Yummy Seafood! The Guru Goes to Wintzell’s.

Target: Wintzell’s
Target Address: 105 Commerce Street, Montgomery Alabama
Service: Dine in/or Carry Out – Lunch and Dinner menu (Average entrée – $14.65)

If you like Gulf Coast cooking, then you will like this one for sure. Wintzell’s was started in Historic Mobile in 1938 and quickly became known for its Oysters which you could get Fried, Stewed or Nude. Personally speaking, you can have my Oysters based on their function in life, to filter water. Wintzell’s came to Montgomery a few years ago with the completion of the Civic Center make over and has been a hit here ever since.

On this day there were 4 of us dinning. The Wait Staff was kind and courteous but not so quick to get us settled in and order the beverages. Some of us decided to get a cup of Gumbo only because we don’t pass it up where it’s offered and we were glad we didn’t pass on this one. It was perfectly seasoned, good ingredients and left us all wishing we had one more. Our table then ordered Back Wrapped Shrimp ($16.99), a Shrimp Po Boy ($9.99), Fish Basket ($8.99), and I slid in there with a Crab Cake BLT ($9.99). All of the entrées were perfectly cooked and had an ample amount of food for the price.

Desert was offered and refused by all; too many full people sitting around a table after a meal like that will run your desert business right down the drain. However what they had to offer looked delicious and may just draw us back again for a desert run. 

You cannot go to Wintzell’s and not sit around reading the walls. Some of the sayings are timeless and priceless. It also helps to pass the time for the young ones in your crowd as well. For an after work dinner and drink or a family outing, Wintzell’s Downtown Montgomery is a good solid choice. 

Guru Grade – Over all they get a 91out of 100 points on the scorecard. The 91 is not exactly reflective of Wintzell’s, but let’s face it they lose points on parking because after all it is Downtown Montgomery. The service could have been better, although it was not bad, just a little slow. Not sure if it was because of the crowd or maybe the person was new. All in all, you can’t go badly with Wintzell’s in Montgomery. To Wintzell’s, the Guru had your food, and was pleased. **Guru TIP** – after dinner, take a nice walk down by the River, they have really fixed the place up nice there.

Bringin’ the Pain with my College Football Picks of the Week!

These are my seven, totally baseless, unresearched college football picks for today. Well, maybe a little bit of a base. Based on what little bit of ESPN Gameday I might pay attention to that doesn’t involve the University of Alabama or what I might skim over in the paper. Why only seven? Because my OCD dictates it, that’s why. I could try and explain the whole number issues regarding prime numbers, good and bad numbers, and numbers that are multiples of six or seven but it would take several paragraphs. So, suffice it to say that seven is a good number and it is what I settled on. Here they are…

  • Georgia at Tennessee: Gotta’ take the Dawgs in this one. Not the old, scruffy hound named Smokey, but the rough and tough UGA XIIIXIIVVI or whichever number they’re on now. I hate Tennessee. I hate orange, I hate checker boards, and they some snitches. Need I say more? If so, refer to this video.
  • Auburn at Arkansas: Remember that part about me hating orange? ‘Nuff said. With apologies to my many Auburn friends, if Auburn played Wetumpka’s 7th grade team, I’m afraid I’d have to pick the Indians. This will be the case week in and week out. I pick with my heart, not my head.
  • Florida at LSU: Did you ever just have a feeling about something with nothing to really base it on? Me, too, and they’re usually way off base, but I’m having one of those feelings now. LSU is located in Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge is about an hour and a half from New Orleans. I love New Orleans. Great food. Great music. I love it. For that reason, I’d love to say LSU wins this one and stays undefeated when they collide with my beloved Tide in Tuscaloosa. Gotta’ go with the gut feeling on this one. Which likely means LSU wins in a walk. Hey, no guts, no glory, right? Gators chomp the Tigers.
  • Kentucky at South Carolina: If the Gamecocks completely lay down against Kentucky the way the did against Auburn, expect the Cats to prevail. In fact, the aforementioned 7th grade Indians might prevail in that case. Spurrier has decided to let Garcia have a seat for at least the beginning of this game and may I say, IT’S ABOUT TIME!!! You never know what you’re gonna’ get when SC takes the field. They’ll be able to do enough today, sans Garcia, to whip the Mildcats who are already looking forward to March Madness.
  • Iowa at Penn State: Iowa is trekking to Happy Valley, the home of Joe Paterno who happens to be the oldest living man in North America. Is he anything more than a figurehead at this point? A not-so-subtle reminder of glory days past? Heck, he didn’t even have on the dark glasses as he sat, without even a headset on, in the press box a few weeks ago when the Crimson Tide rolled into town. A friend always told me he thought Paterno wore the dark glasses to hid his eyes which were actually just empty sockets with actual fire in them. Methinks the fire has gone. I say the Hawkeyes win.
  • Maryland at Georgia Tech: Wetumpka’s own Tevin Washington is Tech’s QB. I’m a homer and I hate Maryland’s stupid, ugly uniforms. Ramblin’ Wreck wrecks the Turtles.
  • Vanderbilt at Alabama: This ain’t a math test, it’s SEC football! ROLL TIDE!

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Evangelical?

A few weeks ago, after reading the story regarding the weekend of religious themed observances at the National Cathedral in Washington, I wondered both aloud and on Facebook why there was no representative of our country’s large evangelical Christian community invited to take part in these events. I am prone to occasional bouts of pondering and so I began to do just that. I think I’ve finally come to a conclusion and that conclusion is, simply, that evangelicals are mean, ornery, narrow-minded, violent, selfish people who don’t deserve to have a voice in any sort of public discourse, let alone something as important as marking the tenth anniversary of such a tragic event as the terrorist attacks of 9/11. How could I not have seen it before when it’s as plain as the little round nose on the end of my bearded face? As my kids wold say, “DUH?!?”
In fact, I go to church with some of these thugs! Do you know that every time there is a natural disaster of some sort, there is a group of men from my church who have the nerve to pack up and travel to wherever that disaster happened and try to help the people affected by it? What a bunch of self-serving, right-wing goons! They don’t waste time, either! The people who may have lost their homes or other belongings haven’t even had time to fill out a pile of paper work only to be given more paperwork by FEMA before these guys in their yellow shirts are already pulling into town wielding chainsaws and all sorts of other tools to clear debris or do whatever else might need doing. They even set up mobile kitchens so that victims and volunteers alike can have a hot meal! How obnoxious and divisive can some people be? In an as yet unrivaled show of pure meanness and spite, one of these guys actually spent time in NYC following the 9/11 attacks helping to clean up, among other things, the apartments of people that had been damaged by the collapse of the twin towers. Good gravy!

There is another church in my city that selfishly and small-mindedly decided that they would not only create a charity that helps those in our community who may be in need, but they actually created a space right in their church building where someone could actually sleep and shower if they happened to be traveling through and had no money for a place to rest and clean up. Another church started a food pantry that, when they still had it at their church, had a line of cars waiting for hours on Saturday mornings to get food. How dare they?

I became a Christian in 1977. My father is a Baptist minister who pastored various churches for almost 50 years. I’ve been around an evangelical or two in my time. With very, very few exceptions, I’ve known them to be loving, caring people who want to share the love of Christ with a world that seems to be in desperate need of something permanent. Something that will give them security and peace in tumultuous times. Christ can do that, so they want to share it. Some may be misguided in their methods and understanding and some will make mistakes. Sometimes, big ones. We never claimed perfection, only forgiveness. And, like every group of people who adhere to the same or similar beliefs, be they social, political, religious, or otherwise, there are those on the fringe who claim to be followers of Christ but their deeds do not bear their alleged beliefs out. Those who would kill an abortion provider in the name of Jesus would fall into this category. They are few and far between, though. We shouldn’t all be judged violent or dangerous simply based upon the actions of an occasional nut-job who decides to do something foolish. That is unfair at best and demonstrates a terrible misunderstanding of what a real evangelical is and what their objective is.

Don’t be afraid or run and hide the next time you see the big, bad evangelical coming down your street. They’re pretty harmless and if you have a tree on your house they’ll probably help you cut it up and move it. You might even get a hot meal out of the deal.

Like Good Seafood? So Does the Food Guru…Check Out the Latest Review.

Target: J&D Seafood

Target Address: 461 North Eastern Blvd, Montgomery Al

Service: Carry Out ONLY – Lunch menu (Average entrée – $9.15)

Guru, ready for a request? I think that is about how Thad put it. One of his readers requested that I take on J&D Seafood. Now I will be honest with you, walking in the place reminded me a lot, A LOT, of the Destin Connection. I don’t want to pit one against the other here, so I will just say this; Destin Connection had better step it up! This place was great in every aspect. You can also order all kinds of seafood to take home and cook yourself from this place. They had a section of spices for sale to take home and prepare your seafood with. I was very pleasantly surprised to see “Slap Ya Mamma” on the shelf.
First of all, don’t look for a table to sit at, it’s carry out only. There are however plenty of chairs around the perimeter to sit in while you wait on your order. There is a lunch menu posted and all of it is cooked to order. To say that this food came to me hot, fresh and ready to eat would somehow be an understatement because it had to be even better than that. Oh yeah there was something better, it was PLENTIFUL too.

I ordered the Fish and Shrimp Platter with Okra and Hushpuppies. Can you say 2 for 1? There was a dozen perfectly breaded and fried shrimp, two of the largest yet not strong tasting catfish filets I have ever eaten outside of my own house, 6 hushpuppies and enough okra to feed a small 3rd world country. Ok, maybe the amount of okra is stretching it a bit. I assure you though; there was more than enough food for two people there. The Catfish was light, flaky and none of it was greasy at all.

Now let’s talk about the place, it’s a fish market. They tell me in all of my training that you’re not supposed to smell fish even in a fish market. On the other hand I have been in fish markets from the Gulf Coast to Seattle and all up and down the East Coast and have never been in one that didn’t smell of fish. However there was a smell of fish and if you have a serious problem with that, then you’re not going to like walking in the door. That said, everything I looked at was clean and orderly. The State Health Department is not going to give these types of places a 98 just because, they have to earn it.

Guru Grade – Over all they get a 98 out of 100 points on the scorecard. Thad says I have to be fair, and well, that isn’t fair!! It’s a fish market and thusly smells like one. This place should be a 100 out of 100!! Everything else, and I mean everything else was perfect for a carry out fish market. I cannot wait to go back and take some seafood home to cook. One foot note, I had a short conversation with the owner and his line to me – “I only buy the best of everything”. If you have missed J&D Seafood on the Bypass, you have missed out big. Give it a try, Guru out!

Remind Me Again Why We Don’t Buy Everything at the Dollar Store

I thought I’d repost an old blog entry from way back on April 9, 2009, just after I started this here blog. I still wonder about the “Everything is only A Dollar” stores. Enjoy…

I just got home from church and eating Mexican for the second time today. Just in case you didn’t already know this, if you eat at a Mexican restaurant, at least this one in particular, you ain’t gonna’ be able to hide it from anyone. As I sit here writing, I can smell myself. I can only imagine how the people at the grocery store could smell me. Anyway, let’s move on.

Gigi and I went to one of the 28,352 Dollar (fill in the blank) stores in our area the other night. I love going to these stores because where else can you buy a watch, or a toy, or party favors, or pet supplies, or any number of other things for only a dollar? We bought some things for my daughter’s 3rd birthday party Friday night and may I just say, WHAT A BARGAIN! We also bought some Dial antibacterial bars of soap and a few other items. As we walked around the store I saw many items that we normally buy at Wal Mart or the Winn and Dixie (as a friend’s grandmother called it) and the thought entered my mind, “Why don’t we buy everything here at the dollar store?” Does anyone have the answer to that question? I’m sure there is a logical explanation. Here in Wetumpka, there is a Wal Mart Supercenter right next door to the dollar store. I wonder why the dollar store isn’t overrun with people buying all the things there for a dollar that cost a good bit more at Wal Mart.
Anytime I stand in any line at any store like Wal Mart or Target I am always tempted to buy, and often do, a Twix bar or some chewing gum or maybe one of those various sticks of meat that are always near the check-out line. I realized the other night that when I’m in line at the dollar store, I never even consider the items there because apparently the candy and gum at the dollar store is not up to par with the candy and gum at the big-box retail stores. I mean, if I can buy the four-pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups at Dollar General for a buck when they may cost four times as much at Wal Mart then something has to be wrong with them, right?

If I buy the toothpaste at Dollar Tree, will it cause the enamel to just slide right off of my teeth into my Diet Dr. Pepper, purchased at Winn Dixie by the way, resulting in my never being able to eat Mexican food again? Not that no Mexican food would be a bad thing necessarily.

Do the gummie bears contain an unusually high level of DDT or some other birth defect causing chemical. Benzene, maybe? Perhaps strychnine?

What happens if I somehow muster up the courage to buy a bag of the various kinds of potato chips they have at the dollar store? Upon putting one of these chips into my mouth am I going to suddenly be stricken ill by salmonella or trichinosis or develop some horrible Olestra type symptoms?

Is the bottled water there flown in after being scooped directly out of a mud hole in the most impoverished, malaria-stricken, desolate, built-on-a-dump African nation? Will I get leprosy just by getting a drop of it in my skin and suffer a horrible, rapid death within minutes if I dare take a sip?

Is all their merchandise made in China?

And the soap. We bought the soap. I have now bathed with the soap no less than four times. Did anyone who saw me at church today think that I didn’t look clean the way that Kid Rock never seems to look clean. Did I stink? More than usual, I mean. The bar looks and feels just like the ones we always buy at Wal Mart. Since it’s anti-bacterial, does it only kill 75% of the germs rather than 99.9% like the good stuff? I need to know.

It’s tough to beat the price at the dollar stores. There aren’t many things in the world you can buy for a dollar anymore. To have a store where everything they sell only costs a dollar seems like a deal that is just too good to pass up. Which brings me back to my question: Why aren’t people just breaking down the doors to buy the merchandise in the dollar store?

Here is what I know for sure. We ventured out and bought soap this time. We haven’t ventured out and bought much else other than a pack of green army men or some skewers or something. Anything that you eat or drink or put on a cut, those type things we always get at a big store. I’m not sure why and I’m hoping someone out there can shed a little light on the subject for me. Anyway, gotta’ go now. I’ve developed several oozing sores on my back since my shower this morning. Not sure what’s going on with that but I need to run to Wal Mart and get some Neosporin.

We2 Food Guru Dines at RJ’s Chicken Fingers

Target: RJ’s Chicken Fingers

Target Address: Wetumpka Alabama

Service: Dine in/or Carry Out – Lunch and Dinner menu (Average entrée – $)

Guru and Crew went to RJ’s Chicken Fingers to see what all of the clucking has been about. It’s a walk up and order type place. Just as the name implies, they serve Chicken Fingers as well as Wings. The menu is short, sweet and to the point. Its easy to read and clearly laid out. The décor is an odd mix yet the hometown flavor of the pictures from around Wetumpka is very nicely done. There are tables and booths inside and outside. There were three in our group and when we arrived there were two people there eating.

I ordered the 3 finger snack ($4.95), also ordered was the Wings and Chicken ($7.19), an order of Cheese Sticks ($3.49) and 3 regular drinks ($1.69). The food was delivered in a timely manner and was hot which is a wonderful thing when dealing with Chicken. It was obviously cooked to order. We asked what the sauce was and the answer we got was “You know how Zaxby’s sauce taste, its like that”. I was looking for more of how I will describe it for you here. Peppery, yet with just a hint of sweetness. I liked this sauce, I do not however care for Zaxby’s.

There are 3 types of Chicken Fingers in this world. Pre-processed slabs that are generally flat, then two types whole chicken, double/multiple breaded and lightly breaded. RJ’s are lightly breaded breast of Chicken and were really juicy. The regular fries were good, but I found myself wanting to dip the Sweet Potato Fries into something like cinnamon butter, however they were great as they were. The report on the cheese sticks is that they were all eaten so I would say that they were good as well. However there was nothing to dip them in either. It just seemed like a dipping kind of place. Now let’s talk about the wings. We ordered hot and they had a nice spicy flavor. They were cooked perfectly, not dried out or tuff. Quick word about the Pies that we ordered, while I love homemade fried pies and these are have a good flavor, eating them hot would have made them GREAT.

Guru Grade – Over all they get a 97 out of 100 points on the scorecard. Price, well for chicken I would say it was just slightly high. For instance there are places you can get wings for 50 cents versus 68 cents, but you do have to hit a ‘wing night’. RJ’s may have nightly specials however we were not aware of any. Not a deal breaker for sure. The biggest issue came down in the ‘clean’ column. Food Safety is important as it can lead to serious consequences. An employee from the kitchen got himself a drink and proceeded to take it back to the kitchen. Employees consuming food in food preparation areas is a big no no with the health department, and the Guru as well. Cross contamination leads to many Food Borne Illnesses. All in all, this is a Local Guy taking a stab to fill a local need and I think they have it. However he can’t continue to fill that niche if you don’t go support him. If you haven’t been yet, give it a try soon.

Who Are Your People?

Some of you may remember me writing guest blogs for Thad a few years ago. I called them “Tales of a Displaced Debutante”, but since then I have landed squarely back in the South (Rome, Georgia to be exact). He asked me to give the guest blog a whirl again so here I go. I have no plans and no outline for what I will write or how often I will write it. I hope you laugh a little and get where I am coming from. You may get funny anecdotes of a first year college professor or funny things that pop in my head. Either way, this is my life….When in Rome.

Who are your people?
Kimberly Hays

In my house growing up we had a big, blue dictionary and we called it “the blue dictionary”. It often stayed by my dad’s chair for his morning crossword puzzle solving, but was also on call in case my sister and I made the mistake of saying “What does _________ mean?”. The automatic from both parents was always “Look it up.” There was also a cool section in the back of commonly used foreign phrases which came in handy when my Latvian pen pal in 4th grade asked what E Pluribus Unum meant when I sent her a U.S. Dollar (fyi, it means “out of many, one”). There was also a section that told you how to address letters to important people. I got mad at Bill Clinton once and my dad told me to write him a letter. I used “the blue dictionary” to find the correct salutation. I am assuming my mom still has that blue dictionary somewhere. I got a big fancy new one for Christmas (yes, I asked for it) a few years ago, but honestly it just isn’t the same.

Between all of the looking up and crossword puzzles and scrabble games that happened in our house I fell in love it words – big words, little words, words that sound funny (onomatopoeia is one of my favorites – I had to use my shiny dictionary to double check that one), and words that mean far more than their definitions are fun. In fact, I am still saying onomatopoeia to myself right now. When Thad asked me to revive my guest columns I thought I would start with the humorous anecdote of packing my whole life up and moving it halfway across the country. I started to write that and got pretty far until I realized that I shouldn’t tell the story of my stuff, I should tell the story of my people. You know, my people.

If you have spent any time in the South you have inevitably been asked the question, “Who are your people?” We all know what they mean and we all have them – our mama’s people, our daddy’s people, our Granny’s people, our relations, our shared genetic history, stretching back for generations on land, in places, and changing the shape of communities for centuries. Genealogy has become the cool thing to do in the past few years and no doubt some of you can tell me who came to the New World on what boat. I have never delved quite that far. When people ask my heritage I tell them Southern or poor white trash (my mama hates that answer) because it seems so odd to think about my ancestors living anywhere else. And for the record, my people are from Butler County, Alabama on one side and South Georgia and Northern Missouri (I know, I know, I know) on the other. With the exception of that one guy that was in the Union army we are pretty dang Southern. One set of grandparents even grew up in Pigeon Creek, Alabama which was where they set the movie Sweet Home Alabama. Trust me, it was not that glamorous in real life.

Even though there are plenty of stories to tell about my people, they are not who this story is about. I am writing about my other people. The ones I got to pick. The family built of Southerners and Northerners, carnivores and vegetarians, men and women, every race and language you can imagine, and about a million ways to refer to a Coke and a water fountain. In the grand scheme of things my life has not been that exotic, but for a small town Wetumpka girl it seems that way to some. I moved away with no plans to return. I set off to a place where I knew no one. I have lived my adult life unattached thus far, no husband or children to consider in my decision making. While all of that is fine and dandy it is no walk in the park to find yourself 900 miles from the people, places, and things you have known all your life. There were tons of things I disliked about growing up in small town Alabama and some I still do, but there are things I never realized I would miss until I was gone. Sick and need a doctor? Go visit Dr. Kumar and he will fix you right up. Hankering a walk down memory lane? Go to Wal-Mart and I guarantee you will bump into a classmate. Death in the family? No need to cook, the casseroles and fried chicken will arrive shortly. Starting to feel Christmasy? First Saturday in December you will be downtown at Christmas on the Coosa. Need a laugh? Go see a play at the Depot. Went to Wetumpka High? You know exactly who I mean when I say Coach. These are the pieces of Wetumpka life that I left behind. I had no Dr. Kumar when I was sick and no church ladies to send me a note when I missed church. What I found, however, was a group of people that was equally as ragamuffin as I was. They were from crazy places, too – Northern California, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (no, they aren’t Canadian, they just sound that way), Brazil, India, Washington, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Missouri. We were all in the same place. We packed our trucks and cars and cattle trailers and moved them from the corners of the globe to land almost in the geographical center of the United States – Stillwater, Oklahoma. We were all, many for the first time in our lives, people-less. No one understood me when I said my people were from Pigeon Creek. They didn’t have the context I had. They chuckled at my funny accent and I chuckled at theirs. I spent a whole afternoon pointing at a water fountain and asking a girl from Wisconsin what she called it. Ha – a bubbler!

I am not sure when the transition happened and we became each others people. It could have been all the birthdays when we gathered in a tiny apartment or rental house to bake homemade cakes for the birthday boy or girl. It could be the celebrations we had on the days one of us received a big grant or award for the science we were doing or the celebrations of our epic failures when we didn’t get those same grants and awards. Maybe it was the Friday nights we spent doing the Texas two step around a wooden dance floor. I prefer to think that it happened on the less glamorous occasions. The semester I had strep throat and was trying to write my doctoral dissertation and people brought me soup and medicine and walked my dog because I was too sick to walk down the stairs. The airport drop offs for a 6am flight home when the airport was an hour away or the pickups that turned into a 3am adventure when the flight was delayed. It could have been the freezing cold or burning up nights in a tent somewhere in the wilds of Oklahoma when folks would tag along to help with your research just because they had the time. It definitely happened when the big things in life happened – we lost parents and grandparents and friends, people got married, and nieces and nephews were born. It happened when we spent Thanksgiving Day together, starting with a Godfather breakfast all the way to raucous board games after a potluck dinner. It happened when we got to share our traditions with each other. Regardless of when it happened it did. This random, ragamuffin, diverse group of individuals became my people.

My shiny red dictionary defines people as “the members of a family or kinship”. I don’t share a single bit of DNA with my people and most of us have scattered to the winds now doing the things we studied so hard to do. But, they are still my people. Do you have the kind of people I have? Did you choose them? Did you choose each other? You should. Find some. Don’t be afraid of finding people that talk funny, or look different, or come from different places – they are the best kind. If you see me around town when I come to visit and you ask about my people, be prepared for a long answer.

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