Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Blame Blogger

I spent an hour and half crafting a brilliant post about a new player in the chicken wars and Blogger froze me out when I went to publish.

No draft was saved and at this point, I am too tired to tackle it again.

The "save as you go" lesson applies in blogging too apparently.

Oh well - you'll have to wait til tomorrow I guess.

In the meantime, I fear American Idol may seriously infringe on my posting (why do you think it took me an hour and a half)...unless I can temporarily turn this into an Idol blog...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Like Old Times

I got home tonight at 6:00. Although the sun had set, it was still light out.

I poured myself a glass of wine, and went to the pasture where I treated Elvis and Ann-Margaret to some cookies and put fresh hay in the trough.

Of course, it's not easy to replenish hay one-handed while still in a shift dress, ballet flats and triple strand pearls. As I pushed the barn door open, my foot slid into a pile of damp earth. Then Ann-Margaret followed me into the stall where we store the hay and refused to leave no matter how much I coaxed. Elvis nearly got me when he reared up as I spread hay in the trough. All the while, Tony sat crouched by a tree and watched.

It was divine moment though - one I haven't had since some time between summer's end and the on-set of dayliights savings time (or the end of DST - I can never remember which is which). Anyways, I just love these post-work jaunts into the pasture with the goats.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Not Quite Country

So - I have to take a moment from my usual Country Girl writings to post on the swirl of miscellaneous thoughts that have been cluttering up my head. They are totally, random, in no order and not remotely connected.

You know how they say famous people die in threes - like when Versace and Princess Di died within weeks of each other and everyone held their breath waiting to see if Elton John would complete the trifecta? I think that the trifecta of Sadam Hussein, Gerald Ford and James Brown has to be one of the oddest out there.

I confess I am hooked on the sordid details of the death - and ensuing circus - of Anna Nicole Smith. When Zsa Zsa Gabor's 8th husband announced that he was possibly the father of Dannielynn (I pity that poor child - her life can have no good the way it's headed), I felt like I was in Soapdish - did you ever see the movie? Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Whoopi Goldberg? Anyways, Sally Field is in the middle of this huge breakdown talking about her youthful affair with Kevin Kline. "Shakespeare in the Park. A Bottle of chardonnay. All's Well That Ends Well." And then she goes on in some detail about getting pregnant, having her character on the soap opera of which she is a star get sent to a sanitarium in Tiera del Fuego (!) so she can give birth, creating a fake twin sister Simone who dies in a car accident and then leaving the baby to be raised by her parents (sadly - I know this all by heart. I did not have to check IMDB for any references). Whoopi - playing head writer Rose Schwartz - stands there dumbfounded as this whole saga is unfolding and she dryly quips: "Now why can't I write shit like that?"

And I mean it when I say that Circus Anna Nicole has caused me to ponder: Why can't I write shit like that? I can't. I couldn't. You couldn't make this stuff up it seems so improbable.

A prince (no - not Prince, although who knows, still time for him to chime in) who happens to be the 8th freaking husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor is claiming to be the father? ET or Alf or Zsa Zsa herself couldn't be stranger contenders...Oh - did I forget to mention the possibility that the sperm came from Anna Nicole's dead oil tycoon husband who happened to be 89 when he married her at 26...YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS SHIT UP!!!

Speaking of blonde trailer trash downward spirals...I have to pause for a moment and say something about Britney Spears - who I fear could be #2 in the newly hatched Anna Nicole death trifecta.

There was a brief moment, when I awaited news that Britney and Justin would reunite. I pictured her people and his people in a darkened basement or the bathroom of a Louisiana IHOP staging a romantic reunion that would rival Liz Taylor and whichever husband she married twice.

Britney had recently shed K-Fed (who seems to have very active, go-get-em sperm for such a slacker image - I mean really, this man has spawned 4 children - frightening!) and it seemed her star was on the rise. A blonde bob. A little black dress. A well timed appearance on David Letterman. She was poised for comeback.

And then came a week of parties with Paris and Lindsay (the Satanic equivalent of the Holy Trinity if ever there was one). Followed by a week of flashing her cootch. Followed by numerous sightings at clubs and bars (ahem - don't you have 2 young children?), pictures of her chain smoking, a fling with a nobody in a hotel room that costs $40,000/night, passing out New Years Eve, a vomit filled car, and my favorite - changing from an ugly, ill-fitting, slutty red dress into a bikini, fishnets and busboy jacket. Yeah - you were sober when you put that on! Not to mention the extremely newsworthy (if it's on Fox News, it must be newsworthy) head shave and 2 less-than-24-hour stints in rehab in one week. Walking disaster. This girl is giving Anna Nicole a run for her money.

Meanwhile, Justin, who has graduated from Mousketeer and fluffy haired boy band protege to genuine, Grammy-nominated rockstar (although truthfully - I don't get it. I heard him sing at the Grammys. I wasn't impressed. Granted my musical tastes aren't fully developed - despite being married to my own rockstar - but that's another story) is hanging with hotties like Jessica Biel (who I get) and Scarlett Johanssen (not so much - although Isaac Mizrahi grabbing her boob at an awards show last season ranks right up there). So I suppose my dreams of a Justin/Britney reunion are as likely as Danielynn Smith-Stern-Birkhead-Von Anhalt having a normal life. Still - doesn't mean a girl can't dream.

The funny thing is, you know who comes out smelling like a rose in all of this? K-Fed. Slacker-leach-homeboy has turned into witty commercial actor and a seemingly good role model for his children (like I said - he has go-get-em sperm - that ought to count for something. And at least we know he wears underwear...)

So not exactly a typical If That Ain't Country post. but these things have been swirling in my head for weeks and I had to put it out there.

Then again, writing about trailer trash like Anna Nicole and Britney Spears, I suppose I am free to say...

If that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

National Pie Day

No – today is not National Pie Day. National Pie Day was actually a few weeks ago on January 23rd. But, while paying the bill at Mitchem’s Kitchen I picked up a copy of National Pie Day recipes put out by the Lincoln County Extension & community Association.

National Pie Day has been celebrated in Lincoln County since 1997. I am not sure when this collection of recipes was published, but I thought I’d share some of the more unusual ones with you so that you have a chance to create a little slice of Pie Day history for yourself.

Cherry-O Cream Cheese Pie
Submitted by David Sackett, Crouse

Use a crumb crust or baked shell
1 8-oz. package cream cheese
1 15-oz. can condensed milk
1/3 cup fresh or bottled lemon juice (lime juice is fine too)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 can cherry pie filling

Soften cream cheese; whip until fluffy. Gradually add condensed milk. Beat until well blended. Add lemon or lime juice and vanilla; blend well. Pour into baked pie crust and chill two hours or more. Garnish with cherry pie filling.

Grits Pie
Submitted by Martha Duncan, Crouse

1 unbaked pie shell
3/4 cup water
1/8 tsp. salt
¼ cup quick cooking grits
½ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 eggs, slightly beaten
¼ cup buttermilk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Freshly ground nutmeg, optional

Preheat oven to 325ยบ. In a small saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil. Add grits and cook for 4 minutes. It’s not especially easy to cook such a small amount of grits, so this will require your constant attention. Stir almost entire time the grits are cooking. Add butter and continue to cook for an additional minute. Set aside. In a bowl, stir together sugar, flour, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir in cooked grits. Pour into pie shell and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until set. Serve warm or cold. May sprinkle nutmeg before baking the pie. Gives taste like egg custard pie.

Baptist Pie

Submitted by Fairy Burton

2 graham cracker crusts
1 15-oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
1 15-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
1 can sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup lemon juice
8 oz. Cool Whip
Shredded coconut
Chopped pecans

Mix oranges, pineapple, condensed milk and lemon juice. Spoon into pie crusts. Cover with Cool Whip. Sprinkle with pecans and coconut. Chill. Makes 2 pies.

And if that ain’t country, I’ll kiss your…

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dinner for 2

Valentine’s Day is around the corner. In my opinion, it’s amateur night for dining out (as is New Years Eve and any Friday or Saturday night), however it’s no less a to-do in Lincolnton than it is anywhere else.

I recall a Valentine’s Day in New York a few years back when Marty and I dined at Daniel. Daniel had catered our wedding a few months before, but we had never actually eaten at the restaurant. Valentine’s Day seemed like the perfect occasion to dine at a swanky and upscale, 4-star French restaurant. And while the evening was delicious and exquisite on so many levels, I resented the over-priced, prix-fixe menu. I resented the overcrowded dining room. I resented the whole lemming-like mentality of the evening. Besides, when did Marty and I need an occasion to blow a wad on dinner?

I stopped giving a lot of thought to Valentine’s Day dinner after that night at Daniel. But this year, it’s been hard to ignore thanks to a handful of ads in the Lincoln Times-News. And while none of these restaurants will give Daniel a run for his money, they’ve certainly managed to catch my attention.

I have yet to write about Tradewinds (it’s on my agenda as it has been for the last few months) but it is a real restaurant that serves real food. Marty and I spend quite a bit of time there. We know the owner, the chef, the waitresses and the bartenders. For Valentine’s day, they are serving shrimp cocktail appetizer, prime rib for 2 (2 10-oz. cuts of aged prime rib), salad, bread, and red velvet cake. Cost: $39.95

You all know about Zippers by now. I think of it as an insanely smoky biker bar featuring questionable karaoke singers. But it’s also a restaurant – and serves more than just your typical greasy spoon breakfast. On the 14th, Zippers will be serving Surf & Turf for 2 which includes a 10-oz. ribeye steak with choice of fantail or calabash shrimp, dinner salad, roll and choice of French fries or hushpuppies. Cost: $34.95.

But The one that really caught my eye was Chuckwagon Grill. Chuckwagon is open til 9:00pm on Wednesday and serving a ribeye steak or prime rib dinner for 2 (you beginning to see a theme here?) including baked potato, side salad, choice of desert and drink (meaning choose between Sundrop or Cheerwine – not between Dom Perignon and Cristal). The ad continues: Curb service, dine-in or take-out. Dine Inside for Valentine atmosphere. Ladies receive rose and balloon (while supplies last). Cost: $32.95.

The thing is I am trying really hard to imagine eating a prime rib dinner while sitting in my pick-up, and all I can come up with is…

If that ain’t country, I’ll kiss your…

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Northbrook Tornado

It started with a discussion about cheeseburgers. Where was the best cheeseburger in Lincoln county? The conversation was between Marty, myself and our friend Richie as we drove towards the Shake Shop in Cherryville (my personal favorite - the perfect ratio of hand-packed meat to slaw to cheese to tomato to lettuce to bun).

The cheeseburger debate led to a similar debate on Carolina dogs (a hot dog with chili, slaw, mustard, and onions) and before long Richie was offering his suggestions and tips on where to find the best of everything from BBQ to cheesesteaks(by the way, this conversation happened some time ago, when Marty and I were still relatively new to full-time life in North Carolina). It was during this discussion that Richie mentioned the Northbrook Tornado.

As soon as I heard his description, I wanted to try it. It sounded so decadent, so indulgent, so improbably delicious - a unique and wonderful small town delicacy tucked away at an ordinary country kitchen in Western Lincoln county.

You think we would have turned the car around and headed straight from Cherryville towards Mitchem's Kitchen, home to the Northbrook Tornado. But we didn't. As I said earlier, the cheeseburger at Shake Shop is my favorite.

Despite my intense interest, we didn't head to Mitchem's kitchen the next weekend. Or the next. In fact, it would take 7 months until we finally made the trip. The impetus was a visit from our friend Rick, a loyal If That Ain't Country reader and always up for what Marty has simply come to term, a "blog-worth experience." Plus, we had been out late the night before at Zippers and the Northbrook Tornado seemed like the perfect lunch.

Mitchem's Kitchen is located in Vale, NC. It's 12 miles west on Route 27 - a straight shot from downtown Lincolnton. The drive out is fairly typical for this part of the world: long sawths of farmland peppered with homes ranging from ramshackle trailers and small ranch-style homes to the occasional and painfully out of place brick behomoth complete with 4 white columns.

We walked into Mitchem's on Saturday at 1:45pm. I was expecting the lunch rush to be over but every table was filled and two women were sitting on a wooden bench waiting for this first opening. Although I knew what I was ordering, I flipped through the menu to pass the time. It was a typical North Carolina grill menu: hamburgers, hot dogs, BBQ, simple sandwiches (bologna, ham & cheese), and just about fried everything - from dill pickles to oysters to corn on the cob (a first for me).

The interior was also pretty typical. Linoleum floors, flourescent lighting, and large wooden tables. A couple of red wagons were mounted from the ceiling and an inflatable corn dog wearing sunglasses hung above one table. A shelf overflowing with trophies (perhaps from the Mithcem's children) lined one wall.

The clientele looked to be mostly simple, country folks (I spotted at least one pair of overalls) and although the 3 of us were dressed pretty casually (jeans and tees), we seemed out of place and definitely attracted attention.

We were finally seated. When the waitress brought our drinks she also brought us a small order of hushpuppies and some homemade tartar sauce to dip them in. It could have been that I was starving, but they were delicious. Hot and crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. Perfect.

I ordered my Northbrook Tornado.

"Would you like that on a bun or on a plate?" I ordered it on a bun but was thrilled to know that a Northbrook Tornado was also safe for those periods when I am low-carbing it.

"And what would you like on it dear?"

You mean I could get something on it? I asked the waitress what people normally put on it. That seemed to confuse her and instead she told me the ingredients. I settled for the addition of slaw, which is a failsafe accompaniment in this part of the world. Marty ordered his Tornado all the way (again - for the uninitiated, all the way or Carolina style is chili, slaw, mustard and onions). We also ordered some fries and onion rings.

I thought the fries were unimpressive. They were frozen crinkle cuts that could have been hotter and crispier in my opinon. The onion rings on the other hand were delicious. Hand-cut, oversize slices of onion dipped in a crispy, cornmeal enhanced batter. They are some of the best onion rings I have ever had.

And as for the Northbrook Tornado? It was everything I hoped for, everything I expected and well worth the wait. But then again, how can you go wrong with a large, all-beef hot dog, wrapped in bacon, deep fried and then covered with melted cheese (and in my case, slaw)?

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

I Am Going To Be A Goat Granny

Nipplewatch 2007 is over. They've dropped, a sure sign that Ann-Margaret is indeed with child.

I hadn't noticed them before because whenever I look at Ann-Margaret, all I can see is her big fat belly (surely a sign in and of itself). In fact, these days, she looks like a Goodyear blimp balanced on 2 toothpicks.

But if you stand behind her while she's got her head buried in the trough you can clearly see 2 nipples protruding from her stomach.

If I know anything about pygmy goat mating (and I really don't) I think Ann-Margaret and Elvis probably concieved in November and she should give birth in March and April.

As for what we do when the little ones come, we'll simply have to keep Ann-Margaret and her kids in one stall and Elvis in another until the babies are old enough. And once they are old enough, we can also get them spayed or neeutered to avoid any inbreeding.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Closing Down Lowes

There was a time when Marty and I were known to close down restaurants and bars. Particularly when we knew the owners, you could count on us to linger over that last glass of wine or grand marnier, well into the wee hours.

Well, last night we closed down Lowes. And no - Lowes is not the newest hotspot in Lincolnton. I am talking about Lowes - the home improvement, do-it-yourself mecca.

We have officially started construction on the upstairs loft, adding walls to make a proper guest room with a closet and a separate sitting area as well as adding a second bathroom.

Marty and Boyce put the outer wall up yesterday (one day, one wall - I'd like to see any NY contractor do that!). The next one goes up today. And in the meantime, we need to stage the various bathroom items (shower, sink, commode) so that the plumber can run "rough plumbing" - whatever that means.

So it was at 8:15pm that Marty and I found ourseleves en route to Lowes to pick out a sink and a toilet. Apparently, Marty picked the shower out on his own but felt like my input was necessary on the other two items. It took us near 45 minutes to make tour decisions and so at 9pm, we officially closed down the Lincolnton Lowes.

And of that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

p.s. We caught a late dinner at Court Street Grill afterwards and closed them down too (at 10pm of course...)