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The Alabama Tourism Department presents Alabama Road Trip giveaway

The Alabama Tourism Department announces a six-week Road Trip Giveaway with chances to win travel packages to Gulf Shores, Mobile, Huntsville, the Shoals, Birmingham and Montgomery. The winner of the grand prize will get to plan their own customized Alabama Road Trip.

“This road trip promotion is designed to highlight the variety of travel experiences available in Alabama,” said state tourism director Lee Sentell. “There is something for everyone, from a gulf coast beach vacation, to playing on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, to fine dining in Birmingham, to trips to North Alabama for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville and tours of the recording studios in Muscle Shoals.”

Prize package descriptions, complete rules and instructions on entering are available at http://www.roadtripgiveaway.com. To learn more about Alabama Road Trips, visit http://www.alabama.travel or download the Alabama Road Trips app, available on iTunes or the Google Play Store.

CNN features Little River Canyon in North Alabama on list of America’s natural wonders

In a country covering nearly 3.8 million square miles, there’s no shortage of natural wonders. Here are our favorite spots.

Alabama- Wild River
Rafters and kayakers will find some of the best white water in the South in the Little River Canyon National Preserve. But beware: They don’t call the most harrowing stretch “the Suicide Section” for nothing. These are expert-level rapids. To witness nature’s force from terra firma, soak in views of Little River Falls while picnicking nearby.

The Little River’s diminutive name is deceiving. It’s taken thousands of years for the river to carve out one of the deepest canyons east of the Mississippi River. The various creeks and tributaries that make up the Little River have the unusual distinction of flowing on top of a mountain. The river meanders atop Lookout Mountain from Georgia into Alabama. At its highest point, the river is 1,900 feet above sea level. It eventually plunges off the Cumberland Plateau at the head of the canyon.

For the complete article and list of natural wonders see http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/07/travel/50-states-natural-wonders/?hpt=tr_c1

Saw’s BBQ in Homewood #1 on Paula Deen magazine’s 10 best barbecue places

Saw’s BBQ is No. 1 with Paula Deen, y’all. The popular Homewood barbecue joint tops the list of “The Best Barbecue across America” that appears in the July-August issue of Cooking with Paula Deen magazine, which is available on newsstands now.

Saw’s BBQ founder Mike Wilson said Wednesday afternoon he was pleasantly surprised when he learned his place was first on Deen’s list.

“To be named No. 1 in something like that is kind of what you do it for,” Wilson said. “I couldn’t believe it at first. It pays off, all of your hard work.”

Here’s what Deen’s magazine had to say about Saw’s BBQ:

“The focus of Saw’s BBQ is simple – good ole Southern soul food. Pioneered by Mike Wilson, Saw’s has taken Birmingham by a smoky storm. First opening in the residential area of Homewood, the venue has expanded to three locations where they serve classic pulled pork, chicken smothered in a distinctive white sauce, and barbecue-topped baked potatoes. Dubbed an ‘upscale dive,’ this barbecue joint is one both family and friends will enjoy.”

Since opening the original Saw’s BBQ in Homewood’s Edgewood neighborhood in 2009, Wilson has teamed with other partners to open two more Saw’s locations in Birmingham – Saw’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale and Saw’s Juke Joint in Crestline Park – and this spring, he started a Saw’s Street Kitchen food truck.

Last summer, Parade magazine included Saw’s Soul Kitchen on its list of the 17 top new barbecue places in America.

Cooking with Paula Deen is published by Hoffman Media, which is based in Birmingham. Deen, the Savannah, Ga., celebrity chef and cookbook author, is the magazine’s editor-in-chief.

For Cooking with Paula Deen magazine’s Top 10 list and to read the article online, go to: http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2014/06/saws_bbq_in_homewood_is_no_1_o.html

100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before you Die mobile app active

What’s your favorite Alabama special dish?

The Alabama Tourism Department now has a mobile app called, “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.” The mobile app entices users to sample some of Alabama’s best local restaurants.

Among the favored dishes: Baked grits from Highlands Bar and Grill, broiled seafood platter from The Bright Star, Baby Bleu Salad from the Homewood Gourmet, Athenian grouper from the Fish Market, a Pork-Stuffed Tater from Saw’s BBQ, and Bouillabaisse from Hot and Hot Fish Club.

The tourism department’s food exhibit has been touring the country. The exhibit has visited New York, New Orleans, Nashville and Atlanta. The traveling exhibit is now being displayed throughout the state. Following its run in Birmingham, the Art of Alabama Food will make stops in Orange Beach from July 2 to August 9 and in Florence in mid-August. The exhibit arrived at Birmingham’s Pepper Place today, and will remain until June 28th.

Thirty-six high-definition images of different signature dishes from some of Alabama’s local restaurants and state-wide chains are laid-out gallery-style. For more information, visit www.artofalabamafood.com.
For video, go to: http://www.abc3340.com/story/25765882/100-dishes-to-eat-in-alabama-before-you-die-mobile-app-active-exhibit-on-display-in-birmingham

Alabama food exhibit opens in Birmingham at Pepper Place

The Art of Alabama Food, a photo exhibit that features many of the state’s iconic dishes, has made its way back home after exhibitions in New York City, New Orleans, Nashville and Atlanta.

The exhibit, which includes images of 36 dishes featured in the Alabama Tourism Department’s “100 Dishes To Eat in Alabama Before You Die” campaign, opened at Pepper Place in Birmingham last week and runs through June 28.

“With a large pool of culinary talent and innovative restaurants, it’s an exciting time for Alabama food,” Alabama Tourism Department Director Lee Sentell said in a media release. “This one-of-a-kind exhibit features images of signature dishes from restaurants across the state. It’s a great representation of Alabama’s unique food culture.”

In Birmingham, the exhibit is on display in a gallery space in Suite K, near Terrific New Theatre, in the Pepper Place complex at 2821 Second Ave. South.

Exhibit hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and 7 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

After Birmingham, The Art of Alabama Food will travel to Orange Beach, where it will be displayed at The Compleat Studio at The Whaf from July 2 through Aug. 9. Those hours will be 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Future tour stops will include Florence, Huntsville, Montgomery, Mobile and Dothan.

To see this article online, go to: http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2014/06/photos_that_look_good_enough_t.html

USA TODAY profiles Moe’s Bar B Que

Every great barbecue joint has an interesting creation story, but the story of Moe’s is stranger than most. Mike Fernandez was a student at University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and inspired by the awesome local barbecue scene at places like the superlative Dreamland, he partnered with Moses Day, an experienced pitmaster, to open Moe’s Original Barbecue in Tuscaloosa. After his mentor and partner passed away, Moe’s closed and Fernandez went to culinary school (Johnson & Wales) to learn a more professional approach to the restaurant business.

Afterwards, he found himself living the ski-bum dream with two good college friends in Vail, Colo., a town bereft of real barbecue, so the three partners started cooking from a home built pit in nearby Edwards in 2001, which immediately became locally popular and morphed into a mobile trailer. The success of the trailer grew into a small eatery followed quickly in 2005 by a move to larger nearby location, still in operation today, in the Lionshead base area of Vail, just steps from the ski lifts. Tucked upstairs in a less obvious shopping plaza, this oldest location of Moe’s Original Bar B Que remains a hidden gem, at least as much as is possible in Vail. If you find yourself at America’s most popular ski resort, winter or summer, it is well worth seeking out. But there is more to the tale.

Because of the trio’s history in Tuscaloosa, they soon began partnering with driven and equally barbecue-obsessed graduates of their alma mater to open outposts of Moe’s wherever the U of A alums found themselves, from Alabama to Maine. Today, less than a decade after moving into their first space, there are nearly 30 Moe’s in eight states (Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Ohio, Nevada and Tennessee), with more outposts opening soon in California and South Carolina. It’s an interesting twist on franchising where prospective owners typically prove their mettle interning in one of the existing Moe’s and then often open with interest-free or low-interest loans and deferred fees from the founders, who often come and help work the new openings to get them up and running.

To read the entire article, go to: http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/columnist/greatamericanbites/2014/06/05/moes-barbecue-vail/9967553/

Guinness says: Birmingham’s Barber Motorsports Park has the world’s largest motorcycle museum

It’s official: Birmingham is home to the world’s largest motorcycle museum.
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum now holds that title, according to Guinness World Records.
Officials made the announcement Friday at Barber Motorsports Park, where the museum is located, amid the opening activities for this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, an event that is in its fifth year at the 830-acre racing venue.

Reaction to Guinness Designation Birmingham Mayor William Bell and George Barber were on hand on Friday, April 25, 2014, as it was announced that Barber Motorsports Museum has been named the largest motorcycle museum by Guinness World Records. Here, Bell and Barber talk about what that designation means for Birmingham. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr./screnshawjr@al.com)
Birmingham businessman and longtime motorcycle collector George Barber, who built the park and museum, said he and his team had always believed the museum was the world’s largest.
But they wanted something to back up that claim, so they sought Guinness certification.
While the museum’s new title means a lot to Barber and the people who helped him build it, he hopes it means the most to Birmingham.
“It’s got to bring some positive vibes to the city,” said the former dairy magnate and real estate developer. “I want to use it as a tool to help bring more people to Birmingham.”
The Barber museum and park already are doing their part in that area. Last year alone, they drew 270,000 visitors, including more than 3,000 museum visitors who hailed from other countries.
According to the official Guinness record, the museum houses the world’s largest collection of vintage and contemporary motorcycles, with 1,398 unique exhibits.
The five-story glass, steel and concrete structure features eye-catching displays of motorcycle towers and machines suspended from walls. The whole place has a cosmopolitan feel, as there are exhibits from more than 100 countries.
The museum also has a collection of around 60 Lotus race cars.
Barber said he never imagined the venue would grow to what it is today.
In addition to the museum, the park features a 16-turn, 2.38-mile road racing track and draws auto and motorcycle races, conventions and festivals throughout the year. It’s also home to the Porsche Sport Driving School, and a number of automakers have chosen the park’s rolling green landscape as the backdrop for new vehicle debuts.
READ MORE: Vroom, vroom: Chevy shows off new Camaro Z/28 at Birmingham’s Barber Motorsports Park
Barber, who has been collecting motorcycles for 25 years, started the museum in a warehouse on Southside before the current location opened in 2003.
The museum has been working on the Guinness certification for about six months and followed an extensive process that required photos and documentation of each exhibit, said Don Erwin, vice president of corporate development for Barber Companies.
“Once we dug into this, we found out it was serious business,” he said.
This is a new record category, according to Sara Wilcox, a spokeswoman for Guinness World Records North America Inc.
“Guinness World Records is always open to new record categories and we are happy to approve this achievement,” she said.
Barber says he doesn’t play favorites when it comes to his motorcycles: “You know you do not have a favorite child.”
But highlights of the collection include those driven by motorcycle and auto racing world champion John Surtees, as well as billionaire investor Jim Rogers, who was raised in Demopolis and made his own mark in the Guinness World Record books for transcontinental motorcycle travel.
“Most are connected to personalities,” Barber said of the motorcycles. “And they have their own personalities and a story to tell.”
He said he enjoys walking through the museum when it’s full of visitors, and he gets to meet people from far-flung places. But he also likes the quiet times there.
“If you come early in the morning or late in the evening, these machines will talk to you; they’ll tell you a little about themselves,” Barber said. “Particularly the world champion bikes … you’ll walk by and feel the vibe and the energy of where they’ve been.”

Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa launches “Summer at the Castle”

Summer fun isn’t just for kids anymore. Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa is offering “Summer at the Castle,” a summer full of activities for families and couples staying at the resort. Ross Bridge guests will enjoy Highland games for children, “A Taste of Scotland” cocktail tastings for adults and dive-in movies for everyone all at no additional price.

“Renaissance Ross Bridge has been an international golf and luxury destination since opening in 2005,” said Rick Smith, general manager of Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa. “With Summer at the Castle, we are embracing our Scottish heritage and offering a variety of fun activities for families and couples in the region. Ross Bridge has become known for our nightly bagpiper and this summer it will become known for so much more. The program started over Memorial Day weekend and was a great success,” said Smith.

While the activities will change each week some favorites that will be featured all season during Summer at the Castle are; Highland Games on the Grassy Knoll each day, High Iced Tea – Afternoon Tea with a Southern Twist, Dive-in Movies at the indoor pool, Create Your Own Spa Blends, Follow the Bagpiper – Follow the piper around the resort grounds, Cupcakes with the Pastry Chef – Enjoy a sweet treat, Marshmallow Roasting at the Terrace, Cooking Classes and Tastings, Acoustics by the Pool on Saturday afternoons, Night putting on the Green, and Bike rides to the original Ross Bridge.

Summer at the Castle offers great family and adult sun with a Scottish accent.

For more information visit Renaissance Ross Bridge on Facebook, click on www.rossbridgeresort.com or call 205.916.7677.

McWane Science Center to participate in Blue Star Museums program

McWane Science Center recently announced its participation in Blue Star Museums, a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums across America to offer free admission to the nation’s active duty military personnel including National Guard and Reserve and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2014. Leadership support has been provided by MetLife Foundation through Blue Star Families. The program provides families an opportunity to enjoy the nation’s cultural heritage and learn more about their new communities after a military move. The complete list of participating museums is available at ts.gov/national/blue?star?museums.

“Blue Star Museums has grown into a nationally recognized program that service members and their families look forward to each year,” said Blue Star Families Chief Executive Officer Kathy Roth?Douquet. “It helps bring our local military and civilian communities together, and offers families fun and enriching activities in their home towns. We are thrilled with the continued growth of the program and the unparalleled opportunities it offers.”

“McWane Science Center is happy to be a part of this program for another year. The opportunity to welcome our military and their families is one we as an organization feel is important and we look forward to it, “said Amy Templeton, President and CEO of McWane Science Center.

To find participating museums and plan your trip, visit: www.arts.gov/national/blue?star?museums.

Chef Hastings opening new restaurant: Food & Wine has already noticed

Birmingham chef Chris Hastings hasn’t even started building his new restaurant, but it’s already made Food & Wine magazine’s list of 8 Amazing New Grill Restaurants in America.

The list appears in the June issue of the magazine, which is on newsstands now.

Hastings, who co-owns Hot and Hot Fish Club with his wife, Idie, told AL.com that they are in the early stages of building a casual, rustic, 60-seat restaurant that will adjoin Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery at Pepper Place.

The restaurant, which will feature a wood-fired oven, will be called Ovenbird, named after the national bird of Argentina and Uruguay.

The menu will reflect Hastings’ farm-to-table philosophy, incorporating local and seasonal Southern ingredients with the flame-grilled cooking styles of South America, Hastings said.

Hastings said Food & Wine contacted him about his new restaurant several months ago, and at the time, he thought it would be open this summer. Now, though, it looks more like November, he said.

He is still awaiting a building permit, and once that is approved, the restaurant should open in another 16 to 18 weeks, he said.

“Ovenbird is a reality,” Hastings said. “It is not an ‘if’ question. It is a ‘when’ question.”

The menu will feature small-plate meals that will encourage diners to pick and choose from a number of selections, he said.

“It will be a place to go for a quick bite to eat and a glass of wine — no reservations,” he said. “It’s going to be very unique, certainly for Birmingham.”

The restaurant will be nestled in the gardens and bordered by the wrought-iron fence outside Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery.

To see the complete Food & Wine list of 8 Amazing New Grill Restaurants, go here.

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