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.

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Mountain Magic – Hendersonville, NC

For more than a year, Hendersonville was just an exit off the interstate for us. We zoomed by on our way to Asheville without even considering a stop. I’m glad someone tipped me off to the wonders that await in this adorable little town.

Yes, I used the word “adorable” but don’t let that turn you off. Hendersonville is sweet but still manages to be genuine. It’s not the fake preciousness you get in some more touristy spots. The town went through a major revitalization in the 1990s so all this cuteness is the result of hard work. It’s also magnified by the friendly people you’ll find working and visiting here.

hendersonville, nc train stationThe 1902-1916 train station located in the Seventh Avenue Depot District.

The depot is definitely a fun stop for train enthusiasts but the real fun lies on Hendersonville’s Main Street. You’ll find a wide variety of shops and restaurants. This is a fantastic place to do window shopping or pickup unique gifts. Many stores have an international flair while others specialize in handmade items.

train shop in hendersonville, ncA scene from the window of the train shop

catamountA catamount lurks in the flowers on Main Street.
The dome of the Hendersonville County Courthouse is also visible.

hendersonville, nc bear drinking beerThis is one of the many themed bears that reside on Main Street. He’s cool and casual like most things we encountered in Hendersonville.

hippie van greatful deadHendersonville is very popular with retirees. As you might guess from this photo, it is also hippie-friendly.

what do you call a cow with no legs? ground beefThis sign was outside a shop on Main Street.

mike's on main hendersonvilleGiven the name, we had to go with Mike’s on Main for our lunch. This is an authentic soda fountain with lots of retro appeal.

mike's on mainmike's on mainWe both had sandwiches and found them to be enjoyable. Unlike Rocky’s in Brevard, Mike’s might depend a little too much on the kitsch and not quite enough on the cuisine. It was a good solid meal but nothing exceptional.

On the other hand, Kilwin’s is amazing. We first went to Kilwin’s in Boone, NC several years ago. They have handmade confections and a wonderful ice cream parlor. As soon as you enter the door, the sweet smell of chocolates and goodies fill your nose. It’s difficult to describe this pleasant aroma. It is equally difficult to stop one’s tummy from rumbling inside Kilwin’s.

kilwin's root bear floatMr. McB’s root beer float
His other favorite is the black-cherry ice cream soda.

ice cream cone kilwin'sMy coconut fudge cone. Ohhhh my goodness! This makes a belly happy!!

white chocolate popcornWhite chocolate popcorn is made fresh in the store. It’s cooling on the marble slab. The employees are always sharing free samples of some sort of delicious treat.

kilwin'sWe’re looking forward to many more trips to this little mountain town. I’m looking forward to visiting the Team ECCO aquarium and finally making a selection from McFarlan’s Bakery. This from-scratch bakery has so many options that I couldn’t make up my mind and walked out empty-handed. I look forward to telling you all about my victory over analysis-paralysis.

If you’re in Western North Carolina, make some time to check out Hendersonville. It’s also a quick, and enjoyable, trip from South Carolina’s Upstate.

Operation Biscuit – Week Four

I’ve fallen behind in my pursuit of the perfect biscuit recipe. McB was sick and it felt wrong to subject him to biscuit experimentation during his illness.

Pretty tops and bottomsThis morning, I got us back on track with Plain Chicken’s 7Up Biscuits. Even before I tasted these little bits of heaven, I loved that these biscuits take so few ingredients – just Bisquick, 7Up, sour cream, and butter. The flavor is amazing and the biscuits are so tender and moist. These are definitely the best biscuits that have ever come out of my kitchen.

Of course it can’t all be rosy, the actual preparation is just a bit tricky because the dough is so soft/moist. I had to add about 1/4 cup of Bisquick so I could make it stiff enough to pat out and then cut the biscuits. I had to use a spatula to lift the biscuits from my board and into the pan because they fell apart when I tried to use my hand. All the little headaches of dealing with this dough are worth it because moist dough makes for melt-in-your-mouth biscuits.

Now for the other cloud in this otherwise sunny experiment, McB said that the biscuits were “very good” and then added “for biscuits.”  He went on to say that he would have preferred a piece of toast. Who in their right mind would want a dry piece of toast instead of this moist, buttery biscuit? Only my sweet husband.

So the search continues…

Lil Rebel 290

I passed the Lil Rebel 290 last December as I was making my way down route 290 to catch up to 25 and then on to Tennessee. It’s a nice looking building from the outside and on the day I passed, the parking lot was pretty full. I love small, local restaurants and immediately made a note to Google it at some point.

McB and I first tried the Lil Rebel (2608 Locust Hill Rd, Taylors) the day after Christmas. On that visit we both ordered burgers and were quite impressed by the portion size, speed of service, and friendliness of the waitstaff.

Lil Rebel has a large menu with lots of choices but I’m not sure I’ll ever fully appreciate them all because I’ve fallen for their Calabash chicken dinner. It’s unlike me to order the same entree but during our last two visits, it’s been the Calabash chicken. The only change up has been whether I order all fries or a fry-onion ring split. Again, this is not like me but look at this plate.

Calabash chicken - little rebelThe succulent chicken breast planks are surrounded by a light breading that is perfectly seasoned to provide just the right kick for the palate. I used very little dipping sauce because frankly, it wasn’t needed. The fries are hot, fresh, and plentiful.

regular chicken fingersOn this particular visit, McB ordered the regular chicken fingers. He liked the fingers but was eying my Calabash. He loves the fries at the Lil Rebel. He likes very few fries so I’m glad that these can help fill the void left by our departure from a Raising Cane’s city. On this visit, McB also tried the house BBQ sauce. It is a slightly watery sauce made with Greek sauces. I found it to be curiously delicious. McB liked it but regretted not choosing the more traditional hickory sauce.

The portions are large and the prices are low. The quality of the food can’t be beat. It’s not a gourmet meal but it’s good homey cooking. There are healthy items on the menu; I’m just too stuck on the Calabash to get to any of those. I’ve also been unable to order one of their many dessert options. It’s not that I don’t want to but we generally leave stuffed to the gills with a doggy bag in hand.

The staff is so nice and friendly. They are always willing to make recommendations. I also like that you typically don’t have to ask for a “to-go” cup and our instead are asked whether you want one or not. I think local restauranteurs just have a better understanding of the role good service plays in customer loyalty. It definitely shows at the Lil Rebel.

Oh and for the parting shot, our “clean” plates from this visit. You can see the corner of the box housing our leftover chicken planks. It’s important to note that this meal occurred after 1:30 p.m. on a Saturday when I didn’t prepare breakfast. We were famished and STILL couldn’t finish all the food.

Lil Rebel 290 is a great little local gem. I can’t wait to take visitors there.

Now that’s more like it

It’s our every-other-Friday pizza treat. Mythos (6140 Wade Hampton Blvd) makes a New York pie that makes our bellies very happy. Our regular (half cheese – him, half pep – me) is a bit greasy but McB, and most native New Yorkers, would tell you that grease is part of a good pizza.

They are a bit stingy with the pepperonis but those that are there have a nice flavor. There is enough cheese that McB doesn’t find it necessary to order extra cheese. I haven’t tried it as cold pizza but it does reheat quite well.

 

 

 

Smoky Mountain Christmas, no not the movie

Smoky Mountain ChristmasWith posts about Christmas in Asheville and the Upstate, I suppose we can consider this the third of my merry trifecta.

Earlier this month, my parents invited me to go along with them for a little getaway in the Smoky Mountains. Our little trip turned out to be a great time filled with old favorites and some fun new experiences.

We rolled into Sevierville/Pigeon Forge around lunch on Saturday and headed to The Partridge and The Pear Tree for lunch. This restaurant is part of The Incredible Christmas Place complex. Mom and I selected this place after viewing the menu online. We had high hopes but given the holiday theme, I was just a little afraid the food might suffer to bend to the kitschy theme.  Thankfully, I was wrong about that. The restaurant didn’t seem tacky at all. The decorators seemed to understand that you would have diners in December and July and they showed appropriate restraint. The food was tasty. The meal starts with a loaf of hot cranberry orange bread. YUMMM!! Mom had the blacked catfish. It was spicy and didn’t taste of fish – yeah, I wrote it but you don’t like fishy-fish either so quit snickering at me. Dad had a large salad with lots of veggies and the boxing day sandwich which is basically a leftover sandwich – turkey, cornbread dressing, and cranberry mayo. He enjoyed it but said that he might order something else the next time. I had the Cuban with ” ‘Tis the Season” fries. My sandwich was very flavorful and filling. I only ate half because I was in love with the fries. These are crispy white-and-sweet potato fries are seasoned with salt and cracked black pepper.  I hate sweet potato fries but these were awesome. We were very tempted by the cakes, including a five-layer sampler where each layer is a different flavor but we were good. I doubt the same restraint would be shown on a repeat visit.

Later that evening we walked off some of our dinner during a visit to The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge. We enjoyed window shopping, a cup of coffee from the ice cream parlor (no ice cream, we were angels that day really) and sampling in the Farm House Kitchen shop.

The next day we made the drive over to Gatlinburg for strolling around and the Trolley Ride of Lights. At my urging, we made a stop at Karmelkorn soon after arriving. Not only does Karmelkorn make wonderful popcorn, it also brings back lots of happy memories. Honestly, if someone could find a way to get me one of their popcorn “suckers” made from colored, sticky popcorn with sugar eyes and a red licorice smile, I might explode from happiness.

In an effort to keep me from inhaling my entire box of popcorn, we walked down to the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen. This is the spot to get taffy in Gatlinburg, even the local bears prefer it. I have spent hours watching taffy production in Gatlinburg during my lifetime and I doubt I’ll ever grow tired of it. In addition to the husband’s taffy (cherry, vanilla, grape), we also picked up some yummy handmade sugar-free chocolates.

Our wondering landed us at All Sauced Up, a newer shop specializing in all kinds of sauces, jams, and gadgets. They have lots of samples. It’s definitely worth visiting.

We made a few other stops and then it was time to board our trolley to see the Christmas lights. The fare is $5 and seems well worth it for the amount of fun we had. We all sang carols and learned little tidbits about the festivities and the area. For instance, Gatlinburg switched to LED lights a few years ago and while the initial investment was steep, the city is saving a lot of money on electricity. The lighting features in Gatlinburg were designed by locals and are all trademarked so you won’t see them anywhere else. If you want to see the lights, make reservations for the trolley using the site above. Pigeon Forge also has lights but they do not run light tours on the weekends.

It was a great little trip and I’m thankful for the opportunity to go. I enjoyed being in a place with so many happy memories with the two people who are responsible for a lot of them.