Thursday, May 21, 2020

Some of My Favorite Dining Experiences from My Travels Around the USA

As we all have been sheltering in place, except for those essential workers (Bravo to them, by the way!) and travel has been non-existent, I though I would highlight some of my favorite meals and dining experiences - and believe me it was hard to choose - here in the good old USA. I hope you enjoy this list - in no particular order - and that you will highlight some of your favorite meals in the comments.

Bouchon, Asheville, North Carolina
I'd been wanting to visit Bouchon for quite some time. Started by Michel Baudouin, a native of Lyon, France, Bouchon's tag line is French Comfort Food. The restaurant is Farm-to-Table and is America's first Green Dining Destination. I dined there for my birthday last year and Bouchon did not disappoint. The menu includes escargot, steak au poivre, and Poulet a La Provencal. I'd eat here again in a heartbeat.

The Obstinate Daughter, Charleston, South Carolina
The Obstinate Daughter is located in Sullivans Island, just outside of Charleston. It's a "Southern restaurant influenced by French, Italian and Spanish cuisine with a wood fired oven, plancha and island kitchen range." Also, a certified Green restaurant, it is Jaques Larson's take on a beachside trattoria - and I just love it's beachy vibe. We were here for brunch and though I wanted to try the famous Cinnamon Bun - it's as big as your head - I had to go for their wood fired pizza. Oh, and try the yellow Bloody Mary.

The Urban Farmer, Ogalalla, Nebraska
I'll be honest and say that there aren't many dining choices in the small town of Ogalalla. On our visit to Lake MacConaughey  we rented a boat and ate lunch out of our cooler but we needed to find somewhere to eat dinner. The Urban Farmer was close to our hotel so we happened upon it - and I liked it so much that we went again the next night. It has cute farm decor and delicious food. The Urban Farmer is a place I would return to, maybe even two nights in a row again.

Pancake Pantry, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
The Pancake Pantry has been serving up hotcakes in Gatlinburg since 1960 when it opened as Tennessee's first pancake house.( So, it's older than me! ) It's always busy - I've seen the line wrap around the building - so I'd never even tried to enjoy breakfast there. Imagine my surprise on my last visit to Gatlinburg when there wasn't a wait for a table at all. It's old school - paper placemat menu's, real butter, wagon wheel tables and chairs - but that doesn't seem to bother their loyal patrons. The menu highlights some 24 kinds of pancakes including Austrian Apple-Walnut cakes, Wildberry crepes and of course, the old standard, silver dollar pancakes. Mine breakfast was delicious. Just be prepared for a wait, and bring cash, that's all they accept for payment.

Hudson's Seafood House on the Docks, Hilton Head, South Carolina
For years I've had recommendations to eat at Hudson's in Hilton Head. I, however, thought that it was a fancy, hoity toity, white tablecloth kind of place.  But I was definitely wrong. I love eating outdoors and it's doubly better if it's by the water. Hudson's is located on the Port Royal Sound and all the tables have waterfront views. They use one of only two local fishing fleets to bring fresh seafood to the restaurant. They specialize in shrimp and oysters and have a great happy hour menu. So if you're in Hilton Head and want to while away a few hours then you might want to consider heading over to Hudson's. But expect crowds - it's very popular. 

Abbotts Lobster in the Rough, Noank, Connecticut
Abbotts, in tiny Noank outside of Mystic, is a waterfront lobster pound - you order at the walk up window and wait for your number to be called, grab a picnic table and enjoy your meal watching the boats go up and down the Mystic River. It's just delightful. Mr. UR says there's not enough lobster in his life so we dined here not once, but twice. Just be aware that it opens in April and closes in October so time your visit for the season.

Red Rooster, New York, New York
Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuellson co-created, along with Andrew Chapman, Red Rooster in the heart of Harlem. It was named after the Harlem speakeasy where jazz greats played and it features live music or dj's every day of the week. Known for "celebrating the roots of American cuisine", some of their signature dishes are Chicken & Waffle, Marcus' cornbread and Shrimp & Grits. We went for a delicious brunch that includes some of those favorites along with my favorite, an OMG biscuit. It was a really fun visit filled with good food, good company and even good music. Be sure to stop by Miss Faye's booth at the front of the restaurant- my daughter and sister-in-law both made purchases from her completely recycled fashion creations.

John's Pizzeria, New York, New York
The hotel staff recommended John's to us but when we tried to go for dinner  one night the line was out the door and down the block. So we returned upon opening the next day for  lunch. I'm very happy that we did. The building is unique - it looks like it's an old theater - and the pizza was very good. Each pizza is made to order, no baking ahead, and we split two. Even though it's in the Times Square area and would seem touristy, I found the pizza to be authentic New York style pizza.

This list is for when we can travel and eat out in restaurants again. Please do not travel at this time or try to visit these restaurants before confirming that they are open and serving patrons.

How about you? What have been some of your favorite or most memorable dining experiences?

Linking up with: My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Visiting North Carolina's Arboretum in Asheville

The state of North Carolina has begun lifting their stay-at-home orders as of this writing. Currently, trail access only at the North Carolina Arboretum at Asheville will be open to the public beginning May 9. Please do not travel at this time.

Set on some 430 acres in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, the North Carolina Arboretum is free to visit (though parking is a paid fee) and includes gardens, trails, exhibits, a gift shop and cafe. You can ride your bike on miles of trails, see their world famous Bonsai Exhibition Garden, walk a trail and see dozens of native wildflowers or treat yourself to a locally sourced, homemade lunch. It's a great place to spend a weekday afternoon or a weekend morning. Come along on a virtual tour and check it out!
The Baker Exhibit Center
I began my visit to the garden by stopping by the Information Deck at the Baker Exhibit Center and picking up a map. Next was a visit to the Gift Shop for a little early Christmas shopping and then a walk through the exhibit at the time - Compositions of Color, Paper Art by Leo Monahan. 
The Baker Landscape Garden
My amble through the garden began in the Baker Landscape Garden with it's plantings of perennials and annuals. 

The Blue Ridge Court
The Blue Ridge Court has the first standing statue of Frederick Law Olmstead, the father of landscape architecture.

Rocky Cove Railroad
This garden scale model train represents the coming of trains to Western North Carolina at the turn of the 20th Century. It operates on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from April through October.

The Bonsai Exhibition Garden
This is a "world renowned garden that can hold up to 50 bonsai specimens at a time." There are Chinese, Japanese and American species represented. There are, also, plants native to the Blue Ridge region such as eastern white pine represented. It's unique to the North Carolina Arboretum and quite an interesting exhibit.

I spent a delightful afternoon wandering around the grounds and enjoying all the beauty here. It concluded with a homemade lunch on the patio overlooking the flowers. It seems it's true - He who plants a garden, plants happiness.

Linking up with: My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Driving Ireland's Rhododendron Heaven, The Vee

After taking a few weeks off of writing about past travels, this week I'm going back to Ireland and it's incredible road called The Vee. I'd never heard of The Vee, nor had anyone I was traveling with, until we headed out for a Guinness in the town of Cashel. Our bartender at Donoghue's Pub, Dave, very kindly offered some traveling tips only known to locals - he told us to drive The Vee, visit St. Patrick's well and visit Lismore Castle.

So the next day we started off on an adventure to discover The Vee. The Vee refers to a v shaped turn in the road in the Knockmealdown Mountains in the county of Tipperary. It's known for having some of Ireland's best views. And little known to us, it is a rhododendron heaven at the end of May and beginning of June - exactly when we were there!

We left from Cashel following our GPS instructions and came upon some beautiful rhododendron's along the road. I asked our driver, Mr. UR, to stop so we could take photos of the blooms. I got out, took some photos and thought "Wow, how great was that!" Little did I know what we were about to stumble upon!

We came out of the forested road into the actual v and there was a riot of color. The entire hillside and Vee was blooming in purple. It was incredible. See for yourself.

After driving the actual v in the road, we came out of the rhododendron's to beautiful green views of the Irish countryside. 

It took us a long time to drive the road as we kept stopping to take photos. So, Thanks, Dave! We would never have heard of The Vee or found it without your help. And if you are heading to Ireland in the future, think about driving The Vee - especially if you're there in May or June.

And here's a little video I shot as we were taking in all this beauty - 

How about you? Have you heard of The Vee? Have you been?

Linking up with: My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand!

Please note - Due to the Covid19 situation, I am not recommending travel of any kind at this time. Please do not travel now.