Woods to Water

Up the country, the Lapeyrouses enjoy time-honored recipes and good times in their down-home, comfortable hunting camp. This fall, when the doors open at their new grill and grocery, Lap’s on the Causeway, folks will get the same experience, with only one difference; the sweeping Bay views of Baldwin County will be in stark contrast to those of the rolling Alabama hills of Monroe County.

In the Woods

About two hours north of Mobile, through Monroeville and down winding roads, deep in the hilly woodlands, Longino, Mike Lapeyrouse’s hunting camp, rests on a grassy knoll. His family’s roots there date back nearly 200 years; although, unlike their forefathers, today they use the land for recreational purposes. Mike and his five children, along with members of the camp, hunt deer, turkeys, pigs and ducks. But if it weren’t for the mounted heads and stuffed animals decorating the main house and barn-turned-bunkhouse, you’d never know so much time there was spent hunting.

Most of the stories from the camp are about fun occasions with friends and family, enjoying good food and good therapy. “To me, it’s a place where the answer to your problems isn’t down the road at a store or doctor’s office, but somewhere in the woods or on the water, ” describes son Ludger. “Sometimes getting ‘lost’ in the woods for a few hours is the best perspective on life a person can get.” A walk around the property invokes pure relaxation, setting the tone for a weekend of watching football, playing games and enjoying long conversations.

The main house is about as luxurious as you’d ever want a hunting camp to be, with homey furnishings and modern amenities. But the vast outdoor rooms and surrounding woods remind each person that he or she is a true outdoorsman. The old barn, which now doubles as additional living quarters for the kids and younger camp members, lends more rustic character. Chock-full of game tables, old signs and found knick-knacks, it is a perfect hangout for sibling bonding among the older set.

- Sponsors -

On the Water

As much as they love the woods, the Lapeyrouses also love the water – the Causeway, to be exact. Mike fell in love with the area as a young boy spending time at his dad’s grain elevator (near what is now Austal Shipyard), which attracted nutria, ducks and gators. “I remember just being blown away by what you could experience so close to Downtown, ” Mike says.

It was the right area for Mike to fulfill a lifelong dream of opening a restaurant. And it has truly been a family venture. His three oldest children, Clay, Ludger and Bessie all left Mobile for college and worldly experiences, but now Ludger and Bessie have landed back in town to help their dad launch Lap’s. “It’s not unusual for him to text me an idea at 3 a.m., ” Bessie says. Clay provides consulting from New Orleans, and they’re still working on getting him back here. Lucy, who turns 11 this month, looks forward to waiting tables with her friends. And Henry, age 8, is ready to go to work right now as “the guy who takes up money.”

In addition to the bar and grill, which will incorporate treasured family recipes and camp favorites, the place will offer a mom-and-pop-style grocery with local products, premium meats and a small farmer’s market. Local fishermen will provide the harvest for a seafood market, and patrons can visit the “boiler room” to see the day’s catch cooked. Outdoorsmen will find an excellent bait shop and can even purchase a boat downstairs.

“As close as it is to the city, it seems the perfect stepping off point to fish, hunt and explore the Delta, ” Mike says. “Customers can get provisions for the day and guidance as to where to go.”

The family hopes people take away something more. “The camp is a place I want to come back to before I even shut the gate on my way home, ” Ludger says. “When folks leave Lap’s, I hope they feel exactly that way – can’t wait to return.”

Tay’s Artichokes with Curry Dip

To enjoy this zesty app, simply snap off one of the leaf-like pieces, dip in sauce and scrape the “meat” between your teeth. Delicious!

5 large fresh artichokes
2 cups mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
dash of Tabasco
2 – 4 tablespoons curry powder (season to taste)
1 tablespoon A1 Steak Sauce
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon celery salt

1. Boil artichokes until tender. Set aside to drain.
2. In a medium bowl, mix remaining ingredients and serve as a dip alongside artichokes. Serves 8 – 10.

Right: Mike’s grandmother, Clayrita Hybart Godwin, who was fondly called “Tay, ” originally created this recipe. His mother, Nancy Godwin Harris (known as “Nanny” to her grandkids), continued the tradition of serving it at family gatherings. Platter (Chuck Solberg). Bowl (Susie Bowman). The Kiln Studio & Gallery.

Bessie’s BBQ Shrimp

When Bessie lived in Nashville, she craved Gulf Coast seafood. She began making this dish for friends, and it quickly became a favorite.

3 slices bacon, chopped
1/4 pound butter
1/4 pound margarine
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons Rex Liquid Crab Boil
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp, with heads on
French bread, for serving

1. Panfry bacon in large sauté pan on medium heat for about 5 minutes or until crisp.
2. Add all ingredients except shrimp and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir often to create the butter base and to prevent ingredients from sticking to the pan.
3. Place shrimp in pan and cover with butter base. Sauté approximately 4 – 6 minutes, until shrimp are pink. Serve with warm French bread, covered in sauce. Serves 4 – 6.

Mike happened upon this dish the way most recipes begin: by experimentation. The muffin pan allows for variations and creativity. Each cup has a different sampling. Lemon bowl (Chuck Solberg) The Kiln Studio & Gallery.

Baked Oysters and Shrimp

As it goes with most family recipes, the measurements and ingredients vary depending on the cook, but here’s what you will find in the Laps’ arsenal. They recommend making each cup unique until you find your favorite.

1 1/2 sticks butter
small pieces uncooked or prepared bacon
garlic powder, to taste
hot sauce, to taste
Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, to taste
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 pint (or quart) fresh oysters (unwashed preferred)
1 – 2 pounds small shrimp, peeled
green onions, to garnish
saltine crackers or thin baguette slices, for serving

1. Preheat cast iron muffin pan over warm gas grill or on large eye of stove.
2. Fill each muffin cup with a large pat of butter. Melt butter slowly on low heat. Each cup should be filled halfway with melted butter.
3. Add spices to each cup, recording the measurement and ingredients you choose. Stir to mix ingredients well. Warm to a very slow, bubbling boil.
4. Add 3 to 4 oysters to half the cups and 3 to 4 shrimp to the remaining cups. Spiced butter should be deep enough to mostly cover shrimp and oysters.
5. Sauté until the shrimp are pink and oysters suit taste, turning once or twice. Serve from muffin pan with toothpicks. Place shrimp and oysters on saltine crackers or thin baguette slices. When all are consumed, place muffin pan back on heat, add butter and spices if needed and repeat. Serves 8 – 10 as an appetizer.

Rump Roast

His children say that Mike likes to claim this one as his signature dish, but it’s originally his mother’s recipe. Family members love to kid him about taking credit and omitting the founder every time it receives praise.

1 large rump roast (fat-on, prime beef preferred)
Adolph’s Original Meat Tenderizer
salt, to taste
4 beef bouillon cubes
2 small baskets clean whole mushrooms

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Moisten roast, apply meat tenderizer as per instructions on bottle and salt to taste.
3. Place roast in large glass dish fatty side up. Add water until 1/3- to 1/2-inch deep in dish.
4. Place bouillon cubes in each corner of dish and scatter mushrooms in dish.
5. Place dish on center rack of oven for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, depending on size and thickness of roast. Use meat thermometer to ensure desired doneness.
6. When desired internal meat temperature is reached, remove from oven, and cover loosely with foil for about 10 minutes. Meat will continue to cook so be careful not to overcook in oven.
7. Move meat from dish to cutting board and slice to desired thickness just before serving. Pour juice from cutting board back into dish and stir.
8. Serve sliced meat with rice, vegetables and bread. Ladle gravy and mushrooms from dish onto beef and rice. Place unused and unsliced beef into dish with gravy – cover and refrigerate.  Makes 6 – 8 hearty portions. Serve with rice and greens.

Note: Leftovers make delicious French Dip Sandwiches. Reheat roast in microwave. Layer onto toasted bread with mayonnaise and salt. Microwave gravy (including hard layer of fat) till hot and pour into small dish for dipping.

WEB EXTRA: Marinated Crab Claws

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons minced celery
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1 pound cooked crab claws
garlic butter, to taste
garlic pepper, to taste
green onions, to taste

1. In a large glass bowl, combine first 10 ingredients. Whisk well. Add crab claws and toss. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. In a skillet, sauté crab claws for 3 – 5 minutes with generous portions of garlic butter, garlic pepper and green onions.
3. Pour crab claws on platter, and cover with cooked sauce. Garnish with a sprinkle of green onions and serve with French bread. Serves 4 to 6.

text by Christy Dobson Reid, photos by Jean Allsopp

Get the best of Mobile delivered to your inbox

Be the first to know about local events, home tours, restaurant reviews and more!