This summer some friends drove me to an out-of-the-way Alabama country farm. We were returning from a shopping excursion at the Outlet Mall in Foley. We turned off the paved back road, Highway 98, onto a dusty, clay covered but well maintained road. The dust immediately consumed the car in dirt, hiding its original color. At the end of another dusty side road we finally came to the hidden, quiet farm and were brought back in time. For the three of us the farm brought back memories of childhood visits to farm stands. A large enclosed yard was filled with chickens, the open store displayed shelves of jams and jellies and honey. A freezer was filled with home-made ice cream of various flavors. Fruits and vegetables were on display, ready for purchase. We talked to a family member working at the counter, an ageless senior woman. She was friendly and informative and full of vibrant energy.
Hillcrest Farm’s Facebook page recently announced their 7th Annual Corn Maze event, I decided to return alone and buy some more jams and honey, plus ask about their advertised smoked Mullet, which was getting great reviews online. Early this morning I took my nice clean white van along the back roads to the now familiar Hixson Road in Elberta, Alabama. The red clay dust again consumed my van as it had my friend’s car the last trip. But within twenty minutes of parking in the grove between the berry field and chicken yard I had found more than enough treasures to bring home.
Although I forgot to try the advertised persimmons I did ask about the smoked Mullet. Was it really fishy tasting? Did it taste like smoked salmon maybe? The young lady who helped me said that her husband had smoked it himself and it was very good. Had I known just how good it is I would have bought four pounds, all they had in stock. But I only bought a little under a pound.
The farm is serene and quiet, on the dead-end road. It’s a working farm, their home. A quiet yellow Labrador Retriever lounged on the grass. A Jack Russell mix was tethered nearby. There really isn’t anything to do there, with berry picking season past, no petting zoo or cutesy attractions to see. But the dry stalks of the Corn Maze stood tantalizingly off in the distance, endless row after row. The thought of getting lost in the field of towering corn did not interest me. But someday I’ll be more adventuresome and will return to try it.
On the way home I stopped at an antique store that for years I had on my list of places to visit. It was filled with local artwork and some “classy” antiques, not the type of store I had envisioned, where one has to wander around and pick through stuff to find hidden treasures. The owner was very nice but I didn’t find anything of interest. Doesn’t it always seem to be that the place you expected to be great isn’t and then a hidden place like Hillcrest Farm turns out to be the best place ever?
When I got home I set up the jams and honey and smoked Mullet on the table to take a picture. From out of nowhere my cat, Essie, immediately jumped up next to the fish and gave me a stern look. She must think the Mullet is all for her. But I’ll tell you what, kitty. Smoked Mullet is fantastic. Not only is this all mine but I’m going back for more. Maybe soon, so I can get lost in the Corn Maze too.
You can learn more about Hillcrest Farm (30497 Hixson Road, Elberta, Alabama) on Facebook.