A Trip To The South - Just a few thoughts... Blog at Allrecipes.com - 208882

Just a few thoughts...

A Trip to the South 
Dec. 1, 2010 5:38 pm 
Updated: Feb. 3, 2011 7:07 am
This blog is dedicated to culinary and sightseeing experiences my husband and I had during our recent vacation to southern states. The purpose of the trip was to eventually head to South Carolina to witness our son’s graduation from basic training. A separate blog has been submitted for that experience.

Comments here are strictly my own opinion and are based on places we visited or our take on regional cuisine that may be very different from that of central Illinois. Please feel free to comment on the vast differences of regional cuisine. We found it fascinating and understand that what we may not particularly care for is merely something that is a food/dish that has been loved since childhood by others.

We started out on a Friday evening to try to get some driving time in. We have found from past experience that once you hit a certain part of southern Illinois and continue southward, you have to be very careful to ask for unsweetened ice tea. I believe this topic has been covered before on various threads or blogs. Would have waved to Cindy Lepp as we passed through Paducah, KY, but she was off visiting family for the holidays.

Next night was spent in Chattanooga, TN. What beautiful country and there was still quite a bit of fall color there. Surrounded by mountains, we had a great view. Too bad it was getting late in the day and no more Daylight Savings Time, so it gets dark early. Would have loved to go to Ruby Falls, etc. Went to downtown Chattanooga, along the waterfront near the aquarium. Many buildings are converted warehouse buildings. We wanted to avoid national chain restaurants, if possible, and found the Big River Grille & Brewery. I had the Fish Tacos which consisted of mahi mahi seasoned with Cajun spices, in a crisp blue corn tortilla wrapped with a soft flour tortilla with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo and avocado remoulade. Sounds like the description came right off a menu, doesn’t it? (It did...) The fish was very moist and flavorful and the avocado remoulade was very tasty. Something about saying avocado remoulade makes you think "fancy". The DH (dear hubby) had Blue Crab Stuffed Chicken, a chicken breast lightly breaded and stuffed with crab meat and artichokes. It was served with rice pilaf and this amazing smoked roma tomatoes and sauteed fresh spinach. He enjoyed the dish very much and we both agreed that the smoked roma tomatoes made the dish. Anyone know how to do that? We could have eaten a whole plate of the spinach and tomatoes. It was hard to make a decision at the restaurant since so many items sounded like something we would like to try.

Next morning, OK we blew past our idea of not going to chain restaurants since there was a Cracker Barrel near our hotel and we needed to get going. We ordered our food and when it was delivered, each of us had this unappealing bowl of grits. Looked like plain oatmeal. What exactly are you supposed to do with grits? Salt, pepper & butter? Maple syrup & butter? Just wasn’t doing it for us. Hmmm...

Onward to the outskirts of Atlanta, GA. The weather was beautiful, upper 70's and again, plenty of color left to the trees. I looked and looked for Gary, but didn’t see him! Went to my nephew’s house and they were having a family Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday. "Would you like something to drink?" Sweet tea? Water will be fine, thanks. Looks like Southerners like their cornbread dressing. Very good, but not served so much in our area. My hubby doesn’t care for sweet potatoes, so I haven’t had any for quite some time. There was sweet potatoes with a very sweet, crunchy, oatmeal-type topping that almost tasted like it should have been in a pie. I, as well as others, saved it for the end of our meal. Very good.

Then to an aunt’s house for a visit. She served a pumpkin cake roll with cream cheese filling. Since she lives by herself, she had made the cake roll, sliced it up and then froze the individual slices to take out as needed. Very good, and when just slightly thawed, it almost tasted like an ice cream cake. I’ll have to get the recipe for that one.

Next adventure was a trip to Savannah, GA. Middle 80's! Can you guess where we went there? Mmm hmm... and this was the hubby’s suggestion... The Lady & Sons, Paula Deen’s restaurant. They have some entree items, but for the most part, everyone gets the buffet which has a good variety of homestyle Southern cooking (or at least what I perceive it to be). True Southerners may have a different opinion on that. We put our name in for a 5:00 seating and had a couple of hours to look around. Savannah is a lovely town with a beautiful historic district. There are several "city squares" very much like mini-parks throughout. There are thriving shops and restaurants along the Savannah River as well as various areas in the downtown. We enjoyed wandering around and reading all of the menus posted outside of the establishments. We had already put our name in at the Lady & Sons and really wanted to go just to say that we had been there, but there was certainly a lot of temptation by these other restaurants, amazing seafood dishes, etc. You could eat your way from one end to the other. Time to go back to the Lady & Sons. Since it was a Tuesday evening, it wasn’t very crowded. They serve guests on three floors of the building. The food was very good. DH had some cheesy grits, which were better than just plain old nothing on them grits. I had a salad which was like a macaroni salad with tomatoes, except no macaroni, just broken up saltine crackers. Who knew that would taste so good? Had my first taste of collard greens. Can’t say I was a fan. DH had black-eyed peas. He thought they were pretty good. Luscious peach cobbler for dessert. Small serving with the buffet, but still couldn’t finish it. No, there was no sighting of Paula or the Deen Bros. Darn it! They have a gift shop next door with everything of Paula’s from cookbooks to cookware. Almost got my son a postcard with Paula on the front. Her laugh just sends chills up his spine and I don’t mean that in a good way, more like nails on a chalkboard.

Our son is at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina and we had him from the day before Thanksgiving until the Sunday after. It was wonderful! One of the restaurants we visited was Lizard’s Thicket. I did find out that they have multiple restaurants, but I had certainly never heard of them and who could resist the name? Meat entrees were good, but the sides were disappointing. After having wonderful sweet potato dishes at my nephew’s and at the Lady & Sons, this place had what appeared to be just canned sweet potatoes, very reminiscent of school lunches. DH’s lima beans appeared to be canned as well. One thing I did notice in many of the Southern restaurants was that they offered several side dishes, not just a few like in our area.

Another restaurant we tried was Hudson’s Smokehouse that was in the area. I believe they may have 3 or 4 restaurants. They also had a buffet which allowed you to try several of their dishes. They had wonderful pulled pork with 3 different kinds of barbeque sauce on the table. Folks, you’ll have to help me out here, I don’t know which one is prevalent in the South Carolina area. Is it the one that had a vinegar base? Another one was much like the Kansas City BBQ we had at Cat Hill’s house, and another seemed to have a mustard base.

Went to breakfast at a local joint and the waitress kind of snickered when all of us ordered hash browns and toast (as opposed to grits and biscuits). I politely told her that we weren’t grit people. In our area, you’re lucky to get a choice of white or whole wheat, let alone a biscuit. The only time biscuits are served is with biscuits & gravy or creamed chicken on biscuits or if you happen to go to a Cracker Barrel. Most all breakfast orders with eggs are served with hash browns or home fries, never grits.

Fatz Café in the Columbia area served up a special of beef tenderloins with a special lemon sauce topped with a crab cake and seasoned, grilled asparagus. Yummm... DH had a shrimp & grits dish that was stone-ground cheese grits with Cajun shrimp and crumbled applewood smoked bacon and drizzled with Burgundy mushroom gravy. Now those kind of grits I could get used to! They were very good. Grits could almost be categorized as the mashed potato of the south? A base like rice or noodles? This place also served "Calabash Chicken" Apparently Calabash chicken has been marinated then deep fried? We saw it advertised in various places, not just this one.

Left South Carolina and meandered our way home through North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana. Loved the drive through the mountains. Absolutely gorgeous! Waved frantically to Lady Sparkle in Indiana. Did you see me?

Thank you for coming along for the ride. It’s all right to get out now and stretch your legs. LOL! We had a wonderful time, experienced a lot of new things, and look forward to returning to the area.
Dec. 1, 2010 6:13 pm
sounds like you had a wonderful time. when i visited my dad in NC, i asked for toast with breakfast instead of a biscut, and i thought the waitress was going to drop to the floor. she told me at first they didn't have that....i said, you have bread, right? lol geez, what we have to do to get toast in the south!
Dec. 1, 2010 6:22 pm
OK, now I feel better. They were looking at us pretty strangely regarding the toast and the hash browns.
Dec. 1, 2010 6:57 pm
What a champ Mr. Magnolia Blossom is for hanging in there with the grits! I have to admit I'm not crazy about them plain, but they are such a wonderful base for many things...just think white polenta. I have to say, you missed on a real treat by skipping the bIs-kIIIts! There is little in the world better than a hot fresh biscuit with butter and honey on it. As for the bbq sauces, I think the vinegar one was more an eastern Carolinas sauce and the mustard is from a region of South Carolina. Isn't it crazy how things vary so much from region to region? Now, if you really want to get looked at cross eyed, go to the south and use the word barbeque as a verb!
Dec. 1, 2010 7:04 pm
Mimosa, we had some great biscuits too! Light & fluffy, not like some of the hockey pucks that can be found around here.
Dec. 1, 2010 8:28 pm
Wonderful description of a food tour of the south! Grits, sweet potatoes , BBQ, and sweet tea are popular items here in the south! I've lived here a while, and it's hard to remember how strange I thought the eating habits were when I first came! I told my kids that they had to grow up in the south with a mom who cooked like she still lived in the north!
Dec. 1, 2010 8:47 pm
Hey Sue! I think I'm going to buy some sweet potatoes, even if I fix them only for myself!
Dec. 2, 2010 4:24 am
Hey Magnolia Blossom, I am glad the grits got better the further south you got. I live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and I love grits. My fav is butter grits with a fried egg. My daddy made this for me for breakfast on my wedding day. You put the egg on top of the grits and then cut it into pieces, break the yolk and mix it all together. There is something about that runny yolk mixed into the grits that I just love. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. We can buy shrimp right off the boat down here and I love me some shrimp w/garlic and butter sauce over cheese grits. Yummy. With the exception of shrimp and grits, I don't know of any restaurants that serve grits in place of rice or potatoes. In the Carolinas or Georgia that might be different. If you ever head south again I hope you make down to the Gulf Coast area(MS, Al and Fl), you would love the food down here ;)
Dec. 2, 2010 5:55 am
Great blog! I am from the coast of North Carolina. Eastern NC BBQ is vinegar based and South Carolina is mustard based. Biscuits are the only way to go. I live in upstate NY now and you can't find a biscuit any where except Cracker Barrel. That's where we go to get our taste of home comfort food fix! As we are moving back to NC in 3 short weeks, I have to say there isn't much about the food from this region of the country I am going to miss. We couldn't even find decent NY style pizza here in NY!!! Glad you enjoyed your trip to the south. It is a whole different world down there.
Dec. 2, 2010 6:25 am
Very nice MB! :) I think of grits as Cream of Corn (like Cream of Wheat, only corn) and add sugar or syrup. We never had grits at home, so this is a "new" taste for me. Sounds like you had great food adventures :)!!
Dec. 2, 2010 7:28 am
Glad you enjoyed my hometown, Savannah, so much. I would also have suggested that you try Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House for lunch. Same type of food served at Paula's restaurant, but it is served family style. It is truly a beautiful city. I now live in the metro Atlanta area.
Dec. 2, 2010 9:58 am
Thanks LS! Christy, we would have really loved to have stayed longer, but we were only there for the afternoon. Didn't have time to do the dolphin boat tour either.
Dec. 2, 2010 3:20 pm
Be back to tomorrow to finish the read. Time to cook dinner since I spent time putting my very late recipes together for you! Not a fan of grits. Reminds me of oatmeal. Blech!! Cat
Dec. 2, 2010 6:14 pm
Thanks for the comments Mellie & Kristen! I'm used to the Kansas City-style BBQ in our area. The NC BBQ wasn't bad, but I didn't really care for the mustard based kind.
Dec. 2, 2010 10:52 pm
Great blog once again MB. Have you ever considered being a restaurant critic? Seriously, you have a great way with writing and your food descriptions are spot on, not to mention the arm chair tour I took with you, so travel coordinator, or tour guide might not be out of the realm of possibility either :D
Dec. 3, 2010 6:50 pm
Hah, I'd love to travel! Darn 8 to 5 job gets in the way...
Dec. 17, 2010 10:05 am
What an amazing trip!! I have been to Savanahh but did not learn of Paula's restaraunt till after I visited darn it!! I enjoyed reading this very much!! It reminded me of my own time in the South. Thanks for sharing :o)
Jan. 8, 2011 1:04 am
Enjoyed reading your blog; it reminded me of a trip my dh and I took a few yrs back from Georgia to New Jersey. BTW, grits are never sweetened in the south. Buttery & salty for breakfast w/eggs(i like crumbled bacon in them)or as a side dish with seafood in coastal southern states...here in S.Ga a fish fry is not considered complete without cheese grits and cole slaw
Feb. 3, 2011 7:07 am
Wow, The travel channel should hire you as a guide. What a wonderful way to see the area and get a reall feel for it. by way of resteraunts. lol. Thanks for stopping by my blog.
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Magnolia Blossom

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