Saturday, September 23, 2017

SALVINO CUCINA ITALIANA

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Salvino Cucina Italiana is a place you will want to visit if you're in the mood for Italian.  The food is excellent.  The service is good.  There is no country music playing in the background.  I think I heard Italian opera, but it was playing so softly that I could barely hear it.  Do not fear the opera. 

The small dining room where we were seated was somewhat noisy.  There were a lot of people at a large table celebrating a birthday.  They were loud.  The waiters sang "Happy Birthday".


I'm not sure how to tell you where to find Salvino's Cucina Italiana.  It's located at 2917 Battleground Avenue.  You probably will not be able to see it from the road because it sets far back from Battleground.  Just know if you're near Longhorn Steakhouse, you're almost there. 

I've included a small map.  Don't pay any attention to all the places listed on the map because I'm not sure they're still in business.  Pull into the parking lot and drive towards the back and you will see it.

Don't feel bad, and certainly don't give up, if you have a little trouble finding it.  We got lost for about five minutes until Debbie called Salvino's and asked for directions.  We were only a couple of hundred yards away and didn't realize it.

We arrived around 6:30 PM with no reservations, but were still seated immediately.  Salvino's web site makes no offer to take reservations, so we rolled the dice and just showed up at the start of prime dinner time on Friday night.  The gamble paid off.


This is our waiter, Kevin.  Kevin looks like he should be named Mario.

Kevin spent several minutes talking about the specials that were not on the menu.  We had already decided by looking at the online menu.  We let Kevin give his spiel and then ordered.

One of the things that sold me on trying Salvino's was its web page.  It is clean and simple.  One page with the restaurant name, address, phone number, and a slideshow of some food items and another page with the menu.  That's it.  No trash.  Just a simple and easy to read and understand list of foods with descriptions and the prices in plain English with $ signs and two digits to the right of the decimal point.

Be sure to take a minute to look at the menu.  All the dishes sound so good.  If nothing else, it may convince you to try Salvino's.


A word of caution - there are links floating around the web that show www.salvino-restaurant.com as the address.  They are wrong.  Leave out the "-" and you will score.  Look closely at the bottom of our receipt and you will see where the www.salvino-restaurant.com nonsense comes from.


Before dinner began, we were served some small slices of a very tasty bread with olive oil and some herbs.  The bread was soft and flavorful.  We made sure to save a couple of slices to accompany our meal.  The olive oil with herbs was also delicious.

I recalled a recent meal where we were served bread with olive oil.  It was not good.  I could not finish my piece.  I went to www.reidsville.com to look up the restaurant - it was Cafe Pasta.


Here is our shared appetizer.  It is Eggplant "Kayla".  According to the menu, it is "stuffed with prosciutto, mozzarella, fontina cheese over tomato sauce, topped with bechamel sauce".  The menu didn't say, but I guess there was some eggplant in the rolls somewhere.

I will assume you know what everything is except maybe bechamel sauce and prosciutto.  Bechamel is a white sauce made with butter, milk, and flour.  If you don't know what prosciutto is, then you should probably not eat at Salvino Cucina Italiana.  Leave the cucina and go to Longhorn Steakhouse.  I'm pretty sure they don't serve prosciutto at Longhorn.

I poured some of the olive oil and herbs over my half of the Eggplant "Kayla".  It was a good idea.

I asked Kevin about the "Kayla" part of the appetizer name.  He didn't know but said he would ask.  Kevin returned a few minutes later to tell us Kayla is Salvino's granddaughter.

As we were leaving the restaurant, gray-haired grandfather Salvino, who was dressed in a white Chef's uniform with "SAL" on the front, stopped us to ask if we enjoyed our meal.  We told him we enjoyed it very much.  Grandfather Sal hoped we will return.  I suspect we will.


Debbie sips her Gabbiano Chianti.  I tried a small taste.  It was a standard grocery store wine - nothing extraordinary, but Debbie thought it went well with her dinner.


Here are the two salads that went with our meals.  On the left is my house salad with blue cheese dressing and on the right is Debbie's caesar salad.  The salads were much like the wine - nothing extraordinary.  I wondered why Salvino's even bothered to serve the salads.  Debbie said it was to get something "green" in my stomach.  I can think of several green things that would have been better.

The only other choice, other than a salad, was some sort of bean soup.  No, thanks.


Here is Debbie' entree.  It is Vitello Alla Piccata (veal piccata).  It is veal "sauteed with butter and capers in white wine lemon sauce".  It sounds delicious, but I thought it looked kinda skimpy for a $27 dish.  Debbie liked it and it was all she could eat, so what I thought didn't matter. 


I almost forgot.  The veal came with a side dish of Angel Hair pasta.  It was served with a topping of marinara sauce, but Debbie doesn't like marinara and asked to return it for plain angel hair pasta with parmesan cheese.  She mixed the pasta with the veal sauce and wolfed it down.


This is my entree.  It is Linguine Imperiale.  It is "Linguine tossed with shrimp, scallops, lobster meat, scallions and sun-dried tomatoes in creamy tomato sauce".  It was all topped with a generous grinding of parmesan cheese.

This dish was a killer.  I busied myself for several minuted just devouring the well-sauced Linguine.

The shrimp were cooked to perfection.  Very tender and very sweet.  So flavorful.  I'm sure I ate lobster and scallops somewhere along the line, but it all went together so well it was difficult to tell what was what.  It was easy to recognize the shrimp because of their shape, but the scallops and lobster disappeared into a haze of deliciousness.  

For reasons I do not understand, the Linguine Imperiale was served with a large spoon (underneath the pasta and shown below).  I suppose the spoon was for pasta twirling, but I seemed to manage quite well with just my fork.  I know I did well because I didn't get any of my dinner on my shirt, which is standard procedure.

I wondered who the Linguine is named after.  Debbie suggested Linguine might be one of the Mario Brothers.


Linguine Imperiale was an outstanding dish.  I hated to leave the red stain on my plate.  I regret not licking it clean.  You must order it when you visit Salvino Cucina Italiana.  

Some other dishes we got a look at when they were served to the birthday table were Scallops al Soave and a Beef Filet with Gorgonzola Cheese from the specials menu.

The Scallops al Soave were "pan seared sea scallops with lemon butter white wine sauce, served with spinach tossed with pasta in creamy sauce".  The scallops were served on the half-shell surrounding the pasta in the center of the dish.

The Beef Filet was a huge chunk of beef that kept calling my name.  I was too focused on the beef to notice what else was on the dish.

I believe I will try the Scallops al Soave on my next visit to Salvino's.


Here's the dessert we shared - a cannoli with chocolate and pistachios with whipped cream and a strawberry. 

It was quite good, but I would not put it in the same league as the Linguine Imperiale


Debbie gives me the "Stink Eye" for photographing her with a piece of angel hair hanging out of her mouth.  Actually several times she had a lot of pasta hanging out of her mouth, but I was never fast enough with my camera.

The prices were a tad high, but we thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Salvino Cucina Italiana.  Dinner cost $100 with the tip.

We will be returning.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

FOUR FLOCKS AND LARDER

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I've always been leary of the so-called "farm to table" restaurants.  I know they're a big thing right now, but they're not my thing.  I guess I like "processed" food. The more people handling the food, the better.  I miss the old concept of multiple middlemen between the farm and the restaurant.  There's just something special about better dining through chemistry, machinery and lots of handlers.

The photo above is an example of a "farm to table" restaurant.  It is FOUR FLOCKS AND LARDER located at 433 Spring Garden St. in Greensboro.  It's in a huge white building with a lot of other "farm to table" operations, like Revolution Burger, The Bean and the Baker, Hush, and The Public.

FOUR FLOCKS has a kind of a modern industrial look.  Overheard pipes and a high ceiling add to the effect.  

The concrete floor made for a noisy environment.  An endless loop of country music played in the background and table chatter further raised the noise level when the first floor was nearing capacity. 

A small crowd occupied the first floor for probably less than an hour and then suddenly cleared out like magic.  It got much quieter.  

I cannot explain the country music.  It did not seem to go with theme of the restaurant or the food.

I like to dine in peace.  I also like to hear what my partner is saying without constantly saying 'Huh?".  If you ever dine with me, don't whisper.  I want to know what you are saying.  It may be important.  If you seeing me nodding a lot, speak up because I'm probably not hearing you

There is a partial second floor at FOUR FLOCKS, but it was never used.  It may have been the rainy weather, but it also may be some other reason there weren't enough diners to open the second floor.

Be very careful about using Google to find FOUR FLOCKS.  Google is very likely to bring up all sorts of menus for FOUR FLOCKS.  Probably none will match what the restaurant actually serves.  Not even FOUR FLOCKS web site will match the food that will be offered to you when you arrive.  If you like an adventure, FOUR FLOCKS may be your kind of place.  Otherwise, not so much.

If you are into the "greens",  FOUR FLOCKS may also appeal to you.   Like all "farm to table" operations, FOUR FLOCKS  specializes in serving Collard Greens, Brussels Sprouts, Kale Salad and Asparagus. 

Hmm...don't they all sound delicious.  They come with just about every dish.  You will have to do some serious studying of the menu to find something that is not accompanied by something green.


Debbie takes a gulp from a huge glass of wine.  It's a Meiomi Pinot Noir at $12 per glass.  The bottle was $46. 

Our waiter euthusiastically recommended it.  He said it would go with everything Debbie had ordered.  Apparently FOUR FLOCKS was a little overstocked on the Meiomi Pinot Noir or they got a special buy from the "wine farm" because our waiter was wrong.  I tried a sip.  It was very tannic, not what I expected from a Pinot Noir, especially at $12 per glass. 

Debbie didn't seem to care for the wine either, but she did empty her glass.


I ordered my usual beverage.  It was water, but a special water, I'm sure.  It was grown locally, fresh and clean, straight from the "water farm".  I know it must have been special because it was served out of a milk jug.  

Moreover, in the "larder" section of the restaurant, there is a department that sells mostly food related nick-nacks.  In a stand-up cooler was a section of 16-oz bottled waters that had homemade looking labels that proudly proclaimed in large letters "Fresh, Clean, Local"

I am not "shitting" you.  You have to wonder where the water is coming from and how it is bottled.


This is one of better parts of the entire meal.  These are Roasted Garlic, Cheddar Chive Biscuits with garlic herb butter.  The biscuit had only two flaws.  One was the flavor should have been intensified...maybe add a little MSG like the Chinese do.  The other is...well, I will tell you later in this story because it applies to both meals


This is my entree'.  

On the lower left is BBQ slaw which turned out be chopped cabbage with a few shreds of carrots.  A vinegar-based BBQ sauce had been poured over the cabbage and carrots.  It had little to no flavor other than a slight vinegar twang.  

The BBQ slaw was served in a chilled pie tin.  Let that give you a hint at the flaw in both our meals.

Above the slaw is a bowl of Wood Fired Smoked Chicken Wings.  Yes, I ordered chicken wings.  I know crazy, right?  But, the wings didn't come with collard greens, asparagus, Brussels sprouts or kale.  I really didn't have a choice.

There were maybe a dozen wing pieces covered in some sort of BBQ-like sticky sauce

The wings lacked any real flavor and were a mess to handle and eat, but I finished them finger-style.

Maybe I should have tried the Breaded Boneless Pigs Feet which were served with sauerkraut, pear puree, and spicy mustard.  I don't believe I've ever had my pigs feet breaded.

On the right is a bowl of Mac and Cheese with Duck Confit and Country Ham.  Confit is duck fat.  There were tiny pieces of country ham mixed with the mac and cheese.  It too was served in a tiny pie tin.


It's been a very, very long time since I've eaten macaroni and cheese.  This side dish so impressed me that I had to include a separate photo.  It was delicious.  It was rich and creamy.  The duck fat and tiny bits of country ham were perfect.  But, it too suffered the fatal flaw.

I don't know where the mac and cheese was grown.  Maybe in Clemmons or Winston or Eden or Burlington, but if you ever go to FOUR FLOCKS, order the mac and cheese.


This is Debbie's entree.

Those two slices were all she got.  It's Pan Roasted Duck Breast served on, yes, you guessed it, Brussels sprouts with fennel cream and dried cherries.

I tasted the duck.  It was good, but again the fatal flaw lurked.  It's too bad all she got for $14 was two little slices.  Twice that many might have been more reasonable

I wouldn't touch the Brusells sprouts with a ten-foot pole and Debbie wouldn't touch the cherries.


Here's Debbie's side dish of $4 Potlikker Collard Greens with House Bacon.  I have no idea why they're called "Potlikker" and I never saw the tiniest piece of bacon, but I suppose the bacon may have been hiding in there somewhere.

I tasted a tiny bite.  Aside from the fatal flaw, I suppose they were as good as Collard Greens can get 


Here's the dessert.  It's called a "Brownie Sundae".  It came straight from the "brownie farm".

According to the menu, you had a choice of either a chocolate brownie or a turtle brownie or a cheesecake brownie.  Each brownie is accompanied by a different ice cream - vanilla, salted caramel or strawberry with a "fire ball" cherry.

But, the menu is wrong.  A Brownie Sundae consists of all three kinds of brownies and all three kinds on ice cream.  You get them all in one dish.

When the Brownie Sundae was served I had to ask the waiter where the "fire ball" cherry was.  There was no cherry, fire ball or otherwise, visible anywhere.  He made a confused face and said he didn't know, but would ask the kitchen staff for an explanation.

Apparently, our waiter has never served a Brownie Sundae or never been asked where the "fire ball" is.

He returned a few minutes later and explained the "fire ball" was buried somewhere in the sundae.  Sure enough we eventually found the "fire ball" in the white glob in the center of the brownies.  Debbie said the glob was whipped cream, but I'm not sold on that theory,

I have no idea why the cherry was called a "fire ball".  It tasted like an ordinary cherry to me.

I think I would have been happier with just a brownie with vanilla ice cream.


This is what a nice cloth napkin looks like after being used by a guy who ordered Wood Smoked Chicken Wings.  It looks disgusting.  It was disgusting.  I pity the fool who had to bus our table.


This is our waiter.  I forget his name.  I think maybe it was Melrose or something kinda like that.  Debbie made this photo while I went to the restroom.  Melrose now knows where the "fire  ball" cherry is hiding.  Melrose will probably never forget where the "fire ball" cherry is.

Melrose hoped we enjoyed our meal.  Melrose did not know we had already discussed the meal and had decided we would never return to FOUR FLOCKS because of the fatal flaw.

The fatal flaw is everything was served at room temperature at best. That was fine for the BBQ slaw and the Brownie Sundae, but it didn't fly with the duck, the chicken wings, the collard greens, the biscuit, and the mac and cheese.  They were not fine.  They were disappointing.  Food is generally supposed to be very warm, If not, hot.

I'm not sure who to blame - the waiter, the kitchen staff, or the food runner.  I'm pretty sure the food was properly cooked, but I'm guessing it was left sitting on a counter somewhere in the bowels of the restaurant for 10-15 minutes after it was ready.

Debbie was nice, but she unloaded on Melrose and let him know the problem.  He was apologetic.  We asked for no compensation or anything else, but we were determined Melrose would know there was a problem.

Melrose thanked us for our honesty.  He lamented that most people don't say a word and then go online to bash FOUR FLOCKS for some sort of failure.  He said he would relay our complaint to management.

A few minutes later Nic Baez, the General Manager, came to our table and apologized for the problem we experienced.  Nic said there was no excuse for the cold food.  He gave us his card and signed the back for two free dinners anytime in the future.

Oh, shit!  What do we do now?  We had already decided to never return.  Now we had a "get out of jail free" card.  This is a situation we will have to think about.  If only we could order the items Debbie found online, we would definitely return...Seared Pork Belly, Buttermilk Onion Rings, Pulled Pork Nachos, Duck Fat French Fries and Spinach Dip.  And, of course, I wanted to try the Breaded Boneless Pigs Feet.


I wanted to show you a couple things in this photo - a folded copy of the menu that I had to ask our waiter for three times.  I wanted it to make some notes for this article.  He misunderstood and thought I wanted to take it home which he said was verboten.   He also promised he would get me a "special" copy of the menu which listed all the ingredients in each item.  He failed to get me the "special" menu.  I had to settle for the "regular" menu which I did take home for reference,

 The second thing I wanted to show you is the heavy wooden wall behind the folded menu against which we were seated.  God bless the wooden wall.  I think it absorbed much of the country music and table chatter.  I would not have wanted to be seated in the center of FOUR FLOCKS.


Here's where the FOUR FLOCKS come in.  On top of the wooden wall were four stuffed birds - a quail, a turkey, a duck, and a chicken,  I'm sorry I couldn't fit all four into the frame.  I needed to be about three-feet taller.


Debbie looks over the Larder.


This bit of Larder caught my eye - it's beer soap.  I bet you can't find beer soap anywhere in Reidsville.



Here's one version of the menu.  This is the one from which we ordered and the one I brought home.

Total cost for dinner was about $73 with tip.  I saved about $11 of the $73 with a Groupon.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

CAFE PASTA


Click images to enlarge.

CAFE PASTA is located at 305 State St. in Greensboro.  State St. is located off Church St.  State St. runs through the little yuppie shopping center known as State Street Station.  The easiest way to find it is to go to the restaurant's contact page and look at the map.

CAFE PASTA is a quiet place to eat.  You can hear your partner talk on the other side of the tiny tables.  Old R&B music quietly plays in the background.  I suspect the music is older than 95% of the people who were dining and working when we were there.  It was nice.

We've been going to CAFE PASTA since our children were little pipsqueaks.  Our children are now grown.  CAFE PASTA has been around for a long time.

CAFE PASTA is just a hop, skip and a jump from our house.  It's always nice to save time and gasoline.  This explains why we did not go back to HOPS BURGER BAR for a Dunderbach Burger as we had planned.

Over the years CAFE PASTA has changed.  I remember the time when we had to wait in line to be seated.  We usually had to eat on the second floor.  The menu was extensive.  It was hard to pick out a dish.

But things have changed.  I don't know when they changed or why they changed.  It is not the place it used to be.  It's now easy to get a seat and the menu selection is limited.   The second floor is never used.

I can recall a visit when we left dissatisfied with the meal.  The service has always been good, but the quality of the food has varied from one visit to the next.

I am happy to report this visit was for the most part satisfactory, but with some problems.
 

Here is the first problem.

This is what we were served when we were seated.  Debbie liked the bread when it was warm, but was unimpressed as it cooled.  I was never impressed.  

The dish to the left is olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping your bread.  We both agreed it was terrible.  Our waitress told us a "sauce" for the bread was being prepared and it would be served very soon.  The olive oil and balsamic vinegar were supposed to be a temporary substitute, but the special bread "sauce" never appeared.  We have no idea what the special bread "sauce" was.


Debbie demonstrates how to eat your bread without the special bread "sauce".  Her answer was to slather butter on the bread.  I tried a single bite of bread and put it down.  Debbie ordered a second round of bread.

Although I am opposed to the generous rating, the bread was scored evenly.


This is the appetizer I ordered.  It's fried Calamari with Pomodoro sauce.  The squid was good,  It was lightly breaded and heavily peppered.  Both Debbie and I gave the squid a thumbs up, but a thumbs down on the sauce.  The sauce may have been good on something, but not the squid...maybe as the special bread sauce.  Pomodoro is made with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, sugar and salt,

We'll call the score even on the appetizer.


Here's my main dish.  It's Cajun Penne made with Penne pasta, chicken, andouille sausage, and shrimp with Parmesan cheese - lots of Parmesan.  More cheese was added after this photo was made.

The dish was also offered with a Marinara sauce which is much like Pomodoro.  I have to agree with Debbie...we don't much care for the red Italian sauces, except for the sauce on a pizza.



If you're wondering whether I liked the Cajun Penne, the answer is shown above.

That's a +1 for my dish.


Here's Debbie's dish.  It's Veal Picatta.  Veal is served over linguine with picatta sauce and spinach.  Picatta sauce is made with garlic, olive oil, flour, chicken broth and capers.  Debbie reported she only found a single caper in her dish.

According to Debbie, she would make the dish with arugula rather than spinach.  Spinach has some sort of voodoo magic over women which prevents the absorption of vitamins C and D.

Debbie may not absorb any vitamins C and D, but she cleaned her plate almost as well as I cleaned mine.

I only got a very small taste of the last bite of her dish.  It was not a fair sample, but I believe my Penne was better.

Debbie liked her Veal Picatta, so we'll also score it a +1


Debbie demonstrates the proper way to spoon twirl your linguine.  I was mesmerized by her technique. 

In case you're wondering, that's a glass of Sauvignon Blanc on the left.  I had my usual glass of water with no lemon.  Debbie never remarked on the quality of her wine.


Now Debbie demonstrates the proper way to eat your linguine.  Again I was mesmerized.


This is our dessert.  It is a Tiramisu made with four liqueurs.  I could recognize the taste of a coffee liqueur, but that was about it.  I have no idea what the other three liqueurs were.  By the way, the waitress corrected me when I called the liqueurs "liquors".  Some times I can be such a boorish brute.

The red is a raspberry sauce with little dabs of whipped cream around the edge of the dish.  Debbie does not like raspberry, so if it was red, I ate it.

The dessert was excellent.

According to our waitress, the Tiramisu is made by the owner of PASTABILITIES.  She is the sister of the male owner of CAFE PASTA.  I believe sister is doing much better financially than brother.  Her restaurant seemed much busier than CAFE PASTA when we at PASTABILITIES in July of 2016.

We scored the dessert a +1.  

Final score for CAFE PASTA is +3 out of a possible +5.

Note the menu on CAFE PASTA'S web site does not seem to match the menu we were shown at the restaurant.  I can't say for sure, but I believe there are significant differences.  I know for sure the Tiramisu on the web looks nothing like the Tiramisu we were served.

The total tab at CAFE PASTA was about $67.00 with tip.  I reduced that cost by $20 by using a $10 GROUPON which I had purchased recently.  Part of the GROUPON deal was you had to purchase two coupons for CAFE PASTA for a total of $20 for $40 worth of food.  This guarantees we will be making at least one more trip to CAFE PASTA.

Debbie said she planned to order Cajun Penne on our next visit to CAFE PASTA.  I objected - ordering the same thing twice does not add much to a food review.  We have some issues to work out until then.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

DINING AT THE BEACH

Click images to enlarge


SUNDAY

We're bound for the beach.

Atlantic Beach, NC is most famous for being the former vacation spot for Reidsville Mayor James Festerman.  Atlantic Beach fell out of the Mayor's favor when there was an unfortunate "incident" at Food Lion. Las Vegas is now where the Mayor spends his time when he's not busy running Reidsville.

Surprise!  I recently learned Debbie bought a condo at Atlantic Beach more than a year ago.  Apparently, Debbie got a great deal on the place - $1,000 down and $50 per month.

This all means we will be visiting Atlantic Beach a lot.

BREAKFAST


On our first visit to Atlantic Beach as owners, we bypassed the Mebane Cracker Barrel, where we had the worst food and service last year, and instead settled for a quick breakfast at Bojangles.  I had a Steak and Egg biscuit with coffee.  Debbie had a Sausage and Egg biscuit with a cup of coffee that she brought from home..  Incredibly the Bojangles coffee was the right temperature.  Debbie added a little ice before tasting the coffee.  It did not scald my mouth.  This is a first for Bojangles coffee.

Breakfast total was about $7.90

PORK ON DISPLAY!  YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS IT.  SEE AMERICA'S LARGEST PORK DISPLAY


You know you're about halfway to the beach when you start seeing NAHUNTA PORK CENTER signs.

It's a little hard to get to the North Carolina coast without traveling Highway 70.  The road is littered with signs for the NAHUNTA PORK CENTER. None of the signs make any sense.  What the hell is a PORK CENTER?  It's like reading the roadside BURMA SHAVE signs of 75 years ago, but more confusing.


We've arrived!  I know a lot of you enjoy these sandy feet shots.  First we present you with the obligatory feet at the beach before moving on to more important stuff.

LUNCH


One Eyed Willie...I mean One Eyed Debbie, places a colossal order at Emerald Isle's Big Oak Drive-In.  You may remember Big Oak from our visit there last year.  Big Oak has a well-earned reputation for making an awesome Shrimp Burger.

Click here to see the Big Oak web site.  You can quickly see they spend a lot more time on their burgers than their web site.


Here's a shot of Willie picking up her order.  It was Willie's idea to go to Big Oak.  She remembered the Shrimp Burger from a year ago and had to have one for lunch.  It was my idea to kick lunch up a notch or two.


Two Shrimp Burgers, on the left and in Willie's hand, a Scallop Burger in the center, and an Oyster Burger on the right.  If you can't decide what you want, then just order everything.  Every burger comes with tartar sauce, slaw, and ketchup.  We ordered our burgers with all the trimmings except ketchup.  Willie doesn't like ketchup.

We ate the meal out of the back of Debbie's SUV.  Debbie sat on the tailgate and I had a folding chair on the ground and used the tailgate for a table.  Big Oak does not offer standard table seating.  Eating at Big Oak is like having a picnic.

Debbie suggested hot sauce would go well on the burgers.  She applied Texas Pete to all four.  I don't particularly care for Texas Pete, but it was good on the seafood burgers.

Total for the lunch was $36.65  A big time lunch doesn't come cheap.


It took only a few minutes of looking around to discover how Big Oak Drive-In got its name.

DINNER

We had really delicious homemade pork tenderloin sandwiches for dinner.  Debbie cooked the tenderloin in Reidsville and brought it to the beach.  I forgot to take a picture.  Sorry about that.

MONDAY

BREAKFAST

I got a lot of good photos of breakfast.  Unfortunately, I forgot to put "film" in the camera before shooting.  Damn!  Trust me, it was a good breakfast - sausage, eggs, toast and coffee.

I hope my head clears soon and these mistakes end.

LUNCH

Actually we never ate lunch.  We chose instead to spend our money on the necessities of life.

This is a first for me - a LIQUOR SUPERSTORE.  Not a regular Alcohol Beverage Commission store like you find in Reidsville or Eden, but a LIQUOR SUPERSTORE.

Debbie poses outside a seemingly ordinary ABC store.  Nothing special here on the outside.

But on the inside, it was indeed a special place.

Here's a partial view of the inside of a LIQUOR SUPERSTORE.  This store was enormous.  Drinking must be a pretty big pastime at Atlantic Beach and when the state has a monopoly on the product, you can go big time.

Debbie admires the Grey Goose vodka display.  Did you know Grey Goose is the #1 selling vodka in the country?  It's made in France. Oui!  I'm guessing something a bit cheaper sells better in Reidsville.  A 750 ml bottle went for $27 in the LIQUOR SUPERSTORE.


Captain Morgan had a very nice Spiced Rum display at the front of the store.


Captain Morgan was also featuring his Loco Nut coconut rum.


Finally here's what we came to the LIQUOR SUPERSTORE for - an enormous bottle of Kahlua.  It will go nicely with cream and/or a cup of coffee. 


My keyboard was running kinda hot, so I used Kahlua and cream on the rocks to keep it chilled.  We have found it's best to keep our computer coolers simple - ice, Kahlua and cream.  It worked pretty well, but I had to use a second glass to make sure the keyboard stayed cool.

Total tab at the LIQUOR SUPERSTORE was about $50.

DINNER


Dinner was pretty simple.  It was MAHI-MAHI we bought at Atlantic Beach Seafood Market.  The MAHI-MAHI was seared in a cast iron skillet with a wine, capers, butter and parsley sauce.  A half of a baked potato with sour cream and a green salad with tomatoes and Feta cheese were on the side.

We spent about $35 at Atlantic Beach Seafood for the MAHI-MAHI, a tiny bottle of some fancy vinegar, and a small block of Ashe County cheese made with tomato and basil.

TUESDAY

BREAKFAST


We remembered to put "film" in the camera this morning.  Here's the breakfast we had yesterday and today - eggs, sausage, and toast.  I'm hoping some oatmeal will eventually finds its way into the morning meal.  Oatmeal with cream and strawberries is so good.


DINNER

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If you decide to go to Amos Mosquito's in Atlantic Beach for dinner,  I'd recommend 7:30 PM as the best time.  If you go at 6:30 PM, as we did, you will probably be waiting 15-20 minutes to be seated.

Skeeters is a very busy place.  The parking lot was 99% full, employees were running helter skelter, and the restaurant was packed.

We had to wait maybe 20 minutes to get a table, but damn, the food was served pronto.  I'd guess that it took not more than 10 minutes to get what turned out to be a scrumptious meal.

Click here to visit "Skeeters" web site.


Debbie surveys the menu.  One side of the menu was food and the other was beverages.

Apparently cocktails and wine are a big item at Skeeters.  Interestingly all three draft beers served at Skeeters were North Carolina made.

Click here for the entree menu.

The restaurant is divided into three sections: the bar, the dining room, and the sound-side porch.  You can dine in any section.  We ate in the dining room because it had the first available seats


To endure the brutal wait for our food, Sweetie (more about Sweetie later) brought us a metal bucket of three types of bread.  There were jalapeno pepper cornbread-like cubes, mini french baguettes, and a triangle shaped spicy cracker sort of bread.  I liked the cornbread, Debbie liked the cracker.  She brought home a box of a leftover single cracker


Debbie enjoys the spicy cracker bread.


Here's my dish.  It's Lump Crab Cakes with Roasted Corn and Scallions on penne pasta.  The sauce was a chipotle aioli with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach.  I never saw or tasted any corn or scallions, but that's what the menu says.

The crab cakes were a tad too "bready", but everything else was excellent.  The pasta and the sauce were outstanding.  The spinach and sun-dried tomatoes added the right balance.  I'd add more crab and raise the price a couple of bucks or leave out the crab cakes and cut the price a couple of dollars.

By the way, I cleaned my plate.

Note the menu offers a vegetarian version of this dish.  I can't imagine how you order a vegetarian version of crab cakes unless they leave out the crab entirely and just serve you "bread" cakes.


Here's Debbie's standard order of Shrimp and Grits.  Debbie orders Shrimp and Grits at every opportunity.  This variation also featured andouille sausage along with mushrooms, peppers and onions.

I tasted one shrimp.  It seemed fairly ordinary to me, but it was her dish and she liked it..


This is Sweetie. Yep, that was her name.  Sweetie was our waitress.  She was really cute and knew the menu well.  Her teeth were immaculate.  Mom and Dad must have spent a pretty penny on her smile.

You could easily tell every employee was well rehearsed.  The table beside us had a different waitress.  Debbie said her name was Buttercup.  She said the exact same words we had heard Sweetie say.  You might think this made the employees seemed robotic, but that was not the case.  It made them sound consistent and practiced.  

Sweetie seemed to be genuinely nice.  I made sure Sweetie was well tipped. 

I've never met a waitress like Sweetie in Reidsville.  Plenty that have called me Sweeite, but none who knew their stuff like Skeeters' Sweetie


Sweetie also had the patience of Job.  Three times she had to describe for us this dessert special that was not listed on the menu.  It was a chocolate drenched banana cheesecake with caramel sauce and coconut whip cream.  And a cherry with mint on a Graham cracker crust.

Debbie said she was too full for dessert and would only taste a spoonful or two.   Debbie tasted a lot more than a spoonful or two.

The total bill with tip was about $64.

WEDNESDAY

BREAKFAST



Breakfast this morning wandered off the path slightly.  Oven-fired bacon took the place of sausage and cantaloupe took up residence on the plate.  It was a tasty way to start the morning.

RAINY DAY OBSERVATIONS

It's raining and windy today.  Debbie has gone to the grocery store and seafood market for this evening's dinner.  I suspect it's going to involve shrimp. 

I'm writing a short piece about the Craig Blitzer Algebra scam.

The beach local SPECTRUM channel (formerly Time-Warner) broadcasts the weather forecast every ten minutes around the clock?  EVERY 10 MINUTES!   Nowhere does the weather change so fast that you need to broadcast it EVERY 10 MINUTES...not even at the beach.  It's called weather ON THE ONES.  They broadcast two or three minutes of weather at :01, :11, :21: :31, :41, and :51 - that six times an hour, every hour.  It was raining this morning when I woke up and it's still raining at dark.  The weather never changed all day and the weather broadcast never changed.

DINNER


Here's what you do when you go to the beach without any salad dressing and you don't want to carry a bottle of dressing home.  You buy packets of dressing.


Here's what Shrimp Scampi served over Angel Hair pasta looks like.

To make it buy some shrimp at your local seafood market.  Be sure the shrimp is already peeled and deveined.  It costs more that way.  Buy 1 LB. and pay about $13.

Throw the shrimp in a pan with some wine, capers, butter, and a bunch of chopped garlic.  Stir it occasionally.  Add a little red pepper.

If possible, overcook the shrimp by a few minutes.  This will help make the shrimp rubbery and take away some of the "shrimpy" flavor.

When the shrimp looks done, pour it over Angel Hair pasta.  Do not use Linguini.  Angel Hair is much slimmer and lacks the expected flavor and texture.

Before eating, grate some Parmesan cheese over your shrimp and pasta.

THURSDAY

Rain and wind again today


If you arrive on Sunday, be prepared to wait until Thursday before your refrigerator is able to fill its ice tray.  It's slow.

THE CHALLENGE DINNER


Debbie was issued a challenge: duplicate the Lump Crab Cakes dish we had at Amos Mosquitos.

The ingrdients shown above include sun-dried tomatoes, penne pasta, remoulade sauce (a substitute for the chipotle sauce), milk, flour, panko bread crumbs, a shallot, a head of garlic, and a red pepper.

The Jumbo Crabmeat in the container shown in the center cost $32.  Crab ain't cheap.  I have no idea what the other ingredients cost.


Step one: Cut the plastic zip-open container of $32 crab meat.  The zip part would not work.  It sounds simple, but it wasn't.  It required surgical patience and a very sharp steak knife.


Dice some red peppers.


Dice some shallots


Mix the $32 crab meat with the peppers and shallots.


Add some OLD BAY because I like OLD BAY.


Add an egg.


Add some mayonnaiss.


And a squeeze or two of lemon.


Add some panko bread crumbs


Chop some parsley and add it to the mix.


Make your crab cakes by patting them in flour.


Freeze your crab cakes because you are afraid they will fall apart when fried.


Add some flour to the butter and olive oil that you are cooking the peppers, shallots, etc. in.


Add some warm milk and stir like hell.


Throw in some sun-dried tomatoes.


Add some goat cheese because Debbie really likes goat cheese.


Take a picture of Debbie because she is really cute and she said something kinda clever, but I can't remember what she said.  I've got to start writing stuff down!


Measure some penne to put in the pot of boiling water for 12 minutes.  Forget the measuring...just put the whole box in the water.


Add some spinach to the sauce pot.


Start frying your crab cakes.


Turn them carefully when they brown.  It looks like there was no need to worry about them falling apart.


Pour the sauce over the penne.


Add the crab cakes to the pasta and sauce and pour on the remoulade.

Viola!  Here's the finished product.  It doesn't look anything like the Amos Mosquito Lump Crab Cakes.  Debbie's crab was better because it contained crab instead of bread.  The remoulade did not work as a substitute for the Chipotle aioli.  Remoulade has too much of a mustard flavor.  The sauce had too much milk and probably should not have had goat cheese added.  The penne was overcooked compared to Skeeters which was done perfectly.

Before the Dinner Challenge was issued, Debbie originally planned to make Clams Linguine.  We probably should have kept to the original plan.  It would have been a lot quicker and much cheaper.

MISE EN PLACE - a french phrase meaning to have everything in place to cook the dish.  Debbie never achieved MISE EN PLACE when making the crab cakes.  She said the kitchen was too small.  Yeah, that was it.

FRIDAY

BREAKFAST



Here's what you do with leftover crab from last night's experiment.  Mix the crab meat with spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes and toss it in with some scrambled eggs.  It would not have hurt to add some mushrooms.  It was pretty tasty!

REMEMBER WHEN?



Remember last year when Debbie set the frying pan on fire?  Maybe you don't, or you never read our vacation report.

Anyway, she was cooking with coconut oil and the oil got a bit too hot and burst into flames.  Here you see her holding the pan outdoors to finish smoking and cool down.  It took several minutes for the sucker to stop smoking enough to bring it back inside.  It was a serious fire.

The pan appeared to be permanently scorched.  Scrubbing by hand, dishwasher, nothing would take away the black burn marks.  This year we were surprised to see the pan was still in the condo's inventory.  Somehow somebody had managed to clean the pan.  It must have taken a hell of lot of scrubbing.

We wisely left the coconut oil at home this year.

DINNER



I have to make a confession.  I don't really like tuna unless it's packed in a can with olive oil.  Look at these beautiful tuna steaks.  All red and moist and they cost $35.  I could make love to these steaks.

But, probably thanks to my upbringing, they just don't do anything for me when I put them in my mouth.  But, Debbie loves tuna, so that's what we had on Friday night.  Sometimes the chef gets her way.


Here's the tuna steaks browning in a cast iron skillet.  We brought the cast iron skillet to the beach after setting fire to an aluminum pan last year when we cooked tuna.  I made sure the steaks were cooked just right - a bit brown on the outside and thoroughly pink inside.  They were perfectly cooked.  It didn't help.  They still tasted like tuna that had not been canned.


Here's the full spread...leftover pasta (which improved overnight), a grocery store salad, and a slice of whole wheat toast with the tuna.  The white mass on top of the tuna was a homemade lemon and caper aioli.  The sauce was great, but the tuna was without a soul.  I cleaned my plate, but the tuna tasted rubbery and chewy.  You could easily cut it with a fork.  It was tender, but it had no flavor.  I hope one day I can work out my tuna issues.

SATURDAY (last day at the beach)

DINNER



This is the ISLAND GRILL.  It is located in Atlantic Beach.  If you're looking for a crowded, noisy, over-priced place to eat mediocre at best food, then this is where you should go whenever you visit Atlantic Beach.


Here's a view of pretty much the entire restaurant.  To the left, out of sight is a small bar, and there's two tables behind the camera man.  The floor is wood (or simulated wood), the walls are wood, the ceiling is wood, and the tables are wood.  All the wood helped amplify the noise.  

Notice the lack of space between the man in the chair on the right and the table behind him on the left.  Debbie had to turn sideways when she went to the back to find the restroom.


Debbie is lost in her tiny space behind the menu.  Her table was about as wide as her menu is long.

She desperately needed more room and tried to move her table out from the wall.  After struggling to move the table, a nearby customer had to tell her the table was hitting the leg of her chair.  It was too cramped for her to see the chair leg.  To her immediate left and right are other customers who are also pinned against the wall.


This is our appetizer.  Believe it or not, these are stuffed clams.  I had no idea clams this tiny could be eaten by human beings.  I thought you found them washed up on the beach.   I never knew they were food.

Incredibly, this was the best dish,  The clams were stuffed with chorizo and Oaxaca cheese.  Each bite of them was very brief, quicky evaporating down your throat.  It these were real clams, it might have been a pretty good dish.

That's a slice of lime in the center.  That should give you an idea of the size of the microscopic clams.


This is BEEF BOURGUIGNON.  It tasted like beef stew to me, beef stew from a can with Dinty Moore on the label.  BEEF BOURGUIGNON is supposed to contain Burgundy wine or Cognac.  I don't believe this dish had either.

To top it off, the dish was barely warm.  The chef didn't leave it in the microwave long enough.

I regretted my decision to have beef rather than the seafood I normally order at the coast.


Here's Debbie's dish.  It was the special for the evening.  On the right is something called Pink Snapper with a blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette.  On the left is Zucchini and behind her fork is mashed Yukon Potatoes.  Debbie was not impressed with the special - the fish was almost all overcooked and the Zucchini was under-cooked.  

I tasted everything on her plate and will add the potatoes had a really funky taste.  Maybe I'm not used to eating Yukon potatoes.  I thought the Zucchini were perfect.  The fish I could take it or leave it.


This striped pair was our waitress Deanna and Debbie.  Deanna was nice.  I guess she had to be because she worked at Island Grill.  A waitress with a nice personality and knowledge of the menu can cover for a lot of sins.  That's Debbie on the right.

Deanna had not only heard of Reidsville.  She had actually visited Reidsville.  Deanna said she thought Reidsville was a beautiful place.  She didn't say, but apparently she visited Reidsville a very, very long time ago.  Funny, Deanna didn't look like she lived through the 1940s.

We struggled for several minutes about ordering a dessert.  We did not, and I'm glad we didn't.

The total bill with a modest tip was $77.  That's $13 more than what we paid at Amos Mosquito's where we also had a dessert.

Unless you really like a noisy and crowded ambiance, Island Grill is not recommended.

SUNDAY

BREAKFAST

As you've probably already guessed, I like breakfast.  It's usually the first and last meal when we're on vacation.



Debbie waves goodbye to Atlantic Beach as we prepare to have one last meal on the coast.  This is the RESORT GRILL.  It is a small diner just down the road from where we stayed.  It was attached to a large beach resort, hence its name.


I also take a lot of pictures of Debbie staring at the menu.  She ordered sausage and eggs with toast.


Here's my HE-MAN beach breakfast.  It's hash browns with country fried steak with two eggs over easy and toast.

Breakfast cost about $23 with tip

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

1.  TV at the beach sucks.  The TV set sucked and the programming sucked.  I guess it's what is known as "basic cable".
2.  Despite the crappy TV, the cable internet service was awesome.  It was around 15 mbps, both up and down, which for a 3 mbps DSL country boy is pretty impressive.
3. I never set foot on the beach or went anywhere near the water.  I am allergic to the sun.  I burn like hell in intense sunlight.  Debbie stayed on the beach from 9:30 AM until 6:30 PM every day when it wasn't raining.  I'm not sure where the expression comes from, but she turned "brown as a berry".  I've never seen a brown berry
4.  Gibsonville, NC is an interesting little town.  It has lots of intriguing shops.  At 2 PM on Sunday it was busy with people on the sidewalks going in and out of shops.  Debbie said I would be shocked to see all the activity in downtown Gibsonville after dark.  Gibsonville is nothing like Reidsville.  It's population is way less than half of Reidsville's.
5.  Downtown Gibsonville has a storefront Church called "Awestruck Church".  It's on the internet at www.awestruckchurch.com   Some years ago Reidsville outlawed all downtown storefront churches.  There is a banner on the front of the church, which is also illegal in Reidsville.  Don't blame me, I didn't elect Reidsville's City Council.  In our defense,  Reidsville still has its "Holy Rollers" who preach on the street corner at Mural Park in downtown.
6.  Debbie met a stranger in the hallway of our condo.  He was from Martinsville and recognized Debbie from her WGSR Cruise-In show.  It's a small world.
7.  Goldsboro, NC has a beef and pork center called "Hill's Beef and Pork Center". You can find it on Facebook.  It's nothing on the scale of the Nahunta Pork Center, but I'm sure the residents of Goldsboro are very proud of their Beef and Pork Center.  Goldsboro residents probably think of their Beef and Pork Center like Reidsville thinks of Chinqua-Penn.