Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Regional Chain Review: Bar-B-Cutie

Nashville isn't on the way to Chicago when traveling from North Carolina.  I know this and with a Geography degree I'm qualified to know this.  As a Nielsen surveyor I also know that Nashville is delicious, two years of being very familiar with a menu more than qualifies me to make the generalization that the South knows how to eat.  
Being that gas was paid for and that Tennessee roads are virtually pothole free I made my way to Nashville's Northeastern corner, one of my homes away from home.  For over 3 glorious months I lived on the Elm Hill Pike near the Donelson Pike.  The best barbecue is Jack's on Broadway along Music Row, the easiest is Bar-B-Cutie.
The sad truth is that as a typical American consumer I often find myself wanting some beef brisket, a steak sandwich and/or a dangerous amount of pork.  A trip to Jack's requires finding a downtown parking spot, walking, line waiting, walking again, sitting and finally enjoying the finest in slow cooking the South has to offer.  The folks at Bar-B-Cutie streamline the process to pulling into the parking lot, dodging the elderly that can be found dining from dawn till dusk, shouting an order at the sign, pulling forward to snatch the bag with a rolling stop.  Why anyone goes to the Jack in the Box across the street is a mystery to me.  

Monday, February 16, 2009

RagApple Lassie: the gem of the Yadkin River Valley

Here lies a blog entry that may offend my loyal base of readers as it's a bold step forward into uncharted waters of class, sophistication and moderation.  What it lacks in trans fat, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and paper place mats it makes up for with nothing more than delicious legitimacy.  While the tastes of McDonalds are crafted in a lab using a arsenal of artificial ingredients the sweet nectar of RagApple Lassie is crafted by this man...
Don't let that deluxe background fool you, Frank operates out of a barn.  Unlike many of the local wineries his land wasn't purchased because of the southward facing slopes with the ideal soil conditions to mimic the Italian countryside.  After three generations of farming cattle, tobacco and corn, the farm on the corner of Reynolda and Rockford roads in Booneville, NC made the transition to an estate.  
While the Yadkin River Valley is home to many wineries there is something about RagApple Lassie that stands out.  Other wineries I had previously visited phoned in an air European influence constructing their replica Chateaus and Villas where trailers once stood.  A novice to any wine grander than a Boone's Farm or Night Train finds these environments unsettling.  As the wines are sampled hosts read from a glossary of  $5 words which lead the conversation into a series of nods.  
'I find the Sangiovese brings hints of cinnamon and violets which add to the bright flavors of red plum in this thin skinned vintage that teases the palate.'
' Our Vermentino varietal produces a clean mineral note revealing layers of citrus enhancing the palate flavors of honey and pear '
While these are indeed fine wines I found it a rather pretentious way to spend an afternoon.  This writer has other concerns to attend to, not about to spend time ruminating aftertastes and pondering the imponderables.  
Frank's winery operates in a more direct method of explanation.  
'This salmon colored vixen, just as soft, gentle, and tempting as your "First Blush..."
'Just like good sex, this delightful full bodied jewel of a wine teases the palate'
'This here makes for a real good back porch sippin' wine'
The RagApple wine list reads like a mix of Wine Aficionado, a Jack Daniels commercial, and a romance novel.  For the low price of $8 you get a healthy sampling of 12 wines, a souvenir wine glass, and all the southern stories you'd ever care to hear.  
While it may just be a glorified barn, this barn was voted a finalist for the best new winery in the USA by the Wine Appreciation Guild.  Where else can you walk into a winery and meet the owner who asks if we are here for the wine or for the cattleman's meeting starting in a half hour.  If you're ever so fortunate as to travel in Western North Carolina, just a few miles east of Booneville you can taste excellent wines, get a pretty healthy buzz, and a whole mess of Southern culture all for the low introductory price of $8.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Paradise Park Trailer Resort

As I drive home to Illinois and make the transition from employed to barely working I move from red soil to black dirt.  On the first day I went from Yadkinville, North Carolina to Nashville, TN. I can think of no place better to adjust to a lower standard of living than...
Yessir, the Paradise Park Trailer Resort is a local institution.  While some bars enjoy outlandish themes or posh trappings the resort keeps things low key.  An aging Camaro doubles as a bench, Astro Turf absorbs the spilled beer while vintage console TVs serve as end tables.  They have an endless number of beers on tap but everyone seems to be drinking $6 pitchers of Natty Light accompanied by tater tots and funnel cakes from the built in carney trailers.  
The music is a mix of Southern rock and drinking songs by local bands.  Being music city, Nashville really hosts a higher level of talent than the typical bar band of middle America.  Upstairs is the best version of dueling pianos I have ever seen and two doors down is a honky tonk that looks to be a favorite venue for couples to get into fights.  
I give this bar my highest endorsement, if My Name is Earl was a bar, this would without rival be it.  Paradise Park is best summed up by its bathroom graffiti "Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to drive."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Choice Signs I've Ignored

With work drying up in the Southeast the blog has become a clip show of sorts.  In this line of work it's necessary to ignore signs.  If I yielded to caution nothing would ever get done, behold signs I've brushed off in the last two years.
Is this some kind of threat? 
Between Vegas and Salt Lake there are some deals on cheap land
Men at work in Sandy Utah
In Spanish Fork Utah, Cows are sticking it to suburban sprawl. I ignored the smell and resumed with the days work.
Houses on Manlove Ave were selling slow even before the recession
Lehigh Acres, FL has a real panther problem... but panthers aren't the worst of the problems
A October storm on Mt. Hood
Unspecified attack animals patrolling a Monroeville, PA home
Rural Pennsylvania Halloween 07'

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Regional Chain Review: Captain D's

I've always lived by a simple rule that fast food seafood was a dish best not served at all.  Long John Silvers and I haven't been on very good terms ever since the Summer of 2001 at Spring Hill Mall in Dundee.  Fast forward seven and a half years... I broke my word and chanced the catch from a drive-thru that resembles a sea shanty.First, it must be understood that Captain D is indeed a Captain.  Not Deckhand D's or anything of that sort.  Second, and this is a big deal... Captain D's scored a unheard of 100.5% on the North Carolina sanitary test for commercial food service kitchens.  If there ever was a time to brave the fast food fishes it would be at a kitchen that earns extra credit.  Plundered from the depths of the sea only to be flash frozen, breaded and dropped once again to the bottom of the Captain's deep fryer... This meal was a unsettling tan in color.  Everything was extremely deep fried and there was enough of it to feed a navy.  After this seafood delight I'll be good waiting 15 years until I chose to indulge once again.  I will stick to dining in establishments that refrain from serving through a window and offering kids meals.  The kind with atmosphere, service, chowder and iced tea.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Regional Chain Review: Biscuitville

Times are tough, the economic forecast is overcast, I'm losing my job...  But you know what makes everything better? Biscuitville!
One taste of a #2 combo meal with a sweet tea and blueberry muffin on the side makes all of the bad feelings disappear, I see the rainbow I've been praying for and realize it will be a bright and sunshiny day.  I've searched high and low for a solid breakfast fast food chain.  No more missing out on breakfast and being forced to order lunch.  
The Biscuitville I frequent is as Southern as a Waffle House.  Instead of the meth addicts at the Waffle House Biscuitville is staffed by grandmotherly looking women.  The only fault I find with the place is the clientele.  A entourage of elderly biscuit enthusiasts clutter the dining room complaining out loud about the news today.  They triple park their Crown Victorias across parking lot lines and reflect back on Sarah Palin being a breath of fresh air.  
The Biscuit folks have come up with some real choice graphics to promote the euphoria and bliss a biscuit with cheese, egg and bacon can provide.  Unemployment? Not a worry, I'll just travel on down to Biscuitville and get a job carrying a rolling pin, or catching giant eggs.  Just drive Southeast and look for the giant rolling pin shaped sign welcoming you to flavor country.