10 June 2009

Tennessee Roots, Here We Come!

Every summer, my family (parents, sisters, and their offspring) trek to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a family reunion. Everybody camps -- the family at Cades Cove inside the park, and I and Tom at a nearby cabin. (Cold water and no electricity are not for us. We have to drive 20 minutes each way to link up with the rest of the family at Cades Cove, but hot water, Wi-Fi, electricity, and air conditioning make it worth the drive.)

We're now in the outbound stage of this year's trip. This year, we drove from Dallas, making the trek to Townsend, Tennessee, over four days. Granted, we could have done it in two (or even one in a pinch), but we like to travel at a leisurely pace and see the sites along the way.

We departed Dallas on Friday afternoon and arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas, early in the evening for our overnight stay at the Capital Hotel.

The Capital recently underwent a US$25 million renovation, and the result is a stunningly beautiful hotel property. (I'm guessing it was pretty before, but now it's incredible.) Our hotel package included a 3-course dinner at their award-winning restaurant, Ashley's. The meal was excellent, and the conversation with Chef Cassidy was equally informative and entertaining. If you ever have a chance to try their seared fois gras on crisp watermelon, don't miss it! Cassidy, thanks for a great meal!

Saturday morning, we visited the Clinton Presidential Center (we highly recommend it), and then made the quick jaunt to Memphis.

We couldn't pass through Memphis without spending a night with the ducks. We dined at the Rendezvous and returned to the Peabody for a nightcap and a good night's rest.

The Rednezvous is a great understated (until you see the crowd waiting outside) spot in a basement on an alley a half block north of the Peabody Hotel. The dry ribs are fantastic, and the ambience is that much better.

Sunday took us to Byrdstown, Tennessee, and the home of my paternal grandparents (now deceased), where my Uncle Gib Taylor now lives. We had dinner at one of Byrdstown's finest, The Bobcat Den. (Too bad their high school's mascot is not the cougar!) One of the menu specials was Roast Beef Manhattan, something with which I was not familiar. When I inquired, the waitress kindly explained that it is a roast beef sandwich. Cool! That's what I'll have. Tom had the roast beef dinner special, and Uncle Gib splurged on the fried oyster dinner. (All of these indulgences were to be offset by carrot juice the following morning.) The food was delivered, and come to find out, a Roast Beef Manhattan is said sandwich with a BEEF GRAVY FROSTING! It was decadent, if not sodium- and fat-loaded. Uncle Gib made us delicious pecan waffles and bacon for breakfast on Monday, with coffee said carrot juice on the side. I am certain that the cholesterol and fat from the Bobcat melted away. Thanks, Uncle Gib!

We left Byrdstown Monday morning, headed for Townsend and Cades Cove. The trip was scenic and uneventful, except for an unexpected 30-minute construction delay on the Tellico Lake dam in Lenoir City. We checked in at Dock's Motel, and then headed to link up with the family in Cades Cove. Let the fun begin...

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