Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day - The Ultimate Sacrifice

On May 6, 1945, my father made the ultimate sacrifice for myself, my mother, our family and for the United States of America.  He died in action against the German army only one day before they surrendered in Reims, France and only two days before the surrender was ratified in Berlin and Victory in Europe was declared.



Ronald Allen Myers was born in Jackson Michigan on April 2, 1911.  He graduated from Michigan State University in 1938.  He and my mother, Elizabeth Weed, were married on 1/7/39.  He was a Staff Sergeant with the 18th Infantry, 1st Division, (The Big Red 1), when he was fatally wounded.  I was a little more than 2 months from my 3rd birthday when he died.


This photo was taken at one of the many military training camps that my dad was sent to… He couldn’t qualify for officer’s training because he was color blind.  The list of his assigned army bases included: Camp Claiborne LA; Camp Chaffee AR, and Fort Benning GA.  He’s standing on the far right hand side of the photo.

 
SSgt. Ronald A. Myers is buried in Plot E, Row 20, Grave 34 at the Lorraine American Cemetery in St. Avold (Moselle), France.  Because I was so young when he was killed, unfortunately I have no memories of my father.  Still, I can’t help wondering just how different my life would have been if he had survived the war…
The amazing fact is that my dad was only one of the estimated 416,800 Americans who fought and died defending our freedoms in World War II.  While a great evil was defeated in 1945, given the state of the world today, we haven’t learned much…and evil is very much alive.  We’re lucky to live where we do…so let’s pay homage to those who’ve given their lives for us.  God Bless America!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Toasted" in Charleston SC

Toast is a well known and popular restaurant in Charleston.   As a matter of fact, Trip Advisor at www.tripadvisor.com ranks Toast #1 in Charleston vs. all other restaurants!  Of course, Trip Advisor arrives at its rankings via popular vote…i.e., reviews via the Internet by the public.

We didn’t get it…#1??  Perhaps it’s because we didn’t go to Toast for breakfast?  As per the menu, that does seem to be a major part of their business…served all day long!

This is the front of Toast as per a photo I pulled off the Internet… When we arrived for a late lunch, the restaurant wasn’t that busy, especially as compared to Jestine’s Kitchen or Hyman’s Seafood and Hyman’s Deli just down the street.  There were lines at all three of those restaurants and Toast was almost empty. 

FYI…Looking back and trying to reconcile our OK lunch entrees vs. the number 1 ranking on Trip Advisor, the breakfast menu is really extensive and it includes some great sounding possibilities.  How about an Irish Omelet…eggs, corned beef hash and Swiss…or, Eggs Meeting Street, a fried green tomato topped with a crab cake, poached egg and low country remoulade sauce.  If those dishes don’t do it for you, how about the Charleston Surf and Turf…marinated grilled ribeye and poached eggs smothered in grilled shrimp and onions on an English muffin.  Alternatively, there is the Lowcountry Eye Opener…shrimp etouffee served with creamy Carolina stone ground grits, topped with a fried green tomato.  Maybe we had a mundane lunch and missed the classy gourmet breakfast…

Laurie ordered the Chicken Salad Sandwich…homemade chicken salad with raisins, cashews and fried onions on her choice of breads…in this case it was a croissant.  The chicken salad sandwich was OK but not great.  The croissant was nice but the soup didn’t have much flavor.

Perhaps the Bottomless Mimosas, offered for $10.00 with any entrée, would have made everything more tasty… Service was poor to middling at best.  Our server was inattentive and, while the restaurant wasn’t very busy, they still managed to get our order wrong. 

I ordered the Shrimp Po-Boy…fried shrimp with lettuce, tomato and Cajun mayonnaise with a side of garlic mashed potatoes.  Not much garlic in the potatoes and not much flavor in the Po-Boy… I was pretty depressed.  I’d been really looking forward to a top notch shrimp Po-Boy!


For another taste of “Toast”, we split a slice of the Key Lime Pie.  It was the real thing…made with key limes…a little tart and the best thing we had to eat at Toast.

The next time that we get back to Charleston, we’ll have breakfast at Toast.  That’s the only way that we will be able to truly pass judgement on this popular spot.  It did occur to me that this slightly funky place is probably a big draw for the younger crowd… They are also the computer savy/web crazed portion of the population that is more likely to go on the World Wide Web and vote for a place that they really like…
Toast is located at 155 Meeting Street in Charleston South Carolina.  Phone: 843-534-0043.  Website: www.toastofcharleston.com. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Smoky Mountain Railroad

When friends Dennis and Edera invited us to go to Dollywood with them, we jumped at the chance!  In the 2 years that we’ve lived in East Tennessee, we hadn’t managed to get our act together and check out Dolly Parton’s major contribution to the local economy.  I was particularly interested in visiting the park because of the “Smoky Mountain Railroad”…one of the top attractions at Dollywood.

The original Smoky Mountain Railroad operated a line from Knoxville to Sevierville Tennessee.  It was in business from 1910 until 1962.  One of the original Smoky Mountain Railroad’s steam locomotives, #107, a Baldwin 2-8-0, is now on static display at Dollywood.

This is ‘Cinderella’, a 2-8-2 ‘Mikado’ type steam locomotive built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1938.   Locomotives with this 2-8-2 wheel arrangement were called ‘Mikado’ types because the original 2-8-2 locomotives were built for Japan Railways.  During WWII, many US railways began calling them ‘MacArthurs’.  

Cinderella and her tender weigh in at 230,500 lbs.  She started life working for the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, a Canadian and USA railroad operating between Skagway Alaska and Whitehorse, the capitol of Canada’s Yukon Territory.  She’s been at Dollywood, taking park visitors on a 2.5 mile loop ride, since the early 1980’s.  On a typical day, she uses 5 tons of coal and consumes 5,000 gallons of water.

Thousands of park visitors ride the rails every business day.  The route winds up the mountain behind Dollywood and then loops around and comes on back down the way it goes up… The railroad is the oldest attraction in the park…predating Dollywood itself.  The first version of the park was called Rebel Railroad and it began operating in 1961. 


This is a photo of the Locomotive Engine Shop and Engine #192, now renamed ‘Klondike Kate’.  She is also a survivor of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad.  Klondike Kate is also a 2-8-2 Mikado locomotive.  She is an S-118 Class…at 215,700, a bit lighter than Cinderella.  Klondike Kate was built in 1943.  Like most of the locomotives working on the White Pass and Yukon, she spent her time during WWII hauling troops and lumber over the mountains between the Yukon and the port of Skagway.  These locomotives were also an important part of the effort to build the Alcan Highway.


Here’s a profile view of Cinderella… She is a very handsome locomotive.  Dollywood, (the Smoky Mountain Railway), has one other 2-8-2 locomotive, #71, that is currently being restored.

We visited Dollywood on a weekday in May… It was interesting to note that every train departing the depot was packed with passengers.  There still is a lot of fascination with railroads…especially steam locomotives.  This is reportedly the most popular ride in Dollywood.
For more on your visit to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge Tennessee and to learn about your chance to ride the rails, go to www.dollywood.com.   

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jestine's Kitchen - Charleston SC

Yes...Jestine’s Kitchen is a ‘legend’ in Charleston… It’s also a major tourist destination!  We’re not big on waiting in line for a chance to eat, but at Jestine’s it’s pretty much what you have to do to experience the place…


The big challenge is that you have to wait in line outside…in the elements.  It was in the low 80’s and humid when we got in line.  It was about 1:20 pm on a weekday and by the time we were seated, it was 2:00 pm.


The inside of the restaurant has a nice cozy feeling to it…and the air conditioning was working!  Jestine’s is famous for it’s ‘meat and 2’ sides.  It’s been called southern cooking, or soul food…but more appropriately, it’s really low country cooking.

Our next problem was that by the time we were ready to order…after standing in the heat for 40 minutes, we just weren’t that hungry. When you first sit down, they do start you out with a little dish of taste bud tickling pickled cucumbers, while you’re studying the menu…ate them up…no photo!


So we didn’t try the pecan chicken, buttermilk fried chicken, shrimp and grits, fried pork chops or the famous meat loaf.  We further limited our tasting/review of Jestine’s by ordering the same sandwich.  This is the Bacon, Lettuce and Fried Green Tomato Sandwich.  We agreed that it was a very nice sandwich and that the cole slaw was tasty too. 

This is Laurie’s ‘BLFGT’… I included the photo because one of her sides was a generous helping of fried okra.  It was cooked just right and the breading provided just the right level of ‘crunch’.  As for my French fries…they were limp and quite tasteless…

Jestine’s menu includes a number of sandwiches…’Po Boys, Peanut Butter and Banana, chicken…and sides to include Mac ‘n Cheese, Butter Beans, collard greens, corn bread…lots of variety.  There is also a Blue Plate Special available during the week.  The big drink is Jestine’s special sweet tea… We have yet to acquire a taste for sweet tea…

When we finished our sandwiches, we decided that we could split a dessert.  We ordered this nice slice of Coconut Cream Pie… It ranks up there with some of the best pie that we’ve eaten.  Other desserts on the menu include banana pudding, Coca Cola cake, pecan pie and fruit cobbler.

Our first exposure to Jestine’s was positive, good food but not great food.  We want to come back during our next trip to Charleston so we can sample a wider array of items from the menu.  Hopefully, we can find a time where the wait isn’t too long…or the weather is cooler.

Jestine’s Kitchen is located at 251 Meeting Street in Charleston.  Phone: 843-722-7224.  Jestine’s has been favorably reviewed by Michael Stern of ‘Roadfood’ fame.    

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chain Restaurants - Cheddars

Anyone who worked with me back in my retail loss prevention days can attest to the fact that I almost always avoided chain restaurants when traveling with them.  As a matter of fact, the word was that you showed poor judgment if you chose such a place for lunch or dinner…and it might even impact my attitude for the remainder of my store/functional reviews!  At least that was the rumor…shame on me if it had been true…

Well, the years pass, subsequent jobs force changed attitudes and the added fact of a fixed retirement income gets in the way of style!  I still much prefer ‘discovering’ local restaurants, diners and joints…but as chains have dramatically improved vs. 20 – 30 years ago and our new reality has seeped in, I have evolved with the times.  Some of my former Montgomery Ward, Household Merchandising and Venture Stores compatriots may be stunned by this change…and I know that at least one VP of Asset Protection/Loss Prevention is still maintaining the tradition. 

Moving forward…this is the most recent national chain restaurant we’ve visited…

Over the past few months, Laurie and I have heard very upbeat reviews about this Cheddars Restaurant in Alcoa Tennessee.  To quote, “the food is great”; “the price is right”; “nice casual atmosphere with good service” and; “the place is always packed”.  So, we were out and about after dropping some friends off at the McGee-Tyson Airport…and it was a bit after 1:00 PM on a weekday. 



We started out with an order of Chips and Homemade Queso.  This was described as rich and creamy queso dip served with freshly made tortilla chips and their own fresh salsa.  We chose to add seasoned ground beef to the queso dip ‘for heartier flavor’. (No charge for the ground beef)
The chips were OK…not terrific.  On the positive side, the salsa had a nice spicy bite to it and the queso with the ground beef was also quite tasty.  Another positive…that we didn’t take advantage of…was that we were offered a refill on the chips and salsa.  Given the price of this appetizer, $3.99, it seemed like this was a good deal. (Of course, most Mexican restaurants put chips and salsa on the table at no charge)

Laurie ordered the Hawaiian Chicken Salad.  It consisted of sliced chicken breast marinated with island flavors, served on a bed of fresh salad greens with pineapple, pico de gallo, tortilla strips and honey lime dressing.  Laurie reported that it was a very nice salad…2 thumbs up!  Plus, the salad was large enough, that she brought some of it home!


I ordered Cheddars “World Class Chicken Sandwich” with a side of homemade red beans and rice.  The sandwich was described as a grilled marinated tender chicken breast topped with peppered brown sugar bacon, melted cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and a honey lime dressing on a fresh sandwich bun.  To start, let’s dispense with the homemade red beans and rice… It was pretty much flavorless and more like soup than any red beans and rice that I’ve ever had before.
However, the World Class Chicken Sandwich was indeed world class!!  This has to be one of the best chicken sandwiches that I’ve ever had… Flavors popping all over the place…I didn’t even put Tabasco on it!  This is an excellent sandwich and I’d eat it once a week if I could…or should… I’m sure it’s not doctor approved!
Service was prompt and pleasant and the décor was comfortable and warmly casual… While there were a couple of downsides with the food…i.e. the chips and the red beans…they were relatively minor.  An offsetting positive was the price.  Laurie’s big dinner sized salad was only $7.29 and my incredible chicken sandwich with a side, was only $6.59.  All in all, we now understand why our neighbors gave Cheddars such positive feedback and…we will return!
The Cheddars in Alcoa is located at 250 Hamilton Crossing.  The phone number is 865-983-5582.  Cheddars website is www.cheddars.com.   

Friday, May 20, 2011

Aubrey's - Casual Dining in East Tennessee

After attending a local social event on Cinco de Mayo and then finding that all of the local Mexican restaurants were pretty much overwhelmed, Laurie and I…along with Dennis and Edera, Irv and Martha, plus Dave and Diana…decided to go to Aubrey’s Restaurant in Lenoir City Tennessee.  It’s a big place built for casual dining and it has a varied menu.  Laurie and I have enjoyed several meals at Aubrey’s over the past couple of years. 

I failed to get a photo of the exterior prior to our meal and by the time we left, it was dark outside… So, I’ll start right out with the food!

This was the most attractive entrée.  One member of our little group ordered the Asian Chicken Salad.  This layered salad included grilled chicken, crispy wontons, mandarin oranges, peanuts and sesame seeds, served over mesclun with a sweet Thai vinaigrette dressing.  It received a very positive review!


Two of the guys at the table ordered the Southern Pulled BBQ Pork Platter.  This entrée comes with 2 sides…in this case the diner ordered Cole Slaw and Cinnamon Apples.  The score for this item was 1 = Very Good and 1 = Good.  Not too bad for a local chain, (6 Aubrey’s), in a heavy BBQ marketplace…


I tried to be healthy… I ordered the Peanut Crusted Catfish Fingers.  While I was unaware that catfish had ‘fingers’, these flash-fried catfish filets came with a lemon caper dipping sauce and a side of steamed broccoli.  The catfish was very nice, the dipping sauce was terrific and the broccoli was done perfectly!


Another healthy diner among us ordered the Lemon-Lime Chicken…a grilled 10 oz. marinated double breast.  For sides, this dish came with the broccoli and smashed new potatoes.  Again, a very positive review by one of our dining companions!


The Wisconsin Cheddar Burger…a half-pound of Black Angus chuck topped with Wisconsin cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion…also received high grades.  It was juicy and cooked just as ordered.  The accompanying Thick Cut Potato Chips got a rave review.  Laurie and I had these before…even ordering them as an appetizer…and we both like them a lot!  They come with a terrific buttermilk garlic dipping sauce.


Here we have the Haystack…grilled chicken and sautéed mushrooms, tossed with linguine in a classic parmesan and mushroom cream sauce.  As reported, it was very flavorful, rich and creamy… Plenty of food for sure!    


Last but not least, we have the Hickory Chicken…a boneless 10 oz. chicken breast with cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes and hickory barbeque sauce.  One of the sides was the parmesan spinach and the other was the baked yellow squash.  What’s important is that we had another very satisfied diner at our table!

Not too bad!  We scored 7 ‘very good’ ratings and one ‘good’ rating at our table.  FYI…service was competent and the casual atmosphere was relaxing.  Aubrey’s had once again served us well… Try it, you will like it!

In addition to the 6 Aubrey’s locations in East Tennessee, the same corporation has 4 other restaurants for those living in and around Knoxville to experience.  They include Sunspot, Bistro by the Tracks and, Barley’s Knoxville. 

The Lenoir City Aubrey’s is just east of I-75 at Exit 81 (US 321). The address is 401 Town Creek Road East…although the location is a bit strange.  It’s tucked in behind the Cracker Barrel Restaurant and next to the hospital… Phone: 865-986-3113.  Website: www.aubreysrestaurant.com/aubreys/.   

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

South Carolina - Railroad Depots along the Way (#2)

This is the second installment in our photographic tour of small town railroad stations that we found on our recent trip along the back roads of South Carolina.


This is the great old Southern Railway Depot that we found in Kline South Carolina.  Nicely maintained and preserved…but apparently just sitting there without a current purpose.   I suspect that the limiting issue is the size of the population of Kline…only 250 or so residents. 


I couldn’t find anything anywhere on this classic small town depot…not even what year it was built.  I couldn’t discover much about the town of Kline either… It’s a big watermelon shipping point and a new baseball field was inaugurated in April of 2010…complete with a concession stand and restrooms.


This is the Charleston and Western Carolina Railway Station in McCormick South Carolina.  It was built in 1910 to replace an earlier structure.  The original McCormick railway station was built by the Augusta and Knoxville Railroad and the Savannah Valley Railroad with the help of Cyrus Hall McCormick.  At its prime, 8 passenger trains per day stopped in McCormick and three hotels operated near the tracks to serve visitors to the town.


Currently, the depot serves as a antique and consignment store named ‘Hobo Consignments’.  It’s nice to see that it’s been preserved and re purposed.


This is the combined Southern and Blue Ridge Railroads passenger and freight depot in Belton South Carolina.  This classic brick structure was built in 1910.  The first depot was built in Belton by the Greenville and Columbia Railroad ca. 1853.  At its peak, depending on which source you read, between 68 and 85 trains and interurban trolleys came through Belton every day.  Today, 1 freight train per day passes by.  The Pickens Railroad Company connects with CSX here and it runs trains over a spur line with about 46 miles of track. 


Today, the depot houses the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame, a local business and the Ruth Drake Museum.  The museum focuses on the agricultural, railroad, industrial and cultural history of the area.  The Belton Depot is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

One additional grouping of South Carolina Depots is forthcoming in the next week or so…

Note: Click on any photo to enlarge if for better viewing.  

Monday, May 16, 2011

WokStar Asian Cuisine - Update!

Laurie and I were out and about…just cruising and running errands, and we decided it was time for some Asian cooking!  We were near Lenoir City Tennessee, so we stopped at one of our favorite casual restaurants in East Tennessee…

This is WokStar Asian Cuisine...and we’ve reported on it before.  Time for an update!  We tried a couple of new items and we learned a bit of news that was worthy of passing on…


Laurie wasn’t very hungry so she ordered a bowl of Hot and Sour Soup and an appetizer.  The soup was just right…lots of flavor and just the right amount of contrast between the spicy and the sour…


For her appetizer, Laurie ordered a new item on the menu…the Thai Chicken Wings.  They were described as the ‘Soon to be famous chicken wings, tossed with WokStar’s house made sauce’.  They were spicy and they were different than any other chicken wings that we’d ever had…and they are our new standard for terrific chicken wings!  I was lucky that Laurie wasn’t hungry…and she shared these wings with me!


I decided to try something I hadn’t had before.  This is ‘Orange Dynasty’.  It can be ordered with chicken or beef.  I had the chicken with sugar snap peas and toasted orange peel plus a side of brown rice.  Of course, I ordered it extra spicy!  Yum!


After our nice lunch, we talked to Jose Garcia, the owner/chef of WokStar.  He’d worked for P.F. Chang for a number of years before starting up his own place.  Business in Lenoir City is very good…so good in fact, that Jose is planning to open 3 new locations, one in Oak Ridge, another in Hardin Valley and the third in Bearden Station Center.  He’d also like to start franchising his concept in the not too distant future… The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in East Tennessee!
WokStar is a great place for a casual meal.  There are plenty of items on the menu to choose from along with appetizers, soups, salads, rice and noodle dishes, a couple of sides and two dessert items.  The restaurant also serves beer, both domestic and imported.
WokStar in Lenoir City is located at 149 Kelsey Lane, Suite 108.  It faces US Highway 321.  Phone: 865-986-0996.  The restaurant is open from 11 AM to 9 PM Monday – Thursday, from 11 AM to 10 PM Friday and Saturday and, from 11 AM to 3 PM on Sunday.
NOTE: WokStar has a new website: www.wokstarcuisine.com.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

East Tennessee - Classic Country Diner!

As previously reported, (5/2/11: ‘Locavores – Good Eating in East Tennessee), we recently drove down to Delano Tennessee to buy produce from the local Mennonite community farm market.  We had another goal in mind that needed to be fulfilled before we did any shopping… We drove a bit past the market to the town of Benton. 



Lottie’s Diner is located just south of town and, we’ve had it on our back road radar for some time.  We were in serious need of a country breakfast!



It’s a straight-forward little restaurant with a deck for outdoor dining.  Nothing fancy…  Most of the customers were locals and since our visit was just a bit after the recent tornado outbreak in the south, much of the table to table conversation was about the damage suffered locally…trees and buildings damaged, power outages…and conversation about how everyone was pulling together to help with the recovery. 



Laurie ordered 2 eggs over easy with bacon and hash browns plus a ‘cathead’ biscuit and a side of gravy.  The eggs were a little overcooked but everything else was very tasty.  The biscuit was excellent and it was a meal in itself. 



My easy over eggs were about right… Note that the sausage patty was about the same size as the cathead biscuit!  We both agreed that this was one of the 2 or 3 best breakfasts that we’ve had to date, (21 months), in East Tennessee.


Service was very friendly… Nice people all around us!  This is a popular stop for truckers and other travelers traversing US Highway 411 between Chattanooga and Knoxville.  We will be back for more!

Lottie’s Diner is located at 5790 Highway 411 in Benton Tennessee.  Phone: 423-338-8511. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Horses and Mules in South Carolina...

Our recent ‘anniversary trip’ from East Tennessee over to Charleston SC and back was a lot of fun…relaxing too!  One of the most leisurely activities one can enjoy in most tourist towns is the horse and carriage tour.  On this trip, we took carriage tours twice!  Laurie really loves horses and I appreciate their character and willingness to work…

One of the first things you notice when you start exploring the historic center of Charleston are horses and carriages or horses and buggies…they’re everywhere!   Since it was our anniversary…and since it was not a matter of “if” we were doing a carriage ride…but rather “when”…I purchased dual Harbor Tour/Carriage Tour tickets.
 

We decided on Palmetto Carriage Works for our tour.  Not only did we like the looks of their ‘big red barn’ right in the heart of old town Charleston, we also liked the fact that they’ve been in business for over 40 years, they really stressed the care and well-being of their horses and mules…and some of their guides had been with them for more than 20 years.
 
The Palmetto Carriage Works folks have this operation down to a science.  There are some animals stabled in the barn…goats, chickens, donkeys, miniature donkeys, a horse or two and a mule.  More importantly, the barn serves as a sort of ‘bus station’ for the carriages.  Quite literally, the carriages roll in the door shown above, moving either to the left or the right…disgorge their load of passengers…and then load up again, rolling out the other end of the barn.  It’s a constant process all day long.

 

This is a typical carriage for Palmetto Carriage Works.  Note that they use teams of mules for these large ‘mini bus’ 16-passenger tour carriages.  Palmetto is the only tour company using mules.  Mules are more dependable and they won’t do anything or go anywhere where they might be injured.  If they get tired, they just stop and won’t move.  Horses will keep going until they drop.  Mules are also much easier to take care of…  Most of Palmetto’s mules come from Amish farms in mid-Tennessee.

 

Our guide was a nice young woman and college student from Canada named Jenny McCormick.  She had a nice sense of humor and was fairly informative as we clopped down the city streets.  She’s been doing this job in the summers and on term breaks for a couple of years now.  Prior to this, she worked for Palmetto full-time.  Our mules were named ‘Republican’ & ‘Shirley’.   Republican is usually paired with ‘Democrat’ and Shirley’s normal partner is ‘Laverne’.
 

As we toured the center of Charleston, it was one beautiful old church or well kept and stunning old home after another.  It’s very fortunate that the Union Army didn’t burn this beautiful city down during the Civil War…
 
The operation and regulation of the tour business in Charleston was interesting to observe.  The loaded carriages line up at what can be termed as a small ‘taxi starter post’.  They have to check in, provide their carriage number and the number of passengers.  Then everyone…guide and passengers alike, has to wait until they’re given one of four route numbers and told to proceed.  The city employees manning the ‘starter posts’ behave much like many other governmental employees do…officious and in no rush to move things along.
 
Palmetto Carriage Works is located at 8 Guignard Street in Charleston.  Phone: 800-979-3370.  Website: www.palmettocarriage.com.  Note: If you want to take your tour at a specific time, call ahead and make a reservation.  Without reservations, we waited 45 minutes for our tour… Also, it is difficult to take good photos from the carriage…too many others trying to take pictures and the carriages keep moving most of the time.  One thing for sure...it was in the high 80's and it was humid...the carriage sure beat walking!

 
So, from Charleston it was on to Beaufort South Carolina…

 

This is yours truly with our good buddy Gilbert.  Gilbert took us on our tour of Beaufort.  He’s 18 years old and semi-retired.  Like many of our friends and acquaintances, he only works a couple of days a week.  At the end of this season, he gets to completely retire to the farm where he lives when he’s not working.  Gilbert is 17.3 hands tall and he weighs about 2,000 lbs.  He’s been working for ‘Southurn Rose Buggy Tours’ for 7 years.  This is kind of a ‘step-down’ job from his last one.  In his earlier job, he worked as a draft horse on a farm for an Amish community in Ohio.  Gilbert kind of does his own thing on tour…wandering down the middle of the street…trying to head back to the tour office downtown before the end of the tour…etc., etc.

 

Beaufort is much smaller than Charleston…and it’s much more laid back.  While it obviously doesn’t have the resources of the bigger city, it is loaded with a great many antebellum and Victorian homes and other buildings.  We really liked the comfortable look of this little house along the tour route.
 

Along the way, there was this big beautiful old home and its impressive live oak tree hung with Spanish moss.  It just felt ‘southern’!

 
 

So…as the tour came to an end, we said goodbye to Gilbert and our guide.  She’s the daughter of a Marine non-commissioned officer based at nearby Parris Island.  So ended another very laid back and relaxing carriage tour… Not a bad way to spend an hour or two.  
 
Southurn Rose Buggy Tours operate out of a large city of Beaufort parking lot along the waterfront on the edge of downtown.   Their horses are brought in from their nearby farm every day.  Phone: 843-524-2900.  Website: www.southurnrose.com 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Anniversary Dinner in Charleston SC

This year, we decided to celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary by taking a little trip over to Charleston SC.   As usual, I’d researched the area’s attractions, sights, places to stay and, of course, the dining opportunities.  There were several high-end restaurants on my list, but we’re not really into ‘fussy food’ aka haute cuisine. 

Neighbors Frank and Joann had mentioned one of their favorite restaurants in Charleston…a place they always visit when in town… After checking out the menu on-line, we quickly decided that this was the place for our anniversary dinner.  And so, this is Poogan’s Porch.

Poogan’s Porch is a popular spot for celebrities who are visiting Charleston.  The house itself was built in 1888.  The restaurant was named after a neighborhood dog who’d claimed the porch for himself when the restaurant first opened.  If you’re easily ‘spooked’, this may not be the place for you… The Travel Channel voted Poogan’s Porch as the “Third Most Haunted Place in America!

The décor is warm & friendly, with a French influence.  The walls have been painted to look like old leather with hand painted murals of ferns & palmetto palms.  The windows have plantation shutters & the front French doors open to let in the cool sea breezes!  You can opt to sit on the front porches or dine inside.  Most of the rooms have fireplaces as a focal point.  Lovely!

Laurie ordered the Spinach Salad with goat cheese, caramelized onions, spiced pecans and basil balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  Laurie gave this salad a ‘two thumbs up’.  Our salads came with a pair of beautiful biscuits…but in the interest of limiting the length of this blog, I omitted the photo we took of one of them…


I couldn’t resist the Iceberg Wedge Salad!  It was loaded with applewood smoked bacon, tomatoes and cucumbers…and it was smothered in some great buttermilk bleu cheese dressing!  Very nice!


Laurie selected the Pan Seared Duck Breast as her entrée.  It was served with a pimento cheese grit cake and roasted garlic spinach with a Mepkin Abbey oyster mushroom jus.  Laurie loved the duck and she actually ate her vegetables!


I ordered the Buttermilk Fried Chicken with whipped potatoes, collard greens and sage herbed gravy.  It was all very tasty…although I would have liked it a bit better if it had come with a little more of that nice gravy!  The chicken was very nice…and I always eat my greens…


Hey…it was our anniversary…  No sharing desserts this time!  Laurie had the Poogan’s Porch Award-Winning Bread Pudding.  Delicious!


I went off the edge and ordered the Cobbler of the Day…in this case, a mixed berry cobbler.  It was excellent!

When we return to Charleston the next time, we’ll have to sample some of the other great sounding items on the menu at Poogan’s Porch.  Appetizers & Starters include Chef Isaac’s She Crab Soup, an Arugula Salad, Pimiento Cheese Fritters, Crab Fondue, Fried Ravioli, Chef D’s Farm Fresh (Vegetable) Soup, Fried Green Tomatoes, Mac & Cheese and Scallop & Pork Belly.
Entrees include Plantation Fried Chicken (Stuffed & Fried), Pan Seared Jumbo Scallops, Sweet Tea Glaze Salmon, a Carolina Hangar Steak, Farm-Raised Catfish, Bull’s Bay Oyster’s, a Pan Fried Pork Chop and, with the choices we made, 12 other dining options.  There are a total of 6 dessert options.  It’s a very nice menu…plenty of variety!
We would recommend Poogan’s Porch to anyone visiting Charleston.  It’s cozy, casual and reasonably priced…with very good food.  Poogan’s porch is located at 72 Queen Street.  It’s open for lunch from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM and for dinner from 5:00 PM until 9:30 PM Monday through Friday.  The restaurant is open for Brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 AM until 3:00 PM.  Phone: 843-577-2337.  Their website is at www.poogansporch.com