Best Thing I Ever Ate? Not This Time…

Food is an interesting thing. Two people can sit down to the same meal and one person think it is amazing and another not-so-much. This has been my experience several times in the past. This past week was a good example. We love BBQ. Last year we had the pleasure of trying BBQ in Texas, along the southwest, and up through the Carolinas. We had some amazing BBQ and some not so amazing BBQ in our opinions. When we headed out of Florida to our summer jobs in Des Moines we drew out our path to include Nashville, Memphis, St. Louis, and Kansas City so we could try the different flavors that the different regions included as well as some non-bbq options.

Upon arriving in Nashville we looked at the list we made over the years before we got the RV. We have watched dozens of Travel Channel and Food Network shows about the best things to eat and as we watched we started a list of places to go and things to eat when we were there. Some have been hits and some have been misses.

Nashville brought us a few winners. Pancake Pantry and Loveless Café. The Pancake Pantry is a nice little place down in the University area of Nashville that serves 20-some different types of pancakes. When we arrived the line was out the door and around the corner at 1 in the afternoon. We finally were seated and order our Sweet potato pancakes and some other items. The pancakes were the suggested item from the show we had seen. They were very good but I think I would prefer other items on the menu from personal preferences. I would return. Bill said it was “okay” but he is also not a pancake guy. 

Pancake Pantry

Pancake Pantry

Loveless Café on the other hand Bill absolutely loved. He got the Hashbrown cassarole that they are famous for as well as a pulled pork with eggs; I had the ham and eggs that comes with a side of “Red-eye Gravy”. What you may say is Red-eye Gravy? A combination of coffee, brown sugar, and ham drippings that make more of an au jus that sweetens up a salt cured ham. He also got to try sorghum for the first time. Their store carries bottles of it and so I snatched up some to take home. So good and I have read it is really good for you. Win Win!

Loveless Cafe

Loveless Cafe

Raz’z was on the Best Thing I Ever Ate Spiciest Foods. Their Jambalaya Pasta is supposed to be amazing and so spicy. Bill just loves spicy and he loves him some jambalaya but he said was not spicy at all but had good flavor. Very good andouille sausage but no spice at all. I had ordered a cup of gumbo and that was AMAZING! It was almost a touch too spicy for me but with the help of the crackers on the side and the beautiful dirty rice on top I plowed through that bowl in heaven. Real Okra! Oh my!

 

Gumbo at at Raz'z

Gumbo at at Raz'z

Memphis was a big stop for us. We had the “World Famous” Rendevous ribs that have been on every BBQ show and food channel special of best things. There was also Interstate BBQ that has also been on many lists. We had Interstate BBQ the day we arrived in Memphis. The sauce was fantastic just the way I like it a little spicy, tomatoey and a touch of sweet to mellow the vinegar that gives it the bite. The pork ribs were great! I didn’t care much for the beef ribs but I rarely do. Their beans though were out of this world. Tangy and sweet and vinegar so scrumptious! I also loved their mustard-style potato salad.

Interstate BBQ

Interstate BBQ

Rendezvous… Rendezvous… Rendezvous… I just don’t know what to do with you. It seemed like every time I turned on a travel show someone was raving about this place. I try not to go to these restaurants with overly high expectations but it was impossible not to. BBQ Paradise said you had the best ribs in the country. Man v. Food raved. On the Best Thing I Ever Ate- Tyler Florence counted your ribs as the best BBQ he has ever eaten… Tyler Florence! The Chowdown Countdown put you as #24 of the top 101 things to eat in the entire United States of America. No other place had this much hype. We arrived and the line was substantial. We waited in the bar for our table and were finally seated. We ordered “the best ribs in the world” with sides of beans and coleslaw and I had the sweet tea. First problem the tea. I would call myself a sweet tea connoisseur. I love me some sweet tea. I have had sweet tea in every state that serves sweet tea and their sweet tea, while sweet, was also bitter. I have a notion it was left over from the day before. Blech. This institution that some say all ribs should be compared to… sucked. The problem is they started right. The rub was exquisite some chili powder added a touch of spice, the celery seed was a surprise add in the vinegar that is blended with the spice to make it stick, yum, the ingredients were obviously mixed well and the ribs were hand rubbed into perfection… until instead of a slow smoked heaven they are thrown on a hot grill and dried out to within an inch of their lives. When they hit the table they were almost cold. They were so tough that the little plastic knife we had almost broke trying to cut through them. No juice, no meat falling off bone. Bite down and pray your teeth don’t come out before the meat gives! Sadness fell around me. These… these scrawny dried out ribs are the best in the country? I think somebody needs a lesson in smoking because these poor ribs were not good. Sad because the rub had so much promise.

 

Rendevous

Rendevous

Gus’ Famous Chicken on the other hand was scrumptious. Fried spicy chicken heaven! The breading was crunchy without being too crunchy with a touch of spice that I believe was cayenne but that was not excessive. No afterburn unless you wanted to use the provided hot sauce. Their sweet tea was amazing. Heh

Gus's Fried Chicken

Gus's Fried Chicken

 Links to the resturants on UrbanSpoon
Pancake Pantry on UrbanspoonLoveless Cafe on UrbanspoonRaz'z Bar & Grill on UrbanspoonInterstate Bar B Q on UrbanspoonCharlie Vergos' Rendezvous on UrbanspoonGus's World Famous Fried Chicken (Collierville) on Urbanspoon

 

Louisiana Purchase Survey or Experiences in Arkansas

So before we set out on our travels we agreed to certain terms for our map. Many people count states that they just travel through as states they have been in, others only count them in you stay for a night. We decided that in order to say you have been somewhere you have to experience something. Sometimes it is a meal that is specific to the area, a national park or state park, a special location of historic importance.

 

While we are in Memphis, TN we are actually staying in a park across the river in Arkansas. So we decided while we were visiting the area we would find something in Arkansas to experience as well. Little Rock is over two hours from our location so we decided not to go that far. I went online and found a few state parks in the area. One in particular caught my eye because of its historical importance. The state park is set around a stone that was put into place at the beginning spot where the Louisiana Purchase survey of the land started.

Louisana Purchase State Park

Louisana Purchase State Park

So I prodded Bill and got us loaded up in the jeep to go see a rock. We drove out about an hour to the state park. We arrived and saw a gate that says it is automatic and will close at 9pm. Hmmmm that is interesting. An automatic gate. We drive the next two miles into the “park”. Looking around this isn’t a park, this is a swamp. We drive to the end of the road and there really isn’t even a parking area just a dead end. We park the Jeep to one side of the road at the end and there is a nice little boardwalk. I am excited to get out and go for a nice walk on the boardwalk. I pull out my Run tracking app on my phone that helps track paths I walk and run and start it up. We start walking along the path and there is a sign here and there talking about the trees or the wildlife or the Louisiana Purchase. I turn a corner and… wait a minute… that’s it? The boardwalk ended up being about 3/8 of a mile long. Talk about a tease. There sitting off to the right at the end of the boardwalk is rock that states it’s purpose. I just drove over an hour to see a rock in the middle of a swamp? Well I guess we just experienced Arkansas. Check.

 

Louisana Purchase Survey Marker

Louisana Purchase Survey Marker

From Les Paul To the Mysterious and Spooky

Over the last week we attended the Grand Ole Opry twice and heard a wide variety of country music stars creating wonderful music. It seemed fitting that today we decided to visit the Memphis manufacturing plant of the Gibson Guitar Corporation. Gibson Guitar founded in 1894 by Orville Gibson. Since then it has grown from small a one room shop to a company that is known around the world for the fine guitars they manufacture.

Orville Gibson invented the archtop guitar which uses the same type of carved, arch tops found on violins. In the 1930’s Gibson added flat top acoustic guitars to their product line. They were one of the first companies to manufacture hollow body electric guitars.  Gibson now has three factories; the one in Memphis makes the hollow and semi-hollow electric guitars.

On the tour we observed the steps that takes raw wood and in three weeks produces a precision instrument that is capable of producing music. The factory employs about 50 craftspeople and 11 supervisors that use a combination of hand crafting and computer controlled cutting and drilling to ship about 50 guitars every day. The tour started in the area where the thin sheets of layered veneers are pressed by machines to form the tops, bottoms, and sides of the various guitar models.  The tour continued to show many of the steps that go into making the guitar all the way to the final hand polish done before the guitar is boxed and ready to ship.

We were not allowed to take photos on the tour, but they did allow us to take pictures in the lobby and retail store. The retail store had walls of guitars everything from acoustic to solid electric ones. We heard a salesperson telling someone that the most expensive acoustic guitar they had in the store at the moment would set you back at least $3,500.

Gibson - Walls of Guitars

Gibson - Walls of Guitars

In keeping with the country music and Grand Ole Opry theme – we looked at the Brad Paisley acoustic guitar that has Brad’s signature on the label inside the guitar.

Gibson - Brad Pasiley Guitar

Gibson - Brad Pasiley Guitar

In 2006 Gibson purchased jukebox and vending machine maker Deutsche Wurlitzer. There were a few nice Wulitzer Jukeboxs on display in the lobby.

Gibson - Wurlitzer Jukebox

Gibson - Wurlitzer Jukebox

And now we get to the creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky part of the blog. We were sitting in Nashville the other day looking to see what we wanted to do while we were in Memphis (other than go eat BBQ) and saw that the Addams Family Musical was going to be in Memphis while we are visiting.

When we lived in Seattle we went to a few plays at the 5th Avenue and Paramount theater, seeing some wonderful shows like Wicked, South Pacific, and the Lion King to name a few.  The Addams Family – well is just not a classic – but we did really enjoy Shrek the Musical, and since we discovered that we could get some inexpensive seats (although they were way up there) we decide to give it a try.

Addams Family

Addams Family

We are very glad we give it a try – was it a classic – no, but it was pretty good, and very funny. It has us laughing out loud more than once.  If it is in your area – give it a look. 

I guess many would say our life is just a bit mysterious and kooky

The Devil Came Down to Nashville

The Grand Ole Opry is a live radio country music concert that originates from Nashville, Tennessee.  Back in 1925 the National Life and Accident Insurance Company built a radio station (WMS 650) in Nashville as a public service to the local community. Soon after starting the station the insurance company hired a nationally known announcer George D. Hay as the Program Director.  Hay was involved with a Barn Dance show in Chicago prior to coming to Nashville, and decided to launch a Barn Dance show on Nashville’s WSM 650 with championship fiddler Uncle Jimmy Thompson as the first guest in November 1925.

The show was a hit and soon people were clogging the hallways to watch the live country performances.  The show was renamed the Grand Ole Opry in 1927 when the Barn Dance show followed a classical music show. Hays commented that the audience was just listening to grand opera but the station would present ‘the grand ole opry’. The name stuck. As the popularity of the show continued the Opry moved into larger and larger venues. In 1943 the Opry moved to the Ryman Auditorium, a former religious meeting house built in 1892 by riverboat shipping magnate Captain Thomas Ryman.

In addition to being a radio show and building the Grand Ole Opry is an organization of sorts. Membership in the Grand Ole Opry is considered one of country music’s crowning achievements. There are currently 160 living members of the Opry and part of maintaining membership in good standing is participation in Opry shows.

The Opry stayed in the Ryman for 31 years. In 1974 the Opry moved into 4400 seat Grand Ole Opry House which built for the single purpose to house the Opry. Tuesday afternoon we took a back stage tour of the Opry House.

The Grand Ole Opry House

The Grand Ole Opry House

One of the first stops on the backstage tour was the artist entrance. Once they enter they walk past the picture the Minnie Pearl giving her famous “Howdy”.

Grand Ole Opry - Minnie Pearl

Grand Ole Opry - Minnie Pearl

The Grand Old Opry has a post office where each of the members has a mail box. All of the boxes are in alphabetic order except for Jimmy Dickens – whose box is in a lower row so he can reach it (he stands at a whopping 4’11″).

Grand Ole Opry - Post Office

Grand Ole Opry - Post Office

We toured thru the backstage area of the Opry looking in a number of the 18 themed dressing rooms. The picture below is the “Welcome to the Family” room – which according to the tour guide was packed with flowers and cards for Keith Urban on Saturday for his induction into the Opry.

Grand Ole Opry - Welcome to the Family Dressing Room

Grand Ole Opry - Welcome to the Family Dressing Room

From there we went to the room that the stars wait in just before going on stage – most places it is called the Green Room – in the Opry it is called the Family Room.  If you look in the picture on the right you will notice a metal bar attached to the wall – it marks the height the water hit in the flood of 2010. This room is at the same level of stage – so that is how high the water was on the stage. After the flood there was a massive 6-month repair and re-construction project.

Grand Ole Opry - Family Room

Grand Ole Opry - Family Room

From the Family Room we went on stage. When the Opry moved from its home in the Ryman Auditorium they cut a 6-foot circle out of the stage and moved it to the new home so future members of the Opry could stand in the same place that their famous predecessors did.

Grand Ole Opry - The Circle

Grand Ole Opry - The Circle

The tour of the Opry House was amazing – we are so glad we did it. After the tour we went across the street to have dinner in the Opry Mills Mall – a mall that was built on the site of the Old Opryland Amusement park.

After dinner we returned to the Opry House for Tuesday Night Opry.   One of the things we learned on the tour was that at the Opry – fans are encouraged to walk right up to the stage to get good pictures of their country music stars. There were a whole cast of people playing – some we knew and others we did not.

Little Jimmy Dickens was there of course. You can see how short he is when he puts his guitar down and holds the neck. Not only is Jimmy a singer – he is also quite the comedian – he has us laughing so hard to his story put to the Dragnet theme music, of course he had to get into character.

Grand Ole Opry - Little Jimmy Dickens

Grand Ole Opry - Little Jimmy Dickens

Back in Seattle we listened to Ichabod Cane and the Waking Crew (at least we did until KMPS messed up their station by getting rid all the good talent). He talked a lot about an up and coming duo – Joey and Rorry. We got to see them at the Opry.

Grand Ole Opry - Joey and Rory

Grand Ole Opry - Joey and Rory

The crowning of the evening was when Opry Member Charlie Daniels walked on the stage and started playing The Legend of Wooly Swamp.  He then brought the Bluegrass group Del McCoury Band back on stage to play a song with him.  There was time for only one more song – of course the Devil came to Nashville and I went down and sat on the floor in front of the stage with about a dozen others singing and taking pictures.

Grand Ole Opry - Charlie Daniels

Grand Ole Opry - Charlie Daniels

After the wonderful tour and show – we needed a snack and stopped at a local bar and grill called The Opry Backstage Café. Right after we walked in the live entertainment started playing the Zack Brown Song – “Toes”.

Yes – Life is good today! – and tomorrow there will be Memphis BBQ.

A Trip to Bowling Green

Today we got and headed an hour north to Bowling Green, Kentucky to visit the Corvette Factory.  The Corvette was introduced late in the 1953 model year and is known as America’s Sports Car.  In 1953 300 Corvettes were made, during the 2011 model year 13,222 cars were built bringing the total number built to over 1.5 million. During the tour today they said that about 80 cars roll off the line 4 days a week.

The original 300 Corvettes were built on a makeshift assembly line in Flint, Michigan. Production moved to St. Louis in December of 1953. GM moved Corvette production to a 1 million square foot factory in Bowling Green in June of 1981.

Corvette Factory

Corvette Factory

There are two assembly lines within the building – they build the chassis on one line and the body on a second line (called the trim line). The two lines come together and they marry a chassis complete with engine, transmission   and drive shaft with body for the remainder of the assembly. We started our tour watching a safety video. After the video we joined the trim line near the start where they were putting fenders together. We followed the trim line watching them assemble the body of the car and witnessed the marriage of the chassis and body together (we had to go out for doughnuts later in the day). We the then followed the line watching the rest of the assembly process all the way to the point where the start the engine and drive it off the line.

It was really amazing watching the process and seeing individual parts turn into a sports car. Sorry no pictures they do not allow cameras or cell phones in the building.

After visiting the assembly plant we visited the National Corvette Museum.  The museum was built in 1994 and was originally going to be a library to archive documents relating to Corvettes and the history of them. When someone offered to give a classic Corvette if a museum was built, the plans changed. We spent a couple of hours looking at beautiful cars.

The car in the upper left is Roy Orbison’s 1967 Corvette, the upper right is only Corvette ever owned by Zora Arkus-Duntov (known as the patron saint of Corvette’s). Bottom left is a group of Corvettes that served as Pace Cars in the Indianapolis 500, and the one on the lower right is the color that Leslie said hers would be.

Corvettes

Corvettes

Tomorrow – back to the Grand Ole Opry