Eating in Barcelona

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Estava bonissim!!

 

The above phrase is Catalan that translates to “that was delicious”.

This would have been an oft repeated phrase while we were in Barcelona, if I would have known it then.

My family and I recently visited Barcelona in January, six adults and four children under four.  Now some people would admire our courage and fortitude to attempt this traveling high wire act without a net, others would call it lunacy. When you have grandchildren that live in a foreign country, you do what you can to see them.  We were able to meet them for a week in Barcelona and it was wonderful.

Now I don’t have to tell those of you with small children and grandchildren that eating with a large group with four small children is a challenge at home, much less in a large restaurant, and even more in a small European cafe.  Just trying to find places to store the strollers is hard enough.  We had a double stroller, about the size of some European cars, that was like parallel parking a car between two cramped tables. The Barcelonans, to their credit, were very nice about it in the restaurants and went out of their way to accommodate us.

But, be that as it may, this blog is about the food we ate in Barcelona.  We were not able to eat a lot of meals together as you can imagine. Most meals we carried into our rental house in El Masnou, a beach town outside of Barcelona (that will be another blog). However, the food we ate in Barcelona was so good.

Our first meal was in the morning after we all met in the Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona.  We found chocolate croissants and coffee at Forn de Sant Jaume.

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Forn de Sant Jaume in Eixample.

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We loved the chocolate croissants and coffee at Forn de Sant Jaume.

 

Our only meal in the evening was at Set de Born. We rode the train into Barcelona and walked through the El Born neighborhood and found Set de Born.  This was a very good choice. We ate too early in the evening for the Barcelonans so we had the restaurant to ourselves and the staff was very accepting of our group. This was the one meal the little ones weren’t on top of their table manners, just on top of the table. Nonetheless, the staff was very kind and patient and we appreciated that.

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I loved the intimate setting of Set de Born, tucked into a narrow street in El Born.

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We started with some marinated olives…very, very good.

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I loved the anchovies on tomato at Set de Born.

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The meat plate with homemade sausages and Iberian ham was the hit of the meal, with very good reason.

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This is how our typical table looked in Barcelona, lots of food to choose from. The cheese plate was delicious, so was the tomato bread, and the goat cheese salad.

 

We visited the Santa Caterina Market two times. I got some more marinated olives that were a treat while walking the streets of Barcelona.

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I highly advise a foray into the many booths and stalls of this market.  It can be overwhelming, but keep in mind, there are no bad choices in here.

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The shaved ham cone was a big hit in our group, one of our purchases in the Santa Caterina Market. Why are there not any of these in the U.S.?

 

A highlight of our eating experience in Barcelona was churros!!!  I can’t express how good this treat is.  Our churro consumption was in Churreria Laietana in El Born. I don’t have any way to compare churros, but I do know this, these would be hard to beat.

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This lady that served up churros at Churreria Laietana was very impressive.  She could handle English and Spanish with ease, in a very busy and chaotic setting, while handing out little plates of love, all the while with a smile on her face.  I think she was also doing air traffic control in the back.

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CHURROS! CHURROS! CHURROS!  at Churreria Laietana

 

Our last meal together in Barcelona was a real treat. We had an afternoon meal at

El Quatre Gats (the Four Cats), one of the more famous restaurants in Barcelona.  It has a lot of history and is noted for being one of the hangouts of Picasso in his younger days.  It is located in the Barri Gotic  (Gothic quarter of Barcelona). I enjoyed this meal most of all.  The children were well-behaved and the staff was so nice and agreeable to our wishes.  Again, we ate at an earlier time than most of the Barcelonans, so it wasn’t very crowded.  This was a good plan on our part so as not to be too disruptive.  I think this is my best advice with those traveling with small children in Barcelona, eat early so as not to find the restaurants and cafes too crowded.  Keep in mind that a lot of restaurants in Barcelona do not even start serving food in the evening till about 8:00 PM.

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The 4 Cats entrance is inviting.

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The classic look of the historic 4 Cats.

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Just chunks of parmesan cheese to nibble on before the meal at 4Cats. Why don’t we ever think of these things?

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Tomato bread is a favorite tapas dish in Barcelona.  We ordered it everywhere we ate. I think the best I had was at 4Cats.

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The prettiest dish we ate all week was the roasted eggplant at 4Cats. It was as delicious as it was beautiful.

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These pork cannellonis were really good at 4Cats.

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One of my favorite dishes of the week…seafood rice at 4Cats.

 

If you are in these areas of Barcelona, I would highly recommend these eating establishments.

Barcelona, estava bonissim!

 

 

 

 

Louisville, KY (Another Eating Weekend)

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I never met a Kentuckian who wasn’t either thinking about going home or actually going home.— A.B. (Happy) Chandler

 

We all have fantasies.

My latest fantasy is to be able to eat three meals a day in Louisville, KY until I go through the entire menu of Louisville restaurants, which of last count has over 2,500 of them. This should take me about three years taking into consideration I may have to leave to go see grandchildren.

Bon Appetite magazine has called Louisville,”One of the best foodie small towns in America.”  Now to  me, coming from a small town of about 2,000, Louisville is a big city.  However I am not going quibble over a few hundred thousand residents at this time. My goal is to tell you about some good food in Louisville. You can find a previous blog written, by yours truly last year, about another eatin’ weekend in Louisville.

Our strategy this particular weekend was to pick restaurants that we had not visited in past trips to Louisville.  Believe me this was no easy task, because we have loved a lot of restaurants in this city that were hard to pass up.

Our first stop was lunch on a Friday afternoon, a very interesting choice, if only for the name alone…Mussel and Burger Bar .  Guess what?  We had mussels and a burger.

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The seafood burger at Mussel and Burger Bar was tremendous.

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This was one of the best mussel dishes I have eaten.

 

The next meal was our evening meal. We met some cousins at Havana Rumba in the Highlands, one of three restaurants of the same name in Louisville.

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This seafood stew, served with fried plantains and rice and beans was so tasty.  It was a chef’s special that night, along with shrimp ceviche that was very enjoyable.

 

On Saturday, we ventured out for some Vietnamese pho.  We found Pho Phi in St. Matthews. I love pho.  Mrs. Big Surf allows me to have this one food romance.  She tolerates it and actually likes it well enough to eat with me when I have a cravin’.

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Pho at Pho Phi satiated my pho yearnings.

 

Our evening meal on Saturday night was very special.  We dined outside at Couvillion, (pronounced  coo-ve-ohn).  Couvillion has a Cajun menu that was hard to work our way through, meaning we had a hard time making a decision about what to eat.  It all looked and sounded really good.

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At Couvillion, we began with roasted cauliflower, described in the menu as “slathered with cajun mustard vinaigrette” with capers and chili flakes.  This was the best tasting dish of the weekend.

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Mrs. Big Surf ordered the duck creole with ricotta dumplings.  This was so savory and delicious, I almost put my face in and bobbed for the dumplings.

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I had the catfish couvillion, which is a rich, red fish stew usually with catfish. It was also very good.

 

 

We had one more meal in Louisville, breakfast on Sunday morning, before heading up to Indiana to babysit grandchildren.  A friend of mine had read about, and urged us to visit  Biscuit Belly

I read about this new spot downtown and realized we could be standing in line outside.  We must have timed it right. There was a short line inside that moved quickly. However, by the time we left it was stretched outside.

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We had the fried chicken with gravy and cheese biscuit.  I see why there is a line outside.  We were more than happy when we left.

 

My advise to anyone looking for some really good food, go to Louisville, KY and feed your belly as they say at Biscuit Belly.

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Great Food in Athens, Greece

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Everything’s betta with a little feta—El Greco

 

Mrs. Big Surf and I make our travel plans based on what food we like to eat.  We love Greek food…so you can do the math.

We spent four days in Athens and I ate about two weeks worth of food.  This was the best Greek food I have ever eaten, tasted so authentic…oh.

If you can get past most menus looking like a fraternity/sorority talent show lineup, ordering food wasn’t too difficult. Most menus have English sub titles and most of the waiters and waitresses speak English. Of course if you don’t speak Greek or English I don’t have any advice for you.

We began our foraging through Athens on our arrival at the Acropolis Museum Boutique Hotel.  We arrived late and we asked the desk clerk for a recommendation and he steered us to a very close 24 hour restaurant, called 24oro .  He said it was good Greek food and he was right.  My advice here— don’t go by the names as we do in America where a 24- hour joint is probably not the best choice unless you are hungry at 3:00 AM.

Since it was late, we split a moussaka and we also began our four day love affair with fried feta drizzled in honey.

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Moussaka at 24oro.

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The fried feta, drizzled with honey and sesame seeds was our go-to appetizer in Athens.

 

I began the next morning with a short walk to the Acropolis Museum to get tickets for the day. I stopped by Terra Carpo for a cup of Americana coffee.  This may have been the best coffee I have ever had. This was my coffee stop for the next three days.

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After coffee each morning, we would eat breakfast at the hotel.  Our usual custom when we stay at hotels in cities is to get breakfast in cafes or bakeries  to maximize our time finding good food. However our breakfast at the Acropolis Museum Boutique Hotel was included, so we took advantage of this.  These breakfasts, with Greek delicacies, gave us a good start each day as each one was so good.

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This was our typical breakfast each day.

 

After a morning at the Acropolis Museum and a walk through the charming Anafiotika neighborhood, we had lunch at Klepsidra Cafe. 

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At Klepsidra Cafe, we had our first stuffed grape leaves, tsatziki, a Greek salad and sampled some ouzo.

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Yogurt with nuts and dates and drizzled with honey was also one of our favorites at Klepsidra Cafe.

 

Later that night, we dined at Strofi which was a short walk from our hotel. Our food was good but it wasn’t our favorite meal. However my appetizer of fresh anchovies marinated with spices, olive oil, and lemon was one of my favorite dishes of the stay in Athens.

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I hope you are lucky enough to get this view at Strofi.

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The marinated anchovies were delicious at Strofi.

 

The highlight of Day three in Athens for me…lunch at Diporto.  This is a very unique experience that I found on Youtube.  It is near the central market, has no sign and is below the street.  There is home cooked Greek food, homemade wine, and an intimate atmosphere, where the owner invites you into the kitchen to see what he is cooking for the day.  Don’t let the less than pristine appearance dissuade you from dining here when you descend under the street level through graffiti-marred doors, you will love this dining experience.

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One of the two entrances into Diporto.

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Our view of the street at Diporto.

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Three dishes with bread and homemade white wine was brought to our table.

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The grilled anchovies at Diporto may have been my favorite dish in Athens.

 

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Intimate dining at Diporto.

 

We had an unforgettable view of the Acropolis at Hotel Thissio. We stopped for another fried feta with some red wine and watched the sunset turn to the night sky over Athens.

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We had a great view of the Acropolis and Athens at Hotel Thissio.

 

We headed over to souvlaki row off Monastiraki Square and split a Greek salad and souvlaki at Savvas and had an outdoor table on the busy pedestrian street.  This wasn’t the best souvlaki that we had but it was still good.

 

The following day, our last full day in Athens, we toured the Acropolis and walked over to the old neighborhood of Plaka and had lunch at Estia Taverna.

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Our lunch at Estia Taverna in the outdoor part of the cafe was very enjoyable.  It was a nice sunny day and we shared a different fried cheese, called saganaki, named for the pan it is fried in. We also had some really good french fries which are popular in Athens.  We had a nice red wine that complimented this simple meal and were refreshed for an afternoon shopping in the shops of Plaka and of course finding more things to eat.

 

A few hours later we headed over to the steps of Plaka and found a table at Anafiotika Cafe.  It was a lively time on the steps, so we partook of some more ouzo. I really encourage anyone going to Athens to find these small cafes and eat on the steps.

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Afterward, Mrs. Big Surf was in the mood for a chicken crepe and she found one at a creperie on Souvlaki Row on Ermou Street and I went into O Thanasis for a souvlaki for take-out.  We took our purchases over to Montesoriki Square and found a spot to enjoy our simple meal in the midst of this lively and entertaining gathering place.  I loved both of our dishes.

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I thought this chicken crepe was very good, Mrs. Big Surf thought less of it but still liked it.

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I loved this souvlaki from O Thanasis.

 

The final stop for the evening was a rooftop bar overlooking Athens. We found a wonderful spot atop the A for Athens Hotel. The rooftop bar for a nice glass of red wine was a perfect spot to enjoy our last night in Athens.  The view is incredible and if you can get a seat at sunset, this would be a minor coup.  We were able to accomplish this,and let me tell you, it was hard to leave this view.

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We had a beautiful view from the A for Athens rooftop bar in the late afternoon sun and into the night.

 

We had an afternoon flight scheduled for Istanbul, so this gave us some time to head back over to the shops in Plaka.  While my lovely wife shopped, I of course looked for more food and was drawn to the small cafes on the steps one last time.  I had a very nice spinach pie with some jasmine tea (see cover photo). This was a great place to reflect on my stay in Athens and enjoy my last few minutes.

 

An addendum to this food story is our trip back from Turkey where we had a connecting flight out of Athens.  We had some time to kill so we headed over to the Sofitel across the street from the airport.  This turned out to be a very good decision. We shared a delicious assortment of Greek appetizers and a lemon tart with berries and a raspberry glaze.  The red wine complimented it very nicely.  This gave us a good send off from Athens.

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The plate of appetizers at Sofitel, a good choice if you have to kill some time in the Athens airport.

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The lemon tart was a nice treat also at Sofitel.

 

I look forward to the possibility of more good food in Athens if I ever get the chance again.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red River Rockhouse

 

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Never be so focused on what you are looking for that you overlook the thing you actually find.—Ann Patchett

 

I have been trying to get the Missus to accompany me on a lunch date to the Red River Gorge.  I have been curious about the Red River Rockhouse since I heard about it from a friend about a year ago. I asked him what is so good about it and he said, “the cheeseburgers”.

Now I love a good burger as well as the next self-proclaimed foodie with a palate similar to eroding blacktop after a tough winter in Eastern Kentucky,  I just didn’t know if I wanted to drive the necessary forty-five minutes for the consumption. I realize most of us will drive even farther to proclaim a dining success.

The Red River Gorge is a gorg-eous place.  It draws tourists from across the country, most it seems come from Ohio.  On any given weekend, the population of Powell and Wolfe Counties is inflated with folks from north of the Ohio River.

The planets must have aligned last week because I got my lovely wife to agree to that lunch date.  We met some out-of-town friends (who amazingly were not from Ohio) through a planned consequence. Now I know you are not familiar with this term, so I will explain.  We talked about meeting for lunch the next day and I would send a text to confirm.  However my friend, who was staying in the lodge at Natural Bridge State Park, did not have cell service and did not get my text saying we would meet them at 1:00 PM that day.  The plan did not materialize, however they showed up anyway and we had really nice time.

Now the important stuff.  If you are going to the Red River Gorge to hike, camp, canoe, kayak, bird watch, or just get out of Ohio, you need to stop in at the Red River Rockhouse for a simple meal of good food.  The menu is not exhaustive, it is written on a chalkboard.  The food is simple but the taste is not. Evidently the Ohioans love a good burger or the selection of craft beers, because it was a busy place.

We started with guacamole and chips, both house-made. I highly recommend this as a starter.  One order was enough for the four of us.

Next I ordered the aptly named Heavenly Cheeseburger. The menu says it is local grass-fed beef topped with cheese made with milk from a local dairy.  I don’t know the difference in grassfed and grainfed beef as far as the taste (I refer to the previous description of my palate), I just know this is one of the best cheeseburgers I have ever eaten.  It came with a side of hand cut fries, or should I say a hillside of fries.  There were a lot of fries and all of them were good.

My wife ordered a burrito.  On the menu, it is described as “a fatty burrito”.  Hello Captain Obvious.  It was the size of a small sombrero.  It took three people two days to eat it all.

Don’t let the unassuming exterior fool you, this is high quality food served by a friendly staff in a beautiful area of Kentucky.

 

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Guacamole and chips for starters.

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Heavenly cheeseburger and fries, always a good choice here.

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Strap on an appetite to tackle the burrito.