Day-trip: Mentone, Alabama

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Mentone was on my list of Day Trips so I was glad to have the opportunity to visit there this past weekend. This little town is about a two hour drive from Birmingham (I didn’t drive so I got to read most of the way – Yea!).

We went by way of Little River Canyon, which I will write about in a separate post. I had secured a night at the Mountain Laurel Inn, though I was hoping for two nights. I had  waited too long, however, to call and make a reservation. This is not a place you will happen upon by chance. I also neglected to read my confirmation email that included directions and said not to use GPS. So, we ended up lost at first, but a quick call to Sarah, the innkeeper, and she gave us clear instructions. We weren’t too far away. After several turns we were headed down a dirt/gravel road into a rustic setting on a rainy afternoon.

The weather was cool enough to leave our windows open. After unloading, we went into town for supper. I would NOT recommend the Moonlight Bistro, but afterwards we ventured on to the Wildflower Café for dessert and music. The Derby Pie was fantastic and the music brought back memories, ala Cat Stevens and Jim Croce.

Before breakfast we took a small hike – just 10 minutes from our door was Desoto Falls. Being on private property, there were no handrails, just au naturel – and it was gorgeous. Breakfast was a treat! Sarah’s Decadent French Toast is on the “100 Foods to Eat In Alabama Before You Die” 2012 list. It was fantastic!

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That day was JulyFest in Mentone, and despite the rain, it was a pleasant morning up on The Brow. We made several gift purchases, saw the end of the Pet Parade, and enjoyed the view. In town we checked out some antique stores and other shops, and then headed down the road to Fort Payne. All in all it was a short but lovely trip.

the brow The Brow

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A Visit to Vizzini’s

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A visit to Vizzini Farms Winery  will get you a nice meal, some excellent wine, and pleasant surroundings. Located in Calera, just south of Birmingham, the winery was started in 2005 by Tom and Deborah Vizzina. Tom was born and raised in the Birmingham area.

The Bistro at Vizzini’s is open Monday-Saturday and serves many dishes using vegetables fresh from their onsite garden. The Chicken Tetrazzini Salad is exceptional, but the menu also carries an assortment of pizzas, pastas, paninis and more.

Customers may take advantage of a wine tasting and tour, getting a little history of the winery along the way. As part of the tour we took  a peek at the lovely vegetable garden and grape vines.

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There is a wide selection of wine to choose from, including red and white. Some carry locally influenced labels, such as the Collegiate Collection for both Alabama and Auburn fans. My favorites were Miss Scarlet, a sweet red wine, and the Appling Riesling that has a hint of green apple. We had part of a bottle of the Viognier with our lunch, and had the remainder of the bottle corked to take home. We also took advantage of a Living Social Coupon and ended up taking away two souvenir glasses as well, so keep your eye out for those Living Social and Groupn deals!

The Charming Town of Helena

A good introduction to Helena comes through the small Farmers Market that is held there every Saturday. What other such market has southern belles (the Helena Belles) to greet you? Along with numerous vendors of fresh produce, shoppers may also find fresh bread, sweet smelling soap, or even a cookbook. In the background are musical notes from local entertainers and the hum of buyers and sellers and neighbors greeting each other. From vendors offering to take a purchase to the car of an elderly customer, to sellers giving out samples and explaining how to cook their beans, examples of kindness and good customer service abound.

Here are some of the local vendors to be found on a Saturday morning:

K and S Farms – lots of fresh, seasonal produce

Taylor Hatchet Boozer Farms – think peaches!

Cheeky Maiden Soap – made with pure olive oil, pure palm oil, and pure coconut oil

Mixon Farms – Owner Jared Mixon has also started a market in Chilton County

Five Points Farms – check out their facebook page HERE

Prattville Honey Farms – owner Allen Mills has been farming for over 20 years

B.B. Bread – started seven years ago; specializes in sourdough bread

Southern Natural Soap – made with goat’s milk

Little Bit Southern -this is where you can find a cookbook

Another treat is the guest chef demonstration. Recent appearances have been made by Chris Vizzina, Executive Chef and President of Campus Dining, Inc. at Samford University, and Matthew Guy Lagace of Bellinis Ristorante. You can check out the Helena Market Blog HERE for some delicious recipes.

After shopping, a stroll down a path, under the road and across an open grassy area will take you to the “falls” at the Buck Creek Dam. Here you may find picnickers, photographers, and kids wading in the cool waters. It’s almost like a step back in time.

In town there are many quaint shops in which to browse and buy. These will be featured in a later post, so stay tuned!