Friday, November 29, 2019

Food and More Food!

Time for a little bit about some personal food choices and creations… I am definitely a gourmand rather than a gourmet.  You also may have noticed that I don’t always make the ‘right’ or ‘best’ selections for healthy eating.  Oh well, at this stage in my life, food is my guilty pleasure…

So let’s compare.  The top salad was built at our local Ruby Tuesday’s salad bar by our friend Bruce from St. Louis Missouri.  The second salad was mine!  What can I say?  Why go to a salad bar if you’re not going ‘all out’ and taking advantage of what it offers? 

How about our entrées?  Healthy vs. semi-healthy.  Bruce vs. Big Daddy Dave.  Blackened Tilapia vs. Creole seasoned Tilapia with shrimp and a nice parmesan cream sauce!  The good news for Bruce is that his healthy diet has really paid off for him… For me the good news is that I still enjoy my food!

Laurie and I do indulge in certain prepared food items from the grocery store.  Sometimes they aren’t so good and sometimes they’re excellent.  In this case it was a Kirkland (Costco) Signature Brand Pepperoni Pizza.  They are excellent but they are good enough to keep on hand for one of those days when you don’t feel like cooking and you don’t feel like going out to eat.  We just add our spices, (cracked red pepper, an Italian herb blend), and a lot of parmesan before sticking these smallish pizzas in the oven.  Quite satisfactory…

Moving on, I haven’t published any of my ‘special’ breakfasts lately but things haven’t changed much.  I don’t like wasting leftovers and eggs go well with so many foods…

We recently had a leftover chili dog (Nathan’s all beef) and rather than just heat it and eat it, I added a bit of shredded cheese, heated the chili dog and melted the cheese in the microwave.  Then I dropped an over-easy egg on top.  Add Tabasco…Yum!

One of my favorite foods when I was growing up in Jackson Michigan was the local Jackson version of the Coney dog, aka chili dog.  Jackson Coney Island first opened in 1914, hasn’t changed its menu much and it’s still in business.  It’s located close to the historic Amtrak Railroad Station in downtown Jackson.  Address: 615 East Michigan Avenue.  Phone: 517-513-3369.  Their website can be found at

We had a Cracker Barrel gift certificate from my nephew Nathan and his wife Janice that we hadn’t completely used up.  Consequently after a recent dinner at Cracker Barrel I had a left over fried turkey ‘tender’ that I ‘couldn’t waste’. 

I had one more hot dog bun left over that I toasted lightly and buttered.  Then I zapped the turkey tender in the microwave oven with a little added parmesan on top to warm it all up…and finished it off with another easy-over egg.  FYI, that turkey tender tasted a lot better with the added cheese and fried egg. (Plus Tabasco)

We really like an occasional dinner featuring Bertolli Chicken Florentine and Farfalle from the frozen food section.  Of course Laurie spices it up and adds lots of extra spinach plus more chicken and Alfredo sauce.  It makes too much food for the two of us…so once again I had leftovers to deal with!

In this case, I heated the leftover Chicken Florentine in a frying pan… I didn’t use extra sauce or add butter but I did add lots of parmesan before heating it up.  The second photo shows the reheated pasta when it was ready for the ‘final step’.

There was so much Chicken Florentine left that I ‘just had’ to cover it with 2 easy over eggs.  It was a very creamy and luscious breakfast/brunch, especially after I added the Tabasco.

FYI...On days when I have big breakfasts like these, I only eat 2 meals, breakfast/brunch and an early dinner.  

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

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

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Dinner in the “Mountains”

Don’t you just love that mountain lodge woodsy feeling…logs walls, all comfy and cozy with lumberjacks (or lumberjills), mounted critters, chairs that look like the bark has been left on them, racks of deer horns and antler chandeliers? 

Well so do we!  It had been at least 2 years since we’d eaten in this particular Knoxville establishment and we were in the neighborhood, so we decided give it another try…

This is Twin Peaks, a chain of sports bars and restaurants that’s based in Dallas Texas.  Twin Peaks restaurants are meant to project the theme of a wilderness lodge.  They serve American, Southwest and Southern foods plus of course, alcohol.  There are more than 85 Twin Peaks locations in the USA.  Their slogan is “Eats. Drinks. Scenic Views”.

These are a couple of the scenic views that Twin Peaks is known for. (Photo taken from the Company website) There is no doubt that this is a guy’s sports bar.  The company uses the following phrase to promote the business: “Experience the Mantality!” In our opinion, this is Hooters with a broader and more creative menu, larger and more upscale surroundings, TVs, and the servers wear stylistically different yet moderately skimpy outfits…

This is a look back at the entry area of the restaurant.  As the company states, “When someone steps inside a Twin Peaks, they’re immediately transported to an environment reminiscent of a comfortable cabin in the mountains.  Even a first time guest will feel the familiar warmth a lumberjack would expect walking into their local lodge.”

I don’t know about that comfortable cabin in the mountains feeling…or if this is what we’d feel like walking into a local lodge, but there isn’t any doubt about Twin Peaks being a full-fledged sports bar.  This is a big restaurant and there are TV’s everywhere!  As you can see from the photos, this is place favored by the male species…

On to the food!

We decided that we ‘had’ to repeat one of the appetizers we’d ordered during our first visit to Twin Peaks…the Billionaire’s Bacon. ($4.99) While it was good, for some reason it just didn’t knock our socks off like it did previously.  The first time it was served in a cone but that change didn’t impact the ‘wow’ factor.  Perhaps a slight change in spices used or a different source for the bacon..?

Laurie wasn’t planning on eating a full-fledged entrée, and she loves Fried Pickle Chips so our next choice was obvious. ($6.79) They were very tasty and they hit the spot.

For her main course after the appetizers, Laurie opted for a Bowl of the Bacon and Potato Soup. ($4.29) She liked the soup but for the price, she thought that it was a pretty skimpy serving.

Our attractive and attentive waitress tried her best to provide quality service but it seemed that she (and the other waitresses) were thwarted by a malfunctioning kitchen.  Orders for the same tables arrived willy-nilly…instead of simultaneously.  The restaurant wasn’t packed but the kitchen was far too slow and uncoordinated.
By way of example, our waitress brought my sandwich out without this side of Grilled Asparagus. ($1.00 up charge) She told us that they were still working on the asparagus but she wanted me to have my sandwich while it was still hot.  I did appreciate her thoughtfulness.

FYI…when I did get it, the asparagus was terrible.  I might as well have taken to gnawing on small fibrous branches.

Sorry for the poor photo... For my entrée I ordered the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich. ($10.49) It consisted of a crispy fried chicken breast, Nashville hot sauce, Napa slaw, jalapeno honey vinaigrette, ranch crema and pickles.  It was an excellent creation!

Question: What happened to the Buttermilk Chicken Sliders that used to be on the menu?  They were fabulous!

Looking at our overall Twin Peaks dining experience, at best it was pretty much average…down a notch from our previous visit.  The chicken sandwich offset the asparagus but the kitchen’s missteps came close to dropping our opinion by two notches.

The Twin Peaks Restaurant (Sports Bar) in Knoxville is located at 135 North Northshore Drive.  Phone: 865-622-5730.  The company’s website and the menu can be found at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, November 25, 2019

Shopping Again – The Southern Market

What is going on!?  Well, I was given the opportunity to accompany Laurie on yet another shopping adventure.  It was an offer I couldn’t refuse so I added dinner out to make it even more ‘special’. 

Laurie had seen several ads for the 23rd Annual Holiday Open House at The Southern Market and a visit was high on her ‘want to do’ list!  The store is located on a side street in the popular Bearden area of Knoxville…close to the Sequoia neighborhood.

We’ve been living in the Knoxville area for more than 10 years and despite the fact that The Southern Market had opened way back in 1996, we’d never paid them a visit before.  It was founded by a mother and daughter team and, after surviving all these years in the face of the ongoing retail brick and mortar retail Armageddon, this operation continues to flourish. 

FYI, just to the left of this photo there also is an outdoor ‘shop’ with lots of garden décor and more.

Of course, a successful boutique operation like The Southern Market has to offer something unique to continue in business for over 20 years.  Their formula appears to be a solid vetting of their many ‘shop owners’, ensuring that they 1) offer quality and 2) bring something different to the store’s overall retail mix.

I’m not a shopper…no surprise, right?  But I did have a favorite vendor in the mix at The Southern Market.  Cinnaholic is a bake shop located at 9450 South Northshore Drive in Knoxville.  They were handing out samples…so of course I managed to ‘sample’ 3 times!  The fact that everything they do is vegan doesn’t sell me but their products sure are tasty.  Check out their website at

The store is packed with boutique shops that offer a plethora of products including art, home décor, dolls, gift cards, furniture, lighting, jewelry and a huge variety of gift items of all types.

This particular colorful shop offers pillows, gifts, candles, art work, jewelry and much more.

Laurie didn’t see me take this photo as she perused yet another shop, this one heavy on original jewelry and other seasonal gifts.

The Southern Market’s merchants stage special festivals like the Holiday Market 3 times each year.  In the spring there is a Spring Fling around the first of April which is set up much like a trendy Parisian flea market.  In August, the theme is an orange and white “Tailgate Party” where merchants sell their products from the tailgates of their vehicles.

FYI, for those who aren’t from Tennessee, orange and white are the colors of the Tennessee University Volunteers…

This less cluttered shop featured sweaters, a bit of macramé, home décor and a variety of soaps.

No corner, aisle or nook was devoid of merchandise!  For a real shopper, this must be a version of paradise…big and little items to check out wherever they look!

…and business was definitely booming!  Look at this checkout counter… Few men ventured inside but I watched the ladies constantly flowing into the store empty handed and then exiting with lots of bags.

I am quite sure that Laurie will return to The Southern Market, hopefully accompanied by her sister Bonnie or one of our neighbors.  The Southern Market is located at 5400 Homberg Drive in Knoxville Tennessee.  Phone: 865-588-0274.  Website:  FYI, online shopping opportunities are available…

Remember…I had promised that we’d eat dinner out.  I didn’t specify exactly where!  This Culver’s fast food franchise had opened a year or two earlier and we’d never dined here.  In the distant past we had eaten at Culver’s in the Chicago area and up in Wisconsin where the firm is based.

OK…I forgot to take photos of my Pretzel Haus Pub Burger, Laurie’s Cheddar ButterBurger, my French fries, Laurie’s milkshake or our deep fried Wisconsin Cheese Curds.  Maybe next time.  In any case, ButterBurgers are pretty good, significantly better than Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Hardee’s and Burger King…but, in our opinion they aren’t quite as tasty as Freddie’s Steakburgers.  However, our first impression of their staff was very positive, almost at a ‘Chick-fil-a level’.

The Knoxville Culver’s restaurant is located at 9113 Kingston Pike.  Phone: 865-357-1780.  The Company website is at

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, November 22, 2019

Model Trains and More Trains – Crossville TN

…continuing with the recent visit by our friends Bruce and Margaret from the St. Louis Missouri area.

The ladies were going shopping…ARRRG!  What could Bruce and I do…where could we go that would be fun and interesting?  Remember the model train layout that we visited in Oak Ridge Tennessee?  I decided that we’d go a bit further this time…to check out a much larger layout in Crossville Tennessee.  Crossville is about an hour from our home and we had lots of time before the ladies would return.

The first unusual fact about this model railroad club’s layout is that it actually occupies a large space in a local enclosed mall.  The Crossville Outlet Center isn’t huge but it features a Maurice’s store, Legg’s Hanes Bali outlet, Rack Room Shoes, a Vanity Fair Outlet, Dressbarn, a gamer’s store, and several more local operations including a church.
Customers certainly don’t have a hard time finding their way to the Crossville Model Railroad Club’s presentation of “The Wonderful World of Trains”!

We happily entered this adult/childhood fantasy land!  FYI, the exhibit is open to the public Tuesday – Friday and Sunday from Noon until 4 pm.  Saturday’s hours are from 11 AM until 4 PM.  Best of all, although the club does appreciate donations, admission is free!

This is a large space with 5 different model railroad scale layouts covering over 4,600 square feet.  Scale models included are G (the largest), as well as O, HO, N and Z.  FYI, if you have children, ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ and his friends are part of the operation.

The room at the back left center of the photo houses the Upper Cumberland Railroad Society Museum…with lots of railroad artifacts and memorabilia.  I didn’t take any photos of it because I was too busy checking out the model railroad layouts…and I forgot!   

If you like dioramas, there are plenty of them here for you to marvel over and appreciate.  This photo show a military base complete with a guarded gated entrance, a water tower and a ‘rail gun’ along with matching rail cars. 

Note the different levels involved in this complex layout.  There are things to appreciate in every direction.  I personally like this little town laid out along the tracks.

The Crossville Model Railroad Club was founded back in 2001.  Membership has reached 65 over the years since.  Members volunteer over 7,500 hours of their time to operate the public display, run the trains, and repair the existing layout.  I’m guessing that a lot more time is spent building new scenes and related equipment as personal fun projects as they’re a bit tied down with visitors in-house.

The first inspiration Bruce saw regarding improvements or additions to his own multi-level home model train layout was this nifty airport.  It’s interesting to note that this big model railway operation features no less than 23 airplanes and 9 helicopters in the various vignettes.  

Bruce’s career was in safety, accident prevention and loss prevention.  He was completely ‘taken’ by this HO gauge fire scene with the burning building and the flashing lights.  Another project for his home based model railroad!  Warning to Margaret... He's going to need more room!

Just for your information response to this fire was prompt with structural damage being held to a minimum by the fire department.  However the impacted structure was the regional office for the Internal Revenue Service and “unfortunately, most of their records were impacted!”

Of course, my favorite locomotives are the old fashioned steam types…so I was partial to this scene showing a train passing by a railyard full of iron ore rail cars.

The Club’s “HO” layout is the biggest and most detailed with 4 operating mainlines… They are the “Southern”, “Norfolk and Western”, “Tennessee Central”, and the “Louisville and Nashville” railroads.  Between them, they have 742 feet of track in the layout.

This 2 level scene with the road above the town along the rails is a perfect example of a model railroader’s creative mind.  With a ‘gentlemen’s club’, a pawn shop, tattoo parlor and a liquor store this obviously isn’t the best side of town.  However, local authorities are trying to clean it up with a raid on that strip joint/gentlemen’s club.  They even have a police dog helping them!

This roundhouse reminded me of the one that existed in my hometown of Jackson Michigan when I was a youth… That town was ‘hopping’ in those days, both as a rail hub and as a manufacturer of auto parts.  Also note the coaling tower and water tank, both a necessity in the early days of railroading.

Reality is that America loves beef!  This appears to be a busy stockyard attached to a processing plant… “Swift Products” refrigerator cars await the finished product.

The Club’s HO display features a plethora of critters.  They include 37 horses, 89 cows, 12 dogs, 14 pigs, 7 sheep, 16 chickens, 12 pigeons, 7 deer, 5 monkeys, 6 seals, 5 bears, 2 gorillas and a lion.

Here is another fire scene…obviously set in a different era.  There is railroad track at 3 different levels of this photo.

This scrapyard full of scrap metal is being attended to by a large railcar style crane that loads the scrap into the open rail car.
The mainline railroads based on the complete HO display operate at least 15 passenger cars as well as 361+ pieces of freight rolling stock.

The landscaping alone is amazing.  Tunnels, hills, trees, grass and everything else are a major undertaking in themselves.  In addition, over 500 lightbulbs illuminate the buildings, signs, lights, etc.

This is the main railyard for the HO layout.  After all, the hundreds of pieces of rolling stock have to be kept somewhere when not in use.  This layout has 6 different rail yards, with this one alone involving 72 feet of track. 

This bucolic farm scene in the mountains…complete with horses, cows and pigs…is very nicely designed and composed.  It makes me want to visit the place! 

Of course, complex city/town scenes like this really demand a lot of pre-planning and construction.  The membership is truly dedicated.

Just putting together the display tables required 768 feet of 1 x 4s for table frames and more than 1300 feet of 1” x 2” lumber for leg braces.  As for the table tops, 36 sheets of half inch plywood and half inch homosote plus 8 sheets of 4X8 Plexiglas were used.

The fun really is in the details…at least as far as I’m concerned.  Note the woman hanging clothes on the rooftop with her child playing nearby.  What her ‘husband’ is doing with his pants down around his ankles is anyone’s guess!  The guy next door is just sunning himself on his rooftop deck…

I thought that it would be appropriate to end this portion of my post with a big circus parade!  Beyond the school bus, one circus wagon after another is coming down Main Street past a large audience, many of which are comfortably seated in bleachers along the route.  Note the elevated trolley line at the right of the parade.

The complete HO layout including the circus parade features 275 structures, almost 1,400 people, 471 autos, 297 trucks, 3 scooters, 11 motorcycles, 6 bicycles and 2 lawnmowers. It also includes a ‘still’, 5 outhouses and “Jimmy Hoffa’s final resting place”.  I missed seeing that last one!

This was a fun place to visit, at least for Bruce and myself.  It’s a model railroad ‘high’ as well as a diorama lover’s dream.  FYI, we did kick into the donation bucket. 

The Crossville Model Railroad Club and Upper Cumberland Railroad Society Museum is located at 229 Interstate Drive just off Interstate I-40 at Genesis Road.  Phone: 931-210-5050.  Their website with some great photos can be found at 

So after all of our ‘railroading’ efforts, Bruce and I decided it was time for lunch.  I’d heard about the Vegas Steakhouse and Bar in Crossville, so I decided to give it a try… Bruce patiently waited for me to take a picture.

The dining areas are a bit dated and a little ‘cave like’, but everything was clean and well maintained.  It was well after lunch so the restaurant wasn’t busy.

As has happened frequently in recent times, I forgot to take photos of the food until it was too late in my case, and just barely in time to grab a photo of half of Bruce’s Turkey sandwich.  Bruce said that his sandwich was OK but nothing special.

As for my French Dip/Roast Beef sandwich, it was a bit like eating over-done paper thin “Steak-umm”…thin-sliced frozen pieces of semi-dry tasteless ‘steak’.  Without the au jus accompanying the sandwich, I would have had to bury it in ketchup to make it palatable.  As it was, I dunked my sandwich in the au jus and then the ketchup.

To make matters worse, our waitress had an ‘attitude’ going on!  Surly would be the best description.  It’s not like either of us gave her a rough time or tried to joke around with her.  She should have stayed home for the day…or tried another line of work…like prison guard.

For what it’s worth, the Vegas Steakhouse and Bar is located at 3152 North Main Street in Crossville Tennessee.  Phone: 931-456-2850.  They are on Facebook at  

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by to see what a couple of obsessive old guys have been up to!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave