Monday, October 16, 2017

Muscadine Pie at The Lakewood

Wild Muscadine Grapes. (Photo from the Web.)
One of my fondest memories of childhood was eating Muscadines, the wild grapes that are native to the Southeastern United States.  In the woods near our house was a wild vine that had grown high up into a tree, and in September and October the fragrance of these delicious deep purple grapes wafted into my play area.  The vines were too far up to reach, but when the ripe grapes fell the ground would be covered.  The grape has a thick skin that can be discarded and there are seeds inside the fruity flesh ( I usually spit out the few seeds but eat the thick skin which I'm sure has the most nutritional value.) 

A recent review in the News and Observer of The Lakewood, a restaurant in Durham, featured one of their desserts, Muscadine Pie.  I knew I had to try that.  Laura and Anthony both have October birthdays so to celebrate we had dinner at The Lakewood last night.  The restaurant is located in a building that was once The Davis Baking Company.  That seems fitting since owner Phoebe Lawless is well known for her baked goods at her other restaurant, Scratch.  Much of the original building has been retained, including the tin ceiling, and there is outdoor dining on the roof.  The somewhat contemporary tables and decor suited my fancy.  I was intrigued by the wooden bird sculptures on the shelf at the edge of the wine glasses and asked Anthony to go over a get an artsy photo.  He's an excellent photographer. 
Roof top dining at The Lakewood. (Photo by Anthony Benson.)
Anthony's artsy photo with my Iphone. (Photo by Anthony Benson.)
I was tempted to order the Muscadine Pie first, but there were so many other interesting choices on the menu, I resisted.  We shared a small plate of their smoked blue fish dip with homemade potato chips.  I recommend this!  A side of charred beets with NC apples and dilly ranch dressing was also shared. (We were attempting to sample several of their offerings.) Equally good.
Smoked blue fish dip with homemade potato chips.  
Laura and Anthony both ordered the Bavette steak with long cooked broccoli, seared lemon gnocchi, and olive oil hollandaise.  I ordered the BBQ Pamlico shrimp with crusty baguette. The large shrimp were served with heads on (as they do in France) and with a spicy broth perfect for sopping with the bread.  It was a bit messy to eat, but they provide a slice of lemon and a wet napkin for cleaning your hands as you finish. 
Bavette steak with seared lemon gnocchi. (Photo by Anthony Benson.)
Pamlico shrimp with crusty baguette. 

Time for dessert.  Laura is on a low carb diet and resisted dessert, but Anthony and I shared desserts.  The Apple Scrap funnel cake with sesame caramel ripple ice cream was good, but finally the piece de resistance, the Double crust Muscadine Pie with creme fraiche ice cream and candied pecans was even better than I could have imagined.  Absolutely delicious!!!!
Funnel cake with caramel ice cream. (Photo by Anthony Benson.)

Muscadine double crusted pie with creme fraiche ice cream  and candied pecans. 
As we were eating our desserts, two children at a table near us were served the most delicious looking drink.  It was pink with a grape on the edge of the glass.  I asked the waiter about it, and when she replied that it was a Muscadine Soda, I immediately ordered one.  This drink from the children's menu, was the perfect nightcap to this Muscadine featured meal.
This Muscadine Soda garnished with a Muscadine grape was beautiful and tasty.
(Photo by Anthony Benson.)
I hope Muscadine season lasts a bit longer and I hope Lawless keeps the Muscadine Pie on the menu, because I'm going back!

Read Patricia P.'s review of The Lakewood on Yelp

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Culinary Journey Aboard the Cape Cod Dinner Train

Our visit to New Hampshire where we enjoyed a bus tour through the White Mountains was a little disappointing because the leaves had not reached their peak color partly due to the warm and dry weather.
The White Mountains. 
A pretty red maple.
For the last leg of our Rails and Sails Tour we headed for Cape Cod.

Without a doubt, the most memorable meal of our entire trip was dinner aboard the Cape Cod Dinner Train that included a three hour ride through quaint villages. Romantic music and soft candlelight set the perfect ambiance for enjoying our five course gourmet meal.
Appetizer and the lobster mousse spread was outstanding.  This was shared by all four.
Clam chowder or chowda as they say here.
A delicious fresh green salas. 
Beef tenderloin as the entree and cooked to perfection. 
Lemon tart with raspberry sauce. 
After this delicious meal, we stepped off the train and were welcomed to Hyannis.

It might be worth another visit to Cape Cod just to have another meal aboard this train.  It seems as I travel my bucket list gets longer instead of shorter.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Day Three On to Maine

We departed early on our third day of this trip for the Amtrak Station in Boston to board the train for Wells, Maine.  Perhaps making ones way through a crowded train station during rush hour for those who had never experienced it made this worthwhile, but the train ride itself was quite ordinary.  It arrived at Wells late, and we had to hurry on to the waiting bus and didn't have time to enjoy the pretty train station at Wells.  In the future Rails and Sails, I recommend going from Boston to Wells on the bus and ditch the train ride.

The cruise around the harbor at Kennebunkport allowed a view of the Bush home and some pretty scenery.  On to Portland where we had dinner on our own, and we chose something close to the hotel, Grittys, who did not serve grits, but where the clam chowda was excellent.

Dinner at Grittys (L to R: Gail, Sally, Ann, Pat W, Peggy, me

Following a bus tour of Portland, we had a delightful tour on a lobster boat where we were learned how lobsters are harvested.
Beautiful lighthouse in Portland, Maine. 

Two female lobsters, one with many eggs.  

Natasha, a former student of mine, lives in Kennebunkport, and she met me for lunch.  It had been nine years since I had seen her, and we had a delightful visit.  Having a visit with Natasha was the highlight of my time in Portland.  Dan and I had taking her under our wings when she was newly arrived from Russia and was studying at the college where I was teaching. She is now happily married with three lovely children.
Beautiful Natasha.  

The lobster dinner at Dimillos on the Water was incredible and the lobster and steamed clams were delish.  It was amusing to watch those who had never eaten lobster manage to extract the lobster from its shell.  Everyone in our group enjoyed the evening.
Our lobster and steamed clams dinner at Dimillos on the Water. 

Tom, our bus driver, sat at our table and helped some manage their lobster. 

On to New Hampshire to continue our Rails and Sails New England trip.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Gadding About In Boston

Group ready to leave for airport. (L to R: Gail, Sally, me, Ann, Peggy, Pat W.)
Five friends from Shelby, three of whom I've known since first grade, and I celebrated our 80th birthdays by taking A Rails and Sails trip through New England. While flying from Charlotte to Boston, American Airlines served us champagne when they learned we were celebrating turning 80. Dinner shortly after our arrival at the hotel was at Legal Seafood where we enjoyed different dishes of seafood.
Champagne on the plane courtesy of American Airlines. 
Dining at Legal Seafood.  (L to R: Gail, Pat W. , Ann)
My choice was steamed mussels.
The six of us shared one piece of birthday cake courtesy of Legal Seafood.
The following day we had a bus tour of Boston in the morning stopping at The Old North Church of Paul Revere fame and the ship The Constitution.  We lunched at the popular Quincy Market.  We sailed around Boston Harbor and dined at Cheers Bar, "where everybody knew our name".
The Old North Church with group in foreground. 
Paul Revere statute. 
Cheers Bar and Restaurant.

Cheers at Cheers. 
Sitting at the Bar where the TV show Cheers was filmed. 

Boston done, Maine here we come.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Puffins on Bird Islands in Cape Breton

Perhaps the most fun Jen and I had when in Cape Breton recently was on the boat trip to Bird Islands to see the Puffins and other birds.  We toured with Donelda's Puffin Boat Trip, and I highly recommend this tour if you are ever in Cape Breton.  Donelda was the perfect tour guide, and she and her husband Captain John  know just the right places to go to see the birds.

We enjoyed the scenery while waiting for the boat to come in.
Get your tickets and souvenirs in this little shed.  
Lots of lobstering in the area. 

Enjoying the view across the bay while waiting for our boat to come in. 

While on board Donelda threw fish overboard and the eagles came in to devour them.
Eagle coming in when it sees the boat. 

Eagle diving for fish. 

Those eagles know when to look for Donelda's boat.
Jen on deck.

Jen enjoyed the trip from out on the deck.

Puffin swimming.  (Photo from Donelda's Boat Tours.)
Puffin taking off.  (Photo from Donelda's Boat Tours.) 

We saw lots of seals and puffins.  I wasn't able to get good photos of the puffins or seals.  The puffins were so fast in the water.  So I've snagged some from Donelda's Puffin Boat Tour.