Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Pizzeria Venti – Vonore Tennessee

It was time for dinner and we didn’t feel like cooking… We didn’t want to stray too far from home so we discussed our options.  It dawned on us that we hadn’t been back to this particular pizza restaurant in a long time, primarily because we prefer a crispy thin crust pizza…

Pizzeria Venti has been in Vonore Tennessee for many years now.  Apparently they are appreciated by lots of customers in the surrounding area.  Pizzeria Venti advertises itself as “America’s only Authentic Sliceria”.

What I just learned was that Pizzeria Venti is a franchise operation.  Currently they just operate a few locations but you will soon be able to find one or more of these restaurants in Tennessee, Georgia, New Hampshire, Louisiana, Virginia, Illinois, Texas, Wyoming, California and Alabama.   

The inside of Pizzeria Venti is spacious bordering on cavernous.  Customers order at the counter and they bring the food to your table. 

So what is a ‘sliceria’?  You can actually order whatever pizza you want by the slice with your choice of toppings… They also serve whole and half pizza pies, a couple of appetizers, a nice variety of salads, 6 different baked pastas, stuffed pizza pies, soup and a few sides.

I also discovered another number of surprises on the menu!  There was a selection of Italian seafood dishes available.  These entrees include tilapia, salmon, shrimp, clams, mussels, crawfish tails and mahi mahi.  These entrees include a side salad and fresh rolls.  Prices for these offerings range from $13.95 to $15.95.

So I ordered one of the entrees.  This was my nice side salad with Italian salad dressing.  FYI, the popular house salad dressing is a Vidalia onion based creation.   

My fresh roll was really a small loaf of bread. (I’d already eaten 2 pieces of bread before Laurie reminded me to take a picture) The olive oil dipping sauce was loaded with pesto.  My only issue was that I’d like a bit of garlic in the mix…

I’d ordered the Pesce in Cartoccio. ($14.95) There were 2 tilapia filets baked in a parchment pouch with lemon, capers, fresh garlic and extra virgin olive oil and then served with roasted red potatoes.  It was a nice meal and a pleasant surprise too!

Laurie was going to order 3 slices of pizza with pepperoni and sausage but the counter attendant/server told us that it would be cheaper to order a half pizza and we’d get more for our money as well.  This half pizza cost $9.38!

Pizzeria Venti’s pizza is not traditional American pizza.  The crust is a little thicker and it absorbs some of the flavor and moisture.  The ingredients are of a high quality and their crusts are simply made with Extra Virgin olive oil, imported Italian water, salt, flour and yeast.  Laurie let me have a slice of her pizza and we both agreed that it was very nice…We took half of it home!

Pizzeria Venti is located at 916 US Hwy. 411 South in Vonore Tennessee.  Phone: 423-884-3620.  They are open from lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and from 11 AM to 3 PM on Sunday.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for dinner!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, June 27, 2016

Visitors at Our Home in May…

We really love having visitors come to our home… We document many of the visits with a photo or two.  Here are a few photos of some of our guests during the month of May.

The Bluebird family spent a lot of time working over our feeder.  Here they’re resting on top of the screened porch roof before going back for another helping of suet. Baby Bluebird next to her has got to be fed!

This was one of our more unusual visitors…a male rose-breasted Grosbeak. 

We have to maintain regular vigilance to prevent another regular visitor to the feeder from cleaning it out!  The squirrels climb up the screen on the porch and jump over to the feeder or the more agile ones will just leap up to it from the deck railing… So far this year we’ve only had to chase off one Raccoon but we had a couple of them visit last year.

This red-bellied woodpecker has been a regular visitor, stopping by for a snack many,many times each day.

While the red-bellied woodpecker likes the seeds, he seems to prefer the suet cakes. 

We have a hard time keeping the cakes ‘in stock’ as one or more of our local crows has learned about this food source.  They’re as big as the feeder so it’s a grab and fly situation…a bit like a passenger jet trying to land on an aircraft carrier!

Laurie snapped this photo of a Blue Jay on top of the post for our mailbox.  I’m not sure who was checking who out!  He may have been wondering if he could grab a bite to eat at our house…

Yup!  He showed up on the deck to clean up after the other messy birds.  Blue Jays regularly visit our feeder along with a big family of Cardinals, numerous Wrens, Mockingbirds, Nuthatches & three other Woodpeckers.

We even had people visit us during the month!  Carol and Randy from Chicago stopped by the house and then we went out to lunch.  They had made the trip down to East Tennessee from the Chicago area to visit family in Knoxville.  Yours truly is seated at the right of the photo.

Laurie is in the middle of this photo… We had lunch at the Tanasi Grill in the Tanasi Golf Clubhouse at Tellico Village in Loudon County Tennessee.  The food was very nice and we enjoyed the expansive view of Tellico Lake.
To learn more about the Tanasi Grill and to see some photos, just go to  

This large family of Whitetail Deer stopped by to say hello one evening.  They are volunteer arborists that keep the forest pruned and occasionally provide the same service for some of our bushes and plantings.  Some folks complain about these neighbors but we always love it when they drop by.  We just don’t plant much that they like to graze on…

That’s it for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave  

Friday, June 24, 2016

Knoxville Area Dining Experiences – Spring 2016

During April and May we re-visited a couple of restaurants that we’d enjoyed previously… In both cases, we tried some food items that we had never eaten in these dining spots before.

Our friends George and Lynn like to try new places and they do appreciate good food.  They had never been to Surin of Thailand but they liked the look of the menu and they wanted to give it a try.

For once I didn’t hassle our fellow diners to take pictures of their food!  We started out with an order of Crab Angels…$4.50.  These fried crab and cream cheese seasoned wontons are similar to Crab Rangoon and they were excellent!

Laurie and I also shared an order of Basil Rolls…$5.00.  They are one of her favorites!  These rice paper rolls are filled with leaf lettuce, fresh basil, bean sprouts, rice noodles, pork and fresh shrimp and they’re accompanied by Surin’s lightly spiced plum-peanut sauce.

I decided to try the Broccoli and Beef. ($12.00) This entrée is referred to as the “Garlic Lover’s Favorite”, garlic-pepper with fresh broccoli and carrots in Surin’s mild brown sauce.  Mild isn’t my thing me so I asked the waiter to have the chef kick up the heat.  It was very good although I would have liked a bit more garlic.  There was some spice/heat…but I still needed pepper sauce to get the burn up to my desired level.

I’d had the Masaman Beef before but Laurie hadn’t so she decided to give it a try. ($15.00)  This dish is traditionally served in Thailand to celebrate one’s entry into ‘Monk hood’.  Chunks of beef are simmered in a red curry               masaman sauce along with potatoes, onions, carrots, and peanuts.  She liked this entrée and she said that she’d order it again!

The good news for us was that both Lynn and George also enjoyed their meal.  The only downside was a little uneven service from our overloaded waiter.  In addition to the Knoxville restaurant, Surin of Thailand has 9 other locations in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Alabama.  Three of them operate under different names but they all serve Thai cuisine.  The Knoxville restaurant is located at 6213 Kingston Pike.  Phone: 865-330-0007.  The Website for the Knoxville location can be found at:

The next dining venue was decidedly more casual and laid back…

This is Wild Wings Café near the Turkey Creek Shopping area that straddles both Knoxville and Farragut Tennessee.  Wild Wings Café is another growing chain of restaurants with 40 locations in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Florida and Texas.

We’ve eaten here many times.  We really like their burgers, wings and salads.  It is a very casual restaurant with frequent live entertainment, specials on beer and wings and lots of TV screens in all directions for viewing sports.

We had never tried this appetizer… It’s the Drunken Shrimp. ($7.99) The shrimp bathed in Wild Wing’s beer Marinade and then they’re broiled.  They’re served with bread for sopping up the marinade.  We enjoyed the shrimp but the real ‘bomb’ was the bread soaked in the marinade!  Yum!

They had a special on their wings.  It was 2 orders of 10 wings each for $5.99 per order.  I was going to order 16 wings for my dinner but as the waiter explained ordering this special was less expensive and I’d be able to take some wings home for lunch leftovers!

Wild Wings Café offers 33 different made from scratch wing sauces.  They range from “Virgin - The perfect choice for kids, rookies and wimpy wing eaters” all the way to ‘six hot peppers’, “Braveheart’ - So hot you can lose your head over it!”  I went for my favorite sauce, “The Slayer”, for one order and I decided to try “Honey Lime Sriracha” for the other one.  I liked the sriracha just fine but I still prefer ‘The Slayer’!  

Instead of the usual but tasty hamburger or a buffalo chicken salad, Laurie decided to try something new and different.  This was her “Wilder Willy” sandwich. ($8.99) For her side, she chose the homemade ‘house chips’ which are very nice indeed.

The “Wilder Willie” sandwich consists of shaved ham topped with mushrooms, Monterey jack cheese, whole grain mustard, pickles, lettuce and tomato all piled on a toasted bun.  As a kicker, “Wilder Willie” is served with a nice beer cheese dipping sauce.

This is a huge restaurant and you can almost always get a table.  The food is good, the service is decent and the prices are very reasonable.  FYI, in addition to my ‘wing deal’, my draft Miller Lite beer was only $2.00.  This location for Wild Wing Café is located at 11335 Campbell Lakes Drive in Farragut Tennessee.  Phone: 865-777-9464.  Website:

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

One Last Virginian Winery

We had one more stop to make before we made a beeline home to East Tennessee.  This time it was at a winery near Abingdon Virginia that we had visited before…

The Holston River flows by one side of the Abingdon Winery’s tasting room and a pretty little creek flows into the river it on the other side…

These are the calming late April views around the grounds of Abingdon Winery…

This winery sits on 53 acres of land in a very bucolic setting.  The owners were retired and they thought that they should do something to keep themselves healthy and creative.  Consequently, they began planning their 10 acre vineyard in 1997, completing the process with a total of 6,000 plants by 2001.  Since then, they’ve leased 2 more acres from their neighbors and they now have 12 acres under cultivation.

The winery and tasting room have a nice rustic feel which blends nicely into the woodlands around it. 

Despite the fact that Abingdon Winery is a little bit off the highways on winding country roads, it is well situated in relation to the area around it.  South Holston Lake is only 2 miles downriver.  Abingdon, which is a tourist town in the Appalachian Mountains, is only 5 miles away.  Bristol is only 20 miles away.  The well-known Virginia Creeper trail is 1/2 mile from the winery.  The town of Damascus, which is at the intersection of 5 different trails, (including the Appalachian Trail), is only 5 miles away. 

In addition to the wines offered, the Abingdon Winery has a nice little gift shop.  However, the focus is on the wine!

A wide variety of wine is offered…  There are 4 dry and semi-dry white wines, 2 semi-sweet whites and 3 sweet whites.  Then there are 2 semi-sweet blush wines and 1 sweet blush.  The Abingdon Winery produces 7 dry or semi-dry red wines, 1 semi-sweet and 1 sweet wine.  The cost of a bottle of wine ranges from $10.75 for a bottle of white table wine to $16.75 for the most expensive bottle of red wine… 

Bob and Janet, the owners of Abingdon Winery retired from the telephone business where they were both executives in the research, research, development and manufacturing of switching equipment and software.  After retiring, they owned and managed a motel in Florida.  Abingdon Winery and vineyards is their third career! 

Both of them are Master Gardeners and they have attended numerous Virginia Tech Courses on viticulture and enology.  Bob has taken classes from University of California and Janet has received a certificate from the University of Guelph in Viticulture and Enology.  Apparently, this couple doesn’t do anything halfheartedly! 

Our purchases at Abingdon Winery included 5 bottles of wine.  These included a white pinot noir, a chardonnay, 2 bottles of chardonel and a bottle of cabernet sauvignon.  We really like the quality of the wines from this winery.  Another plus is the fact that the wines we purchased from Abingdon Winery were a little less expensive than the others bought during this trip.  It’s hard to beat quality and price when the 2 are combined!

Abingdon Winery is open every Tuesday through Sunday from March 15 to December 15.  The winery is located at 20530 Alvarado Road in Abingdon Virginia.  Phone: 276-623-1255.  Their website can be found at:

This was our ‘booty’ that we collected from our visits to 3 Virginia Wineries and 1 Virginia Distillery.  We came back with a bottle of vodka, a jar of apple enhanced moonshine and a dozen bottles of wine.  We are now ready for an upcoming wine tasting party or two! 

Just think, after adding in the other couple of wineries that we’d visited before in Virginia, we only have another 247 more to check out!  Touring southwest Virginia for our 37th anniversary gift to ourselves was an enjoyable trip with a bit of shopping, dining and exploring!  It’s a beautiful area of the country, that’s for sure…

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Almost Home – SW Virginia Historic Sites

As we drove home to East Tennessee following our short anniversary exploration of Roanoke and SW Virginia, we still had a few historic spots to find and photograph as well as one more winery to visit…

This nice looking and obviously well maintained old depot is in Dublin Virginia.   It was built in 1913 by the Norfolk and Western Railroad, the successor of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, which had originally provided service to Dublin.   

The Dublin Historic District encompasses 130 building and sites in the town.  The district was developed around the original Virginia and Tennessee Railroad station, (built in 1854), which was named the Newbern Depot. 

This ‘new’ 103 year old depot has served as the home of several businesses during recent years…

During the Civil War, the original depot was a strategic point, allowing the Confederacy to move troops and ship supplies to Tennessee and points west. It also served as the military headquarters for the Confederate Army's Department of Western Virginia.  In addition, the Dublin Depot functioned as 1 of 3 depots established in Virginia by the Confederacy to house captured runaway slaves and free blacks taken prisoners during military operations.  
Dublin’s commercial district and the original depot was burned to the ground in May of 1864 after a Confederate force lost the battle of Cloyd’s Mountain and was forced to withdraw to the south. 

Isn’t this a great looking depot!  Love that roof line and the classic chimney too…  The Virginia-Tennessee Railroad built the Grand Old Lady of Pulaski, this historic depot, in 1888… just two years after the Commonwealth of Virginia chartered the Town of Pulaski.  This spectacular depot was built by master Italian stone masons using Peak Creek granite. 

The city of Pulaski completed a major restoration of the depot in 1994.  Sadly in November of 2008, the building was destroyed by fire.  Again, Pulaski completed a thorough historical restoration using the still intact original stone walls. 

A lot of love was put into the original design as well as the restoration of this depot.  Amazing detail…

Today the Pulaski railway station is home to the Raymond F. Ratcliffe Memorial Museum, which features artifacts, historic photographs, items from the founding industries and the town's railroad past, newspapers chronicling important events locally and nationally, and a model railroad display.  The station is also home to the seasonal Farmer's Market, where visitors can purchase local produce and farm goods. 

Everything about this resurrected depot is classy…including the old freight scale and every door in the building.  The depot served passengers until the early to mid-1970s. 

In May of this year, there was actually a meeting at the depot to discuss the possibility of reestablishing passenger service to the New River Valley at Pulaski.  With Amtrak’s passenger trains expected to stop in Roanoke in the next couple of years, those living further south in the valley have begun working toward a resumption of rail service.

This is the Pulaski County Courthouse in Pulaski Virginia.  The courthouse was built with "Peak Creek Sandstone".  The court house was originally constructed in 1896 for a little more than $20,000.  The clock and the belfry were added in 1911.   

The city of Pulaski seems to have had an issue with fires… The courthouse was reconstructed after being destroyed by fire in December of 1989.

This 3-part stone arch is the formal entrance to the Pulaski County Courthouse.  The arch was constructed to serve as the entrance to the Pulaski County exhibit at the Jamestown Exposition in 1907.

FYI…The Jamestown Exposition was one of the many world's fairs and expositions that were popular in the United States in the early part of the 20th century.  Commemorating the 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown in the Virginia Colony, it was staged at Sewell's Point on Hampton Roads in Norfolk Virginia.  It celebrated the first permanent English settlement in the present United States.


·       On April 8, 2011, two tornadoes hit Pulaski, destroying 31 buildings and damaging 77 others.

Moving on down the road… This was a photo I took in 2010 of the sadly deteriorating old Virginia and Tennessee Railroad Depot in Rural Retreat Virginia.  The original depot was built in 1956, primarily as a shipping point for local produce.

In 1864 Union troops burned the depot down along with trestles and depots all along the line.  Then in 1867-68 the depot was rebuilt in this unique Italianate design.    

But despite its shabby appearance…where there is a positive attitude and the will to preserve the past, there is hope!

This is the same view of the same depot.  I took this photo in April 2016!  Wow!  I must say that I was impressed and uplifting by the community’s efforts to preserve this building…

Current plans are for the former waiting room to be transformed into a modern museum with interactive kiosks describing the Depot's role in history.  The freight room will become an event space suitable for everything from weddings and reunions to theatrical and musical productions.  The preservation efforts have all been brought about through The Rural Retreat Depot Foundation at


·       Dr. Charles T. Pepper, the developer of "Dr. Pepper" soda lived in Rural Retreat.

Here was my rail side view of the Rural Retreat Depot back in 2010… Service continued at Rural Retreat until the early 1970s.

The Rural Retreat Depot is one of only 3 known surviving railroad buildings in all of southwestern Virginia that were erected during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War.  The Rural Retreat Depot is undoubtedly one of the oldest surviving railroad-related buildings found anywhere in the state. 
Here is a similar view of the depot from April of 2016.  They even added a caboose across the street from the depot!  This is the way the depot looked back in the 1940s…

To see a 1957 photo of the Rural Retreat Depot and a train that was taken by railroad photographer and historian O. Winston Link, just go to  If you like railroads and trains, it’s a classic!

Our last historic stop on our drive home to East Tennessee was the former Norfolk and Western Railway Depot in Marion Virginia.  It was built in 1904 with passenger service continuing until 1971.  The one-story stone and brick Queen Anne style building was refurbished and was converted for commercial use 1993-1994.  Unfortunately it’s looking a little shabby and needs a facelift to preserve it in the long haul.  It currently houses an architect, a tax service, a CPA firm and a hair salon. 
Marion is considered as the birthplace of the soft drink Mountain Dew despite the fact that the original drink was created in Knoxville Tennessee.   In 1961, the rights to Knoxville’s version of Mountain Dew were purchased by the Marion-based Tip Corporation.   The ‘original’ Mountain Dew flavor was reworked by Marion resident William H. "Bill" Jones.  Due to the success of the revised formulation, the Pepsi Corporation purchased the Tip Corporation in 1964.


·       Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan’s first professional assignment was in 1965 with a minor league team in the Appalachian League…the Marion Mets in Marion Virginia.

That’s all for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by to see what we’ve been up to!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, June 17, 2016

Davis Valley Distillery and Winery

Rolling on down I-81 in southwest Virginia toward our home in east Tennessee, I had 4 possible wineries on my list for us to visit.  We skipped the second one on the list as it looked a bit ‘shaggy’ and we moved on to the third one…

This is the Davis Valley Distillery and Winery in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Rural Retreat Virginia.  Even though it was early spring and the trees hadn’t fully greened up yet, the setting for this winery was very appealing…

This is the entrance to the winery and distillery at Davis Valley.  The big dual function building at the top of the hill is set up for double duty…  

The first vineyards were planted here in Davis Valley in late 2000.  A bit later, the big building housing the winery and distillery was constructed.  This view is from the parking lot back down the valley with the vineyards off to the right.

Davis Valley Distillery and Winery is an industrial size operation!  For some reason I failed to take a photo of the huge wine tasting room and gift shop.  The enormous wooden bar in the wine tasting room is over 100 years old.
Davis Valley produces 6 different red wines.  They include Virginia Breeze Red, Davis Valley Red, Chambourcin, Autumn Red, Norton and Cabernet Franc.  They were out of the Cabernet.  Laurie bought a bottle of the 2010 Chambourcin.

The winery also offers 4 different white wines.  Since red wine and gout are natural enemies, white wine is my wine of choice.  I chose a bottle of the Chardonnay but other offerings include Appalachian Breeze, Virginia Breeze White and Davis Valley White.   

Davis Valley is also a distillery… Ever hear of a Virginian Bourbon Whiskey?  It hasn’t aged enough yet but Davis Valley will be selling a local bourbon in the not too distant future! 

We saw a lot of shiny high-end equipment during our little tour of the facility!  In addition to 10 varieties of wine and the aging bourbon, Davis Valley also produces handcrafted small batch grain based vodka, clear straight up corn based moonshine as well as 4 different flavored varieties of ‘clear’ as it’s sometimes called.  The flavored Moonshines include Strawberry Pie, Apple Pie, Cherry Pie and Peach Pie…

Given the wisdom of state officials, the wine tasting rooms in the State of Virginia has to be in an area that is separated from the distillery tasting facility.  That can’t be very efficient for a small business but perhaps there’s a reasonable rationale for this requirement.   Whereas the wine tasting room is spacious and nicely finished, the spirits area tasting area is closed off from the production area with a simple chain link fence.

We purchased 2 items from the above display… One was a bottle of Virginia Frost Vodka.  The sample was quite good even if it isn’t quite comparable with an expensive bottle of Grey Goose…  The second purchase was a jar of Appalachian Moon.  Our jar of moonshine is the Apple Pie version and it does taste like a nice alcoholic apple pie.  We envision this as a decadent dessert accompaniment drizzled over the top of a dish of vanilla bean ice cream!

Davis Valley Distillery and Winery is located at 1167 Davis Valley Road in Rural Retreat Virginia.  Both tasting rooms are open daily.  Phone: 276-686-8855.  It should be no surprise that Davis Valley has multiple websites for its different products.  However, if you go to you’ll find links to the site for the distillery and its different products.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for the tour!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave