Tourism Tuesdays August 22, 2017


Gov. Ivey praises state’s tourism industry

The Guardian features a road trip of Alabama’s BBQ

3 Incredible Beaches You’ll Find in Alabama

Try the Gumbo Z’herb

A bond connecting France and Alabama will be memorialized during rainbow soldier dedication

Alabama Tourism Workshop scheduled for Oct. 11

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website

Gov. Ivey praises state’s tourism industry
Gov. Kay Ivey commended more than 250 tourism industry professionals Sunday for the $13 billion economic impact the industry had on Alabama last year.

“The state’s tourism and hospitality industry has grown by more than $6 billion in the past 15 years,” Ivey told the tourism professionals gathered at the annual Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

“Every Alabama family benefits from the tourism industry.  For every dollar that is spent in tourism marketing, it results in five new dollars in state and local taxes that Alabama families don’t have to pay.  Without this tourist spending, every Alabama family would have to pay $444 more in taxes this year.”

Ivey said that state tourism director Lee Sentell has reported that the state is already on track to show a 5 percent increase in tourist spending this year.

Ivey went on to praise both Sentell and the tourism department.

“Lee, thank you for your commitment to telling the story of our state around the nation and around the world,” she said.  “The Alabama Tourism Department is to be congratulated and commended for creating so many successful marketing campaigns in recent years.

”The Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism was held Aug. 20-22 at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell and Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau President & CEO John Oros welcomed attendees to the city during the general session on Sunday. The staff of the Alabama Tourism Department presented an annual update on their marketing campaigns. Alabama Bicentennial Commission Executive Director Jay Lamar discussed plans to celebrate the state’s upcoming bicentennial.

The conference featured panelists ranging from some of the state’s top chefs to tourism marketing experts.  The sessions included event planning, festival promotion, lodging management, motor coach marketing, sports promotion, culinary trends and social media campaigns.

Tourism industry awards were presented at a banquet during the conference.

The Guardian features a road trip of Alabama’s BBQ
Editor’s note:  Richard McComb with the British newspaper The Guardian visited the state in November on a press trip coordinated by the Alabama Tourism Department.  The Guardian is one of the most read newspapers in the world with a combined print and online reach of 9 million readers.

From the article by Richard McComb in The Guardian:

Gas station barbecue is just what it says it is: homespun food, cooked yards from the petrol pumps, in small kitchens. Ribs, pulled pork and chicken wings are served on paper plates at simple table settings inside the garages, overlooking aisles stacked with engine oil, anti-freeze and rubber hoses. It is not surprising Alabama excels at this road-trip cuisine of convenience: the deep south’s Yellowhammer State reputedly has the most barbecue restaurants per capita of anywhere in the U.S.

My barbecue odyssey started in Pell City, 30 miles east of Birmingham – Alabama’s biggest city. “Butts To Go” is just off Interstate 20 at a Texaco garage run by 64-year-old entrepreneur Wade Reich. The magic happens a few paces from the pavement in four smokers. In Alabama the pig is king, and Reich smokes it over hickory. But there is also brisket and chicken, and pecan-smoked hams and turkeys are seasonal specials. Reich took over the gas station in 2008 and spotted a gap in the market when a rival barbecue garage closed.

“There’s not much money in gas,” he told me.

Pulled pork, Reich figured, could make up for the plunge in profits at the pumps. He experimented with a barbecue on Memorial Day in May 2009, serving meat platters. By Labor Day, in September, Reich was cooking every weekend; “Butts To Go” is now open seven days a week.

Reich uses a dry rub, akin to a steak seasoning, containing pepper, garlic and salt. Full-flavoured Duroc pork comes from Smithfield, Virginia, and is also used for spare ribs and baby back ribs. All the dishes are available for take-a-way but, for the authentic gas station barbecue experience, it is essential to fill a tray with juicy smoked meat and take a seat at the 12-cover “restaurant.”

A two-bone rib plate with two sides (choose from baked beans, coleslaw, wedges and baked potato salad) costs $6.99. Specialities include Reich’s lemon-and-pepper smoked chicken wings ($4.99 for six pieces) and “drunken chicken” for $14.49. For the signature boozy bird, a chicken is placed on a 12oz beer can and smoked for three hours. As the alcohol heats up and evaporates, it bastes the inside of the chicken, keeping the flesh juicy.

A foil tray contains a selection of sauces in plastic bottles, such as the smoky, tomato-based Cattlemen’s BBQ Sauce (“not sweet, not sour”) and Frank’s RedHot Sauce. But for local businessman and Butts’ regular Larry Daugherty, it is all about the purity of the smoky protein. “To me, it is the hickory smoke. Some people use cherry, but I don’t like that,” he said.

Two hours drive south from Pell, off Interstate 65, is the former cotton town of Greenville, where an all-female crew serves up about 100 plates a day at BBQ 65 on Pineapple Highway. The smoker at the back of the Shell station uses hickory and oak to cook butts overnight, every night. Ribs, turkey breasts and chicken are also smoked on the revolving racks.

The chicken is brined overnight with seasoning, cooked until tender and served with a mayonnaise-based white sauce, more typical of north Alabama barbecue. Brunswick stew, a staple of southern barbecue shops, contains chicken and pork. Sides include potato salad, mac’n’cheese, speckled butter beans, fried okra and corn casserole. Four rib bones are $13.99, and six for $14.99. Both plates come with two sides. A pulled pork plate is $10.99.

Beth Mauch, the assistant manager, says the cooks use a “sop” with a house marinade to keep the meat moist. The sop is applied with a brush or spray and contains a little sugar or tomato ketchup. Too much sugar leads to caramelisation and blackened meat, so balance is vital.

BBQ 65 makes its own tomato-based barbecue sauce but Mauch pointed out: “We don’t use a lot of sauce. We don’t drown our meat. Meat should have a flavour all its own.”

The kitchen and dining area, comprising 10 tables, is inside the petrol station’s wood-clad, cabin-style building, its walls hung with colourful folk art. For diners with a sweet tooth, there are southern-fried fruit pies and bread pudding ($3.99). The gas station barbecue mantra is: fill up, don’t calorie count.

My satnav was then set for the Gulf of Mexico and the two-hour drive to Fairhope, on sweeping Mobile Bay. The Pride service station on South Greeno Road is home to the Soul Ful Deli Depot where Elizabeth Brazelton and her son, Trevell, create home-style barbecue with aplomb. Rich beef rib tips are cooked in an oven for four hours and doused in Brazelton’s rich, dark sauce. She would only divulge some of the ingredients – honey, lemon juice and brown sugar but no tomato. The sauce leaves a tingle on the tongue, so I suspected chili or cayenne pepper played a role.

“I am cooking green lima beans and I’ll put okra with it. This is healthy eating. I don’t use salt and very little pepper.” Brazelton said. There is no smoking involved in the cooking, isn’t that barbecue sacrilege? Brazelton put me straight, “All my food is soulful food,” she said. “To me, soulful means country. It means grease, and it means fat, and it means fresh. I am cooking green lima beans now and I will put some okra with it. This is healthy eating. I don’t use salt and very little pepper.”

Home-cooked chicken wings comes with 18 different flavors, including honey BBQ, habanero, buffalo Parmesan, ranch and sweet heat. Six pieces are $6.42.

Brazelton serves fish and grits for breakfast, from 5:30 am, and said it was a “blessing” when the owner of the gas station called her in 2015 and asked if she wanted to take over the food outlet. “Cooking is my passion. I have gone from being a worker to being an owner. It is a rewarding journey,” she said.

The Depot is 20 miles from Fairhope at an eight-pump Chevron station at the junction of Highway 98 and County Road 65 on the outskirts of Foley town. It is impossible to miss, there is a giant plastic pig in front of it proclaiming Baldwin County’s best ribs, butts and pigs’ feet. This is a strictly pig-only zone.

The Depot has been selling barbecue for 18 years, cooking over mesquite wood chips in an electric smoker. The meat is salted but there is no rub, before being smoked for 12 hours. So-called “finger food” includes corn dogs, pork and shrimp egg rolls, fried okra and pepperoni “pizza sticks.”

Carolina-style pulled-pork sandwiches (small $3.55, large $4.55) are always available. The “We will heat to order” are a saucy affair, a great oozing heft of pork and a tomato-based concoction, cut through with an order of piquant vinegar slaw. I chased it down in true Alabama style with a plastic bottle of Red Diamond sweet tea and enjoyed an immersive gas station dining experience at one of the rickety green plastic tables overlooking the front of the store.

The final stop on my gas station barbecue road trip took me into the backwoods of Stockton, off the banks of the Tensaw River. This small town (population 5,086) on Highway 59 is home to the state’s first sawmill and has its own unique place in cinematic history, providing the backdrop for the Friday the 13th horror film franchise. Spoiler alert: it is quiet out here.

There’s a table for diners next to the slushie machine and a selection of specialities including jumbo boiled peanuts.

At Powell’s grocery store, there are Pure petrol pumps outside and ribs inside a sprawling convenience store. Baked-in-the-oven ribs ($2.99 each) are only available on Friday and Saturday, served with a separate red sauce. Beef tips over rice with brown gravy ($4.29) are popular on Sunday for church-goers.

There are hardcore southern country treats every day of the week, such as deep-fried livers and gizzards (small polystyrene plate $2.99, large $3.99). It is an acquired taste, even for cook Rose Stacey, who confided to me: “I love gizzards, but I am not eating liver. It is nasty. My grandmother used to spank me and make me eat that.”

Most of the trade is take-out, there is a constant stream of workmen for lunch. But there is a table for diners next to the slushie machine and a selection of local specialities including jumbo boiled peanuts ($3.99 for a 32oz cup), pickled pigs’ feet, pickled sausage and pickled eggs.

Fortunately, the adjoining store has everything covered, including deer corn and life jackets, and a rare sight at an Alabama gas station barbecue – fresh fruit. Just don’t embarrass yourself by buying it.

The trip was provided by the Alabama Tourism Department, with flights on American Airlines from Heathrow via Charlotte and Dallas to Mobile, Alabama.
For the complete article please see

3 Incredible Beaches You’ll Find in Alabama
From the article by Karen Ruffini  in Travel and Leisure:

Alabama may be best-known as a state with significant historic landmarks (Huntsville was the birthplace of America’s space program, for example, while the civil rights movement has deep roots in Montgomery).

But many travelers often don’t realize that a small stretch of the state is white-sand coastline. The southernmost edge of Alabama disappears into the warm, turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Whether you’re taking a road trip though the American South or you’re a local Alabamian looking for an easy getaway, don’t forget about these sandy shores. Add these often overlooked beaches to your must-see list on your trip to the Cotton State.

Gulf Shores Public Beach
This stretch of shoreline is one of the most popular beach destinations in Alabama, and it’s no wonder why. Visitors can enjoy six miles of white sand and crystal blue ocean water that (during the summer months), maintains a bathtub-warm temperature.

Gulf Shores, the eponymous little beach town, is also well-loved for its thriving seafood scene. The National Shrimp Festival is held here every fall, and during random “jubilees,” visitors can pick fresh crabs, fish, and shrimp straight from the beach.

Dauphin Island Public Beach
With 14 miles of unspoiled land, it’s no wonder that this beach has become a little-known alternative to the more popular beach towns of Florida. Only accessible by bridge or ferry, Alabama’s laid-back Dauphin Island has everything you could want from a beach destination: colorful beach bungalows, family-run seafood restaurants, and even a bird sanctuary. It’s also the only pet-friendly beach in the region, so you can finally bring Fido along with you on your summer vacation.

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Beach
This beach, aptly translated from French to mean “safe harbor,” is a sanctuary for flora and fauna native to the land. With more than 7,000 acres of wildlife habitat, you’ll find endless creatures inhabiting the area, including the Loggerhead turtle and endangered Alabama beach mouse.

For many, Bon Secour is less a place to park your beach chair and more about experiencing this protected sliver of Alabama. You’re welcome to take a dip in the waters and relax here, but visitors are urged to keep in mind that Bon Secour, is first and foremost a habitat for species who call this beach their home.

For the complete article please see

Try the Gumbo Z’herb
From the article by Andy MacDonald in Lagniappe Weekley:

It’s an honor for Executive Chef Steve Zucker that will not be taken lightly. The man behind the menu of downtown Mobile’s Dauphin’s recently cracked the Alabama Tourism Department’s list of “100 Things in Alabama to Eat Before You Die” honor with his Gumbo Z’herb.

For those not in the know, the dish is credited to the Queen of Creole Cuisine, Leah Chase, who with her husband, opened the New Orleans institution Dooky Chase in the 1940s. Not the gumbo you’re thinking of, Gumbo Z’herb is a mixture of greens, smoked ham, sausage and brisket.

Zucker’s New Orleans influence came when he was a young man of 17 finding himself in the Crescent City, studying the culinary arts as an apprentice under legend, author, chef and restaurateur John Folse. Our North Carolina transplant gets his flair for the Big Easy honestly and his respect for Leah Chase shines through.

“She’s an institution. No one can touch Creole cooking like Leah,” the humbled Zucker said. “For me this has been a way to celebrate one of my life’s inspirations. Being honored for this version of her masterpiece is tremendous.”

The homage to Chase’s original is true enough, but fans of Dauphin’s may find Zucker’s version tips the hat to coastal Alabama by adding Conecuh sausage, bacon and turkey wings. He also implements the Smoke Pistol into the cooking process for that extra flavor.

The list was released as part of Alabama Restaurant Week, which was held Aug. 11-20 statewide.

For the complete article please see

A bond connecting France and Alabama will be memorialized during rainbow soldier dedication
The public is invited to attend a historic event commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 167th U.S. Infantry Regiment’s departure from Alabama to fight alongside the French in World War I. A century ago, 3,677 Alabamians left Montgomery’s Union Station to serve their country in World War I. At 5 p.m. on August 28, a bronze sculpture of the Rainbow Soldier designed by acclaimed British sculptor James Butler, R.A., will be inaugurated at Montgomery’s Union Station. Its counterpart stands in Fère-en-Tardenois in France.

For more information please visit

Alabama Tourism Workshop scheduled for Oct. 11
The Alabama Tourism Department will host it’s semi-annual Tourism Workshop in Montgomery on Wed., Oct. 11. This workshop is for new tourism industry members, event organizers and anyone interested in enhancing tourism in the area. For registration and additional information, please contact Rosemary Judkins at 334-242-4493 or via email at

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
The new “Inspire Me” feature is in place to help bring traffic to your events. When creating an event, use appropriate tags that relate to the feel and activities offered. Those tags then direct users to your event when they use the “Inspire Me” tool.


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