If you love food & drink Alabama has you covered throughout the state. Starting in the north at Muscle Shoals learning the history and sounds of the 60s & 70s all the way down South to the Gulf for some of the tastiest & freshest catches, and of course plenty of BBQ along the way.
Muscle Shoals is for Music Lovers
Muscle Shoals is home to FAME Studios and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio where the bass-walking, head-bobbing heartbeat of the American soundtrack of the 1960s and 1970s was recorded. Legendary studio musicians who became known as “The Swampers” played with musical titans including The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, Bob Seger and so many more.
Alabama’s historic Muscle Shoals music scene played on the silver screen and to an international audience in the recent Aretha Franklin biopic, “Respect,” starring Oscar- and Grammy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson. A 20-minute segment of the film set in Alabama tells the story about the Queen of Soul’s triumphant breakthrough recording session at FAME Studios in 1967. Franklin’s tenth album, “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You,” finally made her a star. Franklin’s iconic vocals were supported by producer Rick Hall’s Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who would later become known as the Swampers, one of the most legendary studio bands in American music history.
In 1969, four members of FAME’s Rhythm Section left to form the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield. The restored studio is a music mecca for music lovers, drawing visitors from around the world. Music history buffs say they want to see and feel why Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones referred to Muscle Shoals and 3614 as "Rock and Roll Heaven." The 2013 documentary, "Muscle Shoals,” revived interest in the studio for music enthusiasts and the music industry. The studio was fully restored to its 1970's look, feel and function thanks to a grant from Beats Electronics. Visitors can easily envision Paul Simon, Cher, the Staple Singers, Rod Stewart, Linda Ronstadt and Bob Seager as they recorded here. Like FAME, it is still an active studio.
Fame Recording Studio founder Rick Hall recorded hundreds of hits including records by Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Etta James, Gregg Allman, Alabama, Steven Tyler, Keb Mo and many, many more.
The Shoals area is part of The Americana Music Triangle. The route from Nashville to Memphis and New Orleans, the triangle of land in the middle encompasses a hotbed of music history. As indigenous people, European and African cultures collided and shared musical traditions, the region generated many distinct new musical genres such as Blues, Jazz, Country, Rock, Soul and R&B.
Nearby in Florence is the birthplace of W. C. Handy, aka the “Father of the Blues”. The W. C. Handy Birthplace, Museum & Library preserves the humble wood cabin where he was born and showcases personal memorabilia, including the piano where he composed “St. Louis Blues,” Handy’s most famous song. A music festival named in his honour – the W. C. Handy Music Festival, takes place in Florence each summer (featuring live rock, pop, gospel, R&B and jazz).
Food is a Love Language
From Gulf Shores to the foothills of the Appalachia, Alabama tells an intricate story about a love affair with food. Told through sacred family recipes, fresh bursts of locally sourced ingredients and a flair for the dramatics, each meal is an experience and history lesson with each bite.
Did you know the sauce that accompanies white meat barbecue is believed to be uniquely Alabama?
All across the state, barbeque titans do battle over hot grills to take the crown touting their mastery of tangy and savoury flavours. You’ll quickly learn the secret of success is definitely in the sauce – red, white, vinegar or mustard-based. These origin stories can be found in the nourishment of the labour force, coming together over tender and smokey meats. It’s a deeply satisfying food journey through time and an enduring legacy of unity. When visiting North Alabama, complete your food journey by experiencing Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur and learn his secret for perfectly moist barbecue chicken.
For the freshest catches, head down to the bay and begin with the Original Oyster House in Mobile. This waterfront restaurant is considered one of the area’s best family-friendly seafood eateries serving award-winning crab, fish, shrimp, oysters and more basking in rich butter and spices. You want to save the best for last with a slice of their signature Peanut Butter Pie, featured on the “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama.” This dreamy, peanut butter whip is sprinkled with chocolate bits and Kahlúa.
The Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham is rated one of the best restaurants in America. Owner and operator Frank Stitt is a James Beard award-winning chef whose French training led to the unique ideas of pairing Southern foods with classic French cooking techniques, setting the tone for his flagship restaurant. This cosmopolitan marriage of farm-to-table and French influence has yielded praises across the globe. Stitt’s Baked Grits are a perpetual favourite among diners and on the list of “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama.” The yellow stone-ground grits are lavishly elevated with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, white wine, shallots, mushrooms, cream and herbs. It’s as rustic as it is exquisite.
Fine dining all day: James Beard Award-Winning offering “biscuit experiences”
Unravelling the riddle to the perfect biscuit can sometimes take a lifetime. For James Beard Award-winning Chef Scott Peacock whose reputation is built on maintaining the mystery behind the perfect batch, the secret is about to be out. Peacock’s biscuits have been celebrated by Better Homes & Gardens, the New York Times and by Martha Stewart herself. His biscuits were named among Food & Wine’s best 440 recipes ever published. Now in the heart of Alabama’s Black Belt in Marion, Peacock will be hosting an intimate biscuit making workshop in the historic kitchen of Reverie mansion. Showcasing heirloom ingredients and his well-defined techniques, Peacock’s masterclass will give the gift of Southern flavours and the clues to making a perfect buttermilk biscuit.
If the main courses and desserts haven’t satiated your curiosity, follow your feet and your palate to North Alabama for the Craft Beer Trail. These artisan brews bare catchy names, evoking local flare and a little bit of tongue and cheek humour. Straight to Ale in Huntsville produces “Monkeynaut,” an American IPA with a hoppy aroma and defined orange notes. If you happen to see its logo, you’ll notice a Simian monkey in a space suit paying tribute to the primates who participated in early space exploration. You can order a flight sampler at most breweries on the trail and take a tour of their facility. It all makes for a tasty way to wind down from your travels.
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