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Alabama’s BBQ joints compete for best BBQ

It’s March Madness time again. And in the state of Alabama that apparently doesn’t mean basketball. But it does mean barbecue.

And since there is no better argument than a good barbecue argument, the Alabama Tourism Department is stoking those fires again by bringing back its Alabama Barbecue Bracket, a social media contest pitting some of the state’s favorite pig palaces against each other to let voters decide whose ‘cue is Bama’s best.

Last year, as you may recall, Birmingham-based Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, which has multiple locations around the state, edged Montgomery’s Sam’s Bar-B-Q in the finals, sparking lots of heated debate about not only the worthiness of Jim ‘N Nick’s barbecue, but how unfair it was that little ol’ smoke shacks had to compete against the big, bad chains.

But that is another argument for another day.

Today, we are here to unveil the 2014 bracket that — unlike last year, which was divided into four geographic regions – is this year divided into four barbecue specialties: ribs, chicken, pork and sauce.

The participating restaurants were selected based on social media polling conducted this past fall, according to an Alabama Tourism Department press release, and many of the restaurants in this year’s field are represented in multiple categories.

Saw’s BBQ in Homewood, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Dreamland Bar-B-Que and Full Moon Bar-B-Q, for instance, are nominated in all four categories — pork, ribs, chicken and sauce.

Beginning March 17, voters will be able to go to the Facebook page Facebook.com/AlabamaFood to cast their online votes in each of those categories.

Here are the first-round matchups in each of the four categories:

Pork: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q vs. Top Hat Barbecue; Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q vs. Dreamland Bar-B-Que; Saw’s BBQ vs. Bunyan’s Bar-B-Q; Full Moon Bar-B-Q vs. Whitts Barbecue.

Ribs: Dreamland Bar-B-Que vs. Rusty’s Bar-B-Q; Archibald’s B.B.Q. vs Full Moon Bar-B-Q; Smokin’ On the Boulevard vs. Big Daddy Bar-B-Q; Saw’s BBQ vs. Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q.

Chicken: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q vs. Saw’s BBQ; Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q vs. Dreamland Bar-B-Que; Full Moon Bar-B-Q vs. Johnny’s Bar-B-Q; Miss Myra’s Pit Bar-B-Q vs. Greenbrier Bar-B-Q.

Sauce: Dreamland Bar-B-Que vs. Big Daddy’s Bar-B-Q; Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q vs. Saw’s BBQ; Archibald’s B.B.Q. vs. Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q; Bob Sykes BarB-Q vs. Full Moon Bar-B-Q.

Voting in each head-to-head match-up will last for 48 hours, and those restaurants with the most votes will advance to the Sweet Sixteen, then the Elite Eight and then the Final Four.

[RELATED: Alabama has two BBQ chains on list of America's 10 best]

The competition coincides with the annual NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament – aka, “March Madness” – that also starts next week and, unfortunately, is unlikely to include any school from the state of Alabama. But at least we can be proud of our barbecue.

“Barbecue is part of our heritage,” Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell says. “The culinary tradition and cultural impact of our world-class barbecue make this bracket a source of local pride for Alabamians. “We’re excited to see what the voters define as truly the best.”

“In the inaugural Alabama Barbecue Bracket, voters determined which restaurant has the best barbecue in the state, but now voters will determine what defines the most iconic Alabama barbecue dish,” Sentell adds.

“Whether that’s a rack of ribs, smoked chicken, pulled pork or white sauce, this year’s bracket will shed light on the dishes that make our state’s barbecue portfolio so diverse. We’re excited to see what the voters define as truly the best.”

Online voting for the Final Four competitors to determine the “Alabama’s Ultimate Barbecue Champion” will begin April 2, and the winner will be announced Mon., April 7, the same day of the NCAA’s Men’s Basketball Championship.

While one restaurant will take home the overall title, each of the Final Four entries will be named winners in their respective barbecue categories. And it is a possibility that one restaurant could win in all four categories.
Find out more about the Alabama Barbecue Bracket at ILoveAlabamaFood.com.

Go to the barbeque bracket site at: http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2014/03/alabama_barbecue_bracket_2014.html#incart_river_default

Cruise on the Coosa Queen near Treasure Island Bed and Breakfast

Board this boat for a scenic cruise just 10 miles from Treasure Island Bed and Breakfast.
Having lived on a houseboat on Lake Logan Martin since 1993 and in Hollywood, Florida, on a boat before that, Don said he has grown to appreciate what the Coosa River scene offers. “I love the people up here. To me, there’s nothing like this on the lake. I just want to support the community and offer it something unique and exciting.” The Coosa Queen is a 16 x 58 foot, 50-passenger riverboat that offers two-hour cruises for many events and social occasions, offering day and evening cruise options. Beginning May 12, the boat will also allow cruisers catered dinner while they enjoy the sights, sounds and atmosphere of the Coosa River. “I want to see a smile on people’s faces like mine every morning,” said Janice, beaming in the early morning hours aboard the couple’s houseboat in Riverside. “It’s like being on vacation every day.” The couple said they are incorporating the catered dinner, which will include fine dining on weekends, because they wanted to offer more than just a boat ride on the Coosa. “There are so many people who come out here who don’t have a boat. This gives them an option to enjoy the whole lake and river and have the whole experience out here that they normally couldn’t get,” Janice said. Don, who says he has lived at nearly all of the marinas around the Coosa River/Logan Martin area, was purposeful in wanting to launch from Riverside Landing, in order to support the city where it docks its boats. A family-style environment is what the couple’s riverboat dream is intending to offer. The Coosa Queen will also be featured at this year’s Lake Fest, May 11 and 12. Don said he and Janice had talked about wanting to offer what the Coosa Queen will have in store for cruisers for some time. While driving through Athens, Ala. one day, he spotted the vessel parked in a field, complete with a paddle wheel atatchement and all. – See more at: http://www.newsaegis.com/x474405216/All-aboard-for-a-Coosa-River-cruise#sthash.Kgeq2Tsk.L3lP4BiJ.dpuf

Largest Gathering of Leisure Professionals on the Planet

In 2014, the World Leisure Congress is coming to the U.S.A. for the first time ever. And Mobile, Alabama is honored to be the host. From September 6-12, 2014, the entire Bay region will welcome academics, educators, students, researchers, professionals, government officials, and representatives from non-governmental organizations in the fields of leisure, recreation, tourism and sports.

In sessions and exhibits held at the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center and the University of South Alabama, international experts will explore academic, social, industrial, and political leisure issues through:
•Daily themes
•Daily Keynote Presentations
•Presentations on approximately 15 selected research papers
•Multiple interdisciplinary sessions
•A robust exhibit component
•Educational excursions in and around Mobile
•More opportunities to network with leisure leaders from around the globe

Hank Aaron, a Mobile native and baseball legend, has graciously agreed to serve as Honorary Chairman for the 2014 Mobile Bay World Leisure Congress. Having hit 755 home runs, Hammerin’ Hank has taken leisure to a legendary level and is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Aaron serves as Senior Vice President with the Atlanta Braves, the team he played for professionally. Mobile’s baseball stadium is named after Aaron and his childhood home has been relocated to the stadium as a museum

Best kept secret at Barber Motorsports Park

One of the best kept secrets at Barber Motorsports Park is that a perfect lodging for any event is only minutes away at romantic Treasure Island Bed and Breakfast. If you want a break from the hotel routine. After all, you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Why not experience hotel alternate lodging.
There is an Alabama Bed and Breakfast about 35 minutes from Barber Motorsports, close yet isolated from the crowds after an active day at the track. Treasure Island is located on the shore and main channel of the Coosa river on Logan Martin lake. Come relax, unwind and enjoy the spectacular view over-looking the lake while enjoying a country breakfast. You may make reservation by visiting their website at http://www.treasureislandbedandbreakfast.com or by calling 205-525-5172. The Anniversary Suite is ultimate accommodations that you can celebrate the memories while resting for the events the next day.

UK writer with daughter named Alabama visits the state

Telegraph writer Jessamy Calkin had never been to Alabama, but always loved the American South. The UK writer flew across the pond and landed in New Orleans, hoping to experience the south. On her docket – visiting Mobile first. Her daughter, Alabama, 17, wanted to experience the state she’s named for.

The writer recapped her trip and had pleasant things to write about Mobile.
“Mobile is an old-fashioned southern sea port that prospered from a booming shipbuilding economy during the Second World War. Nearby, the USS Alabama is stationed, a battleship commissioned in 1942 that became known as ‘the hero of the pacific’,” she said.

She said she wished she would have stayed in the Battlehouse Hotel, she wrote. “Many people asked, ‘are you on business or vaycaytion?’” poking fun at the southern accent.
Calkin ventured down Dauphin Street as well.

“There is a wonderful second-hand bookshop, Bienville Books, and next to a pool bar a large biker was boiling crawfish on an industrial-looking gas burner on the pavement. We ate supper in a tall-ceilinged old pizza place called Buck’s and Jonah (Calkin’s 12-yr-old son) fell asleep with his head on the table.”
She noticed the strange weather Mobile has, as well. “It rained all the time we were there, and for a few hours there was a freakish wind. The bellhop, Jeb, said he had never seen anything like it and he had lived in Mobile all his life.”

Calkin also ventured to Monroeville and visited the museum there, with favorable reviews.
To read the entire article, go to: http://blog.al.com/wire/2014/03/u.html

Alabama’bbq chains on the list of America’s 10 best

Two of the 10 best barbecue chains in America are right here in Alabama, according to the food website The Daily Meal.

Birmingham-based Jim ‘N’ Nick’s Bar-B-Q, which was founded by father and son Jim and Nick Pihakis in 1985, is #1 on The Daily Meal’s 10 best list. Moe’s Original Bar B Que, whose founding partners Mike Fernandez, Jeff Kennedy and Ben Gilbert met as college students at the University of Alabama, is #9.

Jim ‘N Nick’s has 14 locations in Alabama, plus restaurants in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The first Moe’s Original Bar B Que opened in Colorado in 2001, but Moe’s now has 12 locations scattered throughout Alabama, plus restaurants in California, Florida, Georgia, Maine, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee — as well as seven more Colorado locations.

Here’s what The Daily Meal had to say about the Alabama chains:

Jim ‘?N Nick’s Bar-B-Q: “Perennial exhibitors at best-of-the-best showcases like New York’s Big Apple BBQ Block Party, they’re smoking their own pork (sold pulled or chopped with a vinegary Carolina-style sauce), spare and baby back ribs, house-cured bone-in ham, legendary house-made pork hot links, chicken, turkey breast, and beef brisket, and serving it with a big dose of Southern hospitality. They also offer a killer hickory-grilled burger and pimento cheese sandwich, but honestly, you’re going to want to reserve all the room in your stomach for this crazy-good barbecue.”

Moe’s Original Bar B Que: “With more than 30 locations centered in Alabama and Colorado, Moe’s is doing barbecue right. It was founded by three friends from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa (who) . . . turned a small slopeside catering operation into a barbecue destination. They still offer catering, but a trip to any of their restaurants is sure to be a good time, and is also a great primer in Alabama-style barbecue. Pork and chicken are the showcased items, topped with the signature Alabama white barbecue sauce, but the Angus beef brisket, hot links, St. Louis spare ribs, and fried catfish are also worth saving room for.”

To find out the other eight top barbecue chains, and what The Daily Meal had to say about them, go to: http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2014/03/alabama_has_two_barbecue_chain.html

U.S. Space & Rocket Center is Alabama’s #1 tourism attraction

More than 580,000 people visited the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville last year, ranking it number one among state attractions that charge admission, followed by the Birmingham Zoo at second with 574,176 and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at third with 530,678, state tourism officials say.

Five of the state’s Top Ten attractions charging admission showed an increase in attendance over previous years, spokesman Brian Jones said. Attendance figures were collected by the Alabama Tourism Department from local tourism organizations.

The USS Alabama Battleship Park in Mobile placed fourth with 371,229 visitors and the McWane Science Center was fifth with 316,918.

Point Mallard Park was sixth with 246,093. The Montgomery Zoo ranked seventh with 244,178 and the Huntsville Botanical Garden was eighth with 225,000. EarlyWorks Museums in Huntsville was ninth with 189,500. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute was tenth with 177,055.

The Alabama Tourism Department also released the Top Ten attendance figures for other categories. Beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast were the number one natural destination in the state, attracting 5.5 million visitors last year. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens attracted 350,000 visitors to make it the most attended free attraction. Almost 800,000 people celebrated Mobile’s Mardi Gras making it the most attended event. Bryant-Denny Stadium was the number one sports destination with 710,538 fans attending University of Alabama home football games.

For more information contact the Alabama Tourism Department or visit: www.tourism.alabama.gov.

Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries announces Facebook fishing photo contest

Fishing season is here and the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) invites anglers to share their fishing experience through a freshwater fishing photo contest on the WFF Facebook page. The contest has three categories: Youth, under age 16; Ladies, age 16 and up; and Big Fish, open to any age or gender and any species of freshwater fish found in the state. The winners with the most “likes” in each category will have their photos published in the 2014-15 Alabama Hunting and Fishing Digest. Photos must be received by May 14.

To enter, anglers must email their freshwater fishing photos to Traci Wood at Traci.Wood@dcnr.alabama.gov with the subject “Facebook Photo Contest.” Please include your name, address, phone number and where the photo was taken. If you have a story associated with the photo, please include it in the email — it may better your chances of getting more “likes.”

For more information about the WFF Facebook Freshwater Fishing Photo contest and to view other wildlife photos, visit the WFF Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/pages/Alabama-Wildlife-and-Freshwater-Fisheries-Division/242269819151597.

Red Mountain Park recognized as National City Park Leader

National organization picks Red Mountain Park for its innovative practices in partnerships and fundraising

In recognition of its unique approach to partnerships and fundraising, Red Mountain Park has been named one of 12 “Frontline Parks,” a nationwide contest sponsored each year by City Parks Alliance.

Red Mountain Park was selected through a peer review process from a field of more than 40 entries across the country.

Being named a Frontline Park is extremely exciting for us”, said the Park’s Executive Director, David Dionne. “Our goal here is to build the Park in the community while building the community into the Park. We have everything we need to succeed. We have an award-winning design, an incredible place that combines history, the environment and spiritual significance into one place, surrounded by a community that invests time, resources and talent with enthusiasm. I want people in Birmingham to weave this park right into the fabric of their lives. I want them to play, move, relax, visit and grow with one another here. I will know we will have been successful when one day in the near future people will wake up and truly wonder how they got along for all these years without Red Mountain Park.”

Red Mountain Park provides universally accessible recreational opportunities, and is a financially self-sustaining urban park that is not reliant on government funding.

“We selected Red Mountain Park as a Frontline Park because it exemplifies the power of urban parks to build community and make our cities sustainable and vibrant,” said Catherine Nagel, Executive Director, City Parks Alliance. “We hope that by shining the spotlight on Red Mountain Park, we can raise awareness about the ways investment in our nation’s urban parks pays off.”

The park is built on a mountain that was the main source of iron ore for Birmingham’s iron and steel industry. U.S. Steel ceased ore mining on the site in the 1960s, leaving the private land vacant for more than forty years. In 2005, the company sold 1,200 acres of land atop the mountain to the Freshwater Land Trust for less than half its value and contributed $1 million in seed money to develop a public park on the site, effectively doubling the amount of greenspace in the city of Birmingham.

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