Friday, May 29, 2009

Cast Iron and Sticky Fingers

Where was I? Oh yes, leaving Nashville.

Our route home took us through Chattanooga which meant we would be driving right past the Lodge Manufacturing foundry and outlet store. I have posted on this before. Several years ago I had an opportunity to spend a day in the foundry touring it and picking it apart. Neat place. Afterwards I dropped a pretty penny in their outlet store. I have more than a complete "set" now. At the time you could still buy raw unseasoned pans, not anymore. I don't know why but I like seasoning my own for some reason. I don't always do the outsides either. Anyway, we stopped in, had a good look around and didn't spend as much money as I did before. I wish I had planned better and brought my buddy's business card with me and got an extra 10% off. Of well.

Dinah bought for me an enameled three quart casserole dish, in red to match other stuff I have, as an anniversary present. It had some nearly invisible blemishes in the coating. Amazon has this item "on sale" for $59.83, regularly $77.50. She bought it here for $29.95. For herself she bought an apple dutch oven which she has longed for for awhile. It almost matches our plates. Amazon has it for $116.70 marked down from $169. I think Dinah bought it for $60. Both broke my rule about buying Chinese iron but I didn't make the purchase. I don't turn away gifts! ;-)

I can't remember all of the things we bought and the prices. I know I bought this muffin pan for $8.95. I got it out of the back room where the casting defect stuff is.That's where the real bargains are. It's pretty easy for me to find stuff with meaningless defects since I used to do that for a living. I was compelled to buy another little witch's kettle. This one was seasoned of course. My old one is not which I use for keeping change in. I paid $7.95. I was tempted to buy a giant Dutch oven, but really don't have a need. They were less than half price. We also bought two mini-corn stick pans, about nine bucks I think, and a cast iron horse toy for Rose. That thing has a big sand inclusion in it's side. Damn Chinese castings. Well worth the stop if you are in the area.

After we left we opted to eat in Chattanooga. I take great joy in letting Rose pick where we are going to eat. It's better than a magic eight ball. I let her chose between Sticky Fingers and Big River Grill. It almost didn't work because she would change her mind every minute, even as we would pull into the parking lot. But I did get her to commit to Sticky Hands, as she called it. I got the ribs. This isn't the first time I've eaten at this chain but those ribs were some of the best I've had in a while. They were so good and so what I had been craving. Nobody has good Memphis style ribs where we live. I know I am going to be disappointed anywhere I get ribs until we travel out of town again.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

An Asian Style Dinner

I've still got some things to cover, the garden, Rose's birthday, maybe even Sticky Fingers. But right now I need to cover last night's dinner.

Last night's menu:
I watch a lot of Food Network. Though all of the shows aren't as good as they used to be but there are still a few really good ones. I'm actually a big fan of Barefoot Contessa. I think Ina Garten is one of the most natural personalities on the network. She really seems like she could be the cook next door. On a certain level I think she's even sexy. Her stuff is actually pretty simple though I have learned that she has steps and ingredients on her show that she doesn't include in her written recipes. Good to know. It's rare that I ever see a show where I want to copy the entire meal presented but this time her meal looked like a perfect combination.

Why is it that my garlic never looks as good as the garlic they get on TV?

This turned out to be a great meal. I would say the dishes are Thai inspired without the heat. That was a little disappointing, I'd have preferred it if the noodles were spicy but that can be fixed next time. I would definitely be willing to serve this to company, especially for my more persnickety friends who don't eat beef or pork. Bah!

All of the ingredients were easy for me to find here in the sticks so you shouldn't have a problem. I was not in the mood to multitask so I took the whole day to make the entire meal, but if you multitask you can whip all of this up fairly quickly, especially the noodles and salmon. Just remember to plan on the 15 minutes for the salmon to marinate and the 15 minutes for the salmon to rest after cooking. Oh yeah, this can all be served room temperature or even cold. That could come in handy.

On the noodles, I guess if you can buy toasted sesame seeds, go that route. I was able to easily toast mine in our new toaster oven. It was quick and easy, just be sure to watch them as you can quickly burn them. I had used up the fresh ginger I had on the salmon marinade so I substituted an 1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger. It probably wasn't as strong as using fresh ginger but it didn't hurt. Not being a fan of bell peppers, I left them out. Your choice. At the grocery I hesitated when buying the sugar snap peas almost buying snow peas instead. I like snow peas more and besides, they are "more" Asian. Then I thought about buying an eight ounce package of each. In the end I went with the snap peas. The peas I buy you can microwave in the bag so that's the cooking method I used. The snap peas were tasty.

The salmon came out great. I have very few fish dishes so it was good to add one to the repertoire. Again the ingredients were easy to find. I was surprised that my grocery didn't carry the ubiquitous squeeze bottle of Sriracha which I was going to buy for the chile paste. I think I remember that was what Ina Garten used on the show and I remember my friend's crazy half Asian-something ex-wife cooking with it so it seemed like the right stuff to get. Instead I found some Sriracha sauce from Ka-Me. The panko bread crumbs were supposed to form a crusty crispy layer. Mine did not so I suppose if you don't have any panko on hand, just use regular bread crumbs.

The lemon cake is very lemony, very good. I'm sure that is from using real lemons. It is so good that you don't need to make the blueberry sauce but blueberries and lemons go so well together it's a nice added touch. This is the first time I have used yogurt as a cooking ingredient I think. The recipe called for whole-milk yogurt. Try to find some. We've brainwashed ourselves over time that we can only have low-fat or fat-free yogurt or somehow we are going to die of clogged arteries. Do you realize how much yogurt you would have to eat for that to be an issue? And the truth is the whole-milk yogurt is actually probably healthier for you. Since I have some plain yogurt left over, maybe this is my excuse for finally getting around to making some homemade yogurt. It was the covered on Alton Brown a few nights ago. An omen? I did not have any vanilla sugar on hand. Since it takes several weeks for the vanilla beans to permeate through the sugar it wasn't something I could just whip up. But this was a wet application for the vanilla sugar so I used a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to one cup of sugar and I think that was fine. My blueberry sauce was not thick like it was on TV but it still tasted good. I put it in a squeeze bottle for Dinah to take to work with the left overs.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Last Supper in Nashville

I'm almost caught up.

It was our last night in Nashville and I thought that we would try the restaurant recommended to us for lunch, South Street. I found their website on-line and it looked like a dangerous place to eat, it was expensive and I wanted everything on the menu. I also knew that this restaurant was highly rated on The only knock I saw was that parking was limited. Boy was that prophetic.

We found the place and it was tiny. And there was absolutely no parking. We circled the restaurant once looking for a place to park but after that I said let's go somewhere else. When we go out to eat we will often call out a back up in case our first choice is packed or closed. Our back up was Stoney River. At the time I did not know that it was a chain, but it's not like we have one where we live. Again, this restaurant had great reviews on Tripadvisor and was called out as the steak place for locals, as good as the upper crust places like Ruth's Chris or Morton's but at a discount.

We found the place no problem, walked in and immediately I was stressed. The place was dark, overbearing and stuffy. Clearly most of the tables were business dinners so everyone was dressed up and we were quite casual. The hostesses were not friendly. But, Rose was famished; there was no turning back.

Now ordinarily I do not let appearances at restaurants get to me. One of my all time favorite restaurants is Cargo Portside in Brunswick GA which I'd put up against this steakhouse or any fancy restaurant in the big cities like Chicago and New York. I'd get there early wearing shorts and a t-shirt, earrings in both ears and sunglasses on. I'd sit out front, smoke a $20 cigar, sip on a glass of Shiraz and read the paper while they got my table ready. When my table was ready, I'd snuff out my cigar, follow the hostess in and walk through the glares of the local South Georgia elite as I was shown to my table. I'd get the appetizer special, the dinner special and often the desert special. I drop close 10 a hundred bucks and I'd probably tip 25%. My point is that my money spent the same, and to the restaurant and staff probably better than the elite locals. I don't think we should judge the book by the cover, mostly.

Maybe my problem at this restaurant was that we did not have a children's menu. There was nothing but $40 steaks, lobsters, fancy French preparations. Dinah and I are frantically trying to find something to feed to Rose that we know she will eat since we know she was starving. I said something to our waitress about how hard this was since they didn't have a children's menu. "Oh we have one, the hostess didn't give you one?" All of a sudden the dinner dramatically improved. I relaxed. I think Dinah relaxed. I looked around and noticed a few other people more casual than the business class. The dim lights seemed a little brighter. Deep breath.

I'm sure you can guess what I ordered. That's right, another ribeye and Caesar salad with anchovies. It's been a good week. Both were excellent, on par with what I had at Sal's in Lexington but still not as good as the Chicago Prime at Malone's. I don't remember what Dinah and Rose ordered. I think they both ordered shrimp of some sort. Rose's was huge butterflied and fried and Dinah's was spicy?

For desert we got the Chocolate Fudge Cake. There needs to be a disclaimer here. It's a Blondie with ice cream and fudge sauce and candied pecan pieces. How they get away calling that a fudge cake is beyond me. That said, it is eyes-roll-back-into-your head-good. Skip the restaurant ambiance, go for lunch and get this dessert.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

More Nashville

How did we end up in Nashville anyway? Well it was actually a choice between Hickory NC and Nashville TN. Strange I know. Dinah had months ago put in to take the week off of our anniversary. We haven't had a vacation at all since last year's anniversary. She didn't care what we did, we could sit around the house for a week, she just didn't want to go to work. Not me. I'm already home all week. Being home everyday just doesn't sound as enjoyable to me. I already do that. So I thought if we could get away just for two days, somewhere four hours or less away, it would at least seem more like a vacation and be more enjoyable for me. And vacation for Dinah means sleeping in, loooong naps, someone making the beds and clean white towels everyday. We didn't have to actually do something.

For awhile now I had been thinking about buying a pair of Kevlar reinforced jeans for riding my motorcycle. I can't afford good riding gear or leathers but the riding jeans are in my price range and significantly better than regular everyday jeans. I found two companies, Draggin Jeans in Hickory NC and Diamond Gusset Jeans in Bon Aqua TN, about 45 minutes from Nashville. I was leaning toward the Draggin Jeans until in March when we were unable to meet with my folks in Lexington so Mom wanted to reschedule for the first weekend in May. Since we were already taking time off and since Nashville is kind of in the area of Lexington, my choice was made for Diamond Gusset Jeans and a two night getaway in Nashville.

So our last day in Nashville we got the breakfast buffet at the restaurant, free with my Priority Club status, and it was above average for Holiday Inn breakfasts. Then we headed out to find the Diamond Gusset store in Bon Aqua. Tensions ran fairly high since the directions and map from their web site did not work. Finally I called the store, got new directions and we managed to get there. When I told them about our problems the response I got was, yeah we hear that a lot, it happens to a lot of people. But they were just sales clerks not the store owners so they had little interest in correcting it.

The jeans were great. It was nice to be able to try them on in the store rather than order blindly over the Internet and hope for the best, especially with my size. The jeans were slightly cheaper since we bought them at the store. And best of all, the jeans are made here in the USA!

On our way back, Rose was quite ornery, I think because she was quite hungry. I asked at the hotel where we should eat if we could only eat one lunch in Nashville. She gave a me a recommendation but we got distracted by a brew pub on the way there. It's hard for me to pass up a brew pub. So into the Blackstone Brewery we went.

I believe that Dinah had the American Pale Ale and I had the Mai Bock. Bocks are my favorite of favorite beer styles and I will go out of my way for one. Oh the memories of Huber Bock, a once upon a time favorite. Mine was great and I think Dinah enjoyed hers too. It was a driving lunch so I had a one drink maximum. With the beers I ordered their hot soft pretzels. They were so good yet not very pretzely, more like good buttery bread shaped like a pretzel. They were served with two mustards, a smooth and a stone ground which went well with both the pretzels and the beer.

Dinah ordered a wood fired thin crust pizza with pepperoni, mushroom and garlic. It smelled amazing but truth be told, as much as I love garlic I do not like it on pizza. The pepperoni itself was outstanding. I was excited to get the mushroom burger because our waitress said I could get it medium-rare. The best! But it came out medium-well and that made it only a so-so burger.

After that it was time for naps. We all needed one, especially Rose. We had planned on taking Rose to see the new Disney movie Earth while we were in Nashville since it would likely not be playing in our rural neck of the woods, but Dinah and Rose both slept right through all of the matinee showings. Oh well. I learned later there were many scenes of animals eating each other, though not graphic, and that maybe the movie is not that well suited for a soon to be three year old. Worked out for the best then.

I'll save dinner for the next post.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thoughts on Corn

I need to interrupt the vacation saga to discuss my thoughts on corn.

I picked up six ears of corn either Monday or last Friday, I can't remember. I had it chilling in the crisper in the fridge so it doesn't matter. The corn was from Florida so it was semi-local to here in North Georgia. If you don't believe me look at the license plates around here. I didn't even know they grew corn in Florida. Fresh corn in May is pretty cool. You can pick and ship corn from Florida to Georgia in the same day, at most day and a half. Of course I know it sits in giant coolers before shipping to keep its freshness, so it's not THAT fresh. I saw lots of those coolers living in South Georgia. Fresh corn in May, hard to believe from someone who grew up with Indiana corn and the mantra "knee high by the Fourth of July."

My favorite and usual way of preparing corn is in my steam pot. Rarely do I boil it anymore. Occasionally I will microwave it. Last night I threw it on the grill at the end of grilling the boneless pork ribs. I ate the three left over ears this afternoon for lunch, cold, straight out of the refrigerator. Yes, that's right, I said cold. I love cold corn. Don't know why. It started when I was a kid at the Lake in the days before microwave ovens. I don't know how I would have reheated it back then. I even roll it in butter, which barely sticks, and salt it. I so love cold leftover corn.

Which brings me to this:

Why do we cook corn?

We don't think twice about not cooking tomatoes, onions, celery, apples, oranges, peas, radishes, carrots, strawberries, etc. But you mention eating corn raw and people's faces blanch. I think it is the only vegetable that we eat that we always cook. Well maybe potatoes and I don't know anything about turnips, but those are roots anyway.

I maintain that the only reason we cook the corn is to melt the butter and the only reason we need the butter melted is for the salt to stick. So if you don't salt your corn, save some time and skip cooking it. It tastes the same. I know. I've tried it. And if yo are boiling your corn for 20 minutes, stop! You don't need to cook it, only make it hot enough to melt the butter!

I asked (emailed) Alton Brown to look into it once. He never got back to me and I have yet to see it mentioned in an episode.

All that said, I still cook mine. I have to have the salt.

I can't wait for the next batch of corn, hopefully Sliver Queen, and the cold leftovers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

On to Nashville

The next morning all of us regrouped. Mom seemed to think we'd go do something but Dad and I both knew better. After breakfast and some lolly gagging it was time to pack and head out. Besides this way we'd all be at our destination before rush hour. My folks had a three hour drive and according to Google Maps so did we.

Unfortunately for us Google Maps was a little off, the directions were correct but the estimates were not.

We drove through Frankfurt KY. This looks like a really neat town. We might have to visit some time. Outside of Frankfurt we spied this:

Rose was just as excited as I was. It is called the Castle Post. Here is a long and sometimes redundant history of the castle. Apparently it burned to the ground a few years ago, was rebuilt and opened only recently as a luxury hotel. We will have to save our pennies because it looks like it would be worth it for one night.

Since we wewre not on interstate we snuck up on Louisville where we picked up the interstate, finally. According to Google Maps we should only be 125 miles to Nashville though it took us two of the three hours to get to Louisville. The first mileage sign we saw said Nashville 185 miles. Dammit. That was a real buzz kill. Since we were at this point hungry but had planned on being in Nashville at 3:00 and now it was looking like 6:00 we decided to get some grub at White Castles!

I love White Castles and no Krystals are not the same. Perhaps my love of White Castles comes from their being headquartered in my hometown of Columbus OH, though I did not eat them growing up (I didn't grow up in Columbus). We got a sack of 10 sliders. Rose seemed excited about "little tiny cheeseburgers" but after one bite she gave it back. I don't think she liked the onions. I should have known better.

Finally we rolled into Nashville as Dinah gleefully made sure we were listening to the Indigo Girls, arriving at the Holiday Inn Vanderbilt. We pretty much always stay at a Holiday Inn and I try to get a good one for Dinah. I wanted the Indigo down the street but you had to pay for parking. I have thousands of Priority Club points allowing for free nights but my stash is dwindling. Maybe that means it is time to go back to work?

This hotel was very nice. We were on the exclusive executive floor. There was no bath tub but a beautiful walk in shower. Poor Rose, she's petrified of showers. If only Dinah and I were skinnier, this shower was made for shower sex.

Anyway, it was the 5th of May, Cinco de Mayo, one of my favorite holidays and once again Dinah and I failed to celebrate it properly. After a long drive I didn't feel like driving to the "good" Mexican restaurant recommended to me, nor did I feel like walking across the street to the Mexican restaurant and dealing with the college crowd. So we opted to eat at the hotel restaurant/bar, order chips and salsa and Mexican adult beverages. This way we could both imbibe and all we had to do was not lose Rose and be able to find the elevator.

Dinah had her usual, margaritas. I had a free drink coupon for domestic beer so I got a Bud Light Lime, closest I could get to something Mexican. I followed that with Dos Perros from Nashville's Yazoo Brewery because it sounded Mexican and finally an Enlightened Black Ale because I love black beer (Xingu maybe my all time favorite beer). Rose got a cheese quesadilla, Dinah is a sucker for hot wings and I got a cheeseburger. Dinah's wings were hot. They were so hot I think she only ate three. I finished the rest. They were hot. And they weren't vinegary as so many are, just good and hot, hot but really really good. The way a hot wing is supposed to be. Rose was too distracted to eat her quesadilla so I think Dinah finished it. Maybe it helped to get the heat out of her mouth. I realize my cheeseburger was not very Cinco de Mayo-ish, but if it wasn't the absolute best cheeseburger I have ever had it was darn close. Damn it was good! I was in shock. At a Holiday Inn! I was having a hard time not justifying coming back the next night. Man that was an awesome cheeseburger. I am going to be sorely disappointed trying to find a matching one after that.

I mentioned that Rose was distracted. As you might expect, there is live music all over the Country Music Capital that Nashville is. And that includes the Holiday Inn Vanderbilt. They have Songwriter Night every night. Some acts are bands that play a full thirty minute set, other times they have multiple songwriters on the stage at the same time and they play their songs in a round robin fashion. Rose loves all music but she really gets into live music. You should have seen her dancing.

My favorite act of the night was the Arthur Godfrey Band. They played a thirty minute set. Lyrically they reminded me a little of Kevn Kinney (a major favorite of mine), just a little. We also liked Melissa Bollea. She shared the stage with Doug Mays and one other guy I didn't care for. They took turns singing their songs. I really liked Melissa Bollea's voice. At times she reminded me of Feist though the style was different. Doug Mays was good. He reminded me of South Carolina/Savannah beach music like Hurricane Jim though Mays is more blues than reggae. I might have to track down CDs of all three.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

More Great Restaurant Food

While Dinah and Rose napped I hung out with my Dad down in the lobby of the hotel. We asked the front desk for another restaurant recommendation. I told her that we enjoyed Malone's last night and would like something of equal or lesser value. She asked about tastes, what about Italian? No, I don't like Italian. What about sushi? Well I LOVE sushi but there was no way my Mom and Dad were going to go for that. I'd be the only one eating. So she recommended Sal's which is owned by the same company that owns Malone's. And it's in the same shopping center, about five doors down. At least we wouldn't get lost this time.

Sal's Chophouse was just as posh as Malone's and the menu was only a tad less expensive. Mom was thrilled. The rolls were better but we missed the garlic butter that Malone's had on the table. Again I wasn't drinking but Dinah ordered a Pixie Stick Martini. She became enthralled with this drink, I think she even had two. No appetizers tonight as we were all still a little full from our late lunch. My Mom ordered a scallop special with a Caprese salad. She doesn't eat salads though. Dinah ordered the grilled scallops. I could have who ordered which scallops backwards though. Dinah said they were great but still not as good as what we enjoyed in Charlottetown. They never are. I had debated between the ribs or the ribeye. Actually, nothing really sounded that appealing to me except for the ribeye but I felt guilty getting another expensive entree. My Dad settled on the ribs but when I found out that the ribs had a raspberry barbecue sauce, I settled on the ribeye. I do not like sweet barbecue sauce. What is that my third ribeye since we left home? Well my cholesterol is too low anyway (seriously). Need I say that I gained weight this trip? Grrr.

Everyone's meal was excellent. I do have to say that my ribeye was not as good as Malone's but there's nothing wrong with second place. Of course we all had to have desert. They had the same cookie as Malone's!!!! Dinah wanted to split one but I said NO. Though I did share mine with Rose. Dinah got her own and my parents split a tasty looking sundae.

There was no night cap at the bar because we we just too stuffed after we left the restaurant. We did get another Rose free night though.


Once we got home Dinah worked at trying to clone the Pixie Stick Martini. She finally got it mastered Sunday night. Here it is:

1 oz Pucker Blue Island Punch
1 oz Vodka
1 oz Triple Sec
1/2 oz Sweet & Sour mix
1 oz Grape Pucker
2 oz of 7-up
Shake and serve in a chilled glass with a pixie stix sugar rim (She mixed red, blue, orange, and purple together and made a little pixie stix sugar blend -- it's good she says)

Some notes:
  • We could not find Pucker Blue Island Punch so Dinah used Blue Curacao, which looking at the Pucker/DeKuyper website looks to be an upgrade over the Pucker Blue anyway.
  • The Grape Pucker proved to be impossible to find, in Georgia at least. We found it in Murphy NC. Dinah rates this part to be critical. She tried making the drink without it, substituting grape popsicle instead and it was close but not right.
  • If it isn't Halloween pixie sticks may be hard to find. Well they sure are in rural America at least. BUT, Cracker Barrel has them. They are behind the cash registers, five cents a piece.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Horses and Bumpers

So the next day in Lexington the plan was to go to the Kentucky Horse Park. I don't think my folks were really up for this but we knew that Rose would love seeing the horses. So after an awesome breakfast we headed on over there.

On thing to know about this place is that it is spread out. You'll do a lot of walking. The weather was cool and overcast, it had rained the day before. This was probably a good thing as the park was not hot and stinky and full of flies. Because it was Monday, the place was rather dead. Many of the stalls were empty and it seemed like a lot of maintenance was being done; they were probably recovering from the weekend. A lot of horses were being walked around the park. This gave Rose an opportunity to pet one.

Rose also got to do some "barrel riding:"

Maybe the barrel riding gave her courage to ride a pony, especially since Rose was WAY overdue for a nap. The pony ride was the highlight of the entire visit. Both my parents were glowing over it.

As great as the pony ride was, Rose's highlight may have been the playground. Rose is addicted to going to the park back home and the playground they had at the Horse Park was one of the best I have ever seen. And it was a real thrill for me for my Dad to be able to play with Rose on the playground.

While there appears to be a restaurant on the park grounds it did not seem to be open while we were there. At the entrance where we bought our tickets, Mom asked for a recommendation for lunch. I think most of us were still pretty full from breakfast but Rose was hungry so we decided to find this Sam's Diner for lunch.

We were told that Sam's Diner is a local favorite and sure enough it seemed that only locals ate there. I don't think that anyone of us had this kind of restaurant in mind. It was a true diner/truck stop. But it had bad juju from the time we pulled in.

I pulled our minivan in and parked by the front door. Since I pulled in a little crooked, I decided to back up and straighten out. Immediately there was a horrible crunching sound. I checked all my mirrors and everything looked good. So I started slowly backing up again. Again the crunching. I stopped and Dinah got out to look. I knew it was bad when she started mouthing "fuck, fuck, fuck." I got out and looked. The bumper of the minivan was resting on the ground in front of the car. The rebar used to anchor the concrete parking marker was protruding out about six inches on the left side. It had caught underneath out bumper and just tore it off when I backed up. I didn't even think I had pulled in far enough to even touch the marker. In hind sight I wonder if I had stopped after the initial crunching sound if the damage would have been as extensive. I'm a magnet for this kind of stuff, especially when life starts to go well. Bad shit happens to me.

And dammit the restaurant was a smoking facility. This is one thing I can't stand about KY, TN, and NC. I hate smoke around my food. ]

Sooooo, we all went into this dive of a restaurant. While our food was being prepared my Dad and I went outside to see what we could do. We managed to get the bumper off and into the back of the minivan. My Dad actually usually carries a full set of tools, don't ask, but not this time. But he did have zip ties! So we got the flaps tied up and the van at least in drivable condition. Hey, at least we look like we fit in now. If only I can find my high school graduation tassel to hang from the rear view mirror to complete the look.

Our food was ready shortly after we got back inside. My Mom and I both ordered Kentucky Hot Browns which was their version of the famous Louisville Hot Brown. I was expecting more of an open faced sandwich than something more akin to a casserole, but it was very good. Maybe too much sauce, but I did eat the whole thing, so no complaints.

After that we all headed back to the hotel for naps, but not before I backed into the car parked behind me. I didn't see any damage so we hauled ass out of there. Like I said, bad juju.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hotel Food and More

From Maryville we headed to Lexington KY to see my folks. We are not from Kentucky nor do my parents live there. My Mom is sometimes wheelchair bound and Columbus is a long drive from Blairsville so my Mom wanted us to meet in the middle. So Lexington it was. All the time leading up to it my Mom complained and fretted that Lexington would suck, there was nothing to do and the hotel would be horrible.

We had a great time.

I've been accused my whole life of being a pessimist. Still don't understand that.

Anyway, Mom booked rooms at a Marriott resort outside of Lexington. The rooms were nothing spectacular but they were nice. They had an expensive breakfast buffet, though I've had more expensive ones, much, much more, while working the past 10 years. It was typical of some Holiday Inns and Embassy Suites. The bacon was better than average. But they had an incredible fresh fruit bar. Absolutely perfect blueberries, humongous blackberries, deep yellow pineapple and three different melons, cantaloupe, honey dew and watermelon (two of which I don't eat). Oh yeah, ripe strawberries too. They also had a phenomenal hash brown casserole. Two things made it special. One, it was peppery. They did not use a light hand on the pepper. Two, crisp, toasty melted cheese on top. Mmmmmm. Those were two excellent breakfasts in Lexington.

The first night my Mom was recommended to eat at Malone's. And again the fretting over would it be any good. "You just never know what your going to get from someones recommendation." She had us look at restaurant descriptions in the travel booklet. My Dad and I were both up for Billy's Bar-B-Q but Mom wanted something nicer. Finally I said that since we didn't know the area, let's just go with the recommendation of Malone's.

It was about a 10 minute drive and we were running late which made me more than anxious. We also thought we were lost but Dinah called while we were en route and smoothed it all out. Nice place. Mom said it was EXACTLY what she had in mind. I thought it was a little pricey, but what Mom wants, Mom gets. I'm not complaining though.

Dinah and I shared some excellent PEI mussels while my Dad ordered some calamari as an appetizer. The calamari was OK for my tastes. I prefer the leg ends and this was just rings. I was thrilled to be able to get a Caesar salad with real anchovies on top. Oh so good. They had fresh bread with a creamy garlic butter on the table. I can't count how much bread Rose ate.

While I stuck with water with lemon since I was driving, Dinah order a local beer from Lexington, Alltech's Kentucky Ale. She deemed it pretty good. As a follow up she tried what was billed as the very popular Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. This she found repulsive after one sip! I tried it and it tastes just like bourbon. If you like bourbon, this is your beer. I however was not in the mood for bourbon, nor am I a big fan of bourbon, so we just let that glass sit for the rest of the evening.

Dinah got the seared Ahi tuna appetizer for her dinner. It was thinly sliced the way I prefer it. I stole a piece and can attest to its wonderfulness. Mom got some kind of surf and turf, two shrimp stacked on top of a crab cake stacked on top of a Filet Mignon. My Dad and I both treated ourselves to thirty dollar ribeyes. Hey, Mom was buying. I had never thought that "Prime beef from Chicago" ever meant anything that special. I was wrong. My Dad and I both agreed it was the best steak either of us had ever eaten. And we've eaten a couple cows between us in our lifetimes.

Now if you are going to have a fancy dinner like this, you have to have dessert. Rose and Dad had ice cream. Dinah had a creme brule, her favorite but I can't remember what flavor it was. I ordered the chocolate chip cookie. It is worth driving to Lexington to get this cookie. The cookie was about an inch thick, six inches across, hot, half baked in the middle, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top and a slight drizzle of chocolate sauce. If it doesn't bring you to orgasm with the first bite it will at least make your eyes roll back.

My God it was a great meal, perfect too because unbeknownst to my parents it was our six year anniversary. Mom kept going on about how she thought it was the following week. I just bit my tongue; that was the last one. As an added bonus, Rose stayed with Grandma and Grandpa, so we were able to continue to celebrate our anniversary with a few drinks at the hotel bar before retiring to our room for a child free night!

A friend of mine once asked, why is hotel sex better? I don't know it just is.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Beef about Beer

Yesterday was a complete loss since I was recovering from a sleep study. I never sleep during one of those. OK, not never, I got 3 hours of sleep. Thus, no post yesterday. Right now I'm resting a little after working in the garden this morning. More on that later, I've still got a little catching up to do.

My neurologist appointment was Friday, May 1st and after that I considered myself on vacation. The next day, Saturday, we headed to Maryville TN to visit some friends for the evening before we headed on to Lexington to visit with my folks.

Maryville had been described to be as being in the sticks. Hah! Blairsville is 650 people, that's the sticks. When you have malls, Target, and every chain restaurant you can think of, you aren't in the sticks. We don't have that many options here in Blaisville for dinner so we were a little excited about dinner. Cinda suggested Texas Roadhouse. GREAT! We don't have one and for a popular chain restaurant's steak, they are one of the better places to go.

Now I have to admit upfront that I do have a history of messing with wait staff. I will tease, flirt, poke fun. All in good taste and good fun though. I'm never mean or rude and if you play along, you will get a better tip.

This night we took two cars because we didn't have enough seats to accommodate Rose's car seat. So Adam drove me in one car and Cinda drove Dinah and Rose in our car. Bonus time! We both get to drink! So taking advantage of the situation I was aiming for a beer or three.

Our waitress came to the table, asked what I wanted and I asked what did they have on tap? She paused. She paused a little too long. So I said, wait, let me guess, the usuals, Bud, Bud Light, Miller, Miller Lite, Coor Light, Mic Ultra, Sam Adams and one other. Big smile.

At this point she got pissy. No, that's not what we have, we have Budweiser, Miller High Life, Yuengling. Stop, give me a Yuengling. I looked at everyone, did she not just list the same beers I listed? Just because you say Budweiser it is still the same as saying Bud. I DO NOT need some 17 year old high school priss getting pissy with me about beer. Please, I went to school in Wisconsin. And after that, our quality of service dramatically decreased. She was polite the rest of the evening except to me. Whatever. She didn't get 25% tip that night. Her loss.

My ribeye was excellent by the way. Little did I know it would be only the first of many ribeyes that week. :)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Benne no Hana

The Thursday before my neurologist appointment I decided to make some cookies. I like to make cookies on Thursday so Dinah can take them to work on Friday. I don't know why because they don't always eat them. Thumbing through my recipes I decided to make Benne Wafers. The recipe I used is here but don't bother with it, it isn't the best written recipe.

While it says that benne seeds are sesame seeds the first thing I had to do was to figure out what parched benne seeds were. I had a gut feeling it meant toasted. Searching the Internet didn't yield much as people just kept repeating this or a similar recipe and never defined parched. Finally I found a web site for a sesame seed importer I think where it more or less described parched sesame seeds as toasted. But then I got confused on whether or not the sesame seeds are supposed to by hulled or unhulled. I decided just to buy whatever the grocery sold and to toast them. Screw it if I'm wrong.

I read that you have to be careful when toasting sesame seeds as they will burn quickly and that they can toast in as little as four minutes. Maybe it is because I was scared about this possibility and kept opening the door to check every one minute but after 15 minutes my seeds had not toasted to my satisfaction. So I put the pan on the lowest rack and turned my broiler on to low. This got things toasting quickly. My seeds didn't burn but I think they may have gone a little past the golden brown I was shooting for. But since it was nearly impossible to get a single layer of seeds I had a wide range of toasted levels and thought the toasted flavor would average out.

I never seem to have any light brown sugar on hand. I put it on today's grocery list. But in all the times I have used dark brown sugar instead I have never had a flavor problem. I think it just made my cookies a little darker. As you may know I am a strong advocate of weighing ingredients, especially when baking. I don't bother packing one cup of brown sugar. It's 200 grams.

I don't know why the original recipe says to flatten the wafers with a wet knife. I tried that on three and it just makes a mess. These cookies spread out on their own into thin crisp wafers so just let the oven do it's trick.

I used my Silpat for these and had no burnt or stuck cookies. I can't say the same of the batch I made with a non-stick cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. If you don't have a Silpat, consider getting one. It is a nice little kitchen gadget to have.

The cookies were a nice change of pace from the standard sugar cookie base one normally has. They were crisp and nutty. I thought my brain was deceiving me when I thought I tasted a hint of toasted popcorn until my wife had one and said the same thing. It reminded me of the popcorn in Cracker Jacks. If you would like to give these a try, here is my write up of the recipe.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Little Catch Up

Actually I have a lot of catching up to do. Where oh where to begin? Well the next few posts may be out of order but I'll start with last Friday, 01 May.

I had my neurologist appointment and left with a clean bill of health. Nothing even remotely close to a cardio issue. As he said, for the issues I was having, worst case was TIA , best case was migraines. Since I have no pattern of migraines and have not had them before, no need to start any preventative medicines. The third possibility was not discussed on this visit and that was viral meningitis. My gut tells me that's what I had. Undiagnosed and untreated it could easily have lasted four weeks. Meningitis is more likely to cause left sided numbness than migraines. And I find it hard to believe I experienced migraines for four weeks. Even though I never had a fever, meningitis is a better explanation. I think even Dinah agrees.

So good, monkey off my back.

Next I need to talk about the cookies I made the day before my neurologist appointment.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Happy Feeth of May

We're on the road and this keyboard is just too small to do any long post with. So more to follow about today when we get back. In the mean time, Happy Cinco de Mayo and have a tequila on me!