Delancey’s – Perfect Southern Goodness

Brownstone Front Cake

I know some of you already know this, but if you’re late to the Foodie Party, I also write for a local magazine here. I try to share each article with you after it’s published. However, I’m a month behind. This one is from the December 2012 issue of Alamance Magazine. It’s about the most wonderful little Southern restaurant and catering company, Delancey’s in Burlington, NC. I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did eating the food photographed! *smiles*

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Sorghum Syrup, Green Beans, Sausage Balls, Cheese Straws, Meatloaf, Macaroni and Cheese, Pintos, Chow Chow, and Brownstone Front Cake – are you hungry yet? I guess hungry isn’t the question. The one thing I should be asking you is if you felt a little warmer in your soul reading the names of good old-fashioned Southern delights. I have found that food can evoke wonderful memories of times gone by, especially at the holidays.

I have many memories of my family and extended family always gathered around one or more dinner Mac and Cheese 1 copytables during the holidays. Not a one of those memories would I trade for anything. In thinking of the ones involving my first cousins, I can still remember the table full of us when I was much younger. Of course we had to sit separate from the grownups at a card table in the kitchen. We were definitely a messy bunch! Ham, Turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, broccoli casserole, homemade biscuits, you name it…I grew up in a family of amazing Southern cooks and we knew how to devour and make a mess while doing it!

We’re not all together anymore, which is sad, in and of itself. The cousins were scattered as parents moved. Three moved to the West Coast, one to the Mid-West, and three of us were fortunate enough to remain here in the Burlington area. Later on in the years, the three of us that were left remained close. Fast forward a few more years, and sadder still, one of us three is now in Heaven. But, the good thing about families is that they are continually growing and making new dinner table memories. We have been blessed greatly in our family to have the addition of four more cousins here local, and marriages have brought many more with all of our spouses. Even though we’re not around the card table together each holiday now, on rare occasions we have been able to get back together around the “Grown-Up Table” since we are now officially grown-ups in our thirties. Don’t tell anyone.

Collard Greens copyI have my own household now and found my own relationship with Southern Cooking. I love cooking for my family and whoever wants to enjoy a meal. Along with that, I have learned the importance of planning meals out and juggling time. I’ll be honest, it’s no fun stressing away in the kitchen while everyone else is sitting in the den or around the dining room table enjoying the food you have prepared. I definitely don’t like missing out on hors d’oeuvres, because they are my favorite part of any meal. I also end up missing a lot of the conversations and the time that is so rare with family nowadays.

Well, Thanksgiving has passed, and we now have that constant reminder of planning needed to ensure the Christmas meals go smoothly and everything is organized and stress-free. This is where I imagine a good plenty of you just had a silent chuckle to yourself. If only because you know that the holidays bring on a different kind of stressor that you normally don’t deal with throughout the year, and to some, a stress-free holiday is truly a joke.

This is where I want to introduce you, or reintroduce you, to the blessing of Delancey’s during the holidays.

About four years ago I found myself completely stressed about what to fix for a family Christmas meal. IPintos and ChowChow was working a full-time job and time and money were extremely hard to find. There wasn’t much hope for our meal until I ended up having lunch with Maw-Maw (my Grandmother) at Delancey’s one day. Sitting beside their register was this paper. It wasn’t just any paper…it was my saving grace for Christmas.

I had never put two and two together that Delancey’s did take-home meals, catering, or anything like that until then. This was a combination deal where I could choose a meat and two sides to feed a family of 6-8 for quite the low price. I jumped on it, and I picked up my meal the day I needed it. The entire family loved every morsel of food I had ordered, and I got to spend time with them that I otherwise would have spent in the kitchen. That, my friends, is priceless in my book.

Peach Cobbler2 copyLucky for you, Delancey’s still has this along with all of their other Catering options. Even better for you, they’ve sweetened the pot since I took advantage of it. For just $79.99 you can feed 12-15 people. You have your choice of a moist Turkey Dinner which consists of the whole Turkey, dressing, gravy, and cranberry relish, or a delicious Dinner Sliced Ham. Along with your meat, you have your choice of three of their mouth-watering Southern sides. Folks, they have everything your Southern heart can imagine: Broccoli Casserole, Crowder Peas and Corn, Collard Greens, Baked Apples, Squash Casserole, Pintos, Candied Yams, Macaroni and Cheese, and the all-important Sweet Potato Casserole. Those were just a few options. You don’t just get that though. You also get a gallon of Sweet Tea and a dozen Yeast Rolls. Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a great Southern option for a stress-free holiday meal!

After learning about this year’s deal, I couldn’t help but want to tell you about it! (This is where I want you to know that I write what is honestly in my heart, and I wasn’t asked to write about Delancey’s. After deciding that I wanted to tell you about Delancey’s and their Holiday Family Meal option, I went to talk to the owner, Mike Thomas, and find out about his Southern roots. You won’t find any quotes from him here. But, I used his words and passion to inspire what I would take away from our conversation and share with you. He was very inspiring to say the least.)

It all started when his father began making wedding cakes many years ago. Later on, his mother joined Brownstone Front Cakehis father by adding good Southern celebration staples like Sausage Balls and Cheese Straws to the mix and they began catering small events. It wasn’t long before it was a family affair, and fast forward many years later, Mike began his own food adventure with Delancey’s. He felt so passionately about bringing good quality to his guests, that he wanted to ensure the recipes he used stayed true to the South. He explained to me how they are the result of sitting with his father in the kitchen for hours upon hours watching him to get exact measurements. See, his father was a lot like many of us and our parents and grandparents. A dash of this and a pinch of that would make anything taste amazing, but if someone asked for the recipe, they were pretty much out of luck. When Mike felt that all of the recipes were perfected, that’s when he brought Delancey’s to us. On a side note, they also have their own Sorghum Syrup business, for us true Southerners. You buy it directly from Delancey’s to put on your homemade biscuits Christmas morning…just a tasty thought.

In closing, from the Chow Chow made fresh, to the Brownstone Front Cake (just $34 for a 4-layer 9-inch cake!), all the way to his Mom’s Broccoli Casserole recipe, you really can’t describe Delancey’s any other way but lovingly Southern. So when you think to yourself this Christmas Season that you aren’t going to be able to combine family and food preparation easily, think of Delancey’s. Let them do all the prepping for you, so all you have to do is take it home, pop it in the oven, enjoy the company of your guests, and then serve a piping hot Southern meal with Southern hospitality. After all, the holidays are meant for spending time with your loved ones and making memories. Don’t miss out on them because you’re stuck in the kitchen. They will still love you the same, even if you don’t come to the table worn out in a food stained apron.

The Beauty of Pimento Cheese…

Pimento Square Plate with Names

I just remembered that I never posted the November 2012 article I wrote for the November issue of our local magazine here.  Enjoy you guys!  December will be posted in the next couple of days!  *smiles*

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There aren’t many moments when I went to Maw-Maw’s house and didn’t see a plastic container of Pimento Spoons Red 2 with Nameshomemade Pimento Cheese sitting proudly in the refrigerator. Come to think of it, it’s probably one of the first things I learned to make growing up – besides homemade Buttermilk Biscuits that is. It wasn’t always about the Chocolate Chip Cookies in the Cookie Jar, the paintings we would do, the late nights watching Statler Brothers on PBS, or the playing of (banging on) the piano. Part of the joy at Maw-Maw’s was that container of orange-colored goodness named Pimento Cheese.

Let’s take a look at what Pimento Cheese is for the folks that may not quite understand this Southern delicacy. It’s typically shredded cheddar cheese, diced Pimentos, a little mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. That’s it. You can eat it slathered between two pieces of lightly toasted white bread, sandwiched on crackers, or even spread into the hollow of a celery rib if you’d like. It’s one of those treats you can eat how you prefer and no one judges the method to your madness.

Speaking of how you prefer your Pimento Cheese – there are many different ways it’s prepared. Some like more mayonnaise so it’s creamier. Some like it thicker and chunkier. You can use Mild or Sharp Cheddar Cheese, depending on your preference. Some like it hot and add jalapeno, or even get adventurous with green olives and pecans in theirs. There are just so many tasty options when you start with such basic ingredients!

This brings me to my point – Did you know there are three different Pimento Cheeses that start with the letters “St” made right here in Alamance County? We have Stan’s, Star’s, and Steve’s. Out of curiosity, I went on a tasting spree the other day, and I wanted to share with you what I discovered with each one.

Before we start this, I think you need to know that I’m not one to be swooned by elaborate wrappers and labels. I’m a no-nonsense kind of Southern Gal. So, these were judged strictly on taste, and these are my Pimento Square Plate with Namesown opinions. Let’s go over each one’s high and low notes, just like at a fancy wine tasting.

· Stan’s (Burlington, NC) – Other than Maw-Maw’s Pimento Cheese, this one was the other staple in our house. There are nice large shreds of the cheddar cheese which gives it a thicker consistency, but still creamy. The coarse grind of black pepper in it helps balance out the mayonnaise twang. Pimentos are scattered evenly throughout the container, and the label even says it has Texas Pete in it. It’s a little higher in calories, and the high fructose corn syrup may contribute to that. However, I’ll make the sacrifice for a nice overall flavor.

· Star’s (Burlington, NC) – The “cheese” is quite a bit more processed in this one allowing it to be a thicker and creamier spread. The fact that it has a creamier texture would make it easy to pipe into cherry tomatoes or onto crackers as an appetizer at a holiday gathering. It’s definitely sweeter than Stan’s. The only thing that I found to be a negative about this one was the ingredients read “imitation” cheese, and this might explain the much embellished orange color of the spread. I guess this is why they call it Pimento Spread and not Pimento Cheese.

· Steve’s (Graham, NC) – You buy this little gem at Steve’s Garden Market in Graham, so that makes it a Pimento Cheese Bowls with Namesnice buying experience with the super friendly staff and great looking produce. If you’re a mayonnaise fan, this would be your choice. The first ingredient listed is mayonnaise, and it’s obvious why it’s listed first. The texture is very smooth, almost runny, with large chunks of cheese throughout and plenty of pimento. This was the only commercial one without High Fructose Corn Syrup as well. It ended up being pretty tasty. I personally prefer a little less mayonnaise with a thicker texture, though.

· Maw-Maw’s (Burlington, NC) – You knew I couldn’t leave hers out! Even though you can’t purchase it, I added it among the taste test so I would have my constant. Maw-Maw’s has always had Sharp Cheddar Cheese in it to give it a very cheesy deliciousness. She leaves the pimentos somewhat chunky so you can see and taste them. Very little mayonnaise goes in it, and just a hint of mustard. Salt and Pepper of course join those ingredients, and you end up with a nice chunky Pimento Cheese. What was that you asked? Any negatives about Maw-Maw’s Pimento Cheese? Only one negative…that you aren’t able to enjoy it with me.

Who would have thought they would have such similar names, but have such different flavors? Now I’m not one to tell you which one to go out and buy. I am one, however, to tell you to go taste them all. Life is about making your own decisions and enjoying the variety of options that you have in front of you to feed off of. Fortunately for you, food is one of the easiest decisions in life. I’m just here for guidance, and right now, I want you to smile. For the simple reason that you just read an entire article about the Southern delicacy that is Pimento Cheese. Say CHEESE y’all!

Pimento Spoons Words

Believing in Humanity…and Curtis Stone, too!

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I am a firm believer that people come in and out of our lives for a reason. I also believe that the kindness of strangers is still alive and kicking. Whether it’s the person you pass in the street you exchange smiles with, or it’s the server at your dinner table…we all meet for a reason. That’s why it’s important to show kindness to everyone you meet, because as the old phrase goes, you never know what struggle someone has in their own life.

All through life, I have tried to do my best to share my smiles (what’s the point in hanging on to them?). I will always try to make you laugh (with clean or naughty humor). I will always believe in you (even when you doubt yourself). Also, I will always respect you (because you’re human, and you deserve it). I don’t care where you came from, where you live, what you eat (unless I need a recipe), or how you prefer your steak cooked. You are you, and I will respect you and do my best to inspire you.

Onto today…

There were quite a few people that came into my life today, and I am very grateful they were brought into it.

Today was the day I got to meet Curtis Stone. *big smiles* Mom and I started off early for the hour drive to A Southern Season (one of our favorite gourmet stores!), and were completely expecting a large crowd waiting. We were the fourth car in the parking lot…*smiles*. We made it inside the store and walked towards the area Curtis would be demoing some of his items. The first person we met…Johnnie. Johnnie was a true delight and knew food like the back of his hand. It was great spending time with him and hearing some of his great recipe ideas. Next, we went to the “gathering” area where we were first in line. Luckily for us, Katy was there to greet us. We had no complaints at all with spending time with this vibrant and kind woman. There were quite a few things we could relate to: her brother has a food blog, she loves fashion, she does design for your home, life, or wardrobe, and she smiled warmly. What wasn’t to love about this woman?

Elaine joined us shortly thereafter with a super warm smile as well. She told us about a movie called Strictly Ballroom…an Aussie film that she loves. She also educated us that she had heard the Julie person in real life from Julie and Julia wasn’t actually the most amazing person you would want to know. Hmmm….that sucks. Then flew in Stacey. Stacey, Stacey, Stacey. We had to let the Security Guard Ryan know that he might want to watch her. For the simple reason that she knew where Curtis had stayed. *wink* With her pearls and sparkly personality she was sweet to bring us tastings as we waited. By the way, the Peppermint Bark at A Southern Season is simply delicious! I adore a good and smooth Peppermint Bark.

Now to back track a bit. All of the above were employees of A Southern Season. There was one more key player in today’s events. About 30 minutes after we had been standing in line, a young gentleman began standing in line with us…Ap. When I say gentleman, he really was one. Well dressed, well groomed, articulated his words, polite, and he knew his food! Oh yeah, and he loves a good steak (can’t fault him there). We exchanged contact information and are definitely planning on keeping in touch. He also let me know about Anthony Bourdain coming to Richmond, VA, in April 2013. Woohoo!!!! *big smiles*again* I always love a new Foodie friend. Might start watching Top Chef Masters because of him, too. *wink*

Right behind Ap, stood a mother of two toddlers and her friend. She had a blog as well. Shamefully, I didn’t catch her name, but I definitely got her blog address. *wink* Go check her out at The Stir Crazy Moms Guide to Durham. It has tons of great ideas to do with your children in Durham. I believe I just saw where they do giveaways once in a while also!

Enter…Curtis…

I had flashbacks of meeting Gordon Ramsay when Curtis Stone walked behind his curtained area to get ready for us salivating women (and a few men). I believe the organizers thought we would be a stampede mess, because a few of them kept telling us how to stand and where to go. But, we knew what we were doing…Curtis couldn’t see us acting like fools. *wink*  By the time 8:30am-11am was gone, we had already “adopted” Ap as one of the family, and we stuck together to make sure we all made it to the front row. Of course we did (it’s the Southern way to look out for your neighbor).

We finally were let in, and now we were standing in front of Curtis Stone while he was showing us a few of his cookware items. I found it to be a little pricey for the average home cook with an average job (like myself), but I can see where everything was practical, great quality, and would be worth the money with some saving. Just as a note…his basic 12″ NonStick FryPan was voted #1 by Good Housekeeping magazine, and his Oil Can was featured in O magazine as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things. I’m not sure you can get better than those two things.

Let’s be honest here. It was hard to focus on much, as he was so damn attractive. *smiles* He shared cooking tips, stories, history, joked around (there’s a naughty side there ladies and gents), and smiled a lot. It was obvious he was passionate about his craft, and I can appreciate that greatly. He took pride in the product he was presenting to us, and he knew how to make you feel important when you met him. Towards the end of the presentation, he sat the plates of food that he had prepared out for us to see as we waited in line for him to sign our cookbooks. But, come on, if you know me, I’m not afraid to ask for what I want. I also don’t believe in just LOOKING at food. So, without hesitation, I proclaimed to him…”I want to try that!” He kindly handed me a fork and the plate, and Mom, Ap, and I enjoyed a bite of his stir-fry dish (which was stunningly flavored). Such a sweetie.

We continued to wait in line for our book signing, and with each person, he took a quick moment to talk to them while signing their cookbook. He got to me, and saw that I already had his autograph in my cookbook (a friend had obtained that one for me, thanks Andrea!). I told him this time I wanted to see it being signed myself, and we could have it signed to “Jennifer” this time, instead of “The Onyx Plate”. He obliged, acknowledged my Fork Bracelet I was wearing, and listened to me briefly jabber about him being an inspiration in my own food passion. We shook hands and he took a photo with Mom and I…damn he’s attractive. Oh wait…did I already say that? Oh well, it bears repeating!

We said goodbye to Katy as we shared a hug, and goodbye to Ap as we recommended he dine at The Weathervane before driving 2 hours home. Unfortunately, they were on a wait for parties larger than one, and we headed back towards home. However, we did stop at a nice little place in Hillsborough called Saratoga Grill. Quite tasty on Churton Street. Delicious Honey Almond Salmon, a light salad, sweet Scones, and a sliver of Caramel Walnut Torte made a nice cap to the day with Mom.

There’s nothing I love more than going on Foodie Adventures with Mom, and even though she says she only goes on these things because it’s for me, I think she secretly enjoys them. Simply put, she got a little too excited when we got to put our arms around Curtis for a photo. And I quote “Ohhh, we get to touch you!” I love my Mom. When I can’t seem to get the words out, she always knows exactly what I’m thinking.

So…in closing…

  • From Johnnie – fantastic recipe ideas for Collards and Fish
  • From Katy – TwentyFiveBucksAWeek.com is her brother’s blog, and her company is Katy Delaney Design. Beautiful Woman/Beautiful Website
  • From Elaine – a new movie to watch!
  • From Stacey – a new brand of Peppermint Bark to indulge in
  • From Ap – a future meeting with Anthony Bourdain (hopefully Ap will be there as well), and a new show to watch – Top Chef Masters
  • From Blogging Mom – a cool website to introduce you Moms to…maybe one day I’ll need it as well.
  • From Curtis Stone – INSPIRATION, INSPIRATION, INSPIRATION and another reason to save money. *wink*

Life is about the people you meet in it as well as the small things you’re surrounded by every single day. When you meet someone, make sure you leave their lives just as enriched as they left yours.

Aspire to inspire.

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CONTEST: Who loves BBQ Sauce???

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I do! I do! I do! Who loves supporting local companies and businesses??? I do!

So with that said, I am pleased to bring you my first ever contest. Woohoo!!!  On top of that, what better thing to kick off the first contest with than some of the most amazing BBQ Sauce ever!

I’m so in love with Tay’s BBQ Sauce that I would like to give you two bottles of it. One is their “Sweet and Smoky”, and the other is their “All Purpose”. I think they both should be labeled all purpose because I use them each on everything! Below are a couple of links for you to check out two posts I’ve already written about this culinary delight called Tay’s Southern BBQ Sauce.

BBQ Sauce Makes Life Sexier

Quick and Easy Dinner Alert!

Gosh I love this stuff!

A little tidbit from Tay’s website…“Tay’s Sauce, LLC was created by Doug Hankins and his daughter, Taylor, from Cameron, NC. One year, they made BBQ sauce as Christmas gifts for their family and friends. Everyone loved the sauce, and it became a common request for them to make more. They were encouraged to bottle and sell their sauce, so in the spring of 2009, the “All Purpose Southern BBQ Sauce” was made available for purchase. After the all-purpose sauce took off, people started requesting a sweeter and smokier flavor. After months of trying to find just the right flavor combination, Doug introduced the “Sweet ‘N Smokey” flavor in the spring of 2011. We know that you will love this sauce just as much as their friends and family do. Doug and Taylor discussed that a percentage of all proceeds will go to their home church.”

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How to Enter:

The only thing you have to do to enter the contest is leave a comment below that tells me why you love BBQ Sauce.

***For extra entries***(once you complete each one, comment below and let me know you did it)

Good luck everyone, and I am so incredibly excited to share Tay’s with you!

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Contest ends Sunday, September 30, 2012, at 11:59pm ET. 

Tay’s Sauce, LLC is part of the fast growing “Goodness Grows in NC”, a department of the North Carolina Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Am I allowed to call myself a Published Food Critic now?

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I’m published! I’m published! I’m published!

If you’ve been following The Onyx Plate on Facebook and Twitter, you might already know this little bit of information…and you very well might be tired of hearing about it. My apologies if so. Otherwise, I’m super excited and extremely proud of myself. Did I just say that? I did…hmmmm. I’m PROUD of myself and my accomplishments thus far on my path to a food career.  This may be old territory for some of you reading this, but this is a whole new horizon I’m looking at!  Yay!

So what was published you ask? My first Restaurant Review was published in our local Alamance County Magazine, along with my photographs of the food. Woohoo! The restaurant I reviewed was really and truly awesome, and I guess I lucked out in that way. No one ever wants to review a restaurant where they can’t say ALL good things about it. That’s just awkward. Although, you know I have had that awkward restaurant review on here with the Tupelo Honey Café review I did on our last trip to Asheville, NC. That was a bit awkward. Sigh. So, that just goes to show you that I do tell the truth with my reviews. *smiles*

Below is what was published in the magazine, along with photographs of the layout. I’M SO EXCITED!

The main question though…Am I allowed to call myself a Published Food Critic now?

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When I think of the name of this restaurant, I can’t help but think of family and the phrase “getting back to your roots”. Sure, this phrase definitely is referencing the act of going back to where you came from or going back to the beginning in essence. However, it’s not always about where you came from originally that could be considered your roots in life. Truthfully, life takes us to a thousand different places and through five thousand different situations. We meet people along the way that shape and mold our lives, and we also live in places that add to our character and define who we are as a person. Sometimes along that way though, we decide to plant ourselves. Not necessarily where we first took root with our family, but where we planted ourselves along our road in life. Something drew us back to that special place, and something made us want to root in fresh soil. Such is the case with the owners of The Root Trackside, and I am very thankful that they came back after graduating from Elon in the 90s.

As everyone knows, it’s very important to have a great first impression when walking through the front door of a restaurant you’ve never tried before. We were immediately greeted by a clean-cut gentleman who led us to a comfortable booth. As I looked around, there were strawberry baskets on the walls around us that reminded me of picking strawberries with my Mom locally. Those are warm Southern memories that I was happy to remember when seeing them. The waitress, Amy, was quickly at our table and went through the menu graciously with us. She took care to explain everything and made some of the greatest faces while doing it! You could tell she truly loved the food and people there, and I can appreciate that.

For a Starter, we had the Crispy Topped Fries. Yeah, these weren’t just a plate of fries. These perfectly crisp fries were topped with shaved Parmesan and Truffle Aioli. It was one of those items that once you had one French Fry, you had to pause and think about it, then you had another one, thought about the blast of flavors again, and then fought to eat the rest of them before the person you were with ate them all. They were a phenomenal Starter that set the mood for the rest of the meal.

When Amy was asked what she would suggest as a menu item for us, she immediately went to the Foodie Grilled Cheese. Let me explain what they mean by “Foodie” being at the beginning of the name. It means that you can have about anything on that Grilled Cheese sandwich that your little heart desires and make it your own creation. I chose to add spinach, caramelized balsamic onions, avocado, bacon, and arugula. By the time I was finished adding all of my toppings, my sandwich was still under $8. Oh, and it came with a choice of side. I chose the Cheese Grit Cakes. Cheesy Grits with chopped green onion mixed in and cooled. Then, they were cut into triangles, battered, and fried to golden deliciousness. Also at our table, was the Ivy League Sandwich. This sandwich came on soft French bread and had an enormous amount of house-baked turkey breast on it, Havarti cheese, an herb mayo, lettuce, tomato and this mouth-watering cucumber dill relish to top it all off. When I say “mouth-watering”, please believe me. I was so thankful we were able to get more on the side. Delicious! The Ivy League was accompanied by Crispy Brussels Sprouts, which were quite tasty as well.

Now once you have already filled your belly with these hearty sandwiches and crispy fries, you have to wonder where extra room is going to come from for dessert. I’m sorry, but when you tell me that the desserts are homemade by someone at the restaurant…I’m ordering dessert, regardless of how full I already am. When the Raspberry Cheesecake slice arrived at my table, I found the room for it easily. The raspberry sauce drizzled over top of the homemade cheesecake just glistened back at me. The shaved white chocolate on top was calling my name. The kicker was the crust though. That chocolate crust was amazing. I’m very picky about cheesecakes. I love everything about the inside of them. It’s the outside edges that I typically get disappointed with though. When I have already consumed the creamy beginning of my piece of cheesecake, the last thing I want to finish with is an edge that is too brown and tastes of freezer burn. This was definitely not the case with this slice of cheesecake. It was obvious that it was made with love and attention. It certainly made me smile.

All in all, The Root Trackside was simply delicious and offered many ingenious combinations of fresh food. They also carry a nice selection of local brews to enjoy with your burgers and sandwiches. You know what made me smile the biggest though? Seeing a sandwich called “The Fightin’ Christian”. That was the Elon I grew up around, and The Root Trackside brought back yet more memories of our wonderful little town and my childhood. Thank you to The Root for restoring my faith in sandwich shop-like restaurants. It’s nice to see sandwiches and burgers modernized while still keeping that Southern and Elon charm.

You know I had to ask them to put World Nutella Day in there with a little shout-out to all of you around the world! *wink*

The Root Trackside on Urbanspoon

Dreams of a Restaurant of Kindness…

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In the grand scheme of life, we are put here to be good human beings. I am finding more and more that kindness is actually catching on. It’s becoming “trendy” might I venture to say? Seemingly, people are more aware of the human condition than ever before. We know that our neighbor was laid off a year ago and it’s hard to put food on the table. We understand that it’s hard to find a new job with rejection around most corners. We see the foreclosure signs around town, and we feel for the ones going through that. I can’t even fathom what it would be like to have to up-root from everything you know and love, because you couldn’t make your mortgage/rent payment. Unfortunately, this does happen. Now, I don’t have a plan to fix all of this. That’s not my job or my passion to “fix” this. My passion is to provide to others what I can to help others feel their own worth, find their own talent, realize their own dreams, and eventually live out their own success in life. I find that sometimes just a warm meal, good conversation, and a moment to relax is just what’s needed…

With that being said, there is this one dream I have that I finally want to share with you.

At least once a week, I pass this house for sale that’s been labeled “Commercial” now. It’s quite the pleasant house to look at. In fact, it looks as if it would make a nice house to live in. (Keep in mind, I haven’t seen inside this house…but that doesn’t change the dream.) I can completely envision a restaurant in there. Not just your everyday restaurant, but one that would have a set menu each night of the week. Spaghetti on Mondays, Grilled Chicken on Tuesdays, Meatloaf on Wednesdays, Chicken Pie on Thursdays, Potato Soup on Fridays, etc. You get the point. Each plate would cost $4 for adults and $2 for children. It would be a place where people who are struggling could come and have a warm inexpensive meal and sit in a warm house for a while. I’m thinking the hours would be limited to just dinner time, and only open for a few hours. No need to be open late, because it wouldn’t be a bar…just good home-cooked Southern food. *smiles* The guests would walk right into the front door, grab a plate and sit where they wanted to. They could sit at the dining room table, or if they wanted to catch some television time, they could sit on the couch in the den. It would be their house for a few hours where they could feel warm and comfortable away from the worries of their everyday life.

I’m sure there are other places like this around, at least I hope there are. So when everyone tells me in my daily life that I need to open a restaurant…I’m flattered. I truly am flattered. However, the type of restaurant I would want to open, wouldn’t be what they’re thinking about. It would be a restaurant of kindness, specifically designed to help those that need it the most. Because that, my friends, is what’s truly important in life.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You can certainly view the property I’m talking about if you’re curious with the link below…However, the house isn’t viewable. It’s more focused on the surrounding property. I do see though that it is in “Pending” status. I pray that whoever is buying the property, that they do some good with it. Honestly though, I would be sad to see the house tore down, as it has been a source of my dreams for quite a few years now. *frown* There is always a plan though…we just aren’t always privy to what the plan is…trusting.

http://www.richardjonesrealestate.com/PropertyDetail.aspx?PropId=41&ListId=&CatId=1&SubCatId=

The above was the best photo I could get of the house on a drive by photograph….so pardon the blurs.

The real estate site says….The 3,000 sqft house on the (7 acre) property features: Main floor has living room, music room, bathroom, 1 bedroom, den, dining room, kitchen and breakfast area and utility room. The second floor features 3 bedrooms and 1 bath. The roof is 12 years old, the HVAC/Hotwater Heater is 13+ years old. The cellar has a concrete floor and is accessible from inside the house.

(Seems like lots of Restaurant space to me!!! *smiles*)

Lions and Trees on plates, Oh My!

SAMSUNG

For many of you that know me or have been following my blog, you know how important my family is to me. Today was an extremely warming day. Not just that it was above 90 degrees here in the humid South, but because I spent half the day with my most wonderful Grandma.

Every year, our church has Vacation Bible School. Each night of bible school, a different woman of the church prepares the snacks for the children. Monday was pizza, Tuesday was weenie biscuits, and tonight…yes, tonight…was Maw-Maw’s. *smiles*

About a month ago, Maw-Maw and I decided this would be a fun project to work together on. Now, granted, she may have been a little skeptical about working with a perfectionist…who can sometimes be difficult…she still agreed graciously. *wink* We came up with a cute idea after I saw a photograph online of food fun ideas, and we ran with it.

The day started at 1pm today with my arrival at her house. First thing was first, had to slice the apples and put them in Orange Juice (Maw-Maw found that this keeps them from turning…and it DID!). I’ll admit it…this would not have been an easy task were it not for my Williams-Sonoma apple corer/slicer/thingymabobber. Could not, would NOT, have done it without it. 20 apples later, it was time to cut the bread. We had 50 “heads” to cut out, and luckily Mom had lent us her Fondant cutters. To make things easier, Maw-Maw thought of freezing the loaf bread. With the freezing, it allowed the bread to cut through with the cutter and not just smush around the edges of the cutter. Ingenious, that woman is. Now you see where I get it. *wink*

After that, we began to assemble the “heads” into Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. For the “non-PB” people (the crazy people), we made Ham and Cheese sandwiches. Being a good Southerner is all about pleasing everyone. Unfortunately…. *smiles*

We finally wrapped up prepping around 3:30, and we had just enough time for a little sit-down break. Shew, she worked me today!

The neighbor girls that Maw-Maw takes to VBS arrived around 4:15 at her house, and off we went. When we got to the church, the girls were great! They helped with everything we asked them to do, and we couldn’t have asked for any better. It was the kind of help that gives me hope that the generation below me isn’t all bad.

The plates were set out, and an abundance of adults and kids were commenting on how great everything looked. They ate, we cleaned up, and then we watched them do some of their activities.

Even 20 years later, you still remember the activities from VBS. The same women that were there when I participated in it, were still there this week doing it. Maybe a little grayer, more love-lines, but who cared? They did it with just as much love tonight, as they always did when I was young. It reminded me of a simpler time, when all I needed to know how to do was move my hands in various motions to match the words that I was singing. It was just pure bliss seeing the little kids do that tonight. Made me smile. *smile*

I caught up with an old friend as well while there, loaded up the car, and sat around with Maw-Maw until the kids were done. The girls hopped in her car, and we all went back to our respective homes. It was a day complete.

So that’s the schedule of the day. There was much more about the day that made it warm. Today was a good day for Maw-Maw and I to spend time together. Today is the 16th anniversary of the death of Paw-Paw. He was such an important part of our life, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. Dealing with someone’s death never gets easier, we just learn to move forward with their memory. That’s why it is so incredibly important not to take for granted the days we have with our family members and loved ones. We all know how life turns out, but it doesn’t mean we can’t make it beautiful for others while we’re here. So that they too will have warm memories of us for years to come, as I have of my Paw-Paw.

 

A Southern Gal’s Take on Chef Irvine and Restaurant Impossible

The extremely KIND production crew!

A note to my most wonderful reader…I feel as though I need to preface this as I do with some of my writings. I need you to remember, while reading this, that I am a very passionate and caring person that always tries to be kind to people. It is true that you never know whose day you are going to turn around with just a kind smile or a simple acknowledgement of their existence. Life is short…be kind to one another!

And so it began….

It was about 8:30am when we arrived at University Grill. Mom, two friends, and I. It was drizzling and decently chilly. We walked up to the building right at 9am, just as instructed. Oh wait…I can’t forget to mention that we were almost run over by a light blue Lexus SUV while walking up to the building. It randomly came out of nowhere, and what to our wondering eyes would appear??? Well, it was Chef Robert Irvine driving the Lexus like a bat out of hell. He spun out into the middle of the street, almost hitting another vehicle. We were told to stand on the side of the building while the production crew signed us in…but you had to stay out of the view of the windows since they were doing some filming inside. Heaven forbid we stepped in front of a window, because we would be swiftly corrected.

We stood outside for about another hour, in the cool drizzle, until we were finally told we could walk in to the warm restaurant. The production crew ushered us in, and look who was standing right inside the door! Well, it was Chef Robert Irvine standing with arms crossed at the door like a Greek God. Yeah, he’s built…I can appreciate that. I stepped up to him, being the big fan that I am, and said charmingly “Welcome to North Carolina.” We were standing perpendicular to each other. He looked my way with a cross look on his face, stared at me for a couple seconds, did one of those quick flashes of a fake smirk, and quickly turned back around, never uttering a nicety to me or the others around me. I was perplexed to say the least.

Let’s talk a second here…I have met Chef Gordon Ramsay. He wasn’t at all what you see on television. At the MasterChef auditions, he was a complete gentleman. He was kind and generous even off camera. It could bring the good tears to my eyes just knowing that I met my number one favorite Chef, and he was all I hoped. Hell, I was prepared for him to yell at me or tell me something looked bad…and I would have happily taken it like a champ! *smiles* I expected that from Chef Ramsay. On to Chef Irvine…when my amazing cousin let me know about the posting in Craigslist for extras on the show, I jumped at the chance! Who was I wanting to meet??? Well, it was Chef Robert Irvine that I wanted to meet with a smile on my face and a smile on his. I have this list in my head of who I really want to meet, and he was certainly towards the top! He seemed like he would be such a nice guy to meet, and my hopes were high like the bar that Chef Ramsay had set late last year.

It only became more irritating as the production went on. After being rattled by his rudeness, we were all shuffled back outdoors for another 20 minutes in the rain. When we finally got in and settled into a booth out of the camera shot, he began the opening interviews with the restaurant owners. Bless their hearts…he was sadly, a jerk…as I believe some of you saw on the episode and asked me if he really was that mean off camera as well. We ended up being moved to the other side of the restaurant so we would be in natural lighting along with the production crew’s lighting. They began doing some taping of everyone seated….this is at about 11:30am. Keep in mind that we got here about 8:30am, and I think a majority of us were expecting some sort of breakfast service…cue growling tummys. Beside us there was a buffet, and guess who wanted to film some of the temperatures of the items sitting in the buffet??? Well, it was Chef Robert Irvine standing beside the buffet and yelling at the camera men to stand in certain positions and copping an attitude.

My oh my was he grumpy!

The extremely KIND production crew!

Our food was finally delivered around 12:30pm, by an extremely nice waitress, and then Chef made some comments that caused us to not finish our food. *grrrr* Cue growling tummys…again! The production crew finished up taping some more shots, and we were ushered out with not a kind greeting or word from Chef Irvine. This may be a good time to mention that this production crew was so incredibly kind and accommodating. Let me reiterate that….EXTREMELY KIND!

I had spoken with one of the heads of the production crew, and she said I could come back in and see if I couldn’t get a photograph taken with Chef. Let’s be honest, he was not on this redheads good side. I had looked up to this man, admired his build, and wanted to talk to him about his world of food. I wanted to learn. The other women with me left, and I hung around for another 30-45 minutes for the lady to come get me for my photo-op. While waiting, I met a very nice production assistant outside (a fellow Foodie), and she and I occupied each others time…in the rain. Yep, still raining, folks.

It was getting late and my tummy was incredibly hungry. With hesitation, I walked quietly back into the restaurant while they were taping and stood hidden behind some waitresses that were folding silverware (not on camera). I looked across from where I was sitting, and look a’ there…who do you think I was looking at??? Well, it was the texting machine Chef Robert Irvine (not on camera either) glued to his phone and not paying me a bit of mind. It came time for the lady to pull me over for a photograph. Chef Irvine seemed visually perturbed that I was interrupting his texting time, and he said “Let’s hurry up, we have filming to do.” I handed my phone to the production crew lady, someone on the crew kindly told the lighting guys to turn the lights around to give us some light for our photograph, and the photograph was taken. He asked, “Do you need to make sure it looks ok?” I turned to him (maybe with a bit of redhead attitude showing after this whole ordeal…I couldn’t help it!) and said, “No thanks, sorry to bother you.”

Gosh it irritates me how photogenic and sweet he looks in this photo…

I walked out the door, said goodbye to my new Foodie friend, and I drove into the now afternoon sun in search of delicious food to cure my growling tummy! Is it funny that Mom and I headed to IHOP?

In closing,

It irritates me personally that this is the memory I have of one of my favorite Chefs. He was met with pure kindness from the extras that showed up for his show, but I guess he had not had a very decent morning before the taping. It’s certainly unfortunate. I do, however, hope that his day improved vastly. He’s a hard-working man, and he deserves to be a smiling man also. *smiling*

As far as the restaurant goes…Mom has been back since the reveal, and the footage on the show seems to be a vast change. I, personally, am afraid it went the wrong direction. The town it neighbors is Glen Raven…an old mill town. There are other restaurants that cater to our wonderful Elon University down the road, but it is important for the restaurant to not lose sight of the other areas. The show went to Elon University only (it appeared in the editing) for opinions of what the “students” wanted. A place to “chill”. Really? There seems to be a lot of long-time customers that go there. From construction and mill workers, to older and close to poverty level people. Glen Raven is a quaint little town with a good amount of Southern Charm. I just hate that it wasn’t captured in the makeover, and all they did was a makeover for the University students. (Yes, I realize it’s called UNIVERSITY Grill.)

I feel it probably would have been nice to have a good Southern restaurant with downhome foods that would please the other side of the community along with Elon University. They have enough “chill” places in the heart of Elon, and I know for a fact that a lot of the Elon students from up North love a good and tasty home-cooked Southern meal. You would be hard pressed to find one that didn’t!

I truly do wish Eleni and her brothers the best of luck. They were brave to reach out for help, and I hope that all surrounding communities band together to support them in their journey. It’s a long road ahead of them, but I have a feeling they’re not going anywhere. Just call it a hunch from a Southern Foodie. *wink*

Sundays with Friends: Sparkling Smoothies with the sparkling young ladies of GurlBye

Smoothies

A couple Sundays ago I posted about a good friend of mine and her group, GurlBye. They sent me two recipes, and here is the second installment. If you didn’t have a chance to look at the Rhythm Roll post (which looked incredibly delicious, and I’m making tonight *smile*), you should. You can find the previous post by clicking here.

If you did miss it…here is what GurlBye is all about…

We are women on a mission to aid in the mental transformation of young girls from their days of Barbie dolls and dress up, to a whole new world of getting to know self. Our focus is on middle school aged girls, because for many of them this is the first time in their lives when they will actually take notice of changes in their environment. Middle school is a time when questions begin to require better answers than “Because I said so” and “That is just the way it is.” Our girls are growing up fast. Many of them are much more intelligent than what is shown in the Media. They are taking charge in front of and behind the scenes and realizing the importance of divine wisdom, love, trust, compassion, and reaching far beyond the limits the world sets for them. GurlBye encourages young women to put aside judgmental ways that could cause negativity and begin to embrace each human as an individual.

The young ladies of GurlBye got together and cooked for The Onyx Plate. Our meal consisted of Rhythm Rolls, Roasted Red Potatoes, and Fresh Spring Salad. We also sipped Sparkling Smoothies while we talked and prepared the food. The girls were delighted to cook as this was the first time preparing a meal for most of them.

*SPARKLING SMOOTHIES*

Ingredients:

  • Ice
  • Fresh Strawberries
  • 1 bag of frozen fruit (mango, peach, pineapple)
  • 1 bottle of Ginger Ale
  • Plain Yogurt

Mix ice, 1 cup of yogurt, 2 cups of Ginger Ale, and 2 cups of frozen mixed fruit in blender. Serve chilled and garnish cups with strawberries.