Great American Road Trip – Charlotte, NC

My old roomie got married last weekend. I’ve never done a long road trip, so I thought it would be fun to try it out. We picked up some White Castle cheeseburgers in NJ during a quick stop to pick up another one of our friends on the way down. Google Maps told me it would be 12 hours from Albany -> NJ -> Charlotte, but it was closer to 15 hours, and we didn’t take very many breaks or run in to traffic.

I ate like a glorified a-hole on the ride down. I could not get enough food! So annoying, since we drove through the middle of the night – I figured I wouldn’t be that hungry. WRONG! Should have packed more snacks.

The next day, we napped a few hours when we got to the hotel, then hit up Harris Teeter for some room snacks. Cute super market. 

Baskin Robbins for Pecan Praline ice cream! So good! This was on the sketchy side of Charlotte by a CVS. Lots of shifty looking dudes out and about, even during daytime hours. They kept trying to chat me up. Creepers. Thankfully I had my two dudes with me. 

The dudes & I went to McCormick & Schmick’s for happy hour on Friday. Our hotel had some out of date mini menus that showed crazy-cheap prices. Turns out everything was a few bucks more, but whatever. This place is mainly business casual, but they’ll let you in if you wander in wearing jeans and sandals. Like me. Oops!

Topshelf ($23!) screwdriver with freshly squeezed OJ. My buddy was not a fan of the freshly squeezed OJ pulp, and definitely not the price. Wow! I thought it was pretty tasty, but what a price tag! I got a Purple Peach “martini” ($7.50) kind of thing, which was more pink than anything, but quite tasty. I think it was vodka, cranberry juice, and some peach schnapps for the most part. Albany John got a beer.

The outdoor seating was wonderful. Charlotte’s weather in mid-May is absolutely gorgeous. Normally I don’t like outdoor seating, but I couldn’t get enough!

Chicken Nachos, quesadilla, fish tacos, and buffalo shrimp. The buffalo shrimp (bottom) were amazing. Not too oily or overcooked. Plump & briny shrimp. The sauce was unnecessary. Fish tacos were outstanding, too. Well cooked, and a nice cabbage slaw included with the tacos.

Service was beyond nice. I always forget how nice people are down south.

Then it was time for bowling with the rest of the early arrivals for the wedding at the bowling alley at the EpiCentre, which Albany John & I renamed the EpicEntre.

This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen with bowling. The wedding party family members were a hoot! These people know how to get down! Albany John broke himself trying to play bowling. Poor guy.

And eat! Calamari, wings, some cold cuts, veggies, fried chicken strips. Nom. And cake balls!

The next morning I woke up early eager for some morning walkies. Uptown Charlotte, NC is kind of like a combo of the Financial District of Manhattan and the Upper East Side. Some businesses & artsy stuff, and an attempt to have a weekend scene. But a lot of otherwise empty office buildings.

We went to Showmar’s for breakfast. Lots of food, so-so in terms of flavor. Eh, it was okay. Friendly service.

There was a French place called Amelie’s in our area that I wanted to try, but it seemed like everything was brought in and a day old from the main 24/7 bakery in a different section of town ~2 miles away. For the prices they were charging, it just didn’t seem worth it for day old baked goods. The coffee wasn’t bad, though. 

Then it was time for the wedding! Albany John’s known the groom since college, and many of their college friends attended. Surprisingly enough, everyone was on good behavior!

CUPCAKE BOUQUETS! These were so good – moist chocolate cake, and TONS of icing. Shortly after nabbing this pic I clumsily knocked the entire bouquet over. Sadness. But still delicious.

One of the best salads ever – an arugula salad with candied pecans, blue cheese, strawberries, and a vinaigrette. Soooo good. So refreshing. 

Main course. A bit on the small side, but that’s what bouquets of cupcakes are for afterward.  The steak was perfectly rare for me, though. SO good. 

Can you read the name on the glass? The wait staff were kinda weird here, ’cause instead of just putting champagne out for everyone on the tables before the toasts, they were running around asking people if they wanted champagne… okie dokie, then. 

Oh yeah, I evidently looked so good that one of the waiters kept petting my back when he’d ask me if I wanted anything. I couldn’t tell if it was just southern culture, or him being overly handsy. In the end he forgot my coffee after bringing half of the table coffee. Haha, guess I should have slapped on a little more make up, eh?

Dancing, some drinks, and tons of good times were had. We ended up back at the EpiCentre for some Moe’s:


Nightlife seems to shut down around 2 AM in Charlotte. Moe’s at 2 AM makes for excellent people watching. 

The next morning we went to breakfast with the remaining people from the wedding, and took the long drive home. It was insanely cheap to drive – maybe $180 for gas for ~1,600 miles. Much cheaper than plane tix! I’m also a bit… shall we say “goal oriented”, so the next time I take a road trip I will try to see more sights instead of trying to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. 

All Good Bakers Opening

 All Good Bakers opening. So many peeps!

A little bit of From Scratch Club love while Britin gives the opening speech.

 Ribbon cutting!

 Eric Paulaner of the soon to be opened Cheese Traveler shop. 

 Vegan cinnamon buns – some of the best, vegan or not!

What a cute little nook. I’d imagine myself dressed poshly while writing raunch postcards in such a twee nook.

Those Dillweeds & Their Organics

TLDR: I think I have a distaste for labeling greater than I thought. And if you can afford organics and “happy” foods, don’t be a smug douche about it.

Steve’s recent post on smugness & organics got me thinking about status symbols in our country. It seems that in some ways we’ve shifted from using jewels, cars, and cash money as status symbols and moved on to food and labels as symbols of status. Organic-label produce, antibiotic-free meats, CSAs… these are not things that come at bargain-basement prices. Nor should they, for all of the work they entail. 

Organics require certification from the USDA, which is both expensive and time consuming. Fox Creek Farm‘s CSA shares nearly doubled when they became certified organic, and they said it was entirely a result of becoming USDA-certified organic. Farms operating organically for the most part must comply to strict regulations in order to be certified as organic. The slightest deviation from these rigid rules could cause a certified organic farm to lose their labeling. I’d rather buy from a farm that says “We’re organic, we just don’t want to go through the rigid USDA certification process” or “We’re organic for the most part, sometimes we need to use XYZ products.”
I wonder how my grampy would have thought about our current farming and labeling industry.

Factory farms suck. There’s no debating that. You’d have to be pretty dick to argue that factory farmed animals subsist off of rainbows and Ecstasy & don’t spend most of their lives in cramped conditions in the name of low consumer prices. Meat is a luxury. When we buy it, we are lucky to be able to do so. Many people confuse this with a necessity in order to survive. Is meat delicious? Absolutely. Is it critical to the American diet? Arguably, yes and no. I know so many people that can’t imagine a meal without meat, and that we Americans are entitled to artificially low prices. That said, the labeling of “happy” meats is frustrating to say the least. I think it equally inhumane to deny an animal antibiotics when they are sick just because the farmer wouldn’t be able to sell it as antibiotic-free or hormone-free afterward. I’d much rather eat an animal that had a few antibiotic shots within its lifetime. I’d probably be classified as a freaking antibioitic-laden Smithfield pork roast for all of the antibiotics me and my awful immune system have suffered through most of my life. 
What annoys me about status-conscious consumers of “happy” meats are people that say things like “I just feel better feeding my family foods that are pure” or “Well, it’s worth the investment in it because it’s better for you,” and look down on people that don’t buy expensive organic/”happy” products. Not everyone can afford $10/lb grass fed ground beef. Those that do should consider it lucky; and as a society, we should view meat more as a luxury and less of a necessity. Those factory-farmed meats usually don’t even taste very “meat-y” (let’s lose the subsidies & see what the prices really should be). I’d rather be veg most of the month/week and eat tasty meat only sparingly at home. Oh, let’s not get started with meat from a restaurant.

CSAs can be rocking. You get a bunch of veggies, and you’re supporting local farms. But goodness, the people that get all up in arms about people HAVING to do it are annoying. Let’s create a pro-veggie smug-status-symbol in the US. And I’m not talking veganism/vegetarianism, but a movement that celebrates how delicious vegetables can be, and how much more of an efficient use of global resources vegetables and grains are.

Maybe I’m just getting to a certain age in life where I think glorification of status symbols and attention whoring masked as saintliness are lame. 

Burger & Chicken n’ Waffles at City Beer Hall

 Albany John and I went out to see the Trailer Park Boys live show at the Egg. The show itself was better than I could have imagined, but the crowd made me freaking hate humanity. But any way. We didn’t eat before we went to the show, so we went to City Beer Hall for some sustenance post-show. There’s a free parking lot just around the corner from the bar, and I’ve never had any issue with finding a spot.

My better half ordered the chicken and waffles ($12). Fried chicken, waffles, and gravy – how can you go wrong?? The fried chicken was quite nice – crispy and not greasy. Very generous portion sides. 

 The waffles were fluffy. I’d be impressed if these were made to order. The more time-effective method would be to make them fresh once every day or two and freeze, then thaw to order. 

 I got a juicy lucy for $10. The Juicy Lucy is a “kobe” burger with a slice of gouda cheese stuffed inside. Nice char marks on the burger. It came with some hand cut fries – I was surprised at how much I enjoyed them. Nicely salted, and generally crispy. I hate it when hand cut fries are limp and greasy. I ordered my juicy lucy rare. I was interested to see how it would come out. I mean, rare burger and melty cheese innards do not exist, right? Oh man, please don’t be well done…

Rare burger! Good (thick-ish) grind, but I’d probably order a cheeseburger over a juicy lucy because the cheese gets lost in the center of a rare burger and I couldn’t taste it. It could have used some more salt, but otherwise quite enjoyable. Overall, it’s bar food done quite well – a level above what you’d expect a beer hall to have in terms of quality and detail

What to Eat After Wisdom Teeth Surgery

Love that Albany John. I had my wisdom teeth out a week ago, and he has been making my recovery as pain-free as possible. I considered it fairly minor surgery, but I’m glad to have him because he kept me from pushing myself too much. And c’mon. Who doesn’t love having someone fuss over them?

He drove me there, waited for me, and shuttled me to Tar-jay to fill up my post-op meds while insisting I pick up some frozen treat of my choosing (I found some Chobani Greek yogurt and some vanilla fro yo, yay!). Surgery was at Way Too Early O’Clock, and I was back home by 10 AM. I had sedated surgery, so I had to stop eating the night before. 
The night before my surgery, Albany John even took me to Sushi X with R to fill up on tons of seafood and appetizers. Don’t even ask how much rock shrimp we were able to put away on top of sushi. R also helped ease my pre-surgery nervousness. 

Day 1: I subsisted pretty much off of frozen yogurt and a little bit of Greek yogurt, but the greek yogurt was a little too thick for me to eat easily for the first few days. I was told I had to eat cold/non-hot foods for the first day.

Day 2: more fro-yo and some split pea soup Albany John made (and pureed). Then he decided I needed pudding, and that he had to make it from scratch. Awww. And then I was like “HUNNGGRRYY” so I got some Mastrionni soft dinner rolls and brie. Hello, Hannaford brand double cream brie. Nom. It was tough to eat the bread. I was nibbling toddler-sized bites of bread, and it was hard.

Days 3-4 were pretty much the same as Day 2. I couldn’t take a lot of texture because it was painful to move my jaw. I ate three dumplings, and it took forever and it really hurt.

Days 4- 5 were the peak of my swelling. Pain moved from being generally sore in the lower facial area to being more sharp and directly from the surgical areas. 

Overall, I would recommend planning out your meals so you get enough calories every day. I did not do this, and lost more weight than I wanted to in a very short period of time, which is not very healthy for the body. I normally eat like an a-hole, so I figured I’d have no problem consuming enough calories, but the first few days it was difficult for me to break 800 calories because of the limited jaw motion and how quickly my jaw became tired and started hurting.
Recommended foods: Protein shakes, pureed soups, pudding, ice cream (I really liked smooth peanut butter mixed with ice cream as a way to pack in calories), mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, mochi, pate.
When you can take a little texture, but not much: pasta cooked soft; like rice noodles in broth, or spaghetti in smooth sauce; soft buns

Avoid foods: Seeds, nuts, ground meat, TVP, crunchy things, chewy things, quinoa, cous cous
(of course, YMMV. I’ve heard tell of people with better immune systems that were able to function normally the day after surgery)

I had three wisdom teeth, and I had them all removed. Oddly enough, the side with only one tooth removed hurt the most. I was surprised by a lot of things. I was really tired throughout the day of surgery and slept a lot. The second day I felt better, but still found myself drifting in and out. Day 3 I caught at least one nap, and Day 4 I managed to get by sans naps (I’m not normally a napper). It was very handy having Albany John around to basically keep me housebound and not run around and do things like I wanted to. I like to think it focused my energies on healing. I probably would have pushed myself too much if left to my own devices. 

So after a few days of minimal texture, followed by some texture, and a whole lot of salt water washes and flushes I am working my way back on to solid food. 

My post surgery check up went well. I still have some pain on the one side of my jaw. They said it was likely a knotted muscle since everything in my mouth healed well. But everything inside my mouth was healthy and healing up just fine. After the exam I felt my jaw, and good gravy, they weren’t kidding about the knotted muscle (I didn’t want to mess around too much with anything before the consult). Wow. It is really cramping my eating style, so I will be working on hot compresses & maybe some acupuncture over the next few days to try and get rid of it. I want to be able to eat without my jaw getting sore and tired!

TLDR: Having someone to take care of you post wisdom teeth surgery is awesome. Have soft food on hand to eat. Take all of your meds. Follow your Dr’s post-op instructions to a T. Salt water washes are your buddy. 

Steadfast Beer Night at The Ruck

Local company Steadfast Beer is going to have a gluten-free night at The Ruck on Friday, May 11th. 

They’re working on having gf wing burgers & some other food. I am really interested to see how The Ruck will eliminate cross-contamination. I hope they get a tap line going, that would be awesome! (they’re working on it, so far bottles are def going to be there).