Tag Archives: biscuits

Chicken, Biscuits & A Plantation

Another scorcher. Our day is planned around the Magnolia Plantation, about which I am very excited. Award winning gardens, open since 1870.

Breakfast is at a Triple D joint, Dixie Supply Bakery & Cafe. When we arrive, the lineup is out the door and remains that way through our stay. There is minimal seating inside so I grab the only available table outside. Rob lines up to order. It is about 30 minutes until we get food from this point.

When he comes back he brings two icy Diet Cheerwines, two plates with biscuit sandwiches of fried chicken an a fried egg, smothered in country gravy.

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He also brings a slice of heirloom tomato pie to share. The fried chicken sandwich is excellent, nice biscuit, crunchy chicken, perfect fried egg with a slightly runny yolk and delicious, peppery country gravy.

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The tomato pie is tomato heaven. Made with ripe tomato slices, cheddar cheese piled into a buttery, sourcream  crust and baked to perfection. The pie is accompanied by a gingerbread “crouton”. Curious but delicious. A fine breakfast indeed.

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Bellies full, we make our way out of town to Magnolia Plantation, land that has been in the Drayton family for 12 generations. The plantation is noted for its gardens, camellia collection, plantation home and restored slave quarters. After the civil war and the freeing of the Drayton labour force, the plantation continued to thrive by offering and charging for tours of the extensive gardens. There is also a petting zoo of rescued animals on site.

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I had very much looked forward to this tour. I have never seen a plantation before and this is one of the better ones apparently. However, this is labour day weekend and everyone and his dog decided to check out this historical treasure. This came as a huge surprise to the operators of the plantation. Like, “never before have they been busy on a holiday weekend” surprised.

After a lengthly walk from the auxiliary car parking, we encountered a lineup of Disneyesque proportions. In the scorching sun. We line up expecting to be moved through relatively quickly. Three of six ticket kiosks are open. A couple at one is there for 10 minutes. The line does not move. They averaged 3 minutes or more to accommodate each guest. After an hour in line, under a hot sun in 100 percent humidity, I am basically done by the time we reach the kiosk. We plan to just buy the all-inclusive tickets (or you pay general admission and add each and every tour you want to do) but are told this will take 5-6 hours, not doable on a day like this. We opt for the general admission and 4 of the available tours. “Lets get you signed up.”, the ticket master says! “We can’t get you started on any of the tours until 2:00.” It is currently 12:15. So we go over options. This is what is taking the line so long. They are doing this with each group. Two by two. Most disordered public attraction I have ever encountered. She kept apologizing for the long line. They did not expect this, despite having given out discount coupons for this busy holiday weekend. You’ve been doing this on some level since 1870.

Anyways, we severely curtail what we wanted to see. The heat and humidity are at unbearable levels, even for me who likes the heat. We manage to do a self guided walking tour for a little over an hour. We walked through the gardens which were actually well kept but not very interesting as little to nothing was in flower. We toured the beautiful, leafy conservatory, green with palms, ferns and an occasional potted orchid, with one or two statues. We headed over to the “Big House” where we viewed the grounds, back and front and checked out the crap…I mean, gift shop. We did not go inside the house because we could not get a tour at a reasonable time. It’s online however and quite interesting.

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We paid 2 bucks a pop for off brand bottled water, which they should have been distributing for free due to the line up we were forced to endure due to their incompetence and sat on the porch for some shade with 19-year-old Big House Cat, “Sylvester”.

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Soon after we headed back to our vehicle, which took us past the restored slave quarters. We again did not do the tour of the quarters as the schedule was ridiculous. The interiors are online and again are quite interesting.

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The Magnolia Plantation is a historical treasure and we are sure that had we visited at another time of year when they were more prepared, it was cooler and more of the gardens were in bloom, this would have been the highlight of our trip. As it was, it was a massive disappointment.

Afternoon siesta: required. I love Charleston but this was absolutely the wrong weekend to land here. The city is stinking hot, humid and crowded with tourists for the holiday weekend. I’d like to come back in April.

Tonight we will have our final meal in Charleston at The Fleet Landing. We have 7 pm reservations. When we leave there are people doing an hour and a half wait. This does not speak necessarily to the quality of the food but the fact that the city is so crowded.

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The Fleet Landing is a five minute walk from our hotel. We get there early and have a drink at the bar.

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It’s a good spot to watch food being purveyed around. A live menu. When we are seated we order another round and apps. I order the crab cake. I know, I said I was done with them but this one looked to be good. I was right. It was all lump crab meat, with a bit of mayo, fried with an ultra thin crust,  served on a salad of fresh corn and topped with fried onions that on this evening were a little limp (as is everything in this city at the moment). Good idea, though.

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Rob had the calamari “steak” which was finger sized strips of squid battered and perfectly, crisply fried. Served with two sauces, a sweet Thai and an aioli. Quite delish.

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Beautiful, hot angel biscuits and butter appear. Mmmmm…

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Mains arrive. Seafood fettuccine for me, with three plump scallops, good shrimp, mussels, and crawfish tails in a nice cream sauce. The generous coins of andouille sausage were really good and super spicy with a heat that kept on coming. They do not offer shaved parm but there are a few thin slivers melted on top. Unnecessary really.

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Rob’s main was a fried seafood plate with shrimp, scallops with some Charleston red rice and some creamy coleslaw. First off, the sides were killer. The red rice was smoky and seasoned with just a little zing. The cole slaw was creamy with a bite. The fried shrimp and scallops were a little greasy, which is a first in our experience of the South. Usually, items are fried perfectly. Not so, here. The shrimp were better, but the scallops were not winners. Even so, there was a lot of food, so a lot got left on the plate anyway, but there was not a single grain of that red rice left.

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Goodbye Charleston. Tomorrow we head to Wilmington North Carolina on our way to Washington, DC.

 

RT2014: Savannah History & Bonaventure

I keep repeating myself but we wake to yet another beautiful, sunny day in the south. Expected to climb into the 90’s today. We want to head out early to capture Historic Savannah before the sun becomes too harsh for photos…and people.

Yesterday’s hop on hop off tour was excellent for knowing where we wanted to be today. For breakfast we are trying the well recommended Clary’s Cafe. Right downtown in the historic district and open for breakfast, Clary’s seems ideal. We elect to sit outside on the sidewalk.

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Many other patrons choose to as well and we meet a few roadtrippers like us and many many canines, travelers and locals. Our waitress drops by for our drinks order. OJ is not fresh squeezed and she notes probably for the first time that yes this is a shame. I opt for it anyways, coffee as well. I’m going to go with their specialty Crab Cakes Benedict, after asking if the Chicken Fried Steak was fresh or frozen. Frozen. Rob is having the corned beef hash.

Everybody but us has a dog or dogs with them. Waitresses are prepared with treats and all the the furbabies are well behaved. Savannah is dog friendly. I walked by at least one business with a gorgeous long haired kitty preening in the window. This speaks well of a city.

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Sitting in the warming shade, chatting with fellow travelers and dog lovers is a pleasant start to our final day in Savannah. Coffee arrives, lukewarm. It is refilled generously several times but it never gets hot. Breakfast is served and we dig in. My benny is fine. The eggs are well poached, nice and runny. The English muffin is perfectly toasty and chewy. Breakfast came with the choice of grits or homefries. When in the south I choose grits. Unfortunately these grits were tasteless and unseasoned, but nothing a pat of butter and salt and pepper couldn’t fix. They turned out okay after all. The crab cakes are merely fine. Maybe it’s my expectations. I think big chunks of luscious, white crab barely held together with egg and potato and I get shredded crab held together with a lot of potato. I don’t fault Clarey’s, but I think I’m over crab cakes. Also I’m confused about something. My eggs benny comes with “Canadian” bacon. In Canada, Canadian bacon is peameal bacon. We don’t call it Canadian bacon but Americans do. But when you go to the States and get Canadian bacon it is this round of over processed, pale ham-like substance. Anyways anything less than salty, cured pork tenderloin with a layer of juicy fat and a peameal crust is unacceptable. I digress.

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Rob’s breakfast is quite good. Clary’s calls corned beef hash one of their specialties. They corn their own beef briskets and it shows. Rich with corned beef, onions and potato, it’s a winner. Served with two cooked eggs, the aforementioned heavily-adjusted grits and a good biscuit. All in all, the food in Savannah has been fine. Nothing exceptional, nothing we will gush about to future dinner guests. We have done our research, talked to people, taken the advice of the hotel, been to highly recommended places, but we have not found the real Savannah dining wise. If it indeed exists. (Stay tuned).

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After we settle up, we park Moby and head into the Historic District to take pictures. Downtown Savannah is as charming and quaint as they come. Architectural detail abounds, gaslights flicker, gardens are lush, alleyways are secret treasures, planters and topiaries are exquisite.

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Row upon row of colourful homes delight the viewer. The lush green park squares allow you to sit, reflect and refresh.

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The cicadas serenade. Many squares feature fountains or statuary usually dedicated to a military hero. Some have bodies interred within. One square is a legitimate cemetery. Savannah is a fabulous walking city if you are mindful of your footing. Sidewalks are old and paved with bricks. I could walk for hours.

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After a very pleasant morning spent in the Historic District, we head to Thunderbolt to the Bonaventure Cemetery, famous for being featured in the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The cemetery is also the final resting place of two confederate generals and Little Gracie Watson, a six year old who died of pneumonia in 1889. A top her grave is a life sized sculpture of her rendered by then up and coming sculptor, John Walz. It is rumoured that if you place a penny in her hand and walk around her grave three times it will be gone. The much visited grave site now has a pretty wrought iron fence around it.

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Bonaventure is peaceful and serene. You can drive through in a car and pull over along the way to walk and snap photos. The cemetery is noted for its beautiful statuary. Live oaks and Spanish moss grace the plots. Gravely paths have to be navigated with some care as ancient tree roots have broken through the surface. It is less orderly than Oakland in Atlanta but every bit as charming and lovely.

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Rob digs around a little more on the internet, determined, and finds a dinner place walking distance from the hotel. Vic’s on the River. We set off despairing of finding a meal to write home about.

Vic’s is on Bay street. Part of the building faces Bay Street and part faces the river. A piano man tinkles the ivories as we enter and we are seated at a lovely table for two by the 12 foot window looking out onto Bay and an exquisite live oak.

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Vic’s oozes southern gentility, with black linens, silver and warm, light peach walls. Blonde wood floors show generations of wear, window boxes overflowing with hostas, sedums and soft, silver wormwood boldly underline the magnificent old windows. So very simple, so very elegant.

Warm buttermilk biscuits with whipped, honeyed butter appear on the table while we refresh from the day’s heat with gin and tonics. We are enjoying watching our neighbour, “Pebbles”, a strawberry blond 18 month old with her wispy curls piled on top of her head in a fountain tail, eat with great gusto.

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The menu is inspired but we manage to settle on two apps. I’m having the Crawfish Beignets and Rob, reminiscing his childhood, orders the chicken livers. Both are excellent choices.  The improperly named crawfish beignets are  more of an empanada. 3 soft, flaky, delicious half moon pastries were filled with a lightly sweet crawfish filling and dressed with a sweet hot tabasco drizzle. Excellent, inspired, but one would have sufficed. Ok, maybe two.

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The chicken livers were exquisite. Perfectly cooked (overcooked and they get tough and chewy) and bathed in a luxurious sauce of sauteed onion and bacon in a wine and stock reduction. They brought Rob back to his childhood where he got to eat the cooked liver from that night’s chicken and loved it.

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Mains come with a salad course and we both opt for the classic iceberg wedge with blue cheese dressing. The salad comes nicely chilled with an excellent, mild, blue cheese dressing. Cucumbers and cherry tomatoes accessorize, as do home made buttermilk biscuit croutons. Bacon would have added a nice smokey, salty punch but was absent from this classic. This wedge was a nice, manageable size unlike some of the monsters I have been served.

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Mains arrive in a nicely paced fashion. Rob orders a steak with truffle butter, accompanied by a corn grits souffle and sauteed spinach. The steak is a delicious medium rare and the truffle butter is entirely superfluous and gets scraped off to the side. The grit souffle is cheesy and light with a slight smoky edge from some smoked chile.

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My southern fried pork chop is a thing of beauty, golden, crisp, crunchy coated, bathed in a luscious, rich, creamy wild mushroom sauce and nestled on golden mashed potatoes with perfect tender crisp green beans. This was Southern comfort on a plate. I will be thinking about this dish for sometime to come. Perfect on all counts.

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We slowly sip the remainder of our rosè and stroll back in the evening light to our hotel. End of a perfect day.

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We have really enjoyed the beauty of Savannah. I continue to admire the cleanliness and civic pride in the city and within Georgia as a whole. Tomorrow, we cross the Talmadge Memorial Bridge into South Carolina and head north to Hilton Head.

Road to Savannah

We wake to another fine, sunny Georgia day ready to hit the road for Savannah. Breakfast will be at the Flying Biscuit in Midtown. The front door of The Biscuit displays a rainbow flag. I have come to see that the pride flag on an establishment represents a friendly, inclusive place. It reminds me of the time when a traveler marked a cat on a nearby fence post to indicate that the home beyond was hospitable.

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And so it is. The hostess greets us like we are already friends, worried about where we parked. She does not want us to get “booted”. We settle into a cheery four top and order coffee and fresh squeezed OJ, and two orders of their Southern Biscuit Benedict.

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The Benny comes out quickly. A very well made biscuit topped with two poached eggs, pimiento cheese sauce, fresh basil, two slices of turkey bacon and a side of grits.

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This is a creative, tasty meal, with one notable exception. Turkey bacon is just wrong. It tastes of fake, chemical smoke. Why use turkey bacon? Most people choose it as a healthy option, but with a biscuit, pimiento cheese, two eggs and grits, yer all in anyways so give me real bacon…or at least the option.

That said, this Benny is very good. The biscuit base is perfect. The eggs are nicely poached so that when you break into that runny yolk it soaks into that delicious biscuit. Pimiento cheese? It’s a Southern thing. Cheddar cheese shreds are mixed with mayo, pimiento and hot sauce. Makes a great dip for crackers or spread it on toasted Wonder bread, slap some iceberg lettuce on it and you have a seriously awesome trailer park sammy. The Flying Biscuit’s pimento cheese has a nice little heat. Altogether it creates a good marriage of flavours. Talking Heads and The Romantics on the soundtrack made this a great breakfast stop.

We climb back into Moby and fire up the tech, Stella and our rootsie Americana soundtrack. We are breaking one of our rules today. We are headed to Savannah via the interstate for several reasons. The other route does not take us through Macon and try as we might, nobody on any forum could tell us of any places of interest to visit off of the interstate and basically it would add an hour to the trip with no benefit. So we decide to just get on into Savannah and start soaking it in. Some rules are meant for breaking. I am however imagining Sherman’s troops making this journey on foot and horseback sans interstate.

As we wend our way towards Savannah, we can’t help but notice how trash-free Georgia freeways are, except for the countless tire treads discarded like so many toe nail clippings. Aside from that fact, the drive is much like the 401 without the magnificent rock faces. We have been warned by previous travelers to watch for speed traps. We are using cruise control but note that the speed limits fluctuate between 55, 65 and 70 miles per hour with little notice. That’s how they get ya. Shortly we enter the dusty, grimy outskirts of Macon an hour into the drive and it’s really just a pit stop for us. We had intended to visit the Allman Brothers museum but it is closed Mondays, and most days.

As we continue on, we pass town after town beckoning to us with  golden arches and Waffle House in block letters stretched to the heavens. I can’t pass a Waffle House without giggling and thinking of Jeff Garlin and Garlin’s infectious giggle. (Not PC).

A lot of the highway we are traveling is being repaired. The surface is concrete. Looks like a lot more work than blacktop. Workers are out there in the hot sun leveling each stretch of about 15 feet by hand. Soon we are nearing Savannah and the scenery changes to more farmland, cotton and a dried corn crop. Hand made signs and towering billboards announcing fresh peaches, peach jam, peach salsa and peach bread call you off the highway. Mmmm…a sun ripened still warm Georgia peach. Yes we will.

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We stopped at a little road side kiosk manned by a teenage boy. He directed us to the peaches that in his opinion were the best. We selected two golden, lightly fuzzy, sweet, juicy, fruits that yielded to the bite without being mushy. Pure sunshine. Messy and perfect.

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We are all checked into The Bohemian in Savannah, rested up and thinking about dinner. Lady and Sons, Paula Deen’s resto is just a short walk up the street. We decide to check it out, ’cause the lady CAN cook y’all. Lady and Sons is in a quaint antique brick building, with a retail store attached to flog her wares.

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This resto in no way resembles the place she opened as a young widow. Now an enterprise, run like an army unit and three stories high, it has an elevator and staff communicating on walkie talkies. I hate it instantly.

The first thing we walk by on the way to the second checkpoint is a small buffet. I am buffet phobic. Just on a germ front alone. I have a full on hate for this place now. We check in with the second station and then head into Paula World to shop while we wait for our table.

We are called about 15 minutes later (on time for our 7 pm res) and seated on the first floor. Apparently my silent prayers not to get on the elevator with the party of 14 were heard. Our waiter brings huge glasses of ice water and lemon. Much appreciated. You sure work up a thirst in the south. I order a peach julep and Rob chooses a hefweizen. While we wait, the bread course comes. A hoe cake, much like a corn pancake, and an angel biscuit with cheese. Angel biscuits are made with yeast instead of soda. It was light, flaky and delicious. I am starting to warm up to the place a bit. No, wait! My cocktail arrives and it is horrible. Bitter. Very bad choice.

Apps are ordered. Paula’s famous pepper shrimp and fried green tomatoes. I am determined to hate this place but…these are both really excellent. The tomatoes are well fried, not greasy. They have a nice spot of pepper jelly on top and are served with diced pickled onion. Really nice.

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The pepper shrimp are swimming in a light sauce with a bit of butter and a ton of lemon and some pepper. Garlic butter toasts are served on the side. This app was surprisingly simple but well prepared and very good.

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Mains arrive next. We both chose the grouper fillet with BBQ peach sauce. A good piece of fish finished with a lightly sweet sauce  that does not overpower the mild fish. The grouper comes with a salad of asparagus and fresh corn, and creamy, cheesy deep fried, light as air, well seasoned grit cakes.

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This is probably blasphemy but we did not even look at the dessert menu. Sorry Paula. I’m sure it was quite excellent as was most of the food we sampled. Time to head into a lovely Savannah sunset and prepare for tomorrow. Think we will do a hop on hop off tour and then head to Tybee Island for some crab.

 

 

 

NYC: Bubby’s & The Standard Grill

Spent the morning at 59th and Lex, also known as Bloomingdale’s. After a productive spree, I headed back to the Meat Packing District to meet up with Rob and grab lunch at Bubby’s, a short walk from our hotel, The Standard.Bubbie's 003

Bubby’s, a scratch kitchen, immediately comfy with wood tables and chairs, exposed brick,  a well stocked bar and lots of natural light, also houses an old school soda fountain. This is our chance to try an honest to goodness egg cream. They serve chocolate and vanilla. We opt for chocolate to share. An egg cream consists of chocolate syrup. soda water and milk. The drink, much lighter in texture than a milk shake and less sweet, is quite nice and refreshing. You can really taste the soda water.

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For lunch we both ordered the Portland fried chicken and biscuit sandwich, two Ommegang Witte wheat beers and sides of coleslaw, mac and cheese and baked beans. The chicken, crispy and not greasy, I find a tad salty. This sandwich is served with honey mustard and chopped mustard greens. The greens are a revelation, great texture, mildly bitter, they really complement the chicken. The biscuit is decent but a little tough on the bottom. We got a choice of two sides and opted for a third. The sides are not overly large but perfect for two to share. Coleslaw is creamy and unremarkable, baked beans are sweet, smoky and have a nice heat, mac and cheese is excellent, cheesy but not gloppy.

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Tonight, our final night in New York, we are having dinner at the highly recommended Standard Grill which is attached to our hotel. The Grill exudes old world ambiance with some art deco features. The flooring is a lovely, warm copper penny tile.

We get settled into a red leather, tufted booth and peruse the updated classic menu. Radishes and chunks of Parmesan cheese are delivered to the table.  Salty and sharp, they compliment pretty much any cocktail. Bread and butter arrive, the bread in a paper sack. They take bread seriously here and the three small baguettes are salted and perfectly chewy.

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We decide on a dozen oysters from the raw bar. I order a Jackie 60 — mezcal, Grand Marnier, agave, lime and smoked sea salt rim. Rob orders a Continental Drift — reposado tequilla, lime, agave, curried mango and smoked sea salt.  Our oysters arrive, perfectly shucked and  accompanied by a well made red wine vinegar mignonette. I swallow one sweet, briney oyster and wash it down with the mezcal cocktail. What an amazing combination!  The smokey lime cocktail is the best thing I have ever paired an oyster with. Wow. Must duplicate these flavors at home.

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For starters we are splitting the iceberg wedge salad. It arrives on two plates and I explain to the waiter that we ordered only one to share. He assures me this is one order that they shared on two plates. This would be a massive serving for one. The lettuce is chilled and perfectly crisp. It is generously but not over sauced in a buttermilk dressing and topped with crispy bacon, fried shallots, mild blue cheese and dried cherries. A truly delectable salad.

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As we sip a nice Napa cab our mains arrive, medium rare strip steaks with chimmichuri sauce. Sides are separate. We chose the creamy spinach, crisp potatoes and the One Good Pickle that Rob insisted on. Our steaks are grilled a perfect medium rare. The chimmichuri sauce is excellent but spare. I would have preferred some on the side. Rob disagrees and thinks the amount is perfect and allows the steak to shine. He is wrong as usual.

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The crisp potatoes are just that. The pickle is young. crisp, tasty and not too salty. The creamy spinach is delicious. The green taste is slightly garlicky and nicely creamy.

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Dessert is offered and the menu is interesting. I am interested in the Wake and Bake, warm chocolate cookies with milk or the rhubarb crostata. They also offer a slice of birthday cake. Very nice. Unfortunately we are too full to be tempted and finish our meal with very excellent cappuccinos served with a square of very good dark chocolate.

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The Standard Grill offers superb fare with attentive table service. The washrooms are notable. The men’s and ladies’ are separated by a see through chain curtain and may as well be together. It is easy to miss the male and female silhouettes on the floor directing you to your gender side. You come out and wash up in a trough together. There is a a single male attendant who seems to spend all his time on the ladies’ side. This is disconcerting as the stalls are open below and their is a one inch gap between the door and the side of the stall. Just weird. An experiment, I guess but it’s just wrong.

 

 

Tennesee Country Ham

Ah… country ham. It’s pretty much unknown here in Canada. It’s a southern treat that has a character all its own and completely distinct from the “city ham” we are used to here. Here‘s a breakdown of how they differ.

On our first trip to Nashville, we had country ham for breakfast one day, served with Red Eye gravy. It was a revelation. Salty, meaty and with a depth we weren’t prepared for. Of course it goes perfectly with the gravy made from the ham drippings, some black coffee and a little brown sugar.

For a family holiday dinner this year, I decided to try a whole salt and sugar cured country ham, bought by mail order from the Loveless Cafe out of Nashville.

A country ham is no picnic. It’s a multi-day prep process to make this ham ready to eat. When you remove the wrapping, it’s covered in a fine mold from being hung for up to two years, kind of like an aged cheese. It was also well, a little funky. After a good brushing, the ham needed to soak in water for two days with complete water changes twice a day. Removing the hock (the large knot of bone at one end of the ham) is optional but requires a saw. I opted to leave it in.

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Country Ham 3Country Ham 4After the skin is removed, you score the fat and bake the ham for 4 hours or so. With an hour to go, you brush on some glaze to caramelize onto the ham. I used some of Loveless Cafe’s amazing peach preserves, ginger and some grainy mustard.

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Country Ham 7Country Ham 8When the ham was finished baking, the glaze was shiny and cooked on and the ham smelled delicious. I let it sit for a half-hour before carving  into slices with an electric knife. It was juicy, smoky, sweet and a little salty with more depth and complexity than other ham I’ve had.

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Country Ham 13We served the ham with biscuits, scalloped potatoes, a brussel sprout hash made with pecans and a maple basalmic vinaigrette, mustard pickles, and some of those best-ever peach preserves.

Country Ham 9Having the freshly carved ham is great, but the next morning, having it with freshly baked biscuits is really the raison d’etre for this ham. It’s its calling. There’s a reason ham and biscuits is a time-honoured Southern tradition, and now it’s one of ours.