That Food Guy
Sullivan's - Maryville, Tennessee
Sullivan’s – Maryville TN
Maryville - 121 W. Broadway Maryville, TN - 37804 - 865.681.3334
Rocky Hill - 7545
Northshore Dr - Knoxville, TN 37919 - 865.694.9696
To be, in any small way, a part of an event that brings
mirthful glee to a friend is very rewarding to the soul. What brings this to
mind is that the wife and I were invited to a surprise birthday party for a
dear friend that was hosted by her adoring husband and family. The party was
attended by about 25 friends and associates and it did come as a complete
surprise to her; the secret had been well kept. The venue was The Alcove, a banquet room in
Sullivan’s. It was a festive and enjoyable evening; old acquaintances renewed
and new friendships formed. It was indeed a happy birthday for Rosana!
This was our first ever visit to Sullivan’s located in the
historic downtown section of Maryville, Tennessee. One of two local area stores,
it is conveniently located across the street from a free public parking lot but
that is problematical if other events are taking place in adjoining venues. The
Sullivan’s building is also conveniently located alongside a picturesque set of
brick “Spanish Steps” that lead to the lower street and another parking
structure below. It was but a short walk in the rain that brought us to the
front door of Sullivan’s.
As is normal with banquets, a pared down menu was offered
that included selections of fish, meat, pasta and chicken. All were served with the house salad and a
selection from the sides offered; an
interesting assortment that included baked creamed spinach, Southern-style
green beans, sweet potato casserole, Boursin mashed potatoes ( I had to look that
one up) and jalapeño cheese grits. Beverages included iced tea, Coca Cola
products and Vienna coffee.
A dinner roll was provided and butter available from any of
the serving dishes on the table. The house salad is a nice large salad plate of
mixed greens with some pickled cucumber slices, some plum tomatoes and seasoned
with fresh cooked bacon crumbles, shredded cheese and croutons. The salad
dressing is served on the side. It was a nice salad with a variety of tasty
things to eat.
The wife chose the sirloin and decided on the Boursin mashed
potatoes; potatoes made with a garlic and herb flavored Boursin cheese.(** See Wikipedia note below) The
sirloin was a nice-sized, about an eight-ounce filet, that was cooked
medium-rare to order. The mashed potatoes were served in a ramekin; the plate
decorated with what I believe was a Balsamic reduction. She said the steak was
tender, cooked to order and had very good flavor. She quite enjoyed the flavor of
the Boursin mashed potatoes. Let it be noted that there was no doggie bag this
time. I do believe she thoroughly enjoyed her steak and potatoes.
The salad was good, crisp fresh greens and a variety of
tastes and textures; something I consider an important asset for a salad. Soon
after the salad plate had been cleared away my entrée, the Garden Fresh Pasta, arrived.
It was a substantial serving and I knew I wouldn’t go away hungry after the meal
was completed. The penne was cooked al dente; not always easy with the thicker
pastas. It was well covered with an agreeable Alfredo sauce. There was a good
portion of tender Italian-style vegetables; broccoli, carrots and Italian
beans. All was liberally decorated with shredded Parmigiano cheese and fresh
chopped parsley. It was an attractive presentation, an adequate portion and tasted
very good, a selection I would certainly enjoy again in any future visits to
Sullivan’s. See our home version of this dish.
And what birthday, you may ask, is complete without a
birthday cake? After the dinner dishes had been cleared away the wait staff brought
in a candle-lit cake to a resounding chorus of, “Happy Birthday dear Rosana…”
It was a layered white cake, white frosting and a very nice strawberry filling.
Birthday cakes are special anyway but this was a very tasty cake; a delicious
compliment to an enjoyable meal. It was an enjoyable meal certainly because the
food was good (and free for the guests I might add).But even more it was enjoyable
because it was friends celebrating the guest of honor’s special day. It was a
fairly large group of friends celebrating in a safe and sane matter and each
going home safely at the end. What more could one ask for?
I would make one additional comment… The party group was
about twenty five persons. With the exception of the entrée and birthday cake
serving, the one lone waitress took care of all of us. She was more than
adequate and up to the task, kept the orders straight and kept the glasses
filled with the proper beverage. Credit
for much of the success of the night’s festivities belongs to her.
**From Wikipedia: Boursin is a brand of Gournay cheese. It is a
soft creamy cheese available in a variety of flavors, with a flavor and texture
somewhat similar to cream cheese. The first Boursin flavor Garlic and Fine Herbs, was created in 1957 by François Boursin, a
cheese maker from Normandy. Boursin's product was derived from a traditional
party dish, fromage frais (French for "fresh cheese"); guests would
take their cheese and add herbs for flavor. His recipe would be the first
flavored cheese product to be sold nationally in France.
Labels: Fine Foods, fish, Maryville, pasta, salmon. sirloin, steak, Sullivan's, surf and turf
China Lights - Eagle River, Alaska
The China Lights Restaurant in Eagle River is a small to medium-sized
facility located in a strip mall. This particular restaurant has been there
since 1980. A sister establishment, located in Anchorage, has been extant since
2010. I have not visited the Anchorage facility so everything herein pertains
to the Eagle River store.
I have a mixed history with China Lights that goes back a
long time. I first became aware of the Eagle River China Lights when I moved
into the area about 1995. A fan of Chinese food, I was quick to spot it and
mentally mark it for later. Sometime later I had that urge for some fried rice,
one of my favorite foods, and went to China Lights for takeout. It was excellent! I really loved it; very
flavorful with a great seasoning combination I wished I could emulate. I was
very happy to have some tasty Chinese food close at hand.
It was a busy time for me then. There was work and the
extracurricular activities such as dog mushing that kept me busy and it was a
long while before I was in town, at the right time, to get some more fried rice
takeout. It was, to put it plainly, terrible. The rice was almost crunchy. It
wasn’t seasoned at all except for a splash of soy sauce and there was only a
pittance of vegetables and chicken thrown in. Even steaming it a bit at home I was
unable to revive it and, sadly, most of that order ended up in the compost pile.
After that encounter I pretty much erased the mental note and never again
considered the China Lights as an asset. Over the ensuing years I have driven
past the China Lights many, many times but never had any inkling to try it
During this 2016 trip to Alaska I noticed some TV ads for
the China Lights. They mostly featured the Anchorage store, especially the
interior shots showing the buffet, but the ad did tell of the two locations,
Anchorage and Eagle River. That got me to thinking… (Sometimes that is a
dangerous thing to do.) So, if the China Lights has been there all this time
without going under they must be doing something right and not chasing away
customers like they did me. Also, if they have made enough profit to open or
take over another facility they must have a fairly large and satisfied customer
base. Perhaps, I thought, it was time to give China Lights another try.
I called good buddy Larry Tower and asked if he would like
to go to lunch one day soon. On the appointed day we made the fifteen minute
drive to China Lights. Apparently the buffet is popular and the
hostess/waitress assumed we were there for the buffet and when she seated us
she didn’t offer the menu as an option. I thought for a moment and then
decided, “Why not?” We would try the buffet today and I could come back later
for a “lunch special” take home meal rather than eat in. She took our beverage
order and bade us to go and select from the buffet.
As I mentioned, the store is of modest size. It is well
decorated in the Asian theme with bas-relief paneling depicting Chinese scenes.
The ceiling is embossed tiles in a copper color. Various wall hangings and
objects d’art round out the décor. There are several booths along the front
window wall and the main dining area features tables and chair that can be
arranged as needed to accommodate different sized groups. There is no room for
free standing serving bars as you would normally find in a Chinese buffet. In
the addition of the buffet to the more traditional sit down and dine in and
take out there was little room for adding the serving bars. There is a salad
bar and steam table combination, serve from one side only and about 16 to 18 feet
long, against the back wall. That leaves little room for a large number of
selections one would normally associate with a Chinese buffet. As I remember
the selections (and memory can be spotty) the selections, with some of my
initial impressions, were as follows.
Soups – Egg
flower and - one other: Egg flower soup good,
didn’t try the other
– Lots of chicken, pretty good but a bit confused flavor wise
Chicken – A mainstream sesame chicken but a bit weak in the sauce
Chicken – A good amount of chicken with pretty good flavor, interesting
Meatballs - a bit over cooked, kind of bland
Mein – more noodles than vegetables
– not exceptional, need the sauce
Fried Rice –
for a filler dish, not too bad with good flavor and fresh looking vegetables
but not as good as my sampling many years ago
– little prepackaged rolls a bit chewy/crunchy
Vegetables – onion rings and medallions of squash, I believe.
Sour Chicken – ahhh, yes! The New York-style is here too. Too bad…
Sour Sauce – It’s red.
– that one puzzles me – I didn’t try them but French fries in the limited space
fruits and Desserts -
What is the allure of the Chinese buffet? I would answer
that it a place where, for a relatively small amount of money, you can eat to
your fill with palatable food; a place to go get stuffed. To that end China
Lights does quite well. Its selections, although limited by space, fare well
compared to any of the other buffets I have tried in the past. I do have some
minor issues with some of the offerings but overall, as I mentioned, it is
quite good as Chinese buffets go.
On my first go through the buffet
line, I got a bowl of egg flower soup and a plate with tempura vegetables,
sweet and sour chicken, a pot sticker, spicy meatballs, sesame chicken, some
Mongolian chicken and my favorite, fried rice. The soup was good. There were a
lot of egg shreds and the broth had a good flavor as well as a nice mouth feel;
it wasn’t just a bowl of flavored water. The selection of the tempura
vegetables was limited to some onion rings and some small medallions I think
were squash. The items were battered and fried but the batter was very heavy
for tempura and detracted from what taste the vegetables had. The pot stickers
were a bit chewy and perhaps had been in the pan too long. The spicy meatballs
relied on the sauce for the spice and the texture was coarse, perhaps a lot of
filler, Not one of my favorite for the selection. The Mongolian chicken was one
of the better dishes they offered. It was flavorful with lots of chicken. The
sesame chicken was much like other buffet sesame chickens, an amber sauce and
toasted sesame seeds. It didn’t stand out, kind of bland, and I think the sauce
needed a bit more sesame oil to liven up the flavor. The sweet and sour chicken
here was what I have come to learn is called New York-style; breaded chicken
pieces and a red sweet and sour sauce on the side. I learned to like sweet and
sour chicken a long time ago on the West Coast. It was dish of breaded and
fried chicken pieces, stir fried Bell peppers, onion and sometimes thinly
sliced carrots and pineapple chunks all tossed with a red sauce with definite
sweet and sour overtones; a medley of many great flavors and textures. I
am a bit biased and it is difficult to be positive about a dish that is missing
most of its elements. The China Light’s version was heavily breaded chicken (I
suspect the breaded chicken is a bulk pre-made kitchen supply) and the sauce
was indeed red, sticky and sweet but lacked any definite sour component. It was
just like all the other buffet sweet and sour chicken just a shadow of the real
thing. The fried rice was good. It was a filler dish to be sure, an inexpensive
food to bulk out the meal. Even so, it had good flavor and there were some
little goodies in the mix to add to the taste and texture.
Larry, my dining companion, said
that he was satisfied with the meal and if he were in the neighborhood when it
was time to eat he wouldn’t mind eating at China Lights again. He pretty much
echoed my feelings. Aside from the negatives I noted above, China Lights is on
a par with just about any other Chinese, all you can eat, buffet.
To date my favorite Chinese
restaurant in Alaska is the Imperial Palace. It is located in Anchorage which
is a 45-minute drive away from home. China Lights, on the other hand, located in
Eagle River, is barely a 10-minute drive away. I suspect that on my next trip
to Alaska I will try out China Lights and order from the menu for a sit-down
dinner. I remember once I had some great food from there. It would be very nice
to know that a good and trusted source was near to home. I will let you know
how well that turns out in a later blog post.
It should be noted that there is a
certificate proudly displayed on the entranceway wall of China Lights: Top
100 Chinese Restaurants: Exterior
100%, Service 100%, Food 97.06%
Labels: Alaska, all you can eat, Asian, China, Chinese, Eagle River, egg flower soup, food, lights China Lights, Top 100 Chinese Restaurants
Double Musky – Birthday Dinner 2016
The Double Musky Inn
Cajun cooking, emphasizing steak & local seafood, in a roadhouse with Mardi Gras-style décor.
A Birthday Dinner Tradition
Mile .3 Crow Creek Road, Girdwood, AK 99587
In another reality Larry Tower and I would have been
brothers. As it is we share a common first name and share the birthday month,
September. Over the years we have developed a ritual, a tradition. We would splurge
a bit for our collective birthdays and go have a pepper steak dinner at the
famous Double Musky Restaurant in Girdwood, Alaska. See previous eating
adventure 2012 here.
It had been a long four years since we last were able to get together and share
a meal at the Double Musky. During this trip to Alaska, 2016, with joy we kept
the tradition alive.
The Double Musky is located in the Girdwood Valley, about an
hour’s drive south from Anchorage along the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet.
There is a world-famous ski resort there with a lavish resort hotel. It is a
very busy place during the winter ski season. It is still a mecca for the
Alaska visitor even in the summer although the pace is a bit more relaxed
during the warmer weather. The beauty of the Alaska wilderness surrounds and
seven glaciers in the surrounding Chugach Mountains can be seen from various
vantage points in the valley
On this occasion we would also have the pleasure introducing
another person to the Double Musky. Larry’s most charming and lovely companion,
Wasana, would be joining us for a night out with the boys. We had much to tell
her, much about why and how we came to this place and what this night was all
about. It took a bit of time to coordinate all of our schedules but we finally
got it all together October the eleventh. It was an overcast day with a raw
feel to the air, about 30 degrees. The Alaska fall weather was definitely here.
I did my home chores and a few local errands. In the afternoon I drove to
Anchorage’s Eastside to meet up with Larry and Wasana where we would carpool
for the hour drive to Girdwood. We didn’t want to leave too early because The
Double Musky is only open during dinner hours.
We arrived a few minutes before opening. There were already
several cars in the parking area. Our hectic schedules had delayed our birthday
get together for almost a month. The early cold weather had blighted the
usually verdant garden in front of the restaurant. On this occasion we would
miss the vibrancy of a floral garden. The building looked the same as always. The
doors were opened soon after and we were shown to a table by the window overlooking
the garden. We did look over the menu but at least Larry and I knew what we were
French Pepper Steak
($41.00 “Best steak in America,” says
Jill Cordes of the Food Network. A 16-20
ounce New York steak crusted with cracked pepper and covered with a spicy
Wasana read over the menu and had a lot of questions. You
can see the menu at the Double Musky
website. At long last she too knew
what she wanted to sample:
Crab Stuffed Halibut (Market Price, today $47.00 A delicious halibut steak, stuffed with
crab meat dressing which contains crab meat, mushrooms, shallots, chablis,
heavy cream, creole seasoning
and served with creole beurre blanc.)
Appetizer bread rolls are included. You have the option of salad
with dressing of choice. The entrée is served with your choice of baked potato
(with whatever fixings you choose) or vegetable of the day. All three of us
chose the salad. It was a mixture of lettuce and greens including spinach, some
shredded carrots and croutons. I chose 1000-Island for mine and a good grind of
fresh ground black pepper. Every one enjoyed their salads along with nicely buttered
pieces of the appetizer rolls.
Wasana’s selection, the crab stuffed halibut, was a large
halibut filet folded over the crab stuffing mixture and slathered with a thick delicious
lemon butter sauce and a sprig of parsley. Then accompanying baked potato had
ample sour cream and sliced scallions. It was a large portion but Wasana was up to
the task and there was little left to carry home in a takeout container. She
did enjoy her meal very much. The Creole seasoning was a bit different than she
is accustomed to but found it to be an enjoyable new encounter, one that she
would enjoy again in the future. Perhaps next year…
The other Larry ordered the French pepper steak with the Burgundy
sauce on the side. His choice of a side was the baked potato with sour cream
and sliced onions. When ordering your steak, you select from the following menu
listed options: “Rare - cool red
center - Medium-rare - warm red center
Medium - hot pink center - Medium-well-well – Butterflied - takes time.”
He ordered medium, grilled to a hot pink center. Usually Larry has a large
chunk of the steak left over to take home. He was extra hungry this day and he
happily finished off all of his French pepper steak and the baked potato, with
lots of sour cream and sliced green onions, included. He thoroughly enjoyed his
meal and was already thinking about the next time we would visit The Double
Musky for our mutual birthday celebration.
I ordered my French pepper steak medium as well, Burgundy
sauce over. My baked potato was with all the trimmings including the sour cream
and the sliced scallions. The steak, as is usual, cut easily with the knife and
was tender to chew. It meat was flavorful on its own, the Burgundy sauce delicious.
Some of the bites I took were plain, just a slight dash of salt. Some of the bites
were slathered in the sauce. I can’t really say which was better. I would have
been happy with that steak either way – I guess I just had the best of both
worlds that day. I finished my baked potato and would have eaten all of my
steak but I had a use for a bit of my pepper steak; more about that later.
At long last there was clink of forks being placed on the
plates for the last time. Everyone was sated, happy with full bellies, ready to
pay the bill and waddle home. That’s when our server arrived with a tray of
sample desserts. Larry and I had just eaten bread, a salad, a large baked
potato loaded with toppings and a one-pound steak with sauce. And now we were
being tempted with rich, luscious desserts! To coin a phrase, nothing succeeds
like excess. We decided to have dessert to finish off the meal. The other Larry
ordered a slice of banana cream pie. It was a nice large slice of pie, a tasty
pudding and banana filling, cream topping and toasted coconut; very tasty he
It had been a big and filling meal. Wasana and I both
wanted something a bit lighter and we both chose the crème brûlée. The serving was a nice 4-ounce ramekin of velvety custard with a caramelized
crust. Very tasty, the sweetness was a nice counterpoint after the savory
meal. It all capped off the evening
nicely. I too look forward to the next visit with the other Larry to celebrate
Oh, and that bit of steak I took home in a
doggie bag? Ah, yes – the next morning I fried up some potatoes, onion and the
meat cut into little pieces. In the end I added some peas and carrots to make a
big batch of Double Musky French pepper steak hash that would help top feed me
well over several breakfasts. Each of
those breakfasts brought back memories of a wonderful evening spent with Larry
and Wasana at The Double Musky Restaurant in Girdwood, Alaska.
Labels: Alaska, baked potato, banana cream pie, burgundy sauce, crème brûlée, Double Musky, French, Inn, pepper, salad, scallions, sour cream, steak
Imperial Palace - Anchorage Alaska - A Birthday Revisit 2016
- A Birthday Revisit
The first time I ever saw the Imperial Palace was back in
1988 or so. It was on my first trip to Alaska. I saw the restaurant across the
highway and down a small street each time I went to the Flight service Station
to get a weather briefing. Flight Service Stations are gone now but the
Imperial Palace is still there. I didn’t visit the restaurant that time but
marked it in my mind for a future time.
It was several more years before I moved to Alaska. I
remembered the Imperial Palace and saw it each time I would drive by the
airport. Somehow it just never came to pass that I would stop in and see what
it was all about. It was not until 2012 during a visit by my sister and my nephew
that we decided to see if the Imperial Palace was indeed worthy. We were all
very favorably impressed and looked forward to visiting again. You can read
that critique at http://thatfoodguy.blogspot.com/2012/07/imperial-palace-anchorage-alaska.html .
Fast forward to 2016; in Alaska for the last part of the
summer to do maintenance on our property, I was treated to dinner, the reason
being it was my birthday, by some old and dear friends, Wasana and Larry Tower
and Gloria and Jim Kocis. Given my choice, after all it was my birthday, the
Imperial Palace came to mind. We all agreed to meet in town at 5 O’clock PM. It
was a date that I eagerly awaited.
As a young child my first encounters with Chinese food were
from Chinatown in Los Angeles. Those
savory dishes, the look, the smell, the taste – those delicious flavors, were
the major part of larger experience. It was an alien world, the exotic dress,
the incense, red and black lacquer décor accents, gilt trimming, paper
lanterns; it was all heady stuff to an 8 or 9-year old but it emblazoned on my
mind what eating Chinese was all about. The menu to a young person was almost
impossible to comprehend. The entrees were a strange combination of alien
sounds. As a family, we would usually order from the combination meals, you
know, “…with four you get eggroll.” I have not been back to Chinatown for more
than 50 years. It has changed I hear and sadly not like it once was. Today it
is very hard to find a Chinese restaurant that compares to the old days of
Chinatown. There are a lot of storefront take out emporium who all seem to
serve carbon copies of each other, now served as Styrofoam plated combo meals.
Even the long cherished Chinese food take out container is hard to find. It is
sort-of Chinese at least in name, often fusion dishes you are a bit adverse to
try. As well, the all-you-can-eat parlors are popular as well. If you want to
get your Chinese food fix it is a place to go with lots of variety and in
seemingly endless quantities. However, I am sure you will agree with me that it
is only a semblance of what Chinese food for Americans could and should be.
The allure of the Imperial Palace for a revisit was that it
is very reminiscent of the Chinatown of old. I was very favorably impressed on
the first visit some years ago and I had hopes that it would be as good this
time. The interior was as I remembered; not a lot of black and red lacquer to
be sure. There were the paper lanterns adored with the Chinese characters, the
moveable screen, very evocative of the General Lee, to set aside areas for
large groups or those wishing a bit of privacy. There was no tall, beautiful
oriental hostess, dressed in a floor length red silk dress with a slit up the
side to greet us. But then, you can’t have everything.
The menu, in an elegant cover, is quite complete. There is a
large selection of al la carte dishes including a choice of Korean dishes, a
goodly selection of luncheon combinations at a reduced price, a list of single
and double entrees dinners for one, and even family-style with combinations
from $13.95 to $19.95 each (there are numerous combinations but the selections
do not increase with the number of diners, i.e., “…with four you get eggroll.”)
. For our group of five with eclectic tastes the combination dinner for one was
the best way to because everyone would get just what they desired.
The meal was started with a bowl of egg drop soup. A clear
flavorful broth, chicken flavored, with a good quantity of egg drop shards and
some vegetables. A tasty soup to start the meal, it had many compliments.
The other Larry ordered the C1 Combination Dinner (13.95 Mongolian Beef and Sesame Chicken –
Served with eggroll, pork fried rice and daily soup). An attractive
presentation, stir-fried beef in a dark brown glaze, a cone of fried rice, an
eggroll sliced in two, and a helping of breaded chicken fried golden brown and
accented with sesame seeds. He said everything tasted good and he had no
trouble at all completing his meal. He agreed with me and added that it was a
place to come back to.
Jim ordered the C3 Combination Dinner ($13.95 Spicy Garlic Chicken and Sweet and Sour Pork- Served with
eggroll, pork fried rice and daily soup). Another appealing plate, a
serving of stir-fried chicken in a spicy sauce with vegetables such as pea pods
and broccoli, the standard cone of fried rice with an eggroll, stir-fried
breaded pork morsels in a sweet and sour sauce and some onions and carrots. Jim also completely finished his dinner
saying that it was good, good appearance and presentation and good flavor.
Gloria and Wasana both ordered the C4 Combination Dinner
($13.95 Kung Pao Chicken and Sweet and
Sour Chicken – Served with eggroll, pork fried rice and daily soup). An
equally pleasing plate featured stir-fried chicken with vegetables in a sauce
and, of course, the peanuts, there was the fried rice and eggroll, and
stir-fried breaded chicken with peppers, onion and carrot, in a sweet and sour
sauce. A very pretty plate but all was not as it seemed. Both of them liked the
sweet and sour chicken and the fried rice and eggroll. However, both of them
agreed that the kung pao chicken was just too salty to enjoy and both were
unable to finish their portions; everything good except the kung pao chicken.
It had been a long time since I had enjoyed a decedent chow
mein. After a long look at the choices, I finally chose the C8 Combination
Dinner ($13.95 Chicken Chow Mein and
Sweet and Sour Pork – Served with egg roll and pork fried rice). The first
impression I had when the plate was placed in front of me was that the food
looks like what I would expected to. It looked like what I remember from the
Chinatown restaurants. An appealing plate, there was a good portion of breaded
stir fried pork cooked with onion, peppers and carrots in a very tasty sweet
and sour sauce, the pork fried rice and the eggroll, and a serving of chicken
chow mein. The chow mein was a mix of stir-fried chicken, vegetables and
noodles in a sauce. The noodles were
fried but not crisp. The sauce is a thinner, clearer sauce made from the broth
with just a touch of sweetness, traditional, just as it should be. The flavor
of the chicken and the noodles was never masked by the flavor of the sauce. The
eggrolls were excellent, good enough that you might wish they were more part of
the dinner than as a single one serving in an appetizer role. The fried rice is
the filler of the dish. It is good but not special. I would suspect that if you
were to order a serving of fried rice as an entrée from the menu it would be a
bit more polished. The sweet and sour pork was excellent. It was breaded
morsels of pork, stir fried with some onion, peppers and carrots in a very good
sweet and sour sauce.
The Imperial palace is a small and I believe a family-run
business. We actually only saw one person most of the time in the dining room.
She as the hostess, the waitress and the bus boy all wrapped up in one. She was
never hovering but she seemed to know when you needed her.
For my dinner, I have no complaints. In fact I loved every
bit of it. If it were a more perfect world to my taste, perhaps there would
have been a morsel or two of pineapple in the sweet and sour and perhaps the
noodles in the chow mein could have been a bit crisp – you know, just like the
old days. But that does not detract form the enjoyment of a great meal. Of this
visit I would say that for the most part, with the exceptions noted above, the
food was better than just good. It was a special night and the company was
great making it a special, gala occasion. We all arrived about 5 PM and we
didn’t leave until almost 8 PM – a most enjoyable session of reminiscing and
catching upon the news of the last couple of years. Larry, Wasana, Jim and
Gloria, thank you one and all.
Labels: Alaska, Anchorage, chicken, Chow Mein, garlic, Imperial, Kung Pao, Palace, pork, spicy, sweet and sour
Bacon-Fried Apples - Fresh Off TheTree
Bacon-Fried Cinnamon Apples
Circumstances are often way beyond your control. That is how
it was and why it had been four years since I have been home to Chugiak Alaska.
It was a warm greeting by friends to start off my sojourn. The next day it was
time to see what time and the Alaska weather had done to our pickup and our
little place in the woods. It was, to say the least, a mess. There were fences
down, weeds and grass had overgrown much of the yard. Snow loaded trees had
arched over the drive way. Everywhere I looked I could see the ravages of the
unattended rigors of the Alaskan winters. There was a lot of work to be done.
One of our apple trees had died and another looked about to
go. The surviving trees were loaded with fruit; fruit that would go wasted if I
didn’t make use of it. It took less than a minute to fill a bowl. I was
wondering what I would do with the apples. From experience I knew that everyone
nearby had no interest. I would bag some up from more distant friends but the
remainder would still be here. I would be here too short a time to can them so
I decided to make us of them in my daily meals as much as I could.
The next morning while washing the breakfast dishes, I took
the skillet to wash it and noted the bit of bacon grease from the morning’s
bacon. Then I thought about a favorite thing from the Cracker Barrel Restaurant
chain, fried apples. That is where the idea of the bacon fried cinnamon apples
was born. If you like bacon then you know most everything goes good with bacon.
I peeled and quartered the apples (The Nordland apples here
are small, about the size of a small ball, about 2 to 2 ½ inches). I used a
pair of scissors to cut up 2 slices of the pre-cooked bacon and put it in a
skillet with two tablespoons of margarine. The pre-cooked bacon slices don’t
have a lot of fat left but there is enough to impart that bacon flavor to the
margarine. I cooked the bacon and margarine until the bacon pieces started to
crisp. I added the apples, seasoned with a bit of salt and two tablespoons of
sugar. At the heat setting I had set and what I maintained during the cooking,
for the first few minutes I could hear the sizzle of the apples in the hot
butter bacon mix while gently turning the apples. After about five minutes the
sizzle stopped and the juice from the apples accumulated in the bottom of the
pan and it became a slow stew of the apples.
The apples were beginning to take on a nice golden brown
color. I tasted one. I could taste the buttery flavor of the margarine and a
bit of the smoky bacon flavor but the apples were a bit too tart. The Nordlands
are a tart apple and I added two more tablespoons of sugar as well as a couple
pinches of nutmeg. After about another five minutes the apple liquid evaporated
and the sizzle sound returned. A poke with a fork proved the apples were almost
done. I sprinkled with about a tablespoon of ground cinnamon and continued to
fold the apples and mix in the cinnamon. About another three minutes and the
apples were fully tender, golden brown and smelled wonderful. I removed them
from the heat and spooned a small sample into a cup.
Let’s face it. Cracker Barrel fried apples and these apples
are basically apple pie without the crust. These apples have the added
flavoring of bacon. Cooking can be a chore or it can be an adventure in
creativity. Here I merged two things I like in order to make a slightly
different dish. I had fun doing it and I definitely enjoyed the end result and
I found an outlet for many of the apples still on my trees. How do they taste?
The apples are a bit tart, a bit sweet. They have a definite cinnamon fragrance
and taste as well as a bit of earthy flavor from the nutmeg, The smoky bacon
and buttery flavor is in the back ground. They are not too sweet, not too
tart, not too much cinnamon and not too much bacon although the little bits of
crunchy bacon are a plus. I think, if only by accident, they came out just
I know how much sugar and cinnamon I added but I only know I
had a skillet full of apples; a bit crude measurement wise for a recipe. I will
play with this dish until I have a reproducible recipe and I will enjoy the
experimentation as well as the final result and it will be a part of my
personal recipe book. Remember, a recipe is only a starting point, a place to
start to make it better.
Labels: Alaska, apples. cinnamon, bacon, fried, Nordland, nutmeg, salt, sugar, weather, winter
Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant
It was a long and tiring trip northward, back to Alaska. My
good buddy Larry met me at the airport. That’s right! There are two Larrys and
when you get the two of us together there is bound to be trouble so beware. It
was an arrival in the wee hours of the morning so it was off to his place to
crash for the little that was left of the night. After a welcome sleep I was up
early for Alaska but late for the East Coast. Over coffee we caught up on the
news of the day. There were lots of things to do that day. I needed to get a
new battery for the pickup so I would have wheels and I needed get some
groceries to stock the pantry. But before any of that it was time for
If you have been in the greater Anchorage area very long
then you must have heard about Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant. It is located
in Spenard, an area a bit removed from downtown Anchorage during the rough and
ready days of the Alaska Pipeline construction. Spenard was where the oil field
workers would go to seek female companionship. The unofficial rumor is that the
upper floors of Gweenie’s saw a lot of action back then. Those wild frontier
days are long gone and the area has mellowed and is now busy with tourism and
general commerce. But Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant is still there.
The décor of Gwennie’s features rock walls, stuffed bears, a
wishing well in the middle of the dining room; all the Alaska kitsch you can
think of. It is also know for tasty food at Alaska prices. It was off to
Gweenie’s for breakfast.
Our server was named Sparky. It was a good name for her. She
was always busy but always there when you needed her. She brought our coffee
quickly and left a carafe with more coffee. Sipping our coffee we studied the
menu. The other Larry decided on a broccoli and mushroom omelet (Broccoli and Mushroom Omelet $11.75 Omelets served with melted cheese sauce: All
omelets served with choice of home fries or grits, toast or biscuits.) with
the home fries and toast. It was large and filling meal, an omelet filled with
mushrooms and bright green broccoli covered with melted cheese. It was well
cooked without any crispy edges. Larry enjoyed his omelet saying that it tasted
very good, had loads of mushrooms and broccoli. The home fries are primitive in
nature consisting of various sizes and shape of potato. Apparently cooked in
masse on a griddle, there are many textures that make for an interesting
dish. Some are golden brown all over and
some have darker crispy edges.
This Larry was going to order eggs and the potatoes I just
couldn’t decide on what breakfast meat. It had been a long time since I had
corned beef hash and I finally decided on that. (Breakfast served anytime: Corned beef hash or ham or sausage or bacon
and eggs.$8.75 Served with a choice of home fries or grits, toast or biscuit.) I also ordered the home fries and toast. The
eggs were cooked to order and I had a good-sized serving of the same potatoes
the other Larry had. There was a very large serving of corned beef hash. This
hash wasn’t made in the kitchen; it came ready to heat and serve in a large
container form a supplier. That’s not to say it wasn’t good. A bit of a salty
tang as normal, it was fully equal to the premium canned corned beef hash you
would get at your local super market. There was lots of corned beef and a small
amount of diced potato. The toast was thick slices of bread toasted golden
brown. It was a big and filling meal, one that I fully enjoyed.
If you are ever fortunate enough to be in anchorage, Alaska,
seek out Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant for one of your meals. It is Alaska
however and where else could you say that you had breakfast in a bawdy house?
Labels: Alaska, Anchorage, bawdy house, broccoli, cheese, corned beef hash, eggs, Gwennie's, home fries, ill repute, medium, Old, omelet, over, restaurant, toast
Gap Creek Coffee House - Cumberland Gap, Tennessee
Gap, Tennessee 37724
The original thirteen colonies, now the United States, were
looking to westward expansion. There had already been inroads to the Ohio River
Valley. To the southwest there were
significant natural barriers. There were tales of green and fertile land to the
west on the other side of the Cumberland and Appalachian Mountains. Many men explored these far and distant lands,
men whose names you probably remember form school. There were men such as
Daniel Boone, James Bowie, Kit Carson and Lewis Clark. They followed the game
trails and explored the area bringing back stories of rich and verdant land, deep
forests with abundant wild game. But it was too far away, too difficult to
reach to be of use for settlement. Settlement needs the exchange of goods, the
farmer’s crops for the manufactured and imported goods from the Atlantic
In 1750 Dr. Thomas Walker, a physician and explorer led the
first expedition that discovered the Cumberland Gap, a natural
break in the mountains near the juncture of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. It was a narrow gap but suitable for making a
mule train and wagon road across the one seemingly impenetrable barrier. The Wilderness Road was born. The way was
open for the westward expansion to "Kentuck" and "Tenasi."
It was only natural that a settlement would spring up at the
foot of the gap. What better place to have a blacksmith to repair the wagons, a
store to provide the needed flour, bacon and coffee? That settlement became a
Postal destination in 1803. It was incorporated in 1907. Walking the street of
Cumberland Gap it is hard to come up with just the right word to describe it
although quaint frequently comes to mind. It is almost like taking a trip back
in time and perhaps a bit of the mystique of Daniel Boon, Jim Bowie and Dr.
Walker can be felt in the air.
On this particular Sunday, a day that dawned hot and
glaringly sunny, we went to Cumberland Gap for a dog event, canine scent work,
a sport where dogs and handlers try to find selected odors that may be hidden
in vehicles, in rooms or in the out-of-doors.
The center of our activities that day, with their gracious cooperation
and generosity, would be the Gap Creek Coffee House. Nestled on a grassy and
wooded lot adjacent to a perennial stream, Gap Creek, the coffee house was
fashioned from a 90-year old wood frame cottage. The grassy area surrounding
the cottage offers many patio chairs and table. The covered front porch has a
swing and offers a shady vantage point to people watch while sipping your
coffee. Part of the parlor has some seating but is mostly an order area at the
counter behind which is the food prep area in the old dining and kitchen area.
The bedrooms serve as small and cozy dining rooms.
The wife, the dogs and I left home early for the two hour
drive to Cumberland Gap. I skipped breakfast hoping to get something to eat
once we arrived. After setting up the kennels in a shady spot I went to see
what the Gap Creek Coffee House had to offer. It is a coffee shop and not a
restaurant as such. They do offer a big selection of sandwiches and wraps, as
well as pastries with their lattes and gourmet coffees. I asked the young lady
at the counter what they might have in the way of breakfast fare. She thought
for a moment and offered me an egg, bacon and cheese grilled panini sandwich. I
placed my order; I had a choice of eat in or outside. I chose to eat in and
took a seat in one of the dining rooms to wait.
It appears the coffee shop is popular with the locals. There
were several sipping their coffees while they perused their phones and tablets.
Several others stopped in and got their coffee and left. There is no need for a
Starbucks in this tiny community.
My order was ready shortly. It was served on a round tray
with a fresh paper liner. My order slip and receipt and some napkins were
tucked under the paper liner. Although my egg, bacon and cheese panini was not
listed on the menu it should be noted that, “All sandwiches, melts and wraps are served with chips and a pickle
spear.” Had this sandwich been
served in a big city restaurant it would have been acceptable. Being that it
was in a small village almost in the wilderness it was a very nice
presentation. The behind the counter personnel do make an effort to make
The potato chips are not the usual chips you would get from
a bag at the grocery store. These are I guess what you would call “artisan”
chips. They are not salty and I would hazard a guess they are baked rather than
fried. Although these “healthier” chips have a following they are not what I am
used to. There was an adequate serving of these industrial grade chips. A
pickle spear served with a sandwich is a long standing tradition that seems to
have been lost in many newer chain restaurants. A nice crisp pickle, not overly
tart, a good accompaniment to the sandwich.
The sandwich, on the outside, was made of slices of mild
sourdough bread, toasted with panini grill marks but not pressed or flattened –
an asset for this sandwich. Inside the bacon had been fried to just crisp. The
cheese was hot and melted. I am not sure how they cooked the egg before it was put
in the sandwich. The gleaming egg white and bright yellow yolk almost looks
like it was a poached egg but I will probably never know. To me it was the
ideal way to make the bacon, egg and cheese panini sandwich. It was a filling
and tasty late breakfast and I appreciated it very much.
My wife, Janis, and I had different duties during the meet.
As a result our meal times were staggered and we didn’t have the opportunity to
eat together. At a later time she ordered a Club Wrap ($7.79 Smoked ham, smoked turkey, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce,
tomato, mayo and honey mustard on a wheat wrap.) And remember, that would
be served with chips and a pickle. Unfortunately, we did not get a picture of
that one. Suffice it to say that she enjoyed her wrap and finished her meal. If
she had made this for herself at home it is what she would expect it to be.
Cumberland Gap is in a very scenic area rich in history. We
plan to return one day soon when we would have leisure time to do a little
sightseeing and exploring. I think we will again frequent the Gap Creek Coffee
House, sit in the shade of tall trees alongside the cool, flowing waters of the
creek and enjoy another sandwich for a laid-back lunch.
Summer Hours: 8:00Am - 8:00PM daily
Late Note: There were a lot of people and a lot of dogs all
around. I asked the event coordinator if she had any feedback from the Gap Creek
Coffee House about our visit that day. She did not have any direct knowledge
but she told me one of the other entrants was asked when we might be coming
back. That is a good sign. If you would like more information about canine
Or National association of Canine Scent Work https://www.nacsw.net/
Labels: bacon, cheese, coffee, Cumberland Gap, egg, Gap Creek, house, Kentucky, National Park, panini. wrap, pickle, potato chips, smoked chicken, smoked turkey, Tennessee, Virginia
Oriental Cuisine - Maryville, Tennessee
First Visit – A Take-Out
I would have never known the Oriental Cuisine Restaurant was
there except for one thing. Several times a week my wife and I would go to the
local gym. When leaving, while waiting for traffic, we would be looking across
the street down a very small alley like street that has a name. In fact its
name denotes its diminutive stature, Condry Lane. A lane; it is so much less
that a boulevard, an avenue or even a street. It serves as the back entrance to
a muffler shop and a bank parking lot as well as access for some industrial
metal buildings on the left. Way down at the end of the street where it appears
to dead end is one small sign; Oriental Cuisine shares sign space with a rug
and tile company. From our vantage point we cannot see that building because it
is set back to allow for customer parking in front. I was intrigued by this
almost hidden restaurant and I thought that it must have something going for it
as it would not garner any drive-by traffic.
Many months went by before I finally decided to see what it was
all about. I did some internet research and found their website which is
basically their menu. They offer a mix of Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese foods.
I was on my own for lunch one day and stopped by for a takeout meal of sweet
and sour chicken ($9.00 Breaded white chicken chunks deep fried to a golden brown and
served with diced tomato, green pepper and pineapple in our sweet and sour
sauce. Served with fried or steamed rice). At $9.00 dollars it seemed a
bit on the expensive side but this was an exploratory visit to see what they
offered and on that day I did have a “hankering” for some Chinese food. I also
asked for a spring roll to compliment the meal ($1.75 A delicious mixture of
jicama, carrots, onions, rice thread and pork wrapped in a crunchy spring roll
I was offered a seat at the nearest table and while I was
waiting for my order I read over my take-home menu copy. I had ordered from the
inside, the a la carte portion. On the back was the lunch menu of lower-priced
combinations meals. Part of the combination is a bowl of soup. That would have
made for an inconvenient take-home but I planned one day, if my pending order
was good, return to try something their luncheon menu.
My order soon arrived. It was a large brown paper bag,
neatly folded and stapled. I was quite surprised when I picked it up. Thinking
back to my thoughts about the rather high cost I now, at least, considered it a
very good deal on a price per pound basis. There was a lot of food inside that
bag. I could hardly wait to get it home and check out the contents. The fact
that it smelled so good made me even more eager.
Opening the bag, I found a large (26-ounce?) traditional
Chinese take-out container of breaded fried chicken that was overflowing. I
suspect that was a fluke and I got the benefit of the chef’s “Oops, I cooked a
bit too much.” It was a large-sized container and if the chicken all fit inside
it would still be a large portion. There was a portion of sweet and sour sauce
and a portion of fruit and vegetables.
(I just have to add
this in as a parenthetical comment: Over the years I have noticed that sweet
and sour chicken or pork have become cheapened and degraded under the
banner of “New York style” and the pineapple, sweet peppers and other
vegetables that helped to define the dish in Chinatown settings have been
eliminated and all you get is breaded chicken and sauce usually served separate.
That rendition of sweet and sour chicken is travesty and defames the sweet and
savory combination that is also beautiful to the eye. A pox on New York style.)
There was a 16-ounce container of fried rice, the spring
roll, some packages of soy sauce, some plastic utensils and a fortune cookie.
Looking over my stash of Chinese food I realized that if I had bought another
spring roll I would have satisfying and filling meals for two; on a per serving
basis, $4.50 per person plus the spring roll. The economics of my Oriental Cuisine
purchase were looking much better. Now how does it taste?
Taking myself at my word, I divided the food into two portions
and cut the spring roll in half. I would have half now and the remainder at a later
time. I plated the food for a photo before eating; nothing fancy, just so it
wasn’t a picture looking down into the bottom of a box. It was only half of my
order but the food literally filled the plate. The sweet and sour chicken was
delicious. The breading was fried crispy and the chicken inside was moist and
juicy. It occurred to me while I was eating it that the extra effort in separate packaging made for a crisp
chicken in the sauce whereas if it had been all packaged together the chicken
in all likelihood would have been soggy and unpalatable. The sweet and sour
sauce was very good with a bit of tang from perhaps vinegar and sweetness but
not just from sugar. I enjoyed the snap and flavor of the slightly crispy
pepper and loved the fruity sweetness of the pineapple. An excellent sweet and
sour dish I will definitely try again.
You can order fried rice as an entrée and it will be more
elaborate that the pedestrian fried rice that usually serves as the
carbohydrate filler in combination plates. This rice was no exception to that
rule of thumb. There are bits and pieces here and there but for the most part
it is rice, fried and seasoned with soy sauce. Certainly more flavorful than
steamed rice but it was not too salty or overly seasoned with soy sauce. It was good as filler rice goes but at the
same time it was not exceptional.
The spring roll was crispy fried and the filling was tasty.
A bit of hot Chinese mustard would have been beneficial but not necessary.
Although I prefer the thicker, less crispy egg roll skins, I did enjoy the spring
roll. It seems that egg or spring rolls are always an appetizer on Chinese food
menus. I like them well enough that they should be a main course item. I will
certainly add these spring rolls to my next order.
As a side note, take-out orders don’t always go home to be
eaten. They may go to the office or on a climate day, to a picnic table in the
park. The inclusion of the plastic cutlery was a nice thought.
Second Visit A Month Or So Later – Eat In
It was a very hot and sultry day, one usually better spent
indoors. I had errands to run and as luck would have it, I was on my own for
meals that day. I decided to treat myself to lunch out. It wouldn’t be a
drive-thru burger this time. It would be the long awaited sit down meal at the
Oriental Cuisine Restaurant for lunch. On the previous visit I had ordered an entrée
from the main or dinner menu. While
waiting, I noticed that they also serve from a lunch menu with lower prices
from 11:00Am to 3:30PM. It is a long list of choices and the entrée is served with
soup (your choice of hot and sour, wonton or egg drop), a spring roll and rice
(your choice of steamed or fried). My expectation was that It would be smaller
portions and perhaps less elaborate in presentation. The lunch menu includes
sweet and sour chicken and it would have been a good comparison but I also
wanted to try a broader range of their offering so I chose the Sesame Chicken
at $6.00 instead. For my soup I ordered
the wonton. For beverage I went with Coca Cola. My server, Sabrina, was very
attentive, very personable. She checked on me at intervals and kept my soda
glass full. I need to thank her for making my dining experience pleasurable.
My drink was delivered with a bowl of fried wontons, I sat back
to await my meal. As I mentioned, it was a miserably hot day outside and the
cool interior of the restaurant was a relief. The shades were drawn and the lighting
subdued but you could still see images of the out-of-doors through the slats in
the shade. I looked around. It was as I described before. It was oriental in
motif, black lacquer chairs, a mural but not much else to give it that Asian
look, certainly not gaudy. A quick count found about 50 seats. There were two
tradesmen at the table next to me and a solo elderly gentleman across the aisle.
There was a party of about 6 or 8 in the alcove. About 8 people came in to pick
up their take-out orders; all must have called in and each order was ready on
their arrival. Towards the end of my meal several people arrive and must have
been regulars from the greetings. Apparently Sabrina, the server, saw one of
them parking his car and had his preferred beverage ready for him when he
entered the store. My observations answered the fundamental question I had
harbored. How does this almost hidden restaurant manage to survive? It requires
returning customers and word of mouth advertising. It certainly has returning
customers and I will be providing some word of mouth. It is not an ornate place
nor does it have an elegant ambiance but it is comfortable and it does have the
feeling like in the old Cheers theme song,
“…where everybody knows your name.”
The wonton soup arrived quickly. There were two wontons in a
clear broth. It is served hot. A couple
of the small ice pellet from my soda cooled it enough to sip. It is a mild
broth with hints of many flavors, chicken and vegetables but not highly
seasoned; nice flavor but mild, very subtle. The wontons are large and the wrappers are thick
that made for a slightly doughy texture. A seasoned pork mixture in the middle was
tasty. It was a flavorful way to await the entrée.
My entrée soon arrived. Oh, my God! The expected meager
portions were huge. I must admit that I ate the whole thing with relish but I
would have been much better of eating half and taking the rest home for later
(something I saw others in the restaurant do). Two people could have shared the
meal and felt satisfied.
The rice was the standard carbohydrate filler, seasoned with
just the right amount of soy sauce. It was a soup-bowl full of rice, upended on
the plate to make the rounded pile of rice. A line of three large florets of
steamed broccoli divided he plate. The remainder of the plate was filled with
chunks of breaded and fried chicken, coated with sauce and liberally sprinkled with
toasted sesame seeds. Great aroma and a very nice presentation; it looked very
The chicken, mostly dark meat I believe, was cook just about
right, the meat cooked through, the breading still slightly crispy under the
sauce. Good chicken flavor in the meat and their version of the sesame sauce is
very tasty although perhaps a bit thin compared to others. In this case that
isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The sauce that pools under the chicken provides
a nice condiment for the otherwise slightly bland fried rice. It was a very
enjoyable meal, one where I did really eat too much.
In conclusion: Will I go back to Oriental Cuisine? Most assuredly!
The food is good, the portions are large, the staff members are friendly and
the restaurant just seems to be a comfortable palace to be. They have a lot
more dishes that I would like to try but I will remember in the future to
divide my plate; eat that part there and take the other part home for later.
open 6 day a week, closed on Mondays
Sunday – Thursday 10:00AM to 9:30PM
Friday 11:00AM to 10:00PM
Labels: broccoli, chicken, Chinese, cuisine, fried rice, Maryville, oriental, pork, sesame, soup, steamed, sweet and sour, Tennessee, Thai, Vietnamese, won ton, wonton