Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Blogger Party 2012

For last year’s party we had a theme of Texas BBQ in East Tennessee and for this year we decided on an East Tennessee Cajun cook out.  We had decided to hold it earlier in the year so it wouldn’t be as hot but the Mother Nature must have heard it was a Cajun fest and delivered some South Louisiana weather – mid 90’s, but it was comfortable on the dock.

Last year Robyn Medlin won the furthest distance traveled award and this year it goes to Dave and Jackie Scott (My Year On The Grill) who came in from Kansas City, KS just for the party - is that cool or what.  In addition to the Scott’s, the blogging attendees were:

A.J. & Katherine Aucoin (Smoky Mountain Café) – they were also the cooks
Alexis, Trevor & Chris Grove (Nibble Me This)
Laurie & Dave Myers (Big Daddy Dave)
Dave & Penny Klett (Riding With Dave and Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen)
Meakin & Sam Hoffer (My Carolina Kitchen)
Beverly & Larry Doolittle (Big Dude’s Eclectic Ramblings)

And the folks who showed up just because they heard there was a party at Almost Heaven South were:

Stuart & Sandy Hoffer – Meakin’s brother and SIL
Pat Whaley – Bev’s sister
Elaine Sitzlar – Pat’s good friend
Holly & Joel Elder – Our friends
Kaitlin Aucoin & Courtney – Katherine’s daughter and her friend
Wende Doolittle – Daughter
Joe Howell – Good buddy
Loong Yong – Wende’s boss
Jim Warren – Wende’s co-worker

With 25 folks, we pretty well maxed out the dock - I've been wandering about the limit - maybe 30.

The Hoffer’s and Klett’s bunked with us and the Scott’s stayed with the Groves' – one more bedroom and the out-of-towners could have all stayed here at the Almost Heaven South B&B.

Chris, Dave Scott, and the Aucoin’s got to the lake between 9 and 10 to get the cooking started and the rest of the guests began showing up around noon.  While dinner was cooking, we enjoyed several delicious appetizers provided by the guests and some glazed nuts graciously sent to us by the Cathy Farley at the Wives With Knives blog & her Bavarian Nut Co. near Portland, OR - thank you Cathy, they were a hit.

As usual, I spent too much time hosting and having a good time to get many shots but several of the bloggers took photos and are posting, so please visit their blogs (links above) for the rest of the story.  Here’s the dock set up with Dave and Chris to the left.

This is dinner to be and it’s a shame so much of him is inedible.

Chris brought the veggies and prepped them and the Aucoin’s brought the crawfish and shrimp and A.J. did the cooking in a giant pot and all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you.  He definitely knows how to do this and it was all outstanding. Also, a big thank you to those who brought something, Chris and Katherine for co-hosting, and to everyone for just taking the time to come share a piece of your life with us.This is the kitchen with Executive Chef A.J. in action.

Here we are digging in.
Bev showing how to do it.

After eating, we took down the tables and sat around visiting into the early evening, getting to know those we hadn’t met and catching up with those we had.  Jim Warren came by boat and he took folks on a boat ride around the lake and turned a couple of them into water skiers.  We wrapped up the day with a twilight cruise on the pontoon boat.

As we spent the week getting everything ready, I was thinking to myself that I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this again, but I had an absolutely super time and am now looking forward to next year and I'm sure Katherine, Chris and I are open to theme suggestions.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

Two years ago: Pasta Bolognese


5/27/12 event date

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Matthew And Sophia

In the backyard of their new home in Elkridge, Md., Eric built a tree house for  his kids and did a great job with it.  Here they are up in it and on the swing - they play together very well.

While we were there, Sophia had to go get pictures made for her dance class and Eric took this one of her at home - she’s a little cutie.

Presentation Growth
When I looked at the photos in my post of two years ago (below), one thing really jumped out at me - the presentation.  Growing up, I didn't like my food to touch on the plate and I've always plated food that way to end up with this.

Now I would have moved the salsa and plantains toward the center until they touched and rested the chicken on them a little - or at least I would if I thought about it and didn't just operate by rote.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

One year ago:  Finally - Serious Seafood Shopping In Portland

Two years ago:  My First Jerk Chicken


Event dates 5/17 - 5/19/12

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Day trip To Annapolis

Eric and Ann had been wanting to drive down to Annapolis and since neither Bev nor I had been there, we thought it would be a fun thing to do while visiting with them.  In case you’re unfamiliar with the town, it’s the capital of Maryland, county seat of Anne Arundel  County, home of the US Naval Academy & St. John's College, capital of the United States from 1783-1784, sailing capital of the world, and all around quaint little town with a population of just 38,000+ situated on the Chesapeake Bay. 

And the fascinating part is that it’s all within easy walking distance, although they do have a continuously running shuttle system that helps with the further away parking garages.  This is a winter shot from the web with church circle bottom center, the state capital upper center and the govenors mansion between them on the left.

This is my shot of Main Street (click here for map) which runs from church circle in the center of town down to the water at the City Dock and it is made up of nice shops and good sounding restaurants.

A shot back up the hill from the web.

It is a clean and enjoyable place to visit and I especially enjoyed seeing the Midshipmen and women walked around in their white uniforms with their crisply ironed lines and everything just so – a real pleasant contrast to the look of most college students.

This is the dock area at the bottom of the hill.

Since we’d had a big breakfast, we decided on a mid-afternoon meal at the well-known and obviously popular Jimmy Cantler’s Riverside Inn located a couple of miles east of town on the water. 

The restaurant appears to have been a home that was turned into a restaurant and we had to wait about an hour to get a seat - at least we could wait down by the water in the shade and watch them sort the crabs.

The inside dining area was a large room with picnic tables lined up – sorry about the blur. 

Since it was well known and very busy, we were expecting outstanding food and knew it would be pricy, but while the second part was true, Bev and I were very disappointed with the food while Ann and Eric enjoyed theirs – Bev had a lump crabmeat sandwich. 

For $20, I got two smaller than expected deep fried Maryland backfin crab cakes, French fries, and slaw.  The slaw and fries were both good (I don’t think either were homemade) but I believe we make much better crab cakes.  I might have expected disappointment had I ordered BBQ ribs from a crab house, but not when getting a crab dish.

I won’t cover the rest of the meals but would sure not go there again and I was surprised it was so popular – part of the crowd may have been due to the recent opening of crab season and they served many trays of them at $65/dozen – the couple beside us was having them and advised the price was a bit steep.

In spite of the meal experience, it was still a very nice way to spend an afternoon and save for knee pain and a pretty hot day, I would like to have spent more time walking around Annapolis, including the USNA - I would definitely go back, but on a cooler day and maybe during the week.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

Two years ago: Breakfast From The Frig


5/19/12  event date

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Humor - Older Man

An older, white haired man walked into a jewelry store one Friday evening with a beautiful voluptuous young woman at his side. He told the jeweler he was looking for a special ring for his girlfriend.

The jeweler looked through his stock and brought out a $5,000 ring. The old man said, 'No, I'd like to see something more special.'

At that statement, the jeweler went to his special stock and brought another ring over. 'Here's a stunning ring at only $40,000' the jeweler said. The young lady's eyes sparkled and her whole body trembled with excitement.

The old man seeing this said, 'We'll take it.' The jeweler asked how payment would be made and the old man stated, 'by check. I know you need to make sure my check is good, so I'll write it now and you can call the bank Monday to verify the funds and I'll pick the ring up Monday afternoon,' he said.

Come Monday morning, the jeweler phoned the old man. 'There's no money in that account.' 'I know,' said the old man, 'But let me tell you about my weekend!'

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

One year ago:

Two years ago:


Friday, May 25, 2012

A Veggie Meal From The Garden

We picked some beets the previous day, one of the few cheddar cauliflowers this day, and just prior to preparation I graveled (East TN speak for digging under the plant for the taters and replacing the dirt without disturbing the plants) enough new potatoes for the meal.

The beets were washed and boiled, then peeled, sliced, and served with just butter, S&P.

The potatoes got the usual treatment for our first harvest – washed, boiled until just tender, then fried in butter to brown.  Reminder - new potatoes aren't necessarily small and small potatoes aren't necessarily new.  Notice how a light washing removed some of the delicate skin from the new ones.  I was surprised at their large size since they have yet to bloom - hopefully we'll have a good crop.

I only grow the colored cauliflower so I don’t have to worry about covering the head to keep it white and the cheddar color of this one added nicely to the Cauiflower Gratin I made from it. 

I had two recipes saved – one from Penny at Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen and one by Giada from the Food NetworkThey both used Gruyere cheese and bacon and I liked elements from each of them, but I ultimately chose Penny’s because she said it was company worthy and it came from Ina Garten.  I went back to Ina’s original recipe and saw that it called for twice the cauliflower that I had so I cut things in half, added capers per Giada’s recipe and used a little more cheese.  Please check Penny’s site for her recipe and photos.

Cauliflower Gratin – adapted from Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen

18 oz of cauliflower florets
Kosher salt
3 slices of bacon, diced and cooked crispy - see note
1 T. bacon grease
1 1/2 T. flour
1 C. hot milk
1/4 C. capers, rinsed and drained
Salt and pepper to taste
1 C. finely grated Gruyere cheese, divided
1/4 C. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 C. bread crumbs - I used store bought
1 T. unsalted butter

Note:  I like to do it this way as I made less mess and used the bacon pan for the sauce.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm.  Drain and add to a large bowl.
3. While the cauliflower cooks, heat 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Add the flour, stirring constantly for 2 minutes to make a blond roux. 
4. Slowly whisk the hot milk into the roux and stir until it comes to a boil.  Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. 
5. Off the heat, add salt and pepper to taste, the capers, 2/3 cup of the Gruyere cheese and the Parmesan cheese.
6. Pour two thirds of the sauce over the cauliflower, along with the bacon, and carefully mix to coat the cauliflower with the sauce.
7. Pour the mixture into a greased 8x8x2-inch baking dish, scrapping out all of the sauce, and pour the remaining third of the sauce over the top. 
8.Combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining Gruyere and sprinkle on top.
9. Melt the tablespoon of butter and drizzle over the gratin. 

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned.

Here’s my plate.

I’m not a big fan of cooked beets, but I can eat them, and these were about as good as buttered beets can be.  The potatoes were outstanding as usual and Bev and I both thought the cauliflower was company worthy, just as Penny said, except, we'd omit the capers next time.  Even the SIL, who doesn't care for cooked cauliflower, thought it was pretty good.  Thanks for the recipe Penny.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

One year ago:  Pork Rib Taste Test

Two years ago:  None


5/22/12  meal date

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Duesenberg’s in Catonsville, Md. and Give Away Winners

During our visit with Eric, Ann and the grandkids, Bev wanted to go out for breakfast and went on line to search out a spot – a local hole-in-the-wall type place.  What she came up with was Duesenburg’s – An All American Café & Grill, located in Catonsville, Md. and a short drive from the kid’s home – she may have wanted to go there since her maiden name is Caton. 

Ann had to work so the rest of us gave it a try.  It is small with seating inside and out and since we got there mid-morning on Friday, there was no wait.

The kids had basic meals (omelet and waffle), but the rest of us tried one of their more exotic breakfast meals, they serve the entire menu for both lunch and dinner and have some interesting items – please check it out.

Bev went with the South Sider … $8.95.  Fried green tomato, Applewood smoked bacon, poached egg and caramelized onion topped with Hollandaise sauce.

Eric had the Pimlico Hotel … $12.95.  Poached eggs and grilled salmon on English muffin with Hollandaise sauce, chive sour cream and caviar.

I had the Bixler Lake … $7.95.  Two flash fried catfish filets, two eggs any style served with home fries, toast and jelly.

While a little pricy, the portions were huge and we all thought our meals were very good.  We liked them so well, we went back the next day so Ann could try it.  She had the Applegate Omelet…turkey, brie, green apples and applewood smoked bacon and Eric had the Popeye Omelet baby wilted spinach, mushrooms and feta cheese.  They both said they were just okay.

Bev when the Reuben … $9.45.  Sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese and 1000 Island Dressing on grilled rye bread with choice of corned beef, pastrami, brisket or natural turkey breast.

She and I both thought it was excellent and I had the Cream Chipped Beef On Toast (SOL) with home fries, which was only on some of the menus. 

The guy beside us had it the day before and it looked to good not to try and it was very good.  I wish we had a place like that around here as I would go out to eat more often and it was a great way to get ready for the RR Museum tour.

To select the chili powder winners, I gave each comment a number in order of receipt (1-66) and used the random number generator to select three numbers which were 62, 4, 6. The winners are:

62 - Penny at Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen
4 - Lea Ann at Highlands ranch Foodie
6 - Drick Perry at Drick's Rambling Cafe

Congratulations to the winners and thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. Please email me your mailing address and I'll make and send the powder as soon as I recover from Sunday's Blogger Party J

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

One year ago:  What Is Going On?

Two years ago:  Restaurante Italiano


5/18 & 5/19/12  meal dates

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Simple Grilled Sausage

Neither of us wanted to do much cooking so Bev went freezer diving and found a package of jalapeno cheddar sausage that we’d purchased at H-E-B while in Texas during our November RV trip.

We decided to cook everything on the grill and keep it very simple with just peppers and onions to go with the sausage.  I got a big handful of peppers from the freezer and sliced some sweet onion and used the Grillgrates to keep them from falling thru.

Bev put hers on a bun and added some shredded pepper jack cheese, but I just ate mine on a plate and added a little spicy brown mustard.

It was quick and delicious and I’d buy this H-E-B Brand sausage a lot if it were available here.

As you might guess though the best was yet to come the next morning.  I toasted an English muffin topped with pepper jack cheese, chopped the onion, peppers, and sausage and reheated in a pan, poached a couple of eggs, and built this.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.

One year ago:  New England Day 4 – No Big Plans

Two years ago:  Using Up The Scallops


5/14/12  meal date

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Our First Visit To Eric’s

After a couple of tries, we finally made it up to Eric and Ann’s for a visit to their new home in Elkridge, Md., near Baltimore.  One of the things they’d already done and I’ve wanted to do for years is visit the B&O Railroad Museum, so Eric, grandkids Matthew and Sophia, and I headed out.

Apparently the roof was damaged by snow a few years ago and required a serious rebuild – here’s the inside.

The inside had the evolution of the development of locomotives starting with the one before Tom Thumb.

Civil War era locomotives.

Camelback locomotive.

A huge Allegheny steam locomotive. 

 An early diesel electric locomotive.

And of course, a couple of shots of the required model RR.

All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. 

It was a fun way to spend a few hours with Eric and the grandkids.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.