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.

Meh.

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:

Astor Crowne Plaza, New Orleans LA

Lobby, Astor Crowne Plaza, New Orleans LA

Astor Crowne Plaza, New Orleans LA

Astor Crowne Plaza, New Orleans LA 

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.

Lovebugs.

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.

#brunchgoals

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.

So.

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.
Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

narwahl tooth

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

 

ivory-billed woodpecker
Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

Patterson Transfer Company Memphis and Nashville mail coach
Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

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.

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

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
Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

and pharmacy (happy Halloween!)
Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

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

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

 

2016 marked 100 years of the Pig being in business.

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

 

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

 

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

 

Among the items in the Memphis display, Elvis’ own script for G.I. Blues
Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

and an array of over-the-top gowns for cotton celebrations
Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

 

Pink Palace Family of Museums, Memphis TN

We were only in town for less than a full day, but had supper one night at Germantown Commissary which was good all-around
Germantown Commissary, Germantown TN

note that the Brunswick stew is “for all you folks from Georgia”
Germantown Commissary, Germantown - Memphis TN

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.
Germantown Commissary, Germantown TN

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.
Elwood

Hyatt Place Hotel, Memphis TN
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.
All grace, 
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.

Pretty-Pretty Lunch In Savannah

Cohen’s Retreat in Savannah has somehow managed to make the leap from quite literally ‘Cohen’s Old Man’s Retreat’ (it is what it is (or was) — a place where “men would not die old and lonely” thanks to the generosity of Percival Randolph Cohen) to *such* a pretty restaurant and event space today.

There was also a homewares shop on one end of the building that was Anthro-ish with Anthro-ish prices.

Our lunch was in this room, featuring a portrait of sweet Mr. Cohen

We were all really happy with everything we had — Av and the boys had sandwiches or salads

…and I had the tomato pie which I always love to see on a menu (and theirs was pretty good)

We’ll definitely return on our next visit to Savannah. While I’m looking forward to eating there again, I’m actually even more interested to see how/if they change up the interior.

Snacking Savannah

It must be a rule that when in Savannah, one must go to Leopold’s for ice cream. And for good reason.

Not sure who thought a scoop of ice cream between two cookies was a good idea, but the four of us each had a bite and agreed.

We also happened to walk later to Chocolat by Adam Turoni (on IG here). We got four small pieces — one for each of us, and one later for Av since he was working — and honestly none of them were as delicious as we had wanted them to be (though they were pretty). What was so compelling was the atmosphere:

The shop is set up to appear as a library. The pieces are placed here and there in bookcases…

…and to select a piece, one takes a wooden tray which has in it a small set of tongs, opens the door, and takes a confection

His Etsy shop shows how gorgeous these all are.

We had our highest hopes for these passion fruit truffles (below) but they weren’t especially tasty. Unfortunately no flashbacks with the confections here to visits to Paris or Brussels. We *so* wanted them to be amazing. Perhaps we just came on a day when something was going on, because even the customer service person seemed off. They packaged our chocolates in a small clear cellophane bag, and when I asked for a paper bag to slip that into, explaining we had a lot more walking around Savannah out in the sun to do, the person seemed very put out. Everyone has an ‘off’ day. We’ll give them another try.

But the interior! It’s all done here (and at their other shop in town which is made to look more like a dining room (gasp at how fab those chocolates look!) by Alexandra Trujillo de Taylor. Bravo, Alexandra! Her IG is here.


Not snacking, but supper: one evening we went to Garibaldi Cafe at city market, and it was pretty great too:

Scallops, lasagna, lobster tail app (I just had a salad for my entree) — all fab.

Chandelier love:

The Olde Pink House, Savannah

Our first reservation in Savannah: The Olde Pink House. It faces Reynolds Square and is housed in a mansion on a lot which was a land grant from the British Crown. Begun in 1771 and construction completed in 1789, it’s especially distinctive thanks to the pink stucco covering the brick. It’s also adjacent to the Planter’s Inn. After serving as a private home for James Habersham Jr and his family, the building served as Planter’s Bank and First Bank of Georgia.

We made reservations via OpenTable so didn’t even worry about timing or availability, while several others I noticed came in just to put their name on the list. We use OpenTable all the time and love to get to bypass the hoping they have a res that was called in or hoping for the best without one, and we’re almost always seated immediately.

This is the dining room we were in:

Shortly thereafter, we were treated — just as everyone is — to a jar of their fab cheese straws (the cheese straws I make are piped shorter and thicker, but they come in all shapes and are equally delish)

Rather than an entree, I chose an appetizer: the fried chicken livers over Geechie Boy grits with bordelaise and fried spinach. Completely delicious.

Av chose the fried chicken, which was also crazy good. The skin was crispy and flavorful without being too salty. Shugie (who opted for a bowl of she crab soup which was nice) came over and helped him with it.

I *knew* the interior was going to be beautiful, so I asked if it would be any trouble for me to visit some of the other rooms since we’d be considering a future visit for supper — they were happy to, and offered that I could go upstairs, too.

Upstairs is just one beautiful room after another. Here, by the landing

Even though the restaurant gets a huge share of tourists, we thought it was fab and would not hesitate to make supper reservations. Looking forward to it.

Top Of Atlanta, And The Chocolate Blue Dome

I shall never tire of a revolving restaurant.

We’ve been to the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Ontario, the Chart House at Tower of the Americas in San Antonio, and now both of the ones in Atlanta.

Earlier this year, we planned to celebrate our anniversary by going to the Sun Dial Restaurant for lunch and then later drive to Florence, Alabama for the 360 Grille at the Marriott Shoals (on our way over, after having our reservation for several days via OpenTable, the manager at 360 called a couple of hours before our res to let us know that the mechanism that makes the restaurant revolve hadn’t been working for a few days. I canceled our reservation, but couldn’t he have called earlier than that night so we could have made other plans? It worked out okay because we wound up at Odette which was fab).

The Sun Dial is on the 71st floor of the Westin Peachtree Plaza.

Over the course of…maybe an hour, we got a 360* view of Atlanta, which the boys got a big kick out of


Besides getting to see everything from a window-side table, there’s also an area with an observation binocular

Happy!

Av had blackened Georgia trout over tasso-crawfish grits, which he liked

Shug went with pasta and Shugie had pizza

And I wasn’t so hungry, so I just ordered a Caesar salad which was tiiiiny.


(looking up from the lobby at the Hyatt)

This past weekend, we were in Atlanta again and after supper elsewhere, we walked over to the Hyatt Regency and had dessert at Polaris, which is on the 22nd floor. This time, we had a nighttime view of the city as the restaurant revolved.

We rode right past the open kitchen

We shared the very pretty Polaris Blue Dome: fair trade chocolate mousse, rooftop honey caramel, flourless chocolate cake atop a meringue disc

Delish.

Fried Chicken In Paper Bag, And Beef Fat Candle

I had a friend visiting Birmingham while I was away, and she asked me what I thought of Chris Hastings’ OvenBird — it’s all about small plates, and live-fire ovens for cooking. No gas lines. In fact, I was there late once when the power went out and they had to close the restaurant early because of the fire smoke (serious fans for ventilation are required, I guess). The entry is by Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery at Pepper Place, so the courtyard is beautiful, and the inside is cozy and comfortable.

While I’ve had a disappointing brunch at Chris Hastings’ The Side by Side, and some mixed nights at Hot and Hot Fish Club (it’s always better if he’s there), Av and I are impressed with how great everything at Ovenbird is, and I encouraged my friend to give it a try.

We’ve had their fried chicken which comes served in the bag — order it first if you’re planning on staying a while and ordering as you go, since they sometimes run out

*The* thing to get, though, is the beef fat candle with ember-roasted vegetables and chimichurri. To me, it tastes like all those bits at the bottom of an exceptional all-day roast, with all the little soft vegetable pieces and the jus from the meat, all this made even better as the candle burns down, offering up its own beefy flavors.

Here, anchovy, curtido, romesco deviled eggs. Nice and creamy, but they needed more…something. Also: the egg at 6:00 is jealous of the egg with all the sprinkles at 9:00.

Hi!

Here’s the NYT’s take on OvenBird. Oh! And my friend loved it. xoxo!