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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Cosmo’s Restaurant & Bar is a neighborhood favorite in Orange Beach, Alabama

About 2.5 miles east of The Wharf is a small cluster of buildings making up Cosmo’s Courtyard, and the home of Cosmo’s Restaurant & Bar. The restaurant itself is on the north side of the cluster with plenty of parking on the outer edges of the buildings. Owners Brian and Jodi Harsany’s attention to detail makes it a lovely dining experience from the kitchen to the friendly and attentive staff in the dining room. Corporate Chef Jack Baker incorporates his roots in Southern cooking with French cuisine and techniques. Executive Chef Rob Benson is originally from Louisiana and interprets traditional Creole along with seasonal game and vegetables. Sous Chef Rachael Golden is originally from Pensacola and incorporates her love of the Gulf Coast into Southern dishes. All their inspirations and influences are apparent on the menu.

Let’s take a look at some of the menu items:

Crab Claws (Market Price, it was $19 in November) can be “bbq” in a creole butter sauce or fried and served with cocktail sauce. Since I had them fried at Wolf Bay Lodge, I decided to try the “bbq”-style this time. The crab claws were sweet and fresh just like I had them at the Olympic Shellfish processing facility. The creole butter sauce added a nice richness with a hint of creole spice similar to a crawfish étouffée. I know this is an appetizer but this also be great as an entrée served with some rice or pasta to use up all that sauce. It is like liquid gold! Rating: 5/5

Entrees are served with a complimentary small house salad. The salad greens were so fresh. I love the addition of fresh ground pepper and bleu cheese crumbles at tableside.

Banana Leaf Wrapped Fish (Market Price, it was $31 in November) is their chef’s selected fish (at this time, it was sea bass) rubbed with a special blend of herbs and seasonings, wrapped and baked in a banana leaf, and served with their house rice and vegetable selection. I Love Alabama Food named this dish as one of “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama”. This dish reminds me of something you would see in the tropics, like where I am from in Hawaii. We use banana leaves and ti leaves to wrap meats, vegetables, etc. using it as a cooking vessel along with imparting flavor final dish. The sea bass was cooked perfectly as the succulent fish came apart in layers and the natural fats in the fish melted and rendered during the baking process. The vegetables were beautifully sautéed with a crisp texture. The rice was similar to a pilaf but more herbaceous. Overall, the presentation was beautiful. Unwrapping the banana leaf was like unwrapping a gift from the food gods. Rating: 4.5/5

When you are in Orange Beach, take a ride off the beaten path to Cosmo’s Restaurant & Bar for a refreshing take on Southern cuisine and seafood!
  • Specials: Check their website for Daily Specials

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
25753 Canal Rd
Orange Beach, AL 36561
Hours: Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Seating: Interior and exterior
Reservations: First come, first serve

Cosmo's Restaurant & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, February 17, 2017

2016 WFC Day 4: Bacon World Championship with the Fabulous Bacon Babe

Since I didn’t have to arrive at The Wharf until 10 a.m., I got to sleep in a little and make a quick breakfast sandwich at the Hampton Inn. I still had a LOT of Whole Foods Market leftovers. I made a sandwich with a brioche bun stuffed with an egg salad made with hardboiled eggs and avocado topped with bacon strips, bleu cheese, and diced tomato. After protein-packed sandwich down the hatch, it was time to get myself ready for the Bacon World Championship Top 10 round at the World Food Championships.

While we waited to get into Kenmore Kitchen Arena, I spotted my good friend, Big Moe Cason. You may know him from competing and judging on Destination American’s BBQ Pitmasters. You may have also seen him on my YouTube channel when I covered the Horse Town Brew N’ Que last year. He is the nicest guy in BBQ!

Jodi Taffel, a.k.a. The Fabulous Bacon Babe, made her way through the opening round and now it’s time to test her skills on infusing Olive and Sinclair Chocolate with Hormel Black Label Pecanwood Thick Cut Bacon. Olive and Sinclair’s Southern Artisan 67% Chocolate is made with single-origin beans from Ghana, along with red stone fruit, brown butter, and sorghum molasses. The Southern Artisan Sea Salt Chocolate starts with a 75% cacao bean base and is speckled with flaked sea salt.

Before the start of the competition, Jodi’s station was plagued by electrical issues. First, the oven would not turn on. Jodi didn’t want to take all her food and supplies out in case she had to move. WFC personnel worked on it and managed to get the oven working before the start of the round. When it was time to start melting the chocolate for the mousse, the microwave was not working. As the WFC personnel worked on the problem, Mary, Jodi’s sous, used a microwave in an empty station to get the chocolate melted. It turned out that the microwave was broken and they swapped it out for a new one. David coined the motto, “Adapt and overcome.”

  • WFC Cooking Tip: You can’t buy liquor in a grocery store like you would in California. Per Alabama Alcohol Laws: “Alcohol can be purchased any day except for Sunday. Spirits and wine with an alcohol content of 14% or higher are sold in ABC stores, also called package or state stores. Table wine (less than 14% alcohol) and beer with less than 6% alcohol content is available in groceries and convenience markets.”

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Jodi’s entry was a Chocolate Espresso Mousse topped with balsamic bourbon pecan marmalade, bacon infused Chantilly cream, raspberry coulis, chocolate pearls, and pecan bacon tuile served in a chocolate tulip cup. The chocolate tulip cups came all the way from California and the helpful flight attendants kept them safe during the flight over.

Jodi made me my own tasting portion. The Olive and Sinclair Chocolate really makes a rich chocolate mousse with luscious texture. It is silky and melts just right on the tongue. The balsamic bourbon pecan marmalade complements the rich chocolate mousse with tangy, sweet, salty, smoky, and nutty notes but not too strong to overwhelm the chocolate. The bacon flavor in the Chantilly cream was subtle adding a nice creamy flavor and texture. The chocolate pearls, fresh raspberry, and mint leaf on top tied in the chocolate tulip cup for the presentation. This dessert flavor and presentation is worthy of a fine dining restaurant. If I had judged this dish, I would have scored it: E – 10, A – 10, T – 10. The judges scored her an 84.6667, moving her up to #5 with a final score of 86.05002. Just 1.69998 points away from #1!

I am so proud of Jodi, showcasing her skills as a great cook as well as her organizational skills in the kitchen to deliver perfect dishes (in my opinion) at the World Food Championships! I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us this November!

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Moe’s Original Bar B Que is “a southern soul food revival” in Orange Beach, Alabama

It all began with three Bama boys, Mike Fernandez, Ben Gilbert, and Jeff Kennedy, who met and became instant friends at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Their mutual interests were BBQ, blues, college football, and whisky. In 1988, Mike learned the ways of the pitmaster from Moses Day, which to this day makes up Moe’s flavor of barbeque. The boys received their call to the mountains and landed in Vail, CO to refine their ‘queing skills. With fruit-wood smoked meat and two sauces, Vail became home to their first location pairing BBQ with southern-style sides and desserts. Now with 53 locations stretching from California to Virginia (and 5 more locations coming soon), Moe’s is spreading their love of BBQ one city at a time.

Dedicated crew at Orange Beach
Moe’s always had an eye on doing a BBQ beach shack. In 2006, they partnered with Mark “Pinto” White to test out the BBQ waters of Alabama and it became a success. This country kitchen gazes out into the Gulf of Mexico with 40 interior seats and 20 on the outside deck. It is truly an amazing experience eating barbeque on the beach! During the summer, the line can stretch around the building and into the parking lot. But, their consistency and dedicated employees keep guests coming back for more, no matter how long the wait.

Let’s take a look at some of the menu items I tried:

Basket o’ Pork Rinds ($4.50) are a southern delicacy tossed in Moe’s dry rub and served with white sauce. These tasty pork rinds are made to order and have a snap/crackle/pop noise to them when ready. You can hear it well after it is brought to your table. White sauce is a mayo based sauce seasoned with Moe’s dry rub and other ingredients (sometimes referred to as “white BBQ sauce”). It reminds me of a southern flavored ranch dressing, but thicker and more robust. It is great for dipping both pork rinds and French fries. As a purest, I just love the pork rinds on their own with their crispy porky flavor. Rating: 5/5

Platters are served with cornbread, 2 sides, and a drink. The combo platter is a great way to try a couple of meats at one sitting. I chose Southern Fried Catfish, Ribs, House-Fried Chips, and Banana Puddin’.

Southern Fried Catfish is Alabama farm-raised, fried catfish fillets served with a side of homemade tartar. The catfish had a crispy, blistered, golden-brown exterior with a tender succulent interior. This is now in my Top 3 best fried catfish I’ve ever had! The flavor is very clean and does not taste like the catfish you get at the local grocery store. I can’t wait to get a full order of these next time! Rating: 5/5

Ribs are smoked slow & low and served with BBQ sauce and pickles. They are very tender and fall-off-the-bone great. They also have a beautiful smoke rings and smoky flavor. The rub adds a nice peppery flavor. The BBQ sauce is light, not too sweet and not too bold/robust. The seasoning and sauce really allow the pork flavor to shine through. Rating: 5/5

House-Fried Chips were ultra-crispy, not super thin, and dusted with seasoned salt. Once you eat one, it is hard to stop. I suggest getting your own side because you won’t want to share! Rating: 5/5

Banana Puddin’ was very light and tastes homemade. You can see the banana seeds inside the pudding like you would see vanilla bean flecks in a premium vanilla ice cream. It is so southern and will make you happy, happy! Rating: 5/5

The Jalapeno Cornbread is just a tad sweet with a good jalapeño flavor. You get a slight kick but it’s not overly spicy so you can enjoy the jalapeño flavor. The texture is just right, not to moist and not too dry. Rating: 5/5

It was time to head back to the hotel to wind down. Day 4 of the World Food Championships continues with the Bacon World Championship!

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 4 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
25603 Perdido Beach Blvd
Orange Beach, AL 36561
Hours: Currently closed for renovations. Check website for status updates.
Seating: Interior and exterior
Reservations: None, first-come, first-serve

Moe's Original Bar B Que Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato