Archive for ‘ROAD TRIP’

January 25, 2015

KY : The Bourbon Trail – MAKER’S MARK

bourbon trail makers mark

I’m playing Ryan Adams to get me in a Kentucky mindset, and I have to share the somber cloud that hovers over my heart. It was recently announced Mandy Moore and Ryan Adams are getting a divorce. They were my favorite celebrity couple, even more than Brad and Angelina, and I just thought they could make it work. Now with 5 years of marriage being thrown into the celebrity wind, I have to take a moment for over-dramatic mournful silence.

***

Now back to the bourbon trail. While driving down the bourbon trail we saw large square buildings with windows, scattered across rolling hills. If a corporate building and a country barn had a baby, it would be these boxes.  They reminded me of something out of a horror movie, where all the zombie are kept or is storage for twisted experiments. Now the sky was cloudy and gray that day, and since I’m fairly morbid my imagination got a little carried away. In actuality, they are rack houses, where the bourbon goes to age and rest. So I guess technically it is storing an experiment – in awesome flavor!

bourbon resting house

We made the last Maker’s Mark tour and were the first to purchase our tickets. Letting us have that magical alone time the early bird gets to savor. The waiting house is a real Disney style attraction, with talking picture reciting the history of Maker’s Mark and a replica kitchen showing how Margie Samuels, the wife of T. Williams Samuels came up with the signature Maker’s Mark bottle. Margie was a marketing master and designed the Maker Mark’s bottle inspired by the unique shapes of cognac bottles. She wanted Maker’s to be distinctively different from the other bourbons on the market. It was also her idea to have the distillery painted black, as she was tired of it always looking dirty.  See there is a naturally occurring fungus that grows around distilleries called, Baudoinia Compniacensis, and it turns trees and objects black. Margie was annoyed with fighting the fungus so she painted the buildings black with red trim, and her branded esthetics has lasted through the decades.  Oh yeah, the distillery you tour is the same one that produced the first bottle of Makers in the 1950’s, how cool is that!!!

Makers Mark Kitchen

Makers Mark Distillery

Of course, there have been upgrades, like the beautiful copper distillers. But the room which ferments the sour mash was totally vintage. We got to poke our finger into the brew, which looked like captain crunch and tasted like sweet watery white bread. We also got to take home our own Maker’s Mark label, made on the same printing press from their early days. These kinds of true to tradition touches gave the distillery real charm. Honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of Maker’s Mark. I enjoy rye bourbons, and I found out they don’t use any rye in their recipe. Just corn sour mash and red winter wheat. So the tasting was a little underwhelming to me, but still very enjoyable.

Makers Mark Distillers

makers mark sour mash

We found out there is an ambassador program you can join, where they mark a barrel of bourbon with your name on it, and in 7 years you can purchase ‘your’ bourbon. I was so excited about this program, I told Bowerbird that I would need to plan my ovaries around the ambassador program, because I wouldn’t want to be pregnant when our bourbon was ready. I also said this out loud, and one of the other gentlemen on the tour remarked it was the best statement he’s ever heard.  What can I say, I love bourbon.

The coolest thing, about bringing home a bottle of Maker’s Mark from the distillery, is that you can dip it in the hot wax yourself. This was our epic road trip across the country, so we had to experience a dipped bottle. I was nice and let Bowerbird be the dipper, and the second it was cooled and handed to us I tried to carve the date into the wax, but it was too solid. Unfortunately, there was too many liabilities when it came to carving the wax when it was still hot. I hid a few of my road trip postcards in the gift shop too, and was tweeted on the road a week later from a fella who found it in a feminist book. Getting tweets while on the road was so cool. I still wonder about the postcards floating out there.

dipping makers mark in red wax

It was a bummer we were unable to go to any additional distilleries. Bowerbird was really looking forward to Four Roses, but we both agreed Maker’s Mark was worth it. We had been told it was a must see distillery, and for not even liking Maker’s that much, I absolutely loved my experience there. The bourbon trail hands out these passports you can get stamped at all the distilleries, new life goal is to get it filled. Bulleit distillery, you’re next on my list.

cute couple at maker's mark

January 2, 2015

KY: The Bourbon Trail – Heaven Hill

Bourbon Trail Heaven Hill

Bowerbird and I have decided to stay off the booze and abstain from spirits in 2015*. Not because either of us has a drinking problem that has made our lives unmanageable. But because we both really dislike the lethargy and mild headaches that just one glass of alcohol can induce. 2015 is a big year for the both of us, and we want to be on top of our game. So it’s a good thing we hit the Bourbon Trail in 2014. We are both sad to be giving up whiskey and bourbon, our favorite spirits because of the aroma and smooth finish. Yet I don’t think we will be able to top the sampling of a $400 bottle of Evan Williams either.

The portion of the bourbon trail we visited was in Bardstown, which is only thirty minutes from Louisville, and where essentially most of the bourbon distilleries reside. Also the ‘trail’ is a paved highway, just for clarification. Welcoming us to the Bourbon trail was a sign propped on the front lawn of a lovely house that read, “Bourbon destroys lives.” Our first stop on the trail was Heaven Hill distilleries and Bourbon Heritage Center. It had great interactive displays of how Bourbon is made, with buttons and knobs that lit up and made noises. At the touch of a button one of the displays released the sharp and hypnotizing scent of bourbon. I felt like a kid in a science center. There was also a history of distilling bourbon; describing why corn is used as the mash, and the ways it was hidden from officers during prohibition. Bowerbird and I were mostly just interested in a tasting, and not the full 2 hour tour of the distillery, so with our souvenir tasting glasses we enjoyed an array of premium Heaven Hill bourbon.

Bourbon Heritage Center

Heaven Hill Bourbon Tasting

Sadly I can’t find my notes from the tasting, and apart from knowing that one of the bottles (seen below) is $400 and only sold in Japan, I don’t recall the specifics of the other bourbons. But they were delicious. First enjoying them neat and then with a dash of water. The water changing the flavor ever so subtly. I remember one of the bourbons evaporated on my tongue. Another one tasted sweeter after the drop of water, giving a more caramel and syrup quality to the bourbon. We were with three other couples during the tasting and it was fascinating hearing everyone’s take on the flavors.  It was so much fun to geek out with other bourbon and whiskey nerds.

Evan William Bourbon Trail

adding water to bourbon

By the time we left Heaven Hill we could only make one other distillery and another couple from the tasting highly recommended seeing Maker’s Mark. As you drive up onto the Maker’s Mark property, the buildings and trees are all black, windows trimmed with red. I didn’t know much about Maker’s Mark before my tour, but I’m so happy we went there.  The history and marketing behind Maker’s would make any feminist fan of branding drool – and that’s basically me.

I’m going to break this up into two stories as the tale of Maker’s Mark deserves a post of its own.

Tell me what’s your favorite bourbon? Have you been on the bourbon trail?

*Exceptions to our 2015 resolution includes vacations and one double date to a whiskey bar we couldn’t get to in 2014.

December 17, 2014

TN: DOLLYWOOD

Dollywood Road Trip

I adore Dolly Parton. She’s the queen of the south with a colorful personality that sparkles brighter than Christmas lights. A feminist with a sense of humor, she’s guided her career with brains and beauty. Did you know Elvis Presley wanted to sing one of her songs, but she turned him down? She would have loved to have the King sing a song she wrote, but he was also asking for full rights to the music. Dolly knew it was a bad business deal. My love for Dolly Parton made her amusement park, Dollywood, a MUST SEE destination on the dream road trip.

Its located in the smoky mountains not far from where Dolly grew up. She built the park because she wanted to give back to her community, and she figured what better way than to give them jobs. This savvy carries into the personalities of those that work there as well. When I asked the cashier of a food stand if they took credit cards, she gave me a sweet smile and said “Darling this is Dollywood, we are happy to take your money in any form”. I got such a kick out of that statement, I walked away with my delicious fried green tomatoes giggling.

Fried Green Tomatoes

The day we were driving to Dollywood it was pouring rain in Tennessee. A three hour drive from Nashville, traffic was not on our side, and we were in the car about four and half hours. When we finally pulled off the freeway, a burst of sunlight broke through the thick grey clouds. I joked to Bowerbird that it was over Dollywood, because Dolly can do anything, even part the clouds. Driving closer to the park, we were both stunned that my prediction was right, it was bright and sunny over Dollywood.

Because of traffic by the time we arrived we only had a few hours before it closed, but I wouldn’t let lack of time sour our experience. We decided we wouldn’t leave until we were kicked out. The park is “Backwoods Themed”. There are tongue and cheek representations of country people sprinkled around the park, from the signs to animatronic characters inside the rides. I swear there was a robotic fella in overalls holding a jug with X’s on it inside a fireman inspired attraction. But Dollywood also celebrates the charm and character of the smoky mountains, from the ‘County Fair’ to the artisans that still know how to loom and whittle wood.

dollywood signs

Artisans Looming

The number one question I’m asked is if there are Dolly Parton impersonators walking around, and I’m sad to report there are none. But just go to your local drag queen show and I’m sure you’ll find a few. However, there is a Dolly Parton museum, where you can meet a holographic projection of Dolly Parton. It’s an amazing building that houses many treasures of her childhood and countless sparkly costumes from over her career. You can even ask Dolly Parton questions on touch screen televisions. I was able to get Dolly Parton’s feelings on dieting and following my dreams. But what touched my heart the most was being able to see the coat of many colors.

Dollywood Chasing Rainbows

Dollywood Coat of Many Colors

Dollywood_Costume

We spent a majority of our limited time in the Dolly museum, but it was well worth it. As the park was closing and people walked toward the exit, we raced to the opposite end of the park for Wild Eagle. A ridiculously tall coaster that made you feel like you were soaring like an eagle. It had started to rain so we speed walked, and by the time we reached the ride and ran up the stairs through the line ropes and hopped on the ride, we were both out of breath. The restraint was tight and I tried to not get claustrophobic as I was already hyperventilating. We went up at a 90 degree angle, the click clicks of the gear below, and at a 210 feet drop we wooshed down at speed of 61 mph. The twist and turns of this coaster are the best, especially while whipping past bright red and orange leaves. Dollywood is seriously the most nature loving amusement park I’ve ever been to, it’s simply gorgeous. There is a creek running through it!

Dollywood_WildEagle

After Wild Eagle, we exited through the gift shop. Now as Christmas is around the corner I feel incredibly stupid for not picking up more souvenirs as gifts. I know lots of Dolly lovers, and one Dolly fan I am particularly regretful for not picking up a coffee cup or magnet or something. I purchased a keychain for myself and few postcards, but if only they had an online shop I’d get all my holiday shopping done in one place. Dollywood was as magical as I imagined it. And even though we didn’t get to spend all day there, everything fell into the right combination for a fun adventure.

Dollywood_Holigram

Thanks for reading about my time at Dollywood! Comment below with your favorite Dolly Parton song.

December 3, 2014

TN: Little Bit More Nashville

Road Trip Nashville

 

We spent so much time in Tennessee, and even more time in Nashville. The following happened over the course of a few days, but I thought writing about it in this fashion would be the most efficient. Also easier on the ADD blog reader.  Promise, I’m working on getting my post shorter! Well here is my Nashville…

PRINCE’S HOT CHICKEN

The hottest chicken in the south, Prince’s Hot Chicken, will bring tears to your eyes, no doubt about it. On the outskirts of downtown Nashville, located in a strip mall with a clothing store and nail shop as it’s neighbor, Prince’s Hot Chicken is as much an experience as visiting classic landmarks. We found out about Prince’s through Mind of a Chef, yes Sean Brock visited Prince’s Hot Chicken and recounted the burning sensation on film.

Filled with families and people who were picking up dinner before headed home, Bowerbird and I had to wait for a table to open up like sharks circling a boat. Fortunately the food isn’t served quickly, so we were able to get seats before the chicken was ready. I couldn’t imagine having tried to eat it standing up. It’s served up so hot it burns your fingertips as well as your tongue. We ordered the ‘hot’ chicken, and were told by a regular the two of us were crazy and would be feeling it in the morning. Sensory overload: our immune systems kicked into high gear to fight off the invasion of flavor, eyes filled with tears and noses began to run. Sharing a tiny side of potato salad, we nibbled on it trying to stretch the only way to give our tongues some relief.

For an hour afterwards we our lips were numb.

Prince's Hot Chicken Nashville TN

GROOVE RECORD STORE

After dinner we drove around Nashville until we could head out to the home of our host that night in Hendersonville. Gazing out the window I spotted Groove Record store, a house on the corner of a quaint street with an illuminated sign on the lawn. I love just coming across cool places, versus having it programed into the gps. It makes the discovery that more special. It was 5 minutes to closing, making a joke about being the assholes who are coming in right before the doors are locked, the clerk was friendly and assured us he had enough cataloging to do, and that we were fine. The walls are covered in local artist and music posters. Christmas lights strung beside an in-store stage. The selection of new and used music was phenomenal, and since we didn’t I bring many CD’s for the road trip we picked up Deerhoof and HTRK (pronounced Hate Rock). We even spotted the cd of a fellow label mate, ERRAS. We didn’t stay too long, but it was a great little find to shape our time in Nashville.

Groove Record Store Nashville TN

 

vintage dolly parton

THE HOUSE OF CASH

Thirty minutes outside Nashville, Hendersonville was where Johnny Cash and June Carter stayed until till their passing. It’s also where the Father of Bowerbird’s friend lived who graciously offered to host us for a night. I will refer to him as Mr. Radio because of his amazing voice.  Mr. Radio lived just down the street from the original Johnny Cash museum, The House of Cash, before it was moved to Downtown Nashville. Now a real estate office and dental practice, the buildings were originally an old train depot where June Carter had a little antique store along with where the museum was located. Being so close to more Johnny Cash history tingled the fan girl in me, but my mouth dropped when Mr. Radio offered to drive us up to Johnny Cash’s old home. It was the middle of night and unfortunately no moon, but he drove us along the fence as we peered from the car to see the faint outline of Cash’s home (which had burned down in 2007). Being so close to where this legend had lived gave me chills. As we drove away two fawns were walking on the road and ran into a neighboring yard.

Sign from House of Cash Johnny Cash

 

**The sign from House of Cash is now housed at the new Johnny Cash Museum in Downtown Nashville**

GRAND OL’ OPRY

When I purchased tickets to the Grand Ol’ Opry’s 89th birthday show, with no musical act yet listed, I was making a commitment to the dream. Seven months in advance, the tickets were will-call only and non-refundable. I had to be in Tennessee by October 11, and that’s exactly what I did. The act ended up being Craig Morgan. I’d never even heard his music before, but it was an amazing show. A down to earth musician, former military man, his songs were heart felt stories. Good country music is a story to a melody. He even made me cry, but then again country music always makes me cry. As it was the birthday celebration radio stations, activity tents, and food vendors were set up outside the auditorium. I purchased myself some rainbow kettle corn that tasted like fruity pebbles. The Grand Ol’Opry is located in a shopping center, the Opry Outlets. for me the shops took away from the magic of “The Grand Ol’ Opry”. I’m glad we took a tour at the Ryman. Next time we are in Nashville, I’m buying tickets to a Ryman show, even better I’ll make sure to get tickets to The Grand Ol’ Opry at the Ryman.

Grand Ol Opry Birthday Show

 

Couple ‘Selfie’ After the Show 

Dolly Parton Pumpkin

They had a fantastic Jack-O-Lantern display of Country Music Stars

Rainbow Popcorn and Grand Ol' Opry

My Popcorn and Dolly 

 I missed going to the Blue Bird and a dive bar in an Airstream trailer, but it just gives us a reason to return.

Have you ever been to Nashville?

p.s. Notice all the Dolly Parton pics I snapped? Well next post will be all about Dollywood!

November 10, 2014

KY: On The Way to Louisville, We Found Zanzabar.

Road Trip Kentucky

“I know it’s all very charming with the pickled things in jars and the Southern Charm” – Hollie Baylor

The Bluegrass state stole my heart, and I don’t think I’ll ever get it back. From the moment we drove into Kentucky I felt like I was driving home. We had Ryan Adams coming through the radio, and the brilliant colored leaves whipping outside the window. The plan for day was to land in Louisville to sleep, and on our way there we would visit Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace and Elizabethtown.

I feel very close to our 16th president. After taking a 50 question survey on which American president I would be, I am most similar to Abraham Lincoln. I find this to be my greatest testament of character, and wish I could add it to my resume. “Personality type for problem solving, leadership, and community is identical to our most beloved president Abraham Lincoln,” says the online 50 question survey. Abraham Lincoln was also an Aquarius.  Sadly because of our other detours on our way to Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, we arrived after it was closed. Thirty minutes too late, the yellow barrier fence blocked me from visiting the cabin off in the distance where Lincoln took his first breath.  The barrier fence was as tall as my knee. I could easily jump over and run like a maniac down the hill, but considering it’s federal land, I didn’t feel like trespassing that day.  We later drove over to Abraham Lincoln’s ‘boyhood home’ where he lived till his family moved to Illinois.  It’s not the actual house he lived in, but it’s in the same area and gives travelers a sense of the land that shaped Lincoln.

 

The detours that delayed us from Lincoln’s birthplace included fossil washing at Historic Diamond Caverns, and using the restroom at Dinosaur World.  I loved the days when we could just follow signs and billboards we saw off the highway. Totally spontaneous, it was the unplanned moments that shaped our most memorable encounters.

One of my top ten favorite movies is Elizabethtown. I’ve watched it countless times, love the soundtrack, and have quoted Claire in my own life. I even reference Elizabethtown in a past blog entry when talking about Bowerbird before we started dating. Elizabethtown is this small town in Kentucky, and although most of the small town scenes weren’t even filmed in Elizabethtown, I wanted to visit it. In the center of the downtown area is a court house that doubles as a fallout shelter. As it was after 5pm, everything was closed. Practically a ghost town, we received a few confused stares from the drivers going in the roundabout. I probably looked ridiculous as I was trying to capture buildings in the background of my multiple (failed) selfies.  We weren’t there long, but it satisfied my Elizabethtown fantasy. Plus Bowerbird took a picture with a field of corn on our way out. Corn stalks are very tall.

Louisville is only about two hours from Elizabethtown, and sitting in the passenger seat I coordinated our Airbnb stay and found us a place to eat dinner. Searching Yelp I came across The Zanzabar, a bar and restaurant with pinball machines galore. I went to the website to view the menu and saw they were having a trivia night and would be showing the season premiere of The Walking Dead. It was a no-brainer we had to visit this place. A family run establishment, two brothers created their dream hang out. Good beer, great food, and lots of fun. The menus are inside vinyl record covers, we had Abba and BB King.  We order the shrimp po-boy and fries. Both delicious and seasoned well, we loved that the po-boy had avocado inside. Zanzabar is all about that unexpected extra touch.

 

We met the co-owner Antz after he apologized for a drunk patron he had thought was bothering us. We told him everything was fine, and then started talking about music.  We saw Surfer Blood was playing there in a few weeks, and we chatted about the other bands that have graced The Zanzabar stage. I impressed Antz by knowing the name of Sean Lennon’s band, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, when he was recounting how cool and nice Sean was. I’m still dying to see GOASTT. Not because of Sean Lennon’s famous father, but because I really love the music and artistic concept behind the group. Plus I have a total girl crush on Charlotte Kemp. Chatting about Los Angeles and traveling, we totally bonded with Antz. He gave us some Zanzabar swag and fun memories. Bowerbird kicked my butt at Dolly Parton pinball.

My one regret from this trip was that I didn’t take pictures of the people we met. I’d love to have an album filled with the faces of the interesting people from the road.  Fortunately Antz and his brother were on Offbeat Eats with Jim Stacy, the “Game On” episode. You can see Antz in the video below playing a live action game of Donkey Kong. He has the green hat on.

November 4, 2014

SC : HUSK RESTAURANT – The Food

HUSK Restaurant Road Trip

This road trip was all about being open to new experiences, approaching life with an openness to meeting new people, trying new foods, taking detours, and seeing where we end up. Luckily we ended up at a table in Charleston, South Carolina at the acclaimed Husk Restaurant; there is a location in Nashville as well. Currently Chef Sean Brock of Husk restaurant is in the middle of a book tour for his first cookbook Heritage. I’ll need to pick up this book for Bowerbird, so we can relive our night of pure gastro bliss. Getting a table at Husk was a significant part of this culinary adventure, and I can’t thank Sean and Kristin enough for making it happen.

Husk Charleston is well situated in an antebellum style home built in the late 19th century. A white picket fence surrounds a courtyard that leads out to a separate side house where waiting diners can start with drinks and appetizers at the bar, which was packed with liquor and people. Bowerbird and I squeezed through the crowd to the opposite end, away from the door, to get bourbon before dinner. I tried to snap some photos but the dark lighting made it difficult without being obnoxious to other patrons. The bartenders were sharp and fast, there were about 30 people inside and only two bartenders attending them- I commend them. Just as we were about to take our drinks out of the bar house and into the courtyard for a less claustrophobic experience, the bartender unveils a massive ham leg (what I think) for fresh sliced Prosciutto. Please correct me in the comments below, but whatever that was, I want it next time.

 

HUSK Charleston Bar House

When we were seated our extremely nice waiter made a comment that we’d traveled a long way. Being a giant dork, I didn’t even connect the fact he would know about my road trip tweet and went into the entire story. He politely smiled and said he knew then he inquired if I was a chef myself. I informed him I wasn’t, but an avid eater and food appreciator. Confession: I’ve been caught more than once talking to my food in a restaurant.

To begin our dining experience, the waiter brought out warm rolls served with a side of pork fat honey butter. These rolls were light and could be pulled apart like cotton candy. There was a subtle flavor of bacon, topped with toasted sesame seeds adding a woodsy flavor to compliment the sweet bread. As a first impression, the rolls had me on my knees; I could eat those morning, noon, and night.

HUSK dinner rolls

Bowerbird and I shared two first courses and two suppers. Based on the menu from the night before, we strategized our dining experience during our drive from Richmond to Charleston. We had wanted to experience as many flavors as possible and in the end chose four different proteins to sample.

We ordered wood fired clams and smoked Surry County sausage with braised peppers and mustard greens in a tomato broth served with roasted garlic toast; and TN pork ribs with peach BBQ, pickled peaches and green peanuts with puffed pork skins as our two first courses. Bowerbird can’t have anything with added sugar, which makes experiencing southern BBQ difficult, as brown sugar tends to be a main ingredient. But our waiter assured us there was no additional sugar in the peach BBQ and relied strictly on the natural sugars in the fruit.

 

We started with the wood fired clams which had a delicate flavor profile and were light and buttery while bursting with garlic flavor, the tomato broth was savory and void of acid. The sweet onions and red bell peppers balanced the bitterness of the mustard greens and fennel in the Surry County sausage. It seemed as if the saltiness in the dish came straight from the ocean, we sopped up every last drop of the broth with the one piece of garlic toast we had. At times I wish I didn’t need to be classy at the dinner table, manners prevent one from truly having every last bite.

We waited until we were done with the clams before eating the BBQ pork ribs. This unfortunately had us experiencing the ribs when they were lukewarm but none-the-less they were still amazing. The TN pork ribs were thick on the bone, they’re then charred on the outside just enough to add a good smoky flavor but not unpleasantly burnt. Slathered in BBQ sauce, it had a spicy kick that built with each bite. The caramelized peaches brought a unique element to the BBQ sauce. I was most impressed by the elegant touch of green peanuts, as it added a satisfying crunch to the tender meat. The puff pork melted in our mouth and stuck in our teeth like taffy, it added a fun factor to the plate. Being of Hawaiian heritage, in reminiscing about the dish it reminds me of something I would have in Hawaii; but instead of pineapples they used peaches, and instead of macadamia nuts they used green peanuts.

For our supper we ordered cornmeal dusted catfish, sweet corn and VA sausage “gumbo” with Carolina gold rice, charred okra, and confit cherry tomatoes. I’m a duck fiend, so we also ordered the confit duck leg with Anson Mills Brewster oats, heirloom pumpkin and chestnuts, Tuscan kale, honey vinegar, and spiced chevre. Both of these dishes were delicious and inspired very strong narratives. When I had a music and art blog, I’d describe the music in narratives. It’s the same for how I experience food. Stories develop in my imagination, the food being the inspiration.

The catfish was soft and flaky and it didn’t have that odd bottom feeder flavor, instead it acted as the perfect canvas to the gumbo Creole spices. The cornmeal crust was a crisp delicate second skin on the catfish. The confit tomatoes were out of this world- while being only the size of my thumb nail, this tiny tomato burst in my mouth, enveloping it in a rich savory flavor. It was like tasting a tomato for the first time. The dish was young, fresh, light and vibrant.

 

HUSK Catfish

 

On the other plate, the duck was moist and tender. The entire flavor palate rich and warm, it resonated within a deeper place and felt more mature. I didn’t know this was possible, but the cooked kale was succulent. The oats, pumpkin, and chestnut were mixed together as sort of risotto, spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon; it was like tasting autumn.

 

HUSK Duck Confit

 

Every bite of the duck confit wrapped me up in a cozy blanket and invoked a sense of nostalgia. Its a dish you’d want to serve your family during the holidays. The catfish was more youthful, its story younger. I could imagine it being made for a one year anniversary, and the home cook’s funny little mishaps till it was executed just right.

The two suppers were like the past and future existing on our table. Bowerbird and I have been together for two years. The catfish dinner tasted like those first few dates where you’re nervous and everything is electrified with newness. The duck confit our future, with decades of memories collected together and a deep love enriched by time.

Sean Brock is all about the story and heritage that is conveyed through food. I felt like I was served, tasted, and understood those stories; at least on how they apply to my own life. I hope I was able to give our dinner justice. I did order dessert, but at that point had pushed my stomach beyond its limitations and with a few mindless bites of the apple potpie, all I can report back is that it was good. My dinner at Husk was one of the best meals of my life. It almost brought me to tears. The whole experience of getting the table, the amazing food we ate, one of my favorite bands Drive by Truckers playing over the speakers in the background. It was a culinary dream come true. Husk completely indulged my five major senses. I’m so happy I didn’t give up when I saw there were no reservations available or that I didn’t surrender to a full stomach when dessert came.

If you are incredibly lucky and in Charleston looking for the best meal of your life, book in advanced for a fantastic night at HUSK. Here is a link to book your reservation.

November 3, 2014

SC : HUSK RESTAURANT – The Table

South Carolina HUSK

As we are back from the road posts might be a little out of chronological order, like this one! We left off in the first half of Nashville which was the 9th of October, now let’s fast forward to the 15 & 16. Zoooom!

One of the most exciting things to happen on this trip was getting seats at the fully booked Husk Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina through twitter. Yes, Twitter! Before we left for this trip, I was expressing to a friend that we would be traveling mostly through the south. He told me I had to check out the second season, first part of The Mind of a Chef (available on Netflix). This portion of the show is strictly about Southern food hosted by Chef Sean Brock of Husk Restaurant. He expresses his love for heritage grains and preserving the history and stories of backwoods cooking that earned the south its culinary distinction. From the Low country to the Appalachian Mountains, before southern cooking was only known for fried chicken, mac and cheese, gravy and grits; it had flavors and grains that were unique to the seeds and people.

I respect Chef Sean Brock and his passion for food and its purpose in preserving his heritage. He’s even explored the history of the flavors brought to the states through the southern slave trade. It’s agreed slavery is a terrible horrible institution, but it’s a part of American history and shaped the south. I believe Sean Brock addresses all aspects of Southern cooking and food in a very educated manner, that’s why I HAD TO GO TO HUSK!

On October 15, we were in Williamsburg, Virginia. As we would be heading to Charleston the next day, I thought, “Oh I should probably book a reservation, just in case”. Putting in our arrival time into Open Table I watched as the loading dots searched for a table and presented the next available reservation, 5:30pm October 28. My heart sank. I was shocked. I felt stupid for not booking earlier, and then started coming up with reasons I couldn’t have booked earlier to make myself feel better. Bowerbird could see how terribly upset I was, I felt like the stormy clouds that loomed outside. The rain that fell down were my tears. But as my mother always told me, there is no use feeling sorry for yourself. I rallied. I told Bowerbird “Maybe we can just get a seat at the bar” or “Hang out till a reservation cancels.” We were going to Charleston just for HUSK. I packed a pretty dress. There was no way I was giving up so easy.

My professional bread and butter is Social Media Management. I’m no social superstar, yet. My follower count on Twitter is under 300. But I was going to Tweet Husk anyway….

HUSK twitter

Being a social media professional I thought it might be hours or a day before anyone read my tweets. So I turned to Sean! I had tweeted him before, while watching the show. He never interacted with me, but maybe he remembered my tweet to his buddy Edward Lee regarding a Dolly Parton karaoke showdown. I directed my plea to the chef, because I really just wanted to experience his cooking. I didn’t need the fancy restaurant. I just wanted to taste the grains, farms, and the southern heritage Sean puts into his dishes at HUSK. This road trip was all about the South, I could not give up on the ultimate in southern cooking.

Sean Brock Twitter

I tweeted in the rain with droplets collecting on my screen to the point I was afraid of water damage. My request was out in the universe and on Twitter. Now all I could do was wait. Dan and I explored Williamsburg.  Drank a beer in a non-designated area like teenagers, hiding next to Coca Cola vending machines. Visited the museum and exhibit on the first colonial Mental Institution on the site of the first asylum. We even had a delightful dinner in one of the colonial restaurants. They fortunately had available space when we made reservations.

When we got back to the car, I was feeling really weird. This was also the day after we had stayed in the haunted hotel, more on that later. I had to stop and pray. Not pray for us to get seats at HUSK, but just that this heavy weird feeling that was lingering would go away. As we drove to the home of our couch surfer, I received a tweet from a Kristin saying she was happy to help with my mission to HUSK.

Kristin and I began corresponding through email regarding the reservation. Emails that my phone was not receiving in a timely manner, and created some anxiety as we drove down to Charleston the next day. But in the end it all worked out, by 1:30pm on October 16 we had reservations for that night at 8:30pm. My Mom and Dad are amazing home cooks, I’ve been spoiled with delicious food my entire life. I appreciate the work that goes into a plate, and nothing peeves me more than overpriced mediocre food. The dinner at HUSK was not the case. I’m splitting this up into two stories, as I feel the lead up was just as interesting as the actual dinner itself. So if you would like to continue reading – click here – .

Once again it was shown to me you really bring about what you think about. I had told the story of Husk and Sean Brock to dozens of people since I’d watched Mind of a Chef.  Every person we met and asked what we had planned, I mentioned going to HUSK. I tried to express the enormity and importance of preserving grains and seeds to other people, the way Sean shared it on Mind of a Chef. Now I get to share just how amazing his cooking is too.

Here is the schedule for Sean’s “Heritage” book tour. It started on October 19, and unfortunately it never synced up with our own trip.  If you happen to be in the same town as his tour, I really urge you to go. He is a personable chef with a lot of heart and understands how to deliver flavor!

Sean Brock Heritage

October 19, 2014

TN: Johnny Cash & Nashville

nashville roadtrip

One of my favorite shows on television right now is Nashville. Admittedly, this show influenced a few choices in the process of planning this trip. I was looking forward to all the bright lights and country songs. Plus I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan. My Ji-chan (grandpa in Japanese) loved Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. Bowerbird was raised on the Grand Ole Opry. The Music City was a pretty big destination for us. But lodging for our first night there, the 9th, was not planned.  At the recommendation of some people we met at Muscle Shoals Sound, we went to a Bed and Breakfast owned by their friend. They had even given the B&B a call to see if we could get a discounted room. Unfortunately once we got there it seemed to be deserted. Thank modern technology for Airbnb, because at 9pm we were able to find beautiful lodging for an insanely reasonable price. It was under $100.

The Airbnb place was really close to the B&B, so close when I looked at the address I thought it was only 4 houses down from the bed and breakfast. When I called the Airbnb host to clarify what house was his, because we couldn’t find the driveway he indicated in the arrival details. He informed us we were ten blocks north of his home. Same street, but instead of 612 it was 1612 – doh! After a day on the road, I swear you lose a few brain cells.

Located in East Nashville, a trendy part of town that is comparable to Soho or Los Feliz. We couldn’t have lucked out anymore, this place was gorgeous.  In the morning we decided to go “running”, and I put running in quotations because it’s more of a fast paced walk in full workout clothes. Seriously, we packed running shoes and have only used them once. Regardless I’m so glad we took the time to “exercise”, because with the tree lined streets and turn of the century homes, East Nashville could easily be the neighborhood Mr. Rodgers was always singing about.

Next we dived straight into tourist central, downtown Nashville. We ended up spending nearly 2 hours in the Johnny Cash museum. Not a very big museum, but we read every caption under the photos. It even includes a poem written by Johnny after June’s funeral. I dare the toughest guy to read that and not tear up a little. I love their love story. I don’t endorse how Johnny handled his relationship with his first wife Vivian, but you can’t deny that J.R and June’s love ran deep. Watching videos of the two performing, you see this puppy dog love in Johnny Cash’s eyes that makes a girl weak in the knees and pray for the same devotion.

Being a fan of country from a far, but far from a historian the Ryman and Opry history always confused me. So when we came across the Ryman I was excited to purchase tickets to the backstage tour in order to get my facts straight. The original home of the Opry, the floors are the same wooden panels from the 1800’s when it was a church. The dressing rooms are themed based on the famous faces that had sung on its stage. We learned the history of those kicked out of the Ryman and the backdoor they used to drink at the bar next door.

When we were in the Ryman a friend of mine texted me to get ahold of Bowerbird. Knowing we were in Nashville, he tried to contact his friend, Ikey Owens, a member of Jack White’s band to give us a tour of Third Man Records, but unfortunately he was on tour. Ikey passed away a few days later. Not knowing him personally, we couldn’t help but be shocked and saddened at the eerily close timing to both incidents. My Facebook feed was full of his mutual friends sharing stories and out pours of love. I don’t live far from Long Beach, and he had lived there for years before moving to Nashville only six months prior. I’m happy my friend was able to text and have a conversation with Ikey, before his untimely passing, even if it were brief. While on the road you can’t help but reflect on life and purpose. You feel more appreciative of the friendships you have, a comfortable bed, the potential in every new day. Ikey Owens impacted a lot of lives. Like I said, my Facebook feed was filled with friends sharing their memories and mourning of the loss of their friend. I didn’t get the opportunity to meet him, but he seemed to live a life full of creative passion and love. I’ll continue to strive to live a life with the same intention, and wanted to give a little respect to this fantastic friend to my friends.

On that note, I’ll end this post here. Later that night we went to Prince’s Hot Chicken and saw Johnny Cash’s home, but more on that another day. Our hotel tomorrow has Wifi so unless I get wasted on Bourbon street, I should be able to post more in the coming days.

B, Bekka

October 17, 2014

Sweet Sounds Alabama

Muscle Shoals Road Trip

“Buy a chevy get a gun!” announced the radio commercial somewhere in Mississippi followed by another commercial with a sultry women’s voice enticing the listener, “ever wanted to get into exotic dancing, come down on talent night and make lots of money”.

Leaving Memphis we drove through Mississippi and Alabama to get to Muscle Shoals. The trees in Mississippi have vines growing all around them, connecting each tree with an overgrowth that sweeps down up and around. Men drove tractors on the side of the freeway keeping nature away from the road, pulling trailers that pushed down on the long grass and probably cut the vines.

I’d seen the documentary earlier in the year, and it motivated me further to start planning actual stops on our road trip. Bowerbird and I being music nerds, Muscle Shoals was a must see destination followed by Fame Studio which is around the corner and down the street. The documentary is a little confusing when it comes to the timeline of both studios, but Muscle Shoals Sound studio was established after the partners at Fame studio decided to go their separate ways.

Trying to be a prepared tourist, I messaged Muscle Shoals Sound earlier in the month to make sure they we’re open the 8th as I know the studios will be restored. I got a friendly reply back saying the studios were open till 2pm that day. Bowerbird and I do not arrive places early together, more like right on time. So when we of course left Memphis a little later than intended, we tried to be light hearted and joked the entire way to Muscle Shoals, looking at our GPS which read ETA 1:57 and every time we increased our arrival time I’d chime “we will have 6 minutes at the studio – damn now only 3 minutes – come on sweetheart I know we can get 9 minutes.”

As we drove up I saw someone from the studio come outside and remove the open sign from the front lawn. I had Bowerbird flip a Dukes of Hazard u-turn and hopped out of the car before we officially parked. Opening the door to the studio, the adrenaline was pumping as I asked the guide if we could still look around. She kindly said yes, her name being Georgia.

The Muscle Shoals tour is informal with a capital I. You walk around this hallow ground, where Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote music, Simon and Garfunkel recorded, the sound of a generation was shaped at your own speed. Pictures hung on the walls with the famed musicians working in the studio, writing is physically written on the wall like playful boys marking their spot. The toilet seat from which “Wild Horses” came into fruition. Georgia shared stores with us, explained the structure of the building, and how tiny it felt when it was originally in operation due to how large engineering equipment used to be. To think now most people just make music on their laptops, and before it took an attention to detail and agility to make sure everything was laid right because the last thing you can afford is a botched recording.

Apparently one of the Swampers haunts the property today, and most of the photos I took are blurry, so it makes you wonder. Although I didn’t feel any spooky spirit, not like I did in West Virginia but that’s another story. Here are a few of my favorite shots from Muscle Shoals.

After Muscle Shoals we visited Fame Studios for a tour. Still an operating studio, we only saw Studio B as they were recording in Studio A. The history of Fame was shared along with the stories that directly came from Studio B. My favorite being guitarist, Duane Allman camping outside Fame Studios until Rick the owner would give him a chance to perform and record. He slept in the parking lots for weeks till he was given a chance, and I just loved the story of commitment and roughing it out to get what you want. It’s a metaphor for all success, because the road to success sure isn’t comfortable.

Bekka an d Bowerbird at Muscle Shoals Sound

We are in South Carolina right now, and clearly in the second half of the trip, 3rd quarter. I’m trying not to get sad, while already on it. Mourn the loss of the trip, while I still have more states to go to I’ve never seen. Tonight is Atlanta, the day after possibly southern Alabama and next Monday – New Orleans! Ok I’m no longer mourning, I’m just excited. So many wonderful things have happened on this trip, even a few weird things. But altogether I’m living my dream, I’m seeing new sights. Yesterday I picked cotton off the side of the road. I’m experiencing life in a way I don’t normally get to, and that in itself is the greatest part of this adventure. It’s new.  For me a full life is achieved when you seek out new experiences, break routine, and get out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s a thrill seeker going to a silent yoga retreat or a shy introvert going on stage and belting out their voice. Variety is the spice of life they say, so let’s spice it up!

October 15, 2014

TN: Back to Memphis…

road trip Memphis

Memphis is the hometown to one of my favorite bands of all time, Lucero. They were the first band I ever saw by myself, and if my heart had a soundtrack it would be comprised of Lucero songs. I made it a mission of mine to visit 1372 Overton Park, not only the title of an album but an actual address in Memphis. Lucero’s musical roots in Memphis, it’s where the band lived and wrote music for years. A loft on top of a Thrift Store, taking a picture with the door to 1372 was my little piece of Lucero memorabilia. I asked the Sun Records tour guide what was near 1372 Overton Park, as I was a huge Lucero fan, and she lit up with the familiarity of talking about a wonderful mutual friend.  A few of the members had played on her own record. She recommended a few bars, but told us the place to go that night to potentially run into Lucero members was Buccaneer. A friend of Lucero and fellow musician, Dave Cuosar was playing at 11pm. I was completely committed to seeing this local act, and till then we filled our time with local Memphis finds.

We chose to experience the delicious ribs at Central BBQ. Their hot BBQ sauce still teases my phantom senses. The meat fell off the bone, but wasn’t too dry, only around the blackened edges that gave it an extra smoky flavor. Next we went to Beale Street. The tourist trap of Memphis. Its neon signs draw the out-of-towners like a moth to the flame. But once on it, aside from the jazz and blue grass music that fills the air outside stuffy bars, it is a dead street. We left just as soon as we arrived, walking up and down it once, and then hoping back in the car.

Beal Street Memphis

On ward we went to one of the other bars our Sun Tour guide suggested, we came across Overton Square. A colorful street lined with restaurants and bars, the buildings were really interesting. A mixture between the old and new, most of them had to either been built or renovated within the last ten years. Maintaining the structures charm and a certain amount of character most modern establishments’ lack. We pulled over to explore, stopping inside Boscos, a Tennessee brewing company. Enjoying a flight, we overheard two college students discussing their Knoxville campus. Sharing that the campus was socially segregated, and how some of their friends don’t know how to talk to black people. I was stunned, my ear glued to the conversation. I can’t fathom the idea of not knowing how to talk to someone because of their skin color. Language barrier yes, but a different ethnic background… it was my first real taste of the stereo-typical south everyone warns you about. This same person then went on to discuss how they didn’t care for Jewish people. Let’s just all agree, that as a society we should look at people as an individual and not respond to someone based on a skewed idea of a group of people.

memphis overton square

After the flight we headed to First Avenue which was one of the first venues Lucero played at. It was a pretty mellow night, and we took a seat at the bar. Watching the baseball game on the TV, those sitting at the counter bonded over a singer on the screen wearing a bizarre parade float styled hat upon her head.  Soaking in the vibe, when I told the bartender we were there as I was informed Lucero got their start there, he handed me an old guitar pick. “This could be from them, or perhaps another band, one thing for certain it’s old.” He went on to say how members of Lucero still come in, and the bassist was across the street at a different bar the night before.

Then on to the Buck, a dive bar located inside a yellow house. It was filled with cigarette smoke and illuminated with red lights. Set up on an area that was clearly designated for bands, but hardly a stage, was one guitar and a stack of amps. Arriving ten minutes till the show, we ordered drinks, took a seat and watched Dave come out of the shadows and take his seat next to the guitar. That night we got one of the best shows I’ve seen in 2014.  Dave Cousar is an artist with the guitar. He plays in a way that I’ve never heard before, making the guitar cry and wine, vibrate beneath his fingertips. An abstract painting of folk and rock, he is what Bob Dylan should be. I made up a story in my head that Dave and Dylan were at the same festival or audition, and by some random accident Dave couldn’t go on, letting Dylan take the stage and the slot for that sound. I think Dave is a little younger than Dylan, but man did his voice just weave through notes rising and falling. Mid-set he paused, and aside from my enjoyment of the music I was getting really sleepy. We told Dave how much we loved his set and he humbly thanked us, even gave me his own I just saw the guys in Lucero story.

dave cousar memphis

That night I didn’t see any of the members of Lucero, but I met them through Memphis. I began to gain a better sense of the band through friends, acquaintances, the musicians they play with for fun. Driving up and down the same streets they do, and talking with the same friendly faces they know to be familiar. If I wasn’t going to see Lucero live in Memphis, that night was the best I could have asked for. I look forward to name dropping Dave to Ben at The Echo in November.