7 months ago

Wildflower Café is a beauty of a mountaintop restaurant

Over the years, Wildflower Café has become a dining destination in Mentone, which is, of course, its own awesome destination atop Lookout Mountain.

Café owner Laura Catherine Moon (just “Moon” to everyone she knows and meets) is as much of a draw as the regionally famous tomato pie or the carefully curated small general store with handmade art and crafts or the eclectically furnished, hippie-chic dining rooms or the colorful, peaceful wildflower garden surrounding the 1800s log cabin that houses the café and store.

Moon has owned Wildflower Café for more than a decade, but she never really intended to go into the restaurant business.

“It’s true,” she says. “I didn’t mean to.” She had owned several shops in and around Mentone throughout the years. One of them was a natural health food store called Mountain Life. “I sold organic produce and natural foods,” she says. “I sold herbs and my herbal blends. It was a store for wellness. It was sort of a convenience health food store up on the mountain.” Whenever the produce would start to wilt, she would think to herself: “Well, if I could just cook it, then people could know just how good this food is.”

About this time, the Wildflower Café became available for purchase after being open for about a year. Moon first wanted to team up with the café’s chef, thinking he could run the restaurant and she would run her store. When he left three months later, she stepped up.

“I never even worked in a restaurant before I owned this one,” she says. “So it was a huge challenge to learn the ins and outs and the ropes and how to do it. And it just turned out that I’m really good at it.”

Wildflower Café’s cuisine is as fresh as the mountain air from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Wildflower Café is a total experience, Moon says. “When you first walk up, you have the beautiful gardens and the old home. … And then, when you walk in the door, you have the local art surrounding you, and you’re welcomed by the staff. … Our staff is super friendly. … Everybody here is like family and loves working together. And all of the food is as locally sourced as I can get and as natural as you can possibly have, and it’s fresh. It’s a solid place where you can also get music and a great feeling.”

Wildflower Café sits in the heart of Mentone, which, with more than 1,700 feet of elevation, has long been a mountaintop retreat for people in Alabama and neighboring states. It’s home to an impressive number of summer camps, too, like Camp Skyline RanchCamp DeSotoRiverview Camp for GirlsAlpine Camp for BoysCamp Laney and more.

But not everyone who eats here has a mountain home or a young camper nearby.

People come up from Birmingham and Montgomery to visit the café; they drive down from Nashville and Chattanooga. They travel over from Douglasville and Atlanta. They come to Wildflower Café for the grilled or blackened wild-caught salmon and trout; the gourmet chicken salad with grapes and almonds; the big Canyon Burger made with freshly ground sirloin and filet; grilled chicken smothered with sautéed onions, bell peppers, honey mustard sauce and cheeses; prime rib with a crust of cracked peppercorns and spices (all meats are hormone-free); angel hair pasta with a flavorful strawberry-balsamic sauce (there’s a vegan version, too); and signature shrimp and grits made with polenta. They come for hummingbird cake and old-fashioned chess pie and homemade crepes filled with sweet cream cheese and topped with house-fresh strawberry puree. And a great many of them come for the savory, cheesy tomato pie, which is so popular that Moon offers a tomato pie wrap, a tomato pie salad, a tomato pie burger and a loaded tomato pie entrée (vegetarian and not).

A few words about this famous tomato pie: It is worth a drive of any distance. Ripe roma tomatoes are cooked down to sweetness and marinated in balsamic vinaigrette. Cheddar, mozzarella and a flaky crust make it delicious.

“I don’t have a culinary background other than the fact that I love food,” Moon says, “and I just had a natural knack, from the time I started cooking, that if I tasted something, I could recreate it.” She and her daughter travel a lot, and Wildflower’s menu of local, healthy, natural, organic and gluten-free items reflects their trips across the country and around the world. Moon talks about her Costa Rican chicken dish with pineapple-mango chutney, which was inspired by how people in that country eat beans and rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She brings the bright, fresh flavors of Mediterranean cuisine (which she loves) to her Alabama restaurant along with the pretty presentations she’s seen on plates in Paris.

Moon relies on area farmers for lots of her fresh ingredients like the humanely raised pork and poultry from Mildred’s Meadows Farm or fresh tomatoes, squash, corn, herbs and lettuces from The Farm at Windy HillMountain Sun Farm and Feel Good Farm. “Nena’s (Produce and General Store), in the valley down here, carries some of the local farmers’ stuff,” she says. “So I’ll go down and buy from her as well.”

She brings local musicians to Wildflower on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and sometimes Thursdays, and, occasionally, between talking to visitors and bussing tables, she’ll join the musicians on the stage. The country store is a gallery of local and regional arts and crafts: clothing, woodcrafts, jewelry, soaps, pottery, paintings, candles, music, books, foods like honey, jams and organic chocolates, and Moon’s natural lip balms and skin care (when she has time to harvest the ingredients).

Originally from Birmingham, Moon did a stint in Hollywood as a model, but her heart remained back home in the South, where she spent childhood summers exploring the woods. So, eventually, she came back to Alabama.

“I’ve been studying wildflowers since 1995,” she says. “I moved into the woods without power and running water in 1998. And then that’s when I really got very serious about studying the edible and medicinal plants and the wild crafting and harvesting medicines and things like that. It’s surprising to me the number of things that are out there that you can use for food and medicine. I’m still learning. Every year, I learn something new.”

Nonetheless, she’s an expert on what grows in our woods, and Moon occasionally leads walks and workshops on the native flora at nearby DeSoto State Park. She talks to garden clubs and writes about native plants. And she looks forward each spring to seeing plants emerge. “It’s just wonderful,” she says. “They’re like my friends now, because we’ve gotten so acquainted with each other. So every year, I look forward to seeing them again.”

In some ways, Moon’s entire life has been evolving to this place, at this time. The atmosphere of serenity she cultivates at Wildflower Café is evident everywhere — from the to-go boxes brightly decorated with Magic Marker art to the “words of affirmation” she writes in chalk on the porch railings: “Blessed by divine grace and love.” “Align with your greatest joy.”

“I love inspiring people to tap into their greatest happiness and joy and what brings them to their highest best,” she says.

She adds, “One of the things I’ve been most proud of is helping other people feel special and appreciated, whether they work for me or they come in as a customer.”

She’s also proud of the opportunities owning the restaurant has brought: “The peace of mind that it gave my parents – that I wasn’t going to be just a free-spirited hippie running around the woods in Mentone. That I have been able to create a real livelihood for myself through my passions and through the things I love.”

There are dozens of welcome signs at Wildflower Café, inside and out. And that’s another reason people come here: They feel at home.

“So what I tell my people is … ‘We’re here to … make people feel welcome. As soon as they walk through that door, you make them feel welcome in whichever and whatever way. From the moment they get here to the time they leave, I want them to feel welcome and nurtured.’”

Moon says she’d like for customers to tell other people that “they came here and had an amazing experience and that the staff was friendly, the food was great and they just felt good when they were here. That’s what I want them to say,” she says. “And that the Wildflower is a great complement to Mentone. That would be a huge compliment to me, because Mentone is one of my favorite places on the planet. No matter where I’ve ever traveled, Mentone is the best.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

13 hours ago

Alabama’s Warrior Met Coal announces historic Blue Creek mine development

Brookwood-based Warrior Met Coal on Wednesday announced that they will begin development on a new “world-class” longwall mine near its existing mines located on the Blue Creek reserves in West Alabama.

Met coal is the type of coal sometimes referred to as coking coal. Unlike the thermal or steam variety, met coal is used as a vital ingredient in the steelmaking process instead of being utilized for power generation.

The new Blue Creek development is expected to have the capacity to produce an average of 4.3 million short tons per annum of premium High-Vol A met coal over the first ten years of production. It is one of the last remaining large-scale untapped premium High Vol A met coal mines in the U.S.

“We are extremely excited about our organic growth project that will transform Warrior and allow us to build upon our proven track record of creating value for stockholders. Blue Creek is truly a world-class asset and our commitment to this new initiative demonstrates our continued highly focused business strategy as a premium pure-play met coal producer,” Walt Scheller, CEO of Warrior Met Coal, said in a statement.

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The company expects to invest approximately $550 to $600 million over the next five years to develop Blue Creek with expected spending this year alone of approximately $25 million to kickstart the project.

Based on the current schedule, Warrior Met Coal expects first development tons from continuous miner units to occur in the third quarter of 2023 with the longwall scheduled to start up in the second quarter of 2025.

The company trades on the New York Stock Exchange and as such must report specific financial details on the project. This included the company projecting a “net present value” of “greater than $1 billion over the life of the mine with a projected after-tax internal rate of return (IRR) of nearly 30% and an expected payback of approximately two years from initial longwall production.”

Warrior Met Coal previewed this project at a Yellowhammer News event in 2019.

RELATED: Study: Alabama coal industry has nearly $3 billion impact; met coal reserves to last centuries

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

‘Gender is Real Legislative Act’ advanced by Alabama House committee

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House State Government Committee on Wednesday advanced the “Gender is Real Legislative” (GIRL) Act.

The bill, HB 35, is sponsored by State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile). Pringle is the chairman of the committee. The vote on Wednesday was 8-4 on party lines in favor of giving the legislation a favorable report. The GIRL Act now heads to the full House for consideration.

HB 35 would require Alabama public schools to make sure every entrant in an athletic competition is sorted by the gender on their birth certificate. The bill also forbids any state, county or municipal government/agency from providing a facility to a single-gender competition that allows a transgender entrant.The GIRL Act exempts any event that is specifically designed to have both boys and girls as competitors.

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“Gender is real. There are biological differences between boys and girls that influence athletic performance. The GIRL Bill seeks to support female student-athletes, so that they may compete against each other and not have to compete against male students with an unfair advantage,” Pringle has stated. “Liberal Democrats are always trying to accuse us of refusing science, but gender is a real biological truth. It truly defies logic that anyone would deny science and want male students to compete in female sports.”

During Wednesday’s meeting, a first-grade girl from the Birmingham area called on the committee to support the bill. The girl said it was only “fair” that student-athletes be sorted by the gender on their birth certificate and that she not have to compete against boys.

A full public hearing was held on the legislation last week, when State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) made some interesting remarks about Auburn legend Cam Newton while speaking against HB 35. Rogers in a subsequent interview then called for mandatory genetic testing of all public school student-athletes.

Pringle is currently running in the competitive Republican primary race for Alabama’s First Congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope).

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Jessica Taylor ‘appalled and disgusted’ at Doug Jones’ abortion comments — ‘He is unfit’

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) once again finds himself in a negative spotlight back in his homestate.

Jones was caught in a video on Wednesday laughing about abortion and mocking a question about the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

Jessica Taylor, a conservative Republican candidate in Alabama’s Second Congressional District, reacted strongly to Jones’ remarks.

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In a statement to Yellowhammer News, she said, “As a Christian, and as a mother, I am appalled and disgusted that Doug Jones would act this way.”

“Defending the unborn has been a pillar of my campaign since day one,” Taylor continued. “Doug Jones’ blatant disregard for the rights of the unborn further demonstrates that he is unfit to represent us in Washington. Pro-life values are Alabama values. As a conservative, I will always fight for our Alabama conservative values in Congress.”

Taylor has been endorsed by the prominent national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List in her AL-01 primary bid.

SBA List also bashed Jones’ latest comments in a separate statement.

“Senator Doug Jones has proven once again that he is no moderate when it comes to abortion on demand through the moment of birth. Alabama’s Democratic senator may think it is ‘stupid’ to question his abortion extremism, but rest assured, his constituents take respect for human life very seriously,” stated SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser.

“With a record of voting in favor of late-term abortion more than halfway through pregnancy and forced taxpayer funding of abortion, Sen. Jones has repeatedly betrayed Alabamians, siding with the radical abortion lobby and fellow extremist Democrats in Congress,” Dannenfelser concluded. “Their agenda is dramatically out of step with the people of Alabama and the strong majority of Americans – including 55 percent of Independents and 43 percent of rank-and-file Democrats – who support compassionate limits on abortion after five months of pregnancy, when science clearly shows unborn babies can feel excruciating pain. If Senator Jones refuses to protect innocent unborn children, he won’t be laughing come Election Day.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

15 hours ago

Reading aldotcom in large doses might affect your perspective, cognitive abilities and reasoning skills

How out of touch are al.com’s employees?

Very.

Read John Archibald or Kyle Whitmire any day and you will get that answer. These guys have been railing on Alabama government for years, and even they would tell you that they have done a pretty poor job of convincing anyone that their positions are the way the state should go.

To describe them as failures is an insult to actual failures like Hillary Clinton, who al.com obviously endorsed before she was obliterated by Alabama voters.

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So, it should come as no surprise that the average readers of al.com are equally as out of touch with the average Alabamian because they are consuming a daily digest of anti-Alabama liberal media bile that could best be described as irrelevant and antagonistic to the politics and culture of the state of Alabama.

Former Yellowhammer News editor-in-chief Cliff Sims said it best when he called them a sports blog with a liberal bias.

Because of this, it should come as no surprise that they are attempting to pass off an online poll of their readers as representative of anything close to the opinion of the state of Alabama, but here you go.

Actually, it doesn’t seem like that at all. Even Ramsey Archibald knows that.

Nationally, according to a Pew Research poll in late 2019, 69% of Americans favor some kind of legalization of marijuana. Of those who want to legalize marijuana, 59% want recreational and medical legalization and 32% want just medical legalization.

That’s a national poll — this is Alabama.

Love it or hate it, like the employees at al.com do, you have to acknowledge that there is nowhere near 83% support for recreational marijuana in this state.

Instead of legalizing marijuana, we might want to consider limiting the consumption of al.com for some of their readers whose brains are clearly being damaged by the content.

All polls like this do is show that the readership of al.com is far-left, out-of-touch and completely irrelevant in Alabama politics — just like the authors they read.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

15 hours ago

2020 Mardi Gras ships to be docked in Mobile February 21-26

The ships docked in Mobile for the 2020 Mardi Gras celebration will be the USS MCFAUL and the USCG CUTTER GANNETT, per an announcement from the Alabama State Port Authority on Wednesday.

The two ships will berth at GulfQuest on South Water Street in downtown Mobile. The USS MCFAUL is scheduled to arrive on February 21 at 11:00 a.m., and the GANNET is set to arrive on February 24 at 9:00 a.m.

Both ships will be available for touring by the public. The MCFAUL from February 22-25 and the GANNET on February 25-26.

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The MCFAUL is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the 24th of its kind in the U.S. Navy. Her commanding officer is Commander Rusty J. Williams. The ship gets her name from war hero Petty Officer Donald L. McFaul (1957–1989).

The GANNET is a Protector-class Coastal Patrol Boat manned by the U.S. Coast Guard. When she is not being toured by the public, the GANNET protects America’s coastal waters and fisheries after launching from her homeport in Mobile.

Full information for the public tours included below as a courtesy of the Alabama State Port Authority and the United States Navy:

USS MCFAUL (DDG 74) Welcome Ceremony and Public Tours Info

  •   Welcome Ceremony:  11:00 am, CST, Friday, February 21, 2020. Alabama State Port Authority, Pier 2.  Gates open at 9:30 am (CST).
  •   Public Tours:  February 22-25, 2020 between the hours of 8:30 am – 11:00 am and 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm (CST) Pier 2 Terminal, downtown Mobile, Ala.
  •   The gate entrance is located on the north side of the Mobile Convention Center on Water Street, Downtown Mobile, Ala.
  •   The Public is welcome, but all visitors are required to wear closed toe/heel shoes and carry valid identification.  All guests will undergo security screening prior to entry to the facility.

USCGC GANNET Public Tours Info

  •   GANNET will moor at 9:00 am (CST) on February 24, 2020 at the GulfQuest Maritime Museum, 155 S Water Street, in downtown Mobile, Ala.
  •   Public Tours: February 24 between the hours of 11:00 am and 3:00 pm (CST), and February 25-26 between the hours of 10:00 am and 3:00 pm (CST).
  •   The Public is welcome, but all visitors are required to wear closed toe/heel shoes and carry valid identification.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.