urban grub – nashville, tn

a couple weekends ago i made the 4-hour drive west on i-24 to see my high school friend luke wed his best friend bailey.  the wedding was lovely in a lush estate outside the city, and the band played us into the night as we danced and laughed under romantically lit tents, reminiscing with old friends about our teenage years.

earlier that sunday, though, i had strolled into town in the young afternoon and needed something to eat, for the reception was quite a ways away.  i asked my kind airbnb host meg for a local recommendation, and she was quick to reply that urban grub had a good brunch and wasn’t too far from the apartment.  sounded good to me!

after parking over on gilmore avenue, i dodged the drizzle and was warmly greeted by the hostess.  she quickly seated me at a table for one on their covered patio, a perfect spot among the industrial fans, space heaters, and cool autumn winds.

my waiter chris approached with a glass of water, prepared to take my order.  i informed him that i had only about an hour before i needed to go get all dolled up for the wedding, and he was quick to get to business.  i told him i had been eyeing their eggs benedict with crab (they call it the oskar bennie), and he was happy to say it was one of his favorites, a great choice for a first-time visitor.  done and done!

chris hurried over to put in my order and then was back in a flash with the most darling basket of homemade buttermilk biscuits i’d ever seen.  they were accompanied by freshly salted butter and from-scratch blueberry jam.  uuhhhh, yes, please!  these little pouches of heaven were the perfect starter, and i enjoyed them throughout the meal with dem preserves and butter.  mm!

mm, bizkits.

mm, bizkits.

in nearly no time at all, my brunch was swiftly served in front of me.  looks tasty, doesn’t it?

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i wasted no time digging in, mainly because i was short on time but also because i didn’t want my dish getting cold.  the hollandaise was not too hollandaise-y and had a nice spritz of lemon that was pleasing to the palate.  the eggs were poached to perfection, not too runny but not too cooked.  now, i have never personally poached an egg, so i don’t know what makes me a poached egg expert, if anything, but the only experience i have myself is when i watched mary willa do it up in greensboro.

the english muffin was nice and crispy and didn’t get soggy from all the sauce.  the only thing that truly seemed to be missing was more crab.  i was expecting generous lumps of crab piled atop each side of the muffin, but there was only a spoonful sitting in between, not enough if you ask me.  i would love to have had a bit of crab with each bite of the muffin and egg, but that day was not the day for it to happen.

the grilled asparagus was a welcome addition to the plate, but if i’m being completely honest, those gouda grits were the star of the show.  i couldn’t shovel them in my mouth fast enough, giving no second thought to how all that cheesy and buttery indulgence wasn’t doing my waistline any favors.  as my mother would say, “apply them straight to my hips!”  hehe.

overall, the atmosphere here at urban grub is a bit of hustle and bustle.  it’s a big restaurant, so there are lots of tables, which means lots of hungry customers.  it was a touch louder than i would have liked, but since i was by myself, i didn’t mind too badly.  plus, with nothing to really hear, i was able to watch as the falcons marched on to victory against the local tennessee titans.  rise up!

i could easily picture myself spending a lazy sunday afternoon here with the girlfriends, nursing mimosas and snacking on biscuits all day long.  aw, yisssss!

the silver skillet – atlanta, ga

our dad came in town recently for a weekend getaway, and considering i hadn’t seen him since a hometown visit back in march, i was thrilled for the opportunity to have some quality family time.

we were nearly all together while he was here:  kyle, kari, phillip, and i spent those two days hosting dad at some atlanta classics like el taco veloz and the buford market.  when sunday morning arrived, we piled in the cars and made our way to the silver skillet.  dad had heard about this local institution about a year ago on the food network, and considering it had been featured in movies and tv shows like remember the titans and traveling man, he just had to go and see it for himself.

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the pinewood tippling room – decatur, ga

after finishing the publix half marathon and full marathon a couple sundays ago, you can bet we runners were ravenous.  we met up with everyone in the neighborhood of decatur at the pinewood tippling room, unexpectedly coming across the perfect restaurant review opportunity.

known by the locals as the pinewood, this spot is a cozy neighborhood bar serving up “extraordinary cocktails and reinterpreted regional fare.”  their space is clean without much fuss, and although they equally support what they call the high-class and “home-spun,” i felt a touch out of place in my running tights and sneakers.  the other customers were dressed to the nines, it seemed, after maybe just having left church service with their family and friends.  perhaps if i were coming on a different day i would have felt a little more comfortable.  maybe that’s why they seated us way in the back…?  nah, i don’t think so.  i think it had more to do with the fact that we were a party of 12 and that was where they had room.  i should have positioned myself on the other side of the table so that i could really take in the ambiance, for i was stuck facing a white-washed brick wall.  oh well!  good thing atmosphere is only one element of a restaurant, right?  sure!

although i probably needed a couple gallons of water to rehydrate my body, i didn’t wait a moment to order a mimosa.  something refreshing and crisp sounded like the perfect ticket, and these glasses were a great balance of orange juice and champagne.  cheers!

mimosas for everyone!

mimosas for everyone!

the pinewood closes at 2:30 p.m. on sundays, so we all had to somewhat hastily make our selections.  with a decently sized brunch menu, though, i don’t think it was hard for many of us.

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greensboro, nc – day 3

well, my final day in greensboro arrived early sunday morning.  i thought all the crazy fun had already passed, but what little did i know!  we had planned to go out for brunch, but seeing as how there was freezing rain steadily building up all around the house and our cars, we went nowhere fast.  good thing mary had stocked up on bread and eggs, because a homemade breakfast is just what the doctor ordered.

first things first on a lazy and relaxing sunday?  mimosas!  well, i take that back.  we didn’t have any orange juice, so we made ourselves some berry bellinis.  step one was to make a little berry puree to complement the champagne.  mary whipped out her blender and got a little raspberry-strawberry concoction going.  it’s silly how simple it was!

step two is to over pour the champagne so that it goes all over the cutting board and chopping block, wasting about a fourth of the bottle.  whatever!  we never said we were perfect, just a few friends trying to have a good time, and that isn’t too hard with champs and sweets.

i think at about eleven o’clock we finally started cooking actual food.  first up, sausages!  mary had a moment of inspiration and let me in on her sausage-cooking secret:  use a panini skillet of some kind, the ones with the ridges.  you can place those little sausage links right in between so they don’t roll all over the place.  your links will be perfectly browned and juicy, a great side to any breakfast dish.

wait, though.  what was our breakfast dish of choice that sunday?  eggs benedict!  this mary lady just does it all – homemade strawberry puree, eggs benedict.  man, was i spoiled this weekend or what?  mary got out her pioneer woman cookbook and turned to page 16 to find the eggs benedict recipe.  this particular recipe, to quote mary, is not particularly “figure friendly.”  i mean, there are two sticks of butter in the sauce alone.  good thing i’m not on a diet!  before we get there, though, let’s take a look at the adventure that was poaching the eggs.

i’m sure there’s some exact science to poaching an egg, but we kind of just went on memory and instinct for ours.  after the water came to a slight bubble, mike used a wooden spoon to get some good circulation going.  mary plopped that first egg into the water and, oh!  look at that!  that’s not what a poached egg should look like!  it looked like some weird mess caught up in an f5 tornado!

sooooooo, with that disaster, we dumped the water and started from scratch.  this time we brought the water to a very low boil, didn’t stir as quickly, and gently slipped the egg right into the water without causing too much of a commotion.  the white of the egg delicately fell in on itself, creating a little envelope for that yolk to cook perfectly.  ah, quite the success!

mary served them up on soft toast with generous spoonfuls of the hollandaise.  the sweetest breakfast ever served!  the egg was rich and helped cut out the overly sour lemon in the sauce.  now, the hollandaise calls for the juice of two lemons, but the lemons we were using were a bit larger, so i think we probably didn’t account for that.  i also thought the sauce was a touch too runny, but that’s just my opinion.  regardless, i sopped up all the yolk and sauce with my toast and didn’t leave a morsel on the plate.  a great adventure with a great result!

just when we thought all the handiwork was done for the weekend, another surprise came our way.  we couldn’t get a truck to tow the mazda to the dealership for its bum tire, so mike, the hero that he is, put the spare on my little hatchback.  you never know what life will throw at you, but when you’re given lemons, you’ve got to make lemonade!  never stop learning, folks.  never stop learning.  🙂

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we pretty much spent the entire day in the kitchen, drinking and eating our way through the afternoon.  we had a hoot of a time reliving the weekend’s already wild happenings as the radio played.  all of a sudden, “king of wishful thinking” by go west came on and mary squealed, nearly scaring mike and i off our chairs.  “i love this song!  i just cannot control my body when i hear it!”  after listening and dancing to it, we pulled up the video online.  i think we love it now even more, but i’ll let you be the judge!

aaahhh, the early evening was suddenly upon us, so mary and i switched to wine for the rest of the night.  she’s a white wine lover and i’ve come to love red.  good thing she had plenty bottles of both!

more vino!

more vino!

even though we’d had a late brunch, our stomachs were starting to growl.  well, just what would we have for dinner?  mary had started a pork tenderloin in the slow cooker that morning, so after some serious thinking, we decided pulled pork sandwiches, mac’n’cheese, and brussel sprouts would be a great idea.  am i, right?  yep!

since the pork was already cooking, the brussel sprouts were up next.  i’m warning you now.  i took many unnecessary photos of pretty much the same thing over and over again.  i mean, i had enjoyed almost that whole bottle of red by myself at that point.  give a girl a break!  😉

mary had some red onion she needed to use up, so we figured we’d throw ’em in with the sprouts.  mary armed herself with her onion glasses, looking like a regular pro.  just check out those perfectly chopped chunks!

next we got the pan sizzling and browned the bacon (because bacon makes everything better) and softened the onions.  the kitchen started to smell divine, as i am sure you can imagine.

mary gave the brussel sprouts a rough chop and tossed ’em in with the bacon and onions.  it’s such a shame brussel sprouts get such a bad rap.  they just needed to be served with fatty bacon all this time!

dinner 1

here is what brussel sprouts look like after you add salt…

after salt

…and here is how they look when you throw in some pepper…

after pepper

…and then after you add garlic powder…

after garlic powder

…and then when they’re all ready!

dinner 8

we finally had everything ready, so we dug in and spent the rest of the night watching old home videos that mary’s dad mark had filmed at the 1996 olympics in atlanta.  ah, we were so young!

om nom nom.

om nom nom.

eventually we rinsed our plates, filled the dishwasher, and headed to our beds.  i cannot express enough thanks to mary and mike for a fantastic weekend, and my heart swells just thinking about how much i love these dear friends of mine.  without any plans written down, we let the days take us where they would, which was, as i had hoped it would be, a lot of fun.

phyllis’ breakfast strada

a chilly saturday morning in greensboro calls for a tried-and-true family recipe.  enter phyllis’ breakfast strada.  it’s all kinds of easy to make, so here’s the recipe for your cooking pleasure.  shine on, phyllis!

ingredients

2 lbs. breakfast sausage (like jimmy dean’s), crumbled, browned, & drained

8 slices of bread, ripped up into bite-size chunks

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

4 eggs

2 1/2 cups milk

3/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1 cup cream of mushroom soup (be sure to measure it)

1/2 cup water

directions

line 9 x 13 glass pan (no metal!) with bread chunks and sausage.

mix cheese, eggs, milk, and mustard and pour over bread mixture.  to quote mary willa, “make sure you use your hands to smoosh the liquid mixture down in the bread so it gets nice and soaked.”

cover pan with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.

add cream of mushroom soup to the water and mix together.  pour on top of casserole.

bake uncovered at 300 degrees fahrenheit for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  remove from oven and let stand and set for 5 minutes.