Sunday, January 8, 2023

Alabama Appalachian Adventures: A Book Tour of Nine Northeast Alabama Counties

 How about a book trip through northeast Alabama, with something to read, something to see and someplace to eat? Here are your Alabama Appalachian Adventures.

1. Starting in Jackson County, read Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman, about the arrest and trial of the falsely accused and convicted Scottsboro Boys. Check out the newly redesigned Scottsboro Boys Museum, go on a treasure hunt at Unclaimed Baggage and see the Scottsboro Boys Mural by the famous artist, Don Howard, on Scottsboro’s historic courthouse square. Grab lunch at Alabama’s oldest soda fountain, the delicious Payne’s Sandwich Shop. 

2. Next, head to Huntsville in Madison County. Read Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans. Visit Constitution Hall Village and learn about the early days of the state that was the first to make Christmas a legal holiday. Enjoy an afternoon tea at Poppy and Parliament on Huntsville’s  Madison County Courthouse Square. 

3. For Morgan County, read What Happened to Mary Faye Hunter by Glenda Yarbrough, a novel based on the true story of a Decatur woman who went missing in May of 1967. Her remains were found 5 months later in nearby Flint Creek. Visit Cook’s Natural Science Museum and Morgan Price Candy. Have some pulled pork with Alabama White Sauce at Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ

4. Now let’s visit the city of Cullman in Cullman County, the birthplace of the Godfather of Southern Cuisine, Frank Stitt. Read Frank Stitt’s Southern Table. With a foreword by author Pat Conroy and Stitt’s beautifully written food stories, it’s more than just a book of recipes, though the recipes are masterpieces. Drive over to Smith Farms for smoked meats, cheese and wine. You’ll know you’ve arrived by the heavy and delicious smell of the smoked meats in the air. Choose your favorites and navigate to Clarkson Covered Bridge, built in 1904. There are picnic tables nearby where you can enjoy your snacks and the beautiful bridge, too. You won’t find a Stitt restaurant in Cullman County, but you can have some great food and drinks at 412 Public House

5. From Cullman, we’ll head to Blount County. Our book there was a surprise to me. Maybe it will be to you as well. It’s really a short story instead of a book and it was written by one of the most famous short story writers of all time, O. Henry. The Ransom of Red Chief takes place in the Blount County community of Summit. In this county, check out the beautiful limestone formations at Rickwood Caverns. If you enjoyed the Clarkson Covered Bridge, you can see three more in Blount County: Horton Mill, Swann and Easley. Try eating at Charlie B’s in Oneonta if you’re craving a meat and three.

6. Up next is Guntersville in Marshall County. Our book here is a legal thriller by Alabama’s own, Bob Bailey. Rich Blood, his latest twisty nail-biter, is set in Guntersville. While you’re in the lake city, check out the brand new Guntersville City Harbor, where you can shop, relax in their amazing swings and eat. Try Big Mike’s for Steak or La Esquina Cocina for Mexican. There’s a brewery, The Brewer’s Cooperative, too.

7. Our next stop is Gadsden, in Etowah County and our book is Gadsden, Stories of the Great Depression by Robert Wilbanks. The book is one man’s memories of what it was like to live through the greatest economic depression in American history. Shop for locally made gifts at downtown Gadsden’s Alabama Gift Company, eat at The Rail Public House and visit beautiful Noccalula Falls.

8. Centre, in Cherokee County, is our next stop. Our book is a story about one of Cherokee County’s native sons, Cherokee Chief John Ross. The book, Toward the Setting Sun by Brian Hicks is about one of America’s saddest tragedies, the Cherokee removal on the Trail of Tears, and the famous chief who led his people for 40 years. Visit Orbix Hot Glass and blow your own glass Christmas ornament, catch a movie at a real drive-in, 411 Drive-in and go exploring in Little River Canyon. Grab a delicious bite at the Mountain Parkway Grill in Sand Rock..

Our final destination is the beautiful mountain town of Mentone in Dekalb County and our book is Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber. Though the town in this book is fictional, it has all the Mentone vibes. While you’re there, stay at beautiful Poet’s Paradise. It’s right near the entrance to Desoto Falls, where you can hike and explore. Then eat at either The Wildflower Cafe, Elevation Bistro or the Mentone Market. 

There you go! Enjoy your books and your Appalachian Adventures while visiting beautiful northeast Alabama. .

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Fabulous Fayetteville


Fayetteville, Tennessee, established in 1809,  is the county seat of Lincoln County. It’s home to about 7,000 people, but don’t let the small size fool you. What it lacks in numbers, it more than makes up for in personality. One of those personalities is Fayetteville Main Street director, Aimee Byrd. The young mother of three small children is a whirling dervish of energy and enthusiasm and she is channeling every bit of it into making her downtown the best it can be. Aimee can be seen all over town, greeting shop owners, planning events and figuring out ways to promote her town. Every town needs an Aimee Byrd.

The last time Three Friends and a Fork visited Fayetteville, in 2013, we were simply three friends visiting a little cafe called Okra, and there wasn’t much more to see besides a lot of empty historic buildings, a few shops and offices, and Sir’s Fabrics. Sitting in that cafe, eating lunch, we decided a blog would be a good way to make sure we scheduled time to spend with each other, since we had recently retired from teaching together. We had no illusions that anyone would read our blog besides the three of us. It was just for fun.

So imagine our surprise when six (not three) of us drove into town last Thursday. Now, nearly ten years later, Okra was gone, and so was Sir’s, but in their place was a downtown, bustling with activity. The same historic buildings lined the streets, but now they were filled with shops, restaurants and art installations. 

A little pocket garden, The Garden of LOVE, along with a food pantry, operated on the honor system, invites visitors to take what they need and leave something behind to share with others. Fayetteville was alive with activity and everyone was so friendly. You could tell they were proud of their sweet town.

We started our visit with a beautiful and delicious charcuterie grazing table from Misty at Sweet Feed Company in Aimee’s office at Fayetteville Main Street. It was fabulous! We just kept going back and discovering some tasty nugget we hadn’t seen the first time. 

Then Aimee introduced us to the fascinating, Joe Edmonson, owner of our accommodations for the night, Enchanting Castle Hall, just upstairs from Aimee’s Main Street office in the historic Pythian building. Joe was knowledgeable about the building, the secret Pythian Society, (similar to Masons) and Fayetteville, in general.  

We couldn’t wait to get started exploring downtown Fayetteville, so we hit our first two shops, Anna Phillips Designs and Ivy Wreath Florist and Gifts. We found all sorts of things we simply couldn’t live without. I’m afraid Mr. Anna Phillips wasn’t prepared for the giggling tribe that came through the door, but he sure was a good sport!

Next, Aimee took us to The Market at Buckley Farm and, oh my goodness! We immediately began making plans to come back again the next day to load up our coolers. They had everything from locally grown meat, pastured eggs, seasonal vegetables, spreads and breads to hand-crafted bath and beauty products, fresh cut flowers, candles and handmade wooden spoons. 

When we headed back to town we had time to rest a bit and get ready for dinner at Cahoots, where all the food was delicious, but the onion rings were phenomenal! I would go back just for a plate of onion rings. 

After dinner we walked around town a bit, enjoying the beautiful murals, before heading back to our loft. Fayetteville is fortunate to have wide streets and lots of sidewalks, giving the town an A+ in walkability. And it has an old theater. They get double bonus points for that! The Lincoln Theater adds so much to Fayetteville’s downtown ambiance.

We had lots of plans for Friday, so we got up and headed to Java Road for avocado toast, breakfast sandwiches, muffins, pastries and coffee drinks. After breakfast we met Fayetteville city mayor, Michael Whisenant and Lincoln County mayor, Bill Newman, at a 9-11 remembrance event on the Courthouse lawn. 

Then we hit the shops! We met the charming Lance Bonin at Bonin Bazaar and discovered haute couture, and sweet Pam Howell at The Book Inn where we found the last three Robert Bailey books on her shelf. She said the books are so popular, she can’t keep them in stock. She’s really hoping the author will do a book signing in her store. We were thrilled to see art by our very own Nancy Bradford hanging on the wall at Dragonfly Gallery and Design. Bumblebee Baby and Kids has the most darling clothes and gifts for little ones and West Side Antiques has something for everyone. West Side owners, Jack and Tami Miller, gave us all the cutest tea towels. 

All that shopping left us ready to sample Fayetteville’s most famous food invention, Honey’s SlawBurger, created by The Godfather of Slaw, Lee McAllister. We not only got to meet Lee, we all got SlawBurgers (and loved them, courtesy of Dragonfly Gallery owner, Carl Gleghorn) and our own Honey’s T-shirts, thanks to Lee McAllister. For the uninitiated, the slaw on a SlawBurger is a sweet and tangy mustard slaw. Delicious!

After we left Honey’s, I noticed something clanging against my purse. The magnet on my purse had shoplifted a butter knife! Aimee called us Three Friends and a Knife, but I gave the knife to Aimee to return to Honeys.

There was no magnet snatching at our final stops. Carter’s Drugs is the kind of pharmacy you dream about. It’s prescriptions, clothing and gifts all in one. We ended up with everything but medicine. Just ask Tina!
We stopped in at The Skin Refinery where they were getting ready for a one year anniversary celebration. Congrats! And we loved the art at Art by Allie’s Southern Bales. Fayetteville’s Merle Norman has a sign so old, the company wants to buy it back. We stopped in for some new lip gloss before heading home. Our final stop was at Pilaroc Farms as we headed out of town. Jennie, the owner, dropped in to say hi and we got a picture in front of her “wall of meats”. It’s a big wall and a lot of meat and it looked amazing. But for us, her wall of Jeni’s Splendid ice creams was too much to bear. We broke down, asked Jennie for three spoons (one fork just wouldn’t do) and plunged into a carton of Banana Brûlée with banana custard, small batch brandy, caramel sauce, and burnt sugar candies. I think the picture speaks for itself.

Y’all, we had the best time in Fayetteville! Thanks, Amie! Fayetteville, keep doing what you’re doing because it’s working! Until next time! We ♥️ You, Fayetteville!