Monday, August 15, 2011

Cheeseburgers that look yummy!

Just ran across this fun little website, that focuses on the almighty Cheeseburger.  It features 10 burgers from across the country, with recipe's and a fun description from each.  I'm not sure, but I believe the voice on the website is Elaine's (From Seinfeld) ex boyfriend.  Maybe? Maybe not.

But the website is worth a look!


http://www.cheeseandburger.com/

Speaking of the almighty cheeseburger, I have had two different burgers in recent weeks that truly do stand out from the crowd.  The first one I'll mention was from today, eaten at Drake's in Cool Springs.  This is a relatively new place (next to Starbucks on Mallory) has a really fun vibe to it.  The Tavern Burger was very tasty - served with a tangy remoulade, sauteed onions and pepper jack cheese.  They also serve it with crinkled fries.... my favorite!  For a good burger, this place was impressive.

I've mentioned Brew House South before, I even stated they have the best chicken I have ever put in my mouth.  But oh-my-goodness, their Island Burger is fantastic.  It's served with their infamous Mojo sauce and has an incredible flavor to it.  Their fries are nice and thick steak house fries.

Ok, so this is my two cents worth on a couple of burgers that you need to try out.



Monday, July 4, 2011

Big Rock Market

If you know me at all, you know that some of my favorite summer time treats are days when I get to go to the lake.  More times than not, I will head about an hour east of Nashville to Center Hill Lake.  I'm not one who likes change much, so I find myself involved in a set of "Lake Day Traditions" ...and I'm fairly picky about these lake day traditions, and I love the memories.  Big Rock Market has been a part of my set of "Lake Day Traditions" for a couple of years.  Why?  It provides all sorts of amusement...and some good food too!

On Lake Days, we'll all meet up at the Brentwood Library, typically at 10.  This allows us to arrive at Big Rock Market just after 11 am - the time most places begin serving lunch.  We'll stop in for lunch, then head over to Center Hill Marina to hop on the boat and enjoy a full day at the lake.  If I go to Center Hill, I usually like to have at least 7 people go, but no more than 9 - the more the merrier!

Big Rock Market, in Silver Point Tennessee, is just off of Interstate 40 at exit 268. For all practical purposes, it is a gas station & convenient store ...which just happens to serve food (some of the time).  We pass right by Big Rock Market on the way to the lake, so it's the perfect location and at the right time to grab some lunch.

Once on the inside of this place, you forget you are in a typical convenience store - the decor is pretty impressive.  Matter of fact, I have said more than once that I would love to have my bonus room look like the dining area.  Cool colors, cool furnishings, and an impressive abundance of room....keep in mind, this is a convenience store.

The food has always been delightful!  The chicken tenders seem to be a favorite of the girls.  I must admit, they are delicious.  I've had smoked ham, smoked turkey, smoke shoulder...all sorts of BBQ varieties and have loved everything I've ever eaten from Big Rock Market!  They have had smoked sausage with peppers and onions - and on a hot dog bun this is probably my favorite from this establishment.  Their hot dogs and hamburgers taste like backyard grilled yummy delights.  This is a great place to stop because my guests can get their own drinks, chips and we can get in and out in a..... well, there is nothing fast about the service here.

I mentioned earlier about the amusement Big Rock Market provides - I assume that the employees of this establishment are all family members.  To say that the service is friendly here is not exactly true.  I've always felt this was a "local establishment" and that our 9 person invasion was not very welcomed here.  The "dad" (whom I assume owns the place) has always been friendly....but the daughter.... wow!  While she is incredibly cute, I don't believe she has ever had a smile on her face while we've been there.  We've witnessed her yelling and screaming at another girl who works there as we were trying to place orders and pay.  Like I said, it's entertaining and amusing.  We've walked in before as she screamed at us "WE DON'T HAVE FOOD TODAY!!"  They have brought our order to a nearby table, instead of the table we were sitting at, and told us to come get it.  Last year, I would be told that they don't take American Express, then be able to use it the next time.  Sometimes they would allow us to order individual chicken tenders, and other times not.   While the food really is impressive, it's hit or miss if they are actually serving it... yet the sign out front says "Salad Bar Everyday" - I remember the salad bar being stocked maybe 5 times over the past couple of years.  This year they added a tact shop to part of the dining area - probably an indication that diners are not a high priority.

I've started calling around 10:30 to see if they would have food for the 9 of us.  Only once have they said they would have food.  Sadness.

My tradition has started shifting this year.... we now end up going to the store at Hurricane Marina to buy sandwiches for lunch.  Some have even started bringing their own lunch.  Hurricane Marina is faster, but the food is not as good and they don't supply the hours of conversations and laughs that the Big Rock Market has provided.  I may be the only person who would recommend a place because the service is so bad it is entertaining.  Sometimes you just have to laugh at the things that go on around you!

....But a day at the lake is always a good thing!

Friday, June 17, 2011

50's Prime Time Cafe

I want to share another recipe with you today. It's quick and simple and is perfect for the summer heat.  And like the last post, it's from Disney World.

When people tell me they are going to Disney, I always recommend that they go to 50's Prime Time Cafe - even if they don't go there to eat a meal (which is fun, whimsical and a throwback to the 50's) I still suggest they get a taste of one of my favorite milkshakes. 

If you like Peanut Butter and Jelly, this is a must-try!



50's Prime Time Cafe PB & J Milkshake

2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons grape jelly
2 cups vanilla ice cream
¼ cup milk
Blend all of the ingredients until smooth and thick

*Add additional peanut butter or jelly to taste.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hoop-De-Doo Musical Revue

It has been a while since I've added a post, so I thought I would start writing about the place where I last posted from, Walt Disney World.   The Hoop-De-Doo Musical Revue is a cheesy, but incredibly fun and funny dinner show at Disney's Fort Wilderness Camp Ground and takes place in Pioneer Hall.  It's been the perfect dining destination for customer dinners, employee dinners, prospect dinners, family outings, graduation presents and a great place to take friends and their families.  That's just what I did on my last visit to Walt Disney World.

Bill Reid is one of my best friends from my college days.  Bill is fun, funny, amazingly musically talented on the guitar, and truly one of the best friends a guy could ask for.  Bill has stuck with me through thick and thin and has seen me at my best and at my worst.  I remember on several of those "worst" days he would just say "Let's go get some lunch."  He knew it was time to get away from campus and get some good food in our belly's.   That may explain part of the "thick" and part of the "thin" he has seen me through...

Bill's family (Renee, Parker & Emma) and myself have had the opportunity a couple of times to be at Disney World at the same time for work, and when I found out in March that we would be there together in May, I immediately said "We have to go to the Hoop-de-doo Revue this time."  There are two reasons I love going to this show.  First of all, the food is incredibly good - and it's good 'ole southern comfort food.   When you walk in there is a vegetable filled tossed salad sitting on the table waiting for you.  The servers are quick to take your drink order, which is included in the price of the meal.  The food is all served family style so there are no hard choices in deciding what to order.  Upon sitting down, you will also find some of the best and sweetest tasting corn bread you will ever find.  No butter is needed, but it sure does taste great with butter too!

The courses are mixed in with musical interludes, "skits" and "sketches" from a zany group of country characters who are roaming the country putting on a country-time musical revue.  The entertainment is the second reason I love this dining experience. This is where the cheesy part comes in....these folks are silly, cheesy and ultimately highly entertaining as you sit and enjoy the crazy antics throughout the dining hall.  While all of this is going on, they are bringing steel pails of fried chicken, BBQ ribs, baked beans, potatoes, and other vegetables.  All of them are as tasty and as yummy as you can dream.  If I could learn to make ribs like they serve here, I could possibly stop eating out so much!

The entertainment is full of original music, improv lyrics, and old time favorites.  The laughter in this place is contagious.  Let me say the word "cheesy" again...but you will find it "beary funny" too!

Emma playing the washboard
The grand finale takes on a musical number involving all of the diners in Pioneer Hall, the servers and the Pioneer Hall Singers.  The servers share a moment in the spotlight at they bring out the Strawberry Shortcake.  The only problem with this Strawberry Shortcake is that I have always been way too stuffed to enjoy it by the time it arrives....but it is still oh-so-delicious!  The finale is fun, up beat and full of energy.  There is no way to leave this show without laughing a ton, being full from the extraordinary fixin's and wishing you had gotten tickets for the show the next night.

If you're going to be at Disney World, or even in the Orlando area, I highly recommend it.  My customers have loved it, my family has loved it, and I've gotten new accounts by taking prospects.  It's simply fun and yummy!  ...and in my book, that's a great combination!!  It was a great night out with Bill, Renee, Emma and Parker.  And I'm ready to do it again...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Senior Banquet

Sunday night I dined with a group of my favorite people.  It was the group of graduating seniors who are part of the Woodmont Hills youth group.  For over 15 years I was blessed by being allowed to volunteer with this group and I fell absolutely in love with the students who came through the doors during that time.  So it was certainly an honor and a privilege to get to be a part of their Senior Banquet.  It was a happy time.  And it was also a sad reminder.

As I have indicated before in this blog, I view mealtime and meals together as a time of community, a time of communion...a time that is special - a bonding time.  The banquet was a celebration of a many times and years spent together.  There was a slide show of each student with pictures of them through the years, activities they were involved in, pictures with friends, pictures with family members, pictures with people who were important parts of their lives.  Each student's table was covered with pictures of the student through the years, college tee shirts, pom poms and musical instruments and details that would give you a glimpse into the life of that particular student.  It's always so cool to see the creativity that goes into the table.

The Senior Banquet has always been a time of reflection for me.  It took me back to the Senior Banquet when the class from Josh Wallen's grade all had a glass of Coca-Cola in Josh's memory.  It took me back to a few years ago when there was another event next door that had a DJ and a dance floor....and how that group of seniors crashed that party and took over the dance floor.  It took me back to the banquet from the group that I had been with since the 5th grade and me not believing I had known a group of teens that long.  I was so proud of them!  That was a tough night on me!  (...but I still get to hear from many from that group)  It took me back to last year as I sat at the table with Casey and Laurel.  Nights like that are so wonderful for bringing back the memories.  It saddened me a lot because it hit home incredibly hard that from now on, with the teens from Woodmont Hills, they would just be memories...that I would no longer see these teens grow up.  That, for the most part, I would not be around to be a part of their lives.  Sad.

This event was the first time I had seen many of the students in months.  This night was obviously for them, but oh-my-word did it ever bless me.  These students truly are some of the nicest and kindest and most awesome people I know.  While I was there to honor them, they were the ones who made me feel like a million bucks.  Not just them, but even their siblings, friends and parents.

I wish I could describe these students individually and let you know how awesome they all are....everyone needs people like these in their life.  In describing them all, I would just have a long list of names and could not do them all justice.

I was able to get a big bear hug from Will - and oh how I have missed those!  Jake, even while just losing his grandmother, went out of his way to make me feel missed and special.  It was good to get to hear about Jake's college plans, though I was certain he would go to NYC and become a model... Emily Townsend, who is as sweet as Alabama Sweet Tea, well...she just always makes me feel like a million bucks.  I saw Katy and simply loved getting to talk with her a some...And I got the chance to joke around with Emily Riddle again...and catch up with Blair Thornton....and finally meet the amazing person who raised Brieonna...and hear about how Hannah wants to help kids with special needs with music therapy....and catch up with the amazingly skinny-as-crap Sterling...and have Maggie almost make me cry (only to succeed later that night).... and take some pictures with Madison and talk about her love interest (as we always do)....and get a few minutes with Seth....and get a huge hug from Woody....And see Keller dressed in a Tux....and to get a picture with Ian.... and a high-five from Ty.

The night was so incredibly sweet.  I truly went there to honor each one of those students because they have meant so much to me through the years... but they turned it around on me and made me feel so loved, so important and such a part of their lives.  This graduating class really is a great group of people!

Ashley asked me several months ago to sit with her and her family.  I don't know why, but she and her family treat me so kindly.  They include me on family things and truly make me feel like family.  At one point, our names were even next to each other in the Nashville telephone book. They let me go to football and basketball games with them.  They've invited me over to their house for the superbowl party.  They have the biggest and kindest hearts you can imagine.  It was such an honor to get to sit with Ashley and her family for dinner. Ashley means the world to me and has truly been an Angel in my life!  Today just happens to be her birthday, too...in case you want to wish her a happy birthday, send her a cake or a send her a gift certificate from Forever 21.

I wish this group the best, I wish them God's speed and a happy future.  I wish them a happy summer and an outstanding start to "the next chapter."  And I pray that God surrounds you with people in your lives who will bless your life the way you all have blessed mine.

As far as the dining out part....if every meal could be spent with people this amazing I would always be willing to pick up the tab!  To the graduating class of 2011 - you are loved.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

National Cheeseburger Month?

Maybe I've known this before and just don't recall it, but for much of April I've been hearing about how May is National Cheeseburger Month.  That sounds like my kind of month!  It makes sense...people are lighting up their grills, cooking out and what a better time of the year than May to have "National Cheeseburger Month."  Some things just receive a day - National Oreo Day, National Margarita Day, National give someone a hug day.... I like that the cheeseburger gets a full month.  Whoever declares these days - Kudos to you!

That said, the first week in May I will be at Disney World...and no doubt will have my fair share of Cheeseburgers.  However, I'm really thinking about doing some Disney World oriented posts too.

So we'll see how next week goes... there may just be a combination of posts.  Yes, it's interesting to me that I'm actually planning ahead for these things now... but I am looking forward to sharing my favorite food (the cheeseburger) along with posts from my favorite place (Disney World).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Top Ten List

I've had two people in the past week ask me to name several of my favorite restaurants around town after discussing post from my blog with them.  It's kind of fun when people talk with me about places I have recommended or telling me they've tried a place.  During the conversations, both of them suggested I do a top ten list. 

It sounded like an easy enough suggestion....until I started thinking of having to limit my favorite places to ten local restaurants.  But here they are, these are my top ten favorite restaurants in the Nashville/Brentwood/Cool Springs/Franklin area at this very point in time.  I know me well enough to know the list would be slightly different on a different day.

They are in no particular order....
  1. Chuy's - I've had too many good times here for this place not to be on the list.  I love the atmosphere there, their chips, salsa and their Elvis room...
  2. PF Changs & Pei Wei - They are both owned by the same company, and have basically the same menu, so it works as one place, right?  Pei Wei has been a staple on Thursday nights before Sanctuary and the people I go there with have been such a blessing.
  3. Sopapilla's - The food is great, it's close to my house, the service is excellent, they GIVE YOU dessert, and I've even written a blog post about this place.  If you haven't tried it yet, you want to give it a try.
  4. Cantina Laredo - It's in The Gulch and is an upscale Mexican place - which is kind of a weird concept for me.  But their Guacamole and their  Sizzling Apple Pie on a Fajita platter sold me on the place.  And I've had the best of experiences there each time I've gone.  They've all been special times with special people!
  5. SATCO - For Nashvillians, no explanation is needed.  This place is all about the atmosphere.  The food is good, but for the hangout potential, it's the best.
  6. Brewhouse South - I've only known about this place for two weeks, but it has made the top ten list for certain.  They have absolutely THE BEST chicken I have ever put in my mouth.  They've gotten a little mention in a blog post, but not nearly what they deserve.
  7. Blue Coast Burrito - I've eaten there so many times it simply feels like home.  It (Baja Burrito) was the first of its type in the Nashville area and still remains the best, in my humble opinion.
  8. Five Guys - They have the best cheeseburger in Nashville, period.  I wish I could buy into this chain and let them call it "Six Guys." One of my favorite Five Guys stories is being in DC last summer and while I was walking out of Five Guys five "ladies" were walking into Five Guys.  I noticed, as I held the door open for them, that they were all crossdressers/transvestites.  I SOOOOO wanted to take a picture of them in Five Guys.  Get it?... Five guys dressed as women in Five Guys.  I so missed out of this opportunity.
  9. Genghis Grill - It's stir fry and you get to choose how much and what goes in each bowl.  And you get to choose the sauce and the carb and you get to watch them make it!  And lately I've been going with some spectacular people, which makes this place even better.  It's a fun place with really good food.  ...and if the food was bad, it would be my fault because I didn't choose the right combination.  I like this place!
  10. Jim n Nicks - I've done a blog on this one too, and I really can't say enough of good things about this place.  If Cool Springs were to get a Jim n Nicks, I'm certain they'd all know me by name!  The food is wonderful, and like the other favorites, there are sweet and precious memories involved.
Ok, so that's it, that's my top ten list as requested.  Maybe I'll do this in another two months to see the mood I'm in then.  In two months, the marina restaurant may just be on my list!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cajun-Style Prime Rib Recipe

My mom loved cookbooks.  I really have never seen a person with so many cookbooks in my life!  My mom used to cook, but oddly enough I have very few recollections of her ever actually using those cookbooks...she just seemed to know how to cook.  She would sit in her chair and just read her cookbooks like I would read John Grisham or one of my favorite magazines.  She'd share with me an entree or dessert that sounded tasty, and as she told me about it she would describe it in ways that would make me salivate.  She loved to read those cookbooks....

Mom taught me how to cook - and even though I now eat out more times than not, I really do love to cook.  That comes from my mom.  I loved when mom came and visited because I knew I was going to get home-cooked meals at my house! Occasionally she would send me a random recipe.  Southern Comfort food is the best...

When mom passed away, we started giving away her cookbooks as people came over to visit.  It wasn't something I was ready for... but nothing about the experience was something I was ready for.  I knew I wanted to take one of her cookbooks simply because they belonged to her.  It was something that she loved and something that would remind me of her.

As we were going through pictures, I ran across a picture from 1972 of mom and I standing at the entrance of Disney World.  I kept that picture and placed it in one of the cookbooks from Disney, "Cooking with Mickey and the Disney Chefs."  This was the cookbook I wanted to keep.

Mom had given me a recipe years before that was so good.  Matter of fact, while at Disneyland a few years ago I sought out and ate at the Blue Bayou Restaurant to have the Cajun-Style Prime Rib.  This was in the cookbook I kept and one of the recipe's she had sent to me. The photo remains tucked away in that cookbook.  I just wish I still had mom...and that totally awesome Donald Duck hat!

In case you didn't know, when you visit a Disney Restaurant the chefs are more than willing to share the recipes of their food.  If you find something totally yummy, you can just ask for the recipe and they will either bring out the recipe to you or email it to you.  I've gotten so many recipe's through the years..... I've just never been able to recreate the Magic of Disney.  But I have been able to share the good food!

I wanted to share this recipe with you, the recipe mom sent to me... try it, if you like Prime Rib and like cajun food, you will love it!  If you don't want to take the time to cook it, just go to Disneyland and have it.... you can never go wrong with Disney, and you can never go wrong eating from the recipes that my mom sent.

Cajun-Style Prime Rib

1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspons ground red pepper
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
Prime Rib, about 4 ribs in thickness
(Approximately 9 ounces per serving)

1.  Mix all spices and rub prime rib on all sides.  Then let rest overnight in refrigerator.
2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place prime rib fat side up on a rack in an open roasting pan.
3.  Roast for about 1 1/2 hours for medium-rare (until thermometer reads an internal temperature of 130 degrees F).  Let rest 15 minutes before slicing.

Serves 4

This is served au jus at Blue Bayou Restaurant with creamy horseradish sauce and is accompanied by potatoes, fresh sauteed vegetables and a Southern-style popover.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Second Round...

Ok, so I ate at Brewhouse South again today and had absolutely the best tasting chicken I have ever put in my mouth!  I will definitely have a blog just for Brewhouse South at some point - much more than the little blurb I gave it yesterday. You can read a little about it in the previous post, but I know that I didn't give it justice yesterday!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Water With Lemon, please...

It's been a week or so since I've added a new post so I thought I would do a quick mention of three notable locations I've experienced lately. All three are in Cool Springs and two of the three are more sports grilles/bars than anything.  I really do love the food I have had at these places. And I'll just preface this by saying I only drink water with lemon.  When servers ask me what I want to drink, I say "Water with Lemon."  It's been that way since November 15th, 2005.  I don't see that changing anytime soon.  While these places all seem to focus on the drinks they sell, they do have noteworthy food!

Loser's 2

I have only visited Loser's during the day during the lunch "crowd" and during the slow hours between 2 and 4.  There has always been a brisk crowd and it's always been a fun atmosphere. It's a small sports grille menu, and everything I have tried has been excellent.  The wings were amazing!  The Southwest Cheeseburger was outstanding.  The fries have always been surprisingly delicious.  I've even ordered a hotdog that truly should receive a standing ovation!  And they have one desert -  a Chocolate Eclair Cake which was oh-my-word delicious!  Initially I thought "only one desert??" But when it's that good, you really don't need to offer anything else!

The music in this place is loud and has always been right up my ally!  Each time I've asked myself "Who selects these songs because I love this playlist!" It's fun and upbeat music.  Not all country, not all old music and I've yet to hear Justin Bieber - it's a great mix!!  There is a stage for live music, though I've not been lucky enough to catch live music (it's always been lunch). They offer patio seating and have a huge garage door to the outside - every visit the doors have been open - so you get the feeling of being outside, even when being inside.  It's been perfect with the recent weather.

The pictures on their facebook show a crowded typical bar setting at night.  I've not experience that, only the somewhat easy laid back feel of the lunch hour.  This place is on Carothers near GiGi's and Swanky's.  It gets two forks up for sure!
Loser's 2

Brewhouse South

Let me just start by saying I will be watching some away Titans games at this place!  There are tons of large wide-screen tv's every direction you look!  I watched a Predator's playoff game there a few days ago and wow,  what a great place to watch a game!  In addition to that, one of my favorite servers, Amanda, works there too!

I've only been to this place once, but the experience certainly was good enough to know that I'll be returning.  It had an interesting menu, and Amanda recommended one of the burritos.  You typically don't have to twist my arm when you suggest that.... so that's what I ordered!  Seriously, it was so good. It was very good. It surprised me at how tasty it was.  It was rather spicy, full of flavor, stuffed full of goodness, and rather filling.   Like Loser's, they only offer one dessert.  On this night, it was a Tiramisu....which seemed very out of place with the other menu offerings but  I must say, it too was rather impressive!

My first experience at this place was very positive.  It certainly has a sports grille vibe and with the incredible display of tv's in each and every direction, I believe they will be giving Jonathan's next door a little competition!  From my experience, they have a much better viewing experience for games than Jonathan's.
Brewhouse South

Cool Springs Brewery

Before this place was "Cool Springs Brewery" it was Guido's.  They added their own microbrewery, changed the name, but kept the same great food!

During lunch, this is an exceptional place to visit. They have a salad, pizza and pasta buffet that is simply incredible!  Their New York style pizza is outstanding!  For a person who will be fine if he never has Papa Johns or Domino's again, this pizza is crazy good! Rich sauce, fresh toppings and lots of cheese! That's the "Guido's" part of their menu that makes this eatery great.  They have outstanding pasta and subs as well.  There is a great selection of specialty pizza's on the menu and on their buffet but (and wouldn't you know it) my favorite is their desert chocolate pizza.  They even add some cinnamon to make it THAT much better!!  It's an outstanding value and truly delicious food.
Cool Springs Brewery

So no funny stories or deep experiences to share this post...just a few recommendations to offer if you are looking for somewhere new to try.

I found out a few days ago that May is "National Cheeseburger Month" so I will have a little fun with that theme!  Boy can I ever tell you where to find good Cheeseburgers!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Road Trip to Birmingham!

I have a several passions in life.  To name a few, I love being out on my boat, for around fifteen years I was blessed by getting to volunteer with a youth group - when people I meet asks me if I have kids, I have always responded with "I have several hundred" - so students have long been a passion of mine, and for this particular group of students, I love them dearly.  I love Marketing and get to do it full time with my job at WT Cox Subscriptions.  I really do love eating out - thus this blog.  And I love God and try to make Him the center of all aspects of my life.  I just realized I used the word "Love" several times in a row.  I love - It's who I am...

A combination of all of the passions merged yesterday and today during an incredible road trip.  The highlight of my trip was getting to spend some time with Adair.  She is one of those students who I have known for years.  Matter of fact, the first time I remember meeting her she was probably 8 or so.  Maybe younger?   If Adair reads this, she'll know the story that comes to mind - one I have embarrassed her with time and time again!  But I won't embarrass her with that story this time.  Rather, I'll mention that Adair has gone to the lake with me numerous times.  I'm sure by now I have taken literally hundreds of groups to the lake with me....and one of the trips with Adair certainly goes down as one of my favorite all time trips.  Matter of fact, two of the trips with Adair will be considered my all time favorites.  The first one the day ended with me having dinner over at her house after an incredibly fun day at the lake.  The other is a "siblings day" we had last summer.  Adair has meant so much to me through the years...And it was wonderful to see her!

When I knew I was going to be in Birmingham, I got in touch with Adair to see if she would be up for dinner, coffee, desert...whatever.  And it worked out so we could go eat together.  She asked me where I wanted to go, and of course I didn't care so she asked a friend for a suggestion, and the friend suggested a place called Urban Cookhouse.  Adair had never been there, I had never been there...so it seemed like a great adventure for the two of us.  I was so hoping the food would be good, because my first impression of this place was great and I thought it would make a good blog post.  It did not disappoint!

Urban Cookhouse has a very different look and feel to it than most places I like.  As the name would suggest, it had a very Urban look.  Everything feels very modern, very hip.  The menu and selection are both very impressive.  I literally had to make a choice among five different things that I wanted to try.  Adair had a couple she was deciding between.  Their menu made everything seem so tasty and the naming and descriptions were fun.  Whoever came up with this menu certainly had major creativity and culinary excitement at their core.  They offer a great selection of sandwiches, salads and "fork & knife" entrees.  I choose "Lime-Marinated Steak & Rice" from the "fork & knife" section.  It came with a salad and an orange roll - all for under $9!

The salad was full of a wide array of vegetables, that all appeared and tasted to be fresh from someone's personal garden.  The rice was seasoned to perfection and the steak was incredibly impressive.  And that orange roll I mentioned - YUMMY!!  Had I not been with Adair, I probably would have been tempted to go buy a dozen of those orange rolls!

Urban Cookhouse has sidewalk seating, and on a perfect night like last night, we were able to enjoy the fresh air while catching up.  It was a bustling spot full of friends and families enjoying time together.  The atmosphere was welcoming and lent itself to good conversation.  The steak was quickly delivered and devoured, but Adair and I had the opportunity to sit and catch up with each other for a while. We reminisced about lake trips, friends, and I got to hear all about what was going on with her at college.  She's been such a blessing in my life, and it's obvious she continues to be a blessing to others in Birmingham.

Adair had mentioned a Mexican restaurant that I tried out today before I left Birmingham.  Concina Superior was excellent!  And again I got to eat outside and loved every item they served me.  I want to mention this place simply because it lived up to "superior" that is in the name.  I even brought home a souvenir cup from there it was so good!

What an opportunity I had in Birmingham. I got to spend some time with someone I think the world of, I got to see how God is working in her life, I got to do a little marketing for my company, I got to reminiscence about some fun lake trips (which make me crave the lake so much) and I got to eat at two very outstanding restaurants.  This road trip was a success!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Priorities and Being Prepared

Back several years ago, as I was going through the process of buying my house, I made a decision that my house would be a place where people felt comfortable, where people could feel at home hanging out and where one of my favorite things could easily occur: cookouts.  I love grilling.  I love the atmosphere of cookouts.  I love friends being at my house and I love hosting them. They are laid back, easy-going and people don't have high expectations of the food...yet grilled food is some of the best tasting food out there.

This may seem to go against the whole theme of my blog, but I love good food and I love sharing meals with friends.  Cookouts truly create one of the best times to simply enjoy peoples company.

Before I even moved into my house, I shopped around for a good quality grill.  I wanted quality, I wanted something that would last, and I wanted something permanent. I found just the right grill!

My grill is cemented into the ground just under the overhang of my patio/carport.  When it's raining, or when it's snowing, or when it's sunny... I can grill out.  And yes, I do this often!  I had purchased the grill before I even hired a moving company to help me move... I had my priorities straight!

The weather the past few days has me itching for a big cookout.  Not just 3 or 4 friends over, but a BIG cookout for lots of people.  I'm sure I'll be scheduling and inviting soon because the anticipation has now grown even larger.   I recently ordered and received a few of my favorite grilling sauces.  I am preparing for the upcoming grilling season!

After I had bought my grill, but before I had moved in my house, I was at one of the stores in Cool Springs that sold grills...and they also sold marinades and grilling sauces too.  The shop owner had suggested this steak marinade called "Hukilau Hannah" from Hoboken Eddies.  I bought a bottle of this...and after using it I went back and bought three bottles of it.  It immediately became my steak marinade of choice.

Hukilau Hannah is a sweet blend of teriyaki, apricot, wasabi and ginger.  I am typically not a big fan of teriyaki, so trust me when I say that this is not a strong teriyaki taste.  It's very citrissee and sweet. My steak of choice is a thick cut rib-eye from Sam's Club.  After allowing the steaks to marinade for at least 24 hours they are ready for the grill.  This blend of marinade tastes Polynesian or Hawaiian to me, so I also like to throw some pineapple on the grill too.  I've had some incredible steaks before, but this is truly one of the best steaks to me.  I hope I'm not biased!

That particular grill shop closed so now I have to buy the marinade from online.  For a while they even stopped selling it direct and only sold to wholesalers....so when I buy it, I typically buy several bottles at once.  But oh my word, it is so worth it!

The other grilling sauce is a relatively new flavor for me, it's called JohnBoy & Billy's Grilling Sauce.  My sister introduced it to me over Thanksgiving. ...it's just one more reason to love my incredible sister!  If you like pork chops on the grill, then this sauce needs to be sampled.  I like baking chicken with it, but I've yet to grill chicken on the grill with it...because I have a favorite for chicken too, Carolina Treet.

There is an original version of JohnBoy & Billy's, but the spicy version is better to me.  It's got a little vinegar tang to it (it's based in Eastern NC) and the pork chops it produces are simply YUMMY!  Carolina Treet has a much strong vinegar base, and is perfect for wings.  I've discovered vinegar based BBQ sauces are definitely regionally acquired taste.  But I do believe the JohnBoy & Billy's Grilling Sauce will be loved by anyone who has it with pork.  Ask me to prove it!

So I have planned ahead and bought the marinades, the weather is warming up, and now it's just time for the crowd to be invited.  Grilling season is upon us!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

By George - that's a cheesesteak!

In June I plan to go to New Orleans, and when I tell people this I instantly hear "You have to go get a Beignet from Cafe Du Monde!" Because I already know this,  I'm letting them cater an event I'm hosting with my job (WT Cox Subscriptions).  When I went to Portland last year, everyone told me I had to visit Voodoo Donuts, and I did!  AMAZING!  I had a peanut butter and Oreo donut that was totally yummy! In Memphis, you're told to go to Rendezvous for Ribs.  They won't disappoint and you will find yourself licking your fingers.  When in Chicago you have to get a deep dish pizza from Giordano's.  You'll leave stuffed.  And when you go to Philly, you know you're going to be told to get a Cheesesteak.

Last week I was in Philadelphia for a conference and was staying in "Center City" (the heart of the convention center area).  Reading Terminal Market is a jewel that gives Philadelphia a distinct personality for convention goers.  It gives the city some personality and a distinctive feature that the city can be proud of.  It has heart, it has soul - and even the day before the convention started, it was bustling with traffic.  In the movie "National Treasure" Nicholas Cage runs through the market. How he didn't stop for something to eat causes me to believe the movie isn't all that realistic...

This market is like a farmers market, meat market, dry goods market, bakery, flea market and a scattering of many counter restaurants all in one.  The mouth watering aromas almost drove me crazy.  The Amish goodies had me salivating. The fish markets had me gagging.   There were so many places to eat that I had a difficult time deciding where to choose.  I was following the tweets from the conference and attendees were saying "try this place" & "try that place."  So I did.  The market was fun!

On my first day in Philly I ate at a stand called Carmen's.  I pounced when I saw an empty seat at the counter!  The empty seat just happened to be right in front of the cash register.  The cashier (and I'm guessing the owner) rudely told me I was to wait in line, place my order and then get a seat if there was one available.  I thought he was rude, but by the end of the week, I realized that's just the personality of people in the market.  Brash. Loud. Obnoxious.  No southern charm there!  There wasn't a line so I was able to order from my seat, and the sandwich quickly came.  It was good - but nothing to write home about.

But by George, I was going to find an outstanding cheesesteak!  The next day I saw several tweets about a place called "By George" and I set out to find it.  The steak in this sandwich was real steak, not just "meat" sliced so thin it looked like a product called "steakums." It was real steak, and a very healthy portion was sizzling on the grill.  And the cheese - there was lots of cheese.  It was cooked with onions and placed on a roll that was perfect for the sandwich.  I had found it, I had found a GREAT Philly Cheesesteak!

Even in the midst of all the options surrounding me, I ended up eating at "By George" twice.  The food was fabulous, and the guy at the cash register was actually kind.  They had a wide range of Italian dishes to choose from but their cheesesteak appeared to be one of the hottest selling items.  Like many others, I tweeted of this exceptional cheesesteak!

I do want to mention another place too - Delilah's.  Back in 2003 Oprah said she had the best Macaroni & Cheese in the country.  I'm sure that got this place some business. The mac and cheese was good, but the fried chicken and blackeye peas with rice were exceptional.

I just had an observation - we had two customer dinners where the bill was well over $1,500.  Yet I am writing about an $8 Philly Cheesesteak.  It's pretty obvious to see where my taste buds gravitate.

And just in case my boss reads this - Yes, I did spend some time in the convention center and spent time at our booth.  Our customer dinners were a huge success.  It was a great conference with many leads generated!  But it was Reading Terminal Market that made this conference stand out from the recent ones.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Boma: Flavors of Africa

One of the beautiful aspects of Disney that I love is simply the way they excel at creating themes.  Actually, I don't suppose that "simply" gives it justice, but rather the extraordinary way they excel at creating a story, or developing a theme, or placing you in another world.

The latest theme park at Disney World is Disney's Animal Kingdom and boy have they ever excelled in creating another world.  Attention to detail is at every turn of the head.  Look up you see it, look at the pavement you see it, look to right, look to the left.  Close your eyes and you'll hear it.  Use your nose, you'll even smell it (not always pleasant at the Animal Kingdom).  Disney engages all of the senses!

Adjacent to Disney's Animal Kingdom is the impressive Animal Kingdom Lodge.  And just down the wooden staircase from the elaborate and awe inspiring lobby is Boma.  It's an African themed restaurant that adds another sense to the experience - the sense of taste.  It's a buffet.  It's a HUGE buffet.  It's an enormous buffet! Which, when you think about it, is kind of cool when you're trying to experience the many tastes of another culture. You can sample a little of a lot, and feast on what you find excellent.

First, let me say... it is Disney and there are kids.  So you know you're going to find chicken nuggets, pizza, burgers, fries, and macaroni and cheese available.  Parents with picky kids can still go and enjoy themselves.  For people like me who really don't like to branch out, there are some staples as well - Steak, Chicken, rice, a salad bar,  baked potatoes, etc.  But if you are really into the experience of trying some new tastes, grab your fork and get ready to experience some YUMMY flavors!

There is a wood-fire rotisserie and WOW, the chicken from this is incredible!  I also had some prime rib, and the chef even threw it on the wood-fire grill for some added taste.  Yes, I went back for more.  I have visited here several times and the steaks have always been the driving force behind my decision.  The flavors and the perfection of all the various steaks I have had here have been simply magical!  I would mention some specific dishes by name, but they were African names and I couldn't pronounce them much less spell them.  But on this particular night, I tried some sort of stewed spicy tomato and onion dish. Oh-my-word it was incredible.  Up to that point I thought my grandmother had the best stewed tomatoes.  Now I know that Boma has them!  There was also some coconut rice.  Yeah, it may not sound so good, but it was exceptional!  There was some sort of curry pasta with fresh vegetables and a mustard sauce which also made me go back for seconds.  The variety of it all is very overwhelming.  I can't imagine even being able to sample one of everything.  This buffet is HUGE!  It's my understanding they change up the menu daily so it really is fun to repeat visits to Boma - there is always something new to be tasted.

The kitchen is all open, so you can see the chefs preparing the dishes, the vegetables being cut and the freshness being created.  You can even see the pastry chefs creating the deserts.  That's right people, deserts created by chefs.  These aren't frozen key lime pies and boxed brownies with ice cream. You could easily go to Boma and just eat from the desert bar and I know you would think it was worth the price (around $35 for the buffet for adults).  And no, I have not done this.  Yet.

This desert bar is huge!!  And I know I counted at least 12 different deserts last week while I was there.  Each of the deserts are "mini" deserts, allowing you the mental freedom to take more than one or two or three for the tasting.  I'm not sure how many of these deserts are truly African, but when you have a really good Key Lime Tart, do you really care if that one desert isn't actually authentic??

If you're ever at Disney, definitely take the time to experience this place.  It's beautiful, the service is more than impressive, the scenery is inspiring and the food is truly delicious...and fun.  And where else can you eat in America and experience the flavors of Africa, see a giraffe and eat all of the miniature cheesecakes you want?

Boma
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
Disney World

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Goofy Good Time

I've never professed to know a whole lot about too many things.  I think I have good intelligence, I think I have a good education, I believe I make wise choices for the most part, and I find myself always wanting to know more - at least on subjects I'm interested in.  I'm curious by nature and do like to discover new experiences. 

One of the things I do pride myself on is the vast amount of Disney knowledge I have accumulated over the years....especially for one who is not employed by Disney.  I can thank my brother Justin for this.  He worked for Disney for many years and answered all of my curiosity questions and gave me opportunities to visit Disney World (for free) more than any person could ever dream.  People come to me for help in planning their Disney trips, and I love to make suggestions about all things Disney.  I love Disney World. Matter of fact, I am at Disney as I type this.

One of the things I have done for the past five or six trips in order to keep things new and magical is to make sure I do something I've never done before during each stay.  This trip I've even beefed that up a little and I am trying something new every single day.  It's still so easy to find new things to do!  For the particular experience that I'm writing about, I decided to eat at the steakhouse at the Contemporary Resort that has been mentioned to me several times.  It fit with the theme of my blog, it was a steakhouse & I love steak and it was something new....it sounded like a perfect combination to me!

I had spent the early part of the day with my lazy butt on the lazy river (and a couple of water slides) at Typhoon Lagoon and then the mid afternoon and early evening at Magic Kingdom.  This steakhouse was at the Contemporary and I had plans to go to EPCOT for IllumiNations that evening.  So a quick Monorail ride over to the Contemporary had me walking up to the podium to ask for a table. 

As a side note, I'd like to say this is typically not a wise thing to do...to just show up without reservations.  The Disney restaurants book up early and my suggestion is to always book your reservations well in advance.  But I've found with a party of one and a "pretty please" and kind smile the cast members will typically try to accommodate.  ...but there I was at the podium and was told it would be about an hour and a half wait.  I pondered the wait for a second and thought "Let's do it!"  So I grabbed my buzzer and went and visited the gift shop and then the lounge. 

Time actually went by pretty fast, but it was every bit of an hour and a half.  I caught up on some phone calls, watched the Monorail zip through the concourse, got to watch the sunset and the full moon rise over Bay Lake all the while thinking about the exceptional steak I was about to sink my teeth into.  Always observant of my surroundings, I noticed that there were a lot of kids at this steakhouse...but it is Disney World.  This place didn't have the same class and dignity as Le Cellier over at EPCOT in Canada or as the Yachtsman's Steakhouse at the Yacht and Beach Club.  But it is Disney and they theme things well, and it certainly looked like something one would find at the Contemporary Resort.  I was just getting hungrier by the minute.  I had steak on my mind.

My Buzzer finally lights up!!  So I go to the podium, turn it in and they take me for the grand tour.  I opted out of the "family picture" they were giving most families and the hostess showed me the buffet and then the dessert buffet.  Hmmmmm....something just doesn't seem right.  A buffet at a steakhouse?  So I asked the hostess if this was the steakhouse.  She chuckled and said "we have some roast beef on the buffet, but the steakhouse is on the 15th floor."  Instead of the Concourse Steakhouse....I got Chef Mickey's (which is actually located on the concourse right next to the monorail track.) 

What is "Chef Mickey's" I asked.  It's a Character Dining experience.  I had waited an hour and a half for a Character Dining Experience???  Not a steakhouse???  It was a new experience....so I just went with it! 

I met MICKEY MOUSE!!!  And Donald!  And Minnie!  And Goofy!!  They all stopped by my table for a visit!  I totally loved it!  I felt like an idiot, and a bit Goofy sitting in a Character Dinner...but I just went with it and enjoyed the moment.  If you pay for it, you may as well enjoy it!  It was sheer joy to see the kids around me look at the Characters with such Joy and excitement.  It was truly sweet.   I even got to see some teens totally loose it when they saw Minnie.  Teen Boys...not faking it...they were loving seeing the Characters.  Disney truly gives people the freedom to be a kid again.

The food was good.  Very good.  The Carved Roast Beef was seasoned to perfection and the ham was Christmas Day worthy ham.  They had some stir fry veggies and some green beans....and a salad bar.....and some Turkey Pot Pie.  If it's going to have Mickey's name attached to it at Disney World, you know it's going to be better than just good!  It may have actually been the healthiest meal I had eaten while here.... until the dessert. 

They have a buffet full of all of these miniature cheesecakes and key lime pies and Chocolate Mousse Mickey's and brownies that all tasted heavenly.  Disney knows how to do food, and especially sweets!  Oh yeah, did I mention a build your own Sundae bar??  Genius!!  This wasn't a Golden Corral buffet - this was incredibly good food with an incredibly fun atmosphere.  Did I mention I met Mickey Mouse??

If you are going to Disney and you have kids (or don't have kids) make it to one of the Character Dining Experiences.  And if you want fine dining and a great steak, get the name of the restaurant correct....

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Trip Down Memory Lane

In my younger days as a sales rep for WT Cox Subscriptions I got to travel through all of the diverse back roads of Mississippi.  There were two exceptionally enjoyable things about traveling through Mississippi that I fondly remember - the beautiful Antebellum Mansions which were found in the poorest of counties, and, of course, the food found in all of those little towns.  Many nights were spent in shady hotels wondering if my car would still be there in the morning.  I can't even imagine the number of miles I put on my cars traveling south on I-55 between Memphis and through Jackson on down to New Orleans. I even met my favorite author, John Grisham, on one of my trips down south.  Most sales reps would not like being a sales representative in the five poorest States in the country - to me, I enjoyed the challenge and the culture I experienced.

This past Tuesday night I was introduced to a restaurant in Franklin that brought back a lot  memories from those days, 55 South.  Joe needed some help picking up a rental car for his Spring Break trip to the beach, and asked if I could drive him and then go to dinner.  First of all, Joe is the kind of friend everyone needs - he shoots straight with you.  He's fun.  He has a heart of gold and a heart as big as Texas. When he asks you how you're doing, you may as well give him an honest answer because he's going to ask again "How are you really doing?"  I could write and write and write about the goodness of Joe, and could never give him justice.  I call him a friend, because he is one. 

Joe asked if I had ever eaten at 55 South.  I told him had I not only never eaten there, I had never even heard of it.  That within itself is pretty amazing in my book.  But if Joe said it was good, I was going to trust him, so we headed to downtown Franklin, parked in the free parking garage on 4th (I love Franklin for providing free parking!) and headed into 55 South.  55 South is just down from Puckett's Grocery and connected to Sol on 4th Avenue.  I liked it as soon as I walked in.

Entering 55 South was a little confusing for me.  It was obviously a nice place.   Not fancy, not really upscale, yet kind of upscale, but definitely a place with class.  But old wooden signage and scrappy decorations felt natural and not contrived as they often do. Joe told me that "55 South" is named for the Interstate area that runs from Memphis to New Orleans, I-55.  Then it all made sense...  It looked real. It felt authentic.  It certainly smelled authentic.  I automatically assumed the food was going to be good because the decor automatically took me back to some of those dives and BBQ joints I had eaten at in Southern Mississippi.

Joe ordered some Oyster's on the half shell.  I'm not one for seafood at all, and seriously don't know how anyone can eat something that looks so slimy as oysters...but Joe said they were good.  I trusted him, but wanted no part of it!  It took me a while to decide what I wanted to order, there were so many things to choose from.  I looked at the Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, I looked at the Red Beans and Rice, and I looked at the Chicken and Sausage Gumbo.  I wanted to order all three!  Then when the server was sharing his favorites, he mentioned some BBQ Spaghetti that immediately caused me to plan another visit to this place.  The server suggested I order the "Three In One" which gave me Red Beans and Rice, Jambalaya and Gumbo.  I got a taste of all three, and all three were exceptional!  Each one seemed as authentic as if I were sitting in New Orleans enjoying the meal on Bourbon Street. 

The flavors were rich, the portions were plenty and the plates being carried by me again made it clear I would be back for another visit.  How could I have never visited this gem so close to my house?  How could I have never even heard of it??  I knew this place needed to be mentioned in my blog.  The experience was simply too good not to share.

I love trying new places, and I know I'll be back at 55 South in the near future.  I loved the atmosphere, the menu offered a good array of choices, and the service was friendly and professional.  Getting to spend some time with Joe was truly a blessing...and getting to take a trip down memory lane to my old Mississippi days was pretty sweet too.  You got to love a place where good food, good friends and happy memories all melt together.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sweet as Honey!

For a work-at-home person who travels a lot, I do find myself frequenting certain restaurants and multi-tasking.  For me this "multi-tasking" means working while eating...or eating while working?  It serves a lot of purposes;  It gets me out of sitting alone in a hotel or out of my home office, it gives me a fresh environment to think and be creative, it keeps me from going stir crazy from not being around people and in some cases, it even provides me with some chips and salsa.

Sopapilla's is one of the local places I frequent for such an occasion.  Panera Bread and Starbucks are obviously the standard choice for most people looking for an "on-the-road office."  I like things a little more original.   Sopapilla's is close to my house, and is located at the corner of Franklin Road and Moores Lane.  I absolutely love everything I have ever ordered from the menu.  Seriously, it's ALL been incredibly good to me. And as far as the chips and salsa goes, they have the best combination I've tasted in Nashville.

Sopapilla's shares with Franklin a taste of New Mexico - I'm assuming this is the State of New Mexico?  All I know is the freshness and detail found on each plate is something special.  From the moment you walk in the door and are greeted, you know it's going to be a place you'll visit again.  For an establishment of its size, there appears to be an abundance of servers.  This results in excellent service.

With the recent opening of a new bar area, patrons are able to choose from three seating areas - the bar area (tables, high tops, and the bar), the dining area and the large patio (seasonal).  The decor is minimal but very trendy.  As soon as you walk in, you know you are in a nice place.

As I mentioned, the chips and salsa are excellent, and truly the best combination I've found in Nashville or Franklin.  I like spicy, and their salsa is typically fairly spicy - so it hits a home run with me!  The Stuffed Sopapilla, Pollo Burrito, and Slow Roasted Chicken Quesadilla are my favorites.  The shredded chicken and beef are both full of flavor and very tender.  Most dishes are garnished with sour cream and pico, which screams fresh and homemade.  The guacamole is tasty, but seems to be a bit over priced to me - but I don't check the price of avocados too often, so who knows?   I'll over look the price of guacamole when their salsa is as incredible as it is - who needs it anyway!

But this part is as sweet as honey:  The name of the establishment is for the dessert that comes complimentary with each meal, a warm and fluffy Sopapilla.  Honey sits on each table, allowing you to fill your own Sopapilla with your own honey - so save room for this desert. You will begin with wonderful chips and salsa, and will walk out with the sweet taste of honey and their delicious Sopapilla.  The dessert is oh-so-yummy!

I've eaten at Sopapilla's with a couple of large groups before, and they handle the crowd well.  It's also a good place to go for good conversation.  It's not too loud and the booths offer privacy and seclusion.  And as far as people like me who go in and camp out for a while, they have not complained and keep refilling my water, chips and salsa...  Just be sure to tip your server well when you camp out for a couple of hours!

As I mentioned, I try to get out of the home office to break the monotony and rev up some creativity.  For some odd reason I've come up with and have planned three incredibly successful marketing campaigns which originated there.  Maybe all that honey just gives my creativity a buzz?

Sopapilla's
1109 Davenport Blvd
Franklin TN

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Friends, Food, Full Belly

Cool Springs has so many eateries that a person could go 1 1/2 years eating lunch at different places each day and never repeat restaurants, or so I've read.  I've not counted, but I can see this as being true.  So why do I frequently go to, of all places, Smyrna to eat?  Jim 'N Nicks.

Several weeks back I met Ashley and Mckenzie at Jim 'N Nick's over in Smyrna on a Friday night.  Lucky me got stuck in rush hour traffic, but once I finally got there it was oh-so-worth-the-wait.  My water with lemon and Jim 'N Nick's hot cheese biscuits were waiting for me when I arrived.  They call them biscuits, but they are more like muffins...but that's just getting into semantics - you could put on five pounds and stuff yourself silly just from the cheese biscuits alone.

First of all, Ashley and Mckenzie are pretty spectacular people and make everything crazy fun, so the company was worth the drive and completely enjoyable.  I got to hear all of the latest on guys, Brentwood drama, competition cheer, college decisions and shared the excitement about Summer 2011!  And honestly, I loved every second of every topic!  Matter of fact, much of what I enjoy about Jim 'N Nick's has always been about the people I see while I'm there.

One of my favorite people, Casey, was a server there last summer - so I went to Jim 'N Nicks and got to see her about once a week.  She's the best server I've ever had anywhere - it's the way it is at Jim 'N Nick's.  So it would not appear I was stalking her at work, I secretly went to the Jim 'N Nicks on Charlotte Pike about once a week, too.  Yes, that's almost twice a week for me at this place!  And during that time, I tried almost all of the menu.  I'm telling you, it's exceptional food!

Ward, who is an incredible friend and just happens to be Casey's uncle, works at Jim 'N Nick's in Smyrna, too.  He always makes an effort to come over to say hello and chat for a while (and gets me to try new items).  It's just good to catch up with him when we have the opportunity.  Carmen and Reagan (his family) are often in there, so I get to see them too.  Shouldn't our meals be with friends and family?  Jim 'n Nicks creates the perfect atmosphere for this!

Ashley and Mckenzie ordered the Southern Fried Chicken Tenders.  I'm not big on chicken fingers because they are typically no big deal anywhere you go - just a staple item on any menu.  Here, they will impress, surprise and definitely fill you up.  I know I've ordered them at least three times at Jim 'N Nicks.  And with all of the other choices I love on their menu, that says a lot!

On this particular night, I ordered the Slow Smoked BBQ Chicken.  They offer it either on the bone or off the bone - my carnivorlistic side prefers it on the bone so I can get down-and-dirty-sauce-on-the-face happy.  Their original sauce is a perfect blend of spices, and their spicy sauce is indeed SPICY!  It's more than just hot, it's very tasty, and it's always fun to see how fast it makes the sweat bead up on my bald spot.

I always try to order their vegetable of the day when I can.  I'm not sure why they're not on the menu every day because their daily specials are simply spectacular and some of their best offerings.  Their "Mac The Cheese" and coleslaw and other trimmings are very yummy.  I have gotten to the point that I always look for the special on the chalkboard as I walk in the door.  I arrive craving one thing, and end up ordering something totally different when I see the specials.

Some of my favorite menu items have been the taco's (yes, this is a BBQ joint with exceptional tacos), the smoked pork hotlinks, the smoked Turkey (the best I've ever had),  the spare ribs and the smoked chicken .  Ward keeps telling me I need to try the Prime Rib, but I've yet to order it.  He gave me a slice one time after I had eaten and I kind of wanted to order some to-go...

But all of that was just leading up to my absolute favorite at Jim 'N Nicks.  Their pies.  No offense to the grandmothers of the world, but there is not a grandmother's homemade pie that I've found that can beat ANY of the made from scratch pies at Jim 'N Nick's.  Chocolate, Banana Cream, Lemon Ice Box, Pecan...yes, I've had them all and would drive to Smyrna just for a slice of pie.  Oh wait, I have done that....

As I was about to pay the check, I saw one of my college friends (and the sister to my college roommate) sitting at the table next to me.  It just added to the joy of the night.  Good times can be found at Jim 'N Nick's! 

Jim 'N Nick's
Smyrna, TN

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

a little sizzle in my life

This week I find myself in Houston, Texas.  It's the beginning of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.  Like everything else in Texas, it's BIG - it's full of concerts, entertainment, a carnival, you name it and it seems to be a part of this almost month-long event.  It's all the buzz around town.  But that's not what I'm here for... but I do wish I were here to enjoy some of the fun!

What I have gotten to enjoy is some of the Mexican flavor of South Texas!  If you know me, you know I love Mexican food. I mean, it's hard to go wrong with beef, cheese, chips and salsa in any State...but in Texas, oh the joy of the local flavor!   Last night I ate at a little Mexican dive called  Tecate.  The guy who took us actually has a Margarita there named after him. The restaurant was good, but the one I want to focus on is a regional chain gone somewhat national, Pappasito's Cantina.

My first experience at Pappasito's Cantina was in Dallas probably ten years ago.  It made an impression then, and made one again this week. From the time I first stepped off of my Southwest flight and entered the gate area, I was reminded that "Pappa" has claimed a stake in the Texas food market.  I believe I saw four different Pappa restaurants before I made it to baggage claim.  I knew then and there that I would find a Pappasito's Cantina for dinner.  And I did!

I arrive during Happy Hour, which means there were lots of people in the bar area enjoying one of the things Pappasito's is known for - their margarita.  I am able to be seated immediately and instantly homemade chips and warm salsa were placed in front of me.  Then they brought some sort of creamy green sauce that tickled my tongue!  It was great!  After about three chips a plate of sizzling hot fajitas came by my table.  I instantly knew what I was ordering!!

 I ordered a combo of beef and chicken with an add-on of Smoked Jalapeno Sausage.  While the chicken was impressive, the beef and sausage were simply outstanding.  The Sausage was some of the most flavorful and best tasting sausage I have ever eaten.  It came with a bowl of bar b que sauce which found it's way to my shirt to create a nice set of stains.  But the sauce that actually made it to my mouth was oh-my-goodness good!

The fajitas were more than enough - the single size could probably feed two people.  The steak and chicken came over a bed of sizzling onions and lime on the side.  It came with guacamole, salsa, cheese, rice and beans.  This big boy could only eat about half of what they brought me - though I did eat all of the 8 ounces of sausage and all of the steak.

This place was fun!!  It was buzzing with laughter in a really cool Southwestern environment.  The service was impressive and I left stuffed.  I know this is a regional chain with a few other Pappa establishments throughout the country.  But for those outside of Texas, please time the time to make this a stop for you if you're ever in Texas.

The only disappointment - when reading their menu I discovered that "Pappa" was Greek.  It just seems like he should of hailed from Mexico.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The local Sports Grill

I always meet Sara Jo at El Palenque in Green Hills, I always meet Brooke at Las Palmas, for Mike it's Buffalo Wild Wings, and before Sanctuary it's Pei Wei with some of my favorites.  For Tim & Jessica, it's Cracker Barrel on Sunday evening. With Bryan, it's always Jonathan's Grille in Cool Springs.

Do you have those people in your life you always meet at the same place each time you get together.  I figure it's because there is such a comfort and it just becomes "your thing."  I'm cool with that.  Matter of fact, I'm very cool with that and don't like shaking up good chemistry.

A few weeks ago Bryan and I got together to go to Jonathan's, but honestly I wasn't too excited about this trip to Jonathan's with Bryan.  I did not want to go. Even with our good friend Kendall joining, I just didn't want to go.

Bryan is as good as gold. Literally.  He truly is one of the best friends I have in my life.  He's a "good 'ol boy" from Arkansas who hunts, fishes, drives a truck and is more loyal to his friends than most people you will ever meet in your life.  Bryan has witnessed the ugly side of my life, and was just as good of a friend on those days as when he saw me at my kindest and best.  I'm not sure he has a judgmental bone in his body, and he totally has a servants heart.  He has heard me go on and on and on about stuff happening in my life without flinching or making me feel like I have over stayed my welcome.  When my boat was broken down, he came to help.  He has always made himself available when needed.  He let me cheer for Georgia when he was cheering for Arkansas.  True friends, long lasting friends like Bryan are very hard to come across.  I first met Bryan in college and have had an incredible friend in him ever since.  We've roomed together, traveled together, and lived in the same town together.  And we always eat at Jonathan's Grille.

Jonathan's is a good place for two single guys to hang out.  The food is always good and they have a rather wide menu selection - typical sports bar kind of food, but they also have one of the best Ribeye's in Cool Springs.  They have TV's at every angle, making it a spectacular place to watch games.  They have cute servers who show class.  In recent years, it's even upgraded its feel to seem like a somewhat "upper class joint."  Their pizzas are fantastic, Cheeseburgers are impressive and their wings are pretty dang good.  Several years ago I actually went to a Titans game in Cincinnati with a group they put together. ....but that's a whole other experience to share!

So why didn't I want to go to Jonathan's this last time with Bryan?  It was a "going away" dinner for Bryan.  Bryan had decided to move back home to Arkansas and this was our last meal together with him living in Nashville.  To say the least, he'll be missed.  I'm not losing a friend, just losing a local friend.  I hated to see him go - and I simply didn't want to go to Jonathan's to say "goodbye."

I miss you Bryan, and wish you all the luck and Godspeed possible!!  When you're back in town, let's head to Jonathan's!

Jonathan's Grille in Cool Springs

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dessert at Nati-Creme

I promise most of the places I visit are not so "girly" as Nati-Creme and it's kind of funny that I begin my blog here, but I was out with three incredibly fun girls, so we ended the night with dessert at this cool little place.



Ok, so obviously the trendy places for build-your-own-yogurt-masterpiece around Nashville these days are Sweet CeCe's and Menchee's.  And if you want incredible cupcakes, GiGi's quickly comes to mind.  In a matter of months, these places have all taken Nashville by storm.  But in an obscure and oddly designed row of shops and business in Cool Springs sits Nati-Creme.  And I like it a lot!

They have both yogurt and cupcakes to choose from. It's like a double whammy of goodness - but this obviously presents a problem..."Which Do I Choose??"  Problem solved!  They have cupcakes that can act as the foundation to your yogurt masterpiece.  Genius!!  Their selection of toppings is impressive. My favorite: Captain Crunch.

The first time I visited Nati-Creme was on Superbowl Sunday - and I literally took one cupcake of each they had to choose from that day (they were for the Superbowl Party, for real...).  I ended up eating one of the chocolate with chocolate with more chocolate and some chocolate filling cupcakes.  Who can remember what it was called, as they all have pretty cool and unique names. I saw it was made of chocolate so that was all I needed to make my decision. I love the fun names - it makes things fun! I mean, what girl doesn't like getting a cupcake called "Pretty Princess?"

Each time I've visited they have had the nicest and most helpful employees.  In regards to service, they definitely get a double dutch chocolate two spoons up when it comes to service and friendliness.


I have my blonde moments, I really do.  Thursday night I was looking up at one of the pictures on the wall and kind of thought out loud "Those are some pretty little cupcakes."  Izzy turns around and begins to tell me that they haven't been cooked yet, it's just batter...to which I interrupt her with a "oh shutup Izzy."  Laughter followed.  Without a doubt, the batter would have tasted good too!  Everyone got a good laugh at my blonde moment, myself included.

Earlier today I took my laptop to Nati-Creme and stopped in for two hours or so of work.  The decor is pretty cool.  It feels homey, and there is a good amount of table space...so I think it may become one of my regular offices away from my home office places to work and focus.



I am a little confused about its name.  It says "Nati-Creme" on the door, but their containers and website has Nati-Cakes.  Maybe they have an identity crises?  Whatever the case, they are yummy!

So that's it for my first place, I recommend Nati-Creme.

Nati-Creme
4115 Mallory Lane in Franklin, TN

The Appetizer

"Bonnie, do you ever eat at home??" To which I replied "Not really, how fun is that?"  Honestly, I get asked that all of the time.  I'm single, and cooking for one is more expensive than going out...and not nearly as fun.  And I travel with my job, so that gives me another reason to eat out a lot.  So a friend of mine suggested I start a blog - I'm always telling people where they should eat. Seriously, if it's a city in the South I've probably been there and if it's a city with a major convention center, I've probably been there too.  So why not share some of my experiences with anyone who will read?

If you like good food, if you like fun places, if you like to hear funny experiences - this may just be a blog for you.  It will not be restaurant reviews, but then again it may look something like it.  It won't be a place full of recipes, though I will probably share some. But I will tell you about some good dishes and some random places to eat.  I'm sure I'll even share some negative experiences, too - but honestly, I don't see those as being too fun to write about.

In my professional life, I work as a VP of Marketing for a magazine agency (WT Cox Subscriptions).  I work with libraries and market our services to libraries.  So this really has nothing to do with my professional life.  You know, everyone needs an escape from work, right?  The only way it relates to my work is they pay the bill for my food!  Gotta love that!

Alrighty, so this is it...my first attempt at a blog.  I figure after I get a couple of these post written I'll then figure out a way to share what I write.  I mean, it would be good to have some readers!