Category Archives: travel eats

The Yellowhammer: Waverly, AL

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I had the opportunity to eat at one of my all-time favorite restaurants: The Yellowhammer in Waverly, AL. After a not-so-painful football loss to Alabama in Auburn, my mom and I were looking for some grub, but also looking to get the heck out of town before traffic became unbearable. I believe my parents originally discovered Yellowhammer in a similar manner- they have a large billboard with a great design concept off 280 (the route from Auburn to Birmingham) that any foodie would be intrigued by.

Love that logo.

To appreciate The Yellowhammer, one must take a second to learn a little bit more about Waverly, AL. Or more precisely, discover that there is little to learn about this town. Look it up on Google Maps, and it has one crossroad. Read the Wikipedia article and discover this little nugget of information: population in 2004 was 180 people. So how does a fine dining restaurant exist in such an environment? Waverly is located about 20 minutes away from Auburn, AL, another small town in Alabama that just so happens to be where I went to college. With any college town comes a set of highly educated, typically creative, and therefore more likely set of people to frequent a restaurant like The Yellowhammer. The restaurant also has the benefit of being located just off the busy Highway 280, which is one of 2 main arteries from Auburn to Birmingham and vice versa. I’m sure many other fans discovered this gem the same way my family did: driving by the sign and being just too curious not to follow the arrow.

The space itself is perfect in my mind. Exactly how I would furnish my own restaurant if I were to open one. I believe the building used to be an old Ford dealership and they’ve kept the structure virtually the same. It has a very open, loft-like feel but it is still super cozy. The best seats in the house are the small, lofted tables for two. And don’t miss the bathroom, which is basically a glorified outhouse. Small town charm…

The view from the lofted seats. Romantic dinner with Mom.

Now on to the food. The Yellowhammer consistently puts out great food. Not just great for a small town, but food that can stand up to restaurants in both of the larger cities I have lived in. The food as a whole is not particularly groundbreaking in relation to what is going on in restaurants around the country (save for the desserts… more on that later), but considering the location, the quality of what they are putting out is positively amazing.

On this particular night, our meal consisted of the following:

Smoked Gouda en Croute- Melty smoked gouda cheese in puff pastry. Simple. Can't go wrong with smoked gouda in my opinion. Excuse the dim lighting in all of these pictures. They're big on the ambience. Miles Davis and all.

I had the Rosemary Crusted Rack of Lamb for my entree. Perfectly cooked lamb, with a silky bordelaise sauce, smoked gouda grits (do we sense a trend here?), and haricot verts.

Mom had the Filet that was topped with a similar (or possibly the same) bordelaise sauce that also topped my lamb, red potatoes and asparagus.

Mom had the Filet that was topped with a similar (or possibly the same) bordelaise sauce that also topped my lamb, red potatoes and asparagus.

Now for dessert. Dessert has always been, in my opinion, the hallmark of dining at The Yellowhammer. They serve a trio of homemade ice creams with homemade butter cookies each night, and have been since I started going frequenting the restaurant. The ice creams change every night, and have included flavors like Honeysuckle, Cardamom, Strawberry, and Lavender. I realize such interesting flavors aren’t uncommon in high-end restaurants around the country these days, but would you believe that a restaurant in tiny Waverly, AL was the first place I had seen this practice?

On the night we visited, the ice cream selection seemed a little bland considering what the chef had been capable of in the past, so I decided to go with another favorite- the Creme Brulee. Except they changed it! What was formerly served was what they called a “Catalan-Style Creme Brulee.” If I remember correctly, I believe it had bay leaf and lemon in it. Sounds unusual, but it had just the right undertone of “What is that flavor?” to make it special. However, The standard Creme Brulee I was served on this particular night was so great that I didn’t miss the former incarnation one bit.

Delish.

If you ever are in East Alabama, please check this restaurant out. Even as I have moved on to the fourth-largest city in the country, I still have a soft spot for The Yellowhammer. The little guys need all the help they can get these days!

Foodstalkers on Tour: D.C. & Philadelphia

A friend and I took an impromptu, low-budget road trip to visit friends in our nation’s capital and the city of bromance this past weekend. It was a time. And we had some fantastic eats along the way. I will skip the Wendy’s #6 that I had on the drive up. Thought it was delicious and picture-worthy. Keep reading for a diner breakfast, Chinatown dinner, late night pizza and cheesesteaks.

Saturday morning starts with a trip down the street to the 24-hour diner for breakfast.

bob & edith's

bob & edith's

Bob & Edith’s Diner [2310 Columbia Pike, Arlington VA]

This place has been serving up diner food since 1969! And I think they still have some 1969 Dallas Cowboys memorabilia on their walls.

Here’s my #1 diner predicament: to eat breakfast food or not to eat breakfast food? Though I enjoy scrambled eggs, bacon and toast, sometimes I’d just rather skip straight to lunch grub. I ordered the Western Omelette. It’s somewhere in between breakfast and lunch. It acknowledges breakfast with the scrambled eggs. But the cheese, peppers, onions, tomatoes and ham (usually with salsa and sour cream) nod to lunch fare. Toss some Tabasco on there for extra heat! This was a delicious start to the day, and got our crew back in the game and ready for a day of sight-seeing! I only wish I could have stuck it out for a chocolate milkshake.

western omellete

western omelet with homefries

Later that day for dinner, we headed to Chinatown, literally walked through the gate and parked it at one of the first places we came across. With a $7.99 dinner special. The soup and spring rolls were fantastic. I was starving.

wonton soup

wonton soup

Gah I love wonton soup. I enjoy many of the other common soups, but I always go back to my favorite. I think it’s the warm, simple broth and green onions. No fuss, just comforting. Then I shared some spring rolls. Though I easily could have eaten four. Please check out in the background…the pamphlet: “I Hope God Will Save Me: May 21, 2011!” Whatever. But we had an enjoyable time listening  to some crazy people near the Mall talk about the end of days. And we picked up some of their literature.

springrolls

springrolls

chicken time!

chicken time!

To be honest, I can’t remember the name of my entree. The waitress suggested it. I don’t know why I branched out from my regular house lo mein or moo goo gai pan type orders. But my dish was pretty standard: chicken, lots of veggies (though few water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, which are my faves apart from the baby corn and pea pods), and a spicy sauce. It was filling, though not the best. It’s hard to top Golden China and Red Dragon, my two favorite places.

Next, we departed for Philadelphia, specifically Manayunk where a friend lives. After a night at Mad River, we stopped in for pizza at a late night pizza place—Caputo’s. This was a mighty fine snack before heading home. And it was nuclear hot, right out of the oven. I topped my slice of cheese with parm, oregano and red pepper flakes. To blend in with locals on the Caputo’s sidewalk while you nomnom a slice, I suggest yelling something like “WOOOO! EAGLES!!!!” every once in a while. Otherwise, the diehards may assume that you are not an Eagles fan…at which point…you will be seriously questioned, if not hurt.

za!

za!

One more night down, and with a long drive ahead, we needed sustenance once again. After we checked out downtown Philly, we located Pat’s (King of Steaks—Never make a mis-steak!) and Geno’s in south Philly to grab a sandwich. The two cheesesteak establishments have been competing for years across the street from one another. Here’s a great video that covers the history and philosophies of the two places. Wait for these great quotes all in this one video: What does FLASH taste like?! Your home is orange? You invented the pressure washer?!


While others may have allegiances, we just had appetites. We walked up to Pat’s first and went there. I didn’t feel so bad when a swarm of motorcycles (The Blue Knights) came in hauling ass, and all chose to go to Geno’s. There could have been a BIKER RUMBLE if Pat’s biker gang were to show up.

Pat’s King of Steaks [1237 E Passyunk Ave Philadelphia PA]

Pat's and Geno's

pat's and geno's; note the mural on the right (they like murals in this neighborhood!)

the blue knights chose geno's

the blue knights arrive and choose geno's

One thing that is still unanswered to me concerns the cheese steak cheese. Is it provolone, American, cheese whiz or other? Wikipedia helped me find an answer. They claim that Geno’s sides with provolone or American cheese, whereas Pat’s first introduced the Cheese Whiz, which then became very popular. Had I known this, I would have ordered differently!

I ordered my cheese steak “wit” (that is, with chopped grilled onions—they don’t do green peppers) and provolone. In the background is the Cheese Whiz version. I tasted both, and found….the Cheese Whiz to be better! Shucks. The provolone just didn’t melt. And it was served up so fast, that it didn’t go under the broiler to get melted and crispy on top. Still I was a happy girl. Steak sandwich! Boom!

pat's cheesesteaks

pat's cheesesteaks



Oh Denver. Foodstalkers on Tour!

welcome to the mile-high city!

welcome to the mile-high city!

as a group, we'd like to say, "dear denver, sorry for partying." #sfp

as a group, we'd like to say, "dear denver, sorry for partying." #sfp

Foodstalkers visited Denver a couple of weeks ago on business…party business. The occasion? A young, to-be lawyer, henceforth called “Chester,” was interning with a government agency I will not name, and several of his friends from back home took it upon themselves to visit for a double-header birthday weekend. The memories are countless, but the review in unison is “This was a Top 5 Best Weekend.” Along the way we had some pretty standout meals.

First meal (1:45am, street corner in LoDo): hotdogs (and a burrito for someone)—this meal should not go unmentioned because at the time I was convinced it was one of the best street dogs ever. Very meaty, and a variety of do-it-yourself toppings, including hot sauce. I may or may not have gotten mustard down the front of my dress. But a meal’s not good unless you make a mess.

Following an extensive walking tour around the Capitol, museum district and LoDo (Denverspeak for Lower Downtown), we stopped for our first Colorado brew or margarita at Wazee Lounge Supper Club.

wazee supper club

wazee supper club

I went with local brewing company Wynkoop’s Railyard Ale, and found it to be a refreshing mid-morning type of beer. The interior of this place is worth mentioning—open windows, so no AC; a loft with a dumbwaiter down to the lower level bar; stained glass windows; art deco bar and large meeting hall wooden benches. Wazee is renowned in town for their pizza, and though the aroma and looks of it on our neighbors’ tables were enticing, we made a quick exit to meet Chester for lunch at Wahoo’s Fish Taco.

wahoo's on blake st.

wahoo's on blake st.

lunchems

lunchems

Wahoo’s is a cute, order-at-the-counter kind of Tex Mex place (tacos, nachos, enchiladas, burritos, etc.), but with the added bonus of fish, shrimp, tofu and major veggies on the menu. It’s ideal for lunch as it’s affordable, healthy and offers variety. I ordered the Wahoo Bowl—concurrently learning that the wahoo is a kind of fish—teriyaki style (other options were blackened of flame grilled—I have yet to learn the difference) with white rice and spicy Cajun white beans. Plus chips and salsa. Yum! This served as good fuel for our trek through Confluence Park before dodging an afternoon thunderstorm while taking refuge at My Brother’s Bar, the oldest operating bar in Denver.

Later that evening we decked out in our finest Denver gear and sipped on mojitos at Samba Room while gearing up for a Moroccan feast at Marrakesh. That’s right, we passed on going to Casa Bonita, the Mexican buffet/amusement show featuring “cliff divers, escaping gorillas, cowboy shootouts, lost caves and caverns, amusement arcade and more.” I got the Marrakesh recommendation via a twitter contact who had eaten there. I’d say everyone was surprised by the serious array of flavors and spices, and the tasty Moroccan red wine.

moroccan red wine

moroccan red wine— les trois domaines guerrouane rouge

We were served bread with a sweet, buttery herb dip—maybe butter, maybe yogurt? Don’t know, but it was light and creamy. I followed it up with a tomato/cucumber salad.

bread + dip

bread + dip

salad

salad

Most of us ordered an entrée tagine …and this word did provide endless entertainment. These cone shaped pots are used to cook stews. I ordered a lamb tagine with artichokes, peas and olives. The sauce was mild on the spicy scale, but full of earthy, rustic flavors from simmering with the tender bits of lamb. Some extra pepper saucers were provided to up the heat.

lamb tagine

lamb tagine

The food was fabulous, but the highlight of this meal was experiencing just a taste of a different culture. We propped up on pillows and drew out the meal over good conversation, many courses and fine wine.

we all look pretty elated

we all look pretty elate. and mildly ridiculous.

I failed on foodstalking the next night, which is a shame because it was a great dinner pick by Chester. We went to Vesta Dipping Grill—a kind of concept restaurant that pairs foods from around the world with various dipping sauces, like jazzy curries, salsas, yogurt, chutney, bbq, aioli, soy and so on. I love this idea because I would characterize myself as a sauce person. For instance, a gyro is all about the tzatziki. Or chicken tenders: lay on the honey mustard please. And sushi: lots of soy and wasabi. After splitting a lot of appeteasers, I had a tuna roll for dinner (weak), but there were some fine entrees ordered around the table: Brown Sugar Grilled Pork Chop, Grilled Colorado Lamb Loin and a salad topped with Madras Grilled Venison. Holla!

We ended up the Capitol Hill area around dinner time the next night following the Pride Parade!, and coincidentally went to Vesta Grill’s brother restaurant—Steuben’s.

retro decor inside ©steuben's

retro decor inside ©steuben's

Upon walking in my words were, “Oh my gosh. This place is so [beeping] cute, I could rip my hair out.” And it was that cute. The restaurant business is cruel and scary, but if I were ever to open a restaurant, I would want it to look like this, and serve food like this. And drinks. Amazing cocktail menu of classic 50s-60s era drinks. I have to thank Ashton for the gorgeous food photography she took with her nice camera while we were there. Props!

We sat outside on the patio. It was nice out, cool Denver air. And it was happy hour. Gin is hands-down my favorite for cocktails, so I sidled up with a pink lady: that’s Plymouth Gin, Cointreau, fresh squeezed lemon and a dash of grenadine. Fantastico!

a pink lady

a pink lady

Steuben’s menu features favorite American homestyle dishes, but with simple upgrades in ingredients. First up: habanero honey fried corn on the cob. On the side, that’s pepper-honey butter, and the cobs are dusted in a spicy rub and topped with a crumbly goat cheese.

caption here

it's like popcorn...on a cob!

french fries w/ sea salt

french fries w/ sea salt

chile lime grilled chicken

chile lime grilled chicken

bangin' sauteed veggies

bangin' sauteed veggies

So I love carne, but I don’t usually order steak and cheese sandwiches…I generally don’t like liquid orange cheese. It wracks my nerves. This is one of my very few food issues. But a guy at the table next to us had ordered the steak and cheese and I was ogling it. I took this picture…it’s blurry (unlike Ashton’s). This sandwich was incredibly good. Good meat-to-cheese ratio and not too dry with the bread.

would you LOOK at that sang-wich!?

would you LOOK at that sang-wich!?

Prior to dinner we had stopped in at the most incredible neighborhood gourmet market—Marczyk Fine Foods. These folks specialize in naturally raised meats, cheeses from around the world, an unbelievable selection of pantry items (all top of the line ingredients), fresh produce, and a to-go lunch and picnic selection to make you drool. They also stock wines, beer and liquor. Sadly, I have the dream, but lack the capital to start this venture. Any charming investors are welcome to support me :) LG, I don’t know how this place compares to Central Market in Houston, but you would definitely be in love here, too. In fact, Cooking Light called this market Denver’s “Best Food Find” in June ’07. And yet again, everything comes back to Southern Progress.

obsessed.

obsessed.

We ended the night with champagne at Red Square Euro Bistro and a stop at Prime Bar for a birthday nightcap.

On our final day in Denver, we went out with a bang, visiting a couple of parks—Cheesman Park, where we relaxed in a fountain and watched some dogs playing, and another park, where we rented deuce coupes. Exhausted, we trecked back via Vine Street Pub, a margarita place with a patio and finally back to Prime Bar for snacks and a final adieu to Chester with a glass of Scotch.

We ordered a couple of sushi rolls, hummus and calamari. And a cherry tart, with matches substituting for b’day candles.

slow your roll

slow your roll

calamari + sweet chili sauce

calamari + sweet chili sauce

hummus

hummus

All in all, an incredible weekend of fun, friends, and of course, food. Thanks for the memories, Chester!

miss em + chester

miss em + chester

Keep Austin Tasty

Foodstalking runs in my family. I am probably the most obsessive, with Dad at a close second- although that may just be because I have much more time on my hands to obsess. That’s why I always jump at the chance to foodstalk with said family. Reasons being A) they aren’t embarassed by my weird habit of taking pictures of my food, B) We usually have similar tastes, C) There are some restaurants that only the Goldens will visit, brave souls we are.  So when I found out my sister was going to come visit me in Texas, I figured it was a good time to drag her to along for the ride.

We begin this long weekend in Austin, which just so happens to be my favorite city in the country. I got in Friday night just in time to meet friends for dinner at Polvo’s, which is a Mexican dive in South Austin. Tear… this type of place makes me long for the Mexican joints in Birmingham that made me like Mexican food (El Poblano and Sol Azteca were my most frequented). Too many of the Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurants in Houston are overpriced and too much of an ordeal for it to be plausible to go on a regular basis. Polvo’s was definitely more like what I am used to as far as Mexican food goes- decent, cheap margaritas, and food that sticks with you for a while. I had some kind of beef fajitas (can’t seem to find the exact name on the menu), and they hit the spot.

The next day’s meals started with brunch/lunch at Z’Tejas. Part of this place’s main appeal is the location and atmosphere: right on busy 6th Street (but far enough out that it’s not considered a ‘touristy’ spot- a Golden no-no), and a massive patio that is perfect for spring in Central Texas. They have excellent brunch cocktails and mojitos- of which I didn’t partake in this time. I had the Huevos Rancheros, a standard for me. I will enjoy anything with avocado in it (more on that later…), and the eggs were perfectly cooked.

4:00pm: time for a snack. Sister and I just so happened to run into this fabulous place that is basically my ultimate food fantasy on wheels. That’s right, an airstream trailer that sells cupcakes. Located in the quirky South Congress area, they have a short list of flavors (no daily rotation here like some of the cupcake purveyors in Houston) and a couple of tables with napkin holders on top. There just so happened to be a Gregg Allman look-a-like playing acoustic around the seating area on the day we were there- not sure if that’s a regular occurence or just a random Austin musician trying to catch his big break. I had the Red Velvet, which in my experience is a pretty good barometer for cupcake quality. The cake was moist and the frosting had the most interesting texture- whipped, not hard like a lot of bakery cupcakes, and on the thin side- I kind of liked it. The frosting was almost too cream cheese-y for me (not one of my favorite ingredients), but I did appreciate that it wasn’t sickeningly sweet like many non-homemade frostings.

Hey, Cupcake!

Hey, Cupcake!

Sweet Southern goodness

Sweet Southern goodness

Saturday dinner was at Curra’s, a place that is known for its avocado margaritas and no-frills Tex-Mex food. Our entire table ordered the avocado margaritas- I may have been the only one that actually enjoyed it. I think the reason is…

Ugh, I hate to reveal this dirty secret to the World Wide Web…

I don’t really like normal margaritas. I know, it’s strange. I don’t normally like to be reminded that tequila exists, and too many margaritas don’t do a good enough job of masking it/use the cheap stuff, which reminds me that it exists the next morning. I like the addition of avocado, because it’s just one more ingredient to mask the fact that I am drinking tequila. The consistency resembles a smoothie, so one warning would be to drink it quickly before it gets warm. Warm smoothies are not good. To eat, I had the Enchiladas Curras- cheesy, meaty, yummy goodness that you expect from Tex-Mex food.

Avocado marg

Avocado marg

Mmm... cheese...

Mmm... cheese...

Our final stop in Central Texas is located on the famed BBQ Trail. I had previously made a stop at the City Market in Luling on another trip to Austin, a place that I credit with making me realize that I may actually enjoy brisket. I wanted to test another Top 5 BBQ spot to see if it was a fluke, so sister and I headed to Smitty’s Market in Lockhart. If you are easily intimidated by new dining experiences, Smitty’s is not for you. First you must enter the actual pit area and purchase your meats. Slap some brisket and ribs on butcher paper, give the man named Virgil your cash (ONLY), and head into the dining room. From there, you’ll purchase your sides and drinks. Don’t waste your time on sides. The beans were of the tasteless pinto variety. Ask for sauce at the “sides check-out,” or else you’ll be sadly sitting  at your table, staring at a bottle of hot sauce like sister and I did for a few minutes before we wised up. Between the two of us, we had a 1/2 lb of brisket and 1/2 lb of ribs. I think Dreamland owns Smitty’s in the ribs department- while the ribs were tasty, they were a little dry. The brisket, however, was exactly what this carne lover has learned to like about Texas BBQ- you taste the MEAT. Yes, you taste the smoke- but there’s nothing artificial about it as some Southeastern ‘que can seem. I did, however, like the City Market’s brisket a little more I believe. Could have been an off day for Smitty’s, but I thought the meat at City Market was slightly more moist than Smitty’s.

Smitty's Market exterior

Smitty's Market exterior

Order carne here

Order carne here

Before

Before

After

After

That’ll do it for the Austin portion of sister’s trip. Stay tuned for new adventures in Houston…

Myrtle Beach, the trashy Tammy

Foodstalkers is on tour!

Myrtle Beach, SC, runs with a reputation (at least among my friends) of being disgustingly, gloriously trashy. If personified, Myrtle Beach would be a lady: 65 years old , tanned well-done, wrinkly, acrylic red nails, swimsuit with net-style cover-up dress, flip flops, teased and bleached hair, cigarette hanging out of the mouth, Busch Lite in a neon green koozie reading, “BEER, It’s What’s For Dinner.”

It hasn’t always been this way. But in the past couple of decades, strip joints have cropped up like STD outbreaks. And the beachwear shops have become more and more redundant. I recall past trips and the unspeakable charades. Could there be a side to Myrtle Beach beyond the ludicrous?

Yes and no. The charades continue, but I did manage to find spots that locals and non-Spring Break (or Beach Grad) visitors could enjoy year round. It was truly worthwhile to be visiting in the off season.

Hamburger Joe’s

Definitely a noteworthy local joint. This place was pretty busy for a Friday afternoon lunch in the off-season. There are dollar bills lining the walls! Ha. So the food is great. I ordered a delectable cheeseburger (shocker, as I normally go sans formage). I topped it with lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard and SLAW. Yes, slaw. I love it on a burger. Side of onion rings. And a Diet Coke for equilibrium. This place gets an A: satisfying food and a fun, casual environment. Thank you, Joe!

ah the light on a burger. so romantic. i could devour it.

romantic light on a burger. i could devour it. i did.

hamburger joe's + tamtam

hamburger joe's + tamtam

Duffy Street Seafood Shack, Main Street, Cherry Grove, SC

Steamed shrimp + fries, slaw and hushpuppies. This is my favorite standard beach food, mainly because of the Old Bay and spices in the steamer. I’m not sure what the quantity was, but it was way enough for two meals. Overall: good basic beach food, though nothing truly extraordinary. I imagine this place gets crowded during summer months with locals and visitors alike.

Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that's about it.

Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. Pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that's about it.

duffy street seafood shack. we have a theme.

duffy street seafood shack. we have a theme.

The Sea Captain’s House

This place was incredibly good. I can only imagine the wait for a table during summer months. But lucky for us, we were seated right away for lunch. The house maintains its charm with quaint dining rooms throughout. There’s also a patio with bar out back—right on the beach!

The menu is extensive, featuring beachy favorites, sandwiches and a nice list of salads (for when you’re full on fried seafood). I selected another beachy favorite: crab cakes with a dill butter sauce. Oh yes. These were tender and meaty, not made of lots of filler. The breading was also nice and thin, so the flavors concentrated on the crab, and not on a crunchy cornmeal exterior. This place is a must-visit. But get there early, or plan on waiting if it’s summertime!

crab cakes with a killer dill butter sauce

crab cakes with a killer dill butter sauce

the sea captain's house.

the sea captain's house.

Just a couple more highlights:

The Killers at House of Blues!

the killers at house of blues!

the spanish galleon. you must go to there.

the spanish galleon. you must go to there.

the birthplace of shag.

myrtle beach: the birthplace of shag.


Foodstalkin’ with my feet ten feet off of Beale

Last weekend, I headed to Memphis with my college friends to celebrate Taylor’s last hurrah as a single lady. While the main focus of this trip was not eating (although what trip of mine isn’t focused on food?), I managed to sneak in several really good meals. Here are some of my favorites:

Thursday night we celebrated Caroline and Kate’s birthdays with a yummy homemade meal of grilled chicken thighs served over sauteed spinach and cheese grits. It was so delicious- in fact, I’m thinking about attempting to recreate it this weekend. We finished the meal with the cutest cake ever. I’m so mad I didn’t get a picture of the whole cake, because it was freakin’ adorable. It was the Cindy Lou Who cake from Muddy’s Bake Shop. I googled the bakery name last night to find the website, and ended up spending way too much time reading through the owner’s blog. It reminded me how much I would love to do something like open a bakery! Maybe one day…

Cindy Lou Who Cake

Cindy Lou Who

Friday night we capped off KB’s art show with drinks and bar food at Bardog Tavern. Most of the table had some form of the grilled cheese. I got mine with tomato bisque. There really is nothing better than a grilled cheese, in my opinion. It was especially good on this super chilly night. The tomato bisque was thicker than most, which I liked. It was served in a mug with big croutons to sop up that sweet nectar.

Mmm mmm good

Mmm mmm good

Saturday night was the main event. With hot pink wigs on our heads, we headed over to Spindini’s. We got some pretty hilarious looks as we walked into the restaurant. We started off with the Tuscan Butter- which tasted just like an appetizer served at the now defunct River Market and Deli- and also the fried calamari. The Tuscan Butter consisted of marscapone, goat cheese, and marinara, and is served with toast rounds. I remember that the River Market and Deli appetizer was a spread of marinara and montrachet cheese. They taste so similar to each other.

Doesn't look too appetizing, but looks are deceiving

Doesn't look too appetizing, but looks are deceiving

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For the main course, the group split four different pizzas (and it was totally overkill- we had way too much food due to my eyes being much bigger than my stomach). Our pizzas, in order of my preference:

dsc02210

1. Lobster Pizza

2. Margherita Pizza (didn’t get a picture of this one, but I’m sure you get the idea)

dsc02212

3. White Pizza

dsc02211

4. Pesto Pizza

The lobster was so good. I loved the bacon and aioli on top. It was definitely unique, but not nearly as heavy as it sounds.

The margherita was pretty standard- how can you go wrong with the classic?

Loved the arugula on the white pizza.

The pesto was a little much. There were too many red onions hanging out.

There were a couple of meals that I didn’t get to take a picture of, but that were good nonetheless. When we all arrived on Thursday, we grabbed lunch at Huey’s. They have good burgers and a fun atmosphere.

This was the first time I’ve been to Memphis without getting BBQ. Nuts! For the record, I prefer Rendezvous (I think I have only had Corky’s and Rendezvous though). Let the debate begin…

Foodstalkers On Tour: Nashville

I just returned from Country Music City where I attended Lisa and Derek’s wedding (Congratulations!). Turns out Nashville boasts much more than in-love fiddle players, boots, karaoke and The Opry. The food was indeed a delight. I will share my meals, day by day.

Lunch, Day 1: Provence, Hillsboro Village (near Vanderbilt)
This was a real treat. The bakery is part of Nashville Originals
, a group of locally owned, high calliber restaurants. The cafe is French-inspired, featuring a variety of large baskets of freshly baked bread, a cooler full of sweet tarts and cakes, a selection of pre-made salads, sandwiches, frittatas and cheeses, plus lots of coffee options.

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cute window display

I ordered a lunch special: Tuna Melt + Curried Carrot Soup. The tuna salad was incredible (capers in the recipe–my favorite), topped with gruyere on bakerymade multigrain bread toasted in a panini griller. And the soup–wow–smooth and spicy with lots of ginger! It was so tastey I tracked down this recipe so I could replicate those flavors.

tuna melt + curried carrot soup

tuna melt + curried carrot soup

And I couldn’t pass on getting a sweet treat for the road: a Cherry and Cream Cheese Pastry. I love a good dessert, but I don’t normally turn to heavily breaded pastries to get my fix. But this bread looked sweet and irresistible. And it was everything I dreamed it would be. I feel inspired to try this out.

cherry & cream cheese pastry

cherry & cream cheese pastry

Dinner, Day 1: Sunset Grill, Hillsboro Village
I was attracted to this restaurant’s menu for its use of common southern favorites, with a sophisticated twist. The kitchen uses local, sustainable and organic products when possible. It’s also a part of the Nashville Originals group.

I started with Oysters Two Ways. The first pair of raw oysters was topped with a cocktail style sauce, heavy on the firey horseradish (my grandfather used to say that would make hair grow on your tongue!). The second pair was dolloped with creme fraiche, a golden caviar and lemon rind. Squeeze lemon juice over the top and throw it back (or eat delicately). Mmm. I wanted four more after that.

oysters two ways

oysters two ways

For my entree, I had the Fudge Farms Pork Roast– “slow braised in milk with potato-shallot ravioli and cider glazed parsnips, carrots and onions finished with fresh herb jus.” The pork was so tender it just flaked apart in perfect morsels. The jus was to die for–sweet and herby. The ravioli surpised me, concealed beneath the meat and veggies. They were tender little pockets of joy in your mouth!

nice jus

nice jus. seriously nice jus.

Breakfast, Day 2: Pancake Pantry, Hillsboro Village
We actually tried to go here on day 1 for brunch, but at 11 there was a long line out the door. Driving by as late as 2:30, there was still a line. But, a line means people will stand and wait with a hefty appetite because it’s worthwhile. So, we got up early the next day to be at the door a touch after 8. I was craving country ham and grits, but thought I should try the pancakes to say that I did. Tennessee Country Ham = no joke. ‘Twas a big slab of meat. Some fantastic pancakes graced the table as well: a stack of blueberry and a stack of pecan. Besides plain maple syrup there was an extra rich cinnamon cream sauce. That’s what I call gilding the lily.

Would I return to this place? Probably. If it were more convenient. The 7am wake-up call was worth it because we did not wait in line. But I’m not convinced the food was worth the trouble. I’d rather not fight 200 hungry people at a single trough. Going across the street to Provence was a better option at a more reasonable, rested hour.

tennessee country ham is the size of the state of TN.

Tennessee country ham is the size of the state of TN.

a stack with blueberries

a stack with blueberries

pecan w/ bacon

pecan w/ bacon

plaincakes

plaincakes

Lunch, Day 2: Bar-B-Cutie’s

Holy pig. The words, “This is the best barbecue I’ve ever had” did come out of my mom’s mouth. And I very well may agree. There were some excellent orders at the table, including the Memphis BBQ sandwich and the beef brisket.

I selected the pulled pork plate with sides of baked beans, coleslaw and cornbread. Just thinking about that meal makes me hungry as I write this. The pork was slow-smoked and served dry, but there a number of sauces on the table to dress up the meat. I tossed it with a touch of hot pepper vinegar and the mild tomato-based sauce. The cornbread was served like little pancakes, perfect for sopping up sauce or building a perfect bite of bbq, slaw and sauce. This is a don’t miss if you’re in the Nashville area, or any of Bar-B-Cutie’s franchise locations throughout the southeast. Pig out!

my pulled pork plate

my pulled pork plate

the memphis bbq sandwich, topped with slaw, pickles and sauce

the memphis bbq sandwich topped with slaw, pickles and bbq sauce

Dinner, Day 2: Wedding Cake

Pretty. And delicious. Strawberries mixed among layers of chocolate and vanilla with a whipped icing.

cake and couple

cake and couple

Yeehaw that was a heck of a trip to Country Music City. Food + traveling = the best! LG, I say Foodstalkers needs to go on tour more often.