Monday, February 28, 2011

Seafood At Almost Heaven South - Grilled Oysters

I don’t know if this everywhere, but Bev signed us up for a discount coupon place called – same as Groupon I believe. While we seem to get a deal offer from each of them every day, we’ve only bought one – seafood. Around here, the selection of good seafood is pretty sparse, and a place in Knoxville called The Shrimp Dock is the best I know of – but pretty pricey. However, when I could buy $100 worth for $50, I just could not pass it up, so Bev and I went shopping. I made a list of some things I wanted, including lobster tails, but at $32.50/lb, my $100 would go too fast and I wanted too many other things, plus Bev isn’t much of a lobster fan.

After carefully studying their inventory, we decided on 2# of frozen jumbo lump crabmeat, 2 dozen shucked oysters for frying, 2 dozen fresh oysters for grilling, 2 dozen little nick clams for steaming and grilling, a nice piece of wild caught Canadian salmon, and two flounder fillets.

Since most of it was fresh, we decided to eat as much as we could before freezing any, so the first meal was to be grilled oysters for an appetizer and fried oysters and cucumber salad for the meal. I’m not an experienced oyster shucker (bad actually), having only done it a time or two, and didn’t have the best tools - heavy duty garden knife for getting them open, paring knife for cutting muscles, pot holder for a glove.

I went through all of them all and managed to get a little more than half open - some really nice ones.

I’ve seen them in contests on TV and the proshuckers open several per minute – I just reversed it and used the same number of minutes per oyster. If I had a day job, I’d sure keep it and the Oyster Shuckers of America do not have to consider me a threat for their job. Plus, I’d probably starve to death on an oyster diet, as I likely spent more energy opening one that I got back eating it. I’m going to get a lesson and the correct tools before I buy fresh oysters again.

I’ve eaten grilled oysters at Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House (Paula Deens brother) in Savannah, Ga and from Acme Oyster House in NOLA and I preferred Bubba’s as I thought Acme had too much stuff on theirs and they cooked them way too long. But rather than use Bubba’s recipe, I decided to try a different one from I basically went by it and here’s what I actually did:

1/4 tsp dried parsley (didn’t have any fresh)
2 tsp garlic through the garlic press
6 tbsp butter - slightly melted
1/8 tsp black pepper
Salt omitted as I used salted butter

I mixed these together an hour early so the parsley could rehydrate and the mix set up a little. I added a heavy ½ tsp to each oyster (recipe was for 24, but I only had 18), sprinkled on a little Emeril’s Essence, and headed for the preheated grill. Getting some good smoke from the grill as some of the butter dripped onto the charcoal.

I was expecting little shriveled up, cooked to death oysters, like we had at Acme, but to my surprise, if you keep an eye on them, you can end up with nice plumb, but cooked-through oysters. I think they cooked for about 7 minutes, but that is very fire dependent. I had another senior moment and forgot to add the cheese to the butter, so I grated-on some Parmesan just after removing them from the grill. I think I prefer this as it all stayed with the oyster rather than running off into the grill. Here’s my plate and I dipped the bread in each shell to soak up the liquid as I ate the oyster.

My understanding is that Drago’s in Metairie is “The Place” to go for grilled oysters, but we didn’t make it there and I can’t remember those from Bubba’s that well, but I would almost guarantee, if you ate these, you wouldn’t bother with another oyster house – I liked these as well as anything I’ve ever blogged about and they will surely be on the menu when Rhett comes home from Afghanistan (he loved Acme’s), and for the other kids upon request.

I’m definitely going to learn how to open them because they were worth every agonizing minute I spent on each of them and with the butter and stuff, I probably could survive on them. Since they were plump enough to be filling, we just had these and cucumber salad and forgot about the fried ones. But tune in day after tomorrow for day 2 of seafood.

Have a great day, thanks for stopping by, and can you tell I liked these.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Few Breakfasts From Leftovers

When Bev returned from Gatlinburg, she had a BBQ’d chicken breast that needed to be used, so she made me a breakfast offer.

An omelet made with the diced chicken, spinach, pimentos, onions, black olives and topped with smoked Gouda and green onions.

After the semi-disaster with the smoked Pork Wellington, Bev saved a piece of the pastry and a small slice of pork. The pastry got heated in the toaster oven to re-crisp and the pork went into a scramble with sautéed green onions and two beaten eggs.

I know I'm pretty predictable when it comes to breakfasts and I just stuck with my pattern for the leftover salmon cakes.  I had a little problem with one of the eggs.

I thought all three meals were very good, even though I would have omitted the Raspberry Chipotle Sauce from the second one if I could – don’t think sweet and eggs work for me.

Each meal gave me a good start to the busy day ahead.

Thanks for visiting Almost Heaven South and I love your comments.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Grilled Shrimp And Veggies

I keep a big list of dishes I want to try from your blogs and pick out the next 4-5 days worth as a loose plan. When Bev asked this morning if I had a plan for dinner, I read the recipes for several and she didn’t say yes to anything. When I asked if she had something in mind, she said Cajun grilled shrimp and veggie kebabs. We decided to season the shrimp and veggies the same which meant a light spray with Pam followed by a coat of kicked up (I added 1 tbsp of cayenne to the regular recipe) Emeril’s Essence. We’ve made this shrimp recipe a couple of times but this was its first use on veggies. Here’s everything ready for the grill – we wanted leftovers.

To grill, I cooked the first side for about a minute, then flipped and brushed the top side with a butter sauce of:

1 stick butter
Juice from I juicy lemon
2 good dashes of Worcestershire sauce

I flipped about every 1 ½ minutes and brushed with the sauce each time. I cooked the veggies first, moved them off the coals and cooked the shrimp. Here’s the finished platter and my plate - barely enough for the two of us :-).

We both thought everything was delicious and Bev especially liked the tomatoes and commented “I love this meal.” She said she was concerned the veggies were burned, but decided they were perfectly caramelized. I really enjoy cooking a meal she likes.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Friday, February 25, 2011


I like to read this every once in awhile to recalibrate my thinking.  While it's humorous, the point it makes is pretty hard hitting.  It's a conversation between God and St. Francis and if you haven't read it, you may want to.

"God: Francis, you know all about gardens and nature; what in the world is going on down there in the U.S.? What happened to the Dandelions, violets, thistles and the stuff I started eons ago? I had a Perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of Soil, withstand drought, and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honeybees, and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of color by now. All I see are patches of green.

St. Francis: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. They are called the Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

God: Grass? But it is so boring, it's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, bees or birds, only grubs and sod worms. It's temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want grass growing there?

St. Francis: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it has grown a little, they cut it....sometimes two times a week.

God: They cut it? Do they bale it like hay?

St. Francis: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

God: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

St. Francis: No sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

God: Now let me get this straight...they fertilize it to make it grow and when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

St. Francis: Yes, sir.

God: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

St. Francis: You aren't going to believe this Lord, but when the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

God: What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer.

In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep the moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves become compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.

St. Francis: You'd better sit down, Lord. As soon as the leaves fall, the Suburbanites rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

God: No way! What do they do to protect the shrubs and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

St Francis: After throwing the leaves away, they go out and buy something called mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

God: And where do they get this mulch?

St. Francis: They cut down the trees and grind them up to make mulch.

God: Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. Saint Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

St. Catherine: "Dumb and Dumber," Lord. It's a really stupid movie about....

God: Never mind--I think I just heard the whole story from Saint Francis!"

One change I've made - leaves are never hauled off to the woods, but are chopped up by the mower and blown around the trees and shrubs - not as pretty as mulch, but it's free and no trees are ground up to do it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Smoked Salmon Cakes

From yesterdays comments - The garden is only 35' x 90' so not that big.

I still had a couple of pieces of smoked salmon in the freezer left from BBQ day and I decided to see how they would work as salmon patties. I looked at several recipes and they all called for either canned or barely cooked fish, but mine was already fully cooked. I’d saved a recipe for tuna cakes which used mashed potatoes rather than bread crumbs as the filler and I thought the moisture in the potatoes would work better with this salmon, plus it was different and I’ve never had it. So I used the salmon to tuna ratio from this recipe, but the spices typical of salmon cakes.

I found a recipe for salmon cakes by Ina Garten, who’s cooking really appeals to me, and since it had several of the same ingredients as in my salmon spread, I decided to go with it.

Adapted from Ina Garten

12 oz smoked salmon, rough chopped (Ina's recipe called for 8oz, but I had 12)
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (no salt if using salted butter)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup small-diced red onion 
1 1/2 cups small-diced celery
1/2 cup small-diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup small-diced yellow bell pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons crab boil seasoning (I used Zaterain's Pro Boil)
1 pound red potatoes, boiled, mashed with skin on, cooled to room temperature
1/2 cup good mayonnaise (I’ve switched from Hellman’s to Duke’s after 60 years)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup cornmeal flour

Place 2 tablespoons of the butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, the onion, celery, red and yellow bell peppers, parsley, capers, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, crab boil seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large saute pan over medium-low heat and cook until the vegetables are soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Add the mashed potatoes, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs to a large bowl and mix well.

Add the vegetable mixture and corn flour and mix well. 

After tasting, I decided I had some very good potato pancakes without the salmon.

Add the chilled salmon to the bowl and mix to get the desired size of salmon pieces. 

Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Shape into 1/4 - 1/3 cup) cakes.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. In batches, add the salmon cakes and fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until browned. Drain on paper towels; keep them warm in a preheated 250 degree F oven and serve hot.

While I like to use a knife and cutting board, when a recipe calls for quite a bit of finely diced items, Bev has convinced me to use the food processor, and it worked perfectly for this.

I didn't time the veggie saute but cooked them until most of the liquid was gone.  When I was prepping them, Bev asked how much salmon I had, but they cooked down to not very much, but packed with flavor.

Before I cooked the cakes, I experimented with the technique for getting the pan to the perfect temp as shown on the video from Rouxbe Online Cooking that Chris from Nibble Me This posted recently. What a neat liitle proceess - it did just as the video showed and after talking with Chris, I signed up for the school.

I heated the pan per the instructions then added my olive oil and butter (melted), then I added the cakes and lowered the flame just a little. Here they are after flipping.  As you can see I had a problem with 3 of them - next time I'll use 1/2 cup of flour and make them a little thicker.  Also, I needed to lower the heat a little more, but they did slide around in the skillet as the video said they should.

We sided it with some spaghetti squash casserole that Bev invented the night before from some things on hand that included some mini Italian sausage meatballs, diced tomatoes, Rotel, tomato paste, onions, peppers celery, spices, pepper jack and parmesan cheese.

Here's my plate. I'm not a big fan of spaghetti squash, but I thought this was very good.  I considered a sauce for the salmon cakes, but they had so much flavor, I ate them naked - they were very good even though a little too brown.

Most fish cake recipes call for as little filler as possible, so these might be more accutately called Smoked Salmon Potato Cakes.  I like the fact that I have enough left for another complete meal plus some extra fried ones from this meal - I think I feel some breakfast dishes coming on.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Garden Time At Almost Heaven South

We rarely have a February dry spell of sufficient duration to get the soil dry enough to till, but it happened this past week. Since I had no idea when I might get another chance, I just had to till the garden and plant a little.

I’d spread some composted horse manure on part of the garden last fall and as a result, I grew a healthy crop of Henbit (weed) over the winter. Previously I’d tried just tilling it in and it basically chopped each weed into 10 pieces and replanted them, so this time I gave them a dose of Roundup a few days prior to tilling. I’ll still have to deal with all of those seeds I turned up to the surface and it’ll likely take me a couple of years to get rid of all of them.

Here’s the before shot with so much green it looks like I sowed a cover crop - click on photos to enlarge.  When I remembered to take the picture, I'd already started tilling with my little Kubota mini-tractor .  It's basically a 4WD, diesel, lawn and garden tractor with a PTO and 3 point hitch - I love my little machine - a man's got to have a few toys.

and the after shot – you can tell from the blacker soil where the compost went and why I like my little tractor.

I love the look of fresh tilled spring soil.  Down in the far left corner, I planted some radishes, spinach, green onions, lettuce, cabbage, and kale.  If the weather holds, I may be able to get my whole spring garden in over the next week.  The garlic, planted in November, looks like it's ready to take off, so I fertilized it and the asparagus with composted turkey doodoo.

I rarely plant this early, but it seems to be getting hot earlier each year and I'm going to try to get things in the ground sooner so they don't bolt and deal with the cold and frost that will likely occur.

I got my tomatoes and eggplants sowed in the greenhouse, a few days late, but they'll be ready by the last frost date.  I often sow my seeds in individual pots so I don't have to transplant them but tomatoes benefit greatly from being tansplanted.  They are unique in that any part of the stem that gets buried will put out roots, making the plant stronger and healthier - so always plant them deeper than they were.  I filled each cell with Miraclegrow potting soil and set the tray in water so the soil could begin getting wet.  I firmed the soil a little and put 9 seeds in each 3"x3" cell then pushed them each a little to be sure I had good soil contact.  I topped with an eight inch of sphagnum moss, misted to wet it, and added the clear domed top.  I keep them in the warm green house during the day and bring them into the house at night.

I also began the hardening off process for my lettuce and brassica's and cut my seed potatoes into pieces with 2-3 eyes each and set them in a shady spot in the greenhouse.  This will encourage faster sprouting than cutting and immediately planting them in the cool soil and it allows the cuts to scab over a little for protection.  They'll be ready to plant in a few days.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Smoked Pork Wellington

I had no idea how to go about this, so it was an absolute experiment. I knew pork was used for Wellington and since I’d made one from beef I was comfortable with the process – and I remember the mistakes I made with it. I could have made it from a raw piece of pork loin, but I wanted the added dimension of smoked pork, but I had no idea how done to cook it in the smoker to keep it from overcooking as the pastry cooks in the oven.

I decided to smoke it to the bare minimum of 142* and hope for the best. My assumption was that for the beef, it went from room temperature to 125* while the pastry baked, so the pork, would hopefully not go past 140*, starting at room temperature.

I considered stuffing it prior to smoking, but decided to smoke then stuff and I just took a wild stab at a combination. I cut three pockets into the roast from opposite sides and stuffed in some Boursin cheese – no way that can be a bad idea. I did pockets rather than full length slices to prevent the cheese for exiting the ends.

Then I brushed a coat of Fischer & Weiser’s Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce on both the pastry and the meat

and rolled it very tightly in hopes the Boursin would stay put - I made sure I kept the pockets in the horizontal position while it baked and I cut the vents in the top that I forgot last time.

This is just out of the oven.

And this is just after the soggy bottom broke and I did't have a good enogh hold on it.

 And this is my plate with the side of stir fried asparagus.

Before the main course, Bev served this salad from a magazine recipe from - it's lettuce, oranges, apples, a citrusy viniagrette and crumbled blue cheese on top.

I have to say this experiment was a failure, but not a complete loss - we had a filling meal and the salad was good.  Plus I learned several things:

1. Boursin will not stay in place at the high temps.
2. Even on a rack and with vents, it can still get a soggy bottom - maybe the cheese did it.
3. Puffed pastry cannot be cooked above 350* in our oven.
4. Don't try this with fully cooked meat unless you prefer it well done.
5. Always use a spatula plus tongs when transferring to the cutting board.
6. Next time I want Wellington, go to a restaurant - it's not worth the effort to me :-).

A nice thing about cooking experiments is you learn something and can still eat the failures.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Monday, February 21, 2011

The Power Shopper Is Home

Bev made it home safe from Gatlinburg on Friday carrying several bags – I knew the serious shopping, or at least buying, wouldn’t happen until I left. One of the traits Bev inherited from her Mom is an overwhelming need to get the best possible deal and she’ll spend lots of time a gas money to be sure she does – probably more than she saves. So I’m sure she spent her time while I was there just accumulating info for the actual buying that would come later. She obviously spent most of her time in kitchen stores as I brought two bags full home with me and she brought more.

During one of our phone conversations, she advised she was bringing me a surprise and sure enough, it was.

I think it will look great against the red leaves of the Japanese maple when in leafs out.

I’ve never had a pet rock before and I love it. It’s 20”x18”x5” and must weigh a hundred pounds - I could barely get it unloaded - not too worried about someone carrying it off. It came from the Sandman’s Workshop, which is located in an artsy community outside of Gatlinburg called The Glades – this is the real art verses the mostly junk found in downtown. The design is sandblasted into the rock then the relief is painted. Nice thing about this craft is the primary material is free as these round sandstones are everywhere in this area – I’ve removed hundreds of smaller ones from my garden.

She also bought a little all copper fountain for the sun room which was made by Artisan Greg Hooker at the Fountains of Living Waters.

If you can’t find it in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area, it may not exist.

I read in the paper this morning that they will be paving part of US-441 over the mountain beginning March 1, so if planning a trip to the area, you may want to avoid that road until you know it’s completed.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fried Taters & Onions And Stuff

I love fried potatoes and I like fried potatoes and onions even more – it was a lunchtime treat when I was growing up - we came home from school for lunch. Fried potatoes were always sliced in my family and naturally that’s what I did, but when I met Bev, she diced hers. In thinking about it, I don’t remember a cutting board in our house as Mom did everything in her hand with a paring knife. She would cut the potatoes lengthwise to the size she wanted then slice them directly into the cast iron skillet – usually containing hot bacon grease or Crisco. She had no bowls or cutting board to wash, just the skillet and the knife. I’m a big fan of chopping and cutting boards so I now dice my taters.

I came home on Tuesday and Bev remained in Gatlinburg with her shopping friends until Friday, leaving me to fend for myself for meals. After two days of leftovers, I was ready for a real meal on Thursday evening, and I fried up a big batch of potatoes and onions for this and a few more meals. I like to cook them with a lid on until nearly done, then crank up the heat and cook uncovered to brown a little.

I sided the taters with a piece of warmed up smoked salmon topped with a sauce resembling my smoked salmon spread and lettuce with Chef Dennis’s bleu cheese dressing – I think it’s better now than when we had it for our Super Bowl party and I had a few forks full while I was cooking.

The salad was delicious, the salmon was delicious, and the taters were outstanding – actually it was all outstanding. I’m sure the Gatlinburg shoppers didn’t eat anything this good, and I might just put it up against any meal served in G'burg – in other words I liked it.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Valentines Day In The Smokies - Part 2

The header shot was taken mid afternoon on a cloudy day, so these guys are closing up for the day, but it looks like spring is about to happen at Almost Heaven South and I didn't accomplish near as much as I wanted over the winter - we've definitely got to put the Christmas decorations away soon.

In the interest of keeping my posts shorter, I split this day-trip blog into two parts and this is the return to Gatlinburg from Cherokee, NC, where we spent the day at Harrah's Casino - see Thursdays's post for Part 1.

I couldn't get any great mountain shots on the return trip as the sun was always in the wrong place - I expected to come back sooner, but it took us much longer than normal to make our donation at the casino - I was actually ahead for about half the time, but alas, the one armed bandits eventually got me.

It was 59* when we left Cherokee and 42* again on the mountain top, with the same wind still blowing as the morning trip. This is the famous chimneys in the late afternoon sun.

This visit will undoubtedly give me all I need of Gatlinburg for a while. Over the years, as family members have visited us and wanted to go to this area, I’ve told them I will demonstrate how special they are to me by taking them to Gatlinburg.

We ate out several times (Blaine's Bar&Grill, Calhoun's, Los Rancheros Mexican, and Bubba Gump's) but didn't have anything memorable. I did have a dish at Bubba Gumps that I plan to see if I can replicate at home - I'll blog about it if I get around to making it.

Since we ate a late lunch at Paula's restaurant, dinner back at the condo was a simple affair - mead wine and chocolate covered strawberries.

They gave Bev the red carnation at the restaurant. - not a bad finish for a great day with my Valentine.

Hope you've enjoyed our little mini-vacation in the Smokies and thanks for stopping by.


Friday, February 18, 2011

A Small Mid-Month BBQ Cook

I decided it was time to take a traveling break and do a food post.  We’re having a little brunch get together on Sunday and one of the requested items is a stuffed fatty. On Wednesday of this week, I smoked the fatty, along with a slab of ribs and a piece of pork loin. I plan to use the loin as an experiment by stuffing and making into Pork Wellington. It just got a light coat of my pork rub and was cooked to 142* internal temp in a 235* pit. I also cooked the ribs for the Sunday brunch and they also got a coat of my pork rub.

I won’t go into a step-by-step on making a fatty as I’m confident all of the BBQers who read my blog know how - although they could be cooked on a grill or in an oven. I considered a bacon weave on the outside like Jeanie usually does over at Cowgirl's Country Life, but I was already planning plenty of meat for the meal.

I first diced and fried 3 strips of bacon then removed and drained them on paper towels. I didn’t have any frozen hash browns so I made some fresh ones from potatoes that were sprouting and needed to be used. I cooked the potatoes and some chopped onion in the bacon grease then added a small can of chopped green chiles and 4 beaten eggs.

When the eggs were set, I removed the mixture to a plate to cool prior to stuffing the sausage. Just before stuffing, I stirred in some shredded cheddar cheese.

In Jeanie's post, linked above, she also shows the plastic pipe and piston she uses to shape her stuffing mixture into a dense log - she's really talented. I don’t have one of them, but I do have a jerky gun that performs the same function - although a little bigger around would be better.

Here it is ready to roll up and after rolling up in the cut open gallon plastic bag that I used to shape it - I used some homemade breakfast sausage.

After rolling, I put it back in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up, then, gave it a light coat of pork rub and into the smoker for cooking to 145*. Here’s the finished fatty and pork loin.

This is the finished rib rack.

It was a nice 65* day here in East Tennessee - pretty nice BBQ weather for February - I wore shorts.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valentines Day In The Smokies - Part 1

For Valentine’s Day, Bev and I were alone and did one of the things we enjoy when we’re up in this area - we headed over the mountains to Cherokee, NC to make a little donation to the Eastern Band Of Cherokee Indians via a visit to their tribal owned Harrah’s Casino.  While we had limited cooking options, I did manage to whip up a little breakfast for My Valentine before we started our adventure.

When we started up the mountain it was 50* in downtown Gatlinburg and when we got to the top, at Newfound Gap, it was 42* with a very brisk wind - going up 3600' made a big difference.  Here's a shot over into NC, but the sun was wrong.

Note the large number of dead trees on the mountain in the background - they are hemlocks being ravaged by a little critter called a wooly adelgid.  When we got down into Cherokee, the temp was back up to 51*.

The casino was an impressive structure located just out of downtown Cherokee toward Maggie Valley, NC.  I'd planned to take a picture of the beautiful front entrance, but it was gone as they are remodeling to build a big new hotel and increase the gaming floor to one of the largest in North America, with what I'm sure will be an even more impressive entrance.  What's it tell you about the amount of money casino's make when they're spending $633 million to remodel.  As I understand it, every member of the tribe gets a significant check as a result of the casino, in addition to the jobs it provides. It’s easy to see from the increased prosperity of Cherokee why the Native American communities are choosing to do this.

The complex also contains the newly opened Paula Deen's Kitchen, which we had to give a try, even though we were underwhelmed by The Lady & Sons in Savannah.  From my web search, this is the third marriage of Paula and a casino (second Harrah's).  I had fried green tomatoes, which I liked and will look for her recipe, and a crabcake sandwich, which I won't try to find.  Bev had a shrimp Po'Boy which had a giant roll and 4 fried oysters.  Even though it was reasonably priced, I'd call it typical tourist food and will likely skip it on our next visit.

Tune in Saturday for the return trip to Gatlinburg and thanks for stopping by.