed to not blow the diet and have a good time. There were some good chilis, some bad chilis, and one REALLY bad chili. The moral of this story is... no one makes chili better than my own. If you'd like my recipe, CLICK HERE!