Saturday, August 5, 2017

While on R&R, eat like nobody's watching
(or something to that defect ... )

We all love food, and we all love to eat. So when you're on R&R, aren't you allowed to throw out the rule book, throw caution to the wind, eat to your heart's content (or at least until your stomach starts to fight back)?

If you're like me and answered "yes" to all of the above, you can better understand why I spend so much time -- easily more than what I spend on my usual posts -- on my dining-on-vacation posts, which I save for the end of a series.

Our trip to the East Coast took us to quite a few places, but for this post on cuisine, we'll concentrate specifically on Gordonsville, Montpelier, Williamsburg, Virginia Beach and Alexandria, Va.; Charleston, S.C.; and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

As usual, click on any image to bring up a larger, sharper version. This is particularly useful if you access the blog using a mobile device.

Photo geek stuff: I shot most of the photos in this post with my iPhone 6s Plus, doing some minor editing in Photoshop Elements 15 in post-processing. A very few pictures were part of my regular shoots in the various communities when I used my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di PZD VC lens. The 6D pictures were bracketed for three exposures to allow for melding in high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing, including the very few I used in this post.

Gordonsville, Va.

We had two meals of note in Gordonsville, outside of which was where Shenandoah Crossing resort was located (and where we stayed for four nights). It's about 30 miles northeast of Charlottesville in central Virginia.

On our first night there, we elected to stay at the resort and dine in the tavern. I had fish and chips (upper left), and Lee Ann went with the cheeseburger and tater tots. Mine was good, and Lee Ann liked her cheeseburger. We were willing to return the next night or night after, but the tavern was closed both days (even those those days were Tuesday and Wednesday).

So on Wednesday night, we heeded our concierge's recommendation and drove to the town of Gordonsville to try the barbecue at BBQ Exchange. That's a picture of the eatery's front facade leading off the post, and the photo above is a shot of an outdoor decoration.

My St. Louis-style baby back ribs (above left) were wonderful -- tender, easy to pull off the bone, and spiced just the way I like them. Lee Ann liked her pulled pork meal (above right).

Montpelier, Va.

We got to James Madison's home around the noon hour, so we stopped in the Exchange Cafe there to grab some lunch. Actually, I wasn't very hungry, so I got a simple ham or turkey croissant, which I didn't think was worth photographing. Lee Ann had a turkey, apple and cheese panini and salad, and liked both.

Alexandria, Va.

In this Washington D.C. suburb, we dined at Gadsby's Tavern, known for a favorite stopping place by many of our early presidents and, no doubt, others among our founding fathers.

I was in the mood for steak, so I had the filet mignon and grilled asparagus (right). Both were very good. Lee Ann was feeling more adventurous and opted for the "George Washington's Favorite" (left), which was grilled breast of duck prepared in an orange glaze, scalloped potatoes and corn pudding. The serving was more than she could handle, but she did like it.

Williamsburg, Va.

I was in a fried chicken mood by the time we reached Williamsburg, and in my ongoing to pursuit to seek out local restaurants serving the best friend chicken, we hunted around on Travel Advisor and other
review apps, and on every list, Corey's Country Kitchen turned up high on the lists.

So Corey's is where we went, and the recommendations were not without merit. I enjoyed my meal, and as best as I can recall, Lee Ann enjoyed hers, too. I went with the three-piece meal, with sides of coleslaw and mac and cheese.

Lee Ann, sticking to her habit when we go to soul food establishments, ordered fried chicken livers. She had sides of green beans, American fries and a cream corn casserole. She was thrilled with her meal and loved the fixin's. Included in this post are photos of the seating area (above and below) and a detail piece of one of the decorations in the eatery.

Virginia Beach, Va.

On the cold afternoon we spent in Virginia Beach, we -- incredibly -- chose to sit at a table outdoors at the Hilton Garden Inn Restaurant. But hey, it was overlooking the boardwalk (shrug). OK, still lame. After we munched on an appetizer of friend calamari (right), Lee Ann chose the baked bean and bacon chili (above, leading off this section) and crab cakes on lettuce (below). I resorted to a favorite fallback -- fish and chips. 

But before food came out, our server (who was wonderful, by the way) happened to mention that the eatery had a lot of local craft beers on tap, so I asked to sample a flight of six. I don't recall which ones I tried exactly, but I know I sampled an IPA or two, a lager (or two) and an amber ale, as well as a seasonal brew. The samplers were served in snifter glasses. as shown above. One of the lagers is on the left; one of the IPAs is on the right. I liked the IPAs and amber ale just fine. One of the lagers was OK, the other kind of weak and fruity, and the seasonal was definitely fruity -- too much so for my taste buds.

Yorktown, Va.

We arrived at the Water Street Grille in Yorktown at the end of a very long day. We had toured both Jamestown and Yorktown, something that would better be accomplished on separate visits. We were famished.

Lee Ann decided this was her night for steak, so that's what she chose, with grilled asparagus as her side. I went with a thick cheeseburger and green salad and chased it with a pint of a local craft IPA.

Charleston, S.C.

Above: While dining at Jestine's, we could keep an eye on the downpour ... and pace ourselves accordingly. We supposed that these bikes were owned by a couple elsewhere in Jestine's. 

When we reached Charleston, we knew we had to revisit two places that we enjoyed on our previous visits -- Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) and Jestine's Kitchen.

The latter, you might remember from previous posts, is another of those local southern cooking places, and we really enjoyed our previous dining experiences there.
You shouldn't be surprised to learn I returned to fried chicken at Jestine's Kitchen (I had chicken the first visit in April 2016, then had catfish when we were there in March).

I ordered the three-piece chicken, with red rice and green beans as my sides. And if you're paying attention, by now you should be able to predict that when it comes to southern cooking, Lee Ann almost always will pick the fried chicken livers, as she did again when we were there in May. This time, she took lima and grean beans for her sides. We also started out with a cucumber salad appetizer.

Ours meal were wonderful again. We arrived at Jestine's in the nick of time to avoid getting caught in one of the handful of downpours we experienced in Charleston over the course of four days. Our timing was almost perfect; the rain let up just as we left the eatery (although we did linger longer than usual by trying two of the dessert offerings -- banana cream pie (left) and a chocolate brownie.

When we stopped at Slighty North of Broad in April 2016 (pictured above), we were there for dinner.

This time, we tried the lunch menu. I selected a Reuben sandwich, and Lee Ann picked a plate of shrimp and grits, which looked more like a very involved soup. My sandwich was thick and filling -- and good. Lee Ann enjoyed her meal as well.

Two new places we tried in Charleston were Poogans Smokehouse and Blossom Charleston.

The last time we tried barbecue in Charleston (in March at Cumberland Smokehouse), we both were disappointed, but I won't bog down this post with a recap of the disappointment. This time, we went to Poogans Smokehouse on East Bay Street.

It was so much better. I thought my ribs were great; Lee Ann tried a meat combo plate of ribs and pulled pork and said her meal was better than at Cumberland Smokehouse.

We also indulged in one of the eatery's mixed cocktail punch pitchers (Peach Fizz), a mix of peach whiskey, white wine, tarragon honey syrup and soda (pictured at right). We both felt it was not as scrumptious as we were hoping, but at $25 a pitcher, we felt obligated to not let any of it go to waste. And it didn't.

For fine dining, we chose Blossom (exterior above), which we recalled seeing in March but did not get a chance to check out. It, too, is on East Bay Street, and it appears to be a sister operator to nearby Magnolia's, where we lunched during our visit in 2016.

I was still in a chicken groove, so I tried the fried chicken, whipped potatoes and gravy, field peas (I knew better, but this time, I had no choice) and coleslaw. That plate is pictured at left. I loved everything except the "field" peas. Lee Ann chose the grilled sea scallops and shrimp (above right) with creamy grits, mushrooms, spinach and lobster butter, and found it tasty and to her liking.

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

At our last stop in Myrtle Beach, I was again in a mood to seek out good fried chicken. We again scoured the online reviews of community eateries specializing in fried chicken, and Big Mike's Soul Food repeatedly turned up high on the list of recommendations.

I'm happy to report again that we were not disappointed. I went with the three-piece mixed and sides of coleslaw, mac 'n' cheese and field peas (aka black-eyed peas). I'm not sure why I chose the peas because I'm not a huge black-eye peas fan, but I must have been in an adventurous mood. The chicken was scrumptious, as was the cornbread, which came with the meal. Lee Ann chose her soul food staple of friend chicken livers (very much enjoyed them), with green beans and mashed potato sides.

End of a series

Previous posts in this East Coast swing series:

James Madison's Montpelier

George Washington's Mount Vernon

Barboursville Vineyards, Barboursville, Va.

Alexandria, Va.

Berkeley Plantation, Charles City, Va.

Virginia Capitol at Richmond, Va. 

First Colonial settlement at Jamestown, Va.

Battlefield and modern-day town at Yorktown, Va.

Virginia Beach and Cape Henry, Va.

Days 1, 2 and 3 in Charleston, S.C.

Day 4 in Charleston, S.C.

College of Charleston

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

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