Saturday, February 28, 2009

Low Country Adventures

So I attended my first low country oyster roast last week (yes I think I can still legitimately say last week) and it was surprisingly fun and surprisingly tasty. I say surprisingly tasty because I have some serious seafood issues (so serious that they warrant their own separate post) but in short...I am not an oyster eater. There are 2 times I remember eating oysters. One was at Antoine's in New Orleans. You simply can not go to Antoine's - birth place of oysters Rockefeller - and not eat oysters. The other was at the Rainbow Room in NY at a very swanky black-tie dinner. The oysters were raw, cold, topped with caviar and followed by a shot of chilled champagne.

So I wasn't exactly jumping out of my shoes to attend a traditional low country oyster roast in Summerville, SC. But it was a work event and while not required to be there, I wanted to be there. I just wasn't sure how I felt about the oysters. Nonetheless, I was assured there would be chili for the non-oyster eater (by the way, I am not a huge fan of chili either - especially WITH beans - but a girl will do what she has to in order to eat!).

The event was held at the Dorchester Boat Club, a rather nondescript building located in some park (I can't remember - this is what happens when you wait a week to post about an event). Here's the thing about DBC? There's a 10 year wait list to be a member. Seriously!



It's on the bank of a gorgeous river (again - can't remember) that flows towards all things historical in Charleston...



...And there is some sort of very pretty tree all over the grounds whose name I (surprise) can't remember and frankly, I am not sure if my picture does their beauty justice:



So here's the thing about oysters. You are not meant to chew them. This I did not know when the man in charge of the oysters handed me my first. He picked a "dry" one which meant it had cooked longer, the shell was starting to open on its own (less need for an oyster knife which was a good thing because let's face it, I am NOT that coordinated) and there was less briny juice. He also happened to pick a large one. So after dipping it (actually dunking it) in cocktail sauce, I bravely popped the bi-valve in my mouth and chewed. Or tried to chew. You oyster eaters out there will know what I am talking about.

So my first experience wasn't totally positive. But it didn't scare me off. And I went for a second (much smaller this time). In all, I "ate" (can it really be eating if you don't chew?) at least half a dozen. Maybe more. And I actually enjoyed them. It was fun, searching for small, dry oysters in the mess that were strewn on the table before us:





Following are the rest of my photos from my first official oyster roast:

Oysters get dumped into the cookers:


They cook:


Meanwhile, the table waits:


You will need one of these:


Oysters in sacks:


Oysters in vats:


A bi-valve is ready for its close-up:


Good enough to eat:


Towards the end of the evening. I think of it as Oyster Roast detritus:


After the roast, we went to the Ice House, a bar in Summerville with a very unique set-up:







Yes - they are pouring drinks from the ceiling.

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

Friday, February 27, 2009

If That Ain't Country: The AMAZING Photo Chronicles

Blame Facebook. Seriously. That's why I have neglected ITAC. And while I ought to be writing about the seriously fabulous low country oyster roast I attended last week (in draft status for at least 5 days), the pictures are too good not to post.

So my friend Mary came over on Tuesday and took some pictures of the kids. I will qualify further by saying that Mary is a serious photographer and therefore these are SERIOUS (and utterly AMAZING) pictures. Enjoy!


Nugget and Prisey


The most AMAZING picture of Ann-Margaret (ever!)


Buster and Peanut


Prisey


My darling Lu-Lu


Lucky


Nugget and Prisey


On the plank


Buster


The Paris barn


Me and Dixie Chicken


Elvis


Ann-Margaret


Lucky


Dixie Chicken


Ann-Margaret

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

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Happy Potato Accident

Have you ever had the good fortune to dine at the Rainbow Room? Not the current Cipriani-owned, pared-down version that exists today....but back in the hey day....that glorious Art Deco room with all of the crystal and elegance and the band and the revolving dance floor and the views and the glamour....THAT Rainbow Room.

Anyways, one of the dishes that Rainbow Room was well known for were pommes souffles and pommes souffles are a happy potato accident:

The story goes that Pommes Souffl├ęs were accidentally discovered in 1837 at the inauguration of a new railway line from Paris to Saint-Germain-en-Lay. There was to be a lunch for the dignitaries at the restaurant in the new station. The train was had problems making it up a steep slope at the final approach to the station. The chef prepared some sliced fried potatoes at the appointed time, but when the guests didn't arrive on time, he had to remove the half cooked potatoes and allow them to drain and cool. After several attempts the train finally made it, and caught by surprise at the unexpected arrival of the guests, the chef plunged the potatoes quickly into very hot oil and to his amazement, saw them puff up.

Well, I had my own happy potato accident the other night that I would like to share with you dear readers. First off, I will say that potatoes do not frequently appear in our house. After losing 30 pounds on Atkins several years ago, I still have a slight lingering fear of carbohydrates. But we had made Shephard's pie the other week and needed potatoes for the topping and we had some extra so...

Tuesday night we cooked steaks. And I will sidetrack again to say this for anyone who lives in/near Charlotte. Go visit my friend Bucky the butcher at Reid's Marketplpace located uptown. Bucky dry ages prime beef for us for about 45 days and then cuts the most heavenly steaks. We usually get about 10 per order. He cryo-packs them so we can freeze them and they are just the best steak anywhere. We alternate between strips and ribeyes. We currently have strips (they really are that good) and cooking them is always something of a special occasion. Sort of.

Marty and I don't really need a special occasion for anything food/wine related but if we are cooking a Bucky steak, there's considerable more thought that goes into the meal. I was going to make my world-famous cheese souffle (can absolutely stand up to a Bucky steak) but Marty was feeling old-school and we had those potatoes so...we went traditional. Baked potatoes. Of course, it was 6:50pm when I realized that a) we hadn't even started cooking dinner and b) the oven needed to pre-heat and c) I was starving and d) the last time Marty had made a baked potato it had taken FOREVER.

So I cranked the oven to 450, plunked the potatoes in and went about my business. For one hour and 15 minutes.

So I seriously did not know that you can overcook a baked potato. But apparently - you can. We pulled them out - they were hard as rocks. Marty politely commented that every ounce of moisture had been sucked out of the potato and that they were ruined. Unsalvagable. Inedible.

Not for this girl.

The potatoes were promptly sliced in half and the insides scooped into a bowl where they were mixed with butter, sour cream, stock, scallions, cheese, salt and pepper. The new filling was then spooned into the ultra-crispy (and ultra-sturdy) skins, and then the whole lot went back in the oven for about 10 minutes to heat through. The final touch was a sprinkle of Parmesan and a spin under the broiler.

When I tell you that these were the best ever twice-baked potatoes I have ever made/eaten, I would not be lying. They were INCREDIBLE. And part of it was because the skin was soooooo crispy because I had killed them in the oven during the first go around.

So there. That's my happy potato accident.

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

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Monster Trucks: The Photo Chronicles


War Wizard's round-winning wheelie.


Madusa shows the boys who's boss.


Monster Mutz is the cutest truck ever.


Dred Pirate Gravedigger.


Only I would associate this scene with Saved By The Bell.


Me and my MTJ buddies Sarah and Josh.


The Dolces...


Decked out for MTJ in denim, Dolces and diamonds...

Monster Mutz Freestylin':
video

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

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Milk, Cookies & Monster Trucks

In hindsight, I feel a little bit bad that I thought that Monster Truck Jam (MTJ) would be a beer-swilling, confederate-flag-waving, mullet-wearing, boot-stomping, shit-kicking, good ol' boy redneck fest because it was as far from that as you can imagine (only 1 real mullet spotted during the entire evening). The accessory of choice last night was not an outdated hair style or a tramp stamp (although we spotted one of those too) or a bare midriff. No - the accessory of choice last night was a child. Yes - it seemed that children outnumbered adults 2 to 1 and MTJ was very much a family friendly affair. Although they did still sell beer. At least for the first half.

In all honesty - I had no idea what to expect. Did the monster trucks race each other? Crush each other? Were there teams? Who should I vote for? Was it scripted? Or real? Or some quasi hybrid scripted reality event (like American Idol or Hell's Kitchen or any other "reality" show on TV these days that has just enough reality but also has the requisite story lines to move the plot forward)?

As it turns out, MTJ is a little bit of all of those things. There were about 9 or 10 Monster Trucks - each one with it's own name/character and occasionally theme song. Predator. Prowler. Gunslinger. War Wizard. Cowboy. Bad News Travels Fast (the reporters I was with were a big fan). Monster Mutz (truck made to look like a dog complete with wagging tale) and every time he came out "Who Let The Dogs Out" would come on the speakers and everybody in the audience would "ruff ruff" right along with the Baha Men. Madusa - which my friend Sarah said: Madusa? Don't they mean - Medusa? To which I replied: Maybe it's Mad-USA. But no - it's Madusa (sounds like Medusa) and it's driven by a woman (woo-hoo). And then there is Gravedigger - the King of ALL Monster Trucks.

So here is my thought on Gravedigger. Gravedigger is the Dred Pirate Roberts of MTJ. Remember from Princess Bride? Dred Pirate Roberts is a name - a character. Many men have filled his shoes and as one becomes successful, he retires and he appoints a new man to become the next Dred Pirate Roberts. But the name and the legend live on and instill fear into all. So it is with Gravedigger. At least so I think. I suppose I could go to Gravedigger's website and read the history and confirm if this is right or wrong, but I won't. I have other things to do.

But suffice it to say that Gravedigger enters last. Always. He is to be feared. He is lethal. He will CRUSH you. He is....Bad to the Bone...Bad to the Bone...(hum guitar parts to yourself while reading...)

There are 3 parts to MTJ: Wheelies, Racing and Freestyle. Wheelies was first and probably my most favorite simply because I got what they were doing and you could tell if someone did it well or didn't do it well. Photos to be posted later but there were some pretty rocking wheelies. To keep it interesting (because I swear this shit is scripted to some degree), War Wizard dominated wheelies and won. So much for Bad to the Bone Gravedigger.

Next was racing - which I didn't quite get. Were the trucks trying to go farther or faster? I am not sure. But once again, after several rounds - War Wizard won handily. In fact - during his first "race" something "happened" to Gravedigger - a piece came off or something. The announcer sounded very serious and somber as he told the audience that Gravedigger was done for the night...unless the driver (Gary somebody or other - no I will NOT go the website and look it up) could work some special magic. This is where I turned to my MTJ companions - Sarah and Josh - and said: Betcha Gravedigger miraculously comes out in the end for a grand finale and wins the whole kit and caboodle. I mean - I have watched soap operas before. Story lines like this are easy to predict.

So after racing was a break (and the beer cut-off apparently) and then we came back to some motorcycle stunts - a family of 3 who rode motorcycles in a big metal ball and for some reason all I could think about was going to see Ringling Bros. as a kid because this was totally one of the acts.

And I will pause here to add in that speaking of motorcycles - in between each Monster Truck round there was what we fondly referred to as filler. Like breadcrumbs in crab cakes. The filler was motorcycle/motorcross/motorsomething (I really don't know which and in fact, they reminded me of the ATVs that Zack and the gang on Saved By The Bell - yes, I always can and always will make a SBTB reference when possible - raced the summer they worked at Lisa's parents' Beach Club) and these guys rode their motorvehicles around the track a few times and it wasn't particularly interesting - at least not for me. And this whole story line was about Team South Carolina - clad in black jerseys (Boo....Bad Guys) versus Team North Carolina - clad in wholesome white jerseys (Yeah...Good Guys) and of course Team South Carolina won the first 2 races. In fact - there was some subtle shoving in the first race and some not so subtle shoving in the second race (sort of like what Craig does to Zack on SBTB) and Team SC's 2nd race win was disputed. But then the judges gave it to them and some of us in the audience booed which gave the winner his cue to rip off his helmet and start "talking smack" a la WWF but look dude...it's motorwhatever. It's not wrestling. And you just aren't that much of a bad boy.

In the predictable story line vein I had come to expect, Team NC won the final race (after a pretty bad pile-up - we couldn't decide if that was part of the script or not - I say it was) and so all was finally right in motorwhatever world (just like Stacey put Craig back on a plane to Yale and ended the episode by telling Zack she loved him. Aww.).

So Freestyle. Yes - Freestyle was fun. Took a video of Monster Mutz which I will post tomorrow along with photos. Lots of wheelies and car crushing and spinning and engine revving (note: MTJ is loud. Very, very loud. Most people had earphones/plugs or something to protect their tympanic membranes). And just when you thought Monster Mutz would win (the truck seriously was the cutest thing I have ever seen - at least as far as Monster Trucks go)...duh nah nah nah nah....duh nah nah nah nah....Bad to the Bone started playing and out rolled Dred Pirate Gravedigger in all of his magically revived Monster Truck glory. I don't need to tell you what happened. I am sure you can figure it out.

Not nearly as Country as I thought but all in all quite a bit of fun.

Oh yeah...in answer to the question that I KNOW many of you have been wondering...just what DOES a girl wear to MTJ? In my case...

...Denim, Dolces and Diamonds.

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

Thursday, February 12, 2009

In Under The Wire

Despite being EXHAUSTED I simply had to acknowledge that a year ago today, I was sitting at the bar at the Westin in Charlotte killing time before a meeting when Marty called to tell me that Nugget had a baby. We hadn't even known she was pregnant. Anyways, Surprise Steve (my little Prisey) joined us a year ago today and our lives have been forever touched by his charming presence. Plus, I don't know who Lucky would have for a playmate...

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

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Monster Truck Jam: The Backstory

Assuming you have read at least 2 or 3 of my blog posts, you know that I am big on details. And back story. In fact, there have been, on more than one occasion, actual sagas which have required several posts to get through in full detail. And so it is with Monster Truck Jam.

Yes - I am heading out Friday night for the ULTIMATE Country Girl experience - MONSTER TRUCK JAM. Honestly, I have no idea what to expect (I also have no idea what to wear but that's a different story). But I figured I'd start with how I came to get to this point. Because believe me - it's a point I never quite thought I would get to...

It all started out, as most things do, innocently enough on Facebook. A friend of mine had posted a picture of me from the Art Stroll. I didn't think it was a particularly flattering photo and so I sent her a little message saying as such. She offered to take it down and I told her don't be silly as I was just being a little vain. This then launched us into a whole exchange about how easy it is to look unflattered (does such a word exist?) in photos. Squinty eyes, multiple chins, blow-fish cheeks, disproportionate facial features - the list goes on. Anyways, she then referenced an unflattering photo a friend of hers had posted from an excursion to Dollywood which then led us into a brilliant exchange on....

the utter genius of Dolly Parton. I then proceeded to spill my guts on my love of NASCAR and country music. This led her to write: I feel a kind of desperate need to go to a monster truck rally with you. Is that weird?

My intial response was no - of course it was not weird. For some reason, things like visits to The Silver Bullet and monster truck rallies thrill me. I can't explain it.

But then - in something that can only be described as an absolute twist of fate - I was in the car that afternoon, listening to Kat Country (of course) and the announcement came on. Monster Truck Jam was coming to Charlotte - in 1 week. I mean - seriously, what are the odds?

And so, now we have tickets to go Friday night. And I am so, so excited. Obviously, a full report to come on Saturday.

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

Monday, February 09, 2009

From the Ridiculously Sublime...to the Sublimely Ridiculous

Yesterday was truly a study in extremes. It started out with a beautiful early afternoon drive up to the mountains followed by a pleasant stroll through Blowing Rock. We popped into a few shops. Tried on a dress (didn't buy). Found the perfect wedding gift for friends we are seeing in a few weeks (we did buy). Stopped at Six Pence - the British Pub - for a pint. Debated with the the bartender on what exactly is half Guinness, half cider (I think it's a Snakebite. There they call it a Black Velvet. Which I have heard before. But then what is Guinness and champagne because I thought that was a Black Velvet.)?

Left the pub and walked down the street to The Best Cellar, one of Blowing Rock's oldest fine dining establishments (since 1975) and located in the oh-so-charming Inn at Ragged Gardens. Being a Sunday during off-season, it was pretty quiet. But the ambiance was lovely...fires in the fireplaces, dark wood, view of the quiet, wintry garden with it's little garden trolls and the perfectly placed orange tabby...

Our waitress was excellent. A professional who took her job seriously and seemed to delight in our happiness. And we were happy - very happy - because decor and service weren't all that stood out. The food was delicious - including the warm, pillowy rolls which came out right away (is there ANYTHING better than warm bread with melted butter?). We started with a seafood platter (I know - so unlike me - right?). Marty had 3 huge Oysters Rockefeller and a mini crab cake. I munched on shrimp cocktail. We both enjoyed the fried calamari. Then came salads. I opted for creamy horseradish dressing which may sound nasty but was surprisingly mellow and quite tasty. For entrees Marty had fresh caught mountain trout with some kind of divine tomato/goat cheese sauce while I had the house special, Yellow Fin tuna with a simple marinade of olive oil, soy and lemon. We skipped dessert - although the banana cream pie sounded to die for. All in all, it was a wonderful dinner and I would highly recommend it for anyone who finds themselves in or near Blowing Rock.

So that was the ridiculously sublime. Obviously. Now onto the sublimely ridiculous...

It's been a while since I have been to a biker bar or any truly blog-worthy dive. But last night on the way home Marty decided he wanted to stop off at Gaslight, a biker bar in Hickory that he used to go to some 20 years ago. It was pretty quiet and it all started innocently enough. Marty and I sat at the bar with our Miller Lite bottles, making polite small talk with the bartender (who was very sweet). But then she and I TOTALLY bonded over our shared love of NASCAR. And then some bikers came in and started playing pool. And then they joined in on the racing talk. And then when I got up to go to the bathroom, one of the bikers complimented me on my Kate Spade Mary Janes. Seriously. And we became insta-best-friends.

The capper to the whole evening (and the whole burly biker complimenting me on my stylie shoes was pretty amazing) was Marty noticed that they served food at Gaslight (not that we were remotely hungry) and the bartender proudly told us that all of their food was prepared in a microwave since there is no kitchen. Microwave pizza. Microwave cheeseburgers. Microwave pork rinds. Yes. Pork rinds.

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

Sunday, February 08, 2009

So Glad...

So glad...

...it's Sunday.

...it's sunny & warm.

...it's staying lighter out later.

...all my babies are healthy.

...to have freshly painted toes.

...that Rock Star is on E!.

...to be heading to the mountains.

...that NASCAR is back.

...that the race was soooo good.

...that Duke beat Miami.

...that I am not on the road tomorrow.

...to be seeing my family soon.

...to be involved with my community.

...to be recycling.

...spring is just around the corner (I don't give a crap what Punxatawney Phil says!).

So glad for so many things. But mostly, right now, I am just glad that this is my life.

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

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Reasons to Love Dolly Parton

This post is inspired by a recent exchange with a friend on FB (apologies to her if she's reading this twice...but it was too good not to share).


So Dollywood. Wow. What a concept. I mean, what made Dolly Parton think she warranted her own theme park? I mean seriously??? Then again - she had the right idea because...ummm yeah...clearly successful. Imagine if all the "stars" who feel entitled to their own reality TV shows (Is it really that complicated Denise Richards?) decided to go the path of Dolly and open their own theme park. I think it would be apocolyptic (Except for Charo. I would just love it if Charo opened up Cuchi Cuchi Land.)

So here's what I am wondering. Is Dolly at Dollywood EVERY day? I mean - wouldn't you just be DEVASTATED if you went to Dollywood and they had to use an actual plastic Dolly for the parade? Or some drag queen version of Dolly? I'd be like: I can't believe I drove 4 freaking hours to Pigeon Forge and no Dolly!

My favorite Dolly quote of all time is "It costs a lot to look this cheap." I couldn't remember the exact wording so I had to Google it. It's shocking- Google "Dolly Parton quotes" and there are multiple hits...who knew she was so quotable? She's also - apparently - quite funny.

Meanwhile, when I was younger, I secretly wanted Dolly and Kenny Rogers to get married.

Lastly, I like "Hard Candy Christmas." Get over it.

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

Friday, February 06, 2009

A Few of My Not So Favorite Things

I knew this would happen. I knew that taking on an ambitious series of posts having to do with My Favorite Things was too much. For starters - I don't have too many favorite things. I thought the whole big cup/Bojangles angle was really clever but I have yet to come up with a similar example. I am toying with a post on infomercials/my favorite infomercial offerings (and I will digress here for but a brief instant to say that I have the dubious distinction of once having appeared in an infomercial...perhaps details to follow in a subsequent post but no guarantees) but I am still not 100% sure about what I'd write about. Especially under the heading "My Favorite Things."

HOWEVER...

I do feel compelled to comment on some of my not so favorite things these days. And this is mainly a result of my having driven 600+ miles this week. Mostly on I-40. Some on I-85.

1) The left lane is for passing. It is not for loitering, lingering or idling. If you are not passing, you should not be in the left lane. And even if you are passing and there is someone behind you who wants to go faster, get over. I don't care if you are doing 120mph in a 60mph zone. If the car behind you is going 125mph - MOVE OVER! I find that the biggest offenders in this category are truck drivers with something to prove, men in minivans and anyone talking on a cell phone (or otherwise distracted).

2) Go the speed limit. Please. Unless it is raining cats and dogs, extremely foggy, very dark or conditions are otherwise dangerous - there is no need to go slower than the posted speed limit. Especially if you are in the left lane.

3) If there is a Yield sign, YIELD. I find this to be especially problematic on Business-40 in Winston-Salem. It's a dicey kind of road and several on-ramps are yields and yet often people don't yield and try to force themselves into the rush of traffic. If they simply yielded, results would be better.

4) On the other hand, Yield does not mean STOP. You do not need to come to a complete stop unless there is a car coming.

5) Any gas station that's not pay-at-the-pump should be out of business. Seriously. And I am particularly annoyed at the Shell station in Catawba, NC which not only is NOT pay-at-the-pump BUT which I think completely snookers unsuspecting drivers such as myself. They have 6 pumps: 2 93-octane, 2 89-octane and 2 87-octane. Both 87s and 1 89 were "out of order." So not only could I not pay at the pump, I had to pay more (my little Blazer only needs 87).

I am sure there are 100 more things I could complain about but for now...

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

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Happy Birthday Baby

If I were a good mother, I would have taken pictures today. As it is, I am lucky to be blogging at all...

All you need to know is that a year ago today, Lucky, Peanut and Buster were born. My life has been forever changed.

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

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things I

Ok - so the intent is to write a series of posts about some of my favorite things and possibly a post or 2 about some of my not so favorite things. We'll see if I can make it work....the best laid plans usually drift astray and I am somewhere other than home EVERY day this week which means I will be tired and cranky and behind when I do get home. Plus - there's always the Facebook addiction to contend with. Still - I am going to give this a whirl and to start.......BOJANGLES.

Ok - so my favorite thing at Bojangles is not their fried chicken. Or their skinless roasted chicken (which I actually prefer to the fried). It's not the biscuits or their legendary sweet tea (still have not jumped on the sweet tea bandwagon at all and honestly - don't see it happening. Then again, who would have predicted I'd be adding the 2009 NASCAR schedule to my calendar either?). No my favorite thing about Bojangles is their cups. Specifically the large cup.

It's not just Bojangles. I love all large cups. In fact, one of the perks of being such a road warrior is that I am constantly stopping to fill up my car and gas stations - especially nicer ones - often have very good large cups. I think 32 ounces is the perfect size. Sixty four is a bit unwieldy - don't you think?

So what's the obsession with large cups? I love ice in my diet beverage of choice (these days Coke Zero or Diet Dr. Pepper) - preferably at a 3 to 2 ratio. I also love straws. I also love beverages that are portable - room to room, house to car, car to wherever. The Bojangles cup is PERFECT. It's 32 oz. It holds lots of ice. Lots of Coke Zero. It comes with a lid and a straw. And it's plastic - which means it's reusable at least for a week or 2. Yes - I save my cups. Rinse. Wash. Re-use.

And so, while I love me a good chicken biscuit every once in a while - I am willing to brave the drive thru at Bojangles for one of their cups.

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