Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day 10 Off to Memphis to hear the Blues

On our way out of Nashville, we hit "Noshville" a NY deli right in the middle of Tennessee, complete with bagels and marble rye bread!  Finally something besides "texas toast" LOL!

finally, something besides "texas toast"

mmm coffee

We hit Memphis at right about lunch time, perfect time to see the famous Leonard's sign, another 50+ year business with a pit BBQ.  We learned the caption "Mr. Brown goes to town" is in reference to the "brown and white" meat you find in with a BBQ'd pig.  The brown is what is flavourful and cooked on the outside and becomes brown, mixed with whiter meat closer to the bone.  When you get a meal or sandwich you used to be able to specify your meat although the norm is to mix and chop both together.  We ordered sandwiches, memphis style: pulled pork with red bbq sauce and the coleslaw right on the sandwich.  Yummy!

messiest sandwich I'd ever eaten!

 We then headed to our downtown hotel and realised why it was so difficult to find a downtown hotel room. . .the Cotton Ginners were in town!  The cotton industry is a big one in the US and we passed the convention center where are the farm equipment was on display.  Every bar on Beale street also welcomed them and overalls were everywhere!

Farm equipment on display

Memphis Trolley line through downtown

Who knew the guy that revolutionized the grocery industry (made it self serve) was from Memphis?

What is this dude thinking?  Bear shoulders and man boobs are cool??  It was only 19 degrees!  LOL what NOT to not wear!
Our walk down Main Street showed us a downtown that is slowly rebuilding after a lot of migration to the suburbs.  Tons of amazing space available but lots of empty store fronts.  We wondered about who was coming down to the area and what business would be like.  There were gorgeous old buildings and we saw a world of possibilities.

We then began our walk to the Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel.  We thought it was important to learn a little about this time in history.  And it was completely sobering.  Especially as a Caucasian Canadian.  We never had any of these race issues and I learned so much about the struggle that had happened in the South.  I think it took me longer than the Americans touring the museum because there was so much to read and learn.  It became very real to us and what hit me was the power of peaceful protest and "I am a MAN."
The Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated
The Lorraine Hotel, now the National Civil Rights Museum, photos were not allowed inside the museum

some local art near the Civil Rights Museum

As soon as we hit Memphis Elvis stuff was everywhere!!
 We then headed down to Beale Street.  The home of the blues and where it all started in Memphis.  The home to Sun Studios that recorded the first blues hits and first recorded Elvis.  The music history in Memphis is incredible and Beale street is full of plaques and history, you can learn as you listen to the blues and walk through the street with your "Beale Street big Ass beer"
Beale Street, a mini Bourbon Street, closed for pedestrians and ready for a Saturday night
getting my cd signed by the local band

local history all over Memphis downton

their sign said they won second place in the BBQ competition last may!  I just loved that Pork with an Attitude sign!

ok we were getting a little tired of Southern Food and tried some Japanese at a crazy neon lit up hotel bar .. . the Sushi chef was from Japan so it was really good!!

Our first sit down stop at Juke Joint after listening to some of the artists playing in the Plazas on the street
 The Juke Joint was our first stop and it was full of awesome memorabilia to look at when the band was taking a break.  Loved the music and that blues guitar just makes you feel!!
memorabilia in the Juke Joint on Beale Street
We then hit up BB King's spot to hear the BB King Allstars.  Fried pickles were on BB King's favourite platter along with ribs that fell off the bone, fried catfish, and wings. . . . This is why the Southern's have stores where the pants go up to size 72 and 6XL!
The band was amazing, played to the crowd and had everyone dancing!  We luckily caught a couple leaving and got amazing seats in the middle of this packed place!  (Felt just like getting star parking at the packed mall at Christmas!)

Beale street was a blast and full of the music that makes you tap your toes.  LOVED IT!
The BB King Allstars.  They were amazing doing all the funk and soul hits. . and PS that lead singer could DANCE, just like Soul Train!!

Day 9 Changing the world one piece of cornbread at a time

Our second day in Nashville began with a hunt for an Americano and a laundrymat. . .yes it was time to wash the jeans (and see if they still fit! LOL) we also wanted to find a little spot we read about in the guide book, but of course when we almost found it we realised we were too early, it didn't open till 10:30.  DUH!  It was very cool to explore the neighbourhood by Vanderbilt University though and it was packed with students and there were cute little shops and such all around.  The weather, after yesterday's tornado like winds was COLD, the first time I had to use my coat and jacket all trip!  About 5 degrees!  We did find a bustling little spot called FIDO that was full of students.  They took your order and you paid at the front counter then you got a little dog plaque for them to come and find you to give you your meal.  Each plaque was different and it was a customers dog and their story, why they were the best dog etc.  Super cute!  The food was delicious and simple and some of the people were SUPER interesting. . .the guys that sat down after us were wearing berets, had their shirts unbuttoned to almost their waists and moustaches and hairy chests. .  very 70's and hilarious. . wish I had snuck a photo!

Fido id

Fido, worth a visit if in Nashville
 We then spent an hour doing some laundry at a local student place and it was nice to be near the dryer on such a cold day!  The humidity in the air makes the cold feel colder than it really is!  We then got out the guidebook to hit a local landmark, Swett's.  Swett's is a Southern restaurant started in 1954 and was the first minority owned restaurant in the city!  A complete success story, Swett's now owns the market, gas station and land around it.  The wall are adorned with celebrity photos and well wishes.  After seeing the National Civil Rights Museum (see blog day 10) we can really appreciate how difficult this was to do for a black southern family in 1954.

 What you do is hit up the cafeteria line with your tray and the usual is to pick "a meat and three or a meat and two."  ("veggies.")  Southern "veggies" tend to all be cooked with some sort of pork and include: collard greens, turnip greens, mashed potatoes, white beans, green beans, and mac n cheese (veggie?)  The meat choices were fried chicken, beef tips in brown gravy, breaded pork chops, whole catfish, pulled pork etc.  You then get to choose yeast rolls, corn bread, or fried corn bread. . . .This is soul food and yes it was delicious but not good for your waistline, even if it is disguised as a "veggie."

"Changing the world, one piece of cornbread at a time"
 The server was super fun and did a little pose for me!  I guess I am not the only paparazzi that shows up to Swett's!
turnip greens, mac n cheese, beef tips, cornbread, peach cobbler, and ice tea

pulled pork, greens, white beans, bbq sauce, and chow chow: relish to eat with the pork
white bean "veggie" dish. . . see that big chunk of bacon?  No wonder these people eat up all their veggies!!

We then figured we'd see the Parthenon, a full scale replica of the Parthenon in Greece!  It was first built in 1897 for a world exposition of plaster and then re-constructed in permanent materials in 1921.  There is a 42 foot statue of Athena inside!  Hmmmm a little weird but I guess Nashville was considered the Athens of the South because of its history of pushing higher classical education back in the 1800's.

Athena. . . covered in gold leaf: one of the FAQ: Why is she so gaudy? Answer: The artist figured that's what she looked like.
We then headed out to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to meet James' Uncle Alan who he hadn't seen in 25 years.  It was great to have a beer and head for dinner to a local Italian chain Demo's.  James also got to see and hear a little more family history.  Check out the photo below of James's grandparents and Great Uncle and Aunt.  He had never seen this picture!
James and Uncle Alan and a Liverpool train

James' Granddad who died in WWII (center) and his Grandma (center) on their wedding day.  James now wears the ring his Granddad William Cuff wore on this day.  Super cool to learn the history!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 8 into the rainy mountains

Green Sage in Asheville, organic lovers dream
A rainy Day 8 began in Asheville, NC with coffee from the Green Sage, a organic lovers dream: would you like soy, rice, or almond milk?  Organic regular milk?  Stevia or organic agave syrup in your coffee?  Organic sugar?  Recycled cups, only sustainable local food from the Appalachian Mountain region . . . .etc etc.  These guys practice what they preach and organic and local is the way they operate.  The locals seem to love it too and the place is constantly packed.  And yes that locally roasted, fair trade, shade grown organic coffee was just delightful. .. . LOL
 The rain just kept coming down as we made our way to Knoxville, Tennessee on our way to Nashville.  Our road food book heartily recommended Litton's as the place to eat in Knoxville and we arrived right at lunchtime for this favourite hamburger joint.  The place is huge but that doesn't mean you don't have to wait, write you name on the board and then take a seat in benches that were so uncomfortable they must have been recycled from church pews!
get on the list!

James went for the "thunderroad" with pimento cheese and fried onions, I went traditional with a cheeseburger
 Yes it was worth the few minute wait!  Delicious burgers served medium, hand cut fries and ice tea till you can't drink anymore.  This places reputation is correct and there is a reason it has been in business for over 40 years!  They are also famous for their homemade deserts which I had to take to go as there was no more room when we finished the meal!

Red Velvet cake for the road and I never did get through it!
 The roads continued to be crap, this is the first bad weather we have had since the beginning of the trip so we really can't complain.  We did take a detour in Lebanon, TN about an hour outside Nashville to stop at the outlet mall and we were glad we did!  Coach had an extra 30% off the already reduced price and I got a purse, sunglasses, and gloves for $200!  The clerk pointed out I saved $700!  LOVE IT!  We also got a mega deal at Guess for James: 4 woven shirts and a jacket for $80 . . . they also had scratch and save and I scored with a 30% off extra card!  Being in the business it is hard for me to pay for anything above wholesale but these prices were well below my cost and worth it!  James had mentioned earlier in the day that he loves the fact that I can get in a car and just drive and explore with him. . . well it balances out as I love the fact that he'll shop outlets with me!  LOL.
 We came into Nashville about 4:30 and hit rush hour but it wasn't too bad, the first view was the AT&T building which my guidebook says the locals call the "batman" building. . I get it!!  I had been able to read most of the guidebook on the drive (James was driving of course) and we were excited to check out some of the local blues and bluegrass and honky tonk's we had read about.
 Dinner had to come first, I just couldn't sit in another smokey bbq, so we headed to Joe's Crab Shack. . . OOPS we broke our no chain rule. . . BUT we didn't know it was a chain before we went so. . . I going to have to let us off the hook!  I went for the crab legs of course but since I don't eat crab hardly ever I really wasn't prepared for how much work it really is to get the meat out of the crab.  I mean I wore the bib and everything. . . and that didn't even work as I found crab down my shirt later. .. James had a good laugh over the whole thing as he smartly chose a salad you can eat with a simple knife and fork!  I was having a really tough time getting to that crab until James put the tools I had at my disposal into fashion terms I could understand. .. "Meg, the yellow thing is like a seam ripper, slide up the leg to get at the meat" . . . OHHH  I get it now, it went much faster after that!

the "seam ripper" tool once I knew how to use it made the whole eating process much faster!

Batman building a night
Artistic shot of PBR and the band
 We then headed to Layla's Bluegrass Hillbilly and country Inn on Broadway where our new favourite entertainers "Slim Chance and the Can't Hardly Playboys" were rocking the stage with bluegrass and rockabilly hits as well as a few of their own like "Hillbilly Psycho Blues."  It is tradition at this place on Broadway that the bands play for tips only as there is no cover and after figuring out which tip jars were for the bartender and which for the band, we made sure to show our love for this super energetic group.  The band is a combination of bands it seems, with one member, the upright bass play, plays with Hank Williams the Third as well and others also a part of "The Howling Brothers."  They took requests from the crow and loved "requests" with $ attached!  LOL.  The bar filled up after the Nashville Predators game got out and the Chicago fans loved the band too.  They were of course also happy with their win!  Just like Calgary, Chicago fans can see a game cheaper here and they do when in town.

We ended our night at Layla's and it was good we stayed in one place. . high high winds and torrential rain storms had everyone and the news all talking about tornadoes. . . WHAT in February??  Well, with the great music we couldn't even tell and despite the fact that we got soaked getting back to our car the night was well worth it!  We had a blast and since we didn't know anyone. . . James even danced! 
Slim Chance and the Can't Hardly Playboys:  BUT they can play!! Check them out online!
Upright bassist, also a part of the Hank Williams III band

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 7 Smokey Mountains and Luella BBQ

Day 7 started in Greenville, South Carolina, home to some of the nicest people we have met.  What are they putting in the water there?  Happy juice?  We started with coffee at Liquid Highway on Main and they suggested that we hit Mary Beth's for a great breakfast, and they were right!  James got eggs, cornbeef hash, hashbrowns and toast and tried a new hot sauce "texas pete" that we stopped after breakfast to pick up at the local grocery.  And I tried lemon curd and ricotta pancakes and a few eggs.  (I have to remember that I like "over medium" in the USA, just the yolks runny, otherwise I get runny whites. . . eeew)  It was delicious once I got the eggs cooked a little more and we then headed out of town on our way to Asheville, North Carolina checking out some of the Greenville neighbourhoods on the way out of town. 

 We took the scenic route as usual and ended up climbing mountains for an hour in the car on crazy switchback type ski roads that had potholes bigger than Montreal!  We know now why they want to keep us on the Interstate!  We ended at the top, a National park called Caesar's head with smokey views through brushy trees and interesting houses that have been in the park since the 1800's and have grandfathered rights there.
 After we entered North Carolina we stopped for a coffee and little snack and to steal internet in Brevard, NC in Transylvania County.  Cute small town of about 5000 but not much going on. . . although the local knitting club was meeting at the coffee shop we were at. . .LOL
 More hilly roads and forests on our way to Asheville and as we got in we noticed how lovely the city was, older buildings and a fairly dense and interesting downtown with a really conscious mindset.  We noticed all the buy local signs on every local business and the community really does stick together and support its own.  It does have a bit of a hippie feel as we had been warned but there was only a few places were the incense was over powering and we of course chose not to partake in the tofu/vegan special and the local pub.
pretty buildings everywhere in Asheville
Buy local campaign everywhere in Asheville
more local "pork art"

We of course headed right for the local favourite BBQ spot that uses local and organic meat (told  you it was a little hippie, but we loved this part of it!) and there was absolutely no tofu on this menu!   A little more "upscale" than some of the BBQ we have eaten, Luella's had a full bar, music on the weekends and a much more complete menu than we had seen up till now at a BBQ joint.   I tried their dirty bloody Mary with olive juice, nice, and James had a local beer.  (Asheville is also called Beertown USA as there are 17 microbreweries in town with great beer.)   I ordered a salad to try and eat some veggies with my meat but the veggies were probably canceled out by the deep fried okra (not bad), hushpuppies, cheese, brisket and smoked turkey. . . and that was on the salad!  We "hooked it up with more cowbell" with a 2 meat plate of pulled pork, brisket, collard greens, vinegar slaw, and hush puppies.  Luella's had the best pulled and chopped pork we had tried so far and the brisket was delicious with side sauces all homemade in "Carolina style" their scooter vinegar sauce was the perfect compliment to the pork and their "hot flash" bbq sauce was so good we wanted to take home a mason jar of it.  We'd highly recommend Luella's to anyone visiting Asheville!

Off to Tennessee tomorrow and more BBQ and hopefully some Memphis blues!

that's organic local pork!

"more cowbell"

our "salad" and amazing "more cowbell" plate

in home made sauces: yummy

pig artwork: we have seen a lot of cartoon smiling pigs on this trip!

BBQ, yes please!