Tag Archives: pancakes

Plantation Cafe, the Angel Oak & Charleston

Hitting the road for Charleston today. It is a short drive but we are taking a 40 minute detour to see the Angel Oak. We are going to breakfast around the corner at the Plantation Cafe. Full up when we get there, we wait ten minutes and are seated inside. By 10 it is too hot to eat outside.

The cafe menu has plenty of southern classics and some creative breakfast choices. I’m brought a really good cup of coffee and some oj. The chicken fried steak is frozen. Pout. I choose Ellie’s breakfast but substitute country ham for sausage. Our waitress assures me it is the real deal, not processed crap. Rob orders the True Southern Breakfast.

Plates arrive. My breakfast comes with two prefect fried eggs, a delicate, fluffy angel biscuit, three slices of fried green tomatoes, grits and a huge slice of country ham. The grits are unseasoned. This is the second time this trip. I add a pat of butter, salt and pepper and then they are delicious. A light bulb goes off. I ask our waitress if unseasoned grits are how they are served here in the southeast. She said generally yes. People like to doctor them to their own tastes…more butter, less butter, salt no pepper, and maple syrup. The fried green tomatoes are disappointing. No seasoning and no heat. I don’t eat them.

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Country ham is a thing of beauty. Salty. A slice of meat off the haunch. Real meat not processed. We do not get ham like this in Ottawa. If ham is offered for breakfast in a restaurant home, it is processed. The tomatoes are forgotten.

The true southern breakfast came with excellent golden, crispy shredded hashbrowns, 2 eggs, another fluffy angel biscuit, well made pancakes and sausage patties that were absolutely ordinary.

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Time to head north. The short drive brings us by the Marine Corp Air training center, with several fighter jets on display, trailers, open fields, swamps, vegetables like okra, butterbeans are on offer by the roadside, boiled peanut stands, antiques, churches, fireworks and a vineyard. A billboard advertizes The Edisto Beach Shagfest(!). A fireworks store announces “Everything 25 cents and up. Mostly up.” Gas stops stock camo Redbull.

About 15 minutes out of Charleston, we follow a dirt road to the Angel Oak, a live oak tree that may be up to 1500 years old. It is magnificent. The trunk is 8.5 meters in circumference. The branches arch and dip gracefully to the ground and rise up again, growing, reaching. Many of the limbs have supports to manage the enormous weight. The angel oak is something to behold and it is almost impossible to get the entirety of this tree in a single camera frame.

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Before leaving the oak we visit the gift shop and discover an interesting treat. Benne wafers. Africans brought benne seeds with them to America and made them into sweet wafer treats. They taste nutty of sesame, honey and caramel and are nice and crunchy.

We are almost upon Charleston, our destination today and home for two nights. Bags are dropped and we are off to explore. The city is charming and colonial. The waterfront park has children splashing and wading in fountains, cruise ships anchored and boaters enjoying the final weekend of summer.

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It is baking hot. We last a scant forty minutes before finding sustenance at the Blind Tiger. Vodka Gimlets. A seriously refreshing growed-up drink. A small nosh and back to the surface of the sun.

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Dinner tonight will be at The Craftsman Kitchen and Tap House, a short stroll from our hotel.

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Craftsman has 48 taps and an impressive 200-plus bottled beer selection about which our waitress is quite knowledgeable. Rob starts with a Festina Peche, a Berliner Weissbeer from Doghead Fish Brewery in Delaware and I’m having a really excellent Long Day Bohemian Lager from Red Hare Brewing Company in Georgia.

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For dinner,  we decide to split the Crunchy Dame Sandwich, stout braised pork belly, cherry jam, raclette cheese, grainy mustard aioli and a  fried sunny on sweet Hawaiian bread egg. The sandwich is small but rich.

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It’s too hot for a large meal. We order some highly recommended squid fries, beer battered squid with pickled onion, house cured bacon and a lemon aioli.

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Next, we have some some very tasty General Tso’s wings – – 8 wings in a sticky soy garlic sauce with a mild chili bite, served with a cucumber soy pickle.

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The house made pickle plate included squash, green beans, red pepper, more cucumber soy, cauliflower and napa cabbage. The pickles were salty and vinegary. No subtlety. Not a favourite for sure.

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We have a second glass of beer, local Thai white, with Thai spices, that our able waitress has selected for us. Excellent end to satisfying meal.

 

 

 

Atlanta Day 2

We sleep in a bit today. No furry alarm clock. Breakfasting this morning at Ria’s Bluebird, across the street from Atlanta’s famed Oakland Cemetery, where we will be spending a good part of the early day before the heat becomes to oppressive. I think Southerners must pride themselves on their heat tolerance like a Canadian prides themselves on wearing flip flops at least until the first snow. I like the heat but I am melting.

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Bluebird is a short drive from the W. No reservations. The small parking lot is full and there is a significant lineup out front. The wait is 45 minutes we are told, but it’s more like 25. They move people through well but don’t rush you. Soon we are ushered in and brought fresh squeezed lemonade on ice. Icy cold, lemony sweet-tart. Perfect.

Bluebird&DaddyDzB 004We have had a minute to peruse the short menu in the hipster meets summer cottage surroundings. I note here that they have several veggie options and they are creative and not second thoughts. Tattooed service is friendly and efficient.  The vibe, noisy and fun. Lots of young families, couples and friends meeting up.

Bluebird&DaddyDz 001Rob and I decide on the brisket breakfast but then he is swayed by today’s special when the server returns and reads it off to him. Eggs Benny with pickled shrimp, melted lardons, fennel, onion and chile peppers on toasted French bread with a side of very good, peppery grits. Very Scandinavian. ‘Cept for the grits.

Bluebird&DaddyDz 004We also choose a short stack to share because the NY Times declares these pancakes to be the best in the world (not fact checked other than for us eatin’ them).

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Breakfast arrives and we tuck in. My brisket breakfast is melt-in-your mouth beef soaking in a dish of beefy, salty, rich sauce with two poached eggs and toasted baguette on the side. The short stack does indeed have world class aspirations. I am not a fan of sweet breakfasts for the most part, but these were delicious….especially when you dipped a forkful in maple syrup and then into the beefy sauce. It reminded me of a dish Alton Brown created on a road trip (big inspiration to us getting going). He went to the kitchen where the old cook was making rib tips for dinner service and he told her he wanted the rib tips on pancakes. She fussed a bit but finally gave him what he wanted. Then his whole crew wanted it. Then it ended up on their menu. Rob makes it from time to time. But I digress.

Bluebird&DaddyDzB 005Breakfast was wonderful and the portions were not crazy. Just satisfying. It is hard not to waste food in the south, but Bluebird has it just right. As we head off into the sweltering sun, our server offers us icy lemonade to go. Free refills he says. They go down good.

We hop into the white behemoth hereafter to be referred to as Moby, and head over to Oakland, Atlanta’s historic cemetery founded in 1850 and our entertainment for the day — cruising leisurely through an old graveyard. It is a great place to take pictures, beautiful, serene and tells the story of a place. Some people like city halls and other attractions. We like cemeteries. The architecture, the history, the ghosts. It says so much about an older city. This cemetery is unique because it’s also an open city park that has art shows, concerts, culinary events and other fundraisers. It’s a gathering place in the city, which is a beautiful thing for a cemetery to be.

It is the final resting place of notables such as Bobby Jones and Margaret Mitchell. Oakland is also home to many ancient oaks and magnolia trees, art and sculpture. When the cemetery was first established, it was designed in the “new” rural garden tradition that was a forerunner of the public park. It still operates today as a park. People in the early 19th century picnicked and communed there. Sunday was a day where families gathered to tend their dead. More acreage was added to accommodate fallen confederate soldiers as the civil war raged through Atlanta. At this time, Jews were buried apart from Christians and African Americans apart from them. The last sites were sold in 1884, but we saw a grave as recent as 2012 in a family plot. The cemetery fell into serious disrepair some time in the 20th century as people moved away and lost touch with their ancestors. In the seventies it was declared a historic landmark and government and public funding has restored a large part of it to it’s former glory. The cemetery has a 10 stage refurbishing plan, dependent on funding. As we walked through today, we could not help but notice that the African American section is in serious decline.

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Oakland 005The sun is now pretty much directly over head and molten. Still we persevere and decide beers are in order and maybe a little BBQ. This is silly because there is no such thing as a little BBQ. In any event, we spied a place on the way over this morning, Daddy D’z.

Bluebird&DaddyDz 006Daddy’s is hard to miss. It is total homemade shack. Gaily painted with African American culture and a hammered together smoker out back it screams “Good BBQ Inside!”

Bluebird&DaddyDz 010We order a couple of beers and some small plates. 4 ribs and two sides. I ask for just one side of mac and cheese as it is seriously almost too hot to eat.

Bluebird&DaddyDzB 008I get six ribs and a double order of mac and cheese plus a huge chunk of really good cornbread…sigh I really hate to waste food especially when an animal died to provide it, but I just can’t eat these quantities. Rob orders the small plate as well, with really good collards and yams as sides. It comes piled high and he can’t finish it either.

Bluebird&DaddyDz 012Ooh yeah. The ribs. Excellent, beauty pink smoke ring, perfect bark. Comes with either spicy or sweet sauce. We chose sweet. It was everything you could want in a sweet sauce, thick and tangy.

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Bluebird&DaddyDzB 009Back to the hotel to escape the heat and regroup and maybe a siesta. For our final evening in Atlanta, we choose a Triple D joint, Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in. Food is cheap and homemade. Rob whispered earlier that I could eat in the car! This is one of my dirty secrets. I hate going into fast food places to eat. I love to eat it in my car. Rob hates to eat in the car.

Varsity 001Varsity is not too busy this Sunday evening as we pull into a parking spot. Immediately a young carhop, #47 comes by shouting “What’ll ya have?”

Varsity 004Rob’s having the chili slaw dog and I’m having the hamburger. We both try the homemade, hand dipped onion rings, a fried peach pie and a small frosted orange.

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Food arrives window side quickly. I only order onion rings if they are fresh not frozen. These don’t disappoint. Classic. My burger is a simple house made patty with mustard, ketchup and dill pickles. Nothing fancy. Exactly what I was looking for. The burgers are on the small side, but at $1.89, if you are still hungry you could order a second and be able to finish it.

Varsity 008Rob’s chili slaw dog was terrific. Good dog, good chili and creamy slaw, yet not messy and easy to eat. The frosted orange was amazing. A dreamsicle in a cup. Icy cold. The fried peach pie was not terribly memorable. The peaches we good quality in a sugary syrup, but the crust was quite thin and didn’t hold together very well for eating by hand.

Varsity 009I long for the old days of McDonald’s fried fruit pies. (Editors note: Ignore that last sentence — she’s a loon.)  #47 pops by to pick up trash. Tomorrow we head for Savannah.

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Diners: Hamie’s

Hamie’s Diner on Beechwood Ave is the third attempt in our series to find great, irony-free diners. Hamie’ s lacks the homemade, family-run charm of our previous finds but makes up for it with simple, classic diner fare and friendly wait staff that make you feel at home immediately. The diner is medium sized, seats about 60, and is pleasantly busy with an audible but not overwhelming din on this sunny Sunday morning in early July. Vinyl booths are smallish but counter stools and a few cafe tables offer alternatives.

Street parking is easy to find this particular morning. We head inside take a window seat. Our fellow diners are clearly locals, not tourists. Hamie’s is a neighbourhood joint. Our waitress, pleasant and efficient, welcomes us and gets us coffee and juice. Juice comes in a bottle. Coffee is thin and not to my liking, but I am hardly a connoisseur. Don’t go by me, I’m a Timmie’s girl.  We peruse the menu of diner breakfast classics for the most part, and I will forgive the gender friendly Lumberjack/Jill selections and Atkin’s specials. We both order the Lumberjack breakfast which includes two pancakes, home fries, toast, bacon, ham or sausage and two eggs. Mine is coming with bacon and white toast, Rob’s with sausage and rye toast. The rye toast is $1.00 extra and jam for the toast is 25 cents. I don’t care about the money but this nickle-and-diming leaves a negative impression. Add 25 cents to to the cost of all your menu items and put jam on the table. After placing our orders I noticed a small sign that said cash only. This belongs on the front door.

Our food arrives very quickly. Eggs are perfect, pancakes are rich and fluffy – this means they have a kickass short order cook back there. Our toast is well- buttered – I forego jam because it annoys me to ask and since the eggs are a perfect over medium I’ll use it to soak up yolk. My bacon is good but could be a little crisper for my taste. Rob’s good quality breakfast links are split open and fried on the flat top which makes them especially tasty. The home fries, pan-fried not deep fried, are very good. No throw away garnishes on the plate which pleases me. On the whole, breakfast was very good and we would return if we were in the area. $26.20 plus tip.

Hamie's Diner on Urbanspoon

 

Texas Mish-Mash

Today was a patchwork day. Maureen and I went to an old Austin favourite for Breakfast, took a drive to San Antonio for Lunch, and ate sports event concession food for dinner.

Magnolia Cafe South on UrbanspoonThe day started with a trip to the Magnolia Cafe. it’s one of the most popular cafes in the hip SoCo (South Congress Avenue) district — a funky (overused term when describing things in Austin) 24-hour joint with an eclectic menu that described the cross-section of cultures here — cowboy favourites sit along side Mexican dishes. Diner food mingles with upscale eats.

Although the entire menu is available 24hrs a day, we were there for breakfast. Migas is a popular Tex-Mex breakfast item, scrambled eggs with onion, cheese, tortilla chips, served with tortillas and salsa and refried beans on the side. At Magnolia, there’s an option to order the “Love Migas” where the entire dish is cooked in garlic butter and serrano chilies. We opt for that, please!

The place is also celebrated for its plate-sized pancakes and we order one each — gingerbread for Maureen and I opt for the cornmeal pancake, continuing my love affair with all things corn.

Our breakfasts arrive and the aroma rises to make us want to roll around in the plate. The garlic, cheese, heat from the serranos are heaven when the eggs and beans and house-made chunky salsa are piled into a fresh, hot flour tortilla and eaten taco style. It makes for a creamy, eggy, spicy experience that’s totally unique to the Magnolia Cafe.

On to the pancakes: Maureen’s gingerbread pancake has the same rich hue of good gingerbread, but it has the soft and fluffy texture of a pancake, a real winning combo. My cornmeal pancake has great corn-cake flavour and a coarse texture from the cornmeal — great with butter and syrup.

We hit the road to check out some of the small towns (Gruene and New Braunfels) on the way to San Antonio to tour it’s famous Riverwalk — a peaceful, meandering canal through the heart of San Antonio. Constructed with a great deal of forethought and vision for the city, it’s overhung with Magnolia trees, filled with singing birds (important to us Canadians who have missed them for the last several months), and lined with plantings, fountains, cafes and shops. Some stretches of the canal reach into historic districts. Tour boats and water taxis move up river, some with bandoliers, and or microphoned tour guides.

Ibiza on UrbanspoonAfter walking some distance, checking out the sights, we were heavily motivated to have a seat at a sidewalk cafe and enjoy the warmth of the sun (it had been overcast and a little chilly (for Texans – still t-shirt weather for Canadians) since we’ve arrived. We chose Ibiza, an eatery that specializes in Latin cuisine, with Mexico, Cuba, Spain and others well-represented on the menu. We order the Cubano sandwich, which has the traditional ham, roast pork, cheese, pickles and mustard in a toasted roll. Ibiza decided to fore-go the pressing of the sandwich and left the roll in it’s full-volume state. Mixed veggie chips accompanied the sandwich and we washed it all down with a couple Blue Moons. The roast pork was excellent and was definitely the star of the show. As well, the Cubano depends on the combination of salty ham and pork, the creaminess of the cheese and the sharpness of plain old yellow mustard and pickle to provide it’s iconic flavour profile. Even though the sandwiches weren’t pressed, these satisfied the yen.

We headed back to Austin via I-35 — as depressing a stretch of road as you’re likely to find. Chain restaurants, one after another on both sides of the roads for miles and miles, broken up by gas stations, low-end hotels, warehouses and the odd outlet mall were the only view. It reminded us yet again, why we have a strict no interstates, no chain restaurants rule on our road trips.

We had to get back to Austin because we had tickets to the season opener of TXRD all-womens’ Roller Derby. Austin is the epicentre of the resurgence of this sport, blending more actual sport and less Wrestlemania-style they do inject some light-hearted fun into their version of the sport. There are local rock bands playing in the breaks and punishment for minor penalties are assessed by spinning a wheel. Punishments involve the potential to give up points if a penalized player loses a contest, such as a pillow fight, arm-wrestling, a tug-of-war or a two lap track race. However game play is serious and highly athletic, and there’s plenty of bone-crushing contact between players to keep the audience on their feet. There’s a punk rock aesthetic to the whole roller derby scene in Austin that keeps it a great venue for watching people letting their freak flag fly. It was a great time.

Jackalope on UrbanspoonAnother thing we liked about it was the concession food. Sure, you could get pizza and hot dogs, but you could also get some highly inventive fare from Jackalope, a local eatery. In addition to items like a jalapeno Texas hot-link dipped in orange pancake batter and deep-fried as their take on a corn dog, they had one item that was too intriguing to not order: jicima and cabbage slaw with Cap’n Crunch and couscous crusted fried chicken with green chile ranch dressing on top all served in a bacon waffle cone. This was easy to hold, easy to eat and man, was it good. Sweet, savoury with a nice bite from the slaw and heat from the green chile ranch. The chicken was tender and juicy and Cap’n Crunch is an inspired choice as breading material for fried chicken… well, fried ANYTHING for that matter.

In case you were wondering, the Holy Rollers beat the Putas Del Fuego in a close 54-51 match with the Putas putting on a major comeback push that made it a nail biter. It was a great day across a couple cities. We ended the night with a major crash and slept in on Monday.