Tag Archives: Norfolk

Doumars, Monticello and on to DC

Final leg of our epic Road Trip 2014. On to Washington D.C. Breakfast will be at Doumar’s, another triple D joint established in 1904 and noted for having the world’s oldest ice cream cone making machine.

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It’s a drive-in but we go inside because it really doesn’t look like anyone is gonna come out.We sit and order at the counter.

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Doumar’s is great just to sit and look at how old everything is. They are famous for limeades so we order up two. Limeades, syrup, soda and lime, are made by hand but feature limes I would have already chucked out. Still the drink is refreshing and not overly sweet.

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I’m getting an egg and fried ham sammy and Rob wants to try their split dog on a hamburger bun and their pulled pork sandwich, because we are staring at four pork shoulders, spit roasting. Prices are super cheap, $2.80 was the most expensive sandwich we ordered. My sandwich is decent, egg, processed ham and cheese on a nice, soft hamburger bun, a tick up on an Egg McMuffin.

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Rob’s red dye number 4 hot dog and is red. It’s redness is very…red.

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And the pulled pork is okay but livened up with Doumar’s own hot sauce into being more than passable.

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All in all, I would not go out of my way to eat at Doumar’s but seeing the ancient diner was worthwhile one time.

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We officially hit the road for DC via Charlottesville to visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate. This is a revisit for me. I last visited 35 years previously on a class trip when I was 17.

Leaving Norfolk we snap some pics of a battleship parked eternally at the naval museum. We pass through a relatively industrial area then drift by some lovely Victorians and hit the highway proper.

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Jefferson’s Monticello is 2 and a 1/2 hours away. I am excited to revisit because when I was last there I was fascinated with Jefferson’s vegetable garden, forsaking everything else about the place. When we arrive there is a massive visitor center, museum and gift shop. I remember none of this. I ask about it and am told it was built 7 years ago. Phew.

We hike up to the tour bus stop and get on a bus to the house. We are early for the tour so we do a self guided tour around the grounds.

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The cook’s quarters and kitchen are on view here as are the fish pond, the rear gardens, a most spectacular view over Virginia and of course the amazing vegetable gardens that Jefferson considered his lab. His garden makes me itch to get my fingers dirty. It is a work of art.

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Jefferson’s grave and family plot (still active) are a half mile trek from the gardens. We head down and spend a bit of time gazing through the wrought iron fence. Lots of Randolphs buried there. Jefferson’s mother was a Randolph. We spy at least one Confederate soldier’s grave as well. Jefferson has a large obelisk monument at one end. In behind it are 4 very old, tiny markers I can only assume are his 4 children that did not live to adulthood but I can’t get any info on that. When we return from the grave site we realize we missed our house tour. No matter, we saw what we came for.

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On to DC.

We take Virginia Byway 29, the scenic route past pristine horse farms, North Virginia wine country, bright yellow fields of goldenrod and hazy mountains rising up out of the horizon. At one point we see a bald eagle soaring then diving to the asphalt to dine on some poor unfortunate squirrel. A fine and pleasant day drive.

I am looking forward to this trip to DC, the final stop on our road trip. I last visited when I was 17 with my American History class. The world was a different place. Regan had not been shot and the 9/11 hijackers had not been born. I have vivid memories of visiting the beautiful capitol building with minimal security. We toured the Pentagon and snapped pictures with our Kodak Instamatics. A classmate and I blew off the tour of the White House (you just lined up in those days, no passport required, no letter from your congressman or embassy, no appointment, no paperwork) because the line was too long. Instead we walked down the side of the White House, outside the fence. There are side gates back there and they were opening. We stopped curbside to allow two DC mounted police and a single black limousine to pass within 2 and a half feet of us. The back window of the sedan was rolled down. Inside sat then President Jimmy Carter and Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat. They both waved at us schoolgirls. Different times. Very different times.

 

Wilmington to Norfolk

9 am and it’s sweltering. Windows in shops and cafes are dripping with condensation. We sit down on diner stools at a great little place for breakfast, Dixie Grill, and my first thought is I will never, could never live in the south. Usually every great town or city we visit has me looking at houses, and Wilmington is historic and downright adorable. You can buy a most amazing Victorian for less than $300,000. I thought I liked heat, and I certainly prefer it to the alternative of an arctic Ottawa winter, but there has to be a happy medium…Vancouver. I digress.

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Dixie Grill is charming and small-town comfy. Staff is young and friendly. Coffee and OJ is ordered and we both choose the corned beef hash which comes with a choice of toast and 2 eggs how you like ’em. The brisket is made in house and fried up with nice roasty potatoes, peppers, onions and covered with provolone cheese made all melty good by the hot fried eggs. Portion is good but not “I need a nap now” size. Very satisfying breaky before hitting the road to Norfolk, a four and a half hour drive including a slight detour for lunch.

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On our drive we are accompanied by The Smartest Man in the World, Greg Proops. We have a number of his “Proopcasts” on board and the miles fly by. Most of the drive is on a country two-laner, a pleasant drive by tidy little bungalows, trailers, churches, horses, tobacco fields, churches, shacks of people living in extreme poverty, cotton crops, churches, country stores, auto shops, churches and a vineyard.

Precisely at noon and about 30 seconds before the rush, we pull into Ayden, North Carolina for a BBQ lunch at Skylight Inn which is not an inn curiously.

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North Carolina BBQ is about all about the pork. Skylight serves chopped whole hog with a little hot sauce and vinegar added while the meat is chopped.

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You get a nice mix of dark and light meat and pieces of crispy skin. Pretty much to die for. Not much to look at.

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Comes piled high in a little paper tray. You can add more vinegar, hot sauce or a vinegary black pepper sauce at the table. For $6.50 you get a medium tray, a big slab of really excellent cornbread made in a cast iron pan basted with pork fat and a serving of green, mushy coleslaw a la KFC, my favourite kind (another dirty little secret).

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Skylight is friendly, despite all the bossy signage. Orders after 6:45 must be TAKEN OUT. Chicken THURSDAY and FRIDAY only. NO CELL PHONES AT THE COUNTER.

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Another satisfying meal and first BBQ joint I’ve been to where you can get a normal portion size. As we climb back into Moby, an American fellow asks us to roll down a window so he can tell us how much he loves our car. To each his own. He ain’t drivin’ this whale 1000 miles and paying for gas. Norfolk, Virginia, next stop.

We are staying down by the Naval museum, downtown Norfolk. The battleship parked nearby is formidable but oddly beautiful. Tonight we will dine at Todd Jurich, classier joint than we have been frequenting. The menu looks amazing. 7 pm reservations. We walk three blocks to the restaurant on the shady side of the street as the heat almost laughably, has not abated. Todd’s is a nicely appointed place with business men finishing up and couples arriving although on this Tuesday, the restaurant is not overly busy. We are seated at a nice table and order sparkling water and a really excellent dirty (downright sludgy) gin martini for the man. I’m saving room for the most excellent bottle of Napa Caymus Special Selection Cabernet.

We need more time to peruse the menu which has way to many appealing selections. Finally we choose the bread, which Todd’s charges $5 for, which I don’t mind if it is really good. I do not understand who started the free bread or free anything craze. One way or another, you are paying for it, so let me pay and make it a quality item. For apps we both really want a salad after so much heavy southern food. Rob opts for the very excellent Caesar and I choose the beet salad, which should be called a spinach salad with beet garnish and the now tired fried goat cheese. Todd’s beet salad was chunks and slivers of some very delicious red and golden beets playing hide and seek in a mountain of lightly dressed baby spinach. The goat cheese was bland and absent that very desired tang.

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Back to the bread: A dish of sweet butter with sea salt arrived with a basket of very nice baguette, a slice of fruit and nut bread, very cakey with grapes and almonds, delicious, and a popover which I found tasted of stale grease.

Our mains arrive, on room temp plates and my food is lukewarm. As we lingered over our salads, I suspect food in slow kitchen came out way too fast and sat a bit. Management problem in the kitchen. Rob’s Rib eye and reduction was excellent as were his duck fat fries which arrived a few minutes later as I suspect they were not dropped until our apps were cleared.

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My Carne Asada was a very nice medium rare steak with a mild garlic flavour but certainly did not taste of the spice, lime and chili a good asada promises. The mash was typical but not hot enough, the fire onion was a nicely charred quarter of a sweet onion.

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We decide we cannot leave the south with out a piece of pecan pie so we opt to split their dessert with cappuccinos. The pie is typical of any mass produced tartlet in any city. Not particularly memorable. I expect my pecan pie to be loose and gooey…a layer of pecans over a great butter tart on a well made flakey, buttery crust. This was not it. We’re going on record here — pie is pie and a tart is a tart. If a menu says pie, serve a slice of pie.

All in all, dinner at Todd Jurich was fine but not memorable, except for a most excellent cab sauv and good company.