Well...this was indeed a day of surprises, great food and great friends!
The day began with buffetbuster and myself making the short ten minute drive to the Hominy Grill. Arriving before opening, we perused the menu so as to be ready for action and no two soldiers were ever more ready for action. We were the first of approximately 15 folks at the door when it opened precisely at 7:30am. The staff was so friendly and took an interest in our table as many of the others were already deep into business discussions while buffetbuster and I were deep into the menu discussion!
We began with a slice each of the banana bread and ginger pumpkin bread. Lightly toasted, the surprise came when we opened the jam which had been placed on the table a few minutes earlier in a fairly hefty crock. Turns out the jam is locally made at Imladoris Farm. It was a mixture of blueberry and blackberry. The blueberry comes from a 200 year-old blueberry patch accessible by four wheel drive vehicle only. This jam mixture was outstanding...deep, rich, flavorful and loaded with fruit. It was a perfect accompaniment to these breakfast breads...and even better by the spoonful with sip of black coffee!
Next up...the main event. Buffetbuster had the omelette special - Braised Beef. Similar to a stew cut, the fork tender beef was cubed, slow simmered in a caramelized onion and rich sauce bath and folded into the eggs. He choose sunflower seed toast as his side. Additionally, we split orders of the house made sausage patties and the double thick bacon...both A+'s! The sausage was spiced just right, rough ground, free formed and very flavorful. The bacon, cooked to perfection right in between to much and not enough!
But the hit for me was my main course...best meal of the trip so far, perhaps my best Roadfood item ever, and one of my favorites of all time! With that introduction, it has to be good...and it was. The plate begins with a simple rendition of cheese grits cooked to perfection. I am not a grit lover and I loved these. Firm, not watery, and delicious. The cheese grits were topped with sauteed shrimp, scallions, mushrooms and crumbled bacon. The sauted shrimp had a very light sauce - not a heavy country or sausage gravy, but a light almost white wine like. The combination was one of the best items I have ever eaten! The plate almost required no further dishwashing...it was that clean!
While it was tough to go on...it was dessert time. We shared ice cold chocolate pudding and a slice of sweet potato cake which had three layers of light cake with a shredded sweet potato icing studded with nuts and coconut.
After breakfast, we started a drive towards Savannah along Route 17. This conveniently took to a few more Roadfood places. First up, the Carolina Cider Company in Yemassee SC. We picked up all kinds of snacks and fruit flavored ciders for our continuing drive.
Next up, the town of Beaufort. Our main destination was to be Sgt. White's Diner, a M-F 11-3pm only bbq joint. As it was still to early, we stopped in at Blackstone's Cafe. Here we had Key Lime Pie and a delightful, warmed pecan pie topped with whipped cream and in a tip of the hat to Voddo Donuts in portland, I topped it with three strips of bacon. Surprisingly good and the aroma...almost couldn't take pictures.
Back to Sgt. White's, but still to early. As others were assembling in Savannah, we thought it best to keep on trucking.
By the time we got to Savannah, the rains had begun, but thankfully, temps remained above 40. We began assembling at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, a true southern style boarding house set-up. The line was 20-30 long with equal numbers inside and outside. As we started at the back, we began outside in the rain. what a relief to finally get inside and welcome Nancypalooza and her friend Julie, northcarolina, The Travelin Man and wanderingjew.
Large oval tables are spread out throughout the dining rooms and as a group leaves, it is cleared, cleaned, re-set and fully loaded before the next group sits down. our table comfortably seated our party of seven along with a lovely couple from Down Under...Australia. Fresh off a Shuttle take-off, they too had heard of the reputation of Mrs. Wilkes.
Our table was set with 22 different bowls or plates of food...snap beans (my favorite), mashed potatoes, brown gravy, creamed corn, black-eyed peas, white rice, rutabagas, sausages, baked beans, cold macaroni salad, butter beans, stuffing, yams, fried chicken, bbq pork slices, beef stew, stewed okra and tomatoes, collard greens, English peas and noodles (my second favorite), potato salad, cabbage, biscuits and sorghum and at the very end, number 23, a bowl of fresh sliced cucumbers with vinegar, salt and pepper. There was action, to say the least as plate and bowl passing began immediately after being seated. Even your sweet tea was placed on the table before being seated. All this and 5-6 cameras continually being shot! It was a lot of fun!
After a light dessert of blueberry cobbler and banana pudding, we departed once again for Beaufort. we rolled through the rain and into Sgt. Whites with 20 minutes to spare before the 3pm closing time. It was pulled pork, ribs, greens, fried okra, lima bean casserole and okra stew.
By now we were beginning to tire slightly, and were even getting a little stuffed. We decided to have only a light snack at Morrison's Burger Hut in nearby Hollywood. Cheeseburgers, fries and shakes rounded out this afternoon of Roadfooding, and by now, it was time to begin the 90 minute backwoods trek to our featured dinner pick...Sweatmen's Bar-b-que.
Halfway there, the rain turned to sleet and quickly to snow. The roads began to get slippery and we all to happy to arrive at our destination. We were joined by the Roadfood writing team of Chris and Amy - along with Louis. At Sweatman's, it's all about the pork. The Travlin Man and I got a personal invite to go out back and check out the smokers. The chain and pulley system lift an immense metal crown exposing 7 whole, butchered and split hogs just beginning their special treatment of overnight smoking. With a mixture of ash, pecan and hickory, the piggies will smoke until tomorrow's dinner.
Inside, it's white meat, the moist inner, dark meat, the crisp outer, skin, crisp and quartered and ribs. Traditional sides as well as two different sauces, carolina mustard and a variation of a traditional red. Northcarolina was last to arrive and they were literally locking the door so as to allow employees a chance to finish up and get moving before the snow made roads impassable.
We got out and it was a 30 mile an hour drive back to Charleston. As cars were beginning to have troubles on the road, we decided to call it night.
<message edited by ChiTownDiner on Fri, 02/12/10 10:59 PM>