Monday, February 28, 2011

A Simple Breakfast...

So the other morning, I was thinking about doing something slightly more imaginative than just scrambled cheese eggs and toast or fried eggs with bacon and toast... So, I put a slight twist on a hot breakfast. (Usually, we just have cereal or toast)

I took some prepackaged thin sliced deli sandwich ham, and then browned it in the frying pan with a bit of butter, onion power and pepper. Next, we toasted a couple of English muffins, then covered them with a bit of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, then the hot ham slices and a couple of fried eggs... Simple but very tasty!

When it comes to breakfast and using one's imagination, my hero is Larry at He has real 'vision' when it comes to his early morning repast...and he's a lot more willing to work at producing a hot breakfast than I am.
Have a great day and take care!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Resorts & Cold Old Locomotives...

On one of our wintertime back roads drives, we found ourselves in French Lick and West Baden Springs, two adjoining small towns in southern Indiana. (This is home country for basketball great Larry Bird...'the hick from French Lick')

It's also the home of 2 of the least known and most fabulous resorts in the USA. This is the West Baden Springs Hotel. It has a 200' domed atrium and 243 rooms/suites. The hotel was built in 1902 to replace an earlier hotel that had burned down. (The original was built in 1845) The current hotel was built to be 'fire proof' and it was completed in only 1 year! Many famous and infamous guests stayed here but the stock market crash in 1929 resulted in the closing of the hotel. It was subsequently operated as a college until 1985 when it was abandoned. The building was in a shambles when it was rescued and totally remodeled/refurbished around 2005.

This is the famous French Lick Springs Hotel, the other and larger hotel in this resort complex. This 443 room hotel is deceptively luxurious inside while it appears to be a bit institutional on the outside. It was built in 1901 when the mayor of Indianapolis bought the property and built the hotel. (The first resort hotel was built on the property back in 1845) I actually stayed here back in the 1970's and played golf on the 'one-way' golf course. (The 18th hole was no where near the 1st tee like most golf courses today) The hotel was pretty shabby at that point. The renovation of both hotels was completed by a billionaire entrepreneur, Bill Cook, President of the privately held Cook Group. He spent over $500 million to bring these properties back to life. Of course, there was an incentive...the adjoining casino he was allowed to build on the site...

So, in the early days, how did guests travel to the West Baden Springs and French Lick hotels? Why...via a railroad of course! The Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Railroad, (The Monon), built a stone depot, opened a line to the area in 1888 and, at it's peak, 7 different lines served the resort and the surrounding communities.

The French Lick Railroad Museum now occupies the former depot... This is a former Mobile & Gulf 2-6-0 Locomotive that's on static display adjacent to the Depot. The museum was closed during our visit so my research has been via the Internet and I had to make a few assumptions based on what I could find online.

Here we have a former 2-6-0 locomotive on static display from the Angelina & Neches Railway, (Lufkin TX), now identified as part of the French Lick, Baden & Southern Grant Railroad.

The Indiana Railway Museum operates diesel powered 20 mile train rides via the French Lick Scenic Railroad from March through December. For more information, go to

Looking colder than any of the other locomotives, this is a 0-4-0T engine obtained from the Indiana & Ohio Gravel Railroad. It's too bad that these great old steam locomotives can't be sheltered from the elements year around.

French Lick is closer to Louisville Kentucky than it is to Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition to the resort/casino complex and the Railway Museum, this is a very scenic area. For more information on the French Lick/West Baden Springs Resort, go to

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Vietnamese Bistro Redux...

Once again we found ourselves in the Farragut Tennessee/Turkey Creek Shopping area at lunch time. Lucky us!! We returned to the Vietnamese Bistro for another helping of their special cuisine.

Unfortunately, we forgot to photograph our appetizers before wolfing them down. We had Summer Rolls (4 pieces) and Shrimp Dumplings (5 pieces) The Shrimp Dumplings were fried/browned on the outside and were just great! The Summer Rolls, (Goi Cuon), included shrimp, pork loin, vegetables, herbs and vermicelli noodles wrapped in thin rice paper and served with peanut and/or citrus dipping sauce.

Laurie ordered the Spicy Noodles, (Bun Gao Xao Kho), which consisted of sauteed vermicelli noodles, egg, onions, bean sprouts and chicken. She could have chosen beef, pork or shrimp in lieu of chicken. It was very tasty!

Of interest...for our future consideration...were 5 different Pho Soups (Rice Noodle Soups) These include a chicken noodle soup, a couple of beef based soups, a meatball soup and Pho Dac Biet...beef, tripe and tendons.

I ordered the Pan Seared Thick Noodles. (Hu Tieu Ap Chao) These were wide rice noodles seared with beef, broccoli and bean sprouts. As with Laurie's entree, I could have had this dish with pork, chicken or shrimp. Very nice!

In keeping with the history of Vietnam, the expanded dinner menu offers a number of French Bistro items...Duck Breast, Quail, Trout, Roasted Free Range Chicken, Salmon and Filet Mignon.

One of the owners wanted us to try a luncheon special that wasn't on the menu. This is a Vietnamese version of pot roast. It's a soup dish, which contained tender pot roast, carrots, onions and spices served with bean sprouts, Jalapeno peppers and lime. We shared this dish and it too was very good! I especially liked it with a bit of the lime squeezed into the bowl.

Vietnamese Bistro now serves beer and wine. It's located at 11605 Parkside Drive in Farragut, Tennessee. Phone: 865-675-1310. The restaurant is open from 11 am to 9 pm Monday - Thursday and from 11 am to 10 pm on Friday & Saturday.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Old Time Railroad Depots - NY & PA

Time for a few more railroad passenger depots from our travels last summer... This is the North Girard Station...which is located in the middle of 'downtown' Lake City PA. (The town changed it's name in the mid-50's) The depot was built, (date unknown), by the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern. North Girard had passenger service until the late 1940's with service from both the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroads.

This is the former Erie-Lackawanna Railroad passenger depot, located on 2nd Street at the foot of LaFayette Street in Jamestown, NY. As you can see, the building definitely needs help! It was built in 1931 - 1932 and rail service continued here until 1969. One end of the building suffered some fire damage in 2009. As a part of an overall downtown revitalization plan, the depot would be converted to a visitor center.

Finally, this is the former Pennsylvania Railroad depot in Mayville, NY on Lake Chautauqua. This 1 1/2 story building was built in 1925, with the last passenger train stopping here in 1949. Both this building and the depot in Jamestown are listed on the National Register for Historic Places. The railroad abandoned this depot in the early 1950's and Mayville purchased it in 1968. Half of the building is now being used as the Chautauqua township museum and two other rooms are being used by 2 not-for-profit organization.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Upscale Dining - Knoxville

This is an interior photo of the central hallway at The Orangery, an upscale restaurant that's reputed to be one of the best in the Knoxville, Tennessee area. As anyone can see, the interior of the restaurant is really beautiful.

This was our first visit to The Orangery. We came with a group of roughly 64 diners. We were working off a fixed price preset menu...with a chicken, fish, beef or vegetarian entree. We placed our order for dinner weeks in advance of the event. It should also be noted that the group descended on the restaurant on the evening after Valentine's Day.

This very handsome room is the Banquet Room...and it's where the group met and dined. The evening started out with a cash bar... Three different wines were available as were 3 or 4 different varieties of beer. The special price was right! It was $3.00 for a beer and $4.00 for a glass of wine. Everyone had a chance to chat, exchange world views and catch up on any local news...

This was a nice looking place setting. The mixed greens salad with walnuts, feta cheese and a sherry vinaigrette dressing, was very nice. Tasty rolls were served with the salad.

The regular menu at The Orangery includes 7 different 'starters' and 4 different salads.

Laurie had the "Pan seared filet of salmon, with potatoes & asparagus in a spicy Pinot Noir sauce". I tasted her salmon and we both agreed that it was a very nice entree. No one at our table ordered the chicken or the vegetarian entrees.

There are 10 standard entrees on the a la carte menu. They range in price from $24.00 for the "Bacon Wrapped Natural Springer Mountain Bone-in Chicken Breast" to $39.00 for the "Seared Broken Arrow Ranch Venison Chops".

I'd ordered the "Duo of seared filet mignon with house made steak sauce and a lobster mushroom crepe with Grand Marnier cream sauce, fondue potatoes and asparagus". All I can say, is "Where's the beef?!" Filets are small...but usually not this small. It was OK...but not great. Others at the table made the same comment about the steak being so small. I didn't care for the crepe but Laurie tried it and she said that it was tasty.

This photo just didn't come out that well... Nevertheless, this was the dessert that came with our meal. It is a "Palm Beach Brownie, with vanilla bean ice cream and a warm caramel walnut sauce". It was small...but it was good and it was so rich that a whole brownie would have been too much!

The group price for the salmon entree, salad and dessert was $36.00 and the price for the 'steak' and lobster crepe with accompaniments, (plus coffee), was $38.00. Add taxes and a 20% gratuity for the total. On the regular menu, salads range from $4.00 to $9.00 and 'starters' range from $12.00 to $18.00.

We did have a couple of issues. In general the waitstaff was very efficient and unobtrusive. However, the salmon entrees were served long before the steak entrees. Laurie had almost finished her salmon when the steaks arrived. The other thing that bothered us...and I'm sure that it was a logistics issue for the that our checks were delivered to the table before we'd been served our desserts and coffee. It seemed a bit tacky, especially for a high end dining experience.

This was not a particularly auspicious introduction to The Orangery, but we'll probably go back at some point so we can order off the regular menu to fully evaluate the food and service. Almost everyone that we know who'd previously eaten here, had good things to report...

Friday, February 18, 2011

French & Indian War - Tennessee

This photo is of the interior of Fort Loudoun, a reconstructed fort that was originally built in 1756 on the bank of the Little Tennessee River. The fort was built by the British Colony of South Carolina in order to protect their western flanks and so they could ally themselves with the Overhill Cherokee Nation in their fight against the French. However, by 1760, the Cherokee turned against the British and, after an attack by the Indians, the British surrendered. This was the first time that a military unit and fort had surrendered to Native Americans. The Cherokee destroyed the original fort shortly after the British had surrendered and marched off to the east.

In 1917, the Colonial Dames of America placed a plaque at the site in the hope that the site could be preserved. In 1933, The Tennessee General Assembly purchased the land. Subsequently, based on old records and maps, the fort was rebuilt. Because of the damming of the Little Tennessee, part of the site had to be built up in order to raise it above the 'high pool' level of Tellico Lake. The current Fort Loudoun State Historic Area is operated as a unit of the Tennessee State Park System.

Eight times each year, (March, April, May, August, September, October, November and December), on Garrison weekends, volunteer re-enactors populate the Fort. During the first weekend in March, (the 5th & 6th), the re-enactors will kick off the new season. They do an excellent job of portraying and educating visitors as to what it was like to live at the Fort back in the mid-1700's. They actually stay overnight, cooking and sleeping as would have the original occupants of the Fort... We really enjoyed our first visit, as shown here, from March of 2010.

In September, the re-enactors go all out with their annual 18th century 'Trade Faire". There is a small admission charge for the "Faire", but during the rest of the year, admission to the park and the Fort is free. This 1,200 acre park on the shores of Tellico Lake has a free lecture series in the winter and, in season, there is a fishing pier, boat dock and picnic area. Of course, the Fort Loudoun Visitor Center and gift shop is open year around. This historic reconstruction is located just off of US Highway 411 in Vonore, Tennessee. For more information, go to

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hot Pastrami Search!

Since moving to East Tennessee from Chicago, we've been searching for a number of food items that we were used to, but that are hard to find here in paradise. (This is a way nicer place to retire than Chicago...which is a terrific Big City!)
One food item that we crave is a hot pastrami sandwich! In Chicago there was Manny's. In East Tennessee so far, we have Jason's Deli and we now have Webster's Deli.

This is Webster's Hot Pastrami. It was a nice sandwich. Laurie thought that it was better than Jason's. I thought that Jason's was better. We'll have to do another taste comparison to determine the winner!
The swirled rye bread was very nice but softer than the rye that usually comes with hot pastrami. Laurie thought that the meat was sliced just right...and I thought that it was a little too thinly sliced. We both agreed that it was much leaner than we're used to, therefore healthier but not as flavorful. Still, this was a nice sandwich...the staff was eager to please...and we'll be back!
Webster's Deli is is a local operation located at 12744 Kingston Pike in Farragut, TN. Phone: 865-675-2242. They also serve breakfast, make paninis and subs. Their hot pastrami competition, (so far), is Jason's Deli. (part of a large chain) The Jason's location where we've eaten is located at 133 North Peters Road in Knoxville. Phone: 865-357-3354. Website:
Any other leads on a great East Tennessee Hot Pastrami sandwich will be appreciated!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chattanooga Choo Choo!

During our recent visit to Chattanooga Tennessee, we came across the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel. This 390+ room hotel occupies the former Terminal Station and it's a member of the Historic Hotels of America. It was built in 1908 - 1909 and it was in the passenger train business from 1909 until August 11, 1970. The last train out was the Birmingham Special, on it's way to Washington, D.C.

The photo is a bit dark but if you expand it, you can see the terrific arched window with all the beautiful details that are built in. At least 3 Presidents came through this depot...Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The ceiling at the peak of the dome is 85 feet high. The building cost $1.5 million to build.

I especially like these doors...each with a train & track designation. There were 14 tracks feeding this passenger depot. At it's peak, almost 50 trains per day stopped here. By 1948, that count was down to a steady 35 per day.
Looking for something special!? There are 48 Victorian Railcar Rooms available for guests...all set in the period with the modern conveniences.

Behind the Terminal/Hotel are several tracks still in use. One of them is used by Terminal Station Trolley #36. This trolley is open for business and it takes you for a old time narrated ride. This particular unit was built in 1924 by the Perley A. Thomas Car Works, Inc. in High Point, NC. It served for many years in New Orleans before being relocated to Chattanooga.

This is a 1906 Baldwin Locomotive, also on display behind the Hotel. It is a 2-6-0 'Mogul'...named for the Mohammedan Empire (India), where they were first built. Worldwide, over 11,000 of these engines were built between 1864 and 1910. For more information on the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel and entertainment complex, go to

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chattanooga Railroad Classic!

While touring Chattanooga Tennessee a couple of weeks ago, we came across this great old railroad depot! It's hard to believe but the oldest portion of this building began life as an iron foundry back in 1871. Then, in 1894, the structure was converted to a freight depot by the old Eastern Kentucky and Georgia Railroad.

The E.K.&GA Railroad and this building were subsequently taken over by the Southern Railroad in 1901. In the late 1970's, John's railroad salvage made it's home here.
Then, in 1983, the building was designated as a National Historic Landmark and was entered in the National Register of Historic Places.

The building was purchased by Henderson, Hutcherson and McCulloch, PLLC, CPA's. HHM is an accounting, consulting and investment firm. They tore down external walls that were not of historical value and then preserved as much of the interior as possible, including their use of the old wood for such items as doors and conference tables.

One quirky design item that was preserved was the slightly slanted floor which apparently made it easier to load or off-load the boxcars. Leaving the track along the back of the building was another nice touch that adds to the authentic ambiance of the structure. Renovations were completed in 2007. This handsome depot is located at 1200 Market Street in Chattanooga.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Burgers & Bakery...

Laurie and I went out to buy some stamps at the Post Office and then drop off our 2010 income tax materials at the tax preparers office...then I asked Laurie where she wanted to go for lunch.

She remembered a store/gas station at a country crossroads that we'd passed many times. The store was always busy and, other than the crowds, the place was a bit of a mystery, as there was no sign indicating that the place served food.

So we went inside... As before, Hall's was very busy! Hall's is about 60% restaurant and 40% corner grocery store. Lot's of workmen were having lunch. We ordered at the counter and grabbed a table. We both ordered the hand formed griddle fried double cheeseburger and we split an order of fries. The burger was very nice and the fries were OK. The owner and staff were very friendly and they checked to ensure that we enjoyed our lunch... To pay, you just go up to the register and let the cashier know what you's the honor system.

I found a couple of reviews for Hall's on the Internet. One was from a granddaughter who said that she loves her Papa & Nana's food! Both reviews focused on the as a sausage biscuit and the other as a biscuit and gravy. We'll definitely have to try breakfast! The Charles R. Hall Grocery Store is located at 4500 Sweetwater-Vonore Road, Madisonville, Tennessee 37354. Phone: 423-442-3083.

Since just a couple of days earlier, I'd came across a new bakery listing on the Internet for Madisonville and since we were close by at Hall's, we decided to check out the College Street Bakery.

Located at 126 College Street in downtown Madisonville, this bakery was recently started up by Mark & Ulrich Asmann. Interestingly, both are graduates of the University of Tennessee Culinary School at Knoxville. We spoke to Ulrich and learned that he's originally from New York City and that they'd recently moved to Madisonville from St. Petersburg Florida. Growing distressed over the living conditions and declining infrastructure in our major metropolitan areas, they drove north until they came through Madisonville...which he decided was the first place that 'felt right' to him.

The good news is that, because they couldn't find any good bread in the area, they decided to open a bakery. As you can see, we bought a loaf of White Sandwich Bread, a Danish, a Cinnamon Roll and two herbed Ciabatta rolls. So far, so good! The Ciabatta rolls were enjoyed with Big Dudes pulled pork, (, last night and they held up very well. The Danish and the Cinnamon Roll were enjoyed with our coffee and juice for breakfast this morning. The sandwich bread toasted up nicely for chicken sandwiches this evening.

We hope that College Street Bakery prospers, providing us with bread and treats for years to come! The menu includes bagels, rolls, a variety of muffins (large & small), various pastries and cookies, coffee cake, Bundt cake and lemon pound cake. Breads include White, Italian, Challah, Whole Wheat, Rustic and Ciabatta. Phone: 423-442-1214. Hours: Tuesday - Thursday from 7 AM to 5 PM, Friday from 7 AM to 6 PM and Saturday from 8 AM to 6 PM.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Best Bakery In East Tennessee...So Far!

One of our search objectives, as we cruise through East Tennessee, is to find the best bakery products possible. To date, VG's Bakery in Farragut and Tellico Grains in Tellico Plains have been favorites, both having specialties that we really appreciate. VG's has it's great English Muffin Bread and Tellico Grains has terrific cookies!

But we now have an overall Winner! The only problem is that this bakery is too far from the house... The amazing cinnamon buns and the great pretzels shown in the first two photos were just a warm up for the breads available. Having moved here from Chicago...where local bakeries still abound and good bread is king...this is what we've been looking for!

The Bluff View Bakery & Pasta Kitchen is located at 217 Spring Street in the Bluff View Art District of Chattanooga. Phone: 423-265-5033, ext. 490. For their Website: Go to and click on the Bluff View Bakery logo in the upper right hand corner of the page.

The Bakery & Pasta Kitchen supply many local restaurants and stores in Chattanooga...and they retail their baked goods at the front of the bakery. The smells wafting through the air were fabulous. In addition to the pretzels, (ours coated in Asiago Cheese), and the 2 cinnamon rolls for our breakfast the following day, we also picked up a loaf of Sourdough and a Asiago Cheese Boule. Everything was just excellent!

How about the selection available at the Bluff View Bakery! It's a long and very inspiring list of artisan baked goods! There's Ciabatta, Roasted Garlic Ciabatta, a Country Loaf, Striato, Levain, Sourdough, Focaccia, white or wheat soft rolls, Rye/Pumpernickel, cheese dinner rolls, French baguettes, a Bread Bowl, Cinnamon Raisin, Tomato Basil, Asiago Cheese Boule, Jalapeno Cheddar Boule, Honey Wheat, Multi-grain, Challah and four different types of bagels...

There were so many choices that it was very hard to make our decisions. The good news is that whenever we have guests for a few days, or if some neighbors want to go exploring with us, Chattanooga will be on our will the Bluff View Bakery!

Can you believe these many racks of fresh bread!? What a great sight... Now we'll have to check out the pasta products that the Bluff View Bakery & Pasta Kitchen also makes from scratch. All we'll have to do is to plan for a lunch or dinner right next door to the Tony's Pasta Shop & Trattoria. I'll report on the results as soon as we make the drive down to Chattanooga one more time...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Trains...Now & Almost Gone!

On a back roads trip through Central Georgia this past year, we went to the city of Social Circle, mostly to check out a restaurant that we'd eaten at several years earlier... While the restaurant was a big disappointment, we did have a good time touring the back roads near the town.
This is the former Georgia Railroad Co. depot in Social Circle. It was built in 1913 and, as you can see, part of the building has been demolished. The depot now serves as a line office for CSX.

Excellent photos of the other end of this depot, as well as a treasure trove of photographs of most, if not all, existing Georgia railroad depots may be found on-line at
Here we have two CSX locomotives in the 'yard' at Social Circle. One is a GM Electro-Motive SD-40 and the other is an SD-40-2. Both engines generate 3,000 H.P. It's hard to comprehend, but over 5,200 of these SD model locomotives have been built.

After our meal time letdown, we drove along some country roads, checking out the sights while simultaneously looking for a couple of railroad depots along the way.
Near Monroe Georgia, we stumbled across this rail facility belonging to Rail Trusts Equipment, Inc. It appeared to be a combination reconditioning facility and the train version of an auto junk yard.

There were several locomotives in various conditions and states of repair scattered around the property. We photographed these 3 units but there were many more.
Apparently, our instincts were very close to the truth. Rail Trusts Equipment, Inc. is based in Jacksonville Beach Florida and adjacent to their on-line title, they've listed 'locomotives, rail cars & parts'.

They customize, re-market, buy, sell and lease railroad rolling stock. Although this find looked a little depressing and while we're sure that some of the locomotives on site were destined to be 'harvested' for parts, many of these units are reconditioned and leased to rail companies throughout North America. For some great photos of reconditioned units, just go to

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wild Wing Cafe...

This is the Wild Wing Cafe off of Campbell Station Road at I-40/I-75 in Knoxville. Despite it's location at major crossroads, it's buried behind motels and other retail operations and you almost need a map to actually get to it the first time you drop by. Wild Wing Cafe is a cross between a casual family restaurant and a sports bar/restaurant.

The menu at Wild Wing Cafe is huge, with 7 pages full of food to explore and choose from... We were there for lunch but we couldn't resist these "Boom Boom Shrimp". They were terrific and we could have eaten another platter of them...but it would have spoiled our appetite for our 'main dishes'. Other appetizers included 'Hot Shots', spicy sausage and cheese pastry, and 'Buff Chips', crispy fried chips sprinkled with bleu cheese crumbles & southwest ranch for dipping. There is literally a full page of appetizers to choose from.

Honestly, we didn't get past page 2 of the Wild Wing Cafe's menu... Laurie ordered the 'Ultimate Nachos', spicy taco beef, queso and pico de gallo topped with mixed cheeses, black beans, jalapeno peppers, lettuce, sour cream and salsa. It was very good.
The menu runs from Tex-Mex to BBQ to Wraps and, of course, it includes wings! There are no less than 34 different sauces that you can have your wings tossed in! We'll order some the next time for sure... There are also salads, soups, sandwiches and burgers featured on the menu.

I ordered the 'Baja Fish' Soft Tacos. The taco shells were stuffed with flaky white fish, lightly fried & drizzled with honey lime cilantro marinade. Very nice!
Wild Wing Cafe is located at 11335 Campbell Lakes Drive in Knoxville TN. Phone: 865-777-9464. Website: This is a good place for casual family dining or just a casual meal, especially if you'd like a lot of variety to choose from. Prices are very reasonable.