Category Archive: On the Road

On the Road

Travel Brew

(Long stories are called that for a reason, so grab a drink and sit for a while)

So The Mr is in Minnesota this week and Memphis the next. More miles and even more bars and brews. Some less memorable, some more so, and then every now and then you hit the beer jackpot!

Last October found this traveling techie in Louisville, KY, for a trade show. On the last day, I went hunting for a beer unavailable in Charlotte — the Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA. The Mrs had this lovely libation on tap in Virginia, where the drink regulations are less draconian (the 120 is often between 18 and 24%) and she came home singing its praises.

Armed with my trusty iPhone, I dialed numbers blindly from the Dogfish Head website while tearing down our booth. And what luck, someone had my beer just a few miles away! Since I was driving back home, a little detour wouldn’t hurt anyone. I’d be in and out in minutes, then on the road for a long drive home.

I had some trouble locating Sergio’s World of Beer, which is ironic for a world of beer, but after I followed the GPS directions, there was only one bar and a shop next door with Brazilian soccer flags in the window and a general unwelcoming appearance.

I walk into the bar, finding Pabst on tap — not “hipster” Pabst but rather the sturdy array of American adjunct lagers familiar to a rugged crew of working men. I ask if they have Dogfish Head, and you could almost hear the needle scratch. The kindly barmaid suggested that I inquire next door.

I walk to the front and see no opening.
I walk to the back and see this:

Back door entrance to Sergio's World of Beer

Well, daylight’s wasting, and a wise man once said that “no mother’s son or daughter ever got anywhere by being timid” … So the Mr went a knocking.

A busy stockman opened the door and welcomed me in. I asked for the 120, as I’ve got an 8 hour drive ahead and the sun is starting to sag in the afternoon sky. Instead, he beckons me to a beer cave of mythic proportion — and the non-chilled stock area is even larger.

Behold, this is no mere stockboy, but Sergio himself, and Sergio’s is no mere distributer but instead, he has over 1400 different beers for sale! (Yes, two zeros after the fourteen)

He tempts me with rare and collectible bottles, but I cling to my four pack of the 120, both for security and because if I let go, I’ll be able to reach my wallet and spend the mortgage payment.

Resolute as I am, he beckons to the front bar. “Do you like sour beers?”
Well, I’m just getting into them … I’ve tried the Rodenbach …

“Well then, you can’t leave without trying this — I have the only keg on this side of the world.” Hook, line, and sinker … How can a beer guy resist?

Tap pull for special sour beer(Note: this beer is “Good Dog”  — hee hee)Bon Chien 2004

He directs me to an empty seat next to a older gentleman, the sort of distinguished regular that elevates discussion even if only by the asking. He’s brought beer magazines and printouts, and he’s presiding over a trio of bottles each new and foreign to this beer guy.

The beer bard fills me in on the Sergio backstory, as well as pointing out where the establishment has been listed in The Great American Ale Trail.

We talk for almost an hour, and my sour becomes more complex as it warms. I think now that I could unroll my sleeping bag in the corner … and have my mail forwarded … Except that I have to drive 8 hours home, oh yeah, I should stop drinking before I lose the will to leave :-)

So with a audible sigh, I push away from the bar, and drag my mixed six out to the rental and point its nose home.

Here’s my loot, all from Dogfish Head: 4 120 minute IPA’s, 1 World Wide Stout, 1 Burton Baton, oh my
Beers from Sergio's

When I got home (the next day), the Mrs and I popped a 120 and slowly savored each sip. The rest went I to my “cellar”, as I call the area under the guest bed. We pulled out another two brews for celebrating New Years.

And recently, after returning from Mississippi, land of past and future, where my father was in and out of the ICU, having scared me more than a little, it seemed fitting to pour a pint in his honor. (He is recovering nicely, gentle reader, and in time will be back to raising a glass of his own) Some rites of passage are distinct points in time and some are progressions along a spectrum. When you find yourself reaching out to help a parent, instead of reaching out for help yourself … Well, after a long drive home with plenty of time to reflect, it was time to raid the cellar.

The Mrs and I chose a Dogfishhead Burton Baton and a World Wide Stout.
Were they luscious beers, where each sip makes you want to curl up in the glass? … Yes. Did I wish that I had bought out Sergio’s stock? Of course!

Many travel brews are forgettable, like a few local IPA’s that I’ve tried tonight. But some watering holes turn into wells worth returning to, and every now and then, you bring something home worth sharing.

themrnewsig2xcf

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/1127

3.2 in the rearview

For this week’s “Tuesdays on Tap” post (a tradition we plan to be more consistent with this time around), I’d like to tell you about some interesting Mississippi brews.

You may remember that when we traveled to Mississippi recently we decided to bring along provisions since our previous experience had been that good craft beer was pretty scarce down there.  I have to tell you that we were pleased to discover not one, but two Mississippi breweries with offerings we really enjoyed.

Truth be told, our provisions were gone in about two three days.  Hey…we shared.  It wasn’t all us.  We don’t drink that much.  So, as we still had 9 more days to go in the Magnolia State, we had to go in search of replenishments.  While in Jackson, we found Lazy Magnolia’s Southern Pecan and Timber Beast at the local Kroger.  We had hopes of getting our hands on their Jefferson Stout (a sweet potato cream stout) and Southern Hops’pitality (a traditional IPA) as well, but couldn’t seem to locate those.

The Southern Pecan is a lightly hopped caramelly nut brown ale that, according to Lazy Magnolia’s website is the first beer in the world brewed with pecans.  While in MS, I had it bottled at my in-laws house and on draught at three different locations.  Both delicious, but the draught was obviously my favorite.  It became my go-to Mississippi brew.

 

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The Timber Beast is an Imperial Rye IPA which is the first in Lazy Magnolia’s “Back Porch Series.”  The name of this series sounds special and interesting, but I have yet to find a definition of what all it actually entails.    If I ever get down to the brewery in Kiln, MS I’ll have to ask.  Whatever it is, it got this brew a Beer Advocate rating of 90 (exceptional) and at 9% it was actually illegal to brew, own or distribute in Mississippi until last summer.  Being an Imperial Rye IPA, this one was more The Mr’s style…or so you’d think.  But more on that later!

While out and about in the Brandon area one evening we decided to pop into the local Mellow Mushroom as we were jonesing for a draught and we knew the Mellow Mushroom would have a good selection.  We were pleased to find that a new Mississippi brewery, Lucky Town Brewing Co (from Gluckstadt, MS) had a selection tapped there – their Ballistic Blonde.

 

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It’s a Belgian Style Blonde Ale that clocks in around 5.1% with notes of banana and spice.  It was very refreshing, the kind of beer you want to drink outside on a warm summer evening.  Since February in Mississippi ranges in temps from 40-73 degrees (I was drinking it on a 68 degree February day), you are pretty much good to drink it year round down there.  Lucky Town is apparently a newly opened brewery (so much so that it doesn’t appear to have an open tap room yet) and currently only has two offerings – the Ballistic Blonde and the Flare Incident Oatmeal Stout. (Lucky Town folks, if you read this and I’m wrong, please correct me.  We’d sure love to visit the next time we are down that way.)

Later that week we made the pilgrimage north to God’s country – Oxford, MS.  (Aw, I miss it…)  While in OxVegas, we were pleased to have more opportunities to enjoy these local brews.  I mentioned that I washed down my City Grocery Shrimp and Grits with a Timber Beast.

 

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I’ve stated time and time again that The Mr is the IPA fan in the family.  But, I knew from my Beer and Cheese pairing class at NoDa last October that I can really enjoy an IPA with the right smoky gouda.  I have the recipe for City Grocery’s Shrimp and Grits and, while it doesn’t include gouda, I knew that it included parmesan and extra-sharp white cheddar cheeses and had enough of a smokey quality that I would more than enjoy a hoppy Timber Beast with it.  I was right.  The bite of the Timber Beast beautifully balanced the spice and smoke of the Shrimp and Grits for me.  It was a perfect pairing.

A couple days later I discovered that Oxford’s new-to-me-Cajun-dive, Irie on the Square, had Lucky Town’s Flare Incident tapped.  My research told me that this was an oatmeal stout, which I knew would be right up my alley.  The Mr offered to go start us a tab while I got a table and caught up with old friends.  When I asked him to get me a Flare Incident, I assumed that it wouldn’t be necessary to specify that I only wanted a pint.  I was wrong.  This is what I was brought…

 

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If you haven’t inferred from context, let me clarify.  The vat-o-beer on the right is what he brought me.  Sadly, this was our third stop of the evening, so I didn’t have the capacity for 32 extra ounces of beer. (What was he thinking?!?)  I barely made a dent in this maple syrup laced baby.  But, what I did drink, I very much enjoyed.  I’m looking forward to encountering this Incident again…albeit it in a somewhat smaller delivery vehicle.

The reason that finding these great local craft beers in Mississippi is so amazing is that, until last July, it was illegal to sell or possess beer that contained more than 5% alcohol.  From our experience, though, you were lucky if you could even locate any beers that weighed in over 3.2%, much less find a 5%-er.  That also meant that Lazy Magnolia (the only Mississippi brewery that existed until recently) couldn’t even make higher gravity beers to distribute in other states.    Thanks to the hard work of grass roots organizations like Raise Your Pints Mississippi the governor signed the craft beer bill into law on April 9, 2012 making “brews that are up to 8 percent alcohol by weight, or 10 percent by volume” legal in Mississippi as of July 1, 2012.  This was our first trip back since the law changed and, boy, did it make going home that much better.

(Side note – the grass roots efforts are now working on initiatives to legalize home brewing the  Magnolia State.)

So, Mississippi, let’s raise you pints!  Here’s to keeping those 3.2’s in the rearview mirror!

newmrssig

 

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/1093

Oxford by Instagram

The reason behind our recent trip back to Oxford was for me to attend a reunion.  Being the kind of girl that takes more pictures of food than anything else on vacation I, of course, had a list of places that I wanted to hit while there.  Here’s a brief little recap of the food, beverages, and fun.

Instagram Oxford

 

1.  Abner’s sauce = BEST.  DIPPING. SAUCE.  EVER.  Abner’s is a chicken place that originated in Oxford, but has recently franchised a bit.  This is the secret sauce that used to come standard with every order.  Now they ask you what kind of sauce you want (Abner’s, BBQ, honey mustard, etc).  That annoys me…It’s ABNER’S.  Your ONLY choice should be ABNER’S SAUCE.  If you want BBQ or honey mustard, go to Chick-fil-A.

2.  City Grocery’s Shrimp and Grits – first on my list of things to eat while in Oxford.  I’ve got the recipe and occasionally I make it myself at home, but it’s just never as good as when The Grocery makes it.

3.  Saw these posted all around the Square.  Like I need another reason to want to go back to Oxford…

4.  The Timber Beast IPA from Mississippi’s own Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company that I used to wash down my Shrimp and Grits.

5.  Courthouse on the Oxford Square.  When I see this I know I’m home.

6.  Beautiful latte from Bottletree Bakery.

7.  No trip to Oxford is complete without Chicken on a Stick.  SO YUMMY!  It ain’t fancy.  It’s fried.  It’s chicken.  It’s on a stick…Did I mention that you get it at a gas station?  Also, it’s really only appropriate to eat it after midnight and partaking of  several adult beverages.

8.  Sipping yet another Mississippi brew at Irie on the Square.  This place is new to Oxford for me, but it was good for a post-banquet brew.  Guess which one was mine…

9.  Fun artwork in my director’s home that represents most of my time at Ole Miss and in Oxford this weekend.

10.  Breakfast of champions on the way home.  Technically, I didn’t get or take this in Oxford.  It was taken in Atlanta on the way home from Mississippi, but I needed a 10th picture to make the collage work.  So sue me…

Not pictured are:

  • late Thursday night brews at Ajax Diner (I had a Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan which you’ll read about in a later post)
  • Friday night dinner banquet at the University Club
  • Saturday morning breakfast at Big Bad Breakfast (wasn’t in Oxford when I was there and that’s probably a good thing.  The headline on their website says “Lard Have Mercy,” need I say more?)
  • Saturday lunch at Proud Larry’s (was very excited to see that my previous favorite Southwestern Pasta had made its way back on to the menu)
  • and Saturday night dinner at Two Stick Sushi (I wasn’t a sushi fan when I was at Ole Miss, so I was a Two Stick virgin until last weekend…but I’ll definitely be going back for more)

 

And that, ladies and gentleman is how I ate my way around Oxford for 5 days!

 

newmrssig

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/1097

provisions

We are headed to MS for a few days to help out with some family things and then go to a reunion for me.  We are both native Mississipians, and as much as we love it, compared to NC it is a craft beer wasteland.  That isn’t to say that Mississippi is completely void of craft beer.  It’s just that, when compared to NC, it’s slim pickings way down South in Mississippi.  We know that Mississippi now has the Lazy Magnolia Brewery, but it’s on the coast which is not where we are headed.  So, just in case are are unable to get our hands on some of Lazy Magnolia’s offerings, we had to pack provisions.

Travel Provisions

Hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to continue to drink in the manner to which she has become accustomed, even while traveling.

The Mr is a hophead. I’m more of a stout and porter kind of girl.  Since NoDa wouldn’t let us growler a Ménage a Quàd to take with us, we couldn’t decide on one happy medium.  So, he chose a Midnight Madness (a Cascadian Dark Ale made with five hop varieties: Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, Chinook, and Warrior hops.)  I chose a Coco Loco (a Robust Porter made with chocolate and brown malts and toasted organic coconut).

That ought to keep us set…for a few days at least!

kitchensig1

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/1058

You Heard Me…A “Porkapalooza”

If you’ve read this blog for any period of time or actually know me, you know that I am not one of these skinny-mini-eat-salad-on-a-date kind of girls.  I like to eat.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not Miss Piggy or anything…I just like to eat.  That also means that I’m not one of these girls who lets the fact that the pig is the universal symbol for fat get to me.  Samuel L. Jackson’s proclamation (as “Jules” in Pulp Fiction) that “A pig is filthy animal” doesn’t bother me one bit.   A couple weeks ago, when my friend Gretchen reminded me that she doesn’t eat pork and requested that I leave the bacon crumbles off her serving of the Pumpkin Goat Cheese Risotto I made to kick off our Walking Dead Season 2 marathon, the only response I could muster was “But…you’ve TASTED bacon, right?”  It just blows my mind that someone could have actually tasted bacon and decided against it.  Pulled pork, I get.  Even ham, I understand.  But bacon?  Seriously?!?

But I digress…I mentioned to you that I spent last weekend in the Durham-Chapel Hill area for a work-related workshop.  What I didn’t tell you was that while up there I attended a “porkapalooza” event.  Yeah, you heard…uh, READ me right – PORKAPALOOZA!

Every summer, Foster’s Market does regular Farm to Table dinners.  I’ve known about these for years and I have never been able to go because they are always at 6:30p on a Thursday night.  Since Chapel Hill is about a 2.5-3 hr drive from Charlotte, and I always find out about them after my work schedule is full of patients, going would mean having to cancel my Thursday afternoon patients as well as my Friday ones (‘cuz there’s no way I’m gonna drive back from dinner 3 hrs away, then get up early for work the next day).  Well, my workshop started early Friday morning, so I drove up Thursday night (‘cuz there’s no way I’d get up in time to leave Charlotte at 6:30a on Friday morning) and, as luck would have it, Foster’s was having a Farm to Table dinner that night!!

This dinner was to celebrate Cane Creek Farm of Snow Camp, NC, who specialize in “unique breeds of pigs” and an “ever expanding family of goats, chickens, turkeys, sheep, donkeys and ducks.”  Knowing that, is it any wonder that Foster’s theme for their Farm to Table dinner was a “Porkapalooza” in which the entire pig was cooked…in multiple ways… invading every course…even dessert?

I know the word “Porkapooloza” sounds…well, what’s the word I’m looking for here…ummm…ok, I’m just gonna say it – redneck! Don’t worry.  In true Foster’s fashion it was very farmer chic!  (And, yes, “farmer chic” is a real thing and I TOTALLY dig it!  Remember our lunch here 2 yrs ago?)

The meal was served family style on the mismatched farm tables throughout the market.  The Mr. chose not to couldn’t come with me, so I was on my own but quickly made friends with my table mates. We sipped on a fantastic 2011 Mendocino County Gerwurtztraminer while we chatted about missing our grandparents home grown veggies and wishing that we’d payed more attention when our grandmothers were canning them, all the while nibbling on hors d’ oeuvres of Pork Rillette and Country Pâté with Crostini and tons of pickled veggies.

I’m not really a fan of pickled anything, so I passed on most the veggies.  (Besides, what am I – a chump? What kind of dummy fills up on veggies when there are four courses of pork on the line?  A girl’s gotta conserve energy where she can.)  I didn’t love the rillette (weird texture) but, surprisingly, I really enjoyed the pâté.  (Little known secret – I was a pâté virgin until this dinner.)  Next came the soup course – Split Pea and Ham Hock with a side sliver of fresh bread loaded with herbs and caramelized onions.

I lie to you not, the bread basket came with a little dish of LARD to spread on the bread instead of butter.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture, but I promise you I’m not making that up!  After all, they did say that they would be using the WHOLE pig…I guess that includes it’s fat.

We switched colors and nationalities of wine for the entree…a 2010 Tempranillo to be exact.

Maybe I should say ENTREES, because it involved 3 pork offerings – 1) Housemade Italian Sausages with Peppers and Onions, 2) Porchetta, and 3) Braised Pork with Plums, Sage and Onions

served with sides of Creamy Polenta that was topped with some sort of sweet potato glaze and Wilted Kale and Spinach with a Warm Bacon Dressing.

I had a little bit of everything.

It was all crazy good, but that sausage was out of this world.  BEST.  SAUSAGE. EVER.  There was TONS of food and, since sausage is The Mr.’s favorite food group, I (thoughtfully) boxed up some left overs to take back home to him…

only to get back to my hotel room and discover that I didn’t have a mini fridge in which to keep it until I headed back home on Sunday.  Sorry, dude.  Ya snooze, ya lose.

Sarah (as is Sarah Foster, herself – owner of Foster’s Market, former apprentice to Martha Stewart) came by our table while the staff cleared the entrees to inquire as to whether we were enjoying ourselves and the meal.  She urged us to save room for the dessert because it was “incredible.” She also informed us that although the menu listed Caramelized Apple Upside Down Cornbread Cake with MAPLE Bacon Ice Cream, it had been changed to a SORGHUM Bacon Ice Cream, because the “sorghum just worked better with the bacon.”  Since she was standing right next to me, I made a little joke that, in my humble opinion, there just weren’t enough desserts that involved bacon.  She gave a little laugh and patted me on my shoulder!

(You know what that means, don’t you?  It means that Sarah and I are kinda like BFFs.  I imagine that, had Martha been dining with us, she would have laughed at my joke too.  So…if Sarah and I are now kinda like BFFs…and she’s also BFF with Martha…and Martha probably would have also laughed at my joke then…by extension, that means me, Sarah, and Martha are all BFFs together…just three peas in a pod… What?  It could happen.)

But, again, I digress…Now, about that dessert.  Actually, there are no words.  I’ll just let you look…Oh, and look closely.  Do you see what I see?

Uh-huh.  Little chunks of bacon IN the ice cream.  I know it sounds weird, but it was really REALLY good.  I’m not a person who loves sweets and this was a great balance of salty and sweet.  The cake part was a little dry, but it was a cornbread cake.  When have you ever had cornbread that wasn’t dry?  Besides, who really cares about the cake anyway when there is bacon in the ice cream on top of it?

You would think that bacon-laced ice cream would be the clincher to my porktastic weekend, but the next day when my workshop broke for dinner, I made a b-line here

to check out some local brews, only to find the Big Mike’s BBQ food truck parked outside.  I washed down a BBQ sandwich with Fullsteam’s Carver Sweet Potato Lager.

I loved the beer.  Not too heavy, but very tasty.  Perfect for an early fall afternoon.  (Wish I’d had more time to spend there…)  The sandwich was good, but I’m not a huge fan of BBQ.  But their dessert was something else entirely.  As I close, I’d like to post this question to you – What’s better than banana pudding?

Yep, you guessed it – BANANA PUDDING WITH BACON!!  Now THAT is certainly worth a trip to Big Mike’s.

With this weekend, I think I’ve had my allowance of pork for the next 6 months or so…which is good because, according to Stephen Colbert, we’re on the verge of an Aporkalypse due to the recent drought.

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/997

Easy Like Sunday Mornin’

There’s just something about a lazy Sunday morning in a college town that I love.  The cool autumn morning air, no particular agenda for the day, good food and coffee in a quaint local eatery…oh how it makes me yearn for Oxford.

I’ve been in the Chapel Hill-Durham area all weekend for a workshop which ended too late last night to make the trek back to Charlotte. So I stayed the extra night.  The only thing I had to do today is to get home…but by not particular time. So, I decided to forego the alarm and the wake-up call (yes, it takes multiple trials to get me up in the morning), wake-up when my body decided it was time to wake up, take my sweet time getting packed up, and treat myself to a yummy breakfast here.

I spent about an hour here sipping on a Great Pumpkin Latte and leisurely munching on Lucas’ Cinnamon French Toast.

The french toast was out of this world, but ladies and gentlemen, can I just brag on this latte for a moment?  It was so beautiful and so delicious!  I could seriously have spent my entire Sunday curled up with it, in a cozy little nook, reading something equally delicious.  Let’s look at it again, shall we?

Don’t you want to just dive right in?   No…so that’s just me?  This is how lattes should be served.  I honestly don’t know why I was so enamored with this latte.  Maybe my urban existence just has me at Starbucks too often and I’ve grown too accustomed to the commonness of the paper cup, cardboard grip, and plastic lid.  Being served this latte just sent me into sensory overload – the FEEL of the warm mug big enough to require two hands, the SMELL of the pumpkin spice, the SIGHT of the creamy-caramel colored foam on the top that, of course, left me a foamy ‘stache after the first sip… I tell you, it was heaven!  Easy Sunday morning perfection…

After finishing my breakfast, I ventured next door to Flyleaf Books, a local independent book store.

I’m not sure I’ve shared with you before my affinity for indie book stores.  I seek them out whenever I travel and was thrilled that this one just happened to be next door to my breakfast.  I have yet to find one that I haven’t adored. (I love them all, but of course, none more than the mother of all indie book stores, Square Books in Oxford, MS.)  Much like the latte, they simultaneously set all my senses ablaze and make my soul let out a relaxed “Aahhhh…”  I love the dim lighting, the mismatched chairs, the somewhat dusty book smell, the boutique-style small quantities of the selections, and the overly-scarfed-thick-rimmed-funky-glasses-wearing clientele that tends to favor this type of bookstore to the big booksellers.  Even if I don’t buy anything, I have so much fun just wandering the stacks.

When ever possible I try to get my books from local, independent bookstores.  The benefits of shopping local aren’t just limited to produce shopping.  I noticed this hanging in the ladies room and couldn’t resist taking the shot.

Flyleaf is small, but it doesn’t disappoint.  My favorite part, however, were the staff’s hand written descriptions and “plugs” for books.  These were most prominently displayed on the “staff picks” table in the middle of the room, but were also scattered throughout the stacks in the rest of the store.  The handwritten notes just give it a “We-Don’t-Just-Work-Here-We-Actually-Read-This-Stuff” vibe.

A personal favorite…

My only disappointment was that I had to finish my latte and walk through here to get to the lovely bookstore…

It would have been so much better if Foster’s Market and Flyleaf Books would have joined forces, knocked down the wall that separates them, and let all the good food, great lattes, and lovely books mingle like God intended.

Here’s hoping your Sunday morning was just a good!

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/996

Nibbling

Memorial Day weekend – the official start of summer.  I’m sure, per American tradition, that the rest of you munched on burgers and other outdoor grilled fare this weekend.  Not me.  I nibbled on something a little more delicate…

They belong to our new niece, Abigail.  I assure you, they were delicious…

Cheers y’all,

The Mrs. Signature

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/895

Chocolate Steak

Last Friday night I had one of the most intriguing entrees that I’ve ever eaten.  You remember that BG whisked me away for my 35th birthday, right?  As part off our reservations at the Mast Farm Inn, we were scheduled to have dinner there on Saturday night, leaving Friday’s dinner up for grabs.  Upon recommendation from the Inn Keeper we decided to try Crippen’s in the nearby mountain town of Blowing Rock.

The weather was perfect, so we opted to dine al fresco in the front garden.

We were warned, both by the Maitre’D and our server that a family of ducks lived there so that we wouldn’t be alarmed if they decided to come fuss at us for dining in their happy home.  Fortunately they did not decide to fuss, but I was at least hoping to catch a glimpse of them.

I have to say, for a “country inn restaurant” in a relatively small town, this place had quite an eclectic menu and a wine list to match.  For apps we enjoyed Popcorn Dusted Sea Scallops with Bacon Creamed Corn.

Yes, that’s actual crumbled popcorn on the top.  We also had a little bread with our choice of three dipping or spreading options:  homemade butter, white bean hummus, or olive oil infused with a Scotch Bonnet pepper.

Let me tell you, that last one had a kick!  Of course, no lovely dinner out is complete without a nice bottle of wine.  Our server told us that all the wines in the list had been hand picked by the chef to compliment the current menu, so anything we chose would be complimentary to our meal.  We decided to go with an Australian Shiraz.

Of course, I’ve got to do my thing.

It was nice, but given the richness of my entree I think I would have preferred a full-bodied Cab.  And speaking of entrees…

That’s what this whole post is boiling down to.  BG ordered a Juniper Marinated Venison Tenderloin.

Oh, and FYI – it was floating in a Blueberry Sauce with Truffle Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes on the side.  I just want to make sure y’all got all that -

TRUFFLE GOAT CHEESE MASHED POTATOES!!!

The only thing I can manage to say about that is – DDDAAAAMMMMNNN!  Truth be told, even though they came with BG’s entree, I ate about half of them. :)

As awesome as those potatoes were, I have to admit that they were not the star of the show.  That, instead, would be my entree – the Bittersweet Chocolate Infused Espresso Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Irish Cream Sauce and White Cheddar Potato Au Gratin.

Now, the concept of cocoa, coffee, and steak was not new to me.  While on our 10th anniversary trip to the Russian River Valley, I enjoyed an Espresso Crusted Filet in a Cocoa Cabernet Sauce at Mosaic in Forestville, CA.  Let me tell you, that was out of this world!  Needless to say, I was expecting something similar this time around.  But what I got…

was chocolate OOZING out of my steak as I cut into it.  Seriously.  No, SERIOUSLY!!  Check out that pick again.  Please note the oozing!

According to our server, it is prepared by slicing the tenderloin and having a bittersweet chocolate square placed inside before it is then rolled in crushed espresso beans and cooked.  It sounds weird but it was INCREDIBLE.  I, of course, let BG have a bite of this unique dish.  He agreed with me, but stated “It’s hard to tell whether that is dinner or dessert.”

I didn’t care, though.  How many times in her life does a girl get to say she had CHOCOLATE STEAK for dinner?

Cheers y’all!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/831

Hidden In Plain Sight

So did you figure it out? You know, the hints…my secret birthday getaway… Well, I certainly didn’t figure it out.  BG kept telling me that I had all the information I needed to figure it out, but in the end he had to spell it out for me.  After he finally told me where we were going, I have to say, he was right.  All the info he gave me adds up to exactly where we landed, although, as he so astutely pointed out, I would have had an easier time figuring it out from his clues if I had remembered them correctly.  Apparently, I left a couple key words out of the hints that I posted here.  So let me correct myself and add up the hints for you.

Hint #1-
(My version) It’s in the valley of  “sportiness” and “loveliness.”

(His version) It’s in the VALLEY of “loveliness.”

Ok, important word here is valley.  Apparently, I merged two hints in my head.  Note the discrepancy between my version and his version above.  His second hint was

Hint #2 – It will be a CROSS between “sportiness” and “loveliness.”

Take home message from this hint – cross.  There was no dispute between his version and my version of the third hint.  Like I mentioned before, “sportiness” meant that we took our bikes.

Hint #3 - It’s north of Georgia, east of Nashville, south of Ohio, and it’s not a beach.

Based on that one, I had myself convinced we were going somewhere in Virginia.  I was wrong, but the description fit the bill exactly.  It’s not my fault, really.  BG overestimated how long it would take us to get there.

Hint #4 - It’s 3.5-4 hrs from Charlotte .

Not exactly.  It only took us 3 hrs to get there from Charlotte.  And, I was right – this was by car.  Knowing the actual commute time now, I see that Virginia was a stretch.  We did not leave NC.

Hint #5 – MASTerful!

I was clueless on this one…Let’s add all these up, shall we?

VALLEY + CROSS+ MAST+NC+SPORTY & LOVELY = The Mast Farm Inn in Valle Crucis, NC!!

The website leaves a little to be desired, but the inn most certainly does not.  Check it out…

The Grounds

Of course no Southern inn is complete with out a big ol’ porch to sit on and enjoy a glass of wine before supper.

And all that is just the outside!  Inside there was a lovely little bar and place to purchase yummy Southern goodies as well as other assorted loveliness.

Guess what I found when we got to our room…

Don’t think for one second that I didn’t jump in there in the morning and sip my coffee while reading my book!  And, speaking of coffee, look what was left outside our door at 8am each morning.

Such a lovely little basket of coffee.  Of course, the REAL treats were served downstairs at breakfast!

(Day 1 Yogurt Parfait)

(Day 1 - Potato/Mushroom Quiche, Grits, Sausage, Biscuit, & Fruit)

(Day 2 - Ricotta/Herb Streusel)

(Day 2 - Baked French Toast with Bacon)

I’m pretty sure I gained a pound for every year of my age this weekend.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to bring the food or the chef home with us, but we did manage to grab some souvenirs on the way out.

I couldn’t help but notice that these resembled the mugs we brought home from my all time favorite inn and vacation spot.

I think we’ve started a collection!

I’ve got to say, spending the weekend at the Mast Farm Inn in the beautiful NC mountains certainly took the edge off the Big 3-5! Stay tuned!  There’s more birthday deliciousness to come!

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/830

The Hints

I have a confession to make. My big 3-5 is looming. That’s right. In less than a week I will be 35 yrs old. How did THAT happen? Wasn’t I just in college? I’m not really bothered about officially being in my mid-thirties. I’m just not all that excited about the fact that I will soon round up to 40.  Again…how did that happen? Didn’t I just get married? How is that I’m now within arms length of my 40’s? Seriously? WOW!!

This thought process is spurning a lot of self-reflection…you’ll probably hear more about that as I process it.

So, while I’m not all that excited about the fact that my pending birthday will be my 35th birthday, I am excited that it is my birthday in general. I’ve always loved my birthday. My mom always made such a fuss over my birthday and I guess it’s always stuck with me. So, despite the ever increasing number associated with my birthday, I generally start getting giddy at the thought of it weeks ahead of time.

In an effort to ease the blow of this milestone year, BG has decided to whisk me away for a birthday weekend getaway. Much to my delight AND chagrin, he refuses to tell me where he’s taking me. I love surprises, but at the same time I’m dying to know. I beg and plead with him to tell me, then he’ll say “Ok. Do you really want to know? If you do, I’ll tell you right now.” In response to which I take a deep breath, squeal and say “No! It’s not my birthday. It’s not time!!”

BG finds this little dance very amusing. I’m pretty sure that if I actually said yes he’d refuse anyway. He just likes teasing me. So, to either appease my excruciating curiosity or just confuse me more, he’s been giving me hints. See if you can help me figure it out…

Hint# 1 – It’s in the valley of  “sportiness” and “loveliness.”

From this I’ve gotten him to admit that we will be taking the bikes with us.

Hint# 2 – It’s north of Georgia, east of Nashville, south of Ohio, and it’s not a beach.

Umm…there’s like a million places that fit that description.

Hint #3 – It’s about a 3.5-4 hr trip from Charlotte.

He won’t specify whether that is by plane or by car.  Although, I doubt he’d torture me by making me fly on my birthday, and I think that since we are taking the bikes it’s probably a road trip.

Hint #4 – Masterful!

And…what am I supposed to glean from that exactly?

He’s been on a business trip for the last three days and promises me a great hint upon his return.  In his absence, though, I’ve been scouring the internet trying to figure it out.  Here are some options I’ve come across.

The Grove Park Inn and Spa in Asheville –

(Image courtesy of ashevillenc.com)

Well it sort of goes with Hint #1 in that I hear the inn is just beautiful and there are tons of places to go biking around Asheville.  But…I think this would be considered more of a mountain getaway versus a “valley.”  It’s certainly “north of Georgia, east of Nashville, south of Ohio, and not a beach.”  As far as Hint #4 is concerned, it supposedly has one of the best spas in the U.S.  I’d think that fulfills the “masterful” requirement.  But…it might be too close to Charlotte to meet the 3.5-4 hr commute.  Plus, we’re going to spend a weekend in Asheville in August.  So, I’m not sure he’d repeat cities that rapidly. Hmm…

What about the Inn at Westwood Farm in Orange, Virginia?

(Image courtesy of http://www.innatwestwoodfarm.com/)

The best I can tell, this seems to be in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.  The Inn looks to be quite lovely…especially as it is within driving distance of Barboursville Vineyards (Oh how I love visiting a vineyard!).  Plus with all that surrounding beautiful Virginia nature there’s lots of places to bike about and be sporty.  Location requirements?  Check!  According to my iPhone GPS, though, it’s a 5-hr drive from Charlotte.  This may be too far away to be it.

Speaking of Barboursville Vineyards, looks like there’s an inn on site there.

(Image courtesy of http://www.barboursvillewine.net/winery/the-1804-inn)

The 1804 Inn to be exact.  Of course, if BG took me there, I might think that I died and went to heaven rather than celebrated yet another year of life.

Maybe I’m looking too far north. What about Charleston?

The term “lovely” doesn’t even begin to do this gem of city justice.  We’ve been there before, but it’s been a while, and we’ve been talking about wanting to go back. There’s not much about Charleston that I would consider to be sporty, though.  It certainly fits the regional and commute hints. Although, while not technically consider a beach town, it may be too coastal to be a match.  And, I’m not sure how the “valley” terminology would fit here.  Best to keep looking…

Dare I hope and pray?  Could it possibly be Blackberry Farm?

(Image courtesy of http://www.blackberryfarm.com/farm)

This place meets nearly all the hint requirements…except the valley bit.  Word of warning, BG.  If this is it, I may refuse to leave!!

Where ever it is, I know I’ll love it and I’ll be thrilled to spend a long weekend, just hanging with my guy!  In the meantime, if anybody else has any thoughts or interpretations of the clues, hook a girl up!  I’M ABOUT TO BURST!!!!!!

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/823

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