We visited the H.D. Gibbes & Sons store in Learned, Mississippi in 2017, and have been meaning to get back since. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, they serve supper (steaks, seafood — on paper plates, and they just take cash or check) and six days a week they’re a regular country store. The food there is supposed to be amazing and I am all about it. It’s on my list to finally do for supper in 2020.
Dallas Fab and Meso Maya
I got an email alert that the Scottish Sun just ran a travel piece about how amazingly friendly and wonderful Dallas is, and one of the places the author went for lunch was Meso Maya.
l o v e
Queso. The boys inhaled this.
Everyone there was so friendly with us, and when we mentioned it was our first time, the manager brought out these complimentary guacamole tortillas:
The elote con crema was out of this world:
Every. Single. Thing. was just beyond delicious.
Via IG, their avocado margarita
MM Chef Nico Sanchez’ recipe for the restaurant’s pozole verde
Sidenote: Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors is on at the DMA through March 22, 2020 and that is not to be missed. One of my all-time fave exhibits.
Mwah, Dallas! xoxo!
Chocolate Cake For Days
That wasn’t our first trip to the Gaylord Opryland this year. Back in May, we stayed there (an atrium balcony suite in the Garden Conservatory upgrade thanks to Marriott Platinum status) and visited the Nick Cave Feat. exhibit at the Frist. First, though, here’s the room:
The living area was by the balcony, and the bedroom was just as one enter’s the hotel room.
Supper one night was at the Old Hickory Steakhouse which, from reviews (people on OpenTable where I made my res like it better than people on Yelp), looks a little hit or miss, but we had a great experience.
Our table was outside under the atrium, so we got to view the rest of the area while we were dining
We started with the seafood tower, which had lobster, crab claws, shrimp, and oysters
I was boring and only wanted a Caesar salad for my entree. It was as expected suitably boring.
…though I did have a good amount of the creamed spinach and kale with gruyere and a poached egg atop which was delicious
…annnnnd a bite of this steak which was beyond:
…and and annnnnd ohmystars this crazy chocolate cake which completely rocked and no we didn’t even finish a third of it
Lunch that following day was at Arnold’s, which is always good — not mind-blowing, but solid yummy meat-and-three
Oh! And on the way home, we stopped at Stan’s in Columbia, Tennessee for anytime breakfast and cracklin cornbread:
Let’s get back to that exhibit though. Tomorrow. Pics of *amazing* Nick Cave works. Promise.
Tasting Menu at The Chef & I, Garth, And Pls Don’t Paint Buildings Like That
The tasting menu at The Chef & I in Nashville (close to Arnold’s) was incredible and just so much fun, owing to the chefs, staff, and owner Chris being super friendly and putting on such a great time.
There were cocktails — this was the Freddie Mercury, with Xicaru mezcal, Frida Kahlo tequila, jalapeno agave, and house sangria float…
I made reservations on OpenTable, and we were able to sit right at the counter — the chef/owner, Chris explained how much he was in love with this quartz and how it was one of the largest expenditures. He spent a while talking with one of my friends about the restaurant business and the operations there.
Being a tasting menu and changing so often, the servings weren’t listed on a menu. But I can say that every.single.thing was just crazy delicious, from the egg dish to the blackberry waffle to the shrimp with avocado, and our desserts — chocolate espresso creme brulee
and the heirloom carrot cake = so fab.
One of the most amazing things for me was that the kitchen staff seemed unhurried. They did everything efficiently and quickly, and everyone got their food in a reasonable amount of time, but they weren’t crazy stressed or running around like I imagine (and I guess I get that from too much reality-ish tv). In fact, when there wasn’t a server available and a dish was ready, the chefs would just bring it around themselves. Nobody stood on ceremony. It was just super chill.
After lunch, we didn’t even think about supper. It was off to the Grand Ole Opry to see Garth Brooks! He was last of course but played four or five songs and the crowd was SO into it. Of all the concerts I’ve been to, this short set with Garth was maybe my favorite. He is that much fun.
Afterward, we joined the rest of Nashville on Broadway at Tootsie’s and Robert’s Western Wear (there were two other big concerts going on that night) and got price-gouged by Uber going back to the hotel. Still, who cares!? It was crazy fun.
BTW, quick mention about lunch the next day: it’s been a forever since we went to Monell’s downtown, that we had to do it again — but this time at their location by the airport — Monell’s at the Manor. Y’all. I’m not sure their air conditioner was working and everyone was just burning up. And while usually one’s table mates are friendly, only one couple was really interested in chatting (the other was busy with their baby, and a group at the end of the table was busy talking about a supposedly worthless member of their family so whatevvvvs). The food wasn’t especially hot or flavorful, and the waiter took the fried chicken platter and never came back with it as he had promised another member at the table. Just meh. Soooo I don’t have to do Monell’s again for a while. And hoo. Why is the building they’re in painted like this?
And of course, our next adventure, going to Cheekwood for the Cracking Art exhibit, was divine. Crazy great weekend.
Annnd We’re Back. And We’re Eating Good.
Saba is Alon Shaya’s new restaurant on Magazine. Blissfully (for many) Besh-free since there was allll that drama (and like that whole thing in HBO’s Treme when a chef loses the right to their own name on their own (well formerly own) restaurant), Alon isn’t at Shaya, he’s at Saba.
Just as a complete aside, for the times I or someone in my family was in John Besh’s company, he was always super crazy nice. Friendly and wonderful and humble. You just never know how people :::really::: are sometimes. I had a really unfortunate experience with someone who runs an influential food organization, but the rest of the world thinks he’s fab and they name hamburgers in his honor. It’s a thing. As far as I know, John Besh has stayed quiet. Maybe he’s gotten counseling or just decided to lay low. America is a forgiving place (insert basically endless list of ill-behaved celebs & politicians here) and there’s this weird part of us collectively, I think, that finds the act of crashing and burning and then being all apologetic and going away for a while and then making some kind of amazing return intriguing and affirming.
Oh wait. Before we get started, let’s roll back for a sec to how incredible the Chanukah supper was that Alon was a big part of in Oxford, Mississippi this past December.
Oh and SPOILER ALERT: one of the great desserts of my life straight ahead.
So reservations at Saba are made not with OpenTable but with Resy. We had an early lunch so I think we could have been seated immediately anyway, but I don’t like wondering, so we were set with the app. The restaurant is in the old Kenton’s spot on Magazine (so it has that little parking lot in the back which is a huge plus) and moment of silence for that fine, fine Kenton’s hamburger they used to serve with some of the best fries in the universe.
But we’re having small plates at Saba now and that oven inside the dining room is cranking out two-zillion degree pita and I’m so very glad I looked poor or like I didn’t grasp the concept of small plates (prob) and only ordered one small plate for myself because I split a dessert and ohholymotherofallthatisrightinthisworld that was amazing and if I’d eaten any more it would have been crazy town. If you’re getting dessert, you maybe don’t need more than one small plate.
The transformation of the space goes like this — Kenton’s was bright but still had these great jewel tones:
Saba is this:
And those amber water glasses yessss
Here’s my foie, which was really good but not the best ever. And a side note: if you ever get the chance to have marcona almonds, do it but do it with this caveat: know that you’ll never be able to enjoy any other kind of almond ever because marcona almonds are gold. Also, same thing in the apple world with honeycrisp apples.
I had a bite of lamb kebab and that was pretty good:
and the potatoes were pretty nice:
…but if you’re the kind of person who wants to go somewhere just for dessert, or if you’re doing Saba because it’s yummy and cool and the place to be, you just can’t leave without ordering dessert. And dessert equals the warm chocolate babka.
I’m not even big on babka. The grocery store babka is always dry and boring. I will say that Zingerman’s sent me some treats late last year for a project I was working on at the office, and WOW their babka is good. But the babka at Saba is served with a blackberry sauce and hazelnut gelato and it is next level. You can’t not get this.
It’s great to be back at DFK. Thanks to allllll of you who emailed or messaged or whatever to check on me. Things are good, I just needed a break for a min. You know. Kids, job, travel, stuff, chocolate babka. xoxo!
Hoop and Brunch Dreams
The boys loved their first NBA game! Av had a gala to attend, so he dropped us off at Smoothie King Center and we got to see the Pelicans play the LA Clippers. First, though, they wanted to get their picture taken with a couple of cheerleaders:
We ordered our tickets as part of a “Pierre’s Party Pack” which included our seats, a meal combo, and an opportunity to go onto the court after the game to shoot a basket. Our seat location wasn’t that great, but it wasn’t bad either. We had a great time, and the Pelicans beat the Clippers!
…at one point in the game, the cheerleaders threw t-shirts to fans, and they tossed one right to Shugie. He was super tickled.
Shug and Shugie loved getting to go onto the court and try to get a basket
Afterward, we Ubered over to Av’s event venue, then altogether went back to the hotel — the places we usually stay were booked for the weekend since some big conventions were in — so I used some old my Expedia points and got the Holiday Inn Express way out by the airport.
Last year, there was a week we needed to stay, so I took a chance on Expedia’s hidden hotels — the option they sometimes offer for rooms in which they won’t reveal the hotel name until you’ve paid. It feels a little Priceline-eque, without the Priceline. You get whatever hotel it is — there’s no going back, because in effect, you’ve paid for the hotel when you confirm the last screen.
The thing is, though, you’re able to specify what star rating, what neighborhood, and so on, and in many cases, you can mostly figure out what hotel they’re offering. In this instance, I said I would accept any 4-star hotel in a certain area of the (mostly) Quarter. From the map, I was able to decipher it could only be a handful hotels, and even if it were my least-favorites of the bunch (the Astor Crowne Plaza or the Sheraton), I was still going to get a 4* hotel for…ready?…less than $75/night. I could have never done that using either the direct hotel website or Expedia without this opaque pricing. And who, and where, can you get a hotel room pretty much anywhere for that little? In effect, we saved over half each night.
And it did turn out to be the Astor Crowne Plaza on Canal and Bourbon, which wasn’t what I was hoping for, but it was fine. Of all the dozens of hotels we’ve stayed at here, we’ve never been inside:
Sunday, we went over to Metairie to wrap presents for JCRS
and then had brunch at Apolline, which has to be one of our fave brunch places.
Pimm’s Cup. Av had the grilled hangar steak with poached egg and hollandiase over potato hash (which was all delish). Shug had the hamburger, and Shugie went breakfasty with eggs and potatoes.
I had the confit duck bowl, and they were so kind in subbing broccoli for the potato hash. It was topped with duck crackings and poached eggs with hollandaise.
Lunch Steaks: Desi Vega’s, Doris Metropolitan, And You Can’t Do That At The Table
One day for lunch, Av and I made reservations for Desi Vega’s Steakhouse, which is a nice, light and bright space — not heavy and laden with so many dark woods like other steakhouses
And just as a complete aside…a complete, *complete* aside…there was an older gentleman sitting over there by the front window dressed in his lovely suit, holding court. He was so elegant, so fabulous, you could tell just in an instant that everyone was just at rapt attention to what he was saying. At the end of the meal, I looked over to where he was, and he started flossing his teeth there in front of everyone. Cue the side-eyes of his tablemates. I get it: I wear Invisalign so I have a special affinity for a new box of Oral-B unflavored too, but right at the table? You can be a million kinds of wonderful and not be able to get away with flossing in public.
ANYway, we started with the Who Dat Shrimp, which are Gulf shrimp stuffed with crabmeat and wrapped in bacon, served with a sweet Thai sauce
They sent an amuse of a meatball after the app. I like the idea of drinks served / order placed / amuse before apps, but I guess this is their custom here.
Av had the mixed grill, which is described as ‘marinated chicken breast, medallions of filet mignon and sweet Italian sausage’ but doesn’t the chicken look as though it got really charred, the chef cut off the worst of it, and then put it back on the grill for some marks? Also, among ugly plates of food, this is pretty far up there. Even the steak looks unloved and raggedy. What even.
It was what it was: not particularly good. The service was great, but the food itself, not so much. Even the Caesar salad I had for my entree was just ‘whatever’. And you’re tickling me when you’re channeling the 80s and sprinkling things on the border of a dish. It’s so retro it’s just almost made the complete circle of life and swung back around to be charming.
Another Friday, we had lunch at Doris Metropolitan in the Quarter, which was fun in part because Av knows the people who own the restaurant
Their aging room
from what I understand, they offer their butchering services so that patrons may bring home what they like
Here’s one thing I really, really liked. Not only are you given a cloth napkin for your lap, but the silverware is placed on its own napkin so that it never touches the table. Fellow germ-phobes (germaphobes? germophobes? how about just ‘my people’?), I know you see the beauty and wisdom of this.
bread = amazing
Av was not in the mood for a huge T-Bone or NY Strip, so he ordered the minute steak with chimichurri salsa which was just incredibly delicious. This is one of those dishes you could put on the rotation every single week and never get tired of. So delicious.
I wasn’t big on having a steak like Av was, so even though it’s uncommon for me, I was in the mood for a hamburger. This was one of the great hamburgers ever — the menu describes it:
Wagyu Fat, Gorgonzola, smoked Gouda, mushrooms, caramelized onion, black garlic and garlic aioli, served with truffle fries yes yes yes yes yes. Even (I have to say it) better than the hamburgers at Chez FonFon.
BTW (thinking of fab hamburgers), the 60 Minutes profile of Danny Meyer last monthwas excellent. He talked about what goes into the success of Shake Shack — much of it still a mystery to him — and how every single minute detail is thought out…how much goes into the consideration of the experience at each of his restaurants from Gramercy Tavern across the board, and he talks about his no-tipping policy which makes sense when he explains it:
Meyer says he’s found that the front of the house staff sometimes makes 300 percent more than the kitchen staff. So he has increased the base pay of servers and kitchen staff to balance things out and increased menu prices by nearly 25 percent to compensate. He eschews the “no-tipping” phrase. He calls it “hospitality included.” “It’s basically saying, ‘You see that price that it costs to get the chicken? That includes everything. That includes not only the guy that bought the chicken and the guy that cooked the chicken, but it also includes the person who served it to you and how they made you feel.'”
Menu prices are higher, but in the end, checks are roughly the same as if the diner had added a tip, Meyer tells Cooper. “By the time you get your bill, whatever shock you did or didn’t feel when you saw the menu prices, should completely dissipate, because you should say, ‘That’s exactly what it would have been if they hadn’t had this new system.'”‘
Yes to fairness and love to the kitchen.
Memphis Barbecue x2, Pink Palace Museums, And Laminated Blessings
Beautiful. The Pink Palace Museum in Memphis is one of the largest in the Southeast, and has an incredibly varied collection — it’s part planetarium, giant 3D theatre, natural history museum, and Memphis-centric display including a replica of the first Piggly Wiggly which was the first to make the transition from full- to self- serve grocery in the nation.
Patterson Transfer Company Memphis and Nashville mail coach
This Fisk mummy case is a cast iron casket / coffin was used in an 1854 Shelby County burial. “The casket was accidentally uncovered by a plow which exposed a burial vault constructed of approximately 2000 handmade bricks.” The person inside was reburied elsewhere. This particular type of casket was manufactured from about 1835 to 1860. Strangely, there’s a glass piece which has its own cast iron cover above where the head would go, for viewing. More about this casket here and here.
What’s really interesting is that it’s this kind of cast iron casket that helped lead to William Bass founding the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility (Body Farm).
There’s a replica general store
and pharmacy (happy Halloween!)
but the Piggly Wiggly is the best — it’s modeled after the first one here in Memphis, which was revolutionary in that it let the customer do his/her own shopping
2016 marked 100 years of the Pig being in business.
Among the items in the Memphis display, Elvis’ own script for G.I. Blues
and an array of over-the-top gowns for cotton celebrations
We were only in town for less than a full day, but had supper one night at Germantown Commissary which was good all-around
note that the Brunswick stew is “for all you folks from Georgia”
My meal was the cheese plate, which included deviled eggs and sausage. Av had a sampler, all of which was cooked just right (and we all ate from that as well) and the thick-battered onion rings were yum. The banana pudding was pretty great too.
The next day (they like the checkered paper in Memphis) we had Elwood’s Shack. Av had the dry ribs, Shugie had a barbecue sandwich, and I tried the brisket taco. It was all good but not amazing. Between the two, Germantown Commissary has them beat. There’s very little seating here so if one doesn’t get in early or off-hour, getting things to go is a pretty good bet.
We stayed the night at Hyatt Place which was just like every other time we’ve stayed at a Hyatt Place, and found this laminated card by the pillow
‘Our prayer is that your stay here will be restful
and that your travels will be fruitful.
May the L-rd bless you and keep you, and make
His face shine upon you.
Moody National Management’
2015 Memphis Flyer listed ‘Best Barbecue’ as
1. Central BBQ 2. Bar-B-Q Shop 3. Germantown Commissary
and ‘Best Ribs’ as
1. Central BBQ 2. Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous 3. Bar-B-Q Shop — tie — Corky’s Ribs and BBQ
We’re working our way through Memphis barbecue — we’ve now been to Germantown Commissary, Elwood’s, Cozy Corner, Rendezvous, Neely’s (now closed), Corky’s, Tops, Jim Neely’s Interstate, and Central.
Of those, our favorites would be Germantown Commissary, Central, and Corky’s.
We still need to get to BBQ Shop, Pollard’s, Leonard’s, A and R, One and Only, and Marlowe’s.
From the NYT: Before the Wedding, a Test: 3,000 Miles of Barbecue which includes spots from Pennsylvania to Tennessee. In Lexington, Tennessee, they visit whole-hog operation Scott’s-Parker’s Barbeque is visited, and in Memphis, they go to Central and Bar-B-Q Shop.
The author considers going to Alabama for more barbecue, but perhaps has his geography a bit off:
It had begun to rain aggressively after we left the Bar-B-Q Shop, but I drove us out to the Memphis Riverfront. Parked in front of the Mississippi, I began to lay out Barbecue Road Trip Part 2 and the idea that maybe we should hit a few spots in Alabama? I mean, the state border is right there.
Revolving Table Restaurants + Wayne White Art News (yes, those go together here)
Revolving table restaurants — the ones with the giant lazy susan in the middle on which large communal dishes are passed with the gentle push/pull of the mechanism to diners all seated ’round — are literally few and far between.
While we’ve visited time and time again Walnut Hills in Vicksburg (our last visit in late December:)
The food has been mostly bland and boring. I love most any greens any way — and I don’t mind at alllll if vegetables have been cooked for hours and hours until they are babyfood soft — but from the sides to the mains (incl the fried chicken) it was just not at all delicious. Not bad, but not great. And this goes through my head too: is it worth the calories? Nope.
On the table this day: catfish, rice & gravy, yam pone, purple hull peas, fried corn, fried okra, green beans, turnip greens, coleslaw, macaroni & cheese…
…chocolate pudding for dessert. It pains me to say this all wasn’t great because revolving tables is a thing that should go on forever. Forever, forever. We’ve met so many nice people this way…it’s hard not to get to know people you may otherwise never have any interaction with when you’re asking them to spin you those collards again. But it’s just not as fab as it used to be. Or as fab as I made it in my mind just because I love this whole concept.
Here’s my go at it — just a bite or two of everything so it doesn’t get crazy and there’s room if something’s really fab. But also: spending $22pp means this is just not a great value if you aren’t on the football team and feel like attacking the table. Annnnd it seems crazy wasteful, too.
Besides Walnut Hills in Vicksburg, there’s also the Dinner Bell in McComb, Mississippi (my fave of the two left in MS):
plus Bea’s in Chattanooga:
and finally, Buckner’s Family Restaurant in Jackson, Georgia, which is right off I-75, maybe 45 minutes S of Atlanta.
Not only was it good, the people there were super friendly and nice, and the place was really, really clean.
It’s hard for food to look wonderful on melamine plates in this lighting, but trust me — pretty great.
Back to Chattanooga for a sec: Wayne-O-Rama has been extended to September 30 (yes! See you there later this month!) and the Wayne White ‘Thrill After Thrill’ exhibit at the Hunter has been extended so it’s now closing December 31.
Museums x2 in Augusta and Cafeteria Love
Augusta was fun! And rainy and museum-y and yummy.
Well, okay there was this one thing — something was going on in the city when we were there so the better hotels (Doubletree, Marriott, HGI…though it seems as though most of the hotels here are more budget-oriented) had limited availability and were much higher than they ordinarily should be. One new hotel called ECCO was in the top ten at TripAdvisor, and I thought it would be a great way for us to save a lot of money since there wasn’t a particularly interesting hotel to stay in anyway, and it obv had good ratings. It was completely meh, though we weren’t expecting anything other than meh. Totally didn’t matter because we had such a fab time in Augusta anyway.
Av was off to do some work in Augusta, so the boys and I decided to spend the day walking around and taking in a couple of museums. The first one was the Morris Museum of Art which was tucked inside an office building that also happened to be right on a riverwalk at the Savannah River.
This is not a big museum *but* it’s got some interesting pieces
So so so happy to see Nell Choate Jones‘ Georgia Red Clay
This is a really wonderful Nicola Marshall, ‘Young Girl with Cat’ from 1867. Not too many people can rock a middle-part with a widows peak, but this little girl sure is. She and kitty have been playing with her stocking. Love this one.
Nice Ida Kohlmeyer pieces
And this beyond-fab Jonathan Green ‘Daughters of the South’ — the museum is hanging an exhibit of his works from their permanent collection beginning October 4 going through January 28, 2018
Afterwards, we took in the the riverwalk and tucked ourselves into a little alcove when a short rainstorm started, then kept going to the Augusta Museum of History which was also really, really good (and included a special exhibit to favorite son James Brown). We spent well over an hour here.
Nice that they had such immersive environments, especially for kids. We enjoyed the train a lot.
Now for the best and last part of Augusta — lunch. Right across from where The Masters is played is a big, big, big church complex in what was probably a shopping center at one point.
In this same development is ‘Honey from the Rock Cafe’ — it’s rated #3 of 399 restaurants in Augusta. This place gets amazing reviews. Plus, how many places like this are there?
…actually one less than there was a year ago because Ernest Angley’s Cathedral Buffet closed in April.
Anyway. It’s set up as a cafeteria. Everyone is just crazy nice.
There are Bible verses on everything. On the wall, on table placards, on the food labels…
Everything is neat and clean and just so. Niki’s West has trained me to be completely alert, thinking ahead so I won’t get barked at through the line. I know exactly at what point I need to ask for collards and rutabagas and butter beans. Here, though, take your time and consider the options.
The boys got meat dishes but I was in for vegetables, like fried okra and sweet potato casserole and fried green tomatoes which, yeah, negated all those vitamins. It was like my Thanksgiving plate except I wasn’t beholden to take any turkey. It was all very, very good.
And those were some gooood FGTs, y’all.