The Gathering Place

For one Oakleigh couple, there is more to fall get-togethers than just watching football.

LEFT Will Bingham mans the grill while wife, Clair, and son, Wake, look on. MIDDLE John Robertson, Douglas Robertson, Joseph Brennan and Rachel Warner chat after dinner, while pup Harpoon and Wake Bingham stretch their legs. RIGHT Homeowners Douglas and Glenn Robertson greet their hungry guests with freshly dressed wings. Photos by Elizabeth Gelineau

There are people in the world whose kindness lingers long after the last goodbye. Those whom you feel better for having met. The Robertsons, Douglas and Glenn, are two such people, their joy and humor tethered by a keen perspective of the important things in life, things like providing a soft landing for when life gets hard — or for when your favorite sports team is trailing its competitor. Homes are like that, a respite from the world, a reflection of its owners. 

“This house is made for hosting,” Glenn, who’s named after her mom, Lucy Glenn Bingham, says of the couple’s 1915 Oakleigh Garden District bungalow. She and Douglas, both Fairhope natives, wanted a historic home, and having been remodeled by Taylor Atchison, the house is airy and stays true to its original flourishes. The kitchen, with open shelving and farmhouse sink, flows into the living space, an eclectic mix of modern and mid-century furniture with accents of funky art and Bohemian rugs. No wall is unadorned, including the guest bathroom. The oft-overlooked space is plastered with postcards collected from personal travels or received by world-trotting friends.

Adding to the home’s relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere are pooches Harpoon and Bertie, lolling underfoot. Today they are most interested in the kitchen’s activities, their snouts sniffing intermittently at the wafts of peanuts, sausage and wings hanging deliciously heavy in the air. “They love when people come over,” laughs Glenn, public relations and marketing manager for the Mobile Museum of Art. “And so do I — I would much rather host than go somewhere.”

The group gathered is a congenial bunch, people from various stages of the couple’s lives, including counselors from Camp Beckwith, the place where the Robertsons first met. “We quickly realized we had a shared sense of humor,” Glenn, who was the camp’s arts and crafts leader, says of Douglas, the games and entertainment leader, skillsets that serve the homeowners well when it comes to opening their home to friends and family.

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Getting people to visit is easy, especially during football season. “Games are just an excuse to get everyone together,” confides Douglas, a history teacher at Bayside Academy. Glenn agrees, “We love to cook and play games, and football watching often morphs into something else.”

“Something else” usually revolves around music — Douglas is the resident DJ — or games of another variety, the board or outdoor kind. The Robertsons’ backyard is a veritable garden and is large enough for the most competitive round of Smite, a sort of lawn-bowling game. But the highlight of the yard is the converted garage, warmly lit with string lights and outfitted with an oversized table and a sectional couch. It’s also where tonight’s meal is served, only steps away from the grill on which Glenn’s brother, Will Bingham, is preparing wings.

After the last bite of kale salad is enjoyed, the group tops off their shandies and heads to the front porch. Glenn appears with a platter of freshly baked cookie brittle as guests settle onto wicker chairs, the front steps or wooden swing. Conversations lull long enough for sips and continue as effortlessly as the early autumn breeze.

“We try not to take ourselves too seriously in our home and in our lives in general,” Glenn muses. “Hopefully that translates to how we host.” Because, in the end, it’s not really about the home. It’s about the gathering.

Will’s Wings

Wings top the list of easy finger foods, and this recipe is sure to top the list of favorite ways to prepare them. Will Bingham, Glenn’s brother, suggests keeping the wings intact, rather than splitting them apart.

4 pounds wings
Dale’s Seasoning
kosher salt
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
3/4 tablespoon ground sumac*
3/4 tablespoon thyme
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon onion powder

1. Marinate wings in Dale’s for 2 to 8 hours. One hour before grilling, remove wings from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt.
2. Combine remaining dry ingredients. Coat wings evenly with dry rub, shaking off excess. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 hour.
3. Grill or smoke over wood fire. Serves 4

*Ground sumac can be difficult to find and can be substituted with lemon pepper. Will suggests shopping Food Pak on Old Shell Road for this ingredient.

Wing Dip

This dip is best when made at least 1 hour in advance.

1 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup green onion, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon hot sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

 1. Mix all ingredients together. To reach desired consistency, equal parts of lemon juice and olive oil may be added. Cover and chill.

Spicy Cheez-It

It’s hard to stop with just one handful of these zesty cheese crackers.

2 boxes Cheez-It cheese crackers
2/3 cup oil
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons dry Ranch

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Mix all ingredients, and bake on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes. Serves a crowd

Ginger Shandies

A shandy sounds fancy, but it is simply a beverage made by mixing beer with a nonalcoholic drink. This refreshingly tart example is perfect for fall tailgating or
afternoon porch sipping.

1 12-ounce bottle ginger beer, chilled
3 11.2 ounce bottles of Hoegaarden beer, chilled
1 lemon, thinly sliced
mint sprigs, for garnish

1. In a large pitcher, combine beers. Stir in most of the lemon slices and mint sprigs. Fill 6 rocks glasses with ice. Add the remaining lemon slices to the glasses and pour in the shandy. Garnish each drink with a mint sprig and serve. Serves 6

Curried Boiled Peanuts

This fun, sweet and savory variation on a deep South favorite is a total nod to fall, with hints of cinnamony cardamom. 

3 pounds green peanuts
2 cans coconut milk
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 quart water, or enough to cover peanuts
4 tablespoons red curry paste
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon lime zest, grated
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more for garnish
5 green cardamom pods (optional)

1. Thoroughly rinse peanuts in a colander. Add peanuts, coconut milk and salt to slow cooker, then add enough water to cover the peanuts.
2. Combine curry paste, fish sauce, lime zest and lime juice in small bowl. Mix well.
3. Add curry mixture to slow cooker, toss in cardamom pods and stir well.
4. Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours. Squeeze lime juice over shells before serving. Serves a crowd

Sausage Stars

These savory treats will have you seeing stars. The Robertsons’ friend, Cherlyn Mussell, makes sure to bring these to each game day party.

1 package wonton wrappers
1 pound Jimmy Dean sausage, cooked and drained
1 green pepper, diced
1 2.25-ounce can black olives, diced
3 – 4 cups colby and Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 cup Hidden Valley Ranch dressing

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a muffin tin with oil, and press wonton wrappers into tin so the four corners stick up. Place tin in oven for approximately 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove wonton cups from tin and let cool.
2. Combine sausage, green pepper and olives into a mixing bowl. Add cheese, and mix in ranch dressing.
3. Fill each wonton cup with the sausage mixture. Place cups on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 7 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Makes 4 dozen

Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad

These colorful greens definitely deserve a spot at any fall gathering. Dijon mustard and dried cranberries add zing and will have guests coming back for seconds.

1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. In a small bowl, add garlic, ginger, mustard, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Whisk to combine, slowly adding oil.
2. Let dressing sit for at least an hour for flavors to marry. Stir well prior to dressing
the salad.

1/2 cup almonds, sliced

1 head kale, stems removed and finely sliced
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, finely sliced
prepared dressing
1/4 cup Craisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Toast almonds in a dry skillet over medium-low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix Brussels sprouts and kale. Add dressing, and mix until well coated. Let dressed salad sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes to tenderize the greens. Prior to serving, add almonds, Craisins and Parmesan, and mix until well combined. Finish with salt and pepper, to taste.

Mom’s Cookie Brittle

Glenn’s mother, Lucy Glenn Bingham, started making these chocolaty, crunchy cookies in the ‘90s. After baking, drizzle melted chocolate on top for extra decadence, or skip the topping and put cookies in a zip top bag for a ready-to-travel snack. Either way, this “brittle” goes quickly!

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat together butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in large mixing bowl. Gradually beat in flour. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Press into ungreased 15×10-inch baking dish.
2. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool and break cookies into
irregular pieces. Makes 3 dozen

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