The farm-to-table movement is still dominating the culinary scene, and tide-to-table plays a big part.
Restaurants throughout Alabama and the South are sourcing more local products than ever—and that gives chefs and restaurateurs the opportunity to be creative all while supporting their neighbors.
That’s what Bob Baumhower and his chefs at The Compleat Angler and Bimini Bob’s have done with their new “Ala’ Bama™” dishes. (And yes, it’s pronounced “ah-lah Bama”.)
Oysters Ala’ Bama™ and Shrimp Ala’ Bama™, a pair of new dishes featured on these restaurant menus, both feature Gulf seafood served atop a nest of Miss Mary’s greens and Conecuh bacon, covered with a garlic citrus butter and pecorino cheese, roasted to perfection. The dishes alternate based on the availability of the oysters and the shrimp.
According to Baumhower, the idea arose from a desire to put an Alabama slant on the traditional Oysters Rockefeller recipe.
“We’ve been wanting to do some type of grilled, roasted, or broiled oyster,” said Baumhower. “They’re very popular in other parts of the Gulf. So we ramped it up about six months ago and tried a lot of different things, and there were a lot of different people involved. We’re all foodies, you know?”
The team—which also included executive chefs Zack Compton and James Davis, corporate chef Steve Zucker, and director of operations Nick DiMario—worked hard to come up with a few ways to differentiate their dishes from standard menu fare.
The Conecuh bacon, for instance, was Baumhower’s idea. Compton came up with the plan to substitute spinach (a traditional Oysters Rockefeller ingredient) with greens, so they borrowed a recipe from Miss Mary, a friend of the team from Sumterville.
“It was a trial-and-error process,” said Baumhower. “We had a vision, we just weren’t sure how we were going to get there.”
Joy McCord, director of marketing with Aloha Hospitality, got to witness the recipe creation process first-hand.
“It was my very first time to see the intensity that is involved in developing a new dish,” said McCord. “I saw oysters Ala’ Bama tasted and sent back for fine-tuning over and over. I was amazed at how much heart and soul goes in a new dish from the Aloha Chefs and Bob.”
Oysters Ala’ Bama and Shrimp Ala’ Bama, which are quickly becoming the top appetizers at The Compleat Angler and Bimini Bob’s, will be hitting the menu at Baumhower’s and Bob’s Victory Grille in the near future.
Additionally, Baumhower has committed to offering a wider range of Gulf seafood at his restaurants going forward, including a new soft-shell crab dish and a new king mackerel sandwich and dip that put a delicious spin on one of Alabama’s more underutilized species.
“You’re going to see a bigger emphasis on Alabama Seafood,” said Baumhower. “I want everybody to know that we can go toe to toe with anybody in the world with our seafood program. And if you live in the area, you might as well use the best if it’s in your backyard. It’s just smart business.”