3 weeks 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)

1 hour ago

Watch: ALDOT Director John Cooper, State Rep. Matt Simpson clash over I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge project

Wednesday at an informational meeting for members of the Mobile County legislative delegation, things got a little heated between Alabama Department of Transportation Director John Cooper and State Rep. Matt Simpson (R-Daphne).

According to Mobile’s FOX 10 WALA’s Tyler Fingert, Cooper had previously planned not to speak at the meeting. That would have been keeping in line with what appears to be Cooper’s low-profile as the I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge brouhaha has transpired.

However, he broke that silence and spoke for a little more than 20 minutes about the hurdles he and his agency had faced in getting the project in line with what he said were requirements of the Federal Highway Administration and the issues with the Mobile County and Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) potentially removing the project on their long-term Transportation Improvement Plans (TIP).

At the tail end of his remarks, Cooper and Simpson engaged in a back-and-forth about the Mobile delegation’s role in opposing the project and a potential vote on it by both the Mobile and Baldwin County delegation with Cooper warning Simpson about the responsibility he was taking.

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Cooper accused Simpson of opposing the project without asking questions first, referring to a letter the Mobile County delegation had sent to Gov. Kay Ivey. However, Simpson, who is a member of both the Mobile and Baldwin delegations, refuted Cooper’s claim by pointing to a meeting attended by Baldwin County legislators that was held in Spanish Fort earlier in the summer.

For that meeting, in particular, the Baldwin County delegation had prepared a list of questions for Cooper, which Cooper later acknowledged having addressed.

Exchange as follows:

COOPER: I want to run on. I’ve got a phone call I’ve got to leave for. But I didn’t intend to speak today. But I want you to leave, with these folks trying to be nice and deal with the professional things that they do without I having said to you – you need to understand if I don’t satisfy the Federal Highway Administration there will be nothing.

I need you to understand bluntly that I have not spent begging and cajoling to approve a document and paying these people to do the same just because I like doing it. It’s what was required to get to this point – to give you the option to object to funding the road. That option can only come to you if I can get to you the information you need to know what option you’re voting on.

And I can’t get it in the position you’ve put me in.

SIMPSON: I haven’t seen anything where we get a vote.

COOPER: I beg your pardon?

SIMPSON: The first time you’ve …

COOPER: Sir, you’ve never asked for a vote on anything, but —

SIMPSON: I’m asking for a vote –

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And I’m telling you, I’ll recommend to the governor she let you vote on it.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I will. I’ll recommend to the governor that she let the two delegations vote on it and I’ll further recommend we don’t do it if there’s not a majority in each delegation.

SIMPSON: That sounds wonderful. That is a huge step today.

COOPER: I’m fine.

SIMPSON: Until this point, following the process of going through what we have done, we have no control. Under the law, currently you don’t have to ask us to ask for a vote. It goes to the toll authority.

COOPER: Sir, I’m trying to listen to you patiently.

SIMPSON: OK.

COOPER: All you’ve done that I’m aware of is condemn the project before you ever asked a single question about it.

SIMPSON: Where have you seen I’ve condemned the project?

COOPER: You signed a resolution opposing the project.

SIMPSON: We signed the resolution asking for a better answer.

COOPER: No, you signed the resolution opposing the project.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You didn’t ask a single question. None of –

SIMPSON: When didn’t I ask questions?

COOPER: None of you asked a single question before you did that.

SIMPSON: Sir, have you talked … just because we didn’t have a question you, we didn’t ask questions?

COOPER: All I know is you didn’t ask me anything.

SIMPSON: OK, the Baldwin delegation sent up a letter with about 22 questions — we sent up to you. You came down to Spanish Fort and answered these questions because you wanted to have them in writing, correct?

COPPER: Correct.

SIMPSON: So please don’t say we didn’t ask questions.

COOPER: The Mobile delegation as a delegation asked no questions.

SIMPSON: I’m in both, so don’t say I didn’t ask questions.

COOPER: Sir, I’m proud you are and I don’t wish to argue with you. But I’ll make that recommendation to the governor. But you as a body need to understand you can have that control. With that control comes great responsibility.

SIMPSON: Absolutely.

COOPER: And we’ll present alternatives to you but you need to help us get in a position we can do that.

SIMPSON: There is nothing in the law, and I’m sorry – I go back to the law. We can take your word all day long that you’re going to give us the opportunity to vote on it. But there is nothing in the law that requires this.

COOPER: Sir, I told you that I would recommend to the governor that she put that in writing.

SIMPSON: That means nothing.

COOPER: Well, then I’m going to have real difficulty pleasing you if my word means nothing and if the governor puts it in writing that means nothing. I don’t know what else I can do.

SIMPSON: This is the first time you have approached us. This is the very first time that has been discussed. So please don’t put it back to I haven’t asked question, because I have asked questions —

COOPER: We don’t need to go over whether you did or didn’t. I apologize for saying that.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Is that a path forward?

SIMPSON: We’re trying to find a middle ground.

COOPER: I’m saying, is that a path forward, if the governor would do that? And I don’t know if she will.

SIMPSON: If the governor would allow us to vote, absolutely.

COOPER: I’ll recommend that to her.

SIMPSON: You can put that recommendation on a piece of paper and she can say no.

COOPER: If she does that, will you ask the MPO to put it back in the TIP?

SIMPSON: If you get it in writing first.

COOPER: I said if she does that —

SIMPSON: If you put it in writing that says I will put it to the delegation and let them answer the question, then I will recommend that.

COOPER: — will you ask the MPO to put it back in the TIP?

SIMPSON: If you get it in writing that says —

COOPER: I’ll make that recommendation.

SIMPSON: I think that’s it.

COOPER: You’ve caught it. I hope you’re ready to skin it.

Following the event, Simpson explained to FOX 10 why he saw his questioning of Cooper necessary.

“The purpose of this meeting was to ask questions, and I’m not going to apologize for asking tough questions,” Simpson said. “The project went from $850 million to $2.1 billion, and I think it’s fair to just ask questions, ‘how?’”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

Episode 1: SEC Network’s Cole Cubelic

Dale Jackson is joined by the SEC Network personality and WJOX-FM’s Three Man Front host Cole Cubelic.

Cole describes his path to multimedia stardom — from putting on the pads as a middle-schooler to pharmaceutical sales to calling SEC football games. Cole shares how his wife’s supported him throw the lows and how he got to his highs.
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14 hours ago

Episode 22: It’s Bo time

With Auburn announcing Bo Nix the starter at quarterback, DrunkAubie reconvenes to react and answer listeners’ questions about the freshman. DrunkAubie also discusses the top traditions and top mascots in college football and offers up some advice for the upcoming season.

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15 hours ago

State Rep. John Rogers not running for U.S. Senate, says Jones showing ‘conservatism’ but not racist

State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) on Wednesday told Yellowhammer News that he will not run in the 2020 Democratic U.S. Senate primary against Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

Rogers began considering a potential bid towards the tail-end of the Alabama legislature’s regular session this spring. At that time, he told Yellowhammer News, “I don’t want to run a campaign just to run. I want to run to win.”

He said he needed to raise $500,000 in order to be competitive.

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However, after testing the waters for months, Rogers has concluded that he cannot raise sufficient funds, saying Jones’ war chest was too much to overcome in a primary. Rogers previously challenged Jones to a public debate, which Alabama’s junior senator ignored.

The state representative from Jefferson County on Wednesday also commented on the ongoing battle that has pitted Jones and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) against the leadership of the Alabama Democratic Party and the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC).

Rogers said that he disagreed with the charges of racism against Jones made by the state party’s secretary, Val Bright, who last week penned an open letter saying that Jones and the DNC were targeting “blacks” in their effort to overhaul the party’s structure and leadership.

“Although blacks have been faithful to the Democratic Party and are largely responsible for electing Doug Jones and any white seeking office in this state, once elected on the backs of blacks, the urgency to remove black leadership begins,” Bright stated.

“In other words, as long as we’re working in the fields all is well, but when we move to positions of authority, a challenge begins,” she added. “From slavery through Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement, we are constantly being shown how little respect blacks receive for being hard working and loyal.”

Rogers advised that he does not believe Jones to be a racist.

“Because Alabama is a conservative state, and you’ve got to have some conservatives in the legislature (Congress) — I hate to say that, but it is Alabama, and if you’re going to run for a statewide office, you’ve got to be in the middle of the road,” Rogers said. “And Doug knows that. I mean — I don’t like some of the things he does to show his ‘conservatism,’ but if you want to be expecting to win against a Republican, you’ve got to show some conservatism.”

Rogers continued to say Jones is still his friend and has been “for a long time.”

“I don’t think he’s racist, I wouldn’t dare call him a racist,” Rogers concluded.

RELATED: Rogers: Jones called me, admitted I was ‘right’ on abortion remarks

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

15 hours ago

University of Alabama in Huntsville honored for discovering one of physics’ ‘Holy Grails’

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) announced this week that it has been honored by The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers with a Milestone Plaque for a 1987 physics discovery.

The discovery of superconductivity at 93 Kelvin occurred on January 29, 1987, and the dedication of the award recognizes “the impact of the world’s first material to superconduct above the technologically significant temperature of liquid nitrogen.”

UAH said in a release posted to its website, “The material that is the subject of the discovery was first conceived, synthesized, and tested in a UAH physics laboratory in Wilson Hall. It has been referred to by some science writers as one of physics’ ‘Holy Grails.’ The discovery prompted an American Physical Society meeting in March of 1987 to become known as ‘The Woodstock of Physics.'”

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The site added, “By crossing the 77 Kelvin barrier and making superconductivity possible at the temperature of the much more affordable and easily used coolant liquid nitrogen, the material discovered at UAH opened up a realm of more practical superconductivity applications.”

The site also noted that superconductors have been useful in powerful electromagnets, such as those used in MRI and NMR machines, maglev trains, and fusion reactor research; low-loss electrical power cables; fast fault current limiters; fast digital circuits; sensitive detection and measurement of magnetism, subatomic particles, and light, along with radio-frequency and microwave filters.

The UAH material has been used in high field magnets (holding the current record of 45.5 Tesla), electric power cables, fault current limiters, and radio-frequency filters.

A bronze plaque, which was presented on Monday, will be mounted outside the room that once served as the superconductivity laboratory at UAH.

The plaque reads as follows:

On this site, a material consisting of yttrium, barium, copper, and oxygen was first conceived, synthesized, tested, and — on 29 January 1987 — found to exhibit stable and reproducible superconductivity at 93 Kelvin. This marked the first time the phenomenon had been unambiguously achieved above 77 Kelvin, the boiling point of liquid nitrogen, thus enabling more practical and widespread use of superconductors.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.