Friday, May 31, 2013

This Year's Stash

Memorial Day is the official unofficial kickoff to Summer. Everywhere you go you'll see grills, cooking utensils,  meats, and charcoal on sale. Apparently, some people only cook outdoors during the warm months of the year, so all of these things go on sale for those people so they know when it's safe to dust off the grill and go back outside ... yeah, I don't get it either.

For those like me (not afraid to freeze in the name of food ... I've fired up the pit in sub freezing temps before), Memorial Day sales are like Christmas in May. On the Brethren, Memorial Day is followed like a Taylor Swift tour by a 13 year old girl. There's countless threads opened daily, asking for the latest and greatest deals, and while someone is asking that, someone else is posting which are the latest and greatest deals of the season. 

This year the best deal on Kingsford is at WalMart. You can get 2 15lb bags for 6.98 coming out at .23 a pound. Lowes and Home Deport normally have the best deals, and there's aren't bad this year, but the price comes out to .25 a pound. Although it doesn't sound like much, when you're buying hundreds of pounds ... it adds up. 

Last year I had a decent little stock pile, but ran out and had to start buying regular priced bags. This year, with a bigger pit and cooking more, I knew I'd have to get a bigger stash. I left Wally World with 240 pounds of charcoal, and went to Academy earlier in the day and got 2 more bags of wood. Needless to say, my car was dragging on the way home. 

I just hope at this point it'll last me till the next sale for Labor Day. 

To a completely different, unrelated story, Dawn picked me up a new candle. I used to LOVE Yankee Candle's Banana Nut Bread candle, but they discontinued it. I have a Hershey's with Almonds candle I got from a sweet shop at the beach, and a Cherry Moonshine candle from Ole' Smokey Mountain Moonshine in TN. As great as they are, I believe I've found my new favorite ... 

She's made these Bacon and Bourbon Brownies before, and this smells EXACTLY like those coming out of the oven. I swear, it's the worst smell you've ever smelt in your life ... don't go buy any (insert evil smile as I run to the store and buy them out). 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Celebration Steaks: Married Edition

When we got engaged, we celebrated by cooking a big steak dinner. We went out and bought some (not so cheap) New York Strips and cooked The Greatest Engagement Dinner You'll Never Have

Dawn's mom got us a room at the Embassy Suits in Charlotte the night before our honeymoon, so we wouldn't have to drive up early in the morning. As we were walking to our room we saw that the hotel restaurant was Omaha Steaks, and my eyes lit up. We checked out the menu and it wasn't really that bad, so we tried it out.

Dawn ended up breaking the tradition, but went with their Parmesan Crusted Chicken. Since she makes it for me all the time, she wanted to try out a "professional" kind. 

As you can see in the picture, she had her fork ready to go, but I had to but in and take a picture first ... 

The juiciness of the chicken made the crust a little soggy, and not as crispy as her is, but she still really enjoyed it. 

As you may know, I LOVE New York Strips, so I had to try theirs out. I got it with whatever kind of potatoes they had, but lets be honest, nobody is on this site to know about a side of mashed potatoes ...

If those pictures just made you drool, don't worry, the steak was as good (actually, better (actually, a LOT better)) than it looks. For the longest time, I had said that a New York Strip that I got at Liberty Steak House one time (I've gone back a few times and it's never been the same) was the greatest steak I've ever had. Omaha Steaks' New York Strip in the Embassy Suits in Charlotte has now taken that crown. 

Maybe it was the built up excitement of being a newlywed and about to leave on our honeymoon, or maybe it was just that the steak was amazingly awesome. Whatever it was, there is a new bar when it comes to great steaks, in my book.

Next time we're in Charlotte, I know where we're going ...

Friday, May 24, 2013

It's Jamaica Mon

On May 11th, I married the most beautiful and loving woman on Earth. On May 13th, with the planning and stressing and paying for every little detail over, we boarded a jet plane to Jamaica for our Honeymoon. With a week of stress free, all expense paid, no emails/cell phones/Facebook, and endless fruity drinks in our sight, we were ready to go.

We splurged a little on the trip, and went with the butler service (the lowest was the same price as the highest of the middle level which we were going to go with anyway, so it all worked out). As soon as we got to our room we had a fruit plate waiting with a note from our butlers.

The first night we went to The Sundowner for dinner.

We both went with the Smoked Chicken & Cream Cheese in Crispy Phyllo for an appetizer, although I really didn't know what a phyllo was. It basically was chicken and cheese in a shell ... can't go wrong there.

For her entree, Dawn went with the Portland Pimento Smoked Pork Tenderloin.

While I played it a bit safe, and got the Papaya Flavored Jerk Chicken Breast.

Our first breakfast on our Honeymoon was straight off of a post card. Normally it'd read "Wish you were here", but since it was our Honeymoon it'd say "I'm glad you're not here, because that'd be a little weird." 

For lunch we went to Bella Napoli Pizzeria and I turned one of their calzones into a pizza. I basically just asked for their pork, sausage and cheese to be on a pizza. Dawn got their Jerk Chicken pizza, but by the time it came out, I was elbow deep into mine, so I wasn't able to get a picture of it.

Day 2's dinner was at the Italian restaurant, Cucina Romana. 

Neither of was was really thrilled by any of the apps, so we just stuck with the main course. She had the Tortellini all' Scampi con zenzero.

While I went with the Costata Di maiale (pork chop) with Penne and meat sauce.

Now ... 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, the greatest "hot dog" IN THE WORLD!!!!!

At the Beach Bistro, the Chef's Signature Dish is this bad boy. A "BBQ Pulled Pork Rib Dog with Mozzarella Cheese". Basically, it's everything amazing on a bun. 

The wiener,  they throw in the fryer for a few seconds to give the outside that crunch every good hot dog has to have. Then throw on their pulled pork in their sweet BBQ sauce, which is delicious. Then layer it in mozzarella cheese that melts into a gooy oooy yumminess. The fries were GREAT as well, but the dog was KILLER!!!!!

She got a side of hummus ... and then ordered extra bread since they give you a scoop of hummus with 4 pieces of bread??

Then she got a Curry Chicken Wrap. 

For dinner on night 3, we went to their Japanese restaurant, Kimonos. The greatest thing about Kimonos is you don't order ... you get the WHOLE menu for dinner. You get the steak, chicken, shrimp, scallops, and fish of the day. Again, I am NOT a big seafood eater. I can eat shrimp, but when it comes to fish, absolutely not. I couldn't eat enough of the fish they made here. I can't remember what the fish was called, but the sauce and everything on it was amazing. 

The cooks here make the cooks at your local Miyabi's or Kampai look like rookies. We went again a few days later with some new friends, and that night we got 2 chefs. The picture below is Napoleon. He's from the Philippines and said he cooks Jamaicanese. 

Rick's Cafe is one of the world's most famous bars (as you can see on the menu. It was voted one of the ten Best Bars). 

The view is amazing, but one of the main attractions is the cliff that people jump off of. It's not in the picture, but it's the same height as the ones across the way here. 

You get a loaf of bread, and we got the chicken nachos for appetizers with the salsa on the side (I didn't want all that mess on top). 

I wanted to try real true Jerked Chicken, and it lit me ON FIRE!!!!! The waitress laughed at me because I was talking about how hot it was. It wasn't like it was firey hot the whole time, but there was a bite or two here and there that would just light me on fire. 

I eyed Rick's Signature Dish, but Dawn actually pulled the trigger and went with the Chicken and Waffles. I sampled it out, and they were amazing. It was basically fried chicken with their gravy on a waffle and syrup. 

One night at dinner they brought us the "signature drink of the night" to our table. Everything is "free" at this point, so of course, we said sure. Well they described it as having "blah blah blah and shrimp stock". I wasn't sure to begin with, then as I went to take the sip and got the smell, I was even less sure ... then I took the sip and regretted the last 3 seconds of my life. This could have been the worst drink I've EVER had. We weren't the only ones that didn't like it either. Every table that tried it, left nearly the entire cup (as we did). 

Day 4 we went to the seafood restaurant Barefoot By The Sea.

For apps I went with the Coconut Tiger Shrimp with lime and green curry sauce.

Dawn picked the Tropical Cocktail of Baby Shrimps, Mangoes, and Bay Mussels. Although, she couldn't get the mussel out to eat it. 

I got the winner for dinner that night. I did the Grilled Shrimp with Herb and Garlic Butter sauce and fries. That Dawn even agreed was much better than hers.

She did the Grilled Shrimp with Slow Roasted Tomato and Chili Pesto with Polenta Cakes, that was good, but just wasn't as good as mine. She loved the polenta cakes, but the sauce wasn't as good as mine.

I did the Chocolate Bread Pudding for dessert and with the extra chocolate syrup on the side was delicious (also once I took the whip cream off the top).

Dawn got the Lemon Pie with Coconut Cream that I thought she was going to order 5 more because of how good she said it was.

Every time we finished (or even just had a single glass) out of the sparkling wine, the next day we'd have a fresh bottle. I must admit, I'm absolutely sick and tired of having sparkling wine. At least it made for a good picture though right? 

The next night for dinner. We went to Frech Brasserie in the main area.

Dawn got the Quiche Lorraine (Ham, Gruyere & Spinach Quiche, Field Greens) for apps.

While I did the Vol-Au-Vent. Sounds fancy doesn't it? It was really just a Puff Pastry Basket with Chicken, Mushrooms and Shallot-Champagne Sauce. Luckily, the mushrooms were ground up and mixed in with the sauce.

I wanted to branch out a little and got the Canard A L'Orange (Duck Breast, Orange Sauce, Roasted Garlic Mash) for dinner. If I had to compare it to something. I would probably say it was similar to pork. Still had a bit of a different flavor, but similar consistency as pork ... to me.

Dawn got the Crevettes Provencales (Shrimp, Provencales Sauce, Pumpkin Risotto). She was thinking it would be their version of Shrimp and Grits, and although it was different, she did enjoy it. I think she set the bar up high when she was thinking Shrimp and Grits, so it didn't meet her expectations, but again, she still liked it.

We stopped at the bistro for a mid afternoon snack on our last day ... it didn't hurt that it decided to pour down rain about that time either. She grabbed the Long Belly Beef Stew (basically nachos in a bowl), and I got another hot dog ... #3 on the week (I told you it was good).

For our final dinner, we went back to where it all started, The Sundowner.

To stick to my "try new things" plan. I went with the West Indian Curried Lamb, and let me just say, this could have been one of the best dishes I had all week. The lamb tasted like it could have been a slight hair over done, but it was delicious still. 

Dawn got something different as night 1 as well and did the Beef Tenderloin Steak with Peppercorn Sauce. It didn't touch my lamb, but it was extremely good.

For a final dessert, I did the Sundae Chocolate Brownie. Although I wish they would have given me a larger brownie (or at least more), it was great ... I mean you can't really mess up a brownie, vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and nuts can you? 

The wifey got the Coconut Truffle Cake, and again, was not disappointed by the dessert.

Our final breakfast, we decided to do the same thing we did the first morning we were there. We ordered room service breakfast and had it out on our balcony looking out to our amazing view.

Once breakfast was finished, the bags were packed, and it was time to go home. 

In case you weren't able to catch it ... we both loved (almost) every single thing we put in our mouth (minus that horrible disgusting drink). It was a wonderful, and perfect honeymoon, and time away and alone with my wife. I couldn't ask for a better woman, and couldn't have asked for a better vacation together. 

We will be returning a Sandals resort, and maybe on down the line, we'll return to Negril as well. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I might not be Michael Jordan, so the media hype of my return may be minimal, but we have returned from our honeymoon. 

As promised, I took pictures of every single plate we ate (minus breakfast, I didn't think you needed to see a picture of 20 omelets). 

I will get those loaded up in the next few days, and let the excitement build until then ... and then the envy can kick in. 

Next weekend, is my Kickoff To Summer cookout, so there will be pictures of a feast coming soon. Also, now that the wedding has passed, we'll be able to get back to cooking and making everyone else hungry. 

And yes, I'll post a few more pictures from the wedding, so the ladies that follow can ooooh and aaaah over that as well. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Yesterday God did his part and held the rain off just in time for Dawn and I to get married. As we stood waiting to be introduced at the reception ... the bottom dropped (luckily we were under a covered area). 

At the reception, my dad and sister surprised us with Cocky (the University of South Carolina's mascot for those that may not know) ... and it was AWESOME!!!!!

I'll see ya'll in a little over a week ... it's off to Jamaica we go. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Road Trip Across America and Great BBQ Joints Along The Way

Some people want to see the 7 Wonders of the World before they die, some want to see every NASCAR race track, some want to visit every NFL/MLB/NBA stadium/field/arena, heck some even want to visit every country, but then there's a different bred of people. There's weirdoes like me, that love BBQ so much, they want to visit the best BBQ joints across America. put together an article for people like us and highlights 10 of the best ... not THE 10 best ... BBQ joints in America. 

I don't know about you, but I think a road trip hitting these spots would be what I would call ... AWESOME!!!!!

Now, we can't really get together and go on a road trip (well we could, but somebody would have to pay for the buses and ... I'm paying for a wedding so I'm broke), but we can always pretend like we are, right? 

So lets get go on this magical road trip ... Since this is make belief, everyone can meet up at our house, and take off from there. We start in Greenville, SC and we head up I-95 to Hot Rod' Real Pit BBQ in Wharton, NJ, then on up to Dinosaur BBQ, in NY, and then keep going to Sweet Cheeck BBQ, in Boston, MA. 

Once we've hit the North Eastern stops, we hop back on the magic bus and hit I-78 and I-70 to one of the 3 17th Street Bar & Grill in Illinois.

From there, it's a "quick" trip down I-55 to Tennessee where we'll stop at Central BBQ in the famous Memphis, TN. After eating some Q and visiting Graceland (no, you can NOT go to Memphis and not visit Graceland ... it's a rule ... I just made it) we get back on I-55 and then over to US-49 where we go to the Deep South and The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint in Mississippi.

Since we're back in the south, we throw in Willie Nelson and get "On The Road Again" (see what I did there?). Take I-10 to TX-304 till we reach Austin, TX and The Salt Lick.

With 7 spots down and 3 to go ... lets all take a breather, and throw back a few cold ones with the local Cowboys.

After we recover, it's "HI HO SILVER AWAY" up I-35 to what some call the BBQ capital (but we all know that's the Carolinas ... where it began), Kansas City, where we chow down at Oklahoma Joe's BBQ.

On the back straight away, but the next two stops, have some of the longest travels of the trip. Getting back on I-70 to US-285 through the Colorado mountains to Oak, The New Fat Alley in Telluride, CO.

The bus is starting to break down after all the miles we've put on it, but we can see the finish line. We're on I-40 for what seems like eternity until we've reached our finally stop in Casmalia, CA, The Hitching Post, which is very ironically named since I'm typing this up the day before my wedding. 

That was the longest, most delicious trip known to man. The bus exploded in the parking lot, so lets all just board a plane and get home so we can pass out in our own beds. 

If you want to check out the actual post by Forbes, you can check it out here.