Martie Duncan's fourth book, "Sweet Home Alabama Destinations & Dishes Worth the Trip" is a love letter to her home state.It is one part cookbook, one part travel guide and two parts beautiful. …
Martie Duncan's fourth book, "Sweet Home Alabama Destinations & Dishes Worth the Trip" is a love letter to her home state.
It is one part cookbook, one part travel guide and two parts beautiful. Inside the pages are filled with photos of Alabama's top destinations, hidden treasures and delicious food.
Duncan is a Birmingham native, chef, event designer, podcast host, television star and author. She learned to cook standing next to her mother and has spent a lifetime traveling and exploring food. Her life experiences led her to audition for the eighth season of Food Network Star, which aired in 2012. She did not win her season, but she has been on other Food Network shows and made lifelong friends with some impressive culinary players. Maybe you met some of her friends at The Hangout Oyster Cook-Off over the years, an event she helped produce and grow over its 10 years.
"Sweet Home Alabama Destinations & Dishes Worth the Trip" is a follow-up to Duncan's 2018 book, "Alabama Cravings," in which she road-tripped around the state to feature the most requested recipes from Alabama restaurants. She felt she needed to check in with those featured in the book to see who survived the COVID-19 pandemic.
"'Alabama Cravings' was such a fun book, but after the pandemic I felt it was important to check in with the restaurants to see how they were, see which ones were thriving and which ones weren't there anymore," Duncan said. "I was so heartbroken that so many were gone, but I have to say I was extremely happy to find so many doing so well."
While Duncan visited restaurants from her last book, she also set out to find new places and those that opened in the middle of the pandemic to highlight. She said she was happy to include some new discoveries she found on her travels.
Speaking of travel, this book should be your next travel companion. Duncan said she was inspired to include the tourism aspect after hearing that Alabama Tourism generates billions of dollars.
According to the 2021 Alabama Tourism Economic Impact Report, 28.2 million visitors spent $19.7 billion in the state that year. In August 2022, Gov. Kay Ivey projected tourism could generate $24 billion in revenue by the year's end.
"Most people that buy my books are people that are from here and know the restaurants," Duncan said. "I felt like if I added the destinations, maybe it would get people from other places to think about coming to Alabama."
Duncan broke the book into regions: north, central, south and the Gulf Coast. She found amateur and professional photographers who contributed photos of some of the state's beautiful destinations. She wanted to make the contributors part of the book, so there is a small photo of the photographer on each photo.
Each regional chapter features a "Best Places" section where Duncan highlights her favorite places and things to do in that area of the state. For example, in the North Alabama chapter, Duncan shines a light on the prettiest waterfall, the best hot air balloon race and the best drive for fall foliage.
The "Restaurants and Recipes" section of each regional chapter is broken down by city. Duncan included a write-up about each restaurant, photos and included her own "Don't Miss" for each eatery. Each recipe was tested by Duncan personally.
"Restaurant chefs don't write recipes like home cooks," Duncan said. "Sometimes things get left out or don't get included like directions, so I end up rewriting the recipes so they are suitable for the home cook."
Flipping through the recipes in this book, you will find everything from Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q's Original Alabama White Sauce to the Flora-Bama Lounge, Package & Oyster Bar's "Bama" Bushwacker and everything in between.
"It is not just my book. It is people like Lorie Ward (Fairhope Juice Company), Pete Blohme (PP Hospitality Group), David Bancroft at Acre and Frank Stitt in Birmingham. It is all these people wanting to contribute to make a tribute to help people see our state the way we see it," Duncan said.
"I hope people will not only find some restaurants and dishes they want to try or places they want to visit but I hope they find a new place they never heard of. Something they have lived their whole life in Alabama and never knew. I hope it helps people get out and find some new adventures," Duncan said.
For more information about Martie Duncan or where you can purchase "Sweet Home Alabama: Destinations & Dishes Worth the Trip," visit martieduncan.com.