Anniversary Dinner

My Parents celebrated their anniversary a little early this year because they had tickets to see Billy Crystal.  They went all out and got front row center seats.  Excited about the night would be an understatement, however, with the cost of the tickets they felt they could not then treat themselves to a dinner out.  That was when I got excited.  You see, I always want to do something for them because they do so much for me.  I offered to make them a nice meal before they head off to the theater.  It took a little prodding because they did not want to put me to trouble…TROUBLE…How could it be trouble, they are my parents and deserve it.  I started them with a squash soup.  The main course was seared scallops with a beurre blanc sauce, oven roasted vegetables, and white rice.  For dessert I made a plum cake.   I made all but the scallops and sauce at home, drove down to my parents who are only two block away.  While they had their soup I seared the scallops and made the sauce.  I timed it perfectly, if I say so myself!  I had the main course plated just as they finished their soup.  While they eat I was able to wash everything up and plate their dessert of plum cake and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.  By the time they were finished the main course, the kitchen was completely cleaned and it was time for them to be off to the theater.  I was not sure how this would work since I have never had to time a meal to fit in before an event but I did it.  I carefully planned out what could be made ahead and how long things needed for prep and for cooking.  Since I was doing it all on my own, in the morning I premeasured and had everything laid out, like I do for shows, so that cooking would go smoother and be less messy.  I know I did not reinvent the wheel but I felt like a winner by the end of the night and glad I could give my parents an anniversary meal to remember.

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Published in: on September 30, 2009 at 3:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Traveling through the South…Fourth stop…The nitty gritty

“Kiss my grits”, one of my favorite TV sayings.  Now knowing that I should tell you I have been a trailblazer in my family, well, truthfully I just went against the grain.  I am not the rebellious sort but I have done things my own way.  I come from a mainly southern family but where did I go to college my first year?  Boston!  It had its pros and cons but one of my favorite times is when I was busy in my dorm room making myself some grits.  The funny thing is that there really was only one girl living on my floor that knew what grits were.  I had the whole floor wanting some, so I sent them all off for a bowl and spoon, I would supply the rest.  As I scooped them some, many of the girls wanted to know where the cream and sugar were…I was in shock…I had to urge them to just try it with butter and salt.  They had no idea that grits were a part of corn, I guess they thought it was like cream of wheat.  I am so glad that on our travels through the south we found grits abound.  Our next stop, well in truth, the next two places took us to two restaurants that served grits.

We stopped in Savannah.  Ah, the city with spanish moss dripping from the trees, history oozing from the homes and Paula Deen.  When we arrived my mother kept saying, “I want to eat at Paula Deen’s”.  We even inquired, at the Hotel Desk, when the earliest to arrive there so as to get a table.  It was suggested that Paul Deen’s was always busy and we should try another spot.  I wanted my mother’s wish to come true and suggested that we should at least go and look at The Lady and Sons.  We got there and saw no lines.  Excitement filled the car and we even found a parking spot on the street catty-cornered from the restaurant.  The Lady and Sons was unique and I imagine the check in process works for when they have crowds:  you walk to the side of the building, get a ticket with the seating time but we were told to go right in.  It must work like a reservation or those buzzing things you get at other restaurants but since there were no others in line we were allowed to go straight in.  Once seated we were brought a fresh hoe cake and a cheese biscuit.  Both are warm and delicious but the cheese biscuit is fantastic.  We ordered off the menu, although, we could have eaten from the buffet that is offered.   We started with the Fried Green Tomatoes.  The Vidalia relish is what made these the best I have ever had.  I had the Peach BBQ Grouper, my mother had Shrimp and Grits, my son had Savannah Crab Cakes and my dad had the fish special.  My dish had Paula’s cheddar cheese grit cakes.  I don’t know if many of you go to Renaissance Festivals but many of the foods are served on sticks.  The first thing I thought when seeing these is that they would be a perfect edition of “food on a stick” and I would buy it everyday.  These grit cakes were the perfect accompaniment with the BBQ’d grouper.  The asparagus salad was delicious too, although, I would have liked more asparagus and little less of the other vegetables.

August 2009 trip 126Now, I can not tell you how the other things tasted but I could tell by the way the rest of the family ate with gusto that they were enjoying their choices.  I am unsure if the pictures give the best presentation but thought you might like to see the other dishes.

August 2009 trip 125August 2009 trip 127I apologies there is no picture of the crab cakes probably because my son dove into it before we could take a picture.

The waiter was attentive and kept my glass of sweet tea full.  I haven’t mentioned sweet tea, and I would be remiss if I didn’t quickly give an ode to my drink of choice, sweet tea.  As a matter of fact I make a pitcher of it daily, but my sweet tea is never as sweet as I found in my travels through the South.  If you have a sweet tooth order it but if you like only one sugar in you tea…I am not laughing…ok yes I am, one sugar…sorry let me behave myself.  If you prefer to only have one sugar then this is not the drink for you.   As I said, the waiter made sure we were well quenched.  At the end of our meal he serenaded us.  He had a lovely voice.  Overall we loved out time at The Lady and Sons.

The next day we ate at The Pirates’ House, although, no grits, they had a lovely menu and their buffet was nice.  The best part of The Pirates’ House is the atmosphere.  They also give tours, so while your sitting there in comes a group and you learn a little about the room you are sitting in.

That evening we were in Charleston.  A very romantic city, and here I was with my family.  And on top of it all it rained, no let me correct that, it poured all day.  I am definitely going back someday with my husband and hopefully in a less rainy time.  We had dinner at the Hominy Grill.  You walk into an old store front and it you get the feeling of that old time diner with a youthful vigor.  Because of their popularity they only seat you once your whole party is there.  We were waiting on my father who had to find a parking space.  Be forwarned the parking lot is not that big so you may have to search for a place that you can park on the street.  Once seated we were given the menu but that wasn’t enough there is a huge board with all the sides, dailies, and desserts up on the wall.  We were also given boiled peanuts.  This has to be something you have to like from birth.  I was expecting peanuts boiled but firm…what we got was mushy peanuts.  Sorry, but I am not a fan.  My mother and I both had the shrimp and grits…and it the best I have ever had.  My mother had their Buttermilk Pie and loved it.  I will say I will most definitely eat there again.  The wait staff is kept busy but their service is friendly and helpful and the food is tasty and filling.

I had my grits and ate it too.  It was a great trip though the South, and I hope to do it again soon, even hitting some of the other Southern states.  Now I have the fall to look forward to in addition to the  food seminars and lectures I have signed up for.

Published in: on September 17, 2009 at 10:45 am  Comments (1)  

Traveling through the South…Third stop…The missing Mashed potato

Dinner or Supper maybe lunch or dinner for you, but whatever the afternoon and evening meal is called in you region, in my neck of the woods it constitutes a meat, starch and veg.  The most common starch I remember was the potato.  That beautiful tuber found here in the new world 1536 and arrived in Spain in 1539.  And by the early 17th century it was being used in the culinary arts all over Europe.  There is one problem when researching the earliest of receipts, the word “potato” was used for both the sweet potato and the white starchy variety.  I have always wondered if it is was considered so because other vegetables are found in a variety of colours, that it was assumed they were both potatoes and therefore called so.  Time and science put us straight that they are not the same plant.  That being the fact, our family has a penchant for the white potato in its many forms but mashed would be the preference, at least I thought so.

Upon reaching our third destination, we were excited to be staying in one place for a while and being with family.  Family has always been synonymous with mounds of food to choose from at each meal.  And this branch of the family was no different.  However, our first evening meal, Supper, was lighter and constituted ham, salad and mashed sweet potato and anything else left from Dinner.  I was given the honor of making the mashed sweet potatoes.  We used canned yams.  I know, I know, a yam is not a sweet potato.  In reality, you are correct but in America the sweet potato is at times called yams due to the fact when slaves came here from Africa and encountered the sweet potato, they found it similar to the yam they have in Africa.  From that time on the name Yam has been interchanged with sweet potato.  For our dish we used Bruce’s Yams.  Their web site says that the yam is a hybrid of the sweet potato.  Either way, I made the dish.

I took the can of Yams and mashed it with a brown sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt.  I wish I could give you portions but I didn’t measure a thing out.  I then mashed in some butter, no more than 2 Tablespoons.  We then cooked it in the oven for 1/2 hour.  It came out fine and everyone liked it, even my son who hasn’t had sweet potatoes because it usually is served with marshmallows.  Anyway, secretly that night, he asked me “where were the potatoes”, I had to admit I didn’t know but that maybe it was the way this part of the family eats.  Then it started to become a joke.

Everywhere we went, there were no mashed potatoes as a side dish, mashed sweet potatoes but no regular.  There was baked potato, and fries but the ever elusive mashed potato was nowhere to be found.  I am at a loss.  I would have thought they could be found all over this country as a side dish on any menu but down in the South, in the restaurants we went, it was not offered.  Now the only exception to this was the buffet.  There it was in all its glory but on the menu at these buffets it still was not listed.  I am wondering if it is a given and they felt they do not need to list it or if the South now prefers the sweet potato.  Maybe the South is becoming more health conscience since the sweet potato is lower on calories and higher in nutrition.  Maybe, I was wrong and mashed potatoes were never big in the Sounth in the first place.  I may never know.  But there is one thing I found down South, that is not found up North as often and that is grits!  So, on to the next stop.

Published in: on September 9, 2009 at 5:22 pm  Comments (1)  

Traveling through the South…second stop…the search for a meal

There are times I wonder how we get things done and am amazed when I am able to accomplish a great deal in one day.  Our next stop on traveling through the South was Atlanta.  We started the day with the complimentary breakfast at the hotel.  Then we headed straight to Stone Mountain.  Glorious place in that it is a granite mountain that has wonderfully unobstructed view all the way around it.  And less I should forget, you take a cable car up to the top where on the way you get a view of the Confederate Memorial Carving.  Our time on the mountain was fun and when we got down to the bottom of the mountain we went and watch the movie on the making of the Memorial.  Finally after completing we wanted to at Stone Mountain we thought we would eat.  There is the Hard Rock Cafe right at the cable car stop but it sold only pizza and hot dogs.  Given those choices we decided we would wait and eat at our next stop since the brochure we had on our destination talked about a place to eat…if we only knew.

Not to keep you in suspense, the next place on our visit of Atlanta was the Coca Cola Museum.  After finding a place to park we headed straight for the museum and purchased our tickets.  We were in the “gotta get in the museum and find the food” mode.  We got inside and looked at the museum map, didn’t understand it fully and asked the nearest staff member…I hope you are following me and already know what happen next…there is no place to eat in the museum, it was the outside cafe across the common and you can’t leave and then come back in. Deep breath, we could do this, keep our mind off food and enjoy the museum.  We did…it is a great museum!  We saw how Coke is made, the advertising through the times, a 4 dimensional film and then we got to try all kinds of Coke products. (There was a great deal more but this is what we saw) The Announcer in the 4D movie, told us his favorite beverage in the tasting room was Beverly .  Everyone headed into the tasting room and looked for it.  The most amusing thing I have ever watched.  People were wincing, but I had to try. I must admit, I didn’t find it horrible but the aftertaste was bad.  I tried all that the tasting room had to offer.  Aquarius was the drink that I liked the most out of all the international beverages.  I then went to the room with the usual Coke products and had a couple of them and the great thing is that on your way out the museum you get to take a bottle of Coke home with you.  Bottled Coke…the best way to have Coke.  I am a Coke person, so I loved this museum.  I filled up on Coke so that when we went to leave around 4 pm, we would not need to eat immediately and could wait till after our last stop in Macon, GA.

I am proud that I have been taught from my childhood many great things at the feet of my parents and grandparents.  One of the greatest besides cooking is loving my fellow man regardless of anything.  I was brought up to believe that I am responsible for how others are treated and that my actions can help or harm.  I remember Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts at my grandmother’s shared with complete strangers who my grandmother didn’t want to be only on the day.  My parents helping others, all year round, giving of time, things and money.  I am proud to be their child.  One specific time was for a young man whose family life was not as kind to him as mine was to me.  My father with other elders of the church we were attending, wanted to give this boy a new beginning while his parents were straightening out their lives.  The beginning was Hephzibah.  My parents have supported this mission and wanted to see the new facilities. It was a beautiful campus and our short visit showed that we were grateful to be just one little part of this much needed compassionate service.

I think we left this last stop at 6 pm.  We had hopes of being to our family’s home in Florida a little after 7 but that was never going to happen now with how far we were and how hungry we felt.  We immediately started looking for a place to eat…Golden Coral was a sign we saw and thought that would meet the needs of this hungry family.  We looked for it and looked for it and finally said forget it and decided the next place would be where we stopped.  The Country Cabinet.  I haven’t been to a dinner like this in a very long time.  It felt like an old time restaurant and reminded me of the cafeteria at a camp we use to attend each year.  I decided I would just eat from their buffet and not wait for something to be made.  Not too bad, but everything was high is fat content.  I mean butter, oil, and fat was abounding.  But they had the old southern standbys that I don’t mind eating…lima beans, black eye peas, corn, beans, fried chicken, sausage and onions, chicken pot pie, collards, mashed potatoes, yams.  I had my plate not of all the items but a little of many and was done.  I think I have mentioned before but I am not a dessert person.  I sometimes will have something but on the whole I prefer the main course and stop there.  The waitress was having none of that.  She was adamant that I have dessert from the buffet and would not let me go till I had something.  There was banana pudding, peach cobbler, stewed strawberries and pudding.  I took about a Tablespoon of each and she was so happy.  I have never had that happen to me before but there you go that is an old fashion restaurant.

Published in: on September 7, 2009 at 3:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Traveling through the South…First Stop

I have been gone for a couple of weeks traveling with my family though some of our Southern states.  We did the Northern states two years ago and I was looking forward to heading South and trying the delicacies there.  I must also say that my mothers family comes from the South so I knew what to expect.

Our first stop was Lexington, NC.  If you have been there you will know the first food I am going to talk about and that is BBQ.  Lexington BBQ is unique in that is is not a wet sloppy BBQ sauce but pork that has been smoked then chopped up and  served with red slaw that is vinegar based and if you want sauce there is always a bottle of the vinegar base BBQ on the table but don’t expect it to be thick, it isn’t that kind of BBQ sauce it is more of a dip.

August 2009 trip 871

We love to eat at Lexington Barbecue on Highway 70 when we are in town…yes, Lexington is the town my grandmother came from, so I have had the honor of visiting Lexington several times in my lifetime.  BBQ in Lexington goes back to the turn of the 20th Century, when near the court house, men would set up these large pits and smoke shoulders of pork.  There is a wonderful picture of the men cooking the pork in the 1920’s ( believe that is the era) at the Lexington Historical Museum in the old County Court House.  If you go to Lexington you will notice the locals tend to eat their BBQ on a platter or plate.  Don’t worry you can get it on a bun but be forewarned it will have the slaw on it not on the side like coleslaw.  The way I have always eaten it is on a dish/platter with red slaw,  a side of hush puppies and sweet tea to wash it down…YUMMY.  But if you are looking for a delicious and different sandwich try a fried pig skin sandwich.  If you are not sure your pallet will like anything on the menu, don’t worry the people at Lexington Barbecue will give you a sample before you make your order.

I have made my version of Lexington BBQ here at home.  I start with a shoulder of pork, but unlike the those in Lexington, I give my pork a dry rub.  I then cook my pork slowly on the grill until the meat reaches an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees which can take a good 4 to 6 hours.  I prefer real charcoal and not briquettes, they will work but the aroma from real charcoal or wood is what flavors the pork.  I make a red slaw with vinegar, ketchup, salt, pepper and hot sauce, usually Texas Pete.  Once the pork is done I pull it apart, I am not a chopper, and serve it with the slaw on potato buns, don’t know why but I like the taste.  And I have to admit I do keep bottles of BBQ for my husband who loves the stuff…me I don’t like the mess.  And to make a quick version, I have put the pork shoulder in the crock pot on low all day and it worked fine and didn’t taste too bad.  I find the pork is juicier and pulls so much easier when cooked in the crock pot but I will let that be our little secret.

Tomorrow, I will tell you about my next stop and the search for a meal…

Published in: on September 2, 2009 at 5:51 pm  Leave a Comment