Tag Archives: pulled pork

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.

Jethro’s is Fine

Our first morning in Vancouver scouting ‘hoods brings us to Dunbar and a small Triple D eatery called Jethro’s Fine Grub. The black, white and grey minimalist joint sits about 30-some.

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Every single seat, whether on purpose or not, I can’t tell, needs reupholstering, but are comfy. Noisy, overly so, with a nondescript soundtrack, families and local teens, it has an ambitious and very interesting menu. Lots of takes on Southern USA classics.

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Two menu choices interest me immediately, chicken fried steak and the breakfast burrito – wet. I will choose the steak if it is made fresh. Our friendly, well inked waitress tells me they bring it in fresh then freeze it. Sigh. What can you expect north of the Mason-Dixon line? So I go with the burrito. Rob will have the “South of Denver” omelette.

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My burrito is ginormous. I manage only half of it. Too bad because it is delish. Chocked full of  a fluffy egg omelette, well made cafe potatoes (Jethro’s passes the potato test), green chilies, tomatoes, avocado, onions and chunks of spicy chorizo. The burrito, served up fresh, not reheated under a salamander, is tasty and not smothered in guacamole or sour cream. Instead it is served by request – wet. Wet is a well made, peppery, white cream gravy.

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Rob’s omelette was full of excellent pulled pork, coarsely pulled and lightly sauced allowing the sweet, smoky pork to shine, onions and jalapenos. He subbed in their corn cake for toast. The cake was exactly what he had hoped for, a high proportion of corn meal with spices and jalapeno peppers baked right in. Excellent.

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Jethro’s is a creative gem of a breakfast spot. There are several menu items we would love to try. A peek at the lunch menu confirmed that this place needs to be returned to. Just don’t come with a hangover.

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Red Wagon Cafe

Today, our last day in Vancouver, also happens to be our 29th wedding anniversary. The sun is glorious and we plan on spending the day sightseeing and checking out a few more neighborhoods, notably Davie Village.

Gotta fuel up first. Rob decided on another Triple D joint…on East Hastings! We visited this “quaint” neighborhood last night because we had tickets to see a comedian at the Rickshaw Theatre. Yikes! We made a hasty exit after the show, hoped to find a cab and swore never to return. But alas that all went out the window as we decided to check out Red Wagon Cafe in the light of day. A Streetview Google confirmed it was many blocks from the war zone we walked into last night.

We have been really lucky with parking in the city and scored a spot right in front of the restaurant where we could see the car. I do think our hubcaps were safe here but one never knows. A small crowd was gathered around outside waiting for tables. A young staffer came out and offered around fresh, warm, sugared doughnut holes. This may have kept the crowd from defecting to the absolutely empty Asian restaurant next door (also could have been the no public restrooms, no phones, cash only welcoming sign in the window) but I expect it was more likely the expectation of great food that lay within.

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Red Wagon Cafe is one of only 6 Triple D joints in the entire city. We have been fortunate to get to two on this whirlwind tour. After a ten minute wait we are seated. It appears that Red Wagon does not seat two at a four top so a wait can be unpredictable. When we left there were people who had arrived before us still waiting.

Decorated mostly in vintage coca cola chic, the ambiance is punctuated by a few quirky objects d’art such as an industrial sized whisk with a plastic shark caught up in it for added interest. A tiny red Radio Flyer wagon has a home in a corner near the kitchen. Overall the cafe feels homey, well worn and welcoming.

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Coffee and water arrive quickly with menus. There are four things at least that attract me immediately, but I settle for the Super Trucker with pulled pork pancakes, pork belly, sourdough toast (rye toast for Rob), home fries and 2 eggs. For an additional charge you can have your maple syrup spiked with JD. Well worth it. Two notes here: I am not a huge fan of pulled pork. Quite often I find it bland, pasty in texture and over sauced. Secondly I rarely order sweet stuff such as pancakes for breakfast. It was more the eggs and pork belly I was after here. Yes I could have had them separately. Not sure what I was thinking. I was, perhaps, blindsided by the prospect of spiked maple syrup.

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Food arrives in about ten to twelve minutes. Wow! Looks amazing. The pork belly, thick, not all fat, is crisped up perfectly. My eggs are a perfect over medium as requested.

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The home fries are excellent, perfectly tender new potatoes dressed with a little bacon and green onion. A hallmark for a breakfast place for Rob and I are the potatoes. Deep frying cubes of potatoes casts suspicion on everything else the kitchen does — an unacceptable shortcut. Red Wagon’s potatoes are among the best we have had. It’s the little things that show a kitchen’s passion for what they serve.

I taste the pulled pork which is piled on top of the buttermilk inch-thick pancakes before dousing them in spiked syrup. This is the best pulled pork I have ever had, knocking Rob’s into second place. The texture is perfect. Not pasty. A little crisped up on the flat top maybe. Tender, sweet, salty and garlicky with some definite chili heat. This pulled pork needs no sauce. It stands alone. The pancakes are a perfect bed for the pork. Light and fluffy, quite amazing on their own, but raised to another dimension when soaked with JD spiked maple syrup.

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This was one of the best breakfast/brunch experiences we have had on the road since Jam in Portland, Oregon.

Off we go into the famous Vancouver sunshine for our final day of exploring. Next up: The Rocky Mountaineer through the Rockies to Calgary!

 

 

 

RT6 – To Burlington, VT

Got up this morning to another gorgeous summer day. Got a walk in, spent some time with my kitties and hit the road around 11 am. The pale summer sky has a pinky-gold wash. Ahhhh…nothing like the open road  — very uplifting to a spirit with wanderlust. We pass cottagers returning home, colourful kayaks strapped to roofs, hawks wheeling over late July corn, the ever-changing wildflower palette  and the beautiful, peaceful farms of Eastern Ontario. We cross the International border at Cornwall and head into Mohawk land, past mom and pop smoke shops, casino signs and souvenir stops.

We travel on and enter upper New York state’s Amish country. We don’t encounter any horse and buggies this pretty Sunday. Our progress through the state takes us to small town America, past tiny, neat churches, volunteer fire departments, dilapidated trailers, pretty houses with front porches and waving American flags, horses grazing contentedly, their long tails swishing away flies , an abundance of abandoned farm implements as lawn ornamentation and cows. Lots and lots of cows. We cruise into picturesque Rouse’s Point and cross the bridge over sparkling Lake Champlain into Vermont, the green mountain state.

My entire view is green, green, green, hazy with mountains, blue sky and pure white cloud. My only regret is passing incredible, rustically beautiful barns and livestock sheds in a variety of stages of decay, many invaded by wildflowers, and not being able to stop and photograph each and every one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shortly we exit from our brief stint on I-89 into downtown Burlington, a quaint college town on Lake Champlain. Hope to explore a bit of the main drag before continuing on to Portland tomorrow.

Relaxing in my hotel room, I am treated to a beautiful view of the lake, dotted with sailboats, a mountain rising in the distance and more stark, white clouds. We decide on an early dinner and head out to Farmhouse Tap and Grill, a nice walk from our hotel.

The Farmhouse Tap and Grill is immediately comfortable, with a hip college vibe, but is populated with couples young and old, and young families with well-behaved little ones. This does not appear to be a hangout for students. Maybe they come later – it’s only 6pm. We decide to eat inside as the day is still quite hot. The Farmhouse, open in front with raised glass garage doors, has a breezy, pleasant atmosphere. Decor is chalkboard hipster with distressed wood tables, chairs and padded benches. No annoying music of any kind. Good date kind of place.

The menu at Farmhouse is small, eclectic and makes use of the best local product. The beer menu is extensive and unique. It includes a $45 Brooklyn Black Ops. Our server brings us an unexpected amuse bouche of asparagus in a mustard vinaigrette, incorrectly labeled aioli. This is the only misstep in the entire meal. Our server though barely shaving, is subtly charming and very knowledgeable. The menu features Vermont cheeses and we wish to choose a combination that is not offered. Not a problem. He goes over our beer choices with us, Doghead Fish Festiva Peche, a sour wheat beer with a hint of peach, and Allagash, a Belgian white, and is able to comment intelligently. We also order the house made pickled vegetables.

Our cheese platter includes a Cobb Hill Ascutney Mountain firm cheese, Green Mountain Boucher Blue and a Champlain Valley Triple Cream, a smear of apple butter and some crisps. All three cheeses are high quality. The blue is creamy, medium strength in flavour and outstanding overall. The pickled veggies are a quick pickle of cucumber and fennel. Lightly sweet, vinegary, crisp and excellent. The Doghead brew, a sipper, nicely compliments the cheese course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had not ordered dinner at this point and our server returns to see if we would like anything more. I order the buttermilk fried chicken with potato puree, fresh farm greens dressed in blue cheese and El Cortijo buffalo sauce (a habanero based sauce from a sister restaurant specializing in Authentic Mexican).

Rob orders the pulled pork, cornbread and apple cabbage slaw. Since we are walking, we decide to indulge in more alcohol. Rob has been actively studying the beer menu to this point and orders a $25 bottle (large) of Allagash Victoria Ale, a Belgian style beer brewed with Chardonnay grapes for me and a Scottish Crabbie’s Ginger Beer for himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our meals arrive  at a relaxing pace (the joint is full and there are people waiting but there is no rush). My chicken is sublime. Boneless breast meat battered and fried perfectly, pairs wonderfully with the peppery greens and light blue cheese dressing. The habanero sauce lends big heat that is tempered by the potato puree. By all accounts, a truly outstanding entree. Robs’ pulled pork received a B grade (although his high standards are shaped by the outstanding pulled pork of North Carolina). The cornbread was sweet but freshly baked in a oiled skillet with a golden crust.

We opted out of dessert but were severely tempted by what was carried to other tables. The Farmhouse Tap and Grill, a real treat,  was recommended to us by a fellow Ottawa Foodie, a great community, resource and fount of knowledge. Check them out at www.Ottawafoodies.com.
Farmhouse Tap and Grill on Urbanspoon

We walked back to our hotel room, to be treated by the sun setting over Lake Champlain. First day of road trip 5 is in the books.