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Cocktails and Cooking Lessons at a Classic Southern Resort

When my husband and I want a quick weekend getaway, one of our favorite escapes is the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa in Point Clear, Alabama.  It’s about a thirty-minute drive from Mobile.  Apparently, we aren’t the only ones fond of this charming retreat.  The Historic Hotels of America named the Grand the Top Historic Hotel in the US in 2013.


Originally opened on 1847, the resort was used as a hospital during the Civil War. Each afternoon (weather permitting) the hotel salutes the military with a  short patriotic procession on the grounds and the firing of a cannon.  Each day at 4 pm, the staff serves an informal and complimentary afternoon tea with scones, clotted cream, and cookies.


The Grand is a family friendly resort with the amenities one expects. The AAA four-diamond property boasts a 20,000 square foot European Spa and Salon, two Robert Trent Jones golf courses conveniently located across the street, and great swimming pools.

Situated beside Mobile Bay, you can borrow kayaks, Hobie Cats, and paddle boats at no charge.  Make a reservation for the tennis court or try your luck fishing off the pier (poles and bait provided).  Hammocks dot the property and are an inviting spot to curl up with a good book. If you’re feeling a bit competitive, try a game of horseshoes or croquet.  Two daily shuttles run hotel guests to downtown Fairhope–a quaint community with flower boxes on the street corners, book stores, antique shops, and restaurants.


What I love about the Grand is its secluded location, the comfortable rooms (our balcony had two rocking chairs), and the gorgeous oak trees draped in moss.  And now, I have another reason to visit–culinary weekends.


Once a month, the hotel conducts a culinary weekend.  On Friday night, you can attend the Beverage Academy where participants might learn how to concoct a  classic Grand drink or the secrets to successfully pairing wine with food.

The “History of the American Cocktail” was the topic during our March visit. Not only did we listen to a fascinating description of the birth of the cocktail, but we were also served two classic drinks–a Tom Collins and a Whiskey Sour.


On Saturday morning, chefs from the Grand Steakhouse and the Saltwater Grill teach culinary classes.  Our instructor was Executive Chef Mike Wallace–a Culinary Institute of America graduate.  Chef Mike walked the participants through the creation of three delicious salads: Baby Mixed Greens with Goat Cheese and Strawberry Poppy Seed Dressing, Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon-Dijon Dressing, and the Grand Marnier Tropical Fruit Salad with Wild Berry Yogurt Sauce.  Participants asked a variety of questions throughout the two hour class, while Chef Mike covered a broad range of topics from the proper way to cut a shallot to growing pineapples in your own backyard.


The Beverage Academy is a one hour class held on Friday nights at 5:30 pm.  The cost is $10 and participants must be at least 21 years old to attend, unless otherwise noted.  Everyone receive recipes and beverages to sample. The Culinary Academy is held on Saturdays at 10 am and cost $25, unless otherwise noted. Classes run for two hours and includes food sampling. Call 251.928.9201 to register for a class.   To make a hotel reservation, call 251.928.9201 or  visit www.marriottgrand.com.


Here’s what the Grand will be serving up for the remainder of 2014:

April 18 & 19, 2014 – Southern Staples. “Bourbon Demystified” shared insights in Southern dark liquors and featuring the Mint Julep and Old Fashioned. During the “Sauté” class, the chef will prepare Plantation Shrimp Pasta, Sautéed Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce, and Teriyaki Stir-Fried Flank Steak.


May 16 & 17, 2014 – Wine & Cheese.  “Wine 101” explores both red and white varieties.  Learn how to pair the perfect wine with food. Saturday morning, sample gourmet cheeses from around the world in the “Wine and Gourmet Cheeses” class.


June 20 & 21, 2014 – Hot Off the Grill.  Nothing says summer like a cold beer and a flaming grill. “Intro to Beer” showcases the history and production of beer with plenty of tastings. “Grilling Basics” teaches grilling techniques for meat, poultry and fish. A great class for couples.


July 18 & 19, 2014 – Family Fun.  “Family Friendly Mocktails” teaches to prepare fun drinks without alcohol. “Family Fun Cooking” teaches young children and the young-at-heart how to prepare great summer dishes. (Children may attend these classes for free with a paying adult.)


Aug. 15 & 16, 2014 – Set Sail. “Rum: The Pirate Juice” explores the history of rum and creates classic cocktails including daiquiris and mojitos. Head to the Far East in the “How to Make Sushi” class.


Sept. 19 & 20, 2014 – Shake & Bake. Prepare to make a French 75 and a Bramble in the “Intro to Gin” class. “Baking Basics” on Saturday morning introduces participants to Sourdough, French and the Grand Loaf. Bring some home to share.


Oct. 17 & 18, 2014 – How Sweet It Is. “Wine 201” discusses dessert wines. Learn to make Bananas Foster, Crème Brule and Mousse in “Pastry Basics.”


Nov. 14 & 15, 2014 – Howdy Pilgrim.  The “Punches” class will show you step by step how to craft a punch for any occasion. “How to Cook a Thanksgiving Dinner” breaks down the holiday preparations into manageable steps. The chefs take you through each course and give you the confidence to tackle this year’s Thanksgiving meal.

Dec. 19 & 20, 2014 – Holiday Magic.  “Warm Drinks:  Cold Nights” helps you master a few warm cocktails for chilly winter nights. On Saturday morning, build and decorate a gingerbread house. Leave with a Christmas treasure.

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