Public Service Announcement for French Tourists

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Well, it’s a rainy night in Paris and I’m sitting by the Seine

It’s a pleasure to be soaking in the European rain.

Now my belly’s full of fancy food and wine

Oh, but in the morning there’ll be hell to pay

Somewhere along the line.—Billy Joel from “Somewhere Along the Line”

 

The above lyrics are from one of my favorite Billy Joel songs.

On our recent trip to Paris, I ate wonderful food.  So what could be the problem that would elicit a public service announcement from Big Surf Daddy?

Now we didn’t have any rainy nights in Paris and with three toddlers, we didn’t sit by the Seine.  We didn’t eat much fancy food, but we did have some good wine.  It’s the next line that matters…

If you aren’t accustomed to eating rich cheeses and breads in your diet, you may need to introduce them into your stay in France gently.  I ate as much bread and cheese as I could the first few days.  Well “Somewhere Along the Line” came pretty quickly.

I had to make a stop at the local pharmacie in Brunoy, where we were staying for the week.  You see, cheese has a binding property in your digestive tract…you get the gist of this problem.

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The local pharmacie had the answer.  I was eating cheese and bread the next day.

Enjoy the cheese and bread in France, just don’t cram it in like I did.  France has been making great breads and cheeses for centuries, so they will be there tomorrow.

 

Eating in Paris…Deuxième Partie (part two)

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How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?—Julia Child

 

I know Julia Child was NOT talking about France when she said this.

We recently spent a few days in Paris over the Christmas holiday with our immediate family.  We met up with my son, his wife and two year- old daughter.  My daughter-in-law is going to be a mother again in about three months.  So “bun in the oven” continues in the bread theme here.

We also traveled with my daughter and her husband and her two children, ages two and one.

So based on what you know for now, if you tuned in to an episode of fine French dining experiences on these pages, you may be disappointed. Parisienne dining “adventures” may be more apropos for our days in Paris.  Afterall if you want to have a fine dining triumph in Paris, sharing it with three toddlers is probably not the way to go.  However we did eat some really good food. Of course, it goes without saying that our breads, wines, and cheeses were good everywhere.

The photo above is a nice cafe decorated for the Christmas season.  We did not eat here.  Are you kidding?  Look at those lights on the tables, how long do you think those would last?  But alas, you can dream in Paris can’t you?

So let me give some advice to those who want to go to Paris with small children.  It’s good to research cafes and restaurants before you go, but be ready to chunk those plans and make decisions on the run, depending on the mood of one of the children.  So most of our restaurant choices depended on who could accommodate a double stroller and a single stroller and where would be the least likely place to start an international incident.

Our first meal was a late lunch in the Latin Quarter, Cafe St. Victor.  We were ready to eat and did not want to walk anymore and they met all of the above criteria for our group.  The bonus for us… the service was really good and the waitress was so good and patient, especially with teaching me how to eat escargot with meat hooks for hands.

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Cafe St. Victor, near Notre Dame in the Latin Quarter.

 

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We shared a good assorted cheese plate for starters.

 

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I loved the escargot even though the utensils were quite cumbersome for me.  My dissection skills were long forgotten from college biology. In the end our waitress brought me a toothpick and said this may be better.  Just dig them out.  She was such a good soul.

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Mrs. Big Surf, had one of her favorite dishes, French Onion soup.  I wonder if they just call it onion soup over there.   Anywho, she loved it.

 

Our next stop was a real treat for me. We found Odette on Rue Galande in the 5th arrondissement in the Latin Quarter.  We bought some of their famous choux a la cremes.  This was a very good decision for all involved.

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So we had to wash down these lovely cream puffs with some hot chocolate and we found it at Shakespeare and Company Cafe.

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The hot chocolate was really good but it wasn’t the best we had.  This cafe is across from Notre Dame, with a good view of the famous cathedral.

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This was the best hot chocolate and some say the best in Paris.  Angelina is a famous tea room and cafe with a history as rich as its hot chocolate.  Ask for the African hot chocolate and as an additional treat get some of their memorable Mont Blancs.

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These are the Mont Blancs.  6 Euros each.

 

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Angelina is across from the Louvre so there are lots of people in the area. There will be a long line outside, but if you want to get your hot chocolate and Mont Blancs to go, you can circumvent the line and go on in to the bakery. We made the mistake of standing in line for about 45 minutes before we figured it out.  You’re welcome.

For the best meal, I went against my general rule of dining in famous cities, don’t eat near popular tourist stops.  I try to go at least two blocks away, however there are always exceptions to the rules, again especially when the children are ready to get out of the strollers.

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Our most memorable meal in Paris for the week was Le General cafe.   The Arc de Triomphe could be seen from the outside tables.  We dined for lunch here before going to the aforementioned Arc.  We were so thrilled with this meal. We ate outside. The heaters were going and I even took my coat off, it was really pleasant to eat outside in December.

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You can see the Arc de Triomphe from La General.

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Mrs. Big Surf and I, and my daughter, ate this wonderful dish of scallops on a bed of risotto made with squid ink.  This was my first experience eating squid ink and I must say, this was the best dish I had all week.

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Since this was an early afternoon meal, my son and daughter-in-law has this good-looking and tasty dish.

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My son-in-law had the chicken fricassee with linguine.

 

Later we stopped into one of the many creperies in Paris.  I was not in the mood for a crepe so I had some good coffee.  Most of our group had a sweet crepe here and loved them, my wife ordered off the menu for a chicken crepe and she did not like it, but in the defense of the creperie it was not the chicken crepe on the menu. They had a spicy chicken crepe that she wasn’t in the mood for.  All-in-all a success … since the children liked it.

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After spending some time at the Eiffel Tower on our last night in Paris, we decided to walk over to Rue Cler for our last meal in Paris.  We found a small cafe called L’Eclair.

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We loved this cafe.  They were very accepting of our children even though it was fairly crowded.  We all had good food and a very enjoyable time here.

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My wife and most of our group had the classic French sandwich called a Crouque Monsieur, kind of a toasted ham and cheese sandwich.  Some of our group had a variation served with a fried egg on top called a Croque Madame.

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I had a flank steak with a sauce made from olives and capers.  So tasty.

 

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At L’Eclaire, we dined under the glow of this neon sign saying, NO BAD DAYS.

This seemed to sum up our time in Paris, there were no bad days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brunoy, France…A Charming Stay Outside Paris

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Je suis sous le charme…I am under the charm.

 

I fell under the charm of Brunoy (pronounced Broon-wah), a community southeast of Paris, France. It has a long history of residences and the town developed during the Gallo-Roman era.

We reunited with part of our family for Christmas and spent a week in this lovely, mainly residential burb, about a forty minute train ride outside of Paris. We rented a lovely house about a ten minute walk from the train station. We were six adults and three children ages two, two, and one.  Yeah, I know what you are thinking…

Immediately we fell in love with the house and the surrounding neighborhood.

Our walks into the town center and the train station were very pleasant (or as pleasant as could be with three toddlers). We ate a few meals in Brunoy restaurants and we took “take away” meals back to our house.  Mainly it was our haven from the busyness and a respite from our days spent in Paris.

My wife and I had been to Paris last year and you can read about that trip in previous blogs here. However, here in Brunoy, I had the pleasure of experiencing a French community with genuine hospitality and friendliness.  The shop owners and workers were so nice and I felt they went out of their way to help us when we needed it.

So if you have the opportunity to stay in Brunoy and visit Paris, I highly recommend it.  The prices in Brunoy are cheaper than Paris, the food is good, the people are friendly, and it is an easy train ride into the city center.  We caught the RER D and rode it to Gare de Lyon and made easy connections from there.  The only issue we encountered was two strollers and many stairs.  But we had six adults and on one occasion a very helpful Brunoyen to help out the ladies when the men left them after a very rare miscommunication.

The following are photos of this charming town.

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A street in Brunoy with Christmas lights.

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This is the front of our rental house from Airbnb.  It was an excellent place to stay.

 

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Saint-Medard cathedral. Parts of this building has remains from the 12th century.

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Sidewalk on Avenue du President Kennedy.

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A skating rink in place for Christmas in front of the city building in the town center.

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This was our favorite restaurant in Brunoy.

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Eating in Brunoy, France

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In a cookie cutter world, be a macaron…

 

If you are staying in Brunoy, France for any amount of time, don’t worry…you will find good quality food.

We stayed in this small community, outside of Paris for a week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  The only time we were limited was on New Year’s Eve.  Since it was on a Monday, a lot of the restaurants were closed as is customary in the Paris area.  However, all of the bakeries and cheese shops were open.

This writing is just about the eating in Brunoy.

Now we had three small children, ages two, two, and one.  As you can imagine, sometimes eating was a challenge and most of our meals were carry out, or as they say in Europe, “take away”.

So here we go…

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My first purchase was a baguette baked with cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.  Good start to the day as we made our way to the train station to go into Paris.

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Our best meal in Brunoy was at La Rotisserie, a classic French restaurant.

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Our first course at La Rotisserie was a truffle-stuffed ravioli with a white sauce and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.  This could have been the meal.  It was so good and rich. However, there was more food to eat, as seen below.

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At La Rotisserie, I had a duck confit with green beans.  This was a really good dish but not my favorite of the night.

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My wife had the best tasting dish at La Rotisserie, duck breast with raspberry sauce.  This may have been the best thing I tasted all week.

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Our mornings usually started with someone doing the eight-minute walk into the town center and getting fresh breads, pastries, and cheeses.  All of these boulangeries (bakeries) and patisseries (pastry shops) make their breads and pastries fresh.

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Almond croissants, chocolate au pains, round loaf of bread, baguette, and a ham and cheese baked bread, all bought from the local shops.

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We had good Mediterranean food from Chez Dada.

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We took home Thai food from Chez Lin.  While waiting for our food, they brought us some assorted pickled vegetables of radishes, carrots, and cucumbers.  A nice touch.  I loved the shrimp in a red curry sauce.

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This was one of my favorite stops in Brunoy. Nice and friendly with tasty breads and pastries.

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We visited here often also.  We found some nice chocolate treats.

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I loved stopping in this cheese shop.  The people were so friendly. When I couldn’t find the restaurant where I was meeting my family, one of the employers walked me to the restaurant.

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When I had a chance for a little Big Surf Daddy time, I ducked in for a cafe au lait and a chocolate au pain at the Tabac across from the train station.  This appeared to be local gathering spot for the men of the town.  I also got some cigars here to smoke one night.

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We had excellent sushi from Okayama.

 

The following are just some of the displays in Brunoy.

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I don’t even know where this salmon slider came from but it was so good.

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A very good wine shop.

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We ordered take out from Restaurant Tajmahal.  We had butter chicken, rice, curry vegetables, stuffed bread, and lentils.  All were delicious.

On New Year’s Eve, the only restaurant we could find that was open was Lotus Bleu. It was a good find because it was so tasty.

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For New Year’s Eve, I stopped for some wine, bread, and cheese.

The macarons above are from Delices et Gourmandises in Brunoy.

As I said earlier, if you find yourself in Brunoy, France as we did, there is a really good selection of good food choices.  We had French, Mediterranean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Indian.  One night we also ordered pizza and guess what?…it was good, too.

This doesn’t even include what we ate in Paris.  That will be a later blog.  Right now I am trying to get my digestive tract to accept southern food from the USA.  Au revoir.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomatoes and Flames…Mt. Sterling, KY

 

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You better cut the pizza into four pieces because I am not hungry enough to eat six—Yogi Berra

 

I love pizza.

I know many of the few who read this blog will say the same thing.

Lately the lovely missus and I have been trying to make good pizzas at home.  So inevitably we go out to find good pizzas.  Not that we are totally incompetent in the kitchen, we just haven’t gotten the final result we want just yet. The only way I can get the pizza dough to cook at 800 degrees is to stick it in a pile of burning leaves and that just leaves it a little too smokey.

So we decided to go to the old country to find good pizza.

Now for us the “old country” turns out to be Mt. Sterling, KY. This picturesque small city was established in 1792 and if you know your Kentucky history, you will remember that this was the same year Kentucky became a state.  Mt. Sterling is one of the oldest towns in Kentucky.

A friend of mine told me about the pizza he and his wife had eaten at Tomatoes and Flames in Mt. Sterling.  Since I valued his opinion very much, we decided the hour drive would be worth it for good pizza.

 Tomatoes and Flames  is in a small intimate setting in an old building with bright yellow paint.  Most of downtown Mt. Sterling buildings are old, or historic if you prefer that term.  Just like the “old country”.

We had the Pizza Margherita.  We loved our pizza.  The Margherita pizza is simple in its ingredients and complex in its flavor.  It is so good when done right.  Let me tell you, this was done right.  It looked like the same thing we ate in Rome and it’s taste was the closest to the pizza in Italy we have had anywhere in the US.

The dough was wonderfully thin and crusty and the sauce was so good.  So simple, yet so remarkably delicious.

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The Pizza Margherita is a classic Neopolitan pizza and prepared to perfection at Tomatoes and Flames.

The bonus was being able to eat Crank and Boom ice cream that was sold in the restaurant…the icing on the pizza.

Pizza Margherita has a history that dates back to 1889 when King Umberto I and his Queen Margherita of Savoy visited Naples shortly after the unification and formation of Italy.  Legend has it they were tired of hoity-toity French cuisine and asked the most famous pizza maker for some common street food.  He provided a pizza made from tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves, which just happened to be the colors of the newly formed Italian flag (red, white and green).

The alternative theory is it was named after the Italian word for “daisy” which is margherita.  Evidently the shape of the pizza with the toppings resembled a daisy.  I’m going with the first theory.  That is what was told to us in Rome when we had our first Margherita pizza.

I am so thankful that we can get old world pizza within an hour drive at Tomatoes and Flames.

Mt. Sterling’s downtown is very picturesque and I enjoyed strolling through the streets.

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The brick oven at Tomatoes and Flames.

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You order at the counter.

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Cool door with windows.

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We never pass up Crank and Boom ice cream.

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I had a wonderful chocolate latte here at Spoonful of Sugar.

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Istanbul…in Bloom

 

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If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.—Alphonse de Lamartine

 

I don’t know if Istanbul is the most beautiful city I have ever seen, but on this day in Goztepe Park (above photo) with the tulips in bloom, it was surely one of the most memorable days I have spent abroad.

April in Istanbul is truly beautiful.  Flowers are in bloom all over the city.  I saw daisies, hyacinths, the most impressive wisteria blooms I have ever seen, and of course tulips.

We were in Istanbul in early April of this year.  We spent a lot of time in parks since we were babysitting our granddaughter while her parents were in language classes.  Leslie Knope’s head would be spinning with the landscaping budget that Istanbul procures for their parks.  I have never seen such beautiful parks in a city, so colorful with all of the flowers in bloom.

Their were two places where tulips were the most impressive. The Sultanahmet Square outside of the Hagia Sophia which has the largest bed of tulips in the world and the previously mentioned Goztepe Park.

If you love spring blooms, especially tulips and wisteria, visit Istanbul in early April.

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Blossoms outside the Blue Mosque.

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Tulips and minaret outside Hagia Sophia.

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Tulips in bloom outside the Blue Mosque.

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Wisteria and redbud blooms in one of the parks in Kadidoy.

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Landscaping in a Kadikoy park.

 

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Flowers for sale from a street vendor.

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The largest tulip bed in the world at Sultanahmet Square, outside the Hagia Sophia.

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Tulips and daisies around a fountain near the spice market.

 

The following photos are of flowers in Goztepe Park in the Kadikoy section of Istanbul.

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Mrs. Big Surf strolling and wishing for a bigger tulip budget.

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Hoscacal, Istanbul.

 

Louisville,KY…A Good Eatin’ Weekend

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A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty, has wasted thirty years of his life.—Muhammad Ali

This quote, from one of my favorite Louisvillians, sums up my approach to food over the past few years.  All my life, I was eating good food…I just didn’t know it.

My wife was developing into a superb cook, my mom fixed delicious food all my life and my mother-in-law fed me like a king. My two grandmothers were really good cooks but in different ways. I didn’t appreciate what all they did in the kitchen until lately when I started enjoying cooking.

I didn’t appreciate restaurant food until the last twenty years or so.  It was more about eating out at for a reasonable price than dining for enjoyment.

As I started my journey in the kitchen, I started paying attention more to restaurant food.  Now I tell my friends “food and cooking have become my new sport” since my knees don’t allow me to participate in a lot of sports anymore.

Well if sports have become my new metaphor for cooking, then Louisville, KY is the playing field.  Louisville has become a food destination in the culinary scene.  It has been this way for many years but is now starting to get recognized for the many fine restaurants in this wonderful city on the Ohio River.

My wife and I spent a rainy weekend in Louisville recently.  I was limited in my time, as I was in classes for two days, and it was too wet for outdoor activities, but we still got to eat.  We took every opportunity to visit some really good restaurants, some of them are not particularly well-known, but very good nonetheless.

This blog is all about the food…

First up was Whiskey Dry on a Thursday night.  This is Chef Ed Lee’s newest Louisville restaurant.  He has 610 Magnolia and Milkwood. Incidentally my wife and I agree that our favorite dish we have eaten in Louisville over the years has been Chef Lee’s pork shoulder with black barbecue sauce over coconut rice, with edamame and curry oil.  This is a staple at Milkwood.

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Whiskey Dry is the only locally owned restaurant on 4th Street Live in downtown Louisville.  It specializes in burgers paired with bourbon, very Kentucky.

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I had the Big Ed burger, a take-off of the Big Mac.  Instead of a middle bun, there is a fried green tomato.  I can’t impart the degree of deliciousness I experienced with this burger and fries.

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Our very tasty appetizer at Whiskey Dry was Pimento Cheese Curds with Chile Romesco sauce.

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This adult chocolate milkshake may have had a little bourbon in it.  This was dessert.

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Cool bar at Whiskey Dry.

 

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Friday afternoon lunch at NamNam Cafe for wonderful Vietnamese cuisine.

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Very cool table top at NamNam Cafe.

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My new culinary romance is pho. The NamNam Cafe pho is real real good.

 

 

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We had a Friday dinner at Louvino on Bardstown Road.  This is a small plate eatery in the heart of Louisville’s restaurant and hipster section.   You can literally walk up and down Bardstown Road and find a great place to eat. We met my cousin and her husband for a lively and enjoyable meal.  Lots of good dishes were enjoyed here.

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The bacon-wrapped dates are a must for a starter at Louvino.

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The Port wine brisket with zucchini cornbread was so tender and delicious at Louvino.

 

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Lee’s Korean Restaurant was our choice for a Saturday lunch. Lee’s is on the first floor of what looks like an office building, so don’t give up looking if you drive by it the first time.  If you have a hankering for Korean, this is the place.

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Deep fried won ton was a great choice for our starter.

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Mrs. Big Surf and I shared the beef bibimbap with the Korean vegetables.  Our waitress/hostess was so nice and pleasant as she demonstrated the way to eat this Korean traditional dish.  She was happy to show us a little of her home country.  I was glad she did.

 

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The Come Back Inn was recommended to us for our Saturday night meal.  Word of mouth is a wonderful thing for we had a wonderful meal.  This is a small neighborhood Italian eatery in a humble building in the Smoketown/Germantown/Highlands area.  I really don’t know my neighborhoods in Louisville.

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We started with a chef’s special appetizer for the night of Smoked Salmon Crostini. This was pretty special.  Capers are one of God’s little blessings that let me know He knew what He was doing.

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The waiter told us the specialty at Come Back Inn is the Bolognese.  I was going to get something else, but he said this would bring me back.  He was right.  I will come back (now I get it).  My wife had the chef special of the evening of lobster ravioli in a saffron cream sauce.  This dish was very tasty but the lobster may have been lost in the sauce.  The sauce was so good, we didn’t mind too much not to get all of the lobster taste.

 

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Our last meal was breakfast on Sunday morning before heading home.  After some research, I found Gralehaus.  This is actually a bed and breakfast with rooms upstairs.  I loved this place.  It is very small and was hard to find.  It is on Baxter Avenue right behind the Holy Grale that is on Bardstown Road.  Our GPS took us to the Holy Grale.

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The coffee alone was worth braving the rain and not having room service, also we got to drink out of these nifty mugs.

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This was the best dish I ate all weekend, Biscuit & Duck Gravy, made with a black pepper biscuit in duck sausage gravy with a maple sauce drizzle and duck cracklin’.  I will be thinking about this for a long time.  I may take up duck hunting just to try to duplicate this.

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My wife had Lamb & Grits, a sausage of Middle Eastern origin with lamb and pork. The grits were very good, topped with an egg and cilantro and mint.  This was very enjoyable also.

 

 

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I mentioned earlier my favorite dish I have ever eaten in Louisville. This is Milkwood’s Pork Shoulder with black barbeque sauce from Chef Ed Lee.

 

They say the most exciting two minutes in sports is the Kentucky Derby (also in Louisville). But set one of these dishes from a Louisville restaurant in front of me and I will give this phrase a run for the money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Surf Daddy’s Seafood Bender…Tybee Island and Savannah, Georgia

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Unlike wine or water, or even Coca-Cola, sweet tea means something. It is a tell, a tradition. Sweet tea isn’t a drink, really.  It’s culture in a glass.—Allison Glock

 

Big Surf Daddy is most at home on a southern beach and lately, Tybee Island is becoming his favorite southern beach.

This was my second visit to the laid-back island beach community just a short drive from Savannah, Georgia.  The beach is wide and the food is good.  And nothing gets me off the beach, except to eat.

This was a good eatin’ week for Big Surf.  There are many good restaurants on Tybee and in Savannah.

Savannah is on many travel lists as one of the top cities in the US.  All you have to do is go there to see why.  It is easy to get around. Most of the historic center of town can be seen on foot… unless it is one of those Georgia summer days when it feels like you could fry a green tomato on your head.  Then you can take one of the many wheeled tours about town.

Savannah is a graceful and charming southern lady with a sheepish grin that makes you wonder what she is hiding.  Tybee Island is her less sophisticated younger cousin that wants to skip class today and hang out with her friends.

To me it is a perfect beach vacation spot, laid back and not too crowded and though Tybee isn’t known for world-class restaurants, many are very good.  You can find those world-class restaurants in Savannah.

After all, all Big Surf Daddy needs is a beach and good food. And both are available on Tybee Island and in Savannah, Georgia.

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Just another serene morning on Tybee Island.

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I love the morning reflections off the water.

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Normally, I am not a morning person, but I made an effort to watch the sunrises from our balcony on this trip.

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The Cockspur Lighthouse was built in 1855 and stands 46 feet high.  It survived a Civil War battle and is now part of Fort Pulaski National Monument.

Now that we have all those annoying beach scenes out of the way, lets talk about food and sweet tea.  I love sweet tea in the south and I had it with most of the evening meals. I’m’ sure there are some who ask, “Why not every meal?” I have no answer for that.

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I bought some real good shrimp for a low country boil from Scuba Steve’s Seafood Market on Tybee Island.

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Good coffee and friendly service at Tybean Art and Coffee Bar .

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AJ’s Dockside Grill, has sunset dining and great food.

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The crispy scored flounder with sweet chili glaze at AJ’s Dockside Grill  may have been the best meal I had all week.

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My wife had the crab stew and shrimp and grits at AJ’s.  Both were very tasty.

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Current Kitchen and Cocktails serves very high-caliber food on Tybee Island.

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I am still thinking about these turmeric mussels at Current Kitchen and how delicious they were. I want to desperately repeat this dish somehow.

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The fish taco’s at Current Kitchen are made with mango salsa, chipotle, and avocado. I enjoyed these very much.

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My wife had Snapper Risotto at Current Kitchen. It looked good and tasted good.

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The Sundae Cafe on Tybee Island is another high quality restaurant with excellent food.  The exterior in a small strip center may be off-putting to some, but don’t let that dissuade  you from going here to eat.  I enjoyed this restaurant a lot.

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One of the highlight dishes for the week was the Seafood Cheesecake at the Sundae Cafe. You need to taste this at some point in your life unless you are allergic to seafood, then I would avoid it.

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I can never get enough bisque of any kind and this seafood bisque at Sundae Cafe did not disappoint me.  So rich and tasty.

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Southern Oysters Rockefeller at Sundae Cafe.  Oysters, shrimp, smoked bacon, creamed collard greens with tasso hollandaise sauce…what could be finer in this diner?

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This dessert was a special for the night at Sundae Cafe, the four of us shared it.  It had a doughnut, apple, ice cream, caramel, and topped with whipped cream.  So decadent.

 

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Pearl’s Saltwater Grille was a good find.  It is a little out of the way but only a twenty-minute drive from Tybee Island and downtown Savannah.

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The view from our table at Pearl’s Saltwater Grille.

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You can’t go south and not eat fried green tomatoes.  Pearl’s Saltwater Grille has excellent fried green tomatoes and hush puppies.

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Sophisticated southern dish of parmesan and herb crusted grouper with lump crab meat served over roasted orzo and finished with Chardonnay butter and for a little touch of the south, collards on the side.  I loved this dish at Pearl’s Saltwater Grille.

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Savannah she-crab soup at Pearl’s Saltwater Grille was rich and creamy and full of crab, so it had to be good.

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Jimmy’s Seaside Sweets is a great stop for gelato and candy.

 

LET’S VISIT SAVANNAH…

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The gold dome of Savannah’s City Hall.

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Statue of Johnny Mercer, one of Savannah’s most famous residents.  He was a prolific song writer.

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Very entertaining street musician.

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We stopped in Savannah’s Candy Kitchen in City Market, a must-stop when walking in historic downtown. Get some pralines.

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You can’t pass up Paula Deen’s Store.

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This vase on this table in Goose Feathers Cafe caught my eye in the afternoon sun.

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This is the coolest door.  The honey is pretty good also at Savannah Bee Company.

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We didn’t go in here but I loved the sign.  Later I found out that I should have gone in here for some good oysters.

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Jazz’d is a really good tapas place.  I highly recommend this place for food but especially if Trey Gurley is singing Sinatra that night.

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Oysters in the half shell at the River House . I had been reading a book by M.F.K. Fisher called Consider the Oyster,  so I was in the mood.  The River House is in an old cotton warehouse building on River Street.

 

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After spending the afternoon in Savannah, we ate at The Olde Pink House. This is an elegant restaurant in an old mansion, built in 1771, in historic downtown Savannah.

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Beautiful decor in the Olde Pink House.

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Of course an appetizer of fried green tomatoes and my only salad of the week. The Olde Pink House knows their way around this southern delicacy. It was a good start to the meal.

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I can’t begin to express how delicious the flavor of these sautéed jumbo scallops in herb butter at the Olde Pink House.  They were plated with mixed beans and mashed potatoes. It was like eating at home, if your mom was a world-class chef and you lived in a 250 year-old pink mansion.

 

The east coast of the United States has some wonderful beaches for a vacation, but for my experience on Tybee Island and the nearness to Savannah, this Georgia location is hard to beat.  Pour yourself a tall glass of sweet tea and you are almost there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asheville, NC

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Rhythm is either something you have or don’t have, but when you have it, you have it all over.—Elvis Presley

This quote summed up my favorite twenty minutes in Asheville, North Carolina.

Asheville is a beautiful, artsy small city in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina.  It is known as the location of the Biltmore Estate and art and craft beer.  The surrounding beauty of the mountains make Asheville a wonderful place for a short or long visit in any season.

We visited Asheville near Christmas time years ago and toured the Biltmore Estate with its magnificent decorations.  We recently visited Asheville in summer and decided not to tour the Biltmore again, but did go to Antler Hill Village, the home of the Biltmore Winery.  If you have never been to the Biltmore Estate, it is worth the time and the $70 admission fee.

The city of Asheville is a lively city.  There is music on the corners, there are people in the many good restaurants and in the squares.  There is art.

On Fridays, you can bring your favorite type of drum and join the Friday night drum circle, that is open to all drummers. There are bongos, congas, timbales, djembes, cajons, tambourines, whistles, and any other thing you could beat on.  This was my favorite twenty minutes I spent in Asheville.  No, I did not have a drum, however I considered bringing it on my trip but just didn’t want to pack my djembe.  I regret that decision now.  The drum circle is crowded, raucous, and surprisingly together in rhythm.  There are people dancing, which is quite entertaining.  And there is a big crowd gathered.  Don’t worry about trying to find the drum circle on Fridays, you will hear it.  Just go where the crowd is and get lost in the rhythm.  Don’t worry there will be others that will draw more attention than you.

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I love the drive into Asheville on RTE 23/I-26 as you can see the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding the city.

We were in Asheville less than 24 hours, so this is not a comprehensive list by any means of things to do.  I will show you where we ate and visited.

We began by going out to the Biltmore to meet some old friends at Antler Hill Village after they toured the estate house and grounds.  The drive to the village is beautiful.

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The Biltmore’s Antler Hill Village has a few restaurants and shops and the Biltmore Winery.  We ate barbecue at the Smokehouse.  This was good barbecue, my wife had pulled pork and I had pulled chicken with the sauce.  The sides were good but not memorable.

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After checking into our hotel at Hilton Homewood Suites,  which was very nice and comfortable and convenient to downtown Asheville, we rested for an hour or so. Then we headed into downtown.

We had our evening meal at Rhubarb.  Our appetizer of assorted pickled vegetables were very tasty.  My wife and I had the chef’s specialty of grilled Ashley Farms half-chicken with vegetables.  This was good food, not outstanding since it was chicken and vegetables but very tasty nonetheless.

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Open kitchen at Rhubarb.

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Grilled chicken with veggies at Rhubarb.

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We had our dessert at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.  I highly recommend this.

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3D wall mural in Asheville.

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Local street musicians.

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The lively Friday night drum circle is a must.

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We ate breakfast the following day at Tupelo Honey. This is a really good choice to eat breakfast.

No matter what you order, make sure to get some potato cracklins.

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My wife had the Old Skool breakfast bowl.

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I had the Eggs Betty, a take-off on eggs Benedict.

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I grabbed some coffee to go at High Five Coffee.This is a fun coffee bar. It was the last good purchase in Asheville as we headed to the beach.

 

For those of us who live in the eastern and southeastern United States, Asheville is a wonderful place for a weekend trip.  For those of you in other parts of the globe, if you are in the area, I recommend a visit to Asheville located in a beautiful area of the US.

 

 

 

Blaze BBQ and Wings… Fannin’s Market

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Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start—Anthony Bourdain

I love good barbecue.

In the past few years I have associated good barbecue with going on vacation.  I would seek out the best barbecue joints on the way to the beach or wherever we were going.  Sometimes this took a lot of research and extra drive time, much to the exasperation of Mrs. Big Surf.

Now I just have to cross the bridge from West Liberty into Index, for the barbecue gods have looked down on Morgan County, KY with big messy, saucy grins.

Larry Lewis and his wife Julie have opened Blaze BBQ & Wings.  This is a small food trailer.  They will be set up at Fannin’s Market in Index..The days of operation will be Saturdays. I think the menu may vary from week to week.  This past Saturday was the opening of this new venture. There hasn’t been this much buzz about town since the Freezer Fresh reopened after the tornado. Consequently, so many folks came to Index that the food was consumed too quickly.  This was a great testament to Larry’s reputation in our small community.

We joined the line on Saturday for a later lunch, hoping the line would not be as long.  This strategy back-fired because the wings had already been eaten up.  However, those of us in line did get a sample.  Larry sent what was left of the wings out into the line for a sample. It was a good gesture on his part.  The wing I ate was soooo good.  The barbecue sauce was thick and sweet.  I can’t wait for the full order next time.

My other strategy was for my wife and I to order meals that came with two meats and two sides.  We would each get a pork portion and one of the three choices of wings and we could sample all four sides (this looks like one of those statistical probability problems I had in college). Since the wings were gone, we could not do that, so we split up the sides.  She got home fries and regular cole slaw.  I got the Cajun slaw and Nannie Mae’s baked beans.  All sides were really good, but I highly recommend the Cajun slaw. The pulled pork and pork loin was delicious and the sauce was sweet and tasty.

I am so glad Larry and Julie are starting out on this endeavor, boosting the food presence here in Morgan County.  I hope I can eat this wonderful food for many years.  My only advice for Larry and Julie is get a bigger trailer to hold more food, they will need it.

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Pulled pork, pork tenderloin, Cajun slaw, and Nannie Mae’s baked beans.

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Same meats with home fries and regular slaw.

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Larry Lewis served up some really good food. As David Letterman use to say, “It was a good kind of tired.”

 

I mentioned Fannin’s Market earlier.  Sarah Fannin has owned and operated Fannin’s vegetable market in Index, Ky since 1995.  She has a large vegetable farm and sells the produce in the market, she also sells vegetables from a grower in another county.  The produce is always fresh and tasty.  And it always looks appealing, which is important for me when I look for produce.

Fannin’s Market has provided a really nice place for folks to settle in and eat or mingle in a beautiful location overlooking the farm.

I stopped growing my own veggies a few years ago.  The deer and groundhogs were better fed than me.  So I let Sarah grow my vegetables for me.  I still grow some herbs and a few banana peppers, for some reason the varmints don’t like them.

We have been fortunate to have Fannin’s Market for a number of years.  So before you get in line for some good barbecue, stock up on veggies, fruits, and melons at Fannin’s Market.

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Always great produce at Fannin’s Market.

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Nicely decorated gathering area at Fannin’s, for eating or just good conversation.

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Cozy tables overlooking the farm.