Friday, August 31, 2012

Jimmy Buffet/Caribbean Wine Tasting Party

Well, it’s that time again!  Another wine tasting party… These gatherings of our friends and neighbors are always fun.  Given the theme of this month’s party, plus its location…on Bev and Larry’s party dock…this promised to be a nice twist on one of our favorite group activities!
How about a little mango salsa ala Bev!  This went very nicely with the grilled jerked chicken.  I’m not much of a salsa guy, but I liked this one!

I guess I should lay out the schedule of events for one of our wine tasting parties.  Similar groups are quite formal in their approach to their wine tastings …with a few hors d'oeuvres wine evaluation check list, etc…but not this group!
We start with a few drinks…in this case Larry's Margarita’s, Bev's sangria, scotch (for me) and some ‘house/host’ bottles of wine.  Then we go directly into the food part of the evening.  So, that’s where I’m starting this blog…with the food!
Laurie and I decided that since we’re not really into cooking Caribbean cuisine, we’d go to the local pro in the area for assistance.  So it was off to Captain Ernie’s Caribbean Restaurant in Lenoir City Tennessee.

This is jasmine rice and black beans from Captain Ernie’s.  They were winners for sure!  When we picked up our order from the restaurant, they ensured that everything would stay hot until our group was ready to eat.  Our order was packed in a big Rubbermaid “Hot Box”.
Laurie and I also ordered this nice cornbread and these sweet fried plantains.  With 1 member of our group out of town on a business trip and 2 couples gone on vacation, there were only 13 of us to party on the, L & B'sfriend Joe & Bev's sister Pat.  Even so, all but one of the sweet plantains and 1 ½ pieces of the cornbread were gone by the time we finished eating.  Thank you Captain and Mrs. Ernie!
If I remember correctly, this nice mixed salad was from Jenny and Fred and Karen brought her husband Charlie's favorite ambrosia salad.  Both were a hit!
This photo gives you an idea of the setting for our wine tasting party… Not too shabby…the only home and dock in this secluded cove!  Facing the camera, Laurie photographed Martha, Karen and Martha’s husband, Irv.  Love the Flamingos and note the Red, White and Blue Flag just above Irv…USA all the way!
Here’s a bit more of the party dock…with Irv, Fred, Joel and yours truly in the background.  The dock is equipped with running water, a fridge, lights, fans and lots of electrical outlets for blenders, crock pots, etc.  Larry has a couple of nice big grills just off the dock on the shore.  Larry's buddy Joe had set up a new sound system that was playing Jimmy Buffet and related music in the background.
Here’s Bev, our hostess, with Joel, Fred and myself… 
Oh yes...the actual wine tasting!  It actually happened...long after dinner.  Every couple brought a bottle of wine... They were either white or a blush, given the theme of the party.  Since there aren't 'too many' actual Caribbean wines, we 'tasted' a variety of wines from the USA, Chile, Italy and Australia.
I think that Irv looks pretty relaxed…don’t you?!  He’s of Puerto Rican heritage, (former US Coast Guard & still has his hand in training)…and all of the ladies love to have him read any Wine Labels out loud in Spanish…even if it’s not a Spanish wine! They say it just sounds so much better when he reads it... (If only I’d really learned and remembered that French I took in High School...)
This is Bev’s sister Pat…with me in my Hawaiian/Caribbean shirt.  Larry had asked all of the guys to wear something “Caribbean” and this was as close as I could get… I am kinda built like those big Hawaiian guys...
In this photo…left to right…we have Jenny, Holly, Martha and Karen…with Pat’s dog Willie in the foreground.  Bev and Larry’s dogs, Sweetie and Coco also attended the party.  Any food dropped on the deck was quickly cleaned up!

We missed photographing two terrific contributions to our food largesse!  Holly brought a bowl of Caribbean Holiday Shimp
that were just great…and gone before the camera was put in action.  Martha brought not one, but two of her homemade Key Lime Pies!  Everyone thought that her pies were, to use today’s parlance, ‘the bomb’.  They were great...but by then we were all to mellow to remember to take a photo! 
Our host and hostess provided jerked chicken, both mild and spicy versions, as the entrée item on our menu.  Larry marinated and grilled enough chicken so that everyone could have at least 2 pieces.  It was all consumed!  Karen, who admittedly isn’t crazy about chicken, ate her share and then she told Larry that it was the best chicken she’d ever had!
And here he is…Larry, our host, grillmaster, BBQ expert and master gardener!  Of course, I went for his spicy jerked chicken…and it was terrific!  The marinade was killer good… 

FYI…Larry is also a ‘master blogger’…and you can view his blogs about food, gardening, travel experiences and family fun at 
One more look at the food…even the plates were festive.  Laurie missed the sweet plantains on her first trip to the buffet…but she made up for it later. Viewing this again, I'm hungry and I do believe that it’s time for dinner!

We missed photographing our buddy Joe…who had helped Larry and Bev with the dockside logistics.  In addition, I failed in my only and very simple duty… I forgot to take a picture of Laurie…whereas she took all of these pictures!
For those who might be interested, Captain Ernie’s Caribbean Restaurant is located at 501 North Highway 321N in Lenoir City, Tennessee.  Phone: 865-308-2000.  Captain Ernie spent many years running a fishing boat out of Key West Florida.  To view a sample menu, you can go to and scroll on down the page that pops up.
Just click on any photo to enlarge it…get a close up of that jerked chicken!
Thanks for stopping by at the party!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Genghis Did Not Conquer!

Laurie and I like to seek out restaurants that we haven’t experienced before.  So we had some errands to run and we thought we’d tie them in with a movie and dinner.  I figured that my choice for our meal was safe as they’d been in business at this location for more than a year…and besides, I had a ‘buy one, get one’ dining coupon!   
This Genghis Mongolian BBQ Grill in Knoxville Tennessee is part of a chain based in Dallas Texas.  As per the company website, these restaurants offer fast casual Asian stir fry foods in ‘an atmosphere that is colorful, lively and a lot of fun!’
Actually, we thought that the ambiance was plain…a bit industrial…and sort of beat up looking for having only been in business for a bit more than a year.  Fun…not so much!  This view is looking towards the ‘buffet’ line where you build your bowl of ingredients for your personal stir fry.
This is the grill area at Genghis.  You give your bowl of ingredients to the ‘grill master’ and he or she creates your stir fry meal on a giant grill…keeping the orders separate during the cooking process through the use of very large scissor like dividers.

There are certainly lots of ingredients to choose from.  You take your small silver bowl down the line and you choose whatever mix of ingredients you’d like.  Some guests just load up on meats and/or seafood.  Veggie lovers can stack up their favorites as well.  To provide an example of the wide variety of available items, here is a list of the meats…or proteins you can choose from: calamari, chicken, ham, Khans Krab, marinated fish, marinated steak, pepperoni, pork, sausage, scallops, shrimp, sliced beef and turkey.
From the Proteins, you move along to the Seasonings (12 choices); the Vegetables (roughly 30 items), and; Sauces (14 options ranging from tomato to honey soy)
Now about our meal… There were 4 ‘special’ summer appetizers offered.  You just order these directly through your server.  The choices included: Garlic Citrus Endamne; Lettuce Chicken Wraps; Summer Chicken Rolls with Peanut Sauce and; Chicken Potstickers.  As you can see, we ordered the Chicken Rolls.  We were thankful for the peanut sauce as these ‘rolls’ were gummy and the ingredients were tasteless.  The big plus was that they were inexpensive!
We forgot to take photos of our ‘stir fry’ entrees until after we’d eaten a good part of the food.  This was mine.  No flavor!  Had to add a hot sauce and some soy sauce to give it any ‘pop’ at all. 

Have I talked about our server yet?  Well, what can I say!  He was poorly trained.   His approach to both the food selection process, customer satisfaction and service was one of ignorance.  He was good spirited but fairly useless…
OK…its time for some positives.  The Genghis Grill website provides a calorie/nutrition calculator.  You can actually figure out the fat, saturated fat, sodium, etc. for your projected meal before you go to the restaurant. (Note: I ran the numbers on my meal when I got home. (The calories came in at 833, but the sodium came in at 2,201!) They may be trying to mimic Subway’s healthy food sales pitch with their Genghis Health Kwest.  Controlling what you select from the grill and eating in moderation would indeed help people lose weight. 
This was what was left of Laurie’s dinner when we remembered to take a photo.  She ‘hated’ her dinner…and as she told the Manager, when he asked if we enjoyed our meal, she ate it only because she hadn’t eaten all day and she was very hungry! Plus, she would never be back!   She had to add soy sauce to make this offering even eatable. 

Genghis does offer a series of 10 pre-designed meals for diners like Laurie who are unsure what to chose from the line…in her case, she didn’t want to choose items that wouldn’t work together.  So she decided to go with pre-set offering of #1.  Guess what?!  There were no ‘menu cards’ for offering #1.  They’d ‘run out of them’.  Our server’s advice was just take a little of this and a little of that and it would work out.  He didn’t have a clue and he didn’t really seem to care or think it mattered.
Genghis likes to use the term ‘Khanquered’ when referring to winning over new customers and/or a new market area.   We definitely weren’t conquered nor were we ‘Khanquered’!!
One other positive…Genghis has a full bar. 

So…if all Genghis Mongolian Grills were this bad, how has the chain grown to the point where they have locations in 21 states?  AHA!  There is the question.! I checked Trip Advisor…all Genghis reviews.  The worst average score I could find was for 3 other locations…with 3 ‘stars’ or an average rating. Our location hadn’t been rated on Trip Advisor.  I checked 2 other rating sites for the Knoxville location.  About half of the reviews, 9 out of 20, rated this location as poor or not acceptable.  Service was badly hammered and cleanliness/food safety were major concerns. 
FYI…By way of comparison, the Chattanooga location was ranked #36 out of 544 restaurants in that area.  Trip Advisor ratings for that location included 29 reviews, 25 of which were excellent or very good.  Given all of this rating information and combining it with our experience, I can only come to one conclusion.  Poor Management!  Oh, did we mention that the Manager didn’t ask us what was wrong or what could they have done to make our experience better?  He did say he was sorry we weren’t happy…
Should anyone be curious or brave, the Knoxville Genghis Grill is located at 11316 Parkside Drive in the Turkey Creek Shopping area.  Phone: 865-931-7208.  The company website is
 Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit! 
Take Care,  Big Daddy Dave

Monday, August 27, 2012

Family – Grandson’s Sure Grow Up Fast!

Laurie and I live in East Tennessee.  Our son and his family live way up north…in Ohio…almost on Lake Erie.  It’s a long drive but it’s worth it every time!
By the time we retired, we’d traveled and researched all corners of the USA looking for that right spot to live out our ‘golden’ years.  We knew that we couldn’t expect to follow David II, Amy and our grandsons as they would have to move wherever their careers take them.  Northern Ohio is their 3rd stop already!
So sharing family moments is confined to visits between our homes, and in between visits, we take advantage of some of today’s electronic communications.  If we can’t be there all the time, we can at least vicariously watch our grandsons grow and experience life from afar… Amy’s photo site is one of our prime means of following the month-to-month adventures of both of our grandson’s progress through life…

Recently Amy posted a number of photos of our family and their friends on vacation on the eastern shore of Virginia…over on the Delmarva Peninsula.  Their long-term friends from Chicago…are on the left. Kurt & Kristy & their daughter Bryn & son Brock in front.  David II and Amy are on the right with Emmett Lee and David III posing in front of them.  The kids are a match age-wise so these trips work out well for everyone…

Here, David II is goofing off for the camera, along with our grandson, Emmett Lee.  David II recently graduated from Law School…adding a JD to his MBA, CPA, CMA, etc., etc.   Now we’re just waiting for the results from his Bar Exam.

Here’s David III posing with his mom Amy and his brother, Emmett Lee.  David III is 11 and Emmett is 8… We like the fact that the boys are so different, in both appearance and in their personalities.

David III is my namesake… He’s very bright, a great student, and he’s a politician.  He knows how to work an audience, whether they’re kids or adults.  He sure can lay on the charm!

Emmett is also very bright…with a huge variety of interests.  He even has his own blog sites.  We like this pose with a boogie board!  Just having fun!!

They sure grow up fast… This photo of Bryn and David III is almost mind boggling.   What happened to those 2 little children that we vaguely remember?!  Now we’re looking at a couple of pre-teens!  David is President of his class at school… What’s next?

This is another of Emmett’s interests...Track…racing to be specific!  He loves to run fast and he’s participated in several track meets.  We love his running outfit!  He also recently took part in a big Pokémon tournament in Indianapolis, winning a couple of rounds in the process.

The good news is that David III is still a kid… All of the males in the family like to play in and around the water.  Our favorite activity is building dams or diverting streams of water.  There must be some psychological significance in that fact…

This is a new one on us.  Emmett is apparently learning to play the guitar.  It’s scary when he focuses on something new!  Note: He has his music on his favorite stuffed animal and companion.  We still have a couple more years before he sheds his ‘little boy’ persona…

Laurie and I have a couple of trips to Northern Ohio planned in the not too distant future.  Then we’ll catch up with our grandsons on a first hand basis!  There is always something new going on…some kind of surprise for the grandparents…
Just click on any of the photographs to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by and sharing this family time with Laurie and I!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave and Laurie (aka Papa and Nana)

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Memorable Birthday Dinner…

If one is lucky, once a year each of us is able to celebrate his or her birthday.  Well, July was my month.  Some good friends of ours took us out to mark the passage of time…another year of my very satisfying trip on this earth.  Time does fly as the birthdays continue to add up! 

This is the entrance to the Lakeside Tavern in Knoxville Tennessee.  This restaurant is adjacent to Knoxville’s 500 acre Concord Park and it offers views  of the TVA’s Fort Loudoun Lake and the Concord Marina.  It’s a very nice setting…

Lakeside Tavern is one of 9 restaurants operated by Diverse Concepts Ltd.  The other restaurants operated by this company are located in Pigeon Forge, Oak Ridge, Clinton and Knoxville.

This is Holly and Joel...two of our very good friends. A couple of years ago they moved down to East Tennessee from Virginia.  They are both just young whipper-snappers as compared to yours truly!

This is Charlie and Karen...Two of our other very good friends.  They are happy recent immigrants, (escapees), to Tennessee from south Florida.  I’m a little reluctant to admit that both of them are also youngsters as compared to myself…It was very kind of all four of our good friends to take me/us out for my birthday dinner.  Thank you Joel, Holly, Charlie and Karen!! 

I love asparagus!  For an appetizer, I ordered this Parmesan Fried Asparagus. ($8.99) Start with fresh asparagus spears, then lightly coat them with a seasoned batter and fry them until they are golden brown.  Serve them with a terrific zesty wasabi-ranch dipping sauce!  I really liked this appetizer as did everyone else who sampled it…

Other appetizers on the menu included: Southwestern Egg Rolls ($7.99); Smoked Salmon ($10.99); Ahi Tuna Wonton Stack (Market Price); Edamame ($4.99) and; Smoked Trout Guacamole ($10.99).

I’m not an ‘onion person’, but the others at the table shared an order of the Tavern Onion Rings. ($8.49) These thick cut onion rings are hand-breaded, fried golden brown and then they’re served with jalapeno ranch dressing.  These were rated as very good or excellent by our group. There was a complaint that after eating a few of these gems, one of our diners was already full before the entrée was served. (Note: An order for just 2 diners is only $4.49)

In addition to the appetizers, Lakeside Tavern offers a cup ($2.99) or a bowl ($4.49) of New England Clam Chowder.  Pizzas and Calzones are also available.  They range in price from $11.49 to $12.49.  You can also build your own pizza…with up to 4 toppings…for only $12.99.

One entrée was this Horseradish Salmon. ($17.99 plus $2.99 if accompanied by a dinner or caesar salad) This pan seared Atlantic salmon is topped with a horseradish and roasted fennel cream sauce, with caramelized onions over a bed of bok choy.  It was paired with a shiitake mushroom rice pilaf.

Another member of our little group opted for the Pan-Seared Crabcakes. ($19.99) These jumbo lump Blue Crab cakes were pan-seared golden brown and then topped with a sweet and spicy remoulade sauce.

Continuing with our seafood theme, this entrée is the Flounder Seafood Medley. ($18.99) It consists of a pan-seared flounder filet topped with the horseradish roasted fennel cream sauce over a bed of bok choy. (This diner opted to omit the usual stack of caramelized onions over the top of the seafood) This entrée was accompanied by the shiitake mushroom rice pilaf and a side of asparagus. 

Laurie ordered the Wood-Grilled Salmon. ($16.99) This fresh cold-water salmon is grilled and then it’s topped with a special mustard dill sauce.  It was served with white cheddar mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.

Our little group managed to order 5 of the 7 available seafood/fish entrees on the menu.  The only possibilities that we missed were the Lakeside Fish and Chips, ($13.99), and the Scallops Pomodori. ($17.99)

This Black and Bleu Salad, ($12.99), was the one exception to our run on the seafood portion of the menu.  This ‘construction’ consists of grilled filet mignon bites that have been lightly dusted with Cajun seasoning.  They are served on a bed of fresh mixed greens, with vine-ripened tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, bleu cheese crumbles and Cajun fried-onions.  The whole assembly is then drizzled with a balsamic reduction and it’s accompanied by some homemade bleu cheese dressing.

Other non-seafood items on the menu range from 4 sandwich choices, at $9.99 each, to steaks and prime rib, (salad included for $14.99 to $24.99), Rosemary Pork Tenderloin, ($15.49), as well as a number of chicken based offerings at $13.99 each.

Just in case you were counting, here’s the fifth seafood entrée for our group.  I ordered a healthy birthday dinner…the Grilled Ahi Tuna. (Market Price) My medium rare sashimi grade Ahi tuna was served with wasabi cilantro ginger vinaigrette and soy ginger dipping sauces.  As you can see, it was accompanied by some perfectly steamed brocolli and some bok choi.  It was very, very nice!

Dinner was capped off when our waitress brought me an order of  Crème Brulee with a candle in it.  I was trying to hide under the table as Laurie and our friends sang Happy Birthday to me…in public!!
The food was quite good…about a 7.5 on a 10 point scale…in a nice warm and friendly setting.  It’s a pleasant place to dine and we will return!  Lakeside Tavern is located at 10911 Concord Drive in Knoxville Tennessee.  Phone: 865-671-2980.  The website for Lakeside Tavern and the other Diverse Concept Ltd. restaurants is: 
One more birthday photo…

Thanks to family and friends for the cards and well wishes!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Another Family Visit…

Since moving to paradise down here in East Tennessee, we have had visits from lots of friends and especially from our relatives!  This time, our visitors came from my side of the family and they came all the way down from Dexter Michigan.

This is my cousin John and myself visiting the air powered pistol and rifle booth at the Sweetwater Flea Market in Sweetwater Tennessee.  John was looking for a pistol so he could discourage varmits around his home… The number of choices was almost overwhelming but the operator of this booth was patient and he knew his stuff!  He even had his booth set up so his customers could test fire the ‘weapons’. 

For more on the huge and mostly indoor Sweetwater Tennessee Flea Market, just go to  It’s an entertaining place where you can buy just about anything.

From left to right around the table…our friend Karen (Charlie’s wife), Karen (John’s wife), John, our friend Charlie, myself and Laurie.  An accomodating waitress stood on a chair to take this photo…

The Tanasi Café is located on County Road 444 in Loudon County Tennessee.  The restaurant offers great views and good if not gourmet food…at a reasonable price.   For more information you can just go to

Here are the two Karen’s… Charlie and Karen took us all out on their boat…and we cruised over to the restaurant for dinner.  The restaurant is located on Tellico Lake, which was created by the Tennessee Valley Authority by damming up the lower Tellico River and the Little Tennessee River.

Cousin John was apparently studying the shoreline as we were cruising along in the boat.  Tellico Lake has 357 miles of shoreline and it covers about 1,600 acres.  Some segments of the shoreline are lined with lakeside homes and many of them are pretty darn nice!

The lake was very calm on our way back to Charlie and Karen’s place and Laurie took a few photos of the setting sun…

I really like the subtle tones and lighting in this photo. 

In addtion to a dinner at our house, meeting our friends, boating, eating out and going to the flea market, we gave John and Karen a tour of the area and then took them over to Bald River Falls in the Cherokee National Forest.  It was a busy couple of days…

I had to include this photo… This was taken at Charlie and Karen’s house.  We have Ali on the left and Junior on the right.  I wonder what they’re thinking as they both gaze into that basket?  I could write a couple of different captions for this scene… Junior was probably thinking that if Ali got in the basket, he’d have the pleasure of kicking her out!

We’re sure that John and Karen enjoyed their visit!  Laurie’s oldest sister and her husband are coming up in October and we’re already in the final planning stages for their stay…
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, August 20, 2012

Northern Alabama – 2 More Depots Plus

On the last day of our Arkansas road trip, we drove along Alabama’s 2-lane highways as we worked across the northern and north eastern part of the state.  I had a number of old railway depots marked on my map that were reputed to have survived and as we cruised through these small towns, we kept our eyes open for the next photo op…

The first railroad depot that we came across was a true old timer… This brick passenger and freight depot in Scottsboro Alabama was built back in 1860 – 1861.  It’s over 150 years old.  The depot was built by the Memphis and Charleston Railroad and it’s one of only 3 surviving pre-civil war depots in the state of Alabama.  A serious skirmish was fought over the depot during the war.  I found where the Jackson County Historical Society had undertaken a project to transform the old depot into a local museum.  The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This town of about 15,000 is famous for at least 2 reasons.  First, it is the home of the Unclaimed Baggage Center.  This retail outlet processes, cleans and tests unclaimed luggage from the airlines and other sources, and then they put it up for sale on their 40,000 sq. ft. sales floor.  There are real deals to be had!  Check it out at
Scottsboro’s other claim to fame is historical and it isn’t an upbeat story.  The town was the core location for the sensational ‘Scottsboro Boys’ Trials.  Basically, 2 white girls accused a group of black boys of raping them while they all were ‘riding the rails’ back in 1931.  The evidence was poor at best and the witnesses were unreliable.  Still, this incident took place in the South in an era where a black man could be hung for just talking to a white woman.  Bottom line…after repeated trials lasting until 1937, several of the black youths were convicted.  This was despite the Supreme Court’s involvement with 2 landmark decisions.  In 1946, one of these men skipped out on parole… He and his family were discovered in New York City in 1976.  For more on this sad episode in US jurisprudence, you can go to

This handsome passenger depot is located in Stevenson Alabama.  The depot was built in 1872 for use by both the Nashville and Chattanooga and the Memphis and Charleston Railroads.  One railroad’s tracks ran on one side of the depot and the other passed on the opposite side.  Even today, CSX freight trains pass by the station on this side and Norfolk Southern trains pass by on the other side of the station.  

This is the Stevenson Hotel… It too was built in 1872 and it’s located between the tracks right next to the depot.  The saying was that “The hotel was so close to the tracks, that passing trains opened the windows and pulled the covers off the beds”.  This building is now being used for the town’s offices. 

Here’s a photo showing just how close the two building are to each other.  Back in the days of early steam locomotives, the trains would stop here to pick up the necessary coal and water.  That would allow the passengers sufficient time to disembark and have a meal at the hotel.  Both buildings are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

This GE 44 Ton Switch Engine and the Extended-Vision Caboose are on static display adjacent to the Stevenson Alabama Railroad Depot.  A total of 385 of these diesel locomotives were built.  In addition to the USA, they’ve also seen service in Canada, Australia and Sweden. 

There is a website listing for the Stevenson Depot Railway Museum…but the site appears to be inactive or just gone.  Stevenson is a town of only about 1,800 people and they may have had a tough time keeping the museum operating.  The listed website is
The town does have a “Depot Day’s” celebration every June.  Among other events and activities, they stage a Lawn Mower Race, a parade, an Ugly Woman Contest, an auto collectors rally and a street dance.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge it.
Thanks for riding along on the back roads with us!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave