This Week’s Various

Chez FonFon, Birmingham AL

lunch at Chez Fonfon

James Beard Semifinalists were announced this week, and *just a few* excited about:

Best New Restaurant: Automatic Seafood in B’ham, Gianna in New Orleans
Outstanding Baker: Graison Gill, Bellegarde Bakery, New Orleans
Outstanding Hospitality: Brigtsen’s, New Orleans; Chez FonFon, Bham
Outstanding Restaurant: The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, Houston

And several more from the Best Chef regional categories. Full list here.

PS Bellegarde has classes.

Jim Smith (Top Chef) has just opened a restaurant in Mobile, Alabama — Hummingbird Way.

Mildred - Collinsville, AL

’tis the season.
Collinsville AL

Faulkner House Books

Faulkner House Books
inside Faulkner House

Faulkner House Books in New Orleans has been sold to Garner Robinson and Devereaux Bell. Going over their Insta, here’s a view of St Anthony’s Garden behind St Louis Cathedral from the 4th floor townhouse.

Downtown Hartselle at Night

pool hall at night in Hartselle, AL

Downtown Hartselle at Night

bridal shop at night in Hartselle, AL

The AJC points out that Yelp’s highest-rated bbq restaurant in Atlanta — Socks’ Love Barbecue on Buford Hwy in Cumming — is only open three hours/day (Tu – Sa 11a-2p).

If you’re in the mood to read Yelp reviews with a little different flavor, here you go. He’s from Oxford. I don’t know what it is. I have to read every one he does.

Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Hanceville AL
Mother Angelica’s project, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament

March 5, Janie Ledlow Shores and Mother Angelica will be inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame at Judson.

Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans
Hotel Monteleone

In December, the short doc “Hotel Al” (Al Barras from the Hotel Monteleone) was uploaded to YouTube

Big Bob Gibson's, Decatur AL

Big Bob Gibson’s has retired their melamine plates and joined the bbq masses in using the metal trays for serving. Sigh.

From the NYT: A Shot Before Last Call: Capturing New Orleans’s Vanishing Black Bars
Two years ago, a photographer began documenting the remaining black-owned bars and lounges on a storied stretch of St. Bernard Avenue. Inside these spaces, tradition is paramount. The writer and photographer, L. Kasimu Harris, is based in New Orleans and has a show going on now through March 29, “Vanishing Black Bars & Lounges,” at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center in Pittsburgh.

Mike Shine Catfish Mural, New Orleans LA

Mike Shine catfish mural in New Orleans

At Forbes: The Mississippi River Delta Is The Fastest Shrinking Delta In The World. NASA Wants To Know Why

This description of Houston’s MAD at Texas Monthly:

It is chef Luis Roger’s tribute to Spain’s culinary magician Ferran Adrià, the individual often credited with inventing molecular gastronomy. So when you sit down, turn straight to Modern Tapas on the menu and order one of everything. The magic starts with Liquid Olives, spheres of pure olive juice miraculously encased in a skin so thin it bursts at the mere touch of a tooth. The MAD Tomato is not really a hothouse beauty but a trompe l’oeil gelatin shell seductively filled with Parmesan mousse and emerald pesto. Between courses, enjoy the space-themed decor, whirling mirrors, marquee lights, and sinuous art-glass chandeliers.

A TM review of it here, also.

Vixen’s Wedding in Austin is also on the TM Best New Restaurants 2020 list, and how does their chaat fried green tomatoes, herbed yogurt, mint chutney sound? Nice.

If you’re looking at that list and thinking it’s super heavy on a certain swath of Texas, well, agreed.

The Agriculture Queens of Louisiana: As climate change threatens exports like oysters and rice, residents cling to a pageant tradition that celebrates them at the NYT

Dog Mural, New Orleans

@ianthepainter mural in New Orleans

The AJC had a piece about Adrian Miller coming to speak at the Atlanta History Center this past week with some stories from his 2017 book, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas. As someone fascinated with FDR, was particularly interested to read about chef Daisy Bonner who worked at Warm Springs (he apparently loved the pigs feet she prepared). From the AJC:

He died on April 12, 1945, in the Little White House awaiting a lunch prepared by Bonner. She’d made a cheese soufflé. Before she could bring it from the kitchen to the dining room, he complained of an excruciating headache and slumped at the table. He was pronounced dead about two hours later. Bonner claimed the soufflé did not fall until Roosevelt took his last breath.

“She was so moved by his death, that if you go to Warm Springs today, you’ll see her handwriting on the wall where she says, ‘Daisy Bonner cooked the first meal and the last one in this cottage for … President Roosevelt.’”

The recipe for her cheese soufflé is at the bottom of the AJC’s article. I made it as part of supper last night — pretty good, but Daisy Bonner would have disapproved: two minutes later, it was flat.

Cheese Souffle goes floof

Filet, Old Town Stock House, Guntersville AL Lamb Chops, Old Town Stock House, Guntersville AL

Most delicious food I’ve had this month: Old Town Stock House in Guntersville AL (both pics above), and a close second place goes to Louisiana Lagniappe in Destin.

Warehouse, Collinsville AL

These lines. These shapes. These angles.
Warehouse, Collinsville AL

Mandarin Oriental Tea Service, Las Vegasmarmalade at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas

Just presh: older Brits talking marmalade
Architect Arata Isozaki’s Oita Prefectural Library
This Jello Platter Madison Slicker by Rachel Antonoff at Frances May is everything
That is a big armadillo
Solid advice

Slow Death Sign, Gadsden AL

Slow Death sign in Gadsden AL

The iPhone at the Deathbed: Families are photographing death at home. These photos may feel jarring on Facebook, but the practice itself has a long history.

“What’s happening now is that people are taking back that process,” Dr. Burns continued. “But the impulse to photograph is the same as it was for the Victorians. They want to show they have seen their person through to the end. ‘I’ve done this work, I’ve loved her to the end.’ It’s your last bond, and you want to document that.”

He wasn’t mentioned, but my first thought was Shelby Lee Adams’ ‘The Home Funeral, Leatherwood, Kentucky’.

If you a home funeral/wake story you’d like to share (with just me, not for a post), I’d love to hear it.

Not a home funeral story, but I went to a funeral last year in which people were nonchalantly taking pics of each other. I was asked to be in a big family photo because I’m very close friends with one person there (I’ve shared with him my feelings — what follows (bless him, he heard some of it whispered to him in real-time), and he’s good with it). In my mind, I was doing this whole calculus about what was appropriate: a/ I’m not DNA family so how can I gently NOT be in this pic without being disrespectful, b/ they’re insisting: is everyone smiling? Should I smile too? If I don’t, will people wonder what my issue is? btw they were smiling because that’s what you do in family pictures c/ shouldn’t we all look at best neutral since we’re…like…at a funeral? d/ it’s really bad form to be thinking about how I should bend one leg and put my hand on my hip because I live in the year (then) 2019 and ugh I am so ashamed of myself for even thinking of these stupid self-absorbed things here e/ I can’t stop thinking about this even though it isn’t exactly the same but this is how my brain works apparently f/ generalized what the heck, who takes pictures at funerals and g/ maybe I need to get over my Puritanical self because it seems most people, even the oldest ones whom I perceive would be most traditional and against it, are taking pictures and smiling in them

Are you also confused as to whether taking pictures at funerals is bad taste or it’s okay and what we do now, and it can be infused with a more gentle, loving take on things? Like funerals aren’t just embedded with so much…ugh, what’s even the word, but you know what I mean…anymore which is a healthy move for us all? Still. I am so conflicted. Tell me how you feel about it for your family.

How Dorothea Lange Defined the Role of the Modern Photojournalist: She created one of the most enduring images of the 20th century, but she also created a new model for her discipline.

Looking at Lange’s career today, it’s possible to see that her photographic innovations were less visual and technical than they were interpersonal. She spoke while taking people’s pictures. Before asking them any questions at all, she talked about herself. She explained where she was from and her job as she understood it to be; she spoke of her children and of how much she missed them while on assignment. By revealing herself, subjects showed themselves to her in return. More than perhaps any other photographer’s work, Lange’s was less about bearing witness to history than it was about engaging directly with it, of being part of history itself.

BTW, we probably all think of her ‘Migrant Mother’ pic foremost, but she took so many other compelling images. Her ‘Alabama Plow Girl, near Eutaw, Alabama’ is here, in the collection of the Met.

Louis Armstrong’s house in Queens is a museum and the decor/furnishings (that kitchennnnnn) have been preserved and are just delicious.

Beauty Salon in Natchez MS
downtown Natchez

Travel author (Dispatches from Pluto) Richard Grant’s new The Deepest South of All: True Stories from Natchez, Mississippi will be out September 1, and from the description at Amazon of some of the real-life characters, we can be assured that Southern Gothic is in plentiful supply.

Layla Khoury-Hanold writes for the Chicago Tribune: An appetite for Asheville: North Carolina mountain town’s food reaches new heights and the new Chow Chow food festival (next one this September) sounds fab. Actually, all of it sounds amazing. And speaking of, Asheville Art Museum through May 4 has on exhibit A Telling Instinct:
John James Audubon & Contemporary Art.

Mammy's Cupboard, Natchez MS
the Mammy’s Cupboard building in Natchez, from a pic made last month — this building referenced below re: Simone Leigh’s sculpture. I’ve been documenting the state of this building for a while now — it’s now minus an arm and the tray

Late last month, the Guggenheim sent out a press release that thanks to support from their acquisition committees, they were able to acquire more than 30 works in 2019. With a Mississippi reference:

Jug (2019) is one of a suite of new sculptures Simone Leigh created for her exhibition The Hugo Boss Prize 2018: Simone Leigh, Loophole of Retreat at the Guggenheim. In these works, Leigh merges the human body with architectural elements, evoking countless unacknowledged acts of female labor and care. Jug merges the titular vessel with the ancient archetype of the nude statue, while the voluminous skirt references “Mammy’s Cupboard,” a Mississippi restaurant in which patrons entered through the skirts of a racist caricature.

Jimmy Carter has enough solar panels installed on this farm in Plains to provide power to half the town. Via Inhabitat: On a good sunny day, the panels provide 1.3 megawatts of power, Carter told the Sierra Club soon after the panels were installed. One megawatt provides enough energy to power 400 to 900 homes.

Also, at Daily Yonder: Cash-strapped Farms are Growing a New Crop: Solar Panels

Hicks' Hot Tamales, Clarksdale MS
at Hicks’ Hot Tamales in Clarksdale MS

Hot on the trail of tamales, on a road trip through the Mississippi Delta in the Chicago Tribune — it’s more a list of places to go rather than a deep-dive on the tradition.

The Gamer with 10 Great Games You Didn’t Know Were Based Off of Books, and you already know what game we’re talking about here:

The story of the game itself is as original as any medieval fantasy, however, Shigeru Miyamoto has admitted that he was greatly inspired by Zelda Fitzgerald and her novel, Save Me The Waltz, when creating the character of Princess Zelda.

I need someone to turn great Southern lit into video games (we can start with something like Welty’s Robber Bridegroom…can you imagine how beautiful…) DM me for my PO box so the licensing, residuals, consultancy fees come to the right place, ha.

The Pakistani-Appalachian Fusion Food Truck

The cuisine served from the truck is exactly what it sounds like: a mashup of Pakistani and Appalachian gustatory traditions. Take The Pakalachian’s green tomato pakoras, for example. As Mohsin coats slices of crisp, unripe tomatoes in a spiced chickpea flour batter just before deep-frying, he describes the dish as both a classic Pakistani fritter and a play on classic fried green tomatoes found in Appalachia and across the American south.

Shug at Tropicaleo, Birmingham

Anyway, we’re over the moon that Shug got accepted into both upper schools he was looking into. There were essays to write, grade transcripts, personal and teacher recommendations, the SSAT, interviews, and he was cool through the whole thing. Super proud of him and little brother, who will be looking to make his own move to a new school in a couple of years. After hearing some hard news with friends and some generalized blah here (a stupid-expensive new roof is something we’re going to have to deal with sooner than expected, apparently), we needed something to cheer about. Hope you’ve got really good news going on, and your roof is in stellar condition too, friends. Have a fun weekend! xoxo!