Chicken –> Duck –> Turkey = Turducken

So for Valentine’s Day supper, I fixed a turducken! Well, okay, by ‘fixed’ I mean I took it, thawed, out of the refrigerator and into the oven, and a couple of hours later onto a platter.

It wasn’t a full-fledged turducken, because that would involve taking several hours to debone, etc – this was a “breast of turducken”, much better suited for two people with lots and lots of leftovers. It was yummy!

Grand Opera House, Meridian MS

Above are pictures taken last week at the Grand Opera House in Meridian, which we got to go in and see even though it is still under renovation. The Opera House is actually on the second floor of the Marks-Rothenberg building (which was a department store in the late 19th and early 20th century), and to get to the opera house, you had to walk through the store. The store built the opera house, so this was a “marketing opportunity”. 🙂

In the picture above, you can see the stage, the fire curtain, and some of the boxes.

The Opera House was leased to Saenger Theatres in 1923 and closed by Saenger in 1928 when they built “The Temple” theater. Really, although some renovation efforts have been made over the years, the theater was mostly just as it was in 1928 with the added decay of 75 years or so.

Mississippi State is heading up the project with plans to renovate the entire M-R building (and other buildings on that block) for multi-use, including a MSU campus, a Meridian Community College campus, a conference center, space for other exhibits/museums, a parking garage, and performances at the restored Grand Opera House.

I can’t wait to go once it is reopened in March of 2006! Yay!

Weidmann’s, Meridian

We enjoyed a hosted supper Saturday night with many, many friends at Weidmann’s in Meridian (MS). Weidmann’s has been a landmark in Meridian since 1870, and has operated continuously since then, except when it closed for renovations a couple of years ago.

How it used to be:
It used to be open from early in the morning to pretty late each day, and the servers, who most had probably been there decades, were real professionals. There must have been at least 100 options on the menu, and everything we ever had was excellent, excellent. It was the type of food you would fix at home if you time the time or inclination. There was a long lunch counter, a dining room in the back with hundreds of signed photographs of national and local celebrities – from governors and astronauts to flag twirlers and cowgirls – and a room to the left as you walked in that had a very rustic feel, and I believe it was called the 1890 room (or 18-something room). Since butter was in short supply during WWII, Wiedmann’s substituted and put peanut butter in crocks on the tables. The little crocks could even be purchased at the cash register (we have one).

Not a whole lot in updates had ever, I think, gone on at Weidmann’s. Nothing was ever new. If it wasn’t broke, there was no need in fixing it. Weidmann’s was never broke.

How it is now:
This isn’t going to be as positive as I like my writing to turn out, but…..
Weidmann’s reopened in 2003 with 58 investors. I’m sure these were well-meaning people, but what they did to the Weidmann’s institution is……wrong. Sure, if they were out to open a fine-dining establishment, well, you can do that in any town, in any either stand-alone building or even a strip mall. But to rip up a tradition and put in its place a business that would have the pretentiousness to declare on the front door that it is “dark Sundays” rather than “closed”, well, next time go.do.that.somewhere.else.

The new Weidmann’s is white-tablecloth. Dim lights. Brick walls. One-long-sheet-of-paper menus. Wine lists. Hushed voices.

The food is good. Quite good.

It is just as good, and the new atmosphere is just as good, as any other mid-sized town that has a restaurant you just wouldn’t feel right going into with bluejeans on.

Nothing remains of the old Weidmann’s.

Well, sort of. It seems that the *new* Weidmann’s wasn’t doing so well financially, and back in October or November of last year that a new party came in and saved the restaurant from what may have meant closing for good. Here’s an excerpt of an article about the transaction in the EMBJ:

But the operational end was not the only concern. The restaurant has failed
to court those who were loyal to the “old” Weidmann’s and those who continue to
perceive the restaurant as high-priced and “too formal.”

“When it opened I believe it was slightly above the market not only in some of the food items, but in some of the price points,” Wile said. “I think it was also played up that it was ‘fine dining,’ which to some people means you have to wear a coat and tie. That’s just not the case, at lunch or dinner. “Then I think the change alienated a lot of people who were loyal to Weidmann’s and had been all their lives. I think we may have underestimated the effects of that. While it retained
the name, it didn’t look, feel or taste like the Weidmann’s they knew.”

Though the “old” Weidmann’s is now gone, Wile said some changes being made will bring back some memories of those days. The peanut butter jars have returned to the tables — although without the peanut butter due to health department restrictions — and old photographs are being matted, framed and hung throughout the lobby and upstairs in the lounge.

Roma Royalty in Meridian

Marker of Queen Kelly Mitchell in Meridian

Above is the grave marker of Queen Kelly Mitchell in Meridian, MS. The story is that she died in 1915 while giving birth at a camp in Coatopa, Alabama (which is west of Demopolis). Her family brought her to Rose Hill Cemetery in Meridian to be buried. A recollection of that event can be found at this very good site that also refers to the rest of the family of Emil Mitchell, who was Kelly’s husband, the “King of the Gypseys”. The story goes on about the burial customs and the fact that the grave was reinforced with steel bars and concrete so as to discourage thieves (because apparently many fine things were buried along with her body for use on the other side of the Styx).

collection of items left on Kelly Mitchell’s marker

I have heard that when the Roma come through Meridian, they leave items on Kelly’s marker. Visitors do as well (people seem to do that a lot…people leave all kinds of things in Montgomery at Hank Williams’ grave….guitar pics, whisky bottles, etc. Next time I go through, I’ll post a picture). This gravesite also seems to be a spot for people who do geocaching, so I’m pretty sure that some amount of this must have been left from them. Whenever we go through Meridian, we stop at Rose Hill to see what’s on the markers. It is different every time.

Along with Kelly Mitchell are buried her husband, Emil, who died in 1942 close to Attalla (AL), Flora Mitchell (Emil’s sister), Joe “Sharkie” Mitchell and Princess Diana Sharkey Mitchell, Slatcho Mitchell, Helen and Frank Mitchell, Mehil Mitchell, Lawrence Mitchell, Nicholas Gulumba, Costa George Bimbo, and Ovdoikia George Bimbo.

Holiday Inn, Meridian

Holiday Inn in Meridian, MS

Room: This room was a nice size, but a little dingy. We were upgraded at no charge to a room with a sofa. This hotel is set up in the older style – so rooms are accessible from the outside. I don’t think generally a great deal has been put toward renovations over the years to this hotel.

Lobby: I don’t know what the lobby looks like because we got there some time after 11pm so we had to check in *outside*. There was a little window on an exterior wall of the lobby where the desk manager came and checked us in. It was cold – and honestly, standing out there rather than inside the lobby, freezing, it really made me feel like maybe they thought either their own guests were thugs or people just walk up and are weird so they really need to do things outside after a certain hour. This didn’t make me have any good feelings about my own safety, but our choices were limited and we were tired. There was another party waiting to check in when we drove up, but again, it didn’t make me feel very safe that they didn’t allow their own guests to enter – especially ones that had reservations already.

Service: The person that checked us in was nice, and I don’t hold the fact that the hotel’s policy is to make people wait outside in the cold against her. She probably isn’t wild about doing guests that way, but if they *do* have a problem with weirdos, I’m glad that she is safe. Maybe they need to hire security. Who knows.

Food: We didn’t eat here, but there was a room-service menu with limited hours (there is an on-site restaurant) and I believe a continental breakfast was included with our room rate.

Our experience is this: This hotel was $10 more expensive than the Holiday Inn Express in nearby Forest. I would take the HIX in Forest any day over this one.

Holiday Inn Express, Forest

Holiday Inn Express in Forest, MS

Room: This room was really bright. Everything seemed to be in very good condition and the bed was comfortable.  We were just here as an overnight, so it was fine.

Lobby: The lobby was standard-issue.

Service: Very nice person at registration desk.

Food: We didn’t eat here, but a continental breakfast is included.

Riverview Hotel, Mobile

Our room at the Riverview Hotel, Mobile

Room: The Riverview Hotel in Mobile was formerly the Adam’s Mark Mobile. We’ve stayed here probably at least ten times (when it was an Adam’s Mark). About five years ago, we first gave it a try as I was impressed that we could get a 4* hotel under $80 in downtown Mobile. Once we got into our room, I was just taken with the view (the even-numbered rooms face the dock in Mobile, and there is something going on there all day and all night. For someone not used to seeing a dock in operation, it is really something). It was easy to forgive aging furnishings for that view. However, last year we decided that most everything there was so far past-prime that we would find somewhere else to stay for most of our trips there.

Last year, the Adam’s Mark was sold and it is now called the “Riverview”. The website states that they are now undergoing a $17 million renovation.

Uh, I don’t know where or when, but there’s no evidence of it. Anywhere.

We booked a room at a rate significantly higher than the old Adam’s Mark rates. What did we receive? The same worn-out room with worn-out furnishings. Without exaggerating, I can say that I felt every single mattress coil underneath me all night. We won’t be back.

Lobby: Very ’80’s. Very hunter green.

Service: There needs to be more people available at the front desk for check-ins, it seems.

Food: There is no excuse to eat here when there are all kinds of great places in Mobile! I’ll post about that later….. 🙂

Extra: There’s a walkway between the hotel and the Outlaw Convention Center.

Our experience is this: Never again. If I were a hotel manager, there is no way that I would have guests sleep on mattresses that……..coily.

Radisson Admiral Semmes, Mobile

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I am embarrassed to show you this picture.  This is the bed after I rolled all over it while watching “Ray” on the movie-on-demand system.  Why I didn’t have enough sense to straighten the covers before taking this picture, I have no idea.

Room: The Radisson Admiral Semmes is one of the two ‘nicer’ hotels downtown (the other being the Riverwalk (upcoming post)). The website touts the ‘luxury of spacious guestrooms furnished with period reproductions’. As you can tell from the picture above, the room we had is average size, and the furnishings had a rather ‘cheap’ feel. Okay, now I am sounding a bit too snooty. But you know what I mean. The room was…..underwhelming, especially for the cost it usually goes for (seems to float mostly between $120 and $170/night).

Lobby: The lobby would seem to suggest more elegant guest rooms than actually exist. The lobby and public spaces are pretty nice.

Service: We’ve stayed here three times. Service is generally good.

Food: We’ve had room service here once, and it was fair.

Our stay included a breakfast at the on-site restaurant. The restaurant furnishings are nice and the breakfast is a better-than-average buffet.

Our experience is this: We stay in Mobile a lot. We have a lot more experience at what is now the Riverview Hotel (formerly the Adam’s Mark). I really like to stay downtown, but I’m certain there are better choices than this hotel.

Grand Casino, Gulfport

Hotel Room, Grand Casino, Gulfport, Mississippi//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Our room at the Grand Casino, Gulfport

Room: This was our second stay at the Grand Casino Oasis Hotel in Gulfport. The Oasis Hotel is actually across the street from the casino and main hotel (but both can be reached via an enclosed walkway that runs over the highway) and is a little less expensive since it is a bit of a walk. The room is average in size and amenities to a Hampton (and is a little less in cost).

Lobby: Standard-issue casino hotel lobby.

Service: Oddly, when we got in, the door to our room was open. Not all the way, but the deadbolt arm was extended, keeping the door from closing all the way. A pillowcase was left hanging on the closet door, and there was no extra pillow inside so we figured that the maid must have forgotten to come back with the extra clean pillow. I called down to the front desk to let them know that the room had been open all day and that I just wanted to make them aware of it since I wan’t familiar enough with the room to realize if anything may have been taken (you never know. I really didn’t want to think about someone taking something from the room, but I would have been really upset if we had gotten home and be charged for something.). They made a note of it.

Food: We didn’t eat here, but we DID have supper at Vrazel’s. This was our first time at Vrazel’s and it was great. I do have to say, though, that we walked in wearing blue jeans and although no one said anything or even looked at us weird, we should have really been dressed nicer. We both had fish, and everything was excellent!

Our experience is this: We would stay here again.

Sheraton Four Points, Ft. Walton Beach

Our room at the Sheraton Four Points, Ft. Walton Beach

Room: This was our first stay at a Sheraton Four Points (which I think is supposed to be their answer to Hilton’s Hampton Inn and Marriott’s Fairfield Inn chains). As late as the 80’s, this hotel was the Coronado Beach Resort, where Av and his brother used to go on vacations with their grandparents a few summers. Our room was on the 6th floor of the ‘tower’, which has been built since the Coronado days, I believe. The room was about average in size, but the room as a whole was in serious need of an update. Our room also had a balcony with a couple of plastic-y Wal-Mart style chairs. Since Ivan blew through, the hotel has decided to undergo a renovations of the rooms which will take place later this year.

Lobby: Golden Girls-eque decor.

Service: Those at the front desk and breakfast restaurant were very friendly.

Food: Our stay came with a breakfast buffet which was *much* better than average.

Extra: It’s on the beach, and there’s not a whole lot on either side, so I would guess that during the busy season the beach in front of the hotel isn’t just overrun with other hotel’s guests. During our stay, the beach was closed to repair the dunes.

Our experience is this: Honestly, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of better choices in Ft. Walton Beach, especially since a few are still closed for repairs after Ivan. Would I stay at this hotel again? Maybe. I’d sure spend some time looking for something more interesting, though.