Saturday Brunch: Fried Chicken & Waffles

I’ll be honest, before a few years ago, I had never tasted fried chicken and waffles. I remember hearing about it and thinking that it was a very odd combination. Then, I attempted my first stab at the southern dish via Bobby Flay. After that, I tried a few restaurant versions and determined to create my own twist on the classic. Continue reading “Saturday Brunch: Fried Chicken & Waffles”

It Was All A Dream About Tennessee

Everyone should take a road trip at least once in their lifetime. It doesn’t matter where you go, just pick a place, pack a bag – or three – and head out for the open road. As it so happens, I recently got back from my first road trip to Tennessee.

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In the wee hours of the morning, my friend, her mother, and  I set out for the highway. Nashville is about 10 hours from Baltimore. With coffee, snacks, and audio books on deck, we were ready to take off. Now, if you are a road trip newbie, such as myself, be sure you pack a mini cooler of water, snacks, and chocolate. You know, the essentials. With the long road ahead, you don’t want to have to make a lot of stops for food. The more you prepare, the better off you’ll be.

Day One: Nashville at Night

We checked in to our hotel in Brentwood, TN. This town is only 10 minutes from the downtown Nashville. Our hotel featured complimentary parking, hot breakfast, and WiFi. There was also a pool and 24 hr gym. Since we were staying in Nashville for the longest time, we decided to splurge a bit for comfort.

My friend’s mother had originally set up the trip to Tennessee to meet up with a former co-worker of hers and my friend and I tagged along to check another state off our bucket list. Once we met up with our local host, we piled into her car and headed out for Nashville. Now, I’ll admit, I had my own preconceived notions of what Nashville would be like. However, I was quiet surprised to find Nashville a lot younger than I originally thought. Loud voices and even louder cowboy boots greeted us as we walked down the sidewalks, overspilling with tourists, guitarists, and bachelorette parties.

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Nashville is a very happening city. The bars were packed to the gills when we arrived and it was only 7pm. The bar we settled on was a little three story, live music establishment called Honky Tonk Central. And by little, I mean massive. We climbed the towering stairs and pushed our way through the romper clad sorority girls and found a table along the open balcony windows. My friend and I looked at each and said in unison, “It’s so loud”. At least, I think that’s what we said. It was pretty loud in there. After a round of Tennessee beers and mediocre bar food, we bid Honky Tonk adieu and set out to make one more sweep of downtown Nashville. IMG_9175With an over abundance of boot retailers, smelly horse carriages, and neon signs, Nashville is not for the faint at heart. Or weary road traveller. We snapped a few pictures and decided to retreat to our hotel room. My friend and I exchanged weary looks that said it all, “Yep, we’re officially old.”

Days Two & Three: Hey, It’s Franklin!

Now, if you’re a thirty something year old who enjoys quaint shops, good food and a more subdued pace, then Franklin is where you need to visit. Set a few miles southwest of Nashville and Brentwood, Franklin held a charming main street, that featured shops, bars, restaurants, a movie theater and historical site attractions. My friend and I were all to ready for a easy day of window shopping and eating good food. IMG_9179

Our first stop was Puckett’s Boathouse. I recommend trying a local, Tennessee brew and the turkey burger. I also recommend the shrimp and grits hush puppies and eggplant lettuce wraps. As well as the veggie burger and…. you know what? Just pick anything and eat it. It’s all good.

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This remodeled old theatre was playing new releases, but looked way to quaint to leave in color. I think the black and white does it proper justice.  But Franklin wasn’t all old timey buildings. I literally squealed with delight when I saw the Anthropologie store front across the street. I couldn’t help myself, I had to do a walk through. It was amazing.

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Housed in an old pharmacy store, Gray’s on Main is a lovely bar/restaurant with new American cuisine and post prohibition drinks. This was a much better scene for my friend and I than Honky Tonk the previous night. The bartender had selected a lovely mix of big band songs that helped us drift away into the summer night. Although, it could have also been the two cocktails we each had. Tourist tip: the drinks are strong and goooood!

Day Four: Memphis Or Bust

After checking out of the hotel, we walked around Nashville one last time before bidding farewell and booking it to Memphis.

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We arrived in Memphis right at sunset. After dropping off our bags in the hotel, we walked to the downtown area and got dinner. Huey’s in Memphis offered good food, reasonable prices, and a fun atmosphere. After filling our bellies, we headed further down to the waterfront area just in time for the most glorious sunset I’ve ever seen.

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Memphis has an amazing waterfront area that features a sprawling park, a paved running/walking path and even a little sprinkler water area for kids. It was a nice breath of fresh air to walk leisurely around the downtown area without running into a thousand tourists and their kids. Memphis seemed to have a slightly older demographic, with young professionals going about their daily lives- working, exercising, and hanging out with friends. After a few requisite photo ops, my friend’s mom called it a night early and headed back to the hotel. Feeling revitalized by the sunset, my friend and I wandered up to The Flying Saucer Emporium . With over three pages of beers listed in their drink menu, we were in heaven. After selecting our brews, we half-assed playing a round of trivia. And by half-assed, I mean we sat at the bar and guessed at the trivia questions that were displayed on a screen. How’d we do? Let’s just say we didn’t break any records.

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With the night still you, we settled our check, decided to take a look at the infamous Beale Street, to see what all the fuss was about. Tourist Tip: go to Beale Street at night and if can help it, do it when they have a car show. Dozens of vintage cars lined the street as police officers stood by directing traffic and securing the blocked streets.

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Even with the car show and summer tourists, Beale Street was not as overwhelming and claustrophobic as Nashville’s main strip. Plus, the live music was better. I’ve got nothing against country music, but the blues and rock and roll take the cake every time. In my humble opinion.

IMG_9354We couldn’t get away from these damn horse carriages. I know people like to ride in them, but they honestly make the entire area smell like shit and urine. Plus, the horses look miserable. Maybe this tradition can fade out? Please?

Day Five: Graceland 

On our last day in Memphis, we started early and hit Beale Street and the downtown marketplace to take more pictures. I loved having the freedom to just wander through the streets, no real target in mind.

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The afternoon heat began to intensify, so  we ended up taking the self guided tour at the Museum of Rock an Soul. If you have the time, I highly recommend it. It’s a bit lengthy, but super informative and just plan fun. Bonus, the music is awesome and the costumes and vintage items are really cool to see up close.

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My friend would also probably kill me if she knew I didn’t at least mention the march of the Peabody Ducks. It happens at 11 am and 5 pm.  in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel. There, I said it. DSCN1349

If you’re ever dragged (joking, I went willingly) along to watch ducks march from the elevator to the lobby fountain, bring you camera. The Peabody Hotel is a beautiful building take pictures of, so there’s that.

DSCN1347DSCN1340No trip to Memphis would be complete with at least a quick trip to Graceland. Now, I enjoy Elvis’ music as much as the next guy – okay, probably not as much- but I was not going to pay $40 for a tour of his former house. On our way to get my friend incredible vegan food from Imagine Cafe and me the best fried chicken that Uncle Lou’s could offer we took a quick drive by Graceland. Totally worth the $40 each we didn’t have to spend.

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If you’re ever in Memphis (and why wouldn’t you be?)  please travel to Imagine Vegan Cafe (best vegan black forest cake ever!) and to Uncle Lou’s for some amazing fried chicken. Get the spicy sweet love sauce (it comes in mild and hot). You’re welcome.

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Day 6: If You Only Know Jack, You Don’t Know Dickel

On our last day in Tennessee we took a quick detour to the George Dickel distillery. I recommend calling ahead to figure out timing of your arrival. They don’t have the tour times on the website, but the free tour was 45 minutes and the extended tour and tasting was an hour and cost $10. We did the free tour because we weren’t really in the mood to drink whisky at 11 am before a 10 hour drive back to Bmore.

 
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I loved getting to see Tennessee and experience two of it’s liveliest cities. That being said, I’m definitely an east coast girl. The slow pace of the south is nice for vacation, but way to slow for my restless legs.

Fall for Beer!

Ah, Fall brings out the best seasonal beers. From pumpkin ales to Octoberfest beers, Fall is by far- in my humble opinion- the most treasured beer season! And to go along with these hearty beers, one must have equally hearty and fulfilling meals.

Now, if you’re looking for light, or low calorie options, I don’t have any. When it comes to beer, I go balls to wall, all out. Sometimes, you just have to drink the damn beer and exercise later.

Paulaner Marzen paired with Grilled Pizza 

           

I love a good, cold, Paulaner Marzen. It is one of my favorite beers of all time and it only makes sense to drink it with one of my favorite foods of all time- pizza.

Sam Adams Oktoberfest paired with a Bison Burger 

      

Hmm, I’m getting hungry and thirsty just looking at these pictures. I haven’t even tasted a Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer yet this season (its been too warm) but now that it’s cooler, I am ready to dive in. And what better to eat with it, than a juicy bison burger?

Brooklyn Brewery Post Road Pumpkin Ale paired with Turkey Chili

       

A good turkey chili recipe should be in everyone’s reserve. The savory chili will nicely compliment the slightly sweet pumpkin ale. It’s going to be a good Fall. Yes indeed!

All beer, all weekend

This past weekend some friends and I had the opportunity to attend the Belgium Comes To Cooperstown (BCTC) festival at the Ommegang Brewery in- you guessed it- Cooperstown, NY. In order to attend the festival on the cheap, we all signed up to volunteer. Now, don’t go shaking your head at me. We got mad swag. Sike, we got a little swag: volunteer t-shirt and 4-pack of beer. However, we did get to attend and camp at the pricey festival for free.

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I wasn’t sure what to pack, but I decided tanks, jean cut offs, and Chucks were probably a safe bet.

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Now, I know it’s summer time and festivals are rampant, but a beer festival does tend to lean heavy on the male population, so I decided to take in the gentlemanly fashions while there.

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If you get the  chance to go (look at you, Richie Rich) I highly suggest it. It was a good time with great friends. Camping out for the weekend wasn’t that bad- it only rained Friday night- and Ommegang supplied showers and plenty of port-a-potties with hand washing stations.

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Here’s what you’re making for dinner tonight

When the warm weather comes around, I struggle to find something to eat that isn’t too time consuming or heat intensive. There was one summer where I pretty much lived off of chicken salad made from rotisserie chicken. I didn’t have to cook the chicken and the chicken salad could be eaten cold. It was perfect. I have yet to find that level of perfection again in any other facet of my life, despite many desperate attempts.  How often can you say that something you have craved not only fits perfectly into your life, but also is also seasonally appropriate and tastes good? Presenting, Shrimp Scampi! This dish is not only delicious, but it isn’t a heavy meal that sits in your stomach like a lead brick. You can eat a meal like shrimp scampi and look out your window and pretend you’re on the Mediterranean and some gorgeous Italian waiter is just about to bring you your refill of pinot grigio. Feel that breeze. Smell the ocean. Hear the birds and waves crashing. Now snap out of it and go make this meal!

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Sauteing your shrimp in both olive oil and butter seems so wrong, and yet so good.

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Yes I Instagramed my food. I do it all the time.

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These are two of my favorite white wines. I am not normally a chardonnay fan, but I will admit to enjoying one or two of Francis Ford Coppola’s chardonnays.