MONTGOMERY – Alabama barbecue fans will vote for their favorite restaurants and experts will name the best barbecue sauce in 2013, tourism officials said, in announcing an expanded Year of Alabama Food campaign. A comprehensive list of barbecue restaurants, including 30 that have been in operation for a half century, will be posted online to direct tourists and Alabamians alike to the wide variety of pork, chicken and turkey options, officials said.
This spring the Alabama Tourism Department will ask fans of its Year of Alabama Food facebook page (facebook/AlabamaFood) to vote on the state’s best barbeque restaurant. A separate contest will be held to find the best barbeque sauce in the state- the Alabama BBQ Sauce-Off. A panel of local judges will select the winning BBQ sauce from each region of the state and then the winners will compete at the finals at Pepper Place Saturday Market in Birmingham on May 18th.
“Food is popular with everyone and it has been one of our most successful campaigns. We will continue to highlight our great restaurants and award-winning chefs, but this year we are also going to put at spotlight on our barbeque heritage,” said tourism director Lee Sentell.
The tourism department will hold its second annual Alabama Restaurant Week on August 16-25 during which locally owned and operated restaurants will showcase their dishes by offering meals at a discount. The 2012 restaurant week was a huge success with more than 230 restaurants from across the state participating. The participating restaurants offer diners fixed-price lunch specials at $5, $10 and $15, and dinner specials at $10, $20 and $30. Birmingham’s Martie Duncan, a finalist on the hit show “Food Network Star,” will be using her popularity again in 2013 to promote Alabama Restaurant Week. Duncan will visit several of the participating restaurants for a social media ‘meet and greet’ with the public.
Many of these restaurants are featured in the tourism department’s new book Alabama Food. The 128-page book features chapters on the unique restaurants in each region of the state, an expanded “100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die” listing, profiles on award-winning Alabama chefs, an exploration of Alabama’s Farm-To-Table movement state, and chapters featuring a Wine Trail and Craft Beer Trail. The book is available at Books-A-Million stores across the state and online at www.bhamstore.com and Amazon.com. Alabama Food can also be purchased at the Governor’s Mansion Gift Shop and at The Goathill Museum Store inside the Alabama State Capital in Montgomery. The retail price of the book is $20.
Visitors wishing to discover the local flavor of Sweet Home Alabama are invited to enjoy any of the more than 375 annual food festivals and events hosted by cities and towns across the state in 2013. Moon pies and mayhem set the stage for Mobile’s Mardi Gras celebration in February. Moulton celebrates the state’s agricultural heritage during the Chicken and Egg Festival in April. A smorgasbord of Southern goodness awaits visitors during the Slocomb Tomato Festival in June and the Russellville Watermelon Festival in August.
In October, Pinson hosts the Butterbean Festival and Tuskegee pays homage to scientist George Washington Carver during the Carver Sweet Potato Festival in October. The Break’N Bread/ Birmingham Food & Wine Festival is at Pepper Place Railroad Park in October. The National Shrimp Festival is held each October on the white sand beaches of Gulf Shores, and a barbecue competition highlights the Christmas on the River celebration in Demopolis in December. A complete list of 2013 food festivals and other events can be found online by visiting www.alabama.travel. They will also be featured in the printed 2013 Alabama Vacation Guide and Calendar available at the state’s eight welcome centers.
To learn more about Alabama culinary destinations and events, visit www.alabama.travel to request free copies of the 2013 Alabama Vacation Guide and “100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die” brochure.