100 Dishes in Alabama: Hope’s Cheesecake

I have been going to Gulf Shores since I was a little girl, and since 1996 I have been driving right by Hope’s Cheesecake to get to my parents house. Every time I see it I think, “Someday I need to stop in there and check it out.” When it garnered a spot on the 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die, I knew I had been missing out on something. Since the girls and I were at the Gulf this weekend, I pulled into Hope’s on my way back home. Oh my!! Y’all, I had no idea there was a place like this in Alabama! They make their cheesecakes from REAL, quality ingredients like Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese, fresh whole eggs, cane sugar, Melipone vanilla, delectable chocolates and luscious liqueurs. I’m here to tell you, using quality makes a HUGE difference. Their cheesecakes are creamy and fabulous! Not one bit dry and crumbly or thick and chewy.
You can see from the picture above the flavors we tried. Here are the descriptions from Hope’s website:
  • White Chocolate Strawberry: This one was a good classic cheesecake with a hint of white chocolate and a yummy strawberry topping. A very classic, creamy cheesecake.
  • Cookies and Cream: One of my top picks from our entire selection. It had a cheesecake base with crushed Oreos mixed into the batter and topped with crushed Oreos. It would be hard to top this one!
  • Chocolate Kahlua: Rich chocolate cheesecake with Kahlua liqueur added. This one was my favorite! It was creamy and dreamy. A very grown-up flavor. The Kahlua was PERFECT! Try it!!
  • Chocolate Marble: Original cheesecake and rich chocolate cheesecake swirled together before baking. Favorite of my girls. The flavors are simple and classic. Really delicious!
  • Key Lime: Our original cheesecake with authentic key lime juice from the Florida Keys. This one has an authentic key lime flavor – not an imitation flavoring taste. A great summery flavor!
  • Strawberry Amaretto: This is another very grown-up flavor. The amaretto is wonderful. This one has the same strawberry topping as the Strawberry White Chocolate, but it also has toasted almond slivers.
The cheesecakes were divine! Definitely NOT your run-of-the-mill grocery store frozen cheesecake! While I was in line, there was a darling couple in front of me ordering. They said they had driven 1200 miles to have one of Hope’s cinnamon rolls. The owner told them they had just pulled some out of the oven and they were icing them now.
I’m still kicking myself for not ordering one of those, too. They smelled heavenly. The roll looked like a delectable combination of cinnamon, sugar, and freshly baked dough. Then the icing. Oh, the icing. I don’t know what was in it, but I could have eaten my weight in it.
Dang it! Why didn’t I get one?!?
I can’t believe I have been driving right past this place for years! From now on, Hope’s Cheesecake will be a regular part of our trips to the beach. You can buy Hope’s Cheesecakes at their store in Gulf Shores, on their website, or in several stores and restaurants along the Gulf Coast. They are available in whole cakes, slices, or cupcake sizes. If you try it, let me know! And tell the darling little owner, Mrs. Jeanne Donald that you read about it on the Hill Hang-Out.
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100 Dishes in Alabama: Oysters from Wintzell’s

Y’all, I can’t tell you how happy this view makes me…
I have eaten my share of good food (more than my share by the reading on my scales), and Wintzell’s is right at the top of my list. Not only is the food first-rate, I have so many good memories tied to this particular location. The original restaurant (pictured above) opened as an oyster bar in Mobile, Alabama, in 1938. We lived in Mobile when I was very young, and one of the few memories I have of my time there is sitting at this oyster bar with my daddy…

He would eat raw oysters on the half shell and I would eat crackers dipped in cocktail sauce. And we always sat at the bar, I’m sure because I thought it was so cool. We moved away from Mobile when I was about four, and I didn’t get back to Wintzell’s again until I was an adult. They now have several stores spread out along the Gulf coast, but the original is still the best! I was glad to see they were honored as part of the 100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die.
The atmosphere is uniquely Mobile, Alabama. It is located in the historic Dauphin Street District. Constructed in the architectural style of New Orleans’ French Quarter, the area has been renovated and many cute boutiques, businesses and restaurants have moved in. The interior of the restaurant is unforgettable as well. Not new, mind you, but uniquely Wintzell’s just the same. The walls are wallpapered with handmade signs.
They say things like:
“People bring happiness to this place. Some by entering. Some by leaving.”

“It’s alright with the Lord if you pray for a good harvest. But He expects you to keep on plowing.”

“An optimist is one who sees a light. A pessimist is one who blows it out.”

“Having money and friends is easy. But the real accomplishment is having friends and no money.”

But, of course, a restaurant can’t survive on charm alone. The food has to be good if they’re going to stay in business for 70+ years. The oysters are what got them on the list, but they have lots of seafood, prepared most any way you like it. We opted for the fried trifecta – oysters…

and chicken.

They were all PERFECT-O! Wintzell’s wrote the book on what classic fried oysters should taste like. I’m a little picky on my fried oysters – I like them just right. Wintzell’s uses a batter that is not too heavy and not too light. The batter is perfectly seasoned – not too much, but enough to give the batter some flavor. And then they fry them perfectly – not overly done so that they are all crunch and no oyster. The fish and chicken were equally as delicious. Even the cole slaw was perfect – fresh cabbage and carrots with a smidge of sweetness, but not too much.

If you ever get the chance to eat at Wintzell’s, consider yourself blessed. I’m sure that all locations are yummy, but I prefer the charm, character, and memories of the downtown Mobile location. Nothing says Old South like oysters from Wintzell’s!!

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Friday Field Trip: APCO’s Water Course

We’ve been studying all-things-water in science, so today’s Friday field trip was to Clanton, Alabama. In 1995, Alabama Power opened its Water Course – a fun, interactive resource for learning all about Alabama’s waterways. The girls thought it was super fun, and I really did, too. It starts off with a simulated helicopter ride over Alabama, pointing out waterways and landmarks. This short movie was a great introduction to the natural resources available in our state.
The girls “flew” over the state capitol in Montgomery.

Each exhibit had some sort of interactive game to reinforce the information being presented. My girls love these kind of exhibits, and they really do help them learn and understand the concepts. PattiGirl liked playing the Water Whys game show. It was WAY above her head, but she didn’t notice. And who am I to tell her?

Alabama Power has long been a champion for conservation of our natural resources. They are leading the way in keeping our waterways clean and pollution-free. Each year hundreds of employees and friends of APCO donate their time to cleaning trash out of our rivers, lakes, streams, and beaches. This room was stuffed full of trash that came straight out of our waterways. It was amazing to see what people throw into our water! Refrigerators, umbrellas, tents, coolers, lawn chairs, bicycles, electric fans, and a million and one old tires.

After our day o’ learning, we stopped by Durbin Farms for a bite of peach ice cream. Clanton/Chilton County are known for their peaches, and we always stop by Durbin Farms Market to buy peaches on our way to the beach. It’s not peach season so there were no peaches, but they are also known for their peach ice cream. It was one of the dishes on our “Alabama” list. It really is good ice cream. It’s very sweet and creamy and not too tart. The girls even ate the bits of peaches – a miracle if you ask me!

Over the past few years, they have added a gift shop that sells some really cute, unique items. We always enjoy looking. They were a little low on inventory today, but I’m sure January is not their peak business season. When beach-going months roll around, the place will be packed with all kinds of darling treasures.

The peach pies from Peach Park in Clanton are also on the Alabama list. We thought we’d hop across the interstate and pick one up to take home. We pulled up and felt like Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Vacation when they pulled up to Wally World. It was vacant.
Lucky for us, though, they are just closed for the winter. While it’s not peak peach season, they shut down the big location here, and operate out of a convenience store next door called Peach Park Express. Peach Park Express sells the delicious desserts that the big Peach Park is known for, so we were able to pick up several of their fried peach pies to take home. The fried peach pies are OUT OF THIS WORLD! The crust is so incredibly flaky and not at all greasy. They are fantastic and so worth the stop in Clanton.

Hope y’all had a good Friday of your own. Happy weekend to you!
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Friday Field Trip: Space and Rocket Center

It’s no secret that one of my favorite things about homeschooling is the field trips! I adore field trips. I love getting out with my girls and venture to new and exciting places we have never been before. And when it fits in with your course of study, SCORE! This week we have spent a lot of time studying space travel. We discussed the space race and the launch of Saturn V and Neil Armstrong and the Hubble telescope. Lots and lots of fun stuff. Since MA has worked very hard at staying focused on her schoolwork this week (sometimes a challenge!) I decided to “reward” her with a trip to Huntsville’s Space and Rocket Center to see some space artifacts up close. Y’all, it is such an Alabama treasure! There is a wealth of information on space travel there. It fit in perfectly with what we have been studying. I love it when I can find field trips that so perfectly reinforce what we’ve been reading and studying about.

Since we were last there, they have added the Saturn V/Space Race exhibit in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration. It was fascinating! They had video footage of President John F. Kennedy’s missive to “put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth within the decade.” He issued the challenge in 1961, and of course, was killed in 1963, so he never knew that the US, in fact, was able to complete the mission in 1969. We learned about how Wernher Von Braun led the team based in Huntsville to design Saturn V.
They have added a cool space-themed play area for little ones. It was a life-saver since the Space Race exhibit was too advanced for my three-year-old. I could actually let her play in the play area while I walked my third-grader through the exhibit. Yea for the new play area!

I sure hope she doesn’t launch anything!!

They have really cool interactive exhibits. This one simulated pedaling some sort of lunar rover bicycle thing through Rocket Park. It measured your pedaling and gave you a report at the end about your speed, force, thrust, etc.

Did you know that the US has FAR more women astronauts than any other country. According to this exhibit, the US has sent 42 women into outer space, while the most any other country has is 2. Go USA and go girls!!

They have fantastic educational movies at the Space Center. We took advantage of our time there and saw two. We loved a movie called Sun that was in 3D. My girls have never seen a 3D movie before, so it was fun to them. PattiGirl got a little freaked out when the asteroids started coming at her, so she watched the rest with her glasses off. We also saw Hubble at the Imax theater. It was incredible and fascinating. The astronauts traveled to the Hubble telescope to make repairs and took cameras along to film the movie. They showed so much incredible footage! MA said that Hubble was her favorite part of the day.
I don’t remember the rock climbing wall being there the last time we went, but my little one was super excited to try it. She zoomed right to the top!

Both of my girls had a great day and were really intrigued by the things they saw.

On our way home we chose two spots from the “Alabama” list – Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ and Morgan Price Candy Company. I am happy to report that the chicken with white sauce was fantastic. The baked beans at Big Bob’s are also delicious. I’m a little picky about my baked beans, but these were really good. They were a tad sweet, the sauce was thick, and they had a touch of zing. We brought home a chocolate pie, which we haven’t cut into yet. It has mounds of meringue on top. Can’t wait.
Toffee is one of my favorite candies, and the toffee from Morgan Price is buttery and crunchy and sweet – a perfect combination. I’m glad we tried them!
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