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Three score and ten or more

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I went away Thursday evening to South Carolina. My daughter was taking a couple of days off to go to Mississippi to visit my third son who planned to take her, in turn, to Memphis to introduce her to NASCAR.

My task (along with dear wife, of course) was to dog sit the grand dog Roscoe and Meow the psycho-cat. I will write in some detail (in the future) about Roscoe and the cat. I have mentioned them before but will try to get pictures up. What I really want to talk about today is a couple of contrasting restaurant experiences.

After my daughter returned from Mississippi and Memphis, we stuck around for a day to visit with her. Part of the visit was to go to another of her favorite restaurants (I have already written about a couple of others.) She had been going for lunch to a place called "D's". It appears to be a chain, though I hadn't seen it before. She was particularly enthusiastic about their chicken salad on a croissant.

When we arrived, the menus were presented and their seemed to be no chicken salad (except a grilled chicken salad with salsa or something, and that wasn't what she had been used to) . When she asked, she discovered that her favorite was a lunch special that wasn't served in the evenings, so we picked through the menu for other things. She settled on a pork chop, Janet decided on "you peel it" shrimp and I ordered, what they called, Beaufort Stew. Reading the ingredients, it was obviously what I have described on line as a Low Country Boil.

The "Beaufort Stew" ingredients listed shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob and new potatoes; the only ingredient in "Low Country Boil" that was missing was pearl onions (an sometimes carrots). I was interested in how it would come out, since the low country boil is notoriously difficult to prepare for a restaurant. Potatoes take a long time to cook, but shrimp and corn, if overcooked (more than a couple of minutes) are not very good. One place in Savannah cooks everything separately (in the spices) and combines them at the last moment. It doesn't really work because there is an exchange of flavors when things are cooked together, but it isn't bad either.

My wife and daughter decided on water to drink, I chose diet coke with a slice of lemon. We were served our drinks and settled back to wait for our food-- and wait for our food--and wait for our food. The people at the table behind us came in after us, and had eaten and departed before our food arrived Our server came by frequently to tell us that our meal would be ready soon, and to refill our drinks. The wait would have seemed shorter if the water and the diet coke were not heavily chlorinated. Chlorine can be nasty in water but in a diet coke it is more than nasty. I can understand a restaurant serving unfiltered water if it wants to push bottled water (not mentioned on the menu), but serving unfiltered fountain drinks is really not cool. One expects it in a minute mart or gas station, but not in a nice restaurant.

Anyway, the meals finally arrived. Janet received a large plate of shrimp, and what appeared to be a lovely spinach casserole (substitute for mashed potatoes). Daughter's pork chops and sides looked wonderful. My shrimp was fresh, well spiced, and delicious as were the small chunks of Polish sausage mixed in. The corn had been sliced into one half inch slices, which made eating them a little weird. The only way to handle them was one slice at a time. I was reminded of the scene in Forest Gump where Tom Hanks is eating baby ears of corn trying to chew the mini kernels off the cob. The corn was WAY over-cooked and mushy, but the spice in them was good enough for me to play Forest Gump with each of them. The quartered new potatoes were raw. They had been cooked enough that the outer eighth of an inch was soft, but they were so raw that a fork wouldn't pierce them at all (I realized that the meal was so late because they had started it from scratch and were waiting-not long enough-for the potatoes to boil). I told the server, who told the manager who offered to take the plate back and replace it. I confess that the idea of another eternal wait was too much so I declined and decided to eat around the potatoes. There were enough really delicious shrimp that I was pretty satisfied, and just as I finished they brought me another plate of boiled new potatoes some of which were also undercooked, but just a little. We left, tipped the server pretty well because she was in there trying all the time, but I think I will leave the place to daughter for her chicken salad croissants at lunch. I may change my mind; places that really know how handle and spice boiled shrimp in the shell are not all that common.

I contrast this with another restaurant. We had been told to check out a Mennonite restaurant in Blackville, SC, a little town about half way between Statesboro and Columbia. It is on our way, so we stopped there once before but they serve at only certain hours (between 10:00 AM and 3:00 P.M I believe) and we had missed the hours. Our first time there we wandered through the attached antique shop (very nice with good prices) and bought some butter nut bread that was so good that if it were closer to home would finish off my diet completely.

On our return home we stopped in at about 1:00 in the afternoon. The place was really busy but there were a couple of empty tables. We walked through the cafeteria setup, and had some real trouble making choices. The food is really "down home" stuff with fried chicken, meat loaf, chicken dressing (including meat), quartered new potatoes (cooked all the way through) chicken livers, butter beans, string beans and a fair variety of other vegetables including the greens without which southern restaurants are naked.

We finally decided on meat loaf (with a wonderful sauce) new potatoes, and for Janet, string beans, for me, butter beans. The available beverages were ice water and lemonade (both without chlorine or other additives). Home made whole wheat, butter nut, cheddar cheese breads, along with a variety of rolls were available. The food, in generally was to die for. The potatoes melted in the mouth, the meat loaf exceptional and the butter beans just right. I would only have one niggling criticism. The potatoes and other appropriate foods were obviously cooked or basted with real butter, and the provision of "spread" (margarine) with the bread was a mistake. The difference was too obvious.

For dessert we had a very good peach cobbler with some average ice cream (they need to change dairy suppliers). If you are ever in Blackville, SC, don't miss Millers Restaurant, (We bought whole wheat and butternut bread to bring home. If we had also brought some of the other breads I would already have gained ten pounds.) DO NOT miss this place. It is half a block off the highway on the only four lane street crossed by the highway. If you are not there, it is on highway three, only a short drive from anywhere else in South Carolina, and worth the drive.


At 11:26 PM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

I should never have read this just before bedtime because now I've got the midnight munchies.

Potatoes are really hard to serve right in restaurants. Most of the time they're undercooked. The only potato dish that I served in my restaurant was mashed with oodles of butter and brown gravy.

At 5:49 AM, Blogger Kelly said...

I've had some pretty decent red potatoes in a restaurant.

I am reading this before 7 in the morning so I just ate. Normally, I don't get up until 7, but the smoke alarm had a low battery and had been chirping for half an hour...then I discovered the teenagers had slept in so I had to wake them up. I am awake now, so no point in going back to bed.

At 8:11 AM, Blogger t_cole said...

have not eaten breakfast and am now RAVISHING...

How did your daughter like NASCAR? It is in Texas this weekend. I am excused as I gave my TIX to my daughter Sam - who gets to meet her driver tomorrow. (i am downright giddy on her behalf!)

I appreciated your NASCAR confession on my blog. I had to make the same confession several years back. it was painful for me...


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