Friday, November 30, 2012

Southern Soul BBQ

Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is one of those Food Network shows that make you wonder "is this real?" - it is so fast paced and out there. So nothing would do, when I learned that one of the "dives" featured on the show was close to us here at Jekyll Island, but that we go and check it out.

Southern Soul BBQ on St Simon's Island would also give Arch the opportunity to try some real southern barbecue.

The restaurant is the dominating presence on a traffic circle as you enter the shopping area on St Simon's Island. And very hard to miss. It is not very big, but had great street presence with several picnic-style tables outside.

There were several people sitting here when we arrived but all were gone when we left. It was a chilly day. Beside this patio were the wood smokers which the chef was just warming up.

The restaurant itself really is what I imagine a BBQ joint should look like. Small and narrow, you order at the cash register, take a seat at one of the 6 tables or a stool at the counter, they call your name when the food is ready, and deliver to your table. Tables are to the left of the counter, a large screen TV at the other end.

The woman in the blue jacket is standing in front of the door

The wall decor consisted of tongue-in-cheek photos, taken in the area.

Incidentally, hot boiled peanuts are a very popular delicacy here and you can buy them everywhere. They are made by placing unshelled raw peanuts and a spiced water in a slow cooker and cooking on low over night. They are not to our taste but, if you would like to try them, you will find a recipe here.

Arch had the ribs. Not the best he has had - those were the ones he purchased from a road side vendor at the Heritage Days Cultural Festival on St Helena Island in South Carolina - but these were a very close second.

All in all, an interesting, fun experience.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas Tree Lighting Festival on Jekyll Island

Yesterday was a big day on Jekyll Island. The Christmas lights were turned on in the Historic District with great celebration. (Warning - lots of photos, left click on them to enlarge)

The party started at 4 pm with a jingle bells bicycle parade. Which we missed but arrived in time to participate in the other activities:

We were greeted by a fork in the road - decisions, decisions. We chose the Christmas tree and food vendors. Arch went to find food and I wandered off to see what was what.

The first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful spot for the kids to have their photo taken with Santa. Just an observation - there were some pretty big "kids" in line.

The veranda was nicely decorated and Mr and Mrs Claus with a helper elf were beautifully costumed and very charming. 

There was a music stage featuring a 4 piece band playing Christmas and other music suitable for children.

Horse drawn wagon rides at $5 per person were very popular.

Note the live oak behind the horse and wagon. There are many of these on the grounds of the historic area.

There were food booths featuring local favourites.

And, in the centre of it all the unlit tree. Yes that is a real, live tree, growing on the grounds.

Of course, I found Arch in the line up for the food tent above. He always makes the most healthy choice :).

Corn dogs and fried pickles
Sausage and fried onions
Ribbon Fries

Pumpkin Funnel Cake
Fat, fat and more fat. They also served Fried green tomatoes and red velvet funnel cake - made by adding red food colouring to pancake batter and deep fat frying it.

As the sunset, we made our selections and joined the gathering crowd in front of the tree:

And then I went off to check out the lights while Arch chatted with the other folks at our table. Who turned out to be RVers as well.

Here is the live oak I showed you earlier
Craft booths under the live oak
By the time I got back to our table, the lights were being turned out:

And then the grand event, a countdown and the tree was lit:

And lastly, fireworks:

And, to all, a goodnight.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lunch at Lady and Sons

I am not a huge fan of the food Paula Deen prepares. Too much fat and sugar for our taste. But I am a huge fan of Paula Deen. Who wouldn't admire a person who has overcome as much adversity as she has to achieve such great success. From her website:

"As a young girl growing up in Albany, Georgia, Paula Deen never dreamed she would become an American icon. As a young mother, Paula was living the American dream—married to her high school sweetheart, raising two adorable boys; when tragedy struck. Her parents died, her marriage failed and she began a prolonged battle with agoraphobia. With her boys in their teens and her family near homelessness, Paula took her last $200, reached deep inside her soul and started “The Bag Lady,” a home-based catering company that marked the start of Deen’s professional cooking. With sons Jamie and Bobby delivering “lunch-and-love-in-a-bag,” beginning in June 1989, Paula turned around her life by sharing what she knew best, traditional Southern cooking".

So nothing would do but we had to go to "Lady and Sons" for lunch while in Savannah.

We were in Savannah one day exploring the city and decided to check the restaurant out and find out the process for booking a reservation. I'm glad we did that. The exterior of the restaurant was pretty inconspicuous - I'm not sure why, but I expected something more splashy - and we had trouble finding it. If you are in Savannah and want to eat there I recommend you make a reservation - people who did not were waiting an hour and a half for a table. So we reserved for lunch in two days time.

They have an excellent system for handling a large number of people. When we arrived we were greeted at a window on the side of the restaurant where your reservation was checked off and you were sent to one of two doors to enter the restaurant. We entered via Paula's shop - a nice store where everything sold carries Paula's name. Paula was there to greet us:

A cardboard cut-out of course, but what the hey - it's the thought that counts :).

Our name was called very quickly and we were sent to an elevator to go to the third floor. As we learned there are three floors in the building. Floor 1 is the store and restaurant, floor 2 the kitchen, and floor 3 more restaurant and a very cozy looking bar. 

The interior of the restaurant is very austere and utilitarian in d├ęcor. But that works in an old building. Immediately as we were seated small plates with a pancake and a cheese tea biscuit were placed on the table. To be eaten dipped in maple syrup that was already on the table.

They were both very tender and delicious. And no need for butter - there was likely enough in the biscuit to butter 6 pieces of toast.

For lunch they feature a buffet offering a huge selection of southern foods - fried chicken, tomato pie, creamed corn and so much more. Between the bright lighting and the glass sneeze bar I could not get a good picture. 

We decided to pass on the buffet and order from the menu.

To start we shared a plate of fried green tomatoes.

Served with Vidalia onion relish and roasted red pepper sauce they were delicious. The batter was light and perfectly cooked, not greasy.

Then we ordered two sandwiches. Arch had the Savannah meatloaf sandwich with wild mushroom mayonnaise.

It was a huge piece of meatloaf on pumpernicklel accompanied with three dips - regular ketchup,  southern ketchup and southern mustard (both very sweet).

I had the asparagus sandwich, also on pumpernickel topped with red onion, jack cheese and thousand island dressing.

Each sandwich was served with what was called Jelly Belly Fried Potatoes (I think). They are not mentioned on the menu on the website. They were simply sliced red potatoes, dipped in the same batter as the green tomatoes and deep fried. Delicious of course, but, oh the fat....

Everything was very good, but a lot of food, so we passed on desert. And the bill was very reasonable - about the same as you would pay in any restaurant. Which was a pleasant change - usually when we go to restaurants bearing the name of a well known chef, and receiving the associated publicity, the prices are outlandish. Thank you, Paula.

We were told that the restaurant does 500,000 covers a year at, I estimate, an average of $25 per cover - you do the math.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Low Country Cuisine

The low country in the United States is loosely defined as the area of North and South Carolina, Georgia and northern Florida that stretches along the eastern sea coast and consists of mainly salt marshes and barrier islands. I am not sure how to define low country (vs. southern) cuisine. From what we could see it is based on local ingredients, with the preparation strongly influenced by Gullah Geechee tradition. However you describe it, it is delicious. And we spent a lot of our time in Hunting Island checking it out.

Just by luck we stopped at  Barefoot Farms:
I think this market was owned and operated by the chef/owner of "We Island" Gumbo n' Tings, Rowland Washington. We met Chef Washington the first time we stopped here to purchase some local shrimp. He was very modest, said he was the cook and not the chef, and that he was very uncomfortable wearing shoes but it was too cold to go barefoot. Hah!! It did not take us very long to realize that, if you scratched the surface of this very modest appearing market, you would find a very sophisticated food business. And, as we learned later, a supplier to local restaurants.

The shrimp had just arrived and was in coolers beside the shop:
I asked for a pound and got (and paid for) a pound and a half.  

In the market there was no lettuce out for display but I noticed the lettuce growing in the attached greenhouse:
I asked the woman tending the market if I could get some lettuce. "Sure" she said "how much would you like me to cut?' "Enough for two for one meal please." I got enough for three meals.

Then we purchased Chef Washington's "We Island" Garlic Crab and Shrimp Steam and Horseradish Cocktail Sauce:
And home we went to make supper, following the chef's instructions.

"We Island" Steamed Shrimp:


Fresh shrimp
1/4 package of We Island Garlic Crab and Shrimp Steam 


Put a small amount of water in a large pot - you are going to steam the shrimp, not boil them. Add the seasoning to the water and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling add the shrimp, cover and cook until pink. Do not over cook as shrimp will become tough. Serve with cocktail sauce - do not use hot sauce.

Needless to say, there was enough shrimp for two meals, so the next day we went back to the market and purchased a jar of Gumbo:
Also delicious. And enough for two meals. We had it, served with the leftover shrimp, in soup bowls the first evening and then, served over rice, the second.

As far as we could discern, "We Island" is the term the older Gullah folks used to describe where they lived - "our home". Click to learn more about We Island Gumbo n' Tings and order their products.

Another evening we purchased a tomato pie - which was sold everywhere, but not Barefoot Farm, for supper. It was delicious but much to rich for our taste. Must have contained 500 calories PER BITE!! Check out Paula Dean's Recipe for it here.

When we moved on to Skidaway Island State Park outside Savannah we lunched at Paula Dean's restaurant "Lady and Sons" and tried a lot more southern food - but that is the subject for another post.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In the Heart of the Gullah Culture

What a wonderful surprise we encountered when we set out to explore the area around Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina. I found a website that describes the area far better than I can. The  following is from the website :

"This area is home to one of the country’s most unique cultures, a tradition first shaped by captive Africans brought to the southeastern United States from the primarily rice-producing regions of West and Central Africa. That culture continues today by their descendants, known as Gullah Geechee people.

Brought to the New World and forced to work on the coastal plantations of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, Gullah Geechee people developed a separate creole language and distinct culture patterns that included more of their African cultural traditions than the African-American populations in other parts of the United States. Gullah Geechee people retained many aspects of their creole culture due to the geographic barriers that isolated these sea island communities. Although Gullah Geechee people traveled between nearby islands and the mainland, few outsiders entered the Gullah Geechee communities, particularly after the Civil War. After their emancipation from slavery, the Gullah Geechee people’s isolation became more of a choice, as people returned to their homes, communities, and their way of life. In these rural communities, Gullah Geechee people continued their language, arts, crafts, religious beliefs, folklore, rituals and food preferences, and a strong sense of place and family. The Gullah Geechee peoples’ traditional economic practice of farming, fishing, hunting, and small-scale marketing of subsistence products also continue today, yet many areas that once supported these activities have been replaced by coastal development."

St Helena Island (beside Hunting Island, where we were parked) is at the heart of the Gullah Geechee culture. 

The weekend we were there a Heritage Days Cultural Celebration was happening. We decided to take in Saturday's events - a parade in the morning and a food cook-off and arts and crafts demonstrations in the afternoon. 

The parade was fun, very simple and local - high school bands, cheerleaders, church groups (lots and lots of church groups), the high school King and Queen, etc.

 It also appeared to be a celebration of Obama's return to the White House. Everyone cheered when floats expressing joy at his win went by.

I took lots of pictures but my camera was dying and they did not turn out well so I am afraid the above is all I have.

In the afternoon we headed out to the food, arts and crafts demonstrations. It was at the Penn Centre - the site of one of the country's first schools for freed slaves and one of the most significant African American historical and cultural institutions in existence today.

As we arrived at the street where the Penn Centre is located we were surprised to find it closed. But, as it was lined with local crafts people, artists and food vendors selling their wares, we figure that it was closed for the event. So we wandered down the street admiring the art, sampling the food and chatting with the people. 

In front of The Red Piano Art Gallery
Until we came to a police barricade. 

The road was closed because a young man driving a SUV came careening down it, struck a police motorcycle (the police person was not on it) and then continued on, hitting a child about 100 yards on. Although the youngster was knocked 10 feet into the air he was able to get up and walk to the ambulance. The driver of the car leapt out and ran off into the marsh so the police closed the road and brought out the canine unit.

We waited about an hour, wandering around, taking in the atmosphere and eating more. The event was to run from 11 am to 3 pm so about 2 pm, when it became apparent they weren't going to open the road to the Penn Centre any time soon, we left. We were really sad to miss this opportunity to learn more about Gullah Geechee arts and crafts, but did have lots of other opportunities to learn about the cuisine. But that is another blog post - coming soon. 

Artist along the road

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Is it a Yam or is it a Sweet Potato?

When we were in Myrtle Beach locally grown sweet potatoes were for sale everywhere, even at Walmart. Much like regular potatoes are in PEI. So when we came upon this little market we decided to stop and purchase some for dinner.
Since we appeared to be in the land of sweet potato experts, I asked BJ what the difference was between a yam and a sweet potato. None, he said. Really? I had to follow up on that.

What I found out is that yams are from Africa and Asia and while they are a root vegetable they are very different botanically from what we call yam. They are starchier and drier. They are a member of the lily family and are not imported into North America.

Sweet Potatoes are a member of the morning glory family and were originally imported to the US from Peru. They can have either firm or soft flesh and come in a variety of colours from very pale to dark yellow.

So why the confusion? In the United States, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate between the two. African slaves had already been calling the ‘soft’ sweet potatoes ‘yams’ because they resembled the yams in Africa. Thus, ‘soft’ sweet potatoes were referred to as ‘yams’ to distinguish them from the ‘firm’ varieties.

So essentially, BJ was right. In the US and Canada there is no difference between sweet potatoes and yams.

I decided to make stuffed sweet potatoes for supper. Essentially, I baked the potatoes, removed the fleash - very carefully, sweet potato skins are much more fragile than regular potatoes -mashed it with a small amount of cream, chopped parsley, chopped, cooked bacon, butter and grated parmesan cheese and baked at 400F until heated through. Same as for the Lobster-Stuffed Baked Potatoes we made in PEI.
You could also sprinkle chopped, toasted pecans on top - yum

Monday, November 5, 2012

On the Road Day 6 to Day 23

It is time to bring you up to date with our trip so far - it has been quite a ride!

Day 6 to 8 Cape May, New Jersey
Once we were moved to a quiet spot in the campground we really enjoyed Cape May. It was very touristy but our first opportunity to get out on the beach and that was fun - cold but fun.
Tara was anxious to get in the water but it was way too cold wade in with her.

Day 9 to Day 12 - Jane's Island State Park in Maryland
We took the ferry from Cape May to Lewes, Delaware then a short drive to Jane's Island State Park on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.
This was Arch's first experience getting The Adventure Bus on a ferry. He did great. After the Tappan Zee Bridge any narrow spot is possible!!

We loved Jane's Island State Park. It is a very under-used park in an out-of-the-way location and the area was fascinating. We enjoyed many opportunities to meet local people and learn about the area. The town of Crisfield was next to the park and has been really impacted by the US recession. Many closed businesses, unfinished condo developments, etc. Additionally, at one time there was a big plan to run a ferry across the Chesapeake to Crisfield, thus making it easier for visitors from Baltimore and Washington to get there. This didn't happen but resulted in much over-development of the area.
Farm stands still operate on the trust system here
While at Jane's Island we drove across the state to spend a day at Assateague National Seashore for a picnic and a walk on the beach.
Miles and miles of beautiful beach. This part was for people (and animals) only, but further south was a large area (miles) where you could take your vehicle on the sand - with a permit. A lot of surf fishers do this.
This horse was enjoying a swim at Assateague National Seashore
More on our visit to Jane's Island here

Day 13 and 14 - First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach
Our trip from Cape May to Virginia Beach started well -  another beautiful day. We were motoring along, then bang! A blow-out! Arch drove slowly along the side of the road until we found a place to pull off. We thought the day was lost. Road side assistance was a couple of hours away. Then along came Sammy.

He was on his way home from a medical appointment (kidney dialysis), noticed our flat tire and pulled in to offer his services. His business is changing truck tires and moving trucks around. And he had all the equipment to change our tire in the back of his truck. We decided to forego roadside assistance and hire Sammy. The tire was changed in a flash and in 30 minutes we were on our way.

Crossing the 17 mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel was like driving on the ocean. We crossed this before but high up in a motorhome you see so much more and the experience is really different..
Although at least 4 experts, including Sammy (he thinks we hit something on the road that caused the tire to blow-out), told us our tires are fine but, we knew they were old so decided to put 6 new ones on The Adventure Bus while in Virginia Beach. Expensive but worth it for peace of mind.

We did not enjoy Virginia Beach. The folks at the state park were more concerned about enforcing rules than supplying services and they charged $5 per night PER PET. We paid the $15 for Tara but did not tell them about Princess. So we were not sad to leave when they closed the park because of the approach of Hurricane Sandy
Incidentally, Tara and Princess are doing great.
Waiting for the tire to be changed - she lies on the floor when we travel

Princess wants to know what is going on
We are calling her Princess Super Kitty now. She loves The Adventure Bus, mostly sleeps on the bed while we travel but occasional comes to sit with me and watch the world go by.

Day 15 and 16 - Falls Lake State Park, North Carolina
We went there to get out of Sandy's way. Falls Lake is a beautiful park just 10 miles from Raleigh-Durham area and proved to be a great spot to stop. The cities are beautiful and easy to get around. We used this stop to spend more money and get re-connected to the rest of the world via a Verizon MiFi device. We love it. We purchased the device and pay as we go for internet.

In avoiding Sandy we missed our stop on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The park we reserved a spot in was closed. This was a real disappointment as this is a beautiful area.

Day 16 to Day 18 - Wilmington, North Carolina
As they were closing Falls Lake State Park for the season on Oct 31 we left and headed back out to the coast. Wilmington barely escaped Sandy so we booked a night at the KOA there and off we went. We are not crazy about private campgrounds - they tend to be very crowded - but we did enjoy this one. It was quite a treat to have cable TV to follow Sandy, a really great laundromat and free internet - lets us save our Verizon time. When it became apparent that the campground at Cape Hatteras was not going to reopen anytime soon we decided to stay here for two more nights.
So we spent one day exploring Wilmington, a beautiful, historic city. Rebecca, you would love this vintage clothing shop:
The shop was closed. This is only the part of it that was out in a little art & antique market we stumbled upon:
I bought a scarf. It is very pretty but I think I bought it just so I could slip my money under the door:
This stop also gave us our first chance to play golf:
Because we leave Tara in The Adventure Bus we can only play 9 holes and finding courses where you can do this is not easy but we did find this funny little one between Wilmington and Kure Beach. It also operated on the trust system. We seem to be running into a lot of this. Wonder if it would work at Bay Hammocks.

Day 18 to 23 - Myrtle Beach State Park, North Carolina
We are back on track and really enjoying our stay in Myrtle Beach. The beach is gorgeous, of course, and it is warm enough to let Tara go out in the waves. Once again there are horses on the beach.

Lots of them. On Saturday, 1200! A fund-raiser of some sort for the Heart and Stroke Association.  Boy, did they make a mess of the beach - horse poop everywhere. But by Sunday the tide had washed it all away and the beach was usable again.
We found a great golf course to play - 27 holes divided into 3 nine hole segments. Short and fast. Perfect for us.
And the State Park in probably the nicest so far:
The 1/2 K entrance was second only to Fox Harb'r
It has a private beach and fishing pier
And we can walk along the beach to the commercial area - it is about 1 mile
We could easily spend another week here but leave tomorrow for Hunting Island State Park, also in North Carolina, and more adventures.

Incidentally, to enlarge the photos, simply right click on them.