Wednesday, September 28, 2011

GATLINBURG, TENNESSEE

I spent last week in Gatlinburg with some friends. We ate a lot. I mean a lot, lot. So much that by the time I got home on Saturday I was literally sick of food. That’s why I waited to write about the trip. I wanted to make sure I was back to my normal appetite before I blogged about food again.

Monday 

We arrived in Gatlinburg on Sunday, but the eating didn’t begin until the following day. The first thing we did when we all woke up on Monday was breakfast at The Log Cabin Pancake House. We discovered this place the last time we vacationed in Gatlinburg and so we made a B-line for it first thing Monday morning. The pancakes are amazing, but their other breakfast options are delicious as well. 

I had the country ham breakfast, which included a big piece of country ham, two eggs, and three pancakes. It was all good, but the country ham was outstanding. My mom’s side of the family is from Alabama, so I know country ham quite well; and when I say this was the best country ham I’ve ever had I am as serious as a heart attack. It was intensely salty, but not too salty; fatty, hammy, porky goodness. It was perfect with the sweet blueberry pancakes. 

We visited The Log Cabin Pancake House again later on in the week. This time I ordered the French Toast Royale: four pieces of French toast and bananas, covered with a cream cheese sauce. The bananas and sauce reminded me of banana’s foster. It was decadently rich, but very delicious.

We ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for lunch, which is a chain restaurant, but still very good. Generally speaking, I think that their prices are ridiculously high, but the Shrimp New Orleans is definitely worth the price. This dish is all about the sauce. You could pour it on shoe leather and it would be delicious.

Tuesday

Tuesday we ate lunch at the New Orleans Sandwich Company, which is tucked away on the main shopping drag in Gatlinburg. This place specializes in Po’ Boys, but I got their Muffaletta. It’s an Italian-style sandwich that originated in NOLA: sliced ham, salami, mortadella and provolone, covered in a vinegary olive salad. They served it on an entire loaf of Italian bread, literally. (and I only ordered HALF a sandwich!) I love muffalettas, and I order one whenever I see it on a menu. This one was on par with some of the best ones I’ve eaten.

The muffaletta was good, but there’s another sandwich at the New Orleans Sandwich Company that knocked my socks off. We went back a few days later and I ordered their Fat Tuesday sandwich. It’s a Po’ Boy with roast beef and your choice of turkey or ham, cheddar cheese, and au jou gravy. For a dollar extra I opted to get BOTH turkey and ham on mine, because that’s how I roll. They piled home cooked roast beef, turkey, ham, and cheese, with mayo, lettuce, tomato, and pickle on a loaf of bread; and then they dipped the bottom half of the sandwich in the au jou gravy. They asked if I wanted extra gravy; I obliged. 

This sandwich is in my top three sandwiches of all time. It was out of this world good. It was rich and savory and bold. It was huge too. Despite my best attempt, I couldn’t finish the whole thing, which I guess is reasonable considering it was as big as an ENTIRE loaf of bread! Everything about this sandwich is amazing, but the thing I liked most was the pickles. The acid from the pickles cut through the richness of the meat and cheese and gravy. Without that pickle I wouldn’t have been able to eat nearly as much of the sandwich as I did.

Wednesday

Wednesday we ate lunch at a place in Pigeon Forge called Huck Finn’s. It’s a restaurant specializing in Southern food, and in particular, catfish. Everyone ordered their own entrée, but they serve the sides family style: cole slaw, white beans, hush puppies (outstanding by the way), pickles, and Vidalia onions. I ordered their fried chicken and fried okra. I enjoyed everything, but the fried green tomatoes and alligator tail are out of this world!

Thursday

Thursday we ate lunch at a bbq joint in Pigeon Forge called Bennett’s BBQ. All I will say about this place is I’ve had better. Much better. In fact, there’s a place 5 minutes from my house that serves much better BBQ than this place (Beale Street BBQ). I ordered a sampler platter that included pulled pork, beef brisket, and spare ribs. Everything was super dry. I will not be going back to Bennett’s BBQ.

Thursday evening we ate at a horrible Italian restaurant in Gatlinburg called Best Italian. In my experience, any restaurant that has to tell you that they are the best in their name probably isn’t the best. Their garlic bread had huge pieces of UNCOOKED garlic piled on top of it. Enough said.

Saturday

I skipped Friday because that’s the day we ate at The Log Cabin and the New Orleans place again. 

Saturday was our last day, but as we left we stopped at a place in Sevierville, TN called Tony Gore’s BBQ & Grill. It’s about ten miles east of Gatlinburg. Their sign reads, “Southern Gospel. Southern Cookin’. Southern Hospitality.” All three were definitely present when we were there. We ate here the last time we were in Tennessee, so we knew we had to eat here again this time. Everything I’ve eaten here has been outstanding. I have eaten a lot of BBQ from a lot of different places, I even make my own; but Tony Gore makes some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had. I ordered a sampler platter (notice a pattern here?) of pulled pork, fried catfish, cole slaw, hush puppies, and fried okra. It was all amazing. They have about six different BBQ sauces on the table, which makes eating there even more fun because you can experiment with all of them as you eat. 

It was after this meal that I started hating food. I ate waaaaaaaay too much at Tony’s. I really wanted to try a piece of their Reese’s Piece’s chocolate cake, but there’s no way I could force another bite down my gullet. 

If you’re planning a trip to the Gatlinburg area anytime soon, I would definitely recommend you visit the Log Cabin Pancake House, the New Orleans Sandwich Company, and Tony Gore’s BBQ & Grill. You will not be disappointed. I promise!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Quick Note


I will be in Gatlinburg, Tennessee this week on vacation with some friends. If I can find some WiFi I will post my food finds while I’m down there; if not I’ll post them when I get back.

Friday, September 16, 2011

RESTAURANT PROFILE: BANGKOK PEPPERS

Something I want to do with this blog is to profile my favorite restaurants. I’m going to start with Bangkok Peppers.

The following statement is the absolute truth: Bangkok Peppers is my favorite restaurant. I get food from Bangkok Peppers on average, once a week. The staff knows my name. 

Bangkok Peppers specializes in Thai cuisine. They serve many Thai classics such as Drunken Noodles, various curries, and my personal favorite, Pad Thai. They also serve some more inventive dishes such as The King and I, Floating Market, and Three Kingdoms.

I’ll start with the Pad Thai. Pad Thai is the quintessential Thai dish: thin rice noodles stir fried with egg, green onions, Thai spices, and topped with bean sprouts and ground peanuts. I get mine with shrimp or tofu, but other meat choices include chicken, beef, pork, scallops, calamari, or vegetarian. Pad Thai showcases the Thai flavor hallmarks: spicy, sweet, salty, sour, savory. Every mouthful hits all of your taste buds … AT ONCE! If I go more than a couple of weeks without Pad Thai I start to crave it.

Curry is another staple of Thai food: Bangkok Peppers offers six different curries, including Green Curry, Red Curry, Yellow Curry, and Pineapple Curry. I prefer the red and pineapple curries. Each one has a base of coconut milk which helps to balance the sometimes intense heat of the curry.

Whenever I take someone who is new to Thai food to Bangkok Peppers, I recommend they order the Thai Fried Rice, the Almond Chicken, or the Thai Pepper Steak. These dishes are slightly reminiscent of Chinese dishes that many Americans are familiar with. (60% of the people in Bangkok, Thailand are of Chinese descent by the way)

Like many authentic Asian restaurants, Bangkok Peppers also offers some more unusual fair including Curry Catfish and Frog Leg Stir Fry. I personally have tried the Crispy Frog Legs – which is served in a garlic sauce – and the Crispy Duck; both of which are phenomenal.
Bangkok Peppers offers some tasty appetizers, soups, and salads as well. The spring rolls and shrimp rolls are delicious, but the Cheese Rolls are out of this world! The Tom Kha soup is a spicy coconut soup served with tomato, green onion, and fresh cilantro. The beef salad is served warm and is delicious, but I prefer the Apple Salad. I’ve never had anything like it, anywhere. Shredded apple, shrimp, chicken, and red onion topped with toasted coconut and served in a clear sweet and sour sauce; it’s phenomenal. 

Thai cuisine is notorious for being spicy and the food at Bangkok Peppers is no exception to this. Their spicy dishes can be ordered mild, medium, hot, or extra hot. If you can’t handle any spice, you can order your dish without any spice, but I don’t know why anyone would want to. In my opinion, the spice is part of the experience.

Bangkok Peppers has two locations:
1040 E. Hill Rd. Grand Blanc, MI 48439 and 1429 N. Leroy St. Fenton, MI 48430
They offer lunch, dinner, and carry out. Prices for most entrees hover around $8.00 for lunch and $11.00 for dinner.

Hope you try it, and if you do, let me know how you like it!

Bangkok Peppers on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Easy Spaghetti Sauce

This is my easy spaghetti sauce. It’s ridiculously easy to make and tastes so much better than canned or jarred sauce. I used to hate spaghetti as a kid (I think because we ate it so much). I still don’t like spaghetti with store-bought sauce, but I love making it this way.

Start out by sautéing 1 whole white or yellow onion in olive oil; you need enough oil to cover the bottom of a medium to large sized pot. Add a small palm full of salt. Cook the onions until they’re translucent; add chopped garlic, as much as you like (I like a lot). Add a little more salt. Cook the garlic through, being sure not to burn it! I add some crush red pepper flakes at this time. I like a little bite in my pasta sauces.

I then put in a small can of tomato paste. I sometimes omit this step, so it’s up to you if you want to add it or not.
I then add my canned tomatoes, juice and all. (We got a bunch of canned garden tomatoes from my grandma recently. This is a perfect way to use them!) I add another large pinch of salt and a large pinch of sugar. I also add a BUNCH of fresh basil. “Fresh” is the operative word here.

Cook everything together until it gets as thick as you like it. If it gets too thick, add a little water.

To serve with pasta, I cook spaghetti for a minute less than what it says on the directions. When the spaghetti’s done, I add some sauce to a medium sauté pan and add my pasta. I cook it for a few seconds then add freshly grated parmesan cheese and a little butter and toss it with the pasta until the sauce and the pasta become one. The pasta will finish cooking through in this time.

Then I eat it. You can add whatever you want to it (meat, mushrooms, Italian sausage), but like most Italian food, I think it's best when kept simple. It freezes nicely too!

Hope you try it, and if you do, let me know how it turns out!

My Very Own Food Blog!

After some gentle nudging my some of my family and friends, I’m taking the plunge and starting a food blog. 

I have a few ideas for what I want to do, but I also welcome input from others. If there’s something you would like to see me write about, let me know and I’ll try to work it in.

In short, this blog will be about all things food related. I’ll be posting a few recipes, but I don’t cook a whole lot so most of what you’ll see will be my restaurant experiences and reviews. Most of my ramblings will concern local eats: stuff from the Mid-Michigan area. When I travel I’ll post my out of town experiences as well.