Eating my way through Tennessee!

GEDC2258

The Great Smokey Mountains

Well, it’s been over a week since I’ve posted anything here, and the reason is that I’ve been gallivanting around glorious Tennessee! My wonderful mother and I took a week-long mother-daughter trip through Asheville, NC, and the TN cities of Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Nashville. Despite slugging through an exhausting 15-hour drive home yesterday (with a 1am bedtime at the end, natch), I miss being on vacation, but perhaps most of all I miss the fabulous (*cough* fattening *cough*) food.

I miss the biscuits. A lot.

Note the “s” on the end of biscuits – that’s because I ate … eleven and a half of them during our week-long trip! Yes, that many – so many that I have to write out the words because seeing them as numbers is just too disheartening. But do you wonder how many biscuits that is visually? Well, I did, so I had some fun a few minutes ago and whipped this together:

There is one word - no, one sound - for this photo: mmm....

There is just one suitable word - no, one sound - for this photo: mmm....

This particular photo was taken during our last meal, at a Cracker Barrel in Harrisonburg, VA. Some people might knock that place, but they are darn convenient for road-weary travelers, and their food isn’t all that bad – if you make the right selections. And let me assure you: their biscuits are one of them. Theirs are light and fluffy, a baked equivalent of marshmallows (if you catch my analogy), with a definite and comforting buttery flavor. They need no butter or jam, just earnest devouring while they’re hot.

We had other great biscuits, too: at Tupolo Honey Cafe in Asheville, NC; the Loveless Cafe outside of Nashville (which is apparently an institution in TN and was featured in Southern Living, Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives – Bobby Flay even had a biscuit throwdown with them! We liked their dense biscuits the least of all we had, though – go figure); and the Hampton Inn in downtown Nashville, of all places. But the most amazing part of the whole biscuit story is that – despite the ribbing my mom and I gave each other every time we grabbed a biscuit – I didn’t gain an ounce on vacation! It must have been all the walking….

Mom eating red velvet cupcake at Biltmore, 19O09

My mom is looking a bit guilty as she enjoys her red velvet cupcake - why, oh why would you feel guilt when enjoying such delights?!?

But on to other food. Our first stop, Asheville, gave us surprisingly good cioppino, crab-ful crab cakes, lobster macaroni and cheese, and a warm and gooey walnut/carmel/chocolate pie at The Lobster Trap. Their drinks list looked good, too, but I stuck with a glass of red and my mom went with her standard vodka and coke with a twist of lime; if I’d have been bad, I’d have ordered a “Louisville Cream Soda”: vanilla bourbon and cream soda … weird but probably wonderful! Anyway, next in our tummies were soft and moist red velvet cupcakes from the small cafe at The Biltmore. I’d rave about them more, but I was too blown away by the mansion, even though we were there a decade ago, that I was mostly distracted. For brunch the next day at Tupolo Honey Cafe, I had a sinful “Eggs Betty”, which was really just Eggs Benedict served on biscuits instead of English muffins (oh, so difficult to swallow…!), finished up with yet another biscuit slathered with their delightful naturally sweet and perfectly chunky blackberry preserves – which were so great we each bought a jar!

Red Velvet cupcake at Biltmore, 19O09

On to Knoxville…. Our first night there we dined at The Crown & Goose Pub in the old district at Central and Jackson Avenues. My mom had a disappointing butternut squash risotto (What self-respecting chef ruins a great risotto with great gobs of onions and red and green peppers?!), but I had very recommendable duck confit risotto cakes. The next day we found a very unusual afternoon pick-me-up: coffee and a bacon and chocolate-

Bacon chocolate chip cookie, Knoxville 21O09

There are no words ... no words ....

chip cookie from the Coffee & Chocolate Cafe on Clinch Ave. Yes, you read that correctly! And yes, it was amazing! The flavor combination was almost oddly inappropriate, but I loved it. In fact, I loved it so much that I’ll be baking up a batch around here in the near future – just to prove they are in fact good! Those cookies had good quality bacon, which helped; as long as you avoid a puddle of grease, they look pretty yummy too … don’t you think?! And finally, we splurged on chocolates from The Chocolate Fetish on Haywood Street. If you’re ever in Asheville, stop there for a dark chocolate salted caramel and their “Blossom Truffle” (lemon zest, ginger, and saffron, oh my!). Sinful!

Chattanooga ended up being a bit of a bust, both destination- and food-wise. We had a pretty piss-poor buffet style “Italian” dinner at a mystery dinner theater, and it was almost a night to forget, save a hilarious cop who stole the show.

The next day found us in Nashville, where we ate our aforementioned so-so dinner at the Loveless Cafe – tasty if dull pulled pork, slightly tired vegetables, and waaaay over-sweetened blackberry cobbler. Thankfully, their homemade blackberry jam on the biscuits saved the meal; we’d have bought a jar there, too, if we hadn’t already gotten a jar at Tupolo Honey! For lunch the next day after touring the Parthenon, we ate a nostalgic lunch at famous Elliston Soda Shop on Elliston Street. There, the best thing was the chocolate malt; the food was forgettable and the atmosphere was pretty dingy. The place looked like it’d seen better days and was perhaps living on their past reputation, sadly. Thankfully, our day was redeemed with a celebratory drink at the Hermitage Hotel in the bar of the Capitol Grille. I had a fairly good glass of Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon, but the decor was the star of the evening, matching the flair of the Hermitage itself (President Andrew Jackson’s home).

And that’s about the end of my food journal from Tennessee. We ended up seeing an awful lot of historical homes, Civil War sites, antique shops, and city landmarks, but we also sampled our fare share of Southern goodies. If you get a chance to visit any of the cities we did, check out the cafes, restaurants, and diners we hit up!

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