The Jealous Crumpet

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Tom’s Commemorative Wall

1Though I lived in the Muscle Shoals area for a number of years, I did not visit Tom Hendrix’s Wichahpi Commemorative  Wall until last year. For those of your unfamiliar with the wall, it started with Alabama-native Tom Hendrix hearing stories about his great-great-grandmother Te-lah-nay, a native American living in Alabama in the 1800s. Te-lah-nay was part of the Yuchi tribe and in one of the worse atrocities committed in the United States, she and other native people were abducted from their homes and marched to Oklahoma along a route now known as the Trail of Tears. Many Native Americans died, but Te-lah-nay not only survived but walked all the way back home to Alabama, by herself! The journey took 5 years, but Te-lah-nay said she heard the Tennessee River singing for her to come home so she just kept on going. Tom was in such awe of her strength and her journey that he wanted to do something to commemorate her. So he build a wall. But that is a complete understatement, because he spent thirty years building the largest mortarless wall in the United States. The wall has over 8.5 million pounds of stone and is the largest monument build for a Native American woman. 3The wall is amazing and draws visitors from all over the world. Numerous Native American tribes have visited, priests from China have hung red ribbons in the trees, a Benedictine priest left carved statues, and visitor have left little trinkets throughout the area. It is a holy, sacred place, that celebrates humanity, strength, courage and unity.1y2b7184

But more than the wall, was the man behind it, Tom.  When you visit Tom would come out of his house, usher you to a folding chair, sit down in his green, plastic lawn chair and tell you the story of his great-great grandmother, the wall, himself, and anything else you wanted to know. He’s show you different parts of the wall, point out interesting memento’s left behind and answer every question. It was truly a spiritual experience and you left striving to be a better person. 6I visited the wall twice, once with my husband and once with my mother.2The second time was last April and Tom spent so much time with my mother and me. He went into his house and brought out beautiful pine needle baskets and the stone that his great-great-grandmother had carried with her. 1y2b7162He told us Native American stories from his childhood and discussed the herbs and teachers and language and so many more things. I had hoped to revisit Tom, but sadly he passed away last weekend.    5He is a great loss to the world, but I know that he touched many lives, including my own.  4Rest in Peace Mr. Hendrix and thank-you for creating something so beautiful. 7


Ricatoni’s Italian Grill

Ricatoni's Italian GrillI don’t remember my first visit to Ricatoni’s Italian Grill, but over the year’s I have dined there many, many times. I have celebrated numerous friend’s birthdays at the restaurant, as well as my own. I’ve dined there with new friends and old friends, co-workers and one time a really awkward date. When I graduated from college Ricatoni’s is where I came to celebrate and two years later, when my brother graduated, we went again.  It is comfortable and familiar. Though I am sure it has changed over the years, the general ambience is always the same and it feels a bit like going back home. I say all of this because I cannot give an unbiased review of the restaurant, as I love it too much and will fail to see it’s faults, if their are any.  Ricatoni's Italian GrillRicatoni’s Italian Grill opened in 1996. The resturant was created by Rick Elliott, also known as Ricatoni Valentino. It’s been a few years since I’ve lived it Florence, but when I was in college Ricatoni’s had the most wonderfully eccentric advertisements on television.  

That brings back memories! I don’t know Rick personally, but he must be fun at a party!

feature9Ricatoni’s has a fun, social ambience. It is a narrow restaurant with an open kitchen so you can see your meal being cooked and plated. The servers are always pleasant and the food is always tasty.feature10There are fun touches throughout the restaurant, including local artwork, murals and uniquely painted tables. I notice that the table next to us had spaghetti and meatballs painted on it. I could be wrong, but I believe the meatballs had Ricatoni Valentino’s face on them.

feature4I’ve include a photo of Rick from the restaurant’s website next to the meatball. You be the judge.

Untitled-1When you first sit down the server always brings you a white paper bag filled with warm bread and a plate of herbs.

feature5There is olive oil on each table to pour over the herbs and dip your bread in. We were going skip the bread (don’t want to fill up on the free stuff) and dine on our appetizer, but instead we ate the bread and still ordered an appetizer: Bruschette Ricatoni. Bruschette RicatoniThis dish had two types of bruschetta, a set with tomato and pesto and a set with mushroom and fontina cheese. Both were great!ricatoniThere seem to be many wonderful dishes on the menu, but I have never tried any of them as I always get the Ravioli Ricatoni.  I say I’m going to try something new, but then I change my mind and go for the tried and true. The ravioli is simple, creamy and delicious, the perfect comfort food.

Ravioli RicatoniAfter a short debate we ordered the tiramisu, which was the perfect sweet end to Florence Restaurant week.

tiramisuDisclosure: I was invited to participate in Florence Restaurant Week by Florence Main Street. My hotel was paid for by them to make it easier for me to participate and I received a $20 gift card from Ricatoni’s Italain Grill. I paid the remaining balance out of my own pocket and all thoughts and opinions about the restaurant are my own.


Imagine That Cafe & Bakery

Imagine That BakeryNothing is quite so idyllic as Sunday morning brunch. Just talking about it makes me feel like a Jane Austin heroine, but I’m pretty lazy on the weekends so it is rare for me to actually partake in the custom. Thankfully, on my last leg of Florence Restaurant Week I found myself at Imagine That Cafe & Bakery for brunch.

Imagine That Front DoorImagine That is absolutely charming. It is a narrow, little restaurant but that only enhances the cozy, European feel. The restaurant is SO cozy that we actually walked past it twice not realizing where it was. It’s not really that hidden, but the business front is narrow and we were not paying the best attention.  Apparently talking, walking and finding the restaurant was too much multitasking for my husband and I.

feature6The interior is warm and inviting. Homespun artwork embellish the walls, while potted plants and delicate china adorn the shelves and cabinets located throughout the cafe.

Our server let us sit where we wanted and immediately brought over menus and pleasantries. In typical annoying photographer fashion I asked lots of questions about how the food look and she pointed me in the right direct.  feature3Olivier order the Mother’s Day special, Ginger Peach Pancakes with house made syrup and I opted for the bagel and lox, and of course a coffee, which I have a pretty serious addiction to. I love it and I will not seek help for recovery. feature7While we waited for our food I explored the restaurants nooks and crannies. I even shamelessly asked if I could climb into the front windows to get better photos.  Dana, the owner, was very nice and accommodating and let me roam about the restaurant, including the windows. The more time I spent exploring the more fun details and features I found.  For example, the mugs and chairs, though coordinating do not match, making you feel like you are visiting someone’s home, rather than a stuffy cafe. Street lamps line the cafe and glass cake stands filled with pastries and bagels add to the unique ambience.

Imagine That BakeryOur food arrived in a timely fashion, so I stopped exploring and started tasting.  My bagel and lox, which came with a side of fruit, hit the spot. It was fresh, balanced and most importantly delicious.

Bagel from Imagine ThatOlivier was very happy with his pancakes, which were covered in peach slices and chucks of candied ginger. The homemade syrup was amazing and complimented the pancakes perfectly.

feature11I would love to go back and try out their dinner selection, which includes citrus baked salmon with cilantro lime risotto, lasagna baked with house made pasta, and roasted pork tenderloin with mango and peach salsa!  Yummy!

feature9Disclosure: I was invited to participate in Florence Restaurant Week by Florence Main Street. My hotel was paid for by them to make it easier for me to participate and I received a $10 gift card from Imagine That Cafe and Bakery. I paid the remaining balance out of my own pocket and all thoughts and opinions about the restaurant are my own.


The Pie Factory

The Pie Factory UNA had its graduation ceremony on Saturday. As an UNA alumni I got quite nostalgic about my years at the university, so I dragged my husband around the campus, pointing out locations of various fond memories and hijinks. “That’s where a gang of squirrels chased us down”, “here’s where a weird, religious zealot would stand and scream at students passing by”, “there’s where the LARPers would practice their sword fighting skills”. You know, typical college stuff.

After several hours of walking down memory lane, we made the short trek to The Pie Factory. I was actually quite jealous of the current UNA students, as the downtown Florence area is completely different from when I was a student. There are numerous wonderful stores and restaurants that we would have killed for back in the day, including The Pie Factory.  The Pie Factory

The Pie FactoryThe Pie Factory opened their doors in 2013 with the goal of creating place that served great New York style pizza in Downtown Florence. A mighty tall order, but one which The Pie Factory does very well.feature10We opted for an early dinner and arrived to the restaurant around 5:30. The restaurant was pleasant, with fun pizza themed details festooning the walls. The general ambience was lively, but laid-back.feature6 It weather was perfect, so we sat in the outdoor seating area.  The outdoor veranda had a beachy feel and made me reminiscent about white, sandy summer vacations.  feature3Olivier and I split a wedge salad, which was just they way it should be: simple and fresh.

feature7I knew we would be ordering pizza, but I still agonized over the menu for quite a while. There were numerous interesting choices such as The Funky Chicken, which included gouda cheese and another pizza (I can’t remember the name) which included pork tenderloin and peaches. The Restaurant Week Special is the Arthea’s Franklin, which is a spicy Buffalo chicken pizza, including ranch glaze, grilled chicken, jalapeños, Frank’s Hot Sauce, red onions, chives and both gorgonzola and mozzarella cheese. I did get to sample a slice of this at the Kick Off of Restaurant Week and it was quite delish, but in the end I went super basic and got The Sweet Marguerite.

 Tomatoes + Basil + Mozzarella = Perfection

feature9Shortly after we got our pizza a little bird perched across from us, hoping we were messy eaters and he could bag a few scrapes.  See even the birds love The Pie Factory.feature2The restaurant also has an extensive collection of beers.  I was happy to see a lot of local brews and ordered Straight to Ale’s Monkeynaught to pair with my pizza.  feature11In the end we all enjoyed our food: Olivier, myself and the bird. Not that we’re messy eaters but I fell for the guilt trip and tossed him a bit of crust.  The bird, not Olivier.

I am looking forward to going back and trying something more adventurous, perhaps the Funky Chicken.
feature8Disclosure: I was invited to participate in Florence Restaurant Week by Florence Main Street. My hotel was paid for by them to make it easier for me to participate and I received a $20 gift card from The Pie Factory. I paid the remaining balance out of my own pocket and all thoughts and opinions about the restaurant are my own.

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Florence Restaurant Week #FRW2015

Florence Main Street

I was invited to participate in Florence’s Restaurant Week 2015.  Wonderful local food (for free), great people, and the chance to spend the weekend in one of my favorite cities. Yes please!

Florence is near and dear to my heart as it is home to my alma mater, UNA. I both studied and taught journalism and photography at the university. I have many wonderful memories of the city, which has great restaurants, fun festivals, and supports an impressive music and arts community.

This year, 14 restaurants are participating in the Florence Main Street sponsored charity event.  Each restaurant will offer specials for participants. As part of the event, patrons that eat at one of the restaurants will have the opportunity to vote for one of their five favorite charities.  At the end of restaurant week, the charity that has received the most votes will receive $5000, generously donated by McDaniel Window & Door.

On Wednesday, I attended the kickoff for restaurant week at Singin’ River Brewery and got to sample food from all of the restaurants.  Everything was delicious and it made me super excited about this weekend.  I also got to meet my fellow bloggers: Eve and Roger from Friday Date Night and my blogger BBF Christi Britten Williams (we were photojournalism friends at UNA) from Dirt Plate.  Make sure you check out their posts this week as well.  1Y2B6654

Below are the participating restaurants of the event.  Make sure you check my blog next week for lots of photos from the 5 restaurants I’m covering this weekend.  I’m seriously regretting making an appointment with a personal trainer on Monday.  😦

Singin’ River Brewing CompanyUntitled-14

City Hardware and Ricatoni’s Italian GrillUntitled-10

Rivertown Coffee Co.Untitled-11


Imagine That BakeryUntitled-6

Sperry’s RestaurantUntitled-13

Wildwood TavernUntitled-9

FloBama DowntownUntitled-3

Bookmarks Coffee ShopUntitled-8



The Pie FactoryUntitled-4

On The RocksUntitled-5