Sunday, March 25, 2007

BBQ and Ice Cream - If That Ain't Country Style

Lunch yesterday was BBQ. Thank goodness because frankly, I haven't had enough BBQ in the near 11 months we've been living here (wow - has it been that long?)and I keep meaning to eat more of it. You'd think with a place in town called BBQ King or RO's so close, that it wouldn't be an issue, but somehow, we just never make it out for BBQ.

So yesterday's BBQ came at a benefit held at the volunteer fire department to raise money for one of the volunteer firefighters who has cancer. The VFD was definitely hopping. Several large smokers were set up out back and our friend Richie told us the guys had been at work since 8pm the night before. Richie was among a group of volunteers whose job it was to hack the meat off the bone and chop it up.

Several long tables were set up inside the station and a mix of family, friends and hungry folks were all enjoying the 'cue (Richie even said that several truckers pulling off 321 had stopped on the side of the road to grab a plate).

Marty & I ordered 2 plates to stay and a few minutes later we were handed a styrofoam container containing a healthy serving of chopped pork shoulder, a small cup with NC-style, vinegar based BBQ sauce (apparently, courtesy of the BBQ king), a small scoop of slaw, a small scoop of baked beans, a soft bun and a piece of pound cake (in a small plastic bag so as not to get commingled with the rest of the goodies). It was all homemade and it was all delicious. I don't know if I enjoyed it more because we were helping raise money to pay for this man's medical bills or because we were sitting in the VFD with our neighbors and townsfolk - many of whom we don't know. But it felt great to support and be a part of the local community.

After a vry satisfying lunch, we got in the car and went for a drive. You can do that in North Carolina you know - just get in the car and drive? The threat of traffic is limited and the scenery is just so pretty.

We headed Northeast and found ourselves in Newton, where Marty's grandmother used to live. We drove around her old neighborhood and then found ourselves in downtown Newton. Anything I ever thought about Lincolnton being old and dusty faded because Newton is even older and even dustier. Our eye was caught by a bright, bold restaurant, Artist's Cafe, so we parked to check it out and walk around town.

The Artist's Cafe and neighboring Artist's Loft seem out of place in a town where most everything was closed on a Saturday afternoon. The menu featured a mix of mainly Greek and Italian dishes rounded out by Southern staples like Buffalo wings and French Onion soup. A sign in the window adveryising an upcoming French wine tasting. It certainly looked charming, and it's on the list to try in the future.

There wasn't much else going on. A drugstore with an old fashioned soda fountain was closed (which was a bummer because I really wanted ice cream). We passed a pool hall whose windows were lined with trophies. When I pressed my face up against the doors to get a better look, stale cigarette smoke seeped from the door frame. For a county seat, I was surprised by the overall lack of activity on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon.

The drugstore had spaked a serious desire for ice cream so Marty headed Northeast towards Catawba. I had never been this far Northeast before and so it was a little bit of an adventure. Marty remembered a Dairy Queen in town and I got very excited. Alas, we could find no ice cream in Catawba. So we got on 70 heading west, heading home.

It was a sheer stroke of fortuitous luck that as we drove through downtown Claremont (similar in many respects to downtown Newton) that we caught sight of Hewitts - advertising soda, candy, ice cream, antiques AND, more importantly, a sign reading OPEN. Hallelujah!

Walking into Hewitts was like taking a step back in time. I felt like I was at a penny candy store in the 1950s. The walls on the left were lined with antiques - old spice tins, Prince Albert in a can, neon signs, an old phonograph, dolls. On the right, buckets and bins of penny candy were everywhere. A balcony displayed mannequin heads sporting a range of gorgeous hats and toppers.

The ice cream was in the back and as it turned out, it was Blue Bell. So I confess, I am not much of an ice cream aficionado, but Blue Bell is apparently a Texas thing and Marty was thrilled to discover it had made its way to NC. The lady behind the counter told us she was the only person in the area to carry it (besides what you can get in the grocery store which according to Marty, isn't exactly the same thing).

We got our ice cream and talked to the woman who runs the store. Although it looked like she had been there forever, she had only opened in October - and then promptly closed down because business was slow. Yesterday was her first day open for the season and she was hoping the warmer weather would help.

I guess that explains why the listed hours were "til 6:30ish" on weekdays and why on Saturdays, she was open "unless there was a yard sale." Literally - that was on the sign.

She was delightful to talk to and she walked us around the store, pointing out antiques of interest, showing us a doll she had recently made. It was so - neighborhoody. We were there for about 10 minutes when another couple walked in. Turns out - they are from Lincolnton. So we made small talk about life in Lincolnton - they seemed shocked we actually lived there. Most people usually are.

All in all, it was a lovely filled with sunshine and neighbors and community and most importantly - BBQ and ice cream.

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


Alison said...

Just stumbled across your blog, and after reading an archived post or two, thought I best let you know that you have other non-relatives reading your posts.

Also, as a future Lincolnton resident (we're set to start building in a little more than a month), I thought I better make you aware, if you haven't been there yet, of Morgan's next to Lowes. You can also take a drive out 27 to Hwy 18 and visit Red Bone Willy's (at the intersection and somewhat of a cramped general store) and Knob Creek orchard (about a mile to the left) for some ice cream. Knob Creek is always a good stop for us as they provide a great view of South Mountain from their porch. Knob Creek may not be open year round though, so you may want to call ahead before making the drive.

Alison said...

After first locating your blog the other night, I've enjoyed catching up on your Lincolnton adventures. As such, I see now that you've already been to Morgan's and had a less than favorable iced coffee experience...funny. They're definitely more ice cream than coffee. :)

Anonymous said...

Come on Sarah - how long did you live down here and not hear...

Blue Bell, the best ice cream in the country.


Blue Bell - we eat all we can and we sell the rest.

Marty will relate.