24 June 2009

Tennessee Traditions

Tradition is that my mother prepares one or two lasagnas, freezes them, and then reheats them in her RV's oven early in the trip for all to enjoy. This year was no exception. Tom and I arrived at Cades Cove on Monday afternoon, and Mother already had the lasagna in the oven. That evening, we ate and yakked and ate and yakked and on and on for most of the evening. The little girls (my great-nieces) ran and screamed and the big girls did the dishes. (I rinsed and dried.)

Tom and I headed back down the mountain to civilization (Townsend) for our first night at Dock's Motel. Dock's is a funky little find and a bargain. The accommodations are campy, cozy, and clean.

Tuesday was next, and that was my, Tom's, and Lynda's [sister] turn for dinner. Let's back up a bit. Our oldest sister, Lori, is the planner and the enforcer. That is a good thing. Lori assigns nights for each of us to cook -- we share the dinner responsibilities among all of us throughout the week. I guess this is one of the responsibilities of being the big sister. Again, a good thing.

I had planned the menu for the evening a few weeks ago (Lori is great about doling out the responsibilities weeks in advance) and tonight was kabob night -- Salt Lick dry rub seasoned chicken and veggies on bamboo skewers. Tom and Lynda were great chopping the ingredients while I prepped the mini Weber grill. I fired up the charcoal in the chimney I brought from Dallas, and soon we were off and cooking. As you know, I'm a bigot for my Big Green Egg, but I must give the little black Weber accolades for being "johnny-on-the-spot" (not to mention that it is about 300 pounds lighter).

The kids hated the kabobs -- I learned that mature tastes don't always work well with youthful expectations. Granny [my mother] came to the rescue with PB&J sandwiches. Thanks, Mother! In the ultimate vendication, though, my great-niece, Stephanie, approached me after dinner and asked when she would be grown up enough to like food like my kabobs. She's well on her way!

Tomorrow, the next traditions kick in...

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...