Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Whew, what a year! I have so enjoyed creating this blog. Yes, Nick, it was a great idea. However, the flavor of it may change with the new year. Like a lot of other people, Nick and I feel it is time for us to get serious, I said serious, about our health and weight loss. You will probably read more about new healthy foods and less about my favorite places to pig out. We hope to make these changes a lifestyle and FUN! With that in mind, here is the menu for our final blowout on New Years Day:
Honey Laquered Duck with sour cherry sauce
Red potatoes roasted with caramelized shallots and baby bella mushrooms
Fried baby spinach
Yeast Rolls
Pears au chocolat
Pictures to follow.....

Daring Bakers Challenge: December

Sadly, I could not complete the December challenge for the French Yule Log. Between the two weekend choral performances, a nasty cold, and traveling during Christmas, I ran out of time and steam. I hope to be able to make this sometime in the near future. This is especially sad for me because I love everything French. Check out the links below to find the recipe and instructions if you dare!

Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry ( and Marion of (Il en faut peu pour etre heureux (
Flore was the author of the recipe.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Red Velvet Cake or Bill Schmidt's BDAY DELIGHT!

I must apologize for the sad excuse for a picture of this cake. I frosted this cake on Sunday afternoon after a full morning of choral performances at Manna. I think my brain was fried because I didn't photograph the unfrosted cake and I added the pecans later. So here is my picture of a cake that may or may not be red velvet (it really is). Anyway, I used Bobby Flay's recipe which substitutes red wine vinegar for some of the red food coloring. The result is an earthier red than usual. Both Nick and Bill gave it a roaring, "yes"! This will be my standard recipe from now on with, of course, Paula Deen's frosting: cream cheese and marshmallow creme. I'll be making another one in January for Cathy McDonald's birthday (oops, was that a surprize?). Hopefully then I will take better pictures.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Premonition of things to come....

Here I am in the Battle House kitchen back in college on my way to my current "Kitchen Diva" status. (I"m on the left with the "Farrah" wings.)

Georgia Brown's Prime has passed

I am sad to say that Georgia Brown's is not the restaurant it once was. This is the second year that their lunch plate has been featured on the VCA discount card. We used to frequent this restaurant often, but a few months ago, after about three bad trips, we stopped going. Yesterday we noticed an ad in the Fayetteville Observer that sounded like some things had changed, so we decided to give them another try. Sadly, the problems that drove us away are still occurring: slow service and inconsistent portions. We ordered from the regular menu and ordered an appetizer, so we thought this is why our food was so slow in making its appearance at the table; however, the folks next to us ordered the lunch specials. They ordered before us and got their food later than we did. Obviously Ron Brewington is trying to salvage this restaurant with new food selections and live music, but unless he addresses the wait staff issues and the lack of speed in the kitchen, he will fail. We will not be coming back anytime soon.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Where there is smoke, there's FIRE!



Tylenol Cold

Yogi Herbal Tea

Easy Off

What do these products have in common? They are a summary of my week so far. I haven’t posted this week because I have an annoying cold. I don’t have time for a cold, but I spent yesterday on TheraFlu and Lifetime movies. You may ask what the Easy Off oven cleaner is about? Husband cooked dinner the other night:

Grilled chicken: good
Butter Beans: good
Sweet Potatoes: good
Marshmallows on fire in oven: bad

Hopefully coming out of the fog soon.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Red Velvet Cake Pictures Soon!

Today went too quickly....busy weekend with Sunday School party and "Celebrate" performance tomorrow at Manna......baked the cake using Bobby's recipe and I will frost later with my favorite cream cheese frosting with the secret ingredient (compliments of Paula Deen): Marshmallow cream!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Welcome to Moe's

Here's an updated picture of the new Moe's. Word on the street says January/February target date. WOO HOO!!!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bobby Flay wins again!

Okay, that Bobby must have some Southern blood in him somewhere. Last night on Throwdown, he challenged another SC boy, this time with a Red Velvet Cake. Would you believe that Bobby won? I didn't get to concentrate on the whole show, husbands can be so distracting, however, at one time Bobby was talking about using just a little food coloring! HA! Once I did that and ended up with a Pink Velvet Cake, not exactly the effect I was going for. Anyway....without the benefit of taste-o-vision I'm not sure which one was better, but there you go. This is the second throwdown he has won baking cakes against Southern boys and he's not even a baker. I'm baking a Red Velvet Cake next week, pictures to follow.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ants on Parade

I am embarassed to admit that we have ants in our kitchen. The hardy critters should be frozen stiff by now, but oh no, they are marching strong. We have put out poison for the fourteenth time, so our pets are banned from the kitchen. Our cat is about to go nuts. Evidently he thinks we are inside feasting on tuna tar tar and shrimp cocktail. He stands at the French door and cries. Last night he got so mad he started furiously pawing at the glass. It's hard to be ignored when you're a cat......

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A rainy day at the beach is better than a sunny day anywhere else!

Part of my family gathered at the beach for Thanksgiving this year. Cooking and eating in the small kitchen was challenging, but the view of Bogue Sound made for a worthwhile sacrifice. Outside the skies were gray and the rain poured down, but the spirit inside was warm and sunny. On Friday night we went to the flotilla in Swansboro. Sadly, only fourteen boats participated. I understand that more boats will participate next week at the Morehead City flotilla. After the flotilla, we ate at Frank and Clara’s in Salter Path. Although no longer owned by the same couple, this restaurant has been around for at least twenty years. I was surprised to find the dining room almost full. The food as usual was very good, but on this Friday night, the service was uncharacteristically slow. Apparently the holiday weekend had left the “B” team to run the place. Fortunately, we were able to relax without focusing on their lack of speed and efficiency. We started out with a delicious baked crab dip. This creamy crab packed dip is served with toasted French bread rounds. In addition to our hot dip, we were served a complementary sharp cheddar cheese dip with crackers. For my entrée, I had the fried sea scallops with baked potato and a cup of she crab soup. The thin soup lacked generosity in regards to crab, but was tasty. The plentiful and delicious scallops had to be shared as I could not eat them all. Nick had the fried clam strips and they were tender and yummy. I also enjoyed the light and crispy hush puppies. Plan ahead if you would like to eat at Frank and Clara’s. The rather small restaurant fills up quickly. Don’t be surprised if you have to wait an hour or so, especially in the summer. If you’re not up for the delay, consider calling in an order for pick up. You’ll be back home enjoying your meal in no time.

I vote for Thanksgiving at the beach every year! As I crossed over the bridge late Saturday afternoon, I felt very blessed. The only thing that could have made this weekend better would have been a shrimp burger from Big Oak Drive In……..maybe next time.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Smith Island Ten Layer Cake

Hats off to Nicky Peele (niece) for baking the mega layered chocolate cake for the first time! She did a great job. It tasted really good and look at that beautiful picture. Here's the recipe if you want to try it.

Recipe For Smith Island Ten-Layer CakeBALTIMORE (WJZ) ― This is the recipe for the Smith Island Ten-Layer Cake.

Ingredients:2 cups sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks (1 cup)

5 eggs

3 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 heaping teaspoon baking powder

1 cup evaporated milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup water

Cream together sugar and butter. Add eggs one at a time and beat until smooth. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Mix into egg mixture one cup at a time. With mixer running, slowly pour in the evaporated milk, then the vanilla and water. Mix just until uniform.
Put three serving spoonfuls of batter in each of ten 9-inch lightly greased pans, using the back of the spoon to spread evenly. Bake three layers at a time on the middle rack of the oven at 350° for 8 minutes. A layer is done when you hold it near your ear and you don't hear it sizzle.
Start making the icing when the first layers go in the oven. Put the cake together as the layers are finished. Let layers cool a couple of minutes in the pans. Run a spatula around the edge of the pan and ease the layer out of the pan. Don't worry if it tears; no one will notice when the cake is finished. Use two and three serving spoonfuls of icing between each layer. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the icing. Push icing that runs onto the plate back onto the cake.

Chocolate Icing For Ten-Layer Cake

2 cups sugar

1 cup evaporated milk

5 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla
Put sugar and evaporated milk in a medium pan. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until warm. Add chocolate and cook to melt. Add butter and melt. Cook over medium heat at a slow boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add vanilla. Icing will be thin but thickens as it cools

Caramel Cake Challenge Pics

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge

Daring Bakers
November Challenge: Caramel Cake
Author: Shuna Fish Lydon

I had more fun thinking about last month’s challenge (pizza dough), but I had more fun baking the caramel cake. I did not try the caramel candies because I had too many distractions and candy takes complete concentration. The cake was fabulous. I knew my husband would love this cake because caramel is one of his favorite flavors.

Since I have baked a gazillion cakes in my lifetime, I found this recipe to be very simple, yet totally delicious! The caramel syrup is really good and gives this cake a depth of richness that would otherwise be absent. The same is true of the browned butter icing. The first time I baked the cake, I followed the directions exactly, but when I started to ice the cake, I decided to split the layer to make a two layer cake. Here in the south, layer cakes are huge, so I could not resist the opportunity for a larger portion of icing between the two layers of luscious cake. I liked the cake so much that I decided to make another one for Thanksgiving. This time, I made two batches of batter and divided it evenly between four 9-inch pans. This version is in keeping with my layer cake tradition. I will be keeping this recipe close by for future celebrations.
Pictures to follow....busy holiday weekend....
Here's the recipe if any one dares ;-)
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature
Notes from Natalie for those of you baking gluten-free:So the GF changes to the cake would be:2 cups of gluten free flour blend (w/xanthan gum) or 2 cups of gf flour blend + 1 1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum1/2 - 1 tsp baking powder (this would be the recipe amount to the amount it might need to be raised to & I'm going to check)I'll let you when I get the cake finished, how it turns out and if the baking powder amount needs to be raised.
Preheat oven to 350FButter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.Sift flour and baking powder.Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste
Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)(Optional)
GOLDEN VANILLA BEAN CARAMELS- makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels
1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened
A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer
Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot. When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm. Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Southern Layer Cakes

Don't you love cake? There is something so unmistakably southern about a big and tall layer cake, don't you think? I will be baking some cakes this week. I am contemplating a "thousand layer cake" as Nick calls it. I tried this once without a recipe and it was not good.....this time I am better prepared! I am always on the lookout for the perfectly gooey coconut cake recipe. So far my favorite is the recipe from the Pennisula Grill in Charleston, SC, even though Bobby Flay won this throwdown (I would have to taste both cakes myself to really believe Bobby Flay from New York City, oh my gosh, could beat a SC boy in a cake contest!). Nick's grandma made a coconut cake that is his favorite but she took the recipe to the grave!! I am still searching for its match! And rumor has it there is a caramel cake in my future!
I just want to reiterate to my buddy Bill Schmidt that even though NC State gave UNC a mean whipping yesterday, I am still baking a red velvet cake for his birthday next month!
In the infamous words of Marie Antoinette, "let them eat cake!".

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mary Bill's Cafe

I have commented on breakfast restaurants before since we usually go out for breakfast every Friday. Nick loves breakfast and I love it as long as someone else is cooking! We usually eat at Zorba’s. The food is decent and fairly priced, but the atmosphere can be daunting depending on where you sit, and the smell of the open kitchen lingers on your clothes. For the past two weeks we have gone to Mary Bill’s Café at Eutaw. The prices were unbelievably low and the variety of dishes impressive. My standard breakfast plate is two eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast. Mary Bill’s price for this is $3.99. My meal was very good and I was able to choose between an English Muffin, toast, or biscuit. Nick was ecstatic because he tried the grits which were creamy and buttery, just like at home. This week I had the Viva La France which is four wedges of delicious French toast, an egg, and a slice of bacon. This is also $3.99. Nick tried a western omelet. This omelet was as beautiful as a picture, perfectly cooked, and tender to eat. The simple atmosphere makes for a pleasant, quiet meal, and my clothes didn’t pick up the odors of the kitchen. Although the drive is a little longer than Zorba’s, this will be a frequent haunt.

Fabric Addict

I love fabric, right up to the point when I have to wait for my fabric to be cut at the store. The other day I went to Hancock Fabrics to buy fleece to make throws. (Follow this link to the pattern: Unfortunately I had waited until Saturday, my least favorite shopping day. The store was full of customers, but only two clerks. When I was ready for my twelve bolts of fabric to be cut into one yard increments, no clerk could be found. I waited at least ten minutes before someone finally showed up at the cutting table Anyone know of a self-service fabric store? I’m there!

Tour of Greensboro

Last week we spent a couple of days in Greensboro. I don’t love Greensboro like I love Raleigh, but it is a nice, clean city with lots of good places to eat and shop. Nick and I always follow our “When out of town Eating Rule” which states “when out of town, never eat at a restaurant you could eat at in Fayetteville”. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, we faithfully adhere to this tenet.

On Monday night we ate at Bonefish Grill. I love their house salad because it has hearts of palm and pine nuts with a citrus vinaigrette. This salad reminds me of a salad I had in Fort Lauderdale at Mangoes. Instead of an entrée I ordered the coconut shrimp appetizer. I got six good sized shrimp served with an orange dipping sauce. Along with the fresh bread, these two items made a completely satisfying meal. Nick enjoyed English style fish and chips.

The next day at lunch we gathered at Macaroni Grill. The economical lunch combos surprised me. From a list of salads, soups, and sandwiches, you may choose two for $6.50 or three for $8.50. I had the insalata blu and a chicken Caesar calzonetta. The insalata blu consists of mixed field greens with finely shredded blue cheese, walnuts, and a red wine vinaigrette. Sometimes at dinner, I add grilled chicken to make this an entrée. Pizza dough encased grilled chicken and greens with parmesan and Caesar dressing for the calzonetta. This combination made for a very filling lunch. I find Macaroni Gill to be a consistent performer.

After our substantial lunch, Nick and I chose Qdoba for a light supper. I tried a new chicken mango salad that I will definitely order again. The tortilla shell is filled with greens, grilled chicken, cheese, and mango salsa. This was the freshest, lightest salad I have ever eaten in a Mexican restaurant. Nick’s overstuffed burrito was eaten with a fork.

Lunch on Wednesday was at Mimi’s Café. I love Mimi’s Café and had previously previewed this on an earlier post. One of my favorites for lunch is quiche and salad. Today I had the crab and asparagus quiche. YUM. The plentiful crab and the asparagus were perfectly balanced. I tried the carrot raisin muffin. This colossal muffin could have passed for a cake if it only had cream cheese frosting! My meal was completed by one of my favorite Mimi drinks, strawberry lemonade.

After such a happy meal, staying awake for the ride home was challenging. Another trip, another successful restaurant tour!

Sunday Dinner?

I don’t cook on Sundays. Our busy schedule dictates eating out at lunch and leftovers in the microwave for supper. Most Sundays we choose fast foods because we are anxiously awaiting naptime. (By the time we leave the church after the last service we have been there about five hours. :o!) Once in a while we choose a sit down restaurant for Sunday lunch. This brings up one of my pet peeves, “Why don’t restaurants have their regular lunch specials on Sunday?” This is definitely a violation of some ordinance, I’m sure. The last time I visited Applebee’s (which, BTW, was months ago since the service was so bad we haven’t been back) I wanted to try their lunch combos, but of course, they are only available Monday through Friday. I rarely eat at this type of restaurant for lunch. I am a teacher, not a business woman. Lunch for me is usually Nabs or soup. The same thing happened at O’Charley’s a couple of weeks ago. The lunch combos and prices sounded great, but once again, they are only offered during the week, not Sundays. I’m not paying twelve or fifteen dollars at lunch for a full plate of food, so I ordered the club sandwich that came with fries for about $8.00. I sensed I might be in for a surprise when the waiter put down my plate and said, “Be careful, it’s hot.” And it was hot because O’Charley’s version of the club sandwich is turkey, bacon, and cheese grilled, not toasted. One of my favorite club sandwiches was at Daryl’s, which is no longer in this area. The three slices of toasted bread held turkey, bacon, ham, cheddar and swiss cheeses as well as lettuce, tomato, and mayo. The tall sandwich was quartered and held together with long toothpicks. O’Charley’s version is a sad semblance of the traditional club. I would not order that sandwich again. I am, however, intrigued by their Monday through Friday lunch specials and I hope to eat there soon with my Sensible Shoes Sisters. Details to follow…..

Monday, November 17, 2008

Panda Express Premier Proves Pitiful

Sorry, I was trying to see how far I could go with alliteration. Apparently, that far. I don't know when Panda Express opened at Cross Creek, but Nick noticed today that it was open, so we stopped in for dinner. I have never experienced a Panda Express, but I was hoping against all odds that it vaguely resembled Pei Wei. No such luck. First of all, the presentation of available meals was confusing. Basically, you can pick 2 or 3 entrees and 1 side for a set price. Everything else is a la carte. The menu board only listed the available combinations, but not the entrees themselves. I asked someone cleaning the tables if she could tell me what the entrees were. She gave us a brochure, but when we got to the serving line, there were at least twice as many entrees as the brochure listed. I really wanted the Orange Chicken, which is supposed to be their signature entree, but the brochure indicated this was spicy, so I chose the Mandarian Chicken instead. Besides not even remotely resembling the picture on the brochure, this dish had a strange spice that I despised. I think it was allspice. I chose to get two vegetable spring rolls and chow mein to complete my meal. The spring rolls were not very flavorful, even with a liberal dousing of duck sauce, and the chow mein was awful. Nick got the Orange Chicken and Bejing Beef dish. The Orange Chicken was not spicy at all, so we traded, and Nick ate the Mandarian Chicken. I tasted his fried rice which was okay. If I were to try this again, I would get the Orange Chicken over white rice in a bowl. Because Fayetteville has so many excellent Asian themed restaurants, I seriously doubt that the Panda Express will be able to survive. It's really a shame because the concept is a good one and the Panda mascot is adorable.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Short Pump Town Center

Shopping was my hobby. I say “was” because being married to a minister limits both my time and budget. Prior to the mid nineties, Raleigh shopping lacked the pizzazz and variety of the bigger metros. Vacations were planned for the sole purpose of shopping. At that time, my two favorite malls in the southeast were Tyson’s Corner in Virginia and Lenox Square in Atlanta. Fortunately my job at IBM took me to Atlanta several times a year. I always left RDU with a large suitcase, sparsely filled, and returned with bags bulging. The changing season and colors of fall signified my annual trip to Washington, DC. My friend and I would take several days, shopping every mall in the area and sampling the plethora of interesting restaurants. The boardwalk fries doused in malt vinegar and ketchup discovered in Annapolis, Maryland, are still one of my favorite finds. Just to balance out our activities, we would spend at least half a day at the Smithsonian. Since then, Raleigh has morphed into quite the shopping Mecca. North Hills, Cameron Village, Crabtree Valley, and Cary Towne Center all received major face lifts. Streets of South Pointe and Triangle Towne Center complete the list of major shopping centers in Wake and Durham counties. Even sleepy Chapel Hill has grown with a huge new Southern Season, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and a sparkly chic Franklin Street.

On our trip back from Massanutten last month we stopped in Short Pump, a suburb of Richmond. Raleigh and Richmond are so much alike. Here we were in Short Pump and I was reminded of North Raleigh and Wake Forest: carefully planned communities with upscale shopping and comfortable living. I found this area on the internet. With Williams-Sonoma as my goal, I plotted a trip to Short Pump Town Center. ( Unique. I was expecting a mall like the Streets of South Pointe with most stores enclosed in a traditional mall with a few stores open to the outside. This mall is entirely open. The corridors are open to the outside, yet protected from the elements with roofs and overhangs. I enjoyed walking through this beautifully appointed mall; however, during the heat of summer or the bitter cold of winter, this mall would take on the inconvenience of a strip mall. I especially loved the elaborate pump fountain, but the crowning glory for me is the two-story Crate and Barrel. This Crate and Barrel carries everything from sofas, tables, and sideboards, down to dishtowels and drinking glasses. I could have spent a lot of time and money here. Because this was the last leg of our vacation, we were tired and ready to see our girls so we didn’t spend much time here. I would love to go back soon with a blank credit card and a case of Red Bull. Nordstrom, Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, J. Jill, and Orvis are just a few of the fabulous stores that beckon me.

Not only does this mall have exceptional shopping, the surrounding restaurants are impressive as well: California Pizza Kitchen, Cheesecake Factory, Firebirds Rocky Mountain Grill, and Maggiano’s Little Italy. And if you need a vacation from the stress of shopping and eating, there’s even an Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa. To quote the governor of California, “I’ll be back!”


Earlier this year I spent several months selecting my perfect laptop purchase. After I decided which model I wanted, I found the best price at Costco, even with the $50 membership fee. I ordered my computer online and my membership credentials were mailed to me with a twenty dollar gift card, bringing my membership cost down to only thirty dollars.

Every month or so, I am mailed a booklet full of useful coupons. The disadvantage to this relationship is that the closest Costco is in Raleigh. I personally don’t mind this because I will take any and every opportunity to go to Raleigh. I once had the privilege of residing in Wake County. Those ten years were a reprieve from my thirty-eight years in Fayetteville. I would still be in Raleigh if …oops, love ya, honey, didn’t know you were reading this!

Costco at first glance seems to be a kissing cousin of Sam’s Club. Upon further inspection you’ll find that although they both are huge stores with jumbo sizes of everything from olives to laundry detergent, Costco outshines Sam’s in their product selection, store appearance, and courteous staff.

I should stop right now and confess----I despise Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart. Until I started catering in 2000, I had spent very little time in either one. My business partner convinced me that more profit could be made for our small venture by shopping these stores. She was right, but since I am no longer in this business, I limit my exposure to the Sam Walton dynasty. I like a certain dog food at Sam’s (that takes my little girls about two months to consume) and their meat department is good. I also think the photo shop does a great job, but don’t hold your breath on the hour processing time or you’ll be blue in the face.

Costco, on the other hand, is a delightful adventure. I find their stores very clean and neatly organized, and yes, I have visited other Costco stores. The quality of the food is outstanding. The bakery offers items freshly baked on site as well as items packaged from vendors such as the Atlanta Bread Company. A plethora of cheeses, meats, and prepared entrees and salads await your approval in the deli area. A special extra chilly room offers a wide and exotic selection of fresh fruits and vegetables and special salad mixes. I especially like the Parisian blend that includes a fancy lettuce mix, dried cranberries, almonds, feta cheese, and white balsamic vinaigrette. The frozen foods and dry goods sections of the store are as well stocked and varied as the fresh foods. This is the only store where I can find cases of FUZE, Nick’s answer to avoiding Diet Cokes.

In addition to foods of all types, Costco sell books, music, health and beauty items, furniture, appliances, and electronics. They even sell hearing aids and that’s just in the store, online you will find even more choices, and most posted prices include shipping costs. The selection and quality of merchandise is exceptional, but when you come to the checkout counter, a clerk will unload your items onto the conveyor belt, something that rarely happens at Sam’s Club. I have found the staff at Costco to be very helpful and friendly.

After leaving the store, but before exiting the parking lot, check your gas gauge. The other week at $2.42, Costco had the lowest price per gallon on gas that I saw in Raleigh. (See my photo of the long, but fast line). While you may not net a lot of savings by driving to Raleigh for Costco shopping, if you’re already there, this is a great store.

Costco is on Old Wake Forest Rd, at the Six Forks Rd. intersection.

A Day at the Creek

Nick and I attended Homecoming at Campbell University on November 2nd. It’s hard to believe that thirty years ago we were freshmen (Nick at Campbell and me at Carolina). Nick enjoyed seeing all the changes that have been made since he last visited campus about fifteen years ago. The new football program has everyone, current students and alumni alike, excited. Right now the field and bleachers look a lot like a high school stadium, but the field house is impressive. It’s definitely a work in progress. What is not a work in progress is the new beautiful convocation center. We’re already checking the calendar for a date with the basketball team. While these sports programs are not as elaborate or established as some of the larger universities in the area, the spirit of the fans cannot be matched.

After the game, we went to the Brass Lantern in Dunn for dinner. The décor of this restaurant reminds me of the type of fancy adult restaurant I saw as a teenager. My childhood restaurant experiences consisted of Big Daddy’s Seafood in Kure Beach and Hardee’s. Unlike modern families, we seldom ate away from home. When I was fourteen, I went to Florida with my brother’s family and we ate at an Italian restaurant in Daytona Beach. This place has tablecloths, cloth napkins, and even served cocktails, something that was unheard of and illegal in North Carolina. The Brass Lantern reminds me of this kind of classy restaurant: subdued background music, low lighting, and cloth linens. There are no televisions, loud music, garish props, or theme dressed wait staff. Food and relaxation are the focus. Even though the atmosphere is fairly formal, casual attire is acceptable.

Nick had baby back ribs and I had prime rib. Both came with salad bar, baked potato, and fresh bread. The salad bar consists of very basic items; however, the quality and freshness of the ingredients elevate it to a higher level. I especially enjoyed the watermelon pickles. The ribs were tender and sweet. The only disappointment to me was the prime rib. I could tell this was cooked under the broiler. I feel this compromised the taste. I prefer grilled meat. The prices were typical for this type of “Saturday Night” restaurant. My prime rib was $17.95. Nick’s ribs were on special for $11.95 for a full rack, but he had to pay an extra $3.79 for the salad bar. Overall, I highly recommend the Brass Lantern for a good meal at a fair price in a pleasant environment.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Money Crunchers

With everything that's been going on in our economy lately, I've actually tried to be more frugal in my everyday habits. Very difficult for a shopaholic like me, believe me! One store I really love once I got used to their quirky rules is Aldi's. Rule number one: they don't take credit cards or checks, just cash and debit cards. This got me the first time I went there because I rarely carry cash and didn't have a debit card, so I had about five dollars to spend. Even at Aldi's five dollars doesn't buy much. The second rule is that if you want a shopping cart you have to put a quarter in this wierd locking device that hangs off of the handle. If you return the cart to the rack, you get your quarter back. Once again, you must be prepared before shopping at this store. The third rule is bring your own bags or buy bags at the cash register. This is easy because I keep bags from Harris Teeter and Trader Joe's in my car. Speaking of Trader Joe's, the same company owns Aldi's and Trader Joe's, although they are nothing alike in their design. Aldi's is a very basic, no frills store. A lot of the merchandise is still in the packing boxes and you will recognize very few major brands. I find the quality of these unknown brands to be exceptional. The fruits and vegetables, although not widely varied, are always fresh and much less expensive than any other grocery store. If you're trying to stretch your grocery dollar, this is a great store to try.
Speaking of groceries, I have stumbled upon a great resource for stretching your monthly budget. Angel Food Ministries. I learned of this a couple of months ago from my former church in Raleigh and did some research online. This organization distributes restaurant quality food bundles at a reduced price through area churches. The purpose of their group is to assist families who need help with their food budgets; however, people from every income bracket are encouraged to participate as this enables them to negotiate a better discount from food suppliers. We bought the primary box, a fruit and veggie box, and a grill meat box, and shared with Nick's parents. Some of the items are fresh, some frozen, and some shelf staples. Everything that we have tried so far has been good. We will probably do this again. Go to their website at to check it out for yourself. I was able to place our order online and then we picked it up at the Church of Christ on Country Club Drive on Saturday morning.
One more plug for saving money: Ed McKay's Used Books. Okay, I've been a snob about books, I admit it. I have liked buying new books the first day they arrived at Sam's. But both Nick and I are idiots about books and my house is overrun with, I have stopped buying new books, okay, so Nick hasn't, but that's another post......I now try to buy all of my books at Ed McKay and.....drumroll, please.... I have even sold some to them!!!! If you are a rabid reader like I am this makes perfect sense. I love to read and in the absence of anything else, I have been known to read the back of a detergent bottle; however, I don't need to keep every book I read. This is where Ed McKay makes perfect sense: buy a book, read the book, take it back and trade it for a new book! You can get cash or trade in dollars. I take the trade ins. They give you half the price in credit of the price they charge for the books. Believe me, coming from someone whose book budget exceeds a typical shoe budget, this is a deal! You'll be happy to know that I did not receive any books in exchange for this endorsement!! ;-)
Happy bargain shopping!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Daring Bakers: Pizza Dough

This was not my first time making my own pizza dough. Pizza is one of my favorite things. I especially love non traditional toppings (which thanks to restaurants like California Pizza Kitchen are becoming more main stream). I found the dough recipe straight forward and simple to follow, but in the end, I didn’t like the flavor as well as others I have made. Since Trader Joe’s sells pizza dough for like 99 cents, I don’t see myself making the dough from scratch very often; however, I had fun with the toppings.

Mushroom Magic:
I sautéed mushrooms and garlic in a mixture of butter and olive oil. After I spooned a light covering of marinara sauce over the dough, I added the mushrooms, asparagus, and a generous amount of havarti cheese.

Hail Caesar!:
I love Caesar salad, so I brushed one pizza with olive oil and spread parmesan cheese over it before baking, once out of the oven, I topped it with romaine lettuce mixed with my homemade Caesar dressing. I love the contrast of the warm bread and cold greens.

I spread the dough with Trader Joe’s Pineapple Salsa, then added julienne ham and pepper jack cheese. This was my husband’s favorite.

I used a jarred pesto sauce, Trader Joe’s again, as my sauce, and then topped it with artichokes and Romano cheese.

I mixed left over pork roast with some smoky sweet BBQ sauce. I spread a little BBQ sauce over the dough, and then topped it with the pork and a little sweet onion. I used havarti because that’s what I had, but I think I would have liked smoked Gouda or smoked cheddar better.

Overall this was a great challenge, got me thinking out of the circle, ;-). Can’t wait for the next one!

Pizza Madness

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Nick loves breakfast. I am trying to love breakfast as long as I am not expected to eat it before 9 am. Recently we have gotten into the routine of going out to breakfast on Nick’s day off, usually Fridays. You are likely to find us at Zorba’s. Don’t be alarmed when you walk in there for the first time because it looks kinda dumpy. Yes, the décor dates back to the early 80’s (sorry if it was updated since then!), and the fixtures look old, but I find the interior to be very clean. The bathrooms are nice, too, which always bumps up a restaurant’s rating for me. I almost always get two eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast. Nick likes the pancakes. He usually has them with eggs and gyro meat. The basic menu satisfies our morning cravings and the prices are a welcome sight in today’s economy.

This week we ventured away from our normal routine and tried the Pancake House at the Ambassador Motel. This motel and diner have been on 301 for a gazillion years, but I don’t think I had ever been until Friday. The restaurant is very clean and neat with a fresh Americana theme. We had similar meals to those at Zorba’s and the quality was comparable; however, these prices were $2.00 more per entrée. While I enjoyed the food and the atmosphere, I like the bottom line at Zorba’s more!

Stay tuned for more breakfast favorites as well try new places.

Little Italy

Why are pasta dishes in restaurants so expensive? I find pasta and sauces very simple to make at home and most are economical if you don’t use expensive cheeses. Today we ate at Little Italy for lunch. I got what I normally do, the steak and cheese sandwich, but Nick wanted pasta. He got a dish call “Ziti Chef”. The penne pasta (why not call it “Penne Chef”?) was served with a tomato cream sauce. The menu said it had sautéed onions, mushrooms, and bacon. The sauce tasted great, but Nick only found two mushrooms and very little bacon. This came with bread for $9.95. He added a side salad for an additional $1.95. I thought this was an outrageous price for an entree that probably cost less than $4.00 to make. The salad was odd, with iceberg and green leaf lettuce, thick curls of carrots, tomatoes, and big chunks of red onion. The ranch dressing was very watery. My sandwich was a better buy at $6.50, but didn’t come with fries or salad. Another thing that annoys me is the lack of sweetener on the table. The owner would probably contend that some patrons stuff the little packets in their pockets. Even so, when unsweetened beverages are ordered, the waiter should bring the sweetener. Nick had to ask twice before that was brought to our table.

I like the food and the atmosphere at this eatery, but I don’t suggest it often because I find the seating uncomfortable. This will continue to be a sandwich place for me, but I will reserve a $10 pasta entrée for a nicer evening out, not just everyday eating.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Worst Bathroom Ever!

To the Loo!

Nick’s goal is to venture out into the world and return home without ever having to use a public restroom. I, on the other hand, thanks to my miniscule bladder, have visited every bathroom from here to Miami. Public restroom facilities vary greatly. The bathroom at Nordstrom at Tyson’s Corner, Virginia wins top honors. First you enter a sitting room which could easily pass for a very elegant parlor. The comfortable furniture and soft lighting invites you to rest awhile, maybe reconsidering that sweater you saw on sale, or plan your strategy for your shopping day. As you enter the inner chamber, the usual metal stalls and stark lighting are absent. Each toilet is completely enclosed in its own closet with its own sink. This lovely loo sets the standard by which I measure all public bathrooms. Regrettably, I have never had the pleasure of visiting another one like the one at Nordstrom.

Let me take my soapbox for a moment. I wish I knew who designed the typical public bathroom because I would like to slap his face. And yes, I am sure a man designed it because no woman would have thought that we should take care of the most personal of business with partitions that don’t reach the floor and doors with cracks the size of a Buick. At least we have stalls; some men’s rooms have urinals that look like drainage ditches with no partitions at all. I am a very private person, okay, I’m a prude, but I see nothing wrong with a little modesty. I refuse to accept the belief that because I choose not to parade around naked in the gym I have hang ups. Who decides this standard of behavior, anyway?

Now that we’ve cleared that up, I can continue. Last week we were traveling on Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park. We had packed lunch and ate at one of the picnic sites. Here’s a picture of the outhouse I had to use. As far as outhouses go, it wasn’t too bad, definitely better than risking a tick bite on the hiney! The worst part was seeing the brand new modern restrooms that were not yet open! Also during our vacation, I found the worst bathroom I have ever visited. This one was at the Shenandoah Heritage Market. The aqua green wooden partitions were very short, so short that the toilet seats were visible. So I guess the idea is someone might see your hiney, but at least your face is hidden. EWWWW!

My other pet peeve about bathrooms is the new toilet paper holders. These are seldom installed in a convenient spot. Many times I feel like a contortionist while trying to reach the paper, and then it usually comes off the roll in one or two sheet sections. How I miss the old fashioned toilet paper rollers! At one time or another we all must visit a public loo. I suggest not patronizing businesses that do not provide adequate facilities, but sometimes, when you have to go, you have to go!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Silly Question for Friday

What's the weirdest breakfast you've ever had?
Mine was in Germany where they serve hard rolls and thinly sliced salami. I didn't like that very much. But on that same trip I discovered Nutella. Nutella is a peanut butter type spread that is made with hazelnuts and chocolate and the lucky people in Europe eat this on bread for breakfast. I've loved it ever since.
Nick loves breakfast. We normally go to Zorbas. Today we are going to the Ambassador Pancake House on 301. I'll let you know later how it was.....have a happy FRIDAY!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jason's Deli

The time has come to review one of my favorite restaurants. I met my Sensible Shoes Sisters (minus one) here on Tuesday for a light lunch and heavy girl talk. I have trouble deviating from my absolute favorite: the California Club. This sandwich sports turkey, cheese, mayo, tomato and the things that make it my favorite, guacamole and sprouts. This concoction is piled high on a toasted croissant. I love the fact that I can get this with fruit instead of chips and the dip for the fruit is so sinfully yummy that I have to stop myself from licking the inside of the container. I always finish my meal with a generous helping of their frozen non dairy treat, chocolate, of course. Diane and Renae had one of their monster baked potatoes. I have never seen potatoes as large as the ones served at Jason's. They are covered in all sorts of gooey toppings including chili, broccoli and cheese, pulled pork, or just plain Jane style, with tons of butter, sour cream, bacon, and cheese. Many varieties of soups are available. My favorites are the French Onion and Cheesy Broccoli. In addition to the freshest, most varied salad bar in Fayetteville, their menu has enough sandwich choices to satisfy the pickiest patron. How about a New York Pastrami or Reuben? If heavy deli sandwiches aren't your bag, try one of their wraps or paninis. Every item in this eatery is made fresh as you order it and the quality of ingredients shows with every bite. Jason's Deli has been a favorite of mine even before coming to the Fayetteville market, I only wish the dining area was more spacious at lunch. We are the Sensible Shoes Sisters and we approve this restaurant!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

PF Chang and Pei Wei

These two restaurants may not meet everyone’s criteria for authentic Asian fare, but for someone like me who likes her ethnic dishes Americanized, they’re the bomb. The upscale décor and festive atmosphere of PF Chang’s makes it a perfect place for a celebration meal. Just make sure that you don’t mind sharing or eating off of everyone’s plate because those dishes are meant to be shared. For appetizers, try the lettuce wraps and deep fried green beans. The beans are dipped in tempura batter before frying and are served with a perfectly balanced slightly hot chile dip. You’ll enjoy the interaction of filling iceberg lettuce with a little or a lot of the savory minced chicken and noodles, you’ll want a lot! I didn’t have the courage to try the sauce our waiter mixed up at the table because I a m a wimp when it comes to heat, however, Nick enjoyed this with this lettuce wraps. The hot and sour soup at PF Chang is the best I have ever had. The broth is dark and rich with mushrooms, noodles and of course, tofu. It’s just hot enough to tickle your tongue, but not so hot that you’ll need extra iced tea. We all ordered from the lunch menu. I had almond and cashew chicken with brown rice, which was savory with lots of crispy steamed veggies. My friend Beth loves the citrus grilled salmon. The regular servings are very large, so be prepared to share; however, I found the lunch portions to be plenty, especially with the soup. PF Chang is at Crabtree Mall and Streets of South Point, (across the street from the main mall) so expect it to be crowded at usual meal times. In additions to PF Chang, I enjoy their casual dining cousin, Pei Wei. Pei Wei has a limited menu and you place your order at a counter, but these differences do not affect the quality of food. The beef teriyaki lo main bowl remains my favorite entrée. The sweetly seasoned beef sits atop a generous serving of lo mein and vegetables. The recipe for the hot and sour soup and the lettuce wraps is the same as PF Chang. Crab Rangoon and spring rolls complete the appetizer choices. Whether you dine in or take out, Pei Wei will more than satisfy your craving for Asian dishes.

The Weber Grill Restaurant

This summer we went to Indianapolis for the SBC. While we were there we ate at the Weber Grill Restaurant. Nick was so excited because we had seen the restaurant set-up on the Food Network. They actually have these huge charcoal grills inside the open kitchen. I took Nick’s picture with the bronze statue of Mr. Weber. I felt silly until another patron came in and starting snapping pictures. I overheard him telling his companions about Weber grills (he’s had three) and how much he had been looking forward to visiting the restaurant. I just smiled at Nick knowing that we were not alone in our admiration. The atmosphere is really fun, lots of grill and backyard paraphernalia. The kitchen is open and uses charcoal as well as gas grills. A special ventilation system carries the smoke out of the restaurant. The kitchen fascinated Nick and he was thrilled to be able to get a close up look at the grills and to talk to one of the chefs. Steaks, hamburgers, and pork are cooked over charcoal while chicken roasts over gas. Choosing an entrée was overwhelming, I finally decided on the steak salad. I really wanted beef, but I need a smaller portion because I knew I had to try the French onion soup. I’m so glad I did. The rich beefy broth was filled with sweet caramelized onions and topped with lots of gooey cheese. Being a connoisseur of French onion soup, I rate this as one of the best I’ve had. My other favorite was at Epcot in the Parisian café. The perfectly cooked steak, medium rare, topped assorted crisp, fresh greens with blue cheese and crunchy croutons. The warm charcoal flavor of the beef was a perfect contrast to the cold salad. I loved, loved, loved the pretzel rolls with cheesy butter. I have had pretzel rolls in only one other restaurant, Ryan’s in Winston Salem (no, not the feeding trough, another Ryan’s) and I have craved them ever since. I even wrapped the last one left up in a napkin and ate it as a snack before bed. This was a fabulous experience. If you’re ever near a Weber Grill Restaurant, don’t miss out on this great food and fun relaxed atmosphere.


These ugly step children of clogs are one of my favorite shoes. Most folks either have a pair or would like to try a pair. I got my lavender pair to wear to the pool. Nick got his to wear in the yard, but he wears them everywhere because they are so comfortable. He insisted on brown (yawn), but rumor has it that Santa may be bringing him a spiffier pair. Even though these shoes appear indestructible to me, the Crocs company offers a recycling program that speaks volumes for their social consciousness. If you turn your crocs into an authorized location, the shoes are broken down and remade into new crocs that are distributed to the needy and shoeless in Africa. Follow this link to watch their promotional video: They also sell recycled crocs and a portion of those proceeds are donated as well. These fun shoes are manufactured by a responsible company who takes their stewardship seriously. I can’t wait to buy another pair.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Muffin Tin Makeover

I was baking some muffins (from TJ's) the other day and I couldn't find my muffin tin???? Anyway, I remembered that growing up we didn't have such a thing and still managed to make cupcakes, etc. How? With cupcake papers and canning jar rings. That's what I did. So, thanks momma for making me self sufficient!

Mrs. Rowe's in Staunton VA

Definitely good eats as Alton would say!

Trader Joe's in Short Pump

They were selling mums that we named after me, almost: PELEE, and the English spelling of my name is PEELLE.

Happy 50th to Stick and Lois!

Scenes from Virginia

Friday, October 10, 2008

October Travel Log

Journey to Massanutten

Saturday October 4, 2008
We left Fayetteville around 10:30 heading to Lynchburg, Virginia. This is the first leg of our journey to rest and relaxation at Massanutten Resort in the Shenandoah Valley. Our first stop is at Blue Ridge Community Church to attend a party for Stick and Lois Thomas for their Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary. I was very impressed by the food. The party was catered by the cook/hostess at the church. I expected the usual reception fare from Sam’s or the deli at Kroger. I was delighted to find coconut battered chicken nuggets, a layered Mexican dip that I make myself, a baked cheese dip (in a ciabatta crust that I will be making soon), BBQ, as well as assorted pastries and cookies (trumpet cookies that melt in your mouth). The cake was not only beautiful but tasted wonderful and I think I am going to ask for this recipe. After spending a couple of hours visiting with old friends we set out for our nights lodging in Raphine, Virginia. No, I had not heard of Raphine until I attempted finding a hotel room amid several college football towns. The best I could do was the Days Inn. I would not recommend it. Fortunately the hotel was not a dump, just in bad need of renovations. The paid help was scarce as was the appeal of the continental breakfast which we skipped. The best part of the room was the free WiFi which I used to find a place to eat dinner, the Fairfield Diner. This place gave me a laugh because it was located on Soapy Lane (unknown to Google maps) beside a Laundromat and a carwash. This is a very small place and we got there about an hour before they shut down for the night. I wasn’t very hungry so I ordered the grilled ham, tomato and three cheese sandwich. Nick ordered a bacon, egg, and cheese burger. My sandwich tasted okay, but I don’t think I like tomatoes on my grilled sandwiches. Nick liked his burger, except that the meat was burned on the outside. The place was cute and had some good sounding items on the menu, but I wasn’t willing to fork out that much on a dark horse. I doubt that I will ever pass this way again, but if I did, I would probably drive on down to Staunton to Cracker Barrel or some other chain restaurant.

Sunday, October 5, 2008
When we left Raphine Sunday morning, we pulled off of interstate 81 at the Staunton exit for Cracker Barrel. That’s when we saw the sign for Mrs. Rowe’s. We had no idea that this little restaurant had been featured in Southern Living. The lobby was crowded, but we had comfortable rocking chairs with college emblems while we waited for about ten minutes. The restaurant décor is very homey with heart of pine paneling and solid wooden tables and chairs. The prices were a little higher than we normally pay for breakfast, but the food was really good and the portions generous. I had bacon, eggs, hash brown casserole and toast. Nick had tenderloin and gravy over biscuits. I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone who is traveling in this area. My only disappointment is that we couldn’t have one of Mrs. Rowe’s famous pies for breakfast! After our late breakfast, we drove around Staunton for a while. This is such a scenic area with a lot of historical houses including the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson and his library. We then continued north to Harrisonburg to kill some time because we couldn’t check into our condo until 4pm. Harrisonburg is the home to James Madison University and has some collegy areas as well as the usual retail strip. I have finally seen a mall that is more pathetic than Cross Creek. ;-). Finally we made our way on to Massanutten. Our condo is really nice; we could even smell the fresh paint. Everything seems to be clean and in working order. What a relief! Nick is thrilled because we have a gas burning fireplace. We have it on while we watch the Amazing Race! Even though it was warm today, the night time temperatures are a lot lower here in the mountains. Tonight we had dinner at Hank’s Smokehouse Grillery. The interior of the building is rustic and the interior, a friendly, casual, woody atmosphere. The first thing we noticed was the delicious smoky aroma. While we were waiting for our food we tasted all the varieties of sauce and all of them passed my test for sweetness. I decided to have an entrée salad with fried chicken tenders. The salad was fresh and the blue cheese dressing good; however, I only got two strips of chicken for $8.95. Nick had a barbeque combo of chopped pork and beef brisket. Of course, the pork barbeque is not the type we are used to at home, and Nick knew this, however, the meat contained an overwhelming amount of smoke flavor. The best tasting pork barbeque has a subtle hint of smoke that doesn’t hide its natural flavor. The tender beef brisket had a nice flavor. The sauces were good with just the right touch of spiciness and sweet. Given the remoteness of this area, Hank’s Smokehouse Grillery is a good choice for a good meal at a reasonable price.

Monday, October 6, 2008
This first order of the day is to shop for groceries. Not only are most of the restaurants back in Harrisonburg, it’s a good five miles down the mountain, so we decided to take advantage of our full kitchen and prepare our own meals. We drove a few miles to the Food Lion in Elkton. Food Lion is one of my least favorite grocery stores, but we were able to find some nice looking pork chops, rib-eyes, and wings, as well as plenty of accompaniments. We even found something we love: cream filled French horns, which Harris Teeter never has….good thing, that’s just what I need is yet another vice. The clerk was nice enough to scan her MVP card so that we could get the weekly discounted prices. The rest of the day was spent napping and reading, you guessed it, by the gas logs. WiFi is $10 a day, so I decide I can live without the internet for a few days. So my mac daddy computer just became a very expensive word processor and Mahjong Titans game station.
She'll be coming around the mountain when she comes.....

Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Today went traveled over about forty miles on Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah Valley. I’ve got some great pictures to post later. We packed our own picnic lunch and really loved this lazy tour of spectacular mountains and foliage. After this strenuous day of getting in and out of the CRV at the overlooks, we spent a considerable amount of time in a hot tub the size of a party barge. Wish we had one of these at home!
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Today’s weather is the coolest we’ve had; I am actually wearing a corduroy shirt and jeans. We went into Harrisonburg to the Shenandoah Valley Farmer’s Market. This sounded really cool and I had flashbacks to the Bird in the Hand Farmer’s Market in Lancaster County, PA. What a disappointment! This is more like a flea market than a farmer’s market. I didn’t buy a thing, but I did find a store up on Market St that had Crocs on sale. Momma is getting a pair whether she likes it or not! The rest of the day is spent lounging and soaking in the incredible hot tub! I am so glad this place has a washer and dryer. We’re packed and ready to head out after breakfast in the morning.
Heading South

Thursday, October 9, 2008
Tim and Becky Arneson have traveled early in the morning from Fayetteville and we’re having breakfast this morning at the Thunderbird Diner. This is a small place and is laid out just like the diners I see on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. The coffee is really good and I had sausage gravy over biscuits with hash browns. Nick had a western omelet which he really enjoyed. The kids had pancakes and French toast. Becky had a breakfast burrito that smelled wonderful. I thought for a resort area that the prices were reasonable, in fact, this would have been a great place for lunch if we had not been eating in the condo. We’ve said our goodbyes and we are heading back to Fayetteville via Richmond. We arrive in Short Pump around twelve thirty. According to Nick, this area used to be country, but in recent years has grown up into sizeable suburban sprawl. Nick’s BFF, Brad Ivey, lived in Richmond while Nick lived in Lynchburg. They visited back and forth quite a bit. I found this area online when I was looking for a hotel for Saturday night, long story, not Williamsburg, but Massanutten, by the way, great choice, Becky! Richmond has always reminded me of Raleigh, and now, I am even more convinced that they are twins, separated at birth. They have a new mall that makes me salivate. I’ll be expounding on this mall in a later post. We only visited a couple of stores because we needed a travel break not a day long shopping spree! Down the street was a brand new Trader Joe’s. It opened two weeks ago, and I was disappointed that it seems a little bland. Maybe the plans are to spiff it up later, I missed the usual colorful murals. Fortunately, the contents of the store are the same as the others I have shopped. Finally, we hit I-95 south, homeward bound.
Home again, home again, bunkety, bunk!

Friday, October 10, 2008

After watching the season premiere of CSI (way too sad), I was able to sleep for 8 ½ hours straight! The last five nights without my trusty recliner took a toll on my usual sunny disposition. What a great week, just what we needed! I have lots of things to write about and can’t wait to get them posted. Please be patient with me, it will take me at least a week to my house in order after vacation, and I’m game for all those subbing opportunities at VCA. Minnie and Jilly are back from the kennel, and Hunter is excited that we are all back in our little cozy nest on Delaware Drive. Can’t wait to see all of ya’ll!!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mimi's Cafe

Someone commented to me yesterday that this restaurant is a typical “ladies who lunch” kind of place. While I must say that this is a great locale for that very thing, men enjoy eating here just as much. We went last week and Nick got his favorite, the patty melt. There is nothing ladylike about this sandwich. The beef patty is really thick and piled high with grilled onions and served on grilled rye bread. I had one of my favorites, quiche Lorraine which comes with salad, fruit, and a muffin the size of a Mini Cooper. The salad dressing, blue cheese, was freshly made and delicious. I chose the seasonal muffin which was lemon (not just lemon flavored, but glazed with a fresh lemon sauce, MMMM). October’s muffin will be pumpkin and according to our waitress is a big seller. Nick and I love their drinks. I always get the strawberry lemonade, just sweet enough, and Nick likes the Arnold Palmer. My frugal nature appreciates the fact that refills on these special drinks are free. I can’t have just one glass. Another one of my regular dishes here is the stuffed French toast. Brunch at Mimi’s Café is a production, so if you’re able this is a great meal to try for the first time visit. You may run into some of the lunching ladies, but chances are, you’ll run into all types of diners who appreciate good food and a festive French Quarter atmosphere.
BTW: Mimi's is at Plantation Square on Capital Blvd or Cary Towne Center Mall

Crab Nachos at Joe's Crab Shack

This could have been a disaster when I ordered this as my meal the other night. Was I ever relieved with the first delectable bite! If you like the traditional crab dip baked with cream cheese, try this. First you have a bed of the multicolored nacho chips, then you have a generous layer of crab dip as well as corn and black bean salsa and cheese. The chips are crispy and freshly fried and the Mexican overtures of the salsa don’t overpower the delicate rich flavor of the crab. Nick was only able to get a couple of bites because I was scooping this up so quickly. I would definitely have this again, however, this does fall into the category of “special”, so who knows how long Joe’s will keep this on the menu!

Monday, September 15, 2008

King's BBQ in Kinston

My favorite pastime is eating out of town. Yesterday (August 30th) we had to go to Kinston, so I searched the web and found King’s BBQ. Their pork barbeque got very good reviews so we gave it a try. Saturday night is seafood buffet night. Of course, they also served fried chicken and pulled pork. This was traditional Eastern North Carolina pork, so the only sauce available was the peppered vinegar. I have very specific guidelines concerning eating barbequed pork. First of all, I don’t like chopped pork. I want my pork sliced or pulled, and if at all possible I want to see the pig on the cooker. I want to pay my respects to the little oinker sacrificed for my dining pleasure. I also don’t want my pork drowned in sauce. The meat should be well seasoned and then mopped frequently with some liquid to keep it moist, but I want to add my own sauce at the table. Even though I grew up eating chopped Eastern North Carolina barbeque, I prefer a tomato based sauce. My personal favorite is the recipe Nick makes. We call it Big Daddy Nick’s Soppin’ Sauce, but unfortunately, unless you are a personal friend, you will probably never taste this pork nectar. Back to King’s, their pork was moist and flavorful. My only complaint would have to be the lack of a sweet sauce in which to dip it. This disappointment, however, was completely erased when I saw the slab of meat lying in crispy skin on the buffet. I was able to pull a portion from the slab and while this is not quite the same as adoring the pig on the cooker, it comes in a close second. I also ate popcorn shrimp, deviled crab, and fried chicken. All were very good, although the chicken was a little greasy. The butter beans tasted like they just came out of Granny’s kitchen and the hush puppies were homemade. Lemon, pecan, and chocolate pie as well as banana pudding were the dessert selections. Washed down with good, syrupy sweet tea, this was pleasant southern country cooking. The buffet was $10.99 per person and was a bargain considering the available bounty. Y’all southerners will be right at home in the ladder back chairs and wooden tables covered in vinyl tablecloths. The décor like the food was not fancy, but I would not hesitate to eat here again.