Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Weekend Road Trip ... Review: Switzerland Cafe

I told Dawn months ago, that for my birthday, I wanted to take a road trip one day and try out a new BBQ spot. We started looking in SC, NC, and even GA for a spot to try out. 

SC raves about their "BBQ Trail", but it's a joke. It's nothing but a map with over 200 restaurants listed. You don't have to be anything special, just serve BBQ and they'll put your name on the "trail". As much as it pains me to say it, NC wins when it comes to the BBQ Trail. They have an actual trail that you can follow and it basically goes from one side of their state to the other, and only highlights 23 joints along the way.

We were down between Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby, NC and Switzerland Cafe in Little Switzerland, NC. I actually decided to go with Bridges Barbecue, but unfortunately they were closed for the holidays. 

Little Switzerland is this little town up in the mountains, and is absolutely gorgeous. We got up there around 1 and sat out on the deck to enjoy the sunny and 75 degree weather.

Switzerland Cafe is featured on the BBQ Trail, but doesn't have a huge selection of BBQ. They have a 3 page menu, but only have pulled pork. We both ordered the pulled pork sandwiches. I got the kettle chips and she got the potato salad.  



The pork had great flavor, the buns were incredible, and the kettle chips were amazing (Dawn said the potato salad was really good too). I definitely understand why they're on the BBQ Trail. It was a really good BBQ sandwich, and that was exactly what I was wanting. 

As we were leaving, we cut through the bar section to see the view on the other side and as I turned the corner I saw this ... 


I love any place that puts Gamecock stuff on their walls. However, any place in North Carolina that has South Carolina Gamecocks stuff on their walls is just awesome. 

Switzerland Cafe also has some mall little shops connected to it. They're not all that amazing, but the cement barrier to stop cars is. 


We decided to stop by Asheville on the drive home, and my lovely wonderful wife thought we should take the Blue Ridge Parkway back down. If you're not familiar with the Blue Ridge Parkway, it's a very famous stretch of road that curves up through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Thousands of people travel to the area in the Fall to drive it and look at the changing colors of the leaves in the mountains. It's a beautiful ... long ... curvy ... long ... slow speed ... long ... barely 2 lanes ... long ... slow ... long ... annoying ... beautiful stretch of road.


The BBQ was good, the sides were good, the buns were good ...



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

4th of July Celebration

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. Partly because the nation's birthday is one day after my birthday (but about 200 years before), but also because I love Summer and being outside with the grill going and a cold beer in hand. The 4th of July in America is like Christmas in July. Everyone is wearing their red, white and blue ... some are even tacky, purposely or not ... everyone is being friendly to each other, and there's amazing food and get togethers everywhere you look.  

The 4th for us is usually fairly quiet since everyone gets together for my bday. We may go to a family members pool and spend some time there, but for the most part we just sit back and enjoy our own little family. 

We took the little man in the backyard and let him run around for a little while (that's his pool beside him, not just random trash laying around in our yard). 


See, he loves his pool ... and his rubber ducky.


For lunch, I told Dawn that we had to do hot dogs. I mean, it's the 4th of July for crying out loud. What's more American than hot dogs and beer?


 

For dinner, we busted out my new Nolan Ryan cookbook. 

Dawn picked out the "Potatoes Au Gratin" to go with my pick of "Grilled T-Bone with Bourbon-Peppercorn Sauce." 

For the potatoes we used red potatoes instead of Idaho potatoes as it called for. Threw the unsalted butter, milk, salt, pepper, "pinch" of nutmeg in a saucepan for about 5 minutes. Then layered them in these 2 fancy thingys she's got with the sauce and Swiss and Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs on top.




We cheated a little for the steak too. I wanted the big ginormous T-Bone at the store, but they had New York Strips on sale (I can't say no to a NY Strip). 

For the sauce, we mixed molasses, whole black peppercorns, Jack Daniel's, unsalted butter, and lemon juice. The recipe calls to just sprinkle salt and pepper on the steaks, so we did that instead of our usual rubs we use. We did vary a little and used the last bit of smoked salt we have (Ron, I'm still waiting on that next order). 

Being the 4th of July, we busted out the One Hope wine with the American flag on it. One Hope is a wine company out of California that donates portions of each bottle to different charities. Their Sweet Red wine go towards Support Our Troops (we also have their Darius Rucker signature line, which we used in our wedding, that's Cabernet Sauvignon and gives to support Autism Research and their Pinot for Paws which helps Fund Pet Adoptions).

I tried to get all fancy with my picture here, did it work?


The potatoes, steak, and wine were all delicious. The sauce on the steak was killer, but for some reason the steaks were a little tough. I've never cooked a tough steak, and obviously from the picture it wasn't over cooked, so I'm not sure what really happened here. It may have just been a bad cow.

We are definitely looking forward to trying more recipes from the great Nolan Ryan.


Friday, July 11, 2014

30th Bday/Review: Firebirds

Now, I know some people are all worried about turning 30, but for me, I really don't care. It's just another number, and as long as I feel ok and am healthy, I couldn't careless.

Dawn is known for giving the greatest presents (at least for me). I'm not horrible at present giving myself, but she always seems to find the one gift to put it over the top ... this year was no different. 

 She started it off by having me a surprise dinner with friends and family at Chuy's the night before. I'm pretty good at sniffing out surprises, but I had no clue. I knew it didn't make sense that her mom would want to take me to Chuy's for my birthday, but I didn't really worry over the details of it.

After suffering and waiting all day long, I finally got to open my gifts. I started with Rhett's present (yes, my dog got me a present), he got me a Gamecock leash so we can sport our favorite team when we go on walks. Then Dawn got me a new garnet and black state logo hat, a Nolan Ryan Beef & Barbecue cookbook (which has already been put to use ... don't worry, you'll see), Jack Daniel's Tennessee Rye, and my big present for the big 3-0 was ... VIP tickets to see Eric Church in Greensboro, NC. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I'm a huge EC fan, so I all but jumped through the roof when I opened that one up.   


She let me pick where we went for dinner, so I chose to go to Firebirds. It's a new restaurant in Greenville that cooks only over an open flame. We've heard great things about it, but also heard that it could be a little pricey. 

As soon as we walked through the door, we were hit with that smell that you only get from cooking over a wood fire. Immediately, I was in heaven. 

Dawn went with the Beef Tenderloin and BBQ Shrimp with mashed potatoes. She ordered her beef medium, and it was probably half correct and half medium well. There wasn't really a whole lot of pink left. Even with that, she raved about the flavor of the tenderloin and the shrimp. That girl likes her some shrimp, so if she says it's good, it's a-ok. 


Surprise, surprise, I ordered the New York Strip with fries. Usually I only eat a fry or two (I prefer to enjoy the meat that I'm paying for than the sides), but these fries were amazing. These are definitely some of the best fries in Greenville. I don't know if that's saying much, but they are. 

The New York Strip was absolutely massive. I can't remember how big it was supposed to be, but it was one of the largest strips I've ever had. I ordered it medium rare, and it came out dead on. The flavor was great, the char was great, but if I had to ding it anywhere, it would have been the huge fat strip on the outside. I know they're supposed to have a line of fat, and I usually enjoy some out there, but this had close to 1/4 inch of fat on the outside and that I just can't do.


Lets just say, the steak was completely gone (minus the fat I cut off) and the fries were close to gone. I was absolutely miserable ... but it was worth it. 

Price wise, it wasn't Applebee's, but the food wasn't either. It was a little higher than the "norm", but I wouldn't say it was overpriced. I'm ok with paying $30 for a New York Strip that is this size and cooked to perfection.

I have to ding them a half pig for the fat on my steak and Dawn's tenderloins being a little over, but neither was enough to harm the dinner experience. We will be back, and I hope it's before my next birthday.






Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Farewell to my 20s

July 3rd, 2004 I transformed from a teenager into a 20 year old. If you would have told me then what all the 20s would hold for me, I might have turned around and ran.

In 2005, I had one of the coolest cakes (That's the Steeda logo for those that don't know. Steeda is an aftermarket manufacturer for Mustangs.) ...


... and had a lot longer hair.


2006 I went to Graceland for the first time.



I became a Harley-Davidson model (who's that sexy lady beside me? Wait, that's my future wifey)



Went to a concert that this guy named Eric Church was one of the opening acts. I've since seen him over 10 more times (with 3 more concerts planned for later this year).





Oh, and I saw this other guy ... his name is something like ... Garth Brooks


If that wasn't enough ... I got to talk to him over the phone for winning a contest. We're like best friends now. I call him GB, I mean that's just how we roll.


The "Beasts" became a dominate force in team trivia, at one point running off a 8 consecutive winning streak. 


I got to drive at Lowe's Motor Speedway with the Richard Petty Driving Experience.


2009 I pimped it out for my birthday.


Since my Junior year in high school, I had my '95 Mustang known as "Steeda". It was "just a v6", but I spent every dime I made on that car. I used to have people tell me that I was going to wash the paint off of it, because I kept it so clean. One rainy night, I rounded a curve on balding low profile tires and texting, as I accelerated to go up the hill I lost traction and ran my pride and joy 45 miles an hour into a tree. I used to never wear my seat belt, but as I sat in my car (what would end up being) the last time, something made me buckle up. I walked away without a single scratch or bruise. My baby wasn't so lucky. 


Went snowboarding for the first time. 


Went to THE Yankee Stadium before it closed.


I became an Uncle



In 2010, I went with a Red, White, and Blue themed party. This is one of my favorite pictures ... although it's slightly blurry.


I started smoking, started this blog, bought a new fancy smoker, and have gotten pretty daggum good at all things outdoor cooking.


That lead me to visit Memphis in May's World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest ... as a guest, NOT a competitor. 


One night while in Memphis, we went to Silky Sullivan's and I was forced to leave this note for the waitress. No, we didn't have a dying dog, but if we did ... it would have sounded better than the mess that was on the stage. Sorry, this was just a funny picture I found while looking through pics.  


2 years ago, just over a month before I turned 28, I went through an event that would forever change my life. It showed me how quickly everything I thought I knew about life can change. If you're new to my blog, and want to read more on that event. You can do so here. I have never in my life worked on my birthday. I know some think that's dumb, but I want to celebrate being given the chance to be alive and I want to do so with a day to myself, relaxing or doing whatever I want. I was cleared to return to work for July 2nd, and couldn't see requesting a day off of work 1 day after returning from missing a full month recovering ... so July 3rd, 2012 I was forced to work for the first time on my birthday in my life. To add insult to injury, on that same day, Andy Griffith passed away.

Back to the up beat stuff ...

I went to Bermuda


Bahamas


Jamaica 


and Cancun 


The last day that I was out for recovery, I met my sister to pick our a ring for Dawn. From day 1, she's been there for me through thick and thin, and has loved me more than I thought ever possible. Eric Church has a song called "You Make It Look So Easy". It's about a guy that's hard headed and hard to love (basically a typical guy), but she makes loving him look so easy. I don't know how Dawn does it, but she always makes loving me look so easy. She's made me the happiest man for over 3 years now, and the happiest husband for just over a year. I'm a lucky, lucky man to have such an amazing woman in my corner. I'll never win the Mega Millions lottery because I've already won the lottery once in my life ... and I'm ok with that.






I got a Dexter cake for my birthday in 2013.


I got to meet Sting (on of my all-time favorite Wrestlers ... hence the bright red face) at a Gamecock vs. Kentucky (where his son played) 


For Dawn's birthday, I told her we could get a puppy like she's been begging me for. I didn't realize that that little rug rat would end up having me wrapped around his little paw, too. If he looks happy in this picture, it's because this is his favorite spot. It doesn't matter how I hold him. He always tries to rotate so he's sitting right here.


July 3rd, 2014 I woke up with a couple of grey hairs poking out of my head, the love of my life beside me wishing me a "happy birthday old man", and a little puppy jumping on the side of the bed ready for daddy to get up so he can play. If you would have told me back then how my 20s would end ... I wouldn't have changed a thing.