Friday, August 29, 2014

Stopped in for Pizza…

Laurie and I were once again out running errands and doing a little shopping.  But it was time for a late lunch/early dinner.  We felt like pizza… 


Since we’d had a couple of fairly positive experiences at Brixx Wood Fired Pizza locations previously, we decided to stop in at the Turkey Creek location in Knoxville…



The décor at Brixx locations is simple and straightforward.  There is lots of space between tables and, despite the way it looks in these photos, the dining areas are bright and cheerful.

Brixx Wood Fired Pizza restaurants can be found in North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.  Openings are scheduled for Alabama, Illinois, Indiana and Colorado.  Twenty-five stores are currently in operation.


Each Brixx location has its own list of 24 local and craft beers on tap.  I’m not a dark beer fan but Laurie and I both tried this brown ale.  She liked it quite a bit and I just drank mine…

The beer listing at the Turkey Creek restaurant included:  Shock Top Belgian White - St. Louis MO; New Belgium Ranger IPA - Ft. Collins CO; Shiner Bock - Shiner TX; Yuengling Lager - Pottsville PA; Franziskaner Hefe - Weiss Germany; Guinness Stout – Ireland; Stella Artois Lager -  Belgium; Sam Adams Seasonal - Boston MA; Sierra Nevada Kellerweis - Chico CA; Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - Chico CA; Lagunitas IPA - Petaluma CA; Saw Works Pale Ale - Knoxville TN; Saw Works Brown Ale - Knoxville TN, and Abita Rootbeer - Abita Springs, LA.  In addition there are 10 Rotating Taps on hand...


The pizzas at Brixx aren’t large and many people order one for an appetizer to share.  We like different things on our pizzas so I ordered the ‘Bronx Bomber’. ($10.95) It is made with “spicy Italian sausage, mozzarella, prosciutto, gorgonzola cheese, tomato sauce and fresh oregano”.  

My first reaction was “Where’s the sausage?!”  Eight little pieces or slices of sausage on 6 slices of pizza…?  It wasn't spicy either.  Did they run out of sausage or are they trying to increase their profit margins?  The amount of prosciutto seemed minimal as well.  Beyond that issue, the pizza lacked any flavor pizzazz!

     
Laurie ordered the “Rustica” pizza. ($10.95) This pizza included prosciutto, mozzarella, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives and roasted garlic.  As you can see, all of the ingredients were in the middle of the crust and while her toppings were plentiful, she also thought that it was just a fair tasting pizza…

What can I say?  You win some and you lose some… We were disappointed with our meals and our waiter was brand new and hadn't been well trained either.   Our search continues for really good restaurant based pizza here in East Tennessee.

Brixx Wood Fired Pizza is located at 10978 Parkside Drive in Knoxville’s Turkey Creek shopping area.  Phone: 865-288-4186.  The company’s website can be found at: http://brixxpizza.com/.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Best ‘Homemade’ Pizza Ever!

For dinner one evening, we once again experimented with a ‘semi-homemade’ pizza…


This time, we used a full size pizza crust…shown above…that we’d purchased from Fresh Market in Farragut Tennessee. 

Don’t you just love product labeling?  Note that this pizza crust was made with “real” ingredients!  Does someone make pizza crusts from ‘unreal’ ingredients?


I lightly basted the crust with olive oil.  Laurie asked that I use pesto instead of tomato sauce or pizza sauce for the base.  I readily complied…using Costco’s Kirkland brand Basil Pesto. (”Happy wife, happy life!”)  Then I added crushed red peppers, Italian seasoning, black pepper, and the dried garlic…the latter ingredient which is so evident in the photo above.


As a test, I applied some pieces of Benton’s prosciutto to about a third of the pizza.  It’s slightly visible in upper center.  Then I covered the pizza with slices of Hormel pre-cut pepperoni.


For the next step, I added a very generous amount of pre-packaged 4-cheese pizza mix cheese… It was My Essentials Food Lion brand...with mozzarella, smoked provolone, parmesan and romano cheese.  Then I sprinkled a little deli asiago cheese over the top of the pizza cheese blend for just a little more flavor.  Laurie also asked me to sprinkle a little more crushed red pepper on the top.


The instructions on the pizza crust said to bake the pizza at 425 degrees for between 8 and 12 minutes.  We like our pizza crust crispy so we left it in the oven for a total of 15 minutes…resulting in the beautiful pizza above!  The crust was perfect and the pizza was terrific!  It popped with flavor and texture…the best ever ‘semi-homemade’ pizza to date…and incidentally, it was also the best pizza that we've had in East Tennessee... The portion of the pizza where the prosciutto had been applied had a little richer flavor but it was an unnecessary ingredient in combination with the pepperoni.  The pesto base was a great choice… 

Note to self!  The next time I use pesto as the base for a pizza crust don’t baste the crust with olive oil, as there is plenty of oil in the pesto itself.  We ended up with some oil dripping down on the bottom of the oven.  

Future experiments with pizzas will include a pizza with tomato sauce, high end cheese, roasted garlic, prosciutto on its own...also a pizza with Italian sausage, deli grade pepperoni and perhaps even a vegetable or two…

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, August 25, 2014

Gloria Jean’s Fine Southern Provisions!

Yes, I know… My postings recently have been all about restaurants and food. What can I say!?  Eating is what I do best…

So, continuing with the theme, we recently drove over to Kingston Tennessee to check out a restaurant that we’d heard good things about.


This is Gloria Jean’s Fine Southern Provisions.  It’s in the Ladd Landing shopping center near Kingston’s City Hall.  We’d seen a segment about it on Knoxville’s WBIR television station and we read a positive article about Gloria Jean’s in the Food Section of the Knoxville News Sentinel.  We had to check it out for ourselves! 


It was a Tuesday at about 6 PM when we arrived.  The restaurant was busy the entire time we were there.  With the brick walls and wood accents, the dining room was warm and comfortable.  The staff was attentive but our waitress didn’t know enough yet about the menu items.  Time and training should cure that problem.


We didn’t come to a restaurant touting ‘southern cooking’ looking for the health food.  Its a good thing because if this order of Fried Green Tomatoes is ‘health food’, it would be based on the ‘Paula Deen School of Cooking’.

Chef Robert DeBinder’s version of cornmeal breaded fried green tomatoes are deep fried and served with country ham gravy. ($4.00) It was a nice twist on the usual which we quite enjoyed! 

The owner/chef has been in the restaurant business for over 15 years.  He’s a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College for the Culinary Arts.  Previously, he worked in the kitchens of such East Tennessee Restaurants as The Orangery, Bistro By the Tracks and Chez Liberty.


From that ‘light’ version of fried green tomatoes, and staying with our healthy theme, we moved on to another appetizer.  These are the Summer Sausage Corn Dogs served with bacon-honey mustard. ($6.00) Wow!  All of our taste buds were ‘a poppin’ with this special treat… Winner, Winner!


I stayed with the ‘fried’ theme for my entrée.  This is the Fried Chicken which came with a buttermilk biscuit and 2 sides. ($9.00) (Now that I think about it, I never got a biscuit!) For my sides, I chose the pan-fried corn and, as a nod to healthier food, the turnip greens.  I’d been tempted to order the macaroni and cheese as one side… 

The fried chicken and the turnip greens were good, if not the best I’ve had.  The fried corn was somewhat unremarkable… For the best fried chicken and turnip greens we’ve had in recent years, just go to http://bigdaddydavesbitsandpieces.blogspot.com/2012/03/great-southern-dining-wildwood-florida.html

   
Laurie tried to opt for a ‘healthier’ entrée to offset our appetizers… This is Gloria Jean’s Grilled Salmon glazed with bacon honey mustard. ($12.00) Well…it is salmon and bacon makes everything better!  

For her sides, Laurie went with the baked apples and the hashbrown potato casserole.  Her salmon entrée was excellent…and when she gave me a taste, I completely concurred!  She also really liked her sides. 


We were very full after such an expansive dinner but we talked ourselves into sharing a piece of Chocolate Pie. ($4.00) I forgot to take a photo until after I stuck a fork in it… For us northerners, the pie was a bit of ‘overkill’, a little too sweet and heavy for our tastes…

The chef/owner, Robert DeBinder, stopped by the table to see what we thought about our meal.  We gave him two thumbs up and we assured him that we’d be back.  I’m going with the Cat Fish dinner the next time.  One positive other than the quality of the food was the price… We were served a lot of good food for only $34.00!

Gloria Jean’s Fine Southern Provisions is definitely worth the drive from Farragut, Lenoir City, Loudon, Oak Ridge or Knoxville.  It is located at 1000 Ladd Landing Boulevard in Kingston Tennessee…just north of exit 35.  Phone: 865-850-6324.  Website: http://www.gloriajeansrestaurant.com/.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by and checking out another restaurant with us!


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, August 22, 2014

Checking Out Another Asian Restaurant…

We decided to try something new for dinner one evening a couple of weeks ago.  I’d noticed a new restaurant in Maryville on a couple of our drives on US Hwy. 411 over to Willie’s Italian Restaurant in Seymour Tennessee.


New Asia Restaurant is located in a small new strip shopping area… 

We really like quality Asian food and we’re fortunate in that there are a couple of fairly good Thai restaurants as well as Indian restaurants in the Knoxville area.  There is only one passable Chinese restaurant on our list to date and we’re eager to add any Asian options to our ‘go to’ list.


The décor in the dining area was bright and colorful.  The restaurant can probably seat about 40 people… Most of the reviews posted in Trip Advisor, Yelp and others were quite positive.


We ordered a couple of appetizers just to try out a variety of menu items.  These ‘Shrimp with Pants” or Tom Cuon were quite good. ($5.50)


Laurie loves Goi Guon…Vietnamese rice paper rolls. ($4.95) She’d always had either shrimp or vegetable Goi Guon before…this was the first time she’d had the pork version.  We both agreed that we preferred the shrimp or vegetable versions although these were OK.  Spicy peanut sauce would have perked up this appetizer…


I ordered the Chicken Pad Thai… ($9.25) Pad Thai is a stir-fried rice noodle dish commonly served as a street food and at casual local eateries in Thailand.  It’s made with soaked dried rice noodles, which are stir-fried with eggs.  Firm tofu can be added and different versions are seasoned with tamarind pulp, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic/shallots, red chili pepper and palm sugar.  It is served with lime wedges and often chopped roast peanuts. 

In this case, my Pad Thai included pieces of chicken.  It was OK…but I requested crushed hot pepper sauce for more flavor.  There was certainly plenty of food!


This is the side dish of accompaniments…bean sprouts, jalapeno slices and lime… that came with Laurie’s entrée. 


Adventurous as she is, Laurie jumped out there and ordered Pho Tai Nam. ($9.25) Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles called bánh ph, a few herbs, and meat.  Pho is a popular street food in Vietnam.  It is primarily served with either beef or chicken.  Laurie’s version came with beef brisket. 

She didn’t ‘get it’, i.e., the attraction of Pho. (Pronounced Pha!) After I tried it, I agreed with her.  It was filling but bland with lots and lots of noodles.  It may be an acquired taste, but we’re unlikely to acquire it!  She wished that she’d ordered one of the Chinese options that our waiter told us had recently been added to the menu…

Service at New Asia was not the greatest… Our waiter didn’t know much about the menu items and he wasn’t very attentive.  New Asia Restaurant is located at 1901 Sevierville Road in Maryville, (pronounced ‘Murvil’) Tennessee. Phone: 865-233-7664.   Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/newasiamaryville.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them...

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pigeon Forge Tennessee – Sable Theatre

Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Gatlinburg comprise a huge tourist venue here in East Tennessee.  Millions of visitors flock to this area adjacent to Smoky Mountain National Park every year.  Some of the better known man-made attractions are Dollywood, Dollywood’s Splash Country, the Dixie Stampede Dinner and Show, Ober Gatlinburg, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Smoky Mountain Opry, Titanic Museum and Attraction, The Comedy Barn…the list goes on and on!


We had not heard of the Sable` Theatre…until Laurie saw an ad in the local newspaper.  FYI…Sable with the hyphen in French translates to “Sand”.  I went online to take a look at the show being presented and it was so interesting that I immediately booked tickets for us…

FYI… The proper pronunciation of Sable` is ‘sub-LAY’.  The theatre is relatively small and intimate, especially when you consider what the show involves.  There aren’t any bad seats! 



“Sand” is an appropriate name for this theatre...and the show itself in entitled “Imagination in Sand”. 

This is Iryna Lialko, the sand artist who was featured throughout the show… Sand artist..?  In a large scale live show..?  How could that work?


Each segment of the show was preceded by one of Iryna’s creative and quick sand drawings set to music and timed… She had to complete them quickly and accurately to fit the timing of the various acts.  The drawings, projected on a very large screen, establish and describe the act to follow…

Iryna was born in the Ukraine.  She graduated from the International Academy of the fine arts and architecture in Kiev.  Her art has been exhibited in international competitions of painting and graphics and have also been used as illustrations in books.


If you like horses, they, along with their talented trainers and riders, are the main component of the show.   Twenty-five horses were featured in the show!  Breeds included Andalusian, Canadian, Icelandic, Arabian and Lipizzaner.


The trick riding performed by the cast was amazing… Equally amazing was the steady composure and gait of the horses as riders flung themselves off and on the horses…forwards, backwards, on the horses necks, their rumps and off the sides.

Cast members include a variety of Russian, Ukrainian and American performers.  They include dancers, acrobats, trick riders and circus performers...many of whom worked with the Moscow Circus as well as the Ringling, Barnum and Bailey circus here in the USA.  Two of the male trick riders performed some totally mind boggling stunts…acrobatics, mounts and dismounts.  I couldn’t get the name of both…but Timur Apaev was one of these amazing performers.


Every good show has to have a comedy component and Batrz Sokhiev and his co-star, an Icelandic horse, ably provided that ingredient.  The horse is obviously a character all on his own as he was loaded with personality!

Since flash photography is forbidden in the Theatre at Sable, I’ve ‘borrowed’ these photos from the theatre’s website…  


The horse actually let Batrz roll him over on his back… At one point he mounted the horse’s chest like he was riding him upside down.  In this bit, Batrz has pulled the horse’s front legs back and as he reaches for the back legs, the horse stretches them out so he can’t grab his hat… Very clever!
Batrz is also a great trick rider… I have never seen anyone slide all the way under a horse at a full run and then come up the other side.

Batrz Sokhiev was born in Uzbekistan.  He started to work at Russian State Circus Company in 2002 and then in 2007 he went to work for the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus here in the USA.


These are quite literally the ‘big’ stars of the show.  The horses are trained by Sylvia Zerbini, shown here with some of her best friends. Aren't they beautiful!?

Sylvia was born in Sarasota, Florida and grew up with her parents on tour.  She is a ninth generation performer who’s entertained audiences throughout Europe, North America and South America.  She debuted when she was only five years old. Sylvia has been honored with numerous awards including the prestigious Cup of Monaco, presented to her by Monaco’s Prince Rainier.  To-date Sylvia has performed for nearly 10 million people.  She has appeared at such popular landmarks as Madison Square Garden in New York, Playa De Americas in Mexico City, Molsen Center in Montreal, and Los Angeles’ Staples Center.  She has also toured with Cavalia, an equestrian extravaganza based in Montreal Canada that puts on shows around the world. 



Here Sylvia is communicating with a few of her horses.  All communications are through gestures, body language, and a few commands in French.  She spoke to the audience following the show.  As a girl, she spent days out in pastures with horses and she learned how they ‘talk’ or communicate with each other.  At one point, (sorry no photo available), 9 horses raced around the small arena.  At her gesture, they would stop on a dime, or break off into separate groups.  Another time, she had one group of horses racing to the right and another to the left, barely brushing by each other!  Her relationship and control was amazing…

One review of Sylvia’s performances was by the Washington Post… “Cavalia reaches its peak when Sylvia Zerbini and her 8 Arabians take the stage”.  She also teaches “Liberty Horse Training”.  Sylvia has a website where you can learn more about her and her method. http://sylvia-zerbini.com/wordpress/schedule/.

Laurie and I would heartily recommend “Imagination in Sand” at the Sable` Theatre!  Even if you aren’t a ‘horse person’, the interactions between humans and horses are amazing.

Discounts are available with brochures found in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville.  There are also discounts for seniors, local residents and members of the military. If you’re worried about the cost for you and your family, children 12 and under are free!  Sable` Theatre is located at 125 Music Mountain Drive in Pigeon Forge Tennessee.  Phone: 866-272-6888.  To view photos and a video preview of the show, just go to http://www.sabletheater.com/.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, August 18, 2014

Parkside Grill – Knoxville TN

Time to run into Knoxville and Farragut again, with shopping and some errands to run… Our plans fulfilled, so why not stop and have an early dinner?
(We had a $5.00 coupon too!)


This is Parkside Grill in Knoxville Tennessee… Its part of a chain of restaurants which includes locations both owned and managed by Diverse Concepts LLC. 

Other restaurants operated/managed by this company include: Johnny Carino’s (Italian…nationwide except for the Northeast); Mellow Mushroom (Many locations with an emphasis on the Southeastern USA); Harrison’s Bar and Grill in Clinton Tennessee; Lakeside Tavern in Knoxville; Riverside Grille in Oakridge Tennessee, and; Bullfish Grill, Blue Moose plus the new Timberwood Grill at ‘The Island’, all 3 in Pigeon Forge Tennessee.


The décor inside Parkside Grill was warm and inviting… It’s a casual restaurant with a nice midrange menu and a full bar. 
Parkside Grill is just west of North Cedar Bluff Road on North Peters Road.  The restaurant is very close to the I-40 exit at North Peters Road.


Our waiter started us out with a nice hunk of fresh warm bread with soft butter ready for spreading…

Have you noticed that fewer restaurants are bringing bread to the table?  Some actually ask if you’d like bread.  It saves a little money for the restaurant if they don’t serve bread…and you’re more likely to order extras too…

FYI, one of our pet peeves in restaurants is when they serve cold hard butter!


We ordered the Spicy Shrimp for an appetizer. ($9.99) It certainly was a larger order of shrimp than either of us expected.  These Gulf shrimp were lightly battered then fried, tossed in a sweet and spicy Asian sauce, and they’re served with crispy wontons.

The shrimp were very nice and it was a satisfying appetizer.  But...Laurie and I do like our ‘bang-bang’ style shrimp a bit spicier/heat-wise. 


For her entrée, Laurie ordered the Spicy Shrimp and Chicken Pasta. ($13.79) This dish consisted of bowtie pasta tossed in a spicy cream sauce with sautéed chicken, shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, green onions and mushrooms.

Laurie liked the ‘heat’ level of the sauce and she enjoyed the chance to eat pasta that included green onions and mushrooms…something she doesn’t get at home!  She told me that she’d order this dinner again, and that’s high praise…


My choice for dinner was this light and ‘healthy’ offering…the “Kickin’ Chicken”. ($12.99) I love fried chicken and I keep searching for a really good version.  This was a boneless double breast of chicken, lightly breaded and deep-fried and then topped with creamy bacon gravy.  It was accompanied by white cheddar mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.

The chicken was moist and flavorful…very good if not great.  With creamy bacon gravy, nothing can be too bad!  The mashed potatoes were OK and the broccoli was steamed perfectly.  All in all, it was a very nice dinner…

FYI… Laurie had a happy hour mixed drink and I had a bottle of Miller High Life.  The price was right…only $3.00 each!

Parkside Grill is located at 338 North Peters Road in Knoxville Tennessee.  Phone: 865-862-5358.  Website: http://parksidegrill.com/.  We will return!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, August 15, 2014

‘Playing’ with Our Food - Again!

Laurie and I keep experimenting with our food.  Sometimes we ‘play with’ and modify what we’ve seen others create and sometimes, we just wing it!  Most of the time our ‘creations’ aren’t fancy, time consuming, or complex.  Keep it simple and ideally use what you have in the house… 


Laurie and I had put together a dinner using penne pasta with Alfredo sauce, garlic, crushed red pepper, canned chicken and a few thin slices of pepperoni… I always brown the canned chicken with a little butter in the frying pan ahead of time… The end result wasn’t the most pretty entree but it had lots of flavor!

What you see in the photo are the leftovers from that meal…back in the frying pan.


Big Dude’s (http://bigdudesramblings.blogspot.com) philosophy is just that if you add an egg to leftover this and that…and you’ve got breakfast!  So what the heck… I scrambled a couple of eggs and added some shredded sharp cheddar cheese to the mix shown in the previous photo.  Before consuming this plate of food, I of course added Tabasco!  While the eggs didn’t contribute too much to this creation, they didn’t hurt it any either… The browned bits of chicken, cheese and pasta from the fry pan added texture and enhanced flavor…


Back in July, Big Dude and his better half, Bev, treated us to a fish fry down on their dock.  Laurie’s sister Bonnie and her husband Bill were the ‘guests of honor’ from St. Louis Missouri. (See my earlier blog site posting at http://bigdaddydavesbitsandpieces.blogspot.com/2014/08/a-casual-feast-on-lake.html) Part of that feast involved pole beans and ham hocks...

In any case, Laurie and I really liked the pole bean and ham hock side dish.  So, we decided to try our hand at something similar.  We had some long beans and a big ham slice on hand…no ham hocks available.  We added chunks of the ham slice to the beans.  Then a lot of dried garlic flakes and a liberal dose of crushed red pepper flakes were thrown into the mix.  We love garlic and we really like the heat from the pepper flakes!


This is what the beans and ham looked like without the broth…


But I must admit that you don’t capture the overall 'flavor' impact of this dish unless it’s served in the broth!  For us at least, this experiment came out perfectly… Laurie said that she’d definitely make this again.


We probably didn’t need to eat anything else after the beans and ham…but I’d browned up the rest of the ham slice in the frying pan with a bit of butter and pepper.  The ham ended up being a tasty ‘side dish’ to the beans and ham combo.  I also had some leftover ham for another lunch…

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave