Archive for October, 2007
I had the opportunity to visit Wilmington this Wednesday. I checked Chowhound for recs, but they all seemed to be about 15 minutes from where I was going. A co-worker asked a friend for a rec, and she suggested the Water Street Restaurant. I missed it while driving along Water Street, so I ended up at Le Catalan, a little French cafe.
Le Catalan is very well located – it’s on the Riverwalk overlooking the Cape Fear River. I was able to park across the street for free, so that was a bonus. I had the ham and cheese feuillete with a small side salad. I loooved the feuillete! Warm, flaky pastry with meat and cheese – how could that be bad? To me, a salad is generally a salad (unless it’s iceberg lettuce – ick!), so I don’t have much to say about that. I meant to avoid dessert, but the sweet server informed me that it’s not to be missed. I think I’m as much as mousse snob as I am a tiramisu snob. I liked it, but I didn’t think it was great. It was as rich as I think mousse should be, but I really didn’t like the consistency. It was kind of… well, chewy. I don’t like the kind that’s too fluffy or too pudding-like either. This mousse was close to being correct – I guess maybe it was overworked for my taste.
After lunch, I had time to walk around on the Riverwalk a bit. Then I drove around a tiny bit on my way out of town. I saw a bunch more cute restaurants, bakeries, and other places to grab a bite. I definitely hope to visit again sometime – maybe catch a filming of One Tree Hill (yeah, right).
More pics are here.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
220 Union Square NW
Hickory, NC 28601
On my way home from Asheville, I stopped in Hickory for lunch. I can think of at least three other trips to Hickory, once with my parents and twice for one act play competitions in high school. It’s funny – Hickory has a much smaller and quieter downtown area than Asheville, but it’s population is almost five times that of Asheville. I guess the difference is that Asheville is very service oriented due to the tourist industry while Hickory is focused on manufacturing. Fun fact: forty percent of the world’s fiber optic cable is manufactured in Hickory.
I found lots of chain restaurants, a couple of Mexican places, and a couple of Chinese buffets in my search for the downtown area, but I kept holding out. Finally, I found the little main street. I only found one restaurant open, Table 220. The cute tables outside were full, so I headed inside. The servers and hostess ignored me for a couple of minutes and finally asked what I wanted. I said I was hoping for lunch. *rolling eyes* The hostess then seated me and brought me an ice water.
I waited for about ten minutes. I was just fumbling in my purse for a pen to leave a note about ignoring customers when a waitress finally came over to me to ask if anyone had taken my order. “Nope. Everyone’s just ignoring me.” She was actually really sweet. I’m not sure why she ended up waiting on me; I seemed to be in another girl’s section. Anyway, she did take my order.
While I was waiting, I looked around. Although the sound system was having some annoying issues, the atmosphere was cute. They have black tablecloths topped with brown paper, neat light fixtures, and oil paintings for sale. The other patrons were mostly families having lunch after church.
The Sunday brunch menu was pretty good – French toast, eggs, sandwiches, meatloaf, soup, etc. I ordered a half sandwich, mixed greens, and cup of chili. The chili was good – a little spicy with some visible veggies (no corn! thank goodness). My sandwich was turkey on grilled sourdough with bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. The salad was a nice lettuce mix with shreds of carrot and a homemade balsamic dressing. Other than the bad service, it was a nice little stop.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Mount Mitchell Restaurant
2388 State Highway 128
Burnsville, NC 28714
On Saturday, my parents, my brother, his smokin’ hot new girlfriend, and I got up pretty early and headed for the parkway. We arrived at Mount Mitchell about 10 am. Boy, was it windy! And chilly – about 20 degrees colder than Asheville. Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak in the Appalachian Mountains and the highest peak west of the Mississippi River on the mainland of the U.S. The weather is more like the weather of southeastern Canada than the southeastern U.S. I always feel so sad when we visit and I see all the trees dying from the acid rain.
We had brunch at the restaurant there. The food was, for the most part, mediocre. The pancakes were fine; the syrup was awful (fake); the bacon was surprisingly good and plentiful. The service was terrible (it’s always either fair or awful). I asked two different waitresses to take a picture for us. They both said “in a minute” and walked away, never to return. That’s right – our server dropped off our food and never came back. *shaking head* Oh well.
The point of visiting the restaurant is the view. We had an amazing day for it; we could see for miles. That’s pretty rare since they get rain 8 of 10 days and the pollution usually limits the view as well. I just wish we’d arrived a bit earlier – we overheard other patrons discussing a bear they’d spotted!
On our way back to Asheville, we stopped for the little hike from the parking lot to the upper and lower summits at Craggy Gardens. That’s one of my favorite hikes in the area, especially when the rhododendron are blooming. (Graveyard Fields is my other favorite.)
P.S. I’m now 1/10 finished!
Thursday & Friday, October 18-19, 2007
Grove Park Inn
290 Macon Avenue
When asked where to go in North Carolina, one should always reply, “Asheville, of course!” At least, that’s what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. She’s one smart cookie! Asheville is, in my opinion, the greatest place on Earth. Anyone can fit in – there are freaks of all sort, from Republicans (haha – couldn’t resist!) and lawyers to hippies and goths. The downtown area has undergone a great revitalization and continues to become more and more exciting, with great restaurants, botiques, and art galleries. And no one should resist the lure of the Blue Ridge Parkway, with countless overlooks and hiking paths.
I had the honor of meeting Justice Ginsburg on Thursday evening at Grove Park Inn and hearing her speak about life and the law on Thursday and Friday. She was a wonderful speaker. The most interesting things I learned: (1) She and JUSTICE SCALIA are great friends; they dine together often and always celebrate New Years Eve together. (2) Retired Justices Rehnquist and O’Connor DATED while they were in law school together! P.S. He graduated first in their class at Stanford and she was third.
About the food – it was about what you’d expect for a mass of people at a nice resort. Thursday evening we had a ceasar salad, chicken and filet, mashed potatoes, and asparagus and carrots. My filet was probably medium well (I prefer medium rare), but it was surprisingly tender. Everything else was fine. For lunch on Friday, we (non-vegetarians) had chicken with some sort of seasoning and sauce, risotto, and a little salad. Not bad. I liked the lunch dessert, berries and ice cream, better than what I’d gotten from the dessert buffet the night before. I very much enjoyed the company during both meals. I had dinner with 9 strangers, including a very sweet mom. I had lunch with several strangers and the father of one of my best friends in middle school. I couldn’t take a picture at either meal without a lot of strange looks, so I offer a picture with Justice Ginsburg (I think the photographer took too long to snap the picture, so she was turning back to talk to some other people) and…
Since my brother brought his smokin’ hot new girlfriend into town for the weekend, we all went over to Grove Park for drinks in the afternoon. (If you care, the cosmo was good, and they have Blue Moon on draft.) This is how I recommend enjoying Grove Park – sitting on the patio, enjoying the view of Asheville and the surrounding mountains. It’s really one of the best views in Asheville.
P.S. If you’re disappointed that I didn’t get to go to one of Asheville’s great restaurants or dives, don’t worry – I’ll be going back and will post again!
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Yum Yum Better Ice Cream
1219 Spring Garden Street
Greensboro, North Carolina
Since I was on my way to Asheville for the weekend, I decided to stop in Greensboro for lunch. I planned a visit to Yum Yum (est. 1906) based on some recommendations from Chowhounds.
After initially going in the wrong direction down Spring Garden Street, I found Yum Yum smack dab in the middle of the UNCG campus. I wasn’t too surprised when I walked in and found mostly college students. It’s a cute little dive – booths that look like they’re from the ’70s and other ancient things. After running to the ATM in the parking lot (cash only – arrg!), I ordered a hot dog, the only option for lunch, and a Cheerwine. I don’t normally drink soda anymore, but I felt I had to have a Cheerwine there. It’s a Carolina thing.
My hot dog was fluorescent pink! I’d seen dogs that color before, but I’d always been too put off by the color to try one. Luckily my fears were groundless and the hot dog was pretty tasty.
Since Yum Yum is an ice cream company, I had to try that too. I got a medium cup, the smallest way to get two flavors, of strawberry and butterscotch. It reminded me of Hershey ice cream – very creamy and not hugely flavorful. That’s my least favorite style of ice cream, so I wasn’t too excited.
When I finished, I drove around town a bit. The UNCG campus was beautiful and downtown Greensboro was adorable. There were lots of cute little shops and restaurants, which reminded me of Greenville, South Carolina. I also spotted the famous Woolworth building. On my way back to I-40, I saw lots of gorgeous old houses and nice little parks. Greensboro is a lovely town and much more interesting than I’d expected.
Friday, October 12, 2007
I had the pleasure of attending the state fair on a Friday evening with Jason, Keith, and Tara. The plan was to eat as much as possible and see lots of animals. I’d count it a success.
1. Corn dog: I’ve always loved corn dogs. Growing up, I would beg my mom to take me to Corn Dog 7 in the Asheville Mall. I called it Corn Dog Heaven and still mourn its closing. Given this long love of corn dogs, that was first on my list. I wanted a foot long, but I got a regular so I would have room in my belly for other treats. My corn dog (from a stand also selling Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and brauts) was delicious even though it couldn’t compete with Corn Dog Heaven. Side note: The fruit punch was awful.
2. Frozen Cheesecake Dipped in Chocolate: This wasn’t on my original list of items to consume, but it should’ve been. Delish! I’ll look for it again next year.
3. Bunnies: There were lots of bunnies in the rabbit building. I didn’t realize how many types there were. Anya would’ve freaked, but we all enjoyed them.
4. Hogway Speedway: I love watching goats and pigs race for Cheez Its. Hilarious! Keith got a cinnamon sugar pretzel, which he kindly shared. It wasn’t quite as good as Auntie Anne’s but worth eating.
5. Al’s French Fries: I love french fries even more than corn dogs, so I wanted to find some really good fries, hopefully seasoned, curly, waffle, or some combination thereof. I thought I was in luck when we happened upon Al’s French Fries. I asked for a regular order of curly fries and waited… and waited… and waited… After about 5 minutes, the guy handed me a large order (he thought I was cute). After getting a nice pool of ketchup and Texas Pete’s, I dug in, only to be disappointed. The fries were soggy and limp. Of course that didn’t stop me from eating them. *rolling eyes*
6. Livestock: We saw cows, mules, donkeys, horses, and nekkid sheep. The sheep were very friendly. We also saw chickens and turkeys, including babies! The baby chicks were adorable. They don’t let people hold them anymore because people apparently don’t know how to hold them gently and were squashing them.
7. Cinnamon Roll: None of us could resist the huge yummy looking cinnamon rolls, and I’m glad we didn’t. They were good! They reminded me of my mom’s homemade rolls. I wish I hadn’t had so many other plans, because I also wanted to try the mini-donuts near the cinnamon roll place. Oh well, it’s something to look forward to next year.
8. Fried Stuff: Finally! We found the stand with fried Coke, fried pb&j, and fried candy bars. I got the fried Coke and fried pb&j. The Coke was served in a cup and topped with whipped cream and a cherry. I thought it was pretty good – tasted like Coke flavored funnel cake. The fried pb&j tasted exactly as I expected; I just wish I’d been able to find the jelly before my last bite! (Note: My last bite didn’t finish the “sandwich.” There was still jelly to be had.) Keith and Tara got fried Milky Ways and Tara let me have some of hers. It was so weird! Fried on the outside and ooey-gooey melted candy bar on the inside. I am not sure if I’ll try that again – though the fried Reeses peanut butter cups were tempting.
9. Village of Yesteryear: A co-worker told me that Old Salem usually has a booth in the Village to sell their cookies and Moravian spice cake (one of my favorite things!), but they weren’t in there this year. I was disappointed. The other booths were neat, especially the wood carving people.
10. Education & Commercial Buildings: Since we’d eaten so much, we decided we’d get weighed to see if we’d gained any weight. Tara and I guessed about right for ourselves, but Jason underestimated (I bet he forgot to take into account clothes and shoes). I found the amazing candy apple stand (I got an “ET” apple – covered in caramel, rolled in peanut butter chips, drizzled with chocolate – loved it!), got an NC State sticker, had my ring cleaned, found the maple sugar cotton candy (good, but I prefer the regular kind), visited the Democrats’ booth, and got teased by the Republicans. Good times.
11. Leaving: We perused some grills and hot tubs, then Jason and I headed back to the car while we watched the fireworks.
12. What I Missed: I didn’t get a ham biscuit from the Methodists, but they’re around every year so that can wait. I also didn’t get any NC State ice cream, but the four of us plan to visit campus at some point in the near future to eat it on an emptier belly.
Pics are here.
I kind of hate to tell you about my hotel. It was so great that I want to keep it as a secret for myself. Hotel Mela was really terrific. This was my sixth trip to NYC, so I was expecting another teeny run-down room for my $200 despite the good reviews on Trip Advisor. I also expected that I wouldn’t be able to get into my room when I arrived at about 9 am. I was very pleasantly surprised! I went right up to my spacious and well-appointed room. I couldn’t believe my good luck, especially considering that I could almost see Bubba Gump’s on Times Square from the front door.
By the time I finished settling in Robert hadn’t arrived yet, so I set off to do some shopping. He arrived not long after, and we hoofed it over to the Gershwin to try our luck at the “Wicked” lottery. That was a no-go, so we snagged “Spelling Bee” tickets back at the TKTS booth. We had lunch at John’s Pizzeria, which receives rave reviews from fans of New York style pizza. I thought it was pretty good – for New York pizza. I’d rather have Chicago style pizza. I tried to get chosen to be a part of the Bee, but they didn’t pick me. So Robert and I settled in and enjoyed the show. It was just as good as I remembered from when I’d seen it in Boston – not surprising since all or almost all of the cast was the same cast I’d seen before! I loved them. After the “Bee,” we rested at the hotel. I’d been up since about 4:30 am and we were going to be up pretty late, so it was a necessity. We wandered about some and then headed for dinner at Trattoria Trecolori. It was reasonably priced for New York – and pretty good! I’d go there again. Finally – “RENT”! It seemed like everyone in the audience screamed when “Mark” and “Roger” came onstage. They were so great! The rest of the cast was pretty terrific too. My only complaint was that Tamyra Gray (playing Mimi, from American Idol) was uneven. I was also bummed that the stage door was a mob scene afterwards. I really wanted to get Mark and Anthony’s autographs, but it looked like it was going to be as bad as the whole Joshua Jackson thing in London. We headed on out to the IFC Center.
Ah, Buffy. I cannot adequately express how much I love that show – the musical episode in particular. I was so tickled when I learned they’re showing the musical once a month in NY Rocky Horror style. We had a little issue with the tickets (I’d used a disposable credit card number since I bought the tickets online; they allegedly couldn’t print our tickets without the actual card), but we got in line about 11 pm. Yes, there was already a line of about 30 people ahead of us, and the show was sold out. We chatted a bit with the other Buffy freaks fans, accepted compliments for our t-shirts, and picked up our goody bags. Finally, it was time! I thought it was terrific, and I cannot wait to go again. There was just so much going on (from yelling “SHUT UP, DAWN!” to blowing bubbles and playing the kazoo) that I didn’t get to properly watch the show! They were showing two more episodes following a session of Buffy trivia, but we were too tired to hang on. We caught a cab back and hit our respective sacks. (Side note: Thank goodness we went when we did! Fox has pulled the license.)
Sunday was another long but fun day. We had breakfast at Westway Diner (standard diner fare, nothing to write home about or repeat, not sure what the fuss is about). We’d gone there mainly because it would be fairly quick so we could grab a bus to the Cloisters. When an M4 finally showed up, we found out the bus ride would take about an hour! Ack! We decided to visit the Central Park Zoo instead. I was disappointed that it’s not free anymore, but I was still excited to finally visit. Some of the exhibits made me feel bad because I didn’t think they had enough room, but most of them were pretty good. I loved the rainforest area with all the birds. We headed back to Times Square, grabbed tickets for “Xanadu,” and then had a snack at Junior’s (tourist joint, but good). After the show, we went for an early dinner at Le Madeleine, a French place on 43rd. It was terrific! Both Robert and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I just wish we’d had time for dessert, but we had to rush off to get home.
Pics are here.
Last night I had a dream. I found myself in a
desert place called Cyberland XANADU. Actually, I just watched the movie for the first time. I couldn’t believe my own eyes. That really may have been the worst movie ever. And not in a good way like “Euro Trip.” The plot line was bizarre: muse comes to Earth through mural on a building and inspires starving artist to help her ex (from 40 years earlier) open a roller disco. Huh? Oh yeah, and they go around on roller skates a lot. My “favorite” parts were the special effects – the muses would occasionally glow like neon and then rocket off into the air. That, combined with the transition effects, made me feel like I know what an acid trip is like. Oh, and I’m still not sure what the deal was with Olivia Newton John’s accent. Or why the lead guy wore that particular outfit to go ask Zeus for his daughter. Or why Gene Kelly agreed to be in the movie at all.
You’re wondering why I’m writing a movie review on my travel blog. Come on, didn’t you know? “Xanadu” is now a Broadway musical. No joke. I met my friend Robert for a whirlwind trip to New York back in mid-August. The main point of the trip was to see Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp back in “Rent” and to catch the “Buffy” musical episode on the big screen. We managed to get tickets to the Sunday matinee of “Xanadu” before we left. Robert was lucky – he’d seen the movie before, so he knew we were in for something truly bizarre and possibly awful. I was clueless but intrigued by the idea of a musical based on a bomb of a movie. As bad as the movie was, the musical was awesome. Yes, deliberately bad awesome in that “Euro Trip” way. They’ve done a bit more with the plot, giving Kira’s muse sisters actual roles instead of just flying neon, and they’ve changed the language so that the whole thing is quirky and fun. They included lots of quips directed at the movie – mentioning how odd it was that the muse randomly had an Australian accent and addressing the magic of roller skates. Kerry Butler and the rest of the cast were hilarious; I loved the bits poking fun at musical theatre; and I couldn’t stop laughing when they said 1980 was the year “all inspiration left the arts.” As much as I was appalled by the movie last night, I really would recommend catching the show on Broadway. Just don’t demand too much of it. Remember the movie it’s based on – and keep in mind that it was originally to be an off-Broadway show. If you can’t catch it on Broadway, don’t fret! They’re talking about taking it to London and on tour.
Are you wondering about the rest of my New York weekend? You should be! More to come.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Roadside Raw Bar & Grill
1193 Duck Road
On our way home, Jason and I decided we were ready for a late lunch in Duck, North Carolina. Duck is a cute little beach town. The little shops are adorable and the homes are charming. Duck is similar to Corolla – a little beach town of about 500 permanent residents. Duck, however, is actually incorporated.
We passed several places – everything was jam packed due to the jazz festival that day. Finally, I spotted a little place that looked too interesting to pass. Roadside Raw Bar & Grill is in what looks like a friendly little house tucked behind some bushes. We found a parking space nearby and walked over. The place was hopping! Not only was it the day of the jazz festival, but Roadside was having an all-you-can-eat oyster feast. Since the tables outside were full and we weren’t there for oysters, they seated us in a little room downstairs. It reminded me of my parents’ home with the bead board and pretty books.
Everything the other diners were having when we came in looked very good, so I was a bit torn over what to order. I finally decided on the meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and fresh veggies – only $6! Jason ordered the prime rib sandwich with pasta salad ($8). I was surprised when my meal came out – it was so artfully presented! Then I started eating – yumm. The meatloaf had real flavor – not just your standard meat, onions, and ketchup. It was very good. The mashed potatoes turned out to be sweet potatoes with who knows what mixed in. Yes, I have no idea what was in those potatoes, but, boy, were they good. The veggies (carrots, asparagus, onions) were nicely done too.
Needless to say, I was highly impressed with my meal at Roadside. What a value! I wouldn’t hesitate to stop there again. Neither, it seems, would this New York Times writer.
I know a few people who are planning road trips in the near future, and that got me thinking – are there any neat websites that help people plan road trips? Sure enough, there are!
RoadTrip America provides lots of tips, some articles about various road trips, and (best of all imo) a forum. They even have a special section of articles about FOOD! Road trippers might also appreciate the fuel cost calculator.
Road Trip USA is another neat site. This website offers 11 suggested routes and provides info on various stops along the way.
While some of these road trips sound good, I can think of a better one (imo): Germany’s Castle Road. From Manheim to Prague is 975 km, and there are about 70 castles and forts along the route. I’d also have to consider Germany’s Romantic Road, the Fairy Tale Road (also in Germany), or – best of all – the European Route of Brick Gothic Architecture.