One and done

Mr. McB and I had many regular breakfast spots before moving to Greenville. There is just something nice about starting your day by having someone else take care of you.

We’ve tried a few places since moving to South Carolina but haven’t found our spot. Southern Thymes Cafe’s Living Social special seemed like a perfect opportunity to give them a try. We were so hopeful that they could be our breakfast nook.

We arrived in the Greer restaurant around 11:15 on Saturday morning. Immediately we experienced that “does someone seat us/do we seat ourselves” conundrum that plagues many small restaurants. We spotted an empty booth and decided to seat ourselves. The server was over with menus almost as soon as we sat down. It surprised me that she was so quick since I was getting a cagey vibe from the other diners.

Within five minutes we had placed our order and were sipping our on beverages. Just as I noticed some schmutz on the outside of my water glass, a little bit of a kerfuffle broke out with some of the other folks who were tired of waiting for their meals. I just pushed the dirty glass to the side of the table. I didn’t want to deal with asking for a new cup.

We were entertained during our wait. There were kitchen mix-ups, another loud discussion between patrons, and a couple who left without ordering.

I thought there might be some backup because of added traffic from the Living Social deal but I was not prepared to wait a little more than 30 minutes to get our breakfast. There were no systems in place. People who came after us received their food at least five minutes before our meals arrived. Their dishes seemed more complex than ours. It made no sense. There were moments when meals would come to the pass and a slew of servers would have to discuss the items to determine who they belonged to. It was very poorly organized.

By time the food arrived around 11:55, we were starving. I ordered French toast and a side portion of ham. Mr. McB got toast and an omelet with cheese and bacon. I like a little crusty crunch to my French toast but this was just limp. It tasted like batter. The ham was good and plentiful. Mr. McB’s toast was good. His omelet was filled with what he described as “hard” bacon and shredded cheese that was not melted. He said that bacon wasn’t crispy, it was just like having potato chips in your omelet.

We will not be returning to Southern Thymes. I saw a lot of other people leaving food on their plates. Since we were all waiting a long time on our meals, that says a lot. The servers really tried but it was a bad situation for everyone.

Our disappointment continued later in the day when we had an early supper at the Chipotle near Haywood Mall. This location is new and a bit of a disaster. We hoped things would be better since our visit in early January but they were not. We had to wait on white rice but when it arrived, it was gummy and completely without flavor. The pinto beans were like little pink pebbles in my bowl. McB’s chicken was burnt. Until someone tells me that this location has it together, I’ll brave Woodruff Road if I get a Chipotle craving.

 

 

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Savory Saturday

Palmetto Olive Oil Co. and Bacon Brothers Public House have lingered on my list of places to check out. Thanks to some free time, a gift certificate, and indecision, we were able cross them both off the list on Saturday.

We started our day at Palmetto Olive Oil Co. on Augusta Street. The shop specializes in fresh olive oils and high-quality balsamic vinegar varieties. Upon entering the shop, one of the nice ladies who works there asked if we would like to sample. We said yes and were given a bowl of bread chunks and some general guidelines.

At first, we sampled the oils. The store stocks oils from both hemispheres depending on which area is harvesting. The oil we tasted was pressed from olives in November and December. Since this oil is very fresh, it contains antioxidants and other health benefits not found in grocery store oils. The flavor is also very different. The more robust oils take on the flavor on what grows around the olive trees. This can lead to a very fresh almost grassy flavor. I have to admit, this was not my favorite.

We moved into the flavored oil section. I found many things to like here. A few of my favorites were the spicy chipotle, a rich butter-flavored oil which would be great if you wanted to reap the health benefits of replacing butter with olive oil,  a delightful Herbes de Provence, and zesty blood orange. We wound up bringing home the blood orange olive oil. While I look forward to using it for entrees, I’m also interested in the idea of infusing brownies with a hint of orange by using this oil.

After sampling the oils, we moved to the white balsamics. A few of the highlights here were the fresh peach, Sicilian lemon, pineapple, and the original unflavored white balsamic.

We moved the the back of the store and exchanged our bread for a scoop of vanilla ice cream to use with the dark balsamic vinegar selections. Mr. McB loved the Tahitian vanilla and black cherry. We brought home bottles of both. I was a big fan of the maple, champagne, lavender, and raspberry. I selected a small bottle of maple and am looking forward to pairing that with the blood orange oil for what could be a delicious salad dressing.

After leaving the store, we decided to travel toward home and have lunch at Bacon Brothers Public House. This small farm-to-table establishment is located in a strip mall on Pelham Road. If Farmer Brown was a hipster, his house would look like the inside of Bacon Brothers. Functionally, there is a smoker behind the restaurant and a chamber inside the restaurant where their homemade meats and sausages are cured. Take the name as a clue, Bacon Brothers is not for vegetarians.

We both ordered the burger which is made from ground chuck, brisket, and bacon. Mr. McB had the traditional two-patty version and added a fried egg. I went with one patty and added a side of onion rings.

bacon brothers public houseLook at the size of that egg hanging off the side of the burger. After one bite, he had a pool of rich, egg yolk all over the plate. The burger became a fork-and-knife food at that moment. He doesn’t normally like messy foods but the unique flavor of this burger made it worthwhile.

photo 2Before I get to my review of the burger, let’s start with the onion rings. They weren’t the crispiest rings I’ve ever had but, they were far from soggy. They were fresh and featured a very light beer batter. The sweet onion was really allowed to standout instead of being overpowered by a mound of coating.

photo 4As you can see from this photo, the single burger is pretty substantial. The flavor is very different from a normal burger. Here you are getting the sinful smokiness of the bacon and brisket. It’s like a barbecued burger minus sauce. The leaf lettuce, American cheese, pickle, and special sauce all complimented the flavor very well. They balanced without muting. As a bread-lover, I have to take a minute to wax poetically about these delicious house-made buns. They are fluffy but still substantial enough to handle this burger.

We look forward to returning to both establishments and enjoying more of what they have to offer.

More Furman photos

This isn’t the first time I’ve shared photos from a trip to Furman. This really is one of the loveliest campuses that I have ever visited. I’m thankful that it is just a short drive away.

These photos were taken on various visits during the summer.

 

Soft purple grains dot these tufts of long green grasssoftpurple

 

“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
This cabin is a replica of the one Thoreau lived in while writing Walden. Seeing this helps put his work into perspective. It also explains why he spent so much time in nature as staying inside this tiny cabin would drive me mad. Perhaps he paid so much attention to those ants to avoid going home.

replica of the walden cabin
Shi Center for Sustainabilityshi center for sustainability

Turtles fighting for bits of breadfood fight

The ducks are out for a swim before darkness falls.lake at furman

In the summer, the Japanese garden is a gorgeous, lush  green.pathbylake
Sun sets on the rose garden

furman rose garden

This former Buddhist temple became part of Furman’s campus in 2008.retreat

Good night…

sunset

 

 

Paisano’s Italian Pizzeria and Restaurant

Last Friday night we were in the mood to try something new so I used Google map’s “nearby” feature to find restaurants close to us.

From this search we stumbled onto Paisano’s Italian Pizzeria and Restaurant, at the intersection of Rte 14 and Pelham Road in Greer. For all my adventurous eating, I am not a fan of “red sauce” Italian but this place had a full range of Italian items and a lot of Greek cuisine choices too. We began scanning the extensive menu and were in the car just as our mouths started to water and our bellies began rumbling.

Paisano’s is located in a strip mall. Mr. McB described the location as a culinary UN as there are Korean and Japanese groceries, a Thai restaurant, a BBQ joint, a deli, and this Italian-and-Greek establishment.

The restaurant itself will not win any design awards and the lighting is a little dim but it’s got a comfortable, family feel. While I appreciate good restaurant design and decor, it’s not a must for me. I have been in far too many fancy restaurants with substandard food. I go to art museums for my eyes and restaurants for my belly.

We were seated quickly and began another scan of the menu. I had already decided to go Greek and picked the moussaka. McB decided on the tortellini with chicken.

Both of our meals came with a salad. We both selected the house (Greek) dressing. It was quite good and tangy. The salads were fresh and while they weren’t huge, they were a good start for the meal.

M’s pasta came out on what can only be described as a platter. He had a mountain of tri-colored tortellini and grilled chicken. The dish was served with an alfredo sauce and garlic bread. He was a big fan of the pasta and sauce. He said the chicken was nothing special and actually took away from the enjoyment of the pasta. He couldn’t put his finger on what was wrong with the chicken but it just didn’t measure up to the pasta. He’ll definitely order the tortellini again but won’t ask for the chicken to be added in the future.

I was a little apprehensive about the moussaka. I love Greek food and this is one of those areas where my travels work against me. I have consumed some of the most delicious food of my life in Greece and am often disappointed by what passes as Greek food here in the US. One bite of this moussaka but a big smile on my face. The beef was perfectly seasoned. The eggplant was not mushy or bitter. This was a big hit. My meal came with a side of pita (freshly made) with yogurt dip and Greek potatoes. I enjoyed the pita but found the yogurt dip to be too thick and a bit bland. The Greek potatoes were a little too lemony for my taste. The sides made the meal a great bargain but with the salad it was just too much food for me to handle. This is especially true since we were guided by our hunger and made an ill-advised choice to order the cheese stick appetizer.  The cheese sticks were good and they came with a wonderful homemade marinara but they were just unnecessary given the size of our entrees.

We are both looking forward to a return trip to Paisano’s and are so glad to have this gem in our area. It’s not often that the ubiquitous Italian/Greek combo restaurant does justice to both cuisines.  The service is wonderful and the prices are very reasonable. I highly recommend stopping in the next time you’ve got a rumble in your belly and no particular place to go.

Cafe at Williams Hardware

DSC_0376Back in October, we decided to go for a little drive and wound up in Travelers Rest for lunch at the Cafe at Williams Hardware (13 Main Street).

Located right along the Swamp Rabbit Trail, the cafe was hopping on this gorgeous autumn day. The line was long when we arrived but there was a greeter handing out menus and the ordering systems seemed to be both fast and organized. I opted for the chicken salad sandwich with potato salad while Mr. McB ordered the grilled cheese BLT sans “T.”

Unable to secure a spot on either of the porches, we took a high-top table inside the cafe. We enjoyed chatting and people watching.

A mother and her teenage daughters soon sat near us. They were our first indication that the ordering system (you place the order at the register and get a number to take to your table) might not be so efficient since they made it to their table without a number. They flagged down a server and after trying to find the order, she took it again. It was when these ladies got their food that we really noticed that we had been waiting for more than 30 minutes on our sandwiches. We asked our server about it. She set off to find our order and said that she would get us a free dessert to make up for the wait.

DSC_0351Within five minutes our sandwiches made it to the table. My chicken salad was really very delicious. It was prepared with a mix of herbs that made it light and delicious. The chicken chunks were plump and juicy. The bread was good and the tomato and lettuce were both very fresh. The potato salad (made with redskin potatoes) had a nice flavor but the potatoes didn’t seem to be cooked thoroughly. I like the potato to retain a little of it’s bulk but I don’t want to encounter a bite of potato that borders on raw.

DSC_0348McB’s grilled cheese BLT came with the “T” despite his request and assurances that this was no problem. It was an easy remedy since the tomato was simply added to the top after the sandwich was prepared. It was still a little disappointing that after waiting all this time the simple request wasn’t fulfilled. They were very generous with the bacon which had a smoky flavor that I enjoyed but that he didn’t find as appealing.

DSC_0352We selected a piece of chocolate cake for our dessert. It was very moist and nice.

We decided that the cafe was a nice spot if you were out for a walk or ride on the trail but that it didn’t merit a special trip.

National Gingerbread Competition, A New Holiday Tradition

This makes the second year that we have visited the Grove Park Inn in Asheville to see the National Gingerbread House Competition. I’m so glad this has become part of our holiday tradition. I love seeing the creativity and craftsmanship that is involved with the competition.

This year I made to visits to the competition. One was with Mr. McB on December 17. We arrived pretty early on a rather mild day. Other than some school groups, we did not encounter a lot of people during our visit.

32349_10151177644812233_351580794_n12 Days of Christmas in gingerbread

60918_10151177604892233_1191068075_nThe Velveteen Rabbit

305465_10151177644802233_735383762_nMidnight Angel

31621_10151177644962233_1431262057_nElf on the Shelf and advent calendar

532532_10151177598432233_1585010754_nGingerbread factory detail

598636_10151177622797233_1999842471_nGorgeous details on this gingerbread tree

547520_10151177877217233_1636209878_nRelaxing after walking around and looking at the displays.
My goodness these chairs are so comfortable. I could have enjoyed a nap.

224912_10151177593717233_504428205_nOne of the many decorated trees. This one was a bit much for me with the full-sized peacock roosting in the branches. There is something for everyone and while this tree didn’t strike my fancy, there were many that did. It’s all fun to see.

My second visit was on December 27 when I met my aunt and grandmother. While the winners were traveling to New York for a segment on Good Morning America during my first visit, I was delighted to see them back in Asheville last week.

25040_10151192018982233_84429709_nAmazing detail
Every inch of this is created with gingerbread. Even the parts that look like fondant are made with an innovative “gingergel” created by the winner.

314086_10151192035657233_474963455_nMuppet Christmas

398709_10151192019867233_228106461_nYellow Submarine

We also opted for lunch on the Sunset Terrace. It was a lovely experience. I was smart enough to plan ahead and make reservations and I think that is how we wound up with this wonderful table by the window.

DSC_0022Instead of having a heavy lunch, we opted for the wedge salads. I enjoyed the original version with bleu cheese dressing and crumbles. My aunt and grandmother opted for different dressing and they were happy to oblige. The lemon vinaigrette, selected by my aunt,  provided a light, zesty flavor.

After our delicious salads, we got down to the serious business of selecting a dessert. It was a difficult choice but we wound up with the key lime pie and panna cotta.

547968_10151192035942233_1218613443_nIsn’t this an adorable presentation for the key lime pie? It had a nice creamy consistency and perfect tart flavor.

376770_10151192052622233_332534841_nThe panna cotta was so very delicious. I loved the crispy praline pieces and slight tartness from the raspberries. Yum!

I enjoyed our meal at the Sunset Terrace and thought it added something special to the visit.If you are looking for a less expensive treat during your visit, there are holiday drinks and treats available for purchase in the Great Hall. If you can find a table or rocker, it’s a great place to sit and enjoy the roaring fire in one of the two 14-foot fireplaces on either side of the massive room.

If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend adding this outing to your holiday schedule. Visitors do have to pay to park ($10-$15 depending on where you park) but it is well worth the price to see the displays and the hotel itself.

Artisphere Greenville

artisphere greenville scMy tardiness is shameful but here I am posting about Artisphere, a festival that we attended back on May 12. Since Greenville hosts this event annually, I feel the information here is still relevant.

When McB and I went downtown for Artisphere we were looking forward to enjoying a nice walk while taking in some interesting pieces from a variety of vendors. That’s exactly what we got.

There were at least 100 different vendors selling everything from large, vibrant landscape photography to textiles and furniture. As with most art festivals, some items were within our budget and others were not. This time around it seems like the more I loved something, the more 0’s you’d find on the price tag. While we didn’t make any purchases at the festival, there are a couple of artists including Lisa Norris and Kreg Yingst that really made an impression.

The event did feature live music and some activities for kids. The live music, or at least the performances that were occurring while we were there, was found on a side street in a small, congested tent close to the food vendors. This configuration wasn’t ideal because most of the space in the tent was taken up by people eating lunch.

The food vendors did offer a good opportunity to try some small plates from a lot of Greenville restaurants. Mimi’s Steakhouse of Japan offered the best bargain of the day and their food was quite tasty.

It was a nice (free) event with lots to see. I’m sure we’ll be back for next year’s event, May 10-12, 2013.

bridge

chalk artist

We also treated ourselves to a stop at Luna Rosa for gelato. The ordering system (pay first, pick your flavors later) was a bit confusing but other than that, the service was good. McB got a vanilla and sweet cream frappe. He enjoyed it but it was definitely much different from the thick milkshakes that he normally prefers.

marsala berry gelatoI got three-berry Marsala gelato. The Marsala brought both a sweetness and an alcohol (winey?) flavor which went well with the sometimes tart berries. The gelato was very fresh and the texture was just right. By the end of the dish, the sweetness of the wine was becoming just a bit overpowering but it was a very inventive flavor and I’m glad I tried it.