Thursday, May 26, 2011

Part One - Travel, Food, Friends And Collectables

Sorry that I’ve been away from y’all. We were enjoying the southern hospitality of friends in South Carolina and Tennessee. We visited them last year. Remember? (That was when we went to the superlative Blackberry Farm.)

Our buddies actually asked us back. H(usband) played golf, lots of golf, while I partied with my gal pals.

Southerners (even recently transplanted ones) are so hospitable. I wish everyone could have such great friends and spend a bit of time in these gorgeous parts of the country. I’m sure my friends wouldn’t mind if you dropped by to say hi. Just do me a favor and don't all go at once. Then I'm sure it would be fine.

We started our visit in South Carolina with A and G. They are the perfect hosts and make you feel that they'd be thrilled if you arrived one day and said you were staying forever.

One of A's and my first sojourns was to Greenville, South Carolina for Artisphere, a perfectly wonderful arts festival, featuring artists from all over the country.

Three of my favorite artists: Daryl Thetford's bicycle and graffiti-themed photography pieces, Deb Karash’s beautiful metal jewelry and Marie- Helene Grabman with her extraordinary Scherenschnitte, the traditional Swiss German art of intricate scissor cutting to form delicate pictures and patterns. Amazing.
A thought it would be nice to take a break from the art fair and take in a bit of opera. Yup, right off the main street she had planned a cultural break at the Peace Center, where they were screening a movie of the opera Giselle.

We went in a bit early and there was one other gal in the audience right in front of us. We sat down to look at the program – and A said, “Wait a second, this isn’t a movie of Giselle, THE OPERA. This is a movie of Giselle, THE BALLET!"

THANK GOODNESS, I said to myself. Not that I mind going to the opera, but I like to prepare myself, so I know what’s going on.

But listen to this – the woman in front of us turned around and said, “Wait a second, you mean this isn’t a LIVE PERFORMANCE of Giselle, the ballet?!!” So WE thought we were seeing an OPERA and SHE thought she was seeing a LIVE BALLET. Curaaazzzy.
But the real thing I accomplished in South Carolina was to start a bona fide collection of something that reminded me of a long-gone item my mother had.

And I have never really collected anything before, unless you consider cookbooks and clutter a collection. Oh, and cooking equipment. But don't you think of collections as things you don't really use? I know there are exceptions and my thingies CAN be used, but they probably won't be.

What am I talking about? Well, they go by different names, especially according to the one snotty Southerner I met in a second-hand store, but never mind about her.

They are called Silent Butlers. They are receptacles with a handle and hinged lid that in gracious homes were used for brushing the dining table’s crumbs into. For all the others, they were for emptying ashtrays from all around the house. (The idea is kind of gross that there are then empty, but still dirty, ashtrays all over the place. But ashtrays in any form are gross, I guess.)

There are hundreds of Silent Butlers on eBay, but, to me, the thing is to find them in person. Also they’re often used in conjunction with a Crumber, which can be a brush or flat bladed knife looking thing, but that’s beyond the scope of my quest.

Last year (also in South Carolina), we were in a little antiques shop and I saw my first one and I bought it:

Then just a few weeks ago in New Hope, I spied this and brought it home.

Last week, as A and I were driving down some local road or other in South Carolina, I saw a kind of rinky-dink antiques place and said let’s stop. They had room after room of old treasures. Actually, there was plenty of stuff that was just old without being treasured, but you know what they say about one person's treasure...

Anyway, in this ONE place, I found THREE Silent Butlers and each was a very different shape AND material. The cheapest one was $6 and the most expensive one was…well, actually, now I’m confused between what the actual price was and what I told H, but they’re not super-pricey. Here they are...the bulk of my collection:

Aren't they fun? (H had a different word for them.) We found one or two others elsewhere, but I suddenly remembered (or made up) the rule about not buying something if you didn't love it, so I left a couple in South Carolina for others.

I have my Silent Butlers (or whatever we decided to call them) strewn around the house with an elegant abandon, so that it looks like they’ve been in the family for ages.

Other than searching for little handled repositories, we also revisited Asheville, North Carolina, which is a really hopping place. We trollied around the city, seeing its 3 famous barbecue places, including Barack’s favorite place, 12 Bones Smokehouse, where the President actually stood on line with Michelle to order lunch. (The other two are Luella's Barbeque and Little Pigs BBQ.)

We had a different place in mind for lunch, though, which was one of my favorite stops - Tupelo Honey Café – the downtown location.

Wow, what a place. It looked like a downhome, kind of hippy, Southern outpost and the food…ah the food! Look at this menu!

We started with the best biscuits ever!

Then we (tried to) split the Shrimp and Grits and the Pulled Pork BBQ Plate.

We didn’t even make it halfway through. Too good!
The shrimp WERE a touch rubbery, but it was all about the grits, which had the very modern addition of goat cheese. The red pepper sauce could have been spicier, but it was a fine accompaniment to the creamy grits.

I loved the pulled pork and maybe it’s a Yankee thing, but I could have used a lot more barbecue sauce. Is that typically Southern where they are so delicate with the saucing? A really loved the jicama in the slaw, but again I would have liked more dressing.

I adored the corn, FRIED and slathered with lots of butter, salt AND Parmesan cheese.

We ended with the Boondock Beignets. Crispy, crusty from the cinnamon sugar, they were rich and gorgeously light at the same time. How is that even possible? There was something a bit strange though. I had been looking forward to the honey – the Tupelo Honey – for which the place is named and famous. They serve it with the Beignets.

BUT, listen to this, I didn’t LIKE the Tupelo Honey, which disappointed me AND relieved me at the same time – a jar was over ten bucks. It tasted kind of raw and underripe, sort of the way a green peach tastes. I dunno, I might be making that up, but, at any rate, no honey came home with me. Everything else was dynamite, though.

Here are some other things we ate in South Carolina:

Key Lime Pie


I can’t tell you the name of the restaurants where they came from because A made them!!! 

H told me A’s Key Lime Pie was tons better than mine. I said that was okay, because G’s golf was tons better than HIS!

On to Tennessee…


Anonymous said...

Welcome back! Sounds like a lovely trip -- but I was expecting some comment about the squeeze bottle of honey, even if it wasn't shaped like a bear ;-)

Sue said...

Hi Tom,
That's true. I should have mentioned that. But if I had liked the honey, I would have been willing to overlook the plastic bottle. And the stuff they were selling WAS in a jar, even if it tasted like motor oil.

Sue said...

PS I really did love everything, but the honey, at the Tupelo Honey Café.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Finally had a chance to sit down and read these posts and enjoy all of the food. I never knew of a Giselle opera. I did just see the ballet this weekend with ABT though. thought that was a funny coinkydink.