Consumers Appear Indifferent to Country-of-Origin Labeling for Shrimp – Amber Waves June 2012

Here’s an interesting article we found about consumers and shrimp labeling.  It may seem, according to this article, that people are more conscious of price than origin these days.  How does this affect Gulf Coast Shrimpers? 

We at Gulf Coast Foodways are quite picky about food, especially seafood.  Where it comes from does matter to us and our family and will work the food budget to include local seafood when the price is higher.  It is difficult to find local or USA seafood at many of our grocery stores but we go out of our way to purchase from locals when we know the source is local, too.

Consumers Appear Indifferent to Country-of-Origin Labeling for Shrimp – Amber Waves June 2012.

Let us know what you think.

An Oyster Trail

Oysters.

You either love ‘em or you hate ‘em.

I like mine fried on a PoBoy with some tartar sauce or in on a heaping seafood platter sprinkled with fresh lemon juice and a dash of cocktail sauce. Earlier this year, I learned how to enjoy them raw when I attended a tasting at Lulu’s in Gulf Shores. The folks at Auburn University Shell Lab were holding a scientific study to find out what locally farmed oysters were the favorite among many people. Fun and yum!

Oysters can be a way of life. I’ve heard that my ancestors from the Eastern Shore of Maryland were oystermen. My husband and I have taken the kids on trips to Apalachicola to tour the oyster processing plants (little buildings on the shore). After learning all about farming, collecting and shucking we’ve headed to lunch for a tasty oyster meal. My children and I are oyster gardeners through the Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Project (Auburn University/Alabama Cooperative Extension program). We gathered some other families to help keep our cages and oysters clean and take weekly spat measurements. Spat is the term for baby oysters that we’re growing. There are oyster reefs and oyster farms around the Gulf and around the world.

This summer we met with someone from the Auburn Shell Lab who told us about an Oyster Trail Project they were starting up. I got some details on it recently that I’d like to share with you. It’s a real trail you can walk and will start off in Mobile.   Trail maps will be provided to guide visitors and explain the oyster’s role. Oyster sculptures will mark the trail and will be painted by local artists. 

Sponsorships of each oyster is available for $1,800.  I would love for Gulf Coast Foodways to sponsor an oyster sculpture but we need to do some fund raising.  If you’d like to donate to the GCF sponsorship fund (your name will be posted somehow as a member of GCF) please contact us at gulfcoastfoodways@yahoo.com.  Meanwhile, check out our membership info page on our blog.

Oysters make a good meal and since some people will drive hours for a good meal, we’ve made our own oyster trail.  It’s a  list of great oyster bars along the northern Gulf Coast for you to visit.  Listed by each Oyster Bar is the source of the oyster.  If there is no source listed, it simply means that we were told they came from various areas, depending on what was available. 

If you drive it east to west you can add an hour to your day of oyster enjoyment.  Most of these we’ve personally tested; others came highly recommended.  Since compiling this list, two have gone out of business so remember: always call ahead.  I don’t want to be blamed for wasting your time.  The trail is, of course, in a beautiful part of the country mostly on scenic drives so sit back and enjoy yourself. 

Starting in Apalachicola, FL note that all the oysters in town are from Apalachicola Bay.

Papa Joe’s: 301 Market Street, 850-653-1189

Boss Oysters: 123 Water Street, 850-653-9364

Hole in the Wall: 23 Avenue D, 850-653-3222

Eddy Teach’s Raw Bar (on St Georges Island): 37 East Pine Street, 850-927-5050

That Place Off 98: 17 Avenue E, 850-653-9898

Owl Cafe (mostly deep fried): 15 Avenue D, 850-653-9888

In Panama City, FL:

Billy’s Oyster Bar: 3000 Thomas Drive, 850-235-2349

Dusty’s Oyster Bar, Home of 2-time Oyster Shucking Competition Winner: 16459 Front Beach Road, 850-233-0035

Hunt’s Oyster Bar (Apalachicola Bay): 1150 Beck Avenue, 850-763-9645

In Grayton Beach, FL:

Hurricane Oyster Bar: 37 Logan Lane, Santa Rosa Beach, 850-231-0787

In Destin, FL:

The Boat House (Apalachicola Bay): 288 Harbor Blvd., 850-837-3645

In Ft. Walton Beach, FL:

High Tide Restaurant & Oyster Bar: 1203 Miracle Strip Pkwy, 850-244-2624

In Milton/Pensacola, FL:

Pete’s Oysters (East Bay and Escambia Bay): 2784 Avalon Blvd. , Milton, 805-626-9994

Marina Oyster Barn:  505 Bayou Blvd., 850-433-0511

Pegleg Pete’s: 1010 Ft Pickens Road, 805-932-4139

Oyster Bar on Perdido Key: 13700 River Road, Perdido Key, 805-492-5600

Crab Trap Seafood & Oyster Bar: 455 West Main Street, 805-912-8775

In Orange Beach/Gulf Shores/Bon Secour, AL:

Flora Bama: 17401 Perdido Key Blvd., Orange Beach, 251-980-5118

Gulf Shores Steamer & Grill: 27267 Perdido Beach Blvd., Gulf Shores 251-948-6344

King Neptunes: 1137 Gulf Shores Pkwy., 251-968-5464

Shrimp Basket: 301 Gulf Shores Pkwy., 251-947-7687

Doc’s Seafood Shack and Oyster Bar: 26029 Canal Road, Orange Beach, 251-981-6999 and 1140 Gulf Shores Pkwy., 251-967-4800

Mikees: 205 East 2nd Avenue, Gulf Shores 251-948-6452

Sea N Suds: 405 East Beach Blvd, Gulf Shores, 251-948-7984

The Steamer & Baked Oyster Bar: 124 West 1st Avenue, Gulf Shores251-948-4042

Tin Top (Bon Secour Bay): 6232 Bonsecour Hwy., Bon Secour 251-949-5086

In Mobile, AL:

Original Oyster House: several locations on the Eastern Shore.  The one in Mobile is located at 3733 Battleship Parkway, 251-626-2188

Wentzel’s: several locations on the Eastern Shore.  The one in Mobile is located at 605 Dauphin Street, 251-432-4605

Topless Oyster Raw Bar: 14570 Dauphin Island Parkway, Codin, 251-873-5555

River Shack: 6120 Marina Drive South, 251-433-7318

In Gulfport/Biloxi, MS:

Half Shell Oyster House: 2500 13th Street, Gulfport, 228-867-7001

In New Orleans, LA:

Red Fish Grill: 115 Bourbon Street, 504-598-1200

Bourbon House: 144 Bourbon Street, 504-522-0111

Drago’s Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar: 2 Poydras Street (inside the Hilton Hotel), 504-584-3911

Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar: 739 Iberville Street, 504-522-4440

Acme Oyster: 724 Iberville Street, 504-522-5973

Deanies: 841 Iberville Street, 504-581-1316

Corner Oyster Bar: 500 St. Peter Street, 504-522-2999

Cooter Brown’s: 509 South Carrollton Avenue, 504-866-9104

Casamentos Louisiana Oysters: (they close for the summer) 4330 Magazine Street, 504-895-9761

Last stop, Abbeville, LA:

Dupuy’s Oyster Shop: 108 South Main Street, 337-893-2336

Happy Trails……

Food Makes Great TV

The Gulf Coast has seen a lot of celebrity food television lately. Just this year so far sixteen of our Gulf Coast restaurants have been featured on shows like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and Man vs. Food Nation.

Most recently Mobile, Alabama was the site of an episode of Man vs. Food Nation. His visit on June 29th of this year, found Adam Richman munching down some great food at Southern Fish & Oyster Company, The Brick Pit, The Hungry Owl and ended with an oyster challenge at Wintzell’s Oyster House. The challenge was to eat 422 oysters. The challenger was “Big Joe” Evans, who didn’t quite make it. He ended at 305 after an hour of trying to beat the previous record.

Another oyster eating contest took place at a different Wintzell’s location on the Gulf Coast just two weeks earlier. Participants in the Distinguished Young Women scholarship competition gave it their all with the winner downing just 64 raw oysters in five minutes.

Two other episodes of Man vs. Food Nation took place along the Gulf Coast. On June 1st, Adam visited Skippers Smokehouse and Rapscallions, both in Tampa, FL. And, after the oyster episode, Adam checked out Calypso Beach Café in Panama City Beach, Florida, Original Oyster House in Mobile, and The Shed in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives had been to the Gulf Coast earlier in the year. Covering the western part of the Gulf Coast in 7 episodes, Guy Fieri showed his viewers the great food at Katie’s Restaurant and Bar, Mahoney’s Po Boy Shop and The Old Coffee Pot Restaurant in New Orleans. He also visited LA Pines Café in Slidell, LA, and Louie & the Redhead Lady in Mandeville, LA. Heading over to Texas, Dough Pizzeria Napoletana and Moroccan Bites, both in San Antonio, also made the show.

The Gulf Coast has a wide variety of great restaurants. This listing of those that made television fame is only a sampling. Other great shows like America’s Best, Cupcake Wars and The Best Thing I Ever Ate have come to see where we like to dine.

You can scout out what restaurants have been television show-worthy by checking out this website: www.tvfoodmaps.com. Of course, there are plenty other restaurants along the Gulf Coast that are TV-worthy. It just takes time to get them all on film.

You can find listings of all the great Southern restaurants on our sister website, Dixiedining.com. The site is undergoing an update and a re-write, so for now call to make sure the restaurant is open before heading out.

Alabama Shrimp Cook-off

Mark your calendars for May 14th so you can attend the 8th annual Shrimp Cook-off which will be held in Bienville Square in Mobile. It’s a major fundraiser for HandsOn South Alabama, an organization that promotes volunteerism. Tickets are $10 and you can get them at any Bankcorp South location or the HandsOn South Alabama Office on Government Street. Call 251-433-4456 for more info.
This is a great festival to celebrate all of those who volunteer along the Gulf Coast including people who put in endless hours during and after the oil spill last year. It’s also a celebration of shrimp; a staple food and livelihood for many Gulf Coast residents. You gotta love Gulf shrimp.
It should be a great event this year and promises to feature over 30 different shrimp dishes. Wonder if Forrest Gump will be there.

Tea Time

When you think of tea plantations you generally think of South Carolina, India or China. But, there’s a tea plantation here in Fairhope, AL. Its owner is Donnie Barrett, Director of the Fairhope Museum and he gave us a tour and some tea.

Tea is not an easy plant to grow and harvest. Its methods are “secrets” and guarded by families who grow it. Donnie had to travel several times to China to tour some of the farms and, acting as a casual tourist, he was able to ask the right questions, and enough of them, to figure it out. It also helped that he and his wife hired a man from China to come back to America with them to be the family cook. They learned each other’s languages including “southern”, and Donnie learned even more about growing and harvesting tea.

His tea is delicious and he described to us how to infuse the leaves and get a great tasting pot tea. Green tea, white tea, black tea…they all come from the same plant and the same leaves. It is the process you put them through that makes them different. Donnie gave us some of his “ancient Chinese secrets”, but I lost my pen somewhere along the way and couldn’t get all the details into my notebook.

Tea grows great under a canopy as it does in the full sun, but it’s meant to be a shade plant. Under the sun, the leaves grow straight up; under a canopy or in the shade they tend to grow horizontal from the branches. Believe it or not, this makes the flavor different. We got to chew on some leaves. Very “green” tasting.

Tea is from the camellia family. The tea plants produce a flower and when the petals drop, a seed pod is left behind. When it dries out and cracks open the seeds fall to the ground. Donnie keeps these from sprouting and mixing in with his plants. One of the keys he taught us is that you shouldn’t mix tea plant generations because they taste different. The seeds don’t produce identical replicas of the parent plant. So when we were finished the tour, we helped him pull up some seedlings which he sent home with us along with directions for planting. I may not have a plantation but maybe I’ll have a surviving plant to make tea from.

The tea plantation has been the site of many television shows. He used to give regular tours to bus loads of people but not anymore. Tea technicians come out regularly to sample the leaves and check the soil. Donnie has given several plants to the state of Alabama for, I believe he said the extension service, to experiment with in hopes of growing enough tea plants to sell to residents.

When the tour was over, we visited with his newly hatched turkey (only an hour old at that point) and learned about the other hobbies that keep him busy: emus, chickens, peacocks, turkeys, and art (he carves limestone). Donnie serves up his tea at the Fairhope Museum on Thursdays so stop by for a cup of tea and a lecture on history.

As I got into my car I realized I had stuck my pen into my back pocket. I guess I wasn’t supposed to reveal his secrets to tea growing. When I got home, I made a pot of sweet tea; Luzianne not Fairhope Camellia but it was good.

Oyster Tasting Party in Gulf Shores with Lulu Buffett

Do you really care where your oysters come from or do you just like to slurp them down with an ice cold beer?  Would you pay more for a quality oyster?

Auburn University and its Shell Lab on Dauphin Island is interested in knowing your opinions. They hosted an oyster tasting shindig at Lulu’s in Gulf Shores, Alabama last night. We were among 51 participants who signed up and enjoyed some great tasting oysters.

There were 8 different oysters to smell, admire, touch, and taste from different areas along the Gulf Coast. The states of Florida, Alabama and Louisiana were all represented. Some were wild, some were farm raised. We gave ratings for appearance of the whole shell, then, once the oysters were shucked, we ranked them on color, texture, moisture, the general appearance of the edges, and overall size.

 

Then came the tasting. We were discouraged from using traditional condiments like cocktail sauce. That is not an easy task — even for the most diehard oyster lover.  Gary and I both gave similar ratings. He’s had far more experience tasting raw oysters than I, but I think I did an equally good job and enjoyed them very much. Turns out our favorites were farm raised oysters.

I won’t spoil the research with any more details. Bill Walton and his crew at the Auburn Shell Lab have a substantial pile of paperwork to mull over and tally.

So, in answer to my question: The taste does matter to us and we would pay more for a great tasting oyster. 

And the cold beer?  Well, that’s a given.

Follow these big old footprints (seen above) to Lulu’s compound!

www.lulusathomeport.com

Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off

Dauphin Island’s Gumbo Cook-off was today and that’s were we ate lunch. You can’t beat the price, only $10 in advance and you could order tickets online. Lunch is all-you-can-eat as long as it’s available and you don’t mind standing in multiple lines for it.

We tried almost all of them; almost all because some vendors ran out early. I was told the turnout was bigger than the planners expected.

Here is my description of the choices we sampled: a gumbo that was very soupy (the shrimp I had were mushy); a tomato-soupish gumbo with fish and rice (I didn’t get a shrimp in that sample); a gumbo that was more like shrimp and rice in butter sauce; a shrimp and rice gumbo with a perfect roux (my winning pick); one that was too spicy to eat; and a seafood mixture with a bland roux. Most were really good and there was definitely a variety.

The winners should be in the Mobile paper tomorrow.

Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off 3/26/11

Alton Brown was the guest for the event. He took a trip on a shrimp boat with some VIPs (Gary included) in the morning.  He was to do a meet-and-greet around 3pm and then go have dinner with some VIPs.

We didn’t stick around. My oldest son is not a fan of gumbo so he held out for lunch on the way home: Chick-Fil-A. My youngest was disappointed he couldn’t get to meet Alton Brown. He’s the food nerd in our house and a big fan of Mr. Brown.

The day was wonderful; sunshine, perfect temperatures, not too humid. If you didn’t make it this year, I suggest you put it on your calendar for next year.

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